should we hire a candidate who lies, my fiance’s boss makes me cut her hair, and more

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

1. Should we hire a candidate who lied?

My husband has a company (technically I do too, but it’s not my field and I am support). We are hiring and going through resumes. It’s an extremely technical field and one position requires certain skills. We are having a disagreement over one candidate. He is pretty good but is missing one important skill. I asked why he pulled him in for an interview, and my husband said the skill was on his resume but when he asked about it, the candidate replied that he had read a paper about it.

I realize most people fudge skills on their resume, but this isn’t something someone can Google. They can’t read about it, learn it, and apply it. I think that is the equivalent of lying and my husband isn’t so sure about that. My point is if they are going to pretend they know a skill, what else will they pretend if you hire them? This is an important position with a lot of responsibility. If they are drowning and pretend everything is going fine but nothing ends up working with the product (a possibility because my husband doesn’t want to be checking the work … that’s why he is hiring), we are in big trouble.

My husband is having trouble finding the “right” person so may need to adjust his requirements. I think he should pick someone maybe not perfect but that is clear from reading their resume rather than someone who pretended to have a skill and it only came out because my husband was making chit chat.

Yep, I’m with you. I actually don’t think most people fudge skills on their resume, and what this guy did is pretty much a lie. If he’s willing to lie (or even just shade the truth) to make himself look appealing to a potential employer and get something he wants, I share your concerns about what else he won’t be transparent about when it would disadvantage him. Plus, it speaks to a bizarre naivete about how hiring is supposed to work — the idea isn’t to bluff yourself into a job you don’t meet the requirements for, it’s to find a job that you can actually excel at.

It would be a dealbreaker to me.

2. My fiance’s boss makes me cut her hair

My question is centered around my fiancé’s boss. I’m a hair stylist, he works in marketing. When his boss found out I do hair, she told him she wanted to come to me to get her hair done. He wasn’t sure at first because we try to keep our personal lives and work lives separate, but she insisted. She says I have to do it for free. She doesn’t just want a quick trim. I have to relax her hair, dye it lighter, cut it, and style it. The process of doing her hair takes hours and I can’t work on other clients during that time, and it costs hundreds of dollars. She doesn’t pay for it or leave me a tip. It ends up costing me money because I’m an independent contractor. I rent my chair in the salon and I have to give the salon a cut of all the money I get paid. She also snaps her fingers at me to get my attention and can sometimes be stuck-up to me and my colleagues and other clients. One time she got mad when I told her my hair color was mine and not dyed after she asked how I keep my bleached hair so healthy and she told my fiancé I had a bit of an attitude. She is not pleasant to work on or be around.

I only said yes to doing her hair because my fiancé begged me to do it since she kept asking him and would not take no for an answer. I thought it would be a one time thing. I can’t keep doing her hair because I’m losing money and this is making me look bad in front of my colleagues and our other clients. It’s straining our relationship. I’m emailing you because I have had it. In order to get her to stop, what should my fiancé say? (I can’t do it because she’s not my boss and besides, if I do she’ll just run to him and get on his back about it.)

Actually, I’d try handling this yourself rather than going through your fiancé. The next time she calls you to schedule an appointment, why not tell her that the salon you work at is no longer allowing you to accept non-paying clients? Or that you’re fully booked for the next four months? Or even just say, “I need to let you know ahead of time that can’t do your hair for free anymore. My rate is $X. Would you still like to book the appointment?” (And there’s nothing wrong with adding a “jerk fee” on to your rate to account for the pain in the ass you know she’ll be.

If your fiancé thinks this will go over better if she hears it from him first, then he can certainly convey any of this to her. But the key for both of you is to just be matter-of-fact when you deliver the message. Don’t dance around it or try to sugarcoat it. Tell her directly and matter-of-factly as if of course this makes sense, because it does. If she pushes back, just cheerfully say, “Nope, sorry, I do need to charge!” (Or that you don’t have room in your schedule, or so forth.)

3. Can I find out my employee’s future plans?

I have a direct report whose partner is finishing his PhD this year, which she’s been open about. But that makes me wonder about his next step, and by extension, hers, since it seems like the odds are good he’ll be moving on to a new location. We have a pretty good relationship, but I can’t ask her where he’s looking for a job, and if she’d move with him, right? I just have to wait to see if she gives notice next spring/summer? I realize anyone can leave at any time, and I’m totally supportive of that, but this anticipation is killing me.

You can certainly ask, “Do you have any sense of your plans once Rupert finishes his PhD?” Just go into that conversation knowing that she may not be entirely transparent with you if she’s planning to leave because she understandably may worry about you pushing her out earlier than she’s ready to leave or otherwise limiting her during her remaining time. But if you have a good relationship, you can also say something like, “I want to let you know that if you do decide to leave the area, I’d totally support you in whatever you want to do, and if you ended up giving me an advance heads-up, I’d work with you to ensure that you can do that on your own timeline with no penalty from us.” But understand that she still may not feel comfortable doing that, because even managers who say that with the best of intentions can have that promise undermined by factors they didn’t anticipate. (For example, if she tells you she’s leaving next August and in May you find out that you have to lay off one person from your team, might you be tempted to pick the person who’s leaving anyway and save everyone else’s jobs?) So it’s tricky and you can’t expect complete transparency from her.

Also, you definitely shouldn’t keep pushing for information after bringing it up once, or that will make things weird and awkward for her. So one time, with the knowledge that you still might not get the info you want!

Read an update to this letter here.

4. When should you give your references a heads-up?

I recently had a disastrous interview (the job posting didn’t match what the job actually was, the interviewer was very abrupt to the point of hostility, and more). At the end, just as I was thinking we’d be mutually glad to never interact again, he asked if he could contact my references.

I said yes, of course, but then I felt obligated to email my references and let them know that they may be hearing from the hiring manager, even though I thought the chances of him actually contacting them were nil. Also, this was after one interview, but he told me there would be a second round for finalists.

Did I make a mistake by alerting my references? I want to give these folks a heads-up when a reference check seems likely to happen, but I don’t want to bother them over and over again, or make myself look like a poor candidate by putting them on notice for calls that aren’t forthcoming. How do I gauge when an employer is serious enough about me to check my references?

Ideally you’d alert your references at the start of your job search, and that serves as one blanket notification. You don’t need to then notify them every individual time an interview seems like it’s getting to the reference-checking stage, as long as the original notification was in the last few months.

But it’s also okay to say something like, “I want to let my references know they may be hearing from you so they’re responsive about returning the call. Are you at that stage now, or will that not happen until after the second round of interviews?”

{ 540 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please don’t post comments insulting LW #2’s fiance. We don’t have nearly enough info to do that, and there have been some really unkind, speculative comments posted about him that aren’t based on actual information (and I’m removing those).

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Common decency means you stand up for your life partner. So while I won’t be insulting LW#2’s fiance myself, yeah, we do have enough info to do that. LW#2’s fiancee’s boss is forcing LW#2 to give free services, playing on status as the fiance’s boss, and the fiance is letting it happen. Why does the fiance deserve the benefit of the doubt? I’d really like to know the answer to that one.

      1. Smarty Boots*

        Because he’s afraid of losing his job? A job that the two of them need him to have? I imagine the OP doesn’t make huge amounts of money as an independent hairdresser, probably does not have health insurance or other benefits…

        That’s just one scenario.

        So while he shouldn’t pressure her to do this, I can imagine why he might.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          If this was a mutually-beneficial financial move for them, that would have been mentioned. Instead, she’s losing money. I’m going to agree with DDD – if your fiance’/e won’t even stand up to their boss for you, they don’t have your back and you need to put that wedding on hold.

          1. Ms Cappuccino*

            I agree. There is more than a problem with fiance’s boss here. There is a problem with the fiance too.

          2. selena81*

            He sounds like a bit of a push-over, but so does she. Or maybe awful boss just has a very strong personality and constantly leaves everyone around her wondering ‘why the f*ck did i agree to do this for her?’

            Putting the whole situation on boyfriend seems like misandry to me, that whole ‘men should always be strong and capable (emotionally, financially, etc) or else deserve to be mocked’

            Of course boyfriend should do his best to support LW when she stands up to his boss. At the minimum he should cheer on his girlfriend in private when she says NO to boss (if he can’t muster the courage to support her in public), instead of pressuring her to continue working for free to support HIS job.

        2. Lily*

          I’m not disputing that there are probably job-pressure reasons for Fiancé to go along with this (as misguided and unfair as that may be). But I would like to gently push back on the idea that an independent hairdresser can’t possibly make enough money to be significant. I have friends who are independent hairdressers; they make a good living and are able to support themselves and their families. A few are single moms. The idea that a hairdresser can’t make money is a bit classist and sexist. We can critique this/empathise with the fiancé without downplaying the skill and success of professional hairstylists.

          1. Haligolightly*

            My hairdresser is independant. She has her own salon (in a trendy part of town) and pays all the expenses from her earnings as the salon’s sole stylist. She does very well for herself.

          2. Three standard deviations*

            The idea that a hairdresser can’t make money is a bit classist and sexist.

            I mean, there are these things called “statistics” that track how much people in various occupations tend to make. That is not to say a hairdresser “can’t make money” (and the celebrity ones make a lot), but it is not typical in the profession. That’s like saying a line cook at McDonalds can make money because Gordon Ramsay does.

            1. selena81*

              Yeah, i don’t want to offend anyone but in terms of ‘typical salary’ a hairdresser who is renting one seat in a salon is probably not making bank.
              I fail to see how there is anything sexist about that: lots of ‘male professions’ (sweeping streets, heavy farm-labor, etc) are not known for raking in the big bucks either.

        3. Snowy*

          LW #2’s fiance’s manager’s boss (that’s a mouthful) needs to know she’s demanding free services from employee SOs. It’s entirely inappropriate to even ask, let alone to feel entitled to it repeatedly. It’s grossly unprofessional.

          If she’s doing that to OP and her fiance, she’s probably doing that to other employees. She needs to be stopped.

          1. selena81*


            The amount of entitlement it takes to even think of making such a demand of your employees is staggering. It would be weird and stalkerish even if she’d be willing to pay a reasonable fee (on account of the ‘we would prefer to keep private and business separated’), but to expect hours of work for free *speechless*

            I wonder if she owns the company: if she’s just management then LW and her boyfriend presumably stand a very good chance if they go over her head, this behavior is grossly unprofessional and that kind of power-abuse should get you fired from any normal company.

      2. Elizabeth Frantes*

        That boss lady needs to be turned in for her conduct. For her to demand free services from a friend of a worker, while holding his job hostage needs to be reported, preferable to a labor lawyer. That woman should be sued. And fired.

        1. JulieCanCan*

          I would LOVE to see that happen. Seriously it would make me feel like the world is a better place than it seems to be sometimes.

          Karma to the max, baby.

          Karma is real, and she means business.

      3. buttercup*

        I was also side-eyeing the fiancé throughout the post. It’s possible that he didn’t know that the boss wanted the services for free, but it seems like he did! I would not tolerate a partner who made me to that.

  2. Engineer Girl*

    I’m with Alison. Most of us do NOT fudge our skills on our resume. In fact, most of us have additional skills that aren’t on the resume.

    1. Willis*

      This. Also, this guy blatantly lied. There are some things (online trainings, attending seminars or continuing education, etc.) that might give you an understanding of a skill you haven’t actually applied. “I read an article about it” is generally not one of those things, and sounds like this guy knew it. I wouldn’t hire someone who I caught in a lie in my first conversation with them.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        I’m curious what the candidate said about the skill on the resume. Did he just list it in a skills section without any further information?

        I always worry about how to include, for example, software or other IT stuff that I’ve used a little: *I* can’t judge how well I know it compared to others. There should be level descriptions (like the CEFR for languages) for every program out there!

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          I could do with help in this second area too. I can “do” SQL (as an extreme, but poor example) – I’ve done two courses on it, with certification, and I’ve used it in my spare time on personal projects, but my current job won’t let me, despite it being a field I’m desperate to get into, so I’ve no professional experience. It’s not like I can afford to intern unpaid to get experience either. So I say I have experience in SQL, because I have – but is that a lie if the job description lists SQL in required skills and it only comes out in the interview that they want full database system developer skills (if it’s not otherwise apparent – I realise that applying for a job as a Data Scientist when I can create a few charts in Excel is pretty much what this candidate is doing, but some job descriptions can be frustratingly woolly)

          1. Clawfoot*

            Personally, I use an obviously escalating series of adjectives. “Familiar with SQL, Teapot Engineering Software; Practiced with HTML, Teapot 3D Printing Software; Expert with MS Office suite, Teapot Colour Design Software.”

        2. Letter#1 OP*

          it was listed under skills at a previous position. We use a certain standard… We could probably use phones as an example.(no idea how to use teapots here) Say we use 3G, he implied on his resume that he knew 4G technology. My husband was curious about that and started a conversation. That’s when he said he read a paper about it which isn’t enough unless he is brilliant. It’s okay, we found some other candidates. Finding myself on the hiring end, I think choosing wording is important. I know someone who claimed they were a Photoshop expert and were hired for their expertise. The company that hired them was not happy when they found out this person had a basic knowledge of Photoshop.

          1. Snarky*

            If your job description lists a skill and your husband was still considering this person even though all they’ve done is read a paper then it speaks to it being more of a preferred skill if other boxes are checked. In that sense, the guy wasn’t far off for putting it down and then saying he only read a paper on it at his previous job. It got him an interview and once he was able to speak to his other skills, he was still being considered by your husband. If your husband wasn’t getting push back from you, he might actually have landed the job so I’m not sure how “naive” he was. Employers who can’t effectively list what skills are hard requirements to even be considered are part of the reason people “fudge” on their resume. He probably thought, “Everything else I’ve done matches up really well. It isn’t that I have no knowledge of this skill – I’ve at least read a paper and conceptually understand it – they might consider me if they can hear about the other skills I have but I want to get to the interview stage to talk about it so I need to indicate at least passing knowledge of the subject or I might get screened out.” I don’t translate that to mean the guy will be a liar and untrustworthy when performing the job but clearly I’m in the minority.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              “In that sense, the guy wasn’t far off for putting it down and then saying he only read a paper on it at his previous job. It got him an interview and once he was able to speak to his other skills, he was still being considered by your husband.”

              So you’re saying that because his lie almost worked out in his favor it was okay? Yeah, no.

            2. selena81*

              I don’t consider it a true lie if he ‘fessed up the moment someone asked about it.
              It would be completely different if he had doubled down and pretended to have a lot of job-experience with this skill.

              It sounds like he correctly inferred that the skill was just a nice-to-have, and didn’t want his resume tossed aside on this thing but also never intended to pursue a job for which he lacks basic qualifications.

          2. rogue axolotl*

            So many people are bad at self-assessing their software skills that it seems like an area where it’s worth doing some kind of testing exercise if proficiency in the software is an important part of the job. Photoshop is a good example of the type of software where there is so much to learn that it would be easy to think that you’re pretty experienced if you haven’t learned enough to know what else is possible. I’ve heard of people claiming to be “experts” in excel because they regularly use spreadsheets as databases (oy), but all they use it for is basically data entry.

            1. Anonymeece*

              I’ve recently seen job applications specifically stating what skills each software uses and what level they would fall under – so basic for Microsoft Word means you can format a paper, change the font, etc.; intermediate means you can change the default settings, know some hotkeys, etc., and so on.

              It was actually very helpful and I’m sure that would be great for hiring managers, too, to know exactly what the person can do and can’t do.

            2. selena81*

              it’s why my resume tries to be specific about the stuff i did (‘added names to a list of employee-numbers’, ‘wrote vba code to send values from one excel-file to another’, etc): sure i try to make it all sound as impressive as i can, but i don’t want to end up in a situation where i apply for a job and they are like ‘you told us you are an EXPERT’

      2. Quoth the Raven*

        I mean, under this guy’s logic, I’m a medical translator, so therefore I can represent myself as a doctor?

        I wouldn’t consider this fudging his skills, but lying about them. It would also make me wonder what else he lied about, or if he only said anything about it because he was asked directly.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. If he had taken a course or workshop on the skill but had not used it professionally, he would be ‘fudging’ a bit on the resume. This was not exaggeration, it was a full out lie. And yes, this is the guy who will tell you everything is fine when you are in the process of losing a client due to his incompetence.

      3. many bells down*

        Yeah, I taught myself to use Excel, but I’ve never had any actual training on it, nor have I ever needed to use it regularly in a job. Is “I know Excel” a “fudge”? Maybe?

    2. Boston Bob*

      It is not okay to lie, but to be fair, I have seen a lot of recruiters do this to candidates resumes without the candidates knowing. This guy sounds like he was the one fudging the resume, but if he was getting advice from or his resume went through a recruiter, it might make sense to still look at him.

      1. Observer*

        No, it’s still a flat out lie. The candidate didn’t say “The recruiter advised me to put it on because I read an article” which would be bad enough because it tells you how little this guy understands about the necessary qualifications. He said “I put it these because I read an article.” Both ignorant and dishonest.

        I can’t understand why the OP’s partner thinks this has any chance of ending well.

        1. ChachkisGalore*

          This guy might have told the recruiter that he read an article or said that he had familiarity with X, and then the recruiter might have added it to his resume without his knowledge.

          I had a recruiter change my title on my resume. I only knew because I noticed that the resume the interviewer had in front of him looked “off” so I looked more closely. It’s stupid and short sighted (of the recruiter), but it happens. I did not lie about my title. The recruiter changed it without my knowledge and then submitted it.

          1. TooTiredToThink*

            I never knew recruiters did stuff like this until I started reading the comments on these posts. I’ve seen people mentioned it multiple times; so its definitely a thing to consider.

            1. SusanIvanova*

              When my whole team got laid off, they offered a free consultation with a resume polishing service. Only a few people people took them up on it – mostly the younger or non-US ones. All of us got together to do our own collaborative resume polishing, so we got to see what the “pros” did. One of them was pretty good, but there was one that had been modified to near incoherence – common industry-standard terms got links to Wikipedia, acronyms got expanded, less-common but still standard terms were deleted…

              It was as if the resume “polisher” decided that anything they didn’t understand wouldn’t be understood by a hiring manager either, and if they didn’t find it on the front page of Google results it didn’t exist.

              This was one of the guys who spoke tech and his native language well, but English was fuzzier, so he didn’t even spot the grammatical mistakes that were added.

        2. JS*

          Depends on what the skill is and how important it is to the job. If its an intricate part to the job then yes, saying you can do this one would assume it would be with high proficiency. However if its a “nice to have skill” that would be helpful but not make or break someone’s qualifications you can put down that you have this skill and have a beginners grasp of it I think is fine. Unless you lie about the level of proficiency you have in it.

          I don’t think the guy was intentionally trying to lie because if that was the case then he could have just kept it going when asked. I think its fine to list all your skills on the resume regardless of the level as long as you are upfront once asked.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        What is with recruiters and this kind of crap? Is it because they’re trying to get commissions? If anyone did this to my resume, I’d rip them a new one.

        Someone I know who worked as a recruiter and then ended up doing her own hiring told me to fudge my resume. Of course I wasn’t going to do it. In another conversation later, she said she had to fire a writer who had misrepresented her credentials. Apparently she forgot the first conversation!

      3. Someone Else*

        This is a good point, and I don’t think we have enough info to say whether the guy lied or not. If it were on his resume, and he knew/put it there (whether at the advice of a recruiter or not) and when husband asked it was like “I see you’ve listed X on your resume. Tell me about your experience with it,” candidate said “I read an article” then…hell no.
        But if candidate never explicitly (other than what’s on the resume) said “I have experience with X”, and if the resume reached husband via recruiter, and when husband did the asking it was phrased “Tell me about your experience with X” and candidate replied “read an article”, then the whole thing could be a misunderstanding, with the recruiter misrepresenting the experience and the candidate being totally truthful when asked, not realizing what happened in between. But it’s hard to tell at this point.
        That said, it doesn’t sound like the husband is thinking along those lines, so I still disagree with him.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think the definition is “lying or exaggerating.”

        And I’m with Engineer Girl—most people do not do this. It only seems to be folks who know they’re unqualified for a position, and who have a loose relationship with integrity, that lie about their competencies and credentials.

        1. mark132*

          That definition has the same problem. It’s not measurable. At least the exaggeration part. Is rounding 10 months to a year exaggerating? Some might say no, some might say yes. Is saying 2 years experience with technology A exaggerating, when you’ve used it occasionally for the last two years?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Are you asking these questions as a devil’s advocate argument, or because you’re legitimate unclear about the distinction between lying about your skills and over-exaggerating your competence in a particular skill? Because this kind of rules lawyering is not usually helpful for applicants who are trying to be candid about their skills—it’s the kind of nitpicking that folks do when they’re knowingly misleading an employer about their qualifications.

            1. boo bot*

              I don’t have insight into Mark132’s intent, but I actually do remember being young and new to job-seeking, and wondering about those kinds of things, more in the sense of, “I’ve done this a few times in the last couple of years – does that mean I have two years of experience doing it? Or, does it only count if I’ve done it every day for the last two years?”

              I think sometimes people without experience fall into the trap of not knowing what it is they don’t know, and a lot of minor details come up in job-hunting that mean we suddenly have to quantify things we haven’t had to quantify before. (Am I “proficient” or “fluent” in language X if I grew up speaking it at home but never studied the grammar? Do I “know” MS Word if I’ve only used it to write papers for school? Can I list a group project or do I leave it off because I didn’t do it all myself? Can I submit a writing sample if it was edited? If I worked there 11.5 months, do I say “11.5 months” or does that sound nitpicky and I just say “a year” so they don’t think I’m a total weirdo?)

              Now, I can talk clearly about what I’ve done because I’ve just done more stuff, but I also have enough experience to know what is and is not worth mentioning, which I didn’t when I was younger.

              1. mark132*

                Exactly, it’s not as clear cut as some people assume. And since people have different assumptions. What I don’t think is fudging another may consider outright lying, and a third person may think I should claim more.

                And quite frequently some interviewers are rather ignorant about it as well. They actually don’t understand what the technology is. I ran into that once. I had a lot of experience with the technology but this person thought it was something else (I never did figure out what he thought it was).

                1. boo bot*

                  To be clear, I do think the questions above all have “right” answers. I just also think that it’s not always easy to see them when you’re new to applying for jobs, and people end up guessing because they don’t know what else to do.

                  (Respectively, the “right” answers as I’d see them: It depends on how often you’d need the skill in the new job; If grammar is your only concern, you’re probably “fluent” unless you’re applying to be a teacher or translator; Yes, but you don’t know MS Office unless you know Excel and whatever the other ones are; Yes, but make clear that you were part of a team; Yes, if it was published; Put the exact dates on the resume, say “just under a year” in conversation, and stop worrying, we’re all weirdos in some way.)

            2. mark132*

              Because fudging is such an incredibly vague term. And given the fact that resumes are often one page summaries of someone’s career, presented in very positive terms, with simplifications that leave out lots of detail. As well as outright omissions of failures typically. An argument can be made that a resume is mostly “fudging”.

              And since you don’t like my nitpicking, how many years experience would you claim? Assumptions you use the software 2 days month for 2 years. Is it two years or 48 days (2.5 months)?

              1. Someone Else*

                For me the regularity is what matters. Twice a month for two years I think is reasonable to say “two years experience” because you’ve been doing it on a regular basis throughout that time, and twice a month is frequent enough to me that it’s unlikely someone forgets how to do it in between doing it. If you do it twice a year for two years, that isn’t two years experience because it’s too infrequent. Most people won’t necessarily retain something if they do it once every six months. Of course there’s variation depending on the complexity of the thing itself. So there isn’t a hard and fast line for everything of what would constitute frequent enough. It depends on the nature of the thing and the role. If most people in such a role do X daily, and you did X once monthly as a backup over two years, then it’d be misrepresenting it to call that “2 years” if most people in the field would expect those two years to imply daily or near daily, but it wouldn’t be wrong to say you had experience in X in general.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          I’ve never understood why people lie about skills anyway. Ok, you got the job, now *do* it. Oh…wait.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            They figure they can pick it up as they go. And considering the number of HR people who will insist on PostgreSQL 9.5, and 9.4 absolutely will not even be considered as relevant experience, many of them are not wrong.

            1. Jaguar*

              Yes. This situation isn’t as simple and ideological as people are making it out to be.

              If I’ve been programming in MySQL for a decade and the job posting says “needs to be proficient in MariaDB”, I’m just going to put MariaDB down as something I’ve been using for years despite the fact that, technically, I’ve never touched it, because God knows who is filtering resumes and knows anything about the technologies involved.

              Likewise, I’m not limiting my opportunities because I can tell from the job posting that the job is doing C# programming, but it asks for Photoshop expertise and, while I’m not capable of doing Vogue covers, I know how to use the software and in 99% of the programming jobs that list Photoshop as a requirement, I’m completely capable of doing the work that’s actually required (mocking up webpages) and I’m not taking myself out of consideration on the basis of that. Especially when, if I were to take the “compensation is negotiable” posting at face-value, I should be making $400,000 a year since they’re asking for seven different professional-level jobs rolled into one.

              Maybe this doesn’t apply to the OP1’s situation, since the details of what the job is and what the skill is hasn’t been specified, but speaking more broadly to the “no lies ever” orthodoxy by some commentors, nobody should limit their job opportunities because lazy and vague job postings list things they don’t have experience in. If you can tell from the posting what the job is and whether you’re qualified for it, you have the information to self-select out. If the job lists having “experience managing teams” but sounds like a typical administrative assistant position, fudge your resume and then get clarification in the phone interview and self-select out at that stage. But don’t take yourself out of the running for jobs you can probably do because they’re asking for a unicorn. Job postings are insane wishlists. People writing them far too often think they can ask for everything, get 15 applicants, and select the one that agrees to the lowest salary. It’s an unethical game, and it sucks for the employers acting ethical, but so many of the employers out there do this (to say nothing of recruiters writing their own postings) that you’re only hurting yourself by being rigidly honest.

              1. marmalade*

                I agree with you, Jaguar. I think it’s especially relevant to tech positions. For example, if a job posting asks for 5 years of experience in some OOP language, and I only have 2, but I have 5 in two other very similar OOP languages – then yeah, it probably is worth applying even though I don’t technically fulfil their requirements.

    3. Ann*

      Once had a post-doc who claimed to have 800 publications… and proceeded to list Blog entries, comments on blogs and news sites and replies to replies, columns, opinion pieces… in a non-communications field. What a great ride :-)

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Omg what?? That’s hysterical!

        Were any actual publications? Like genuine academic ones?

      2. PB*

        … wow.

        I was once a very active member of a forum, and had over 10,000 posts. Do you think I can include those on my tenure dossier? Some of them were about my job, so it definitely counts as an academic publication, right?

        I just can’t even imagine keeping track of all of that!

      3. Thornus67*

        I like to joke that I’m a published writer since I once got a sarcastic letter published in my undergrad’s student newspaper. But that’s said completely as a joke.


        1. Ann*

          I did run her name through some publications data bases and our uni’s library. Came up with about 6 first author and several more co-authored papers… Wasn’t actually too bad considering her age and years as post-doc, but it just tainted my opinion of her for good. But none of this really bothered the bosses, so who am I to grumble…?

    4. Carpe Librarium*

      My understanding of possibly tolerable ‘fudging’ is maybe ’rounding off’ like, 1 year, 10 months experience using a software system becomes ‘2 years’; or glossing over gaps between jobs such as leaving job A on 3rd Feb and starting job B on 27th March can be shown as Job A to Feb, Job B from Mar, ‘disappearing’ an 8 week job search.

      This is not that.

      1. Autumnheart*

        If I said I was fluent in Photoshop when I’m really only intermediate, that would be fudging–because I could ramp up pretty quickly if it came to it. I know the program well, and I can look up whatever I need to do if it’s outside my repertoire.

        If I said I was fluent in Photoshop when in fact I’ve never used Photoshop, just watched some Youtube tutorials, that’s not fudging. That’s just lying.

    5. SusanIvanova*

      I’ve gotten away with “4 years in LanguageA, the precursor to LanguageB”, which gets past the initial screener who’s only looking for B, and impresses the hiring manager who knows exactly how much A contributed to B.

            1. SusanIvanova*

              I started with Apple ][ Basic, but my first Silicon Valley job was at ParcPlace – the Xerox PARC spinoff of the Smalltalk team.

      1. ceiswyn*

        Yes, I’ve done something similar where a key skill in the job posting was ToolB. I’d poked ToolB a couple of times as part of software evaluation or a side project years back, but I couldn’t really say I ‘knew’ it. However I did have extensive experience with ToolA which was originally written by some of the same people, and with ToolC which is the same type of tool.

        Plus, in my field it’s normal that hiring managers aren’t well acquainted with the job and put far too much emphasis on specific software skills when what they actually need is a fast learner with a problem-solving bent.

        I’m now a month into the job, already expert with the standard functions of ToolB, and picking up the advanced ones handily as needed.

    6. Psyche*

      He is either dishonest or painfully ignorant about that skill. I can see someone unfamiliar with a highly technical skill learning a little and honestly thinking that they know it because you don’t know what you don’t know. Either way that shows that he would be a terrible fit for the job.

    7. Aleta*

      I definitely see the “men will apply for jobs when they don’t have all of the stated qualifications so you should too!” advice extrapolated into “and to do that they fudged their skills on their resume, so you should too! If they could figure out [whatever the skill is], you definitely can too!” But that sort of thing definitely only applies to stuff you could pick up quickly on your own, and to be honest I don’t find that quality in general to be an admirable trait that should be emulated.

      1. Aleta*

        To add, I think that reading comes from the same fundamental mindset difference of “job qualifications are more like wish lists vs they are The Requirements.” If the “men apply for jobs when they don’t have all of the stated qualifications so you should too!” isn’t accompanied by “and this is because those requirements are more like a wish list, so you don’t HAVE to have all the qualifications,” the logical end is that they must have lied to get the job if you think of qualifications as The Requirements. I’m autistic and that they’re The Requirements is a visceral thing. I could get over it if I needed to, but I don’t have any financial needs or need for job-related Fulfillment that require me to so I spend that energy elsewhere, but you need to know it’s a thing to be able to make that choice.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Yeah. If it’s a skill you can pick up quickly on your own, then pick it up! Then you don’t have to lie on your resume.

    8. Anon Anon Anon*

      +1. Especially if it’s something technical. And, in my experience, there are two kinds of people in tech – the people who BS their way through by lying and manipulating, and the people who are literal about everything and just work hard and get things done. At least where I’ve been. The former tend to create a lot of problems. If you can weed them out early on, that’s good. The best workers tend to under-state their skills. Interviews can be weird because some people get nervous and act against their own best interest. I’ve been known to forget everything I know when asked in an interview. I think some kind of test or low pressure skills assessment could be good – leave the person alone for fifteen minutes, maybe without any device they can use for Googling, and have them take a written test. Then talk about the test so they can ask questions and explain their answers.

    9. JSPA*

      Let’s leave a little room for a true auto-didact. Call the guy in for a follow up. Have him demonstrate the skill. If he’s really managed to teach himself a significant part of the process or technique from reading a paper and from first principles, then he wasn’t lying, nor self-deceptive. He’s brilliant and self-teaching, and your husband wants him ASAP. If not, then it’s a big nope. For the reasons listed–and also because nobody yet knows what ELSE on that resume was fudged.

    10. Lily*

      This is what was so confusing to me. To me, “fudged” = lied. I’ve never lied on a resume. In fact, I recently was horrified to notice that my resume still listed my language skills as having a “reading, conversational, and working knowledge of German” listed. That was certainly true when I wrote the original document 8 years ago, but as I haven’t had any opportunity to practise those language skills in almost a decade, it’s cerrainly not accurate anymore. I deleted it and thanked god I hadn’t applied to anything with that mistake on it where the language bit would be relevant.

      Surely we all exaggerate slightly in the good old PR-speak way when we write out job descriptions u Walmart cashiering experience talks about “meeting and facilitating customer needs” or whatever the heck), but outright lying? Would never cross my mind.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Or at least the boss’s boss. Maybe say something now but at the very least if there’s even a hint of retaliation afterwards then alert higher ups. “I wanted to let you know that Cruella took me off the Llamas Inc. account right after my fiancé told her that she couldnt keep cutting and styling Cruella’s hair for free. She told me ‘you just don’t seem like a team player’ and I’m concerned it’s retaliation.” I would hope any higher up would be aghast.

      On the other hand, if your fiancée’s boss owns the company, I’d tread carefully since this sounds like someone irrational enough to fire him over it. Unfortunately that might mean doing another haircut or making apologetic excuses to delay “the next appointment” while your fiancée job hunts like crazy.

      1. valentine*

        The boss could just say fiancé insisted on this as a gift or a favor because OP2 needed the practice or wanted to show off her skills to woo clients. Going above someone this outrageous when you can’t stand up to her may hurt you the most.

        OP2, fiancé has a great out here: He can say y’all’ve decided to go back to a separation of Hozier and state. I’d worry he can’t do it, though, as he got you into this mess and hasn’t gotten you out. You owe it to the salon workers, clients, and yourself not to have this woman back because she’s horrid and has and will cost you clients, but if you want to go with insisting she pay, get the workers in on it for when she calls the salon: “We’re bound by Yog’s Law.” If she told you to your face you need to do it for free, develop a response for mitigation of future gall. I[m partial to a “Ha!”, short and sharp, like Stabby the Space Roomba, and perhaps a frosty “Certainly not.”

          1. JanetM*

            Not sure about Hozier, but “Yog’s Law” is “Money flows *toward* the writer” (or, in this case, toward the provider of services). Believed to have been coined by writer Jim Macdonald, at least according to John Scalzi.

      2. Elizabeth Frantes*

        There is always The Good Soldier Schweik Maneuver. You agree with a grin and then mess things up, apologizing profusely.

        I’d just wreck her hair. She’s not paying for the services, so she couldn’t take you to small claims court! Then insist you can fix it . . .and mess it up even more . . .

        1. JulieCanCan*

          I love this idea more than anyone could possibly understand, BUT with someone this atrocious, she’d no doubt take to social media to complain about OP and do everything in her power to ruin OP’s reputation, thus hurting OP even more.

          But if there was a way to eff up this monster’s hair without the backlash hurting OP, I am absolutely in support of this idea!

        2. designbot*

          I’m super late to the party here, but a softer/less obvious form of this would be that you keep bumping her appointment. Push it, push it, push it, then when she finally does come in, be petty AF. Say you only have two colors of dye you’re able to use on her, since she’s getting her service gratis. Have all of your tools out on loan and then only be able to take them back when others are done with their paying clients. Don’t validate her parking. Just make it super clear that you get what you pay for.

    2. HannaSpanna*

      I’d be tempted to suggest the fiance finds a different job. If he boss can browbeat him so much that he agrees to something unreasonable then it must be a horrible place to work.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        He’s agreed to give away something that is not HIS in the first place.
        If she is doing this now, wait and see what she comes up with once he has been there a while. ugh.
        OP, if your other half is not going to protect you from this type of thing then you will have to take the lead.
        I like the idea of saying that was a one time thing, but you can’t do it again. You can tell your fiance this and tell her that also. It’s a simple message and it ends the whole conversation. If she says anything to him, he can just say that she got really lucky the first time but that you can’t keep doing that because there are legal and ethics issues. If it were me, I would pretend not to understand she wanted more appointments and I would play up what a sweet deal she got and how lucky she was on that one.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously, how is this woman getting away with being a terror? Is she just such an awful bully that polite people don’t know what to do with her?

      OP#2, tell her you’re not able to work for free. Or any of Alison’s scripts. If you want to offer her the option of becoming a paying customer, calculate every styling appointment she didn’t pay for and add it to your normal rate, add 30% to that total, and then divide as appropriate. If she even implies she’ll retaliate against your fiance, notify her boss, or HR, or anyone who’s in charge of ethics at your fiance’s employer (or maybe even notify them before you lay down the boundary).

      And talk to your fiance. He needed to have your back on this from the beginning, and it’s not ok that he pressured you. He should have deflected and nipped this in the bud. He needs to have your back, now, because this problem is partially of his making… Unless he wants to pay for the cost of his boss’ haircuts, because he clearly doesn’t seem to feel the pain from your household losing money. This is his entitled jerk to deal with; it shouldn’t be yours. But now that it is yours, there’s a universe of things you can and should do since he seems to have lost his spine.

      1. Jaybeetee86*

        “Seriously, how is this woman getting away with being a terror? Is she just such an awful bully that polite people don’t know what to do with her?”

        I hope this doesn’t run afoul of Alison’s “diagnosis” rule, but I’ve read that ASPD/NPD is over-represented in the corporate world – that is, the assorted traits of those disorders that make people with them so difficult to live with, tend to make them REALLY GOOD at business. There’s a possibility that she’s really, really good at making money for the company (I mean, she’s gotten thousands of dollars in free hair-care for herself, just imagine what she can do on a corporate level), so she’s kept around.

        1. Liet-Kinda*

          When it doubt, it probably does run afoul. We have no idea whether her being an asshole is organic or affected, and it doesn’t change the advice.

        2. TootsNYC*

          or, just plain “asshole” traits mean people can be successful in the business world–they push people around, so people do what they want, and bingo! their sales numbers are high; their staff is working extra hours; they seem effective.

          1. Beancounter in Texas*

            Freakanomics pointed this out in their story about a bagel guy who left bagels available in offices with a donation box.

            “He also says he believes that employees further up the corporate ladder cheat more than those down below. He reached this conclusion in part after delivering for years to one company spread out over three floors — an executive floor on top and two lower floors with sales, service and administrative employees. Maybe, he says, the executives stole bagels out of a sense of entitlement. (Or maybe cheating is how they got to be executives.)”


            That last phrase has always stuck with me – “Maybe cheating is how they got to be executives.”

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Yep. The fiance should have told Boss no and never even brought it up as something to consider. Sure he could tell OP the story, but he should never, ever have put it on the table as a possibility.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Horse, stable door… It’s more useful to look forward than back, surely.

          OP#2 of course it’s horrid that, however it came about, you were put in this situation. But you were, and I’d use one of Alison’s scripts going forward. Frankly I wouldn’t offer her a paid appointment either – she’s likely to find a fake or trivial reason to reduce or avoid payment afterwards. It’ll just be a nightmare.

          Whatever reason you give, I’d tack on “and I book up months in advance, so I couldn’t accommodate you in any case! Sorry about that!” so she can’t push back against whatever you tell her.

          Good luck.

    4. Marthooh*

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure soliciting kickbacks is some kind of illegal? Certainly it’s unethical.

      First, though, the fiancé needs a talking-to. Is he aware of what you usually charge for this service? Plus jerk fee, plus tip? Because if this is a cost of doing business for him, then he should be paying you that money.

    5. Friday afternoon fever*

      I agree with the general sentiment, but absent any supporting information in the letter, it’s a stretch to assume a company has an ethics hotline. That seems very industry- and employer- specific.

      Is it even the kind of place where an employee could comfortably and semi anonymously make this kind of complaint?

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        For context, when I got a bunch of well-meaning advice from a bunch of different commenters to avail myself of protective power structures that didn’t exist, I found that really frustrating because it wasn’t actionable/useful. So that’s where I’m coming from here

        1. WellRed*

          I hear ya on that. Also on commenters who suggest “just” transferring someone to a new team/department/job.

        2. Yvette*

          That is the thing, from the way a lot of these letters are worded, you can’t tell if the company in question is Huge Corporate, which will have things like HR and ethics hotlines or Mom and Pop which not only won’t, but the boss in question might be the owner, the owner’s significant other etc. etc.
          I agree with someone down the line who said that if the boss doesn’t fire the fiance over this it will be over something else, and fiance should just start looking.

          1. Observer*

            Very much your last line. Whether it’s in the company or elsewhere, fiance absolutely needs to start planning on how to get our from under Boss.

        3. JSPA*

          Agreed. Frankly, I’d probably do some version of the “go grey” here. Have fiancé complain that the salon is cutting your hours. Or that you’re having to do family care / support 2oo miles away. Or that a hand injury is limiting the sorts of jobs you can do at the moment. Or have him worry out loud about them investigating the finances at the salon. Or even have him talk about the two of you having relationship difficulties / a trial separation / marriage on hold, so she no longer assumes that she can hold your actions over his head. Basically, let her think she’s done all the damage that she could aspire to do–or that going to you may be a hassle-and she may lose interest.

          And if she asks why someone else can get those services and she can’t? Her hair is so special, and you’re so committed to doing a great job on it–“because when she looks good, we all look good”–that you’re simply not willing to give her an imperfect or rushed job.

          That caters to any of a wide range of issues and attitudes that she may have, whether it’s a control thing, an ego thing, an entitlement thing, a “not in touch with reality” thing, a “never grew up” thing, basic greed or basic jerk-faced-ness.

          1. JSPA*

            Or better yet…gaslighting has a bad name for good reasons, but this would be a situation to gaslight a little.

            OP can be super sweet when she calls, and explain that she’s now used up all of her saved up “friends and family” discounts for this year and last year. But she’d be glad to fit boss in, monthly, at the regular [inflated!] price of X per visit. Come next September, when the [imaginary] year resets, if she’s come and paid monthly, OP will be glad to give her two more free appointments. Then make sure the cost of those appointments is more than covered by the extra charge on the paid monthly.

            As for personal comments…once she’s paying–and paying a premium–they will rankle a lot less.

            Colorism is a thing, so a stylist letting a customer know that their light hair is natural can come across as a dig at the customer’s darker hair. Best to avoid. Instead, why not answer, “do you like it? I can do something that looks similar on you, if you want, next time.” Customers don’t need to know (and don’t get to know) if an effect comes from the stylist’s genes or from the stylist’s own stylist’s secrets. “I don’t do my own hair” is the default for barbers and stylists everywhere.

            1. NurseZoey*

              I do understand what you’re saying, however if the stylists hair is naturally light and the client’s hair is a level 5 or darker she may not actually be able to do something that looks similar on her, especially because as it was noted she commented on the health of her hair. It’s definitely more possible than ever to minimize damage when lifting hair, however it will still be damaged. When hair is lifted it’s more than just pigment being removed, and it does damage the hair. I think being honest about what a client can expect and what is actually possible with taking into account the history of the hair is the most important thing. If she’s relaxing her hair as well it truly just may not be in the cards. If I was in this position id probably tell her I can’t continue providing these services because I don’t think I can provide her with the results that she desires. I never do a service if I believe it will compromise the integrity of my clients hair, and this certainly sounds like a real possibility in this case.

            2. Lavender Menace*

              Colorism is certainly a thing, but I don’t know how “my hair color is natural” could be interpreted as a dig by any but the most sensitive of people. I mean it’s simply a fact that some people are born with lighter colored hair than other people. In fact, I’d rather a stylist say “this is my natural color” than lead me into the notion that she can recreate the look on my darker hair.

              1. JulieCanCan*

                And if a person IS offended by being told that the individual they’re asking has naturally light hair, it says a lot about the person who’s getting offended. If it has anything to do with OP’s current situation, it’s yet another reason OP should never touch this woman’s hair again.

                I can’t imagine how hearing that someone’s hair is naturally the way it is would be upsetting. I have joked about being envious of someone with naturally blonde hair and perfect highlights since it costs me a nice chunk of change to acquire the same look, but I mean, hair is hair – we can’t help what our hair does and shouldn’t have to worry about offending someone because of our genes.

          2. Flash Bristow*

            And don’t forget, people want to look good in time for Christmas and New Year parties, so you’ve been booked up months in advance already, right? *wink*

    6. Wintermute*

      I second this entirely. Extorting “favors” using your position in the company, or implying consequences if you don’t receive free items of value is the complete textbook essence of “quid pro quo”, with an even nastier side of the fact that they’re not promising beneficial treatment, they’re simply promising not to punish you.

      This is absolutely ethics line territory, any remotely competent company would be unsure whether to be horrified, or furious, or both (horrius? furified? Furified.)

  3. Just Employed Here*

    OP 4: I know it’s easy to say now, when you’re not in the middle of the stressful interview, but another option could have been to just state that you didn’t think the job matched your expectations and the job ad, and just basically withdrawn your candidacy when they asked for your references. If you couldn’t imagine working there, there’s no point in getting your referees involved.

      1. WellRed*

        But when he asked if he could contact them, you still could have declined and politely withdrawn your candidacy. Awkward in the moment though that may feel.

        1. LW 4*

          Yes, I could have. I’ve never done that before, and would definitely feel very uncomfortable doing it. But it is always an option!

          Also, I didn’t put all this in my letter, but there were two people interviewing me – one was weirdly antagonistic, but the other was friendly and encouraging. So even though I was pretty sure it wasn’t going anywhere, I didn’t want to burn the bridge just in case. It’s a prestigious company and would have been a good opportunity for me.

          It’s for the best that I didn’t get it, though! They posted for one opening, but then decided to split the job, and had already hired someone to do the major parts of the job that I was most interested in and qualified for. I didn’t find any of this out until I was in the interview and everything I said got a response of “well that’s not what this position does,” and the job duties that were left didn’t fit my background. I think the hiring manager was annoyed by the situation, and I was pretty annoyed, too, because it felt like a bait-and-switch. The whole thing was kind of a frustrating mess!

          1. Natalie*

            You absolutely could have still withdrawn. When dealing with reasonable people, withdrawing from a job doesn’t burn any bridges unless you do so really rudely or something. (And unreasonable people aren’t at all predictable, so there’s no point in worrying about their reactions.)

            1. LW 4*

              Yes, I already acknowledged that I could have withdrawn. But when I need a job and a good opportunity is available, that’s not going to be my first option.

              1. Mellow*

                I hear you. When I was unemployed a few years ago, I had several in-person interviews, two of which were run by absolutely rude people (like rude just for the sake of being so). Neither offered me a position, but I would have taken either if they had. I simply didn’t have the luxury of “Nope; rude.” Good luck, LW 4, if you’re still looking.

            2. Lisa Babs*

              I know you mentioned that you didn’t want to withdraw from this opportunity. But just for future reference if you ever do want to. Just send a nice email that you thank them for their time but after further thought that you “have decided to withdraw my application for the position”. If it’s as straight forward as this interview was you could add a sentence that you thought the job would be X but it turned out to be Y. That won’t burn any bridges.

              Good luck on your job hunt!

  4. Aphrodite*

    OP #2, I wonder how she found out you are a hairdresser. Did it come up in normal conversation or did she somehow “bully” the information out of him? The answer might tell you how much pushback (or maybe shove back in this case) you can expect from her when you tell her she has to pay.

    Frankly, if it was me, I’d get rid of her. Who needs a client like that? (But if you do decide to keep her if she is willing to pay, then, yes, add a nice fat “jerk” fee in there. At a bare minimum, 20 percent more.) It will just cause you grief and hassle since she may decide to impose more demands such as specific days and times that other longterm clients may already have. Or as you have already experienced, she will make demands that are impossible and then you have an angry client who may be able to impact your business. No, the more I think about this the more I am convinced that you need to dump her. ASAP. And I think you should just be straightforward. Tell her that you are no longer available to her. Don’t try to sugarcoat it, be nice, explain it, or do anything but be firm.

    1. Ren*

      It doesn’t make sense. A boss couldn’t take over a table at a restaurant fir hours and order the priciest meals and champagne and snap fingers and not pay. Or have a carpenter fiance come over and build and sand and wax a deck — say a $3,000 job — for free. Etc.

          1. Fact & Fiction*

            As both a published fiction author and marketing copywriter, I can attest to this ridiculous idea that is passed around way too often! Makes me cranky just thinking about it.

      1. JSPA*

        people do extort those sorts of things, too. It’s completely not OK. That’s clear. The question is how to deal with it, if you don’t want to go through the process of a legal complaint (never a sure thing) after fiancé is fired in retaliation. Basically, how to bow out without causing offense, or how to go up the chain of command.

        It’s also possible that fiancé was currying favor using OP’s skills as the bait. In which case, he’s the one who needs the “come to Jesus” talk (*and maybe a reconsideration of his fiancé status). Give him a chance to own up to why, exactly, Boss could ever have believed that OP would be willing to work for free.

        1. Go under*

          I do not think it is helpful to suggest that OP break up with her fiancé over this and it is rude to suggest that.

          1. JSPA*

            That’s…not actually what I said. Getting really clear on what went down is part of solving the problem. A “Come to Jesus” talk is a frank, possibly unpleasant or awkward talk; not a dumping. There’s a big difference between dumping and putting the brakes on an imminent marriage until you can work out how not to promise away your partner’s time and money. If this is “all boss,” and he didn’t go along with it, and she just plowed right on ahead, then it’s a question of figuring out how to prevent future “demand-requests”–maybe by not sharing any details of their personal lives. If he agreed to give away services that were not his to give away to keep the peace in the office, and if his default is to cave or overpromise to avoid conflict, and then put the burden on a loved one, rather than himself…it’s worth dealing with that pattern before tying the knot. Lots of people get sucked into this, and most people can learn to avoid it. It’s not dump worthy, but it merits a very serious talk and some serious planning.

    2. Fast Eddy*

      Yeah., I’m worried that if you tell her you’ll need to charge, she may say ‘ok’ then accidentally forget to bring her wallet.

      1. LadyPhoenix*

        That is why I suggest an upfront payment.

        Did you forget yor wallet? Too bad, my next client is waiting for that seat.

      2. Grapey*

        Then the next appointment I would “forget” how long I left the relaxer in (this burns the scalp). A hairdresser is one of the worst people I could think of pissing off.

        1. Glenn*

          As tempting as that would be, that sounds like a crime to me. (Intentionally causing chemical burns to someone you don’t like?) I would avoid it.

        2. Lavender Menace*

          Oh my god, don’t do this. Leaving a relaxer on too long can cause permanent damage and hair falling out. OP’s fiance’s boss doesn’t sound like a pleasant person but giving her a chemical burn in retaliation is very extreme and probably illegal, as Glenn pointed out – and I wouldn’t put it past boss lady to try to take legal action, too.

          1. :-)*

            and I wouldn’t put it past boss lady to try to take legal action, too.

            And in that case it would be rightfully so.
            Intentionally causing harm is not the answer to this problem.

        3. Ego Chamber*

          @Grapey “Then the next appointment I would “forget” how long I left the relaxer in (this burns the scalp).

          Late to the party, but… dude—no. Do not fuck around with corrosive chemicals on people. Chemical burns are painful and can cause permanent damage. And from a purely mercenary perspective: it is illegal to intentionally burn people, so don’t do that. Don’t even joke about doing that, because if you ever do it by accident after you joked about doing it, someone will remember your joke and question your motives.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Ha! Well then she will have to remain in the salon while she waits for someone to bring her wallet to her. If she leaves the salon without paying that is theft of services.

        More importantly, it’s better not to go down this road as things can escalate fast. Who wants to call the police on their fiance’s boss no matter how big a jackass the boss is.

        I think when OP says no more freebies that will be the end of her side of the problem. The boss was not a customer before now so there is not any long term connection between the boss and OP. I doubt the boss will be back.

      4. Not Today*

        I would never take this woman on as a paying client. That gives her leverage and I can see her suing OP at some point. OP, you should have laughed in her face when she said you had to do her hair for free. Followed by “No, I can’t do that”, then walking away. Would you be expected to do free surgery? There is professional liability associated with performing professional services. Sometimes, if you lie down you will get walked on. This situation tramples over all boundaries of decency.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yeah, I never add a “jerk fee”; I just don’t keep the client after the matter is done and I have no ethical obligations left. When all’s said and done, no “jerk fee” is worth the grief of dealing with a problematic client (disrespectful, dishonest, slow- or no-paying, etc.), in my experience.

      “Sorry, I’m completely booked.” “I’m not available, but let me refer you to OtherLawyer.” “I do not have an extra minute of room on my schedule, I’m so sorry.”

      Another factor I’m hearing that weighs more on the “dump her” side of the scale is that she’s disrespectful to others in the salon while she’s there. Allow her to return, and you risk angering customers and other stylists. Is it possible you’d lose your chair at the salon after a few more visits? That would be on my mind.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Same here. And sometimes the other lawyer I refer that person to is a jerk (although competent – I’m not going to make bad referrals), which is enough of a jerk fee.

        1. Anon From Here*

          I refer them to pals in local BigLaw. You want to be a pain in the -ss to your lawyer? Fine. No more “bargain” work from solo practitioner me. I will send you to a lawyer who’s paid a lot more to deal with this nonsense, and who has an office infrastructure to deal with it as well.

    4. WellRed*

      Yes, cut the ties! It’s not incommon for stylists to not be taking new clients anyhow. I disagree with all the advice about charging her. Also, the fiance needs a new job. There’s no way this is the only problem.

      1. Artemesia*

        The OP may need a new fiance as well. He after all, not she, is the one who bullied her into this. But he definitely needs to find a different job because this one is going to blow up when the blow outs cease.

        1. Anonymous Celebrity*

          That was my first thought. Get rid of both of them: the spineless, out-of-bounds boyfriend and the horrible, non-paying customer.

        2. Ginger ale for all*

          I don’t think she needs a new fiance but premarital counseling could come in handy like it can with a lot of engaged couples. They need to talk out better ways to deal with jerks who become an issue with the couple.

    5. Go under*

      Levying a “jerk” fee is wrong and could expose that salon to negative publicity and possibly legal action, particularly if Boss is a person of color.

      1. Not Today*

        Huh? This person is the definition of jerk and I don’t care what color she is. She needs to be checked. What nerve.

        1. Salon*

          I think Go under meant “if Boss is a person of color and finds out that white people are charged less for the same services” that it could be REAL bad for the salon and OP

    6. Wintermute*

      I wouldn’t go plain and unvarnished truth on this one– I’d blame the salon, just to smooth things. “Because of abuse by family members and friends, we are no longer allowed to accept non-paying clients, the bosses were sick of lost income” It’s entirely true, too. Due to (an) abusive friend (I.e. “her”) the boss (I.e. “yourself”) has decided that you’re no longer taking non-paying clients because of (“your”) lost income.

  5. ENFP in Texas*

    “She says I have to do it for free.”

    Oh HELL no. You just got completely booked for the indeterminate future, and your fiancé needs to back you up on it.

    1. Myrin*

      I was about to say that – what world to live in where you can just decide you’ll be getting something without paying for it and then you actually get it!

        1. Free now (and forever)*

          I think the word you’re really looking for is CHUTZPAH. As in the person who pleads for leniency in sentencing because s/he’s an orphan, after s/he killed her parents.

      1. JSPA*

        Well…there are cultures like that. But they’re either feudal, or else the asking and getting goes both ways.

    2. HannaSpanna*

      There’s a whole reddit called ChoosyBeggars with stories of people who try to do this.
      The nerve of some people.

      1. Anono-Mice*

        I hope you know I fell down the reddit rabbit hole after finding this out. What is wrong with people. Oh my.

    3. Avelinw*


      If your fiancé doesn’t back you up on that, then you have a fiancé problem as well.

      Why isn’t fiancé shutting this down?

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Exactly. Lots of people have told others that they have to do something for them. And then they were told “No I don’t.”

        There shouldn’t be any reason whatsoever to do what this wench is telling OP she has to do. Says who??!! The “I’m the boss of you” police?

        The ginormous balls of some folks amaze me. How does someone even get that way?

      2. TardyTardis*

        Although when I was in the USA, my CO borrowed our lawn mower and didn’t return it for a month–and our grass was high enough we got one of the Letters to mow it. He was terribly upset that he had to give us our mower back…and he hated me from then on. It was not fun.

  6. Lily*

    #2: I’d also have some very serious words with your fiance. He generally needs to have your back and (more or less politely) deflect asks like this, not pressure you into doing it.

    1. Not Australian*

      Agreed. The fact that he allowed this situation to develop in the first place is rather worrying, and also that he’s now not taking any responsibility for it; he should have deflected his boss’s original enquiry, and he should now be doing whatever he can to extract his girlfriend from this situation – but he isn’t. It doesn’t bode well for the relationship IMO.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        I can see my now husband then fiance doing exactly this. He is a people pleaser and was raised in a family that took advantage of that instead of helping him learn boundaries.

        It’s not a sign of fiance “not having ops back” per say. We would need to know a lot more to speak on this.

        I know in my experience it took hubby years to decelipe boundaries and it is still a struggle for him with family.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            Yes I kid you not the guy felt guilty for saying no to helping sort and organize his mother’s basement after she invited us to breakfast out (he was so excited to just be invited out no strings attached then horribly disappointed when she wanted something afterall). He actually did go help for half an hour but we had Thanksgiving shopping to do (she was coming to our place for tg) plus pre-cooking and he still fealt guilty all day for not helping more.

            1. Superpowered Percolator*

              Yep, I have a close relative that pulled this several times when I was a teenager. We don’t talk now.

          2. valentine*

            It’s not a sign of fiance “not having ops back” per say.
            Regardless of the root, he doesn’t have her back in this situation.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I can see this, especially when it comes to a boss/employee situation. He’s afraid of losing the job and a manipulative horrible beast of a boss sees an opportunity and walks all over him.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          Even if he’s a people pleaser, that’s just the reason he doesn’t have your back (how good or bad a reason that is is up to you) – not somehow changing the fact that he doesn’t have your back.

            1. Wintermute*

              But the fact of the matter is he didn’t in this situation. If I say I’m going to pain the shed and mess up and don’t paint the shed, fact of the matter is– unpainted shed. Plus, this isn’t a case of having good intentions but executing poorly, it’s a case of nonperformance, that’s a choice not a mess-up. It might have been an agonizingly difficult choice fraught with hemming and hawing over whether it was worth losing his job– still his choice, still not the way a fiance ought to act.

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              “Mess up” implies some sort of mistake, like “I thought I could thaw the turkey by just putting it in the oven at 400.” Not being to say no to people isn’t a mess-up – it’s just being unable to say no to people.

      1. TechWorker*

        I mean I mostly get the impression the boss is an absolute nightmare (def worthy of entry for the worst boss of the year) because it’s a massive abuse of power. Yes, her fiancé should have just pushed back in the first place but you can understand why he didn’t if he was scared for his job. It may also not have been immediately obvious she was expecting it for free (because, that’s ridiculous) – so if he gave in to putting them in touch it could have spiralled from there :(

        1. Scarlet*

          Sure, but it’s not really an excuse. Being too scared of losing your job to speak up is one thing, but allowing your crazy boss to bully your partner takes spinelessness to a whole new level. What will she want next? The blood of their first born?

          1. Nonenglishspeaker*

            Sounds like an abusive boss, and I would’nt want to blame the fiance for being in the situation. He is probably an even bigger victim of the boss since he sees her a lot more, so it is very possible that has effected his judgement.

            1. Scarlet*

              The boss is definitely abusive and the worst culprit, but I don’t think that absolves the boyfriend of his responsibility.

              1. Lance*

                Certainly not. I get the boss being a terror, I get the pressure (implied or otherwise) for his job… but he still needs to do something that doesn’t involve pressuring his fiance into doing free work for someone they have an indirect, at best, relationship with. And losing money on it, no less!

            2. PB*

              I agree. This reeks of a situation where fiance’s expectations may have been warped by working too long in an unhealthy environment. This doesn’t absolve him of responsibility, of course, but it might be an explanation for how this situation developed this way to begin with.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          If he is afraid of losing his job because OP won’t cut the boss’ hair, then he has already lost the job. The boss is showing him who she is, someone to be feared, someone who abuses their power, etc. He could spent the rest of his time working there trying to accommodate a person who will never be satisfied.

          1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            RE: #2. I want to remind people that getting fired is disaster for some people. Finding a new job is sometimes going to take weeks or months that you can’t afford to be jobless. Being blackballed from an industry in your region by one awful person is a thing that happens.

            People have to do demeaning, miserable things because they have long-term goals like I-want-to-make-a-career-in-this-industry or I-can’t-go-without-health-insurance or I-don’t-want-to-be-homeless.

            Yes, this is an awful situation. But OMG LW HE’S TREATING YOU TERRIBLY JUST BREAK UP and OMG FIANCE SHOULD JUST STAND UP TO HER AND DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES come from a place of major privilege.

            1. JSPA*

              Thank you. And not everybody is equally easily employable, even if they have the same skills as people who are are. All kinds of discrimination in the world, still. And all kinds of presumptions that lead to some people being presumed employable unless proved otherwise, while other people are presumed unemployable unless proved otherwise.

              Pretty sure Captain Awkward generally first makes sure that someone is in a place of physical safety, then reasonable economic safety, and only then starts dispensing “make big changes” advice.

              1. valentine*

                With fiancé’s job in jeopardy, it’s all the more vital to preserve OP2’s job, which she’s now in danger of losing for the same reason, in addition to losing hundreds of dollars (and possibly thousands, because she can’t take other clients) on boss each time.

            2. Artemesia*

              Good point. This is something that should have been avoided. It is easier to refuse to provide free service or be ‘booked up’on the front end than to extricate yourself from a nightmare like this.

            3. Garmi by choice*

              +1. And no, dealing with unreasonable boss does NOT mean fiancé hasn’t already lost the job!

            4. Neptune*

              So much this. I really wish more commenters here would keep this in mind, and not just in this post. Many – I think most, really – people cannot just walk out of bad jobs.

              1. valentine*

                It’s not that they can just walk out, but that, when their health is declining steadily, then by leaps and bounds, they will end up not only being fired for being physically unable to do the toxic job in the abusive climate, but also unable to job-search. People say they can’t leave a job/home/person, but when they’re fired/evicted/dumped, suddenly, a different job/home/relationship possible, so they may as well get a start now.

            5. Not Today*

              No it doesn’t. Getting fired is a disaster for most people, but there are limits to the abuse anyone should take. OP doesn’t know that a firing will result from taking a stand. Bullies often stand down when you stand up to them.

            6. biobotb*

              How is it any less privileged to expect the LW to be the one dealing with the consequences of her fiance’s bad boss? Why should she be taking the financial hit instead of him? It’s his boss, not hers. It’s not her job to throw away her ability to make her own income to keep him in a job. He DOES need to deal with his boss, not make his fiancee deal with her.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      There are so many words I would have with this dude if he were my fiancé, and some of them might just be along the lines of, “You are no longer my.”

      1. Nea*

        When I was reading the letter I was thinking that all OP needed to do to fix this was to say she had broken up with Fiance, so she no longer had any obligation to CrazyPantsBoss.

        Doesn’t actually matter if it’s true or not. All she has to do is say it to CrazyPantsBoss.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          No. Someone like that will badger the fiancée for all the details. Then retaliate because of the lie.

        2. Salamander*

          Might be easier to tell the evil boss that the OP is getting out of the beauty industry. If the evil boss questions, fiance can say that she wasn’t making enough money and is looking for other things. Which…if this situation continues, might be true enough.

          1. Friday afternoon fever*

            I do not think this would be the right call. That’s basically saying “your behavior was OK and we would continue to accommodate it if my fiancé hadn’t left the beauty industry.” A lie that’s not terribly hard to disprove by the boss stopping by the salon unexpectedly.

            1. Superpowered Percolator*

              In my experience, a person like this isn’t going to change no matter what you do. Going with the story that protects you best is a completely reasonable option.

        3. Wintermute*

          Never use a lie when the truth will do. No one’s ever gotten caught in an awful truth.

          “Hey, my boss [aka ME because I’m self employed] has put down a hard line, due to lost income because of abuse by family [my fiance] and friends [YOU] we’re not allowed to take unpaid clients anymore.”

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          I posted more details above under not australian but I think it’s really unfair to suggest ops fiance is break up worthy over this.

          Lots of people striluggle with boundaries with their bosses. It doesn’t mean they are not marriage material. Op also struggled with boundaries here – she could have told fiance no but didn’t. That doesn’t make them bad people it’s a common struggle.

          1. Observer*

            Lots of people struggle, sure. But at some point you DO need to either find the backbone or start looking for another job.

            I’m not going to tell the OP to break up with Fiance, but consistently saddling your partner with major burdens because you couldn’t set appropriate boundaries IS a legitimate relationship destroyer. So, yes, I *will* say to the OP that they need to consider the overall health of their relationship and what this lack of ability to push back is likely to mean going forward.

            It’s not like this is going to come as a surprise to the OP, either. Note the line “This is straining our relationship.” There is a good reason for that!

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              “consistently saddling your partner with major burdens because you couldn’t set appropriate boundaries IS a legitimate relationship destroyer. ”


              1. Realist*

                I don’t mean to be unduly classist here but…the LW is a hair stylist and unless she’s at the extreme high end of that profession has landed a real catch by marrying a white-collar office worker in marketing. You need to be really careful here with your suggestions that she end the relationship because that may well make her worse off economically.

                1. Ms Cappuccino*

                  Are you suggesting she should stay with him for his money?
                  That’s not a good reason to be in a relationship.

                2. Wintermute*

                  That is a RECIPE for putting yourself into an abused position. Fundamentals of relationship first, economic benefits second.

                3. Hold Up*

                  You need to be careful with your assumptions too.

                  I work in a NFP where our marketing director makes about $35 000 a year. My hair stylist – and a lot of hair stylists here – likely make more than that. We don’t have information about their salaries from the letter.

                4. Observer*

                  She may – or she may not. If he starts giving her stuff away she is NOT going to wind up better off, even if he IS a “catch”.

                  Let me also point out that a skilled tradesperson can make very good money if they do a good job, and are good at managing their money. Even if they are not at the very top of their profession. On the other hand, not all “white collar office worker in marketing” is making fantabulous money. And, they don’t know how to manage it or are so poor in their job that they need to placate this kind of person, they may not be such a “catch” even from an economic pov.

                5. Elizabeth Frantes*

                  That’s deplorable. You are essentially calling her at least a gold digger. Or much worse. She works in a hair salon, not a street corner.

          2. Marthooh*

            It’s a common struggle, I guess, but the fiancé is the one who is getting the benefit (such as it is) of this situation. He’s the one who needs this to keep his job. If the boss refuses to pay, then the fiancé should — not OP #2!

          3. Clorinda*

            Yes, this. And if the fiancé has worked for this person for a while, his sense of what’s crazy-inappropriate is no longer reasonably calibrated. I would take this as an orange flag, not a red one. How desperate was he for work when he took this job? (Think of someone who was a new professional or recently unemployed in 2009; that might skew someone’s sense of what a job is worth for YEARS.) How firm are his boundaries in general? DO people walk all over him in general, or is it just this one person?

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              Yes there are so many factors here.

              I feel like people saying I would break up with fiance over this either 1) don’t know what a marriage relationship is like (news flash your partner will be human with flaws) or 2) is looking at the situation as black and white ignoring all the potential situations.

              Maybe fiance is like my husband and is kind and emphathetic with people pleasing tendencies whose family took advantage.

              Maybe this is fiance’s first job and his parents reinforced old school work rules “never be insubordinate” etc.

              Maybe fiance was unemployed for a few years right out of college and has $100,000 in student debt and is terrified of losing the job he finally found.

              I find all the “get a backbone” talk absent any details about the fiance’s situation pretty disgusting and presumptious tbh.

              All we know about the fiance is he has a boss who is so overbearing she is getting free haircuts from a subordinates SO all the while being a total beast about the whole thing.

              1. Jules K*

                Another possibility that could be a factor is disability, the kind of chronic illness that isn’t bad enough to qualify for benefits but is enough to make getting a new job very difficult and living without health insurance downright terrifying.

              2. Realist*

                “I find all the “get a backbone” talk absent any details about the fiance’s situation pretty disgusting and presumptious tbh.”


              3. Not Today*

                I still don’t think anyone has the right to allow someone elses’s boundaries to be violated by reason of association. You can be kind and empathetic without being a doormat.

                1. Jerusha*

                  Right. But I don’t think anyone (including you!) is arguing that the fiance was *right* to permit this to happen or to continue. What I’m seeing is people pushing back against the argument that, because he permitted this to happen or continue, the fiance is a terrible person that the LW is better off without. That there is potentially a large gray area between “Fiance is a stalwart defender of LW against the depradations of his boss, even at the potential risk of losing his job” and “Fiance is a spineless waste of oxygen and the LW should dump him yesterday”

              4. Observer*

                None of the things you mention are good reasons to expect one’s SO to take on the burden that the OP is taking on.

                The bottom line here is that, regardless of the reason, the OP’s SO is asking them to take on a ridiculous burden. While it is not appropriate to say “You need to end this relationship now”, it is equally inappropriate to insist that this is not appropriate to bring up at all.

          4. boo bot*

            Also, these things usually happen gradually, with the crazy increasing in stages, and then you’re resigned to the situation by the time you realize how screwed up it is. The fiance needs to step up now, but this is so weird that I can easily see how well-intentioned people could have gotten sucked into this nonsense.

            OP: I really don’t know about this “doing your boss’ hair thing, fiance!”
            Fiance: Please??? She won’t stop asking, and she gets expensive hair stuff – it could be good for you to have her as a customer!
            OP: … okay…
            Boss: [rude comment as OP does her hair]
            OP: Right… Okay, you look great! You can pay at the desk up front.
            Boss: Pay? I’m not paying, you’re doing this as a favor. To your fiance’s boss. I’m your fiance’s boss, remember?
            OP: [shocked silence as boss walks out without paying]
            Fiance: So… boss wants you to do her hair again…
            OP: She didn’t pay last time!
            Fiance: I know! But they’re talking about layoffs, and we can’t take any chances – what if I lose my job right before the wedding? What if we lose our apartment?
            OP: …Okay, just this once.
            4. [Variations on 2.]
            Fiance: So… boss wants you to do her hair again…
            OP: [sighs] You’ve got to talk to her about this.
            Fiance: I will, but she’s been so on edge lately, I don’t want to set her off. She screamed at the IT guy for an hour because she forgot her own password; I don’t know how she’ll react if I bring it up right now.
            OP: Okay, fine – I can take another one for the team, but this is the last time…
            6. [Repeat ad nauseum]

            1. Elizabeth Frantes*

              Are you the OP? No? Then keep your fiction to yourself, m’kay?

              It’s just as possible that OP’s finance is a total jerkwad. Goddess knows I’ve heard enough sob stories from women who explain that once the ring was on the finger, the nice guy turned into a tyrant.

              Considering how common domestic violence is, it’s rather telling you would try to blame a woman for what a man did.

              It could be that finance OFFERED bosslady free haircare to get a promotion. I wonder what else he offers her for free?

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                This is more fiction than boo bot’s. If this were the case, OP would have written to captain awkward or r/JustNoSO.

            2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              When I read the letter, this was the only way I could imagine this happening, and am sort of surprised at the assumptions most of the commenters are making. It’s just SO bizarre.

          5. Not Today*

            Remember th OP who ended up getting fired because she left work materials on a gravesite because her boss told her to? She would have done better to refuse. It is definitely break up worthy. Yeah, let your boundaries be violated but don’t extend that to me! It’s not a matter of being bad, it’s a matter of working against your own best interest. It is impossible to have self-esteem when you let people mistreat you like this, on the job or not. Therapy is in order. For those of us who are assertive and don’t mind confrontation, these kinds of situations are unimaginable. But I get that not everyone is like me, and I feel badly for those who are abused by people who take advantage of the weak.

  7. Former massage therapist*

    #2 Reminds me of when I was a massage therapist and my mom expected free massages. “But I’m your mom!” Same deal: I was renting space in a clinic and each “free” massage cost me money. She also expected me to give discounts to her friends. So many arguments over what came down to simple math … and yet she would become furious when my dad didn’t charge full price for his services as an electrician. My family wasn’t great at teaching me how to set boundaries. Do not be my family!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      My uncle-in-law tried this when I first became an attorney, and I very coldly told him that I wasn’t going to get disbarred because his [idiot] friends did idiot things that required a criminal defense attorney. I find being super blunt and deadpan can be extremely effective. He was joking about how he’d refer his friends to me, and I told him he should first refer them to a good bail bondsman, because I wasn’t going to show up.

      Family can be really weird about these things.

      1. Asenath*

        Sometimes family can be odd in the opposite ways. I knew a lady who, when her physician children recommended something she didn’t want to do or hear, would sniff “Oh, Susie’s a , she doesn’t know anything about “. I was alwasy reminded of the old saying about a prophet being without honour in his own country. But she took the same kind of approach to her actual family doctor(s), sometimes going to a second doctor (say, at a drop-in clinic) if she didn’t like what the first one said. One doctor fired her over her refusal to take medical advice – it’s perfectly legal to do so as long as the patient doesn’t need emergency treatment at the moment, gets sufficient notice to get a new doctor, and a new doctor is available. She lived into her 90s, though, in spite of all her quarrels with doctors and relatives who were doctors.

    2. PhyllisB*

      Former Massage Therapist, I just can’t understand people like this. My daughter used to be a hair dresser, and I insisted on paying for her services, even though she didn’t want me to. Especially when I went to her shop. Until she started doing this I didn’t realize that hair dressers had to rent their chairs/pay owner. Luckily, her owner allowed her to give family discounts and told her she didn’t have to charge me since I was her mother, but I still gave her a generous tip. Even when she came to the house, I insisted on paying her something. And I would never have dreamed of asking her to comp/discount my friends!!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This happens to people I know in creative work. I think it’s because artistic pursuits are often seen as hobbies, and they often start out that way while creators are building their skills. A friend who does photography is trying to monetize his side hustle and he still gets a lot of “Can I use this for free?” Two friends who are professional artists now still hear it from people who want free commissioned work. I haven’t published a book yet and I’m already getting requests for free copies (um, no).

      They have no clue how much effort goes into producing a really great photograph, or a painting, or a frickin novel. Plus, you’re also talking about time, supplies, equipment, etc. You’d think family/friends would be the first ones to get it, but NO.

      To be fair, people have done things for me gratis, but at their insistence and convenience, not mine.

      1. whingedrinking*

        The thing is that in my experience, artists are typically quite generous with their work and if they’re in a position to offer a freebie or discount, they very often will. (I’ve comped tickets for many a show and been happy to receive such beneficence in turn.) Emphasis on *offer* – if they’re not offering, then they either can’t or don’t want to do it for you, and the gracious thing to do is to let it lie.

    4. zaracat*

      Relatives can be really bad about all aspects of this! I would generally say not to expect services for free especially if the person would be incurring business costs to do it, with *one* exception – unless they’re offering to help, they don’t have any right to criticise your existing situation.

      My mother used to be a professional hairdresser and at a time in my life when literally all I could afford was the cheapest supermarket haircare products and cutting my hair myself in front of the mirror, she would continually criticise my hair without offering any assistance or practical solution. That is a time where you say “put your money where your mouth is”.

  8. ooo*

    OP2: Honestly, Alison’s response is kinda understated — your fiancé’s boss’s behavior is straight-up unacceptable. She’s a bully, and as some folks have already said, your fiancé needs to talk to HR or the boss’s boss immediately, because I get the sense that he’s afraid she’ll fire him if you don’t do her hair for free. Unless he’s working for a truly horrible company, the folks in charge are not going to be OK with that.

    And as Lily mentioned above, you need to have a serious talk with your fiancé too. He should not be pressuring you to work for his boss for free — he should be on your side. This is a big enough deal that I think you need to really question whether he’ll have your back as a husband. (It also gets my bullshit detector tingling. Unless she runs the company — so there’s no HR or upper management to tell about this — and he absolutely can’t afford to find a new job, or he’s just deeply unfamiliar with workplace norms, he should have notified someone higher up about this a long time ago. He seems so unreasonably afraid of saying no to her that it makes me wonder if she’s holding something over his head.)

    1. ooo*

      To clarify: I think Alison’s advice was spot-on from a practical perspective. You are the person with the authority to decide if you’re going to do someone’s hair for free. You have the power to say no to her (and your fiancé), and it sounds like this is a great opportunity to practice exercising that power. (It’s an essential skill to succeed as an independent contractor, so you want to get good at it.) It’s just that Alison usually calls out jerks, and your fiance’s boss seems like one for sure.

      1. Cat wrangler*

        I’m just picturing a scenario where an interviewer asks: “so why did you leave /were asked to leave your last job?”.

        Candidate: “My boss wanted my fiancee to do her hair for free and when they refused to do this, it became difficult to work together”.

        I don’t actually know how I’d extract myself from this situation as offending a scrounger is one thing, the potential impact in your career/reputation and that of your fiance is another.

      2. stump*

        Yeah, the fact that the fiancé pressured the LW to do this in the first place is giving making me wonder how well he’ll set boundaries re: Captain Awkward-esque scenarios, say, if his family is super pushy (for example, since people are generally to the ambassadors to their side of the extended family and are the best people to deal with their parents and relatives, etc.) and wants to be extended houseguests even though NOBODY wants that, or if LW and Fiancé choose to have children and Fiancé’s parents choose to run roughshod over their parenting choices and do the exact opposite of what LW and Fiancé would want with their hypothetical children. I mean, like you said, you’re supposed to have your significant other’s back, and even though it’s clear Fiance’s boss is a damn nightmare, it really wasn’t appropriate for Fiancé to rope the LW into this whole unreasonable scenario; he really needed to set a way firmer boundary about this, even if it was an, “Oh, I know LW is booked up for months. Sorry, Boss.”

        re: the boss holding something over his head, there’s really no way for any of us to know that one way or the other. A lot of people are just really bad at setting proper boundaries and have a hard time standing up to bullies and jerks who bulldoze right over personal boundaries and social norms in order to get what they want, even when it hurts their loved ones. Boundary setting and accepting boundaries set by others aren’t skills that aren’t as widely taught and cherished as they should be.

        1. Catherine*

          Yeah, my thinking if I was in LW2’s shoes would be along the lines of “if I have not had problems with Fiancee’s family or friends before that is because the friends/family are reasonable, not because Fiancee is good at setting boundaries.” It would make me a little nervous about their ability to back me up.

        2. Salamander*

          Yes. I wondered the same thing, and wondered if OP will wind up over on Reddit’s mother-in-law forums.

    2. Gigi*

      I wouldn’t assume she’s holding anything over his head other than a job. We’ve read letters from people who work in such dysfunctional places that they start to normalize crazy behavior. Remember the person who bit a coworker? It’s time for the guy to look for a new job and get out of there.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        I still remember that, because the OP chimed in and seemed honestly *bewildered* that we, the commentariat, were all “WTF biting coworkers is not normal unless you work for Dracula!”

        1. Wintermute*

          Even then it’s pretty awkward, I’m picturing the “wives of Dracula” scene only with him walking into reception and seeing some innocent victim laid out on the waiting room couch. “what are you doing! That man is my Three O’Clock, he belongs to ME! now go!”

    3. Bagpuss*

      I agree, you need to speak with your fiancé .

      As to what he can do now, that is fairly simple. He says to his boss “I’m not involved with fiancée’s business. If you want to use her services, you will have to contact her directly”

      And when she does, you either have no appointments available, or you tell her what you charges will be (and have a ‘No, I am not able to work for nothing’ or ‘I am not able to donate my professional services to you for free’ reply ready for when she tries to demand free work)
      And if she claims that your fiancé promised her you’d do it for free, then your response should mirror his “fiancé doesn’t have anything to do with my business, so he would not have promised anyone my services for free”

      If Boss has a boss, then I think your fiancé should also speak to that person an/or HR to let them know what his boss is demanded and to raise any concerns he has about retaliation.

      If not, he should start looking for a new job (and if she does have a boss, and they or HR doesn’t come down on his Boss like a ton of bricks as soon as they know what she is doing, he should start looking for a new job. )

    4. Psyche*

      Yeah, this situation is very much not ok. If the fiancé actually does fear for his job and can’t afford to lose it right now, then he needs to do two things. He needs to start job searching immediately and he needs to pay the LW for the hair appointment (with a generous tip). That way the cost is coming from HIS paycheck and he can see whether or not he is being paid enough to do this even short term. But there would have to be a strict time limit to leave this job because even being paid, it sounds like it would be a huge ask for the LW to put up with this.

  9. Lena Clare*

    Oh my word! LW2- noooooo. Aren’t people strange about skills like this? Thinking you’ll do it for free! Writing, illustrating, website design, doing your hair.

    I think Alison’s advice was correct, but like the previous commenter I also think she was understated. This boss is WAY out of line. AND ypur boyfriend needs to back you up 100%.

    Honestly, people with no boundaries – it’s my bugbear.

    Have we had a thread about the inappropriate things bosses ask you to do for them? I’d love to see this!

    1. Ambulance Chaser*

      At my last job, I was in-house counsel to a suite of corporations all owned or affiliated with one guy. At various times, he had me researching how to bring an au pair to look after his kids, or how to apply to the town for a permit to build a pool and a dock at his house.

      He had some gall.

      1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

        I had a job where my boss would periodically ask me to do similar things:

        What time do the kids trick-or-treat in (town he lived)?
        Where do I buy tickets for Sesame Street Live at (local arena)?
        Can you make me a reservation at (restaurant)?

        I did not have an admin job in the slightest: I had my own independent work duties that did not in any way shape or form involve doing his scutwork. I deleted his emails and pretended I never saw them. Apparently, he’d then pass them onto another woman in the building until someone did it to keep him happy.

        He knew it was inappropriate because he *never* followed up with me when I ignored the request.

    2. PB*

      If I had a dime for everyone who thought that professional-quality writing was something I’d just give away…

      1. Sylvan*

        Or artwork. Lena Clare’s right about this happening to creative work.

        You can’t pay in “exposure!” It’s a cause of death and a sex crime! :P

        1. Ermintrude*

          What Sylvan said – my thought is, if I want exposure, I can ‘moon’ people.
          People are either going to want to own my art, or not.
          The LW’s handiwork likely isn’t getting much from this harridan.

  10. Jolie*

    OP3: Would there be any chance that your employee could work remotely, and if yes is that an option you would discuss?

    I recently moved from one city to another, quite far away (2-3 hours by expensive train, 4-6 hours by much cheaper coach) because of my boyfriend’s PhD, and I managed to negotiate a “work from home most of the time, come to office when specifically needed” arrangement (that works out about once every 2-3 weeks, luckily I can work and sleep in the coach reasonably well).

    I’m the one who brought the suggestion to my boss rather than the other way around, did it about two months before the scheduled move, but it’s been a bit nerve-wracking. So if that is an option in your line of work, maybe you can proactively bring it up to her and see if she would need it?

      1. rj*

        Hey op3, I have a PhD and am an academic at a university. I think this is a good thing to communicate with your employee about but also, know that if the employee is vague, it’s not because they are trying to be cagey. A quick mental survey of my friends in all disciplines from grad school: literally nothing is how anyone planned. Lots of people had 1-3 yr type postdocs/visiting positions that their partners did not move for, or their partner had a great job so they stayed where they were and pursued other types of work or they got the dream job, and their partner moved eventually…. or basically everything under the sun.

  11. nnn*

    A potential tactic for #2:

    The smoothest way for a hairdresser to get rid of a client is to refer them to another hairdresser who will meet their needs. Which, of course, is hard to do when it’s a difficult client. But if you know any hairdressers who are able and willing to (or desperate enough to) take a difficult client, you can enhance your “I’m booked for the next eleventeen months and my fee is jerk-ass dollars” script with “But I can refer you to someone who is taking clients immediately.” (You could even make sure that your jerk fee is higher than the other hairdresser’s jerk fee.)

    Of course, you shouldn’t have to find her another hairdresser. But getting her into someone else’s chair might bet the tipping point in keeping her out of your chair.

    1. ooo*

      Nah. OP2’s colleagues have already seen what a mess this “client” is. Nobody else in that salon is going to appreciate such a referral, and if OP refers her to a different salon, there’s a decent chance the new stylist will eventually find out the backstory — word gets around. More to the point, it’s just a bad idea to make your problem someone else’s. It’s not always fun to assert yourself, but this is a pretty straightforward case of having to do so.

      1. HannaSpanna*

        In this case I think she would have to actually name what the boss is doing and say other places that offer pro bono or less than cost services are ‘local college A’ and ‘hairdressing school B’

        1. Sacred Ground*

          Oh, I love this. Frame it quite clearly as offering to help her get her styling done for free or reduced cost and make clear your assumption that she can’t afford to pay a stylist, bless her heart, because certainly she wouldn’t be using her position to extort free labor. Make her either state outright that she is doing just that or that she’s in need of charity.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        In small towns a person like this can get blacklisted, as in, “Take your business elsewhere, we don’t want your business.” At one time I was aware of several people that an entire community refused to do business with them.

        This gives me an idea, OP. If you have friends working in other places you might want to check to see if they know her name or reputation. These people I had experience with just mention of their names would cause eye rolls from everyone within ear shot.

      3. Wintermute*

        That’s fair but I have known people that specialize in the most difficult clients, they charge a high fee for it but they have tough skin and a personality where they don’t get rifled up being treated poorly and are good at the “firm boundaries while making the customer still feel like they won” thing… and they enjoy getting a premium for their work that’s higher than most.

    2. BluntBunny*

      Or another way is too give them a bad haircut or dye job. I kid but I do wonder what would happen if the boss didn’t like how OP styled her hair, would they take it out on the Fiancé?

      1. JSPA*

        No, someone will give you far more unwanted “exposure” for a bad job, than for 100 good jobs. That’s not really a good call. Ditto for nipping her ear just a little bit, which might also be tempting.

        However, if she loves the idea of “something for free,” and if you have time, you could offer her one free treatment for every ten paying customers she brings in. Some people just have very bad problems chasing the “free thing.” Seems to have the power of a gambling urge.

        Or tell her that her hair and scalp can’t currently take more treatments, and that in your professional opinion, it needs a break, so you won’t be able to do anything for her for the next (X) months, because you’re professionally cautious with that–and that in 10 years she’ll be thanking you for warning her early. This is (as you know) a thing that can happen; and every stylist gets to draw their own line.

    3. Nico m*

      The more I think there are no tactics.

      LW should refuse and block any direct contact.

      If boyfriend gets fired, so be it. If he can be fired for this, being fired by that boss is inevitable sooner or later.

      1. Yvette*

        “If he can be fired for this, being fired by that boss is inevitable sooner or later.”

        I think that is it in a nutshell. LW needs to do what LW needs to do, maybe holding off while fiance job hunts.

      2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        “If boyfriend gets fired, so be it.”

        Not all of us can afford to think this way. Some of us stay in shitty jobs and bend over backwards to keep them because we have to.

        If a lost hairstyling fee is a financial burden, then a few unemployed weeks? Months? Permanent black-balling in the industry? That is not going to be an option.

        1. Marthooh*

          If this is the case, then the fiancé should start paying for the boss’s hair care, since he’s the one who can’t afford to offend her.

            1. Angeldrac*

              And if they, like many people married or about to be married, share finances, that will have absolutely zero effect on anything for OP.

              1. ooo*

                No, if the fiancé felt it necessary to pay for the boss to get her hair done somewhere else, OP and Fiancé would both be out the money, but OP wouldn’t have to deal with this bullshit anymore.

        2. Wintermute*

          It’s not ALWAYS that way, of course, some people need the insurance, etc. But that’s USUALLY fallacious thinking. There are resources available, and I’d say it’s USUALLY the case that it will be uncomfortable, maybe very uncomfortable, but you’re not going to die if you get fired.

          Plus as other people are pointing out, if you don’t draw a line here, where DO you draw it? And if the boss will do this where will they stop?

          The other issue to consider is “does this get better?” Because the way I see it, he’s living on borrowed time if his boss would fire him over this, because eventually they will reach the final line where he has to say “not one step further back” and gets fired anyway, but now his fiance might be out of a job or have a ruined practice because of lost business– same situation as if he got fired immediately, with the added problem of no second source of income.

          Plus, making plans as if any job is indispensable ignores the fact that he’s at-will anyway, he could be fired tomorrow, for no reason or any reason. If you don’t have an employment contract, you should treat your job as if it might disappear at any time.

      3. JSPA*

        I’m guessing this is an ethnic sub-community within a larger community, and blocking all contact may just not be practical.(On the other hand, lots of groups use relaxers, and lots of areas have populations that are majority relaxer-using, so this may not be correct.) Again, just saying, this isn’t equally simple for everyone. It’s can be like living in a one-horse town, even if physically, it’s a city.)

  12. Anonomo*

    OP2 I love Alison’s advice to tackle this straight on with the boss. I see this in other female dominated skilled industries a lot (hairdressers, quilters, painters, ect). Normal folks dont take into account that things like color or fabric or paint all cost (way more than anyone thinks) money and dont associate the time or skills needed it actually takes to complete a project with the end product because they can walk into BigBoxStore and pick up cheap dye or blanket or mass produced art piece like they pick up milk. Use Alison’s verbage directly with Boss and all the other lunatics you’ll come across (theyre out there, waiting to spring free work from you with compliments or threats or flat out stupidity). And maybe have a heart to heart with Fiance, with a cost breakdown of exactly how much it costs to do each client, including your hourly wage, so he knows exactly what he cost yalls finances over this disrespectful pushing.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This, and those cheap Big Box items are made by machine, in bulk, from bulk supplies, which is why they’re so damn cheap.
      Doing it by hand costs more because it costs the producer more.

      1. NurseZoey*

        They are also created to work for a “one size fits all” type of situation and that’s just isn’t how color or lightener works. I am absolutely thrilled to hear someone else mention that this is an issue in female dominated industries. I’m a color speacialist with the ten years behind the chair with 40,000$+ invested into my career for ongoing education. Still people ask me what my real job is, if I ever plan on getting a real job. Snarky comments on how nice it must be to make “so much money” playing with peoples hair. People are downright disrespectful. I charge fairly, I am by no means making lots of money, I can only afford my apartment because I qualified to live in low income housing. I almost didn’t qualify because I made too LITTLE. So when people think I can afford to offer them free services, because “reasons”, we’ll it really actually affects me. I’m a single income provider, as my bf has been struggling with recently diagnosed schizophrenia. Sorry for the rant this kind of stuff just really gets to me!

        1. Anonomo*

          Im so sorry for your struggles and wish you the best while you sort through them! I mention it being very female based because I see it mostly in my female friends’ small business ventures, where people see it like a hobby even if its the main source of income! Its frustrating when youre not being taken seriously, and from my own experience, dropping down the cost breakdown + science behind such endeavors has been an eye opener for many a crazy pants! Not all of course, theres always that willfully ignorant few who want BigBoxStore prices no matter what.

  13. babblemouth*

    LW2: The AUDACITY of that woman! Is she going to do a marketing campaign for you for free juste because you know her? Of course she won’t. It is so far out of normal for her to ask for free hair-styling from someone she barely knows. Asking for a friends and family discount would already have been out of the norm, but plain demand a paid service for free? Hell no.

    Use Alison’s script only if you fear that not doing so might burn a bridge for your fiancé and you two really need him to keep his job. Otherwise, I’d say you should not only say no, but also make it clear she was out of line all along.

    1. Yvette*

      “Is she going to do a marketing campaign for you for free…”
      What if LW turned the tables, “I need some mass market mailers”, “I use Paul Mitchell, could you get us some co-op advertising dollars?”, “I need local demographics as to age, gender and economic status”

      OK probably not feasible, but fun to think about. Or, maybe something could be worked out along those lines. After all, if that is how Boss thinks/operates, Boss might just be receptive.

      But the whole rude/snapping fingers bit would make me want to dump Boss as a client.

      1. JSPA*

        Yes–the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” interaction is a thing. Problem is, it can veer awfully close or into illegal territory. The IRS wants their chunk on transactions, and they don’t look kindly on de-facto barter transactions. So while this may be an out, socially, it’s probably still a bad business idea.

        1. Yvette*

          I didn’t think of it from that angle, however, there is “free” and there is so cheap it may as well be free.

        2. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

          They treat de facto barter as income, yes. That means OP can report, as income, “bartered $1000 worth of hair styling services to Boss for $1000 in marketing.” Depending on the details of OP and her fiance’s financial situation, the marketing might be worth what she’d pay in taxes on it. And it might call the IRS’s attention to Boss.

  14. Carlie*

    I like Alison’s scripts for the hair situation. I would feel the need to transition too, like “I was happy to do it as a favor once, BUT…” salon won’t allow it/ fully booked/ etc. Or just straight up “I can’t afford to keep doing it because doing yours free costs me X”.

    1. Angeldrac*

      The “I’m fully booked” suggestion keeps being made. I’m assuming that if boss is the kind of person assuming all this free star treatment, she’s also the kind of person to suggest to OP “oh, but you can just do it after hours/in you spare time, can’t you?”.

  15. ..Kat..*

    OP 2. I would be tempted to fry her hair and give her a horrific cut that will take years to grow out.

    Consider sending her a bill for services rendered.

    1. JSPA*

      We wouldn’t suggest that an accountant do a bad job on someone’s books, right? Or that a doctor mis-diagnose a problem patient?

      OP is a professional. This is a profession, not a hobby. Let’s not suggest that someone abandon all professionalism and intentionally screw up a job to get rid of a problem customer.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          It’s still not a professional way to behave. The boss may deserve it, and I indulged in a little fantasy revenge in another comment, but in all seriousness doing anything to harm the boss or do a bad job will end up biting the OP.

          I think the best bet is to try to become much too busy to fit the boss in, or a new salon policy that prevents friends and family discounts. And if I were the fiance I’d be job searching like crazy because this boss is awful.

          1. Ms Cappuccino*

            Harming her would be unacceptable but doing a bad job would be tempting. She can always go to another hairdresser to have it fixed. It is just hair. It grows back.

            1. Trust Your Instincts*

              If Boss ever filed suit, OP would either have to publicly admit she was terrible at her job to avoid having to pay damages, thus damaging her reputation, or she’d have to admit to sabotage, costing money and still damaging her reputation. It’s not worth it to compromise your own service just to avoid an unpleasant conversation.

  16. FE*

    OP2, explore every conventional solution up to and including legal action.

    … then if that doesn’t work, shave her head. She deserves it.

  17. This Daydreamer*

    OP#2 This person sounds like a complete nightmare of a boss. Not only do you need to dump her as a “client” but I think your fiance needs to get the he’ll outta that job pronto. I think your fiance isn’t so much spineless as he is warped by an extremely toxic work environment.

    And if you do her hair for free again, give her a bright purple mohawk.

  18. Former Employee*

    OP#2: I wonder what else this boss has managed to get for free from her own employees or their SO’s. If it turns out that she has been doing this to others at your fiance’s place of work, maybe the employees can band together and just say “No More” as a group. Strength in numbers. Best of luck to you and your fiance.

  19. MsSolo*

    OP3 I have to be honest, if my boss though the fact my husband’s imminent PhD completion was a sign I was about to quit, we’d be having a very strongly worded conversation about gendered assumptions. Just because my husband is going to have Dr in front of his name does not give his career priority over my own. We’re well settled where we are and I love my job, and my field will always be the higher earning one. Depending on what the partner’s PhD is in, you may be worrying about a non-issue if the most likely career path is teaching at the same institution he’s studying at.

    1. jam*

      It really depends on the field. In the humanities (or my corner of them anyway) receiving your PhD and then getting a full time job absolutely means moving, unless you happen to live in a city with multiple universities and get unspeakably lucky. Receiving a PhD and continuing to work at the same institution means you’re working part time and on a semester-by-semester basis. So if I had a friend whose partner was finishing her PhD in my field, *and* that person had a full-time job offer (TT or not) I’d assume they were moving. That being said, again depending on the field, it can be nearly impossible to get full-time university work, so even if the stated intention is “Alex is applying for TT positions and we’ll move to wherever ze gets one” that could take years.

      I think the bottom line is you can’t predict that your employee is going to be moving soon after his/her partner’s graduation. The partner might get an industry job locally or be forced to leave academia, in which case employee might stay forever. I think the suggestion up-thread of sort of proactively exploring whether the boss could offer distance work is a decent one. If the boss is worried about it, that’s probably the only thing they can really do to prepare. It would be kind to this employee not to probe too much because PhD employment can be such a crapshoot it is very likely they won’t know what they’re doing until they’re doing it.

      1. Birch*

        You still can’t assume they’re both moving though. A lot of people just do the long-distance thing for a while until they can work out living in the same place, or one partner moves ahead of the other. And depending on the field, “moving” could mean one partner commutes to the next town over until they find a new place to live there, or it could mean moving to another country, and either way, LW’s employee might or might not be planning to come along right away. There’s no way to tell.

        1. Smarty Boots*

          Correct. My spouse and I did the longish distance thing for several years — we saw each other on weekends during the academic year. Eventually I was able to get a nice non-professor job at university nearby. Not my original career goal, but we needed to be practical and for many reasons I was the one best-suited to get that kind of job.

      2. MsSolo*

        Oh god yes, I meant the kind of ad hoc teaching work you were also doing while you studied. I don’t know what the market is like in the US, but I don’t know a single person who got a PhD in the last decade who’s actually got permanent work in academia, and the impression I get in the UK is that it’s much easier to get work where you studied because you’re already on their books. Most people seem to be so relieved it’s over they’re happy to do data entry for six months to clear their minds before they even want to dive back it.

        (I mean, it might be worth clarifying I know a lot of people who did philosophy and museum studies, so probably not representative of the overall PhD having population, but ‘working two half days a week at university’ + ‘one day a week in a field relevant to their PhD’ + ‘three days a week shelf stacking to pay the bills’ is kinda my expectations of any newly minted Dr, and definitely not a combination I’d be willing to move across the country to support!)

    2. Ashley*

      I don’t know, LW didn’t seem to think that the employee would quit just because her partner completed the PhD, but that it seemed likely he would be moving to another area.

    3. Juliecatharine*

      I came here to say this. It’s a really gendered assumption! It’s right up there with ‘gee she just got married, how long before she quits/goes on maternity leave?’. I find it very hard to believe that a manager would be thinking along these lines were the sexes reversed.

      1. Forking great username*

        I don’t – in some field it’s super expected for people getting their PhD to move for their new line of work/research. Regardless of gender.

      2. JSPA*

        Nope, it happens all the time. Male spouses and fiancés also get asked. In 2 PhD households, especially 2 science PhD households, either partner can potentially get a “must take this” job, the vast majority of them being anywhere on the planet. (At one point, between us, we were seriously looking at 4 different continents, and less seriously at a 5th).

        That commonly means either a very long distance LDR or moving (often taking turns in who moves for whom). Offering flexibility to someone in an LDR can be a huge part of keeping them longer. Signaling awareness of this common problem–an openness to a wide range of solutions–is not gendered, it’s not pushy, and it’s generally much appreciated.

      3. Someone Else*

        I disagree that it’s a gendered assumption. It might be reading that way because in this case the one getting the PhD is male, but flip the genders (or make them the same) and I’d still think it probable that after one of the couple got a PhD they’d likely both be moving, not necessarily immediately, but soonish. It does depend a bit on what sort of PhD it is, but every couple I’ve known have moved after one of them completed the PhD. It’s a normal and very common part of the process. They got the PhD to further career in X which meant moving for the positions they new PhD qualified them for, which were almost never in the town where the university they got the PhD from.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Oddly enough, all the partnered PhDs I know are currently in same-sex relationships, and yes, the couple goes where the one with the doctorate can get a job.

        2. Wintermute*

          I know a couple that it happened to with genders reversed. Her degree was in a specialty that requires her to live on a coast or estuary, usually working for the government, and they were living well inland. It was just assumed by all including the husband that they’d move to where she could get a job.

    4. Asenath*

      It is very nearly certain that a new PhD will need to move – and possibly very far – to get any job at all using his/her training. There is a small chance of some kind of badly-paid and insecure sessional work, or something outside academe (depending on the size and economic situation of the city), but getting a good teaching position in the institution that just granted the degree is … essentially impossible. This applies to both male and female graduates, even though in this case, the new PhD is the husband, so it’s not really a gendered assumption. Husbands have left their careers so that their new PhD wife can accept an academic job in a distant city. Not everyone wants a long distance relationship, either.

      That being said, I think the employer should not expect the employee to talk about her future plans until she (the employee) has made them and is ready to let the employer know.

      1. Bikirl*

        Yes, I agree with: “I think the employer should not expect the employee to talk about her future plans until she (the employee) has made them and is ready to let the employer know.”

    5. Consuela Schlepkiss*

      Not to mention that if Fiance is on the academic market right now, given the way academic hiring takes place, there is no information to convey. If they applied for a job closing Oct. 15, they may have been contacted for a phone interview and plans may be in the works for an on-campus visit after the holidays. If they are offered the job, the negotiations could run through April. Then the big move happens during the summer. And OP3 may not go along, at least at first. This also assumes that the hiring folks are willing to take someone who is ABD right now… There is literally nothing OP3 can tell Boss with any certainty right now.

      As an academic spouse and someone who did my own PhD, let me just reiterate as well that the academic job market in some fields is utter shite right now. So there may only be a small handful of jobs anyway. The best thing OP3’s manager can do is just let it ride for a while until there is something to know.

      1. OP3*

        Thanks – that is really helpful information! I don’t know anything about the academic hiring process, so if nothing else, I will slow my roll.

        And I would have the same question if it were a different gender scenario. It’s not that I assume she’ll follow him, more that I assume there are more jobs for him not-here that here, so wonder how she’s thinking about it, but wasn’t sure how/if I could approach it.

        1. Smarty Boots*

          Interviews can be a big annual conferences over the winter holidays, campus visits in the spring, hiring mid to late spring or even later. That’s the case for lit, for instance: Modern Language Assoc annual conference is between Christmas and New Years. Other fields may work differently but in general hiring processes in academia can be unbelievably long.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          It really depends on the field and what is in your location, as well as his plans. There may be Post-doc work at the lab he’s currently in, an industry job, or a long and protracted search for a faculty job, or he might not end up in an academic job at all.

          I have a PhD but ended up giving up on any notions of an academic job before I even finished because the job market was so awful. I didn’t have a realistic chance of competing so I went into professional services instead.

      2. Liz T*

        And if spouse gets a job that’s not tenure-track, the agreement might well be that non-PhD spouse should stay put for a bit, since spouse could well be relocating again in a few years.

        I know one couple where one partner is an academic, and the non-academic works remotely. (She’s the main breadwinner and a bad-ass boss; the company she now runs has always been really big on The Cloud etc.) The PhD spouse had post-doc fellowships in various places for a year at a time before they moved anywhere together.

        I know another couple where BOTH partners are academics with PhDs, and they live in totally different parts of the country right now.

      3. Consuela Schlepkiss*

        OP3 I am glad you got some use out of my post since I completely borked it by naming you as the employee.

      4. JSPA*

        The academic job market in some fields has been shite for 20-odd years. Demographics are what they are, and economic downturns leading to hiring freezes don’t help.

        Not all specialized post-PhD jobs are academic / Post-Docs, though. If it’s computers or biomed or any of many tech and tech-adjacent fields, there are industry-based research positions that hire ongoingly. And…they’re still far flung and specialized.

    6. Artemesia*

      Most good academic institutions don’t hire their own graduates and PhDs who want to remain in academia almost always have to move. It is not unusual for there to be literally a handful of tenure track positions in the entire country and some of them are going to be in fairly rural locations where a spouse will have trouble finding a job similar to the one he or she has in an urban area. It isn’t ‘gendered’ to assume this is the case here. My husband had to uproot his law career and move to a city where he had no contacts in order for me to begin my career. That was our deal, but it was really tough on him — much tougher than we had expected because he was doing very well on a partnership track where he was.

      1. fposte*

        Yup. It’s not gendered; it’s just academia. And if the employee isn’t planning on relocating or partner isn’t planning to aim for the academic track, that’s fine, but it’s enough of a reality to make it an acceptable reason for inquiry into the future.

      2. JSPA*

        Eh, I’ve seen exceptional grad students do a post-doc in the same institution, or even the same lab. Ditto if there’s some pressing life reason for them to stay there. It’s not common, but not impossible. Some institutions have a hard bar on tenuring from junior faculty ranks, but that’s not relevant here (nor is it universal).

        1. Artemesia*

          A post doc is much like an internship — temporary and few institutions will hire into their own tenure track from their own graduates (and if they do they don’t remain respected institutions for long). They may hire someone who has made a career elsewhere first, but direct grad school – tenure track hires don’t happen at first rate institutions.

          1. JSPA*

            Generally correct. But exceptions do occur (grad school to post doc to tenure track). e.g. Harvard has (or had) a hard and fast rule about not tenuring from their junior faculty, ever. But that didn’t stop them from hiring and tenuring Noam Elkies. I’ve seen it a couple of other times, too.

      3. Pomona Sprout*

        “Most good academic institutions don’t hire their own graduates and PhDs who want to remain in academia almost always have to move.”

        This. The university where I got my master’s degree in library and information studies would not even hire the graduates of that program to work in the campus library as “professional” librarians, which were classed as faculty. If you got your libary degree at that degree, you could be a library assistant, but NOT a librarian (at considerably less pay and with many fewer perks). The library and the grad program were COMPLETELY separate entities, but that didn’t matter. That rule had not always been in effect, and there were a number of tenured faculty librarians on the staff at the time who had gotten their degrees there many years previously. I’m sure that as each one retired, their replacement was recruited from “outside,” and there probablw aren’t any if them left by now.

    7. Yay commenting on AAM!*

      My husband has a PhD and, realistically, we have had to move for his job. To put it in perspective, he applied for between 150-200 professorships over two years, and had three offers, spread across North America.

      My career and skillset are such that I can find a job pretty much anywhere he can, but the reverse is not true: there are many places I can work that he would not be able to find any work at all, which would lead to him leaving his field altogether. Thus, his job dictates where we live. It is not sexist, it is a reality that he spent years on a highly niche skill set, and I did not.

    8. My boyfriend is an academic*

      Just because my husband is going to have Dr in front of his name does not give his career priority over my own. We’re well settled where we are and I love my job, and my field will always be the higher earning one. Depending on what the partner’s PhD is in, you may be worrying about a non-issue if the most likely career path is teaching at the same institution he’s studying at.

      This is incredibly naive when i comes to academia, and gender has nothing to do with it. First off, non-academic spouses of academics will almost always be the higher earner. Second, while it is not unheard of for departments to hire their own PhDs as faculty, it is not the norm. Third, the reality is that academics have to be mobile nationally — and, increasingly internationally — if they are to find tenure-track jobs. There are few tenure track jobs out there, particularly at “good” universities, and they are not going to be people who take the view “I must stay in City X.”

      That means either (1) you tell your partner to get out of academia (good luck with that), (2) end the relationship (it happens because of this issue, but that may not be what you want), (3) have a long-distance relationship (YMMMV), or (4) accept that as the spouse with more transferable skills that can be applied anywhere, you’re going to be the one who’s moving.

      Don’t start a relationship with an academic if you MUST live in a certain city.

  20. Birch*

    #3, please stop asking your employee. I guarantee she wants to know what’s going to happen more than you do, and you paying any attention at all to the situation is definitely increasing her stress. You don’t know what their plans are and it’s unfair to assume she would move with him or that he would move at all or that if they do move, it will be immediately after he finishes, or that he’s even going to finish on time. Finishing a PhD is incredibly stressful on the candidate and their partner and family and the sense of unknown is horrible. Depending on their situation/field the possibilities range from very little lifestyle change to literally moving across the world to being unemployed. Anything could happen. I’m sure they have discussed possibilities amongst themselves endlessly, but none of those discussions are your business. Even if they did have a solid plan, they wouldn’t be able to put it in play until they were sure of the husband’s finishing date, which can be pushed back at the last minute for all sorts of reasons. Please have a little compassion for a stressful and uncertain time in this couple’s lives and don’t bring it up any more.

    1. OP3*

      I have never brought it up! She mentioned something about his graduation, which started me wondering. And see above re: my assumptions.

      1. Birch*

        That’s good to hear! I know it’s natural to wonder, but I hope these comments have convinced you not to bring it up for the many reasons everyone has said.

        1. fposte*

          Many of the comments, including mine, are saying the opposite, though. This isn’t bugging somebody about the PhD; it’s somebody with an established relationship with an employee possibly asking a single question about the future when something’s likely to significantly change it. It’s really not a big deal, so long as the question is a low-key one-off that accepts “Who knows?” as an answer.

          Yes, a PhD is stressful, but the stress of the employer’s co-workers and boss counts too.

        2. JSPA*

          If the boss wants to signal flexibility and support, that’s NOT stressful. That’s lifting the stress burden. Let’s not presume pressure and bad intent when there’s good indication that OP is committed to doing it right. Starting with posting here to ask how to do it right.

    2. DarkHorse*

      You misread it; OP has not asked her employee yet. That’s what she wanted Allison’s advice on. What she knows so far is what employee has openly shared because they’re friendly.

        1. LGC*

          Wait, I thought the rule was that it couldn’t be a LW (so like, even though I’d be a strong contender for Worst Boss Of The Year, if I wrote in about the stuff I do I couldn’t get nominated).

          That said, regardless of the rule I agree with This Daydreamer and even if it has to strictly be the LW’s boss I hope we can make an exception.

  21. Jack V*

    Yeah, #2 is really awful. The way she’s bullying the *relative* of the employee is just so much worse. I know “hey, you’re good at this, could you do it at cost for a favour” is common, but “hey, please bully your fiancee into being my personal hairstylist, for free, forever” is just AWFUL.

    I agree OP2’s partner was very out of line chivying her into doing this in the first place, but I think you do need to give him some idea how to respond to her, if she bears down on him more if you refuse — if you’ve already suggested “you need to be firm, and go over her head if she insists, even if it risks your job” or “you need to find some convincing excuse even if it’s a lie” or “you can’t work for this woman, please consider looking for a new job” then this is redundant, but I think you do need to make that clear to him, even if he hopefully won’t need it.

    1. Forking great username*

      This is a pretty long and unkind leap considering how little info we have on the fiancé. One Trent tiny snippet of their life – that is still missing many details! – for him to be a spineless, not in her corner bully. Wow.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Yeah I am not sure I would have even finished whatever process I was in the middle of doing at that point. Oh, I just painted bleach on your hair? Too bad, you can wash that out yourself.

    2. LadyPhoenix*


      Gordan Ramsey was epic when this happened to him (the client whistled for his attention):
      “Don’t whistle at me, I’m not your effin dog. In fact you look more like a dog. Eff off will ya.”

      I don’t see why this person requires any respect. She’s not a customer and I’m sure tge entire salon hates her too.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It’s in keeping with her huge sense of entitlement that she has shown the world with her demand that OP cut her hair. So I am not surprised that she snaps her fingers.

  22. AnonyMs.*

    Ok, now I’m wondering if my boss reads AAM. I am living the employee’s situation in OP #3.

    In my case, there is an 85% chance we’re moving. My boss mentioned remote work when I took the job, but that was two years ago and it was just a “we’ll see.” But because there are so many unknowns, like where we’ll go or even if I will join him, I would prefer not to discuss it until the job search process is much further along.

    So try to put it out of your mind, OP, and please lay off. If it is indeed me, she’s stressed enough! However, if remote work is a definite as opposed to just a “I’ll think about it,” you can say that because it will ease my–um, her– mind.

    1. Mommy MD*

      I’d not ever give an employer any clue about my plans until the day I’d give notice. I’d also not be a boss who pressures employees about these things as even bringing it up is a form of pressure. If she quits, she quits.

    2. OP3*

      Ha! I am not your boss. And will wait until spring before having the one conversation Alison said was ok.

      Good luck to you!

    3. lmonster*

      I also am basically OP3. There is a 100% chance I’m moving when my husband finishes his PhD and stats a post-doc. The when depends on a lot: if he ends in the spring, as planned; how long the thesis office’s back log is; when and where he gets a job; how long it takes me to find a job, etc. My whole office knows I’ll leave when he graduates/starts a post-doc, but i try to keep it vague about when that is (partly because I don’t know!). I haven’t talked to my supervisor much about it because I’m in a position where funding is tight and I’m the newest employee on the team, and I don’t want another strike against me in the vent of layoffs. I do, however, plan to talk with him when I start my job search in earnest. I’d like him to be a reference and I think its better to be open.

  23. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #1 You need someone with a specific skill, and this candidate doesn’t have the skill. So the question isn’t even about whether he lied or not. He is not qualified for the job.
    And also, he lied.

    #2 Just tell her she can call the salon for an appointment. You don’t owe her any favours.

  24. Triplestep*

    No. 2, I’m surprised at all the advice here to you to “just get rid of her” or similar. I’m guessing if you felt you could have done that without recourse, you would have done it by now! You know this is not normal or acceptable, and obviously you feel trapped.

    I presume that your fiance works for a small business – someplace without an “ethics hotline” you could call, and possibly not even a “bosses boss” your fiance could go to. Bullies like his boss don’t typically thrive in businesses with a “code of behavior” and an actual hierarchy. I also suspect there are extenuating circumstances, or reasons why your fiance would rather not rock the boat here – maybe he cannot easily get hired elsewhere and needs to hang on to this job for dear life. There’s a lot of talk in this blog about how bad workplaces can skew ones idea of normal, and that might help explain how your fiance helped foster this situation. Holding him accountable is only going to go so far.

    I think the only advice here that makes sense is Alison’s suggestion to say your employer will not allow you to take non-paying clients anymore. The only thing that’s going to make this controlling bully back down is the notion that someone else has more control over you. If she suggests you continue to do her hair in one of your homes, you’ll need to tell her that you’d love to, but the Board of Health, or the State Cosmetology Board or some other Governing body will not allow it. She sees you as a pushover, so I would use that to your advantage rather than trying to get her to see you as someone with actual power over your own decisions. (Not that you don’t have that power, but there’s nothing to be gained here in changing her view of you.)

    And it should go without saying – if your fiance is not job hunting, he should be.

    1. LeighTX*

      I agree with all of this–I’m sure you’ve thought through the easier options and you’re looking for a script to get this woman off both your backs. Before you tell her that your boss/the salon will no longer allow non-paying clients, think through every comeback she could possibly have and how you could counter it (truth or fiction, doesn’t matter). She offers to pay a nominal amount, you respond that unless she pays $xxx your boss/salon is losing money and it’s not allowed. She asks to do it in your home or hers, you’ll lose your license. She wants to go over your head to your boss/salon owner, give her the number of someone who will have your back.

      I’m so sorry you’re in this situation. I cannot understand how a person could be so awful, but she is and I wish you all the best in dealing with her.

      1. PJs of Steven Tyler*

        This is a great thought! Game it out ahead of time to make sure she can’t catch you off guard.

  25. Bookworm*

    #1: I agree that it’s a dealbreaker. But is there any chance to create an assessment of some sort to test a candidate’s ability on this skill? That may create more work on both your end as a hiring org and a pain on the candidate’s, but as someone who recently completely a job search, sometimes I have found test assessments were useful in knowing if I wanted to work at that organization (if you’ve go through the archive here AAM, you there there have some doozies).

    It could be a useful weeding tool and maybe it’s too late for this hiring round but if it’s possible it might help in the future. Good luck!

    1. Artemesia*

      No one should ever hire someone for a role involving technical skill without the person demonstrating that skill. Heck silicon valley jobs usually involve hours at a white board demonstrating skills and that is for very high paid and advanced developers. If you need someone who is expert at something as routine as Excel — have them do a half hour exercise demonstrating they can do what you need done. And if it is something advanced — all the more reason to have the person show you they can use the program. If they will be using it on the job, it is not that difficult to pull an example for them to use to demonstrate they can do it.

  26. Database Developer Dude*

    That “Can I ask my employee’s future plans?” letter? Waaaaay too much benefit-of-the-doubt is being given to the manager in this case. There is no logical reason to ask the employee’s plans based on her partner finishing his PhD except looking to force the person out on the company’s timeline, not theirs.

    1. Darcy Pennell*

      I think this is unfair. I’ve worked at companies where people who had long term plans gave very long notice: a woman who returned to grad school gave 5 months notice! Nothing bad happened, no one was forced out, the boss had time to plan and the employee was supported in her career plans. It’s not accurate to say there is no reason for a manager to want to know besides wanting to force the employee out. That’s just not true.

      1. OP3*

        Thanks for that. I really am mostly curious, and wanting to be sure I have my own expectations in the right place. I hope she keeps working with me forever! And also gives more than two weeks notice if she knows she’s moving well in advance, but would never pressure her about that.

        1. AnotherSarah*

          I was in this position, as the academic job-seeker, 2 years ago. My partner told his boss he was leaving with 8 months notice–I got my offer in March and my partner was going to work until the following December. Even if partners leave in July/August with the new professor to the university town, offers are OFTEN made by March or earlier. I think the key will be that your employee knows it’s “safe” to give a longer notice. But everyone I know who followed their academic partner gave 1-2 months notice.

    2. JSPA*

      Hunh? First, there are plenty of good, supportive logical reasons someone might want to bring up the issue (whether or not you can think of them off the cuff, which luckily, is not a bar to other people supplying them). Secondly, there’s the standing rule about not trashing the posters (on the assumption that they’re coming here for advice because they want to do the right thing). Sure, you can say, “make sure you’re not doing this for the wrong reason.” But presuming bad intent is gross.

  27. BlackKitten*

    OP1 if it wasn’t for you saying you had a husband, I’d think you were my team lead. We’ve got pretty much exactly the same thing happening (multiple times from what I’ve heard). We’re looking for a new team member, and require experience in certain technologies. We keep getting promising looking candidates, but when we ask about their experience with technology X (which they list in their resumes as experienced in), we keep getting answers along the lines of ‘oh, I don’t have any experience with that’, ???, ‘I was part of a team that did use it’. So, they’ve never seen or used technology X, but that somehow equals experienced with, because someone on the team did have that experience.
    Somehow, I don’t think they’ve got a hive mind. I think someone out there must be encouraging people to do this, maybe to get to the interview stage, in the hope that maybe we don’t actually know what experience we need in a new team member.

  28. Delta Delta*

    #2 – We may have overlooked something. It strikes me as possible that Fiancé told Boss that OP would do the job for free and now can’t get out of that. I see how this might’ve happened (and I am in no way excusing Boss’s horrible behavior). Or fiancé might have said something that would lead Boss to believe this would be an ok ongoing thing. Again – not ok, but there might’ve been an interaction on Fiancé’s side that OP doesn’t exactly know.

    It seems like OP ought to follow Alison’s advice and throw down some boundaries with Boss as she would with any other client, and leave Fiancé out of it.

    1. HannaSpanna*

      I did think this first as well, wondered if the fiance was telling boss that op2 was happy to do it etc, and telling op2 that the boss was demanding it.
      However, from the description of the haircut sessions in the rest of the letter, I think it sounds more like the Boss has gone all Amanda Priestly.

    2. Anon From Here*

      If that’s the case, I would be incensed that my partner would hire out my services for zero compensation coming to me. So I’d see two areas where LW#2 needs to throw down some boundaries: with the boss demanding free hair styling and with the fiancé.

    3. P*

      That’s an interesting point; though a very strange move; you’d think fiance would know it would cost her and thus “them” hundreds of dollars.

      1. JSPA*

        There are people (still disproportionately male) who will say “yes” to things that they feel will bring them more money / status, even if doing so removes money / status from their spouse or fiancé. Whether that’s free work, leaving a job for the sake of spouse’s advancing career move, doing all the childcare and housework, or whatever. Wish it were rarer. Fear it isn’t. And it can put the “done to” partner in a precarious economic situation. Dangerous in an abusive relationship, of course. But even in a loving relationship, things can happen. A friend was facing six months to leave the US after living here for ~25 years. Her spouse died young(ish) and unexpectedly, never having completed the paperwork to start their greencard applications. They were both on his endlessly-renewed work visa. Nice house, nice cars, money no problem. Until it was. Everyone–make sure you’d have a landing spot if your spouse / SO were suddenly gone, one way or another.

  29. Labradoodle Daddy*

    Either the candidate deliberately lied, or has poor judgement and thinks that reading an article is equivalent to having a skill. I’m not sure I’d want to hire someone like that.

    1. Psyche*

      Yeah, I actually think that if he does believe reading an article is good enough he would be worse than if he deliberately lied. It is very difficult to train people who believe that they already know something.

  30. restingbutchface*

    OP #1, should you hire a candidate who lies? Hell, no. At best, your husband will never fully trust them and at worst, you just knowingly walked into a business relationship with a liar.

    I get that the economy is tough and I’m not surprised to see gloss on CVs, but that’s a lie. Also kinda weird how the candidate was so casual about it, like oops yeah that was untrue. That’s the red flag for me… What else on there is a lie? Hmm? He sits on a throne of lies.

  31. DArcy*

    I had a coworker put me down as a reference without bothering to tell me he was doing so. I didn’t know about it until I got a call and email from the police department he was applying to, and they wanted this entire huge form filled out with detailed evaluations.

    Well, they got my very honest evaluation with a pretty strong emphasis on negatives, and he did not get the job.

    1. Arctic*

      Did they say he put you down as a reference? Did he?
      I’ve been contacted by criminal justice agencies for co-workers but it’s always been them reaching out to people they worked with of their own accord.

      1. post turkey day yay*

        Some random person in a suit showed up one day looking for a coworker who wasn’t there. He hadn’t made an appointment. She didn’t know he was coming. The two of us in the office that day were very confused.

        Turns out, a former coworker had applied to a job somewhere and this was part of the detailed background check. They had to interview that specific coworker, because she’d worked with the applying-one a lot.

        Why they didn’t bother to tell my coworker that they were coming to interview her, or schedule a time when she’d be in the office, I have no idea.

        1. Arctic*

          Yeah that sounds federal. I think they do it that way to make sure you are “honest”. No time to reflect or give canned responses.
          State and municipal are much less in depth. But many do echo the federal model now to a less extreme degree. They ask for complete names of people you worked with. Or ask people who were references for three names of other people who have worked with the candidate.

          1. post turkey day yay*

            Yep, federal. He showed an ID. Because otherwise, our reaction to “random dude shows up looking for a woman who isn’t there and isn’t scheduled to be there” was “are we dealing with a stalker”.

              1. D'Arcy*

                I’m pretty sure that the idea is that they feel they’re more likely to get an honest, candid impression if the interviewee does not have a chance to think about it in advance.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I once had a former coworker put me down as a reference without telling me. She was applying at a company I’d just started with a few weeks earlier. The hiring manager came to me and said she put me down as a reference. I told him the unvarnished truth and she did not get the job. She was someone who never understood how our systems work, created a lot of messes on said systems, and needed a lot of hand-holding in general. The position he was hiring for was one in which she would have been working with the same exact systems we had at the previous company, and because the current company had just converted to these systems they really needed an expert who could figure it all out. That was not her. Put me down as a reference without telling me? I’m not responsible for the consequences.

    3. Angeldrac*

      I still shudder with embarasssment remembering this incident: during my interview my potential employers wanted one more reference, of a particular type. I gave them the name and number of another supervising colleague. In the 30 minutes it took me to get home, with the intent of calling this colleague straight away to ask her, she had already been contacted by my interviewer. Thankfully, she was good natured about it and gave me a great reference, but, maaaaaaaaaan…. my skin is still crawling thinking about it 12 years later.

      1. Even Steven*

        Angeldrac, I don’t think you could have done it any better – and that was quite a compliment that they started calling refs right away. I hope you got that job!!!

        On a related note, last week I had a fantastic interview, and at the end asked what the next steps were. They were warm and pleasant and said that they had a few more candidates to meet with, and would let me know their decision the following Monday. I took that to mean that they were setting my application aside until they had met everyone.

        I got back home in 20 minutes and immediately emailed all my references my most recent resume and the job description in question, more as a ‘just in case’ than anything. Good thing I did – one of my refs called me an hour later to say they had called him, and that they were very pleased that he was familiar with the role and knew how to talk about how I could fit it so well. I was offered the job at the end of the week and start this coming Friday (YEAH!!!!!!!). They had gone on to chat with the other 4 of my refs, who they found were equally as prepared. It was exciting and terrifiying to see the “guess who just called me” emails streaming in, one by one. I now have many thank you notes to write. :)

        So just to say – I disagree with Alison that a single request to references at the start of the job search is adequate. I stood out here because I prepped my refs with job-specific info. Can’t hurt, right? I didn’t do it for each job I applied to – only for jobs where I interviewed in person and felt confident that I had a shot at it. I am so grateful to have such supportive refs!

  32. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

    I’m going to gently push back against people saying that asking about the fiance’s post-PhD plans is inherently sexist, assuming that the LW would be asking the same thing were the genders reversed.

    The end of a PhD is usually accompanied by a move. In fact, the move can come first, as the person gets their first academic job elsewhere and finishes writing the dissertation from a location that isn’t their home university. If they’re going into the academic job market, there’s often upwards of 200 applicants for a single job, and maybe ten or so jobs per year per specialty. The applicant goes where the job is, and whether or not the partner will choose to move with the applicant is often referred to as the ‘two-body’ problem.

    As Alison said, ask, ONCE, with no expectation that you’ll get the answer you want. Then take that answer and work it into your management strategy, realizing it could change should the fiance get a job locally, run into a snag and get an extended local timeline, or should the employee say ‘no, I’m not moving with him right away, we’re going to do LD for a while.’

    1. PB*

      I agree, Rebecca. I’m a woman in academia. My male partner’s life has revolved around my job for as long as we’ve lived together. Since he moved in with me in 2009, we’ve moved long distances twice for my career opportunities, forcing him to completely uproot his life every time. “Trailing partners/spouses” in academia is a real problem, and it affects both genders.

      OP3, your letter did not read as sexist or gendered to me at all. Just because your employee happens to be a woman in this case, I strongly suspect you’d be asking the same questions of the male partner of a woman finishing her PhD.

    2. Psyche*

      I agree. Every couple I know where one person has a PhD and the other does not moves for the PhD’s job prospects, regardless of the genders of those involved.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      Not just for post-PhD academic jobs – almost everyone out of my department left the area on completing their PhD, whether they were going to professor jobs or industry. Because almost everyone initially came to that area solely for the grad school and there are few post-PhD opportunities within a 2 hour radius.

  33. Liz T*

    #2 I’d have him tell his boss, “My fiance broke up with me because I pressured her to do people’s hair for free.” No fiance, no stylist to bully! Then all he has to do is spin ever-more-complicated lies about his love life to cover up your existence.

    Joking. Or am I? Not sure.

  34. LadyPhoenix*

    LW2. – I would be giving the fiance and earful for putting you in the situation in the first place. Then tell them that you will expect an appointment and payment (upfront) with this boss or else not haircut, and that you expect your fiancee to back you up.

    If they don’t, then that is a red flag of things to come and I would hold off on wedding bells or ditch them altogether.

    Does it suck to work under an abusive boss? Yes. But if one thinks that subjecting their partners and loved omes to this abuse is a-ok… well, I’m gonna give these people a hard pass.

    1. Anon From Here*

      I agree. Honestly, LW#2’s issue sounds like just as much of a fiancé problem as it does a boss problem.

  35. P*

    OP2 – I’m aghast anyone thinks their employees significant other owes them hundreds of dollars; either as cash or as free labor. This behavior is abhorrent and you should put a stop to it now. As others have stated, if the business has any kind of ethics hotline or if she has a boss above her, please alert them. This violates all kinds of ethical and likely financial/tax/regulatory rules.

    1. LadyPhoenix*

      I agree. Demanding the fiancee pay for this (when finances might already be together) is a BAD and fruitless idea.

      You either tell the boss she won’t get another session without paying this ne (and possibly tge kast session)… or see this as an expensive lesson to have the spine to say no to freeloaders like fiancee’s boss.

      Sueibg may not work since thus wss… unfortunately, a charity with no contract.

  36. Jaybeetee86*

    LW2: She… just announced you were going to do her hair for free, indefinitely? You’re probably more current on your client-service skills than I am, but I’m not sure I could have concealed my reaction to that one.

    I empathize with the fiance, who is indeed throwing LW2 under the bus, but frankly, a person who just declares that a near-stranger will provide them services for free strikes me as a “I’ll not only fire you, but I’ll personally ensure you never work in this town/industry again!” kind of boss. Fiance is in a bad situation and is likely very, very scared of standing up to this person, maybe believes by now that she really does have that kind of power to basically ruin his life if he doesn’t play along. And yes, if he’s been working for this woman for awhile, he’s probably normalized it to some degree and doesn’t entirely realize how out there this is. What he really needs is to find a new job ASAP, which would solve the problem all around. In the meantime, yes LW can draw her own lines about not being able to continue for free. If this woman really is a psycho, that may well hasten Fiance’s demise at the company… but that may not actually be a bad thing. Boundaries and assertiveness are well and good, but sometimes the only real solution is to just get far away from the person.

        1. fposte*

          But “not taking no for an answer” really means “she pushed harder than I was prepared to push back on.” He can make her take no for an answer–we all can, unless we’re talking to, like, the IRS. I understand that not everybody can afford to say “Well, let her fire me for saying no,” but this is such an unreasonable request that, as noted upthread, he’d likely to get fired for something down the line anyway, and there’s value in making the stand to protect your family rather than sacrificing them.

          The irony is that basically he’s doing to his fiancee something similar to what the boss is doing to him–he’s using different emotions, but he’s not taking no for an answer either. I’d really love it if the OP could say “Honey, this isn’t reasonable, this is a horrible boss and job, I can’t turn my workday into being extorted by your boss. Please start looking for a new job today, since I’m going to say no to this, and I’ll support us while you’re looking.”

          1. Anon From Here*

            I don’t disagree that the boss is being completely unreasonable. I do think, though, that there’s quite a large step between “not taking no for an answer” and Artemesia’s view that the fiancé is “a sniveling little bootlicker who OFFERED free hair care as a way of currying favor.”

              1. LadyPhoenix*

                I agree. I am mad at the fiancee and not him off the hook, but I don’t see him as a opportunist or asskisser but rather a guy doing the wrong things because… well… he hasn’t figured it out jow wrong this is.

                1. fposte*

                  Or he doesn’t deal well with this kind of extreme pressure, which is pretty understandable. His response choice was wrong, but it’s not exactly an optimal situation for making the right one.

            1. valentine*

              The irony is that basically he’s doing to his fiancee something similar to what the boss is doing to him
              Yes, he’s outsourcing his discomfort.

          2. Neptune*

            But depending on your financial situation, there can be an absolutely huge difference between “will probably get fired somewhere down the line for something else” and literally getting fired right now. Like, I cannot overstate the difference between those two situations for most people. If your paycheck is the thing standing between you and the debt collectors or losing your health insurance or homelessness, you just can’t dismiss losing your job as an “oh well it would have happened sometime” situation.

  37. boop the first*

    #2. This is a LOT. What is the huge feared disaster that is keeping everyone from saying no? I understand that possibly getting fired is a big deal, but is it THIS big of a deal? Maybe it’s the best possible outcome for him? If fiance can’t stand up for himself and his spouse on this very reasonable thing, I imagine he would develop learned helplessness in job searching and giving notice as well. Personally, I would consider this to be a huge wedge issue in the relationship, unless you are very very young and still figuring things out. That’s pretty off topic, I admit, but he’s generously showing you how he handles situations as a family member here.

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        Insulting the fiancée is uncalled for—it’s not kind, necessary, or practical.

        You could reframe your comment as something like ‘examine the role your fiancée played in this; it sounds like he could or should have stood up for you or pushed back, but didn’t’

        That is not unkind and gives actionable advice without insulting anyone.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      There are plenty of people for whom getting fired is exactly THIS big of a deal.

      People living paycheck to paycheck, who won’t have money for food if they do not have the paycheck from their job even once. People who don’t have rent money unless they get their paycheck – heck, there’s a family member of mine, who was already late with rent when he lost his job, and was saved only because other family stepped up and gave him hundreds – plenty of people don’t have access to family members able/willing to lend a bunch of money. Or they have a health condition and loss of insurance would be a disaster (and can’t afford COBRA or don’t have feasible ACA options in their area).

      I think fiance should job search NOW.

      But saying it can’t be THAT big of a deal to get fired…. that’s thinking in a bubble. For lots of people, getting fired could be catastrophic.

    2. Neptune*

      Yes. Yes, losing your job absolutely can be THAT big of a deal and I’m shocked that anyone could think otherwise.

      1. valentine*

        Where is the concern for OP2’s job? The greatest power OP2 has here is to protect her own job, as none of this is sustainable: relying on the abusive boss not to fire fiancé, possibly ending up homeless as well as unemployed if the relationship ends.

        1. Neptune*

          Of course the OP’s job should be protected. Alison’s advice to address the boss directly is great, and many other people have made great suggestions about doing an average job on her hair, enlisting the other stylists at the salon, etc. That’s already been covered. I’m reacting to the overwhelming privilege of saying “what, can losing your job really be THAT bad??”.

  38. Jaybeetee86*

    Also, for LW1: The tendency I’ve noticed is that newer-to-the-workforce/less experienced people can sometimes go too far in trumping up their skills (*not* inventing skills out of whole cloth – the candidate in this case is lying and should not be considered). Sometimes this yet another function of bad career advisors/recruiters.

    Years and years ago, my mother proofread my older brother’s resume, and he had taken some prior experience that essentially true, but blew it up into something more or less false. I don’t remember what it specifically was anymore, but for scale, it would have been along the lines of “Supervised a flyer campaign when the regular supervisor wasn’t available”, and on his resume he’d written “Directed Marketing Campaign for the Western Region” or something. My mother had pull him up that, uh, he was 22, no potential employer was going to buy that he was “Director” of much of anything.

  39. Be Positive*

    #2 Actually I would tell the script and double down and ask for payment upfront to hit home that this costs hundreds of dollars. Stand firm. When she protests explain that you cant afford to rent the chair she sits in doing work for free. If she threatens the husband job then husband tells the boss.

  40. The Doctor*

    The First Lesson of Ann Landers says that “NOBODY can take advantage of you WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION.”

    Stop giving her permission to exploit you. Use one of Alison’s scripts. Say that you’re quitting the hair business to take up creative writing. If necessary, dump your fiance (or have him pretend that you dumped him).

    1. Marthooh*

      What would Ann Landers say? “Just be FIRM with this exploiter! Tell silly fibs and give her the old sitcom runaround! That’ll do the trick!”

  41. RUKiddingMe*

    OP2: As someone who did thst job for more years than I care to remember I know exactly how expensive it is for you to do this. So does Boss Lady.

    The most important question is will she retaliate if you refuse? If so then your fiance needs to find a different job. There is no way that *you* should have to deal with any bullshit about this…period.

    When she wants another appointment you need to tell her that you cant do anything until she pays you for her last appointment and that anything going forward is paid at time of service… per salon policy.

  42. Greg*

    I’m going to disagree with Alison re: letter 1. If you’re “having trouble” hiring for the position, and your husband feels the employee is otherwise qualified, then perhaps it is worth hiring them and then moving quickly to firing them if it doesn’t work out.

    Truth be told, most job descriptions list huge amounts of unnecessary skills and/or assume that people have zero ability to learn or adapt (or expect that they will be able to pluck someone off the street and drop them into their job with absolutely zero training or adaptation time, which is the sense I got from letter 1.)

    I also think OP1 is being a bit theatric with their breathless descriptions of “lies” and deceit and chicanery on their candidate’s resume. Seeing “Must know LlamaHerder Enterprise Gold 7.4.201” in a job ad when you’ve only used LlamaWorks might lead you to put “LlamaHerder” in a keyword section or whatever so that braindead recruiters don’t bin your resume. People who know one program can generally learn the other one very quickly. In any job, there is ramp-up time, and if the candidate has worked with something similar, I see no issue with putting the exact keyword you were looking for in their resume. They were honest when asked what their experience with it was.

    Resumes are marketing documents. They are not sworn testimony of someone’s experience or interest.

    1. Alldogsarepuppies*

      “Resumes are marketing documents. They are not sworn testimony of someone’s experience or interest.”

      When Alison says this, she means you don’t have to put everything/irrelevant things. rather than you can add details that aren’t true to give you a leg up. Just like advertising for products may not say every use it can be used for, but if it says false benefits its false advertising and generally frowned upon (and in some cases sue able)

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, it’s like a dating ad. Putting the very best current photo of you is fair game. Putting a photo of yourself from 20 years ago, or a photo of Jason Momoa, is not.

      2. Trust but verify*

        But — and this is very much a key point in my mind — the candidate didn’t lie. He had some self-study of the skill set in question. It may not have been one of his core competencies, but he said as much when talking with the employer. This is not the same as lying about having a degree you don’t have or listing a job that you never worked.

        So on balance I agree with Mike C below.

        1. pcake*

          IMO reading one thing about a highly technical thing is minor self-study (if it was even true) and won’t be anywhere near what’s needed to have the skill.

    2. Mike C.*

      On the balance, I’m with you here. Given the ridiculous wishlists and demands for five years of experience in technologies that have only been around for three, I don’t think anyone has the right to be shocked or surprised that this is happening.

      1. Clisby Williams*

        Hah! I remember my husband showing me an ad for a C++ programmer that required 10 years of C++ experience. Which would have been possible only if you had been Bjarne Stroustrup’s right-hand person while he was developing C++.

  43. martine*

    I recently stepped back from the comment section due to the speculation that happens in the comments. I find it completely unhelpful to the letter writer. The letter writer #2 today made it clear that the boss leaned on the fiance and has made it clear there is no choice. That she did it because her fiance begged her to so she would not get fired.

    But suddenly he is an abusive bully, who mistreats the letter writer. There is none of that in the letter. I don’t know why he is being so maligned here. The boss is the problem.

    1. slick ric flair*

      100% agree with this. The insane speculation and fan fiction around sexism and violent abuse that makes up every comment thread on AAM is a huge problem. Your take on the question and comments are my take exactly.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*


        Yes, it was not kind for fiance to do this, but there are probably plenty of details that make it all make sense without immediately jumping to DTMFA, he’s an abuser, etc.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Asking your fiancee to work for free and even take out-of-pocket losses is a pretty crappy thing to do. There could be lots of reasons why, but it’s still a pretty objectively crappy thing to do.

    3. biobotb*

      Except that there is a choice, otherwise the LW wouldn’t have written in for advice about the other choices. That doesn’t make the fiance an abusive bully by default, but saying there were no other choices is ridiculous.

  44. OP 2 - Jenny M.*

    I wrote the second letter. Thank you for answering me Alison. I am going to try your suggested scripts. They are appreciated :)

    (I am completely upset, dismayed and confused with the comments. My fiance is a good man. He has never bullied me. He isn’t a boot licker and he is isn’t spineless. I don’t know why people here would make such hurtful and unture comments. I didn’t think the commenters here were like that. I guess I was wr0ng. She will NOT take know for an answer. His job, his reference and his chance of getting another job in this city is on the line. Like I said in my letter, he BEGGED me to do it so he wouldn’t get fired. He DIDN’T want me to do it because we keep work and personal separate. He always puts me first. He paid for my hair school and worked 2 jobs to support me while I was in school. He always puts me first. He helped me stand up to my parents when they wanted me to go to law school and I wanted to do hair instead. I am floored at the comments here. He is not at all like what people are saying about him. I agreed to do it because he likes his career and I didn’t want his boss to use her influence here to torpedo his chances like she said she will. She is one of the best known people in his industry around here and she made it clear to him there was no choice. Everyone who is saying bad things about him is not even close. I will be staying away from the comments from now on)

    1. Arctic*

      I hope things work out and you get this ridiculous woman off your back.
      Don’t take the comments too personally. People tend to spin-out based on small details (myself included). And sometimes when circumstances remind them of personal things that have happened it is even easier to do. I’m sure your fiance is a great guy. But this is a very difficult situation to be in.

    2. MommaCat*

      I’m sorry some of the comments have been mean towards your fiancé; I think people tend to extrapolate from their own experience when they don’t have all the information. I have no advice other than pleading a change in company policy (even if that company is your own; hopefully she doesn’t realize you rent your chair).

    3. LadyPhoenix*

      As great as your fiancee is, he still put you up to this woman.

      I think you need to stand firm and for your fiancee to stand firm too. If there is no HR or higher boss to protect him, that means he and you will be dealing with this entitled brat.

      And that includes losing out on money and possibly threatening your job too.

      He may be nice a goid portion of the time… but what he did was a massively unkind thing to do to you.

      1. Have had it with assumptions about LW's fiance.*

        Over the line.

        LW made it clear in her response that her fiance didn’t want to ask her, but his (their) future financial future could be on the line.

        Maybe you have a family that can financially support you, or money in the bank, or don’t care if you have to live in a shelter while you try to find a job. You don’t know their financial situation. You are projecting your feelings about fiance onto LW.

        Focus on answering LW’s question and not projecting your emotions into their relationship, which LW clearly did not ask for.

        1. fposte*

          The OP doesn’t say that he didn’t want to ask her, though, just that he wasn’t sure. And ultimately he wanted to enough to overcome that unsurety, because he did ask her–even begged her.

          Ultimately the evil person here is absolutely his boss, and her asking for this massive overstep is appalling. But what her fiancé is asking is unacceptable–it’s endangering her own livelihood to assuage his anxieties. It would be one thing if they crunched the numbers, made the decision together that there’s no new job he could get so her sacrifice is worth it right now, and accepted the situation. But that’s not what happened–she wrote in because she doesn’t want to do it, and she acceded because of her fiancé’s begging rather than making the decision together. And what’s going to happen if boss wants her family and friends to get free service too? How much of an income cut will the OP to take before her fiancé puts her job security on an equal level to his?

          He can be a wonderful, loving man and still be making a mistake at her expense here. I can understand how such a mistake happened given the description of the situation, but it’s still a mistake.

          1. LadyPhoenix*


            People like to boss will take a lightyear when you give them an inch… and this inch already cost OP $3000 dollars, and more based on lost clients. Her studio might have severe rules about “free clients” that may endanger OP’s job much sooner than later…. and the boss aint gonna give an eff. She’ll just move on tothe next hairdresser unscatched.

            And is she really that special? Chances are that no, she isn’t. She’s probably got reputation alright… but rather a bad one. Is she truly someone wirth working for? That is up to the fiancee and he needs to do some serious homework.

            In the meantime, OP, considrr this an expensive lesson about the price of “favors”.

            1. Agnodike*

              Why do you think the fiancé’s boss has cost OP $3000? The letter said it can cost “hundreds of dollars” to do the boss’s hair and doesn’t specify how many times she’s done it.

          2. Have had it with assumptions about LW's fiance.*

            LW and fiance had a discussion about this. He didn’t want her to do it but “begged” her to do it to preserve his job.

            She chose to do this. She doesn’t want to, but it appears that she and fiance could not figure a way out of this situation on their own, hence, the letter.

            I think a lot of people are getting really hung up on the word “begging”. Let’s give LW and fiance the benefit of the doubt, that they had an adult discussion about how to not give in to crazy boss while preserving fiances’ career. The only option they could think of was to give in, which is obviously not acceptable, so LW asked for advice from a professional.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              Same. Jenny M., I hope you end up coming back if not to comment, then to read helpful comments. Your husband sounds conscientous and supportive, and so do you. I hope it goes well for you, and I hope that you will give us an update.

      2. August*

        I’m kind of taken aback that, in response to the OP’s comment about how upsetting and incorrect negative comments about her fiancee are, you’re adding another negative comment about her fiancee.

    4. Legal Beagle*

      Usually the commenters here are wonderful and kind, but sometimes it can be like a dog with a bone when a group of commenters gets one idea and won’t let it go. It’s very frustrating and hurtful to be on the other end of that when you are opening yourself up for genuine advice.

      OP, it sounds like you and your fiancé both got stuck a bad situation. If a firm no from you will have consequences for him, can he go to the boss’s boss and document what’s happened? Or like Alison said, just be “fully booked” every time she wants an appointment!

    5. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I’m so sorry about the pile-on. I think part of it is that for some people here “just quit and find something new if your workplace is toxic!” is actually a reasonable easy option. They don’t realize that this is a major privilege that not all of us have.

      Or they think that a threat to fire someone over something absurd is always empty, or that HR or sane higher-ups will always offer some protection.

      Or they think that bouncing back from being fired isn’t all that hard.

      And all that is probably true, for some people, but it makes them lose perspective. So that they think anyone who has to take into account all of those dangers and make really hard, sometimes humiliating, decisions, is doing something weak or stupid or self-serving. Lots of us (myself included) just need to keep our jobs.

      1. Consuela Schlepkiss*

        Certainly. At the same time, it’s also important to think about what constitutes too much keep the job. This situation has the potential to destabilize both their incomes. And the others who note that Fiance may get fired for other reasons anyway based on how unreasonable this boss is are absolutely correct to note that. LW2 and Fiance need to talk about this in a very measured way, including what they will do if one or both loss their jobs. They have to find some area in which to be proactive. Frankly, that includes considering whether Fiance has actually done what’s best for them as a unit himself here. He may have in the short-term, but what about down the road?

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          I think this is a very important point, and not just because the fiance’s boss is an unreasonable tyrant. Stuff happens in life, and I think it’s always important to have a backup plan that is not “bury head in sand.” If fiance were to lose his job anyway, then what? The plan could be “leverage skills and connections to find another job ASAP” or it could be “get a survival job at Starbucks” or it could be “move to a place with more opportunity.”

          With a boss like this, it doesn’t seem like long-term job security is in the cards for fiance so it’s vital to have some kind of Plan B.

      2. Grapey*

        Advice columns would be boring if it was a bunch of people saying “I refuse to leave my job and I refuse to hold that person accountable. I’ve done nothing and I’m all out of ideas. What do I do?”

        I think other commenters gave great scripts for what LW2’s husband should say, but at the end of the day if he’s not willing to say anything, she MUST decide between taking the chance calling bosslady’s bluff for her husband’s job loss, or continuing to do her work for free.

    6. This Daydreamer*

      She is a horrible and abusive boss and I doubt very seriously she has the clout to destroy your fiance’s career. I’m sure she’s convinced him that it’s true, but I’m also sure others in the industry know how evil and toxic she is. No matter what he does he isn’t likely to get a good reference from her. I hope he can escape her clutches soon.

      Before you give up on the commentariot here (and I agree people are being too hard on your fiance) consider that people are basing their reactions on how upset they are at what you’ve had to deal with.

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        I would never trust this woman to give a reference even if your fiancé left on good terms. I worked for someone almost as nightmarish. Your fiancé l should, before leaving, if at ALL possible, find someone else who agrees to be a reference.

        Do not list her. If he needs to explain why, he might say something like “I am afraid she won’t give an accurate reference because of x, y and z (factual and polite and unemotional—such as ‘because she threw a fit when my fiancée wouldn’t do her hair for free and has never forgiven me’ or, in my case, ‘when people I worked with left the company, she would tell me really unkind things about them that I knew for a fact to be untrue’)”. And then if she is contacted anyway, the hiring manager at least has some context for whatever crazy stuff she says.

      2. e271828*

        In some industries and in some regions, one person can in fact trash someone’s employment prospects. This is a real thing that happens, it has come up on AAM before.

        1. Neptune*

          Agreed. Even if other people in the industry know that she’s a horrible person, they might still listen to her opinions about the fiancé if they think she’s knowledgable or accomplished in their field.

          (And they might not know what she’s like – many people who treat their employees/subordinates like shit will put on a totally different face around people they perceive as their equals. It’s that classic “see what someone’s really like by how they treat the waiter” thing.)

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        If we’ve learned anything in the last few years, it’s that evil and toxic people can often be *very* powerful and entirely capable of sabotaging careers. Just look at Harvey Weinstein, for starters.

    7. MissGirl*

      I’ve stopped commenting unless I have some very specific experience that can help because I feel like Allison says enough and people pile on. I want to offer my support because some of the above comments, especially Artemesia’s, are hurtful and out of line. They don’t represent the majority of us who read this and don’t feel the need to beat down someone anonymously through the internet. I hope that your fiance is able to find a new job and you can both end your relationship with this woman.

    8. jcarnall*

      I was also appalled about how mean people were being anut your fiance in the comments.

      I was about to comment that I absolutely think it’s on you to confront this horrible woman because whatever happens, she can’t fire you – you don’t work for her! If it makes your fiance’s life easier at work, let him keep promising this awful woman you’ll keep doing her hair, happy to help – because I was just thinking, can you get your fellow stylists and the salon owner on your side?

      This is such outrageous behaviour (“my fiance works for her, so she expects to get her hair done here for free!” ) that I wonder if it’s possible, if you explain the situation, to get a team effort going to throw Evil Hair Boss off track.

      Accept appointment: when she shows up at he salon, you’re “ill”. Day off with migraine, throwing up in the loo, whatever. Salon owner “not to worry, we have other stylists, Ms X will be happy to take your appointment!”

      Ms X charges exactly double. (You get half the fee.) Any attempt by evil boss to leave without paying: salon manager does whatever they usually do with absconding clients, up to and including calling the police, I hope.

      You aren’t to blame. You weren’t even there – home sick. Fiance’s not to blame – he only discovered you were home sick all day when he got home from work. He’s awfully sorry she had such a bad experience.

      Next time she tries to make an appointment you say, awfully bewildered, so sorry, the salon where I work says you’ve been permabanned as a client, I have no idea why… (Manager and Ms X of course are on side in this and can back you up, saying Ms X complained and therefore Evil Boss is not welcome.)

      1. JSPA*

        Could be hard, as she rents her chair; she’s not an employee. But yeah, maybe some of the other people there can run interference.

        1. jcarnall*

          I don’t see what’s “hard” about standing up for someone you work with, or for someone who uses your premises for her business.

          This isn’t a situation where ant of the hair stylists, still less the salon owner, need to fear fpr losing their jobs: Fiance’s boss isn’t even a payimg customer.

    9. e271828*

      I think a lot of the commenters here have severe big-city urban-professional bias. And lack of empathy/imagination. (This happens with services like car repair too, sadly…)

      OP Jenny, if your salon’s owner will back you up, could you ask her for support with this? Telling this awful woman that you cannot do her hair for free because the salon owner is fed up with not receiving revenue when it happens, something like that? I am sure your coworkers all want to see the back of her and maybe you have more strength there than you think. Depends of whether the salon owner wants to get involved.

      Otherwise, how often are you doing her, and can you space it out more? Ten weeks, so sorry, no appointments before then, you take so much time, so sorry? Refer her to another salon if she wants her hair done more often? This doesn’t remove her, but it minimizes the exposure.

      Lots of suggestions about doing real damage, which is a terrible idea, but an average quality job and not your best of best work. Speed it up as much as you can. (As much as process allows.) Can you double-track, when she’s around—park her in a waiting area while her color is processing and use your chair for a quick job with a paying client? I’ve had that happen in even very expensive salons.

      On the bad manners, ignore them. You are deaf and blind to them. The polite silent cut. She knows what she’s doing, and, one word about your fiance—in the long term, he does need to get out of there! Relocate if you have to, because no matter what, that job is not a healthy place for him and I am very doubtful that she will truly help him advance in his career. At the moment, he is worth more to her kept down. So sorry for you both. I hope you can find a tolerable solution together.

      1. Neptune*

        I really like all of this advice, particularly about just doing a thoroughly average job. I’d totally be tempted to mess it up, but it’ll probably be more offputting for her to make the process of getting the haircut as annoying and time-consuming as possible for average results.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        I’m often appalled and disgusted by the assumption here that everyone (or at least everyone worth consideration) has a highly paid, permanent, benefited job, highly in-demand skills, and a job history that makes them a highly desirable candidate. Even Alison tends to assume that. *Most people do not live in that bubble!* We have no highly valued expertise, or we have shaky job histories or disabilities or criminal records or other barriers to employment. And assuming that everyone DOES live in that bubble is enabling and facilitating all manner of abuses by bosses like this. It’s also somewhere between erasure and an outright slap in the face to those of us who don’t work high-status, high-demand jobs.

    10. Close Bracket*

      I’m am sorry you got such nonsense in the comments. I hope you are able to resolve the situation in a way that let’s everybody keep their jobs.

    11. Ktelzbeth*

      I hope that things come out well for you and your fiance. The situation sounds awful and I can see how you ended up doing the hair because it seemed like there was no other option.

      As far as what the commenters here are like, we are like people. We all bring blind spots and strong opinions to the discussion. I’ve gotten helpful advice and comments I can’t read. The hard part is pulling out what is helpful and figuring out whether the comments that sting do so because they are off base (due to an incomplete understanding of the situation or malice) or because they are pointing out a truth I don’t want to hear. I’m sure I’ve come off wrong, despite trying to be kind and supportive and sometimes agonizing over the words I choose. None of this is to say that you have to be happy or understanding of the comments.

      Again, I wish you all the best (and while that phrase sounds a little trite and sarcastic, I really do mean it).

    12. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Hi OP2!

      I hope you will come back and read some of the thoughtful replies to your letter. I’m sorry that everyone is piling on your fiance–some of it’s been pretty nasty and I’m glad Alison put a note at the top about it.

      As to the work situation–my only caution is that this lady seems pretty damn persistent. If you rent the chair, would it be good to get the scheduler/owner in on your “ban” of the boss? That way she doesn’t go and book behind your back or show up as a fill-in one day. I don’t know the proper terminology for styling, so if I’m off-base, please convert to the proper equivalent.

      It does make me wonder what happened to her last stylist (In my head I’m seeing the Curb Your Enthusiasm skit with “that was a foist!”)…

      At any rate, I would suggest you and your fiance talk defense as far as this woman goes. She doesn’t seem to see the line between personal and professional clearly, so I am concerned that you becoming “unavailable” may have blow-back for your fiance. She also seems like she might go nuclear when your fiance eventually tries to move on, so I would urge you to make sure he has an exit strategy in place. Does he have good references besides her at that location he can use during his search? And can she damage his career successfully once he’s elsewhere? If so, how can he head that off? Who are the people he should be networking with or meeting so that they have more than just the boss’ word to go off of?

      Ultimately, his job may already be “lost”–not because of anything he’s done, but because his boss is a (possibly vengeful) tyrant.

      I’d brainstorm some of the worst options to make sure you two are ahead of things in case it goes south.

      Best of luck and please update us if you can.

    13. Observer*

      I didn’t hit refresh when I posted my reply, so I didn’t see this.

      I hope you read the rest of the responses, not everyone is awful.

      A few thoughts, based on this additional information. I understand why you are concerned about your Fiance’s career. I would absolutely encourage you to get an outside view from someone who knows your area, industry and fiance. It’s quite possible that she’s not quite as powerful as she thinks. On the other hand, if she is, you’re in a real pickle.

      In either case, I do think that you and your fiance need to start planning on how to get out from under this woman. People like that do NOT stop with one abuse, as you are already seeing. You have a skill set that’s pretty portable – would you guys consider relocating, if she’s THAT connected in your area? Whatever your options, you need to consider them, because your fiance is in trouble, no matter what the two of you do. Not because of anything he is doing but because she’s just an awful person who apparently has ZERO compunction about using her power over people in the most demeaning of ways.

    14. Gazebo Slayer*

      Jenny, I am so sorry so many people are posting nasty victim-blaming crap about your fiance and you. Your fiance’s boss is committing extortion, pure and simple, and undoubtedly is an abusive nightmare at work.

  45. Observer*

    #2 You say that you can’t speak directly to the boss because you don’t work for her. I say, quite the reverse. You don’t work for her so you get to tell her that you are not giving her free services. She has absolutely zero claim on your time and resources.

    I’d also suggest that your fiance start looking for another job. And in the meantime, his answer to his boss is “This is Finace’s business. I don’t tell her how to run her business and she doesn’t mix into my job.”

  46. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: You may have a fiancé problem as well. The fact that the guy even let his boss bully you into doing her hair for free says much about his ability to back you up – which doesn’t seem to be very high.

    Be prepared for your fiancé to beg you to take his boss back as a free client. If he undermines your efforts to wash his boss right out of your hair, lose some dead weight and dump him.

  47. Jennifer Juniper*

    I apologize, OP2. I wrote my comment before I saw your comment giving some context about your fiancé. I am so glad I was wrong about him!

  48. Not a Badmin anymore*

    OP#2 can you just do her hair terribly so she doesn’t like it? I’m half joking… but I’m sorry you’re going through this. What she is doing is terribly egregious.

    All I have to offer outside of what anyone else said is maybe this is something your salon has dealt with before and can help you with the problem? I hope there is a solution that allows your fiance keep his job, and for your sanity and keep this woman out of your salon.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I thought about that. A friend’s mom from high school was in an abusive marriage with my friend’s dad. She was ORDERED to iron the shirts (among other things) when the reality was they could easily afford to have shirts laundered and pressed at the cleaners. After putting iron marks and nearly permanent wrinkles into the shirts, the dad eventually took the shirts to be laundered himself. Later, the mom got a divorce and lived happily ever after.

      Perhaps doing a poor job is not an unreasonable thing to do with an unreasonable person. Personally, I would try to say that the salon does not allow me to work for free, and that I must charge the same as my other clients (which is $X with markup – she doesn’t need to know what other people pay. Factor for a generous tip.) If that doesn’t work, I probably would make her hair look bad. I know that’s passive-aggressive, but again, she is being totally irrational.

      1. Not a Badmin anymore*

        I may have had a little too much fun imagining all the ways she could mess up the hair. Just an inch shorter than what she indicated, to dying a few shades lighter or darker than her desired color…

        Can you make her look like a poodle??

      2. JSPA*

        What you do at home, and what you do professionally, are simply not comparable. PLEASE don’t ask people to screw up their jobs. It’s not respectful to their professionalism, and it’s particularly trivializing, as if hair “doesn’t matter” so it’s not a big deal to screw up a cut. Would you tell someone to build unsafe furniture, or screw up a tax return, or lose a law case or mis-fill a prescription on purpose? Even ignoring the moral aspects, it’s really problematic to say, “oh, just be unprofessional and bad at your job.”

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      I’m guessing the salon doesn’t like being deprived of money, either! The salon’s owner should be able to help here.

      1. Glass houses and all that*

        I think that getting the salon owner involved is a very good idea, particularly if LW and the salon owner have a good working relationship.

        1. Eloise*

          Independent contractor are their own bosses, so an owner doesn’t really matter here. In our state independent contractor operate as their own small business. OP really needs to deal w this herself. If you’re operating on your own, being your own boss, you’ve really got to stand up for yourself. This client is essentially stealing from the stylist.

          1. Glass houses and all that*

            The salon owner is still clearly a stakeholder, no matter how the relationship is characterized in terms of employment law. And the owner does not need to get into the details of LW’s status as an independent contractor, merely that the arrangement is against the policy of the salon.

  49. JHS*

    OP3, depending on what field your employee’s partner is in, there may be no moving at all, as some people get PhDs to help them get specific industry jobs (I’m thinking of STEM here). It could be that they’ve decided to leave academia as the culture doesn’t suit them, but they’re finishing their PhD because they want to (I did that). Or they could be going down the academic path and will need to move (a friend of mine literally crossed an ocean for a two year job). They might not even have decided yet. Right now it is Schrodinger’s Move, and it is a confusing and stressful time all around.

    I think you’re making the right decision to wait until next year when your employee will know more. And you looking into whether remote work is an option between now and then will be very helpful, not just in practical terms but in letting your employee know how much you value her. I hope it works out for the best for everyone.

    1. Someone with a PhD*

      I just want to echo this. It took me a year to find a job in my field after I finished my PhD, and while the partner may be applying for jobs all over the country, that doesn’t mean that they will get one that requires a move or that it will happen at the same time that they finish the PhD.

      Also, OP3, while the anticipation may be killing you, I guarantee that it is even worse for both your employee and her partner. While you can certainly ask what her plans are, it’s unlikely that she knows or will know until her partner has a job offer. Maybe she’ll go with him! Maybe he will just get a one year gig in the middle of nowhere and she’ll decide to stay where she is for the time being. Maybe he’ll end up getting a job locally and she won’t have to move at all. She probably has some thoughts about all this, but they are likely inchoate.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Schrodinger’s Move! YES. This is an incredibly stressful time for me and my partner; he will finish his PhD in May or June and has applied to countless jobs. The job market in his field is very specific, with waves of due dates and requests for interviews. He won’t “hear anything back” for a while yet. There are academic jobs and consulting jobs and industry jobs. Most will require us to move, but there’s a possibility we won’t move (which kind of bugs me because I don’t really want to stay here, but I’d rather stay here than move to some of the places he’s applying to). If he ends up taking a 1-year post-doc, I probably won’t move until that’s finished. This is one of the toughest processes I’ve ever been through, and it’s not even my PhD!

      I sympathize with OP #3, though. I think she wants to be able to plan for a smooth transition for everyone, not to pressure her employee unnecessarily. I would be curious too, not gonna lie.

      1. OP3*

        Thank you so much – and to all the other people with academic job-search experience! Most of the comments here have been incredibly helpful.

  50. Indie*

    OP2, I agree you take it directly to bad boss, woman to woman because she’s not your boss and has no power over you! “I hope you enjoyed those free gifts but I have run out of time/availability/chair rent. Please make sure to thank fiance because I would never have given out any freebies without his request. Does he know our arrangement is finished? No, why would he? This is my business!” Enjoy the fact that she picked on the wrong person and she cannot reach you. If fiance makes any further requests make a point of misunderstanding and send recommendations of other hairdressers with bleach expertise or students looking for freebie hunters who can practice to her on an email. Or simply say you dont have any time nor any recommendations right now and will ‘get back to her’. Once only then dead silence.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Speaking of not reaching her, if Jenny M has a receptionist at the salon, I wonder if you could ask the receptionist to say that you are booked until infinity. I’m sorry, but she is booked through the end of February. March’s calendar hasn’t come out yet so I can’t schedule out any further. When she calls back for March, it’s already full, so sorry. Another passive aggressive approach but I think it’s definitely the lesser of two evils.

  51. Heather*

    There’s a really simple solution to the hairdresser one. Simply have the salon owner/manager/whatever call the boss. Owner can say something along the lines of “Oh we’re so sorry, we just realized LW has been taking your appointments like this, and of course she’s so sweet to want to help, but actually our salon policy is X and we’ll need to book you for regular appointments at such and such rate going forward.” Whatever language, said in an upbeat and friendly way. This reflects all blame from fiancée and employee, and also stops the problem.

  52. RP*

    #3 – I had a co worker who had a fiancee who was in last rounds of Medicine rotations. They had moved from their hometown to NYC to conduct them and both hated NYC. When she started in our office – we knew she would only be there for 2 years due to his career. Then after he finished he decided to do a special one year training – so we figured another year. Then he took on a 2 year contract with a private group. Long story-short, she has been there over 5 years and promoted twice. Thankfully, our supervisor knew to wait things out and create a trusting relationship, where my coworker felt like she could give reasonable updates. If you are a good supervisor – you will trust that your employees will generally not leave you hanging and give you a reasonable heads up or notice.

  53. RP*

    #4 – I do recommend giving references a periodic heads up as you apply. I used to connect with my references when I was doing a general search and then contact them when a reference check came up. Usually this is when I was getting an offer. Because I was relatively entry level and I had young supervisors, I found I was actually in the pool with one of my references. This happened twice with two different references and was quite embarrassing when I had to call the employer up to change a reference I had sent them via email an application at the beginning of the process (one of these jobs neither my reference nor I got offers).

  54. cheluzal*

    2: My husband is a hairdresser and he almost fell over when I read this one. His shop just recently did a “no more discounts/free services” flyer, so salon owner should play the part of the bad guy…explain the situation and I’m sure they would willingly (they have a casual relationship and need/want the money).

    I hate how one person holds someone’s career. She’s a scumbag. I’m sure she’s done this before. I could not imagine doing that, sitting there getting the service, walking out without paying, and not feeling any tiny speck in my heart about it. She’s dead inside.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        I’m not a hair stylist (but I have several friends who are) and MY jaw was on the floor! It’s so beyond anything that a semi-normal, semi-reasonable person should ever expect, I’m having difficulty not wanting to get this woman’s number to tell her off myself. How dare she be so cheap, so RUDE, so incredibly disrespectful, so entitled??!!

        It’s more than my brain can take.

  55. The Bimmer Guy*

    Too bad you can’t tell your fiance’s boss that slavery ended a long time ago, and then follow it up with a bunch of expletives. What does she think this is, Dickensian England?

  56. Eloise*

    Hairstylist here… this woman needs to be 100% getting her hair done somewhere else, and not by you, she sounds like a lunatic. Tell her you’ve changed over to a “pay to hold your appt” system, and she won’t be able to book until she pays upfront. This is quite common for where I am, and should get her out of your hair. Or just fire her, she sounds like a nightmare.

  57. JulieCanCan*

    OP 2, I know I’m saying something you’ve heard already, but please don’t give that woman another hair cut/color/process. I’m in disbelief that someone could be so incredibly obnoxious and demanding. She’s totally in the wrong and you refusing to do her hair (even for pay!) would be 100% understandable and I’d root for you every step of the way (no pun intended – “root” lol!)

    I’m disgusted by her actions – I read your letter mouth agape with an angry look on my face; what she’s done is just inexcusable. I am so sorry you’re going through this – it makes it one hundred times more difficult due to her position and role with your fiancé’s company. I won’t list her every wrongdoing but…. not paying, NOT TIPPING(??!!??!), snapping her fingers at you (??!!) and assuming for some reason that your time, efforts, supplies, chair, experience and skills are for her benefit at no cost? It shows how hideous she is. I have a few close friends who are hair stylists and my personal stylist is a treasured gem that I support and admire and am so incredibly grateful for. I’m blown away that anyone would expect FREE HAIR CUTTING AND COLORING from anyone…..I mean, that’s not a thing! Does SHE work for free? It’s almost laughable except it’s your life and how you support yourself, so it’s truly shitty beyond words and not funny at all.

    I’m so angry with this – she should be paying you for the work you do, giving you EXTRA tip money and she should be grateful for your time. Why on earth would anyone be the way she’s being? Holy crap. And I’m sure it’s easier said than done – I’m sitting here from the comfort of my home, not immersed in your position… deal with the awkwardness and uncomfortable issues you need to deal with probably feels cringeworthy to the max. But trust me, once you get it over with, you will feel SO GOOD! Plus, I’m sure you have the support of every single person in your salon and everyone who knows how hard you work and how stressful it can be. And bottom line, YOU DON’T WORK FOR FREE! PERIOD.

    Please, for your sanity’s sake, tell this atrocious woman that you can no longer do her hair. (Or if you’re incredibly kind and actually willing to do it FOR PAY (you’d be a better woman than I am!), make sure to add a minimum of 25% “pain in the ass fee” – especially since it sounds like she’s cheap as hell and won’t tip. UGH! )

    GOOD LUCK!! Be strong and cut that connection with her. You can do it!! Think about how good you’ll feel once it’s done – you’ll feel better than I do when I have a fresh haircut and highlights- and that’s a freaking AMAZING feeling!

  58. Artist Dying of Exposure*

    #2: I had a similar situation happen to me. My husband’s boss found out I am a digital artist/graphic designer. It was through casual conversation, just simple office talk. This woman was my husband’s brand new supervisor (he worked there 10+ years, and she was brought in from outside to manage the group). She was a harpy and a terrible boss. Good thing she’s gone.

    Anyway, she finds out what I do, and a week later comes to him with a bunch of things she got off Pinetrist or some other cutesy website saying she needed me to make her young daughter’s birthday invitations. My husband said he’d text me for a quote. She told him that she couldn’t pay me, but a lot of people were going to get the invites so I’d get a lot of exposure. My husband told her that I couldn’t afford to work for free. I sent her a quote, she paid me via paypal (how I take most payments). I did the work. She then told paypal that she didn’t receive the work and they refunded her ass. I was so pissed, I called her at work. She said it wasn’t up to par and that my husband “misrepresented” my skills. I have an entire digital portfolio she looked through, and did everything she asked, including some tweaks which I didn’t like, but she insisted on, and didn’t even charge her for those edits.

    Anyway, since I’m older and more stubborn than she ever could be, I called her boss (who I know through various channels) and let him know that his new hire was a scam artist. I learned that she did this to a spouse who was a cake decorator, too.

    A few weeks later she resigned.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      That is a satisfying ending.

      I marvel (through my fingers) at all the people who hear “I do a thing as my full-time job” and say “Really? I’ll let you do it for me for free because of the valuable exposure I’ll give you! Whaddaya mean, you already do this full-time? Everyone can use more exposure!”

      1. dumblewald*

        This is a thing that happens to artists/people in creative professions a lot. It’s so stupid. People who offer independent artists/contractors “exposure” by getting them to do things for free are not doing them any favors. You know what is doing an artist a favor? Paying them for their work and helping them grow their business.

  59. Employment Lawyer*

    3. Can I find out my employee’s future plans?
    You have a new piece of information; you now have more reason to believe that your employee may be more likely to leave. You can act on that if you like, including letting them go. The downside is you lose an employee; the upside is that you’re less stressed.

    If it’s worth it to keep them even if they leave later, then do so. If not, make plans to replace them.

    There’s no guilt about it. People on both sides of the employment relationship do this all the time. You don’t have all of the information you want, but you have to make a decision anyway.

    One place I disagree is with AAM’s “only ask once” advice. If you would consider firing them, it seems pretty obvious that “asking twice” is a much less intrusive decision. You can protect yourself, just like they can: With that said, remember they may simply lie about it.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      WHY would you consider firing someone who has a partner who may possibly want to move in another year or so? This description could apply to most of your employees. Even all of them. If you expand it to “WHAT IF this employee, a year from now, decides to leave for any of a number of reasons?” it’s definitely all your employees.

      My spouse didn’t move after getting his PhD, by the by.

      1. OP3*

        Yeah, I would definitely not consider firing her! She’s a great employee! I am basically just being nosy, and will get over it.

  60. Tobias Funke*

    I get revenge fantasies and all, but some people are truly telling on themselves here for how they view hairstylists.

    So is it okay if I just… give shitty therapy to clients I don’t like? Or who stress me out? No? Then why is it okay if OP2 does it?

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