my coworkers won’t cut expenses, pop culture references in interviews, and more

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

1. My coworkers won’t help me cut expenses

A few months ago we received an email from the Big Boss (head of our business unit) that we are entering a “cost cutting” exercise due to business needs and they need everyone to make efforts to ensure our costs/expenses are “as close to zero as possible.”

I’m in an internal role that doesn’t deal with contracts, purchases, software licensing, travel, etc. so there’s only a limited amount I can contribute to that cost cutting. But I’ve done what I can — e.g. I walked five miles with heavy equipment rather than take public transport which the others did. I “forgot” to claim for overtime payments that I should/could have claimed (not in U.S. so those laws don’t apply), didn’t claim mileage for driving two hours out of my way multiple times, etc. It’s galling every month the department admin sends out the emails asking for “overtime forms” and “travel expenses” and I know I have a lot I could claim and don’t.

We have to work late a couple of times a month due to client deadlines (the company usually orders food in) and I’ve gone on “hunger strike” conspicuously refusing to eat or order, and working through while others eat the company-paid pizzas, etc. (we know in advance when we’ll have to stay late – why didn’t they bring their own food?!) because I don’t believe that’s a legit business expense. I’ve tried to convince the others but without success.

I’ve now asked to reduce my retirement contributions (matched by the company) which will save them thousands a year. I’ve indicated to HR that I want to opt out of the healthcare insurance at the next renewal date.

I’ve done pretty much everything I can at this point other than asking for a pay cut (which I could — I’m senior, single and have enough money but I realize this could affect my prospects in the future) but I’m becoming more and more resentful of coworkers who haven’t even considered the things I’ve done. They still submit overtime, travel expenses, etc. At some point we all have to pull together but I feel like I’m the only one pulling,

Whoa, you are making way too many sacrifices here. You should not be walking five miles with heavy equipment or not getting paid for time you worked, and conspicuously not having a slice of pizza isn’t going to make any practical difference. As for reducing your retirement contributions and opting out of health insurance (!!) — NO. Is it too late to undo that?

“Help us cut costs” means “watch for extraneous spending and be frugal with business expenses.” It does not mean “take on great personal sacrifice for the benefit of a company someone else owns.” What you are doing is way beyond the realm of anything that would be expected, some of it won’t even matter (the hunger strike), and the rest of it is so extreme as to be entering the realm of the absurd unless this is your own personal business and you get all the profits.

You should of course respect requests to watch expenses, but it’s actually not helpful to do what you’re doing because it creates a false idea of what various projects cost. It’s also going to look incredibly weird to your coworkers, especially when you pressure them to join you, to the point that it could reflect on your judgment long after this is over.

Leave your retirement account and your health care alone. Submit for the money that you’re owed. Quit the hunger strikes. Be responsible with expenses, and leave it there.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Can you reference pop culture in an interview?

Is it okay to reference pop culture in a job interview as long as the reference itself is not inappropriate or obscure?

For instance, in previous interviews, I have referenced my “Monica Geller-esque sense of neatness,” how I consider Leslie Knope to be one of my role models, and how I had learned to work with a supervisor like Angela from The Office.

For what it’s worth, in each of these positions, I was applying for something relatively junior and in a pretty liberal field/office environment, not, like, the CEO of Morgan Stanley or something.

There are better ways to convey what you want to convey. It’s just too likely that your interviewer hasn’t seen the show you’re referencing and so misses your meaning entirely — and maybe doesn’t even know you’re referencing a show and has no idea who this Monica Geller is or why you’re mentioning her. (There’s also a risk of it making you seem less professionally mature — not because you’re referencing pop culture, which isn’t inherently unprofessional, but because you’re not realizing that not everyone will get that particular reference.)

3. Candidates who ask “how did I do?” at the end of an interview

I’m a corporate recruiter, and lately, at the end of phone screens I’ve had people asking me how they did on that very call and asking for performance feedback. Everyone who has asked me this question hasn’t done very well. I think its a really awkward question that puts the interviewer on the spot. What’s your take? Is this the new normal? What’s the best way to respond to this, especially if the candidate hasn’t done well?

Yeah, this is a terrible question to ask at the end of an interview. It’s fine to say “are there any reservations I could address for you?” But “how did I do?” puts the interviewer on the spot, and while some interviewers will be willing to answer it, far more are going to feel uncomfortable and mildly annoyed that you’re asking them to deliver potentially awkward info to you with no preparation or time to think it out.

You’re not obligated to answer that question candidly with no preparation. When I’m asked it by a candidate who wasn’t strong, I generally say, “Oh, I always prefer to spend some time reflecting on our conversation before I can answer that.”

4. Can I contact my replacement to ask why they left?

I left a job on my one-year anniversary about two years ago. I left for a seemingly innocuous reason and on good terms (I was moving across the country and got a new job). But in actuality, I was waiting for the second I could run away from this job. What started as an in-office marketing position with support and a budget quickly turned into a nightmare. I was moved to work from home permanently (I HATE working from home). In addition, whenever I would submit my health insurance reimbursement every month, which I had to negotiate to even get, my boss would respond directly via email to my premium invoice with comments along the line of “So, sales are down, what’s on your agenda today?” and other passive aggressive items. The thing is, I was not hired to do sales, I was told that we were hiring a VP of sales, but suddenly I was responsible for that too. On top of it all, I watched a married coworker book an escort from start to finish because he didn’t realize his screen was mirroring to a monitor that was right next to me. When I brought this up, nothing was done except telling me to work from home when he was in office if I felt uncomfortable.

All that aside, I held my tongue when the CEO hired someone else for my position, even though I wanted to warn them. I now see they only made it eight months and no longer work there. I would like to reach out to them on LinkedIn and talk to them about their reasons for leaving. I guess I just want confirmation I am not crazy from still having nightmares surrounding my life that year. Is this a bad idea?

I think you already know everything you need to know about this job. Just based on your short letter, your boss was a jerk, you were given a major area of work you hadn’t signed up for and didn’t want, you were denied office space, people were booking escorts at work and no one cared … You had good reason for disliking it there and for leaving.

The more interesting question, to me, is why you’re looking for outside confirmation that it was a bad situation when it clearly was. And what’s more, even if it wasn’t a situation that everyone would have hated, you hated it and that’s reason enough to leave. Are you worried on some level that you should have been able to hack it? Are you looking for the satisfaction of hearing someone else thought it was awful too? That last one is perfectly human, but it probably doesn’t warrant emailing a stranger with those questions and I think is likely to keep you mired in the drama of a past job rather than moving forward.

{ 778 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    For #2, a request to please stay away from comments that are really just “I recognized those TV references” or “I didn’t recognize those references” or “I recognized two of those references.” They’re going to quickly weigh down the thread without adding a lot of substance. Thank you!

  2. Abed Nadir*

    #2 – I got all those references (though I don’t watch P&R) but I had to Google what a Morgan Stanley was…

    That said, my one takeaway is it’s probably far more likely someone would be more familiar with Monica from Friends than Angela or Leslie.

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I only got two out of the three references, though I’m a pop culture hermit. Drop references to trashy 70s movies and I’m gold.

    2. Dragoning*

      I recognized all of the references, but I don’t think they mean anything. I don’t care if you compare yourself to Monica Geller–tell me your neatness stories. Had a boss like Angela? Well, no, tell me what the boss did and how you dealt with it.

      These references are shorthand and sound like an attempt to tell something without actually…explaining anything.

      1. Temperance*

        None of those characters are similar, either. Monica’s neatness is a joke and a compulsion, for example. It’s not shown as a great thing.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          I had that thought too – none of the characters from the Office represent what people are hoping to have in their office. You might not be invoking the associations you’re hoping for, OP!

          1. Peter*

            It also comes across as someone who – if offered a job – will be comparing colleagues at the firm she is currently interviewing at to absurd sitcom characters as soon as she is back on the job market interviewing again. That’s got to be off putting. I wouldn’t particularly want people in my industry hearing from job candidates that I am like X or Y from The Office to work with!

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              This is a good point. Sort of like the people who do “Well at my old office, we always….” Even if you and the interviewer share a common sitcom language (which you cannot assume), this should not be your go-to fount of explanations for how things are in the work world. Any more than someone who can’t get off football analogies–even if you like football and understand the references, eventually desert biology research is going to be NOT like football in some significant ways.

          2. Legal Rugby*

            I think that’s the important point – I have seen all three shows intermittently, and I don’t think my impressions of the characters are the same. If you made the friends reference, I would get the homophobic and white dominated nature of the show, with maybe a bit of “which one was Monica? The entitled one?”

            Pop culture references are way too subjective. Describe yourself using examples from your life.

      2. MassMatt*

        Good point. Pop culture also often dates poorly, going out of fashion quickly, and is increasingly niche.

        I also think multiple TV references in particular will likely make you look shallow to many interviewers. I love me The Simpsons, but will not be talking about how I’m as versatile as Troy McClure in a job interview anytime soon.

      3. Krakatoa*

        Yeah, that was my confusion with the question as well, all those characters (well, I don’t know Friends well, but I know the Office and Parks and Rec well) are multi-faceted.

        Was your Angela-like boss abrupt and rude? Uptight? Sleeping around? Detail oriented? Openly Christian?
        Do you like Leslie’s dedication to her work? Her devotion to her friends? Her love of waffles? Getting too attached to projects? Going way overboard on simple tasks? Willingness to exploit the rules if it helps her?
        Are you just clean like Monica, or are you extremely obsessive about it?

        You can’t guarantee that they know all the same characters, but you also can’t guarantee that if they do that they’ll have the same perceptions of them as you do.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I think if people get the references, you also run the risk of turning people off, e.g. a Monica Geller-esque sense of neatness is way over the top and would make me wonder what I was in for if I hired that person.

      1. Not Friends*

        Also, I would judge people for watching/liking Friends because I found it vapid. Point being you don’t know what people will think of a pop culture reference – *if* they even get it. Better to focus on examples from your own work experience.

        1. anon needs a new name*

          I have a kneejerk reaction to that show because it’s pretty homophobic and sexist (I felt this way when it was popular and don’t buy the ‘it was a different time!!!’ arguments). I’m not going to hold that against someone who enjoys the show, but I can’t help my immediate internal reaction when someone brings it up and that would definitely put an unnecessary damper on an interview.

        2. Jen*

          I once in a social setting referenced a show I like a lot but comes across as weird if you don’t know it well because the name/premise doesn’t quite capture the show (Jane the Virgin). I also grew up watching occasional teles with my grandmother and have a different cultural view of the genre. I know now as an adult you have to understand people may have the wrong impression and while in a social setting, a tangent to explain all that might be okay, it wouldn’t in an interview setting.

          1. anon needs a new name*

            One of my favorite shows is Hannibal. Definitely a niche show, but it’s not one I’ve ever brought up when I’ve had the dreaded “what’s your favorite TV show?” getting to know you question in interviews/the workplace. Saying I love a show about queer cannibalistic serial killers is not going to be winning me any favors. I stick with something that’s somewhat mainstream that people might have a vague knowledge of.

            1. Marion Ravenwood*

              This is me with Criminal Minds. In those cases I generally say something more general (e.g. ‘I like crime dramas’, which normally leads to questions such as, ‘Oh, like Inspector Morse/CSI?’) or go for something ‘safe’ like Strictly Come Dancing. Although that could equally be interpreted negatively if you’re interviewing somewhere very serious where watching celebrities learn ballroom dancing might be frowned upon…

            2. General Ginger*

              Same. There’s the “what I actually really love, but nobody needs to hear about” answer, and the “what the rest of the office is talking about at the water cooler” answer.

            3. Kat in VA*

              I get some side eye when I enthusiastically blurt out “Vikings!”

              And Hannibal was my favorite for a while there, but I kept that one on the downlow. Very few people knew about it anyway.

        3. Guy Incognito*

          You should let people know this up front, because if you’re low-key judging someone for a TV show they like to the point that it hurts their job prospects, you probably shouldn’t be in charge of the hiring. I mean, this is as opposed to all of your entertainment, which is flawless in every way, right? People should ONLY consume what you like?

          Stop making things unnecessarily difficult for people.

          1. pleaset*

            I wouldn’t judge people for liking, say, a TV show I thought was stupid.

            I would judge someone for bringing up a TV show an interview as if it was an important part of their life, or something they think everyone probably knows about.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            It’s not liking a TV show that’s the problem, tt’s using it as a reference point in an interview. I think it shows a lack of savvy at the least, questionable judgment about interview norms at most. Not a fatal flaw, but not a reassuring approach.

          3. Not Friends*

            Where did I say anything about hiring or job prospects? I simply said I would judge someone for liking “Friends” because it’s vapid, and has been mentioned a couple of times, homophobic and sexist. If someone compares themselves to that, perhaps they actually shouldn’t be hired because they may see nothing wrong with homophobia or sexism. How would one know? Therefore, it’s best to not use that as an example.

            People make things difficult for themselves by not considering how their actions could be interpreted by others. Everyone judges people every day on a million little things so…

            1. pleaset*

              Also kinda racist – or at least very good about erasing the existence of brown people.

              Set in NYC? No.

            2. Vicky Austin*

              Disagree. I like Friends DESPITE it being homophobic and sexist, not BECAUSE it was those things. Also, I know you said not to point out that it was a different time, but Friends was actually very progressive for its time. It won a GLADD award for its portrayal of Carol and Susan raising Ben together. If you don’t like it, then don’t watch it, and I agree with Alison that it’s a bad idea to mention pop culture in job interviews for the reasons she mentioned, but please don’t immediately write someone off as a bigot just because they like the show.
              (Now, if they like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity’s shows, that’s another story all together.)

              1. anon needs a new name*

                GLADD’s been pretty heavily criticized for years for what it awards as good LGBT portrayals since a lot of those portrayals were considered questionable at the time and their “awards” were influenced by politics and industry influence, so I’d honestly take that with a grain of salt.

              2. Helena*

                “Friends was actually very progressive for its time”

                As a queer woman who watched it first time around, no it wasn’t. The lesbians were portrayed as an absolute joke (“look, Ross turned his wife gay! Haha!”). Will and Grace was contemporaneous with Friends, and while that show had its own of-its-time problems it didn’t do the whole gay-panic “don’t drop the soap” routine that Friends did every time a gay character was referenced. It was gross.

                1. Vicky Austin*

                  Still, that doesn’t necessarily make someone a bigot simply because they enjoyed the show, which is what the person whose comment I was replying to inferred.

            3. Anna*

              This is one of those times where you should just let people enjoy things and keep your thoughts to yourself. There’s been this push lately in pop culture circles where what you like indicates some sort of superiority. The idea that someone who likes Friends is vapid because you deem Friends vapid is the kind of elitism that ruins fun things for people. It’s Twitter trolling at its worst.

              PS The goal is to get away from judging people for innocuous things like what TV shows they like, not to give yourself permission to do it because “everyone already does it.”

              1. Vicky Austin*

                Yes, agreed (though judging someone as inferior based on their preferences in pop culture is hardly new!).

              2. Not Friends*

                I said the show was vapid,. I never said that people who watch it are. There is an increasing habit of commenters to read what they think, rather than what is actually written.

      2. Eight*

        Yes, this. There are so many more ways that these kinds of references could go wrong than right that it’s better to avoid them altogether. You don’t want to risk someone being put off by something that isn’t even relevant to the job.

        Also, I’ve realized in my work (and dating) life recently that there are certain people who seem to be unable to talk without references – everything to them is about movies, TV, or pop culture, and it’s something that I find exhausting to deal with because they often expect everyone is on the same page as them, then become indignant (sometimes playfully, sometimes not) when you don’t get it and spend a lot of time explaning even though I don’t particularly care. OP isn’t necessarily like that, but I might subconsciously group her in with that type if she was making references. I don’t think it’s worthwhile unless like, you and your interviewer happened to start bonding over Friends or something.

        1. annakarina1*

          In high school, I took a creative writing class with kids who were heavily into pop culture, and whenever I spoke and accidentally made a pop culture reference (like casually saying “Who’re you gonna call?”), they would start quoting from some pop culture TV show/movie and go on a tangent quoting from it, and I’d be sitting there, waiting for them to wrap it up so I could continue my thought. I found it really irritating and frustrating, and I’m a pop culture nerd myself. I just know that there’s a time to not make annoying pop culture references when someone says something innocuous and sidetracking the discussion to just quote stuff for a minute.

          1. Not Friends*

            I am the same way. I’m not into pop culture really — I don’t watch a lot of television or movies and it’s really annoying when you say something and get sidetracked with a bunch of quotes that mean absolutely nothing to you. However, there is one musician that I am a huge fan of and if I am discussing said musician with other fans we will all do that. But it’s very much a “know your audience” situation; I don’t go around quoting lyrics from this musician at work because most people wouldn’t get it, and where’s the fun in that?

        2. anon needs a new name*

          This is partially why I hate social media. It’s so focused on references or memes, and I think a lot of people heavily involved in those areas of the internet sometimes forget that they’re still a very small section of the population. It’s the fandom problem of someone thinking that thing they love is something everyone loves, but in reality most people don’t care about it or want to hear you drone on about it.

        3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          This is such a good point- I doubt any of this type of person would self-identify as members of the “is too invested in pop culture references to the point of annoying people” group. It’s a good reminder that unless you know with some certainty that the person will get the reference, it’s probably good to avoid making it.

      3. Allison*

        Right, comparing yourself to a television show character makes you, in turn, look like a character as well, and people may not want that type of character in the office, especially if they have seen the show but never really related to that character or found their antics funny. Especially with Monica, the “joke” was that she was usually really annoying, pushy, and overall difficult to deal with, and Lord help you if you didn’t comply with her insane systems and standards for housekeeping.

      4. MommyMD*

        I would also wonder if this applicant’s main focus in life is watching TV. The whole thing seems like a gimmick and would turn me off to them as a viable candidate.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      When you’re talking about your personal skills and competencies, however, I think it’s better to avoid pop cultural references. The references just aren’t as helpful as articulating your actual qualities in your own words, even if someone understands the reference. And to a certain extent, everyone takes something different away from specific characters and pop cultural moments. For example, Monica was a neat-freak but was also unreasonably rigid about it; Leslie could be incredibly overbearing, unreasonably self-sacrificing and overly idealistic at the expense of the practical; and Angela is, well, Angela. It’s way more vague and open to misinterpretation to ask someone to read into your reference and figure out what you meant when you could just say precisely what you mean.

      1. Asenath*

        And pop references are not universally recognizable – I wouldn’t have known any of them, except “The Office”, which I think I saw part of one episode of, and disliked. It’s not like the days when there were a couple of TV channels, no cable or Internet, and everyone watched the same shows.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Exactly. I’d A) have no idea what she was trying to explain and B) have a very poor opinion of her social judgement if she assumes everyone will get the same pop culture references.

      2. Washi*

        I agree with this. As an interviewer, I wouldn’t necessarily judge the reference negatively as much as it just wouldn’t be helpful to me at all in evaluating skills. I couldn’t tell from the letter though – is the OP trotting out 2-3 in one interview? She seemed to have a lot of examples and using multiple TV references in one interview is something I might judge negatively (comes across a little immature/naïve) even if I got them!

        1. Dragoning*

          Yes, I feel I would come away from the conversation with an overwhelming sense of “Wow, she really likes TV…” more than her skills.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            I might be thinking “Am I going to have to hear that character’s catchphrase all the time? And can I live with that?”

            1. anon needs a new name*

              I used to work with someone who brought up Seinfeld references ALL THE TIME, and it was super annoying. Even more annoying when I told him repeatedly that I had only seen a few episodes and hated it, and didn’t really want him to explain the show’s jokes to me.

              He was a good coworker otherwise, but I honestly started to avoid talking to him because I couldn’t standing hearing that many references to the show.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          This is a good point–at that point I’m be thinking everything they learned about business norms came from watching sit coms.

      3. Smithy*

        In a way, I think this ultimately falls into the traditional piece of writing advice “show don’t tell”. Take away the pop culture reference and use another cliche – like “I’m you’re basic work horse”. It doesn’t really give examples of how that applies to your specific work style.

        That being said, I do think that it’s not completely inappropriate if there’s a moment where some levity might work. Such as if you arrive a bit early, then mentioned on the walk to the interview room “I can be a real Monica Geller when it comes to showing up on time” (is that even a Monica trait???) – I don’t think that’s inappropriate and can show some character during small talk portions of the interview.

        I would just be very judicious and if you are going to use one. Particularly with how niche so much of pop culture has become.

      4. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        I think this can also be… Unintentionally ageist? Not that it would necessarily come across that way, but I think the OP is trying to use this cultural shorthand to build bridges between people, and different ages have different cultural reference points (though obviously nothing is universal). I’m in a PhD program and can tell you that 95% of my office (ages 22-30) would understand the references, and probably get exactly what the OP wanted from them- watched Friends too young to catch any sexism/racism/homophobia; watched P&R enough to fall in love with the good bits of Leslie Knope; understood what “working for an Angela” would mean. I’m also about 95% certain that our advisors (40+) would not- either they wouldn’t understand it and OP would have put up a wall instead of built a bridge, or they’d understand it in a way she didn’t intend as others have said and she’d have set the bridge on fire.

        1. Jennifer*

          I’m 40 and would get it. The Office started airing in the early 2000’s when I was still in my 20’s. Now The Office and P&R are on Netflix for everyone to stream. I just think the point is that everyone has different tastes and you can’t assume in an interview that everyone will pick up on your jokes. I would only drop a reference if the interviewer brought up one of these shows.

          1. CandyCorn*

            Seriously?? Not everyone over 40 is oblivious to pop culture. I’m 46 and would know exactly what all of that means, because I pay attention to the world around me. Maybe your advisors are just really boring. I doubt that my 18 year old niece would get the P&R reference – the others I think she’s watched on Netflix.

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                Wow…. That’s taking what I said off a cliff. I don’t think it’s particularly odd to say that people from different generations have different cultural milestones, and that TV is one of those milestones. I don’t know what’s up with the high school kids these days, and I really don’t care! Obviously some people from every generation are outliers in that they keep up with other milestones, I’m just pretty certain the ones in my near vicinity are not those outliers.

                1. Jennifer*

                  What I’m saying is someone that is 40 and likes The Office is not an outlier. Many of the characters on the show are in their forties. It started airing in the early 2000’s. I think your age ranges were a bit off. I thought that was a bit odd.

              2. BettyBear*

                My parents are both over 65 and their favorite show is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And they were the ones that turned me onto Pose.

                1. Kat in VA*

                  This is the same where my kids would say something like, “Mom do you know anything about idubs / Filthy Frank / dabbing / Tide Pods / *whatever was happening at the moment*?” and always affect to be surprised when yes, your old-as-dirt mom stays up to date on most things!

              3. Been There, Done That*

                Hear, hear. Anyway, pop culture ended with Star Trek. I’ve seen more reruns of that that I Love Lucy. :)

                I probably wouldn’t get a lot of the references since digital broadcasting. I never found an antenna that works well, and I’m too cheap to buy cable or a streaming service.

            1. VelociraptorAttack*

              I have to say it amuses me that those 22-30 would get these but those 40+ wouldn’t particularly when as a 29 year old, Friends premiered when I was 5. I’m fairly certain a 40+ year old who was maybe 16 when it premiered is definitely going to understand that reference much better. Not to mention both The Office and Parks & Rec premiered 10-15 years ago when those 40 and up were GASP, potentially in their 20s!!

              I can’t wait to turn 40 and be considered a dinosaur.

              1. Jennifer*

                Join us! We qualify for the senior citizen’s discount, only eat prunes, and watch Masterpiece Theater and yell at the TV.

              2. Been There, Done That*

                The dinosaurs died off and left us their fossils.

                The TV shows ended, but live on in DVD, Hulu, YouTube…

                And remember, Vel A, according to Holly Golightly, it’s tacky to wear diamonds before you’re 40, so you’ll be the glitziest Apatosaurus on the block!

    5. CJ Record*

      Oddly, I knew who Knope was (thanks, tumblr osmosis – I’ve never seen a P&R ep), but I couldn’t even have told you what show Geller was from. That is to say, Alison is fully correct that these referents may not mean anything.

    6. Jen*

      I have seen Friends but not all of it, but the precise meaning of that reference woupd have gone over my head. I love Parks and Rec but Leslie Knope can be boundary stomping and inappropriate in some episodes. References come with consequences.

    7. Reliquary*

      I’m in my fifties. I only understood one of the references (Monica Geller), and I really dislike that show and that character. The OP should definitely refrain from comparing herself to TV characters. Doing so risks making her look like she has not put any thought into ways to communicate well with folks who do not share her own cultural references.

    8. FTW*

      I would also be cautious about using then because your interviewer might view them through a much different lens than you do. If someone told me they were Monica Geller neat, I might see it as a red flag, because I perceive that she was too extreme (well, also because I with in an industry where neatness would be weird to bring up in a job interview).

    9. anon needs a new name*

      Honestly, I read #2 and my first reaction was that I’d really hesitate to hire anyone who compared themselves to Monica or thought Leslie was a role model. They’re entertaining characters to watch on TV, but I would not want to work with them or anyone who modeled themselves off those characters. I’d consider it a minor red flag.

      TV characters and workplaces are so over exaggerated that I’d be concerned that you don’t actually understand workplace norms if you were comparing your work experience/situations to a fictional situation/person.

      1. Jasnah*

        This is the main reason I think it should be avoided. If you say “Leslie Knope is my role model” you’re using cultural shorthand the other person may not have. Not just because they don’t know who it is, but because it might not be shorthand for the same thing. You might mean “someone really passionate about her job, a feminist, who does what it takes to get things done” and I might hear “someone who crosses workplace boundaries, can’t take no for an answer or act with tact and subtlety, who’s going to cost us a lot in overtime hours.” Better to just describe the qualities themselves!

        1. Recovering Journalist...*

          I came on here to pretty much say the same thing. I absolutely loathe the Leslie Knope character and would really hesitate to hire someone who considers her a role model.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Me, at my next interview: “I have the talent, the work ethic, and the drive for excellence of Walter White!”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          One of my favorite AAM examples was the interviewee who happily claimed to model himself on Frank Underwood. “Okay, you get that murdering our low-ranking federal agency boss won’t make you in line for the presidency, right?”

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I had to look him up and gasped. I have not watched the show, but an ex did when we were together, so I have an idea.

    10. SublightMonster*

      Having lived outside the US since 1995, I only recognized Friends, and even then my only memory of Monica was Hugh Laurie calling her a horrible person (which I then realized I was confusing with Rachel).

      So no, I’d avoid the pop culture references.

      1. Connie Meier*

        I’ve lived in the US my whole life, and still only got the Monica reference. And in an interview setting, I don’t know if I would have recognized that one since their last names dont jump onto my memory.

    11. KP*

      I think almost as much as anything, it’s that the references are so out of context that it’s surprising how unrecognizable they are. See if this helps illustrate: I strive to be as accurate in my work as Elliot Alderson, as perceptive as Maeve Millay, and I share Harvey Specter’s preference for settling matters out of court rather than through litigation if at all possible.

      1. Asenath*

        Well, I didn’t get a single one of those references. I suspect I watch a very different subset of the shows that are out there than you do!

        1. KP*

          It’s Mr. Robot, Westworld, and Suits (the show Meghan Markle was on before she married Prince Harry). All are huge pop culutural phenoms of the last couple years in their own way. (I didn’t recognize any of the OP’s references so far out of context, with full first and last names of the characters, and without mention of the show’s name.)

          1. anon needs a new name*

            Pop culture phenoms are so subjective or based on your crowd tbh. I don’t know anyone besides myself who watches Mr. Robot or Westworld and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has even watched Suits before Meghan Markle married Prince Harry (I certainly had never heard of it before their engagement).

            There’s so much media out there that I think people tend to assume everyone has heard of their fav popular shows. Every year there’s always a handful of supposedly “popular” shows nominated for Emmys or Golden Globes that I have never heard of before.

            1. C Baker*

              Suits is a show with an absurdly unrealistic premise and a lot of attractive lawyers who spend an inordinate amount of screen time confronting one another in the office bathrooms. (At least once an episode. You start to wonder if they camp out there so they can stage dramatic confrontations with their boss while the lowly law clerk sits in a stall and waits for it to end.)

              I love it unconditionally.

          2. Asenath*

            I recognize the names of the shows, but I’ve never seen a single episode of any of them, and so have no knowledge of any of the characters. I think that culture is very fragmented these days, especially compared to the pre-internet, pre-cable, and pre-streaming video past, and however huge a show is among a certain group – even a large one – within a culture, there are going to be millions of people out there who haven’t seen it, even if they do watch TV or some streaming media provider’s offerings daily.

            I do know who Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are, although I can’t say I follow their lives and activities.

          3. LJay*

            Yeah. Honestly, I did recognize all the references in the OP’s post (though I wouldn’t be thrilled about hiring someone who modeled themselves after Monica or Leslie.)

            But, I am a huge Westworld fan and still didn’t catch the Maeve reference in yours because the context is just not what I’m expecting. And I had the vague idea that I’d heard of Harvey Specter somewhere, but not where. And in an interview that would distract me because I would be trying to think of who Harvey Specter was and not focusing on what else the interviewee was saying.

    12. pleaset*

      I don’t know the pop culture references except that I’m aware of the existence of the show The Office as a comedy.

      I’d find that kind of weird – why assume people know this sort of stuff. Unless the job is related to pop culture or the content/meaning of those things.

      Also, this: “multiple TV references in particular will likely make you look shallow to many interviewers.”

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Years ago a near-retirement neighbor of mine suggested I might like The Office after I told her some stories about my job and coworkers. I watched once and it was too weird. It *was* like my job…so I got it live every day.

    13. Parenthetically*

      Plus people’s antipathy toward some pop-culture things can be so strong. I hate Friends. I know plenty of people who despise Michael Schur comedies. For something that could easily be explained using other terms, there’s no use pulling people out of interview mode and into “stuff I love/hate” mode.

    14. Mockingjay*

      I spent nearly a decade living overseas and missed American cultural references during that time – music, TV, movies, politics.

      If I interviewed OP2, I wouldn’t be able to frame her comparisons in a useful way to evaluate her skills and working style. The TV references wouldn’t put her immediately out of the running (other people might use sports metaphors about themselves, for instance). But the applicant who speaks directly about their work practices will create a better impression, even if OP2’s experience and skills are similar.

    15. Lia*

      The names sailed right over my head, and I am a pretty well-read (except for entertainment news, I guess) person. I just do not watch TV and haven’t for 25 years — and I’m a Gen X’er, not elderly. I see a movie maybe every 3 years. They just aren’t how I like to be entertained. I read 3-4 books a week on average, though!

      I also don’t follow any sports at all and couldn’t name or recognize any of the players on the local NFL team.

      Obscure bands? Video game references? Sly political digs? THOSE I’ll get in a heartbeat, but NONE of these examples — mine and the LW’s –belong in an interview. Instead of using a pop culture reference, say “I’m very neat (provide example)”. Instead of a sports reference, give a specific job-related example.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Obscure bands is TV shows all over again. I bet Lia’s obscure bands are not the same as my obscure bands!

        1. Jaz*

          It is a pretty helpful demonstration of just how charged cultural references/discussions can get, though. Sort of an object lesson in why bringing up your own media diet in an interview might not be a great idea.

    16. Wulfgar*

      I have never watched a single episode of friends. What is the appeal? On the other hand, I love Leslie Knope. I would hire someone who could quote her or any of the Parks and Rec characters. Although tv characters, they seem like people that I would love to work with.

      1. Madame Defarge*

        I can find out a lot about a person if they know the answer to the question “what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” If they don’t get the reference, we may not be compatible. However, I’ve only asked this question *after* I’ve already gotten the job. ;-)

    17. One legged stray cat*

      I didn’t happen to recogonize any of the references (millennial here. They just happened to be shows I just never watched or got into past a couple episodes), but I don’t think it is inherently wrong to add pop culture references. You just want to limit it to one, maybe two references, give plenty of context in what you are saying that people who don’t know the reference will get your meaning, and make sure this is an interview that you are wanting to seem laid back and more chit chatty. (For example a social media expert, a job working with kids or teens, customer service or sales in some cases, a job where you know they prefer a friendly, relaxed environment over a formal, down to business one).

    18. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      I actually once compared myself to Leslie Knope in an interview. It was a bit unintentional, and I was kind of embarrassed by it immediately and tried explain more to give it context. (I’m not the kind of person who usually references pop culture this way.) It was an interview with a group of people who were all part of the team I’d be joining. About half of them knew who I was talking about, and “got” the point I was trying to make and laughed a little, but the hiring manager did not get the reference at all. I would definitely avoid in the future, even though it was fine for me. (I got the job, and loved it.)

    19. Anne (with an "e")*

      During the interview for my current job, the person who was interviewing me referenced Spinal Tap. He said that my position was like hiring for the drummer. Well, I had heard of Spinal Tap,of course; but, I had never seen it. However, from context clues, I figured out that people kept leaving the job that I was interviewing for. He was getting at the idea that the company was looking for someone to stay longer than a year or two. Since he was the one to bring up an obscure pop reference, I replied, “Are you telling me that Voldemort has cursed XYZ position and you are afraid that I might not make it more than one year?” He laughed…. That was almost five years ago.

  3. MK*

    OP1, have you actually checked the overtime laws in your country? “Not in the US” in many cases means the law is even stricter about labor rights.

    1. MK*

      Also, in case all this martyrdom is the result of pressure from someone above (which I don’t think Alison addressed), your must realise that keeping costs close to zero is not realistic. If people could run companies with minimal expenses, there would be a lot more company owners. The whole point of capitalism is that owners get returns because they are the ones who invested money into the business.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Martyrdom! That is the exact right word for what is going on here! OP – you need to realize that this is not a belief or a movement or a war, it is a company and it is not worth sacrificing yourself over, when most likely no one in upper management is even noticing, and the people who are (your coworkers) are just getting annoyed. You are alienating all of your peers with this behavior which will hurt you and your company in the long run. There is probably SO much eye rolling going on behind your back. Eventually someone is going to complain that you are pressuring them like this.

        1. valentine*

          OP1, if you reduce your compensation so you can’t preserve your health, even if the business survives, they’ll have to replace you. You are not part of a collective or a startup making short-term sacrifice to get up and running (and I don’t think risking injury and going hungry should be options for those, either). One of my takeaways from this site is that a business that can’t afford to pay employees properly can’t afford to be in business.

          You are enmeshed with the big boss or the anthropomorphized company and reacting like a child whose caregivers drilled into them that they’re so poor, they are entitled to nothing and shouldn’t ask for anything. You’re breaking your piggy bank because your parents need a car and resenting your siblings for using their wages to buy stuff for themselves. Are you sure the email was meant for you, versus it being easier to use the all-staff option? Perhaps it was like the HR email in a recent letter, that was possibly corporate-sponsored “don’t eat too much during the holidays” nonsense. It can be jarring to learn that you’re the only one playing by the rules because you made them up. I hope you’ll find it liberating, however, to drop those rules. Submit all the OT and reimbursement claims you’re due. Have some pizza. See how the shop doesn’t close its doors. Ride out the guilt and see what lies beyond.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            It can be jarring to learn that you’re the only one playing by the rules because you made them up.

            I love this.

            1. Oxford Comma*


              OP: Unless this is a family business and you’re a family member or you’re invested in this business, you are going so far above and beyond what is expected of an employee that it’s horrifying.

              This part jumped out at me: “I’ve now asked to reduce my retirement contributions (matched by the company) which will save them thousands a year. I’ve indicated to HR that I want to opt out of the healthcare insurance at the next renewal date.”

              No. Full stop. If you want to do that, that’s your choice, albeit one which sounds so self-punitive to me that I can’t understand where you’re coming from, but you cannot expect your co-workers to do the same. An employee’s time and contributions are worth money. I work to live. I do not live to work. If my employer requires me to travel, you can be darn sure I am submitting travel expenses. If my employer matches my retirement contributions, I am taking every single penny. I work for those benefits. I am not obligated to “help” my employer by suffering which is what you are doing.

            2. Micklak*

              Yeah this felt like the OP drank the koolaid but no one else did. Cutting costs means trying to use less kleenex, not forgoing getting paid for overtime and expenses.

              1. designbot*

                I don’t even think OP drank the koolaid… I think they served koolaid but she drank something else. There is no way that this is what the person who sent that email meant. OP states that she’s not in a position to cut “contracts, purchases, software licensing, travel, etc.”… which to her seems to mean she has to cut other things, but I think to most people would mean she’s not who this was aimed at. This was a company-wide email, and it’s going to be more applicable to some than others. Accept that you’re one of the folks it applies less to.

                1. LovecraftInDC*

                  Exactly. It’s okay, after an honest assessment, to say ‘this does not apply to me.’ I think everybody’s employer is always saying ‘hey please cut costs.’ But if doing that is your default mode; minimizing travel, not using company money for big parties, not wasting supplies, etc, then you’re probably in the clear.

                  Because ultimately, even if you make these sacrifices, and you cut what the company spends on you by say 10% between healthcare and 401k matching, that contribution is nothing next to the guy in IT purchasing who is going to use the memo as a reason to implement an open source solution that saves $500k in annual licensing costs.

                  It’s all about context, and companies will do weird things sometimes. I remember our company stopped providing plastic utensils in the breakroom to ‘save money’. This was quickly reversed when a manager pointed out that all of the managers had just gone on an unnecessary trip to a meeting that had probably cost $10k in total.

                  Companies will find ways to save. Please don’t sacrifice your own income to help them do that.

          2. Sara without an H*

            It can be jarring to learn that you’re the only one playing by the rules because you made them up.

            I love this! May I borrow it? I can think of several people I know who need to hear it.

          3. Michaela Westen*

            If the shop does close its doors down the road, it’s not your fault and nothing you can do will prevent it. These things happen for much bigger reasons than the actions of one employee.

            1. Cost-cutting op1*

              I don’t know the details of all their finances of course (it’s a big-ish company, with ‘Business Units’) but my assumption is that we need to cut costs because the alternative down the line is that the business unit gets deemed “not financially viable” and shut down/outsourced/laid off in some other way. I feel like we all should be contributing as much as we can to make sure that doesn’t happen, as the alternative may be to have no job at all.

              1. whingedrinking*

                While I appreciate that losing your job isn’t fun, this isn’t a case of “no job at all” – it’s a case of “find somewhere else to work”. Which is what many of your coworkers are likely to do if it becomes expected for them not to receive overtime, contribute to their retirement plans, make use of their health insurance or otherwise receive compensation for their labour, much less pay the company’s expenses for them (which is what not being reimbursed for travel, etc. is).

              2. Scarlet2*

                Then you should start looking for another job, not shoot yourself in the foot. Asking them to stop contributing to your retirement and health insurance will definitely hurt *you*, but it probably won’t make a difference in the company’s survival.

              3. Inca*

                I have seen this happen a few times and also – those companies folded or outsourced a bit later on anyway. Which left the employers far worse off because the compensation they got was based at the (cut) rate and then cut again.

                I think you cannot viably save a business by those means. Worse: it will also mean that by working below a decent price, you’ll not just weaken your position but also those of your coworkers and other workers in the industry. It’s an unsustainable path. Cooperating is fine, cutting down on wastefulness is fine, but paying wages, overtime and expenses are part of the obligations of a business, and not paying them is creating an unfair and unsustainable situation for many people and businesses involved.

              4. Observer*

                What’s the point of keeping a job that can’t pay you?

                Any unit that REALLY needs to get costs close to zero is not viable, no matter what you do (unless you actually expect people to start working for free!)

                You are effectively asking people to take a voluntary pay cut in order to keep their jobs. Why would people do that? And, while I can see why SOME people might find that to be a worthwhile trade-off, it is TOTALLY not something that is reasonable to ask, much less EXPECT. No one has any sort of obligation to take a pay cut. Trying to shame people into doing that is just utterly inappropriate, to say the least.

                Also, if you are really trying to keep the unit financially viable (because it does need to cut costs, just not to “near zero”), do stuff that actually makes some sense. And stop trying to tell the bosses that have decided that costs need to be cut that they are paying for non-legitimate expenses.

          4. emmelemm*

            a business that can’t afford to pay employees properly can’t afford to be in business

            Amen to that.

          5. Restructure Hellion*

            The image of the child breaking their piggy bank to help the adults cut deep here.

            OP, is one of those benefits an EAP? Use it. This kind of self-sacrificing reaction is not normal or healthy.

      2. Human Sloth*

        Yes. This! I found the martyrdom so over the top I couldn’t even finish the letter. It is respectable to like your job enough to want to sacrifice, but come on. Kudos to Allison for the level headed advice, because I don’t think I could have answered it with out a minimal amount of snark.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            No. I’ve worked with this exact person or their clone. It’s a real attitude I’ve encountered before, in more than one industry.

            1. Nessun*

              I’ve encountered this before too. I’ve found that it comes from a place of good intention, but it really takes things too far. If the company believes it’s legit to pay for pizza when people work late, they’ve already validated that expense against their cost-saving preferences! The company needs to lead by example, and an individual who thinks that they need to shoulder the burden needs to look first to the example the company is setting, and the priorities they’ve shown, then act accordingly.

              1. Safetykats*

                This. Believe me, when the company can no longer afford to match 401k, they will change their policy to quit doing that. Until then, that’s part of your compensation, and you should take it.

                FYI, when they decide they can’t afford basic benefits any longer, you should already have a new job.

              2. Emily K*

                Exactly, this is such a good point – if the company expected people to be forgoing pizza or transit fare, they would be addressing it with the people submitting those expense reports and telling them, “No,” or “This is the last time we reimburse this.” No need for you to stew about something the company is demonstrably going along with.

          2. Kathleen_A*

            It might be fake, but it doesn’t matter because yes, there absolutely are real people out there who are just like this, so the issue is a real one that needs to be addressed.

            1. Been There, Done That*

              This was an eye-opener for me. I didn’t know there were people with this mindset at work (I don’t mean that critically, I agree it’s a real issue to be addressed.)

              I’ve encountered an attitude of “we only buy one pen at a time because you can only write with one pen at a time” instead of buying a box because more than one person uses pens or because eventually the ink will run out and you’ll need to replace it without waiting for the office supplies delivery. Because, on the flip side, there’s the person who orders a 12-pack of notepads, starts one, loses it somewhere in the office, starts another one, and so on till they can’t find any and reorder. Meanwhile, 12 good half-full notepads are around here somewhere…

          3. ButchCassidy*

            I read /r/personalfinance regularly and I see this kind of attitude all the time. There’s the folks who make reasonable choices to make some extra money or pay off their debt faster, and there’s the folks who sacrifice all that’s lovely in their lives in order to maximize financial gain.

            1. vitaminless*

              This is part of why I stopped reading PF. The other reason being the many posts titled something like “I’m 22 with no debt making 120k a year in my first job, how do I budget my life?”.

              But to chime in with everyone else – yes, there are so many people with the attitude of OP1. Sometimes it comes from a misguided idea of being “loyal” to the company, or being seen as essential. But declining health insurance or 401k matching will do none of those things.

              1. Helena*

                “I’m 22 with no debt making 120k a year in my first job, how do I budget my life”

                My assumption is that those ones are lies made up by either actual children, or just complete fantasists. They usually go way too far with the details and make it clear they don’t understand how actual adulting works (eg $200000 savings out of $250000 income, because they forgot about tax. Or some bizarre detail about housing that demonstrates that they have never actually rented a home).

                My favourite was an alleged 18yr old artist who claimed to have made $150000 post-tax profit by selling hand-made quilts in the past year (that would be thousands of very labour-intensive quilts, or maybe one Tracey Emin).

          4. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            Sadly, not fake. Over the years a friend declined raises and even asked that her pay be reduced because she thought she didn’t deserve and that she didn’t work hard enough for it. Now she is looking at retirement with considerably less money that she needs for a secure retirement. LW should not sacrifice her health and financial well-being in a misguided attempt to be a good employee.

          5. Gazebo Slayer*

            I have definite martyr tendencies myself, due to a desire to make up for my atrocious work history, having been a crappy employee at some times in the past, knowing I’m a slow worker, and knowing I’m just generally a hot mess in all aspects of my life. I’ve voluntarily worked off the clock in nonexempt positions (and sometimes not so voluntarily) and offered to pay for my mistakes and for small company expenses with my own money. I charge rock-bottom rates and sometimes underbill for hours worked as a freelancer. So I 100% believe this is real.

            The only difference is that I don’t expect other people to do the same. That’s unkind.

            1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

              Are… are you me? Down to the underbilling and the KoDT reference?

              I came here to say that a while back, I learned that taking every criticism one hears to as if it is directed at you, whether or not it actually is, can be harmful to one’s sense of self, especially in these jagged times — even if it feels like, “I want every criticism to be a chance to be and do better.”

              I hope I am not violating the comments policy by saying it may be time for OP to speak to a therapist about how to be more gentle to themselves.

              1. Been There, Done That*

                I agree with you and deleted another comment I started because I thought I sounded mean. But it her employer is so near the brink that her declining pizza or health insurance would keep them afloat, she needs to look for a more viable employer and maybe learn more about business finance. But she also needs to be kind to herself and realistic about her own needs any what people should expect from their employers in exchange for their work.

            2. Starbuck*

              “I charge rock-bottom rates and sometimes underbill for hours worked as a freelancer. ”

              Hey, please know that this doesn’t just affect you- you’re hurting other freelancers who will have pressure to lower their rates to compete with you. A single instance of this doesn’t seem like it will have an impact, but if too many people in a profession have this attitude it drags wages down for everyone. Don’t do it!

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        It also sounds like the pressure from the company is actually less than OP is thinking, even if they are sending out rather dramatic emails. If they really wanted you to make all those sacrifices… they wouldn’t buy you pizza! It seems likely to me that there are other teams that need to cut costs and as OP said, their team doesn’t have that many costs that can be cut. Don’t give your own money to the company, which is what you are doing by not turning in overtime and trying to give up healthcare???? That’s literally just paying your boss money out of your wallet which I am certain is not what they wanted (even if we’ve seen some weird stories around here before about bosses that do ask for that).

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I agree with this – if the company is continuing to voluntarily provide the perks that LW#2 is pressuring other people to cut, I feel that they have taking a pretty reasonable request to the extreme. Cutting expenses might mean taking a rideshare or public transit rather than a car service or getting pizza rather than a restaurant meal delivered, not walking miles laden with heavy equipment (and, to be 100% honest, I would question the judgment of someone who chose to do that – it’s markedly slower and creates unnecessary risk of injury or even damage to the equipment).

          I think it is worth LW#2 to have a conversation with their boss to get more guidance on the actual directive rather than martyring themselves in ways it doesn’t appear the company is asking for (and, frankly, if they were, it would be time to job search because that would be an unreasonable request).

          1. Zombeyonce*

            The public transportation part killed me. How many hours of labor was spent on walking carrying something heavy instead of saving maybe $5 on the bus or train? Or did OP do it outside of business hours and not claim that overtime, too?

            It doesn’t sound like the company expects anyone to kill themselves to save this money (hence the pizza they probably thought was worth it to reward people putting in extra time) and OP risks looking not only out of touch but completely ridiculous for behaving this way and expecting others to as well.

            1. Dinopigeon*

              Frankly if the company is buying meals for employees working overtime, the admonition to cut costs is probably just one of those routine “costs are bad” reminder emails, or one of those vague emails that is actually addressing a specific event the manager or company is too cowardly to address directly with the individual(s) responsible. In companies really in a cost squeeze, perks like unnecessary catering are among the first to go.

              1. Glitsy Gus*

                This was my thought. They were getting a few too many expense reports for town cars that are clearly a bus ride, or maybe taxi, appropriate trips and meal costs that were way too high for one person eating a normal dinner. There is no way the office is actually using all 100 pads of Post Its that are getting ordered every month, the number is probably more like 20 with the rest just growing legs. That’s the low hanging fruit they’re looking to trim, not OP’s retirement fund or health insurance.

                If they really couldn’t afford the pizza they wouldn’t authorize the charge. This kind of thing isn’t your responsibility. Just don’t steal office supplies and you’ve done your bit, OP.

                1. Sacred Ground*

                  The pizza bit is especially bizarre. It’s already been ordered, delivered, and paid for. What isn’t eaten gets thrown away. So how does not eating it save anything?

            2. Gymmie*

              My thought on all of this that these types of expenses are so low, that it doesn’t even matter. I mean, public transport? Pizza? Not breaking the bank here, and if they are – this company is not doing well.

              1. vitaminless*

                Yes, so many of these things would be way below the threshold of what the accountants look at! It’s totally unrealistic to believe that a couple bucks of transit would even be noticed.

                1. LovecraftInDC*

                  Definitely. My company is big on cutting costs, but they lay that out in the travel policies. Never once have I had a corporate expense person bat an eye at my Lyft to the airport or $15 dinner. One time I even chose a flight that was $100 more than another because it was on a plane I knew would be more comfortable for me. I asked and was told it was acceptable and that I could use that justification if I was asked. I wasn’t even asked.

                  Companies set policies and limits based on their ability to pay. If they can’t pay, they’d set different limits.

              2. Jess*

                Exactly – if it’s THAT level of expenses that would make a difference, it’s time to search for a new job anyway…

          2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            Considering mass transit might cost less than $10, it’s ridiculous to walk miles with heavy equipment. What about the time wasted lugging this stuff for miles?

            1. Cost-cutting op1*

              It was in my own time (start and end of the day — had to leave the house earlier and get back later — but I don’t have anything to leave or get back to so ultimately it’s just 2hrs less spent playing a game or similar…) no work hours were lost, I still worked the full day. More than the others actually as I did emails and stuff later.

              1. Carson*

                I think that’s the problem here … you should not be performing work activities on your own time – that just devalues your work as an employee, who should be paid for their efforts. Also, it seems like you want praise for working more than the others that day, but that’s just not how this should work. You are an adult, you do your job (presumably well), and are entitled to compensation for it. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t act like you’re a toddler trying to please a dismissive parent – it’s not healthy.

              2. Dove*

                The thing is, OP, if you’re commuting as part of a business trip? You’re *not* on your own time, you’re on the company’s time. Walking to and from the location isn’t an efficient use of that time, if you’re having to walk across a whole city to get from Point A to Point B. And even if you are on your own time, your time still has value – leaving the house hours earlier than normal doesn’t make you look like you’re trying extra hard to save the company money, it makes you look desperate.

                And carrying heavy equipment across the city, when you’re not clocked in, isn’t efficient either – it puts you at risk of physical injury, and means that the equipment is now at risk too; if you slip and fall on ice or wet pavement while carrying the equipment, the equipment is probably going to get banged up in the process. And if it gets broken or stolen, or if you’re injured? There’s going to be questions about why you were hand-carrying equipment *on foot* across the city, rather than using public transport, and why you were doing so when you shouldn’t have been working at all – and why you weren’t clocked in or filing overtime for the time spent doing it.

              3. Observer*

                By taking on this task to save the company money, you were effectively NOT on your own time, even though you were unpaid. Which means that all of the liability issues still exist. That’s a stupid risk over a few dollars (or whatever currency you use.)

        2. sunny-dee*

          Yeah, we’ve had similar innocuous emails go out, and it is almost 100% related to travel expense. And, tangentially, cutting back on conference attendance. Like … that’s it. Not asking people to drink half a cup of coffee to save on coffee expenses in the breakroom. That is just a bizarre overreaction.

          1. Black Bellamy*

            When you’re done with that report, can you extract the staples and bring them over to me? I can bend them back into a nice U shape and glue them back together with the glue I bought and we can re-use them!

          2. Dinopigeon*

            That said I absolutely know people like this LW. They’re generally so terrified of being unemployed (since companies in real financial trouble will eventually enact layoffs) or singled out as a bad employee that they spend all their time in an anxiety spiral over using too much printer paper or whatnot. It’s really sad and in my private thoughts I have a few stern words for whatever familial or employer figure taught them this fear, but it’s also incredibly difficult to break them out of it as a coworker. They need therapy.

            1. pope suburban*

              Yes. This. In my experience, as someone who graduated into the teeth of the recession, there is a surprising amount of sentiment out there that you ought to be endlessly grateful to have any job an employer deigns to give you, and that any pushback is somehow spoiled, entitled, or unrealistic. While I think, gladly, that this has eased up in recent years, it was very difficult to hear. I did spend a lot of my early working years (As a temp, no less!) treating myself terribly in the hopes that that would prove my mettle or get me hired on permanently. It didn’t, and I think now that I would have gotten the same positive reviews had I treated myself like a person. It is absolutely a manifestation of anxiety or self-loathing or dealing with some toxic authority figure in the past. I heartily agree that this person needs therapy; every human being deserves to think of themself as having/deserving dignity.

            2. MsSolo*

              The sad thing is it also means they end up putting themselves on the chopping block, because their obsession over printer paper (a) makes them unpopular with other workers including those who make the final calls and (b) makes them a much less efficient worker because they’re exhausting themselves focusing on unimportant things.

            3. Been There, Done That*

              Early in my work life I made a mistake that actually did cost a lot of *expensive* specialty paper. I couldn’t figure out why my stuff wasn’t coming out right–but my boss did and Spoke To Me about my mistake and how much all that paper cost. I never made that mistake again. I also didn’t get fired, the company didn’t go under, my boss and I had a good working relationship.

          3. Emily K*

            Please limit your bathroom breaks to 2 per day and if it’s yellow, let it mellow. Every flush costs 25 cents!

        3. HB*

          Also what the OP told us was so vague – what sort of costs do they need to cut? Office supplies? Salaries? Travel expenses? You can’t just tell your employees “stop spending so much” without some guidance. At work I run all of our departmental events and when I submitted my budget for the year I was asked to cut everything by about 10%. So I had some specifics in mind and went through and made adjustments (mostly to food costs). Without amounts or goals or specific line items it’s ridiculous for a company to just put that out there.

          1. Kella*

            I noticed the vagueness too and I wonder if that’s part of why OP1 responded the way they did. With no clear guidance on what they were supposed to cut, OP1 just filled in the blanks.

            I worked for a small family owned business once that was constantly losing money (all because of the owner mismanaging everything) and one day the owner sat us all down and showed us how much money we were losing each month. We asked, so, are you asking us to brain storm ways to cut costs? Or ways to make more money? He said, “no, I just wanted to show you this so that you’d know.” If I had been a little less savvy and a little more vulnerable, I can imagine responding similarly to the way OP1 did to that conversation.

          2. Cost-cutting op1*

            What I described was the extent of the “detail” we received i.e….there was no detail about whether it was office supplies or whatever.

            1. Helena*

              I can guarantee they didn’t mean your pension or healthcare. Companies that want to cut those, just do it (usually as a last ditch thing before they collapse, because companies that are so financially fucked that they can’t make payroll don’t last long). They more likely meant “turn the lights off when you leave at night, and stop taking boxes of printer paper home with you”.

              OP, if you genuinely believe that the company is in such dire straits that the staff all need to take a pay cut to keep them afloat, you need to start job-hunting stat.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              Then you need to clarify that. I am absolutely certain that if you respond to that email asking for examples of things that they would like to be cut back, bus fare will not be on the list. If this is a real letter I’m honestly baffled as to why you have interpreted that vague directive in this way.

        4. bonkerballs*

          This is what I was coming to say. My office right now is in a bit of cost saving mode, so expenses are being made a little more deliberately, certain non essential things are being deferred, and everyone is aware of these things and asked to do our part. But our executives would be horrified if they found out someone was pulling what OP is pulling. I would not at all be surprised if OPs bosses have no idea she’s doing these kinds of things as her cost saving measures and would certainly never ask or expect them.

      4. Yvette*

        And honestly, if those changes are a result from above, they truly want/expect/need you to do these things, then this either a ship that is sinking fast or a totally dysfunctional environment. In either case then you need to ask yourself “Do I really want to stay?”

        1. Artemesia*

          This. Shooting yourself in both feet will not help the company anyway — if it requires you giving up your retirement and health insurance to survive, it isn’t surviving, but you can be sure on the way down no one in the C-Suite is giving up their health insurance or retirement. This self immolating behavior is so self destructive that the OP should seriously consider some therapy to explore why they would voluntarily damage their own future on the basis of a memo not to waste so many paperclips or make unnecessary phone calls etc.

        2. AMT*

          There was an AskReddit thread a while ago about signs that a company is tanking. Most of the top answers had to do with rapid cost-cutting. Either OP radically misinterpreted the company’s request (e.g. it’s something more like, “You guys are spending too much on X when we need you to focus on Y” or “Travel reimbursements are getting out of hand, please don’t order three glasses of wine with dinner”) or the company is going down in a matter of months and refusing overtime payment isn’t going to save it.

        3. Dr. Pepper*

          This exactly. You are essentially offering to work for free, at the expense of your own physical and financial health. If they really DO mean “we are so broke we’d like you to work for free”, then, well, they’re screwed and there’s nothing you can do about it. If they mean more like, “Please buy the cheapest printer paper and no more fancy pens or fun colored binder clips,” what you’re doing is so above and beyond it boarders on ludicrous.

          You do not own this company. You do not have a stake in this company. If you kill yourself trying to save this company, they will either go under anyway or simply replace you. You profit nothing from your sacrifices.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            If OP 1 injures herself lugging heavy equipment around, the worker’s comp will wipe out the savings for not taking public transportation or a cab.

            The savings by not having a slice of the company paid for pizza when the OP is working overtime is minimal, if not imaginary. Likewise, not putting in for legitimate business expenses or OT is giving the company a false idea of the costs of the project OP is working on.

            Stop trying to save the company from itself.

          2. Nessun*

            You are essentially offering to work for free, at the expense of your own physical and financial health.

            100% agree!!

        4. RoadsLady*

          Part of our basic job agreement is I do work, they give me money and benefits.

          Don’t break this simple system.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        I got a strong sense of over-identifying with her job as her identity. Like family martyrs view The Good Relative as their only identity, and how many sacrifices they can make in that role as a measure of their value.

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          Yes. I have this tendency myself and sometimes don’t notice when I’m hurting myself in the name of my Cause. Whatever that particular Cause might be. Sometimes I need outside people to tell me what I’m doing has gone beyond helpful into “WTF is wrong with you?” territory. The bottom line is nobody is going to take care of you except for yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody else is going to do it and WHEN you burn out in exhaustion, everybody is going to move on without you. It sucks and it’s callous, but that’s what happens. I’m not trying to be cruel, but please please please, OP, take care of yourself. You matter too.

      6. Anon for Now*

        I would wonder if the company even asked for these types of sacrifices or if they will even notice or acknowledge them. At least in most places I’ve worked if I cut down my retirement contributions or eliminated my health insurance my employer would assume I’m doing that for my own benefit (I either need the money in my paycheck or I have better health insurance available elsewhere). And things like not submitting expenses my boss wouldn’t generally notice.

        So it seems to me as if a bunch of completely unnecessary sacrifices are being made that won’t be noticed or appreciated. Not to mention if a company needs to cut costs in retirement or health insurance they will do so by picking a new plan, reducing the match, etc. They won’t ask their staff to drop those things.

        1. Hekko*

          The LW says that they are not really in position to cut back on expenses:

          “I’m in an internal role that doesn’t deal with contracts, purchases, software licensing, travel, etc. so there’s only a limited amount I can contribute to that cost cutting.”

          So it’s entirely possible the Big Boss noticed a pattern of an actual overspending like wasting resources or buying too expensive and the excercise is supposed to address that. LW can’t really contribute to the solution because they are not a part of the problem in the first place, and may be even unaware of anything wrong.

          1. LovecraftInDC*

            For sure. The letter wasn’t to them, the letter was to the guy in IT who bought three extra seat licenses at $10k a pop because he didn’t want to worry about somebody occasionally having to wait to log into the system.

      7. Anna*

        I’m not sure it IS pressure from above, though. I think it’s probably more similar to a boss saying, “Hey, let’s keep an eye on our office supply orders because we need to cut some costs” and the OP taking it to mean the company is on the brink of bankruptcy and if they want to keep their job, they need to give up retirement and healthcare (WTAF).

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          In 20 years at several BIGCO’s, I received messages about saving money almost every year. They are a normal part of business for most large companies. They almost always mean “be reasonable” (e.g., no 4-star restaurants when travelling, stop sending everyone to conferences, etc.) rather than “make personal sacrifices”.

      8. TootsNYC*

        also, if they say “close to zero,” and then THEY ORDER PIZZA!, they obviously don’t mean your own savings, your salary, public transport for work (which is WAY cheaper than taxis or truck delivery).

        They mean, “don’t order new pens; use the ones we’ve got.”

        (we just moved floors in our building, and the number of pens and office supplies that people had lingering in their desks…*I* have more pens than I will actually use at this job, ever. And don’t start me on binder clips….)

        1. Kwazy Kupcake*

          Plus, refusing to eat the pizza that’s already there!! The company can’t send back the leftovers for a full refund.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      I think when it comes to paying for time worked the US is very strict and employees can not wave their right to payment even if they wanted to. By contrast in the UK someone could decide not to claim for some over time they worked, that would be fine unless that would lead to a violation of minimum wage laws.

      1. MK*

        And in other European countries, like mine, it’s actually a (minor) criminal offense to not pay someone overtime. It varies a lot, and the OP shouldn’t just assume her not forgoing overtime is ok, unless she specifically knows otherwise.

        1. MK*

          Also, I doubt there are many jurisdictions where it’s totally fine to just not claim overtime; I have heard the UK does partially allow it but there are restrictions and, I think, it is necessary to have a written agreement.

          1. TL -*

            In NZ, my understanding is it doesn’t have to be paid unless previously agreed upon in the contract (but I think employees can also refuse overtime with no repercussions unless it’s specified in contract).

          2. only acting normal*

            In the UK you can choose to waive the Working Time Directive (48hr week limit on hours worked), but that’s not about overtime *pay*.
            Not all jobs pay overtime (some salaried jobs for example: mine does, husband’s doesn’t), and in jobs that do pay overtime you typically need managers’ permission to work extra hours.

              1. SignalLost*

                Hold on to your boots – it’s legally authorized in the US too! It’s just that the threshold was set in the 70s and it’s never been updated so literally no one qualifies because it’s something like if you earn under $13,000 annually, work full time, and are salary, you’re overtime eligible

                1. MagicUnicorn*

                  …this is literally what salaried/non-exempt is. I think you have a misunderstanding of the difference between salaried/exempt and salaried/non-exempt. Overly simplistic description, but non-exempt qualifies for OT pay while exempt does not (that is what the “exempt” part signifies). AAM has previously covered the distinctions between which types of workers qualify for which category and clarified that employers cannot select on a whim, but it is absolutely incorrect that “literally no one qualifies” for overtime in a salaried system.

              2. only acting normal*

                This is the second salaried professional job I’ve had (in different industries too) that had set contracted hours then paid overtime, so it’s not unheard of.

              3. Clewgarnet*

                I did. I declined being promoted to the higher salary band, because I would have lost my paid overtime, and the increased salary didn’t compensate.

            1. 60HoursAWeek*

              I know I’m late, but – The UK has an upper limit on how many hours can be worked in a week, and it’s 48? Now I kinda wanna work in the UK.

          3. Mary*

            Authorised overtime in the UK should always be paid or given as Time Off In Lieu. But it does happen that people accrue TOIL and don’t take it.

            1. Bagpuss*

              Well -perhaps they should, but it is not a legal requirement in the UK.

              It depends on the terms of the employment contract. If you are salaried rather than being paid by the hour, then often you won’t have set contracted hours, and you are responsible for managing your own work and don’t have any right to over time at all. Every professional job I’ve ever had has been like that, for the ‘professional’ employees. Support staff normally have contracts which say that they will get either TOIL or pay for authorised overtime, but it is generally up to the employer which.

              If you are paid by the hour, then *normally* your contract will say you are entitled to TOIL or overtime pay, if the overtime was authorised.

              However, in a lot of cases the contract of employment may allow the employer to require you to do extra time over your normal times of work, and they don’t automatically have to pay overtime or give time in lieu, except where the extra time would mean that you are falling under minimum wage when your hours and income as a whole are looked at, in which case you would have to be paid enough to bring you up to minimum wage although this might mean that the ‘overtime’ was paid at a lower rate than your usual hourly rate.

              1. Mary*

                Doesn’t a contract have to set the number of hours, even if it’s notional rather than realistic? Doctors’ and academics contracts will still specify a 37.5 or 40-hour week, even if it’s widely recognised that the majority of people in those jobs will typically be doing more.

                1. media monkey*

                  my industry (where no one only works their 9-5 hours) has contracts that say “38 hours per week or time as necessary to complete assigned tasks” or something like that!

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I give this speech to all new employees – you’re NOT doing me a favor by not submitting your OT, you’re opening me up to a labor law violation inquiry.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and if there’s no law violation, they’re skewing the numbers you will use to argue for a bigger budget, or better scheduling of workflow to eliminate the expense.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yes, that’s huge, too. We bill time, and, while it’s primary purpose is revenue generation, we have some whiz-bang people in Finance that use it for planning, budgeting, scoping, and proposal building. It doesn’t help to pitch $200K for a project when it really cost $200K plus another $100K in unbilled costs.

      3. Greatness*

        But in the US, there is a category of workers that can never get overtime – exempt employees. A big, big chunk of people employed in the US have no way of getting overtime pay whatsoever.

        1. Jilly*

          Clarification – not entitled to overtime at time and a half. I am an exempt employee and may employer will pay me for the total number of hours worked (i.e. no time and a half, just actual daily rate divided by 8 times hours worked) because I bill to a level of effort contract and they want to make sure they bill the maximum number of hours to the client. I’ve worked as an exempt employee on other level of effort contracts at other companies where the policy was if you are exempt, you work the hours necessary to get the work done but only bill 8 per day. It just depends.

          1. Greatness*

            Companies can do that if that’s their policy but there’s no law requiring them to do so. So no legal protections whatsoever.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            That’s a pretty unusual arrangement. Everyone I know is either paid hourly and OT eligible or exempt and paid a flat salary and possibly a quarterly/annual budget.

            I also work in a billable industry, and I get paid the same whether I bill 2 hours on the day or 12.

    3. CanCan*

      100% on what Alison said.

      It seems that all you can do to cut expenses is do your best to ensure overtime is not required, – e.g. by prioritizing work appropriately. If overtime is indeed necessary, then submit your claim as required.

    4. Emily K*

      This was one of those letters where halfway through I started audibly saying, “Oh, noo! No, no!” in front of my computer as I was reading through.

      It wouldn’t be too much of an overstatement to say that I love the organization I work for. Maybe I don’t *love* the organization, but they compensate and treat me and the other staff well, I work with great people, and the org is doing great things. And we’re a nonprofit so I’m definitely cognizant of the need to keep expenses low. And I couldn’t imagine doing almost any of these things! Maybe I would try to suggest we BYO food to after-hours stuff instead of expensing dinner, but even then I would definitely eat the pizza if I was overruled on that suggestion. And there’s definitely no way I would start voluntarily working for free, declining benefits that are part of my compensation package, or walking 5 miles for any reason other than, “It was a nice day and I had some free time and thought it would be a pleasant break from being inside.”

      OP…no! The company does not need you to make any of those sacrifices. They need a sustainable business model and strong performance, which they may or may not have, but if they don’t, you can’t try to make up the difference by making personal sacrifices. Cut costs means the *business* should be cutting costs by doing things like using a less expensive vendor or mid-grade instead of premium option when there’s are two acceptable options; paying things up front to avoid installment fees where possible; booking travel far enough in advance, flying coach, and booking the least expensive flight that gets you to your destination the day you need to be there. The savings should not all come out of your own pocket.

    5. ManderGimlet*

      Right? This LW’s extreme methods for “saving” money may end up costing this company thousands in fines and legal fees. In general, these efforts display an embarrassingly naive view of business overhead and the general expenses of running a company. If they are so in the red that an individual’s 401K match is make/break, they would have laid off swaths of staff long ago and certainly would not be allowing any overtime, especially catered OT. It disturbs me that LW describes their role as “senior” and yet would make these expectations of themselves or others as though it is good, commendable even, professional practice. I hope they have no authority over the folks they were admonishing.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agreed! It’s not often you see a comment that answers two questions at once in one line of text!

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Oops, I did not scroll down to see yours before I posted mine. Coffee time.

  4. nnn*

    I’m kind of surprised that, even if #1 wanted to spare their employer the expense of transit fare, that they walked five miles with heavy equipment rather than just paying the fare out of pocket.

    Not that they should pay out of pocket – I can’t overemphasize that Alison is absolutely correct and “the employer needs to cut expenses” doesn’t mean “therefore the employees should bear the burden of those expenses”.

    It’s just really surprising to me that someone would go as far as reducing their retirement contributions and not signing up for health insurance but wouldn’t shell out for bus fare when carrying heavy equipment.

    1. Jen*

      LW1 has nailed themselves to a cross and seems to be judging coworkers for not joining her up there.

      Some of the stuff sounds insane and not very cost effective. Walking 5 miles? In my city the bus is less that $2 and less that $5 for a train (even a ride app wouldn’t be much) and the risk of you hurting yourself (or breaking the equipment costs a lot more. The self harm stuff (not taking OT, food, and contributions), sure that adds up, but makes your employer stingy and unpleasant and of adopted org wide would raise costs due to people quitting (hiring and training is unbelievably expensive). Not to mention the potential incredible costs of labor violations with the hours going unclaimed (depending on jurisdiction).

      What these budget savings things often mean is stuff like “we are paying for x service when we don’t have to”, “we have y unnecessary process and waste hours on it” or “we could switch to z service provider and save on this contract”. That is the stuff that saves thousands or tens of thousands.

      LW just has this totally wrong. Self harm acts like the ones decribed don’t save much money and making yourself and others miserable ultimately costs the company.

      1. Alexander*

        I once figured when we looked for places to cust costs, that just getting rid of ONE magazine that each department subscribed to (and never really found time to read anyway) saved about 2 grand a year… stuff like this adds up.

        1. Observer*

          $2K in the context of what kind of budget? If you had that many subscriptions to cut, what was the organization’s budget? $2.5 million?

          I mean, sure, cutting little things that don’t matter much it a good thing. But doing things that harm people or make their lives significantly less pleasant, or denying people money they are entitled to is another issue altogether, especially when the costs involve are such a small percentage of the costs of running the business that it could be seen as a rounding error.

          1. JSPA*

            “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

                1. Barefoot Librarian*

                  I honestly don’t get the Lord Peter, 9 Tailors, or claret colored frock references, but everyone’s enthusiasm makes me want to be in the know on this lol. I’ll have to do some research on the books (movies?) that these come from.

                2. SarahKay*

                  Barefoot Librarian, they’re a series of detective books written by Dorothy L Sayers, set in the 1920’s / 1930’s with Lord Peter as an amateur detective, and they are AWESOME! Can’t recommend them highly enough.

                1. JSPA*

                  I’d start with the short stories. Unless you’re in advertising (Sayers own profession, which she was EXCELLENT at* but rather loathed); in which case, Murder Must Advertise. Sone of the earliest novels are–still very good mysteries, but not quite the polished, insightful gems of the later novels. Save Gaudy Night until you know the main characters and their backstories intimately.

            1. Artemesia*

              This is the greatest truth of the universe. But I think it was Dickens — Lord Peter was quoting Dickens if he said it. But then my first husband thought I had originated ‘the law is an ass’ rather than quoting it.

        2. Marthooh*

          “…stuff like this adds up.”

          OP #1 isn’t talking about departmental budgets, though. They’re talking about refusing to eat a slice of pizza that the company already paid for. I guess (if the letter is real) they meant it as a way of calling out their coworkers for eating on the company’s dime, but since nobody’s following their passive-aggressive lead, the savings are not adding up.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I’ve absolutely seen this kind of bizarre sacrifice in the context of family, and of a charitable cause.

      2. Not Australian*

        “Walking 5 miles? In my city the bus is less that $2 and less that $5 for a train (even a ride app wouldn’t be much) and the risk of you hurting yourself (or breaking the equipment costs a lot more.”

        More than that; it probably took about an hour and a half to two hours walking five miles and carrying heavy equipment – time during which the OP was presumably being paid to do something else. They need to factor in their own pay when figuring out whether or not they’re saving the employer money; using paid time inefficiently is just as wasteful as any extraneous expenses on cabs or buses.

        Besides, I’m not sure we’re told whether or not they also walked back – although perhaps they mean they walked two and half miles each way.

        1. Jen*

          I did some math below, but there is no way company came put on top. I had the circumstance of one working for a company that operated on a basic client fee structure right out college (kind of a testing lab). My job obviously supported gear, equipment, other staff and administration so this wasn’t what I made (not even kind of). But I knew that the organization basically expected me to perform about $200 in billable client work every hour (it was an average over time). I mean heck, when I made pizzas at minimum wage with a staff of two we needed to average sales of at least $50/hour just to break even and more during full staff busy times.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Ah, but OP isn’t bilong OT either.
          Usually “reduce expenses” means don’t fly first class, choose less expensive restaurants, and do conference calls instead of face to face. Sometimes it’s code for “stop bringing all our office supplies home”.

            1. EPLawyer*

              When the company sent out the letter, they did not mean for OP1 to personally take on the burden of saving the company. As noted, OP, you have nothing to do with contracts or procurement. Your ability to act is limited to small things like don’t take the office supplies home and work more efficiently during the day so you aren’t working UNNECESSARY over time. Everything else is on those who have more say over the budget and spending.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yeah. If you’re taking home so many office supplies that accounting notices, you’ve got to cut it out. But that’s “don’t take home whole boxes of K-cups” not “don’t have a second cup of coffee”.

            1. Kat in VA*

              *cautiously raises hand*

              I sometimes will have 3 or 4 cups of green tea from the Keurig a day. Do I have to stop?

              1. Been There, Done That*

                Nahhh. Just use a cup that’s twice as big that holds 2 pods, and you’ve cut down to 2 cups a day.

        3. Cost-cutting op1*

          It wasn’t “paid time” — we had a day trip to Nearest Big City to meet up with clients and other company people, and walking to and from their location was at the beginning and end of the day. It was in my own time.

          I did take a train (but didn’t claim for it) from my home to to Big City but then walked across Big City rather than take a bus etc.

          1. Scarlet2*

            But why not take the bus and pay it yourself as well? It really comes across as actively trying to punish yourself, and that’s what so many people find very odd.
            And btw, going somewhere to meet clients is definitely work time, that is normally *paid* by the company… Work meetings aren’t *private time* but *paid time* (and that includes all the necessary travels).
            If your company is so screwed that not buying a train ticket is going to make a difference, focus on finding another job, because it’s already too late.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            You did this on the way to meet with clients? What? OP, that is insane behaviour. Can you imagine the impression of your company that you would leave if your clients discovered that a senior staff member had walked to meet them for miles across the city while carrying heavy equipment – to save on bus fare? I would find that behaviour extremely odd and would assume that either your company was in very serious financial trouble or that you personally were a tremendous Scrooge, which is not a attractive trait.

            I get that you are trying to do something good for your company here, but nobody -ESPECIALLY not clients – observing these behaviours will be thinking “oh my, what wonderful fiscal prudence!” They’re thinking “wait, we’re paying how much for their services but they can’t afford to put their staff on a bus?”

            1. Observer*

              And following that with “maybe we need to start looking for another vendor, since these guys seem to have some fairly serious financial problems – who knows if they will go out of business with out job undone.” And then proceed to gossip about it.

          3. Observer*

            Seriously!? You actually walked across the city with heavy equipment to a client meeting?!

            Guess what? The nicest thing I can say is that this is “pennywise and pound foolish”. So much so that if I were in marketing I’d be raising the roof, and if I were your boss, I would be seriously be questioning your fitness and judgement.

            If your client knows about this, then it’s likely to make a REALLY bad impression – so much so that it could endanger the business relationship. Worse, it’s such an outlandish thing to do that they would absolutely be likely to gossip about this. That is the last thing that any business with financial issues needs!

      3. JulieCanCan*

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

        OP 1’s letter almost sounded like a joke/gag/trickery letter to me. I mean, 5 miles carrying heavy items?! Lowering 401k contribution and discontinuing health insurance?!

        I’m 100% sure that’s not what OP1’s employer meant when they suggested cutting back.

        1. Peachkins*

          Yeah, I have to agree. We’ve been taking steps to cut back on expenses in our office, but that includes things like printing paper documents only when necessary and bringing in our own coffee. Never in a million years would I consider cutting back on my benefits or not claiming overtime hours.

        2. SarahKay*

          Well, I’ve met some companies that wouldn’t *complain* at someone taking them that literally, but for sure it wasn’t what they were asking.
          My company is pretty tight on costs, but the expectation is to be sensible on procurement, not decide to cut your personal pay and benefits.
          OP1, assuming you’re not working at a not-for-profit or a charity, the company is making a profit. They’re probably trying to make a larger profit, which benefits shareholders and the C-suite – but NOT YOU. Unless you, personally, are going to benefit significantly from that larger profit then take the pay and benefits you are entitled to, eat the company provided lunch, and stop worrying.

        3. Wherehouse Politics*

          If this isn’t a joke, OP should be the first on any lay-off chopping block ( if not sooner) for extraordinarily poor judgement than could be an expensive liability for his company.

          1. Anonny*

            I kinda want to shake the OP and go “This company doesn’t care about you to the extent you seem to care about it. Stop doing this. All you’re doing is showing them you’re so willing to be taken advantage of, you’ll do it without their input.”

      4. Mookie*

        All of this.

        It’s a shame that the inconvenience of these gestures don’t make them remotely meaningful, but there it is: this is inefficient, performative penny-pinching. Let management do their job; if they’re displeased with the outcome of this cost-cutting request, best believe they’ll address you directly or provide practical examples of what they need.

        It ought be obvious why it’s counterproductive to conceal from an organization what hours you’re actually working because you’ve given them a false and unrealistic benchmark that will fail them in the future if they rely on it. Likewise, if nobody else but you is willing to go to such extreme lengths over such comparatively small amounts of money compared to the organization’s budget as a whole, you’re not giving management an example which future employees will be willing to emulate. Sacrificing your benefits in a role that traditionally provides them hurts you and you alone; if your employer is unscrupulous, they might allow you to but they’re likely not daft enough to cut everyone’s because you decided you could live without them. In which case, what is the point? Let them do their jobs. This is what people in your organization are paid to figure out. Don’t encourage them to impose austerity on anybody but over-compensated top brass and shareholders. Set an ethical example, not a miserable one.

        1. Jaz*

          Didn’t Alison answer a letter before about the fallout from a coworker who would work all night and pretend he hadn’t? All that unbilled overtime could have all sorts of concerning implications.

      5. Hush42*

        This. OP when employers say they need to cut costs they are not talking about you giving up money that they owe you- like overtime and your benefits (i.e. retirement and health insurance) they aren’t even talking about not ordering good when needed. They’re talking about cost saving initiatives like people switching to reusable mugs for their coffee rather than disposable ones from the breakroom. Or finding less expensive service providers. Or, what my company needs to do, reducing the amount of alcohol on company cards/expense reports. No reasonable employer is going to ask for the kind of self sacrifice you seem to think they are.

      6. Mary*

        I thought it was going to be, “aaargh, my colleagues are still copying everything in colour and ordering brand-name biros!”

        1. Amber T*

          Right? My office manager told me we spend a ridiculous amount on office supplies, pens specifically (though working here has also helped me develop an unhealthy obsession with different size and color post its). The appropriate way to cut costs is cut down on office supplies or stop throwing pizza parties (or, if it really warrants it, cutting down on the work force, which of course would suck). But all employees who work there are entitled to perks that they agreed upon. Of course your coworkers are not making the same “sacrifices” you’re making – they’re not reasonable ones an employer would expect from you.

        2. skunklet*

          Well, and it’s penny wise and pound foolish.

          For this whole ‘walk 5 miles’ – let’s say it took 1.5 hours (usually, about 15 minutes/mile, but a little more due to the equipment). You avoided a cost of what, $5? Maybe $10? But what’s your hourly rate (it’s irrelevant if you’re salary, it’s still a rate). Let’s say you cost the company $20/hour. You
          avoided a $10 charge but cost the company $30, putting the company -$20….

          How is that saving anything?

          1. irene adler*

            Gotta factor in any bodily injury this might have caused- and corresponding time loss to the employer.

            I gather that the OP was not injured -this time. But down the line should this behavior continue? And foregoing health insurance? An on-the-job injury might cost employer some bucks.

          2. Anna*

            My friend told me her mom used to say this sort of thing was stepping over dollars to chase dimes. Same idea and just as nonsensical.

          3. Wherehouse Politics*

            Saving ease and convenience-a state a self appointed martyr should never have to endure.

          4. Light37*

            Exactly. If that walk takes 2 hours carrying the equipment, then the company is paying an incredibly expensive pack mule. Whereas the fifteen or twenty minute train ride means the worker gets back to their desk and can do what they’re being paid to for an hour and a half, instead of schlepping stuff around.

            1. Light37*

              And people who are distracted by hunger are much less efficient, so that’s also another waste.

      7. Snark*

        This is the most “humans of late capitalism” letter I’ve ever seen here, and that’s saying a lot.

      8. Dinopigeon*

        It’s important to recognize this is not rational behavior. I work with people with this mentality and mental illness is involved. I don’t mean that as a pejorative or dismissively… my coworkers with similar issues are all dealing with barely-acknowledged trauma of one kind or another. For some it’s poor self-esteem (of various causes) that leads them to be terrified of not being liked, and they feel the only way to be accepted is militant compliance and self-sacrifice. Another has been laid off so many times they have a constant stress complex associated with the spectre of unemployment that dwarfs the realities of the situation. Another comes from an impoverished background and reads any lack of funds as a threat to their survival. (My company has been in a serious cost-cutting mode for several years, which has brought a lot of this out of the woodwork.)

        Without passing judgment on LW, the patterns are so similar I can’t help but wonder if there is some deeper issue here.

        1. OhNo*

          There’s also the possibility of an element of depression/self-harm to the OP’s actions as well, which I recognize from my own life. That idea of “well, I don’t really deserve this anyway” or, “I can live on less money… it’ll be difficult, stressful, deeply unpleasant, and I don’t want to, but I can“.

          Not trying to armchair diagnose, but I just want to point out that these impulses can be indicative of a multitude of underlying issues, some of which are very common and yet still difficult to spot in yourself. It’s worth examining where the impulse to short yourself is coming from. With a therapist, if possible, just to get some support.

        2. Starbuck*

          The deeper issue is the inhumane nature of late-stage capitalism, especially the lack of a decent social safety net (talking mostly about the US here). When no job = no healthcare especially, the prospect of losing your employment (and acknowledging the reality that for most, it can happen at any time for any reason, totally at the whim of the employer) is stressful indeed.

    2. Jasnah*

      Better yet, OP why don’t you buy everyone’s pizza instead of letting the company pay for it?
      Why not offer to cover the business expenses of departments that do handle purchases and travel?
      In fact, why not work for free and cover all the company’s expenses yourself? Then maybe your coworkers will notice your sacrifices and praise how selfless you have been…!

      Except, that’s not how this works at all. A company has to sink or swim by balancing its expenses with its income, and there are laws in place to make sure it doesn’t cut corners on either of those.

      First of all, you risk legal and business ramifications with your actions, which will make your coworkers and bosses severely question your judgment. I think you completely misunderstood the directive and continued down this path ignoring all signs that this was not OK. Your boss said she was cold, and you set yourself on fire.

      But also, your letter indicates that you’re using your misguided sacrifices as a barometer of how virtuous, how cooperative you are. (“It’s galling” “why didn’t they bring their own food?!” “I’m becoming more and more resentful” “I’m the only one pulling”) Being frugal is good, but it doesn’t mean you’re a better employee than people spending more. Your coworkers are entitled to salary and benefits, and they may have real business needs to purchase things with company money. Why do you feel so angry that no one “notices your sacrifices”? Do you think denying yourself what you are allowed means you are a moral person? I think you have some soul-searching to do.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Yes, that extreme self-flagellation is just… bizarre. It also seems oddly performative, like when they’re saying they’re “conspicuously” refusing to eat. If pizzas are being ordered anyway, going on “hunger strike” makes absolutely no sense since that money has already been spent. Unless the whole point is precisely to show how much of a sacrifice they’re making, unlike those selfish coworkers who dare eat and expect to be paid for their work. The only rational explanation I can find is a hardcore case of martyr complex.

        Anyway, the point is that those efforts are unlikely to make any kind of difference to the company’s budget and they will come across as very weird and off-putting (esp. to their coworkers).

        1. Sunshine*

          Yes. It’s also key that OP is senior. She says herself she’s on a good salary. Your co-workers may not be. Staying late incurs expenses and not just dinner. Maybe that ‘free’ slice of pizza is offsetting their babysitting / petsitting / transport costs. Maybe it’s a tiny perk from the company offsetting the fact that they are already doing the company a *huge favour* with their unpaid??? overtime.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Wow, I missed the part about OP being senior. In addition to what you said, the letter is way out of touch with reality for a senior. I was sure it was someone in the first year at their first professional job. I was just a wee junior when a supervisor sat me down and explained that there’s no point in sacrificing oneself for the benefit of the company you work for, because the company will not reciprocate. At least here where we have at-will employment, you can be walked out the door at any moment with no explanation as to why. No amount of skipped pizza or lowered company matches on your end will matter for the employer when they make that decision.

            1. Cookie Monster*

              I actually wondered if maybe they meant “senior” in the context of “retiring soon” or even just “been here a long time” and not actually senior management, only because the examples in eth eltter seemed so out of touch.

              1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

                That’s how I took it, not senior as in rank but senior as in age.

                Regardless, very out of touch with workplace norms.

                OP- Cost saving/cutting modes are things that people have already mentioned. For my company it is less travel (flights, hotels, rental cars), it might mean delaying big purchases that aren’t critical, delaying non-critical hiring, limiting OT, and other strategic type things.
                The email sent to you was meant to put it in your mind that some things may not be operating as normal and to keep costs in the back of your head (my company terms this as “Smart Spending”.

                Put it perspective of your personal spending habits… Let’s imagine I’m going into a personal cost saving cycle. I could stop spending money on gas for my car, but if I can’t get to work I’m going to be fired. I could turn off my heat, but that would probably result in my pipes freezing and bursting. Neither of these would be smart things to do and would negatively affect my money situation. Instead of not getting gas, I could plan my trips so that I’m using the gas I do have more efficiently. Or I could reduce my heat setting in my house and put on a sweater, but allow it to stay warm enough that I won’t have broken pipes.

                You walking 5 miles with heavy equipment not only cost the company in productivity, it could also have cost them if you had injured yourself. Sure the company could say no pizza for those working late and save that $20 or equivalent, but that is going to cost them in employee engagement and productivity.

                If you want to do all the things that you described, go for it. It’s neither necessary nor in the best interest of you or the company. If you do continue on this austerity path, then you need to realize that it is self imposed and not a moral failing of your coworkers if they don’t.

              2. Cost-cutting op1*

                By “senior” I meant I’m a Senior Widget Analyst and the rest of the team are junior/standard/trainee Widget Analyst so I’m not their boss but do earn a bit more as I’m a “go to” person with questions about widgets. They and I report to the same boss.

                I’m mid 30s and have worked here about 5 years.

            2. Yvette*

              Actually this person may be senior and far removed from the financial issues that face those lower down. I remember 25+ years ago someone asked why my company did not to more in terms of child-care options (flex time, discount programs, whatever) and my response was that those in a position of power to do so were men either old enough that their kids were grown, or so wealthy that they could afford for their spouse to stay at home or afford a nanny. In other words it wasn’t an issue for them, so it wasn’t an issue.
              Like Sunshine said, personal expenses incurred by staying late can add up. But if that is not an issue for the OP then they may not realize it .

              1. TexanInExile*

                “men either old enough”

                Which explains why 20 years ago, my then-employer covered Viagra but not birth control pills.

                (I am very proud to say that I am the person who got that changed by being really annoying to the benefits people.)

          2. Nita*

            Yep. Judging them for eating the (already ordered) pizza and legally submitting their expenses (as requested by the admin) is odd, and kind of small-minded. Maybe they actually need the resulting savings, and they’re not defrauding anyone out of them.

            Also, I’m unclear on what started the cost-saving measures, and I think the answer makes some difference here. Is it a temporary initiative, just to see how much the company could save if people watched their expenses (for example, not maxing out their food and travel expense allowance and going for something less expensive)? Is the company on the rocks and trying to avoid layoffs this way? If it’s the former, OP has gone way overboard. If it’s the latter… OK, I can see where they’re coming from and maybe others should be thinking along the same lines to come extent. Either way, though, as Alison says, courting back problems and getting rid of your health insurance to save someone else money is really too much.

            1. Observer*

              No, if the company is on the rocks, people should be thinking about how to find other jobs. Also, how to save money is REASONABLE ways and possibly how it bring in money.

              The only reason to save their jobs is so they can get paid, so forgoing that is just backwards.

        2. MiouMiou*

          Why stop there. Bring your own toilet paper from home!! Better yet, don’t use it at all!! I also envision this person trudging down some road with a copy machine strapped to their back, crying out: “Look at me, look at me!! Emulate me!!” Attention must be paid.

          1. Scarlet2*

            Toilet paper, how extravagant! Wipe with nettles, I say. And crawl to the office on your hands and knees.

            1. Been There, Done That*

              There wouldn’t be that problem if Sears hadn’t cut their own expenses by putting their catalog online…

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        This, yes.

        OP, there are some things that yes, technically are “expenses” but are really not optional, they are the price of doing business. If your company truly cannot afford the “travel expenses” of a single bus/train fare and need you to walk five miles carrying equipment, they cannot afford to be in business. And to be clear, they don’t NEED you to do that, because if they did they should stop ordering pizza.

        Things like your health insurance are not “expenses” at all; they are vital parts of your compensation package, and if you are giving your junior employees the idea that they ought to be giving that up you need to cut it out yesterday. And as for stuff like the pizza, if it’s already been ordered and paid for it makes no difference if you eat it or not. The money’s spent. If you think it’s an unnecessary expense (which it kind of is), speak to whoever’s in charge of ordering it and suggest cutting it entirely – don’t just sit there pointedly not eating.

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          I can’t help wondering if the self-imposed austerity is coming from a place of fear. As in, they’ve been through a “cost cutting exercise for business needs” before, and their role was deemed a big enough cost to cut. When you are a big enough “expense” that your role can be eliminated for “business needs”, you tend to try and overcompensate next time.
          (Not personal experience, but anecdotal)

          1. SignalLost*

            But in that case, the “logical”* thing to do is renegotiate your salary, not perform martyrdom at your peers and juniors. If OP’s company is so far in a hole that a bus ticket is rhe tipping point (and the time spent walking was time not spent earning for the company) then there is no point whatsoever to bothering with even showing up to work because the doors are gonna be closing.

            *not actually logical, given that you will downgrade the amount paid to others and the amount the company has decided is fair compensation for the job.

        2. Liz T*

          The pizza sounds like a totally necessary expense–if you’re requiring people to work through dinner, you need to feed them!

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Yes, sorry, I misread the OP! I thought it was just a general treat thing as opposed to a only-when-working-late thing. NGL, even if it is a working-late thing there probably is a more cost-effective way of feeding people if it’s happening very regularly, but it’s still not something that will likely make a difference to a company’s bottom line.

      3. Not An Intern Any More*

        “Your boss said she was cold, and you set yourself on fire.”

        These words just changed my life.

    3. TurquoiseCow*

      Public transit is relatively cheap. I mean, buses usually run less than $5 for short rides. If the person said they took a bus rather than an uber or a taxi, for example, I’d understand, because those can be expensive, but public transit is pretty cheap, so I’m not sure that you’re saving the company a lot of money.

      Also, if you’re carrying heavy equipment that far, you run the risk of causing injury to yourself or damaging the equipment, which will ultimately cost the company more than the few bucks you didn’t want to spend on bus fare. Similarly, refusing health insurance means you’re probably skipping out on yearly physicals, and you’re less likely to go to the doctor for “minor” health concerns that might turn out to be serious, or failing to take preventative care, which will also result in higher long-term costs for you – and for your employer if you end up having to take time off work because of that illness.

      Alison is absolutely correct on all her points, but this is also not very effective in terms of cutting costs.

      1. Willis*

        To say nothing of the time cost associated with walking 5 miles lugging equipment rather than taking a bus!

        1. Story Nurse*

          I once worked for a nonprofit as a receptionist. We were always concerned about money. When our microwave died, I found someone selling one very cheap on Craigslist and used my lunch hour (and then some) to go get it and haul it back to the office. I was so confused when the office manager scolded me for not using my time efficiently. It hadn’t occurred to me to value my time!

          LW, I have a lot of sympathy for taking a vague note literally and then being confounded when everyone around you interprets it totally differently. When you were told “as close to zero as possible”, you assumed that “possible” referred to going to the absolute limits of your abilities. But everyone else around you understands it to mean “as close as possible within reason“. Taking public transit instead of a cab and ordering in pizza instead of a sandwich platter is cutting costs as close to zero as possible while still doing necessary things (going places, eating at work while working late) in a reasonable way that isn’t gratuitously expensive.

          Think of it this way: the company could save a lot of money by firing all the workers, but then the work wouldn’t get done. Those are the factors that need to be balanced. You need to do your own balancing act on a smaller scale.

          You also need to trust your employer to know what’s reasonable. If the admin is asking for overtime and expense reports and your boss is ordering pizza on the company card, have faith in their judgment of what is a reasonable and necessary expense. You don’t get to decide that your interpretation of “as close to zero as possible” is the right one; they outrank you, and you’d do better to follow their lead. (Though it sounds like you hadn’t realized your way of thinking about this is an interpretation, and that other reasonable interpretations are possible. So maybe start there.)

          I have OCD and am probably some flavor of autistic, and I have absolutely been in the position of taking things literally and being confounded when other people apply other standards or other data that I wasn’t really aware of. It’s a very stressful and upsetting and isolating feeling—what else does everyone else know that I don’t? what else am I getting wrong that I don’t even realize I’m getting wrong?—and I can see how feeling that way might lead you to take refuge in judging other people as worthless and inferior, which helps you feel better about yourself and your choices. But please try to accept the pain of realizing that you are in the wrong and have caused yourself some needless suffering and deprivation. The sooner you can do that, the sooner you can adjust your actions to be more in line with your company’s (frustratingly unwritten) expectations.

          It might help for you to go to your boss and say, “This directive said to get expenses as close to zero as possible. There are multiple ways that might be interpreted. Can you give me some clearer direction or examples of expenses that would or would not be considered reasonable?” And then listen, and follow those directions and the lead of the people around you, and ask for more clarification if you need it.

          1. S9me Sort of Management Consultant*

            This is a very clear and compassionate response. Thank you for writing it.

          2. MK*

            The value of time is something often overlooked. My sister’s employer has two location and employees can either take taxis or use the org’s suttle service between the two; there are categories of employees who are forbidden to use the suttle, because their time is too valueable for it to be spent waiting for a bus.

            1. Yvette*

              “…their time is too valuable for it to be spent waiting for a bus.”

              That is why lawyers don’t make their own copies or even in many firms pull their own research. Law firms make money by lawyers billing hours, you can’t in good conscience bill a client the hourly attorney fee if that attorney spent the hour on research or making copies of briefs.

          3. JustaTech*

            Story Nurse, you make a really, really excellent point that the OP should talk to their boss about what exactly this “cost cutting” is supposed to look like.
            It won’t look the same for every department or every person.

            I’ve had jobs where we went through tight times, but still paid thousands for service contracts on instruments because we couldn’t make any money if that instrument broke, and it was much cheaper to keep the instrument in contract than pay the one-time fees.

            So, please, OP, ask your boss what the cost cutting should look like for your department. It’s entirely possible that you boss will say “we’re already very lean here, so there’s not much to change”.

            1. SarahKay*

              Cost-cutting not looking the same for every department is such a good point! I used to prepare monthly summaries of the costs, vs budget, by each cost centre and send them out to the relevant managers for them to review. If they had questions they’d come and follow up with me.
              A lot of the time I’d have managers saying “I’m over budget on the payroll for this cost centre, what should I do?” These weren’t cost centres incurring overtime, so the answer was always to do nothing – these were effectively fixed costs the business had agreed to!
              After about three months I took all the payroll data, other than overtime, off the reports, because it just caused needless questions and anxiety. For some managers I stopped sending reports altogether – they and their staff didn’t travel, they didn’t own/manage testing equipment, there was pretty much nothing in their budget they could affect.
              This latter case sounds like exactly where you are, OP. You’re not generating any expense that it’s reasonable to expect you to reduce, you don’t need to worry.

        2. Jen*

          I mean, some very basic math here. Let’s assume LW gets paid at least $10 an hour (and pay =/= opportunity cost, otherwise your employer would not hire you). Walking 5 miles carrying something heavy takes at least an hour and a half, probably closer to two. The couple bucks “saved” by not.taking the vusneasily cost the employer ovee $20 in productivity, probably a lot more. Then you would be tired and less productive the rest of the day. On pay versus expense alone, there is no way company comes out on top.

          If OP is tired and hungry and less efficient, the company gets less from those late nights. What’s the point? Companies that have good accountants know that employee satisfaction saves money.

          1. ella*

            Also what if LW had fallen and gotten hurt while carrying said equipment? What if they dropped it and damaged it? LW needs to think, not just in terms of economy and efficiency, but *safety.*

          2. TootsNYC*

            I think that in people’s private lives, we often trade time for money. We do things ourselves, because we DO have time, but we don’t have money. And we wouldn’t do anything “monetary” with that time.

            But it doesn’t translate into the work world.

      2. Antilles*

        Also, if you’re carrying heavy equipment that far, you run the risk of causing injury to yourself or damaging the equipment, which will ultimately cost the company more than the few bucks you didn’t want to spend on bus fare.
        And IF something happened, it would look really bad for OP. Because there’d be no way to explain this to the boss without the boss thinking “So we’re now on the hook for spending hundreds/thousands of dollars to replace the equipment because you wanted to save $10 on a taxi? Seriously?”

    4. Lola*

      I’ve been in organizations that have worked hard to reduce costs. While you have been working so diligently to try and reduce your personal costs to the company, it is important to remember that you are a valued member of the staff. You should receive proper compensation for the effort expended. All expense and travel receipts should be submitted. In some cases, these costs are reimbursed by client billing. All benefits accorded your position, ie retirement matching and health care, should be taken. These costs are calculated on an annual basis and have been negotiated as a group rate. They can only be reduced by implementation of well employee programs. You are conscientious and loyal. Be truthful and thrifty but avoid the appearance of being parsimonious. A professional is compensated accordingly. Remember that many of these things are bundled together as your total benefit package. You deserve them as much as the next person.

      1. Rachael*

        I thought this, as well. Your benefits and match on your retirement is considered a part of your compensation package and you are actually not just saving the company money but paying out of your own pocket to fund the business. Employees should not feel as if they need “donate” back to their employer.

        1. Alexander*

          Absolutely this.

          “Cutting expenses” means taking public transport instead of cabs when possible, considering a ** Hotel instead of *** if possible, and getting pizza for the company lunch instead of sushi… maybe cutting down on provided extras like free softdrinks (my company does that), or having the christmas party at a local italian restaurant instead of the fancy event place with catering and show.

          Never should it mean that the employee has to single-sidedly cut out his/her own pay (and all of the things #1 mentioned are more or less part of the compensation package)

        2. PepperVL*

          Exactly. And if matching retirement funds is becoming cost prohibitive for the company, they’ll change how much they match across the board. It’s not up to the employee to decide that they’re getting too much. Same goes for health insurance, travel expenses, overtime, etc. The company will raise insurance rates, cut back on travel, prohibit overtime, etc. If they’re still allowing it, those aren’t expenses the employee should be worried about beyond making sure they’re not abusing them.

          1. sam*


            I’ve worked for employers who didn’t match at all (law firms generally don’t match, simply because it’s…weird for their business model). This is not something you should be taking on the burden of to your own detriment if the company is actually offering the benefit.

            At my company, we’re always in some cost-saving mode or another – whether it’s billed that way or as some sort of “efficiency” exercise. But it’s never about cutting our own individual benefits. It’s things like…I learned how to to certain filings on a system another team already used so that we don’t need to pay *another* outside vendor to do them. That, by itself, saved the company about $60K/year.

        3. Even Steven*

          And to be clear, the benefits and match are part of OP’s colleagues package as well. You can bet if the company wanted to pause employer match, they would have done so, and for everyone, not just for one. But if OP’s offer means that they are now considering chopping something for all that they did not previously consider touching, OP may just impacted his or her colleague’s future. I agree with the comments here – leave the big picture stuff to the company. They have a list of their expenses and can address shortfalls by themselves.

    5. Cat wrangler*

      I’m sorry to say that to LW1 although your intentions are good, even if you worked for free and donated office supplies, the company or your colleagues will not think more of you than the next person who doesn’t take these extreme steps , they will probably think less of you for your perceived lack of self esteem. Even volunteers in charities are allowed to claim reasonable out of pocket expenses, although not all will. Another point is that you say you can afford to do this but one or more of your colleagues may not be in the same financial security, and feel pressured by you to give up money they’re relying on each week/month to make their ends meet (dependants’ healthcare cover or overtime).

      1. The Original K.*

        She’s probably driving her coworkers nuts, especially if she’s badgering them to do all the (ridiculous) stuff she’s doing.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Eventually someone is going to complain, and the OP might even get a talking to about pressuring coworkers not to take things they are completely entitled to, like their wages or a slice of pizza. Man this thread is making me hungry for pizza. But the point is, if he is badgering them enough he could end up in trouble with HR.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I used to skip company pizza for my own health benefits – sitting at work for 12 hours a day was not super healthy for me to begin with, and adding greasy late-evening food on top of that was not helping – but to save the company money? when I am already working extra hours for that company? come on.

            1. Jaz*

              I have gluten and caffeine allergies, which cuts me out of almost all company-provided foods; I don’t think any of my employers or coworkers notice me abstaining and get impressed at all the company costs I’m cutting.

          2. Jen*

            If there is a risk of OP driving people away, too, OP could face consequences. Hiring and training is one of the most expensive things a company does. Being hostile and scaring people off with the stomping could cost the company a huge amoutn.

        2. Antilles*

          Alternatively, if she *isn’t* announcing her initiatives to save money and badgering them, the co-workers probably don’t even realize the way she’s trying to save money. Let’s break her items down from the perspective of a co-worker:
          >Lugging heavy equipment by hand: All me-the-coworker sees is the very last stage of the process, where you were hand carrying the equipment in the front door. Visually, it looks the same to me whether you hand carried it five miles or fifty feet from the door of the cab.
          >Skipping overtime payments, healthcare, retirement contributions, mileage, etc: This is an HR function; the coworker doesn’t see OP’s forms (or lack thereof) and thereby has no clue OP is doing this.
          >Not eating pizza: I might notice you aren’t eating, but I’m far more likely to chalk it up to “not hungry”, “doesn’t like pizza”, or “trying to eat healthy” than anything else.

    6. Ms Cappuccino*

      If the equipment is really heavy they should even get a cab. No way I would carry heavy stuff by public transport or by walking. My back is more important than sparing a few quids to my employer.

      1. Cat wrangler*

        Where I live (UK), you can hire a ‘man/woman with a van’ to do grunt work like shifting furniture or removing large rubbish from the premises. Basically like an odd-job person but only hired as and when necessary. It’s probably possible to find a company that will move ‘large equipment’ around on a similar basis and it would get there in a fraction of the time. Or just get a cab and expense it! A bad back is not a thing you want.

    7. Ryan R*

      When it got down to making a show of not eating pizza the company bought I jumped into the “pull the other one, it’s got bells on” camp. While I know there are a lot of people that would gladly set themselves on fire to keep their companies warm, that was just one step beyond.

      But I think in general – vague guidelines to cut expenses don’t call for extraordinary effort – just like not purloining office supplies and the like. If the ownership wants specific action (like cutting back on over time or cutting transit costs) then they will address it. Then you have a discussion with your boss about work priorities, since if you can’t get everything done without going into overtime then without over time some things will have to take longer or other stuff will need to go on the back burner.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My jaw was on the floor for the entire letter, because I have worked at places where we were in “contingency mode” for a year or so at a time. It meant things like hiring freezes, not ordering new equipment when the one we have still works. The company went from unlimited sick time to five days a year during one of those contingency years. That type of thing. Not lugging equipment on your back for five miles or cutting your 401K contributions or not submitting travel expenses! Anyone who would’ve suggested that would’ve been laughed out of the office.

      1. Nita*

        Been there in ’08. As I recall, management made the decision to keep raises very small that year, lower the retirement matching amount, and have a hiring freeze. Management also put a lot of effort into training everyone (even junior staff) to network and look for ways to bring in new opportunities. Those are the sorts of things that make a real difference to the company budget. No one was pressuring us to stop submitting legit expenses, and that wouldn’t have done much for the bottom line anyway, it would have only put stress on those who can afford it least – junior employees who do the lion’s share of field work and have the biggest travel and supply expenses.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      OP, a rational response to this request is to make do with standard pens from the supply cabinet rather than request the more ergonomic ones you really like.

      1. sam*

        or, if you’re like me and really can’t stand the office-supplied pens, I just buy my own fancy pens (I have been ride-or-die for Pilot Precise v5 pens since college) if they’re not in the office budget.

        1. iglwif*

          I used to do this, too (my ride-or-die pen of choice is the Staedtler Fineliner). I can 100% guarantee that this had no measurable or visible effect on my department’s office supplies budget.

          1. sam*

            for us, it’s more about the fact that we can only order paid-for office supplies through our procurement approved and curated vendor portal, and the pens I like just…aren’t available there (there are quite a lot of options – I’m just super picky, and at that point, that’s on me).

  5. Jimming*

    #3 – I get asked by students if they should ask their interviewers for feedback on their interviews and I always advise against it. I’m not sure who out there is telling people to ask for feedback on their interview skills with the person who interviewed them!

    1. nnn*

      I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that some organizations offer feedback to people eliminated from internal hiring processes.

      I can imagine a scenario where someone who has been working in one of these organizations for a long time with little recent experience elsewhere might see how helpful the feedback is and then advise their kids to seek out the same thing, not knowing that it isn’t normal everywhere.

      1. nnn*

        (Although even in those scenarios, it isn’t done immediately and on the spot – the feedback is provided after the hiring process is finished)

    2. Imaginary Butterfly*

      My experience has been that candidates who ask how they did are in the bottom third of my candidate pool. So much so, that if I were on the fence about a candidate, I would see this as a red flag.

      1. Mookie*

        Yes. There’s something creepy about the question, like a veil has been lifted or the cameras aren’t live anymore, so they can stop pretending and be themselves again. I get that interviews are on some level a set of performances by each player (some elements scripted, some impromptu, a projection of the right register of decorum), but it’s jarring to be so indiscreet about a blurred rather than bright line, where we’re not actually acting as much as we are watchful and not so formally mannered as just evincing good manners.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It reminds me of someone who was dating and was like “okay, you don’t want to go out with me again, but can we do a debrief about what it was you didn’t like so I can work on that for next time?” No, dude or dudette, this person’s limited engagement with you doesn’t mean you can draft them as a coach.

    3. Jen*

      Even if you do ask for feedback, there’s a crucial difference between asking for feedback later (by email) and asking for feedback immediately, particularly by phone or in person. The latter just comes across as more aggressive and gives the interviewer less time to digest the interview and compare. Sometimes someone nails an interview but the skillset is wrong. Sometimes someone is obviously nervous and botched an interview but you still like them on other factors.

      The immediate push just isn’t great and as someone who has interviewed both great and terrible candidates, I would not be comfortable offering feedback immediately or by phone or in person. It just extends my interviewing schedule and makes me afraid you would try to fight negative feedback.

      1. TootsNYC*

        also, “feedback on my candidacy” is far more legit than “how did I perform in the interview”?

        The other thing about asking for feedback so fast is that it sort of feels like a trap–“but you said I did a good job in the interview!”

    4. Engineer Girl*

      It doesn’t matter how well you did. You could do excellently and the next person could still be more qualified. A 100% does not guarantee you the job.

      This is the Olympics. No matter how well you do, no matter how many records you break – only one person gets the gold.

      Though you might get a call back if another position opens up…

    5. Namast'ay in Bed*

      I think we can file this under “outdated but well-meaning advice” next to gumption – my dad used to tell me that the one thing in interviews that guaranteed him an offer was to ask at the end some form of “how did I do?” to show that he was invested and interested in the position. Because “people don’t get job offers if they don’t ask for the job at the end of the interview.” I used to follow that advice in my earlier career days and fortunately after enough experience (and plenty of awkward silences, blank stares, or deflective comments) I learned that this was malarkey and probably made me look bad, as others have pointed out above.

      1. Marthooh*

        I guess your dad was extrapolating from sales pitches, where you not only want to close right away, you also have some hope of it. Whereas an interviewer rarely has the authority to hire, unless you’re talking to the owner.

        1. Namast'ay in Bed*

          He 100% equated it to a sales pitch! It took me years to realize that they weren’t, and even more years to understand that I was interviewing the company just as much as they were interviewing me.

      2. twig*

        My dad gave me similar advice once:

        As a hiring manager, he was most impressed with a candidate who asked, at the end of the interview, if there is anything he out to have done differently in the interview (or how he did or something along those lines — now that I’m typing it, I don’t remember) .

        I tried using that once, and I got a pitying look, and something about needing more experience and no call back.

        (Differences that I did NOT take into account: My Dad’s story took place sometime in the early ’80’s. He was interviewing someone for a position as a propane serviceman or bulk truck driver. (heck, the dude might have walked into the office off the street to inquire about a job, for all I know– My dad likes that kind of gumption) . I was interviewing for a writing position at a marketing company in the mid 2000’s..)

        Lesson Learned.

    6. Tipcat*

      Are the people asking this recent graduates? They are used to getting feedback from professors after exams and presentations. Maybe they don’t understand professional norms.

    7. JSPA*

      There is advice, even from here, to express that you’d “welcome any feedback.” The same people who don’t understand the job, or how to interview, also don’t understand that this doesn’t mean you should ask “how’d i do?” at the end.

    8. Cat wrangler*

      I had a job interview which segued into an hour of sitting with someone being shown some Typical Duties of the Role (I was paid for this). I still didn’t get the official offer until later in the day, via my agency. I’m not sure I ever had feedback on my interview, but I must have said something right!

  6. Bowserkitty*

    #1 NOO!!!!! Take what Alison said to heart! You do not own the company and you need to watch out for your own well being, especially when it comes to your future. If there is one thing I have learned from past jobs it is that you are replaceable, and sacrificing so much will only make you MORE resentful of the company itself should it come to that.

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, cutting costs does not refer to compensation for your labor, including your retirement, health, overtime, hours traveled, food when asked to remain after hours, and reasonable transportation costs. The reason your efforts are not making a positive impression on your peers is because they’re not the kind of “cost cutting” measures that are considered normal or even desirable, and as Alison notes, any savings are extremely marginal. Please be a bit kinder to yourself (and your coworkers) and allow yourself to receive fair compensation for your work. You can be mindful of expenses in other contexts (e.g., participating in meetings by phone or videoconference instead of traveling, deferring non-essential supply orders, etc).

    1. Clay on my apron*

      Please OP, do not be dismissive of your coworkers for submitting overtime and expense claims. Employees should not be absorbing business costs. You say that you could afford a pay cut, so you can obviously also afford to forgo your overtime pay, and cover work-related expenses from your own pocket. Don’t assume that everyone can do this. And realise that nobody should be expected to.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Yes to all of the above. Being a martyr does NOT help your employer, OP, and makes it really difficult for your colleagues to work with you because it does seem like you’re judging them negatively for doing something perfectly acceptable.

        Honestly, this letter could have been written by a woman I work with…

      2. Anonariffic*

        do not be dismissive of your coworkers for submitting overtime and expense claims

        OP, you mentioned that the department admin is still sending out reminders for those overtime and expense submissions- that’s because the company still expects its employees to turn those things in! Your coworkers are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and what you should be doing too!

        1. Mookie*

          Yes. Fudging or omitting these in the name of budgetry concerns is actually how fraud happens and is concealed. This is not the LW’s intention, but you don’t ignore directives because you think you Know What’s Best for your department and then execute a bunch of unilateral decisions about reporting expenses.

        2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          Exactly! The admin is not sending those reminders as a trick or a test, or to taunt you. They are reminding you to turn these things in because those are normal and reasonable business expenses and you should be reimbursed for them! I think it was here that I read that when in doubt, ask yourself if you would be doing the thing or going to the place if it wasn’t for your job. Think of it that way and claim what you’re owed instead of resenting your coworkers for submitting and receiving reimbursements and overtime pay while you don’t.

          If the company really expected you to take all these personal austerit’s measures, they wouldn’t just send out a vague “let’s cut costs” email. They would say that they were no longer reimbursing for certain things, dropping the company match on 401K contributions, and/or getting rid of the insurance plan. (And if they did expect you to shoulder all the expenses, then it would be time to look for an exit!)

    2. Djuna*

      That’s really well put.
      OP#1 seems worried that “needing to cut costs” translates to “all of our jobs are in danger” and that’s not necessarily the case. It usually means things are lean and people need to be more mindful of their spending, just as PCBH explained above. Not “vow of poverty” austerity measures, gosh.

      Also, layoffs are usually decided at a higher level, so much so that whoever wields the red pen is not likely to know (or care) that someone cut their retirement plan, dropped health insurance, said no to pizza, etc.
      I’ve been laid off (lean times, geography – our boss was in another country and cutting our team saved travel costs) and if I’d done all OP#1 had done it wouldn’t have made a whit of difference except to make it feel a lot more of a personal slight than a simple financial calculation by someone six levels above me in the company.

      1. Willis*

        This is very true. Also, if it were to get to the point where your company were asking you to shoulder business expenses, no longer paying overtime, or cutting benefits and salaries, your energy would be much better spent looking for a new job than penny pinching for your existing firm while scowling at your coworkers for not doing the same.

      2. Trek*

        I was going to recommend OP add up what she’s saved by skipping public transport, pizza, and overtime. I wouldn’t think it would add up to $500. This amount of money is not going to impact bottom line.

      3. 5 Leaf Clover*

        I actually wondered, reading the letter, if the email that went out to employees did say something like “the company’s really in trouble and might have to lay people off if we can’t cut expenses.” It was the only thing I could think of that would justify this kind of extreme self-sacrifice. But even then, I think, the LW is overestimating their own ability to save a sinking ship – and at great personal cost.

    3. Beatrice*

      I wanted to point out that, if ordering food when working late was something the company wanted to cut to save on costs, they absolutely would cut it. Same with overtime and with benefits. The control of those costs is entirely within their hands, and if they’re choosing to spend the money, it’s safe to assume they’re okay with spending it.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Also, if not paying the retirement match would help, the co. would/could stop it while employees could continue to contribute on their own.

    4. Beth*

      Yes, this! In a business context, “cutting costs” means things like “Don’t replace your work computer with the latest model when your current one is still entirely functional for your needs” and “Consider whether this travel is really necessary or whether the same work could get done over video meetings and email” and “When you’re printing things out for your own use (aka not to show to customers), maybe print in black-and-white instead of using expensive color ink”.

      It does NOT mean sacrificing your own paycheck, not claiming overtime pay, going without health insurance, or risking injury by hauling heavy equipment without using the appropriate transportation. Those would be completely inappropriate for a business to ask of its employees. They’re also counterproductive; they would drive away a lot of employees if enforced broadly (and training is expensive), some of them might be illegal (some areas have labor laws requiring that overtime is paid, for example), and they can cost more than they save (if you’d been injured hauling that equipment on foot, the workers’ comp and/or sick time you would have needed to handle it would almost definitely have been more expensive than the cost of public transit).

      Lay off your coworkers, and seriously reconsider your own choices here. I suspect you’re doing things that your employer would be horrified to find you think they wanted.

    5. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

      Seriously. It’s a business. Even if it’s a non-profit, it’s a business. You didn’t join a religious order and take a vow of poverty for some greater good.

  8. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

    Gosh LW1, I think you’ve misinterpreted the direction you’ve received. You can still trim expenses while being paid what you’re owed and having your retirement account intact.

    When I hear ‘cut expenses’ I think ‘don’t order new furnishings’ or ‘reduce the cost of the winter party by 20%’. Not skip the bus to save the $3 charge, or pass up a $4 piece of pizza.

    While I’m sure your heart is in the right place, your execution seems to have missed the mark. If a coworker approached me with suggestions like yours I would worry about their well being, to be honest.

    Maybe ease up a little and Pete’s sake don’t skip your health care!

    1. Jen*

      I have a feeling OP’s boss would be appalled by the letter. I have worked on cost cutting initiatives in the past and what seriously saved the most money by far was going entirely paperless on some processes. Especially if OP is a senior, going without health insurance, and presumably a consequential reduction in preventative care could end up in OP getting much sicker and missing significantly more work, which quickly erases those “savings”.

      1. Tau*

        In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if OP’s boss weren’t appalled by the letter that would be a major, major red flag. All decent bosses should be upset if their employees misinterpret “let’s try to save costs” to the point of not submitting overtime and opting out of health insurance!!

      2. Sara without an H*

        Jen’s right. If any of my reports did this, they’d be in the comfy chair for some serious conversation.

        1. the_scientist*

          Indeed. And it wouldn’t only be to address their well-being and overall health; I’d be having a serious conversation about this employee’s judgement and ability to understand the big picture.

          1. Liz T*

            Not to mention their willingness to inappropriately pressure other employees (possibly their subordinates).

      3. TootsNYC*

        what seriously saved the most money by far was going entirely paperless on some processes.

        I worked with an IT guy who added a step to the process of printing things out–you had to go to the printer and click “print” on the screen to move the job out of the queue to the machine (and then it spit out very fast).

        This eliminated SO MANY wasted copies, where people would print but not go pick them up right away and forget; or they’d print too soon.

        He got a HUGE shout-out (and money, I think) for saving the company SO much cash.

    2. lulu*

      Exactly. Depending on the context, reducing expenses might mean “don’t work overtime” but not “don’t claim the overtime that you did work”, “don’t go on a business trip”, not “go on a business trip on foot and while fasting”.

      1. Yvette*

        Or “don’t work needless overtime” Finish tomorrow instead of staying 2 hours late tonight. (Some places OT= any day > 8 hours, some places OT= any week >40 hours)

    3. Archaeopteryx*

      Since you say you have limited ways you could contribute to cost cutting in your role, the sensible thing to do would have been to think, “Ok, Boss’s email mostly doesn’t apply to me, but I’ll bear it in mind when budgetary situations arise.” Not to decide that you have to try to reduce the same amount of expenses as someone in a role where that makes sense. It’s not a contest.

  9. IDon'tWatchTV*

    #2 – I’ll be honest, I don’t really get what those references mean on any sort of a deep level… I would possibly not remember who Monica Geller is, and though I know there was a character named Monica on Friends, I have no notion of her being neat. I remember her being a bit neurotic? I don’t know much about Leslie Knope except she’s a politician on that show Parks and Recreation, which I’ve never seen an episode of. I have a notion of her being somehow used humorously, as it is a show that’s meant to be funny. And finally, I could not tell you which character on The Office is Angela. And I actually HAVE seen episodes of that!

    I am hilariously out of touch with pop-culture references, I will acknowledge this. But hey, you never know if someone like me is interviewing you. I’d be more specific just in case. As a side note, I’m a woman in my late 20s, so I think the notion would be that I am “hip” and understand these things, but I really just don’t watch TV!

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I think those sorts of references would be great for an on-line dating profile – you’d be giving a sense of your personality, and screening for someone with similar pop culture tastes. But you don’t really want to be screening your employers by taste in pop culture.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Well, it depends – when I interviewed for a software dev team that thought the TV show “Silicon Valley” was awesome and really captured their vibe, I knew we weren’t a match ;)

    2. CheeryO*

      Even for people who do watch TV, Friends ended 15 years ago! It’s probably not a good idea to assume that someone has seen it, especially if the interviewer is on the younger side. I’m 29 and have seen an episode here and there, but that particular reference would be lost on me.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        And if you’re in a field that age discriminates, this is going to work against you. You’ll be the “old person” referencing “Friends” when all the cool kids are referencing “Stranger Things.”

        1. Legal Beagle*

          “I’d be great for this job because I can control things with my mind – I’m a total Eleven!”

        2. iglwif*

          To my complete astonishment, my teenage child and her friends are 100% familiar with FRIENDS … because they’ve binge-watched it on Netflix. I would not have expected it to have that kind of afterlife, tbh.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      I live under a rock and would not get those references either, or at least it would take me awhile. I might recognize them in a “I’m sure I’ve heard that name before….” kind of way, but I certainly wouldn’t know what you were talking about or be able to infer anything about your abilities from it.

    4. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I recognized the references, but they are dated, from TV shows that haven’t been on the air for years. It’s a very bad idea to use pop culture references and OP shouldn’t do it, but… if you were going to do it, wouldn’t you pick a current popular tv show that is widely recognized and, um, fresher?

  10. Lioness*


    Oh no. Even if you say you’re doing this voluntarily. You risk people thinking that your company is pressuring you to give up your compensation to save them money.

    Don’t be a martyr. You’re not saving them much and it can backfire terribly. If you’re doing this because you love the company so much, realize how much damage this can cause if word got out.

  11. Mark Roth*

    I can almost get considering a practical pay cut to be a way to save your job. I wouldn’t work off the clock or ask for my salary to be actually cut, but I understand.

    But why would someone risk their health and their future to potentially save the company a few bucks?

    (And if you’re making me stay late, giving me dinner isn’t a bad way to incentivize it. Not that I get that in teaching)

  12. MassMatt*

    #1 I hope you can take the advice here to heart and stop punishing yourself to save costs for the company. This is a job, not some sort of religious penance, you are supposed to get paid and get other benefits such as health care and retirement. And OMG you are starving yourself and walking for miles with heavy equipment vs taking a bus or train? Most of the savings you have mentioned are actually trivial, at best, and might actually cost the company more. Could you have gotten more work done if you had spent the $3 for the subway and gotten back to work earlier vs walking for hours?

    Please rethink what this job is and why you are working there, and why you are so willing to punish yourself like this. I seriously think You should consider therapy, your mindset is out of whack, and it must be damaging your relationships with your coworkers.

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      Agreed. Please take a step back and seriously ask yourself where this is coming from. Why do you value yourself so little in the equation here? What are you hoping to gain from your actions? Some of the comments here may come across as less than kind, and that’s because your actions are so beyond what is normal and reasonable that many people can’t even wrap their brain around it. Consider this your opportunity to ask yourself some hard questions. Hopefully *before* you make any irreparable decisions.

    2. Paisley G*

      I empathized so much with OP #1. I moved 500 miles away from home right after college in the midst of the Great Recession and was laid off within 6 months. My job wasn’t great or what I wanted to be doing at all, but it felt like my anchor/my reason to be in that city. And the business closing down wasn’t pretty either, there were several terse meetings and one particular morning where I walked in on someone throwing iceberg lettuce all over the employee kitchen sobbing “They just fired me and they’re going to fire one of you, too!” I’ve always been prone to anxiety, but an irrational fear of getting fired/ any negative job stuff became a serious trigger for me, and has been for YEARS. I got in on a nonprofit after that where people were constantly being let go for less than public reasons. I was constantly selling myself short, taking a pay cut to go permanent from a temp job, never submitting or even asking for mileage, even when I had to drive 30 miles to our other campus. At this point I’m in therapy to deal with it, but I get that “walls are closing in on you” feeling. I hope the OP seeks therapy, too.

  13. AcademiaNut*

    #1 – the reason your coworkers aren’t doing any of these things is because these are not reasonable things to be doing!

    Reasonable cost cutting measures: comparing plane fares and hotel costs and booking an economical options. Going to affordable restaurants on business travel rather than top end ones. Using a computer or other equipment an extra year or two instead of automatically buying a new one. Taking a shared ride option from the airport instead of a cab. Turning up the temperature of the A/C a degree or two to save on electricity costs. Comparing insurance plans to get the most affordable reasonable health insurance. Determining how many software licenses you actually need. Getting multiple quotes for services. Firing low performers. Carefully considered layoffs. These things cut costs while still providing a reasonable and effective work environment.

    Unreasonable cost cutting measures: asking employees to work without pay. Not reimbursing travel expenses. Getting rid of insurance or retirement plans. Pay cuts. Laying off (or not replacing) needed employees. Expecting employees to use illegally downloaded software to avoid licensing fees. These things are either illegal, are going to drive people to leave for better employers, or are going to make it hard to attract good employees.

    Totally pointless cost cutting measures: refusing to pay bus fare. Not ordering pizza when during mandatory crunch/overtime work evenings. Charging for coffee. Unplugging every second light bulb to save energy. These things may save small amounts of money, but it’t not enough to make a difference to the business, and they’re going to cost you a lot in terms of employee satisfaction.

    And for the OP – if the business is in such bad shape that they can’t afford a couple of bucks in bus fare or a round of pizza, you should be looking for a new job. If you get sick and can’t afford decent health care, or don’t have enough money to retire, they certainly aren’t going to step up and repay you for your sacrifice.

    1. Clay on my apron*

      Exactly, if the business can only stay afloat by avoiding business costs (i.e. paying overtime and reimbursing people for buying stationary), it is not operating in a sustainable way and is going to go under anyway. Your sacrifices will enable it to hang on just a bit longer.

    2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      “asking employees to work without pay”

      Ah, if only the US government would realize this.

    3. cheesesticks and pretzels*

      I agree with this +100%

      Early in my career, I too took the cost cutting of my company to heart. Was very frugal when travelling etc.. At the end of the day, guess what? I still got laid off.

      I learned, the company doesn’t care how many sacrifices you make. When they can no longer afford to keep you, you are gone. If I could do it over again, I would have not sacrificed my comfort like I did.

    4. iglwif*


      I often take public transit when I travel for work, because (a) I take public transit at home, and I am a nerdy weirdo and enjoy comparing systems; (b) when I’m traveling for work, there’s going to be a lot of people-time involved, so I’ll take my silent-and-alone time where I can get it, and a bus or train with a bunch of other people is much better for that than a cab or uber; and (c) subway/LRT/elevated trains are often faster than cars, and come with better signage. Also, it can be a great way to get a feel for a new city!


      When I’m shlepping a bunch of heavy stuff for an exhibitor booth or something? Or when it’s going to take three times as long to get somewhere by transit? I take a cab or rideshare, because that’s just practical. And if I’m with a colleague who isn’t into the public transit experience, I go along with them, and I don’t guilt them for it!

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        > I take public transit at home, and I am a nerdy weirdo and enjoy comparing systems

        I found my people! I grew up in Los Angeles, but with a mother who grew up in Brooklyn. We rode the bus a lot when I was a tiny Thneed. As a “tween”, I rode the bus all over LA to explore and visit friends from summer camp (and that’s a lot of bus-riding). And as an adult, public transit accessibility is one of the things that’s most important to me in a new job.

    5. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I suppose for coffee, it depends on the scale of the budget. At one workplace, it turned out that supplying k-cups was costing a couple thousand dollars per year out of our small staff appreciation and social fund. Once I heard how much was being spent, I was happy to give up the coffee for better quality treats at other times.

  14. Diana*

    I know this is sensitive and I hope I word this in a way that conveys my intentions, but my first thought was that LW#1 should consider talking to a professional counselor or therapist. These sacrifices are so bizarre and outside the norm of what would even OCCUR to the average person that I’m concerned about their personal/professional boundaries. This is an inappropriate level of devotion to any employer, and it is of course absurd to think that a company would take that level of dedication towards supporting YOU if it came at tremendous cost to the firm. This has really gone beyond “I’ve misinterpreted a directive from my bosses, whoops!” and makes me wonder how much you value your own worth. You’ve literally put the success of your employer in front of your own health and future happiness! Please take a little time to check in with yourself.

    1. DaffyDuck*

      Yes, this was my first thought also. Please check in with a professional, this is outside the bounds of normal behavior. Any decent boss would be very worried about many of these actions .

    2. JSPA*

      Or a regular doctor (I thought of some aspects of frontotemporal dementia. Or a hoax.) This would certainly rate as “bad executive function” (in the medical sense) in that the actions are not only extreme but formally logically nonsensical. Ditto inability to correctly process reactions and emotions of others.
      Ditto compulsiveness.

      This isn’t to diagnose a specific condition. Other sorts of brain injury can have similar effects. But this drastically bad a series of decisions, coupled to dramatic lack of awareness, really should trigger a medical work-up / diagnosis.

    3. Memily*

      Yes, yes, yes. There are aspects of that letter I can possibly see coming from an extremely difficult childhood. (Either 1. the family was very, very poor and the OP had to get used to going without in the most extreme way, or 2. the OP’s parents made OP responsible in extreme ways for money in their household somehow.) Those are just ones that I can think of offhand, but it’s such a completely disproportionate response that I hope the OP can get some professional help to discover why those were her first responses.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        This actually reminds me of, of all things, Dr. Phil. Years ago he was talking about how kids internalize and blame themselves when they hear their parents arguing, and used “money” as an example. How if a young kid sees their parents fighting over money, they immediately go to, “Oh my God, I asked for $7 for school pictures. I asked for a toy at the store. And now there isn’t enough money and Mom and Dad are fighting!” They don’t understand that generally the arguments are about mortgages or debt or generally much larger amounts of money that have nothing to do with whatever the kid had been asking for. I have no idea what’s up with the LW, but it did bring that type of thought process to mind.

        1. JSPA*

          In a junior and young person, I’d think of this first. In a senior person (and single, so they may not be hearing much feedback about personality changes), I worry about other things more. OP, with all compassion, this is your feedback that something’s not computing quite right. And please don’t give up your health coverage.

    4. Jana*

      Yeah, OP’s response to this is over the top. And, honestly, some of the actions they’ve taken are unlikely to be noticed in the employer’s budget (like not eating food that’s already been purchased). And not saving for retirement or purchasing health insurance is only putting OP at risk.

      If the person who sent the emails about “cost cutting” hasn’t been specific about what measures should be taken, it would be good to go back to them for details. Companies that need to reduce costs make detailed plans about how to do it, they don’t generally just send emails to employees saying, “Hey, don’t spend money!” If no specific changes have been communicated, the employer needs to offer them.

  15. Bridget the Elephant*

    OP 1, I totally get why you’ve ended up feeling this way – I was the same at my last job. I didn’t expense mileage to trainings, I paid for my own hotel at another training, lunch was paid for by the private school I worked at, but I didn’t take my full allowance. And you know what? I started to feel resentful. Then, when it came to contact renewal time, they tried to offer me and two others contacts which paid £5000 less than colleagues at the same level. Two of us left over it, and that will have cost the school more overall (in recruitment costs, getting the new people up to speed, the morale hit when other colleagues found out what was going on, etc.).

    If you don’t get reimbursed for *reasonable* expenses you’ll end up resenting the company, and if you pressure others to do the same the morale hit will cost the company more in goodwill and other indirect costs than getting the company to cover your pizza and public transport ever will.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Plus, if the company doesn’t see you claiming those things, they potentially have a misleading picture e.g.
      – because you are not claiming any overtime, it appears that the workload is one that can reasonably be covered during normal hours,
      – if you only claim part of the allowed amount for a meal, it appears that staff can reasonably be expected to get a meal for the lower figure
      – you don’t expense mileage, other employees who do get push back.

      Depending on how things like over time are recorded and what other tools the employer uses, not recording that you are doing over time may mean that the employer thinks you are not doing any, and could give the impression that you are clock-watching.

      1. Bridget the Elephant*

        ^ This! Plus if you move to another role, you’re setting up unrealistic expectations for your successor, who deserves to be able to claim reasonable expenses and fit overtime.

    2. pleaset*

      I don’t get it.

      This stuff seems obviously like bad ideas to me.

      Why did you and the OP do this?

  16. Nursey Nurse*

    LW #1, it might be worth asking yourself why you’re going to such extremes to save your company a few dollars. You must realize that the measures you’re taking, while extremely significant to you, are not going to make an appreciable difference to the company’s bottom line. Furthermore, as Alison notes, you are probably damaging your relationships with your colleagues. I know I would think it was strange and off-putting if a coworker insisted in walking five miles with heavy equipment or pointedly skipping dinner all the time, especially if they were harassing me to do the same.

    Are you generally an anxious person? Are you concerned about losing your job because of the company’s perceived poor financial status? Are you hoping someone in management will notice and appreciate your sacrifices? What are you getting, or hoping to get, by doing the things you’re doing? I think it’s worth asking yourself these questions, and maybe figuring out some less self-destructive ways of getting whatever it is you are looking for.

    1. Shannon*

      Yeah, I’m genuinely concerned for OP and assuming that they are really scared about losing their job and this is how it manifested.

    2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      I suppose if one was the owner of the company it might just make sense, but barely…

    3. LilySparrow*

      Yes. The level of your personal suffering, or the suffering you can convince your co-workers to endure, creates absolutely zero economic value to the business. It quite literally does no good at all for anyone.

  17. Grand Mouse*

    #1- your overtime payments, wage, and benefits are the business costs of you being an employee. Greedy businesses would love to cut these costs, and do when they can get away with it. People have fought long and hard for these rights. Please value yourself and your coworkers.

    Another way to look at this too is (if not mandated by law) your employer has offered these benefits to make it desirable to work there and keep morale up. You’re supposed to use them! Plus giving up these benefit is a loss of thousands of dollars for you. In a well run business, these are accounted for and not even a big savings for them.

  18. Doctor What*

    OP #1 please, for your future’s sake DO NOT cut your retirement funds! I’m 45 yo and because I’ve only worked at a few places who even offered a retirement fund…I only have about $3500 for my retirement. I will probably have to work until the day I die. Please don’t do this to yourself!

    1. Memily*

      If you can afford to set some money aside every paycheck (even just a little bit), ask your bank or credit union if they have investment products! Most have at least something that you can set up independently of your workplace. Of course you won’t get a match, but at least you’ll have some money saved up!

    2. Former Math Editor*

      If you live in the US, you can always put money into an IRA account (assuming you have the cash to do so, of course), even if your employer doesn’t offer a retirement fund. You can even add extra if you’re above 50 y.o. There’s no matching, of course, but it helps to have it put away (either tax deferred (regular IRA) or post tax (Roth IRA, but no taxes when you take money out). )

      1. Been There, Done That*

        And please don’t make my mistake and think you have to wait till you can make BIG contributions to an IRA. Even a smaller, manageable amount every payday adds up to more than zero. So much retirement information emphasizes starting when you’re young. That doesn’t mean it’s too late for older workers to improve their retirement outlook. Do what you can do now.

  19. bookartist*

    LW #2 – And no one has yet looked you in the eye and asked who these people are? Just keep it professional and drop these references.

    1. Even Steven*

      Exactly – professional! Professional means that you don’t depend on shortcuts like making a cultural reference you hope the interviewer will recognize, but having a clear, coherent script ready that eloquently explains, in your example, your orderliness and organizational skills. Bonus points if you can connect those skills to a tangible accomplishment in a prior job. It’s a job interview, not trivia night. Talk about you, the job, and how you would be the perfect fit for each other! :) And good luck!

    2. seller of teapots (aka another leslie knope fan)*

      I think you could get away with *one* of these references, but I’d confirm with the interviewer that they watch the show.
      Interviewer: It’s really important that this person is organized and on-top of details.
      OP: Silly question, but do you watch Parks & Recs?
      Interviewer: Yes!
      OP: Well, I’ve regularly been compared to Leslie Knope, because I love being organized and managing projects. At *last job* we were working on improving the teapot building process and I *did impressive thing that shows how organized you are.*

      The key is that you a) check in to see if the person has any idea what you’re talking about and b) (most importantly) that you quickly move on to give solid examples.

      All that being said, this conversation would flow just as well if you left the pop culture references out! So it’s probably not a risk I would take.

      1. Squeeble*

        Agreeing with this. The risk of course is that the interviewer hasn’t watched the show in question, so then you have the choice of saying “oh, never mind” or trying to describe the character before explaining why you’re similar to them. Either one is awkward and like you say, you can get the point across just as well without making any pop culture references.

      2. Bookartist*

        I’m not sure that’s a good plan.

        “Bookartist, silly question but do you watch Park &Rec?”

        “I beg your pardon?”

        Awkward dead silence while interviewee tries to regroup

        1. bonkerballs*

          I mean, I agree that pop culture references probably aren’t great in an interview, but I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered “awkward dead silence” simply because the person I was talking to said “I beg your pardon.” That’s a pretty standard turn of phrase that comes up in conversation, not one that’s going to stop people in their tracks.

          1. seller of teapots (aka another leslie knope fan)*

            Well, I should note: I’m in sales. Talking to people and navigating their awkward silences is literally part of my job, so those sorts of things don’t really phase me.

          2. bookartist*

            I put explanatory text in angle brackets which the parser removed: “Furrowing my brow to let this person know I’m reacting to being called out on not being hip enough to know the in-crowd jokes/references.” It is not the kindest response, but making your interviewer feel awkward isn’t smart.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Honestly, you can just say “Colleagues and management always compliment me on how organized I am”. Just say the thing, don’t try to be clever about it.

      I think that a lot of people are reluctant to just say the thing. People! Naming your characteristics is not the same thing as bragging! Honestly, I once got a great job by naming something I wasn’t good at, but I was good at this other part of the job, and it turned out that the other part of the job is what the hiring manager actually wanted. But I just said it. I didn’t dance around it. I made a statement of fact about my own abilities.

  20. Liz*

    I left a job that made me feel like I was crazy. Since then I’ve had a few conversations with some former coworkers who also left, and talking with them about it made me feel saner, because – oh my god, yeah, all that horrible stuff DID happen! It happened to you guys too! You know exactly how I feel!

    I wouldn’t recommend reaching out to a total stranger for that conversation, though. But I definitely understand the impulse.

    1. ContemporaryIssued*

      I also definitely understand it. My Old Job went from bad to worse and some days I wish I ran into an old coworker so I could hear whether things went even worse after I left or whether they magically improved any and how many other older colleagues ended up leaving. (at least two of them were attending job fairs and applying on the down low) It’s a curiosity and if I’m honest, I get a kick out of gossip sometimes.

      I would not look up people in said job who I didn’t know and message them, though. And the curiosity is not even really enough to look up old colleagues on Facebook.

      1. Canadian Public Servant*

        I left a great job in a bad organization, which was heartwrenching at the time, and I was waaaay too invested in hearing about what was going on in former workplace. I am only now, almost two years later, really getting over my fear that I made a terrible mistake, and that it all got magically better after my departure, or that I was actually the problem – both that I should have been able to hack it, and that it was only bad because I didn’t deserve (training, support, respect). Ugh.

        All to say: I hope you can learn from the experience (which sounds like you handled really well!) but also let it go, and Allison’s questions are good places to start in thinking why letting it go is hard right now.

    2. Super dee duper anon*

      Yeah I get the impulse too. I left a job because I had a manager who was so awful it also made me feel like I was crazy. Seriously, the situation was so bad that even if I calmly and factually laid out 3-4 stories or examples I would be the one who sounds like a nut job because I must be making it up. When I tell stories about that manager I usually have to minimize or leave out some of the worst details because no one would believe me otherwise.

      Anyway I left that job, well was mostly pushed out, but I did not exactly go quietly. That bridge had already been obliterated so I didn’t really care about references and I was the first person the manager had ever managed so I kind of wanted to establish a pattern. No one else might have seen what was actually going on at the time, but maybe people would start to look more closely after it happened a couple of times in a row. Anyway – I say this all this to explain the next part. My first replacement lasted about 6 months. My second replacement was actually able to document enough (and I imagine the pattern was becoming obvious so they actually took her seriously) to get the manager demoted. Apparently though, this replacement had heard about me by name and had expressed interest in getting in touch (I remained close with a couple people in a different dept). We never connected, but I was torn – it would have been nice to commiserate and be validated, but it would also be opening a really painful can of worms.

      I do see the value in comparing stories or maybe even sharing tips for how to deal with extremely toxic situations, but I think it’s tough to play it exactly right with someone you’re not 110% sure feels the same way as you do.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      Sometimes when things are really bad, it’s hard to believe how bad they actually are. Like, is this as awful as I think it is? Do people really act like that? Can something so dysfunctional, well, function? Or am I being overly dramatic about a not great but not too bad situation? Getting outside confirmation that things really are as bad as you think they are is very tempting.

      Definitely don’t act on the impulse, but take comfort in the fact that it’s completely normal to have it.

    1. Anonariffic*

      I was thinking of Rey who didn’t want to expense anything while traveling and packed a suitcase full of ramen.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s meta, because it’s an AAM reference. (Unless your comment is meta meta, in which case apologies for missing it.) The accountant who wanted to make a name for himself and so chose OP to scrutinize with a fine-tooth comb, such as refusing to reimburse the guacamole on the burrito he grabbed at the airport.

        Bob to OP: “We are a responsible nonprofit who carefully steward our donors’ resources and never ask for guac.”
        Management to Bob, in Bob’s head: “Bob! Thanks to your vigilance we have saved so many 50 cent charges our thoughtless employees naively put on the company card. We’ll be promoting you to be in charge of everyone’s expenses.” (Eventually Bob’s vigilance did come to the attention of senior management, who were like “Oh hells no.”)

    2. Jaybeetee*

      I was literally thinking of this too couldn’t remember the hguy’s name though. Just the “pulled me up for ordering a side of guac.”

        1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          It’s a reference to the Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordan. Darkfriends are followers of the big bad of the setting. ‘Ishamael’ is the name of a prominent villain in that series.

      1. Elan Morin Tedronai*

        Naw, I like mine, actually. Mesaana’s good at her job and quite reasonable. She’s not the kind to nitpick unless I really overshoot my budget. xD

  21. Lillie Lane*

    #4: I was in a similar situation and can relate to the desire to commiserate with someone else who might know exactly why you hated a job. In my case, I happened to be at an industry event and ended up talking to a young woman who had my same position after I left. It *was* cathartic and nice to get confirmation from somebody I didn’t know that it was a toxic workplace. We had a really nice chat. But after that hour conversation, we both had unburdened ourselves and have since moved on.
    I think it might be a little odd or off-putting to the other person to seek them out purposely to vent. But who knows, you may run into them sometime and get the chance anyway.

    1. Smithy*

      I agree that if it happens somewhat naturally then that’s good – but I would also flag ways it can be awkward. I worked for a small nonprofit where I was the only fundraiser and worked a lot with the CEO. She was incredibly difficult to work with, but during the first year of my employment she was also sick and out of the office a lot. By the time she was “back to normal” and making my life difficult, I’d also been there for a year that resulted in a different level of security. Though it never felt like that. When I left, I knew that relationship was toxic and difficult – but she’s also somewhat canonized me and for my ultimate replacement everything was about how she wasn’t me.

      When my replacement opted to leave after three very difficult months she reached out for a call that ended up being very awkward. Everything she said was right about the place being high stress, unrealistic expectations, and a lot of yelling. But she was also asking me for insight on how I made it and what I did right. My guess about my start being different based on the CEO’s illness or perhaps just being more comfortable with dysfunction? I don’t know – but I will say I think the call didn’t really leave either of us with comraderie.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Thirding that if it happens organically it might be cathartic, but to seek it out can land as very weird. Like messaging someone “So you dated Fergus after I did, and I saw you dumped him. Was it the toenail thing? I hated the toenail thing.”

      2. TootsNYC*

        But she was also asking me for insight on how I made it and what I did right.

        I had one of these phone calls! Someone I’d worked with, who was a lovely person but really inefficient, told her process manager that I was the only person who had ever made her do things on time, and suggested we speak. When my former colleague told me she was going to have her process manager call me, she gave me the distinct impression that this woman was inexperienced at process management.

        So we wasted a little time at first, with me suggesting all these basic things, but we finally got down to the question: “She says you’re the only one who has made her do things on time; how did you do it?”

        I had to say, “She has it wrong–the only time she was EVER on time was when HER BOSS told her she had to be, and literally took things off her desk. I had nothing to do with it. And it sounds like she really hasn’t changed and she probably won’t.”

        So I was able to provide a little bit of commisseration, and a reality check (it isn’t you; it isn’t this job; it’s all her), which made her feel better about her skills, but not her situation.

    2. OP #4*

      Hi, I am OP. It is possible I would run into him at conferences. I don’t think I am actually going to reach out, but you’re totally correct that I would like catharsis basically. I am glad you got closure.

  22. Autistic Farm Girl*

    OP1, i’m sorry to say but the way you’re going about cutting costs is bizarre at best, and so dangerous for you! What if happens if you get sick now that you’ve opted-out of your health care?
    As a manager, if one of my staff started doing things like that i would chat to them and explain that they have misunderstood what cost cutting meant, and if they persisted (and cut their retirement or wages!!!!) i would seriously consider their judgement and their ability to make sound decisions.

    I am also really worried that you’re pressuring others in joining you, especially if you’re in a senior position, this could be seen in a very bad light and you’re seniority could mean that people feel they have to do the same as you do.

    As others have said, please stop trying to cut costs this way, this is dangerous for yourself and for your work relationships with other, get back on health insurance, get paid for your overtime, DO NOT cut your retirement or wages, and eat pizza!
    This is not what your employer meant when they said that people should be cutting costs.

    1. Sunshine*

      “I am also really worried that you’re pressuring others in joining you, especially if you’re in a senior position”


      1. Scarlet2*

        This is a very good point. It would be unpleasant enough to put that kind of pressure on peers (I can’t imagine working overtime under the disapproving glare of a colleague who thinks I’m greedy for eating a company-offered slice of pizza), but the seniority makes it even more problematic.

  23. Kiwi*

    OP1, I can guarantee you the Big Boss isn’t walking miles to avoid the cost of public transport or skipping food, let alone dropping their health insurance and retirement fund. Don’t sacrifice more than they are.

    1. Rainbow Roses*

      Especially when they didn’t ask the OP and other employees to go such extremes! This sounds all on the OP.

    2. Chip*

      I agree with this.

      OP #1, your heart is in the right place. No question about that. But if the company decides to fire you, needs to lay you off, or otherwise terminate your employment, they’re not going to care about the sacrifices you made for their benefit.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I actually DON’T think her heart is in the right place.

        Her heart should be invested in HERSELF. I don’t think it’s healthy, or virtuous, to put an employer above yourself.

        1. LawBee*

          I think OP’s heart is invested in being The Most Sacrificial, and she’s mostly mad that her Heroic Efforts aren’t being recognized.

  24. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Please don’t compare yourself to characters. I’m well aware of mainstream pop culture and enjoy a lot of things, including Parks & Rec but these comments come across poorly in an interview setting. It’s bad timing as well as confusing.

    I want to get to know you and your style with actual information about your skills and habits. I don’t want to invision a zany tv character working for me.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yes. And three in one interview is way too many.

      Also, not sure what OP was going with using the Angela example. She tried to overthrow one supervisor and slept with another — not what most employers are hoping for!

      1. DAMitsDevon*

        I think the LW mentioned she said that she had to deal with a supervisor who is like Angela, not that she herself is like Angela. However, even though she’s not describing herself, she still runs the risk of the interviewer not understanding her reference or if they do understand the reference, thinking that the LW is trash talking her boss instead of trying to come up with a more diplomatic way to describe a difficult situation.

      2. LW2*

        Just to clarify – – those were one each in three separate interviews with three separate companies, not all three in one interview.

    2. CTT*

      “I don’t want to invision a zany tv character working for me.” YES, this. Although the characters you mentioned do have good traits, the lives of TV characters are necessarily drama or wackiness-filled. If you’re going to talk about traits you admire in someone else that you also hope you have, talk about a real person you’ve actually worked with.

      Also: I know all the characters you referenced because I am someone in my late 20s who watches a lot of television, but I don’t like any of those shows. Not that I would put you on a Do Not Hire List because of it, but if you referenced one in an interview, I would have an involuntary “ugh” moment. Like TM, BL said, it’s not the right setting. It’s not about your actual work at all, and people have such strong feelings about television shows they like and dislike; you don’t want to create an own goal situation like that.

      1. CTT*

        (and I just realized that “own goal” is a sports reference and probably in the same realm as pop culture references….)

        1. londonedit*

          Where I live ‘own goal’ is such a common phrase that I don’t think anyone would struggle to understand it – it’s definitely not in the same realm as a pop culture reference.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            You’re Canadian aren’t you? I’ve only ever heard “own goal” in hockey.

            I agree that some things in that sense have melded with mainstream life. If someone refers to a “touchdown”, I’m 100% okay with that too. It just needs to be organic and not a used to make you stand out in an unprofessional way like I find connecting your own personality to that of fictional characters.

            1. lulu*

              Given that their username says london, I would go with football/soccer… Meaning it’s about context, so a touchdown reference in the US is completely OK, in Europe, not so much.

          2. Christine*

            I would count a sports reference as something similar though, as I didn’t catch it and am still unsure of its meaning.

        2. Observer*

          I don’t think that people need to totally stop using idiomatic language. Especially phrases that have become so much a part of the language that people often don’t even know where the phrase came from. In this case, for instance, you wouldn’t have to know ANYTHING about the sports this could have originated in to know what it means. (To be honest, I know so little about sports that if I were explaining the origins to someone I would have to admit that I’m not even completely sure of the sport – but I still know what it means.)

          Also, I think that when people REALIZE that some expressions may be confusing to people who don’t know the culture, they are more likely to catch when someone doesn’t get what they just said. Like, you are aware that this might require some knowledge of sport, so you are more likely to notice that someone didn’t quite understand what you just said.

          1. londonedit*

            You didn’t ask :D but I believe it’s from football (soccer). An own goal is when the ball hits a defending player and goes into the opposition’s net – hence the more general meaning of the phrase as ‘doing something embarrassing, to your own detriment’ or ‘shooting yourself in the foot’.

        3. TootsNYC*

          No, I don’t think it is in the same realm as the pop culture references. It’s a specific slang, and it might peg you as a sports fan, but it has entered the wider vernacular.

          1. Christine*

            Don’t discount those of us living under bridges luring billy goats. I’d not heard the phrase before.

            1. twig*

              me neither. my own goal is to go home early today.

              but it’s not going to happen.

              (sports stuff like this almost always goes over my head)

  25. Elizabeth West*

    #2–I have been known to wear themed socks or jewelry to an interview (nothing flashy or inappropriate). I would only do that if the interviewer recognized my nerdy accessories or made a pop culture reference themselves.

  26. DaffyDuck*

    #1 – Cutting costs does NOT mean you forgo getting paid, normal business expenses, etc. It is important the business is able to cover these for the myriad of reasons posted above.
    Cutting cost means: do not throw out pens that are still half full of ink, edit on your computer instead of printing multiple times, don’t leave the door open when the air conditioning is on, turn off your office lights when you leave at the end of the day.
    I’m sure others can add to this list.

    1. only acting normal*

      Carshare with colleagues on the way to external meetings rather than all travelling separately (cuts mileage or hirecar costs).
      If travelling solo check if public transport is cheaper (factoring in cost of your time).
      Compare suppliers to get good value on anything you buy. But again don’t waste hours saving 50p on a £5 purchase.
      Your time is easily the most valuable expense, it’s ultimately the thing your company charges for (even if in the form of a widget they manufacture) don’t waste it.

      1. DaffyDuck*

        My father used to grouse about how his mother would spend $1 in gas and all day shopping to save 5 cents on a can of beans. Hidden costs can be significant.

    2. Asenath*

      I agree – do NOT try to save your employer money by cutting ordinary costs of doing business, and certainly not by sacrificing agreed-on benefits like retirement and health plans. Refusing to eat pizza (already paid for!) provided when you work late doesn’t save a penny. Don’t waste office supplies. Don’t put in requisitions for new and expensive, but not really necessary, equipment. Don’t hire new staff – even if someone’s resigned (this one can backfire if everyone gets overworked and quits, but cutting staff does save money). And one anonymous employer’s favourites – cut on travel and office perks like coffee and snacks at meetings. Paraphrasing slightly “If you’re expected to be here anyway (ie aren’t a work visitor from out of town), you would normally feed yourself.” This doesn’t apply to pizza provided in exceptional circumstances, like doing required overtime.

  27. Volunteer Enforcer*

    #2 never in interviews, but pretty often at the office I reference Super Mario. It’s pretty easy to tell when they don’t get it, you either know or don’t.

    #4 I can understand the impulse, I often want to do the same myself but just think of how weird and unprofessional it will look. Good luck!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      All of my short-lived attempts to play video games with my son resulted in my character immediately floating along helplessly in a bubble. I’m not sure what this means in a business context.

      (I did love the Community 8-bit episode for this reason, because Pierce and Troy were an unexaggerated version of myself and my son–one of us keeps walking into the wall, one of us constantly jumps around.)

  28. Observer*

    #1 – In addition to what the others have pointed out, you are also putting your employer in legal danger.

    You may be right that an employee may voluntarily waive payment for time worked. But no country with the bare minimum of employee protection permits the employer to make that decision for the employee. Which means that pressuring staff to forgo wages and any other reimbursements that they are legally entitled to is ILLEGAL.

    Also, I don’t know what the liability and employment safety laws are like in your country, but in the US (and probably at least in Western Europe and Canada) if a company ALLOWS, never mind PRESSURES, staff to do stupid dangerous stuff like carrying heavy equipment for several miles instead of taking appropriate transportation, and someone gets hurt, the company is on the hook. And again, PRESSURING people to do things that could reasonably be construed as dangerous / forgo reasonable safety measures is ILLEGAL in most countries.

    I work for a non-profit with a mission I deeply believe in. Keeping costs down is a huge part of my life. And I would NEVER think of doing the things you are doing. The conspicuous refusal to eat the food the company provides would get you a stern talking to from HR if you pulled that here. And if someone ever tried to make an issue of the Admin asking for the reimbursement form etc? Their job would be on the line.

    You are complaining that people are not pulling together. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that YOU are the one who is not “pulling together” and that the people around you are being remarkably tolerant. I’m really surprised that no one has told you to go jump in the lake (or something considerably less polite) when you make a big deal of not eating the pizza. And in most workplaces any attempt to keep people from claiming their rightful reimbursement, or even just huffing about people claiming it, would get raised to HR and / or your boss.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I worked somewhere where, to cut expenses, the Maintenance Director was emptying and re-using Sharps containers. We had a First Aid station so under the regulations of our municipality, we had to have a separate biohazard trash can for bloody gauze, etc., and he would empty the Sharps container into the biohazard trash can.

      Well, one day he was on vacation the week the biohazard trash was picked up, and he left directions for someone else to empty the Sharps container into the biohazard trash. That someone got a needlestick and spent 90 days on antibiotics and antiretroviral drugs and periodically visiting the worker’s comp doctor for blood tests.

      This cost-saving measure was NOT appreciated by the company. It would have been cheaper and safer to purchase a new plastic Sharps container periodically, than to a) pay worker’s comp for a needlestick b) pay any requisite penalties and c) potentially pay fines for incorrect disposal of Sharps had the biohazard company noticed needles in the trash bag.

      1. irene adler*

        Good example!

        At times we’ve been given the directive to watch our expenditures. So we do.
        A co-worker chuckled over something they made the lab workers do at his prior job: wash,sterilize and re-use the disposable glass test tubes. A very tedious, time-consuming task if ever there was one. They quickly realized the cost of the labor to do this was far more than simply purchasing new glass test tubes.

  29. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    If they wanted to cut healthcare or retirements that’s what they’d do, they wouldn’t just ask you to “watch your spending!” and assume you’ll cut your own benefits.

    When I say “watch your expenses” I mean to buy things you need that are essential and shop around for deals when you can.

    If I meant to stop buying pizza for late nights, I would say it plainly. “We’re no longer offering business supplied meals”.

    I’m a miser. My boss is known to be cheap. But we still know costs of insurance, retirements, hours worked, mileage, transportation when leaving the office and occasional bagels, pizza and a few BBQs a year are standard.

    If we can’t afford pizza for a late work night, the company is bankrupt and everyone is in danger.

    I’m sorry you panicked! They should have not sent an office wide blast, only to those with purchasing/expensing duties otherwise those without the powers start thinking there’s anything they can really do to lower costs correctly.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Or an email to those specifically with the purchasing and expensing duties, and everyone else just get specifically worded emails about “think before you print” and that kind of measures, without panicky wording about getting as close to zero as possible, so as to avoid a situation where anyone would think they had to go to such extremes to save.

      Not eating the pizza isn’t saving any money anyway because someone else already ordered that and one person declining it isn’t going to get the cost of one slice of pizza back.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yes, not taking your slice doesn’t mean they’ll stop ordering either. It just means someone else gets extra or if you’re with a crew that only takes their allotment, you just threw food in the trash and that’s even worse than spending the money in the first place.

    2. aebhel*

      This! I work for a public library, and we’re on a continually tight budget. If we need to cut costs of healthcare (which we have before), we purchase a new plan that’s more cost effective! We don’t just expect all our employees to drop their insurance, that would be insane!

      1. Clisby Williams*

        Yes. Just like, hypothetically, this employer could ban overtime. Or decrease the retirement fund match. Or even do something as drastic as lower everyone’s salary by 10%. It would make no sense for them to put out a watch-your-costs memo and depend on individual employees to volunteer for things like that.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Yes! All this! Fck’s sake, OP1, don’t set your life on fire for someone who’d cut you loose in a heartbeat if necessary to cut costs.

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes. I work in a field that is notoriously short on money and we make do without a lot of luxuries. This means room sharing with coworkers when we travel, eating at cheap places, buying ONLY what we need and nothing we don’t, shopping around for the best deal, begging customer service reps to give us the biggest discount possible on bulk supply orders, ruthlessly demanding returns or exchanges on incorrect orders or faulty products, and fixing old equipment ourselves if at all possible instead of buying a new one or paying for a technician to come out and fix it. The old adage “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” is like a mantra.

      Coming from that mindset, I am horrified at your interpretation of the “let’s save money” edict. Horrified on your behalf. What you are doing is no less than sacrificing yourself- your health, safety, and financial security- in the name of saving literally a few dollars. Your actions will help nobody and harm you immensely. I’m saying this from a place of kindness and understanding. I have the impulse to sacrifice myself for the greater good too. Sometimes others have to pull me back and give me a reality check. Consider this your reality check. What you’re doing is not normal, not wise, and most of all, not actually helpful. Please take care of yourself and let the company worry about itself.

  30. Approval is optional*

    OP1. I worked for a while for a government department – we couldn’t generate revenue, so we bargained cost savings to earn salary increases (collective bargaining). We implemented the following strategies: % decrease in energy consumption -eg reviewing lighting needs around the office, ensuring lights are turned off at night/when office is empty; % decrease in consumable costs- eg going as ‘paperless’ as possible, investigating bulk buying with other departments to cut costs; % decrease in transport costs – eg coordinating trips out of the office (one car/taxi dropping people off along the way). These were reasonable (rational), achievable savings strategies – your current ones aren’t. (I can’t remember the %s now but they were built into a three year plan – we renegotiated our agreement every three years).
    Perhaps consider some or all of these types of savings in your own work practice/team or the like and give up the things you are doing now – you are harming yourself and not benefitting your employer right now. Perhaps if you put together a business case around one or more reasonable initiative you will get back some of the professional ‘credit’ you’ve probably lost because of your savings attempts, and also achieve some significant savings for the office.

  31. Observer*

    #2 Another thought, as well. Using these references the way that you did could make you look bad to an employer. For one thing, it could easily look like you’re trying too hard to look hip, or culturally fluent when you really aren’t. That’s not a good look.

    Also, if I were someone worried about diversity I might be a bit concerned with hiring someone who assumed that everyone in the world (or the US at least) is so conversant with your slice of pop culture that you can just reference it the way you did and people will understand what you mean. You’re communicating in a way that is going to be intelligible to only a relatively small proportion of the population, despite the popularity of these shows. And I’d be wondering if you even realize that there are a LOT of people in the world, some of whom might actually work here! whose life experiences are significantly different than yours and who bring a really different perspective to the table.

    Think about this – SO MANY people here didn’t recognize at least one of these references that Allison had to post a request for people to stop mentioning that within a couple of hours of your letter coming up. Obviously your definition of “not obscure” leaves a lot of people out. And that’s aside from the issue that others pointed out, where even people who are familiar with your references might see those things differently.

    1. Tau*

      This is a really good point. I work for a very international company and part of that is going with the least common denominator as far as references to things like pop culture, politics, etc. is concerned, because you cannot assume people will have the same frame of reference as you do. Chances are very few people at my company would get those references, and if you dropped them in an interview in the way you did (i.e., in a way that makes you unintelligible to someone who doesn’t have your background) that would almost certainly be a red flag for cultural fit.

  32. Obelia*

    OP1: I’m in charge of a budget which has huge non-pay expenses which we are asking people to minimise. (I’m outside the US, too).
    What we mean by this is: book travel in advance so that you can get the cheapest fare, attend/arrange meetings by phone/Skype where that’s suitable, try not to be too wasteful of office resources, etc. It does *not* mean “don’t claim for your legitimate business expenses for things we require you to do.” I do have people requesting part time work who emphasise the potential savings it could make to the business, but that’s not the primary reason they’re asking for it (and if it was, I’d say no!).

    Two points about your company stand out to me.
    1) It is not the employees’ responsibility to cut expenses to “close to zero”. If the company wants expenses cut that hard, they need to (for instance) stop sending you out on trips, rather than expecting them to cost nothing.
    2) Did your HR department ask you any questions about you cutting your retirement contributions and health insurance? In a good company I’d have expected them to dig into this a bit before actioning something so detrimental.

    1. But you don't have an accent...*

      This! My employer is trying to reduce travel costs – but they still let us violate our fare rules (no more than $x over the lowest possible flight option) if Spirit Airlines is throwing the price of the flight off (besides how uncomfortable the planes are, if something goes wrong on Spirit, they may lose multiple days of work or end up with people stranded across the country since they have a small fleet). What they really mean is “stop booking trips at the last minute and no, you don’t need to go visit your client during *biggest festival/parade/party of the year* in that city.

  33. Everdene*

    OP5, I get it! Yesterday I met my succsessor at a job I loved until my nightmare boss showed his true nature. I’d like to have a glass of something with her and compare notes… however, your experience is valid without hearing that someone else had the same experience. Put it all behind you. But if you are ever both at the same confence or industry event…?

  34. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #1 Don’t spend your own money to “help” the company. If they want you to take heavy equipment somewhere, they have to pay for it. If you have to take a taxi to get there, claim that money back. It’s a legitimate business expense. There is no reason to feel guilty about it. The time you spent walking to this place is probably worth more to the company than the money spent on a taxi.

    You asked them to reduce their contribution to your retirement fund? No. That’s YOUR money. You work for it. You are 100% entitled to it. You don’t have to suffer for the company. And I don’t think they expect you to.

  35. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – I don’t think it matters if the reference is recognised or not. It doesn’t make you look good regardless.

    They want to hear about you. They don’t want a self-description that you are like A.N.Other person. If you want to impress them with organisational skills, tell them about how your changes to processes improved efficiency, or on a personal level, you find thay doing X improves Y.

    You’re telling, not showing, with an added layer of separation from your achievements.

    You are awesome! Tell them about YOU :)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Picture “I’m like my cousin Marigold. Marigold’s thing with a neat desk? Totally my thing too!”

      Even if they know your cousin Marigold, it’s weird to try and use her as a metaphor for yourself.

  36. Peter*

    Letter #1 – aren’t many of these things that the company wouldn’t be paying for anyway? In most workplaces, if a customer requires you to travel five miles with equipment, the customer pays the cost. Likewise if you are working late on a client site and need to eat. She isn’t even saving her company any money – just bearing personally the reasonable costs that her company’s client fully expects to pay and will have factored in when deciding to take on her company.

    1. hbc*

      The short answer is no. Many companies with clients quote a project-based fee, and the client pays the same whether the people show up riding on a bus tailgate or in a limo. And lots of companies don’t have clients, they have customers—you don’t get the cost of Keurig’s transportation directly billed to you when you buy a new machine, or get a different bill from the plumber depending on how he got to your house. And that’s before you get into departments that aren’t outward-facing.

      Not that OP should be doing all that penny-pinching, of course, but those pennies probably will end up in the employer’s pocket.

    2. iglwif*

      My company bills customers for our travel expenses when we send someone to their site to do training. For exactly that reason, we try to keep those expenses low — that is, we try harder than when our company is paying the expenses.

      But that still means, like, eating at the $2o place rather than the $60 place, and staying at the clean and safe but not fancy hotel, and flying economy, and sharing one rental car. It doesn’t mean eating nothing, or sleeping at the local youth hostel, or flying basic economy with no luggage, or hitchhiking from the airport to the customer site.

      A reasonable employer doesn’t expect those things, and an employer that *did* expect those things would be an employer that’s full of evil bees and you should be looking for a new job ASAP.

  37. Jack V*

    OP #1. Oh gosh, you sound like me and many people I know. Please, please, please, *don’t* feel the need to be a martyr, it’s like you feel you’re vastly less important than your colleagues when that’s not true. I don’t know if you’re coming from a similar place to me, or from fear from your job, or a genuine desire to do what you’ve been asked to do, or something else, but it’s really important that you don’t.

    If this is coming from a different place, then sorry, ignore the rest of this advice.

    I suspect the pressure to do so feels overwhelming, especially if there have been multiple directives saying “cut to zero”. But (a) if a boss explicitly asked you to forgo your health or your personal money, in the short or long term, you shouldn’t, and it’s the same if the message is unclear. If the company is in trouble, going to those heroic lengths won’t make a difference for one employee amongst many. And (b) Whether it makes sense or not, if you sacrifice this way, people respect you less — they react as if your time, your skill, your health is worth less than other people.

    Also notice that most people issue broad requests saying “do less X” and expect them to reach people who do a lot of X, not people who are already doing almost no X. That’s not actually a great approach. It’s like when the government runs adverts saying “be energy efficient, turn your thermostat down”, if they’d said “17 is enough for most people, unless you elderly or ill” then people would know what to aim for, but if they just say “lower” then all the people who mean well wonder if they should turn it down further even if it’s below 17 and all the people who have it on 25 not 27 congratulate themselves for already having done it.

    I think it’s very important that you:

    1. Don’t sacrifice in this way. If you’re 5% more frugal than your coworkers, that’s plenty. You can’t fix everything else. If there are other savings that you can suggest that aren’t about you personally, or if there’s something positive you can do to make money or save money for the company (if you led the paperless office initiative 2019!) then that’s good. Ignore what you feel, make sure you get a normal amount of pay and benefits.

    2. If you’re like me, you may keep feeling that that’s what you’re supposed to be doing. Try to just, not let that show too much, because even if it feels like it would help, it doesn’t.

    3. Over-focussing on solutions that sort of disrespect your own worth are the sort of reaction people with depression often have (or various other complication overlapping brain things). I don’t know if that’s you, but talking it over with a friend, or a more emotion-focused advice columnist (Captain Awkward is wonderful!), or (if possible) a therapist or doctor, might be helpful.

    Fingers crossed things work out ok for you.

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      I too am like this. Something that I learned, and still need to remind myself of, is that YOU set your own value. Not anyone else. If YOU don’t value your own time, money, health, skills, etc., nobody else will either. If you view these things as expendable, well, that’s exactly what they’ll be. Nobody else will honor or value what you do not.

      That’s the danger of being the accommodating one, the one willing to go to extreme lengths to shoulder a burden. This can be valuable in an acute crisis (how many heroes of fiction go to extreme if not outright bizarre lengths to save the world from certain and imminent doom?), but in all other circumstances this behavior will only get you a big steaming pile of brokenness and burnout. And no thanks. Certainly no admiration.

  38. legalchef*

    Re 5 – don’t do it. I’ve actually had this happen from the reverse – When I left my old job, I was actually contacted by my replacement on two occasions because she wanted me to talk about my experiences with her. The second time was after she was fired (and my understanding was that the firing was completely justified and not related to the problems I had with the office that lead me to leave).

    But I didn’t, because at the end of the day I didn’t know her, and didn’t know if I could trust her not to take what I said and spread it around, or even embellish it before spreading it around.

    1. Plain Jane*

      This is what I was coming here to say. You admit that they pulled a bait and switch on you with position, so if they did that with her it’s possible she couldn’t keep up with the work and was terminated and doesn’t wish to discuss that. Also, because she doesn’t know you, even if she was willing to discuss issues with the job, she doesn’t know if you’ll keep her confidence or vice versa. Or she didn’t experience any of the issues you had and left for other reasons. There’s just too many unknowns here to have this discussion organically I think.

  39. Freelancelot*

    OP1, in a reasonable company cutting the expenses, means “Don’t take a limo to go to an out of site meeting and don’t order champagne for lunch. Please don’t waste our office supplies as well.”
    I fear that if the managers found out what are you doing, you risk to come across as incredibly out of touch because what you’re doing is not reasonable (if they don’t find this situation a bit too much, then they’re out of touch as well and this would be a bigger problem). Of course, your colleagues don’t want to embrace this crusade against basic stuff like food or transportation, let alone cutting their benefits! Why should they? Why should you?

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      If I were OP’s supervisor, I’d give them a mandatory reference to the Employee Assistance Program immediately. Their behavior is not healthy or normal.

  40. Stephanie D.*

    LW #1’s thinking struck me as extremely similar to the main character in “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine”. Very rigid, no-nonsense, black or white thinking with judgement of others for not thinking the same way. It doesn’t seem very healthy and, as evidenced by Alison’s and other commenter’s replies, is off base with the reality of the situation.

  41. Baguette*

    It’s so striking how sure OP1 is that they are correct and that their coworkers are in the wrong for still submitting travel expenses and overtime, rather than any hint of realisation that OF COURSE submitting travel and overtime is completely normal. This reads like it’s OP’s personal business and they directly benefit from profits. Still wouldn’t be healthy to be giving up this much, but it reaches new levels of absurd when you remember that they are doing this for a company that isn’t theirs.

    I really hope they either take into account the advice and comments, or that someone at the company intervenes, before OP1 puts themselves or the company at risk, or continues to alienate themselves from their coworkers. This has got to be really demoralising (and annoying) for the rest of the team. And OP is going to start to suffer from these sacrifices too.

  42. RUKidding*

    (Sorry for yge shouting, but WTAF?!)

    Stop sacrificing yourself, your income, retirement, and health care. This is not *your* business. They would not sacrifice like that, or even a fraction of like that for you. And don’t walk even a single block with heavy equipment much less five (!!!) miles.

    Claim the money you’re iwed, all of it including your mileage. Do this today!!!

  43. Cordoba*

    When somebody whose compensation is most conveniently measured in “millions of dollars” asks me to cut expenses I am inclined to ignore them.

    Hey Rockefeller, if you’re looking to save some money maybe start with the corporate jet and your company-paid country club membership?

      1. MommyMD*

        Nothing kind about shaming coworkers over eating a supplied lunch.

        Don’t worry. The chances of this letter being real are as good as a snowball in He!! But it was funny. LW should have thrown in ire about coworkers flushing the toilet and wasting company water lol.

  44. Rebecca*

    OP#1 – if I were your manager, we’d be having a conversation about why you wasted at least 4 hours the company’s time walking 5 miles with heavy equipment (!!!) and then back, so 10 miles??? instead of taking public transportation to get the job done in a fraction of the time. What is your hourly pay rate? I’d be quite upset if my senior employee wasted half a working day doing a task that could have possibly been done in an hour and at much less cost than walking.

    And please look at this from your coworker’s views: the things your advocating to save money could possibly bankrupt you, especially the part about giving up health insurance, unless your country has an alternate plan you can pay for on your own. You state you’re senior, single, and able to afford these cuts. Your coworkers are probably not in this situation. Please do not assume they can make the same sacrifices or would even want to.

    1. Doodle*

      Giving up health insurance in particular is such a very bad idea. You just do not know what will happen. Right before New Year’s I took an ambulance ride to the ER and have spent quite a lot of time the last couple weeks seeing various medical professionals (all is well — Yay me!). The bills are starting to come in. If I did not have insurance, our savings would be gone. And that’s for a medical issue that was resolved within a few weeks. If any one of the possible Bad Things had been there, we’d very quickly be so far in debt that we’d have to declare bankruptcy. I’m sure many others reading this blog have similar, or worse, stories.

      Do NOT give up your insurance or retirement.

    2. aebhel*

      Yeah, I carry health insurance for my family, including my two young children and my spouse with a chronic illness. I am NOT giving up my health insurance to save my employer money (not that they would ever ask me to)! Without insurance, medical costs alone would bankrupt us within a year.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Yes, OP#1 — Suppose you tripped and fell, damaging that piece of equipment? How would your managers have reacted had you said “Yes, I fell and ruined a $1000 piece of equipment — but I saved the company $2.00 in bus fare.”

      Think about it. Please.

  45. Rez123*

    #1 I don’t want to armchair diagnose but to me this sounds like some type of martyr enjoyment thing. Please, re-evaluate the actions you are doing now.
    The savings an individual can make with hunger strikes and walking doesn’t really mean anything in the company budget. Savings are telecommuting to the meeting instead of flying to Brussels, not redecorating the office every year, holiday party that costs 20% less, client meetings in non-Michelin star restaurants etc. please don’t stop your health care or retirement savings. It’s not your job to save the money. The big bosses will tell the actions. My office encourages savings through taking unpaid time off, reducing our summer holiday bonus, cutting some professional development courses to different cities and things like this. Nothing that makes individuals lose out on their own.

    1. valentine*

      this sounds like some type of martyr enjoyment thing
      I don’t see enjoyment, but suffering to try to stave off something worse.

      1. Scarlet2*

        And how is not eating pizza that’s already been paid helping anything? It’s totally misguided self-flagellation, not a rational effort to cut costs.

        1. valentine*

          OP doesn’t know it’s not rational and seeing that may be frightening. It makes sense if you feel intensely, personally responsible for money that isn’t yours, plus “Every little bit helps,” internalized while isolated enough to assume it’s the way of the world, not just your family. I can’t find Cracked’s great article on how growing up poor leads to a twisted relationship with money, but also helpful is Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes – and How to Correct Them by Belsky and Gilovich.

          1. Scarlet2*

            My main issue is that they try to pressurize their (more junior) coworkers to go to the same ridiculous lengths they do and are actually resenting them. At best, it creates an unpleasant working environment, at worst, it leads to unacceptable pressure from a senior employee.

            1. Not An Intern Any More*

              And if OP1 sees these things as legitimate acts, then she might, in place of resenting her staff for not following her lead, outright order them to do so.

              1. Not An Intern Any More*

                In which case, without insight from “the Big Boss'”, she might claim insubordination.

          2. Scarlet2*

            It also seems a bit too performative to be just the result of an irrational fear. If they’re just “frightened”, why make such a big show of their sacrifices and why be judgemental of their coworkers?

      2. RUKidding*

        Without getting into diagnosing at a distance, especially for those of us not* qualified to diagnose at all… I think most of us know/have known someone who seems to thrive by being a martyr. They get *something* from it…

        Is OP like that? Who can say… They do seem to be acting like one though and I think that’s what Rez, and a few others mean.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep, I know someone who I can totally see behaving like this. They seem to get a great deal of satisfaction from making their own life as difficult as possible – see how much I sacrifice! See how I suffer! See how awful my life is! They could easily make things better for themselves, but they don’t, because of the story they like to tell about how terrible their childhood was (it wasn’t really any more or less terrible than most people’s), how poor their family was (in reality they were an ordinary, reasonably comfortable working-class family), how they never had any opportunities in life (funny how they managed to get some good qualifications and make a career for themselves) etc etc etc. The narrative is that they never have any luck, the universe hates them, they don’t deserve anything except endless miserable toil because of their lowly situation in life. It’s quite frankly ridiculous, and I’ve had to stop looking at their social media posts because of it. I could absolutely see this person putting on their hair shirt and acting like OP1 describes.

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          Sometimes it’s as simple as overwhelmingly feeling like that is what you are *supposed* to be doing. Not because it’s pleasurable or you get to feel self righteous, but because you feel it’s expected to the point of mandated. People who are naturally inclined to help others and who find their worth through service can fall into this trap. No, it isn’t rational. Of course some people do get a grim, self righteous satisfaction from extreme self sacrifice, but that’s not the only place it comes from.

      3. doreen*

        I don’t know that I would call it enjoyment, exactly. It’s certainly not a matter of enjoying the suffering itself – but I do get the impression that there’s a certain amount of self-satisfaction involved. I suspect if there was no cost-cutting effort it would be something else – “no one works as hard as I do” or something similar.

        1. Scarlet2*

          I honestly get more self-righteousness than fear or suffering from the tone of the letter. The OP is not asking a question about cost-cutting, looking for reassurance that they’re not about to be laid off, or anything like that. They just detail how much sacrifice they’re making for the company and complaining that their coworkers are not willing to do the same.

    2. Rez123*

      Ok, maybe enjoyment is not the right word. I cannot think of appropriate word…but getting some weird satisfaction. Some of you totally caught what I was trying to say (RUKidding nailed it with appropriate warnings). We all know this person who is slaving away in the kitchen eventhough they could be enjoying a glass of wine. The person who insists on taking the mosst difficult option and lets people know about it. Could also be a control thing. Doing more than others can be thrown in their face.

      Obviously I don’t know OP. I don’t know how boss presented this. Don’t know if boss actually knows about this. I could be way off base and OP is just doing what she can or she has certain experiences that causes her to have this type of relationship with money. I’d encourage her to really observe her reasoning for doing these cuts.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Your 1st paragraph nailed someone I work with now. She creates an incredible amount of make-work just to show off that she’s working more, she’s working harder than anyone else. While waving a banner proclaiming, “Look! I’m working the most!” Unfortunately, our newish manager bought into it and everyone else has to carry on the same overdone procedures or else be sniped as a slacker. The response to any suggestion of ways to streamline (and therefore save time and effort for bigger things) is “Oh, that won’t work here! It just won’t work.”

  46. Memily*

    OP 1: Something I haven’t seen much of yet is that you may not be able to reasonably cut expenses due to your position.

    For example, I work as a bookkeeper. I have no control over what our project managers do or their expenses. I don’t order things for the office or control internal expenses. I watch the expenses and can make suggestions, but there’s not much I can do personally to change the bottom line.

    So my own personal changes to help cut expenses are pretty minimal. Choosing a less expensive meal at a company meeting. Not requesting a ton of office supplies. Making sure the lights are turned off. Not printing a ton of documents. Making sure things are paid on time so we don’t earn interest. Most of these are things I already do, so cutting more just wouldn’t be reasonable. I’ve done my part, it’s up to the project managers, estimator, and owner of the company to take care of the bulk of it since that’s part of their job description.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      It’s the flip side of the company that gave us stock options instead of the promised cash bonus. One co-worker thought it was so awesome because it gave us incentive to work harder! I challenged him to name one thing we did that would directly affect the stock price, and he couldn’t come up with anything.

  47. SigneL*

    My first thought about #1 was, what is top management to cut costs? Are they taking pay cuts?

    Second thought was, it actually does the company a disservice when you do not ask to be reimbursed for normal business expenses. I understand that the OP is just one person, but still, the boss needs to know what the cost of doing business is. Some expenses are just the cost of doing business. Others, like maybe buying snacks for the break room, may be extras.

    I can guarantee you the big boss isn’t denying himself healthcare or retirement contributions.

    1. RUKidding*

      Also telling staff that they need to cut to near “zero?” That’s massively unrealistic and an undue burden IMO.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I wonder if that memo really said “near zero.”

        In a place where the company is ordering pizza, and the admin is asking for expense forms, that just seems too contradictory.

  48. Sunshine*

    OP1: There can be a thing where we almost make bargains in our heads. We think that if we sacrifice and struggle we are bound to be rewarded later. However we make these bargains *with ourselves*. Your company are not in on this ‘bargain’ and could let you go tomorrow.

    I am sad to say but realistically, the only thing you’re achieving by forgoing pizza is a lack of pizza.

    1. Alfonzo Mango*

      Well said! Normally I am on the side of virtue signalling, but LW1 needs to remember “their job ad will be in the paper before their obituary”

      1. Sunshine*

        They probably won’t even notice them. Or if they do, it may backfire. “Why did OP take three hours to deliver the equipment when Jane did it in one??” Etc.

  49. EvilQueenRegina*

    One thought that suddenly struck me, if OP1 has been going round the office saying things to coworkers about not eating the pizza/not claiming mileage/not using the public transport, and it’s bothering the coworkers, how aware is their manager of this? Is there no one who has spoken to their own manager about what OP is suggesting they do?

    I’m wondering why OP’s own manager hasn’t sat them down at this point and clarified the cost cutting email which I am beginning to suspect may have been worded badly, and explained that things like not eating the pizza really isn’t saving money and the five mile walks with the equipment when they could be doing something else is actually costing money.

  50. Basic Economics*

    #1 wow I’m hoping that your letter is fake, or this is highly exaggerated really 5 miles with heavy equipment. If it is company owned/rented equipment its a huge liability to let you carry it 5 miles. My company purchases rolling laptop bags so they don’t incur the expense from damaged laptops and we aren’t allowed to move other office equipment (printers, desktops, scanners, etc) because they don’t want to incur a larger expense. How much money did you save not taking transportation would it be comparable in any way if you had damaged the equipment, and the time you took to carry it back versus how much they pay you hourly was it worth it financially for the company. While if this is real you are giving your co-workers a lot of entertainment watching you, but at this point your cost cutting measures are costing the company more money than doing nothing. Going forward you should try to make smarter decisions carrying anything 5 miles during work is not smart or economical for the company. Cutting costs in non customer facing roles is almost always admin costs: don’t print when you don’t have to, use your pens instead of ordering more when you have 6 at your desk, use scrap paper or type up notes instead of ordering new pads when possible, turn the lights out, take care of the equipment so it doesn’t need to be serviced or replaced.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes. What OP#1 is doing sounds like the efforts to economize that are typically made by people who don’t understand economics.

  51. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1, I don’t mean to be unsympathetic to your situation – I feel genuinely bad that someone at some point has made you feel like this level of self-sacrifice is reasonable for a job. But at the same time, the resentment towards your coworkers and “trying to convince them” to follow your example? You need to cut that shit out right now.

    Your colleagues are doing nothing wrong by submitting expenses that they have been asked to submit, eating already-purchased company food, using public transport, continuing to have health insurance and retirement plans and so on. These are completely normal things for them to do, even in a lean period. If you, a senior colleague, are trying to “convince” them to give these things up then you are acting extremely unethically. Even aside from the fact that they are entitled to do these things as the business owners are still offering them, some of them are things that many people CANNOT give up – health insurance and retirement savings? Similarly, there are many reasons why your colleagues might not be able to follow your example elsewhere – many people would physically not be up to walking five miles carrying heavy gear (I certainly couldn’t), or not be able to afford to cover their business expenses out of pocket. These are crazy things to expect other people to do, regardless of whether you are doing them yourself.

    Again, I don’t mean to be unsympathetic – I think it would be a good idea for you to talk to someone, even a friend or family member, about why you feel so invested in this specific job that you’re going to these extremes. But since you mention that you’re in a senior position in this company, I really really think you need to cut the “convincing” and resentful attitude out now, for everyone’s sake.

    1. WellRed*

      I definitely think this behavior veers into territory where she might need to think beyond just cutting it out and into the deeper roots here. It’s just so extreme.

    2. RUKidding*

      Agreed, especially if OP is trying to “convince” more junior staff.

      The cost cutting could end up being negated…and then some by law suits/fines, etc.

      IDK where OP is abd I really only know yhe employment laws that apply in Washington state (and fed) but I know in a lot of countries repercussions can be much stronger than anything our “pro business-screw the workers” government does.

      And in some countries as I understand it individuals as well as their employer can be held to account financially and if I *am* understanding it correctly, criminally as well.

  52. Linda Evangelista*

    OP1, the best advice I ever heard was “your company cannot love you back.” You can make as many sacrifices as you want, but ultimately, if the tables were turned, your company would not do the same for you. Of course this depends on where you work (maybe someone out there has an incredible, supportive employer that would ride or die for you), but I think it’s safe to assume you’ll have to take care of yourself.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Also, if the company does have to cut staff as part of cutting costs, they aren’t going to look at who skipped the pizza dinner and who didn’t.

      I posted upthread about how I was given this advice very early in my career, but I like your wording much better! The one I got was “do not be loyal to your company, because it won’t be loyal to you”. I think yours is more accurate, as there can be some degree on loyalty on both sides.

      1. aebhel*

        This! It’s not about who sacrifices the most, it’s about who brings the most value to the company. Hunger strikes are not going to help OP keep her job, here.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Not to mention that they very well MAY look at the employee who didn’t have the common sense to use a vehicle to handle heavy company equipment. Not favorably, either.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          No kidding! My first thought was, “what if OP had dropped and broken the equipment?”

    2. Temperance*

      If anything, she’s potentially alienating her colleagues, which doesn’t bode well when staffing decisions need to be made. I don’t think anyone is going to remember “Jane cared so much that she walked FIVE MILES with HEAVY EQUIPMENT to save us $2.50 on a bus”, but they are going to remember her vocally going on a hunger strike and more or less shaming others out of eating a slice of pizza.

      I also sort of cringe at the phrase “hunger strike” and hope that she hasn’t used that phrasing with her colleagues. Hunger strikes are for protest of grave injustice. This … is not that.

    3. RUKidding*

      Yup yup yup.

      My grandmother said as much to me when I was only a child. She told me to always remember that they will not give *you* two weeks notice, etc., etc., etc. and to always remember thst when dealing with employers.

      The same caveats about maybe there are some great companies thst will go to the wall for their people, but if they’re out there how come we’ve never heard of them?

      When we started to need staff beyond me and Husband, we sat down and deliberately created policies that we would have wanted as employees. We go out of our way to remember what it feels like to be beholden to someone else for benefits, perks, raises, blah, blah, blah.

      Nevertheless this is our business that we operate primarily for our benefit and at the end of the day … yes, employees are important for the day to day operations (if we ever want to you know sleep and stuff), but I’m not going to sacrifice myself, my family, my business, or my future for any of them no matter how much I might like them.

      And we are a small (>20) employer. If I feel this way large corporations definitely do and an individual manager who sympathizes and *wants* to help is generally hamstrung by decisions/decrees from far above their pay grade.


    4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      In re #1 –

      Yes, at one time, many years ago, I had an employer who would routinely rip up my expense reimbursements.

      And when they denied my emergency money (a payment when you got called in) – hmmm they were really surprised when I took Saturdays and Sundays and was always away on a weekend when they called.

      I bought a telephone answering box. If it was them on a Saturday or Sunday, I wouldn’t return the call. Or, I’d return a Saturday call on a Sunday night at 10 pm. On my exit interview, I told them I had to do it. I had around $300 in unpaid expenses which, at their cheap pay levels, I could not afford. Just driving to/from the office was $7 in gas for me. So, the $40 I spent on the answering box was a great investment.

      And another thing – if that slice of pizza gets tossed – that’s WASTING FOOD. Eat it.

  53. DustyJ*

    OP #1: I wonder if LW worked in a government department? When government managers start talking about ‘austerity,’ they mean there will be no more free tea and coffee, no more pens until January 2020, no more printing, no more heaters because electricity is too expensive, staff hours will be cut, and you can just forget about applying for transport costs. I wonder if LW #1 is used to that level of austerity, and is assuming corporate is like that too?

    1. Temperance*

      But those things are mandated, and explained, and business expenses are still reimbursed. OP#1 is actively going on what she calls a “hunger strike”, in protest of ordering food during company-mandated OT, it sounds like in order to almost shame her colleagues out of ordering/eating. OP walked FIVE MILES with equipment in order to avoid taking a bus and the expense of a bus, which is likely under $5, and her time is likely worth far more than that.

      Giving up your health insurance and cutting your retirement benefits in order to cut your salary is just bananas. It’s a job, you don’t owe it your life.

        1. RUKidding*

          And the thing is I *would* consider it a legit business expense to feed people I’m “fircing” to stay late. I know mot everyone feels that way, but cone on (!!!) it’s *pizza.*

          Aaannnddd it was *already* paid for.

          1. Sunshine*

            Exactly! All OP did was deprive herself of food she was more than entitled to and guilt her colleagues. No money was saved.

    2. doreen*

      I’ve seen all those things happen in government agencies including not reimbursing for transportation. But they are done differently than in the OP’s example. Government agencies don’t cut costs by continuing to buy the coffee and tea while expecting you not to drink it- they stop buying it. They don’t allow you to have your personal electric heater and hope you decide not to turn it on – they ban them. They don’t hope you decide to walk five miles with equipment – they very specifically say things like “all costs associated with this event” are the responsibility of the individual for optional trainings and conferences.

      1. DustyJ*

        Yes, very true. LW is doing this off her own bat. The pizza isn’t vanishing – she’s wishing it would vanish.

  54. babblemouth*

    #1: oh no! When a company says “save on expenses” it means “please take public transport over taking a cab” or “don’t order room service at an extra cost, go have breakfast in the breakfast room”.
    You’re setting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. You are making a lot of unnecessary sacrifices that don’t actually save a lot of money.

    I get your frustration over feeling like others don’t care – when my department said we needed to cut on travel, it was done as a honor system, and I stopped travelling for months while seeing some colleagues jet-setting around for meetings that could have happened over skype, and it was very frustrating. But this isn’t what is happening here. Your colleagues are making very reasonable choices. Cost-cutting doesn’t mean “stopping all expenses”. It costs money to do business and your employer knows and expects that.

  55. babblemouth*

    #5: I understand the urge because I would want to ask too out of morbid curiosity. But you won’t achieve anything with this – you’ll certainly not learn anything you don’t already know, and you might end up painting yourself as a gossip to an industry peer, and that’s not a reputation you want to carry around.

  56. McWhadden*

    OP1: If your co-workers are going to get in trouble for such luxuries as public transit and health care then let them. This isn’t your responsibility. And you’ve taken it way too far.

    OP2: In the US we just don’t have a monoculture when it comes to media anymore. There was a time when a huge percent of the country watched Friends or Seinfeld every Thursday. By contrast Parks and Rec had relatively low ratings. There is so much media from so many places no one has seen it all. And a lot of people might not remember Monica’s character traits.
    To put it in terms you’ll understand aren’t a character in a Joss Whedon show.

    1. Mimi Me*

      “In the US we just don’t have a monoculture when it comes to media anymore. There was a time when a huge percent of the country watched Friends or Seinfeld every Thursday. By contrast Parks and Rec had relatively low ratings. There is so much media from so many places no one has seen it all. And a lot of people might not remember Monica’s character traits.”

      100% agreed! I live and breathe in the same house as my husband and there are shows he watches that I’ve never seen (Stranger Things, Walking Dead, Westworld) that are considered part of the pop culture. I will never understand any reference that comes out of those shows as I’ll likely never watch them. I also think that interest plays a big part in how much a person will absorb a pop culture reference. My husband recently sat with me as I binged Parks and Rec, but he wasn’t into the show like I was. I bought a shirt with a P&R reference on it (Lil’ Sebastian at the Pawnee Harvest Fest) and he didn’t get it. In fact, he asked me when I had gone to a Harvest festival without him. LOL!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        100% agreed too, great point. Especially in the age of people ditching their cable and going to streaming instead. Even in the Friends and Seinfeld times (which fell on the first few years after my family moved to the US), there were die-hard Friends fans and Seinfeld fans, and these two groups had relatively little overlap. I have seen most of Seinfeld with my family, but only got through half of an episode of Friends before the kids begged to change the channel. If you tell me you have Monica’s character traits, I’ll give you a blank stare.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I think you have to go all the way back to the Big Three + PBS era, when one episode of I Love Lucy got over 70% ratings, to be absolute sure someone would get a cultural reference. Friends and Seinfeld are both post-cable and I can’t be the only person to have only seen the occasional clip from them.

    2. teclatrans*

      These are very good points. There is also the matter of having different cultural lenses. I have watched most of Friends and a little of Parks & Recs, and found Monica and Leslie to be very unpleasant people. So even if people recognize your references, they might draw very different conclusions!

  57. CupcakeCounter*

    Oh Wow #1…that is NOT AT ALL what that email meant. Alison is spot on and you really need to reset your thinking here.
    Big Boss is referring to things along the lines of:
    *do we really need to print 10 copies of that 100 page report for the meeting or can we put together a power point or other electronic presentation and send around
    *can that meeting with the 2-hour drive be done by Skype vs traveling to the meeting or can people carpool to the meeting to limit mileage reimbursements
    *eliminate the weekly pizza lunch for all employees or reduce the number of breakfast/lunch meeting where the company provides food

    They do not mean “work for free and place significant hardship on yourself”
    Your actions speak more against you than they do your coworkers as many of those actions you note above are very much out of the norm for any business.
    Honestly the word martyr came immediately to mind (and not in a good way)

  58. Mimi Me*

    OP#1 – I love my job but there’s no way I would reduce my retirement contributions or cancel my health insurance to benefit the company. My mother works for a company that recently changed locations. During the move a lot of employees were taking advantage of the opportunity to purge unnecessary / old documents. They were doing this by literally just chucking the entire binder full of paper into the bin. My mother is the office manager and saw those binders as money in the trash. She went thru the bins, cleaned out the binders and packed them up. Lo and behold, once at the new location there was a surge of supply orders for binders to hold new policy and procedure documents. As the office manager, these requests went thru my mothers office. She just gave everyone the old binders. I think that’s the kind of “watch your expenses” thing your office may be looking for their employees to do.

      1. JessaB*

        This, I worked in a call centre once and a fellow supervisor was leaving for another job and cleaned out her desk into a trash can, I asked if I’d get in trouble if I “dumpster dived” that trash can. I came up with good stuff, she’d tossed full pads of post its, note paper, a couple of pens and a really really cute little stuffed bear. I got all that stuff. She should have put it on the break room table instead of tossing it. So much of what she tossed was in excellent condition and useable even if some of it was personal and not company (the post its were heart shaped and pink.)

    1. JustaTech*

      At my job we had a major clean-out of our space (we’re renovating and losing a floor) and we had so many spare binders that we literally could not give them away. And that was after we threw out all the broken or crummy ones. We just don’t generate as many binders as we used to.

      We managed to donate a ton of stuff, but even the local high schools didn’t need our binders.
      I guess there is such a thing as over-thriftiness.

    2. TootsNYC*

      then again, was there an extra cost with moving those extra boxes?
      If the move had a single price, then yes, very wasteful.

      And of course, putting more things int he landfill unnecessarily bothers me a lot.

  59. LQ*

    OP #1
    In addition to the other great points.
    Sometimes companies should go out of business. Lets say this really is a last ditch final effort to squeak by and save the company. That’s ok. There are other jobs in the world. You will be able to go on and find something else. I understand the desire to save a dying place, but sometimes death is the right option and you should not suffer because the company is about to go under. If the company cannot maintain its income in a way that allows it to be profitable it cannot do it on the backs of its employees. That’s not an acceptable way to run a business and it is not at all sustainable. That is a failing business.
    If this is the thing you are really worried about then look for a new job.
    If you aren’t worried about this then stop lying to the company’s bottom line about what it costs to stay in business.

    1. LilySparrow*

      Yes, this is true in businesses and in personal relationships as well. If the situation is so dysfunctional that you have to take on an undue and unproductive burden of suffering in order to keep it afloat, it is not sustainable. Pull back into reasonable boundaries and let it sink or float on its own merits.

  60. StressedButOkay*

    OP1, oh, no, no, no! The company asking you to watch expenses that you occur is more like “please don’t order the extra expensive pens when we have plenty of the cheap pens available” or “if you have to travel for work, please make sure you don’t stay at the Hilton”. My nonprofit has been cutting costs, too, and they would be horrified to find out that I was putting myself in physical discomfort (the walking 5 miles with heavy equipment), not eating and tweaking my benefits!

    Your coworkers are probably doing what the company expects, which is why they’re not responding to your requests. No sane company should expect their employees to go that far to save them some money so please, for your own sake, fix your benefits, claim your OT/expenses, etc.

  61. CJM*

    I once asked “how did I do?” at the end of an interview and got a big laugh and the job.

    The owner of a tech start-up interviewed me in his office along with his HR manager. I can still picture where we all sat at the table: they were across from me and facing the window, and I was facing the owner’s desk. Toward the end of the interview, I saw a mouse scurry halfway up the upholstered wall behind the desk. I hesitated for a moment and then decided I’d better mention it, so I did — and calmly. I’m not afraid of mice, so I didn’t panic. But their reaction wasn’t calm. They jumped up and looked for the mouse, who’d disappeared. When they sat back down, they admitted that the building had a bit of a mice problem, and the owner joked that it was all a test for me. I had the presence of mind to joke right back and ask “how did I do?” The owner laughed loudly, and the interview ended on a high note. I got a job offer from them soon after and worked there for almost 28 years until I retired.

    I never saw another mouse in that building, which we stayed in for nearly all of my time with the company. I did once see a snake though — indoors!

      1. TootsNYC*

        I once saw a presentation to a bunch of middleschoolers by an animal expert, and he said, “the snake is the most efficient predator,” along with a story of the snake following the scent trail laid down by the mouse feet, and entering the den while they were sleeping….

  62. Cookie Monster*

    I’ve been through major cost cutting at my current employer and the kinds of things we have done are: recognizing that 1 courier was cheaper than another and switching to use the less expensive one; looking at bills that we sign off on and questioning whether we still require the service at all; looking at outside help that we are paying big $$ for and seeing what parts of it we can actually do in house with the expertise of the people we currently have on staff; looking at ways to be more efficient so that we accomplish more without spending more time or adding more staff.
    Walking 5 miles with heavy equipment (isn’t there a cost to that too? now you’ve lost a lot of time and productivity when you could be doing something else), not eating, and cutting your own benefits were never things that were considered reasonable. I don’t think that your employer meant cost cutting in the way you understood it.

  63. MommyMD*

    Letter 1 is so far out there, I’m having trouble believing it’s real. If it is, you can’t expect your coworkers to martyr themselves to this unreasonable and unrealistic level.

    1. McWhadden*

      I believe it. I’ve known people like OP1 (and not in a negative way.) I think she probably just has a lot of anxiety about the company having to do lay offs or even close if people don’t start cutting costs. Realistically none of this will help. But sometimes anxiety rules over reason.

      1. MommyMD*

        Maybe. But it also has the element of exaggeration. “I walked ten miles in the snow to school!” It lost me at giving up the health insurance. It is very satire-like. Too much so. Even if genuine. So far out there it’s not relatable. I think I would have tossed it.

  64. Jane*

    Op#1–you are hurting your company by doing this, not helping them.

    1. The changes you are making (not taking health insurance?! Refusing your benefits?!) are not reasonable ways to reduce business expenses. If your company thinks it doesn’t have those costs, it won’t budget for them, and since it is probably necessary to offer health insurance and benefits to keep the vast majority of employees working for them, it is falsely lowering their operating costs. While it is just you, it probably doesn’t have much of an effect (depending on how large your company is, of course) but if a large chunk of people did this, that could seriously create some accounting headaches for your company.

    2. It is completely unreasonable to expect your colleagues to take the same measures you have. This can slice two different ways–either you will be resented because they think you are trying to make them look greedy, creating ill will towards you, or (though I think less likely) they could feel like they have to also do these things, and therefore go looking for another job instead. Reasonable employees would quit of their companies said “we want to cut costs, so we are no longer going to offer health insurance.” So your company could lose good employees that they don’t want to lose!

    Cutting costs means stuff like “Hey, we usually ship this stuff overnight, but maybe we can make due with ground shipping.” (Last year I saved my company 5k by suggesting this change.) It means taking a look at your expenses and seeing if there’s anything redundant, or something that used to be necessary but really isn’t anymore (do we need to replace that broken fax machine? Maybe not!). It does NOT mean taking on burdens yourself that your company would have otherwise paid for. I’m 100% sure that is not what your senior managers meant when they asked for cost cutting measures.

    1. londonedit*

      Absolutely. If the company could no longer afford to provide the same level of health insurance, or to order in pizza for late working hours, then they would have stopped doing these things. I realise the OP has been panicked by the idea that everyone has to try to get their costs down to zero, but that seriously just means ‘Hey guys, can we stop using the really expensive courier company unless there is literally no other way to get the package there on time?’ It doesn’t mean people taking it upon themselves to stop receiving things they’re entitled to, like insurance cover and overtime pay.

  65. LilySparrow*

    For #1, basic rule of thumb: if it would be illegal, abusive, a major change to the terms of your employment, or grossly unfair and unreasonable for an employer NOT to provide something — then it’s a legitimate business expense.

    You should be paid for all the hours you work. You don’t need to make yourself suffer by walking five miles with heavy equipment. By the way, OP, how much extra time did you spend walking? Could you have been doing something productive with that time if you’d taken public transit instead? How tired were you when you arrived – were you as productive as normal, or were you exhausted? Increasing value is always better for business than simply cutting expenses.

    Can you focus on your work properly when you are on a hunger strike? It would appear not, since you seem to be highly fixated on what everyone else is eating.

    For that matter, how much of your working hours, energy, and productivity are you wasting in monitoring your co-workers perfectly normal behavior, putting on “shows” of hunger strikes, trying to convince people to skip meals, and seething in resentment?

    Cost-cutting and efficiency come in with better planning by management, taking on fewer risky projects, hiring freezes, cutting out short-term temps or overtime requests, reviewing service contracts and long-term obligations, controlling waste, and downgrading or making better use of services and supplies.

    Eliminating the holiday party = cost cutting. Ordering pizza instead of $15/head box meals for overtime workers = cost cutting. Auditing the use of office supplies and enforcing strict limits on travel per diems = cost cutting. Making sure expensive, highly-skilled workers are assigned to the highest-value tasks, and giving less crucial/skilled tasks to lower-paid workers = cost-cutting. Reducing energy usage for lighting and climate control = cost-cutting.

    It doesn’t mean abusing your workers or encouraging them to abuse themselves. Your co-workers have a healthy, normal attitude to this process. Yours is unreasonable, and so is your resentment.

  66. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1
    “You should of course respect requests to watch expenses, but it’s actually not helpful to do what you’re doing because it creates a false idea of what various projects cost.”

    I completely agree with this. If OP is doing all these things to cut costs, which she really doesn’t need to be doing because they’re legitimate and expected business expenses, this is going to give the impression that the department can operate on way less than what they need to do business. That could mean eliminating positions or cutting budgets even further. By doing what OP is doing, the company is not getting the real picture.

    What the company means by “cut expenses” is buy the basic pens rather than the fancy pens, reuse binders rather than tossing them and ordering new ones, and things like that. It absolutely does not mean working unpaid overtime, not claiming mileage when you should, not eating when the company is ordering the food, or changing your retirement contributions (!) and taking a pay cut (?!). I don’t know where you got the idea that this is the way it’s done, but please stop. There’s a reason why your coworkers aren’t listening to you when you try to get them to do the same thing.

  67. MM55*

    LW#1 – I call BS, but it is a funny letter, in a pathetic way. I don’t believe it is a real letter and it should not have gotten published. My 2 cents.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Alison has frequently addressed the “fake letter” phenomenon. She generally publishes letters she believes to be true, and is often privy to other details and further correspondence with letter-writers that lend credibility to their questions. She has also said that sometimes even if she has doubts about the truthfulness of the letter, she’ll publish it anyway because she thinks it’s interesting or has practical application for other people in similar situations.

      1. Wherehouse Politics*

        Agree Allison should have published it- though I have a sneaking feeling an understandably annoyed coworker basically did a character sketch from said person’s POV. These people exist, and should be shut down or heavily discouraged to carry on with or influence others with their disfunctional, self destructive relationship to their workplaces. If so I hope the link or *gasp* printout is passive-aggressively left somewhere the deservedly thankless hunger striking will see it.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Ah, this seems like a reasonable read on some of the more extreme language in the letter for sure, though I’m not at all averse to taking it as given — a person with a martyr complex trying to get some kudos for being Miserlier-Than-Thou.

      2. MommyMD*

        It’s value today was it was fun to read. Doubtful there’s anyone reading here this level of off the wall. I think it’s satire. Ok Dwight Schrute. Funny stuff. Somewhere a group of coworkers are laughing their heads off lol.

    2. Elspeth*

      Really? There’s a reason real life is stranger than fiction – because stuff like this actually happens.

      1. Wherehouse Politics*

        I’ve been borderline well, not internet-nice about OP1 in various comments here. I admit to having a visceral reaction to it.

        I had a close family relative who spent 12 years in a oath of chasity, poverty and obedience as a cloistered elementary school teaching nun back in the 1950s-1960s. Interpretation and implementation of this poverty vow were imposed from the mother superior. This superior took pride in ratcheting up the shows of self sacrifice of her convent beyond what was deemed necessary by the diocese to the point of sadism. Scummy soap slivers were recycled. Slenderness to the point of boniness was encouraged out loud as a refutation of gluttony. One of the dealbreakers for my relative was her diabetic fellow nun to whom she helped administered insulin shots to regularly. Mother superior decided that either smaller/disposable needles were a needless luxury, and replaced it with a large reusable one. The pain and bruising it caused her fellow nun started her questioning of the point of such self sacrifice and she began the process of leaving. She found out later that most of the convent also abandoned their vows for a secular life within a few years of her departure.

        Anyway that’s all to say performative imposing martyrdom is foolish, vain and self destructive at best, and can be downright harmful, toxic and create a growing liability if this person would have any influence on others at his workplace.

    3. Not Australian*

      Maybe, maybe not. The thought occurred to me, too – but I know that in the past the occasional ‘questionable’ letter has been published because it raised a valid or interesting point, so I’m happy to trust AAM’s judgement on that. At any rate the responses will be useful to anyone else in the same situation, who may be tempted to take ‘cutting expenses’ just that bit too far.

      1. Lucy*

        Or who feels under pressure from TPTB to cut costs in similar ways – so they can see Alison and the commentariat say “yeah here’s the line”.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I spent years, years, feeling guilty about filing my expense reports, and so I’d put it off. Mind you, I didn’t have huge expenses. And maybe that was part of it–the things I did often seemed sort of optional. Taking an intern to lunch, etc.

          So a letter like this, and its responses, would probably have helped me see that I was not having an appropriate reaction.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Thought occurred to me, too; however, I’ve seen a person or two like this during my career. Maybe not quite this extreme, but they’re out there. So it’s probably real.

  68. Justin*

    So re pop culture. That’s for after you get the job and want to get to know your coworkers.

    But I’ll tell a brief story.

    This current job, we have to give a (short) presentation to get it (because we’re trainers). I was given the topic of “property execution,” which is precisely the opposite of what it sounds like (it’s basically bank account freezing for unpaid child support). It has nothing to do with property, because it’s literally about cash.

    In my presentation, I said, “Do you know that show The Property Brothers? It’s not that kind of property.”

    It worked (they laughed, I got the job). But you don’t have to know anything about that show to know that I mean “physical property” and was trying to draw a contrast.

    My point isn’t that people should do what I did (I took a risk!), but that if you are ever going to bring it up, it needs to be given context and background info and so forth. Otherwise it’s just an orphan of a shorthand reference that will indeed lead people to think you’re not depicting yourself as well as you hope.

  69. Lady Phoenix*

    What it means to “cut cost”:
    1) Opting for inexpensive travel options (cheaper air faire, cheaper hotel options, cheap vehicle option unless dealing with conpany equipment)
    2) Opting for inexpensive food options. YOU STILL SHOULD EAT 3 MEALS (fast food, cheaper restaurant, order options that are not extravagant)
    3) Not spending on frivilous things

    What it DOESN’T mean to “cut cost”
    1) Not clocking overtime (that is illegal)
    2) getting rid of insurance/retirement
    3) Hunger strikes

    Seriously, is this your first job? Because your ideas of “cutting cost” are so Effed up that it is no wonder why no one wants to follow you, and probably sees your ideas as AWFUL.

  70. Julia*

    Hmm. I know you didn’t mean it this way, but “doesn’t warrant emailing a stranger” rings a little unnecessarily harsh. People who pour their hearts out to you are probably already a little bashful about the weirdness of emailing their problems to someone who doesn’t know them. The only reason I’m pointing it out is that you are usually unfailingly courteous, so it’s surprising.

    1. Parenthetically*

      I’m pretty sure Alison was referring to contacting the person who replaced OP4, not contacting herself. As in, it’s not worth your time to contact your replacement, who is a stranger, to confirm what you already know, which is that your old job sucked.

        1. Julia*

          Oh, totally my misreading! That explains it. I was thinking, “this seems so out of character!”

    2. londonedit*

      I’m not sure what you mean here…I read it as ‘doesn’t warrant emailing a stranger’ meaning ‘it doesn’t warrant emailing your successor in the job – i.e. someone you’ve never met before – simply to get confirmation that it was a horrible place to work’. Not that it didn’t warrant an email to Alison (because in that case, surely she just wouldn’t have published the letter in the first place!)

    3. anonagain*

      I think the replacement employee is the stranger in this context, not Alison herself. Is that how you are reading it?

      The meaning I took from that sentence is that there could possibly be some extenuating circumstances where it might be appropriate to contact the person who replaced you in a previous job, but wanting to hear that they also thought the place was a nightmare isn’t one of those circumstances. That doesn’t sound harsh to my ear.

  71. AnonyMouse*

    Devil’s advocate on LW #3: It’s possible that the people asking this have been interviewing, and interviewing, and interviewing, and still haven’t gotten a job offer. I’m going on a year of job searching that is also starting to drive me crazy wondering if I’m doing something in the interview that is preventing me from getting an offer. I’ve started asking for feedback after rejections (I phrase it as “is there anything that I could do to make my application or interview stronger in the future?”) It might be that for these candidates, their interviewer is the only person in their life who could give reliable feedback on their interview performance. I agree the way they are asking is weird, and I think Alison’s script to deflect and delay giving an answer is appropriate. But if the OP is in a position to be able to provide feedback, I’d encourage them to do so!

    1. Jaybeetee*

      I went through a period in my early 20s where I got a zillion interviews, but never any offers – so obviously my resume and cover letters were decent, but something was going wrong when I interviewed. It was massively frustrating, because I had no clue what I was doing wrong (this was also the height of the Great Recession, so getting a job wasn’t exactly an easy process anyway). I heard advice then to inquire about feedback *after a rejection* – not immediately after the interview. Most places didn’t respond to those requests, one or two places provided boilerplate feedback that wasn’t really helpful (one place essentially emailed me a repeat of their job posting). One woman actually called me up and offered me quite a bit of feedback, which I appreciated so much, as I know that was a chunk of her time to do this for someone she wasn’t going to hire! I got some very valuable comments from her about ways I could have answered the questions differently.

      Around that same time, an acquaintance of mine who had been on hiring panels also finally sat me down for a mock interview to help me figure out what was going on, and his feedback echoed hers, that essentially I was saying far too little in response to questions. I had internalized “Be concise/don’t ramble on”, but I was giving like 1-sentence answers to each question, my interviews had been taking only half the time they’d been scheduled for, and I wasn’t giving interviewers anything to really work with. He gave me some examples of how he liked people to answer those questions. (Also: “assume they’re idiots and explain every little thing. If you don’t, they won’t know that YOU know to do A-Z in that situation”.)

      Asking for feedback doesn’t have to be a bad thing, I think especially so when you’re young/inexperienced and don’t necessarily have a bead on how to navigate certain situations. But “How did do?” right at the end of an interview isn’t the right way to go about it – that sounds like students looking for a “grade”.

      1. Bulbasaur*

        I once did a combination mock interview/coaching interview for someone with that problem. I think she must have been really nervous – she would give very short, even single word answers that minimally answered the question while telling me nothing about herself. I think sometimes it can be defensiveness or nerves, but it doesn’t come across well – at best you’re an unknown, and at worst you are dull, incurious or unintelligent.

        Eventually she got the message (“when I ask a question like this I’m looking for you to tell me a story”) and attempted a long form answer, and it was like night and day – she was immediately so much more engaging, and some of the strengths and skills that her resume had promised started to become evident. This was right before her actual interview with the client, and we were under time pressure so I had to cut her off, but I gave her a big thumbs up on her answer before sending her into the fray. She ended up getting the job, so I like to think it did some good.

  72. Lady Phoenix*

    #2 Pop culture is best served for either media critiques and general waterroom conversations.

    They DO NOT belong in professional interviews for a job. They don’t make good references to how your work holds up, especially if the person you interview does not get the reference.

    Also, these are FICTIONAL characters, with only basic personality based on someone else’s writing and story convenience, and a LOT of them should not be emulated or related to you. (For example, Rick Sanchez, Deadpool, Steve Carrel’s character from “Office”, main dude from “House”, etc)

    Ps: I understood NONE of your references.

    1. Clisby Williams*

      The interviewer not getting the reference could be the lesser of two evils. If I interviewed someone who mentioned her “Monica Geller-esque sense of neatness”, I’d be checking the big NOPE box on my checklist. Unless, of course, I was interviewing someone for my cleaning service.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        God help the idiot who thinks its a good idea to tell an interviewer that they are like “House” or “Rick Sanchez”.

        Let’s just say the the real life ones would porbably be sporting several bruises, a black eye, and unemployment.

  73. Phony Genius*

    #1 is in another country. Does anybody know if there is a country somewhere where it would be normal to react this way to a cost-cutting request? There may be a culture clash here. In some countries, it is expected that you will be dedicated to your employer. I’m thinking of places like Japan where you are expected to leave some vacation days on the table. (Some companies are trying to move away from this attitude. Interestingly, in many cases the employees won’t go along with the loosening of these expectations. Sorry about this tangent.)

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      That’s certainly something to consider, but given that nobody else in the company seems to be making similar sacrifices, I’m guessing it’s not a strong element here.

    2. Sled dog mama*

      I wondered this as well but presumably LW’s coworkers are from that same country/culture do they should react the same way and that doesn’t seem to be happening.

    3. Autumnheart*

      The only country I can think of, where it’s seen as acceptable to expect employees to take cuts to their retirement, wages and health insurance in order to preserve profit margin, is the United States.

  74. EvilQueenRegina*

    My first boyfriend was obsessed with Friends (as in, he could quote practically every line) and he was always comparing himself to Chandler Bing – “I’m Chandler! I’m funny!” (If he was anybody, he was Ross, which I only realised after we split, but that’s a whole other story). He used to quote Chandler lines a lot, except he’d use them out of context, so very often they didn’t even make sense and he just looked a fool.

    That relationship has been over for 17 years, so I’d like to think he’s moved on from that, but I can totally picture him doing that in an interview and now I’m cringing.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I used to work with someone who would repeat catchphrases from movies and TV shows – in general discussions, in meetings, in interviews, argh. It didn’t help that a few team members thought he was witty and clever, and rewarded him with gales of laughter. That led to more repeats from Chandler The Second, more laughter, and lots of wasted time.

      We got a new boss, who showed no reaction when Chandler The Second made his wisecracks, and patiently waited for things to die down. One day, after things got quiet, he said, ‘You know, it doesn’t take much to repeat someone else’s lines. Don’t you guys have any original material?’ Blunt, yeah, and Chandler The Second looked like someone punched him. But he stopped the constant wisecracks, which was a huge relief.

  75. Lady Phoenix*

    Probably the best reaponse is: “I need some time to give a more conrete feeling about how this interview transpired. We’ll contact you later.”

    Because, honestly? It should be the person being interviewed’s job to get back to you AFTER the interview to really sum up how it went by a follow up email. I think a person who thanks you for giving theme the time to make an impression, that can say a lot of good things about them.

    Not saying hire everyone that follows up, but a person who can get back to you on this after an interview can speak words about thwir communication.

  76. LGC*

    So I just peeked at the comments and…all I’ll say is that sometimes the letter titles are extremely understated. Letter 1 is one of those cases.

    Actually, I have a LOT more to say. I know LW1 is getting quite a bit of heat for their approach, but…yeah, LW1, you need to be reasonable.

    First of all, you’re a senior employee. Your time is valuable. Doing things like walking five miles with heavy equipment (which sounds like it would take two or more hours) costs your company more in the long run – even if mass transit is especially expensive in your area, a five mile trip can’t be worth two hours of your time.

    In general, I think you should think of most things spent by the company as an investment in something (as opposed to waste). You buy pizza for employees who stay late to show appreciation for them. You pay travel expenses and reimbursements because sometimes it’s more efficient for someone to take a bus (or even a cab or an Uber) than to walk everywhere. You pay overtime because for a lot of employees, the jurisdiction requires you to and if you’re not in compliance you can get in trouble with the labor board.

    Basically, the old saying is not to be penny smart and pound foolish – that is, not to cut costs so much you kneecap yourself (as you might be in danger of doing).

    Second, you’re a senior employee, and as such for better or worse you’re modeling desired behavior. This doesn’t mean you have to be the Perfect Boss, but you do have to ask yourself what’s reasonable to ask of your team. (Like, don’t ask your junior employees to forgo OT pay if they’re eligible! And don’t begrudge them the free pizza!)

    TL;DR – be smart about cutting expenses. Not even Marie Kondo tells you to throw out everything – she says (famously) to keep only what brings you joy.

  77. Can Man*

    Besides being a martyr, LW1 is being penny wise but pound foolish. Walking saves a few dollars at the expense of lost productivity, both during the journey and after the exhaustion of lugging heavy equipment (not to mention the risk of injury or damage, both expensive). Hunger strike is a great way to lower your blood sugar, causing mistakes because of confusion, loss of collaboration due to hanger, and very little impact on the bottom line. Depending on your financial situation, not taking overtime pay and reducing your benefits are ways to increase your stress to burn you out and either have you chugging along at a low performance level or increasing turnover. Even in a good financial situation, removing your insurance is a good way to make you sicker needing more days off from work and working not at 100%, hurting the company again. That’s not to mention the resentment factor of personal sacrifice (which some can avoid, but it sounds like neither you nor your colleagues can in this case) which can destroy morale. Please do some second and third order thinking on what costs you’re really saving, and don’t destroy yourself for some small scale short term cost savings.

  78. Brandy*

    #1. My org goes into budget freeze/ pre budget freeze about every 18 months. What that means for employees is:
    1. No unnecessary business travel (eg dialing when possible instead of doing a trip for face time). Sometimes there is a travel ban which is no travel unless it’s for a revenue generating purpose (client work or sales support).
    2. No fancy team dinners out/corporate sponsored happy hours. In dire times, things like our $$$$ holiday party are scaled back (no open bar, no hotel nights etc).
    3. Hiring freeze- no backfilling open roles
    4. Be cheap about travel. Plan with coworkers so you can share cabs or one rental car. Stay somewhere cheaper (but safe!!). If it works, get a free breakfast with your stay.

    Never ever ever does it mean employees shouldn’t submit expenses incurred or reduce retirement contiributions (!!). Those actions won’t even show up in the right place in my org. Also, the $40 you saved by walking vs public transport is not what they’re after. They want the $1k team dinners or $20k trade show that doesn’t ever yield leads cut, not your retirement!

    1. LaDeeDa*

      #1- I kept waiting for the examples of what the other’s weren’t doing to save money– but no… instead the letter writer is telling us how he is sacrificing his own finances, health, and future to single handily save the company. This is honestly, one of the oddest responses to a situation like this I have ever heard.

  79. Alfonzo Mango*

    4. I think these feelings are common when we are exiting a toxic situation. I hope you have a therapist or friends you can talk to to work through these feelings. Trust yourself- you did the best you could.

  80. Preggers*

    #1 when you company says to cost cut what they typically mean is…
    D you really need to print that 20 page document or can you save it to your computer and reference it there?
    Does that need to be printed in color or could you print in b&w?
    Do you remember to turn your computer off when you go home to save electricity?
    When you are done in an office, meeting room, lunchroom, bathroom, etc do you remember to turn the light off?
    Do you need that $5 pen or could you get the 10 pack of cheap pens for $2?

    If your employer couldn’t afford to contribute to benefits, overtime, etc. Then they would put policies in place to limit those things. But since they are still offering them that means they want you to use them.

    1. Princess Scrivener*

      Precisely this! Multiply those little savings by the (large, in my case) number of employees, and you’re looking at a ton of $$ in administrative costs.

  81. Mike*

    Re #3: I always answer with “You did fine”. And if I see the person getting flustered I’ll tell them they are doing fine. I want them relaxed and giving their honest selves. Doesn’t mean they are getting the job just that their interview was fine.

  82. Ms.Vader*

    There is such a sense of martyrdom in Letter #1 that I honestly doubt they are going to listen to any advise. I strongly suspect that they need to feel like they “sacrifice” the most to build their own esteem. This has been true for all martyrs I have known. Guaranteed their coworkers and even bosses are not viewing them as altruistic but as a person that doesn’t understand normal societal rules.

    I would recommend therapy- what they are doing is beyond what an average person would do. Therapy would help develop skills to develop boundaries and help with taking these type of situations so personal. It is not their personal job to keep the company afloat. It’s only their job to do her job.

    1. Me*

      I too suggested therapy. But my comments didn’t appear when I submitted and I’m too lazy to repost. But yeah. This person would likely benefit from some assistance in figuring out responsible boundaries between employer and employee.

  83. Anonandon*

    Pop culture references are almost never a good idea in any kind of business/professional environment. I once experienced the incredible awkwardness of my eye doctor telling me “Did you know you look like Pam from The Office?” as he was staring into my eyes. I happen to be a huge fan of The Office, but man, that was creepy. I never went back to him again. I would have reported him, but he owned the practice.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      OK this reminded me of the Friends episode when Phoebe was having the triplets…
      Dr. Harad: Hi! Phoebe, I’m Dr. Harad, I’m going to be delivering your babies. I want you to know, you’re gonna be in good hands. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ll be back in a minute to do your internal, in the meantime, just relax because everything here looks great. And also, I love Fonzie. (Exits)

  84. Could be Anyone*

    #1 – cutting costs means don’t spend $100 for first next day delivery when two day shipping will suffice, don’t order an expensive bottle of wine at a dinner you’re expensing. You are making personal sacrifices well beyond the realm anyone would expect and I truly can’t understand why. It’s really not reasonable to expect your co-workers to do the same. Respect yourself! If anybody should be cutting their salary or benefits, it should be the owners of the company.

  85. Observer*

    #1 – One more thought. Do you manage anyone? Because if you do, you are doing an excellent job of demotivating them and possibly pushing them out. Or, they might go to management, which will not take well to what you are doing it they are competent.

    On top of the ridiculousness of your behavior, and the problems inherent in pressuring your staff to not take what they are entitled to, you are clearly setting yourself up as a better arbiter of how to run the business than your boss and the owner. After, THEY think that paying for people’s food when they stay late IS a legitimate expense, yet you’ve gone to war on the practice because you have decided that it is not a legitimate expense.

    You are also burning a lot of bridges. Even under normal conditions staff move on. You are likely to leave a bad enough impression with your behavior and attitude that if you ever decide to move on, those people could be a problem for you. Also, if your job is at all outward facing, people who have worked with you and have input into such decisions may want to avoid working with you – which means not working with your company. And, if someone is not aware that this is YOUR thing, not the company’s then they are even more likely to not want to do business with the company.

    The bottom line is that treating people decently, not being judgemental, not assuming that just because YOU can do something everyone else is obligated to do that thing and honoring commitments are not only the morally correct thing to do, it also is a benefit to you and your company. (And keeping people from getting paid, taking reimbursement etc. IS reneging on a commitment by the company.)

  86. UtOh!*

    OP #1 – My own company has had to cut our budget by 5% per department. What that meant was cutting down on the non-essentials like off-site training or conferences, nothing that would affect pay, benefits, or the occasional pizza lunch/dinner. You sound like the type of person who either enjoys testing the limits of what you can do without, and/or are trying to set an (impossible) example. The problem is that your perspective is just that, yours. I did not see you make mention of what specifically the company has asked for in the way of cutting back, I find the statement of making the effort to ensure “costs and expenses are as close to zero as possible”to be extremely vague. Companies have *many* costs and expenses, it’s the price of doing business. Like you mention, you are not involved in the areas where costs/expense cutting would be more warranted like Purchasing, Travel, etc. so your coworkers might not be purchasing items or traveling as they usually do, and comparing vendors. I’m wondering, have you made public to your manager, or the director these cost cutting measures of yours, how have they responded? I think walking 5 miles with a heavy piece of equipment to save a few bucks on fare is setting you up for injury, which would cost the company plenty. If you don’t want to be paid for overtime, then don’t *work* the overtime. Not everyone is in the same position as you, and so cannot take it to the extreme like you are (and really, no one should be reducing or cancelling their benefits or taking a pay cut!) How do you not see that what you are doing just beyond the pale? You are squarely in the wrong here, not your coworkers. If you are resentful of your coworkers for the sacrifices you have made, that’s on you.

  87. Amber Rose*

    OP1 reminds me of how bad humans really are at comprehending large numbers and scale. It’s like when people throw a fit when the city spends 100K on something, even though they are operating on a budget of billions and that money is a comparative bit of pocket change. Yeah, we built an ugly art piece and it was kind of a waste. That’s not the reason they aren’t building the new arena, and it’s not going to impact any required infrastructure work.

    A company doesn’t budget the way an individual does. They aren’t weighing the cost of a pizza dinner against their ability to pay the utilities. If they are, they are already sunk and delaying the inevitable and none of your efforts will make the slightest difference, not even if everyone joins your martyrdom.

      1. Amber Rose*

        People were SO UPSET because we spent 50K on an art piece that ended up being a giant blue ring. It’s just a ring, not etched or decorative in any way. I could quite literally build such a thing myself. I was upset because I think we got scammed which doesn’t give me huge faith in our government, but people were upset at the cost. Like, no. 50K is an irrelevant amount of money for a city and will not impact taxes in any way.

        1. iglwif*

          I know what art piece you mean. My mom lives there and she is annoyed by it every time she drives by XD

    1. aebhel*

      Yeahhh. My library–which is not all that large–has an annual operating budget of ~$750,000K per year. About two thirds of that goes to staff salaries and benefits. When we came up for a budget vote, someone asked–outraged!–why we were spending so much of the public’s money on staff salaries instead of new books. The director’s response was, more or less, ‘Because we employ humans here, and they need to eat.’ He was more polite than that, but really, nobody here is making a fortune; it just costs a lot to employ humans!

      1. Marthooh*

        Now I want to see what $750,000 worth of books looks like. Just, if you pile them all up, how big is the pile? Or should it be measured in shelf space?

        1. JustaTech*

          It depends on the books! If you’re looking at a public library that could be a shocking number of paperbacks. If you’re at a research library specializing in rare books with color plates, that could be like 10 books.

          1. aebhel*

            Yep. My annual materials budget–books and A/V–is just over $32K, which buys about 1500 items per year. In a research library, that could be, like, three books.

      2. Parenthetically*

        EVERY TIME my mom’s school district’s budget came up for approval you had IRATE townspeople trying to gather support about why more of the district’s money wasn’t going “directly to students” instead of paying so many teacher salaries. *giant eyeroll* Like… that’s not how this works!

          1. Been There, Done That*

            Or does “directly to students” mean give the money to them instead and let them find their own individual ways to get themselves educated?

            If every parent homeschooled, they could save themselves a lot of taxes that go to teacher salaries.

  88. Me*

    #1 I am so concerned about what they have owned as their duty and responsibility to an employer. If your employer has an EAP or you have access to a therapist, I would strongly encourage you talking to someone about why you feel so deeply that these things you were doing for the company were good. You’re sacrificing yourself, in a way that wasn’t asked (and even if it was it would be unacceptable by the company).

    Therapy/counselling isn’t just for people who have legitimate mental illness. It’s for anyone who needs help figuring out an issue that affects their ability to live their best life.

  89. Serin*

    The attitude in Letter #1 is only a little more exaggerated than what I used to hear when I worked for the Dysfunctional Family-Owned Business. “I just don’t understand why I can’t find hires with a good work ethic. When they get a little tiny injury from the equipment, they *file for worker’s comp!* It’s as if they don’t want my business to survive!”

  90. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

    OP2, To give a different perspective on the pop culture references, I had to do a web presentation as part of a job interview. My entire presentation was a pop culture reference on “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”. I knew it was risky but I wanted to give a full sense of my self so I did it anyway. My thoughts were that they would either think I was nuts or they would hire me. I got the job.

    1. Me*

      But at any point did you compare yourself and the qualities you would bring to your employer to a character on the show?

      1. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

        No, but that wasn’t the original question. The question was whether it was ever ok to refernce pop culture in an interview. This is just an example that does that and which happened to work. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this route but in the context of this particular interview, it worked for me.

  91. personalshopper*

    Am I the only one who thinks OP1 isn’t actually an employee but a stakeholder in the company looking for tips on how to influence their workers to make ridiculous sacrifices?

    1. thestik*

      I thought LW1 was simply seeking validation for their over the top behavior (which seems to be a mi or trend around here).

  92. QC*

    #2: Just to somewhat illustrate the dangers, I would not think super highly of anyone who told me Leslie Knope was a role model to them, interview or no, largely because I don’t like the show or the character. You just never know whether someone is going to agree with you about pop culture references, so it’s less risky to stick to actual facts. I’m also not sure how role models come up in interviews at all. It’s not a question I’ve ever asked and I’m trying to imagine how it would help me evaluate a candidate. I only mention that because I would think even LESS of someone to brought up their fictional role model or likeness to a 90s sitcom character in response to a “tell me about yourself”-type question. I would interpret either response as “I watch a lot of TV.”

    #4: BEEN THERE. I haven’t given into temptation, but as another commenter suggested, this kind of sleuthing is what professional conferences are for :)

    1. Jennifer*

      I love the show but if I worked with Leslie she would have driven me insane. That would be enough for me to show someone the door.

      I also know a woman who prides herself on being like Angela from The Office (????) so she may have been offended by that reference.

    2. Lady Phoenix*

      O dunno about Leslie, but god forbid the dunderhead that says they are like that one character in Medical Dramas who has no sense of bedside manner or teamwork, and yet miraculously finds that cure. Like House, but there are several others.

      Of even worse, if they compare themselves to Rick Sanchez, Bojack horseman, or Deadpool.

  93. Jennifer*

    My jaw is still on the floor after reading LW1. I don’t understand why you thought cutting expenses meant cutting necessities like health insurance and retirement or not eating pizza that the company had already paid for? And carrying heavy equipment for five miles? Big time martyrdom. Cut unnecessary expenses as much as you can, but don’t be unreasonable.

  94. 4Sina*

    For LW2, analogous references help me understand with specificity what is meant, even if it’s somewhat hyperbolic. “I have Leslie Knope levels of community enthusiasm” means more to me than “I really care about our town.” I think if you’re able to read the room and the thing you’re referencing has a fairly good chance of already living in the cultural osmosis (where one probably knows about the thing even if they haven’t personally experienced the thing), it can help out at an interview. And if it flops? It’s not like you told the interviewer you thought their business was bad and they should feel bad.

    1. Jennifer*

      I think pop culture references can be good once you have started the job and you are trying to get to know people. I have bonded with others over loving the same tv show or movie. I just think they’re fun in general. I agree with Alison that it could backfire in an interview.

    2. Me*

      I know who Leslie Knope is. I know the show. But I don’t watch it. So that type of specificity isn’t helpful. “I really care about our town” is equivalently not helpful. Even if I watched the show, it would still mean nothing. Explaining and expanding by providing examples of what you do that shows you care about our town like volunteering, spearheading projects, returning all calls within 24 hours etc etc. That tells me in an interview about you. Vaguely referencing a fictional character and saying you’re like that, doesn’t.

      And then there’s always a chance that the interviewer likes the show, knows who you are talking about and hates the character. Fictional characters are generally over the top. If someone told me they had a Monica Geller approach to cleanliness, that would be concerning because on the show it’s pathological and causes issues for her and between her and others. Probably not what the interviewee is going for.

      And if it flops? Well no it’s not like telling the interviewer the company is bad, but not doing well in an interview isn’t what gets people hired.

      Coming up with other ways to convey this is a more sound choice then hoping the people get it or like the characters.

    3. anon needs a new name*

      I think it’s a risky move to assume certain types of people like certain types of shows. You’re bound to offend someone at one point. This is an extreme example, but it reminds me of people who go into queer spaces and assume everyone there has watched, loved, and memorized Will & Grace because it’s assumed to be part of the cultural mainstream.

      An office full of 30-somethings doesn’t mean they’ve all watched or heard of Parks & Rec the same way a bunch of political staffers might have never watched The West Wing or Veep. There’s a big difference between knowing the name of a show and having a vague idea of the plot and actually being able to understand references.

      Moreover, as discussed above, saying “I have Leslie Knope levels of community enthusiasm” might read to some people as an employee who is passionate about their job, but to me it’s going to read as someone who would not let a project go if we had to cancel it and that would worry me. Pop culture is too subjective to use as example in interviews.

    4. Beth*

      I don’t think there’s a great way to ‘read the room’ on something like whether someone’s watched or heard much about a specific show. I think you’re overestimating how much any given show can penetrate the general social consciousness. Some shows do get very popular and do get referenced a lot–but that doesn’t mean that everyone in the target demographic (much less everyone else!) has heard of it, much less that they’d recognize specific characters.

      I think references like this are more likely to be taken as a neutral (maybe the person gets the reference but it would’ve been just as effective to say what you meant more directly, maybe they didn’t get it and ask for clarification but don’t hold it against you) or flop hard (they think it’s unprofessional to communicate in pop culture references, they don’t get it but don’t ask for clarification and you don’t even know your point didn’t get across) than to boost your candidacy.

  95. Jennifer*

    #4 What you believe happened, happened. No need to doubt yourself. Glad you got out of there. I’d suggest an anonymous Glassdoor review to warn future potential employees.

  96. Interviewer*

    LW1 needed to clarify with that memo’s directive with the big boss, long before giving up OT and public transport and health insurance – it’s likely focused on company and department expenses, not her own compensation and benefits. Things like supplies, equipment, consultant fees, hiring, etc. – all of which you mentioned is not a big part of your internal department, so your team likely isn’t even on the radar.

    Your coworkers aren’t participating like you, and never will, because what you’re doing isn’t even close to what the memo suggested. Please, please, please reinstate your level retirement benefits and pick up your health insurance and don’t even consider cutting your salary – all with a completely clear conscience.

    If you can’t do that, if you really think this is the path you’re supposed to be on, then consider the cost-cutting exercise handed down from your big boss to be a giant red waving flag, and start looking for a new job with a company that isn’t struggling with their budget.

    Good luck to you.

  97. KayEss*

    OP1, I worked at a place where I found out after I was hired that the department had been told to cut their expenditures by 30%. I had to buy my own office supplies, including keyboard and mouse wrist rests necessary to mitigate my carpal tunnel syndrome (after being told the department would order them and waiting two painful weeks only to find out there was no budget for a $15 expense). Managers paid for team meals and treats out of their own pockets. I even felt a little bad about caving negotiated up my offer, but you know what? They had every opportunity to say, “no, we can’t budge on the salary.”

    Meanwhile, the rest of the organization (this was a nonprofit, OF COURSE) was spending exorbitant amounts on frivolous PR-seeking initiatives… and you can bet we resented the heck out of it. It cultivated a very us-against-them department culture that was toxic to morale and negatively impacted our work. None of that saved us from all being laid off a year later, we were just miserable the entire time.

    1. Lilysparrow*

      I once worked at a place where we had to steal office supplies out of other people’s desks because management wouldn’t order enough to go around.

      But they did stuff like dither over the design of an event invitation until there was no way to get them delivered in time unless they paid for rush printing, overnight shipping, a small army of temps working all night to stuff envelopes, and FedEx to every attendee, including the ones in town who could have gotten courier packets to dozens of people in the same building.

      It was an annual event. Totally avoidable, maufactured “crisis.” Tens of thousands wasted.

      1. KayEss*

        The kicker was they laid us all off with the intent of having our work outsourced to external agencies… as if that somehow wouldn’t be more expensive, what with being charged for all their usual endless revisions and late/rush fees for deadlines that would have been totally attainable if they hadn’t dragged their feet. The prevailing theory was that upper management wanted to contract with people who would offer them personal kickbacks.

        Yeah, I still check every six months or so to see if that place has gone bankrupt.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        And let me guess… the invitation was held up by one higher-up dickering about the the word “cordially” or the font choice, right?

        I’ve been a designer for years. I know these types.
        25 rounds of changes over nothingness so they can feel important.

    2. QC*

      You just described my last job. I was fortunate enough to survive a couple rounds of layoffs in the 2 years I was there, but was actively looking for something better the whole time and got out right around the time a new layoff cycle started. They never replaced me. Meanwhile, they continue to flush money down the toilet on PR/marketing initiatives that cost more than they ever bring in.

      Worse even, instead of the team lead paying for team meals and things, my supervisor would require (for morale! team building!) that we all went out for lunch to celebrate birthdays, holidays, whatever, and then split the bill evenly down the middle. Nothing like getting stuck with a portion of your boss’s two alcoholic drinks and dessert 10-15 lunches/year when you’re a sole earner and not making a competitive salary anyway…

      I guess it’s easy to cut costs when you can’t retain talented staff.

  98. Celaena Sardothien*

    OP1- Wow, I agree with Alison totally. What you’re doing is not reasonable at all, and it’s certainly not reasonable to expect your coworkers to do that. I think if you told your Big Boss what you’ve done, he would be horrified and say that wasn’t what he intended at all.

    We had to do a “let’s try to cut our expenses” thing at work a few months ago because our receptionist was spending too much on supplies (through no fault of her own; she was ordering for other people and they were overdoing it. Like, someone wants a certain kind of pen specially ordered, even though we already have boxes and boxes of other pens). So, we just went through and cut out all the “luxury” orders and now we only order the necessary stuff, so that was the extent of it.


    I agree with Alison again. There are some people out there who would get your references and would probably chuckle, and it would work out in that case, but it’s going to be tricky to get that reaction every time. If you make a reference someone does not get, it’s going to be awkward for you to have to explain what you mean (unless your interviewer brings it up first and say, mentions her love of The Office or something. Then you could throw in the line about Angela, and it would not be out of place. But that kind of thing happening is going to be pretty rare).

    1. Jennifer*

      Good example! If it’s kind of an informal interview and the interviewer references Dunder Mifflin, maybe making a reference is a point in your favor. It shows that you may fit in well with the office culture.

    2. Fuddy Dudd*

      I understand all the shows OP #2 referenced and enjoy those shows, and would bristle at them making those references.
      It’s not that I would think it was unprofessional to make a pop culture reference in and of itself, but it isn’t an effective way to show me how that person would be a good employee in an interview. I want real world examples of things YOU have done, not gimmicky, vague comparisons to fictional television characters.

  99. Rainbow Roses*

    #1, There’s cost savings and there’s being a martyr. I can’t tell if you are just an anxious person or think you’re superior for being a martyr when nobody asked you to be one.

    Believe me, I’ve worked at places where we use both sides of copy paper to save few dollars, but never did they ask us to sacrifice benefits we were entitled to or ask us to walk 5 miles! And looking down on others eating pizza that the company approved and provided? What does that prove? That you know better than the higher ups who approved the expense?

  100. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    OP 1, youneed to stop sacrificing yourself to the god of expense-cutting. Not only will these measures not have a significant impact on the company’s bottom line, but in the case of the the retirement and healthcare contributions, you are actively hurting your own future. Finally, nobody loves a judgemental martyr to the job, especially if your martyrdom inspires management to take more draconian measures. Coworkers will not thank you if they end up without healthcare and retirement benefits.

  101. anon for this*

    I agree LW 1 is taking things wayyyy too far and may have some bigger problems, but some employers actually do ask people to do this sh*t. I worked somewhere once where the head of HR called us all into a meeting and completely seriously told us to (during *personal* travel) gather up all the hotel pens we could find and bring them back to the organization so that the organization didn’t need to buy pens. And then he pointed to the coworker who brought back the most pens last year as a good example for the rest of us.

    1. Observer*

      This kind of garbage is unfortunately real. But it IS totally dysfunctional. And the OP should most definitely being doing what they are doing and certainly NOT asking or pressuring others to do this, even if the company actually is asking for it. Because it’s WRONG, regardless of what the company says.

      Collecting hotel pens is bad enough, but what the OP is doing goes several steps beyond.

  102. wittyrepartee*

    So, using references- you really need to be able to read your audience. I kind of doubt that you’ll have the kind of insight you’ll need in an interview. For instance, I’d just be really confused with most pop culture references, but I’d be like “this gal seems enthused!?”.

    If you’re a youngish woman, I’d avoid though. It’s easy to get pidgeonholed in a way you don’t want to. “The girl who really likes TV”. But hey, maybe you’re applying to jobs at buzzfeed or something, in which case it might be perfect for your situation!

    1. Autumnheart*

      Honestly, it ticks me off. Wage-earners in the US have to fight tooth and nail to NOT work somewhere where you have to work late and go hungry, forego your own healthcare, take pay cuts, and be expected to shoulder the burden of business expenses that rightfully belong to the company. Here’s the OP trying to encourage that same toxic mentality in her own workplace.

      1. London Calling*

        It sounded like something Scrooge might have made Bob Cratchit do and smacks of martyrdom.

  103. Nicelutherangirl*

    Please, Martyr #1, take Alison’s advice, then write back in 6 months and inform us how your work life, relationships, with your co-workers, and life in general, have changed for the better.

    1. Nicelutherangirl*

      Aagh, meant “relationships with your co-workers”. I didn’t catch that extra comma until it was too late.

  104. Jerry*

    LW#2 If you’re still reading, I’m going to actually disagree with Alison on this one. I agree with her assessment, that it’s not entirely necessary, and may even be juvenile, but you gave three examples. Three. I recognized them but they wouldn’t be front of mind in the way I frame my thoughts, it’s clear that this is really important to you, a broad facet of your personality, and the way you naturally think and speak. You should be yourself in interviews, you want to make sure you’re a good fit. If this is the way you talk, think and are, then interviewers should know that, and you should want them to know that. Thought of another way, people who are into sports, absolutely pepper their conversation with sports references and analogy I barely see a difference.

    As an aside, I slip Mean Girls and Harry Potter references into conversation all the time, but more in an inconspicuous shibboleth kind of way.

    1. LawBee*

      I think there’s a difference between general conversation and a job interview, though. In conversation, I would be delighted to talk pop culture all the time, but if someone in an interview said “I learned to work with a supervisor like Angela from The Office” – I’ve never seen that show and would have to ask for an explanation, so why not just do that from the get go? And I would have the same reaction if someone dropped a hockey reference on me – some sports metaphors have entered the general lexicon, but not all.

      I mean, it wouldn’t make-or-break the interview, but there are other ways to answer the questions that are clearer. (It also presumes that the interviewer has the same opinion on the character referenced – what if she thought Angela was amazing?)

    2. Beth*

      But is your taste in pop culture really the self that you want to be showing off in an interview?

      In a social context, all of this is very true. You should talk about the things you’re interested in–that’s how you find like-minded people who have common interests with you!

      But unless making friends with common interests is your absolute top priority in a job, this just doesn’t make sense in an interview context. An interviewer who gets the reference isn’t going to think better of your candidacy because you have the same taste in pop culture. An interviewer who doesn’t may not understand what you’re trying to say at all (not ideal when you’re trying to show off your qualifications!). Both might be concerned about your communication skills, since professional communication generally prioritizes directness and clarity. In most fields, I think it’s better to stick to the basics in the interview.

  105. Dagny*

    Re: #5

    “The more interesting question, to me, is why you’re looking for outside confirmation that it was a bad situation when it clearly was. And what’s more, even if it wasn’t a situation that everyone would have hated, you hated it and that’s reason enough to leave. Are you worried on some level that you should have been able to hack it? Are you looking for the satisfaction of hearing someone else thought it was awful too? That last one is perfectly human, but it probably doesn’t warrant emailing a stranger with those questions and I think is likely to keep you mired in the drama of a past job rather than moving forward.”

    I agree with the result of Alison’s advice – do not reach out and ask – but disagree with her about it being an “interesting question” as to why the letter writer has these issues. If you’ve ever been in an insanely toxic workplace, you start to question your own sanity (literally). We all know people who hear from absolutely everyone that they engage in various sorts of counterproductive or unprofessional behaviour, but thinks that *everyone else in the world* is the problem. Therefore, normal, psychologically healthy people, when confronted with a situation in which everyone thinks the same way, but radically differently than them, will question their own sanity and read of the situation.

    It’s really not wrong to have longstanding issues after being in a truly toxic and horrible work environment. The better solution, though, is to actually discuss this with a career coach, mentor, or similar – someone with expertise in professional norms who can explain how a normal, functional office would have handled this situation.

  106. Laurelma01*

    (“I’ve gone on “hunger strike” conspicuously refusing to eat or order, and working through while others eat the company-paid pizzas, etc”(. –The orders are placed to keep people productive while working OT, as well as a morale booster.
    (“But I’ve done what I can — e.g. I walked five miles with heavy equipment rather than take public transport which the others did. I “forgot” to claim for overtime payments that I should/could have claimed (not in U.S. so those laws don’t apply), didn’t claim mileage for driving two hours out of my way multiple times, etc.”( — the not reporting OT is illegal, putting an employer and himself at risk of fines. The walking — It’s also plain dangerous, cost the employer more money if injured …… to be truthful if injured while doing something like this, the workman’s comp could be denied because the individual isn’t following common safety practices, etc. To be the walking with equipment could be considered a waste of time …. He could be dinged for time management issues on his evaluation.
    Some commonsense needs to be prevailed. Cost cutting – is not wasting supplies, not working OT to manage your work load better, turning off lights, etc., This went to the extreme to the point I’m wondering if these are serious exaggerations or false.

  107. LeisureSuitLarry*

    LW #1’s question comes off as overly pious to me. “Look at all the stuff (not very smart or helpful stuff either) I’m doing to save the company!” Some of the stuff he’s been doing is bizarre. Walking five miles with heavy equipment is a bigger monetary risk than taking a taxi/uber/his own car. What if he had dropped it? What if he had fallen and hurt himself? What if he hadn’t fallen but still hurt himself? All of those things are going to cost even more than the $10 he was trying to save.

    When companies start saying cut expenses, they’re not talking about minor expenses like this. They’re not talking about cutting employees out of pay for their work (overtime). They’re not talking about employees cutting back retirement or health benefits. If things are that bad they’ll cut those last two without any input from the employees. They’re talking about things like staff budgets, travel, and a hundred other big ticket things. The question becomes “do we need to take this trip” or “do we need to fill that empty role”.

    If LW1 was my co-worker telling me all the things he was doing, I’d tell him that he was over-thinking it and to mind his own business. If I were a manager listening to him list these things, I’d question his judgment. As it is, I have a hard time believing that he’s as “senior” as he thinks he is if he’s not understanding how organizational spending and budgeting works.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      The only things on that list remotely sensible were:
      -maybe not ordering in food for office automatically
      -sharing the cab/uber with 3-4 coworkers

    2. Tiggs*

      Yes to this. If i were LW1’s manager, i’d have serious reservations about someone with what appears to be a bit of a martyr complex. I’d question this person’s ability to make good decisions in the workplace. I would absolutely not reward someone or hold them in high esteem for doing things like canceling their own health insurance, since what happens if they get hurt, for example? Let’s say LW cancels insurance, immediately breaks a few bones, and boom, now is financially destitute. Now this employee is going to be super stressed at work, may not get decent treatment, or may not opt to get decent treatment, and now i’ve got an employee who can’t perform at 100% bc they made a dumb decision, and worst of all they’d probably not understand how it was their own fault. Same with carrying heavy equipment. That’s a liability. Big time. I’d really question an employee’s judgement if they did this, and then wanted others to follow suit. This person sounds as if they’ve likely not been in any type of management capacity.

  108. Rez123*

    #2 I don’t think pop-culture references are automatically bad. As amazing as Parks and Rec s (love me some Ron Swanson), I’d skip those since they are specific. I wouldn’t mind a Superman reference or somehting that is very obvious but you don’t really need to know anything about it. For example you are applying to be an assistant and they ask you about your relationship with the boss and youd say that you were like Batman and Robin. Sorry, not a good example but I’m sleepy. Not necessarily a great idea to use them, but I don’t mind it either.

  109. That One Person*

    #1 – after reading this I get the mindset of “I’m making great sacrifices, why is no one else doing the same thing or at least recognizing me for it?” The problem is though that you’re projecting your point of view where….honestly people might not notice at all, or as Alison stated people might view it as weird/odd. It’s also good to be cautious of this mindset because its so easy to turn egotistical about it, viewing yourself as great for going above and beyond…but it also allows jealousy/envy to creep in and I can read it here. It becomes a case of “they get these things that I’m purposefully denying myself, but they should be denying themselves too!” That’s not always viable for everyone. There was an episode of “George Lopez” where he and his wife entered this contest of sorts with each other to spend the least amount of money possible and all it did was make them miserable. The idea is to cut down unnecessary things, not deny yourself anything and everything.

    #4 – I can understand the curiosity of wanting to know “Is it still awful/dysfunctional?” but you’re probably better off accepting that it is if they’ve already chased someone else off. Maybe they had the same problems or faced different ones, but to each their own. Now if there’s a third person chased away maybe you guys can make a club and discuss how awful/silly that place was and bond over it =P (I kid on that last part)

  110. GrandBargain*

    #1. It’s really on the Big Boss to say where and how costs/expenses are to be cut. To simply say ‘spend nothing’ is an abdication of leadership. You mention contracts and licensing and so forth… does the memo really mean to imply that there should be no new contracts, no purchases, no paying vendor invoices? I agree you’re taking too much responsibility for implementing this nutty directive. Perhaps ask your direct boss or immediate supervisor what she suggests you do to help out.

  111. LawBee*

    LW #1 – oh, I bet I know your enneagram number, haha. It is not on you to single-handedly save the company, nor are you under ANY obligation to put your personal finances and health at risk. There isn’t a moral imperative to take these personal cuts, and doing so could actually backfire and cost more. What if you’d hurt yourself on that trek with the heavy equipment?I suspect if your bosses knew you were taking these steps, they’d be horrified. It doesn’t make you look any better to the company, and they’re not asking you to martyr yourself for the cause. Just do your work, bill for your overtime, and be reasonable.

    And expecting your fellow employees to go to your extremes is really weird and invasive. It’s not on you to judge them for not cutting their retirement or getting paid for overtime.

    LW #2: it’s not bad by default, but not everyone watches everything, so it’s likely to go over some heads. (I’m pretty sure if I referenced “The Meat Incident” in an interview to explain how I was able to diffuse a tense situation between coworkers, the chances of my interviewer having also seen those episodes of Terrace House are, at best, slim.) It’s just not necessary in a professional interview when there are other words to use.

  112. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1, your letter had me literally screaming “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!” at my computer. If you’re not in therapy, please make an appointment today. This amount of self-sacrifice is not healthy.

    OP4, your sense of what is normal has been messed with by your toxic job. Counseling may also help as well.

  113. RGB*

    Where I live big corps usually refer to cutting expenses as a “cost out” approach.

    And that’s cool…but it’s cost out of the business not cost into my home.

  114. Orange You Glad*

    OP#1: I think everyone else has already touched on why you shouldn’t keep doing what you’re doing but might I suggest sitting down with the manager that sent the original “cost cutting” e-mail and discuss what exactly he/she meant by this? Specifically what actions you can take to help the company. Silently waging a war against small expenses doesn’t get your or the company anywhere. Taking large steps with the company’s blessing (like cutting out a conference or changing paper suppliers) may actually make you shine in their eyes and help you advance.

    As an anecdote – my company went through a rough patch financially about 8 years ago. They didn’t come out and say it, but it was apparent (I work on the financial side so I was seeing it everyday) – they did things like not replace people when they left, cut down on travel and monetary perks, etc. It was at this time that the company actually started providing things like catered breakfast and lunch since the overall cost was much lower than say a few employees’ salaries. The idea was the free food would offset some of the lower morale caused by the cut backs.

  115. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – I once worked for a financially, very well-off company and they decided to go on a cost-cutting spree.

    Things like paper towels, toilet paper, etc. were rationed. We also had those giant bottles of water — and someone actually accused people of stealing them – when in reality, there was more consumed, they cut back the AC, AND, the help desk/production control desk was moved into the building and there were now six people there 24×7 who weren’t there before (thus the drain on TP, paper towels, and drinking water).

    One day we walk in – winter – it’s dark. Some dimbulb manager thought that making us work in the dark would be a good thing, save electricity. The worst = soda cans. The cleaners were told not to take them. And when soda cans accumulate, they attract all sorts of insects. Management was trying to argue that “it costs money” to clean them. We have a deposit law here – those cans are worth a nickel and they finally removed them when I said I was going to invite a wino up to the office to remove them. Why, he could get five or six quarts of Night Train or Thunderbird every week!

    OP should not have to “sacrifice” for her/his boss’ bonus.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I had to buy my own computer manuals in that place – and they were angry when I left and took them with me.

        We were required to keep a current CV on-file with the HR department, and I didn’t know why. I guess the official reason was , well, if you apply for another job within the company, or we need someone with a skills set we know where we can turn.

        Two weeks after I left that company – I start getting calls from headhunters left and right. Odd because I hadn’t used agents / headhunters / recruiters in years, and I had no idea how they got the info. I suspect someone had a “side business” of selling those resumes. I did send a registered letter to my former boss on the matter and the calls finally stopped. Yes, it’s flattering but when you’re on your first month or so, you don’t want to take 25 calls a week asking you if you’d like to switch to another job.

        Three months after I left – they were still on the poverty kick. I get a call from the telecommunications admin at the old company – and was asked TO LOG IN AND DELETE MY VOICE MESSAGES! I said I left there three months ago. The deal was that my VM would remain on for a week with a message “I have moved on to New Teapots, my number there is 212-555-2368 please call me there” and you’d delete it in a week or so.

        They never took me off it, and there was a bypass number (I think 4, would skip over the message) I declined because they were asking me to perform an authorized employee function, I couldn’t do that.

  116. Workaholic*

    I don’t have time to read the responses, so maybe others have said this already. But LW#1: with all the cutting out and not reporting overtime you’ve worked, etc – It makes me worry that during review time you’ll look like you’re working less than others, so they might view it negatively. They may think you don’t have enough work and pile more on, which you really don’t have time for. Or they may think you’re producing Less than your co-workers, this replaceable.

  117. Picker of Nits*

    OP4, you are physically free of that terrible place. Don’t fall into the trap of getting stuck there mentally. Rubbernecking isn’t going to make your life better. You already know that it was bad to the point of nightmares. You don’t need anyone else to correlate your findings.

  118. MissDisplaced*

    #4 I actually HAD a person who had been in my role at a toxic Exjob contact me!
    She was a complete stranger. She reached-out to me on LinkedIn first, and then I gave the ok for her to call me. And yes, we commensurated about how horrible the owner and place was.
    On her part, I guess it was just to confirm she wasn’t the crazy one (owner was prone to gaslighting). I didn’t mind her calling me, but you know, it didn’t really help with moving-on either. So honestly, while harmless, there wasn’t much point to it.
    Situation might be different though if you’re considering filing a lawsuit against the company or something. I believe many sexually harassed people have connected to confirm harassment and lack of action by the company condoning the behavior.

  119. lobsterp0t*

    I definitely do not wish to stigmatise LW1, but as your coworker I would be really put off and weirded out by that behaviour. You may not be considering how that is coming across, but that kind of performing-goodness really rubs people up the wrong way. It sounds like it stems from misunderstanding what are reasonable, and unreasonable, ways to be expected to cut costs- the guidance here is really good and hopefully gives you a good basis to work from. I say this because maybe this will have impacted your relationships with colleagues a bit – so it might be worth reflecting on that too.

  120. Not An Intern Any More*

    One time I took a flight for work at a regional airport to save $100. The cab ride there was less than $50. The return flight was severely delayed, and arrived just as the regional airport closed.

    When I exited the airport, there were three taxis available who each quoted at least $110. My maximum taxi expense was $75. I noticed an amusement park shuttle still helping passengers and I was able to convince the shuttle driver to go a bit off-course in order to get me home. The cost was $75.

    When I submitted my travel expenses for reimbursement, my boss chided me for spending $75 on the trip back home, when my initial ride was less than $50.

    OP1, do you know w