here’s your reality check: does your job suck or are you being too picky?

Three years ago, we did a “reality check” post, stemming from a reader who wrote this:

I wonder if we could have a post/discussion where we can get a “reality check” on whether things are awful or we’re just being picky. I’m also working at my first professional job after graduating from college and often wonder whether things really are dysfunctional/unhealthy here, or if I’m just being a sensitive snowflake and need to suck it up. I’d love to be able to ask people who have been working for longer “Is this normal?*”. I think a lot of us at our first job might not have a reference point to compare to.

* Note: Not so much wondering whether things are “legal,” especially since that’s something I can look up if I want to. I’m more curious as to whether certain things are normal and expected at most companies – if I were to switch jobs, should I expect to see something similar?

If you’re early in your career and still learning what is and isn’t normal, it can be really hard to judge whether your employer is great, more or less okay, or shockingly awful. New grads, for example, often put up with boundary violations, illegal practices, and terrible bosses because they don’t have enough of a frame of reference to realize what is and isn’t normal. And on the other end of the spectrum, they might end up thinking practice X is horrible and worth leaving over, without realizing that it’s normal and common.

So here it is: the second reality check post. Here are the ground rules:

  • If you’re wondering if something your employer or manager does is pretty normal and par for the course, describe it here.
  • You must be specific in your request for an evaluation of normalcy — this is not a post to describe why you don’t like your job or to run down a litany of complaints. It’s for specific practices where you want to find out if something is normal.
  • To make this as useful as possible, limit this to genuine requests for input — not stuff that you already know is horrible.
  • If you feel you have a helpful perspective on someone else’s question, post your answer. (“All employers suck” is not a helpful answer. “That practice isn’t unheard of, but you’ll usually only encounter it at lower-tier firms” is helpful.)
  • If you’re giving input on someone else’s situation, keep in mind that this post is to help people figure out if something is normal, not if it’s fantastic. The difference between “that sucks” and “that sucks but it’s pretty normal” matters here.

{ 2,028 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please phrase your questions so that you’re being clear and explicit what the piece is where you want to know if something is normal. Please do not post general complaints about your job, or questions outside the scope of this post. (This isn’t an open thread and I want to keep it narrowly focused to keep it useful.)

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Haven’t scrolled all the way down, but this seems to be working pretty well! You could also take questions ahead of time and have voting buttons, similar to ‘Worst Boss of the Year’ votes.

  2. L. S. Cooper*

    I spend a lot of time having pretty much nothing to do– not for lack of asking, but literally because there’s nothing that I can do. The ladies I work for seem to be pleased with my work and make a point of thanking me regularly (like, every time they leave for the day, which sometimes feels awkward but is still appreciated), but I feel like I spend a lot of time just sort of sitting around. I work in retail support, so I spend my time mailing stuff to retail stores, responding to emails, filling out spreadsheets with various reports on business. I’m not sure if I just work too fast, or if this is normal? I’m at least 55% sure that I fall into the category of “spends a lot of time faffing about but gets her work done quickly and effectively”, but it’s so hard to tell.
    (First job out of college, corporate office for a footwear brand, 375 employees at this office location, if any of that is relevant.)

    1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      Surprisingly normal. In many roles the fact that you *are* there for when you’re needed is as important as whether you’re actually doing anything with every minute of that time.

      1. Bubbleon*

        My company actually tries to give people a little free time in their day so you have the ability to work on things that interest you, or efficiencies you might be able to improve. If there’s anything you see as ineffective, would it interest you to look into improving it, and would your management accept feedback? I’ve done it a few times over the years and even the suggestions that weren’t accepted have been a benefit to my career.

        1. L. S. Cooper*

          I’ve definitely been trying to make some of our processes more efficient– some of our spreadsheets, especially, involved a lot of redundant work. But I get met with mild confusion when I inquire about optimizing stuff. Not negativity, but more of a sense of “Wait, why would you want to bother with something like that”?

          1. Combinatorialist*

            if they don’t object, I would ask if you can do it anyway. Because after it is done, they might appreciate it more, and it is a good accomplishment to use when asking for more responsibility/money/on your resume in the future

          2. Jessica*

            be careful automating/optimising too much… you might optimise yourself right out of a job.

            1. L. S. Cooper*

              Considering that I fully expect this job to be temporary, I think that might be the best situation for all of us!

    2. Natalie*

      Normal, but for what it’s worth it’s also normal to find that kind of downtime terrifically boring and even kind of depressing.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        +100. Definitely also normal to just really dislike having that kind of downtime.

        Signed, someone who really detests having that type of downtime, and will forever be appreciative of the boss that during a job with that downtime (due to waiting on others to complete a work task before I could proceed) allowed me to work on my MS during downtime. And, when I graduated, knit.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This! It’s something I am still struggling with a little and I’ve been in my position for almost a year.

        1. BookishMiss*

          Yes, for a while in my last job, I’d be done with everything by 11 and have 5 hours to do…nothing. At least I was available to un-jam the copier every ten minutes. Made for some long days.

          1. Gumption*

            I had a temp job like that. Got desperately creative. The firm like to start meetings with safety moments so I thought I would create one for when it came to my turn. I created six in the end. Kept my brain active, allowed me to master the new features (at the time) of Windows 7 and a higher up used one because he needed one.

              1. Natalie*

                It’s a brief discussion about safety in the workplace, at home, etc. Sometimes in a manufacturing environment you’ll discuss incidents that happened at a plant to raise awareness about different hazards. In an office environment, though, even if you’re a manufacturing company, you get a lot of safety contacts about being careful walking on ice/snow, watching out for school buses, being careful with ladders, etc.

                The worst one I ever sat through was about eye protection and they showed pictures of people with things sticking out of their eyes to emphasize the importance of wearing your safety glasses.

                1. TardyTardis*

                  That sounds like my husband teaching chemistry class when he was desperately trying to get his little darlings to wear their goggles (though it clearly worked; one student who did 3 to 5 for meth manufacture with time off for good behavior assured my husband that a) no, he didn’t learn that in class, and b) “yes, Mr. X, I always wore my goggles!”).

        2. London Engineer*

          I’m just coming out of a period of this – actually just using zooniverse to do some random data entry to keep myself busy was a lifesaver

          1. wandering_beagle*

            Haha, I use Zooniverse when things are slow, too!! It makes me feel like I’m actually contributing toward something positive!

          2. wittyrepartee*

            Oh! Me too, in the past!

            Now I’m working at a place where I have the ability to create my own research projects. YAY!

            1. turtlepower*

              I am currently in this situation where I have loads of free time. It’s led me to become very familiar with the Ask A Manager archives!

      3. GoTeamS*

        This recently caused me to make a job change. I had too much mental space to wallow about stuff in my own life because I wasn’t busy or engaged at work. So far, making the move has proven to be a good decision. The days go much faster, I feel like I’m using my brain again, and my marketable skills are coming back!

    3. Squeeble*

      Quite normal. I have long spurts like that in my current job and did in my previous job as well.

      I’d say as long as you’re getting things done and your employers aren’t bothered, you’re fine.

    4. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I think this is normal. I found that when people have not done a task in a long time (or maybe have outdated, less efficient ways of doing a task), they often over-estimate how long a task will take. So, something that may only take you an hour, they think will take you four hours. If they seem happy with your work and truly have nothing else to give you to do, spend your downtime on professional development, working on a tedious longer-term project, or maybe see if you can partner with another department to help their workload.

      1. L. S. Cooper*

        I’ve definitely gotten surprised reactions when it comes to how quickly I’ve gotten stuff done, so I think this might play a part. I was supposed to be partnered with another department, but the lead of that department seems to be quite shy about giving me tasks to do.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Is there a way you can reassure them? Maybe go over there and offer to help with whatever they’re doing. Do small things like filling the copier, handing them supplies, getting water or coffee from the cooler or kitchen. Let them get used to having you help a little at a time.

          1. Burned Happy Helper*

            Honestly, as someone who’s been in this position a couple times, and also faced this early on in her career with her first ever office job,while it sounds like this genuinely might just be a slow-working office with not much to do, for future reference to anyone in this position: please be VERY careful with the “going around and offering to help” stuff or “reassuring” others they can give you work. This can often make you a target for the people in the office who are lazy about getting their work done and will be only too happy to pass it off on you. If your boss is happy with your work and not making an issue of it, I think its safer to try to deal with the downtime as best you can doing professional development: read articles/journals about your job or industry, so that you are “sharpening the sword” and making yourself more hireable and marketable. It’ll only help you be that much more valuable to an employer (even one who has..ahem..more for you to do if you come work there) and give you options. And in the job market, having options is everything.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            When I was young in the 90’s I was always told by supervisors and bosses to help other groups when possible. I got the impression they would not like an employee who didn’t help others. I had colleagues who told me how much they loved my helpful attitude and said I saved them during crunches.
            Maybe things have changed?
            If I understood correctly OP’s boss has told them to help this other group, so IMHO she should keep trying and let her boss know she’s making an effort.
            If it does seem like some lazy person is pushing off their work on her, she should let her boss know about that get direction on how to handle it.

            1. Executive daydreamer*

              Currently a few months into a job in a similar situation: as much as I have been open with my boss about how much capacity I have to take on more work, so far there hasn’t been much passed on. In my previous job I was also underworked but I ended up volunteering to help in other departments; here I caused drama when I asked another manager within my team if I could help with anything as according to my manager it makes her look bad.

    5. gecko*

      Yes, this is normal. The great secret of white collar jobs is that many of them don’t involve working to capacity. Capacity being maybe 80% of your time on a normal day so you have room to expand when crunch-time comes.

      Many (most?) jobs do have more to do, and you can find those, particularly as you move up in the ranks and get more authority and responsibility.

      1. OhGeez*

        Definitely. I think that it’s important to note that as projects come up and your colleagues/superiors get more comfortable with your style and working with you, your days will get fuller. It took a little more than a year for me to be working at 80% capacity. And I’m pretty sure my bosses are still deciding if they like me this busy, because they want a person who can drop everything if something more urgent comes up.

        1. Can't Think of a Name*


          Whenever we hire someone new in a junior/entry-level role (particularly new grads), they usually have a significant amount of downtime. Not because there’s not work to do, but because we’re still learning about their style/skill/make sure we can trust them with the work we give them. Also because they just simply don’t have the knowledge or experience yet to be working on higher level things (again, I am speaking specifically about entry-level roles). Once someone has a proven track record, that’s when the assignments start to flow in and the workload ramps up.

          Enjoy the downtime, and take it as a chance for your personal/professional development. When I was in your shoes, I read a LOT of AAM, which was both entertaining and helped me adjust to my career.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Yes, it depends on the role and the job.
        If it’s just an entry level job where they just need a body available if something is needed (like, sitting a reception desk when they get 5-10 visitors a day, or processing the TPS reports quickly every Thursday-Friday with nothing to do in between) fill your time with whatever you see fit that isn’t a drag on something else – reading professional journals, doing coursework, etc. and occasionally offer to your manager, others that you’re available to help on whatever they may need (processing distributions lists, validating databases, whatever, running out to get lunch for a last minute client meeting). It’s a balance between being available to help and being so needy that other people feel like occupying you is more hassle than it’s worth. I’ve known more than one person who has used a job like that as a springboard to a whole career. I’ve also known more than one manager who decided they didn’t really need someone in that role, after all, after the person kept hounding them because they were ‘bored’. Read the room: be eager, hard working and available…but not a nuisance.

        If your job is something more involved with that, here are a couple of ideas, offer to do some of these based on what you see going on around you :
        rolling up your sleeves on grunt work that is helpful but not urgent (for example, is there physical storage that is getting obsolete because no one works with hard copy any more, now they are scanning and workflowing everything?…maybe you could work on scanning documents from the most recent year, and then each year prior and sort and organize so by the end of your assignment, they can call in an offsite shredder, get rid of the hard copies and re-purpose the space without losing access to anything?) In most mid-to large companies, I guarantee you there is someone who has this on their radar but pushed to the back burner (record retention, archival, etc is necessary but neglected in many places, until the cost of physical storage/lease spaces becomes an issue, because no one’s bonus depends on it) but they would love to chip away at it without taking away from their current urgent priorities. If you could do it in an organized, not-half hazard way, so they have documentation of what went where, they will want you on many other projects in the future. ) Also, if you pick the right stack of stuff to go through, you get to read through all kinds of stuff about key clients, previous projects, who worked on what with who, etc. with no one tapping their toe over your research. 95% of it will be uninteresting/obsolete, but 5% will be institutional knowledge that may be worthwhile on future projects. Within a short time, though you may still be a new hire, you’ll know a lot.
        Are there work groups, project teams, etc that need someone to sit in on meetings to take meeting minutes, document action items, email meeting summaries and status updates? That’s a thankless task (a non-promotable task that no one really wants ) ) but since you’re new, being able to sit in on meetings, see cross-functional teams in action and meet many many people, that experience can be hugely valuable to you. You may even pick up a mentor – someone who you send the draft of the meeting minutes to before distributing them, who reviews and edits them, but also gives you guidance, feedback, information on the informal power structures of the company that you might not be aware of otherwise and who advocates for you on other projects.
        Is there a particular function, specialty that you’re curious about? See if you can be of use to someone in that department. I mean, as long as you might try to get yourself loaned out to another group, why not aim for a group you have interest in? Win-win! And if you can’t find a way to help that group, what about the department right next door? Chatting with people at the nearby copier, coffee machine, elevator can connect you with other projects, people to go out to lunch with, busywork tasks that could lead to something else. (Seriously – I once had a temp job editing/formatting ISO 9000 procedure documents – mindnumbingly dull yet requiring attention to detail. I made friends with people in the cubes near me, in a completely different department. When they were crunched at quarter end, they asked if I’d help out with some data entry. Then they hired me full-time…and within a couple of years was managing half of the department.)

    6. Amber T*

      I wonder if I work too fast sometimes. But I also get overwhelmed with work during certain times in the year. There are certain times of the year that will always be busy, then depending on what the business is doing (not in my department), the rest of the time might be chaotic, or it might be slow. I think if you’re doing the work you have efficiently and well (which it sounds like you are), slow times are just an inevitable part of the business.

    7. Akcipitrokulo*

      Normal, but you can ask your manager if there are any online courses/personal development you think could benefit the company you could do in downtime? (Bonus points if you find them yourself!)

    8. Alianora*

      That was what my last job was like (except my boss did not care at all about work, and she was only actually in the office working about 20 hours a week). I didn’t like it because it was boring, and I felt like there was no chance to grow or learn at all even though I tried to come up with productive things to do, so I left after 3 months.

      Even that short amount of time has left me with some bad work habits I didn’t have before, like procrastinating in order to stretch out a task. Who knows what it would have done to my work ethic if I’d stayed a year or two.

      1. SoMeta*

        this is 100% me and I was just talking about it with a friend this morning – in my last weeks at a job that has been demoralizing & toxic in many ways and it has absolutely clotheslined my work ethic. I am definitely aware of the damage and know I’ll need to be proactive at my new employer to rediscover that drive I used to have.

      2. AnonDev*

        Yeah I just left a job like that after 7 months, and I feel like it really impacted my attention to detail. Mostly because when you have all day to complete a 1 or 2 hour task, you can half-ass it and double-check later on. Now that I’m starting a new job, I’m definitely nervous about exercising the attention to detail needed.

    9. AccountantWendy*

      It’s normal but I echo Not a Real Giraffe. It is worth asking your boss or other departments if there are other things you can be doing (or learning) when things are slow.

    10. CupcakeCounter*

      Normal. That was me during my first year and a half or so at current job. Now I have 3 weeks of hard deadlines that must be met and one week of…almost nothing still. But I usually need it to recover from the previous 3 weeks and deal with all of the low-priority requests/emails that poured in during that time.

    11. S*

      Normal for a job early in your career, AND great opportunity if you choose to look at it that way, because you can actually use that time to further your career. Some possibilities: a) look around, talk to people, and try to identify a couple of problems in your dept. Then come up with a proposal for a solution, and take it to your bosses. b) Many corporations have extensive online learning archives. Take advantage (prioritizing your work, of course) to learn as much as you can – about pretty much anything that piques your interest. Bonus points if you can apply your learning to solve a problem. c) (this is what I did during downtime in my temp days) Become the expert at whatever software you use. Investigate every option on every menu. Read the “help.” Give yourself mini-projects and work through the tough bits. I did this for Microsoft Office in the late 90s and that knowledge (not to mention the self-education habit) is still benefitting me. Learn to build a website or a database. Learn to code. Or, become an expert on something in your business. Become the person who knows your footwear inventory inside and out.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I did the same thing! I learned about MS Office in the 90’s because I was bored, and next thing I knew they thought I was a wiz. It still benefits me too!

    12. De-Archivist*

      Normal for me. Some days, I’m working hard the whole time I’m here. Most days I literally have nothing to do. Thus far, I’ve taught myself Excel from one of those online course websites, and I’m learning some basic document design through Adobe.

    13. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

      Really normal for a first job.

      As you become more senior, this will happen less and less. Keep being efficient and asking if anyone needs help. You’ll have more to keep you busy, and your coworkers/bosses will see you as a team player and when it comes time for annual reviews you can bring it up. If you are doing work for other units, that will also help you earn a reputation there if you wanted to move into a different position at the company.

    14. LQ*

      Normal, but I’d wonder if you’ve been through “busy” season. Places sometimes have a busy time they are staffed for and then it gets quieter at other times, when you stack that with being efficient you get…bored. And on the other side sometimes support work ends up getting quieter when the rest of the business is in busy season which can make things feel strange when you have nothing to do but everyone else is rushing around harried.

    15. Aveline*

      I have a friend who is a long-haul pilot. 90% of the flying of the plane is computerized and rote. He has not insignificant gaps with nothing he really has to do.

      You know why they are paying him? For the 10% of the time they really need him. And the top 1% where it’s life or death.

      Some jobs are like this. They pay you to be there for when they need you and aren’t intending you be on every single second.

      I’ve had receptionists and other office assistants work for me who had a tough time getting that, so I gave them things to learn.

    16. Aunt Piddy*

      TOTALLY normal. As long as you are getting your work done well, that’s what you’re there for!

    17. Jess*

      Normal… and. Figure out what *you* want out of a worklife, and use that downtime to move towards it. If you want to move up in the company or industry, seek out strategic projects or training or help out busier co-workers. If your passion lies outside of work, figure out how you can use the downtime to support your extracurriculars (I saved novel-writing for my personal computer and editing manuscripts for my subway commute, but I researched agents and learned about the publishing industry from my cube). If you want to shift to a different sort of job or industry, seek out all the transferable skills/knowledge you can (I echo what someone said above about learning the ins and outs of software… that has come in SUPER handy time and again… and also stuff like project/time management workshops, etc… whatever free online trainings your employer has that seem even vaguely relevant). And go talk to people. I still remember chatting with the marketing manager for an hour one day fifteen years ago — learned a heck of a lot in that conversation, and clarified that I did NOT want to take that career path and why, but also how what she did related to my job/department, which helped later on.

    18. CoffeeLover*

      It’s normal, but I also don’t think it’s good to stay in that kind of environment for too long because you tend to develop some bad habits. Namely, you can get used to procrastinating and working at a slow pace. It can then be a struggle to jump into a more fast paced environment later on – and there are plenty of those as well.

      Of course it depends on your career goals and priorities, but in my opinion I think you do yourself a disservice working in a slow paced environment early in your career. You won’t learn or grow as much as someone who’s well… working more. There are a lot of great suggestions here for how to get involved in more work, but I also think it’s worth looking at what you’re goals are and if staying in your current role will get you there.

      1. L. S. Cooper*

        This job is definitely temporary while I finish up a course for web development, which is what I actually want to do with my life; not a lot of openings at this company for what I want to do. (And two of the perks that I really love about this office will be lost in about a year when we move locations– there’s currently a gym in the office and it’s only an 8 minute drive.) I do tend to prefer a slower pace, but I also don’t like to be bored! I like to go home and know I’ve actually accomplished something. Thanks for the advice!

    19. drpuma*

      Definitely normal, alas. And for perspective from the other side – I once had a boss express frustration with a coworker who wasn’t available for a quick task. Coworker had finished her work for the day and left early rather than sit and occupy herself doing nothing. Your company is paying you to do things, and also to be available for when things need to be done.

    20. Asenath*

      Quite normal, I’d say. And I don’t know if your job is like this – but over the year, there are periods when I’m very busy and putting in lots of time. And others when, really, I don’t have that much to do, and can get through the essentials quite quickly. Another point is, as others have mentioned, it’s useful to my employer that I be here (or I assume that’s true, since this isn’t a seasonal job!). They want me here to respond to stuff the might come up even in the quiet parts of the year.

    21. MoopySwarpet*

      Normal. If you can find something productive to do, it might help you move up the ladder a bit. My first full-time office job was pretty boring for large stretches of time. I taught myself different programs (including photoshop and illustrator) as well as turning to other departments for light tasks (i.e. stuffing envelopes for or with accounting, asking sales about reports they needed or looked at, poking around in the data systems, volunteering to do the lighter data entry portions of unrelated positions, etc.).

      I don’t know if that’s possible where you’re at, but I did similar in a retail customer service position that resulted in being one of 2 people who did the daily drawer count entries. I left because they wouldn’t give me a raise even though I was now doing something completely different than the general floor staff position I had been originally hired to do.

    22. boredworker*

      Yes as others have said it is normal. My jobs is similar. The person before me in my current role was not as comfortable with the job and technology. She often would fall way behind. They ended up taking things away from her as a result. They eventually moved her out of the role, which is why I was hired. I am much more comfortable with the tasks and get a lot of my work done quickly. I have learned to pace my self, sometimes it doesn’t help and I get super bored.

    23. Manana*

      Very normal, particularly when your work is dependent upon requests outside of your immediate office. If your job is to deliver mail and all the mail is already sent out you can’t just create more!

    24. Cassandra*

      Normal. I have an average of several hours of down time per day (and sometimes entire days with no work to do). I think of myself as the emergency standby typist. When they DO need something typed, they need it done quickly, accurately and NOW.

    25. Secretary*

      Very normal. I love having downtime because a) I have lower stress and b) going the extra mile and finding things to do tends to be noticed more, meaning better performance reviews. Also I can listen to music and podcasts while I work.

    26. Amethystmoon*

      Downtime varies based on the job. Sometimes it’s cyclical and jobs will have busy periods. For example, in my last job I did floral item data entry in addition to other products, so Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter/Mother’s Day were our busy seasons.

      You can try asking your manager if there are any projects he/she wants you to do during this downtime. The other thing you can do to fill in downtime is to double-check your work (if you’re not already doing so), review your notes, perhaps type them up into a Word document with screen prints, see if there’s any interesting industry reading material, etc. When I was young, I often filled in the down time by looking up things on Microsoft Office Help that I didn’t know how to do and learned how to do them.

    27. Youth*

      Normal. Also my impression is it’s not uncommon for professional jobs that support products or services to go between really busy and really slow depending on the sales season. Enjoy the downtime while you can because it may not last!

    28. SusanIvanova*

      It might be normal for that kind of job but it’s not necessarily so for all of them, and you might just be in the wrong career. There are jobs, like tech, where there’s always something else to do. The sensible ones realize there are different priorities to them so it’s not a bad thing if some of them never get done, but if you find yourself with enough free time they’re nice to have.

    29. MJ*

      Extremely normal.

      Incidentally, I think I work like you do — faffing about a lot of the time, and then getting my work done super-fast and efficiently the rest of the time. (I’m not the Second Coming or anything, but all my employers have been satisfied-to-impressed with me, so it seems to be working out.) I expect at least in part that it’s just the way our brains work? So I think that can be normal too, although I share your feeling that downtime gets…weird.

      (I have solved this by mostly working from home, transitioning to solely working from home. I work so, so much better this way, but YMMV as always.)

      1. L. S. Cooper*

        I work best if I can do it all at once– I have ADHD and it’s just kind of how I’ve always lived my life. I chill out for a long time, then when work needs to get done, it gets done. (And not low quality work, either, if I dare say so myself.)

        1. aebhel*

          Same. I spend a lot of time screwing around, but I also get my work done efficiently and well in bursts of hyperfocus. All of my performance reviews over the past 6 years I’ve been here have been consistently excellent, so… I guess it’s working? I’d probably have trouble in a fast-paced environment that required a high level of consistent focus, but fortunately that’s not the norm in my field.

          1. Phoenix Wright*

            Same here. For tasks that have dozens of hours assigned I tend to waste the first few days (almost) entirely, and then do bits of work here and there. Most of it gets done in the last few days, and I’m not even rushing to complete it, it’s just that I somehow find it easier to focus when I don’t have much time to spare. That said, I’m completely bored at work and believe it’d be better to move to a more challenging place. Even though I might miss these obscene levels of procrastination, it seems like the best thing to do if I want to avoid ruining my work habits forever, and also to prevent whatever the opposite of burnout may be. There’s only so much procrastination you can indulge in before it begins getting into your head and make you feel you’re wasting your time, and I’m already at that point.

    30. M*

      Not just normal, also the way it *should* be. If you’re working at exactly 100% capacity when everything’s going well, you have no surplus capacity when things go wrong. Good employers have surplus staff capacity at all levels.

    31. anonaa*

      Definitely normal. I’d even say this is a good skill to have – being artfully ready to kick into gear when needed, even when you don’t have a lot to do. That means looking engaged, optics-wise, and actively looking for other things to do/ways to be helpful without pestering anyone. Sometimes what’s needed is exactly what you’re experiencing – there’s downtime, you need to keep up professional appearances during that, but be ready when it gets busy.

    32. Wintermute*

      This is very much the norm for some industries, but not others. In general in my experience the ones that have the most downtime are ones where A) you’re there to handle emergencies, if nothing is breaking it’s going to be pretty slow B) the workload varies a lot based on time of year, day of the month, government budgetary cycle or some other regular pattern, but it’s technical enough, sensitive enough or has enough training and policy encumbrance that seasonal workers are not feasible, C) it’s a position where the volume is not high but latency of response is incredibly important, so having people sit idle to make sure all requests are handled promptly is more important than maintaining high resource utilization D) there’s enough vital work to justify a full-time position (or high-end-enough work you would not easily find someone to do it part time) but they don’t generate enough work to keep a full-time employee busy, and it cannot be rolled into anyone else’s work because they’re all busy or because it requires specialized skills.

      I’d take my lead from other people, your boss, and the health of the business on this one. If your boss is happy with your work and doesn’t seem to think you’re slacking, and your coworkers are happy with your work, AND you don’t get the sense the fact you’re slow is because the business has declining business and thus revenues, then you’re fine.

      I’ve had jobs like this, I’m just wrapping up a contract like this now. It’s glorious, I use the time for online training so I can justify what I’m doing with my days, and position myself better for the next opportunity.

      1. Lyman Zerga*

        I love everything you say here, and especially your category breakdown. My role is very much a type D situation you described above. I often feel a bit of guilt because my workplace created a new position for me to do work that’s perceived as important to our organization but previously had not been done, but there’s not really enough work to fill my time (at least not yet). It could really be done by a two-thirds to three-quarters time person. But it’s a highly specialized, sensitive thing, and it definitely could not be done by other existing staff people (whose plates are very full). So I try to make up for it by always being the person to pitch in on other work when I can. Often I can’t, but my attitude is, I will be at my desk 100% of the time to help if needed, even if the work assigned to my role only takes up 70% of the time.

        1. Wintermute*

          I think you are in a great place, in your situation I would not be worried at all, especially if you’re making yourself “generally useful” as old-timey employment contracts said. Employers hire employees based on a value calculation, if you are adding the value (or preventing the cost in the case of departments like legal, HR, IT and so on) they expect you to you’re in a good place. If you’re bringing added value that’s the cherry on top that gets good reviews and glowing recommendations.

    33. somebody blonde*

      It’s normal, but it’s also worth addressing with your manager if you don’t enjoy it – or even if you do but you have any reason to fear layoffs. One thing I would definitely check if you haven’t been there for a year yet is whether the work is more seasonal- some jobs seem to have endless downtime, but then busy season hits and you get constant overtime for that period.

    34. Nobody Nowhere*

      A lot of jobs also run in cycles. Last week I was running around like a crazy person trying to get everything done. This week I’m reading advice columns because everybody’s kids are on spring break and they’re taking vacation time & absolutely nothing is going on around here.

    35. TrainerGirl*

      Pretty normal. I lucked up and found a 3-month position while I was taking Calculus at a local college to finish my degree. I worked 32 hours/week and mostly sat at the front desk of an IT integration lab in case clients came in. If they did, I gave them a tour but mostly I just sat at the desk, because they wanted a presence there. I was told to “look busy”, so I taught myself Microsoft Office (this was in the 90’s) and brushed up my resume. By the time that job ended, I’d finished the class and found a job. It was pretty boring, but I got paid and learned some skills. I wouldn’t want to do it now, but I wouldn’t knock it.

    36. Kitty*

      Happens all the time at my job. Project schedules get out of sync and so sometimes it’s literally nothing to do for days when waiting on other stakeholders, and other times its 5 different deadlines in one week! Fun times.

    37. Shoes On My Cat*

      Pretty normal for first job in a specific industry! Lots of great suggestions here! Perhaps you can ask your boss for 10 minutes once a week. (And keep it to ten! Stay focused. Show you are reliable about her time constraints.
      !) Ask each time if there is anything you can take off her plate *this week* (overwhelmed managers do better with short term asks), keep asking once per weekly meeting even if the answer is “No, you are doing great.” because it will start to get her thinking about things you could do for her and that is the best thing! Small things you do reliably, with questions as appropriate to show you are comfortable asking for help when you are not sure -also reliably- will make her more comfortable giving you more tasks that she can rely on you to do, ask questions about, flag if there is a bottleneck. This may take time, but it’s a great practice for getting through the door once you’ve got your proverbial foot in there. Most of my promotions and lateral transfers happened this way!

    38. Elan Morin Tedronai*


      In my job now I have periods where I spend the day playing games in the office, but also times where I work 14 hours a day. Most decent employers won’t really have an issue with your “spends a lot of time faffing about but gets her work done quickly and effectively” thingy as long as you deliver.

    39. Shoes On My Cat*

      Another idea when you are at loose ends? Take an online keyboarding coarse or three! It makes you look busy and being a fast and accurate typer in an office position will always be a great skill! -I took *typing*! in high school as an alternative to calculus and that was one of the best career choices EVER! Being able to touch type even just 32wpm has had an impact even on my field work jobs, much less my office based jobs…including programming. Good Luck!

    40. Cygda*

      I’m also having this sort of issue. I’m going from a more blue collar “if you aren’t doing anything, something better be wrong” type of job to a more relaxed white collar type (at the same company) and it’s a bit of a culture shock. I don’t handle too much downtime well and sort of feel like I’m “stealing” company time, because in the previous title, that’s EXACTLY what the company would consider it.
      My question is… what’s common for people to do in downtime? Online courses? Do you clear that with your supervisor? For hopefully apparent reasons, I would rather not ask my supervisor directly.

    41. Everything’sFine*

      I don’t have advice, just commiseration! I just came off 15 years as a high school teacher where there’s no such thing as downtime and you’re “on” all day. I’m now at a nonprofit and I’m so, so bored much of the time. I spend a lot of time waiting to get feedback/approval from other people on projects so there’s a lot of waiting around. I also work really fast and have had to train myself to slow down. Upper management seems pretty busy…but also pretty stressed. So I’m trying to convince myself that’s it’s ok to have time to breathe and I need to readjust to a nonteacher pace.

    42. Manders*

      This is VERY normal, especially for entry-level admin/support jobs.

      Some people love it, but some get antsy and really need project-based work. I’m in the second category and I felt much better when I switched to a job where I could take on as many projects as I could get done in a day. There’s nothing wrong with you if you do prefer this sort of job though, you’re not lazy or cheating the company out of work they aren’t even assigning you.

    43. Checkert*

      I’ve experienced various versions of this from stare at a wall level of boredom to things to do that just don’t last a long time but are impactful and necessary. I will say something I struggle with is working too quickly! I tend to not like to spend a ton of time on one thing and prefer to knock it out and get it done. In my current position I have had to learn how to slow down and really spend time on high QUALITY. While my quality didn’t suffer before, I am now having to produce client-ready deliverables that have no opportunity for iterative improvement. It forces me to work slow and careful, and spending far more time putting the finishing polish on products and brought me to down to a much more average pace.

    44. Jt*

      Since this is your first job, then doing nothing major and having free time is normal. However, if you want to move up or do more, then you might have to prove yourself or leave for a different role.

  3. No Tribble At All*

    Is it normal to have to submit original paper copies of your receipts for expense reports?

    Our /new/ system requires your to scan and upload receipts to the expense website, which is fine, and then to mail the originals receipt to corporate HQ. I’m baffled that we have to snail mail the original paper receipt when we have to upload a picture as well. It’s the third millennium — accept my digital copies!

      1. AnnaBananna*

        The scanning part is just to approve the expense quickly so nobody is stuck with late fees. The hard copies are for audits. This is especially important in financial retail companies, in my experience. Though some departments at my current role also demand hard copies.

        That said, I have read the audit will take soft copies so I’m not sure the purpose of a double dip. I’m assuming institutional knowledge drift, eg. ‘because Margo did it before she retired and she said she needed it when we were audited 17 years ago’.

    1. Natalie*

      The IRS themselves doesn’t require you keep paper copies of receipts. I’d call this abnormal (and silly).

    2. ENFP in Texas*

      Fortune 50 cube resident here – We are allowed to upload digital receipts to the expense system, however we must retain the originals in in our files for 12 months in case of an audit. In smaller firms, it might not be so far fetched that they want to have originals of all receipts in one central area.

      1. Bubbleon*

        This is interesting to know, I don’t know if I would’ve thought about audits as a reason to keep hard copies. Are you required to keep them individually, or is the company required to store them together? I’d understand the first but the second feels like a stretch.

        1. TootsNYC*

          If I thought I might have to produce those receipts for an audit, I would probably demand they be sent to me right away, so I *could* put them all in one spot. Think how much easier that would make my job during the audit, to be able to grab 12 monthly folders and hand them over.

          And think how much HARDER my job would be if I had to go back to every one of the people whose expense reports were being scrutinized, and ask them IF they had kept those receipts, and whether they could find them, and then have them send them to me.

          If you send them in right away, as part of the reimbursement process, then I know you’ll do it, and I’ll have it.

        2. JB*

          As mentioned above, the IRS accepts scanned documents. I was told this by an auditor auditing my company.

      2. Not A Morning Person*

        It’s not universal but it is common to require original receipts. At a former employer, we had the same system as ENFP in Texas; scan and send your reciepts, but keep the originals in case there was a question or an audit. At my current place of employment, finance wants the originals included with the expense report.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        I meant to reply to this. My company also requires this, even though they had digitized everything.

    3. Cube Ninja*

      The original copies you send to HQ are almost certainly being scanned *again* as part of the company’s accounting records. I think this one is very dependent on specific company practices, but I don’t think it’s too far out of the norm. A bit on the silly side, though.

    4. KEG*

      The only thing I can think of is that some people do a terrible job scanning and some things are illegible, or receipts overlap. That could be remedied by simply asking the person to re-scan though. Probably just a company/accounting department that hasn’t gotten with the times.

      1. TootsNYC*

        think of the work of having to individually ask people to rescan.
        I have sympathy for the idea of simply demanding them, and filing them, and then you have them for audit or rescanning.

    5. Ruth (UK)*

      At my company, original receipts are preferred but scans/digital copies are acceptable. I think requiring original receipts doesn’t sound way outside of the norm for me, but it’s becoming less common. (I am administrative and process expense claims for my department).

    6. Anonym*

      Maybe semi-normal? My large Fortune 100 employer *just* moved away from mailing the paper receipts last year, on top of scanned copies. It’s not ideal, but not totally random if they’re just super cautious about digital everything all the time. Deserving of a sigh and internal eyeroll, though.

    7. Rose*

      Yeah, this is old fashioned a little out of date, but not abnormal per se. Companies are moving away from this, but some still require it.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        We have some accountants who demand original receipts and paper, signed travel approval forms that were actually phased out several years ago now! But the old guard keeps asking for them, even when the CFO herself has said it’s unnecessary. It’s ridiculous, but I always tell me team to just do it because it means they’ll get their reimbursement faster.

    8. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      That’s exactly what I had to do until about 6 months ago when we got a new system. Companies are slow at letting go of paper, sadly, perhaps in the misguided assumption that it’s a requirement for audit trails (I’m in the UK).

    9. Amber T*

      I don’t know about “normal” but I know our office does the same. We prefer originals – scans are “okay” but not preferred. For us, I think it’s a combination of doing more than necessary for regulatory purposes, and the fact that it’s what’s always been done, so therefore should always be done (we tend to be a bit slow catching up on technology sometimes). (The fact that it’s a new system for you does seem a bit odd though.)

    10. BlueWolf*

      That does seem odd. Is corporate HQ outside the U.S.? I’ve dealt with some companies in Japan (not for expenses, but when sending our invoices) who still require that we send hard copies of our invoices as well as sending them electronically “so they can compare them”.

      1. Hekko*

        In the Czech Republic, originals of receipts are actually required for accounting. We can enter the receipt in the books based on a copy, but we have to file the original.

    11. Susan Calvin*

      Gonna go with “normal”, because even my employer does it – a large software company otherwise *all* about digitalization. Although it might depend on your local legislature, German tax authorities require you to keep ungodly amounts of paper for x number of years, this might fall under that. If laws in your location are different, maybe your org really is just a bit old fashioned.

    12. Mockingjay*

      My company requires the same: scan and upload to our claims database, then provide the original paper receipts to Accounting. A lot of receipts are electronic now, so I have to print to provide a paper copy anyway.

      I think this practice will simply fade away in the next few years.

    13. Akcipitrokulo*

      Depends I guess – we do paper only here. If you’ve got a digital copy (eg booked travel online) then you need to print it out and attach it.

    14. Wish I traveled more!*

      At my large corporation, scans are used for all the approvals etc, originals are mailed in a special envelope. I kind of suspect that they never open the envelope except in some extraordinary circumstances, and it is otherwise filed away in a box somewhere.

    15. OhGeez*

      It might depend on what kind of contracts or auditing your company undergoes. We are usually being audited by at least one entity at any given time, and some auditors are….cranky. Regardless, many federal contracts require original receipts. The scanned receipt process might be for internal reasons and the originals for external (i.e. you get reimbursed once they receive the scans, but the originals are for outside audits).

      1. Safetykats*

        Normal. I work for a federal contractor, and specific types of records are required to be originals. OP can probably look at the company’s records retention policy to see whether this is really a requirement or jus someone’s preference, but for me, as long as I was actually getting reimbursed, I wouldn’t waste any more time worrying about it.

      2. CaptainLaura*

        +1 to this. If your work has any contract relationship with the Federal Government, there are some archaic and nonsensical rules about receipt retention. At least when I was still in this business, the Fed auditors 1) won’t tell you if your process efficiencies will be allowed ahead of an audit, and 2) were running 3-4 years behind in their audits. Making a mistake and not catching it for several years is…very expensive.

    16. CL*

      They’re probably suing a built-in redundancy since it’s a new system. Once they know keeping everything electronic is working, they’ll probably do away with hard copies. We recently switched credit card companies and now have the ability to upload receipts. We are still using the previous system of logging and retaining hard copies, but they are looking to eliminate that at the end of the year, as long as there are no glitches.

    17. Hiking in Heels*

      We have folks scan receipts and send them in, but they need to keep copies in case there’s an issue with the scans like they cut off or are too blurry. Also, it’s easier to make copies of originals – I submit $500k in reimbursements to the federal government, and we’ve had issues with legibility of the scanned images, particularly if they’re scanned and printed and then scanned again. Your fiscal policy and audit procedure also may still focus on paper records vs digital – it’s a tough transition for any office, but especially one of size with a variety of skill levels in the technology department.

    18. Elizabeth Proctor*

      My old job did this too. It was a fairly large, Catholic university. Not really with the times… We didn’t even have an expense website though, we had to tape paper copies to 8×11 sheets of paper for it all to be filed away.

    19. The Cosmic Avenger*

      My employer has less than 500 employees, and the last time I had to attach paper receipts we were probably under 200 people. So IMO, no, not normal.

    20. CAA*

      It may depend on your industry. Some regulatory agencies and government auditors still ask for original receipts during audits.

    21. Observer*

      Silly, but surprisingly common. Not so much that I would EXPECT it, but common enough that I would not raise my eyebrows.

      Maybe ask why they require the paper copies?

    22. Kimmybear*

      Totally normal if you work on government contracts or with international offices. In some countries, original receipts and “wet” (ink on paper) signatures are still legally required.

    23. Not in US*

      It might depend on what country your in. In my company, we do this. The answer from Finance is that CRA (Canada’s equivalent to the IRS) does not accept most scanned copies as original source documents. Not sure if that’s actually true or not, but that’s what I’ve been told.

      1. Lil Sebastian*

        As a fellow Canadian, I strongly suspect that might not be true. My company (a post-secondary institution) has an online system where we just have to submit pictures or digital copies of receipts. The system has been in use for a couple years. I can’t imagine that as a quasi-government institution CRA would let us get away with using this system if they needed originals. Who knows?!

        1. CanadaTag*

          As a side note, I just popped into the CRA website. I didn’t do a lot of searching, but apparently anything to do with owning a farming business requires original documents/copies of receipts, so it looks like it depends on what type of business it is, whether they need just electronic receipts or also original paper ones.

    24. Kathleen_A*

      Original receipts were required where I work until about 3 years ago, when they started accepting copies. Now, of course, we’re all paperless, but as I said, up until quite recently, it was normal for here, though perhaps weird for other places. But from my perspective, I’d categorize it as “a little outdated, maybe, but still normal.”

    25. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Outdated, but not unheard of. In this case, inefficient and should be changed. Roll your eyes and comply.

    26. K8theGr8*

      I am also at an organization that hasn’t caught up with the times or the regulations and have to submit “original” receipts for any travel reimbursements when scans would be so much more efficient.

    27. De Minimis*

      Not quite normal, especially for a larger organization. I’m guessing some higher-up may be behind the times and wants paper backup for everything. If this were a small business, it would be normal.

    28. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I work in higher ed, and every university I’ve worked for (three) required paper copies in addition to scanned copies. It’s probably industry dependent!

      1. Ginger Sheep*

        Yup. Out of three universities I worked for, two required paper copies, and the other accepted them (but scanned documents were accepted as well). I believe it is still very common in the academic world.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          Yup squared! I work for a university which is slowly moving away from paper copies. One major fear, historically, is double-dipping — say a professor from your university is a guest speaker at my university, and each school is reimbursing her for SOME of the expenses. Both schools have an interest in making sure she’s not double-dipping a particular expense. Or, two travelers from the same university could try to submit for reimbursement of the same expense. In the old days, requiring hardcopy originals was one more safeguard against this. Now, it’s not enough anyway — I’ve caught, on audit, travelers accidentally* submitting two printouts of the same PDF, and the reimbursement processor didn’t notice.

          My university is about to step away from the requirement, but it’s been a long time coming.

          Short version: we can’t rely on 20th-Century policies to protect us from 21st-Century fraud, waste, and abuse. Internal audit has a fiduciary obligation to get with the times.

    29. Risha*

      It was weird and annoying but tolerable until you got to the hugging, and then it was a world of NO NO NO NO NO.

    30. Nessun*

      I work for a massive accounting firm, and this is our standard practice too. We have all kinds of digital capabilities, but we continue to send paper copies of receipts with expense claims. I agree it’s frustrating, but it is a standard for the 6,000 people at my firm in Canada alone.

    31. Jadelyn*

      You have to SNAIL MAIL them??? No. That is really, really not normal, especially if you’re using an online expense website as well. Someone in your accounting department is a Luddite and doesn’t trust the online system, sounds like – and I say that because I’ve got the same issue with one of my coworkers who wants us to snail-mail employee documents because she doesn’t trust the online document management system.

    32. Merci Dee*

      I work in the accounting department for a manufacturing facility, and we moved to an online accounting document program several years ago. Everything is scanned and submitted through our “paperless” system, but expense reimbursements must have a printed copy of the accounting doc with the original receipts attached. Only difference with the paper copies is that they don’t have to signatures, since the document is flowing through the approval process for the online system. We keep the original receipts for audit purposes, and because sometimes the scans aren’t so great if the receipt itself is kind of low-quality (ink running out in the receipt printer, etc.). There are a handful of reasons that companies can choose to keep the originals, and it’s been a normal practice at other places I’ve worked in the past (regional bank, state government, etc.).

    33. Asenath*

      It varies. My employer is very conventional this way and absolutely insists on original documents being presented. They will sometimes make an exception if you make a notarized statement as to why you don’t have proof that you spent $X on Y. I always assumed that this is their way of keeping cheating down, but I know not all employers do things this way.

    34. RPCV*

      Doesn’t seem normal to me. Scanned copies are required when expense reports are submitted at my large corporate employer and I don’t think they’d have any idea what to do with a paper copy.

    35. BTDT*

      My previous low-budget non-profit employer required original paper receipts. My DH’s Fortune 10 company does not. So it’s normal to me for less tech-advanced companies. Not so in large corporations.

    36. Triceratops*

      I work for a government contractor, and this is normal for us. They are legally required to have the original receipts for travel expenses. I can’t speak to other industries, but if any of your travel relates to any government contracts or money, I think it’s normal.

      1. loremipsum*

        I work for a state government agency. When I started a few years ago I would calculate my travel expenses in an Excel spreadsheet and email it on the last day of the month, along with scanned receipts. Last year it was requested that we can continue to do this but to also print out the expense report and receipts copied on a sheet of paper, and mail it to the central office.

    37. Galahad*

      At my Fortune 50, this was very normal. I even had to scan the receipts in one format (by client) for payroll, (because you don’t want a receipt for client A showing up on the scan for client B) then retape them to the letter paper and send them in physically in another format (by date). Good news is that this only lasted 18 months before they figured out that they could audit by the scanned receipts.

    38. Jules the 3rd*

      Fortune 50 cube resident here too – this was our company’s requirement up until 5 years ago. It may still be, but I haven’t traveled in a while. Tech company, no less.

    39. Lady Blerd*

      I think it’s company specific.For us they want original copies but they’ll takea statutory declarations if you don’t have them for small things like taxi or parking receipts. I’ve also submitted emailed receipts with no issues.

    40. University Minion*

      I spend a significant percentage of my time at work fighting the scourge that is obsolete shadow systems for new business processes. “But we’ve always done it this way” is a monster that can’t die fast enough. Chances are that even though the physical receipts aren’t at all necessary for the present system, they’re still being archived somewhere because that’s what they did in the paper system and nobody’s thought about whether or not it’s still necessary.

    41. TechieRose*

      Fortune 500 company here – up until only a few years ago we had to do this process for anything over a certain dollar amount. Seemed like a policy that had been present for a long time and just took quote a bit of work to evolve to where scanned/copied receipts are good enough.

    42. The Tin Man*

      At my company we have two different types of company cards – one for travel and entertainment and the other for Operations. For the T&E card scanning the receipts is the procedure and for the Operations card they have to interoffice the physical receipts. I am lucky that I have the first kind!

    43. KittiesLuvYou*

      My job requires this as well. We upload receipts and then I walk the paper over to my business manager. I work in a holding company of a mega corporation. In our situation it’s in case there’s either an internal audit from the mothership or an IRS audit.

    44. Mbarr*

      My multinational software company accepts digital scans, but you have to hold on to the hardcopies for 12 months afterwards.

      BUT – I know that in other countries, there are legal hard copy requirements. (E.g. You can scan your receipts, but the company won’t reimburse you till they receive the hard copies too.) Not sure what the rationale is…


      Fortune 100 company – we did a year ago, not sure about now. I think it depends on Accounting and the Expense system.

    46. Adalind*

      I worked in Accounts Payable years ago (auditing expense reports) and we had to have original receipts. It’s for audit purposes. I believe they eventually went to a scanned system and still needed originals. I’m not sure what they do now. The current company I work for just wants scanned receipts submitted via their online system.

    47. Dulcinea*

      The nonprofit where I work receives a lot of government funding and the funding agreement requires original receipts be retained for everything over $3 in case there’s an audit. At least that’s what the finance person says.

    48. Samwise*

      A ridiculous but normal practice in a fair number of places. Keep your own paper and digital copies as backups.

    49. 1.2 years until retirement*

      Current company – scanned are submitted, but original paper must be kept for a year.
      Previous company (Fortune 500) – original paper receipts submitted with expenses.

    50. Artemesia*

      We always had to do this; copies were not accepted; we had to submit the real thing. They seemed to fear that somehow if copies were used, we would find ways to get another organization to pay and double dip (like for a conference trip where the organization might pay some expenses if you were on the programs etc). And not only did they have to be original but they had to in restaurants actually who exactly what was ordered as they didn’t reimburse alcohol for minions (I am sure the C suite was expensing their Champagne — in fact I know they were). I once had a request returned because the McDonald’s receipt I used (credit card receipt I think) did not list the items and so this $9 bill couldn’t be reimbursed because I hadn’t proved I hadn’t spent anything on alcohol in this meal. Yes they were that ridiculous.

    51. JJ*

      I don’t have to keep the originals once I scan them in but I hang onto them until the expense report is fully approved and paid, and I keep all digital receipts in a separate folder in my inbox.

    52. Sue A McCrory*

      My institution (a SLAC) requires me to submit electronic copies of things purchased on our institution CC, but I still have to retain originals for at least a year. So things I order from Staples, for instance, I have the electronic receipt which I submit monthly, but have to keep an original (it’s supposed to be a printed paper copy kept in a file, but I just keep them as electronic copies and will print if asked). Receipts like hotel bills that we only have a paper copy for are submitted as originals; that would include meal receipts when traveling.

    53. pattm*

      School district business offices are required to collect and retain original receipts for 7 years. As you go through your annual audits, the audit team will request hard copies of documents. We are also required to keep hard copy payroll documents, too.
      As a side note, we had a department assistant use a Pcard to purchase personal items (several thousand dollars) and submitted scanned receipts that had been doctored. It wasn’t immediately caught, but the CC company noticed the unusual activity, which kicked off an internal investigation.

      1. Observer*

        If someone is doctoring documents, they can do a pretty good job with paper, too. It’s a lot easier than most people realize. Especially if you have access to a scanner and color printer.

    54. Wintermute*

      Not normal. Unless it’s an audit I’ve never seen a company that didn’t use the digital copies. As others have mentioned they have had records retention policies and asked for hard copies if they were suspicious about something but that was exceedingly rare and usually warranted.

    55. Karo*

      I also have to do both – my old company required originals, no copies or scans. So: normal, but silly.

    56. THAT girl*

      Some companies request original receipts to avoid the possibility of an employee submitting the receipt more than once.

    57. Lisa*

      Has your company been around for a very long time? I worked at a 30-something-year-old mega-corp and we didn’t transition away from paper receipts until about six years ago. Almost everything else had gone paperless by that point. In our case, we stopped using paper receipts as soon as we had a tool that allowed scans and uploads. Prior to that, we had a system for about ten years where the expense reports were digital, but the receipts had to be mailed in (and we had to retain paper photocopies in case they got lost). Prior to that, everything was paper. It’s possible that at your company, when they brought in the new system, they didn’t change the policy about sending in the paper copies.

      1. Cathie from Canada*

        When I worked for the Saskatchewan government in the 1980s, their expense claim forms still had a space for “livery” where you could claim the cost of stabling a horse — the form was designed that way in 1905, when we became a province, and nobody since had udated it. I wonder if anybody ever has since.
        I think outdated processes don’t get changed just because nobody has the authority to change them unilaterally and nobody wants to bother spending the time it would take to change them collegially.

    58. FloralsForever*

      This is normal. I don’t believe it is that common any longer, but I work at an organization where something like this may occur. When companies upgrade tech systems, it does not mean they upgrade their audit requirements, as that comes from an outside organization at our company. Or they may not know to upgrade all the processes that go along with the tech upgrade as happens in my company as well. (I’m honestly baffled that my company doesn’t use digital signatures, but oh well!) It can be frustrating to deal with paper copies, but my guess is a lot of higher ups have to align on change and they’re more concerned with alignment on that single thing, that they forgot to address all the other things that go along with it.

    59. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      It’s pretty normal. It depends on your employer. At a previous job, we had to send our original receipts via inter-office mail. At my current job, we scan them and email with our expense reports.

    60. MissDisplaced*

      Mixed: I worked for a very large company that required the exact same thing. Real pain, but normal. I think this is gradually going away though.

    61. Software Engineer*

      If you’re in Europe or maybe your company is in Europe it’s common. Now that I’ve moved to an overseas office of my American based company we even have to print out our Uber receipts from our email to send in a ‘paper’ copy!

    62. Serafina*

      It’s not required by the IRS, but may be part of your company’s fraud detection program. A comparison of a sample of original receipts to those submitted electronically can detect doctored receipts.

    63. Susana*

      I’ve always had to tape my original receipts to a piece of copy paper – I guess so they have the originals, but also have them in easy-to-file, scannable form. So not so abnormal.

    64. Five after Midnight*

      Here is something I learned recently: if you are a US company which wants to reclaim VAT from European countries for purchases made there (e.g. business travel) you are required to submit the original paper receipts (scanned images are not sufficient). This is in direct contrast to EU companies which can use electronic images for the same purpose. Therefore, we may actually go from scan-only to requiring employees to submit the paper originals for their European expenses.

    65. Maria*

      Late to this, but FWIW, in the non-profit/government funded world, original receipts is 100% required for audits. To expedite processing, scanned copies are allowed for employees who work remotely and have to mail originals, but the reimbursement will not be issued until the originals are received.

  4. no hugs 4 me*

    Current company makes us do a company cheer (in an office setting — not a Wal-Mart.)
    We recently had a meeting where we were told to say “hi” and “bye” to everyone when we enter and exit the office.

    Upper management hugs everyone when they visit an office. The company describes itself as a family, and I’ve noticed a lot of employees using that word too in a positive way. (“We’re like a big family, it’s great!”)

    This is not my first job out of college, but it is my first job in such a forced-friendly setting. The culture is making me very uncomfortable so far.

      1. ExcelJedi*

        To expand on that: This is super boundary crossing and even veers into cult-like behavior.I’m not being glib. They will likely exploit your emotions to get loyalty/free work/anything they can out of you, but have no problem letting you go if they need to cut costs.

        Get out of there fast. If you can’t get out yet because of your resume, find a mentor or friend in a more normal setting who is willing to let you bounce ideas off them so they can give you a second opinion on what’s okay and what isn’t.

              1. disconnect*

                If I were your dad and you called me, I’d make a temporary exception. This is bullshit.

        1. no hugs 4 me*

          Thank you. I have been looking but it’s frustrating to be job searching again within a year, and I’m not sure how I’d justify leaving to recruiters yet.

          I thought the “family” thing was odd (as Alison’s discussed that stuff in the past), but I figured it was a benign lost-in-translation kind of thing, as the headquarters is international.

          Then I learned the cheer on the first day (ಠ_ಠ)

          1. BookishMiss*

            “My bosses hug us.” If I were interviewing you, that would be a very reasonable reason for leaving. Just reading about it, my eyes popped out of my head.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              yeah, this.

              I’d probably try to find something more neutral, like ‘new opportunity’ or ‘job not as described’, but I think most interviewers would understand if you said, ‘Upper management hugged everyone when they visited, and I was not comfortable with that.’

              1. no hugs 4 me*

                Yeah I really dislike it :( I’d talk to “HR” about it but she does the same thing. Big sigh.

            2. Totally Minnie*

              Take it one step farther and say “My bosses pressure staff to hug them.” This is what is happening. You’re being pressured to touch people and be touched by people whether you want to or not, and that’s 100% not okay.

          2. Can't Think of a Name*

            You could say something like, “Unfortunately, the company has some issues with boundaries, and I’ve quickly realized it was an unhealthy culture.” This might help you screen out places that have similar boundary-issues. But really you can just go with “my bosses and HR insist on hugging me” and anyone reasonable will understand

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Plus side, it’s these boundaryless “We’re like a family–or else! Now hug!” offices that offer the best fodder for crazy tales of your past jobs. The villains aren’t going to twirl their mustaches–they’re going to talk earnestly about how you’re all a family, and family are the people you call when you need to dump a body.

        Like a cross between being in a sitcom office and the mafia.

        1. SebbyGrrl*

          ? :) I see what you did there?

          MFM meets Captain Awkward?

          Or accidental metaphor blend?

    1. Peridot*

      I don’t blame you. That would make me uncomfortable too. Saying hello to everyone seems a bit much to me, but I can understand the rationale behind it. Hugs and cheers puts it in the realm of a preschool, not a workplace.

      1. GRA*

        Even preschools are moving away from hugs, and are teaching kids about consent with their bodies. Hugs to all in the workplace is NOT OKAY and NOT NORMAL!

        1. Peridot*

          You’re right, and I didn’t even think about consent issues and people being pressured to let other people touch them. Especially upper management, who have power over your career.

    2. jenividivici*

      Nooo this is not normal to me and I would be on the lookout for signs that this company uses “family” as a manipulation tactic to discourage you from advocating for yourself.

    3. Jamie*

      None of that is normal, with the exception of the describing itself as family thing. I’m uncomfortable just reading about it.

      The “we’re all family” here is as common IME as it is stupid. I like the people I work with but if the paychecks stop coming I will stop seeing them, and I’ve never audited a family member (although I would like to issue corrective actions to some on occasion.)

      My current company doesn’t do the family thing, but most I’ve worked with have (especially if a family owned business) and IME it’s often code for people who expect loyalty outside the bounds of what is reasonable in a professional relationship and issues with boundaries.

    4. facepalm*

      Alison has actually addressed this: search the site on “your workplace isn’t your family — and that’s OK”

      ““We’re like family here.”
      Not words you should want to hear from an employer.
      I did a Q&A with the New York Times about why that phrase tends to pop up at dysfunctional workplaces — and tends to breed more dysfunction too — as well as how you can navigate that kind of culture and a healthier way to view work.”

      1. no hugs 4 me*

        I read that before I started noted the red flag during the interview process. But the HQ is international so I thought maybe they just meant well. Sigh.

      2. Karen from Finance*

        I once had a supervisor (male) who would refer to my coworkers/other females he managed as my “sisters”. As in “Well until your sister hands in the Teapot Handle Data, I can’t really do the Teapot Report, can I?”. He was only slightly older than us, too.

        The problem with being “a big family” at work is that family dynamics start to happen, you don’t want that. I agree with everyone, run.

        1. no hugs 4 me*

          I’m thankful that your experience still sounds bizarre to me — our office doesn’t take the family dynamics that far and I haven’t been totally desensitized by the weirdness! That’s crazy though and I hope work is more normal for you now.

    5. Master Bean Counter*

      Not normal. And this tactic is usually used to breed bad loyalty in lieu of raises and other real signs of appreciation.

    6. Akcipitrokulo*


      Saying you have to acknowledge people you meet on way in or out – that can be normal. Requiring you to go round everyone is definitely not normal.

      And hugging everyone? No. Just no.

    7. Mr. Shark*

      No, this is not normal. I don’t have a problem if a company actually feels like a family because the management treats people well (although some people seem to think it’s boundary crossing no matter what), but if it’s forced like this…ugh! A company cheer? Hopefully that’s not first thing in the morning when I would still be crabby and waking up. Even saying hi and bye would get tiring immediately.

      And hugs for everyone when they visit–that is certainly boundary crossing.

    8. Hiking in Heels*

      I’ve sent this in startups and nonprofits where the boundaries tend to be blurrier than a startight corporate setting. It works for some people, but can make you feel more devoted to your company than you need to (and can be healthy).

      Daily hugs would be a dealbreaker for me. Even if something is legal or somewhat normal doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

    9. Lora*

      I’ve seen sales departments or very individual up close and personal sales focused companies (think: car dealerships, real estate, door to door, something where they have to approach you very individually) do cheers and whatnot. Not a regular company. And no hugging, what in the actual?

    10. BookLady*

      I don’t think this is normal. In my experience, companies that do this will eventually use it against you: “We’re family here. Wouldn’t you do anything for your family??”

      Being forced to say “hi” and “bye” is a little odd, but seems like a misguided way to cultivate camaraderie more than anything else. Hugs from upper management is definitely not normal and out of line.

      1. Booknerdish*

        Could we please hear the company cheer? I’m morbidly curious about this, and NO, this is not normal.

        1. no hugs 4 me*

          There are two actually. Not sure how interesting they are, though I dread them both.

          One person says “Let’s go!”
          Everyone else: [COMPANY NAME]!

          Alternatively, everyone gathers around and puts their hands together.
          One person: “1… 2… 3!”
          Everyone else: [COMPANY NAME]!

            1. no hugs 4 me*

              I have social anxiety so I am very much not a fan of it!

              It’s been really validating to read everyone’s opinions. Thanks for your reply.

          1. teclatrans*

            This is reminding me a bit of a Korean drama I watched recently (The Book of You). It is set in a publishing company, and there is a company motto that people
            fervently shout out. I think they do some sort of company cheer, too. That sort of cultural difference doesn’t translate well across cultures.

            1. LunaLena*

              I’m Korean-American, spent several years in Korea, and worked for a Korean company here in the US where everyone except for me was born in Korea. A company cheer is still be weird. The only way I can see it even in Korean culture is during a team-building retreat or exercise a la Takeshi’s Castle or something like that, and even then, it would be something along the lines of “[company name], FIGHTING!”

              (“[name], FIGHTING!” is a common cheer in Korea, on par with “let’s go, [name]!”

          2. Booknerdish*

            OMG. Thank you for this. I work in a public library, so now I picture the staff gathering around to put their hands in the circle and whispering:
            “Let’s go!”
            Everyone: “Hometown Public Library! Shhhhh!”

          3. annakarina1*

            I joked to myself that the company cheer would be like the Bundy family cheer on Married with Children: “Whoooaaa Bundy!” I see it’s not that different.

          4. Cassandra*

            I almost hate this MORE than if the cheer was elaborate and goofy. Ugh. I hope you can hang in there ’til something much better comes along.

    11. Risha*

      It was weird and annoying but tolerable until you got to the hugging, and then it was a world of NO NO NO NO NO.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      The only time I’ve ever run into a company cheer was at a non-profit dealing with college programs. It seemed very contrived and silly to me. Forced hugs are a HUGE nope.

      And employers are NOT family; I wish they’d stop referring to themselves as such. I see this more often in smaller companies. It’s not positive; it’s an excuse to make you feel bad about using your benefits, IMO.

    13. Jadelyn*

      Noooooope! Nope, nein, non, nah, newp. Not normal.

      I am from a fairly huggy culture – Bay Area, California – so hugs are pretty normal when greeting people you don’t see often. But it’s by no means universal, and there are some execs from other offices who I do hug when I see them, some I come shake hands, and some I just wave from my desk. I can’t imagine treating hugs as some kind of default expectation for everyone.

      Also, forcing people to do a “company cheer” just…really reads as creepy and cultlike to me? Maybe that’s overreacting, but that’s almost as uncomfortable to me as the hugs thing.

    14. Asenath*

      I would find this decidedly weird. A company cheer? I’ve read of such things but never experienced it.

    15. Sleepytime Tea*

      Company cheers are surprisingly common, in my experience. Some idiot out there decided this was a good way to improve morale and it has been a thing at at least two companies I have worked for out of 5.

      There’s a difference between normal and common, though. I still don’t think it’s normal, and of the companies I’ve worked where this was done, most of the people there thought it wasn’t normal. It really did seem like an excuse to pay you less, give you crappier benefits, etc. and then be like “but the culture here is sooooo GREAT!” Usually, it’s not. It’s awkward and weird.

      I would say if you are happy with the other aspects of your job, and this is just uncomfortable but something you can live with, then stick it out. But if those other pieces are also sub-par, then I would consider moving on.

    16. Science of Working*

      Not normal or at least not healthy – too many boundaries are being crossed here.

    17. Just wondering*

      Upper management should not be hugging people without asking if they want to be hugged. And even asking for hugs only works if the person knows it’s really really ok to say no thank you, which is hard to do when the person has power over you.

      Personally, I love hugs, but nothing makes a hug more uncomfortable for me than being hugged out of the blue without being asked.

      (Note — people who have gotten my hug-consent in the past don’t have to keep asking me each time. But as a counterpoint, I don’t think we can even assume that someone you generally hug ALWAYS wants to be hugged by you. E.g. my friend who I always mutually hug was recovering from food poisoning AND some mental health stuff and just didn’t want to be touched. Of course, I wouldn’t know any of this if I had just barreled at her with a hug.)

      A culture in which upper management hugs everyone whenever they visit the office is NOT one in which people who don’t want to be hugged will feel comfortable saying so. People need to think about how invasive unwelcome hugs can be — enveloping someone else’s body! People in power are doing this. Aaaack it’s awful.

      To reiterate: I love hugs. But only consent-based hugs.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I love hugs from people I am interested in hugging. I do not love hugs from people I don’t know well who insist that they need me to hug them.

    18. Jennifer Juniper*

      Are you in a Japanese -run company? If you are, the company cheer thing can be normal.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        That was my first thought too. The answer to this one is basically: weird as hell, unless you’re in Japan.

        1. Japananon*

          Even in Japan, this would be from like… the 80s. Any company with younger people that uses computers instead of faxes probably does not have a cheer anymore.

        1. AL*

          Well, speaking as a resident of a Northern European country I would say this is very very odd and does not seem normal at all.

      2. Rebecca1*

        Except maybe the hugging, each of those things is normal in at least one country. However, as far as I know, there’s NO country where ALL of them are normal.

        1. Rømtømtøm*

          I was wondering if it was a Scandinavian company. The cheering seems out of place, but a sort of one-armed hug is a very common greeting, e.g. in Sweden, similar to the air kisses in France. Still not super common in an entirely professional setting, though.

    19. De-Archivist*

      Once in my previous life as a retail employee, I opened a new store, and they did this type of stuff. I’m very mellow and low-key and not really one for dancing at work. The new-store-opener noted that I was not dancing along to the cheer with the rest of the crowd, grabbed me by the elbow, and said, “If you don’t participate, I’m gonna make you go up to the front and do it in front of everybody.” So I participated. Not the best experience, let me tell you.

    20. KittiesLuvYou*

      This is horrific and not normal at all. Run away from companies that describe themselves as a family. It’s usually code for “we will disregard your personal boundaries”.

    21. Bookwormish51*

      Greeting everyone and saying goodbye—pretty normal

      Calling company ‘like a family’—not unusual. Possibly worrisome depending what they mean by that. Possibly ok.

      Company cheer—odd

      Mandatory hugging with people you don’t know we’ll—very, very weird and inappropriate

      1. Pilcrow*

        It’s the combination of all these things that isn’t normal. One of these in isolation isn’t too bad (except the hugging, blech), but all of them together = RUN!

    22. Artemesia*

      Well places like this are like family — big extended families that thing nothing of expecting members to work for free or otherwise extend favors and gossip of course about each other. Not a normal workplace. (it is normal that some groups are naturally more expressive or outgoing — that is different than requiring a greeting and pushing touchy feely friendliness as policy)

    23. Amethystmoon*

      That is very much not normal and the hugging is boundary-violating and could really trigger someone.

      1. no hugs 4 me*

        It triggers me! I mentioned above that I wanted to talk to our HR about it, but the HR person hugs too. Sad.

    24. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      Hugs in the office? Hard pass. I already know you like to clip your nails at your desk and now I’m expected to touch you? When. Pigs. Flipping. Fly.
      I’m intensely curious as to what happens if you just refuse the hug? Like what happens if you intercept them when they go in for the hug with a hand out for a handshake? What about putting your hand out with a simple “I’m not much of a hugger, can I interest you in a fist bump?” Are there consequences for ‘denying the hug’? What would those consequences be? Can you imagine that on a write-up?! “Employee refuses to engage in blatant boundary disrespect and is therefore not a team player.”

      1. no hugs 4 me*

        I reached for a handshake with a woman who laughed it off and hugged me. It must have looked like I didn’t notice the fact she was going in for a hug.

        I would, however, love to deny it and see what happens. What I have done is hide in the bathroom around the time “goodbye hugs” are in order — it worked a couple weeks ago, but upper management is now back and I’ve been dreading the hugs all week.

        1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

          Yeah, having to hide in the bathroom to avoid mandatory hugs is not normal or okay. Given that this seems like a definite culture thing that’s going to be inescapable throughout the company I think your best choice is to get out. That said, I know not everybody has to option to leave quickly or easily so maybe try:
          -being on the phone when management comes by. One hopes they wouldn’t interrupt a call with a client to hug you!
          -Conveniently be taking a coffee/tea/smoke/facebook break away from your desk
          -Re-arrange furniture in your workspace so that it’s a little more difficult for people to get close enough. I’d put an extra chair in my cube and say it’s there for training purposes, or turn my desk around.
          -Take a step back when they go in for the hug and say, “I’m getting over something, best not to hug”.
          -Put up a ‘funny’ “No Hugs Zone” sign and lightheartedly point to it and laugh off the hug like “Whelp, the sign says no hugs, so I guess no hug for you today!”
          -Stay seated at your desk with your hands on the keyboard when they come around and just twist your body around to say a quick “Hello, nice to see you, I’m in the zone and gotta get back to this”. It’s kinda rude, but not as rude as having to endure unwanted hugs.
          – If it works in your office, instigate a Red/Green system where you have a green sign up when you’re available for questions, etc. and a Red Focused Work Mode sign when you’re busy and don’t want to be interrupted.
          Hope some of these help! Good luck!

          1. no hugs 4 me*

            Thank you very much for the suggestions! I might use one with some modification while I pray for another opportunity to come my way. Also, love the username!

            1. Totally Minnie*

              Do you have a sense for what would happen if they went in for a hug and you said “Oh, I’m not much of a hugger, actually. Can we (handshake/high-five/other thing you’d be cool with) instead?”

              1. no hugs 4 me*

                I have social anxiety, and I’m sorry if this doesn’t seem to make sense, but I genuinely doubt I could say that outloud when someone’s about to hug me :/

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Listen through ther podcasts to the one where it came up and chant along with Alison until you can channel her like an Oscar winning actress?

    25. sassypants*

      I think it depends on industry. I worked at a corporate office for a retail store and we did cheers once a month (but it was literally thousands of us) and it was a “pep-rally” type environment. In a “traditional” office setting I think it would be abnormal.

    26. Lil Sebastian*

      I work in a field that is very team focused and some people actually live where we work (I work in a residence/student services department at a college), and even I think the hugging is abnormal. I think I’ve only hugged or been hugged in very specific situations (e.g. was hugged by close coworkers when I announced a pregnancy, hugged a staff member who was very upset)…and I asked/was asked if a hug was ok first!

      1. Just wondering*

        I’m glad they asked! That is so rare. Especially toward pregnant women — people seem to think pregnant women’s bodies are community property. I like the shirt that Angela in The Office was given when she was pregnant that says “Ask Then Touch.”

    27. Diet Root Beer*

      Am I the only one who wouldn’t leave a job over this? Like, it’s dumb for sure but if you have to do three dumb things a day (and each dumb thing takes 2 seconds) for a job you otherwise like, that really doesn’t seem worth the hassle of finding a whole new job…I think people here are too quick to suggest just quitting over relatively minor annoyances.

      1. no hugs 4 me*

        Some things that other commenters are mentioning is accurate — There is very little respect or even acknowledgement of boundaries. I’ll find myself sending emails from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m. some days. For example, when I missed a Friday to get a restraining order against someone who assaulted me, HR asked what happened, expressed sympathy and then asked if I could come in on Saturday.

        I am an introvert who loves boundaries and doesn’t mind drawing a line, but it can feel like I’m doing that constantly.

        1. Batman*

          Oh, wow, that’s awful. Do you not have PTO or any sort of time off? I don’t know your workplace, but asking me to come in on a weekend is a no go for me.

          1. no hugs 4 me*

            Yes, we get PTO and sick days, and I used PTO the day of the hearing. Pretty much every time upper management is in town, we’re asked to work late/on the weekends just for the fun of it. I’ve never obliged and I feel bad for the ones who feel compelled to.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          You didn’t ask but I’ll volunteer: “Sorry to hear about your being assaulted, but can you come in on the weekend ” = NOT NORMAL

      2. Laoise*

        I wouldn’t leave for dumb things or minor annoyances.

        But non-consensual physical intimacy is NOT a minor annoyance. Repeated and intentional physical intimacy without consent from superiors to employees is a serious issue.

        It might not be a thing you personally want to quit over — but it’s not a small issue because you happen to be okay with it.

        I’d stay in a job with the cheers and the greetings, even though I’d seriously hate it. I wouldn’t stay in a job where I was repeatedly intimately touched without my consent.

      3. Lavender Menace*

        Well, first of all, different things rise to different levels for folks. Required hugs violate all kinds of bodily autonomy and privacy norms. They’re not just mildly annoying or minor annoyances for the majority of people.

        But secondly, this is also about what these kinds of behaviors signifies – a weird, culty culture that ends up expecting unreasonable loyalty or workloads from employees because they are “family.”

    28. Light37*

      Your family can’t suspend you or fire you. Your company can. Do not let them confuse the two.

    29. Burned Happy Helper*

      GTFO-they are crazies. +1 on the other comment mentioning how they’ll exploit your emotions and then lay you off without warning. I also was in a company like this, and they did something else: upper management was too dumb to figure out department goals/strategy type stuff so they’d ask us all for “feedback” since we were all “closer to the work than them”. I gave a lot of pretty good strategy and planning consulting (my 1-1’s were more like advice sessions) but once things changed and I lost touch with the flow of the happenings in the business (through their decision to move me into another dept) I was demoted in a particularly public and nasty way. Watch out and shop the ol’ resume around!

    30. Coder von Frankenstein*

      On a scale of “normal” to “not normal,” this is approximately OMGWTF.

    31. Onyx*

      The “hi” and “bye” thing is more normal, I’ve had colleagues get really bent out of shape over that. It’s an unwritten cultural expectation though, a meeting is too far.

      The rest? No.No. No.

  5. Stuart Minionh*

    How common is it for employers to reimburse for interview expenses when the interview is 1-2 hours away by car? The mileage isn’t too far, but it’s one metro area to another.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I don’t think it’s very common. You presumably applied to this job knowing that yo’d have to travel for the interview and factored that into your decision to apply. I think companies that reimburse for travel are typically doing so for very senior roles or very niche fields.

      1. Anon for now*

        In my field I would never assume I would have to pay my own way to an interview. If I did that would be a major red flag. So it’s a know your industry thing.

        1. cmcinnyc*

          In my industry it is almost unheard-of for any kind of interview reimbursement except at the highest leadership levels. Definitely know your industry.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Even if it’s a town/city within commuting distance? I’m thinking about the DC Metro area; if I worked in Maryland but was interviewing for a company based in Virginia for which I wouldn’t have to move house, I wouldn’t think to ask for mileage reimbursement or Uber fare or anything. In my experience, if the presumption is that I could commute to the job from my current home, it’s on me to get to the interview.

          Very curious what field always pays for interview-related expenses!

          1. Cephie*

            When I was in college in a Maryland suburb of DC, both companies that I interviewed with in a Virginia suburb offered me mileage reimbursement! But those were software engineering jobs and I was a student, so I would definitely believe that was unusual.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I’ve driven all over Chicagoland for interviews and never been reimbursed, nor for train tickets downtown. But they may be deductible on your taxes if you itemize.

      1. Jamie*

        I once got my parking validated at an interview downtown but otherwise I’ve never heard of it. (also Chicago area)

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I could see parking validation – I have had that happen – but never reimbursement for mileage, tolls, CTA/Metra ticket or anything like that.

      2. Natalie*

        Not any longer, unfortunately – all miscellaneous deductions (the ones subject to the 2% floor) were suspended as part of the tax bill last year.

        1. ThatGirl*

          ah, never mind then. I didn’t pay much attention to that because I didn’t have anything like that to deduct this year.

    3. Anonym*

      In my ~15 years of professional life, I’ve never heard of mileage being reimbursed for an interview, for what that’s worth.

      1. your favorite person*

        I have, exactly one time. It was actually for my very first professional interview. I was interviewing with an NPO from (technically) out of state. It was a four hour drive and they had me for two in-person interviews and I was mileage for both.

    4. Emmie*

      I have not heard of this before. Asking for reimbursement would raise red flags because the company may already be worried that the commute is too much for you, or that you will not move for the position.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      I’ve had expenses like that reimbursed one time when the position was local but for some reason the interview had to be at a different location (same state but a few hours round trip).

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      Not really normal. It’s never been offered when I’ve been interviewing.

      Mind you, I’d take it if it were :)

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        (Couple of weeks back I travelled from near London to Glasgow for interview. About 500 miles. No reimbursement discussed or expected.)

            1. SebbyGrrl*

              OMG! I love you BOTH so much right now!

              I’m in a weird place where AAM is kinda my ‘office time’ and right now I adore my coworkers!

        1. Michaela*

          Similarly for me, except it was Canberra to Melbourne and around 700km.

          I did get peeved when I got there, and found out that the hiring managers did not expect me to travel, and it was just what their HR had decided. They’re currently doing background and reference checks at the moment, so there’s a fair chance I’m going to get an offer, which will probably make me less annoyed.

    7. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

      I think if you would have to move to accept the job, getting reimbursed for travel expenses is normal. If you would just have a long commute, it’s not.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s exactly the measure I would use. My partner was reimbursed for mileage when he drove four hours to an interview (that they would have flown him in for, but he offered to drive because of an expedited timeline), but he won’t be reimbursed when he drives 20 minutes away for another interview.

        1. londonedit*

          That’s what I was going to say. Going on my own experience here, a 1-hour commute into central London from the outer boroughs where most people live isn’t uncommon, and even a 90-minute or 2-hour commute really isn’t unheard of, as plenty of people live in suburban towns and catch the train to the city to work. You wouldn’t expect to be reimbursed for travel to an interview if that journey was going to end up being your normal everyday commute. If you were moving to a different city, or for some reason the interview was at a different and out-of-the-way location from the one you’d be regularly working at, then I think most companies would reimburse travel costs.

      2. JR*

        In general, I agree with this, though I also think it’s normal not to reimburse for travel if they aren’t doing a national search. If they are expecting their interview pool to come from their area and you just happen to be applying because you want to move to their area? Not on them to pay for the interview. If they are conducting a national (or regional) search because they don’t think they find what they’re looking for in the local area, or if they proactively recruit you? Definitely on them to pay for travel.

    8. Ruth (UK)*

      I think it varies by region and job type. Here (I work in admin at a uni) they reimburse a lot of interview expenses for academic posts but generally not admin or tech ones. Driving 1-2 hours is generally considered less normal by UK people than US people though.

      In conclusion, I don’t think it would be very normal and isn’t something a think a candidate should ask for but I wouldn’t be wildly shocked if a company offered it.

    9. CTT*

      I think this is field-specific, because I was going to say “very common” but judging by everyone else’s comments that’s not standard. FWIW, if you’re travelling for a law firm interview, they’ll reimburse you, at least if it’s a medium or larger firm.

    10. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Generally not normal. The exception may be for areas where parking options are very expensive parking (e.g., midtown Manhattan or San Francisco Financial District) where you may get your parking reimbursed, but no the mileage.

    11. Alara*

      In my large company, we look at the distance between your residence and the interview facility, and reimburse if it falls outside of a certain range. This seems normal to me.

    12. Catsaber*

      I don’t see 1-2 hours away as really significant travel, so I would not reimburse a candidate for expenses. We have some people who have 1 hour+ commutes and they aren’t reimbursed either.

      I work for a state university, and there are strict rules about reimbursement, but I don’t think this would be common even in private companies, simply because that length of a drive isn’t really seen as “travel”. If it was several hours, or included an overnight stay, then there might be more reason for reimbursement.

    13. kittymommy*

      My inclination is that it is uncommon even for higher up positions (my employer certainly wouldn’t do it).

    14. Anonymous Poster*

      Varies by field. I’ve worked in one field where mileage would have been paid, and in another where travel for interviews is not reimbursed.

    15. Asenath*

      At my level, never. I suspect that even at higher level jobs, where reimbursement is the norm, they’d only pay it if the applicant was coming from much further away.

    16. AnotherJill*

      For academic positions, where it is most common for applicants to come from out of town, most universities will also reimburse local mileage expenses, just to treat everyone in the exact same way.

    17. DouDou Paille*

      I’ve been working in various fields for 25 years and have never had an employer pay for interview travel expenses unless they flew me there and put me up in a hotel. I recently drove three hours across my state for an interview and even stayed overnight in an AirBnb, but never dreamed of asking them for reimbursement. For context, it’s a mid-level position (not c-suite) and the industry is marketing-adjacent, so this is normal, IMO. If you want the job, sometimes you have to suck up some expenses.

    18. Adalind*

      Not common. My previous coworker had about a 3 hour commute (round trip due to traffic). If you are coming in for an interview then you have a reasonable expectation that this commute is okay for you. My coworker knew what he was getting into and they would never have dreamed of reimbursing for an interview. Maybe could claim on taxes once hired? I can imagine higher positions where you have to travel further distances may reimburse. Or as others said, may depend on the field.

    19. ginkgo*

      Interestingly, I have an interview next week with a tech company in Silicon Valley (I’m in SF – it’s probably an hour drive) that will reimburse for rideshare (Uber/Lyft), but not for mileage if you drive. I don’t think the distance matters per se, but I’m guessing they offer this as a way to avoid excluding candidates who live in SF and don’t have a car, since it’d otherwise be difficult/expensive to make it to the interview (whereas once they’re in, they’d get to use the fancy company shuttle).

      I also interviewed with the corporate office of one of the rideshare companies last year (within the same city), and they gave me a coupon for a free ride to/from the office with their service. Though that was more “look how great we are!”

      So it’s not unheard of in tech, but probably still not the norm.

    20. smoke tree*

      I’ve never been offered reimbursement for driving, or even for taking a ferry to an interview, although that may be industry-specific. I would only really expect it for a flight, and even then I suspect not all employers could afford it.

    21. designbot*

      Interview expenses vary greatly by field in the first place. In design, it’s abnormal to be reimbursed at all, even for a cross country flight, until you get to Director level.

    22. Ra94*

      In my industry (graduate law jobs in the UK), firms would always offer to reimburse all travel expenses- anything from a bus ticket to a plane fare- up to £60-100. This was for full-day assessments, though, and it’s part of a big push to increase access- with the idea of attracting talented students from around the country who might be looking at a very expensive train fare.

    23. Pomona Sprout*

      I’ve been reimbursed for travel experiences only in the case of interviews that were far enough away to involve an overnight stay. If it’s only couple hours away? Not gonna happen. Hope this helps.

    24. Emilitron*

      There’s a boundary between “local candidate” and “bringing a candidate in” that seems to be defined by whether you were staying overnight. If they’re reimbursing you for a hotel room, then drive mileage or transit cost is also reimbursed. I’ve heard new employees at my suburban workplace complain about this; urban graduates aren’t going to have a car, we’re barely accessible by public transit (2hrs for 20 miles), uber-etc can run $50 each way, and the company doesn’t reimburse local candidates for anything.

    25. Moonstorm*

      I have never heard of being reimbursed for driving. I work in an office setting. If you have to fly out, however, they should reimburse you.

    26. quirkypants*

      It’s not normal in my industry (tech, in Canada) for only a couple hours of driving.

      Reimbursement happens from time to time for LONGER distances (i.e. if you must fly or take a non-commute train) AND,
      – You’ve been recruited/sought out by them, or,
      – You’re very senior, or,
      – You’re a very difficult to recruit for role.

      If you applied to a job, I’d assume you would get yourself to the interview in all but very extreme cases (that said, I don’t hire for very senior roles).

    27. PoliLaw Wonk*

      Lawyer here–one super niche consideration–if you’re coming from the government space and moving into the private sector, depending on what jurisdiction you work for, you may not be able to accept the travel reimbursement from a private company, because it might considered a personal gift. This is especially true if the private company is a vendor or a lobbyist employer. A lot of jurisdictions exempt these types of expenditures from the ethics/gift restrictions–but I’ve had to nix reimbursements for interview expenses on behalf of some current gov employees.

  6. Detective Rosa Diaz*

    I worked for a company that wanted me to use my personal cell phone for calls for them but did not pay any portion of the bill. I refused. Soon after I was fired for “not being a team player” – personally, I think equipment should be provided if it is necessary for my job, or if you want me to use my personal device (and have random clients have my PERSONAL number) then you should pay for it. Am I wrong?

    1. gecko*

      I’d say you’re not wrong, but it is pretty normal for companies to have sloppy and bad BYOD policies.

      1. designbot*

        +1 to this. I’ve never worked somewhere that paid for employee cell phones below the Partner level. And we ALL have our email on here, and we’re on the phone with contractors all the time.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Yah, but that’s email via an app. So the client still doesn’t have your personal info. And I imagine the need to check said email isn’t constant but when you have a super important deadline, correct? So that’s kind of self-selecting instead of going into the office early and starting email from there.

          1. designbot*

            Contractors call me and wake me up at 6am. Clients call me at 7:30 at night. My boss texts me on the weekends. If I tried to opt out I would be making things much, much more difficult for everyone.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I don’t think so. I would be rather alarmed to have my personal cell available (and then presumably at any time of the day or night) to any random client. I have always, even at teeny poor county departments, been issued a Work Cell if I am needed to be reachable by work-related entities via not-desk-phone.

      1. CustServGirl*

        I don’t have a work cell, and while many of my colleagues use their personal devices for work, there are very few select people I give my personal number to for work use- all outside clients MUST use business email or my office line. I will not put myself in a position where I have my entire work world calling or texting me at all hours for information.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Yes, absolutely this! One thing my work has is an app that runs our work phone. Generally I use it via the work laptop i have, but if the internet goes down at home since I’m 100% remote, I can make and take calls through my work line on my cell phone. It has saved me on a couple occasions, but I only use it if the internet is down.

          I would never make a work call from my cell phone number. Nope nope nope.

      2. AnnaBananna*

        Yup. I don’t need to be butt or drunk dialed by a client on the weekend. Nope nope nope.

    3. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I’d worry not so much about the money, but security – in my office, we’re highly discouraged from calling clients on our phones and told to get a Google Voice number if we absolutely must, so that random people don’t have our numbers. That a company wouldn’t offer even that workaround sounds like they don’t care for your safety.

      1. Exceler*

        In my experience, its not normal to be that concerned about security when you’re calling clients. Of course, that depends on what kind of clients you work with.

        1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          Well, for us “clients” mean “people we’re offering legal help to,” and so the safety factor is in giving your personal number to people who might be upset at a potential legal outcome, especially if the reason they need legal help is because they lack self-control, respect for boundaries, or an understanding of appropriate behavior.

          But it’s not necessarily a physical safety thing – what if a client keeps calling at odd hours, or multiple times per day? What if a client misuses that personal number to ask you out on dates? And what about a generalized separation of work and personal time? Those are also all reasons to not give out your personal number.

        2. Ra94*

          As a young woman, I can’t think of a job where I *would* feel completely safe giving out my personal number to strangers.

      2. 8DaysAWeek*

        This is what I was going to suggest if you were forced to use your own phone. I have a google voice number for people who I don’t want to have my real number.

        But to answer the original question, if it is a large company especially, I don’t think this is normal. At my company though, you have to be a certain level (director and above) to be issued a company cell phone or have your personal phone bill reimbursed.

    4. r2g*

      I think this is normal, unfortunately, especially in younger companies — I’ve had to do this at two jobs in a row, and now have an office phone but am expected to use my personal phone for calls as needed. I work in marketing.

      My husband is a civil engineer at a more established company and is expected to be on calls far more frequently than me (with contractors, clients, co-workers, etc), and his company reimburses for phone use. He’s expected to use his own phone, though they offer incentives to offset phone costs.

    5. Drax*

      not normal. Not not normal. When I said I didn’t want to use my phone for work, the agreement I got was my bosses/ coworkers could contact me but no customers and that was fair.

      when I was required to be on call constantly, they gave me a phone.

    6. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      Normal, my company heavily pushes BYOD (and if you accept it, you incur the costs), but you can choose to have a company provided device

    7. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yeah this is pretty normal, that you use your own device for calls and emails without reimbursement.

    8. AliasMace*

      This has happened to me – generally a sign that the workplace in question has poor personal/professional boundaries. This is not standard practice at companies that have their shit together.

    9. Jamie*

      I agree with you – this is one of my pet peeves actually…but it’s crazy common.

      As IT I fought this at more than one company and my little wins of getting people company phones or reimbursement for their personal usage made me happy … although made some of tptb think I was a rabble rousing pita.

    10. Wendy Darling*

      Also chiming in with “not uncommon but also not great”.

      I use my personal number for work stuff because I work from home so I don’t have a desk phone and we basically never use phones – I think I’ve gotten all of 3 work calls in 18 months and they were all coworkers. I’m kind of wanting to take my cell number out of my email signature though because if a client ever called me I would actually die.

    11. Mockingjay*

      Did the company provide a landline or VOIP phone?

      If so, requiring you to use your cell is NOT normal, unless your role involves calls outside business hours. In that case, they should pay at least a portion of your phone bill. And the landline or VOIP number can be forwarded to your cell, so the number appearing is a company number.

      If no, requiring to use your cell without compensation is NOT normal.

    12. Ann Furthermore*

      I worked for a company that did this too, and I found it really annoying. It was a small company though, and they did a lot of corner-cutting stuff like that. We also used the free version of Skype for IM’ing, and had to rely on the crappy internet provided by the landlord because it was included with the rent and the owner didn’t want to spend the money to get something better. At a software company, of all things. Much of the time I felt like I was working for a company being run out of someone’s mom’s basement.

      I now work for another small company, about the same size as that one (around 50 employees). We are expected to use our cell phones for some stuff (dual authentication and so on), but there is a VOIP system that we use for calls, and we have Microsoft Teams (similar to Slack) for inter-office communications and IM’ing. It’s much more professional and above-board.

      So yeah, there are companies that choose to shift alot of the costs of running a business onto their employees, so it’s not abnormal, but it is a crappy way to run a company.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think asking you to use your personal cell phone for dual authentication is reasonable and you shouldn’t need to be reimbursed for it.
        But if they want you to use your personal phone, I think they should be paying you SOMEthing toward your monthly bill. Even if your costs don’t go up. They’re saving money by piggybacking on your personal expenditures.

        So it might not be uncommon, but it’s Not Cool.

        (and yes, a Google Voice number, and don’t forget that you can turn GV’s forwarding on and off, so that after-work calls go to a voicemail)

    13. Aveline*

      If you do this, remember you might be able to claim it on your taxes. In some cases you can’t, but I’ve had friends do it successfully.

      1. CAA*

        Unfortunately, the deduction for unreimbursed job expenses was eliminated by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.

    14. Juniantara*

      This is not uncommon at smaller, less security-minded companies. Depending on a bunch of details, they can make you provide your own “tools” and you can deduct the costs on your taxes.
      If you are non-exempt, they would have to pay you for any time you took calls. If you are exempt (“salary”) you don’t really have a lot of recourse.

    15. Aunt Piddy*

      It’s increasingly common but it SUCKS. Corporations shouldn’t offload overhead to their employees.

      If this comes up again, though, get a google voice number.

    16. Observer*

      You are right – and in some places what happened to you was illegal. But, where it is legal it is way too common.

    17. Cringing 24/7*

      I’ve refused to use my personal cell phone for work purposes before. Especially in customer service, where I work, that just opens you up to the opportunity for so much abuse from customers at obscene hours of the day (or, likely, night) when you’re not getting paid. But, I have seen others in my industry – even in my company – using their personal cell phones to reach out to customers via text or call and it baffles me. So, I’d say it’s somewhat common but obviously poor practice. Higher-levels in my industry typically get a separate work cell phone from the company that’s paid for by the company.

    18. Keyboarding Queen*

      I work at a company that at first provided a landline. But then the leases on the VOIP phones expired and they opted not to renew. Now, we get an extra $90/month (however that is before taxes and 401(k) deferrals are deducted) to defray communications costs and they even suggested a few paid services that will give you a number that you can forward to your personal phone. I opted for Google Voice because it is free. That’s the number that I give to the client and as far as they know it is my “work” number as opposed to a cell number and I’m therefore only available during normal business hours.

    19. No real name here*

      I worked for a company that provided no device but did provide some flat reimbursement across the board. I used a Google Voice number because I didn’t want clients having my personal number, and it worked really well. It allows for a different voicemail message and to set the GV number to “do not disturb.” (For me, it got put in this mode after business hours, I was expected to be reachable during the day but not other times.) I highly recommend this for anyone who finds themselves in a similar boat.

    20. MicroManagered*

      My employer has started putting a blurb into offer letters that says something like “your salary acknowledges that your position may require occasional use of your personal cell phone or laptop.”

      The idea is that it’s 2019, so it’s not outrageous that you would be expected to use your cell phone to check email, or we have the Skype for Business app that allows us to use the company IM or even take phone calls (to our business number, which ring through to the cell), or to send or receive internal texts or calls to our personal numbers (like from the boss).

      But I would think that if they are expecting you give out a cell phone number to external parties (like clients), they should provide the phone.

    21. cmcinnyc*

      I was going to say “not normal” but reading comments, apparently it is! At my job it is *strongly* discouraged using one’s personal device for anything because a lot of our work is subject to FOIA laws–and that could open up your personal device to being FOIA-ed. NOBODY wants that. So besides the cost and the boundary, I’d consider if there might be legal hassles as well. I guess this is in the “normal but crappy” category.

    22. Jadelyn*

      Nope, I’m with you on this one. My org used to do cell phone reimbursement, and they’ve just recently restricted it to only upper management. So I uninstalled all of the programs I was using for work on my phone. I’m not donating my devices to my employer.

      Re the personal number thing, that part you might be able to get around by using a Google Voice number or something. But I still agree that use of the device, phone number sharing aside, is something they should pay for.

    23. TootsNYC*

      also, if you’re at work, you can install an app on your computer that lets you make calls from it instead of a phone.

      I haven’t found anything about receiving phone calls on the computer; there’s a reference to “PC to PC” calls, but if the person calling you is calling from a phone, G.V. may not work.

      HOWEVER, you could set G.V. up so all the calls go to voicemail, and then call back using your computer.

      1. Harvey 6-3.5*

        I don’t know about google voice, but my work phone is a VOIP on my computer. I can call and receive calls over the line (and it is the same number I had before I teleworked.

    24. MoopySwarpet*

      I don’t think the firing part is normal, but using a personal device for work is pretty normal. Without reimbursement . . . I would think that’s less common, but not unheard of.

      We reimburse phone bills for people we expect to be using their phone (sales people, mostly), but not for an employee who chooses to communicate via text or their personal phone vs email or their desk phone.

      If it comes up in the future, maybe you could use a google voice number or something similar that masks your personal number.

    25. Asenath*

      I have never worked for a company that required me to provide my own equipment. That being said, some of my co-workers do use their personal cell phones at work, even though this is not required by the employer. They just find it more convenient (we are often trying to contact co-workers who aren’t at desks). I don’t do that, and stick to my company-supplied computer and email. I see too many disadvantages to using my personal cell phone for work.

    26. Just Another Techie*

      Shitty but pretty common, IME, especially at smaller companies and newer companies.

    27. Renee*

      My company has a unique way of using personal devices. I work from home three days out of the week, and when anyone in the office wants to call me they dial my work phone, and anytime my work phone is dialed it is also routed to my personal cell phone. This way I don’t have to give out my personal number, everyone still calls me using my work number. My company does reimburse for minutes, but it’s hard to do the reimbursement because you don’t really know how many minutes are going to work calls, so you just have to guestimate.

    28. Bookwormish51*

      Not that strange. At my job, all employees have everyone’s cell numbers. This is a job with things that occasionally need to be done outside of work hours and that’s just part of the deal. We only have a few clients, and many of us give our own clients our phone numbers, but it’s optional.

    29. Xtina*

      Not normal. Our company has a really strict cell phone policy for hourly employees. If you use your personal cell phone (call or text) for company business, you MUST file for reimbursement. You can actually get written up if you don’t.

    30. Yet another Kat*

      Medium normal. I have always used my own phone for work calls/emails/texts/slack etc.

      In one place that I worked, they instituted a new security requirement that forced us to have a specific corporate-overlord work email account (not actually used by our team) on our personal phones that came with a security program that would technically allow work IT to access/lock/erase my device – in that case I pushed back and was then reimbursed for my phone bill (along with the rest of my team) for the rest of our tenure there.

    31. Wintermute*

      This very much depends who you are calling, what industry you are in and what your role is. Sadly it’s becoming more and more common for companies to require your own device to be used and not reimburse anything (for what it’s worth in places, California notably, this is not legal), but there are places, like sales, where this is very much NOT the norm. Reason being severalfold but first they don’t want you being the sole point of contact they want it being a corporate desk number clients have in case you get hit by a bus tomorrow (or leave for a competitor, because a client calling YOU could be argued to be an exception to anti-poaching contract clauses), as well as salespeople not wanting clients calling them up any time, and the company not wanting things like warranty calls or complaints to just go to some employee’s cell.

      Otherwise, pretty much normal. Google voice numbers are a beautiful thing, and can be forwarded to your cell so you’re not giving all and sundry your personal number (they can also be set NOT to forward but to voicemail all calls outside certain hours or when you’re on vacation).

    32. kay*

      I get so annoyed that at my work they don’t cover anyone’s phone bill, but have mandatory 2-factor authentication on all university systems required to do work, thus you must have a smartphone. MY smartphone. To do my job. There are authentication devices available but only to those who legitimately don’t have a cell phone. Of course, I have one, and after some pushback and asking about other options I use it. But I think it really stinks.

      1. bleh*

        I would have lied about having a cell phone. My Uni requires two-factor authorization too, and I got one of the fobs for the purpose. My phone is none-of-their-business.

    33. Mel*

      It’s totally normal for companies to want your coworkers to be able to reach you on your cell and maybe even expect you to be willing to chat with vendors on your cell, but not to have clients call you. I knew people who did give select clients their cell, but they wouldn’t just have it available to anyone.

    34. c56*

      You’re in the right here IMO. It’s not out of the ordinary for companies to have BYOD policies, or make use of personal devices a required part of the job — mine recently started requiring the use of an app for a sometimes-essential job function, and I’m not thrilled about it — but being expected to give clients your personal number would be a bridge too far for me.

    35. Someone Else*

      I would call this one “common but not normal”. The distinction I’m making being it is a widespread bad practice, and you are not unreasonable for pushing back, but I’m also not shocked they reacted the way they did. I think it’s well within reason to consider this type of thing a “you don’t want to work there anyway” factor, but moving forward you may want to confirm device policies during the interview process so you know they’re a bad fit sooner.

      1. Someone Else*

        Sorry to tack on to that: BYOD with some form of reimbursement, depending on context is reasonable to me. It’s the complete lack thereof and the “clients have your personal number” bit that makes this one cross the line to me.

    36. nora*

      You’re not wrong. However, if you have no choice but to use your own phone, learn from my fail and get a Google Voice number (they’re free). I once gave my phone number to a volunteer with severe mental health concerns that were normally under control. Then they got out of control and…yeah. This was 4ish years ago and there are still activist groups I can’t be a part of because that person is a member and I’m afraid to interact with her again.

    37. MissDisplaced*

      If it were just so your manager or coworkers could contact you outside of normal business hours occasionally, I’d say this is now a normal BYOD expectation.
      But if the phone is expected for client calls, or for monitoring social media, PR or other marcom functions the company ought to pay.

    38. Bethany*

      Piggybacking on to this, is it normal to have to use your personal mobile device for two-factor authentication purposes? I left my phone at home on Monday and was unable to use some of the software at work because I needed a verification code texted to me.

    39. JSPA*

      Good reason to get a low cost (even, flip phone and/or burn phone with limited minutes) second “own” phone. (What are they going to do, shame you for it?)

    40. A Scrummy Manager*

      Jumping on the somewhat normal, but not cool bandwagon.

      A few options:
      Google Voice
      Cheap separate phone (Mint Mobile, Ting, etc)

    41. Glitsy Gus*

      You are not wrong, but as others have said it is common.

      One option that I have used in the past is to use call forwarding from my desk phone. So, outside of business hours, my desk phone auto-forwards to my cell. That way clients still only know my work number but I don’t miss important calls. If your system can do this, I would see if it’s an alternative. I do get a few more robo-calls than I normally might, but the trade of of not having my personal number being spread around willy nilly is worth it.

    42. Onyx*

      Sucky, but pretty normal in smaller companies.

      My personal view on this is bosses and colleagues can have my personal number to discuss work-related things but clients do not unless you’re giving me a phone. Like others have said, a Google number can be useful for number privacy.

      There’s also IT security issues to think about. My company has a policy that if you have a work-related app (like email/pm app etc) on your personal phone, they have a right to go into your phone in the event of legal discovery and even wipe it if necessary. That’s a nope from me.

  7. BurnOut*

    I’ve only been out of school for a few years, and on job #2, but both have been subpar, this current role being the worst of the 2.

    I’ve been severely overworked, starting from when I was pretty much forced to take on senior responsibilities early on in my role ( still doing so, with no adjustments in compensation). My supervisor seems to think the only way I can grow professionally is to add MORE to my plate (and conversations I’ve had asked her to lessen my workload so I can have breathing room and avoid burnout have gone terribly wrong). So much of my time is already spoken for, yet there is an expectancy whenever there is an issue, as someone on the bottom of the food chain, that I’ll find the time and motivation to initiate a full-blown investigation to save the day. Every time. Oh, and with a smile on my face. Any attempt to ask for help/ make things easier for myself have blown up in my face, meanwhile when I bring up needing a salary adjustment/ more help/ all I get are excuses from my supervisor and even higher up the chain of command.

    While I think there are plenty of us who have a lot to juggle, is a HUGE disconnect between what I am and the general experience… What is most challenging about my current situation is my company keeps winning these awards for best place to work in our metro area. I keep telling myself if this was true, I’d know it. You don’t tell someone this is the best place to work- you feel it. But all I feel is taken advantage of.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Can you be more specific about what the piece is where you want to know if it’s normal? (I want to avoid this becoming people just posting the reasons they dislike their job.)

    2. AccountantWendy*

      Find an new job. I’ve been you. It’s not going to get better. Alison has a LOT of advice on how to talk to managers about priorities. If you read that and tried it and aren’t getting results, it’s definitely time to leave.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      I have actually encountered something like this and (after leaving) realized that the department was bad, not the company as a whole. I knew people who loved working there and stayed there nearly all of their careers and brought in their kids as interns and some of them eventually got jobs there. Meanwhile my department had over 50% turnover each year with the exception of one small segment that was sort of its own little island.
      Your company may be great for 90% of the employees but you got stuck with the shit-show of a manager/team.

    4. Meraydia*

      In some ways normal (development trial by fire is common in a lot of companies). The awards are not shocking – IME Companies pay for entry and as long as they meet the metrics and provide florid descriptions of their wonderful work culture they can win them easily.

      1. Busy*

        Yeah I feel like you gotta side eye these. I mean who are the people responding? It is so arbitrary.

    5. BurnOut*

      Thank you for those who have commented- I’m just trying to gauge if its normal for me to be so miserable in a place that is supposedly “the best of the best’? Where do I go from here?! I don’t want to keep making the same mistakes. It looks like evaluating the team/ manager style would be the best thing for me to keep in mind as I try to escape from this torture!

      I appreciate the advice and care

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Time to look elsewhere. During the interview process, ask to speak to some people who would be your coworkers to get an idea of working styles as well as ask a few discreet questions about their favorite and least favorite parts of working there. Try to have that talk without the manager present for a slightly more candid response.
        If that isn’t possible but you met a few people and got names, reach out via LinkedIn with some of those questions. You might even start with that since even without a manager present they might be more frank in a more anonymous setting.

      2. Asenath*

        It is normal (well, in the sense that it’s not totally bizarre) to be miserable in a workplace that other people find the best of the best – it might be that you’re ill-suited to the job, or that your department is the exception and the rest of the company is much better-run. It’s not normal, in another sense of “normal”. Most people are not miserable all the time on the job. If you are miserable, you can certainly look for a transfer within the company (in case the other departments are what gives them their reputation) or elsewhere.

      3. NowWhat??*

        Oh no. If they’re marketing themselves as “the best of the best” then that’s a red flag in my book. However, if they’re considered “best of the best” in the industry, that’s a different story.

        It’s not normal. But it also may just be not the right fit for you. In the past, I’ve seen a few of my colleagues in the same role as me get flustered and overwhelmed with a typical amount of work for the role, and asked that their load be lessened. I’ve also been the person given extra projects or emergencies since they thought “you’re low, you must have the bandwidth!” Though it was maybe a once a month occurrence that interrupted my work for a day, not constantly.

        When I interview (both for my own positions and prospective employees) I always ask people about their communication style. I feel it tells more about their management style than asking that question directly, as you’ll learn if they are someone who wants you to come to them with problems, or if they’re very independent and want others to behave similarly. It’s gotten me away from some bad managers and some potentially bad employees/coworkers.

      4. Glitsy Gus*

        If your company has any kind of company-wide social events you could go and actively try to talk to folks outside your department and get a feel for how they like working for the company or if they feel overburdened. Be discreet, but most folks the these events get pretty candid after a few drinks and it’ll at least give you a better idea whether the whole company is this way or if you just have a crap manager or a uniquely overburdened department.

        I don’t know if it will actually help you improve your personal situation, but if it is just your manager and there’s another department you might like to work for it at least gives you the option of seeing if a transfer is possible. If it’s everywhere in the company you can move on without hesitation.

      5. Argh!*

        It’s “normal” to be overworked from time to time, and in some kinds of work you pay your dues in the beginning. If this isn’t that kind of job, then you’re being exploited.

        It may well be a great place to work… in other departments. A lot depends on your boss. (Truism: People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses)

      6. Frankie*

        I think overwork situations can unfortunately be “normal,” but that doesn’t mean you need to accept it or tolerate it. There are plenty of places that don’t expect this of their employees.

        Also–the “best of the best” doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for everyone, doesn’t mean every department is great (I’ve worked for nightmare departments in otherwise great companies), etc.

        My last job was a crazy overwork situation and for me, it never got better–leadership simply didn’t want to adjust expectations to reality, and the end result was employees with horrible burnout. In my experience, you can gain skills fast in this kind of environment but you’ll pay a price, and the hope that things will change is usually futile.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Sadly, this is more common than it should be.

      From my own experience in a position where I was expected to essentially perform 2 full time jobs, I would encourage you to start looking at other options. The fact that your company is full of sycophants who have drunk the koolaid and are skewing those award results should not be a factor in your decision making process.

  8. Jennifer*

    My employer offers employees the opportunity to wear jeans every day if we donate $50 to charity. They select four different charities each quarter, we vote, and the winner receives all the donations. This past time the winner was a charity I don’t really want to support. Is this normal? I’d never heard of this before. I don’t really feel I’m being treated unfairly since I just have to dress according to the required dress code, which I agreed to do when I was hired. But again, I’ve never heard of it and it seems unusual.

    1. Lionelrichiesclayhead*

      Yes, it’s normal for companies to do a horrible job with organizing charitable donations.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Yeah, this – although, if it’s a charity you have serious objections to, you might be able to raise that with someone depending on the charity and your organizational culture.

        A few years ago, my team wanted to do some charity stuff for Xmas, and someone proposed we work with the Salvation Army. I put my foot down and explained that they are virulently anti-gay, they once allowed a trans woman to freeze to death rather than let her into their shelters, and I will never ever do anything to support them, so if they wanted to do that, I was not going to participate. My organization prides itself on diversity and inclusion, and the suggestion was made out of ignorance, so as soon as I explained why I objected everyone agreed we wouldn’t do anything with them, and the coworker who had suggested it apologized (I wasn’t mad at her, most straight people don’t know about this stuff, but she felt bad anyway).

        Dunno if this is a similar situation at your place, but is there someone you could talk to and explain why you’re not comfortable supporting the specific charity they’ve picked?

        1. Jennifer*

          There is, but it’s a bit different from your situation because I don’t think the organization is hateful, it’s just that I’ve heard from people that are more familiar with them that most of the money doesn’t go to help the people in need, it goes in their pockets. But that’s a good suggestion, thanks.

          1. 8DaysAWeek*

            I worked for a company that was a big supporter of a charity that didn’t use all the funds for the cause, too. They pushed automatic payroll deductions and donations to wear jeans, etc. If there were days where you could pay $5 to wear jeans, I would sometimes do that but I didn’t do the larger donations because I didn’t fully support this charity and I already contributed to charities that had meaning for me. Financially my charity money was already allocated.
            I think you can not participate and if anyone gives you a hard time you can say you already donate to other charities.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Ah. That is slightly different – but I think you could still raise it with whoever is picking the charities for people to vote on. Maybe suggest they use Charity Navigator or Guidestar to vet their choices before opening up voting next time?

          3. Wintermute*

            I think it takes a pretty extreme case of “this charity doesn’t match our corporate values” rather than just a charity that’s mismanaged. For what it’s worth people have a lot of misconceptions about how to read an expense report, some fields and places it takes a lot of overhead money to do good effectively. It’s one thing to expect a 90% disbursement rate from a local support charity, but if it’s an international charity doing complex work it’s not uncommon for there to be a lot of overhead– for example a charity for vaccinations in impoverished areas is going to need to hire international shipping logistics experts with a specialty in medical who don’t work on the cheap, in many cases they must pay bribes to local governments (often creatively hidden elsewhere on their budget) so their supplies aren’t confiscated for sale by some corrupt official and for the safety of their employees from violence, they have to pay local guides and experts to build bridges to the community and make the largest possible impact for their resources, etc.

              1. Wintermute*

                That’s very fair, I just thought it worth pointing out because a lot of people put a ton of stock in the overhead percentage not realizing some kinds of charity, that do real good, have legitimate overhead requirements: there’s a gulf of difference between Medicins San Frontiers and Susan G. Komen (though MSF is nowhere NEAR as high for overhead and that says a lot given what they do requires getting people into war zones with medical supplies)

            1. JR*

              Thanks for raising this! I also think high(-ish) salaries aren’t necessarily an indication as of mismanagement, but can instead mean they’re investing in their people and recruiting great people with lots of options. Dan Pallota and Vu Le have both done some great work in this area.

          4. Maria*

            When you say “their pockets”, does that mean they pay their people well? NP executive over here grateful that I make enough to do good work, and appalled at how many NP’s are being starved down to gross incompetence. I manage millions and have MBA student loans to repay – its reasonable for me to expect to make enough for good childcare and a 401k.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Agree with this assessment – I’m not a fan of pay-to-dress-down fundraisers to begin with, but I also think that $50 is high and would want a say in where my money went (like pro-rating donations based on percentage of vote).

        My organization does mostly straight matching contributions over certain levels and with very few restrictions. The list of organizations that end up with matches is impressively broad, and it basically killed any infighting about people’s pet causes. (Apparently, the charitable giving committee the first couple years was a hot mess, so they switched tacts.) I’m sure it’s murder on our finance department at year-end, but our CFO is a genius at efficiency and probably has it down to a science.

    2. Rose*

      Jeans for charity is very normal. $50 is higher than I have heard though and in most places the charities are either tied to the mission/business type or generic community service orgs. So not abnormal per se, but a little off kilter.

      1. facepalm*

        $50 is high but only b/c most places tend to do jeans Fridays, not jeans every day.
        (But I would 100% pay $50 to wear jeans every day and wouldn’t even care if it went to charity or the president’s ski vacation, personally, ha :) )

      2. ThatGirl*

        My last job it was a set amount per year (I forget the exact amount, but around $40 I think?) or $2 per week to wear jeans on Wednesdays – and that money went to our charitable arm. Thing is, nobody ever checked to see if you had your badge or sticker :P

      3. Auddish*

        My last job, the “jeans” days were only Thursday/Fridays and employees had to pay $100 (but it was a recurring donation taken straight from your paycheck twice a month, so it turned out to be $4ish/pay period.) $50 for every day seems great to me.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Maybe this is because I’m working at a company with casual dress code where we wear jeans every day regardless, but I find the idea of *paying* to be able to wear jeans super weird and really off-putting. Either allow jeans or don’t, why tie it to a pay-in scheme?

          1. ContentWrangler*

            Yes I agree – either you have the type of job where presentation matters and jeans aren’t formal enough, or jeans are fine and people can wear them and still do their jobs. Paying for them is weird.

            1. Yvonne*

              At my job we can pay to wear jeans on Fridays (and certain other times of year every day) but it’s made clear that if you are dealing with outside clients on those days you still need to dress professionally.

          2. Parenthetically*

            +1000, literally I am WTFing about this, either it matters if you wear jeans or it doesn’t!?!

          3. Bookworm1858*

            Yep, I find this super weird as well! Though I did work at a grocery store where we had to wear black dress pants and could pay to wear jeans instead…don’t remember all of the details with that since it’s been over 10 years.

          4. RPCV*

            Agreed. An employee giving campaign once auctioned off “jeans OK!” stickers where you could, presumably, wear jeans that day, but jeans were totally allowed under our dress code. People wore them all the time. I didn’t get it.

          5. I Took A Mint*

            I’m not allowed to wear jeans at work and I think it’s really weird too. Can I pay to wear leggings? PJs? A cape? A sword? Why am I paying my work for the privilege of breaking the rules? Can I pay to break other rules? None of this makes sense to me.

      4. Oatmeal’s Gone*

        Normal – the donation at my job is $5 per day (only on Thursdays), so $50 a year would be great. We do a different charity each week (with some repeats) and divide the money collected evenly among the charities selected that week.

      5. MsClaw*

        A family member worked in a place where it was *$500* per year to wear jeans on Friday.

        Family member did not wear jeans.

        1. LJay*

          My company had 2 tiers. $100 got you every Friday. $500 got you every day.

          But then they decided that since they had gotten above a certain total donation amount, everyone could wear jeans every day, minus certain days or weeks when VIPs are around.

          I’m not sure if they reimbursed people who had “brought” the jeans passes or not.

          I’m warehouse and so can wear jeans anyway so didn’t pay attention.

      6. Totally Minnie*

        We used to do a charitable donation for one extra day of jeans per week (everybody gets Friday, if you work on Fridays. If you pull the weekend shift and get Friday off, no jeans day for you that week), and it was $1 from each paycheck. So a total of $26 a year for one extra casual day a week. $50 for jeans every day? I’d do that in a heartbeat.

    3. Plebeian Trash*

      There are a LOT of offices that do this and although the intent is good I think that it can be problematic for several reasons. One of which is having charities which not all people support, and also if a more casual dress is fine if you donate then why on earth is it not ok if you don’t.

      That said…pretty normal…happens a lot.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        I agree, and also, I don’t like the idea of having it be so easily visually identifiable who has donated and who hasn’t. I think it can create a weird peer pressure environment.

        Like what if there’s a scenario where someone sincerely finds a charity problematic, but is the only person in their team not to donate? Then they’re singled out by their clothes every day. SMH. Though common, I don’t think it should be made so one can feel shamed for not donated.

    4. Peridot*

      I think it may depend on the charity. I’m not a fan of Salvation Army because of their policies towards LGBT people, but I think I’d have a hard time pushing back against them in a lot of workplaces. I could try, but no guarantee. Other charities, you could much more easily make a case for their being divisive.

      As far as requiring a donation in order to get a perk, I’ve definitely heard of it. It doesn’t seem fair, because it’s going to penalize people who just don’t have the disposable income.

      1. Jadelyn*

        “it’s going to penalize people who just don’t have the disposable income.” Thank you for saying that – I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I found the idea so off-putting, but that’s it right there. When you tie a perk to donations, now it’s a perk that functionally is only available to your wealthier staff members.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Annnnd others don’t get to decide who has disposable income and who doesn’t. That doesn’t work for [list of 1000 reasons].

        2. Maya Elena*

          When the stakes are this small, people who are materially harmed are going to be rare edge cases. For the vast majority, I feel like the spiral of “nobody can have perk X if we cannot make it 100% inclusive and accommodating and identical for all conceivable cases” just breeds resentment and creates a net negative for society. Plus, what value are one’s beliefs if one doesn’t suffer for them by enduring slacks and skirts? Hehe.

          1. Peridot*

            I’m not sure I understand. You’re saying that $50 one way or another will only make a difference in “rare edge cases”? I disagree with that. I also don’t like that it’s such an obvious visual signifier. Why aren’t you wearing jeans? Didn’t you donate to the orphaned whales charity? Do you hate orphaned whales? If you can afford a dress wardrobe, can’t you just donate the $50? Why did you donate this quarter and not last quarter? How come you support bereaved manatees but not orphaned whales?

        3. Wintermute*

          I’m more bothered by the “it class signifies by creating a visible representation of who is paying and who needs that money elsewhere more”.

    5. Eeyore's missing tail*

      I’ve heard of companies doing this. Can you reach out to the group that selects the charity and and explain why everyone may no be thrilled to donate to them?

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s a good idea but the thing is, the employees selected this charity. I got outvoted. So I wonder if that argument will hold water.

        1. Eeyore's missing tail*

          It may not, but if one of their 4 charities people can pick from may offend others, it could be worth a shot.

          1. valentine*

            You can ask to limit the scope or to set standards.

            But this is galling when the company can just donate or allow jeans.

        2. Jadelyn*

          It can still signal that they need to be more careful in which charities they allow as options.

        3. Mr. Shark*

          I would hate that. It seems ridiculous to have the company dictate who you are supporting (or whether you are supporting any charity at all–I think it’s really none of my company’s business).

          Maybe just tell them that you are going to donate to a different charity–say, the Human Fund–in place of the one that they chose, and wear jeans when everyone else does.

          1. Win*

            This kind of pushback IMO is what leads to the end of these programs. The company has 4 options and an employee vote to chose the employees pick. There are 10000 reasons many people wouldn’t agree on the charities picked, which is why there is a vote. Many companies are just going to set it up without a vote at all.

            Easy answer, don’t donate or wear jeans if you feel very strongly about the orgs.

    6. facepalm*

      My mom’s company does jeans days like this, I think to benefit United Way. It reminds me of the local elementary school that does “no-uniform Fridays” if you pay as a school fundraiser.

      1. Cercis*

        Ours was United Way. It was in addition to our charitable giving campaign, which annoyed me, because I donated at a pretty high level through the campaign and then they wanted to also nickel and dime me. I just refused and when I was asked by coworkers about it said that I’d already given enough. One supervisor, who saw my donation sheet, tried to go to bat for me and another person who donated at a higher level but the giving chair refused to budge. I commented that next year I’d just reduce my donation by $150 and then I’d donate to wear jeans whenever I was interested in wearing jeans (which would not have cost me $150, so it would have been a net loss for them).

        I then left employment before the next campaign. So I didn’t have to make that decision.

    7. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      It seems weird to me that a company has a dress code but lets you pay to get out of it. The point of a dress code is to project a certain image of professionalism (whether that’s internally or for the benefit of clients). Either they care about the dress code, in which case they should enforce it evenly, or they don’t, in which case they shouldn’t have one.

      1. Jennifer*

        Good point. When we have client visits they send messages reminding us to dress up the following day. I’m glad I dress up anyway because I don’t have to worry about accidentally showing up in jeans and a hoodie when a big client is here.

    8. BlueWolf*

      We used to do the occasional Friday jeans days for charity, but they would say ahead of time what the charity was so I suppose you could pick and choose which ones to support. The amount varied depending on your position level as well from $5 to $20 per time.

    9. Jamie*

      Seems this is fairly common in corporate environments. I work in manufacturing so our business casual usually includes jeans anyway.

    10. Four lights*

      Overall normal, though I find it weird that every day is jeans day. I’ve usually seen it for dress down Friday.

    11. Arctic*

      It’s very common to pay like $5 and wear jeans on Friday. I haven’t heard the $50 to wear them all the time (although with the numbers game I guess it is a better deal?)

      Picking charities is always fraught.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yes, the $50 and jeans every day is what seems weird. Plus there’s at least one day a week where we have to dress up anyway because clients will be here, whether you paid or not.

    12. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

      Many companies do tend to do a crap job when it comes to charity and corporate giving, etc. so that’s normal.

      Depressing, but normal. (I’m lucky my employer does a really good job on this).

    13. Akcipitrokulo*

      Raising money for charity is certainly normal. The choice of charity? I don’t know what is universally normal, but at my work we have criteria for selecting charities with which to partner, and one of them is that the charity is not political or divisive (within reason). We’ve supported a charity which places children with adopters, a local mental health charity, and some prison reform & refugee charities have also been considered. Things like Autism Speaks wouldn’t be allowed, for example.

      1. Piper*

        Really? Autism is political or divisive but a refugee charity isn’t? Huh that’s interesting. I honestly don’t understand that. Can someone explain?

        1. NeonFireworks*

          Sure thing! It’s not that it’s about autism; it’s that the choice of Autism Speaks is a poor one for anyone who wants to support autistic folks. The group was founded by misguided neurotypical people and still has minimal/no input from anyone actually on the spectrum. The way the group talks about neuro-atypicality advances the (inaccurate, harmful, patronizing) narrative that autistic folks are a “burden” who need to be “cured,” which is not just ableist but in-line with eugenics. Excellent alternative: Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN). Spread the word!

        2. Emby*

          Autism Speaks is not liked by many Austic people, as it doesn’t center their voices, and treats autism as a burden to caregivers and therefore something to be cured, which is not the view held by many Autistic people.

    14. StressedButOkay*

      I work for a nonprofit and this is a pretty normal technique. If you do want to participate but have issues with the charities being picked, you could always ask how these charities are picked and if staff can have input. And that staff know upfront each time what charity the funds will be going to.

    15. Hallowflame*

      Normal. My company does a jeans-everyday donation drive benefiting March of Dimes. $40 a month, or $100 for the quarter.

    16. Asenath*

      It happens, sure. It’s always a bit tricky getting charities that everyone will support – I suppose at least your employer has a vote on it.

    17. Sleepytime Tea*

      I know of a number of companies who have done something like this. I personally think it’s crap. It isn’t fair to people who don’t have the cash for this, and yes, having to “donate” to a charity you don’t want to support is also crap. I truly don’t understand why companies do this. Either you’re ok with casual dress in the work place or you aren’t.

    18. Boop*

      I’ve heard of people being able to “pay” to wear more casual clothes. This is a little odd though – the idea of donating the proceeds to charity is very admirable, but then there is the problem you are facing. Even if the donations are made confidentially, what if you decide not to donate that quarter because you don’t support that charity? People will know you didn’t donate because you’re not wearing jeans, so you may be treated differently or harassed for “not supporting the cause”.
      I think this was an attempt to make the workplace seem friendly and hip, but someone didn’t think it through. Which is actually totally normal is most offices.

      1. Jennifer*

        Those are good points. Thankfully, no one is mean about it. Not everyone donates and it’s done privately. They don’t pass the hat around in front of everyone. Looking around it seems about half and half.

    19. Ralph Wiggum*

      I’ve never heard of a pay-for-dresscode scheme before.

      But it seems many other commenters have come across this, so maybe it’s regional?

    20. Safetykats*

      Normal. Actually on the liberal side of normal – I’ve been asked to donate that much to wear jeans only on Fridays. It seems like a common way of encouraging charitable donations for companies that have a “no jeans” dress code.

    21. TurquoiseCow*

      My company has casual Fridays where you can where jeans without donations, but they occasionally do a $5 for jeans donation on holidays or other special days, like around Christmas or just on minor holidays we don’t get off, like Valentine’s or St. Patrick’s. $50 seems kind of an excessive donation.

    22. Ra94*

      I interned a company that did a version of this, except it was done much more casually. On certain days, you could wear a specific outfit (e.g. a particular sports jersey on their match days) as long as you weren’t meeting clients, and someone would come round with a charity collection bucket at lunch and you were expected to put a dollar in if you were wearing the outfit. But most people donated anyways, and no one kept track of who gave and who wore the outfits. So your company’s system seems like an intense version of that, but not totally abnormal.

    23. Amethystmoon*

      It can be normal. Before my workplace went to “nice jeans as long as you are not dealing face-to-face with outside people,” we had United Way as a charity. A couple of times a year, they did campaigns and jeans stickers were an incentive to donate. The new jeans rule was instated after a bunch of financial issues & mass layoffs.

    24. Mel*

      It’s normal! My last job did this. You couldn’t choose the charity, although you could be a part of the volunteer team that decided them.

    25. Purrsnikitty*

      Wait, you have to pay to have the privilege of not obeying the dress code? Why does this seem so wrong to me? Even if the company doesn’t see the money, it’s still a privilege hidden behind a specific behaviour that has nothing to do with work. Actually, even if it was a reward for good work it would still seem wrong.

  9. Wearing Many Hats*

    Can you rephrase this so that it asks about the piece where you want to know if something is normal? – Alison

    1. Emmie*

      It’s helpful to hammer it home after a key employee departs, or after a big failure that’s tied to lack of employee development. You can also track turnover, and use statistics about training and retention. But, this company does not seem invested in this, and it will be an uphill battle. Plus, you have too many responsibilities at this company. If you really want to use those skills, this may not be the company for you. I mean this in the most friendly way, which you cannot get from text on a blog. I am sorry.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Sounds like you should be looking for a different job where your skills and interests are more valued, but this sounds pretty normal to me, sadly.

  10. Less Bread More Taxes*

    Oooh I love this because I was actually going to post in the open thread tomorrow! Okay so for context, I am youngish with 4-5 years of experience. I recently moved countries for this new job that I started less than a month ago. The work itself is interesting, and I like the people. There are just a couple of issues:

    1. I was up front about not being able to speak the language here. My interviews and correspondences were all in English. There were things said during the interview process that led me to believe that the language thing would not be an issue (e.g., “If you want to learn the language, I can look into classes for you” rather than “You need to learn the language so we’ll start you with classes”). Yet when I arrived, nothing was in English. To my surprise, I’m the only foreigner here. Meetings aren’t in English. I hate sounding like a whiny American who expects everyone to cater to her, but they told me it wouldn’t be an issue! On top of it, whenever I meet with my grandboss (who also interviewed me in English), he does this dramatic sigh and says “When are you going to learn [language]?” or “I guess we have to cater to you for the foreseeable future” in a really annoyed tone.. and it’s so awkward and embarrassing. I constantly feel bad for making people communicate to me in a language they don’t have a great command of. I’m being left out of important meetings as a result…. it’s a mess. I asked my direct boss about it and she skirted around the fact that she told me language wouldn’t be an issue and is instead putting an insane pressure on me to get to a working proficiency in the language. I was of course planning on learning the language anyway! But knowing that everyone expects me to start speaking about technical concepts in a couple months is scaring the crap out of me.

    2. Nearly the same as point 1 except with two programming languages. When I came on board, I said I knew let’s say Python. They said that would be fine yet now that I’m here, it’s like they were expecting me to be a C# expert. Again, I’m learning, but it’s an added pressure I wasn’t expecting.

    I realise most people may not have experience with these issues specifically, but any insight would be helpful. I’ve already decided to give the job my best shot for six months then reevaluate, but it’s already been the hardest month in my career.

    1. gecko*

      I can’t speak to 1 but honestly I think 2 is fairly normal. I’ve found that tech companies are either really specific about needing expertise in a language, or they’re not and they just expect you to pick it up ok.

      1. valentine*

        This is wild, especially since you’re the only nonspeaker.

        Even if you learned the language by tomorrow, that wouldn’t make you business-level proficient. If you’re going to tough it out, find a business-focused course.

    2. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Also, something that people may have more experience with: I get pulled into meetings kinda randomly. My workday according to my contract ends at 5, and for the past month I’ve been scheduling things like apartment viewings and cell phone plan meetings right at 5:30 or 6. Most places close at 6 so it’s vital that I get out right at 5. Yet every other day, my boss comes in at 4 or 4:30 and pulls me into an impromptu meeting. I did talk to her today about this and she said to let her know in advance when I need to leave on time… but that’s going to be every day for a while until I’m moved in. So how do I have that conversation? I feel like I’m being whiny again here, but I can’t just put off finding an apartment forever and cancelling viewings at the last minute.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        When you say contract do you mean an actual binding contract saying we agree to pay you X amount for working from 9am to 5pm for your work with us for 3 years. Or is it like a hire letter that seems like a contract but really is not and it just outlines your usual work hours being from 9am to 5pm?

        I know you said you are in a country (not US) so employment laws are different there, but in US most people are in an employee at will situation and not an actual contract, even if you signed something stating what your pay hours and benefits are.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          It is an actual legally-binding contract, but there’s a clause saying “work hours may differ” or something. Basically I don’t have an issue with staying an hour or two late, but it’s been rough with this first month just because there has been so much to do outside of work also. Normally I’d feel comfortable broaching the topic after a few months, but being brand new and asking to leave on time every single day for a few weeks feels awfully demanding. It probably just warrants an honest conversation with my boss though.

          1. valentine*

            Tell her you need to leave on time for the next two months. (Give yourself a cushion.)

            But, really, since she outright lied to you (and have you mentioned this to the guy who’s rudely sadfacing you about it?), do you trust her and is this somewhere you want to stay? What realistic benchmarks can you set and meet for language proficiency and catching up in your role?

          2. sacados*

            Do you have an office calendar system that everyone views/uses to schedule things? Maybe not since you mention the meetings being “impromptu.”
            But if your office uses google calendar or something along those lines, maybe block out your calendar as “need to leave exactly at 5pm today” and then you can just tell your boss —hey, I marked on my calendar all the days I need to leave on time, hope that helps with scheduling!
            Or something like that.

            1. Karen from Finance*

              Yes, I’ll add my personal appointments to my work calendar as private (so others can see you’re busy but can’t see if you added a description of the thing). Bonus points if you can sync it to your cellphone so it beeps or vibrates when you need to leave. Then at 6pm when it does, you can just, you know, point and excuse yourself.

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              I would suggest this, add them into your calendars as personal meetings.

              I would also talk to your boss and let her know you will have a lot of days you need to leave on time for the next few months as you get your household set up. You could also add, “but if it would help I can keep Wednesdays free for meetings” or another day if another day seems more reasonable. It’s a good meeting the middle, as long as you think it actually would work.

      2. LunaLena*

        Something tells me you’re in an Asian country (if you’re not, please feel free to disregard the rest of this post). These work expectations remind me a lot of the time I worked at a Korean company in the US where the culture was definitely more Korean than American. In Asian cultures, yeah, the expectation is that you stay as long as you need to for the job to be finished. There were nights that everyone stayed at the office until 10 p.m. or even midnight without overtime to get projects done on time (to be fair, I worked at a newspaper company, so there were extremely strict deadlines), and were still expected to be in by 8 a.m. the next day.

        The same thing with the language – from your later posts, it sounds you’re conversational in the language, but not business-proficient? Business-proficient is a whole other animal from conversational. My guess is that they expected you to become business-proficient quickly since you “spoke the language” already, and are irritated that you’re not living up to their (unrealistic) expectations. On top of that, if these people have not lived outside of their country, they don’t understand why their cultural norms and standards are not the same as yours, so they probably assume you’re being deliberately obtuse. Also, Asian cultures are notorious for saying one thing and meaning another – the whole “you have to offer a present three times before they’ll accept” thing is a good example of this. I very briefly taught English in Korea while I was still figuring out what to do with my life, and experienced the same kind of bait-and-switch – they said they were amenable to requests I made, like getting paid more since I would be staying with relatives instead of having them pay room and board (room and board were part of the job offer), but once I actually got there, they refused to even talk about any of it.

        In my experience, Asians expect you to go with the flow. Part of this is because it’s such a collectivist society, where people are taught at a young age that you shouldn’t do anything to make waves or stand out. So the more unscrupulous ones will say anything to get you board, then expect you to just go along with it. I think I shocked my potential employers when, after a week of broken promises, I told them I wouldn’t work for them and just walked away.

        So TL;DR – depending on what country you’re in, may not be terribly unusual, but definitely not a great place to be working either. You speak English in a country that doesn’t; that means you’re likely in demand and can find another place that will work better for you.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          I don’t think it’s necessarily Asian though. I’m in Latin America and a lot of these things may as well have happened here. My country/city in particular is known for not being the most honest people in the world, with an abundance of scammers and charlatans. And yet, dishonesty and dishonesty, everywhere. What this employer is doing is unfair to LBMT plain and simple.

          Quite frankly it makes me uncomfortable the way you are projecting shady practices as being common to an entire, gigantic, continent.

          LBMT: I’d look into some other work opportunities in this country if you can. They are setting impossible expectations for you and are blaming you for it: they are setting you up for failure. And they lied. Stay in the foreign country, find an apartment and take classes, but do get out when you can.

          1. Japananon*

            The point is not that all of Asia is shady. The points are 1) some things LBMT complains about are normal here, but not in the US/west and 2) it’s not that every company in Asia is shady, it’s that this particular set of shady practices is common among bad companies here.

            In some companies, they would be really out of place leaving on time every day. And it would not work to point at the contract and say “well my contract says…” There are bad companies everywhere but I’ve seen this exact complaint from so many fresh expats here.

            1. Karen from Finance*

              I know this, thank you. And my point is that this is neither exclusive to Asia nor something a good company anywhere does, regardless of how often you can encounter it in a culture.

              I am troubled by your use of “US/west” to describe a culture. As stated before I am in Latin America and these behaviors are common enough in some industries here that I thought OP might have moved here. Do we not count as the west? If so please tell me more. I find that mentality… interesting.

              And then on the other end you are conflating cultures in countries as culturally dissimilar as India, Japan and Russia and going “Asian cultures”.

              My point is that “East vs West” mentality is absurd and toxic and I’d very much appreciate it if you kept that sort of speculation and generalization out of here. Please and thank you.

              1. Japananon*

                I think you’re reading a different intention than what I’m intending to convey.

                I am intentionally generalizing about trends in work culture about different parts of the world based on my own experience. Of course this situation can take place anywhere in the world but sometimes it is valuable to know when things are common in work cultures in one part of the world vs. another. Especially when most of the commenters here are in English-speaking countries/Europe and LunaLena and I are writing from East Asia, where there are very different ideas of what is “normal” or “common”. In many places in Asia, LMBT’s situation is unethical, but common.

        2. Japananon*

          This is exactly what I thought as well based on my experience in Japan.

          “Oh you don’t need to speak [local language]”–until you get there and they realize it’s actually harder to communicate with you than they thought, and they really need you get to business fluency. In most of Asia, most people are not comfortable speaking in English and there isn’t a lot of international diversity to the point where business meetings would be held in English (ie China has a ton of different dialects but there aren’t a ton of Japanese, Thai, Russian, British, etc. people where English would be more widespread).

          Ditto about time. It’s pretty unusual to get out exactly on time because you’re expected to work until the job is done. Here in Japan “you can leave on time” is a big draw for working mothers and other people needing work life balance. If you need to do something during business hours then you would need to take leave, although sometimes you can take it as “special leave” not your regular PTO if your boss recognizes that this is required to do your job.

          Being “worked around” ie left out of meetings, subtle bullying about your language skills and how much of a burden you are to your coworkers/the company, being the only foreigner there (have any foreigners worked there in the past?), and the lack of flexibility (ie a local would have to take time off for apartment appointments but they’re not even giving you “foreigner slack”) indicate that your office is not culturally ready to accommodate someone with such a different background and expectations as you. You are not familiar with each other’s conventions enough to communicate effectively about what you need. If you continue to go about this the Western way (ie asking directly for what you want, assuming you’ll be told directly if something important happens, valuing written/spoken rules/promises more than unwritten/spoken) you’re going to continue to frustrate yourself and your team. I think you would be happier in a workplace with more experience with international colleagues, but if you’re determined to make this place work, I would suggest you find an ally (take someone out to lunch and ask them how X usually happens), carefully watch and listen so you can learn the hierarchy and how people relate to each other and get information, be prepared to put in extra hours to help others/show you’re working hard, and study the local language and culture like your life depends on it. I think you should also seek out other expats/forums for foreigners in your country.

          1. Nanani*

            Seconding all of this.

            Also, someone who is fluent in written English and is fine emailing back and forth in English may not be at that same level in speaking English. Yet they might not realize that until they actually need to do it.
            Or your boss might not have realized the extent to which the rest of the office needed you to use the local language. Or maybe a lot of things, as they say.

            The good news is if you go looking for another company, odds are that one that already has some international workers will have already worked out the major stumbling blocks. You’ll still need to adapt but, the worst lifting will not be at your own feet.

      3. JSPA*

        As with the language comment (which almost certainly should have been taken as a polite directive to start learning the language!) the new comment means, “no, you can’t apartment- hunt every day — pick a couple of days or ask us how one does the process correctly, because otherwise you will flail obliviously for months with no results.” The “just be direct” concept works in many though not all English speaking countries and regions. It absolutely doesn’t, in many other cultures.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I had this happen too, in two jobs that are less technical. In one, I said I could teach llama fitness training lessons, not llama dance lessons. Lo and behold, they had me a complicated llama dance routine. I say, I can’t do llama dance routines, I am not a good dancer and this is not something I’m trained on. Nonsense, they say, you can do it! Then get mad at me when I can’t.

      Another time I said I taught Llama First Aid classes from Llama Safety Agency. They want someone to teach Llama First Aid from the American Llama Society. I said, multiple times, “To clarify, I am certified through Llama Safety Agency, not the American Llama Society.” “Are you sure you’re OK with me teaching Llama Safety Agency classes, not American Llama Society classes? As I’ll have to get recertified to teach through the Llama Society.” Yes, that’s fine, they said.

      Next week: Um we need you to teach a Llama Society class, why can’t you do that?

      *bangs head on wall*

    4. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

      About 10 years ago I had a boss *aggressively* trying to recruit me for a job in Germany where he was relocating to. I do not speak German.

      I turned him down, because I was sure that I would wind up where you are with #1. If you otherwise like the job/country/employer and you think you could pick up the language, then go for it, and good for you. There would be no shame at all in pulling the plug though. They really did a bait and switch on you, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

    5. MENA region*

      The language thing seems crazy, but maybe region specific? I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East and although I speak Arabic, I knew so many Westerners who never made an effort to learn Arabic and it wasn’t expected of them at all in most workplaces. If they needed an Arabic speaker that would be decided before hiring.

      Also, it takes THOUSANDS of hours to learn a language to the point where you can function professionally in it—this is not a matter of “getting by”, chatting with people, or ordering coffee, you need to be able to speak both abstractly and precisely. So it’s not a reasonable expectation for them to want you to learn the language well enough to function at work by studying in your free time. This one is completely on them for hiring you without language skills IMO. However, is this really the company you want to work for? Sounds super unpleasant.

      1. RPCV*

        Right? If the boss thinks LBMT can be fluent in a language after a month, Boss is a total nutter.

        My company has people take 2-ish year stints in a particular foreign company fairly regularly, but it’s with the understanding that they’re American and it’s unlikely they’ll have any fluency in that country’s language (they have several, actually).

        I have no advice, and I’m not even sure if this is normal in general, but it’s not normal in my experience. If they want you to be fluent before arrival, they need to send you to (probably full-time) classes before moving you. If they want you to be fluent in-country, they need to have you spend a good chunk of your day on a formal language program. Otherwise the assumption should be that English is a language spoken in the office and they can accommodate you while you get the hang of the language (at least 6 months, IME).

      2. Wintermute*

        This is super-common in IT in the middle east. I know more than one person that’s taken a very lucrative contract in Saudi Arabia or the UAE with zero command of the language and that was just fine. For some reason especially in IT and telecom they’re hiring in talent like crazy and they’re willing to adapt to you, and pay very well too. Of course there are serious strings attached especially in the UAE where you can end up in a very bad situation if you’re not careful, but for white collar work that’s not as common as for laborers.

        1. MENA region*

          Yeah, I’ve never heard of anyone being expected to learn Arabic on the job in the Middle East beyond maybe the most basic pleasantries.

    6. Erin Withans*

      So in my admittedly limited experience, this isn’t unexpected. It’s definitely crappy they told you the language wouldn’t be an issue, but yeah, if you’re the one who doesn’t speak the native language, you need to learn, and you need to learn fast. Even if people can switch to English when directly engaging you, it’s deeply unlikely that that’s going to fly for all communication, be that meetings, emails, or watercooler talk. Unless you had a really heavily international workforce and English was a common shared language, you need to expect that the office will run in its native language and catch up.

      Maybe you can ask a coworker or your language tutor for a list of common technical terms you need to know for your line of work? Good luck!

      1. valentine*

        Less Bread More Taxes had no reason to believe her manager would outright lie and this is like telling someone they need to learn to climb a mountain fast when they’ve not even begun a couch to 5K. “Learn the language” is a wildly unreasonable expectation for someone new to a job that relies on the language, with no plan or managerial support.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          Thank you. As an aside, there actually aren’t any language classes that they provide until September, so they aren’t helping me work through this either. I’m working with a tutor I found myself.

          1. 8DaysAWeek*

            This makes it even more frustrating. In the meantime can you grab an app for your phone/computer to start to learn the basics/supplement the tutor?
            I use Duolingo (available on PC or phone), Mango, and Memrise. And the Google translate app is wonderful for day to day translations. You can also put this out on the table in listen mode and it will live translate conversations. But I would check with whoever you are speaking with at the time if they are ok with this.

            Good luck! I once had a bait and switch IT job and I left after barely 3 months. It was not what I signed up for and I was only there for 3 months because that is how long it took to find a new job.

            1. Nanani*

              DO NOT use google translate for anything even remotely confidential (Google will keep it) and do not rely on it for anything requiring precision. It’s not good enough for say, legal matters like your work contract or major purchases (real estate, vehicles, etc) .

    7. Lora*

      1. This kinda happens, unfortunately, and it just kinda is what it is. I am surprised that THEY are surprised, though: usually what happens is, they start a meeting in English and then sort of slip into the local language and forget anyone else is there. Then I ask a question in the local language, because technical language doesn’t translate well (“why are you talking about sliced fruit?” was a memorable one – they meant, section of a building) and they all act like a piece of furniture just said hello. They sort of get it in their heads that Americans Don’t Speak (whatever) and mindlessly ignore me until I remind them that hey, I’m here and I do understand you more or less.

      I mean, it depends on you and how fast you pick up languages, but immersion definitely helps you learn faster. If you decide that’s a thing you want to do. It’s pretty common for people to drift into their first language though – think how often even in the US, you hear people drift into Spanish or Chinese, it’s very frequently.

    8. BeachMum*

      I was hired to do marketing. I asked all of the right questions to ensure that I was to do marketing and not sales. I started and they had no phone (fortunately, I had a cell phone — it was a long time ago) and they didn’t have a computer for me. Also, I was supposed to do sales.

      I hung in there for a few months, but when I made my first big sale, and asked for commission, I was told I was doing marketing…which is when my job hunt started again.

    9. Dust Bunny*

      I don’t know if this is common or not but I sort of feel like it can’t be that uncommon, and that as a general thing if I were taking a job in another country I would expect to hit a language barrier whether the job claimed I would or not, simply because . . . it happens, because you don’t actually conduct your entire workday in strictly technical speak. And they may not have expected you to be as seemingly-resistant to learning the language as you sound here; maybe other foreign employees have decided to just learn it, anyway.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        I just want to clarify that this isn’t a case of me being unwilling. I speak to coworkers in the language casually and that’s been fine. However, I’ve been told that I need to present some work in a twenty minute presentation, lead a workshop, and develop structure – all in the next couple of months and in this language. I would not have accepted the position if I’d known this.

        I have friends who have accepted similar positions, and they’ve said that their jobs are all in English due to their being a large number of foreigners in their offices.

        I really do want to learn the language, but I feel like I’ve been set up to fail.

        1. MENA region*

          Yeah, that seems kind of crazy, but maybe a great chance to really push yourself, if you really want to frame it positively.

          If you want to go for it, I would recommend working with a tutor who has a laser focus on your professional field. Forget learning to read the newspapers or understand movies for now…just focus on professional vocabulary and interactions. Of the thousands of words you need to know to speak a language well, you may as well focus on the few hundred words that will really relate to your job. Later you can learn the less-professionally-useful vocabulary (collander, sidewalk, etc).

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Can you write your materials in English and get the company to send it to a translator?
          (Vile thought, but at least you’d have materials to read.)

        3. AcademiaNut*

          Yeah, I work in Asia at a research institute, and the working language is in English specifically so they can recruit internationally. There are definitely times when I’m mostly with locals and they naturally slip back into the local language, and some of the higher up admin stuff isn’t bilingual, but they really do use English for meetings and presentations. It helps that it’s basically impossible to be a PhD level researcher in the field without being reasonably fluent in written English, at least.

          Your boss is being wildly unrealistic. There’s a world of difference between basic practical language and fluency, and if you’re going from English to an Asian language it’s a steep learning curve (much more so than, say, English to French or German). Here, it takes about a year of *full-time* classes to get to a good basic conversational/reading proficiency, and that doesn’t include technical language. For that matter, I have colleagues who can’t give professional talks in their native language, after doing university abroad in English – they don’t know the technical terms.

    10. cmcinnyc*

      I was going to say “not normal” but reading comments, apparently it is! At my job it is *strongly* discouraged using one’s personal device for anything because a lot of our work is subject to FOIA laws–and that could open up your personal device to being FOIA-ed. NOBODY wants that. So besides the cost and the boundary, I’d consider if there might be legal hassles as well. I guess this is in the “normal but crappy” category.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        Oooo sorry that cross posted from another thread!

        I was going to say, this is why the one time I worked in another country I stumbled and struggled through the interview in their language–because that’s what I had to use every day.

    11. Val*

      I am also in a job abroad and language was also not a requirement. But I did notice that everyone expected that I would be fluent within 3 months. This is something lots of people expect from you. I have the feeling that it is because it is often seen/advertise on the internet nowadays. If you work with reasonable people you can explain them that this is not achievable when working a full-time job. (It personally took me three years – 160 hours of one on one lessons for it)

    12. CoffeeLover*

      Honestly, this company did an absolutely horrible thing to you. It’s really difficult to move to a new place where you don’t speak the language – and to sit quietly while everyone talks a language you don’t understand around you (been there, not fun). They should have been completely upfront about the fact that the entire office is local and speaks the local language. You could have chosen to come anyway, but at least you would be prepared for the fact that you would likely be excluded until you learned the language.

      I will say though that people who haven’t been in this scenario don’t really understand how tough and demoralizing it is. They may not have realized how much of a challenge it would be to have an English speaking person join them. They may have genuinely thought it wouldn’t be an issue and are now realizing that it actually is. And while ideally, they would acknowledge this and apologize, there are a lot of people in this world that have a hard time admitting they royally f-ed up. Depending on which country/company you moved to, there can also be a stigma about not being able to work in English (another reason they may not want to acknowledge it).

      On the plus side, if you really want to stay in this country then trial by fire is often the best way to learn a language.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Thanks for the support! I actually did choose this opportunity in order to learn a foreign language, so I’m going to stick with it for a bit at least for that reason alone.

        1. language nerd*

          Hi there, I’m a language teacher and normally people acquire languages from listening to and reading the language and being able to understand most of what they hear or read. As your listening and reading proficiency improves, you’ll later be able to write and speak with more and more fluency. I think it’s unrealistic for them to expect you to speak and present in the language until you are better with reading and listening. If possible, I would recommend streaming tv shows or movies in the target language with the subtitles also in the target language if available. Chrome has a fairly new add-on for netflix that can really help with this. I would also look for reading material–especially target language versions of books or stories that you’re already familiar with. Wikipedia is a good source for non-fiction reading in other languages.

    13. AnotherJill*

      Working in a different programming language is entirely normal. It becomes easier each time – a good way to start is to think in the language you know, and then translate – so I need a decision statement, how do I do that…. I need repetition, how do I do that.. Start thinking in terms of the basic features, then do some reading to see if there are libraries or practices that make sense for your project.

      1. JSPA*

        Yup, that’s pretty normal, but against the backdrop of using a lot of “equivalency awareness” to learn a foreign language to the point of business fluency, it’s a burden.

        I’d suggest much of the business presentation stuff be done by rote memorization! Including canned answers to several questions. sure it’s irritating when you answer a different question than what’s actually been asked… but people apparently accept it.

    14. Asenath*

      Being told you don’t need to speak a language, and then expected to learn it to fluency so quickly – and while working – doesn’t seem reasonable. I mean, I think it would probably be a great chance to learn it – but what were they thinking, saying first it wasn’t necessary and now suddenly it is? Adults don’t get fluent in a foreign language that quickly!

    15. Galahad*

      Moral support post here — I got a temporary job in Norway (8mos) and it stated that I needed to speak Norwegian or English, and 100% English was fine. I was in a big city and 90% of my co-workers spoke English fluently. To me. But, all the computer systems, meetings, coffee time / lunch chat, seminars, and interruptions by people on the street was in Norwegian (I look northern european, I guess?). I would constantly need to explain the need to switch to English and it drove me a bit batty (headaches) as I was trying to rapidly learn the language and could almost understand what they were saying / meant, but I never quite enough. I started to wear headphones, even with no music on, to stop being randomly approached in another language unless I was prepared for that discussion and not just trying to chill.

      And the programming languages thing is extremely common — they want you/ hire you for a new skillset they don’t have, for a directly that the company clearly needs to go into, but then more urgently need you to help maintain existing systems or build the bridge between existing and new tech. It can take a year or two for them to fully transition over to the new stuff… If you continue to do well and hang in there, it ususally does go to what you were hired for.

    16. it's me*

      It kind of seems like whoever hired you either was deeply misinformed or was… fudging the truth to bring you onboard.

    17. Zephy*

      This sounds like the worst kind of Ask vs Guess culture clash, especially considering your addendum below. Maybe it’s time to try sitting down with your boss and having a discussion about expectations. You aren’t a mind-reader!

    18. Weegie*

      For no. 1, the language issue, this is not normal in my experience. I worked overseas a lot until relatively recently, and it would be usual to encounter one of the following scenarios:

      1. They know you don’t speak the language, and it isn’t an issue for your job, although you probably need it to survive outside of work & you’ll be expected to learn the local language in your own time.
      2. They know you don’t speak the language, but you will need it for the job at least part of the time and they will organise lessons for you – and probably expect you to get up to speed fairly rapidly.
      3. You need to be able to speak the language and they won’t hire you unless you have a certain level of proficiency already: it’ll be clear whether you do or don’t before you start work, as the application and interview processes will be conducted wholly or partly in the local language.

    19. Not So Little My*

      Having to learn additional programming languages is totally normal. And it’s not really that hard once you have reached a level of proficiency with your core language so that you can recognize different principles of programming and commonalities and differences. Pluralsight is your friend – see if you can get a license from work because it’s a few hundred bucks a year which is hard to do on your own sometimes. Also check your local library to see if you can get free access to O’Reilly Safari books online. If you’re a self-starter and an extrovert, ask around for your co-workers to see if they want to form a study group over lunchtime. As a senior software engineer, I would totally apply for jobs outside my core language if I was excited by the company otherwise, and many managers are like “yeah, you’re awesome, you know your stuff, we understand you’ll take a little while to ramp up on the new language and deliver at the same level as our longer-term team members” but you are expected to deliver, even if a bit more slowly.

    20. Tau*

      #2 – I’d consider this one fairly normal? Like, part of what people want in a software developer is to have someone who can pick up new languages on the fly and isn’t wedded to one technology. And they will sometimes hire devs from a different language background with the expectation that they pick up the new language quickly. Ideally, they’d make this expectation clear in the interview, of course.

      #1, on the other hand, I’m going to call not normal. Like, I’m in an English-language company in a non-English-speaking country myself. I get what people are saying about watercooler talk, and I’ll add on that I think not speaking [language] becomes problematic if you have a lot of contact with externals and clients – so roles like the upper levels of management, recruiters, office managers, etc. But software developers aren’t generally in this group. It’s a reasonable expectation, when hired under these terms, that internal meetings will be in English and it’s the standard working language… and it’s absolutely not appropriate for your boss to start pressuring you into trying to learn the language ASAP (to the point of being able to do a technical presentation!! the mind boggles) and act like you’re the problem. Not liking this situation has nothing to do with being a “whiny American” – I’d be up in arms as well.

      1. MENA region*

        Yes. To flip the situation–I work in the US in a nonprofit with a lot of international or immigrant employees who speak English as a second language. Would I ever hire someone who didn’t speak English and expect them to get up to speed in a few months? No, because A) ridiculous, and B) a lot of our non-native-speaking employees have lived in the U.S. for literally decades and we still run into language issues occasionally despite the fact that they would reasonably be considered fluent in English.

        For example, certain of them will grasp the literal meaning of what’s said without catching the implications–for example, we give examples of a problem and occasionally they understand the examples we’ve mentioned but don’t realize that we’re actually talking about the overarching issue that these examples point to, not the examples themselves. I really enjoy these coworkers and it’s totally worth it to stop and rephrase when needed. But it is an example of how even spending a lot of time (decades) practicing a language is not a guarantee that you’ll function perfectly in it when it comes to a subtle work conversation, so it’s important to set reasonable expectations for the kind of work you’d be able to do in the language after several months.

        1. Tau*

          I’m one of, like, three native English speakers (ish in my case) in my whole company, and although it is nowhere remotely near my job description the publicity people like to get me to read through English-language content for e.g. our website prior to publication. Because even though these are people who have been working in English professionally for sometimes on the order of decades, they’re still not native speakers and they miss nuances sometimes.

          Such as that time I went “uh, this first sentence here in the newsletter you plan to send out? You… realise this reads as a reference to sex, right?” and no, they had not.

          But sure, you can just get up to speed in a new language in a few months, that’s totally a reasonable expectation.

          1. MENA region*

            Omg, yeah, I’ve done the same thing in Arabic which I studied for 5 years, including one entire year in which I *only* studied Arabic for 6-10 hours per day. I wrote something where I used the word “practicing” in Arabic intending to refer to practicing skills and someone was like, “Uh in Arabic that sounds like it’s short for ‘practicing love’ (i.e. making love).” Arhgghghghg! So yeah, even though I am “fluent” in Arabic and I do use it professionally, I still make these incredibly embarassing mistakes.

          2. Maria Lopez*

            I have an American friend who is a professional translator and interpreter in France, and when working with contracts and other business documents she translates ONLY from French to English, and her French cohorts do English to French. They even have subsets of translators for medical, business, legal, etc. subjects. There are too many subtleties that are missed if you are not a native speaker (just look at those instructions in “English” for electronics manufactured in Asian countries).

    21. ProfessorHidgens*

      This might be an area so broad that there is no “normal”, but for what it’s worth, I am also very early career, living abroad and working for a local company with no real command of the local language (I’m working on it!) and it’s been a great experience. I was flatly honest at every stage of the hiring process that I had never studied language and couldn’t guarantee I’d be able to pick it up, was reassured that that would be no issue and it hasn’t been. So, I think you got an unlucky bounce.