my employee responded badly to his raise

A reader writes:

Recently I gave a part-time employee a pay raise. All our part-timers are paid pretty modestly, but he got a significant raise for his stellar performance. When I gave him the good news, his response was to be completely underwhelmed and say “thanks for the information” before skulking out of the room looking visibly sour.

As I would expect any of my employees to be glad to see an extra bit of money per hour, I am admittedly flummoxed. Should this be a red flag? Do I need to follow up with him, or is it possible I just caught him on a particularly bad day?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My assistant keeps commenting on my appearance
  • My manager knows I’m job searching and asked me to set an end date
  • Handling a divorce at work
  • Can I ask employers to email me instead of calling?

{ 318 comments… read them below }

  1. Shrugged*

    There’s a typo in the response to #1:

    The key is not to say this in a tone that signals “you are now in trouble for not being sufficiently excited about your raise,” but rather “I’m concerned; how are you?”

    I don’t think the tone is supposed to convey that he’s now in trouble!

    1. Twitterererer*

      It’s not a typo. The whole point is the first example sentence is what NOT to do. Hence the “not to say this” that preceded it.

    2. Friday afternoon fever*

      Don’t think that’s a typo — ‘the key is *not* to say you are now in trouble’ reads correctly

    3. Spencer Hastings*

      I don’t think there’s a typo: I read it as “don’t signal ‘you’re in trouble’, but rather ‘I’m concerned’.”

    4. Persephone Mulberry*

      It’s not a typo, per se, but what’s trying to be conveyed would be a tad clearer if the “not” were moved:

      The key is to not say this in a tone that signals…but rather…

      1. Shad*

        The rule against split infinitives is a holdover from Latin, where doing so is impossible. There’s no good reason for this rule to exist in English.

        1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

          In fact, I’d argue that it shouldn’t be a “rule” in English because there’s no clarity lost whatsoever and, Imo at least, split infinitives sound more natural.

          1. Bryeny*

            It isn’t a rule in English. It used to be taught (see Shad above about the Latin holdover), but as far as I know it isn’t any more, and every grammar authority I’ve seen address the subject has said split infinitives are fine in English. Go forth and split wherever it sounds right.

            1. pentamom*

              It became a rule in English because there was a fashion among a certain kind of 19th century grammarians to try to make English follow Latin rules, wherever possible, so one of them established this rule, and it was widely accepted for a while.

              But as noted above, it was always a rather silly rule and need not be followed, since it was based on a rather questionable premise that has nothing to do with clarity or precision.

  2. NerdyKris*

    The first letter really depends on what the LW thinks a “significant raise” is. A dollar or more at $12 an hour? Yes. Thirteen cents at $15 an hour? You better believe I’m not going to appreciate “an extra bit of money per hour” when it amounts to less than five dollars a week.

    1. Choux*

      Yeah, when I was working retail, I once received a 25-cent an hour raise that management thought was some fantastic thing, such a great raise for all the hard work I did. An extra $40 a month wasn’t something I was going to throw a party over.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I got a nickel/hour raise once. Fortunately, I was only 16, so it’s not like I needed the money to feed kids or anything, but even then I felt a bit insulted.

        1. matcha123*

          On the flipside, I got small ‘raises’ like that at my part-time job when I was in my teens and early 20s and absolutely needed any extra money I could get to buy my family food and help with paying bills.
          Not to say the guy’s reaction was great, but just another perspective!

      2. Pebbles*

        I put in my 2-weeks notice at a fast food job when all I got a 20-cent raise. I wanted an extra 5 cents added to the raise so that my pay would be equal to brand new employees (I had been working there for 18 months and was considered a good employee). Manager said he couldn’t give me more.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Whoever made that policy sure shot themselves in the foot (whether manager was lying or actually had his hands tied). I’ve never understood how bad at math these people can be. Best response to that is what you did: Can’t pay me what you’re paying the new kids because it’s “too much?” Good luck paying that next new employee more AND having to train them.

          1. Pebbles*

            Best part was how put out he was that the 2 weeks ended just before a holiday weekend and I refused to work it. Look, you’re getting 2 weeks of my labor at less than the going rate AND WE BOTH KNOW THAT. He should’ve been grateful I didn’t just go right then and leave him scrambling to fix the schedule for the next week.

            I didn’t have anything lined up when I quit, but I was able to quickly get a job that paid more than double what fast food did by working overnight stock at big box retailer.

          2. boop the first*

            Holy crap, right?? I was one of the longer running staff members by several years until I found out that I was also the cheapest. I already knew that I got a dollar less per hour than the men, but I didn’t realize that I was actually $2/hour less than the brand new teenage hires. Boss was mad when I politely quit. No doubt because when I came in a few weeks later for the last cheque, they had three brand new workers to fill in the gap I’d left.

        2. Old Cynic*

          I was working in a group of 4 colleagues (back in the 80s) and found out the 2 new people in the department were hired at 25% more than I was earning. Didn’t want to know about the remaining person.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        My mom got a 20 cent raise this year and had her vacation whoppingly cut. It was hard for her to get excited.

      4. KayEss*

        My husband’s employer (public library) once declared a “Lucky Penny Day” where they literally gave each employee a penny glued to a piece of paper with a slightly saccharine message. He figured they were trying to be creative in disposing of random accumulated loose pennies, but I found the optics of that employee appreciation initiative… not great.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Were they old pennies that collectors might pay $15/20 for, that is the only way I can see them being lucky?

        2. SierraSkiing*

          “Lucky Penny Day” could be nice if I was reasonably well paid – especially if the message was a nice compliment on my work. If I was already getting “paid pennies”? Oof da, that would sting a bit.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            How do the people who try to implement these “morale-boosting” initiatives always miss the part that they’re supposed to be on top of already good pay and benefits, not a substitute for the basics?

            It’s almost offensively clueless, like the company where I worked that handed out Payday candy bars on the first payday under the new rate—which would’ve been cute, since the new checks did include a fairly substantial pay increase, except that the increase was explicitly meant to make up for the past 5 years the site had gone with no raises of any kind and bring our pay just up above the McD’s across the street.

      5. nyltiak*

        I quit my first job as a lifeguard because on my third summer, I got a raise… which was the same as the base salary of the new lifeguards they’d just hired. None had any experience or anything that would justify this. So I found another lifeguarding job. When I told my boss that I was leaving, and that it was because I was upset that she was paying me the same as just-certified guards, she offered me a 5 cent raise in tones that implied she was being extremely generous.

        I did not agree to stay.

      6. boop the first*

        Oh that’s funny. I had a retail job where the owners LITERALLY THREW A PARTY in the lunchroom so they could announce that we were all getting a fifteen cent raise. A former coworker saw me on the bus a few weeks later and said out loud “Oh HEY! I heard you guys got a fifteen cent raise!” and strangers sitting near us busted out laughing at me. It was kind of funny. I mean… I wouldn’t complain! But I had a confused look on my face when my boss shook my hand in congratulations nonetheless. I think I was supposed to be excited?

    2. she was a fast machine*

      Definitely this. I can’t count the number of times this has happened. I was once told I was getting a raise, yay! From $9.75 to $10.12, and I had to keep it a secret because no other support staff were making that much and it would just look bad and degreed staff made $12 which the $10.12 was too close to but wasn’t it exciting I was getting a raise!

          1. Emily K*

            Federally, discussing salaries/pay or other working conditions with another employee is a protected “concerted activity” in Section 7 of the 1932 National Labor Relations Act.

            The only major exception is NLRA does not give you the right to disclose your coworkers’ salaries if your job function gives you access to information about other employees’ wages, e.g. as a payroll processor. However, if you were to come across a document carelessly left in open that disclosed other employees’ wages, as long as you didn’t trespass or hack anything in order to see that document, it would be fair game for you to tell other employees what you saw on the document.

            1. Becky*

              From what I have seen, these types of rules (disallowing discussion of salaries) have been ruled against in court again and again and are legally unenforcable. About the most they can do legally is forbid discussion salaries/pay on the premises.

          2. Thegs*

            It’s a federal law, so all states have to follow. The National Labor Relations Act is the name of it; links put comments into the moderation queue, so I’ll post a link in a separate comment :)

        1. she was a fast machine*

          Very illegal, and we worked at a workforce agency! It was a true CF in many ways there.

    3. Autumnheart*

      I was thinking that as well. “All the other part-timers got a 25-cent raise, but you got a FIFTY-cent raise! Isn’t that amazing?”

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Actually, 50 cents is more than 4% of the $8.25 minimum wage here. If I’d gotten a 50 cent raise when I was making minimum wage, I would have thought that wasn’t too shabby, lol. Anything much less than that? Meh. But 50 cents I would not have sneezed at. It’s all relative!

        1. Aunt Piddy*

          Minimum wage is still $7.25 here. I would have been ecstatic about a 50 cent raise when I was making minimum wage!

      2. LV*

        At one of my retail jobs, I started at minimum wage and had to convince my manager to give me a 50-cent raise after 6 months. The place had very high turnover so even just 6 months in, I was one of the senior employees. A few months after that, the minimum wage in my province was raised by 50 cents… My manager didn’t understand why I wanted “another” raise when they had just given me one.

        He didn’t understand why I didn’t give 2 weeks’ notice, either.

      3. Róisín*

        My roommate last year got a raise of 2¢. She was a server making $2.13/hr and they bumped her up to $2.15/hr. Since her whole wage from every paycheck went to taxes, it was such a joke. We literally joked about it.

        1. Gerald*

          I hope she’s in a place with a really low cost of living, because that’s insanely low! Servers here get minimum $12/hr

          1. Ego Chamber*

            $2.13/hr is the tipped minimum wage in the states. The employer is required to make up the difference if the server doesn’t get enough tips to meet the state or federal minimum wage (whichever is higher), but usually employers will just fire you if you don’t make enough tips to keep them from having to pay you. Yes, it’s a real shitshow. Yes, we should do better.

              1. Rachael*

                Same in Washington State. Also, Seattle has started implementing their $15/hr in increments, so all the servers in this state accept tips on top of the minimum wage.

            1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              This is so disgusting. Servers should be paid *at least* minimum wage, and tips should not count towards income AT ALL.

    4. Yikes Dude*

      I think Allison either answered this exact letter (or a virtually identical one) a few years ago and the conscientious was that it was probably one of those cases where the manager is very impressed by their own ability to get blood out of a stone, neglecting to process that to the employee it could translate to as little as $5 more a pay period. You know which is nice, but not exactly manna from heaven.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah, a couple years ago at one if my friend’s jobs, the company only budgeted 5k raise to split between three people…making over 100k. At least the boss in this case said, I know, so sorry. I can’t believe it myself, but that’s all they gave me.

    5. Blue*

      Yeah, I definitely had this reaction to a negligible raise once. Like, thanks, I guess? But clearly you aren’t interested in rewarding workers for going above and beyond, so no, I’m not thrilled at my extra $6 a week and no, I will not put in as much effort going forward. Luckily, they informed us about raises in writing so I didn’t have to react in front of my boss. Otherwise, we would’ve played out this exact exchange.

      1. Teal*

        Yeah, the first crappy raise just lets you know that you’ll *never* be appropriately compensated, and you need to start looking for other jobs.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, my first thought was that he probably worked that hard with the hope of turning it into a full time position.

    6. Delphine*

      Right, considering they’re “paid modestly” I would very much like to know how much the raise was.

    7. BananaPants*

      My husband got a 2% raise when the department average was 1%, which he found out about a day after his employer cut full time hourly employees from 40 hours/week to 36. His boss was nonplussed that he wasn’t falling all over himself in gratitude for the raise when what he’d actually gotten was about an 8% PAY CUT.

    8. Ann O'Nemity*

      Also, a “significant” percentage raise on a really low wage doesn’t add that much money. Someone at $50k may get excited about a 6% raise, but it’s a lot less impressive when you’re making minimum wage and already struggling to pay bills.

    9. Tysons in NE*

      Quite awhile ago, while I don’t remember the exact amount of the raise, but with the increase in the health care, I got a whooping more $24 per month. I wasn’t impressed. I started looking for something else almost immediately.

      If you are going to call it a cost of living increase please make sure you are keeping up with the cost of living. If the health insurance goes up 15% that 2.5% raise isn’t going to be that impressive. (USA based here)

    10. Alex*

      Or also, if he is getting the “highest” raise because he is the best, how does that compare to what the lowest people are getting?

      My workplace gives out different “tiers” of raises depending on performance. If you are just OK, you get X amount, if you are very good, you get Y amount, if you are amazing, you get Z amount. (If you suck, you don’t get anything). Almost no one gets Z or X, in reality, but I once figured out what my raise would be if I got X (basically, doing the bare minimum not to get fired) or Z (busting my buns to amaze everyone) and the difference was about $7 a week. Whoopee. Way to reward you highest performers.

      So I can imagine having a similar reaction if my boss told me I was getting “The absolute highest performance raise possible!”

    11. you call that a raise?*

      As someone who was recently given a raise that I found offensive, I read #1 quite skeptically. I got a promotion that comes with a lot of extra work, and my pay increase was basically a COL increase. My manager was surprised that I was so unhappy with it.

      I do think the LW should connect with her employee as AAM recommended so she can see if his mood had anything to do with the raise, and if they are on the same page raise-wise. It will be a good learning experience because if they have very difference stances on pay, so hopefully they can come to an understanding of some sort.

    12. xarcady*

      The store where I work part-time is about to do the annual performance reviews. I think new hires are starting at $11.00/hr. Last year, raises ranged from $0.10/hr to $0.36/hr. I was lucky and got the $0.36–but only because my sales were okay. The managers have very little input into the reviews. It’s all numbers. How close did you come to making your sales goals? Did you open at least 2 credit cards every week? How many times were you late or called out? Plug the numbers in and the amount of the raise comes out.

      Fortunately, I make a small commission on what I sell, so the money is better and if I don’t get a decent raise, it’s not the end of the world. But still? $0.10 an hour? For the full-time employees who get scheduled for 28 hours (yes, that’s what the store considers full-time) a week, that’s $2.80 a week, before taxes. If they never miss a shift, that’s about an extra $145 a year, before taxes.

    13. WillowWeep*

      I got a 1% raise this year – on top of being dropped from 40 hours to 30 hours. And people were upset with the hours that I was at work – east coast wanted earlier and west coast wanted later.

    14. Tinybutfierce*

      I once got a $0.11 raise when I was promoted from assistant manager to manager of a retail store.

      Shockingly enough, I’m no longer there and their turnover rate is through the roof. Shockingly.

    15. Al-ster*

      You also need to take into account inflation, to not give someone a raise is not maintaining their salary – it’s a paycut. A few years ago, inflation in the UK was running at 4.5 % I was called into the office and told amongst much “celebration” I was the best in the office and that I was getting a 4.5% pay rise and some people were not, thats how good I was. I accepted with good grace, walked out. Sat down and checked what it was worth in real terms and realised the “pay-rise” was not. It was merely maintaining of my current salary wrapped in b*llsh*t . My work colleague was told “well we can’t give everyone a payrise” despite that he was better than me, just wasn’t as good as getting himself noticed. I handed in my notice the next day, he did 2 months later. I got a job paying 20% more and he went into the career he really wanted to do.
      Don’t give pay-rises ? The best will leave

    16. Original OP for L1*

      I’m the original OP for letter 1 and it’s been a while, so I feel like I can give a little bit of clarification. The role the employee was in was a part-time role that paid between $9 and 11 to start and I was authorized by my boss to give raises up to $2.00 based on performance. He was on the higher end of the range and I gave him the full $2 raise.

      I totally understand that it can be hard to be excited even about something significant when your overall pay rate is still low, but for the role and the job, it was absolutely significant.

      1. Original OP for L1*

        As a follow up (I can’t recall if I wrote into Allison with the update or not, but if I didn’t, here it is: I spoke with him the week following and it had turned out he got the news of the raise on the same day he got some incredibly bad personal news. He was actually very happy for the raise. He also wound up being promoted to a full-time role at the company pretty recently, from what I’ve heard–I have since moved on.)

        1. Half-time Admin*

          Thank you for the follow-up! It sucks that your employee had a bad personal thing happen, but that’s a darned good reason for not reacting as expected…..

    17. Aussie*

      My worst ever raise was so small that they had to extend my hourly wage out to four decimal places so that it could be reflected on my payslip.. Literally an extra $2 per year.. annually. And my boss at the time felt the need to point out my unenthusiastic response in my performance review.. At that point – why bother?

  3. Beth*

    With #1…LW acknowledges that the pay is pretty modest. I don’t know what the raise was, but given the modest starting point, I could imagine it being ‘significant’ in terms of percent of current wage but maybe still underwhelming in terms of cash in pocket. Unless it was a big enough deal to take the employee’s pay out of the ‘modest’ range, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect them to be all that excited about it.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      There’s some range between excited and skulking (if that’s what actually happened and not just the boss expecting them to be happier about it, of course).

      I’m jaded at this point on raises. I know what the pool is and what the market is, but I’m not sure most employees do and many seem to expect much more than I have in my pool to allocate wither they get 3% (average) or 12% (the year we had a stellar performer who also got a market adjustment). One of the ones who raised the biggest fuss got a 10% raise on a 75th market percentile salary (nearly $500 more a month) and ultimately quit over it (and switched industries and took a paycut because he couldn’t get a similar job paying more than we were).

      I think, generally, unless your raise is insulting (as many of the ones detailed above, god lord, I cannot imagine giving someone a $0.17/hour raise with a straight face), a poker face or calmly making your case for more is going to play better than having a visibly negative reaction.

      1. Jaz*

        I’m torn. On one hand, I was once bowled over with gratitude to get a $0.20/hour raise, because I was scraping by on minimum wage and that extra $10 each week meant I could start eating a meal every day—sometimes even twice in the same day!

        On the other hand, last year my husband got a $0.17/hour raise that was just enough to put us over the cutoff for Medicaid, which ultimately left us in a tougher financial spot than before.

      2. Beth*

        I’m not saying it’s a good idea to throw a 2-year-old style tantrum over a bad raise–but I really don’t think employees should be expected to hide all unhappiness over a raise that doesn’t measure up to their expectations, either. I’m sure it’s not fun as a manager to find that the raise you thought was reasonable or good is actually a disappointment to your employee. But the solution to that isn’t to expect employees to never show even a moment’s negative emotion; it’s to set reasonable expectations–don’t promise, even by implication, what you can’t or won’t deliver–and to make sure that your pay rates are in line with or above market value. After all, salaries are business costs to the employer, but they have a very personal impact on the employee, who may well be thinking of it in terms of “when will I be able to retire?” “How much will little Johnny have to take out in loans to go to college?” “Can I afford an engagement ring yet?” or “Can I afford the trip to visit mom and dad this Christmas?” It’s not reasonable to expect people to maintain a total poker face when faced with disappointing news on such an impactful topic.

        Of course, there will always be the occasional ridiculous person who throws a fit over nothing or comes up with absurd expectations out of nowhere. But that’s true on all sides–you’ll find as many stories of the boss who expected their employees to be fawningly grateful for a 10 cent raise as you will stories of employees who quit over not getting a 20% raise every year. That’s a hazard of working with people, unfortunately; sometimes you run into ones that just aren’t interested in being reasonable.

        1. Beth*

          Quick addendum: This is true of most income levels, for the record. You never know what debts someone is paying off, what family members they might be supporting, etc. Money is a really emotional topic for almost everyone, when push comes to shove.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I don’t disagree, but, like a lot of emotional topics, you’re going to get more traction at work by handling things directly and professionally, not by stomping out of the room, making passive-aggressive comments, or sighing dramatically . It doesn’t mean it always happens, but that’s the goal.

            I have a special needs child. My child’s care costs substantially more than does the care of my coworker’s child, who is healthy and neurotypical – but I can’t ask my boss to pay me more because I have greater cost burdens. I do, and that financial burden does stress me out, but taking that emotion into a performance assessment isn’t going to make the process go better or my side nor my boss’s.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have seen quite a few managers get down in the dumps because the employee did not say thank you, or say it enough. That’s really not cool for a manager to do that.

      Usually this is a boss that ends up being laughed at behind their back. “And I was supposed to fall down on my knees because Boss gave me a 25 cent raise. hahaha.”

      One sad example here, a large area company announced in a newspaper article that everyone who worked there was getting a 25 cent raise. Members of the public were consoling and apologizing to the employees, in part because this was made public and in part because it was well-known that the employees were not paid well and the 25 cents was not going to fix anything.

      I think it is good to remember that the raise is not coming out of the manager’s personal pocket but it IS going into the employee’s personal pocket. So while the manager is thinking “company money” the employee is thinking “my income that impacts my quality of life”. It’s very personal to that employee.

      Back to the story of the 25 cent raise announced in the news. A couple employees were really insulted and embarrassed. So they moved forward with a complaint. They were shot down for not being grateful. “That was Jane’s idea, you can’t talk to Jane like that. Jane thinks it’s a good idea and we cannot tell her it isn’t. She will get upset.” [Yeah, so what???] One person told her to go stick the 25 cent raise. Other employees thought this person was heroic. I think that person got fired.

      I think it’s good practice for bosses to expect nothing when they give out raises. The employee probably concludes, “You don’t thank me for what I do, worse yet, you don’t even know half the things I do.” And it’s good general advice to try to see things from the other person’s perspective.

    3. Sleepytime Tea*

      Here’s the thing though – even if the employee isn’t thrilled, sulking and having a bad attitude is not the way to handle it appropriately. And if they were expecting something significantly different, it would have made sense for them to talk to their boss before raise time about what their expectations were, what they believe they deserve, etc.

      I was was at Terrible Job. I worked 80+ hour weeks (salaried). I was on a team of 3 and 2 left, and they were taking months to hire anyone. Meanwhile the business was expanding and instead of supporting one region of the US like someone in my position normally would, I was supporting Canada and the international expansion into South America and Europe in addition to the entire US. My role also grew quite a bit and frankly I should have been getting a raise just because my amount of responsibilities had increased so much.

      I had a great manager, and she tried to get me a title bump and raise. I heard her having conversations with HR about it and advocating for me. Then one day she has a piece of paper in her hands and she calls me into a conference room. I got SO excited. It was an offer letter, right? With my new title and salary on it. She’d been working on it for months. No. It was not an offer letter. It was a “thank you letter” signed by my Director that succinctly said “We noticed you’ve been supporting the US, Canada, South America and Europe all on your own. Thanks for that. Here’s a small bonus.”

      I was… so upset. I can’t even explain. And I knew this was actually a win for her, that she had gotten me that much, and I appreciate that. But really, it was more like a slap in the face to me. And what did I do? I smiled, thanked her profusely for everything she did for me (which was genuine), and then I took a break and called my mom and cried in frustration over my job.

      It’s not appropriate to get all sulky and unappreciative about things. If this manager got him a higher than usual raise, she may have had to work really hard to make that happen. And even if she didn’t, he shouldn’t be acting like a child over it. He should be making a professional case for why he deserves something different.

      1. WellRed*

        I so agree about the sulking but I was so hoping to read you quit that job (politely) and left them scrambling.

      2. Alice*

        That’s a lot of emotional labor to do for your manager. Sure, sulking is never the right move, but thanking someone profusely when you’re at the point of crying in the bathroom? I hope you can move on from this org.

  4. PlainJane*

    My guess on #1 is that, given a stellar performance, he’d been hoping to be offered a full-time position, rather than a modest pay raise.

    1. Essess*

      Agreed. Did he apply for a promotion and get turned down? Or get turned down to be trained on things that interested him? Or was he ‘stellar’ because he was stepping up and picking up the slack of others so he’s having money thrown at him instead of fixing the (possibly toxic) environment? There are a lot of possible factors where a raise isn’t what he wanted.

  5. Jadelyn*

    My question with situations like that first one is always: how are you defining “significant raise”? If everyone is getting a 1% raise, but this employee got 2%, well he got twice as much of a raise as everyone else, that’s stellar, right? But if he’s already “modestly paid” as a part-timer, that 2% may only translate to a few dollars more per pay period. At which point, I get why he’s not thrilled about it. In my experience, when you’re making crap money anyway, a tiny raise tends to just feel like it’s pointing out how crap your pay is, rather than feeling like a real boost.

    I mean, it generally serves you better to keep that to yourself, but if you caught him off guard on a bad day and his emotional facade wasn’t fully in place, I could see it resulting in that response.

    1. Dutchie*

      Haha seriously. One time my boss asked me why I don’t seem happy about my raise. I told him that I’m still paid a lot under my market value. His reply? “But you got the biggest raise in the office!”

      1. Amber Rose*

        I got that response once. It didn’t really change the fact that it was a negligible increase to my minimum wage. Actually it made me more depressed since you won’t get the biggest raise in the office every year, so was I supposed to be happy the next year when I got a 50 cent raise instead of a 75 cent raise?

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Me too. My group was below the first percentile on a salary survey published by our leading industry group — and when shown that study, the grandboss waved it off saying “Everyone lies on those.”

        1. Dutchie*

          My boss’s answer was “people we interviewed asked that much, doesn’t mean they got it!”. Sure, man. Not at this place. That’s why instead of hiring a good specialist you were looking for you hired two interns instead.

        2. TechWorker*

          Loool ‘everyone lies’ – I mean do they? Why would it be to your advantage to claim to earn more than you do?

          1. Jadelyn*

            Well, salary surveys – at least the ones I’ve seen and used – are usually sent to businesses, not individuals, asking those businesses what they pay on average for each job title. In which case I’d guess the numbers are either accurate, or perhaps under-estimated, because it’s not really in the business’ best interest to inflate the average expected wage for a given position. As our HRIS and reports specialist, I’ve had to complete salary surveys for my org before, and I’m always honest when I do. I can’t speak for anyone else, of course.

            1. Oaktree*

              The survey I rely on is put directly to members of the professional association. We’re sent a link from the association and fill out the survey. Our employers are nowhere in this.

              I’m extremely aware of this because I was being paid below the lowest quartile for the position I was in (a position for which I was overeducated, but had been hired based on that education). Industry standard for early career [my field with education]s is in the neighbourhood of $60k; without education it’s $50k. I was hired at $48k.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yeah I was thinking that. I worked somewhere where our skilled part-timers’ pay hadn’t been raised in a long time, so minimum wage was creeping up on it. If you did a good job, you got a 2-3% raise each year, or about 35 cents per hour. Now I’m not one to turn down pennies, but I also had employees who held specialty certifications quitting to work in food service because it paid $2.50 an hour more than we did.

      1. TheRedCoat*

        This is my exact life situation right now. Huge gap between the hourly and salaried staff, and the burger king near my house has about the same wages. If it weren’t a cushy job with good hours, I’d think about jumping.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Salary compression is a pain in the ass. Two years running we’ve had to do compression adjustments to create parity within roles/seniority levels/teams, since rising minimums caused our brand new CSR 1’s to be making the same as a CSR 2 with five years’ tenure here.

        We fixed it by establishing individual “minimum” wages for each position affected, based on some (long, tedious, occasionally contentious) meetings among the department heads and HR to sort out how “department assistants” compared between different departments, for example. So we wound up with something like:
        CSR 1: $15
        X Assistant: $15.50
        CSR 2: $15.75
        Y Assistant: $16

        Then, when it was time for our annual merit raises, we adjusted everyone to their role’s new level, *then* applied merit raises so that you’d have a really great CSR 2 (who would get $15.75+5%) actually making more than a CSR 2 who’s being managed out (who would be getting just $15.75). Our distribution looks a LOT better now, but it was a complete pain to fix it.

    3. Angelinha*

      Yeah, I worked somewhere where they announced that those of us with a special skill were going to be compensated for agreeing to share the special skill. We had a big assembly with the CEO…only to be told that each of us would get $300 a year added to our gross pay. That’s not a typo, literally three hundred per year. No one grumbled or anything but we were clearly underwhelmed. Later the CEO wanted to know why we weren’t more grateful.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yeah I once had a problem — major league salary dispute and was told “we’re finally handling it” — and I got a $500 raise for a promotion I had been waiting two years for.

        It ended the working relationship.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I was lucky – my company jerked me around on a promised promotion (which I was already doing the work for) for over a year, despite me following up multiple times. Internal politics were dragging it out.

          But when we finally got the okay in like…November or something, they retro’d my salary back to the start of the year, so I got a nice chunk of change just in time for the holidays. I guess once the politics were resolved, they all agreed that it wouldn’t be fair to only pay me my new rate going forward, since I’d been doing the work for them already and it wasn’t my fault the situation had taken a year and some of negotiating. (I actually do work for one of those rare unicorns that gives a damn about being fair to its staff…we’re not perfect, but we at least make the effort.)

      2. Jadelyn*

        It’s always amazing to me when higher-ups seem to completely have lost touch with the financial life of someone not making six figures. Like did you never work your way up, or have you forgotten what it was like?

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I just did the math on this one.

        “Okay, Boss, if it makes you feel better. Thanks for the additional $5.77 per week in my check. I can buy just over two gallons of gas with it. Thanks, again.”

      4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I got a raise in January (really just a salary review adjustment). It is less than £10 per week. Which is fine, but I’m not exactly falling over with gratitude, especially since I still don’t even make the minimum recommended salary according to my professional organisation.

    4. BRR*

      I’ve noticed that it’s important, for many things, to think in terms of both percentage and amount. I have a strong feeling that “modestly paid” is similar to calling a house cozy. And a high percentage of a small starting amount doesn’t end up equaling that much.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Especially since percentage raises have a compound effect over time. Someone starting at $10/hr and getting 5% every year will have increased their salary less than someone starting at $20/hr and getting the same 5% each year. The $10/hr person would be making $12.76, a gain of $2.76/hr; the $20/hr person would be making $25.53, a gain of $5.53/hr. Whereas if you did $0.50/hr raises for both every year, they’d increase by the same total amount.

        I kinda wonder what it would look like to have a comp structure that has a salary range for each position, and the raise you get is to a certain compa-ratio. I think that might eliminate some of the issue? But I’m not sure how hard it would be to administer, and I’d have to actually do a couple scenarios to see if it would help the way I think it might.

        1. Judy (since 2010)*

          I worked at a company (engineering design) that had a max, mid, and min salary for each position like Associate Engineer, Project Engineer, Senior Engineer, & Lead Engineer. The raises were tied to performance ratings, so they actually published a 4×5 chart with the acceptable raises each year. Across the top had the quartiles in the salary range, and across the side were the 1-5 rating. So the chart would show the spot in the lowest salary quartile with the highest rating a 7-9% raise, and the spot in the highest salary quartile with the lowest rating might be 0%. The numbers filling in the chart changed from year to year based on company performance and market rates, but the concept was similar with the higher salary increases going to those with higher ratings for the same salary position within the range.

    5. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I’m reminded of the letter where an employee got a one-half of 1% raise & blew up at his boss about it. Blowing up was the wrong way to go, but half of one percent IS a crappy raise. I’d rather get nothing than be insulted.

  6. Adminx2*

    #2 UGH! Office moms need to be set straight- please say something directly, firmly, and consistently. You’re there to work and be courteous, not be on guard against how you look and what you eat!

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP2, I suggest you reframe the situation in your mind. It is not “(office) mom giving you advice on how to dress”. It is “subordinate offering inappropriate comments unrelated to your work roles”. She reports to you, so manage her as you should any subordinate acting unprofessionally–by following Allison’s script.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        This, exactly. She’s not being a “mom,” she’s being inappropriate and intrusive. Because it won’t end at commenting on your appearance and diet. The more she feels like it’s her ‘place’ to advise you on these things, the fewer things become off limits in her mind.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I wouldn’t focus on the subordinate aspect, since this behavior would be inappropriate no matter what their respective positions were.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          I agree that being a subordinate doesn’t change the inappropriateness of the behavior, but it does impact the response. AAM receives many letters about how to deal with an inappropriate coworker when the letter-writer has no authority (or perceived authority) to alter the coworker’s behavior. In this case, since OP2 has the authority, it removes one (perceived) barrier to addressing the problem.

    2. Dagny*

      It’s not just office moms. A lot of older men do it to young-looking women. I’m in my mid-thirties, but I look young, so I still have people talk down to me about inane things that are not appropriate ways to communicate with adults.

      Allison’s scripts are good. In my cantankerous old age, I tend to say things like, “I’m an adult and can can handle my own food/skin/attire/footwear myself, thanks.” It reinforces that sexism and reverse ageism are at play.

      1. Adminx2*

        True, but I think there’s a different dynamic with “moms.” They get attached to that sense of maternal hen clucking that’s emotional and even possessive. With older men I find they just have a general entitled sense of interactions. With “moms” they feel they earned it and that it’s a treasured aspect of being part of a cozy team and can have emotional blowback.
        Which is why it’s so important to try never to let someone start being a “mom” and when they do, to just be firm and direct and show it’s about focus, not rejection.

        1. Dagny*


          I’m worried that this “office mom” makes comments about how the OP is single. The OP shouldn’t have to dish about her dating life at the office, unless she wants to, and the interactions will likely only become more awkward if the OP begins to date someone seriously.

          (Nevertheless, this goes away almost entirely when you’re married, because a lot of people find it inappropriate to cluck at married women but not inappropriate to cluck at their same-age unmarried counterparts.)

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Yeah, that comment about her being single makes me wonder what else “Mom” would comment on under other circumstances. If the op had a boyfriend, would “Mom” bug her aboutn getting married (or bug her about getting engaged, then about getting married)? If op did get married, would the “When are you starting a family?” questions start?

            I’m afraid all of the above and more would be likely to happen. Once a busybody starts violating boundaries, all bets are off. Best to nip this In the bud asap!

      2. Hey Nonnie*

        The scripts are good, but I do think there is value in calling out misogyny where it happens. The letter left me with the distinct impression that this appearance-based commentary was offered to NO ONE else other than the young single woman. The assistant almost certainly has internalized those sexist attitudes to a degree that she has no idea that she’s being sexist. Plus I think it’s a good idea in general to be very clear that sexism has no place in a professional office setting. Calling some of it “harmless” just opens the door for worse behavior.

        OP would be doing the assistant a favor by explaining why her behavior is unprofessional and inappropriate. And she’d be doing her office a favor by explicitly establishing a “misogyny is not welcome here” culture.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Yeah the look good because female and single thing jumped out at me too. Misogyny on a cracker. Screw that.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        “I’m sorry were you under the impression that I’m *not* a grown ass adult who can make her own choices?” ::pointed look::

    3. Gumby*

      Seriously. Also? My actual mother doesn’t comment on my skin or my lunch or what I need to do to attract a husband. I mean, really.

      She may think she’s being the office mom but she’s being a TERRIBLE one. A horribly nosy, judgmental, awful one. I’m not sure I could manage the “I know it comes from a kind place” part (though I get the reason to add that type of language) because it is NOT KIND.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Agree. It’s not kind. It’s demeaning and sexist. Pretty brassy to tell YOUR BOSS that her primary value is looking pretty for potential husbands. Yikes.

      2. Jessen*

        My actual mother comments on those things all the time. Then she comments on how I never call her anymore and she can’t figure out why.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Nope not kind. More like reverse ageism sprinkled liberally with sexism and (internalized) misogyny.

      4. PollyQ*

        I’m not at all sure it comes from a “kind place”. Some of those comments sounds like straight-up insults, or at least “negs”.

        1. Dagny*

          Completely agree. It makes it seem like the OP needs to catch a man, and is so unfortunate and desperate that she won’t be able to without a hot lil’ bod.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        Many years ago I read an article talking about residents at institutions such as prisons, mental health care places, etc sometimes fall into the pattern of creating an in-house family. Someone would be mom, sissy, auntie, etc. I can’t remember what the article said entirely but the family positions get assigned because it fills the needs of the group, such as establishing a hierarchy/protectors/etc.

        It wasn’t lost on me that the common thread here was these folks were stuck in their environment, there were not many opportunities to move on. I was pretty young at the time I read this so I had no clue that creating a makeshift family can be an indicator of lack of movement or stagnancy in life.
        This scared the crap out of me and from then on family role playing at work became a huge negative for me.

        The mom subordinate in this letter is really creating her own trap here. Everyone will think of her as a mom first (that can be negatively or positively) and a coworker as a distant second (that can only be a negative).

    4. Jadelyn*

      Seriously, the whole “office mom” concept needs to just not be a thing anymore. We’re not a family, I’m not here to be parented or to parent someone else, we are colleagues and should treat each other as such.

  7. anon today and tomorrow*

    For #1, it depends what the raise was because it might not have been enough to really get him excited. In my first job, I was paid so poorly and when I was given a raise for my performance, it came out to an extra $10 after taxes in each paycheck (so, an extra $20 a month).

    I was not that enthusiastic, and my boss being super “yay a big raise for you!!!” about it did not help matters.

  8. applegail*

    Is this in the US? Could a raise have affected his insurance subsidies? If he’s a part-timer, I assume he doesn’t get benefits. Getting paid more might mean he has to pay WAY WAY more for insurance through the Marketplace. I know people that have had their rates go from $200/month to $550+/month because they made too much.

      1. applegail*

        Hah- yeah. I jumped to insurance, because I’m in a state that turned down funding through the ACA and it’s SHITTY if you’re self-employed and single. If you make nothing, you get some subsidies. Make more than $15k/year or so? Pfft. Full price for you, enjoy that $200-800 monthly bill. But you’re totally right, there are other things, like SNAP, that become hard to access if you’re in that spot where you make too much to qualify for help you still need, but not enough to actually not need that assistance.

    1. Lady Jaina*

      It could also affect any housing/food subsidies he and his family are getting. My co-worker ages ago was given a nice raise. She cried because it meant she’d have to pay more out of pocket for her subsidized housing. She actually ended up with a smaller take home pay. (This is in the US.)

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Or – I had a staffer once who DID get benefits, but the percentage raise she got put her just over the threshold from tier 1 health premiums to tier 2, and for her family, that would have meant that the increase in premiums actually left her with a net pay cut overall. There were a few people in that position that year, so they actually ended up leaving everyone at the premium tier they had been at on January 1 for the rest of the calendar year even after the raises went into effect, then for the following calendar year reworking the premium structure to put more tiers (and therefore a more gradual shift) between what had been tier 1 and tier 2.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          We have several benefits, including insurance, where the employee cost is related to their salary — the idea being that it’s more equitable and better for morale if the people making $14 an hour are paying a lower amount of their income for their benefits than the people making $80 an hour. (We’re a statewide organization with 40,000 employees, so the range is legit that broad, not exaggerated.) I think at this point the tiers are $15 and below (and our internal minimum wage is $12), 15.01 to 25, 25.01 to 35, 35.01 to 60, and 60+? Something like that. The plan options are the same for all tiers, just, the org picks up a higher percentage of the premium for the janitor than for the CEO. I think it’s pretty cool, personally. :)

      1. DivineMissL*

        This happened to me this year. The across-the-board 2% raise (which everyone got, regardless of performance) put me over the line into the next tier of the % of my health insurance premium I have to pay, plus the premiums increased as well; so I ended up with with a net increase of $17/week (before taxes). Yay me.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, I had that thought as well — hard caps on all sorts of things can mean raises are tricky for a lot of people. Medicaid, WIC, and food benefits all have hard income caps.

      1. Broke*

        How do you navigate this situation? Are you allowed to refuse a raise or make an employer take it back?5

      2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        And I’ll add that those hard income caps are so laughably, artificially low, that it’s very easy to exceed them and *still* be at such a low income level that aid is necessary, but no longer available.
        Signed, a person who was desperately poor and chronically ill for most of their adult lives while being at the same time ineligible for ANY kind kind of aid.

    4. SarahDances*

      Agreed. That, or there was a big post on reddit recently where a poster’s coworker turned down a $2,000 bonus because it would push him into the next tax bracket, and his (very, very wrong) understanding of how taxes work made him think that this would be a net decrease in his take home pay. So maybe this guy also doesn’t understand how taxes work!

  9. KHB*

    #1: Is it possible that when you “gave him the good news,” you signaled that you expected him to be over the moon about it, and that’s what he was responding to? As others have noted, a “significant raise” on a modest starting salary could very well add up to him still being underpaid for his “stellar performance.” Maybe he was happy about the extra money, but unhappy about feeling like he needed to kiss the hem of your robe over it.

  10. AnonAndOn Original*

    I wonder if it’s a benefit issue (re: employee upset with a raise). If he makes under a certain amount he may be getting SNAP or something like that, and a raise could bump him out of that threshold.

    1. Lora*

      This was also my first thought, that he’s staring down the barrel of higher insurance, grocery, childcare etc bills that a $20/paycheck raise won’t possibly cover.

      Been there. When I was first married, between the then-husband and I, we brought in about $3500 more / year than the federal poverty limit for a family of two. If then-husband had made $2/hour less, we would have qualified for food stamps, subsidized housing, subsidized dependent care, all kinds of support. That $2/hour didn’t pay for much protein or fresh vegetables in our diets, nor did it upgrade us to a rat-free apartment.

    2. Jady*

      Something like this happened to my mother-in-law 20~ years ago. She was a brand new teacher (and a single mother), got a tiny raise, and was then over the limit for some kind of benefits by literally one dollar (as she says).

      She asked the school to take away the raise and they refused.

    3. Retail*

      My coworkers hated erratic part time hours since benefits look at last month so yeah it’s november-december all hands on deck got 40 hours each week! Oops it’s January we need to cut back on your hours, sorry, oh the state thinks you’re working full time oh that’s not our fault, sorry your section 8 voucher got reduced, ask someone if you can work their shift!!

      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        A friend went through an interesting variation of this with welfare, child support, and her erratic, alcoholic/addict ex.
        Ex was a semi-functioning type who would get a job, do great at it, then screw it up by going on a no show/no call bender, sometimes a week in, sometimes a month, sometimes a couple of months (and some jobs were willing to overlook his faults for awhile because he was SUCH a superstar when he was ‘on’!)
        So the welfare department was basically chasing after him, always a day late and a dollar short, trying to keep up with his employers as they were garnishing his wages for the unpaid child support.
        One of my friends benefit workers actually had the nerve to COMPLAIN to my friend about this…who was LIVID. Not only was she no longer in contact with her ex because of his behavior (in the end he lost ALL parental rights, including visitation), and so had no idea where/when he was working (and he certainly wasn’t volunteering that information), she was also angry that this worker didn’t seem to realize that behavior like that was ONE OF THE REASONS THEY WERE NOW DIVORCED. And even when they were married, his work ethic/history wasn’t her responsibility, as this person was seeming to imply (because no it wasn’t said in a “OMG your ex is so unstable I’m so sorry you had to deal with that” manner, or even a “I’m sorry we have to ask you questions about your ex that you may not have the answer to but it’s standard procedure” or anything like that.)

    4. Lynca*

      My mother was a benefits worker for 30 years. She has stories about this sort of thing and how heartbreaking it was that she couldn’t help someone that was only a few dollars above the threshold.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a good point.

      I stumble on subsidized housing listings frequently enough to know their thresholds and yes, they’re tedious about earnings being not a dollar more than their brackets allow.

      It’s up there with the lady I was behind the other day who was hating her WIC transaction so hard because the canned beans she grabbed had spiced and they had to be plain only. Very rigid, no room for a couple extra bucks or flavor.

      1. WellRed*

        WTF? I like to think I would have grabbed those spicy beans and pay for them. Girl’s gotta have flavor! I hate bland food and paternal overreach.

        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          But dontcha know that poor people on benefits don’t deserve even the tiniest bit of pleasure in life? If their lives are not pure unending misery day in and day out, what else will possibly inspire them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and rise above their economic conditions that are ENTIRELY their own fault and have NOTHING AT ALL to do with much farther reaching social issues of race, class, etc? /heavy sarcasm

          And by the way, “picking oneself up by the bootstraps” actually means “trying to do that which is impossible”, so the idiots who use it are actually furthering the cause of their opponents when they utter it.

  11. Future Homesteader*

    Question related to number two: what if you work in an environment where some appearance discussion (I’m wearing more dresses/I switched up my makeup routine) is collegial and fine, but you still want to shut down the rest of the talk (especially weight-related and unsolicited). Is it possible to walk that line with the “office mother?” Or do you resign yourself to just never asking for any advice on an outfit from anyone within her earshot?

    That said, in OP’s position where this is her assistant doing this – the best thing is probably to shut it down, shut it down now, and never, ever open that door again.

    1. Adminx2*

      I never find “moms” have much a sense of perspective and trying to parse it only leads to more confusion. And no- remarking on someone’s face/acne is NEVER ok unless you’re their personal best friend outside of work already or they genuinely look like a big allergic reaction is just going on and you want to make sure they aren’t about to pass out.

      Again, no one should ever have to worry about their appearance being remarked on at work so long as they are in the dress code and general office norms.

    2. W*

      She shouldn’t have to change her appearance to please her “office mom”, especially something you can’t control like a minor breakout. The comments are rude and way out of bounds.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think FH is suggesting the OP change her appearance, though. She’s saying, if I understand correctly, that she works in a place where there’s a lot of feedback on appearance, more than might be acceptable at some offices, but there’s still some of it that she considers going too far.

        FH, I work in a close workplace with acceptable comments on appearance, and it’s always worked fine, but I know it’s vulnerable to that one individual who doesn’t get the difference between “cool shoes!” and “you put on some pounds over the holidays.” I would say if she reports to you, as in the OP’s case, you can actually sit her down and say “Even in this office, where we’re close enough for personal comments that might not fly in a more formal environment, it’s not acceptable to comment on somebody’s weight or body uninvited, and it’s never acceptable to say something negative about somebody’s physical appearance.”

        If she’s a co-worker, I’d stick with “Please don’t talk about my body” or “Wow. That wasn’t nice” and then silence. (I also think I’d generally avoid commenting on makeup changes uninvited–that’s a really slippery slope.)

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I think Future Homesteader’s question is more that in some offices, some conversation about personal stuff is okay (invited advice) and some is crossing the line (unsolicited comments/criticism), so where is the line and how does one enforce that boundary?

        But I agree with Adminx2, I don’t think there is a way to draw that boundary. Someone who really wants to be the advice-giver isn’t going to stop just because you didn’t happen to ask for advice on some things. It usually becomes an all-or-nothing situation, and in this case it’s better to not allow any advice from someone who crosses boundaries.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Also…if it hasn’t already been said yet, Office Mom being an older woman (as am I) likely does feel “motherly” (ish) towards those that are of a youger demographic. I personally don’t but many do.

          Aside from the inaporopriate comments (which they definitely are) and the sexism, ageism, etc. being demonstrated by OM, she is failing at “OP is your boss.” Ageism is playing a part there too probably. A lot of older people just can deal with someone the age of their own child being in charge.

          Ok then… OP you need to make clear that the comments to you, and just so she’s clear, to anyone else … are to cease, immediately. Additionally, make clear to her as kindly as possible, who is boss/heirarchy/chain of command, etc.

          Personally I would omit any language about her comments coming from a place of kindness/concern, etc. but…your call.

          *I* would definitely be kind, but at the same time unyieldingly firm and not hide my irritation with her. It’s fine, maybe even desirable that she knows how much of a “no” this is and that it’s a massive line she should never have crossed, nor will her crossing it again be acceptable.

    3. Perse's Mom*

      I think in that case, you pick your audience. You solicit opinions from people you trust if/when it’s ‘safe’ to do so – if you’re the only two in the kitchenette or have a few minutes to yourselves before a meeting, on your afternoon walk together, etc. Anytime you ask for an opinion where it can be overheard by others, there’s a risk that other people will decide to pipe up about it because they assume you’re asking everyone who’s possibly in hearing range. Even if you preface it with “Sarah, what do you think about-” you could still get Susan weighing in.

    4. OhNo*

      I think you can specify that certain sub-topics are out-of-bounds, without ditching the entire subject matter. An example might be something like, “I enjoy hearing your opinions on clothes/fashion/makeup, but discussion of a coworker’s body is not acceptable in the office.”

      You could also institute a general ‘did they ask’ rule for what’s appropriate to comment on. As in, if I ask how a dress looks, or if a coworker likes my new eyeshadow, it’s okay to comment on that one specific thing. But if I ask how a shirt looks and someone starts commenting on my weight, that would be out-of-bounds because I didn’t ask about my weight, I asked about my shirt.

  12. Leci*

    My boss gave me a “merit” raise of just under 2%. Gee, thanks for letting me know that my great performance results in a raise that may keep up with inflation if I’m lucky.

    1. London Calling*

      Got that last year after all the pep talks from the CFO implying that we were about to be showered with riches when it came to raise and bonus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well paid for what I do, but please, don’t tell me that an after tax pay rise of twenty eight pence an hour is good recompense for the work I’d done in the previous year.

    2. WhoKnows*

      Accurate. I remember my boss telling me she pushed “really, really hard” to get me a 3.2% raise…as opposed to the standard 3%. Don’t get me wrong, grateful to get any extra money, but if my rent is going up $50 every year and I’m only getting an extra $10 per paycheck…it’s helpful but doesn’t solve my problems.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        In some settings it can be easier to say, “Oh they forgot my raise” than it is to see what the raise actually is.

        I understand you meant it as a rhetorical question, but not everyone can find peace with a raise that is not much more than a sneeze. And there are many, many reasons for that.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Think of it like leaving a penny as a tip. Hey, you could have left nothing at all! What’s that waiter whining about? But of course, the real answer is, if you left nothing at all he could have thought that you forgot, or you’re a weirdo who never tips on principle, or something — if you left a penny, then you’re going out of your way to communicate “this is all I think you deserve.” Obviously, raises aren’t exactly the same as tips and “something is better than nothing” is a better argument for raises, but it’s still important for employers to pay attention to the actual amount and the optics of their raises and not, say, talk up what a HUGE AND MEANINGFUL RAISE they’re giving you and how it shows how ENORMOUSLY they value your work and then tell you it’s 1.8%.

    3. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      Yearly COL pay raises should be something that every worker, regardless of job title, status, or even performance, receives automatically, without fail, without any sort of fanfare. MERIT raises are IN ADDITION to that.
      My husband has a Union job, and is assistant shop steward, so he gets to see the sausage being made at Union negotiations, and believe me when I say it’s ugly. His Corp, that makes BILLIONS of dollars a year in profits, works very hard to nickel & dime it’s workers for dollar amounts that are literally pocket change to them, but make an enormous amount of different to the people at my husband’s level.
      This last one, they thought they were being VERY GENEROUS to offer a raise that was less than a COL increase, while at the same time trying to reduce the amount of money they pay for employees insurance coverage (they are very angry the Union long ago negotiated and excellent insurance plan for its “peons” and have outright stated they think it’s “too rich” for the warehouse workers. I am disabled from multiple chronic illnesses/chronic pain issues/other issues and without our good insurance I literally *could not afford to be sick*)
      Even when told they were essentially giving them a pay cut, they DID NOT CARE.
      It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out- we live in an area that is increasing minimum wage to almost what his companies starting pay is, and they don’t want to increase the pay rates…but the work there is so heavy they already have a difficult time keeping new hires even at top pay. I can only imagine what’s going to happen once minimum wage actually becomes competitive with their own rates.

  13. ChachkisGalore*

    Another possibility for #1 – if he was planning to request a raise and if the amount that you offered him is less than what he was hoping for, then it could feel almost manipulative to him. Sort of like you beat him to the bunch (note: I totally don’t think the LW was being manipulative, I’m just saying that might be how he perceived it).

    I think I even told this story when this question originally was posted. I was offered a role with a salary a decent amount under my bare minimum, but the manager swore to me that it was only because I came to them through a recruiter and they just didn’t have that in the budget. However, if I accepted their offer, at the one year mark they would give me a raise based on as if they were paying me my requested salary all along. And I stupidly went along with it and trusted him. Always get that sort of stuff in writing! A bit before the year mark (and I honestly, I think that was done on purpose to catch me off guard), boss calls me in and makes a big deal about how he’s giving me a very generous raise… and it was a decent raise if you based it on my current salary, but it was pretty much what I asked for originally and that they had promised to base my second year salary on. I tried to ask about what we had agreed upon when I started, but the boss acted like I was being rude, greedy and entitled (which of course, made me even less thrilled with the raise). It felt so gross and I felt so manipulated because I wondered if he remembered our original conversations perfectly well, and he tried to offer me a bad raise before I could put together a case and request a higher raise.

    Anyway – if the employee had been planning to ask for a higher raise, it might not matter if the given raise is generous, it still might feel like he’s been undercut or beaten to the punch.

    1. BRR*

      I had something like this happen at a previous job. I was told I was getting a raise of X which was less than previous discussions. For a lot of reasons I didn’t think it would be the best move to ask for more. I feel like I was cut off and you can be sure that I didn’t forget this.

  14. Database Developer Dude*

    Even if your raise is underwhelming, pouting about it isn’t going to help things. If I get an unsatisfactory raise, I’m going to play it one of two ways…

    1. Bring a business case to the table for more. If they don’t agree, go to option 2
    2. Find another job that will pay me what I think I’m worth…stealthily. The first $CurrentJob will know is when I turn in my two weeks notice.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      We don’t know that the employee was pouting. While I believe that OP#1 perceived the employee to be sour/pouting that perception could be impacted by the OP’s belief that the employee should exhibit a certain level of excitement/happiness about the raise and a reaction below that was interpreted as sour/pouting.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Yep. Some employers think employees should be doing cartwheels about getting a 5 cents per hour raise once every five years.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It doesn’t sound like the employee pouted. It just sounded like he was matter-of-fact and not visibly moved by the raise.

  15. Hold My Cosmo*

    #5 I always put a Google voice number on my resume, because once you send that file out into the world, there’s no telling who gets a hold of it. You can have it forwarded to your cell number, get transcripts e-mailed to you, and reply text from a laptop.

    Like you, I have no cell service at work, so it’s also the number I give to my dentist/eye doctor/etc. in the event of last-minute cancellations (which have been common this winter). Highly recommend it.

    This is also a good way to smooth over the process of moving for a job, because you can request a number with the “right” area code and not have to deal with any snap judgements or assumptions on the part of the interviewers.

  16. Zombeyonce*

    I’ve always had trouble with offices that have a “mom”-type employee. I am a working adult and I don’t need a parent at work. No one at work needs to act like my parent in any way but by being a kind person (so really just what literally any person should act like). And people that consider these women to be mom-like are also in the wrong.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I always bristle at letters where people talk about how much a mom-figure coworker takes care of them since it’s really problematic for both sides. It’s either that person stepping over normal working boundaries or it’s just their particular job duties are being considered “motherly”, which is often sexist and ageist.

    I have been an admin assistant before and I never wanted people considering my helping them out w/schedules and setting out food for meetings to be considered motherly tasks; they were just normal job duties. When one of the older female admins in the office did the same thing, they were called the “office mom” which is definitely ageist in the way it was used. It’s just gross to me and I wish people would stop using that definition for older women’s work.

    1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      I’m a 50+ year old woman who does not have children *for a reason*, and one of those reasons is because I don’t have a motherly bone in my body. I would find it even more exponentially insulting to have my duties referred to as some kind of motherly task merely because of my particular age and gender, when they would never be referred to as such (or even ‘fatherly’) should the person who was doing them happen to be a man (or non-binary or agender or etc)

  17. Essess*

    For the last letter, I don’t see why it would look bad to put a comment in the cover letter that during the workday you work in a limited-cell reception office so it is easier to reach you during the day by email, or by either email or phone in the evenings.

    Future employers won’t be surprised that you are probably working at a job already, and many jobs do have rules about cellphone use in the office anyway.

    1. ChachkisGalore*

      I agree with this. I think it wouldn’t look great to make it more of a command “please do not contact me by phone”, but I think it would fine if it’s offered more in the spirit of a suggestion/tip – “the best way to reach me is via email”. If an employer does not feel strongly either way (call vs email) then they might appreciate the info.

      1. Liberry Pie*

        I think the LW could say explicitly “I am unable to receive cell phone calls during the workday.” That way it’s not a command, and it’s clear that it’s an issue of constraints, not of the applicant wanting the employer to adapt to her. If she’s able to go out into the hallway to make a call, she can add that information as well.

        1. quirkypants*

          The only downside I see with this, a very busy person trying to schedule calls (and who really prefers phone over email) might, with best intentions, plan to call after hours and then forget… By the time they have a bunch of other calls lined up, they may have forgotten about that candidate entirely. Embarrassing, but I imagine this is something I could have done during my last round of hiring because I was also doing it during a very time.

  18. Rebecca*

    I totally get the issue with letter #1. I was just given a $20/week raise, before taxes and deductions, because of all the hard work I’ve done. My paycheck went up about $13/week. But, when my manager told me, I smiled, thanked her, said I very much appreciated to be recognized for my hard work, and that was that. I find there is usually a disconnect between what workers find exciting and motivating vs management’s view. I need the health insurance, so for now, I’ll just suck it up and deal.

  19. BRR*

    #1 How do you respond to the LW if you’re the employee? Partially asking because I’m stumped if the employee is not happy with it and partially asking because I’m in a sort of similar situation. Long story short, I’m not thrilled about my recent (and above-average) raise because I was told that I would be getting a higher one from my previous manager who left. I let my current manager know what I was previously told and he’s basically taken the position of, there’s no record of this so you should be thrilled with this raise.

    1. Jadelyn*

      You can smile and politely say “Thank you, I appreciate that.” You don’t have to mean it, and you don’t have to pretend to be over the moon, either.

    2. Madame Secretary*

      I would have said, “Well that’s disappointing. It’s also unfortunate you think I would make something like that up-not sure what I have done to deserve that. I will keep your advice to get everything in writing going forward to protect myself.”

  20. Liane*

    #5: I won’t do this in a cover letter, but when an employer has shown some interest in me, by contacting me, I will sometimes tell them, “Texting is the fastest way to get hold of me, if you’re set up to do that.” As far as I know, that’s never bothered a hiring manager. The worst that happens is they say, “We don’t have work mobile phones” And I say, “Okay, email or a call works fine too.”

  21. W*

    #2 would tick me the fork off. I’m in no way trying to sound ageist, but I’ve seen older folks act maternal toward younger people (especially millennials) and it’s really, really annoying. I am not a millennial, but I have worked with younger people who are whip-smart who got treated this way by people in their 50’s and up. Instead of acting like they are their parents, they should be asking for excel and HTML tips. To be telling this woman to eat a salad because she’s breaking out on her face is infantilizing. I would shut this behavior down now, she may be a great admin but as a person she’s rude.

    1. BatmansRobyn*

      Most of my coworkers ask me about things like whether it’s still okay to listen to R Kelly, or to explain Venmo to them, but I do have one who got very passionate about Waze and how I should be using that over Google Maps and how I would understand when I’m older and have children that the extra two minutes I get following a rabbit trail through a residential neighborhood is essential. This same one also likes to occasionally offer unsolicited advice on how I should manage my relationship with my in-laws, but so far I’ve managed to shut it down without much pushback.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        People like this give gen-xers a bad name! I am in my 50s and even if I *know* that X is something that will come with time, age, experience, life in general…I keep that to myself. I didnt appreciate older people trying to dictate my choices to me (i.e. “be helpful” ick) and I doubt anyone else does either.

        Even with my own son I let him find hus way. The only thing I can really remember was when he was about 21, his friend’s 15 year old daughter had a massive crush on him and was following him everywhere. Her patents knew it…everyone knew it.

        I wasnt concerned about any “false accusation” BS, because I know how rare that really us, but I was concernd how other people might perceive it, or any other crushes.

        He was doing a good job avoiding her being alone with him because he understood other people as well, but I remember saying something like “you do know that for the rest of your life you will need to be careful in the company of **minors right?” He said “duh?” That was to my own kid. To a work colleague? All the nope.

        **Note I said “minors,” not “minor girls.”

      2. pentamom*

        Wut? I’m 53 and I HATE Google maps with a fiery passion precisely because of things like that. I’m a big promoter of Waze. Having kids does not make me any more interested in wasting time when I want to get somewhere — stopping and smelling the roses is for when I have time for that.

        Your co-worker’s attitude is oddly interesting both in the details, and in the way he/she generalizes about how being older and having kids affects how people think.

  22. ZSD*

    Since these are old letters, is it possible that we got an update on #1 at some point? Did the letter writer ever report back on what the employee was upset about?

    1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      Original OP on #1 commented here on this thread- turns out the employee got the news of the raise on the same day as they received some terrible personal news. They were actually quite happy with the raise (which really was substantial.)

  23. Blue Eagle*

    Perhaps the better response for the office “mom” is to re-phrase it as the office “grandma”. So the response is something like – My Mom said that my Grandma always gave her that advice. Or, my Grandma said the same thing to my sister yesterday – your saying that reminds me of my Grandma. She should back off pretty quickly after being compared to Grandma. (Same thing with men offering unwanted advice being compared to Grandpa)

    1. Adminx2*

      Meh, some do some don’t. Some would take the grandma thing and run with it big time. Better to just be direct and firm as indicated.

    2. fposte*

      Ageist shaming isn’t a substitute for management. The OP should simply tell her admin not to do this; it’s part of the OP’s job, and it’s information the admin should have.

    3. White Walker*

      Passive aggressive nonsense is never the better option. What exactly makes you think there’s anything wrong with just saying “please don’t do that”?

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ooo, I wouldn’t do that. It will come across as ageist and passive aggressive. I know that the “office mom” is being rude and insulting to OP, but OP should not turn around and do the same to her. I think a direct response delivered in a cheerful-but-firm tone should be sufficient, and it has the benefit of not reproducing unkindness/toxicity in the office.

    5. Essess*

      Absolutely not! You do not want to turn this into a future claim about age discrimination. Making ‘grandma’ comments to an employee over the age of 40 (the legal definition for EEOC age discrimination) can cause potential problems. Yes, I know a one-time comment doesn’t fall under the harassment/discrimination, but if you as a manager start making those comments and others follow your lead then you open your company up to problems.

      You need to focus on the behavior, not the age. You need to tell your employee that it is not appropriate for her to make continued commentary about your appearance and that you expect that it will not continue. It does not matter what age an employee is, it is not appropriate for them to do to their superior.

    6. Scarlet2*

      That’s weirdly passive aggressive and unprofessional. (And yeah, a bit ageist too).

      OP is not dealing with an obnoxious aunt at family reunions, she’s dealing with an admin’s unprofessional behaviour. She should absolutely shut it down in a professional manner, kindly but firmly. It’s not about the admin’s age, it’s about her behaviour. The “grandma” routine focuses inappropriately on her age and makes OP look childish and immature. It’s counterproductive when the aim should be to emphasize that she’s a professional (and the admin’s superior) and not “a young girl who needs mothering”.

      (And I’m really not sure what calling her “grandma” would accomplish when part of the problem is that she sees herself as the office “mom”)

  24. Ann Nonymous*

    #4: Women, please don’t change your last name to your husband’s. You are your own person and will be that person forever. Secondly, since the divorce rate is not negligible, you will face a real possibility of having multiple documents having a variety of names on them over your lifetime, not to mention having the complications of the host of people knowing you over the years being confused on your name. Stick to your birth name and let your husband change his last name if it’s so important to him that you share a last name. It’s amazing how everyone knows that me and my husband are married although we both kept our own last names.

    1. Adminx2*

      Off topic so understand if deleted.
      Please don’t tell me how or why I (or anyone) should decide what to do with my name. Maybe I had a horrible family and LOVE the idea of creating a new positive family identity? Maybe my last name is awful to spell and don’t want to have that worry anymore? Or…maybe it’s my name and I get to do what I want for whatever reason I want and that deserves respect regardless of anything you find “good enough?”

      Marriage is the cheapest and quickest way to a LOT of legal hassle that takes way more money and paperwork to do otherwise.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is an obnoxious comment. It’s unacceptable to address all women and tell them to stop doing something they want to do for whatever their reason is.

      You do nothing positive for women by acting authoritative in this manner.

      Also birth names can carry horrible scars. So stick with your birth name is foul to toss around like that.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I mean, or people can do what they want to with their names. I’ve changed various parts of mine six times through various legal processes, and shockingly, everyone who matters still seems to know who I am. And the organizations I owe money to sure don’t have a hard time figuring it out either. :P

    4. Pebbles*

      Meh, this is best left up to the woman to decide for herself. I know one male-female couple that both decided to change their last name to something they agreed upon (no familial connection on either side) because they both didn’t like their original name. It was their way of starting a new chapter of their lives together.

      As for the divorce rate, I preferred to look at my marriage with optimism and positive intent to honor my vow “til death do you part”. It was a PITA to change legal documents and other connections, but I figured I only want to do this once, and I was happy to start anew with my husband’s name. I’m still me, no matter what name I go by.

      A rose by any other name, and all that.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        We might have the same friends! She was very much a traditionalist and wanted to take his name but he had some very negative feelings about his family name so he chose his maternal grandmother’s maiden name because she had protected him a lot when he was a very young child and he had wonderful memories of her.

      2. Antilles*

        I agree about the second paragraph.
        Maybe I’m just too old-fashioned in “until death”, but if I had a close friend or family member tell me that she didn’t want to change her name because “my fiancee and I might get divorced some day”, I’d be immediately worried for her marriage. Nobody cares what you do about your name, change it or don’t…but let’s talk about the fact you’re already contingency planning around the failure of your marriage.

    5. iglwif*

      I mean, women (in fact, anyone) can do what they want with their own names.

      I’ve never regretted changing mine when I got married, because (a) for a long time I was actually pretty happy to not be carrying around my semi-estranged, emotionally abusive bio father’s surname and (b) it’s been incredibly great to not have to spell my surname to every single new person I tell it to.

      Everyone’s different, and people have reasons for doing things that may not be apparent from outside.

      If the question is “must women change their names when they marry dudes”, then I agree the answer should be “absolutely not.” But if the question is “CAN women change their names when they marry dudes IF THEY WANT TO”, then the obvious answer is “sure, why not”. And the actual question in the actual world we currently live in is definitely the second and not the first.

    6. Lemon Zinger*

      This is just as bad as telling women they HAVE to change their names. It’s none of your business. I’m happy you like your situation, but it does not apply to every woman everywhere.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yup. I have been incredibly impressed at how invested other people are in what my last name is, and I’m not criticizing the choice anyone else makes for themselves, in no small part because I know first-hand how annoying it is. (My own mother still addresses things to me with my husband’s last name. Which has never been my name, and you’d think my mother would know that.)

        Also, people will adapt. I changed my name years ago, unrelated to marriage/divorce, and everyone (even my mother) adjusted to that just fine. Some people I was friendly with asked about it; some people I didn’t know well assumed I had gotten married – but, overall, I just said, actually, it’s Jane Smith instead of Jane Jones now, and it was no big deal.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Although I personally agree with your statement, I’m concerned that this doesn’t actually address OP’s work-related concerns.

      Names are so personal that advice about the transactional costs of name changes is not actionable. It’s true that it’s burdensome and sometimes costly to switch between names. But oftentimes a change in someone’s legal name is motivated by deep emotional and cultural reasons (see, e.g., anyone who has a different gender identity than what their birth name suggests and has had to undertake the name change process).

      In the grand scheme of things, I suspect that OP switching back to her maiden name at her office will be the least confusing and costly change she’ll have to make. And it’s definitely not weird.

    8. KayEss*

      I’m sure if the OP had a time machine that would allow her to take this advice, she’d probably also eliminate the problem entirely by not marrying the guy in the first place.

      1. WakeUp!*

        Great point. I always hate the “you should have done this!!!!” advice but this version was especially dumb because the name change is a tiny aspect of a much bigger problem.

    9. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Ann, please don’t tell me what to do. Guess what? I’m still my own person. And no one who is important to me is confused about who I am.

    10. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      Maybe I’m oversensitive, but I would call this comment both off-topic and, honestly, sexist.

    11. Fuddy Dudd*

      This comment is pretty far out of line. It’s up to women to determine if they want to change their name upon marriage or not, and there are MANY valid reasons for choosing to do so. I personally will never change my last name, but my reasons are my own, and I will not project those reasons on another person.

    12. Mimi Me*

      I was happy to be rid of my maiden name. There was no hassle with the switch over, no lingering documents, and there has never been any confusion by anyone who has known me or just met me on which name I use. Additionally, it was super important to me that my children, spouse and I all share the same surname. I grew up in a house where there were multiple last names – my siblings, my mother, and I all had different last names. My mother didn’t take any of her spouse’s names when she married but gave us all our father’s surnames. It made me feel like I didn’t fit in anywhere…and it’s probably the reason I now stress “we all have the same last name and live in the same house” when asked for parent info on a form for my children.

    13. gmg22*

      Feminism, IMO, is at its root about enabling choices. You have fairly outlined some of the problems with taking a spouse’s last name. Other comments have explained why it was the right choice for them. This blanket statement is also problematically exclusive of how this decision does or doesn’t get made by one or the other spouse in a same-sex couple.

      “Accept whatever surname a person of any (or no) gender chooses to use and don’t make a weird fuss about it” is a good rule, I think.

      1. Close Bracket*

        Feminism is, at it’s root, about dismantling institutional structures that privilege some at the expense of others.

    14. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      When I got married in 1991, I changed my name. I was working at my first professional job then, and had the name changed at work. Three years after my 2010 divorce, I changed my name back. On the mortgage, on all my documents, at work, on my dog’s vet records somehow, everywhere. Everyone survived. No one ever got confused as to who I was. There were no complications that I am aware of. Most importantly I did what I felt like doing at the moment, without anyone telling me to do it. Really enjoyed the experience of doing whatever the hell I want with my name, highly recommend, 10/10 will do again.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        “Really enjoyed the experience of doing whatever the hell I want with my name, highly recommend, 10/10 will do again.”

        Same here. Changed my name halfway through a year teaching. Nobody got confused on who E Compliance was and where E Teaching went. #noregrets

    15. The Original K.*

      You don’t get a vote re: how women decide to handle their names, though.

      My friend took her wife’s name when she married. They divorced. She changed her name back to her maiden name. Her second/current wife took my friend’s name when they married. People change names and have to update paperwork and life goes on. I’ve never understood why anyone other than the name-changer cares about what they do with their name. Just keep me in the loop so I can update the contact info I have & I’m good.

    16. Kept My Married Name*

      I got divorced and kept my married name. I like it, and I really don’t want to go through the process of changing it on all of my documents and IDs. If I get re-married, I’ll think about what to do with the last name then, but I personally like my old married name, although I don’t miss the marriage or the ex-husband.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I did that and stuck with it until I remarried. There was, in the name-changing process, the occasional confusion about “Wait, you’re going from O’Married to Maidenson-MarriedAgain … how’d that come about?” because usually when people hyphenate, they hyphenate on a current name rather than a previous one, but I’ve never been one to do things the easy way :)

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Took first husband’s name. I knew I didnt *have* to but in 1984 it was pretty much assumed.

        Plus…and this is a huge plus, I hated my original surname. No bad associations, I just hated it.

        First Husband’s name was very common (think Smith, Jones, Anderson, Johnson type name). I have never had to spell it except when someone on the other end of the phone didnt hear it well.

        Married Current Husband in **2006…it never occurred to me to change it to his nane. His name is fine, I just didnt want to hassle with the various things I’d need to take care of (passport, license, soc. sec., etc).

        Fortunately Husband’s culture doesnt change names…you just keep your birth name so neither he or any of my inlaws took offense. It wouldn’t have changed anything but it was a hassle I was fine not needing to deal with.

        **First Husband died in 2003…do not a “you might get divorced” issue.

      3. Miss Bee*

        My mom did the same thing after my parents split up – kept her ex-husband’s name because she wanted to have the same last name as her children (with the state my dad was in, any whisper of changing our last names would have been an ugly fight).

        She’s never said so directly but I think her maiden name played a part in it – it’s one of the most common last names in our culture. She’s mentioned before that it was a point of annoyance for her growing up.

        1. iglwif*

          Ha! My bio father at one point demanded that my mom “stop using [his] name” … and she said, “OK, I’m happy to go back to my maiden name, but it’s a big hassle to have a different last name from the kids [it was the early 80s; she had custody], so if I’m changing my name I’ll be changing theirs too.”

          And that was the end of that.

          Which is kind of too bad because I like my mom’s maiden name better, but as it’s identical to my eventual spouse’s first name, that would’ve occasioned some hilarity!

    17. Le Sigh*

      I didn’t change my name and I was always super clear I wouldn’t when I got married. I have really strong feelings about not changing *my* name and I’m fairly vocal about it. I will correct people if they assume I changed it.

      But that’s for *my* name only. This comment is really presumptive and obnoxious.

    18. Dagny*

      So this ticks me off.

      I kept my maiden name for very valid reasons, and not a single one of those reasons was potential divorce. My marriage is the most important thing in the world to me, and my husband would sooner cast himself into a volcano than divorce. It irks me to no end when it is strongly implied that women like myself – married after establishing ourselves professionally and otherwise under the name we have had our whole lives – are not changing because we might want out someday.

      Keep the comments on other people’s name change to yourself.

    19. Maria Lopez*

      It is so interesting to me that almost everyone on this thread is telling Ann Nonymous to mind her own business. When it is the other way around, someone telling a newly married woman to change her last name, more than half the responses tell the woman she should change her name, why did she get married if she isn’t changing her name, she must be looking to get divorced, etc.
      None of that here. Just ragging on the writer for a perfectly logical observation.
      Women can be their own worst enemies.

      1. Sandy*

        Well, one, everyone regardless of gender can be their own worst enemies and it’s not really relevant to the discussion. Two, I don’t believe that this audience’s response to someone debating whether to change their name on marriage is to hector them into choosing their spouse’s name. I stand ready to be corrected by a previous thread. And three, the point is that the original comment was pretty declarative about what everyone should do in a pretty personal situation. It’s not a wonder they got a strong response.

      2. Oaktree*

        How on earth does it make Ann Nonymous’ comment appropriate that elsewhere in the world of discourse, people rag on married women who haven’t changed their names? Are you saying that because that happens, therefore Ann and her ilk have the right to castigate people who change their names upon marriage for whatever their reasons are? (To be perfectly clear, it doesn’t.) Women have a lot of reasons for changing their names after marriage (as has been stated above); absolutely none of them are your business and you are not the Feminism Police. No one needs you to swoop in and save them.

      3. iglwif*

        I can’t speak for anyone else here but I would 100% also tell someone making the opposite argument to mind their own business.

        So far all the comments I’m seeing are “don’t tell women what to do with their names” and “you know this is a lot more complicated than that, right?”

        Nobody’s actually saying it’s wrong to not change your name. We’re saying it’s wrong to impose your own preferences as prescriptive rules for other people.

    20. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      To put it bluntly, who the hell are you to tell others what to do? It’s incredibly presumptuous.

      I didn’t change my name, personally, but that was due to the annoyances of changing my name in two countries, getting a new visa issued, etc. Nothing at all to do with a concern that I might get divorced someday. My husband does not care.

    21. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      I’m sorry everyone is piling on you here. I’m also a staunch advocate of women keeping their last names after marriage, as I’ve met far too many who have merely changed it because they feel that you are “supposed to”, “tradition”, etc without giving any deeper thought as to the deeply gross and misogynistic background behind this time honored “tradition”. And given that more than 50% of marriages end in divorce, it is NOT unrealistic to take that into consideration as well, no matter how SURE one is that their marriage is going to be “forever”, I’d be willing to bet that the VAST majority of those who do end up divorced *also* went into their marriages certain that this was IT for them (it’s certainly the case with ALL of my friends, regardless of gender, whose marriages ended in divorce.)
      Certainly there are plenty of women who have reasons they would want to change their name that are entirely disconnected from the act of marriage or the traditions associated with it, and see it as a simpler/more socially acceptable/easily explained/less expensive way of doing so than whatever is normally required to change one’s name in their area.
      And all women certainly have the choice to do so for any reason or no reason at all. But I think it’s a very, VERY important thing to fight back against the current societal expectations that a woman simply SHOULD or WILL change their name to their husbands after marriage, and to educate EVERYONE on exactly where that disgusting patriarchal tradition actually comes from, so that when they make that choice, they are making an INFORMED ONE.

  25. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I just bristled at #1 and get why the employee isn’t excited.

    My partner was told by his job that they give better than average increases and then they tossed him a frigging quarter at first. Then another one when they loosened up. If I didn’t generally like them in other terms and they weren’t all around decent humans at the core, I would be livid instead of just unimpressed by their low standard for “better than average”. Better than a paycut or a sharp stick in the eye is not my better than average needless to say.

    Don’t dig at him. Don’t expect people to be thrilled with pay increases, they deserve better than that. It’s not a treat, it’s compensation for their work after all!

  26. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I remember receiving a $0.25 cent raise and then $0.75 as a “merit raise” a few months later when I worked in retail. I was paid minimum wage and was a part-timer. I was not and would not be enthusiastic about a $1 increase—I was still paid well below a living wage, had no benefits, couldn’t get more hours, and the raise didn’t even cover inflation.

    OP may want to readjust their expectations about how they believe staff should respond to modest raises.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      This. I was happy-ish about my $1 raise at Old Job but it was still several dollars below a living wage and didn’t come with benefits, but did come with a lot more work for me. Yay?

      Honestly, bosses, how happy would you be about the raise you just gave this person?

    2. gmg22*

      But the OP states that it was a significant raise. There may indeed be an issue with defining significant vs. modest, but I don’t think we can necessarily assume that the OP failed to make that distinction.

        1. Wirving*

          This sentence – “As I would expect any of my employees to be glad to see an extra bit of money per hour” – leads me to think so, too.

      1. Not All*

        If it is low-paying to start, I absolutely guarantee that what the manager/company considers “significant” isn’t much when you translate it from percentage into take-home pay. Let’s say it’s a 10% raise. Before taxes, for someone making $50k, that would be an extra $415/month which is something most of us would show some excitement over. But this is a poorly paid job, which means it’s probably closer to 20k fulltime, 10k part time. A 10% raise is only going to be 83/month BEFORE taxes.

        And really, do any of us think a company that pays like crap is going to let a manager give a 10% raise to a part-timer? When I had to work a crappy retail manager job, I had to get district manager approval for 4%! (And it was nearly impossible to get that approval)

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Let’s be truthful here. Significant to me isn’t significant to everyone else.

        I see someone saying $2 an hour extra is insignificant but for a 20hr a week job, that’s over $2080 more a year, for a full time job that’s $4,160 extra and I’d be hard pressed to find either one insignificant myself. However if you’re standards are set at a different level, so be it.

        My dad thinks I’m underpaid and that I should be making 1m a year or I’m drastically underpaid, try fighting him, he’ll just keep going. Every time I’m like “Dad, got another raise!” he’s all “That’s nice! Are you making as much as the CEO yet tho? Cuz you should be.”

    3. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      Thank you for this bit of perspective. If you still can’t live on it, even $1 an hour raise isn’t something to sing and dance over.

  27. iglwif*

    LW#4, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this!

    Alison’s right, people will totally understand. A friend and former colleague of mine actually went through TWO name changes while we worked together–she got married, changed to her spouse’s surname, and when he turned out to be … not such a good fit after all, changed back to her original surname, and in terms of the office, it made a bit of extra work for IT but was basically NBD.

    You might get people getting up in your business once it’s known that you’re going through a divorce, but mostly people will be understanding and kind, and if you occasionally have the kind of day where your head is just not in the right space for work, knowing that you’ve got this crappy but relatively temporary situation will help them be more understanding and cut you some slack should you need it.

  28. Persephone Mulberry No. 2*

    #1 What was the original hourly wage? Please, define “significant” and clarify “stellar.” If someone got +$2/hr for stellar performance making $12/hour, I wouldn’t blame them for reacting the way they did.

  29. Mimi Me*

    #5 – I use my voicemail to remind people of how I’d like to be contacted. “You’ve reached the phone of Mimi Me. I’m not available, so please leave me a message. Please note, the best way to reach me is always by text or email. My email is: blah blah blah.” My voicemail also indicates that I seldom check my voicemail and they probably won’t get a call back unless they text or email, but I’m not expecting prospective employers to call me, so you may want to skip that part. ;)

    1. this way, that way*

      If I was a calling to try and get you in for an interview I would probably remove you from consideration. It wouldn’t be worth it to wait and see if you respond. As a company policy we don’t send emails to set up a first interview, only to confirm them, we are a large finance company.

    2. Persephone Mulberry No. 2*

      You won’t get far with this voicemail. The best approach is to answer the phone, if possible, and ask them to call you back at a later time. I personally answer every single phone call I get, because you never know who is calling, and if it’s spam, I hang up, but if it’s something important, I’ll never miss it.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        That’s great for you, but the OP clearly said they were in a dead cell zone, so I’m not sure how many calls are actually going through for them.

      2. Alice*

        I have always wondered – why do people answer the phone to say “I can’t talk now, call me back later”?!
        (I’m not talking about picking up an unknown number because it might be an emergency – that I get.)

  30. iglwif*

    LW#2, this sounds infuriating.

    I, personally, would not be happy with my *actual mom* making comments like that, never mind a self-appointed “office mom”.

  31. OfficeDrone2*

    #1 – I feel this on the employee side. Last year worked my tail off, taking on all projects possible, and really stepping up my game, getting complements from multiple managers (including mine) about my work, so I know it wasn’t just in my head.

    I got a great review, praised, then the raise…sucked. Lower than the year before! I was shocked. I even asked why it was so low. I was basically told that was average for any company, and the company just didn’t have the budgets for big raises, and really I should be happy, some companies don’t give raises at all, so we are just extra nice here! And I did a great job! Keep it up!

    Oh, and our health insurance went up significantly last year too, so the raise was even lower than it was on paper.

    It really killed my motivation.

    1. London Calling*

      I’m pretty certain you work where I do, except mine was an increase in pension contributions that pretty much wiped out the raise. Still, I got an ‘exceeds expectations’ in my appraisal, so that was nice.

  32. Chilly Delta Life*

    Depending on the jobs actual pay, if it was below a certain threshold I mean, the raise could result in them being denied some services/benefits they depend on that are income based. I know folks that have kids on school scholarships (because even our public schools have enrollment fees) due to their income, if they go even just a bit above the cap they can loose the scholarship which may be worth way more than the raise ends up being per year.

    I hope that makes sense.

  33. Checkert*

    When I was job searching, I put down to email me and changed my voicemail to reflect that if a response is necessary during normal working hours to email. This is extremely common in the DC area as many people work in jobs where they can’t have their phone. The lesson was you can make it as plain as possible that email is the recommended and preferred method and many will still call.

  34. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 I CAN NOT STAND unsolicited advice. It does NOT come from a place of kindness, it comes from a place of judgement and control, even if unintentional. Unless you see someone struggling, or someone actually asks you for help/advice, keep it to yourself. You’re in an office with other adults. Assume that everyone can take care of themselves, and MYOB.

    I had someone offer me unsolicited advice in the grocery store recently. I was standing there, waiting for my chicken and minding my own business, when out of the blue the lady behind me asks me a random question, and proceeds to provide me with a solution that I neither needed nor wanted. She may have thought she was being helpful, but the message she sent was that I was not smart enough to be able to take care of myself.

    1. Soveryanon*

      Yep – I work with someone who offers unsolicited advice all.the.time. She’s been here forever and considers herself the expert on everything. Fortunately she is retiring tomorrow (yay!) so I just have to hang in there for another day.

    2. Psyche*

      I agree. It is not meant to be kind. At best it is thoughtless. I would be tempted to respond to her “advice” with
      “That’s really rude. Why would you say that to me?”

  35. Jennifer Juniper*

    The poor OP with the older assistant has a power-tripping employee on her hands. Not to mention a side dish of trying to undermine the boss’s confidence based on the nasty, sexist, body-shaming comments about her diet and marital status!

    Shut. That. Shit. Down.

    1. Soveryanon*

      Yes it’s definitely a power trip thing. The only person who’s allowed to give me unsolicited advice is my mother, and I can take or leave what she says. I think the OP should just take her assistant aside and say something like “look, I really need you to stop with the personal comments. They’re not helpful, and in fact I find them insulting. You’re not my mother, so you need to stop acting like it.”

  36. Soveryanon*

    Years ago, when I worked for a staffing firm, we would get quarterly “bonuses” based on the results for the quarter, etc. Unfortunately the bonus structure was (1) so byzantine that no one could understand how it was calculated, and (b) most of us would end up getting “bonuses” of between $10-30 after taxes. We called them our “pantyhose checks” because that was about all you could buy with that amount of money (most of us were women, and we were required to dress professionally, including hose if we were wearing skirts). It was very demotivating.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I have an amazing employee with a highly specialized expertise who was once given (at a prior employer, not here!) a bonus of a $50 gift card in a year where she routinely worked 70-80 hour weeks and billed probably low six-figures worth of fees. Let’s just say hiring her away was not a challenge.

  37. CouldntPickAUsername*

    Speaking as someone who doesn’t emote much, ask yourself if you’re reading too much into it. People act like I’m some sort of freak sometimes just because I don’t show tons of emotion all the time, and when I do they laugh because apparently it’s weird. Gee wonder why I tend to be reserved. I will admit his response feels odd but he might just be odd.

  38. Coverage Associate*

    #1. The way my office does performance reviews, it’s a lot of information to take in. There are written evaluations and a conversation about strengths, weaknesses and goals. By the time we get to pay, I am just hoping to remember something useful from the conversation while maintaining my composure. Having a perfect emotional reaction to the last piece of information is beyond my emotional intelligence. I know I react rather flat even to very positive reviews and above average raises, but, golly, performance reviews are stressful. I would hate to think that my emotional performance in the review is also being reviewed.

      1. Beatrice*

        I send my team their written performance reviews in advance and ask them to read them before we meet.

  39. another Hero*

    OP5, if your service is so bad that your phone is likely not to take the message or even register that you missed a call, then honestly, is there any chance you can leave your cell at home? It might not be worth it, but that way at least you would get the message, and it doesn’t require adding a service and can work with what you’ve already sent out. A VoIP service might work for future ones, as I think someone mentioned already. If the service isn’t that bad, then disregard this ofc

  40. Art3mis*

    I once had a boss apologize for the raise I got. It was about $.14/hour or $300/year. I almost told her that the company clearly needed it more than I did. There wasn’t much she could do about it, and frustrated about that fact, she left shortly thereafter.

  41. Frustrated*

    I’ve been trying to advocate for a raise for 6+ months now. I know for a fact I make less than an intern and my male co-worker. I keep getting the runaround when I bring it to my manager and HR. My best bet is to find another job, but if they ever DO something, I’m going to raise hell if it’s a penny less than what I know others are getting paid. So shady.

  42. SnowBall*

    #5 I actually don’t call back any employers who try to reach me by phone first. I’ve found that when I call them back, I will either end up leaving a message with a receptionist or leave a voicemail, and I never heard back from them. One of Alison’s older posts mentioned that some employers have a list of candidates to call, and they set up phone screenings or interviews with the first few that pick up or call back, then ignore anyone else. Not really worth the effort to call back if I already know it’s not going to lead to anything.

  43. Kisses*

    I’m on public assistance.
    It really, really, sucks the way it is set up because there is no help to get off of it, so to say.
    If I make $8 an hour at 40 hours a week, let’s say I qualify for $250 grocery assistance (SNAP) for my family of 3. My boss raises me to $8.25 an hour. Now I make an extra $40 a month. Great, right? Except that now I loose my SNAP benefits for being over the income limit. I loose over $200 in grocery money in order to gain net wages. IT HURTS.
    Sadly these sort of situations happen all the time and most people just don’t go for raises. It would only make a difference if I was making significantly more per hour- and in these kinds of jobs, we know that is not happening.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Thank you. Yes, this is why we have people get stuck in a cycle of poverty in our developed nations.

      Then we treat people like they just aren’t trying hard enough, which is not at all the case. But of course they’d rather have $250 a month to feed their family than stretching their $40.

    2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      It’s because they make the income thresholds artificially low so as to disqualify as many people as possible, regardless of actual need.

  44. MommyMD*

    Since LW neglected to state how much the raise was, I’m assuming employee felt it was a negligible amount. I’d worry more that my admittedly poorly paid employees were not happy rather than be insulted that one of them wasn’t jumping for joy over what probably amounted to a few dollars a week. Especially a “stellar performer”.

  45. Beatrice*

    I wonder how the raise was framed.

    I once got a significant raise because my boss realized I was making far, far less than my peers. I’d been in that job, with the same peers, for a couple of years at that point. She also shared with me that she wasn’t able to get the raise she felt I deserved, but was thwarted by our policies that limited the amount pay could be increased in one shot without a job change. The raise was nice (15%!), but I was more troubled by the idea that I’d been significantly underpaid for 2 years, and was still underpaid despite the increase.

  46. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

    If your voice mail doesn’t take messages, you might want to get a google voice number. you use that number, it records the message, and sends you a gmail letting you know from what #, a voice to word transcript (which can be dicey) but also a link to the recording… I get a push notification on my cell that I have a gmail, open the message, and can listen from the web browser/gmail app on my phone. It’s not like having the phone ring at work, or a text message, but it is pretty fast…. and you have the recording so you can listen to it. (Just know that if you download it, unless you rename the file it overwrites the last one you downloaded when you listen – so take notes if you get multiples a day. I use it for a special, limited circumstance.)

  47. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP2 – consider getting a new assistant. She sounds toxic, unprofessional and annoying. I am a 50yo assistant and I would never make comments like that to anyone, let alone my boss. I mind is boggling that anyone would say this let alone in the workplace.

  48. CastIrony*

    And here I am, happy with my ten-cent raises. The biggest raise I ever got was the one I got at ToxicJob, at twenty-five cents.

  49. Namey McNameface*

    I used to feel very socially awkward and didn’t know how to respond properly to compliments at work. When my supervisor praised my performance and gave me a significant raise I was happy on the inside, but didn’t know how to convey it for fear of seeming arrogant. So I just gave a blank faced “Okay, thank you.”

  50. Wulfgar*

    I worked at an ice cream shop from 1995-1997, minimum wage was $4.75-5.15. I worked six days a week, 10 hours a day. My one “raise” was a T-shirt with the company logo. I knew that I was getting a raw deal, but I was 16/18 and didn’t know how to address this.

    I just mention this because I think a manager’s idea of a good raise may not be the same as an employee’s idea.

  51. Grand Mouse*

    I was told when I interviewed that I’d be making $12/hour. I got hired in at $10/hour. Just minimum wage. I was so happy to get a job I didn’t push back. The company changed hands a few times so I didn’t think I could ask them to honor the original agreement (with a different manager). In 3 years working there I got a 50 cent raise- just to keep up with the minimum wage increase. So I knew exactly what they thought of me, and now have a job at double the wage.

    So yes, even an increase can be demoralizing

  52. WillyNilly*

    I spent a year temping at a public housing office. In that year I encountered at least half a dozen people truly beside themselves – they were at the top of the income allowances for public housing but still made significantly less than could afford market rate housing. They were given a raise, or offered a promotion and now were facing a 30-day move out order. A dollar per hour raise might be significant to a minimum wage earner, but that extra $2,000 a year doesn’t go far when studios are renting for $1,000 a month.

    Poverty is expensive, and pay raises aren’t always immediately seen as blessings, when support is often tied to very strict parameters.

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