my boss is obsessed with not being invited to my wedding, I earn more comp time than I can use, and more

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

1. My boss keeps talking about not being invited to my wedding

I got married late in 2018. It wasn’t a small wedding, but I only invited a handful of my current coworkers, and I work for a mid-sized company. Leading up to the wedding, my boss made a few comments about the wedding and getting an invitation, and I tried to explain that we wouldn’t be able to invite everyone, but now, two months after the wedding, he’s still talking about the fact that he didn’t get an invitation, and making up a story about a coworker, who also was not invited, FaceTiming him from the reception.

And to make matters worse, he’s discussing the fact that I didn’t change my last name and making it seem like I didn’t so it would be easier to end the marriage. Not that it’s his business, but I told him my husband is okay with me not changing my name so I felt like no other opinions mattered. I’m not really sure what to do. I didn’t invite him to the wedding because it’s just not possible to invite everyone, and now I’m getting grief for it and having the fact that I’m not changing my name used as a reason I’m going to get divorced. Please help!

Your manager is being really weird and inappropriate here. The next time he brings up the fact that he wasn’t at the wedding, try saying this, “You’ve brought that up a lot, and I don’t know how to respond. It makes me feel like as my boss you’re holding it against me that we didn’t have you at the wedding — and obviously that would be really wrong! Could we agree to drop this and not keep discussing it?”

And if he bring up you not changing your name again, please say this: “I’m really not interested in discussing my choice to keep my name. Could we drop that as well?” And if he continues to push: “We’re getting awfully close to a situation where I have a boss pressuring me to do something because I’m a woman, and that’s awfully problematic in a workplace. Can we agree to drop it?” Or depending on the relationship you have with him: “Bob! This is getting so boring and you are making yourself look terrible.”

Ideally someone who’s not you would point out to him that he’s embarrassing himself with this.

2. My manager wants me to donate to his kid’s private school

I live in a state that has an education tax credit program whereby you can make a charitable donation to a public or private school and then get a dollar-for-dollar credit on your state income tax return, not just the standard charitable donation credit.

My manager, who likely makes around twice my salary, has a child in a private school and recently approached me to make a tax credit donation to his child’s school, which would help offset the tuition bill. I was taken aback and unsure of how to respond. I am a single parent and I have 2 children in public school myself and, if I were able to afford to make such a donation at this time, which I am not, I’d prefer to make it to their school. He’s awaiting an answer from me and I’m not sure what to tell him. I almost feel like this is a quid pro quo situation that may affect my employment. What should I do?

What on earth?! It’s outrageous enough that he’s asking you to make a donation to his kid’s private school, but am I reading this correctly that your donation would lower his tuition bill? If so, it’s an abuse of power for him to even ask you that. Either way, this is gross and offensive. It’s bad enough when managers pressure employees for charitable donations, but to his kid’s private school? Ick, no.

As for what to do, say this to him: “I don’t have it in my budget — sorry!” Just be cheerfully brisk and matter-of-fact. And if you get any pushback at all: “I can’t even afford the donation that I’d like to make to my own kids’ school, Fergus! I should be asking you to help me with that!” That will probably take care of it, but if for any reason it doesn’t, this is worth taking to HR (who will probably be appalled).

For what it’s worth, it’s easier to respond to this kind of thing in the moment with “no, can’t do that” rather than saying you’ll think about it (which then means having to go back and have a second conversation about it, and making the person think it’s a reasonable request that you’re taking seriously). But it’s completely normal to be so taken aback in the moment that you default to that.

3. I earn far more comp time than I can use

I work in a field that can be at times, fairly 24x7x365. I was fully aware of this fact going in to my field, so that isn’t really a problem. What is a problem is, I’m an exempt employee and it is our policy that if you work overtime as an exempt employee, you are allowed to use those extra hours to take time off without utilizing PTO.

However, I cannot possibly use the amount of overtime I generate, I usually generate between 40 to 80 hours worth of overtime during a project. There are usually four to seven projects a year, often back to back. I’ve had over a month of usable overtime hours worth of vacation time at various points in the year. This doesn’t even include my actual accrued PTO, which is a little over two weeks a year. I basically used none of my PTO in 2018 (it rolls over luckily, but it does stop accruing at a certain threshold I’m not far off from, from other years of no PTO). I still have almost two weeks of non-PTO time despite using about 40-ish hours of it. I want to be fairly compensated for my time but it’s nearly impossible to use the amount of time off I generate and then also use my PTO. I would be taking at least solid month a year, at least, to utilize it all, which is not possible.

Is there any other way I don’t know about that a salaried, exempt employee could be compensated for their overtime that I could discuss with my boss or do I just have to let it go to waste? If it was just a few hours here and there I wouldn’t mind, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to toss 60 hours of extra hours out the window. We used to have cashable PTO several years ago but that has since been taken away and we only have non-cashable PTO now so that is likely not an option.

You might need to look at it differently. As an exempt employee, it’s not typical to be compensated for every hour you work (that’s a pretty core piece of being exempt). Your company is trying to recognize that you’re working really long hours by offering you a way to accrue more time off (a form of comp time). But realistically, you can’t take off all the comp time that you earn on an hour-for-hour basis because (a) you’re earning a huge amount of it; it sounds like you’re earning 160-560 hours of comp time a year (which is four to 14 weeks on top of your PTO!) and (b) you’re in a busy job with long hours. If you look at it as “I earn an hour of comp time for every hour of overtime I work,” you’re going to be frustrated that you can’t use it all. It would be better to look at it as “I work long hours and get additional time off in exchange” — i.e., not focusing on the hour for hour aspect, which doesn’t sound like it’s a realistic set-up in your context.

The most important thing is to make sure you’re getting a reasonable amount of vacation during the year. I think you are, based on the math here — but if you’re not, talk to your boss about that and ask for help in planning some real time off later this year (it’s sometimes easier to get if you plan way in advance for it). Beyond that, though, realize that this massive amount of comp time is an illusion — you can’t take as much as you accrue, period. There might be value in pointing that out to your boss and asking that the long hours you work instead be reflected in your next raise. (But they also may feel like it was never intended to be taken hour for hour; it’s just intended to ensure you’re not being nickel and dimed on your PTO when you work such long hours.)

4. Can I ask my boss for more breaks in our meetings?

I recently switched jobs, and my new position is a great fit with one exception: long meetings. My manager has scheduled a weekly 90-minute meeting for my team of five, which sometimes pushes to two hours. My attention span caps out around 50 minutes, and I find myself doodling, on my phone, or just completely zoning out halfway through.

Would it be appropriate to ask my manager if we can plan for a “stretch and coffee break” in these meetings? I know a short break will help me focus, but so far my distraction hasn’t been remarked on, and I’m worried that if I bring it up I’ll just be drawing attention to the problem.

How new are you? If you’re brand new, I’d wait until you’ve been there a little longer (like a few months) before suggesting changing up the way they do meetings — but at that point, you can absolutely say something like, “When we go to two hours, I’m finding I focus better if I can take a short break for coffee or the bathroom at the one-hour mark — any chance we can make that part of the routine going forward?”

But until then — and for the meetings that stick to 90 minutes — it’s fine for you to take a bathroom break without making it part of the formal routine! There’s nothing wrong with excusing yourself for the bathroom and using that time to stretch or refresh a beverage. (I mean, don’t stay away 15 minutes or return with an elaborate, lovingly garnished drink, but five-minute bathroom breaks taken as the need arrises are pretty normal.)

5. Taking long calls in a cubicle farm

What’s the etiquette for taking non-sensitive, hour-long, work-related phone calls at your desk in a cubical farm? It’s common in my office for people to stop and chat in the halls, but everyone can hear each others’ conversations. We have conference rooms, but larger meetings obviously take precedence over phone calls there. My concern is disturbing my nearby coworkers who will indubitably hear every word I say.

It’s the nature of working in a cubicle farm; you’re going to hear each other’s phone conversations. If the space is generally pretty quiet, it’s considerate to use a conference room if one is available and you know the call is going to be long. But if that’s not practical (because the rooms are booked or need to stay open for meetings, or because long calls are a daily part of your job and it’s easier to take them from your desk), it’s fine to stay at your desk. That level of noise is pretty expected in that work set-up — which is often frustrating, but the burden isn’t on you to solve that. (My answer would be different, though, if you were taking lengthy personal calls. In that case, I’d urge you to find another space or reduce the calls. But these are work calls, and it’s not unreasonable to have work calls at your desk.)

{ 647 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, I physically recoiled. It’s not acceptable for your manager to pressure you to donate to his child’s private school, and it’s doubly not ok for him to do that in order to obtain a tuition offset. If he pressures you after you say it’s not in your budget, I’d consider explicitly naming how uncomfortable he’s making you. I’m thinking saying something like (wordsmithing needed): “This is difficult for me to raise, but your requests for donations are making me feel really uncomfortable. Can we please drop this?”

    And tell HR. This is a total abuse of power.

    1. Jasnah

      I have a lot of thoughts about the current state of funding for private/charter schools vs. public schools.

      I like to think I would have been so confused by the idea of donating to a private school that I would have just repeated, “You want me to donate money… to a private school?”…”To a private school though, right? Not a public school?” “I’m confused, it’s not a charity, though??”

      I agree that if it felt quid pro quo to you, you should talk to HR.

      1. in a fog

        Technically speaking, most private schools in the U.S. are considered nonprofits and raise funds from parents and alumni for financial aid, new buildings, etc., and any donations made are just as tax-deductible as they are with more traditional charities. However, I’m really curious about this school that lowers a tuition bill based on donations — that seems like it could endanger the institution’s nonprofit status!

        1. pleaset

          Yup.

          I could see a school raising money to offset tuition costs for less wealthy students in general. In fact, that is very common.

          Offsetting tuition bill for a specific student? No way. Illegal for a nonprofit organization.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.

            Well, if Boss has no problem “asking” staff members for donations, he probably had no ethical qualms filling out financial aid forms. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. He may well be within what the school considers “financial need.” If they have broad enough brackets, everyone could get some money and it could still be the most elite/exclusive school in the state.

          2. AMT

            That would definitely be illegal, yes. I know that you can legally receive a gift for donating to a nonprofit, but if you do, you can’t deduct the full amount of the donation — only the amount minus the value of the gift. Otherwise, you’d be able to deduct your National Geographic subscriptions or the money you spent at charity shops!

            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              Yes but in this case the person donating “OP” is not receiving any kind of gift. The tangible benefit is being received by the family of the kid (OP’s boss). That might be how they are able to get away with it. Perhaps the school receives the donation from a third party and then “awards a scholarship” in the same amount to a specific child. Not that I agree with this happening and boss should not pressure OP to donate.

              1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

                I work in higher ed fundraising – you cannot funnel a tax-deductible gift toward any specific student. Donors are not allowed to be part of the scholarship selection process if the gift is to remain tax deductible.

                I’m wondering if the boss meant that the more gifts they receive, the lower tuition is for everyone. I also know that a lot of private high schools have a parental “donation” requirement above and beyond tuition, so he might be looking to his staff to fulfill his commitment on his behalf (ew!)

                1. Southern Ladybug

                  Yes – my state has (had?) something similar to support private schools, and there was a fraud investigation because those who donated where not supposed to be more likely to receive scholarships. But that’s not how it worked……

              2. OP #2

                CmdrShepard4ever – You are correct. It’s setup through some type of scholarship program, whereby donors are able to “nominate” a student for the scholarship (wink wink, nod nod). Frankly, it sounds like a thinly-veiled attempt to circumvent the issues with direct donations going to specific students.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Yes, offsetting the bill runs into private inurement problems. I’ve seen private schools impose a fundraising requirement on parents, but not one that then links back to that specific child’s tuition.

            1. doreen

              I’ve seen it linked, but the other way around- if you don’t meet your fundraising requirement the shortfall gets added to the tuition.

          4. Parenthetically

            ALL of our fundraisers at my previous private school job were for our scholarship fund. 75% of our student body received some sort of financial assistance so we did a lot of fundraising.

            This boss is being a prick tho.

              1. Parenthetically

                Absolutely not. Our scholarships were entirely need-based. I’m just responding to the few people who were asking why private schools would fundraise AT ALL. We did; we absolutely did not do it in the shady-ass way OP is describing.

        2. Dust Bunny

          This. My best friend was a full-scholarship student at one of the best private high schools in her home state (she was a stellar student from a low-income family).

          However, I wouldn’t be quick to donate through your boss. If you were inclined to do this–and I’m not at all saying you should–I would contact the school first and get the details, and then consider donating directly to a scholarship fund. I guess technically it doesn’t matter if the money is the same either way, but I really object to rewarding my boss for pressuring me.

          (I’m with you, though. I think any money you can afford to donate should go to your own kids’ public school.)

        3. Development Director

          You’re right. I worked as a fundraiser at independent schools for more than twenty years, and have never heard of anything like this. It is very sketchy, and I think it would violate development standards, in the same way that no reputable school fundraiser would accept a percentage of funds raised as payment for their work. Yikes! Donations can go towards scholarships or a financial aid fund, but not to an individual parent based on how much they have raises.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.

            Boss is making it sound like OP will receive a full refund for the donation in her taxes. That cannot be right. Wouldn’t we all just give money to everything? Can you please explain to me what Boss means or what he should really be explaining? Thanks!

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

              Some states actually do have this provision in their tax code – so if they donate $50 to a qualified charity, they would get a tax credit of $50. It’s designed to increase charitable giving, though there usually are limitations on who can receive funding and how much you can give.

            2. Antilles

              The tl;dr version is that the boss is likely completely off-base. This a (very simplified) version of how it works:
              1.) Donations are typically treated as deductions on your taxes – i.e., a reduction in income. So if OP makes $100,000 a year salary and pays 30% taxes, she’d normally pay $30,000 in taxes – $70,000 in her pocket. If she has $10,000 in deductions, the tax code now views it as she only made $90,000 income, so 30% of that means she only owes $27,000 in taxes – $63,000 in her pocket. Fiscally, it’s better to not donate a cent, though hopefully you care enough about the cause that you’re willing to accept a small fiscal hit (obviously not the case with OP’s situation).
              2.) The whole concept of deductions only applies if you’re actually itemizing your deductions. On a federal level, the standard deduction is $12,000 per person, which basically means that unless you can show more than $12,000 of deductible expenses over the course of the year (quite a lot for the average worker), it doesn’t help you much. States treat deductions a little differently…but most state tax rates are much lower than the federal rate – so even if the state allows OP to take the deduction, it’s going to be relatively low-value compared with the amount she’s actually giving up.
              3.) The rules for what counts as tax-deductible donations are kinda tricky and detailed. However, since this is paying the tuition for one specific child that OP knows, it’s possible this wouldn’t count a ‘tax-deductible donation’ at all. Again, if you’re trying to get a state deduction, this really depends on the state-specific rules.
              However, all of this is mostly academic since you asked for an explanation. For OP herself, the *real* answer is almost certainly “the boss doesn’t actually know and was simply talking straight out of his you-know-what”.

            3. OP #2

              Hey Karma, Over here – It is indeed a dollar-for-dollar credit towards one’s tax due. If I owed $1000 in state income tax and I made a $200 donation through this program, my state tax bill would now be $800. Even still, one is out the money until tax time and has to have the free cash upfront.

              1. Antilles

                Even still, one is out the money until tax time and has to have the free cash upfront.
                Not only that, in the next 12 months or whatever till your refund comes in, you’re missing out on either a little bit of interest made or the opportunity to use the money to help pay down existing debt.

        4. VC

          I thought of the Georgia Private School Tax Credit program. The way I heard it, some folks’ way of getting around the cap on tax-deductible donations was asking other people to donate on their behalf.

        5. NotAnotherManager!

          I thought the same thing when I saw it! One of our children attends a private school for kids with special needs, and they do fundraising to provide scholarship help students whose families would not otherwise be able to send them. Scholarships are exclusively need-based and assessed by an independent clearinghouse organization, not the school itself – it is explicit that participation or not in fundraising events has no effect on your child’s eligibility for scholarships.

          Dollar-for-dollar tuition offsets for fundraising sounds shady to me, and I’m appalled that a manager would solicit a donation from a subordinate for their own gain.

      2. Asenath

        Many private schools – probably most of the K-12 ones – in my country are run as charities. Post-secondary private schools and colleges are usually a completely different kettle of fish. Still, boss shouldn’t be collecting from anyone but his work peers for his favourite charity. There are those who think that no charitable collections should be done at work, but if you’re going to do them, don’t put pressure on people to participate – especially those reporting to you.

        1. Yvette

          And especially if it benefits you financially. From the OP “…to make a tax credit donation to his child’s school, which would help offset the tuition bill. “. And even if the OP would “..then get a dollar-for-dollar credit on your state income tax return, not just the standard charitable donation credit.” That is still money the OP is out NOW, Besides any of that, this is completely inappropriate.

      3. Project Manager

        My older son’s private school is specifically designed for kids with his special needs. Very small class size, etc. I know from sad (and enraging) experience that the public schools cannot offer anywhere near appropriate support for him. The school is a nonprofit and is considered a charity as the true costs of providing the small classes and specialized training cannot possibly be covered by most parents.

        That being said, (a) if that was in play here, I would think the OP would have mentioned it, and (b) I don’t ask my coworkers for donations, much less my subordinates.

        1. Jasnah

          This makes sense, and is the one reason I could see donating to a private school. Thanks for sharing your example. Doesn’t look like OP’s situation for the reasons you mentioned, though.

    2. Jenny

      I am not sure if this is a true charitable donation if it just lowers his kid’s tuition anyway. That seems especially sketchy. It wouldn’t be okay under any circumstances, but this is basically boss asking for a substantial financial benefit from an employee. Nothing about that is okay.

      1. Auntie Social

        “Bob, I can’t afford that, you know what I make. Why aren’t you asking other managers who make a similar salary, not someone who makes a fraction of what you make??”

        1. Mystery Bookworm

          He likely shouldn’t be asking anyone to subsidize a private school education; I honestly feel like there’s a now a window open for OP to suggest that if he’s struggling to pay the tution, she sends her kids to a lovely public school and maybe he’d want to consider that.

        2. Traffic_Spiral

          Yeah, it’s like “I can’t afford to send my own kids to private school and you want me to send yours?”

          I mean, whether she would choose to if she could afford it is besides the point, he’s still asking a lower-salaried employee to subsidize his family’s luxury spending.

      2. Allison

        Right, it sounds like OP is being asked to help pay for their boss’s kid’s private school tuition.

        1. Artemesia

          slightly worse — she is being asked to divert money that would otherwise go to pay for state programs to the private use of her boss. She gets it all back — but the state doesn’t get it for public schools, health care, pensions etc. Instead the boss gets to send his kid to a private religious school. Hard to counter ‘because she gets is all back.’ And totally inappropriate.

          1. Jasnah

            This is a huge issue I think. Not only should her boss not be asking her in the first place, but to ask her to divert money that would help fund her kids’ public school, to his kids’ private school? Yuck.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady

      Leaving aside the icky pressure of the target organization benefiting a boss … another way to go when getting pushed like this is the simple and chirpy “Thanks for the suggestion. Charitable giving sure does feel good, doesn’t it?”

    4. Falling Diphthong

      I do like Alison’s framing: “Ha ha Fergus, I don’t have it in my budget now. If I did, I’d donate it to my kids’ school.” *smile, not with eyes*

      Even a Fergus ought to be able to pick that up. (And if OP has a useful HR, this is something I’d consider bringing to them.)

    5. Tigger

      The only way donating to the private school your boss’s kids attend is ok is if they were having a charity project like a food drive or dance a thon or something and the check had to be made to the school instead of the project lead.
      I would have serious concerns over my boss’s judgment if he asked me to do this.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Even that seems inappropriate to me. I had a boss who routinely asked us to sponsor his kids’ fundraisers, and I always declined. Even if I generally supported the initiative, I was (and still am) super meticulous about how I plan my charitable giving. It always felt icky to be asked and semi-judged for not contributing to his children’s fundraising projects at school.

        1. The Federal Contractor

          This…Retired military. We had all kinds of rules about this. My son once asked me to take a fund raising sheet into work. I said no. He complained “All my classmates parents are doing that. Why won’t you?” My response, “Because I’m the person in charge. I can’t and I won’t”. I’d be put off by that as well.

          1. Tigger

            yeah i worded that awkwardly. I meant that is the least icky situation I can think of and I would still judge my boss.

        2. Tigger

          Yeah, its still very icky but that is the only way I personly would be somewhat ok with being asked. I would still question the judgement and ethics of it, but it’s just “ok”. I worded that really weird.

          The only thing that is 100% in any situation at work is girl scout cookies/ boy scout popcorn lol

          1. NotAnotherManager!

            And even this can be tricky. I lead a scout troop and will only sell to people who ask me about it directly. I am very paranoid about any appearance of pressuring my employees into giving money/buying anything.

            There are, however, some very hot ticket fundraising items in our area. I had a coworker connect me with a friend whose kid was selling a particular baked good that I bought from a neighbor’s kid a few years ago, loved, and then could not find anyone to sell me after the neighbor kid graduated. (I told the new purveyor to call me this fall and then pass my name to someone behind him in school after he graduates.) Another coworker does a fundraiser that includes a particular variety of soft pretzels that one of my kids loves, and they know to come see me when the annual form comes out. I’m also actively looking for a kid that sells citrus fruit for my annual mixed-fruit box fix.

            I loathe fundraising and quit Girl Scouts over it as a kid (only to have to fundraise to support my marching band habit), so I will buy from pretty much any kid that shows up at my door.

            1. Tigger

              In all the offices I have worked in HR/ the admin/ front desk/ whoever sends out an email saying something like “Hey we have a girl scout cookie sign up sheet in the kitchen if you guys want to feed your cookie habit.”

              Granted I have work in a lot of “fun” offices (we had beer pong tournaments at the start of march madness) so my normal meter might be way off

              1. That Girl From Quinn's House

                Part of it, too, is the item being sold. No one wants World’s Finest Chocolate, overpriced gift wrap, magazine subscriptions, or $75 “entertainment coupon books”. A good number of people want Girl Scout Cookies or Christmas wreaths or whatever the popular fundraisers are in your area.

            2. Melly

              Our administrative assistant in the main office (so front door to the department, essentially) was a troop leader. She set up a display of Girl Scout cookies at her desk and openly solicited people who came through. I was less than impressed, being a mom of a Scout who refuses to sell for her unless someone asks me directly.

    6. Liane

      It doesn’t matter if it’s a donation toward private school tuition, ordering from a public school’s fundraiser catalog*, or bringing snacks to a playgroup/youth group. The boss shouldn’t be asking their reports to do this.

      *beyond putting a catalog/form in the breakroom for anyone to peruse if that’s company culture

      1. Tigger

        I feel like the auction items for the spring gala ( if the private school has one) also fall into that category as well.
        The only thing that should be solicited for in the workplace that benefits a child’s school/ activity is girl scout cookies lol

          1. Tigger

            Ok please don’t judge me but I have never heard of that (Grew up with all sisters and my boy cousins never did boy scouts). Please tell me it’s fancy popcorn and not normal.

            1. Hey Karma, Over here.

              Aunt of six Eagle Scouts here and if I never eat microwaved popcorn again, it will be too soon. None of it was very good.

          2. Polymer Phil

            When I was a kid, each troop used to come up with their own ideas for fundraising. Now they only sell that damn overpriced popcorn, and every damn troop in my area tries to hawk it when I’ve already bought some and don’t need any more. I’d much rather support Troop A’s car wash, Troop B’s Christmas wreath sale, etc.

            1. TexanInExile

              Me, too. And I really would rather support something where the kids get to keep all the money for the troop rather than the bulk of it going to the vendor.

              It’s all a huge scam – these companies have this huge unpaid labor pool to sell and distribute their product. Thank goodness for my mom’s refusal to let me participate when I was a Brownie. (I didn’t buy cookies from my neighbor’s kid – who did knock on my door herself, but I did give her $20 for the troop.)

            2. Hush42

              My brother is an Eagle Scout. He graduated in 2012 but while he was in the boy scouts they did both the popcorn and their own fundraisers. I think that they’re required to sell the popcorn but no one in his troop ever tried very hard to sell it because only a tiny fraction of the sales actually goes to the boy scout selling it. Most of it goes to the org itself not the individual troops or scouts. The fundraisers they did on their own resulted in a much larger chuck of the profit going to the boy scouts- I think most of it. They did things like selling huge, delicious, reasonably priced, subs for Super Bowl Sunday and they sold Wreaths and Poinsettias at Christmastime. They did much better with those than the Popcorn.

            3. NotAnotherManager!

              I can’t speak for all scout organizations, but our regional organization requires that we participate in their two council-wide fundraisers in order to host other money-earning events. Participation can be nominal, but we have to do it if we want to host a car wash, spaghetti dinner, carnival, dance, etc.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I agree that it’s not ok in any context, but the idea that it counts as a tuition offset adds another layer of inappropriate and unethical coercion, imo.

      3. Ellen N.

        Unfortunately, putting the catalog in the break room allows all busy bodies to see who had donated (bought unneeded wrapping paper) and who hasn’t. I’ve been confronted many times about why I didn’t buy from my supervisor’s catalog for his/her children’s school.

        1. Artemesia

          I am okay with co-workers putting the catalogue in the break room but even for that, the boss should not be doing that.

    7. AMA Long-time Lurker

      Completely agree. OP #2, I would talk to HR now to document that your boss is asking for donations to a “charity” that he supports. Charitable donations on behalf of a person or entity can still be considered a form of bribery or undue influence in many settings; I don’t think that’s quite what’s happening here (yet), but it’s uncomfortably close, and you might want to have the conversation with HR now in case he retaliates.

      1. Suzy

        Agreed… the broader issue is pressuring a subordinate to donate to *any* specific charity that the boss likes. Even if the charity is a good one, the boss should not be pressuring people to donate.

      2. Gazebo Slayer

        Considering that it’s a boss pressuring a subordinate for this and that I didn’t see any potential benefits to such donations for the employee, I’d consider it closer to extortion than bribery…

    8. Just a policy wonk

      Setting aside the grossness of the request — which was handled appropriately by Allison, I feel — do want to step in and say that while I’m unsure what state the poster is from, I’m pretty sure someone (likely her boss) is misunderstanding how tax-credit scholarships work (they’re slightly different than vouchers). In most states, you make the donation to a scholarship supporting (granting/funding/tuition) organization, who then works with schools that have applied to the program to distribute them to qualifying students (in many states students’ families have to qualify based on income).

      The schools that participate are typically *not* what you think of when you think of private schools — they’re much more likely to be smaller parochial schools that cater to lower-income students and students of color, not the Manns, Sidwells, Exeters, etc. of the world (If a high-profile private school offers scholarships, it’s likely to be 1-2 of them, not a preponderance). Students apply to the org, not the school, to receive the scholarships–it’s not like the employee could donate to the school and write that it’s going to the “Fergus Jr Scholarship Fund.”

      It’s likely that the manager’s private school still qualifies for deductions based on taxes becuase it’s a not-for-profit, and donations to SSO’s/SGO’s do typically come with better tax benefits than a donation to the school directly, but the donation is not to the school, nor to a specific student.

      tl;dr: Manager is poorly informed as well as gross!

      1. TooTiredToThink

        I was wondering if it was a situation where – say tuition is $3,000 per year but that families are responsible for fundraising $2000 a year and the manager just conflated the two as “Tuition is $5000 a year”

        I do know some private schools have a parental work requirement as well and I think some schools will accept money in lieu of the work requirement. So that was my 2nd thought.

        But regardless; this isn’t right for the manager to be asking a subordinate.

        1. Just a policy wonk

          Yeah, the only thing I could think of is maybe it’s a fundraising strategy — get people to donate and we’ll deduct from your tuition. But that is a) a terrible fundraising strategy since you end up with the same net income and b) doesn’t give the assumed-better tax benefits to the participant.

          1. Ellen N.

            I believe that tuition is taxable to the school, but donations aren’t.

            I assume that the school assumes that donations would come from parents, not their employees. If the donor is getting a deduction/tax credit for a donation it doesn’t cost the donor as much as tuition would.

            When I worked in entertainment business management many of my clients exclusively donated to their childrens’ expensive private schools. I was shocked that private schools whose clientele is exclusively rich people could be charitable institutions.

      2. Parenthetically

        OP says above that donors can “nominate” a recipient for their “scholarship” donation, so it’s basically a money-laundering operation where people get tax breaks for paying other people’s kids’ tuition. Which is so gross.

      3. OP #2

        Just a policy wonk – You are correct. It’s setup through some type of scholarship program, whereby donors are able to “nominate” a student for the scholarship (wink wink, nod nod). Frankly, it sounds like a thinly-veiled attempt to circumvent the issues with direct donations going to specific students. The school in question is a private religious school.

        1. Parenthetically

          You have NO obligation to address this, obviously, but good grief, it’s just flat-out money laundering!

          1. Perse's Mom

            Is there any greater organization that looks into things like this that could be given a heads up?

      4. Artemesia

        I suspect it is just corrupt i.e. the school does launder donations this way. There are certainly plenty of situations where good old boys allow dubious things like this to flourish.

      5. pancakes

        Leaving tax credits aside for the moment, your language regarding “lower-income students and students of color” is patronizing. I went to a moderately high-profile private school in New England—one year I worked in the admissions office as part of my financial aid package, and saw more than one letter from parents who’d just had infants and wanted to declare their interest—and there were far more than 1 or 2 students receiving financial aid, and far more “students of color” who weren’t, because their families had lots of money. Being a “student of color” isn’t synonymous with being “lower-income.” You mention Sidwell—it took me just a moment to check that their admissions policy is need-blind and 23% of students receive financial aid. Yes, there are lots of kids from rich families at these schools, but to say that’s everyone but 1 or 2 kids on scholarship is silly and inaccurate.

        1. Just a policy wonk

          Hi-the 1-2 students I was referencing at Sidwell are those that receive the SC Opportunity Scholarship—aka, the voucher program in DC that Congress set up in the 90s. Plenty of private schools offer their own scholarships (I used plenty of them throughout my education) but most of the “tony” ones that people picture when they think of private schools accept relatively few tax-credit scholarship students, who receive scholarships via SGOs and who typically qualify based on family income. One of my former students received a DC Opportunity Scholarship and looked into Sidwell; she couldn’t use it there because they already had their participants for the year.
          Most students who receive vouchers or tax-credit scholarships—which are particularly controversial now given Betsy DeVos’s popularity—are generally attending parochial or smaller private schools. Neither the students nor the schools tend to fit people’s profile of a private school or a private-school student. Based on OP2’s boss’s description of an 100 percent tax credit, only tax-credit scholarships qualify for that designation, which is what I was addressing. But it sounds as if what her boss and his school is describing is far more akin to an under-the-table money-laundering scheme versus any policy implemented to help kids get a better education.

          Apologies if the language came across as patronizing. I’ve been working in education and education policy at several orgs and schools for the past decade, and given the immoral state of the gaps in outcomes and opportunities we see (on balance) between different groups of students in aggregate we see in the US, that is fairly typical language regarding how we talk about the systemic challenges in our field.

    9. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      OP#2 – I had a comparable experience – my wife and I support a prominent cancer charity in our area, and I took a vacation day to participate in the annual fund-raising effort.

      Our director supported a different cause – a good one, but different, and much, much smaller in scope – think of the “The Office” episode and the “Rabies Awareness Week” – a charity (not rabies) that was equally obscure and miniscule.

      She sent her minions after me = “Why are you supporting THAT?” – my reply is nearly everyone’s affected by cancer, every person has someone close to him/her, and it’s done a lot of good over the many years it has existed…. “Oh you should support (director’s) charity…”

      I’ll give five bucks to it, OK? But get off my back.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, please tell him he’s making himself look terrible. He sounds like a real piece of work.

    1. Reba

      So wrong on so many levels. GAH! Just, like, etiquette! And not being a total boor! The lying! And then the work power dynamic makes it just that much worse.

      OP, I really hope your boss just needs to be checked on this, and he’ll drop it.
      But look at some other evidence if you can and see if your boss is inappropriately personal and boundary-challenged with other people in your office, and/or with you in other ways.

    2. Où est la bibliothèque?

      I’m worried that his fixation on LW’s wedding is actually a cover for a fixation on LW herself.

      1. Jam Today

        That’s exactly it. The comments about her last name being a way to end her marriage smoothly was the tip off, I think. He’s obsessed with her. She needs to get away from him.

        1. Flash Bristow

          Ouch. Now you mention it, I think you’re right.

          I wonder what the point of fussing about something that’s done and can’t be changed might be? Unless he had some mad plan to pronounce his undying love there and is upset the kibosh was put on it, or he wants a copy of the DVD so he can pick holes in proceedings – or imagine it is him…

          Ok, I’ll stop, I’m grossing myself out now. [But I don’t think I’m getting carried away – I’ve had people fixate on me and only found out when Something Drastic And Unexpected happened. And I’m nobody special.]

          so yes, gross… But I really can’t see why he is doing this otherwise. Upset that they weren’t “besties” enough for him to be invited? Whatever, he needs to let it go.

          If he can’t let it go after following Alison’s dialogue, and being asked to let it go, I think he needs asking (in an area where other people are about, to overhear if you yell) *why* he won’t let it go. In a “let’s draw a line under this for once and for all” kinda way.

          And then if he persists (or declares undying love etc) it’s HR time.

          Ugh, I hope we are all wrong and it’s just some awkward “joke” he is attempting. But either way, his comments have already overstayed their welcome.

          Good luck OP#1 – please update us if you’re able.

        2. Liane

          It could be he is just someone who has problems with women who don’t take a husband’s surname, which is also wrong.

          1. I will kill people with this cricket bat

            Yup, I’ve met my fair share of them since I got married. Turns out, I married into a family full of them. Oy

        3. Kathleen_A

          That seems like kind of a stretch to me. It’s possible, of course, but the fact is that people do get fixated on the oddest things for various reasons. You can find in the AAM archives examples of female bosses getting a bit obsessed with their subordinates wedding plans, and as far as I can recall, this has never been because they were romantically/sexually obsessed with the employees themselves. They were, however, waaaaaaay too fond of inserting themselves into those employees’ lives. So unless the OP has gotten other indications that the boss’ weird and inappropriate interest is sexual or romantic, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to make that determination now.

      2. Tardigrade

        That also crossed my mind, but it’s possible the dude is just blanket inappropriate. It’s worth the LW considering, for sure.

        1. arahsay

          I kind of think this is it. I think he’s just kind of inappropriate, and not obsessed. And hopefully that’s not wishful thinking.

      3. arahsay

        I’m LW 1, and I’m seriously hoping you are incorrect, no offense. I honestly think he’s just inappropriate, and it’s nothing more. I could be wrong, but hope that I’m not.

        1. Kathleen_A

          Unless you’ve gotten other indications, I don’t think this is the most likely explanation. I think the odds are fairly good that he’s just a weird, boundary-crossing dude.

          Which is also uncomfortable, of course, but not as bad as it could be!

        2. Yet another Sara

          Any chance he’s trying (poorly and inappropriately) to make a joke about the name thing? I ask because that is 100% something my boss would do, including the beating it into the ground part.

          1. arahsay

            I think it is possible he’s trying to make a joke, but I also know I’ve made it clear now that I don’t find it funny.

        3. Indie

          Does he just think he is being funny and making conversation then? In which case I would stifle the impulse to crack jokes about how all men must want a divorce then and dust off your ‘watching paint dry’ expression. Matter of fact, booooooring responses: “Oh no, I would like to stay married after getting married because, you see we decided to get married”. Or “Oh but Tom wasnt invited either. We invited some people but some people were not invited” You can be really brief or a totally repetitive treebeard so long as it is super boring and he doesn’t walk away feeling like a master of banter.

      4. Hey Karma, Over here.

        I can see it being more than not being invited to the wedding. It’s being excluded from a part of her life. Lying about another employee Facetiming him? Yeah, he was fishing to see whether that guy was invited or not. OP, look closely at how closely he is trying to work/talk/be with you.

        1. JSPA

          Maybe the other employee pranked him. Maybe he thinks this is a funny standing joke. (Bosses– or anyone — taking their tips on office culture or appropriate conversation from sitcoms can, in fact, be a thing, for the socially inept. Sometimes you can address this almost head -on:”Joe, we’re not a sit com. Running jokes and recurrent topics are awkward in the real world. Can we drop this?”.)

      5. Dagny

        Yes. There are huge issues here.

        My preferred language here would be something like, “Bob, at this point, you’re continuing to complain about something in the past that can’t be changed and can’t be done over again. Since I can’t go back in time and invite you to my wedding, what are you expecting me to do?”

        When discussing her last name (or wedding invitations): “Bob, this is a decision made between me and my husband regarding a family matter. Please understand that, as much as I respect you, I am not going to let third parties interfere with marital decision-making.”

        1. Susana

          I actually would *not* say, my husband is fine with me keeping my name – because that just feeds the idea that you need a man’s approval (husband, boss) to do so. It’s your name. Keep it; change it. It’s is NOT th boss’s business – and that, and only that, is what he should be told.

          1. Frank Doyle

            Yeah, I didn’t change my name. My husband would have preferred I take his, but . . . I preferred more not too. It’s MY name.

            1. Susana

              Who would give up a name like Frank Doyle? Uncomplicated, without being boring. A good byline. You don’t hear anyone say, oh, I hate that Frank Boyle. You hear at a party, “hey! Frank Boyle’s here!”
              I believe you shape your children’s destiny by the name you give them (I’m talking about YOU, North West).

          2. Dagny

            I didn’t “need” my husband’s approval to keep my name, but my marriage needs me to not be a tyrant.

            1. Susana

              I don’t think women who take their husbands’ names “need” to or not. My point was that LW does not have to explain to her boss that it’s A-OK with her husband.

      6. LaDeeDa

        EEWW I sure hope not! I had a boss who thought not taking my husband’s last name “proved” that I was “bossy” and “wore the pants in my family.” The 2 times he met my husband he called him Mr. Mylastname, and laughed and laughed, like he was insulting my husband.

        1. froodle

          I hate your boss. Like I gritted my teeth reading that level of loathing. May his every beverage be lukewarm and decaffeinated.

        2. arahsay

          Yes! That’s exactly how it is! He said he knew who wore the pants in our relationship. And if he ever met my husband, I’m sure he would do something similar.

          1. Kj

            He’d have a fit about me. No only did I not take my husband’s name, but our child has my last name. My husband’s idea, BTW. I married a feminist.

      7. Totally Minnie

        I think it’s more likely that he’s mad about not getting invited to the wedding and consoling himself with “the marriage is probably doomed anyway, so at least I saved the money I would have spent buying them that crock pot.”

    3. ... cats and dogs

      The part about your last name would definitely be considered a micro aggression in my world.

  3. Anonicat

    #1: I feel like “but whyyyyy don’t you change your name” boss is on the same road as “your post-cancer asymmetric boobs are a workplace problem” boss, albeit several miles behind. Let’s hope someone with authority over him shuts this down before he gets further along!

    1. CastIrony

      I’m tempted to ask him why he doesn’t change his, but in reality, I’d be too shy and triggered.

        1. Lanon

          A friend of mine got asked this a lot because his wife has a unique name that she doesn’t care for changing. It got so annoying he changed his own name to his wife’s just to spite his conservative coworkers.

          1. Snow Drift

            Going through a pile of red tape and bureaucracy just to spite people? This sounds like someone I’d like to befriend.

        2. Everdene

          Oak took a decade to come round to the idea that if we got married I wouldn’t change my name. He saw the light; we’re getting married. We have both said we are not changing our names.

          1. Frank Doyle

            Wait, for ten years he wouldn’t marry you because you weren’t going to take his name? Am I understanding that correctly?

            1. Karyn

              Probably there was a whole lot of other, more relevant stuff, but: Possibly Everdene wouldn’t marry a fella who got upset about her not taking his name.

        3. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

          Oh my god, I trolled my mom so hard with this kinda thing. She Did Not Approve that I kept my name when I got married (in 2009! Not that long ago) and after trying the usual stuff, she attempted a new argument of, “I just think it’s nice when a family all has the same name.”

          And I said, innocently, “oh, well, why couldn’t (husband) change his name to mine?”

          Oh my god the constipated horror/anger that flashed in her eyes was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

          1. Artemesia

            I have been married nearly 50 year and so when I kept my name it was somewhat unusual and then we moved to the south for our careers. I have dozens of I think hilarious anecdotes about people’s reactions to this. It is definitely easier today. I am surprised that someone in 2009 would be surprised at all by this. In our very large families, about half of the marriages of the last two generations have had women who kept their names about half they took the husband’s name. So far every single divorce has been of a couple with the same last name. 18 marriages, 5 divorces — none of the 9 couples with a woman with her own name divorced. Proves nothing but also doesn’t support the idea that somehow taking a man’s name shows greater commitment to the marriage. We hyphenated our kids and when my daughter married she and her husband created a new hyphenate — maternal name of wife-paternal name of husband. Thus my son in law actually took my name.

            1. whingedrinking

              I love to tell conservative types that in Quebec, it is very hard to legally change your name, and you have to provide an “acceptable” reason to do so before they’ll let it go through. Marrying someone with a different last name isn’t considered a good enough reason. (Changing your legal gender is, though.)
              Also, last names don’t automatically default to the father’s last name and hyphenation is very common, but one can’t legally have more than three last names to prevent things getting too unwieldy. So if Genevieve Levesque-Tremblay marries Hugo St. Jean-Bouchard, their daughter Manon’s last name could be Levesque, Tremblay, St. Jean, Bouchard, or any combination thereof except all four. This is, incidentally, in a historically strongly Catholic culture.
              Nomenclature traditions are fun!

            2. Tiny Soprano

              High five for being on the coalface! My mother also kept her last name 40 years ago, for no other reason than she didn’t like how her first name sounded with my dad’s last name. So did my singing teacher’s wife at a similar time, because my singing teacher’s last name is objectively awful and they didn’t want to saddle their children with it (they have their mother’s last name.) Both couples are still happily married, for what it’s worth.

              Given how long this has actually been happening, LW’s boss making such an issue of it is unprofessional, sexist and just plain embarrassing. He needs to knock it off.

      1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

        That’s always been my go-to message, right from the day we got engaged. DH asked me if I wanted to change my name — I said “do you want to change yours?” I got an emphatic NO back, to which I replied, “great, that’s exactly how I feel!” and that was the end of it.

        1. Jules the 3rd

          I asked Mr. Jules if he’d like to change his name, and we brainstormed several – mergers of our two last names, classic sci-fi authors, etc.

          In the end, we decided it was just too much work, so we just each kept our original ones. I’m glad now, the US ID laws are making it harder and harder to get new IDs, and every name change has to be carefully documented. One less to worry about.

          1. whimbrel

            Mr Whimbrel and I tossed around the idea of ‘van Awesome’ during wedding planning. :D I never seriously planned to change my name, though, for a number of reasons. And now our kid has it too, which makes me really happy.

      2. aebhel

        I have said that to every guy who’s asked why I didn’t change my name. Never got a satisfactory answer, somehow.

      3. Future Homesteader

        I just tell people who press “I suggested we hyphenate, but my husband didn’t want to change his, so why should I change mine?” In reality, the decision was much less contentious than that makes it sound, but it *usually* shuts people up.

        1. Totally Minnie

          That’s my go-to response. I’ll hyphenate if he does, otherwise I’ve already got a perfectly good name.

          1. whingedrinking

            I like to say, “I have a boring white person name. My partner has a boring white person name. [Not quite Smith and Jones, but pretty dang close.] If we combined or swapped or hyphenated, we’d still just both wind up with a boring white person name. If either of us was going to change, we’d both move to something more exciting.” That tends to hold sway in some courts but alas, not everyone seems to be persuaded.

            1. AJ

              In some cultures, the wife doesn’t take the husband’s surname on marriage. It’s not the tradition. For example in China, the wife keeps her family name. The exception seems to be if the husband has a boring white name, then I’ve seen wives break with their culture to get that boring white name. A boring white name might be inconsequential in the West, but it’s a prize for many in the world.

        2. Tiny Soprano

          Conversely, a friend of mine took her husband’s name BECAUSE it was short and unhyphenated, unlike her own. He seriously suggested adding another hyphen because he felt it wasn’t fair, but she was like “been there, done that, and no child of mine is going to school with the last name Hardtospell-Verylonglastname-Jones.”

          1. UghThatGuyAgain

            Ha! This is exactly why I changed my name. I ended up with an objectively sillier last name, and my unusual first name makes the whole thing odder still, but I could not get rid of my birth hyphen fast enough. My husband didn’t even want me to change it, but he was okay with it once he saw how resolute I was. It was such a relief to have my name fit on forms.

            When people give me pushback for changing my name (and they have) I usually say, “Well, that’s just the decision I made…” while looking very, very puzzled.

      4. Manders

        I’d actually love to see an article or an ask the readers thread on weddings and offices–I was NOT prepared for how fraught things would get once I announced my engagement, because I wasn’t having a traditional wedding and I had no idea people had such intense opinions about what should happen at weddings or how you should talk about them at work.

        When I got married and people at work were asking me why I wasn’t changing my name, I told them that my husband can take my name if he wants to. I was being totally honest, that’s exactly the conversation I had with my fiance, but it really pissed my coworkers off and I should probably have come up with a way of deflecting those conversations.

        1. leighanneg

          Ugh, Boy was I stupid when I thought that co-workers would listen to my responses when they asked about my upcoming wedding and NOT tell me what I was doing wrong.

          I’m now reduced to answering every question about myself with fine: How’s your man? Fine. How’s the wedding coming along? Fine. How are things between you and your MIL? Fine. Changing your name? Good Question. Well, what you should do is… This is where I turn my head and start typing on my computer cutting off eye contact.

          1. Manders

            Hah, yes! I understand that my coworkers were the rude ones in that situation, but I wish someone had taken me aside and said, “When you’re getting married everyone thinks asking really detailed about the wedding is great small talk, so make sure you have innocuous answers for these common questions. And be aware that if you admit that you’re going to break certain ‘traditions’ some people will interpret that as criticism of their own choices.” I was very much not a good cultural fit for that office and talking about my wedding felt like walking through a minefield without a map sometimes.

            I don’t think anything would placate the LW’s boss, though–he seems weirdly hung up on this and the only thing that could possibly fix it at this point is a time machine.

            1. Engaged

              I’m going to take your story as the equivalent of someone taking me aside and explaining this… so thank you for sharing!

          1. Tiny Soprano

            Exactly! IMO the only acceptable opinion to express to a coworker who’s getting married is “Congratulations!”

            Why are people?? Why are they rude?? How is ragging on your coworker’s happy day professional??

          2. Kat in VA

            Wait until you find out how intense they can get about babies (names, co-sleeping/cribs, nursing/bottle fed, the list goes on and on)!

      5. Serin

        That’s how the spouse replied to his parents when they objected. “Why isn’t she taking your name?” “Dunno … maybe I’ll take hers instead.” End of conversation.

        (Well, not quite … over decades, my mail went from “Mrs. Spouse Spousename” to “Mrs. Serin Spousename” to “Serin Spousename-Myname,” and in the last years of her life my mother-in-law finally sent a card or two addressed to my actual name. But they didn’t bring it up in person again, so I counted that as a win.)

        1. Artemesia

          My parents were aghast; they didn’t confront me about it, having learned how that goes, but for years they addressed all Christmas packages and such to my husband to avoid having to use my name.

        2. AnotherKate

          I’m pretty sure my husband’s family doesn’t realize I never changed my name to his. I get cards to Mrs. Hisname all the time and I’m like…I don’t know her.

          That doesn’t bother me overmuch. What does bother me is friends of mine who don’t bother asking before inviting me to their weddings–I really, really don’t know who Kate Hisname is, guys, and I’m YOUR FRIEND; ask me before you make a placecard.

          1. whingedrinking

            If my partner and I ever combine households, I will send sweetly worded responses to anyone who sends things to Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName that my spouse identifies as a man and to please stop misgendering him.

            1. Tiny Soprano

              You have won one (1) internet. We shall make sure not to address it to Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname.

    2. Jenny

      It’s such sexist bullshit. I mean quick, someone tell my parents that they’re about to get divorced. I mean, they just celebrated their 46th anniversary and have four kids, but my mom didn’t change her last name, so clearly she’s not really committed, right guys?

      1. Willis

        Not to mention all the people who do change their names and later end up getting divorced. I’d be tempted to ask this boss why he’d even want to go to my wedding if he’s just going to be judgemental about my marriage. A wedding is for people to celebrate with you not snipe about your choices. He sounds like a piece of work.

        1. MassMatt

          I’d be tempted to say “the fact that you’re being such a huge jerk about this simply reinforces my conviction that I made the right decision not to invite you. Next!”

          Seriously, he is bringing this up months afterwards? Very weird.

      2. Copenhagen

        I’m only taking my husbands middle name – and now I’m very worried how that’s going to pan out! Can you get “half divorced”? Divorced and re-married, maybe? It’s much more complicated, than I anticipated. Thank god OP1’s boss is here to lay down the ground rules!

        Jokes aside, OP1 you should just refuse to discuss these topics with your boss. I think they’ve proven pretty clearly, why they weren’t invited to the wedding…

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt

        My mom didn’t change her last name either, back in the 80’s, half because she was professionally established under her maiden name, and half because her name is a basic English word that is easy to spell and dad’s last name sounds and is spelled like a German sneeze. In the end I changed my name when I got married, but my decision was about 100% based on his name being easier to spell than the German sneeze name – although I did consider changing my last name to mom’s for awhile.

        1. VonSchmidt

          Ditto! I was hoping for Smith and I got something close except people always ask “an” or “en”. Gah! Still better than my maiden name!

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt

            Mom’s last name is a classic English profession type name like Butler or Cook – and people still ask her how to spell it all the time. Nothing will ever save you from the spelling, but some names will make it easier. At least no one has ever mis-pronounced it.

            1. Autumnheart

              I have a really common last name and I went to a university with the same name (e.g. last name Taylor, went to Taylor University). Still had someone in the admissions office ask me to spell it. I ironically spelled it and said, “As in ‘Taylor University’.”

              1. Misty

                As someone who works with records, I don’t think this is unusual. For all they knew, your last name could have been Tailor. Better to ask than assume and screw up something down the line. Same thing with Cooke vs. Cook. Never assume you know how something is spelled.

                1. B.

                  Depends on the name. (It sounds like Taylor was just an example.) My last name is Jones. I’ll get people spelling it out to confirm (because you’re right, it’s best to not assume when accuracy is needed), but I don’t really get people asking how it’s spelled, because theoretically there are probably alternate spellings out there, but I haven’t seen much of them and I imagine most other people haven’t either.

                2. Autumnheart

                  My last name only has one other alternate spelling.

                  Funny thing was, when I attended (this was back in the ’90s), they published a student phone book (I know!) and there was a student whose name was the equivalent of “Taylor Taylor” (at “Taylor University”). I wonder if admissions ever asked him to spell his name. Also what were his parents thinking?!

              2. District Cat

                I felt bad one time for really confusing some poor Marine who was signing up for a program over the phone by asking if his last name was “as in Patrick Stewart or like the Scottish kings.” He didn’t say anything for a long minute, but I could still hear him going “???????”

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

              My sons each went through a period in high school where they had to learn to quickly spell their (insanely long) last name. It’s an additional life skill they had to have.

            3. Artemesia

              I have a name that I think should be dead easy to pronounce — it contains a common word and that part of the name is pronounced like that word. And there are similar names that start with different letters that pronounce the same way. Still at least half of people using it for the first time mispronounce it. You can’t win.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          I was excited to change my name, because I’d gotten tired of my maiden name (being picked on in school, when all your bullies call you by your last name, will do that to you) and my married name had a nicer sound to it in Home Country. In the US though, my maiden name is just a short ethnic name, and my married name is, also an ethnic name, but ten miles long and intimidating to a native English speaker. I’d give people my last name and hear an “oh boy” on the other end of the line. I’ve had my managers introduce me to new colleagues as “and this is I Wrote I-Won’t-Even-Try-Her-Last-Name”. So a few years after my divorce, I changed it back. Changing a name is a huge pain and I was getting a lot of well-meaning people congratulating me on my assumed marriage, but I got through it in just a few months’ time and I now have a shorter last name!

          My sons’ last names are “a German sneeze” like their father’s. One of the reasons I did not change back right away. I did not want to take the easy way out when they couldn’t. I changed the name after they encouraged me to do so.

        3. Zombeyonce

          The absolute only reason I changed my last name when I got married was because my husband’s last name paired with my first name sounded super badass (so much so that random people comment on it regularly when I meet them). Otherwise I never would have done it even though I really wanted to stick it to all the people pressuring me.

        4. CookieWookiee

          LOL German sneeze

          Same situation here, except instead of a German sneeze it was an Italian cursing. I could not WAIT to change my last name to my husband’s very common, easy-to-pronounce-and-spell name. And actually DH offered to change his name to mine if I wanted, he didn’t care. That was SO not happening though.

          OP 1, best wishes on your wedding. Your boss has serious boundary issues and sounds like an ass.

        5. Jules the 3rd

          This was actually a factor in why I didn’t take my husband’s name. Mine’s mildly funny (eg… ‘Banana’), but I can say ‘spelled like the fruit’. His was misspelled in 3 different publications the year we married. Misspelled 4 different ways (spelled 2 different wrong ways in the 3rd pub). NOPE.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

            I didn’t change mine because AFAIK I am the only person in the world with my name and I liked that uniqueness. Also it would have been a big headache to do all the paperwork in two countries. My husband doesn’t care but my dad is always sending me stuff as “Mrs His name”. *shrug*

            1. Kj

              I kept my name because I am likely the only of the cousins on that side of the family to marry and we knew we’d give our offspring my last name. We have a three month old now, who has my unusual, but easy to spell last name. He’s likely to be the only of my last name of the next generation. My family is happy, but confused, especially because my husband has made it clear that was his idea. I love my feminist husband.

              1. Kj

                Oh, and my husband has two friends at work who also have sons with their wives’ last names. It is pretty cool.

            2. Jen S. 2.0

              I will note that addressing something to Mrs. Hisname doesn’t strike me as all that odd. Mrs. John Smith is whatever woman is married to John Smith, even if her name is Jane Doe.

              It’s only annoying and eye-roll-y to me when it’s someone deliberately doing it passive-aggressively to Make A Point about Jane’s last name.

              1. Frank Doyle

                It might not be ODD but it’s not really pleasant. I do not want to be addressed as who I am in relation to another (male) person. I want to be addressed as MYSELF.

              2. Artemesia

                That is only true if you embrace the notion of women as chattel. I am not Mrs. Fred Hisname anymore than he is Mr. Artemesia Myname. And these days people doing it if they are aware woman has kept her own name ARE being passive aggressive doinks. And even use of his first name as in Mrs Fred Hisname is pretty regressive unless you know this is her preference. I was always gentle with people who called me Artemesia Hisname in the early days when they didn’t know my name choice — and nearly 50 years ago it was unusual to make my choice. I would never be ugly to someone just following the norms and who was unaware I had gone a different way. But people who know and insist on naming you their way — well anything goes.

      4. blackcat

        You know, I don’t have the data to back this up, but I’d suspect that women who *don’t* change their names are the ones more likely to stay married.

        I suspect women who don’t change their names are more likely to be college educated (a major reason for myself and a lot of women I know is having a professional identity under one’s name), and education is strongly correlated with divorce rates (more education -> less frequent divorces, with the exception of women with PhDs, but that’s because academia sucks and puts strain on marriages.

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish

          Do you have more info on how education correlates to divorce, especially the PhD bit? That’s very interesting!

          1. blackcat

            My google skills are failing me on that PhD part, but I do remember reading about it. Basically, female PhDs are highly likely to be married to other PhDs than men with PhDs (or unmarried, in which case, moot point). Two body problems in academia are hard and terrible (my husband and I lived apart for 4 years, and that is typical in academia), so divorce is more likely.

            General data (which lumps together all grad school graduates) is here: https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/article/pdf/marriage-and-divorce-patterns-by-gender-race-and-educational-attainment.pdf

      5. whingedrinking

        Growing up, I was very much surrounded by my parents’ circle of left wing semi-academic middle-class bohemian type friends. Some of the couples were married, some were not, some had been but weren’t to their current partner, etc. I never really thought about which ones were or weren’t because we called everyone by their first names, but I’m now in my thirties and in that circle of people, the only formally married couple left is my parents. (As my dad sarcastically put it when I pointed this out, “Do we get a prize or something?”) All the unmarried couples are still together, all the other married couples got divorced.
        And people find it weird that I don’t hang a lot of significance on the commitment of marriage.

    3. Kate

      When I got married, the Director of our sister division took the fact that I changed my name REALLY personally.

      As far as she was concerned, I was personally setting back the feminist movement twenty years.

      Never mind that I explained WHY (not a great family of origin, thanks, I can’t believe I feel the need to explain this to you, Ms. Totally-Not-My-Actual-Boss…)

      I got married TEN YEARS AGO and she still mentions it, in public, every. single. time. I see her.

      If it’s any comfort, OP, it’s reached the point that she (justifiably!) looks like the one with boundary issues, it doesn’t reflect on me.

      1. Engineer Girl

        If women have achieved true freedom then they are free to choose the traditional ways too. Freedom involves all the choices.

        1. Jenny

          Agreed. I chose not to change my name but that doesn’t mean I don’t think women or men shouldn’t if they want to. I want everyone to respect everyone else’s choices.

        2. Harvey 6-3.5

          Not just women but men too. I don’t think men should be required to keep their name either, if they’d rather take their wife’s name. I know a family with an unfortunate last name where both the college age kids (boy and girl) use slightly modified forms of the name. I’m pretty sure that when (and if) either gets married, so long as their new spouse has a ordinary name, they will take on the spouse’s name.

          1. Liane

            I wouldn’t be surprised if some same-gender married couples have gotten asked, “Which of you is changing names?” Because somebody’s got to change names or it isn’t a real marriage. /sarcasm

            1. turtleturtleturtle

              Oh yes hi, this is me. My wife and I got married nine years ago, and we still sometimes get “but you have different names”. Um yes, and we had different names for the 14 years that we were together prior to the legal ceremony, too.

              1. I want a nap.

                My response to that question is always, “think it through.”

                (Wife and I have the same first name and are in the same profession.)

                1. Susan Calvin

                  But think of all the missed opportunities to turn industry events in shakespearean commedies of error!

                  (My mom, who did take my father’s name, despite sharing a first name with his sister, still gets a chuckle out of the confusion it caused when she went to deliver me in the hospital where my aunt was head nurse)

              2. Jen S. 2.0

                My goddess, people can be dumb about this. I know a set of **identical** twins with perfectly normal names — say, Mary and Jane.

                People have said to them, “You can’t be twins! Your names aren’t alike!”

                **facepalming**

        3. Sled dog mama

          So true! My grandmother did not change her name legally back in the 40’s, of course she used both socially. Perhaps paradoxically this made me feel empowered in 2008 to change mine. Hubby and I debated a long time about who should change or if either of us should. It came down to I wanted to change and his last name waa actually more reflective of our shared heritage (we think mine got corrupted somewhere). It was also important to us to have the same last name and as I was entering grad school and changing fields at the time we got married I had less of a professional identity.

      2. The Original K.

        I have a friend who gets annoyed when married women DO change their names (she’s married & did not), but she acknowledges that it’s irrational & doesn’t harp on it. Someone asked her “why do you care?” & she acknowledged that she has no reason. I’ve never understood why anyone outside the couple cares.

        1. Mystery Bookworm

          I think we all have some stuff like that — things that aren’t our business, but get under our skin, probably because it stirs up difficult emotions for some reason. HOWEVER, that’s no excuse to push that discomfort onto others.

          We need to have the good sense to a) recognize our occasional irrationality* and b) keep it to ourselves!

          *sometimes with help from loved ones

          1. blackcat

            Yes, I am like this.
            Every time a female friend of mine changes her name upon marriage, I cringe. Because it feels like the patriarchy has captured them all.
            BUT I DO NOT SAY ANYTHING BECAUSE I AM NOT AN ASS.
            It’s not hard!

            1. Snow Drift

              Can I ask why?

              I ask because in many cases, keeping “your” name means keeping your dad’s name. Why is it more empowering to retain one man’s name versus taking a different man’s name?

              1. Jennifer

                Agreed. I know women that changed their names because they had horrible relationships with their bio-dad or no relationships at all. We all do things that could be perceived as giving in to the patriarchy. Getting married in the first place could be perceived that way by some people.

                1. Mystery Bookworm

                  I know women like that too.

                  I suspect that blackcat understands that intellectually as well; which is why she keeps her mouth shut about it. Sometimes our knee-jerk emotional reactions aren’t in line with logic.

                2. The Original K.

                  An ex of mine (who is male) changed his last name to his mother’s maiden name when he was in his 20s because his father was mostly absent from his life and on the rare occasions he was around, he was horrible. He has no relationship to that side of his family at all and is very close to his mother’s family.

                3. blackcat

                  @Original K–
                  My BFF’s husband’s dad was an abusive ass. Upon their marriage, they both changed their last name to his mother’s maiden name. My BFF’s original last name was something like Smith–super common and generic–and the new name manages to be both a bit unusual but also very easy to spell and say since it is also a word (think Magnolia).
                  He had always wanted to do so but it costs $$ to change your name for whatever reason, and in their state, it was free to pick a new last name for both of them upon marriage.

                4. Feminist

                  Of course it makes sense that women might change their names if they had a bad relationship with their father. But one would think that just as many men have bad relationships with their fathers, but you almost never see them changing their names. (Also, I don’t see why the impetus to change a name has to come with marriage — why not take your mother’s maiden name or make one up?)

                  Of course everyone is free to do what they like as an individual, but on a macro scale I’d love to see a society where men change their name just as often as women do.

                5. Hey Nonny Anon

                  One my husband’s former colleagues was very close with his mom, but had a rocky relationship with his dad and had thought about changing his name to match his mom’s maiden name (which she went back to when she divorced). When he was getting married, there was some discussion of both he and his fiancee changing their names to mom/MIL’s last name, but ultimately they both kept the names they’d had since birth.

              2. Kwazy Kupcake

                I’d like to push back on this due to the underlying assumption that names can only belong to men. This is the only name I’ve ever had, regardless of who had it first. That makes it mine.

                1. So long and thanks for all the fish

                  And actually, not to harp on Snow Drift, but that question and its underlying assumption really bothers me. Who cares if it was my dad’s last name? It’s also the last name I’ve had since birth. Why is the assumption that it’s my burden to change my name personally, professionally, and on government documents when my husband and I marry? If I hated my name because it reminded me of my dad, I could change it to something I liked. If that happened to be my husband’s name, so much the simpler. But under your question sounds (to me, and I know I can be extra-sensitive) like you’re saying “why would you want people to think you’re still owned by your father, now that you have a husband?” Names belong to the people who own them, and mine is mine regardless of who else has part of it.

                2. Jennifer

                  Very true. I don’t think anyone’s saying any different. The criticism is more for women who are rude to other women who choose to change their names to their husband’s. We ALL have elements in our lives that are the results of living in a patriarchal society. It seems hypocritical to be nitpicky about one issue. I do understand that we all have our pet peeves. I definitely do.

                3. SmartestKidOnEarth

                  Thank you for this! I have a not-great relationship with my dad, but I do love my name and I don’t plan to change it. Internally, I’ve struggled with the idea of keeping the name of a man who I don’t feel super connected to over taking the name of a man who loves and respects me. But I realise – that’s not the issue at hand. I’m keeping my name because it’s mine, I’ve had it for over 3 decades, and it’s unique and highly uncommon, so that’s that.

              3. SusanIvanova

                My brother took advantage of getting married to drop the paternal DNA contributor’s name. I’m not fond of carrying that person’s name either, but I’ve got a digital presence going back to the early 90s and a name combo that gets only one or two google hits that aren’t me.

              4. Tisiphone

                My name is *my* name, even if I share part of it with relatives.

                Does that mean my middle name isn’t really *my* middle name if, when I was six, all of the girls in my class shared the same middle name? Or my nephew’s name isn’t really his name because he’s got the exact same name as his dad, but with a numerical suffix?

                I have a friend who has twins. The boy got his dad’s last name and the girl got her mother’s last name. No one was confused.

                1. Autumnheart

                  “How will I know which children are mine if they don’t have my last name?” said nobody ever.

              5. blackcat

                Well, I understand logically that what other woman do is their business and should 100% be their choice, even though I, personally, made a different one.

                But what other people have said–regardless of how a woman comes to have her name, it’s hers! That it should change upon change in marital status seems so odd and patriarchal to me.

                Don’t even get me started on the fact that children tend to carry their father’s name even if the mother has a different one. It pisses me off even more than the marriage thing. And was an argument that very nearly broke my marriage when I argued for flipping a coin for the last name of kid #1 and kid #2 getting the other person’s name.

                tl;dr I hate the patriarchy, but do my best to respect the choices of other women. If I can’t, I still keep my mouth shut.

                1. I will kill people with this cricket bat

                  One of my old bosses decided that if they had a girl she would get her mother’s last name, if a boy, then his last name. They had a girl, she has her mother’s name.

                  Now my kid has my husband’s name, but that’s because I sort of hate most of my dad’s family and absolutely adore most of my husband’s so it felt right that that’s the family name she’d carry with her. Had I been as equally invested into my father’s side of the family? Then we’d have a serious debate about who’s name my kid got. FWIW, my kid has my mom’s last name as her middle name.

                2. Horatio

                  The father’s name passing on to children by default also bothers me too. In our case, I am keeping my last name and partner is keeping his, because I am attached to my name professionally, and he is attached to his professionally & culturally. We have decided that any hypothetical future children will have his last name, because they will be half his ethnicity and it’s important to him that they have a last name that reflects their cultural heritage rather than my very generic white last name. I’m a little bummed that our children won’t have my last name, I won’t lie, but the hyphenation of our names is absolutely atrocious and I very much understand the reason why they should have his last name and not mine. But it was a very deliberate conversation that we had, and I really appreciated that he framed that discussion with cultural reasons rather than just assuming that was the case by default.

              6. Christine

                For me, my dad’s surname is mine as well. I grew up with it, I like it, it’s part of who I am just as if I’d been a boy. I also like torturing people with my German-sneeze last name. Guess how to spell it!

              7. Feminist

                I hate that argument! My name isn’t my dad’s name, it’s MY name. The idea that women can’t possibly have ownership over their own name is patriarchy.

              8. only acting normal

                So my father’s name or his father’s name?
                At least the former has also been *my* name since birth.

        2. Dust Bunny

          OMG my mother’s Seventies feminist friend really rode her for changing her name. But she had a last name that lent itself well to puns and was tired of being teased about it (my dad’s surname is hopelessly unfunny), and she wanted to have the same last name as any kids they had.

          1. neverjaunty

            The question of why the kids would have his last name is also an interesting one, but equally none of the friend’s damn business.

            1. JSPA

              Could be / have been required, depending on country. Which is…a whole other part of the same larger issue.

        3. AnonEMoose

          I changed my name when I got married. My DH’s attitude can be best summed up by him, shortly before the wedding, saying something to the effect of “You’ll have to decide what you want to do about your name.” That was pretty much the extent of our conversation on the issue.

          My dad is awesome. Some of the relatives on his side of the family…not so much.

          I changed it partly because DH’s last name is easier than my maiden name, partly because it was a way of distancing myself a bit more from said relatives, and partly because I felt like it.

        4. IWishIHadAFancyUserName

          “Why do you care?”

          Perfect come-back for those who have a reflexive need to insert themselves into other folks’ decisions. Put it back on them to justify their own overly nosy interest in things that do. not. concern. them.

        5. kitryan

          My sister had planned to change and I was not pleased. It felt like she didn’t want to be part of our family anymore. I looked at the feeling and realized two things. One, the feeling had more to do with other dynamics in the family that were symbolized by the name change, it wasn’t the name change itself and the issues would still be issues regardless. Two, she probably wasn’t going to get her act together to get the name change done anyway.
          Turns out I was right and she kept her name. I also still have feelings sometimes about *family* and stuff. The name is/was a red herring.
          I do think that if you make a change later in life (like after grad school) once you have a professional reputation it’s potentially courting difficulties. I also think that it would be nice if men changed their names as much as women do and I will say both of those things *if* my opinion is asked – as well as that everyone should do what’s right for them.

        6. Frank Doyle

          I was a little disappointed every time a feminist friend of mine decided to change her name — but I’d never TELL any of them that.

          1. Kat in VA

            I’m a hardcore feminist (and teaching my daughters to be the same). I changed my name to my husband’s because I wanted to, full stop. That’s the beauty of feminism – shave or don’t, makeup or not, husband manages the bills or you do, you do the housework or he does, change your last name or don’t. The point is that we have a choice to do these things, not that we do them (or even the often convoluted reasons behind why we do them). The point is we have the OPTION to do or not do these things.

            (I’m speaking of “traditional” marriage that some folks harp about as being the only kind of marriage there is [which is a crock of shit] – I am not educated enough to speak to any other kind of marriage and do not want to offend)

      3. Aspiring Chicken Lady

        I’d be so tempted to refer to myself around her as Mrs. Husband’s-First-Name Last-Name.

      4. Classic Rando

        I know a cis/het couple that got married and both of them changed their name to a totally new one. Their new last name is a little nod to the practice of hyphenating names, as the husband originally had a hyphenated surname and the wife had a double-barreled one, but it’s now just one short word they both use. Shortly after the change, the wife overheard some coworkers discussing her choice to change her name with disappointment, thinking she’d taken the husband’s name. She shut them down pretty bluntly.

        I think my MIL was a little disappointed that I didn’t change my name, but oh well. :)

        1. Lighthearted Musical Numbers

          A cousin on my husband’s side did this with his now-wife; they both had bad blood with their families so they dropped all of the family names and picked a shiny, brand new last name with no ties to either side.

          Its also super confusing because the cousin also chose to swap his first and middle name… I still mess up and call him four different names before I get to the right set.

        2. Turquoisecow

          A friend of my husband’s did something similar. He didn’t really get along with his family and his wife wasn’t really attached to her name, so they merged their names. Not hyphenated, but merged into a totally new name. Think instead of Smith-Jones, they went with Smones.

        3. JustaTech

          There was a mayor of LA who did this. I don’t remember anything else about him except that he and his wife created a joint name, and I thought that was cool.

          I had a friend in school who didn’t have the same last name as either of her parents. Her mom was Ms Shoe, her dad was Mr Maker, and her name was Shoemaker (example, not her actual name). All of their names sounded perfectly normal, and as far as I know it never confused anyone at the school.

          My MIL is still expecting me to change my name (my husband’s last name is really good, but, still). Since she’s my MIL it’s harder to say “this has nothing to do with you”.

          1. in a fog

            That was Antonio Villaraigosa. His last name was Villa; hers was Raigosa.

            If he hadn’t cheated on her, it would be a much nicer story!

          2. Jen S. 2.0

            There was a celebrity (kinda; I never heard much about them except for this particular piece) couple on Dancing With the Stars that did this. I forget who started out as Pena and who was Vega, but they are now both PenaVega.

        4. Zombeyonce

          My husband and I were so close to combining our names and adding an “en” in between to make a new, weird-sounding name we’d both use. We ended up not going that direction but now it’s our default username for all joint stuff (like wifi) which is fun.

        5. Parenthetically

          Some friends of mine did this too!! They ended up with an anagram of some of their combined surname letters that preserved some of the symbolism of her surname that she loved while hiding his surname which he hated, and I thought it was such a fun solution to their “but which name” conundrum.

      5. black dragon reader

        I am also in favor of more across the board freedom for all the genders. I love that feminism has freed women out from under the heel of men; unfortunately, feminism has put women under the heel of other women at times line in the example above. As tempting as it is for me to identify as a feminist, I have a really hard time because I am pro freedom across the genders. Sadly, there isn’t any sort of “ism” that says people can be socially free as long as they don’t create negative externalities for others.

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish

          I’d like to push back and say that in fact what you are describing is feminism. People can use the label in different ways, and people can claim to be feminists while also judging other women’s choices, and people can try to be good feminists while failing because they’re human, but the definition of feminism is to believe in gender equality, full stop.

          1. Zombeyonce

            Yes, big agree on this. Feminism just means “equality between the sexes” which equates to making whatever choice is best for you personally (and, by extension, your family), whether that be changing your name or not or working or staying home with kids, or anything at all.

      6. neverjaunty

        She was the one with boundary issues the FIRST time she asked you.

        Talking about feminism and the societal issues around name-changing is not a license to demand that a work colleague justify her choices.

      7. Anonandon

        People feel compelled to comment on whatever choice you make. When I got divorced 10 years ago, I went back to my family of origin’s name. Yes, it was a giant hassle, but I felt strongly about it. You would not believe the pushback I got from my then employer! And the pushback I continue to get from my kids’ teachers, school administrators, doctor’s offices, etc., etc. Just today, I had to call the orthodontist to reschedule an appointment for my daughter. I left a message introducing myself as First Name Last Name, mother of Daughter’s first name, last name. Keep in mind that I have dealt with this orthodontist for years and they have only ever known me by my current name. When I got a call back, they *still* referred to me as Mrs. [former last name]! UGH UGH UGH! Such a minor thing, but so infuriating!

      8. Artemesia

        When I was a grad student one of my profs was overtly envious that I had kept my name and told me she wished she had done so as well; she was married to another prof at the university and had published for years as Herfirst Hermaiden Hislast names. I noticed recently that she has taken back her own name now as a Professor Emerita. Made me smile that she went for it. Her marriage lasted until his death a couple of years ago — they were married just short of 70 years.

    4. Cat wrangler

      There are plenty of cultures where women don’t have the ‘same name’ as their husband as they keep their father’s surname or there’s a male /female version of the same name which is similar but not the same. If it works, why fix it?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        And then there’s Iceland’s patronymic system. One married couple with two children… four separate last names.

        1. SusanIvanova

          And they rarely use the patronyms. Bjork isn’t being a quirky single-named artist, she’s just being Icelandic.

      2. aa

        I live in Spain. Here people legally have two surnames: the father’s first surname and the mother’s second surname. This is the usual order, although you can change it (for example, if your mother has a more distinctive surname or a surname you want to preserve, or if you just prefer your mother’s surname for whatever reason).

        This means that children don’t share the same set of surnames with their parents, but with their (full) siblings. Originally it was a way to track the families you came from, I imagine.

        It works well.

        1. aa

          Sorry, that would be the father’s first surname and the mother’s FIRST surname.

          So, if Pedro is the son of Jose A B and Maria C D, he is Pedro A C (although his parents can change the order of their surnames to bring one forward, and Pedro can change his surnames to Pedro C A).

        2. Karen from Finance

          I have Spanish heritage. I agree this works well but also this makes for really really long names. Specially with the tradition of giving people >2 names. And I love it when a bunch of last names with the “de” prefix get together and it becomes “y” (this is how I believe it works).

          My grandpa was basically called – Firstname Secondname Thirdname Of Lastname And SecondLastname.

          In the elections, he got the ballots in the mail. I’ve seen names long enough that they didn’t fit in the ballot, they had to shorten them. Hilarious to me.

  4. Observer

    Both #1 and #2 are just incredibly bizarre and inappropriate.

    #2, please do NOT get into an explanation with your boss because he’s going to claim that you’re not out any money since you’ll get it back as a tax credit. But, if you don’t have the money to lay out, you just don’t have it and it’s really none of his business how and why this is the case. I mean, he shouldn’t be asking this of you anyway, but this just adds another whole layer.

    1. Jenny

      I would also not take boss’s word for it that this program applies, either. I am not familiar with the relevant state policy (state tax is jurisdiction dependent and very tricky) but in general programs like this have limits and some of the details (like the direct benefit to boss’s kid) just seem off. My research suggests these state programs are also under some federal tax policy scrutiny. I could be wrong but I don’t trust boss and OP could get financially screwed here.

      1. Clisby Williams

        I also would want to check it out (except that I wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t be planning to make this donation.)

        South Carolina, where I live, has a program that sounds a little like this, but donations aren’t made to schools; they’re made to a scholarship fund that makes tuition grants for kids to attend private schools that provide education targeted to special needs students. The grants aren’t available to students at just any private school; plus, as far as I know, you can’t specify your donation goes to any particular child. If a taxpayer happens to feel moved to contribute to this cause, they can do it without any real financial loss (except for having to have the money up-front to donate.)

    2. Asenath

      There are many situations in which a polite refusal should be accompanied by a complete absence of any excuses, reasons and/or openings for further discussion. This is probably one of them – although I’d be tempted to add that any school donations I might make would be to my children’s school. Bonus points if you can veer off into a list of the great programs they raise money for, and long tedious expositions of each child’s educational career.

      1. Jenny

        Agreed. LW should not have to justify her choice at all, but do do want her to feel confident in her refusal. This is sketchy as hell.

    3. aebhel

      Yeah, definitely don’t try to justify or explain it; I feel like anybody who’s willing to cross the line far enough to even ASK a subordinate to donate money to their child’s private school (!!!) is not likely to accept any explanation. Reasons are for reasonable people, etc.

  5. Jasnah

    #1 I wholly agree with the sentiment but if I were OP1 I might change some of the words of Alison’s recommended response.

    “It makes me feel like as my boss you’re holding it against me that we didn’t have you at the wedding — and obviously that would be really wrong!”
    Maybe because I’m reading it, not hearing it spoken, I first misunderstood that “wrong” referred to “holding it against me” not “we didn’t have you at the wedding.” Since this is the issue the boss is struggling to comprehend (for some bizarre reason), I might rearrange some things to make it clearer.
    “It makes me feel like you’re holding it against me that we didn’t have you at the wedding–and obviously as my boss, that would be really wrong!”

    “Could we agree to table this”
    Personally my understanding of “table a topic” is to put it aside and discuss it later. Maybe this is intentional softening language on Alison’s part, but personally I might use her recommended “Can we agree to drop this” instead, just so there’s no misunderstanding that there’s a “better time” to discuss it.

    Sorry if this is nitpicky and I’m not sure if these changes would magically make the boss understand–as long as the sentiment gets across!

    1. PieInTheBlueSky

      I believe that is the British usage of “table”. In the US, it means the opposite (to delay, to not vote on something). No idea why.

      1. MagicUnicorn

        Not in my part of the US. I have only ever heard it used to mean “let’s drop it for now and come back to it later.”

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          That’s how it’s typically used, and I think PieInTheBlueSky is saying the same thing in a different way. (Apologies if the following sounds didactic—I truly don’t mean to be condescending but couldn’t figure wordsmith this very well.)

          In legislative bodies in the U.S., tabling something is to delay a vote on it with the idea that you can bring it back up later, or you can let it linger and die. Usually folks will let it linger and die. But in most work settings, tabling an issue means postponing discussion until a later time (whether it’s another day or later in the same meeting), and it’s more common for people to actually discuss the tabled issue. They’re both the same principle, but the application can differ.

    2. Mystery Bookworm

      As an American living in the UK, that seems to be true here. People “table” something when they’re ready to open it up to discussion.

      But in my 30 years in the states, I only ever heard it used as “let’s set this aside (maybe just for now, maybe forever) and move on to other things”.

      So this may be a cultural difference.

      1. Foxy Hedgehog

        Ah! My area of expertise! It’s not a cultural difference, really. It is a literal difference in how legislative bodies (Parliament in the UK, Congress in the USA) use that word.

        In Parliament, to Table a Motion means to have it placed on the agenda for discussion.

        In Congress, to Table a Motion means to set aside the motion that is currently being discussed and move on to other business. Tabling doesn’t eliminate the possibility of discussing it in the future, but once tabled it can only be brought up again by majority vote.

          1. Foxy Hedgehog

            Weirdly enough, I think it has something to do with how literal tables (as in, the pieces of furniture that you set things on) are used in the 2 different halls.

            In The House of Commons (UK), there is a giant table between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. If a motion is put “on the table,” then it is literally in front of Parliament for discussion.

            In The House of Representatives (US), there are no tables like that. There is a small table next to the Speaker’s chair. She (or, formerly, he) has a pile of bills and motions to be discussed in order, one after another. If the House votes to lay something on the table, the Speaker then puts that thing back on the table at the bottom of the stack.

            All of this has been modernized so much that the actual placing of actual bills and motions doesn’t really happen any more, but the lingo that was used back in the 19th Century has stuck with us.

            I should add that since most of the English-speaking world has a Parliamentary system like the UK, the UK sense of “table” seems to prevail all over the world except in the US.

        1. Mystery Bookworm

          Ooh, thanks for this! It did come up in last night’s Brexit coverage, so what you’re saying makes perfect sense.

          And wow, did it confuse me the first few times.

    3. KX

      You can table something (put it aside to discuss later) but you can also have different options “on the table” to pick from.

  6. mark132

    @lw4, honestly if you can make it to 50 minutes I think you have phenomenal endurance. I think that may be way above average.

    1. SignalLost

      It certainly is for me. I can make it about ten minutes in my weekly 90-minute meeting (one piece of the meeting impacts me directly). I’ve taken to bringing my laptop and continuing company work and half-listening for my bits. But others in the meeting are also multitasking, so it doesn’t stand out as much. In our monthly staff meetings (we are a staff of 12) it’s not at all remarkable for people to get up and get coffee or get something off the printer or stretch their legs starting st about the 45 minute mark. My advice is see what others do and follow their cue if it works for you; if not, bring it up as Alison suggested.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I would not call 50 minutes phenomenal endurance! It’s pretty typical to have hour-long or longer meetings where people stay engaged. It’s absolutely true that if it’s the kind of meeting where only a few people are talking and not everyone is actively participating (like SignalLost describes above), people’s focus will wane… but if it’s a meeting of, like, six people around a small conference table and everyone is invested in the topic, I typically see people staying alert and engaged.

      1. Engineer Girl

        I’m thinking of design reviews that would go 8 hours. We usually had 90 minute sessions, a break, another 90 minutes, lunch, and so forth.
        And yes you need to pay attention the whole time.

        1. Screenwriter/Mom

          Right? We have story sessions that easily go 8 hours. And yes, we go for about 90 minutes, then might have a break, people might go and grab a coffee (or we might ask for an assistant to do a Starbucks run), or go to the bathroom; occasionally someone might need to take an important phone call and step out. Breaks for lunch, another coffee break in the afternoon. Everyone is full on paying attention and working. But those meetings–where we are actively working–are perhaps different; everyone is engaged, you’re actively trying to solve problems, brainstorm, come up with ideas.

        2. Falling Diphthong

          I routinely have 2-3 hour phone meetings, and it’s normal to break at the two-hour mark. I’d look askance at someone who couldn’t even make it an hour.

          1. bonkerballs

            Same. No offense to OP, but I’d be super annoyed if a regular 90 minute meeting all of a sudden started needing to have a break half way through. That’s just going to end up wasting my time: time for a break almost no one needs, time for everyone to get back to the table/meeting room because everyone broke off and started chatting, time for everyone to regroup and get back on the agenda. 90 minutes is not a particularly long meeting.

            1. Someone Else

              The frame of reference I tend to use is a movie or a play. If a play is 90 minutes, unless there’s a huge set change or other technical reason for an intermission, no theater producing it is going to want to bother having an intermission for a show that short. Most movies are 90 minutes – 2 hours. Will some people sometimes need to get up to go to the loo during a movie? Sure. But in general, it’s assumed most people can sit and pay attention that long. Movies and plays are probably more entertaining than most work meetings, but I definitely use “would this need an intermission if it were a play” as my yardstick for if a meeting needs a break (absent other reasons it might need to be broken up).

              1. Tisiphone

                I was just in a play that was 90 min long and had a short intermission. It’s been produced in its current form in professional theater since 2010 and no one’s complained about the presence of an intermission. I know this because I’ve been involved with most of these productions. The reviews after the fact have been universally positive. This is at multiple venues in different cities with and without concessions, different directors, different cast, with and without radical costume/makeup changes.

        3. wittyrepartee

          I think for me, it’s a question of whether it’s participatory or not. Also, I’m ADHD, so that affects this kind of thing. But if I’m answering questions and working for a few hours, I’m able to stay engaged. If it’s just a lecture…

        4. Kyrielle

          *shudders* You are bringing back memories from a job where we were required to *read the design document aloud end-to-end in the meetings*.

          If you were the person who authored the document, or if you were a reviewer who actually read it before the meeting, it was mind-numbing to read it all aloud or listen to that being done.

          1. JustaTech

            Good grief. I’ve been in exactly one meeting where the meeting leader thought the best use of our time was to read the safety team policy document out loud. To the safety team. We were not editing or revising the document.
            Everyone else in the meeting was completely incredulous.

            The meeting leader was a good safety person in that she knew all of the regulations, but man she did not know how to lead a meeting.

      2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

        Not in terms of focus, necessarily, but having that level of bladder control is… not necessarily common in the meetings I’m frequently attending at this point. Usually at the 60 minute mark, *someone* will ask for a comfort break, and, judging by the exodus that happens, more than a few people have spent five or more minutes prior with their legs crossed.
        Of course, given that these meetings often happen with attendees drinking a gallon of tea/coffee, it’s perhaps not that surprising.

      3. SignalLost

        True. I’m describing status check-ins, not collaborative work, which are much easier to engage with because you’re actually involved, not just in the room. (Better meetings for all!)

      4. kittymommy

        I don’t think one meeting I attend is under an hour, normally 90-120 minutes is normal; breaks begin after that. Almost all meetings in my office are min. 1hr.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It’s definitely common (and not above average) to be expected to last 50–90 minutes in a meeting without a break.

        That said, most of the data we have on andragogy and adult “alertness” and concentration suggests adults can only really stay focused in 20-minute chunks. That doesn’t mean you have to take breaks every 20 minutes, but generally speaking, people will be able to keep better focus if the meeting approach varies slightly. So unless the facilitation is deft, most adults will lose concentration or need a break during a routine 90 minute meeting. (And that doesn’t account for bio breaks, which folks will also likely need before the 90 minutes are up.)

    3. Aggretsuko

      Here is why my job wins at suck for the #2 situation:
      (a) Meeting every Monday morning from 8-10 a.m.
      (b) During which I have to sit perfectly still and paying perfect attention for the entire two hours. This is not a meeting where one can doodle or pretend to take notes (there isn’t anything to take notes ON for most of it). I really, really, really wish I could just do SOMETHING because I concentrate better if I am not just sitting still and staring with “rapt” attention. But i know better than to ask, see below.
      (c) I got in trouble for yawning and got a 20 minute lecture on how I need to apologize PROFUSELY if I do so because I might offend someone for being tired at 8 a.m. I am a night owl and virtually everyone else here is an extreme early bird who wakes up at 3 a.m. for fun. I cannot drink coffee (because it’s awful) so getting super caffeinated is not an option. I am supposed to apologize for not having my coffee yet (which is weird, she knows I do not drink it and why).
      (d) The first hour and fifteen minutes or so is “let’s go around the table and everyone says what they are working on this week.” Which takes a long time because we have the largest team in the office (8 people) and it also frequently derails. Then it’s “oh, we’re running out of time to go over some stuff.” I get that we have to do a Game Plan for the service aspects of the job or give people heads up about things, but …. this is looooong. I would not suggest a break because that would make it even longer and derail even harder.

      So I end up staring into space and counting the number of times I stifle my yawns, because even if I managed to drug myself into sleeping for 9 hours the night before I am apparently still going to yawn if I have to sit still for two hours paying Perfect Attention.

      Yes, I’ve thought about sneaking in a fidget spinner, but I think that would be noticed and complained about.

      1. Slartibartfast

        Do you have a pocket you could put a fidget cube in? And could you get away with having your hand in your pocket?

        1. BRR

          I got a fidget pen that has been perfect for meetings. It’s stealth and has saved me countless times.

            1. Jasnah

              I have a spinny ring that has helped me in long meetings! It’s pretty silent and discreet.

              When I had to sit and flick the lights off every 7 min, then on for 3 min, then off again…all day long… I decided the exact wording of my resignation letter, and then also the spelled-in-cod version I fantasized about. I also tried to recall the lyrics to songs, movies, etc. in my head. Once I tried to see how far I could get into Hamilton by memory.

        2. Aggretsuko

          I don’t think I could get away with my hand being in my pocket, unfortunately. Or else I would be doing the fidget spinner.

          1. Où est la bibliothèque?

            Look up finger meditation? Essentially: count on the fingers of one hand as you breathe in and count down as you breathe out. It’s very subtle, but I’ve found it really helpful in situations like yours. (Helps me relax, and slow deliberate breathing helps keep me from yawning or making less-than-happy faces.)

        3. LW4

          Since sending in this ask, I got a fidget cube and it does help keep my hands occupied if I have an urge to aggressively doodle. Do recommend!

      2. Aspiring Chicken Lady

        There are studies that say that doodling aids in retention and concentration. I can remember entire college classes from 30+ years ago (and a high school film strip!) more from the doodles than the notes.

        I am blatant in my multi-colored doodles. It’s science.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Ugh, your job sucks at facilitating useful meetings. Most of mine have also sucked at this, and it’s exhausting :(

    4. Mystery Bookworm

      I think this will depend heavily on your industry. There are plenty of careers where 90 minute meetings (or longer) would be considered normal. But ideally they would be engaging and involve all parties, as opposed to sort of a faux-lecture with one person rambling.

    5. I heart Paul Buchman.

      I don’t agree. I think hour long meetings are typical and it is reasonable to expect someone to stay engaged for that time. 2 hours is approaching time for a break but is not aggregious.

      Personally, I feel frustrated with people who ‘multi-task’ during meetings. I find these people often miss important points, ask for clarification already received, and can be very distracting to others. The letter writer mentions using their phone which I would consider unprofessional. If nothing else it is rude to the person speaking to be openly disregarding them.

      1. LadyL

        I have ADHD, which makes sitting still and quiet for 2 hours pretty near impossible. I take notes to keep myself focused and as a kind of fidget that is less distracting to my neighbors (my form of hyperactivity is usually interrupting and excessive talking, so being super focused on writing everything down helps me keep quiet).

        I work in education, and we talk about differentiated learning a lot, which is the idea that kids all have different needs and you adapt your lessons to help them meet their needs. Aka the kid who needs quiet to focus gets headphones, the kid who gets antsy is given opportunities to move and fidget, the kid who struggles gets extra directions, etc. I wish more workplaces has this same understanding, as I don’t think we grow out of all our needs. Adults need self-control yes, but we also all have our own burdens and quirks that would be much less burdensome if the right supports were in place.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          I am endlessly grateful that my company (or at least my branch) has never objected to me taking an aisle seat during all-hands meetings so I can stand then sit then stand again — I started it because my back starts hurting in their chairs. I’ve learned it also helps keep me focused to move a little.

        2. Emily K

          Fellow ADHD here :)

          Yes, one of the hallmarks of our disorder is needing/benefiting from a higher degree of stimulation to focus. It ends up being a dysfunctional coping mechanism for people with untreated ADHD, because if you procrastinate long enough you eventually get a huge surge of adrenaline when the deadline approaches, which provides the CNS stimulation your brain needs to focus!

          1. Hlyssande

            I’m waiting on my diagnosis (testing last Friday, followup this Friday) but I feel this so much. I drew on my hands all through high school. I knitted through college. I really struggle in meetings at work either sitting still and paying attention if it’s an in person or with staying engaged via webex without multitasking (because it’s been a problem for the whole group but me especially). If I’m not fidgeting, I cannot pay attention. But I also hyperfocus on my fidgets if I’m not careful. Ugh.

        3. ADD Annie

          I’m a former teacher with attention issues, and once during a training in a hotel ballroom I went into the nearby gym and “borrowed” one of the exercise balls to sit on during the training. When a colleague asked, I did a short spiel about differentiation. Fortunately I had some capital to spend on this and we had a pretty casual district culture. But I wish in general we better understood that kids with varied needs grow up into adults with varied needs!

        4. Aggretsuko

          I think I have ADHD too. I have debated getting officially diagnosed but am very afraid of the work consequences that might happen (and also I have pill swallowing issues so I don’t want to be told to take medication). I don’t really feel like I need “accommodations” except to be allowed to do something low-key during meetings though–if you let me handle things my way, then everything is fine. If you want me to look and act like everyone else…sigh.

          I’d love to just say “I swear I pay more attention if you let me do something during the meeting,” but I just don’t think that will fly when someone is more concerned with how things “look” than how things actually are. I get tired of the people who go on about how rude it is, because if you ask me during the meeting while I’m doing something, I can repeat back what you said and I’ve proven it to so many other people throughout school. I can’t say the same if I have to stare at you for 2 hours like you’re fascinating. If I look like I’m engaged and interested because I am still and my eyes are open…you lost me.

          And as others pointed out, an interactive meeting is a different thing than one where everyone sits there while one person goes on.

          1. wittyrepartee

            Get the diagnosis. Your workplace won’t know unless you tell them. You don’t have to take pills if you don’t want to, but having the option was life changing for me.

          2. Kyrielle

            What wittyrepartee said. With the diagnosis, you will know, and there are also things that can help you focus that don’t need your workplace to know. (Those you could look up online and try.) But also, pills are common, but not all kids can swallow them either. There are capsules that can be opened and taken in a mouthful of applesauce, and I have heard (indirectly in parenting groups, not from a doctor) that there is also a patch form of at least one of the options.

          3. Tammy

            Definitely get the diagnosis. In addition to having better tools (medication, coping skills, and some technology-related accommodations at work), one of the biggest benefits I got from being diagnosed in my 40s was that I was finally able to let go of feeling worthless, broken and undeserving because of the places where my ADHD makes me struggle. I was finally able to understand that no, I’m not a fatally broken human being, my brain just works differently.

            And if you haven’t seen it yet, absolutely watch the TEDx talk by Jessica McCabe (from the “How to ADHD” YouTube Channel). The talk is called “Failing at Normal: An ADHD Success Story” and it is absolutely fantastic. I’ll nest a link below, but its easily Googled. I shared it with my mom, and she called me after watching it in tears. “I wish this information had been available when you were young,” she told me. “We would all have struggled so much less to support you!”

          4. Autumnheart

            As an over-the-counter test, try drinking some cold brew coffee (high concentration of caffeine) and see if you experience a big jump in your ability to focus and move from task to task.

            1. LW4

              sometimes I get a big ability to focus but no increase on *control* of where I focus, and wind up hyperfocused on something totally useless for an hour =_=

          5. LadyL

            It’s not all medication! I saw a therapist who mostly just gave me advice that is probably obvious to other people, but was life changing for me. Like, for example, make copies of your documents and put it all in one folder. Whenever you have to fill out a form bring the folder with you so you have all the info you need ready in one place. I used to struggle so much with even basic forms, like typing in my info while buying stuff on amazon, and I would either put it all off or end up getting super distracted looking for my wallet/transcript/ID card/etc. it would never have occurred to me on my own to just put everything together like that, but it made doing forms so much easier and now I get through them much faster so I don’t avoid them as much. She had about a billion tips like that, tailored to my particular issues. She recommended a book to me called “ADHD Workbook” that helped a lot too.

            There are lots of ways professionals can help besides just meds, it’s worth it to get diagnosed.

            1. Jasnah

              Semirelated and not just for ADHD people, but I recommend the Dashlane service, it stores all your personal info (IDs, credit cards, passwords) in one place. Since you mentioned buying stuff on Amazon, it made me think of how much easier it is for me now to just go to Dashlane, find my Amazon password, then find my credit card info, and it’s all backed up and secure rather than on a sticky note taped to my computer. I struggled with avoiding forms too and now I feel better that my info is secured and in one place.

          6. JSPA

            Adderall 5 mg (the lowest dose) in generic substitution (regular release) comes in a tiny, dissolving sweet – tasting pill. Half a pill in the morning helps me focus better for several hours. In theory i could take another half around 2 pm so i don’t get extra – fuzzy by 3 (but almost never do, because by then I’m either already focused and deep in a project, or I’m ready to do either very unfocused creative stuff or cull old email, do “what’s the status” pokes, do my share of general tidying, download articles for later, etc.) I’m very aware there’s a risk of habituation, so I am happy going for a pre – planned, reliable, mild attentional trade-off, rather than trying for an overall, all – day major boost.

        5. LW4

          It didn’t make it into the email, but I also have ADD, and it’s physically really hard for me to stay focused for that long. It feels like my brain starts screaming and just gets louder and louder until I can barely stay in my chair unless I distract myself. Since I originally send in this email I got a fidget cube and asked my boss for a break during meetings. He was generally receptive and between the two it seems like it’s getting easier to sit through these!

      2. Anon Anon

        I just had to have a conversation with a report that checking his phone, yawning, and otherwise looking like he was not paying attention wasn’t going to work. I get sometimes long meetings can be boring, but generally you are invited for a reason and paying attention is important.

        1. SignalLost

          Boy is it not important for me to hear how Bob’s llama-herding exercise is going, since I work in raptor grooming. Unfortunately, my boss believes meetings spark collaboration. Which sounds great, but the only way llamas and raptors are going to collaborate is with one of them trying to eat the other.

        2. LW4

          I absolutely agree. I *want* to pay attention during this meetings, hence my ask for a break to help refocus.

      3. DarlaMushrooms

        I absorb and retain information much, much better if I’m not looking directly at the speaker. So I take notes or I doodle.

        I think that it’s difficult for most people to concentrate and listen in hour + long meetings if they are not an active participant. I personally think that most meetings with an “I talk while you listen” format should be replaced by informational emails.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I think the difficulty is that we impose unproductive expectations on people and then limit the strategies they use to remain focused and productive in meetings that are already structured to discourage their participation and focus. As a result, meetings are often designed around specific expectations of professionalism that make it difficult for some employees to leverage their strengths and remain engaged in those spaces. And those expectations often weigh against employees with health issues, including issues that may not rise to ADA levels but are still important to accommodate.

        I don’t think being on one’s phone during a meeting is ok (lawyers do this all the time, and it seems so rude to me), but I think it’s incumbent on workplaces to figure out how to structure meetings and meeting participation in a manner that’s inclusive for all employees.

        For example, I have to take handwritten notes during meetings, or I won’t retain what’s been discussed. It helps me focus (I am extremely distractible), and I am not a strong auditory learner. I need to be able to visualize and see what’s being discussed, and I need to physically write it down to cement it in my mind. I have other colleagues who need to doodle or do something with their hands in order to maintain focus as they listen.

        I realize what I’m describing is different than “multi-tasking,” but I wish there were a little more leeway about allowing people to show up as themselves and structure their participation in a way that maximizes their engagement. For example, if the meeting is going to last two hours, allow people to leave quietly as needed for restroom breaks, water, etc. Let people use paper and pen if they need it. Be willing to break up facilitation or segments of the meeting so it’s not a 2-hour lecture or individualized report-back. Make materials available ahead of time, and limit the number of non-essential informational items.

    6. Asenath

      I think how much endurance it calls for depends on the meeting, which in turn depends on how organized the chair is (both in keeping the meeting on track and not insisting on people attending who have little or nothing to contribute). In the field I started out with, meetings tended to be agonizingly long and tedious, even if technically they weren’t that long in minutes. Later – well, I suppose both jobs were in education/educational admin, but in very different areas – everyone seemed to think that if you had to have meetings, they should be as short and focused as possible. As a result, they were much less tedious. I suppose in long tedious ones you can try to maintain your focus on what’s being said and what’s probably behind that, but I’ve always found that difficult.

      1. Blue

        I think this can be a good distinction. In general, I am not a very fidgety person and can stay focused for a long period, but when I started a new job this summer, I found the meetings excruciating and sitting still for them was a struggle. As a general rule, the meetings weren’t focused, tended to meander, and lasted about twice as long as was actually necessary. Meetings that my old office would’ve scheduled for 60 minutes were always scheduled for 90-120 minutes in my new office. It drove me completely bonkers. A couple things that have started helping me:

        1) taking more control over meetings with external partners. These are typically small meetings where representatives from my office have standing to influence how they play out, but my coworker (whose lead I was following initially) has historically been pretty passive and always let the other party lead. By quietly taking up the reins for those meetings, I’ve been able to make them more focused and efficient, which typically means shorter. That allows me to save more patience for the meetings that I can’t control that still feel like giant wastes of time.

        2) Cutting back on the really tedious elements of our team meetings. Like, my boss would be happy for us to sit around a table and collectively write an email to someone, debating word choice, etc., which is so inefficient it kills me. I’ve started saying things like, “I know we’ve got a ton to discuss today, so why don’t I just whip up a draft of this message when I get back to my office so we don’t get derailed?” It doesn’t always work, but it has helped.

        3) Taking prodigious notes. This was my go-to strategy in college, as well. If I’m in the habit of writing down all the things, I’m less likely to completely zone out. And if all else fails and I simply can’t sit there anymore, I’ll pop out to the restroom. Just moving for a minute or two can help.

      2. JustaTech

        I don’t have too many tedious meetings (for which I am deeply grateful) so when I find myself in one I try to ask myself “what is making this meeting tedious”? Sometimes it’s things like a long discussion of something that doesn’t affect my work and my work can’t affect (like the sales numbers). And sometimes it’s on a topic that’s relevant, but the meeting leader is spending a lot of time rehashing what we just did, or just using too many words.

        Then I try to take the things I’ve identified and say “I will not do this at my meeting”.

    7. Clodagh

      I would be incredibly irritated if a two hour meeting contained a coffee break. That just adds an additional fifteen minutes that I could be spending doing something more productive.

    8. MusicWithRocksInIt

      Honestly, at meetings I had at oldjob – and even if I ran a meeting at newjob – I would be against a formal everyone get up and come back type break for only a two hour meeting. Maybe it’s the kind of people I work with but if we all got up to take a break only 50% of the people would come back afterwards. People who were waiting for them to get out would snatch them up, they would be flagged down for decision making or just run to their office to take care of something really quick and then get caught up and forget to come back. I am totally fine with anyone stepping out for a quick bathroom break (especially if we are at a spot that is less relevant to you) , and people used to step out to take calls all the time, but a formal ‘break’ for everyone would mean nothing further would get done.

    9. SheLooksFamiliar

      Chiming in with the others – 90-minute meetings are not unusual, even if they are not interactive. In my experience, this includes Town Hall-style meetings, team updates, department monthly meetings, etc. A 50-minute meeting is hardly an endurance contest for most folks. If you, personally, have difficulty with this kind of meeting, please do find a way to cope, but understand it’s not out of the norm.

      Also, we’re adults – if you need a bio-break, just take one! No need to hunch over and attempt to ‘sneak’ out, and no need to announce your reason for leaving the meeting!

      1. LW4

        I understand it’s not an unusual meeting length in general, but it’s tough for me personally so I was looking for guidance on asking for a change. These meetings are supposed to be for group discussion technical issues, and one person leaving can halt the meeting entirely. That said, between sending the email and this reply, I asked my boss to put a break on the agenda and he’s been pretty good about doing that when he expects the meeting to go 90 minutes or more.

        1. Ms.Vader

          It’s kind of selfish though – you actually disrupt flow and conversation by having too many breaks and in 90 minutes, most people don’t need one at that time. Because it’s also never just 5 minutes – it always bleeds into 10 and then you have to recap and you lose the trajectory. As someone that facilitates a lot of meetings, I can say that with confidence. I wouldn’t care if you stepped out personally for a bio break but I’m not halting the entire meeting. 2 hours is the standard.

          Why not try what was suggested and stand up or move around if you are getting antsy. Sit at the back so it’s not disruptive. Again – I wouldn’t blink an eye over that as a facilitator.

          1. LW4

            I appreciate your suggestion but given the style of meeting it is, getting up or stepping out as an individual is as disruptive as an official break. It’s not one person disseminating info but rather a team discussion to solve technical problems and we stop if one person needs to leave for a minute. We’ve been including a planned break for a few weeks now and it generally works as we have natural breaks between topics anyway.

            1. Ms.Vader

              That seems more of an issue that you actually stop meetings if one person has to leave. For context, I work in Software Development and I host a lot of technical and architectural meetings. Even when we are collaborating as a team, I wouldn’t stop a meeting for one person to have a break. That would seem more awkward to me.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar

          Thank you for clarifying, OP, and I’m glad your boss is open to accommodating you. And I agree, if a meeting goes over 90 minutes there should be a break at some point. Please keep us posted!

    10. mark132

      Just as a general response, there is a significant amount of research that shows a 50 minute attention span is fairly good. I’ve sat in two hour meetings and stayed largely engaged for the whole meeting. But let’s be honest when Jane goes off on “rant #32” during the meeting I’m going to zone out.

  7. Jasnah

    #5 I want to appreciate how sensitive you are being to disturbing your coworkers. I think if you have exhausted all other options, you really have no choice but to take calls at your desk. You can monitor your volume so you’re not yelling into the phone, but, as much as I love silence, I have to expect to hear people working at work.

    1. Feline

      In an ideal world, people who have concentration-heavy jobs are seated away from people who spend the day conducting conference calls from their desks (don’t sit the technical writers next to the project managers, for example), but it’s not how management looks at seating assignments. I like to think that the people on the long calls around me care that I have difficulty getting my work done while they are on endless work-related calls, so OP5, make sure you use your inside voice, and your cube neighbors will understand you’re doing what you need to do.

    2. Ama

      Because I sit next to the conference room and can hear everyone on speakerphone clear as day even with the door closed, I wish *more* of my colleagues would take calls at their desk on their handsets. I can’t hear my colleagues who do that nearly as well.

      1. Qosanchia

        We have a tiny office and my sort of boss does a lot of his work in remote meetings and phone calls, and does all of it via speakerphone with his door open. It’s helpful that I don’t need to do much follow-up on the things he discusses, but it might be nice to not have to hear every phone call in full.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        My fiance almost did change his name because all he really cared was that envelopes would be easier. And then I made the mistake of mentioning that my dad once lost money investing in a business named what his name would become. Think “Raymond James” or “Robert Half” … except that Joe Childhood was a local business that had already been gone for 20 years. He flashed on my not-always-tactful family taking it as a running joke and dropped the offer.

      2. Les G

        I…don’t love this. Making the man changing his name into, essentially, a punchline would seem to me counterproductive, to say the least.

        1. Close Bracket

          Hate to have anything male in the punchline. /s

          It’s light humor that punches up, not down, in the service of putting someone in a position to rethink their assumptions. I see nothing wrong with this.

        2. Jennifer Thneed

          *swoosh*?

          It’s a joke, right? It’s a way of shutting down the inappropriate conversation, and if that’s the goal, and it works, it’s not at all counterproductive.

    1. straws

      My BIL is no longer speaking to his mother because her response to this was “Well, don’t you love him?”. At their wedding.

      1. aebhel

        “No. I’m marrying him in the hopes that he’ll inherit money when you die.”

        (I wouldn’t actually say this, but God would I be tempted.)

      2. FormerExpat

        Right after I got married I told people “I don’t love my husband enough to change my name.” I thought this was hilarious, but everyone just stared at me like I was serious.

        1. straws

          See, that would crack me up if it came straight from you! Then everyone could look at us both like we’re nuts…

      3. KarenK

        I did not change my name. When questioned, my response always is “My name has been Karen (lastname) for over 50 years. I’m not about to change it now.”

        1. Dr. Pepper

          That’s essentially my response. Or if I’m feeling salty, “I couldn’t be bothered to change it”. Which is essentially true. Men have no idea how difficult it is to change one’s name and think you just fill out a form or something and it’s magically done. If I got married as a fresh faced 18 year old with naught but my name, I probably would have changed it. But after several decades, two degrees, and lots of different accounts in my original name, it made far more sense just to keep it. I briefly looked into changing it, thought “eff that”, and did nothing. Much easier. A few elderly relatives like to address cards to Mr. & Mrs. Bob Smith, but whatever.

          1. Iris Eyes

            Ugh yes to the ridiculous level of paperwork needed to change a name! But there’s nothing to say you can’t do a partial name change. Socially you could go by Couplename while legally you go by Othername.

            I know someone who chose to go by Maiden at work but changed legally and socially. (Might not have the option if she switches companies but at that point it won’t matter as much since literally hundreds of people won’t have to remember).

            After my first marriage I changed my driver’s license but nothing else and went by new last name.

            1. JSPA

              For a couple of years, until court-challenged, that mismatch (between voter registration and driver’s license) would have prevented you from voting in my state. Even if the person checking your ID were your own mother.

              1. Iris Eyes

                I think my voter registration was also updated (because you can easily update that while updating the DL) there was only one election cycle in that ill fated relationship so not as much an issue.

            2. Engaged

              The level of paperwork is honestly the #1 factor in my waffling on this… I /just/ got my passport renewed too!

              While I think you could have one name socially and one name legally, I don’t think you could just do one piece of paperwork and not others. At least in my country of residence, most bills, company documents, licenses, basically any official paperwork is going to require ID and your name needs to be exactly the same as the ID. For example my last name has an apostrophe, but some systems can’t handle it and omit it–any bills based on that ID will also omit it, even though it belongs in my name.

          2. Tisiphone

            My sister got a bill from something that wasn’t wedding expense related a week before the wedding. Instead of being addressed to Ms. Sister Lastname, it went to Mrs. Futurehusband Surname. I took the bill to her future husband and told him the billing company had a typo on his bill. There’s an extraneous S after Mr.

            She’d been planning to hyphenate, but the various companies were already pre-changing her name for her.

            It’s been a couple decades or so since then, now they’re both Dr. Surname.

          3. Zombeyonce

            Changing names is a massive hassle. I changed mine (my full name, not just my last name) and it wasn’t just the regular paperwork but the credit bureaus also got all confused and I had 2 accounts under the same SSN and it was a huge mess for the year it took to get it straightened out. I love my new name but if I had known how hard it was to change it, I probably would have kept the old one.

            1. pancakes

              I changed both my first and last name shortly after I graduated from college and didn’t have to deal with much mess. I haven’t encountered any messes since, either—occasionally I’ve had to show someone or other the court order changing my name, but that’s easy.

            2. Cedrus Libani

              I changed mine when I turned 18 (to match my adopted family’s name) and it’s STILL a source of minor logistical annoyances. And I’ve had the new name almost as long as I had the old one. This cured me of any desire I might have had to do it again.

    2. Jaded

      I got married and did not change my name. Then I started a new job where my lack-of-name-change came up in casual conversation.
      Co-worker: “Oh, so you’re one of THOSE women!”
      Me: (considers this from all angles)
      Me: (proudly) “Yes, I guess I am.”

      Really, lol, wtf?

  8. Maggie

    OP3, get aggressive about taking more time off. Make it a serious goal to use 80 full hours of comp or PTO each year. One of my best friends works for Google and gets more time off than he “can” ever use. Except he CAN use it, but chooses not to do so. Time off is good for your social life, mental health, and family. I know it is tough, but you DO deserves it.

    1. Engineer Girl

      Many people are scared to take time off because they’ll get a lower rating than “super achievers” who work 70 hours a week. There is also a fear of getting laid off for someone that really wants the job. It’s a crazy Silicon Valley culture. Usually this pressure comes from the first line manager. The senior manager is oblivious to the abuse.

      1. Yvette

        Also, many people have a job where, unless it is a true emergency, no-one covers their work while they are gone, it just sits there, piling up and waiting for them to get back. So then they get back to all the work that piled up while they were gone as well as the new work that continues to flow in at the normal rate. Taking time off just buries them in a heap and then they need to work twice as hard/long to dig themselves out of it.

        1. Rebecca

          That’s an important point. I just took time off over the holidays. My company has a use it or lose it policy, I don’t have anyone to help me really (trainee walked out in May and hasn’t been replaced), and I was at work every working day from the day after Labor Day to the day before Thanksgiving in the US. I took every Friday off in December, then was off for 12 days in a row, it was bliss. Thankfully, there were only 4 working days during that time frame, and I’m normally not really busy then. Otherwise, my workload would have fallen to an already overburdened coworker, and I would have had a lot of work to slog through when I returned. No thanks. Most of the time, I limit my time to a Friday afternoon off, or maybe an entire Friday, but not much more because I don’t want to return to a frantic mess.

        2. Old Lady

          I know that in IT, taking long vacations is treated socially as slacking so companies feel free to offer unlimited PTO or great PTO plans as long as your work gets done. The problem is that the work never gets completed because there is always other projects dove tailing the two or three you are currently working on. Also, coming back from vacation to two weeks of work plus new work because you had no real coverage during your time off is a bummer.
          I am running out of places to go on vacation with no wifi or cell access as it is.
          Makes it hard to unplug from work.

      2. Emily K

        Is the senior manager really oblivious though? If it’s part of the industry culture then the senior manager must have experienced it when they came up through the ranks, and if they think an industry-wide cultural issue disappeared for their line workers when they became a senior manager, that seems more like wishful thinking than obliviousness.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          It’s possible it’s not obvious. Many businesses are running much leaner than they used to. I’ve seen a change in my company in the 20 years I’ve been here — even though they recently changed the exempt staff over to “unlimited vacation”, I’m seeing fewer managers able to take any time off. And some managers used to go for 5-week vacations to visit family in another country.

        2. LQ

          I don’t think they are oblivious at all. I think that’s a convenient thing to say to feel good but of course they know. And they likely would be the first ones to be upset if a key person was out when they happened to want them, which creates the culture even more.

    2. Perpal

      Yes, I’m a little confused how much time off OP3 is actually taking. I know standards vary over the world, but it seems to me they should be taking at least 4 weeks off total (so, 2 weeks vacation, 2 weeks comp time) to be “normal” for the United States. Pushing it to 6+ weeks makes sense to me if this is a frenetic environment. I sort of think of it like hospitalists/doctors, work intensely one week on, one week off. Obviously that scheduled wouldn’t exactly match what the OP needs for projects but it makes sense to be aggressive about scheduling in a week or two of downtime whenever there’s a break between projects.

      1. Comp Time OP

        Hi all! OP3 here, you’re all completely correct I don’t take enough time off. I took a full work week and a long weekend off for about a total of 8 days off for the whole year. Yvette is spot on: I work on a very small team so if I’m gone no one does my regular work and it’s piled up for when I’m back. And, I’m one of two people who can work on the type of projects I support so I’ve had vacations cancelled over working on these projects that pop up. I plan on toughen up on that this year, we’ve been understaffed on project support since I started so that’s likely never going to change.

        1. EPLawyer

          Rather than taking longer vacations, can you scatter some days off throughout the year? Less work will pile up and you get a day or so to recharge. Even if all you do is sleep because you took a Friday or Monday off, it can be great. Say you are going to take Mondays off in April (usually a month with no 3 day weekends). Or every other Tuesday all summer. Or something.

          1. Iris Eyes

            +1 One of the most refreshing “vacations” I’ve taken was one where I dropped Little Eyes off at daycare and went to a park by myself for 6 hours. Another day I went for a 4 hour walk and then read a WHOLE book at the library in a comfy chair. Way more restorative than the 5 day trip.

          2. Parenthetically

            Yes! I particularly recommend a four-day weekend for recharging — it’s not so long that you feel like you “have to” do lots of things (or that your work is going to pile up to an unmanageable level), but long enough that you can really rest. And then, bonus: the two four-day weeks on either side of it!

        2. Willis

          This actually sounds like a different problem than not being able to use all your comp time. You’re not even using all of your 2 weeks of vacation! I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect to take 16 weeks (or whatever the calculation would be once you added up all the overtime) but 2 weeks PTO plus a couple more weeks with the comp time certainly seems reasonable and worth pushing for…whether means personally pushing yourself to schedule more time off or talking to a manager about not being able to actually use your PTO/comp time.

        3. Aggretsuko

          I hear ya, it causes you more stress to be out on vacation and then have to do double the work when you’re out. It’s not worth it.

        4. Maggie

          Comp Time OP, I believe you that it seems impossible. That’s why I wanted to encourage you. You can do it, but only with a goal and a plan! I second the suggestion to take more single days off when possible. Mondays in April, Thursday and Friday afternoons in summer… whatever you feel like you can snip little bits here and there without causing yourself too many other headaches. The struggle is real, but your company does believe you’re worth it by giving you the time. Good luck! Maybe start by taking this Friday off to build yourself a 4 day weekend!

        5. Yvette

          “…no one does my regular work and it’s piled up for when I’m back.” Thereby causing you to work extra hours and earn more comp time and take more time off and the circle of life continues.

          1. Iris Eyes

            The two factors combined make a pretty strong case for adding a person. Or the company taking on less projects, they can pick.

        6. Foreign Octopus

          I agree with EPLawyer above: try scattering your days off.

          Maybe take a Friday off so you can have a long weekend, or a Wednesday afternoon to do things you wouldn’t normally have time to do. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to take week long holidays when having that extra day tacked onto a weekend, or an afternoon off in the middle of the week is also a really nice use of your time.

      2. Aggretsuko

        Normal for the US is two weeks, if you’re lucky, or one week, if you’re not. Anything more than that is a miracle.

        1. Justme, the OG

          Part of what keeps me at my highly underpaid job is the leave – at least two weeks (12 days or more, depending on classification and years of service) plus 12 holidays.

    3. Quirk

      I would note that in the UK, where I am, 28 days of holiday is the bare legal minimum. The average is apparently something closer to 33. (Your American ways are strange to me).

      As a business, overworking your employees is certainly profitable. As an employee it’s not in your personal interest, and if they genuinely can’t do without you for even a few days, it sounds like you have a strong negotiating position to persuade them to staff the role properly.

  9. Khaleesi Esq.

    #2 seems less like a real letter and more like someone wanting free PR about these state tax credit programs — these are at the heart of the more controversial workarounds to the $10,000 cap on the federal SALT deduction that happen to be at risk at this very moment. I have just never seen someone casually mention in passing in any context that these state tax credit programs are available for both private and public tuition, and are also deductible at the federal level! (And oh yeah, can you please help me with this completely absurd workplace scenario?)

    1. Triplestep

      I didn’t get this exactly, but it reconciles with something I did find curious: donations to a public school? Sure, teams and clubs and such do fundraisers, but I don’t know of any way to donate to a public school itself.

      1. pleaset

        Some public schools – including my son’s – have charities that accept donations that are used for needs within the school. These are typically set up by the parents’ association, not the staff/government, and funds donated can only be used in ways that benefit multiple kids (whole teams, grades, library, etc) and not for a specific child.

      2. Doodle

        Schools in our local district can set up a foundation to support the school. Which, as you might imagine, happens for the schools with wealthier families.

      3. JustaTech

        When I went to public school we would do fundraising drives (selling something, magazines? wrapping paper?) that were for the school as a whole (it was an elementary school so we didn’t have sports or clubs). Don’t know what exactly it went for. Hopefully not the basic operating budget!

    2. K. A.

      This isn’t an absurd problem. This stuff really happens! Just because you don’t experience it yourself doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur.

    3. London Engineer

      This would be a really weird place to try some kind of covert campaign – nevermind that OP doesn’t have any control of the timing of publication (and that’s ignoring the odds of getting published at all)

    4. PB

      I don’t see it this way. OP didn’t “casually mention” it, but rather provided necessary details to understand the context of the letter. In addition, this workplace scenario doesn’t strike me as that absurd. It’s at least on par with letter #1 today, and much better than bosses demanding half of your liver, or insisting on talking about work during chemo sessions.

    5. Falling Diphthong

      1) The manager is just the latest example of gumption gone awry. Or ask culture extended to its logical/absurd end.

      2) Strong-arming for donations to your kids’ stuff–band trips, baseball team, etc–is a common office social clash. If anyone found a way to mention it being tax deductible–well, I know some parents who would feature that prominently as “when you bring this up with at least 20 people, be sure to mention the tax benefits!”

      3) I don’t think anyone read that and thought of handing over money to a private school. If you’re IN the private school, the school has no doubt mentioned it.

    6. Marthooh

      There’s nothing in the letter about donations being deductible at the federal level. Funny you should just casually mention that in passing :/

      The letter seems to explain just enough give the question context, and the workplace situation is absurd only in the sense that the boss’s behavior is over the top. That’s why the OP needs help.

    7. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      This is a really weird reaction to a letter that is well within the standards of normal on AAM.

    8. SarcasticFringehead

      If it were, it would be a terrible PR campaign. Wouldn’t the LW be writing in about how great the program is and how she can tell her other coworkers about it? And people asking their reports for donations to various causes is certainly ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen all the time.

  10. Engineer Girl

    #3 –

    As an exempt employee, it’s not typical to be compensated for every hour you work

    This isn’t necessarily true. At my place of employment the base rate was lower than other famous high paying companies but we received overtime. The yearly pay ended up near the same.

    But this is a discussion with your manager. They should be paying you for the time worked in some manner – either a higher pay rate, overtime, or letting you take time off. You may be able to get a waiver on comp time pay out.
    I know on my projects it was notoriously hard to get vacation. I had over 2 months accrued by the time I retired.
    Is it possible to work 4 day workweeks on some projects? That’s one way to get rid of comp time one day at a time.

    But definitely have the “its not right to work me and not pay me” conversation.

    1. LGC

      If I understand this correctly, if you received overtime pay you were non-exempt by definition. Since LW3 can’t get OT, they’re in a somewhat different situation.

      But also…I totally agree with your broader point. It sounds like LW3 works close to 50 hour weeks on average. That’s quite a bit, and while it depends on the field, I think that they might have a case to get more money. (Or to find a job that doesn’t have routine OT.)

      1. Jilly

        Not exactly. Exempt means they are not required to give you overtime. I’m absolutely exempt and I can still get overtime at my current job. But it is straight time and not time and a half. And the only reason is because it is 100% billable to the client. People performing overhead funyat my company don’t get OT if they are exempt.

      2. Engineer Girl

        This isn’t true. If you are non exempt you must receive OT. This does not prevent the employee from paying OT to exempt. I’ve seen straight time, time and a half, and even double and triple time. All of these positions were exempt.

    2. Emily K

      She said it’s not “typical” to be compensated that way, which it isn’t. I wouldn’t frame this as the company doing something wrong or not paying LW for time worked. Working “overtime” without any compensation is pretty normal for exempt employees, who usually receive other benefits like scheduling flexibility, a consistent salary, and/or a higher salary.

      A lot of jobs will simply say, “This job requires 60 hours of work in an average week, and the salary is $120,000.” The fact that you’re working 20 hours of “overtime” in a typical week is built in to the salary, which is set at a higher point exactly because of the high workload.

      You’re framing it as not being paid for time worked, but it could just as easily be framed as every week that they work fewer hours than the max they ever do in a week, they’re getting paid the same amount as that max-hours week for doing less work. In an exempt role, both and neither of those things are true, because work isn’t typically measured in hours but in results and accomplishments. You are paid a certain salary to complete particular projects, and if they were clear with you at hiring what projects they expected you to accomplish and how many hours that takes in a typical week and what the salary is in exchange for that, then the company isn’t doing anything wrong.

      As a freelancer, I also charge by the product rather than for my time. On the back end I do try to figure out how many hours it will probably take me and quote my project rate based on an hourly rate in my mind, but I don’t charge them less if I work really efficiently or charge them more if I work really slowly, because ultimately the agreement is to pay me for my output, not how long I spend on it.

    3. MLB

      Yes she needs to speak to her manager, but the company is not required to provide OT pay or comp time for her working extra hours. That’s the price you pay for being exempt. It also provides a benefit (if you don’t have a dick for a boss) to be able to take a long lunch or leave early on occasion as needed.

      If she has too much work to do, or she doesn’t feel like she can take time off, that’s definitely worth a conversation, but the company is not doing anything wrong as far as the compensation goes.

      1. Engineer Girl

        It depends on how the job was sold. Was it 40 hour weeks that became 60? Then a salary bump should happen. That’s also true if the job was sold as “occasional” overtime.
        If the job has changed significantly since the beginning then a compensation discussion is always on the table.

  11. Knitting Cat Lady

    #5: Does your desk phone support headsets? You can get the mic closer to the mouth and thus lower your speaking volume.

    Bonus: You also have both hands free to use. If your work calls are anything like mine this is really useful.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      Please check with the people you’re talking to the first time you try that — a co-worker in another office has a very narrow window between “picks up words clearly” and “picks up her breathing like she’s Darth Vader.”

      1. Emily K

        Headset protip for people who struggle with this problem or have coworkers who need a tip: The ideal mic position is a couple inches in front of your chin instead of in front of your mouth. The mic picks up your voice just as well as if it were an inch higher in front of your mouth, but it puts the mic out of the direct line of your breath.

  12. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)

    For the name change in #2, I would recommend choreographing a dance to the Ting Tings song, “That’s Not My Name,” and incorporate that lesser known hand movement, jazz middle fingers.

    This may be why I don’t have an advice column.

    Also, while I am dispensing impractical wisdom, if he’s married ask him if he kept his name “to make it easier to get a divorce.”

    1. Lena Clare

      Ha! I prefer this and rescind my answer (“Actually my husband is taking *my* name”) to RUKidding above :D!

    2. Minerva McGonagall

      That song goes through my head EVERY TIME I’m called Mrs. Husband’s Last Name.

      Will now begin choreographing it.

      1. JustaTech

        I don’t care if I get called Mrs Husband’s Last Name by like, the clerk at a hotel or something (they’ve called him Mr My Last Name too). I mind a *lot* when his relatives (or mine!) address a card to Mr and Mrs His Full Name. Like, you *know* me and you know that’s not my name.

        1. Ann Nonymous

          I’ve considered doing a Return to Sender – addressee unknown when husband’s relatives send me a card with MyFirstName HisLastName on it. Frankly, I almost find it shocking and incredible that any woman changes her name when she gets married. I didn’t do it for my first marriage (thank goodness) and certainly didn’t do it for my second. What an antiquated, archaic, sexist practice.

    3. Les G

      Yussssssssss. (My wife did tell me and everyone else that she was keeping her name so nobody had to know when we got divorced, but she was obviously makin’ a funny)

    4. Lady Phoenix

      My friends kept their last names when they got married.

      If I ever did, I would prefer to keep my name (or compromise with the merged last names).

      I feel this is something couples should discuss when they are a good ways into a relationship or engagement.

      1. Autumnheart

        My discussion would be pretty much like “I’m not changing my name. The end.” People don’t get a vote on what my name will be, much less the right to overrule me.

      2. Close Bracket

        I don’t think the name of one person is a couples discussion. It’s only a couples discussion if both parties are going to change their name.

  13. Kate

    I’ve been in a situation like OP3 before. On one hand, I worked insane hours, on the other, I got comp time for it. I literally didn’t take a single vacation day for over three years because I was working off comp time. Like yours, my PTO rolls over to a limit.

    A few suggestions:

    I took an extra six weeks of maternity leave, all of which was comp time. They had found someone to cover my mat leave anyways, so they asked her to stay on to cover.

    I took a six week break between assignments. This required some juggling by my managers (which budget actually covered the time) but everyone was happy in the end.

    I take days sometimes when it’s an unusually slow day and I just don’t feel like being at work. Catch a movie, actually pick up my kid from school…

    Obviously that depends on my managers agreeing, but in my experience, they are eager to get the time off their balance sheets as well. And who knows,if g-d forbid I were badly hurt in an accident or something or my kid had a serious illness, I would have a deep pool of (fully paid) comp and PTO to fall back on before having to explore other options.

  14. Anancy

    OP 3
    Here’s going this isn’t a duplicate post. I’m in a similar situation, with very busy times at my job where I work extra and get comp time. However, I’ve always understood that managing my comp time is my responsibility to do, or to forfeit it. Also, in my experience it isn’t meant to be banked and kept as extra vacation time, rather to be taken off after a big event.

    1. Comp Time OP

      OP3 here, Our policy is a little different, I do think in theory there is some informal time limit (the same pay period earned maybe?) but I often work these projects back to back so right as soon as I earn 21 hours of comp time I immediately go into another project where I’ll earn 21 more hours and can’t take time off.

      1. doreen

        If there seems to be an informal time limit of the same pay period, stop thinking of it as “comp time” (which sounds like you should be able to bank it ) and think of it as a “schedule adjustment”* . It’s not going to change the actual situation any but it may change your feelings about it.

    1. Reba

      IMO, doodling is totally ok — for many people, doodling actually helps you stay attentive and remember the meeting contents better.

      Interacting with the phone is more borderline — it depends on the meeting and probably on one’s level of importance. And doing a quick check of something is not the same as extensively scrolling Twitter while others are talking.

    2. anon with no name because I can't think of one to stick with.....

      I’m actually more surprised that it’s acceptable to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of a meeting …. but then maybe I just have to much anxiety about it to ever do it. I’d be expecting my boss and coworkers to wonder what the heck I thought I was doing…

      1. Susie Q

        you wouldn’t get up and go to the bathroom during a meeting? You’re an adult, you don’t have to ask for permission. This is incredibly common practice where ever I’ve worked.

        1. anon with no name because I can't think of one to stick with.....

          But you’re supposed to be there listening to what the boss or whoever is speaking is saying…. that’s the point of meetings…. you’d miss something if you left. (At least that’s how my thought process goes).

          1. TL -

            It’s really normal to pop out for bathroom breaks if needed. Use your judgement as to when – maybe during the update you’ve already heard or if it’s a review of a process you’re confident on – but nobody is going to be wondering what you’re doing if you discretely take five minutes every hour or two.

          2. Lynn Whitehat

            Yeah, but the human bladder only has so much capacity. As someone who runs meetings, I know not every minute of the meeting is relevant to every participant. I’d rather people duck out for a few minutes when we get to a part that’s not relevant to them, than sit with their legs crossed during the part that is.

          3. Seeking Second Childhood

            For me, physical discomfort will make it impossible to retain what I’m hearing.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

              I’m not going to remember a word you’re saying if I’m sitting there worrying that I’m about to pee my pants.

          4. Totally Minnie

            Find yourself a meeting buddy to share notes with. If either of you needs to leave the room for a few minutes, the other can fill in any blanks you may have missed.

          5. Ms.Vader

            As someone who has facilitated 100s of meetings, it is totally normal to take a bathroom break whenever you need to. I’ve never blinked an eye. Having to take a break after only 50 minutes because you zone out would be a way bigger red flag for me.

        2. Juli G.

          I would but for an hour long meeting, I’d go before. I just consider it part of “meeting prep”. Obviously there are emergencies, health issues that require immediate care, etc. but I do think a lot of adults can make it 60-90 minutes without a bathroom break. And if you miss something in a meeting, time might be spent catching you back up, etc.

          1. Emily K

            That’s a reasonable standard/prep for yourself, because it’s definitely easier to avoid leaving the meeting if you can, but in a practical sense the effect is that someone running a meeting can’t really be surprised if someone takes a bathroom break because they often don’t know who has a health issue, or for whom this hour-long meeting is one of 4 back-to-back hour-long meetings. If ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Just be quick about it and try to choose your moment wisely.

          2. Doodle

            When I was pregnant, this was impossible.
            Now I take a medication that makes this impossible.

            I go before. It’s still too long.

        3. Flash Bristow

          Yup. I’d catch the chair’s eye and mouth “be right back” but then I’d just go. If done between items / at a suitable point, a decent chair might ask if anyone needs a comfort break, but they might just nod, or mouth “fine”, or whatever. Sorted.

      2. PB

        It’s not uncommon. If I saw a coworker get up and leave for a few minutes in the middle of a meeting, I’d assume they had to use the bathroom. As a meeting convener, I’d rather have someone do that than sit there with a painfully full bladder.

        There are some exceptions, obviously, like if you’re conducting an interview or in a one-on-one. But in a group meeting? Totally normal.

      3. Mockingjay

        It’s pretty normal to quietly ask your coworker beside you: “Hey, cover for me a couple of minutes while I step out. Too much coffee.”

      4. WellRed

        They’d probably think you’re going to the bathroom. Only children in classrooms should need permission to leave a room briefly.

      5. Jennifer Thneed

        And while we’re at it: it’s okay to stand up in a meeting if you need to stretch your back or legs. You might need to step back from the table or go to the back of the room, but the mere fact of standing up is not going to disrupt the meeting. And if you’re in discomfort, you’re not as effective in the meeting!

        Anon, have you ever seen anyone leave a meeting for a moment? They were probably going to the bathroom, especially if the meeting is long. PLEASE, if you need to pee, go pee! You’ll be able to pay better attention that way.

      6. Jen

        Leaving in the middle of a meeting sounds very strange to me too. But our meetings are pretty much only 30-60 minutes long, so the odds of anyone needing a break are pretty slim.

        If it were more of a presentation, with everyone facing the same direction, I’d probably feel more comfortable leaving.

    3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

      I used to doodle in the margins during lectures. Recently I cleaned out a load of old college notes and found that even 20 years later I remembered the content of the lecture when I saw the doodles!

    4. aebhel

      I feel like the two are on two totally different levels. Doodling shouldn’t be an issue, but playing around on your phone seems really rude.

      ….I admit that I don’t really have sound reasoning to back this up though.

      1. No Tribble At All

        I’ve seen people check their phone during meetings if they didn’t bring their laptop and want to check email. I feel like it depends on how important it is for you to be in the meeting and how much contribution you’re expected to do. A status update is way less important than an actual working group.

      2. JustaTech

        Doodling doesn’t provide any new information you need to process the way reading a status alert on your phone does. At least for me, if I’m reading something then I’m not listening (and if I’m listening to someone talk then I’m not reading).

        Frankly I much prefer why my boss doodles than when he falls asleep.

    5. nora

      It’s pretty common in our agency for staff to doodle or even color (appropriate things) during meetings. My experience is that’s becoming more common in the nonprofit world. Art is valuable, creating things is good for you, and it’s far less disruptive than using electronics!

  15. Asenath

    I ran into comp time (time-in-lieu) twice – not really in the same legal context, especially the first time. And that was the time when I had to fight for compensation when my contract ended and they still owed me a fair bit of time worked. I got the compensation, too, but it was a real battle. So next time I made an arrangement for time-in-lieu instead of overtime, I was really careful to use the time promptly. That time, it worked very well for me.

    1. JustaTech

      I had a job where I got comp time for overtime (which was calculated daily, for some reason). That was great until Christmas came up and I decided I wanted that time as money instead and we found out that I wasn’t eligible for that overtime after all.
      So then I didn’t get the cash, had to pay back the time I’d taken as vacation and was told I just “shouldn’t work more than 40 hours in a week”, which wasn’t always possible as several of my experiments were several 10 hour days in a row because that’s just how long it took.
      My boss’s solution was “just take some partial days and don’t tell me about it”, which ended up being useful so I could go to the therapist without counting it as sick time.

      There were probably a lot of things wrong with how that job “worked”. Academia, you know?

  16. TechWorker

    #3 – I hope you’re not in this situation but some companies seem to do this to get away with not paying the sort of wage that would justify long hours, but also not paying hourly. My friend was in a similar situation (in the U.K.) – her company had maybe 2 hourly pay bands (minimum wage, minimum wage plus a tiny bit) and those people earnt overtime. She was the next grade up, which was maybe 2k/year above minimum wage, but ‘senior’ enough to get comp time instead of overtime. She was expected to work full time and then handle events (this was in a book shop) whenever they came up – which was probably at least an extra day a week which she obviously did not have the opportunity to take. Basically it was a bit of a joke and meant the per hour salary was awful… I feel like Alison’s advice sort of assumes you’re not getting paid awfully in the first place so hope this is not the case!

    1. Antennapedia

      Man, this letter. I get where they’re coming from but also: some of us work in non-profits that provide 15 hours of TOTAL PTO a year (that’s vacation and sick time, btw) with zero flextime. I’ve not managed to have positive PTO hours in the two years I’ve worked here AND we sometimes work 80 hour weeks.

      Would OP#3 like to trade?

    2. Comp Time OP

      I am lucky to be paid well over minimum wage but I do know this does play into it a bit! People who do the same project work but with the titles that go along with it can make about $20,000 more than I do, and consultants who do this work can make as much as double as what I cost on the same projects + all their time is chargeable. I do know some who make less than I do but have extremely flexibility I don’t (make their own hours, work from home, etc). It’s definitely cost effective for the company to pay me what they pay me, keep me in my current more junior title, and utilize my overtime.

      1. valentine

        Why not move to consulting? Working outrageous hours makes sense for someone who’s saving up for something and will be changing jobs. How can you go on like this? They’re locking you down and squeezing you dry. When comparing your job with others, remove the PTO you’re not using from your benefits list, because it may as well not exist. There was a letter like this and the person was able to work with their supervisor to create a backup and she can now take time off.

    3. Akcipitrokulo

      Did your friend have to sign the exemption from working hours legislation waiver? As otherwise that could be very illegal in UK…

  17. Gem

    #3 please take some comp time. Vacation time is so important and in Europe something like six weeks a year out of the office would be seen as totally normal and plenty of people then take flex time/purchase additional leave on top of that.

    If you really will lose it if you don’t use it soon could you donate those hours to a colleague who is struggling with illness or caring responsibilities or perhaps has a spouse serving overseas and returning home soon? You could ask HR to arrange it discreetly so you aren’t prying into the private life of you colleagues.

    1. Comp Time OP

      That’s a great idea, I don’t know if we have that program but I’ll certainly ask. I don’t mind having a lot of PTO saved up (PTO and sick time are the same bucket here) but I’d rather donate a week to someone than no earn no PTO at all until I can use it once I’ve hit our threshold!

  18. Susan K

    #3 – It’s unlikely your company will let you cash out your comp time because the reason they pay you in comp time instead of money is that they don’t want to pay extra money. They budgeted to pay your salary with no extra. If you want to look on the bright side, some places expect employees to work a lot of extra hours and don’t even give them comp time, so at least you get something.

    I have a similar situation, where I work extra hours and get comp time, but I can’t afford to take that much time off because then I’ll get too far behind on my work. A few things I do:

    – I don’t have actual work-from-home privileges, but I have a work laptop and I can accomplish a lot of my work without being at work. So, sometimes I use PTO to work from home. I still feel like I’m getting some benefit from it because I get to sleep in as late as I want and work in my pajamas, and since I’m not at work, people don’t come to me asking for stuff all day.

    – My company has a leave donation program, so I donate leave I can’t use to coworkers in need.

    – In some cases, I am eligible to get overtime pay for extra hours. It has to be approved in advance and my boss has to enter it manually on my timesheet. I’m not usually eligible for this for my normal job duties, but if I am doing something extra outside of my normal job duties (say, helping out with someone else’s project), I might be, but I have to ask. You might want to check if that’s ever a possibility where you work and ask for it if/when you think the situation qualifies.

  19. Lena Clare

    1 and 2 are boundary crossing aren’t they? Goodness. I would LOVE for the LWs to speak to their bosses as Alison has advised and then get an update!

    As for the 90-120 minute long meeting, OP I feel you! Our boss regularly does 2.5 hour meetings, many are over a morning long. It’s extremely onerous. She talks A LOT.

    I’d be interested in Alison doing a post about this – I am convinced that it is more to do with the relationship-type personality versus the task-orientated personality. My boss is definitely relationship-orientated and spends a lot of time talking out her thoughts over and over (probably to get them clear in her head?). So that is how the meetings are run.

    I’m more of the ‘this is what we need to discuss, here’s what we all need to do to get it done’. I’m prepared to see it from her point of view and give a bit of leeway – she is my boss after all – but I do find it frustrating that she doesn’t see it from the task-orientated people’s POV, and doesn’t seem to listen.

    And I also wonder if there is a correlation between extroversion and relationship-orientation, versus introversion and task-orientation. I’d be interested in hearing other people’s views about this.

    1. Birch

      This is an interesting idea. Personally I think people should be focusing on whichever orientation best suits the situation–i.e. in a networking or brainstorming type situation, focus on relationships; in a weekly progress meeting, focus on tasks (but maybe this is my own task orientation coming out!)

      Although I also think it doesn’t always matter–my boss could not be said to care one whit about relationships, but in our meetings which should be task-oriented, she basically just talks to herself and doesn’t connect any ideas or make sure everybody is on the same page. IMO running any kind of meeting well is its own skill, but some people may be naturally better at running certain kinds of meetings.

  20. Beth Jacobs

    OP #1: I would be so tempted to reverse the gender script on him. Obviously don’t do that, but it’s fun to fantasise!
    OP: Boss, did you take your wife’s name when you got married?
    Boss: What? Of course not.
    OP: Ooof, I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope your divorce is amicable!

  21. Susie Q

    #1: I don’t understand this obsession with being invited to a wedding. If you don’t want to invite me to your wedding, great. Because I probably don’t want to go. I’m happy for you but I’m not a big wedding person. I also don’t understand this name change issue. I changed my name but I made that choice and I have no problem or issue with that do or don’t. I would be tempted to say “You realize it’s 2019 not 1965”.

    #2: I would also be tempted to say “why don’t you give me a donation for my children’s school”. And I would definitely go to HR.

    1. Life is good

      The owner of my old dysfunctional company was really hurt that he didn’t get an invite to my son’s wedding. It was a very small affair held three hours away that the kids paid for themselves. After listening to him whine about how hurt he was about not having been invited, I was a weenie and asked the kids if I could pay for his and his wife’s dinner (to the tune of $60) so they could attend since it seemed to be so important to him to be included. They kindly agreed and I sent a check. They sent an invitation and had the caterer add two dinners at the last minute. Whiny and wife not only didn’t send the RSVP, but also didn’t show up. He never said a word about it to me again.

      1. Jennifer Thneed

        That happened to me once. Was planning wedding; had to interact with former housemate about something, don’t remember what, and mentioned the wedding planning. Note that she was never a personal friend, just someone I knew from the larger community.

        Her: Oh, do I get an invite?
        Me: (awkwardly) Oh, of course. I was just going to ask for your address.

        I sent the invite, she never rsvp’d. She was a crappy housemate, too.

    2. Emily K

      I saw a survey result published recently that found something like 30% of Americans (almost entirely men) think that women should be legally required to take their husband’s when they get married =/

      1. Observer

        I don’t believe it. I believe that you saw the study, but I don’t believe the results.

        I’ve seen enough ridiculous studies that don’t prove anything close to what they claim to that I get very skeptical when I see such a study.

        Like the “study” that claimed to prove that if you put a baby in a front facing baby carriage it’s going to have more problems as an adult that an infant that was put in a rear ie mommy / caregiver facing baby carriage. Freaked a lot of people out as the standard at the time was front facing carriages, and the rear facing ones were hard to find and extremely effective. Except that it would have been giving the study authors too much credit to call the “study” garbage.

    3. Les G

      It’s great that you have no desire to attend weddings to which you were not invited.

      OP’s boss, evidently, feels differently.

  22. Comp Time OP

    Hi all! Thanks so much for answering my question! I’ll be going through all the comments once I’m out of some early morning meetings but Alison is totally right, I am thinking of this as hour to hour and I need to let that go. Quick context is, despite being salary exempt we get nickel and dimed for our time on the guidance of the c-suite who are convinced people are not doing enough work. So unlike the idea of salary exempt I don’t really get to manage my own time, we’re required 100% to be in office during work hours (we do get some wiggle room on this like I work 7-4), we cannot just take an afternoon off if we finished a big project and worked 20 hours of OT, and generally get treated like hourly employees, so I was thinking like an hourly employee without meaning to, I think!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        If you’re treated like an exempt employee, look at the laws in your state/jurisdiction/country.
        My corporation converted a large group of engineering staff from exempt to non-exempt after losing an excessive-overtime lawsuit in a different division from mine. It startles many people to see career professionals punching a clock, but this was done for mechanical designers, technical writers, development-test engineers, and more.

    1. clever pseud

      I feel like the details about how they treat YOU really change this letter. Your management sound like penny-wise pound-foolish spite beasts. You could always go full malicious compliance and take off a half an hour early every day (or some such nonsense) for a couple months in order to spend all that comp time without creating work backlog for yourself…

    2. doreen

      “we cannot just take an afternoon off if we finished a big project and worked 20 hours of OT” – Are you certain that this isn’t exactly what the “comp time” is meant for, to take an afternoon or a day off right after finishing a big project rather saving it up to the point where you have a month’s worth of hours ?

      1. Comp Time OP

        It should be, I agree with you, but any attempt to set ones own hours, on short notice, is something I could get away with maybe every once in a while but if I did it regularly we’d be in trouble. I basically have to set time off weeks in advance even just to balance out having worked every weekend and 12 hours ever work day for 3 weeks. I’m not sure I’m explaining this well but to give an example of how ridiculously things are done here, a well known traditional part of my job involves going to meetings with other companies and industry events, our company scolded the all people with my job for doing this because when we’re doing that means we weren’t in our seats at our desks doing work they could see. It’s beyond logic unfortunately.

        1. Karen from Finance

          It was like this in my FormerCompany. One is supposed to be flexible enough to work OT on the spot whenever needed, but it’s frowned upon and not really feasible to take the accrued hours on short notice.

          One time the server was down, I couldn’t do any work, I decided to take the afternoon off instead of sitting doing nothing, and my manager still got mad because OT compensation “needs to be planned in advance”. It makes things difficut.

          I do think it’s a problem with the company culture in general. You should be able to take that afternoon off at the end of a project, reasonably speaking.

    3. TechWorker

      Do they have policies on the comp time that stop you, for eg, saying ‘hey boss I worked late every day last week so I’m taking tomorrow afternoon off as comp time?’ (Ie can you take your comp time at short notice/in half day chunks? That might be a more reasonable way of getting through it?)

    4. Comp Time OP

      I’ve think I’ve seen some confusion over this in a couple comments so just to clarify my PTO is actually PTO+sick time in the same bucket so my little over 2 weeks PTO is actually also my sick time for the year. Which is really not very generous now that I think about it.

      Also just to be clear cause I think there was some confusion over the work load too: I’m working over time more weeks than I’m not, we usually do 4-7 of these month long or longer projects a year (last year we’d done 6 by mid-July, and finished out the year with another 5; of those 11 project I think 7 required about three+ weeks of 50-80 hour weeks). Alison was spot on in her answer, I added up all my OT from last year and I had about 165 (4 weeks) of OT hours worked for the year.

      I’m going to toughen up on taking vacation, and scheduling regular random days off, and take all my numbers (OT worked, amount of revenue the successful projects I worked on brought in, etc) and ask to discuss a way to make my workload less or make my salary more. I have a feeling the answer will be “we can’t” to either but if that’s the case I’d plan to wait to see if two of our biggest projects get approved and then I’ll take those numbers, spruce up my resume and start looking for a place that is structure to do less OT or at least have perks like work from home, make your own schedule, etc which we don’t get now

      1. BuildMeUp

        Yeah, with the additional info you’ve posted in the comments (especially the excessive butts-in-seats mentality), I was going to suggest looking for another job, unless this is the norm in your industry. It sounds like it’s entrenched enough in your office that it would be difficult to change it. I hope I’m wrong and that your discussion with your boss goes well!

      2. Observer

        That sounds like a reasonable plan. Your management sounds like they live in de-nile – the one that’s not in Egypt.

        I mean scolding you for doing the parts of your job that are not in the office is some level of dysfunction.

    5. Jack Russell Terrier

      This was the reason I became a contractor. I worked as a historical expert witness and we’d be out of town at lot at various rchives accruing amazing amounts of uncompensated overtime, that the client (law firm) was billed. But if I wanted to take an afternoon off it was a Federal Case (because I wouldn’t be as billable). This on top of the fact that we had to accrue PTO for Federal Holidays!! We had 21 day combined vacation and sick leave and were required to use six of them for Federal Holidays. After a couple of years of this I became a contract – worked like a charm.

  23. arahsay

    I’m the first letter. Thanks for the response, and for all the comments! I’ll try what you’ve suggested the next time he brings it up, which I’m sure will be soon. But the weird thing is yesterday a male coworker of mine who I occasionally go to lunch with said he wouldn’t go to lunch with me anymore because I’m married. I’ve just decided my workplace may be impossible for women. I work with mostly men.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

      Huh. Now I’d think it would be “safer” now that you’re married, because you have now been marked as the property of another man and so this colleague now has a reason to restrain his unbridled lust. Or does the lack of a name change suggest to him that you might be a seductress who will sully his image?

      1. blackcat

        Someone once explained it to me that spending time with me one-on-one after I was married was disrespectful to my husband. I still don’t understand that, but that was the answer I got.

        1. aebhel

          I would spit nails if someone said that to me.

          Fortunately, I’m in a female-dominated profession so it’s never come up, but come on.

        2. ElspethGC

          I feel like men who think that way basically see every male-female interaction as being one big flirtation. Sooner or later they usually turn into the men going “but she smiled at me and said yes to going for coffee! of course that means she’s flirting with me and wants to sleep with me! how was I to know otherwise?!” (To which I say, does that mean as a bisexual person I can’t be one-on-one with *anyone*? I have no friends, there is only prey?)

          And now you’ve got a husband, you’ve been ‘claimed’ by another man, so flirting with you (because all one-on-one interaction is the equivalent of flirting, to men like these) is disrespecting your husband. No need to worry about disrespecting *you*, though. Clearly your thoughts on the matter aren’t an issue.

          1. sourgold

            (To which I say, does that mean as a bisexual person I can’t be one-on-one with *anyone*? I have no friends, there is only prey?)

            Yes, we bisexuals are just waiting for someone, anyone, to come over, and then we pounce.

            I wish that could simply be a joke, but it’s part of the age-old “all bisexuals are promiscuous” prejudice, unfortunately.

          1. Karen from Finance

            A lot of men think it’s somehow inappropiate to spend one-on-one time with a woman you aren’t dating or isn’t your partner. I mean, the US VP believes this. It’s strange and speaks terribly of the men, while I believe that they believe they are being chivalrous.

            1. Marthooh

              As I understand it, Mike Pence isn’t trying to be chivalrous, he just thinks women represent a threat to his purity.

              1. Karen from Finance

                Agreed, but it can be both.

                A lot of the social norms that were created around chivalry, if you look at them long enough, come from a place where women are fragile and men and women can’t relate unless there’s some serious sexual undertones going on. Which is why these norms are slowly disappearing nowadays, they don’t make sense in our world.

                1. Autumnheart

                  According to my English literature classes back in the day, a lot of the rules around chivalry were created so that you could make little demonstrations of affection toward the person you were secretly boinking, so that their spouse wouldn’t find out and question the legitimacy of heirs and so forth. If you were nobility, you didn’t exactly get a say in who you married, man or woman.

          2. $!$!

            I’m in the south and at my old job a fellow hospice worker (male) wouldn’t ride with me (A woman) to a patient’s house. He said “my wife wouldn’t like it”. We were both married

      2. Falling Diphthong

        I’ve heard of one case where a guy in the married couple’s new (moved for grad school) friend group decided she was meant for him, and the existing husband was merely a passing inconvenience who would soon move along out of the story.

        1. EmKay

          Ugh, I met a dillhole like this once. Friend of a friend, I knew him from hanging out at this one pub. One night my ex and I told the group we got engaged, and the next day I received a long winded email saying I was making a mistake, my ex was beneath me, and I should date dillhole instead. Dude, I don’t even know your last name, sit tf down.

    2. Marthooh

      Wouldn’t go to lunch with you anymore because you’re married? What the… what? What? And your boss is “making up a story about a coworker, who also was not invited, FaceTiming him from the reception”? So much weird!

      Face it, lady: you decided not to invite the Bad Fairy to your wedding, and now you’re cursed.

    3. Veger

      Your coworkers are very odd.
      One coworker won’t go to lunch with you because you’re married? Why? *baffled expression*
      Boss is also very strange in bringing up your marriage and last name after so much time. Maybe he wants to be invited to your second marriage. Because, obviously your current marriage is headed for a divorce. *eye roll*

    4. Seeking Second Childhood

      Yegads…. I’d be re-thinking most interactions with that person and wondering if I’d missed him hitting on me.

    5. No Tribble At All

      Whaaaaat?? So sorry your boss’s weirdness is infecting your other coworkers. It’s just lunch!

      –From a female engineer who didn’t change her name and has male bosses & coworkers.

      1. Tiny Soprano

        Yeah if my old work full of old male engineers could put up with a pink-haired bisexual musician running their front desk and be perfectly professional, none of these other dudes have any damn excuse.

    6. lip sleeping mask Ahhhh

      My husband has a great employee who does a wonderful job but will not be alone with my husband in his glass office or will she go get coffee with him. She told him she is married and it is inappropriate to be seen alone with a man other than her husband or close family. So he has to have a female manager from another team or a female HR rep come in to discuss her progress, new work, her review etc. But yea your office has a lot of oddness.

        1. lip sleeping mask Ahhhh

          Just to chaperone. It used to be the admin but she moved on and the new admin is a man so.

          1. Karen from Finance

            Why can’t a man chaperone? It’s still inappropiate if it’s her “alone” with two men?

              1. Karen from Finance

                See now I’m wondering what’s the ratio when it stops being inappropiate. Is it still inappropiate if it’s a meeting and she’s the only woman in her area and say 10 men? What’s the threshold?

                1. Karen from Finance

                  Is she aware that inappropiate situations can happen either with women, or with women present? Is she aware that she’s holding herself back professionally if she can’t attend any event or meeting where she’ll be the only woman? Or that if there are 30 men present we would be in a very bizarre scenario for something to happen with her that wouldn’t if there were TWO women?

                  Sorry, I have a lot of questions.

                2. Tiny Soprano

                  And what if the female HR manager is gay? Does that change anything? Or does it only count if there’s a penis? In which case don’t even get me started on what kinds of transphobic idiocy this could lead to should a colleague be trans.

    7. MLB

      I’ve had male work friends in the past stop hanging out with me when they started dating someone, so your co-worker’s thought process doesn’t surprise me at all. Unfortunately plenty of people don’t think men and women can be friends at work without it becoming a sexual relationship.

      With your boss, I’d question him first. “Why do you keep bringing this up about my wedding/name change?” I’d be curious to see what he has to say. Then proceed with the scripts Alison suggested.

    8. 2horseygirls

      Oh so many comments!

      1) re: the faux facetiming co-worker: Shut that down HARD. “Boss, you are making that up. Tom was not invited to my wedding, so there is no way he could FaceTime you from the reception. Why do keep saying that?” Calling out an out-and-out lie sets the boundary against future professional gaslighting.

      2) What is the culture at your workplace? Does Boss see himself in a paternal role with his underlings? That does not make his incessant nattering correct in any way, but at least it allows you to understand where he is coming from.

      Have other co-workers gotten married and automatically invited the whole office? If not, then I would point that out. “Have you been commenting this much about their weddings to Larry and Rick and Steve? Because none of us were invited to their weddings, so I am confused about the double standard in play here?”

      3) re: last name. Again, shut that down firmly. “That has got to be the most awful thing anyone has said to me about my marriage. Probably a good thing you were not there – our family and friends would have been quite angry and insulted had you shared that opinion at the wedding itself! It is none of your business, so please stop talking about it.”

      4) Or the tried and true ignoring any future reference point blank.
      Boss: “I just can’t understand why you didn’t invite me to your wedding….”
      OP: “On the Main Street project, we need to submit the permit forms to the village by Jan. 22.”

      Re: your co-worker…….I’ve got nothing. That is just bizarre.

      Congratulations on your happy day, by the way!

    9. Dr. Pepper

      People are weird, aren’t they? I’ve seen the exact same thing happen, and also the exact opposite thing happen, both for the same reason. Some people can’t be alone with the opposite sex unless they are both safely married to other people, others can’t be alone with the opposite sex if they’re married, still others can’t be alone with the opposite sex period. And then there’s people like me who are completely baffled by the whole thing. Like, we don’t have that kind of relationship, why would it matter….?

      When I run up against these attitudes, I tend to just laugh and shrug. Try to be amused, because it’s both silly and nothing you can do anything about.

    10. Akcipitrokulo

      Ohhhh I’d be up at HR making a complaint about that coworker before he’d finished getting that explanation out of his mouth…

    11. ENFP in Texas

      I think I just hurt myself rolling my eyes.

      What, suddenly because there’s no chance he can marry you, he can’t go to lunch with you? If the only reason he was going to lunch with you was because he thought he could woo you, you’re better off without him.

    12. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      You could channel your inner Regina George and yell out, “WHY ARE YOU SO OBSESSED WITH ME!” every time he brings it up. Or you could dial it down a bit, “It’s really weird that your so obsessed with my (wedding) (name); you’re even making up stories about people who weren’t even there… what’s up with that?” and then just let the long awkward silence linger.

    13. PB

      But the weird thing is yesterday a male coworker of mine who I occasionally go to lunch with said he wouldn’t go to lunch with me anymore because I’m married.

      What?! It sounds like you work with a bunch of sexists, and your boss is just… I don’t even know! The fixation on you not changing your name is gross. The weird lie about a coworker FaceTiming him from the the reception is just bizarre.

    14. Witchery

      EW! I’m surprised the guy had the nerve to tell you that he wouldnt be having lunch with you anymore. I’d ask WHY WHY WHY until he was forced to voice the mysogyny out loud. “I won’t be having lunch with you anymore,” “Why?” “Because you are married” “Why does that impact our lunch?” “Because it would be improper” “Why?” “Because people will think we are having an affair” “Why?” “Because women are only viewed as sexual objects and now you are owned by another man so I guess you wont be having sex with me after all”

    15. Pebbles

      Oh this is all of the misogynstic BS. I am one of two women in my 12-person department. I would be very lonely if she went on vacation and suddenly I wasn’t “allowed” to do anything with any of my coworkers. Thankfully they are all progressive men in that they are able to look at my face and not focus on my boobs in our interactions. *massive eyeroll for your coworker/boss*

      A coworker (married cis-het man) and I (married cis-het woman) have been friends for over two decades. I recently took him to a sportsball event and we went to have dinner ahead of time. We shared a basket of fries that were topped with raw, chopped onions. After the fries were gone most of the onions were still left. I love onions so I finished them off. My friend jokingly says “this is how other people will know this isn’t a date”. This is also the same friend where I jokingly said at the end of the night that I had “better get him back home to his wife”. We laughed at the odd looks we got because people need to stop making assumptions about people they don’t know.

  24. Ruth (UK)

    1. Has your boss equally wondered why your husband decided not to change his name? Otherwise I wonder why he’s assuming that if one of you changed your name it would be you – unless he’s discriminating based on gender. I’d be tempted to ask…

    1. I will kill people with this cricket bat

      I have asked that before when I’ve been told to “defend” my choice to not change my name. It’s fun the response.

  25. AnyaT

    Nothing gives me The Rage more than pressuring women into changing their last name upon marriage. I would have been in HR’s office immediately after the first time he raised it and, if they didn’t go down the hall to tell him to stop that very day, probably would be contacting a lawyer to raise the spectre of a harassment suit. Absolutely no one, not even my husband, gets to dictate what last name I go by.

  26. Leagle Beagle

    OP#1, Were I in your position, I would be very tempted, the next time your boss mentions not being invited to your wedding to say, with wry amusement, “Bob, if you keep this up, you won’t be invited to my 25th anniversary celebration, either. Now, can we move onto (name business at hand).”

    With the name change, again, I would be tempted to say something like, “Ever since my father died of cancer, my name feels like a link to him.” (You can insert a beloved forbear if you, unlike me, have a living father.)

    No, these are not as direct as Alison’s recommendations, but if your boss is the smart ass he’s trying to be, these responses will bring him up short in a face-saving way.

    1. LQ

      Oh that’s good, though I say go big or go home – 50 year anniversary. (Best if boss is old enough to not be around for that milestone.)

  27. Sushi

    #1 I am convinced no one should ever mention they are getting married at work. Its really not worth it, 7 years after my wedding I still have co-workers mention when weddings are brought up that they were not invited to mine. They are all co-workers who I have never not once been to lunch with outside of the group lunch. I had a destination wedding 6 hours away with 20 people (immediate family) so that my parents didn’t spend money they didn’t have. We did the wedding for less than $5000 there was never a plan to invite friends or co-workers. I waited a year and a half to change my name (I didn’t want to pay for a new passport and we had a few gifted overseas trips to see my new husbands extended family) so when rude people asked (aka office busy bodies) I always said I was waiting to see if he worked out.

    1. blackcat

      I don’t know if it’s really a work thing, though. I lost a few friends when I got married because they were really hurt they were not on the 20 nearest and dearest list. Just because I didn’t invite them to my wedding didn’t mean I didn’t care about them! It mean that they were not either immediate family for friends who were like siblings. The more reasonable people would say things like “Oh, that sounds lovely! I wish I could get away with having a small wedding myself!” And that was that. But a certain percentage of people want to make others’ life events about themselves.

      1. Sushi

        I had a few friends that were mad for a while that they were not invited. One didn’t invite us to her large in town wedding since she didn’t get invited to mine. They were all my friends that were mad, my husbands friends didn’t care. His friends were so grateful they didn’t have to rent another tux and sit through another service they got me a spa day and took my husband out.

        1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"

          I do remember once feeling hurt that I wasn’t invited to a friend’s wedding. It was when I was in graduate school; we were part a foursome that did a lot of problem sets and studying together; I was the only one who wasn’t invited. She said it was because the other two were in couples (not with each other; with other people) and I was single, which would make her seating arrangements too complicated. I was hurt, yep. It damaged our friendship. Maybe I shouldn’t have let it do that, but I was about 22, and it was the first time someone in my peer group was getting married. It felt like a big deal at the time.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

            It WAS a big deal, pro.

            You were right to feel hurt, because your friend didn’t think you were close enough to invite. The seating arrangement rationalization is bull****.

            Those planning a wedding should know – that if they intentionally exclude someone – near and dear to themselves – they may end up excluding that person from the rest of their lives. I guess some might view the non-invite as a good way to drop someone from your life – and guess what? That will work.

            But is that what you want?

            If you REALLY want to share your wedding day with your friends – IF POSSIBLE – find a way. Rather than spending $300 per person, think of a way to do it for less, and you can invite more. My daughter did just that – no fancy centerpieces, buffet dinner, no expensive champagne, no open bar – and a DJ – and she invited 100.

            Your friends and guests will remember the joy of the day, and not $100 champagne bottle or the fancy rare wine, or the wonderful 10-piece string orchestra.

            Two of the best weddings I ever attended were done on the cheap – and we had a great time – as Humphrey Bogart said in a 1950’s baseball commercial = “a hot dog at the ball game tastes as good as prime rib at the Ritz”….

          2. Observer

            In that context, it WAS a big deal. You were part of a small group, were the only one excluded and the reason was a burning piece of toxic waste. WAAAY different than not inviting work colleagues to a destination wedding with all of 20 attendees.

      2. Kyrielle

        I had some extended family get upset. We invited immediate family and grandparents, only. And I felt guilty, because it was less about money (though that was part of it) and more about not wanting a large wedding at all.

        (However, we drew the line where we did because due to the structure / ages / closeness of our respected extended families, it was going to be tricky-or-impossible to invite more than that without inviting the entire clan on both sides, which would have led to a 300+-person wedding. Or we would have had to actively exclude one or more family members who were pretty close to us compared to some who would have been invited. Or invite a couple cousins and none of the rest, which…. Um, no. No, please.)

      3. EvilQueenRegina

        I have a friend who planned hers in secret, parents and siblings were told the date very close to the time, other family and friends found out from a Facebook post the following day. It took about 3 years for her cousin to forgive her.

  28. Non-profiteer

    Re: #5, can I take this opportunity to say to anyone out there who has influence in their office’s design: I get it, cube farms are inevitable. I work in one as well. What has made this cube farm infinitely better in the face of this type of problem, is the availability of “quiet rooms.” They are little offices with doors you can shut on the perimeter of the office. You can’t reserve them, but you can use one whenever it is free. It has a phone and a computer hook-up. I use them to take long phone calls, or when I need to not be interrupted, or to take occasional personal calls. They have made cube-life SO much more livable.

    Also, I don’t know if it’s intentional, but we have vents that are constantly blowing air, and create quite loud white noise constantly. That also really helps with noise interruptions.

  29. SigneL

    #1, sadly, some bosses think “etiquette dictates” inviting your boss, which certainly isn’t true. At this point, perhaps you can use an all-purpose “I’m not going to discuss that”? Repeat ad infinitum. Does your boss tend to hold on to grievances forever? Because, in that case, you have a much bigger problem.

    Second thought, and I hate to throw this out but I will: I used to work in an office where there was a much-loved older woman who functioned as a kind of “spiritual authority.” She would talk to people about behavior that was not appropriate in a way that didn’t offend and produced the desired result. Not every office has someone like Gale, but if your does, maybe you could enlist her help?

    1. LQ

      Etiquette would also dictate NEVER fishing for an invite and absolutely NEVER EVER bemoaning after the fact multiple times. Etiquette has no quarter here.

      1. irene adler

        Yep!

        OP wasn’t invited to the boss’ wedding (to my understanding) so, why the expectation he should be invited to the OP’s wedding? Just because he’s the boss? Really?

  30. Phoenix Programmer

    This is what I was coming to suggest. Start scheduling a Friday or Monday off a month.

    For these projects know that you actually can take time off. In short – it’s ok to have a lumpy frosting on a finished cake.

    Plus time off makes you a better problem solver. I am on a long major project right now and I decided to just take some time off to recharge and i came back to solve 3 issues on day 1 that had stumped everyone for months.

    1. Phoenix Programmer

      Nesting fail. This supposed to be under the first comment for #3 that mentioned taking off a day here and there.

  31. agnes

    Re: Comp time—when someone is working that much, it may be time to look at how work is assigned or to considering additional staff.

  32. Phony Genius

    Both #1 and #2 seem to have a common theme. The boss wants or wanted something of some sort of value from their employees. Are there any laws that cover non-sexual quid pro quo situations in the workplace?

  33. Professor Ma'am

    OP#1 Ugh the name change guilt gets me so angry! Why in the world are people so obsessed with this?? I’m a woman who decided to change my name and I had multiple colleagues (not friends) suggest my husband forced me to. First of all, it was MY decision and I shouldn’t have to explain that to you and second of all… WHY DO YOU CARE?

    I’d say this is a good time to go with a “why in the world would you suggest that?” followed by a silence stare. Let that awkward feeling linger as long as possible until eventually he realizes he’s a total ass.

    1. PB

      It’s weird, isn’t it? If you don’t change your name, people will judge you. If you do, people will judge you. I’ve even gotten weird judgment from the way I changed my name. I added my maiden name to my middle name. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that the “right” thing would have been to drop one and that it’s “weird” to have two middle names, even though a lot of people have two middle names. How is it any of anyone’s business?

      1. Hey Nonny Anon

        I kept both my middle and maiden name when I got married, so I feel your pain. So many forms over the past 23 years that didn’t have enough space, and writer’s cramp every time we sign any financial documents that require a full legal name (since none of my four names is super short). And thank goodness I don’t like things monogrammed; more than three letters would break the system!

  34. Koala dreams

    #3
    As an employee, you evaluate the compensation based on the salary as well as other benefits, and it sucks that your employer takes advantage of that by offering benefits that you are not actually allowed to use. It’s even the more disappointing since the benefit in this case is so rare in the US. So, what can you do?
    1) Have a conversation with your manager about the drawbacks to the company of overworking their employees and denying them PTO, as well as the benefits of giving people PTO and getting happy, well-rested and productive employees. It might be worth a try if you haven’t had this discussion before.
    2) Decide for yourself if it makes sense to continue this job with the actual compensation, as opposed to the compensation you were promised. Is 8 days of PTO (or whatever you currently get to take) and you current salary reasonable if you look at the long hours you work? Would it be considered underpayed for the market? And most importantly, do YOU want to continue work under these conditions? If not, time to start job searching.
    3) Put a notice of PTO/comp time on your work calendar, shut off your mobile phone and take the time off you want. Since I’m from Sweden I don’t think it would be wrong to take 4 or 6 weeks off in a row, but you do you. Of course, this might risk your job.

  35. LaDeeDa

    I worked at a university where the head of HR, during school fundraising season, would march her children from cubicle to cubicle with the little booklet of junk they were selling. Many of the employees in that area were full-time students working part-time. It was awful!
    I often wonder why how people got to be so clueless.
    Allison gave a great script, I only wish there was a direct and polite way to let the manager know what they are doing is so wrong.

  36. Namast'ay in Bed

    For #1 I thought the boss was complaining about not being invited to OP’s upcoming wedding…but it already passed! There is literally nothing that can be done to change it! What does he want her to do, go back in time?

    Combined with the OP’s update about a male coworker no longer wanting to eat lunch with her now that she’s married, this workplace sounds bananacrackers. I hope it’s awesome in other ways, because the culture sounds gross.

    1. arahsay

      I think bananacrackers is the perfect way to describe it, and I’m adding that to my vocabulary. :)

      1. Namast'ay in Bed

        It really is a great term! I can’t take credit for it though, I heard it on either this site or the Han and Matt Know It All podcast. :-)

  37. LaDeeDa

    OP#3 can you really not take vacation, or do you feel like you can’t? I ask this because I felt the same way for a long time at my current job, no one told me not to take vacation, or that I couldn’t, I just wasn’t scheduling it because they kept dumping more and more work on me. I finally started booking every other Friday off, my manager didn’t mention it for a long time, and then when she did it was positive. She was glad I was taking time off. I do plan my longer vacations around my project cycles, but I don’t ask permission anymore. I book them through our PTO scheduling system and update my Outlook calendar.
    If no one has denied your vacation requests or told you you can’t take a vacation, then book days off! You will feel better, less overworked, and less resentful of all the hours you are working.

  38. (Mr.) Cajun2core

    OP #3 – Comp time
    Can you possibly see if you can donate your comp-time to someone who would need it? We can do that where I work but I do work for a University which is probably the exception to the rule.

    Would it be possible for you to may take every Friday (or maybe just Friday) afternoon off to use of some of that comp-time?

  39. animaniactoo

    OP #1 – I think I would go with a form of “I’m finding your focus on this really odd. Can you explain why it’s so important to you?”

    Because, really… there isn’t a justifiable reason why it’s so important to him. But you might find something in there that will untangle his need to keep commenting on it and address it as “of course you should do whatever feels right to you when it comes to your life/marriage/whatever, and I wouldn’t judge that. I’m asking you to stop judging my choice and making comments about it. This is what my partner and I feel works for us and I’m asking you to respect it.”

    1. TootsNYC

      with the wedding, maybe his feelings were hurt!

      It might be worthwhile to say, “I’m sorry if we hurt your feelings. It felt inappropriate to impose on you with an invitation, because we’re not that close, and I only invited the people that I hang out with on the weekend as well. I didn’t realize it would matter so much to you.”

      (Though he was certainly hinting before)

      1. arahsay

        I get that maybe his feelings were hurt, and that absolutely wasn’t my intent. But I will say that I never let on that he would be invited, and I didn’t discuss it at work unless someone asked, and then it was only minimal, because it’s not a small company, and there was no way to invite everyone in my department, and it was 4 hours away. I did invite a few current coworkers, but it was 4 ladies that I hang out with after work sometimes.

        1. anonymous 5

          Honestly, you don’t owe him any apology or explanation. I think it’s kind of you if you want to say that you’re sorry to hear that his feelings were hurt; and I certainly agree that with your boss, it’s not really a viable option to go full-on snarky rejoinder. But the reality is that he needs to drop it–both the whining about not being invited and the commentary on your decision to keep your name. So it is 100% fine, in my view at least, to ask him why the invite/name change is so important to him, listen to whatever BS answer he comes up with, and then say, “well, I’m glad to know that. My spouse and I have made our decisions, and so I need you to respect those decisions.”

          And, IMHO, do that once and only once. After that, I’d personally just play the “didn’t hear that comment” game (or the silent, pointed stare) and move on to work-related topics.

  40. DeepThoughts

    I have not read all the responses so this may have been covered prior. For OP1, the next time your boss makes comments about not changing your name once you got married – stop, look him dead in the eyes, pause, don’t talk and maintain eye contect with a straight, not emotional face – no smile, no frown – just neutral. This is the pause that we take to make sure that we (you and your boss) recognize how inappropriate the question is (as you have made mention to him prior – or told him that you don’t want to talk about it) and then start talking to him (your boss) about ANYTHING work related. The pause allows him to know that this is out of line – without telling him once again – that you know it is out of line – and you are resetting the conversation with something appropriate. This allows him to save face and you to not blow up at him (I assume you are a woman and you know, you can be so emotional – you understand my sarcasm) so that there is nothing said that others can quote you on.

    1. LaDeeDa

      LOL! Love it. I do the head tilt, squinty eyes, eyes widen, and then begin talking about something work-related. It works a lot of the time, unless someone is especially clueless.

  41. Workerbee

    #4 Long meetings that then run overlong are reprehensible, not to mention having to look forward to this WEEKLY. How do people not have anything else to do, and so are perfectly fine letting a meeting run over? Maybe it’s a mindset I should cultivate. /s

    I wonder how much of that time spent is truly necessary, or having to sit in that long of a weekly meeting vs having some updates over email/Enterprise Social Network client of your choice/SharePoint Team Site/etc. It seems perhaps only a 10th of the meetings I’ve been in have been truly necessary, and even then–!

    But yeah, if you’re new, it’s not easy to speak up about what should be glaringly obvious to everyone, and even if you’re not, it’s not easy to take matters into your own hands! It took me too long to feel comfortable just getting up and exiting quietly for a biology break, especially in those long meetings where seemingly everyone else was happy to grow roots and the organizer wasn’t offering any consideration. (I also dislike the eyeballs following me or heads turning like we’re still in grade school, both when leaving and returning.)

  42. LaDeeDa

    OP#4- One way to leverage being new might be to introduce to the agile method of meetings, you could say this is something you did previously and it was really effective! I run almost all my update meetings like this. Each person says: what the big thing is they are working on this week, what is a roadblock they are encountering, and what big thing are they working on next. Then we have 5 minutes as a team to ask questions or brainstorm solutions for the roadblock, then we move on to the next person. My 10 person team meetings are done in about 45 minutes,
    I don’t know if you have been there long enough or in a position to suggest something like this, but if you can, it might help move things along!

    1. LW4

      This is LW #4 – these aren’t update meetings but rather time set aside to make technical decisions, so a lot of discussion is expected (and often necessary).

    2. Ms.Vader

      Those are considered Daily stand-Ups or Daily coordination meetings and shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes according to methodology. I had a 25+ team and we got it done in 15 minutes every day. However if it’s just a weekly touchbase then you’d spend more time catching up. Doing it daily means you action items and blockers faster. It’s a good practice.

  43. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)

    After I got married, I shut down the occasional “why didn’t you change your name?” comments with something like “I offered Mr. Gollux the chance to take my name, but he said no.” I have Opinions on the subject, but they are entirely inappropriate for coworkers, casual acquaintances, or most other contexts: exceptions would be if the subject came up more abstractly, or if someone asked me if I thought they should change their name.

    I also have a friend who decided to change her name when she got married–to her grandmother’s maiden name, because she didn’t want to keep her father’s name (for Reasons) or to take her husband’s. She told banks, credit card companies, etc., that “I got married on $date, and have changed my name from Oldname to Newname,” and that was processed as routine by people who assumed that Newname was her husband’s surname.

  44. Tobias Funke

    Oh man, LW2, it sounds like you work for my BIL. I have sat through lectures on why this is totally appropriate and I am just like… no.

  45. The Man, Becky Lynch

    #2…I can’t not laugh that in 2019, some jackhole thinks you’ve gotta change your name. My beloved former boss was my parents age (Boomer) and his wife and all their closest friends never changed their names. They are empowered independent hard working women who had loving committed long marriages without changing their names. Bless his heart that he’s so fragile he’s still talking about not being invited and your very personal choice of keeping your name!

    I like the script provided. You’re kinder than I am. My response would be “Stop bringing up my personal life. The wedding is over and you’re being rude.”

  46. pentamom

    If it truly is a tax credit donation, then it wouldn’t actually cost the OP1 anything (provided the OP owed an equivalent amount of taxes or more in the year the donation was made.) It would offset the taxes.

    It’s still not appropriate to solicit employees for donations for one’s personal benefit, but “I can’t afford it” might not be an effective answer if this is the case.

    1. Brett

      You don’t get the tax credit back until you file taxes the following year though, so it turns into an interest free loan to pay the boss’ kid’s tuition.

    2. Jennifer

      There are a lot of variables there. It’s too early to know what her 2019 taxes are going to look like. Who knows what might happen this year? Plus it’s a lot of trouble to go through for somebody else’s kid’s school tuition. I would just stick with Alison’s script and repeat it if needed.

    3. Me

      It may not cost anything in terms of the bottom line, but that has nothing to do with it being affordable. Donating money now because you might get it back later (tax credits can be very complicated), doesn’t make it affordable.

      Telling me I’ll get $300 bucks back in 3 months doesn’t mean I can afford to part with $300 now.

    4. Observer

      As others noted, it’s effectively an interest free loan, which is fine if you can afford to make interest free loans. But actually some people can’t afford to do that.

      PS This kind of thing – telling the OP that they actually can afford something, without knowing anything about their finances (except for the fact the they said that they can’t afford it!) is EXACTLY why I recommended that the OP not offer any explanations.

      1. pentamom

        Well, I agree with the interest-free loan and having the cash up front aspects. I’m just thinking tactically — raising economic considerations is just asking for an argument from the boss about why that isn’t so. He could well be wrong, I’m just looking at avoiding that particular distraction.

        1. Observer

          The way to avoid that distraction is to understand that you get to cut off the conversation. You do NOT have to think about every argument that this boss could come up with and counter it. You just say you VERY SHORT piece then refuse to discuss it any further.

  47. janon

    #1: My boss has commented any time I changed my signature, when I changed it again because I had decided to officially keep all parts of my name and add my husband’s, and makes comments about that being my new name when it shows up in a meeting. Its incredibly annoying, and I have stopped responding or reacting. It seems to be helping if I just don’t play along.

  48. CS

    OP#1: I’m a Chinese male, my wife is white; we’re in the U.S. We get asked a lot about why she doesn’t take my last name to the point of being intrusive. I shut it down by saying “wives of Chinese men don’t change their last names” (and as far as I know, neither do Hispanic women?) — thus implying that it’s a, and if it’s posed to my wife, she goes on a tirade about how it’s oppressive to women. No one bothers us nowadays.

    OP#4: Scheduling 90-minute meetings that run over to two hours? Sounds like a micromanager to me. Watch out for other signs.

  49. Elise

    #2: I’d say the same thing I say when the United Way people start hounding us here, “I prefer not to involve my workplace in my charitable giving.”

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      Many years ago, I believe the United Way changed their modus operandi – where you could earmark your contribution. I know that at one place I worked – many – due to religious beliefs (shields up here) did not want to pledge if the money was going to a local clinic that conducted abortions. I say “shields up” because there are some people who have strong ethical or religious beliefs about that matter.

      Likewise, some objected to contributing to the Boy Scouts. Some objected to this, to that, or the other thing.

      So they changed and you could designate your contribution to go to one or more groups on the list. But they had to, to survive.

      1. DeColores

        When I looked into earmarking United Way contributions, what I was told was that earmarking your contribution really does nothing to change where United Way donates money unless the earmarked donations exceed what UW was planning on donating to that organization anyway. If the planned donation to Boy Scouts is $100,000 and earmarked donations for them are $90,000, Boy Scouts get the $90,000 earmarked + $10,000 general donations. If Boy Scouts gets $110,000 earmarked donations, then UW donates $110,000 instead of the planned $100,000.

      2. Elise

        We can earmark donations as well, but still United Way, through my employer, would be deducting my donations and the United Way person on staff here would be inputting that information. I’m not interested in anyone I work with being aware of where, when or how much I donate to any organization. As they are many times tied to politically charged causes, it’s none of my employer’s business. And if I want to give to a particular organization, I see no reason to funnel that through the United Way.

  50. TootsNYC

    Re: comp time.

    When I grant comp time, I look at it as a way to make the employee “whole” (or “more whole”) for the disruption to their life that the job has caused.

    You could’t meet a friend for drinks because you worked late.
    You had to put off laundry.
    You haven’t vacuumed the living room in weeks.

    What if you looked at the logistics of your life, and SCHEDULED a regular comp time to make up for that–in hour increments, maybe.

    Maybe you can use up some of that time by always coming in later on Tuesday, because Tuesday is the day you do laundry as soon as you get out of bed (I’m often more productive first thing, before I even get dressed).

    And then that might help you feel less like it’s a matter of using up the hours, an =d more a matter of returning the functionality to your life that your extra hours took away.

  51. Jennifer

    OP1 I feel your pain. I didn’t take my husband’s name either. Laughable that so many people think whether or not you take your husband’s name determines whether your marriage will be successful. I hope you use Alison’s script and that it works for you.

    OP2 I really wish hitting people up for money at work would just be done away with altogether. People assume that they have a general idea of what you make, what your expenses are, and what you can afford to give, but they have no idea. they can be judgy when you say you can’t afford it or don’t’ want to give. When it’s your boss it adds another layer of awkward. No to cookies, candy bars, wrapping paper, magazine subscriptions, private school donations, just no to all of it.

    The worst is when you just started a job, haven’t been paid yet, and are asked donate to a gift for Susie’s baby shower or Bob’s retirement or whatever and have no idea who those people even are!

  52. LW4

    I just wanted to leave a general update since it’s been a month or so since I originally emailed in – I wound up sending my boss the feedback that a break would help me out during 90 minute+ meetings. He was generally receptive, didn’t mention anything about noticing how distracted I get, and has been fairly good (though not 100%) at scheduling a break into the agenda. I also got a fidget cube over the holidays, which is helping as a less obvious brain-crutch than doodling or checking my phone. The meetings are largely for technical discussion and just up and leaving for 5 minutes is difficult because that tends to halt the discussion entirely (it’s not a meeting where people slip in and out) but the break helps a lot.

    For reference, I do have ADD (though mild enough that I usually don’t ask for or need extra accommodations) and I’ve been at this new job for about 6 months.

    Thank you Allison for taking my question and I’m reading the comments with interest for how other people deal with the long meeting problem!

  53. Michaela Westen

    OP#1, I would be very uncomfortable with your boss! He’s trying to be inappropriately personal with you. Whether as a friend or more I can’t tell, but it’s not okay.
    My boss also has these tendencies – he wants to be friends with his employees – and I’ve set firm boundaries which he respects. No discussion of my personal life, no interest in his (yikes!) and I don’t attend offsite social functions. If I was getting married, I wouldn’t even tell him. I wouldn’t tell him afterward, either. I would never mention it to him and if he found out I was married it would be from someone else. Luckily he respects my boundaries. If he didn’t, I’d have to go to HR.
    I’m especially freaked out about your boss making up the story about the coworker facetiming. It makes me wonder, what else has he made up or lied about?
    I would try Alison’s scripts and setting firm boundaries similar to mine. If he keeps pushing to get personal in any way, go to HR. Meanwhile document all this. If possible, find out if your facetime colleague played a joke on him, or facetimed him about something else that was misunderstood, so you’ll know how to describe this incident to HR.
    Good luck!

  54. Oaktree

    OP5, this is just a fact of life in a cube farm. Ideally people would take phone meetings in closed-door rooms, but that’s not always possible. In my little cube farm, I have a coworker whose retired mother calls her at minimum 4 times a day (I haven’t counted but it’s definitely no less than that, and it is every day). The one saving grace is that it’s all in Greek so I can tune it out and no pay attention to the words being said. But yeah, unfortunately this is just one of those things, and if it’s work-related, you really do have to let it go.

  55. TeacherLady

    There is a very wealthy private school in my city where the tuition for a year approximately equals my gross annual income. The wealthy and business/political elite send their kids there. One time, I was out for a walk and they had a tent set up on a street corner, fundraising to buy new equipment for their sports teams.

    I teach at public schools where there isn’t enough equipment to go around, and also, the politician ensuring it stays that way sends their kids to this school…I was so angry just seeing them there.

    I can’t even imagine if one of them were my BOSS and asked me to donate, let alone pressured me to do so.

  56. PublicPrivate

    OP2:

    “I would love to! You know, I’ve been meaning to ask if you could talk to the school on my behalf about a 100% scholarship for my kids?”

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