my coworker brags about how rich he is, application assignments when you’re on vacation, and more

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

1. My coworker brags about how rich he is and tries to put others down

I have a coworker who constantly brags about how rich he is. His family is well-known in the area and it’s common knowledge he got the job at our nonprofit because of his family’s status. Because he has a position at our organization, his family gives large donations. That’s a problem all on its own, but I don’t feel I can do anything about it without losing my job. That’s the back story though.

He and I are both managers. He is not my superior in any way and I am not his. The issue is that he keeps bragging about how rich he is and how much money his family donates to our organization, and any time he wants to have pull over me, he tells me he has three degrees and is smarter than me so he’s “overruling” my authority.

I’ve told him this is very offensive and not acceptable. His degrees have no matter over my area. But I am getting increasingly frustrated and angry when this happens. I feel put down and its very demeaning. I am very capable of taking care of my areas at work with my single degree and I don’t see that as a measure of my intelligence.

I’m very unsure of what steps to take if this continues. I want to stay at my job but I don’t want to be put down by a rich man who thinks his degrees mean he’s better than everyone else. I am afraid to report it to my boss because I don’t think it’ll be taken seriously or I’ll be the one facing consequences due to his family’s large donations. I want the behavior and putdowns to stop, but talking to him only works for so long.

By getting frustrated and angry, you’re letting him wind you up, and people like this see that as incentive to continue.

Why not respond as he’s made an embarrassing faux pas, since that’s exactly what’s happening? He’s outing himself as a clueless boor whose family bought his job for him, and who tries to borrow the authority of his degrees because he can’t rely on the merit of his ideas or work quality. That’s actually quite pathetic, and you should respond accordingly.

Stop telling him what he says is offensive or unacceptable. Instead, one option is to compassionately ignore him and if he asks you why, you can say, “What you were saying was embarrassing for you, so I thought it best to simply move on.” When he tells you he’s overruling you because of his degrees or his shining intellect, you can blandly say, “That’s not how we make decisions here. My plan is X and if you disagree, we can take this to (higher-up).” (If it’s something where his disagreement doesn’t matter, leave off that last part.)

There’s no reason to feel insulted by someone who’s so classless and ridiculous. His judgment is so, so off that it doesn’t make sense to let him get to you, just like you shouldn’t really care what a jerky 10-year-old thinks of you and your work.

That said, it’s not a bad idea to mention the situation to your boss. A good manager would want to know that a boorish ass was running amok on her staff so she could shut this down. Yours may or may not be a good manager, but there’s nothing wrong with mentioning it in the same way you’d let her know if someone was, saying, leaving feces in the conference room (in other words, it’s not about you, you’re not emotionally invested, but ooooh how gross).

2. Is it weird for my boss to sit in on my ergonomic assessment?

I had an ergonomic evaluation of my workstation today. My boss brought the evaluator over to my desk when he arrived. And then said that she was going to be “around” to “watch” because she was “curious.” She didn’t ask, she just informed us. I found that a little odd. The evaluator started the session by asking if there was a conference room where we could do his preliminary interview with me.

She followed us into the conference room (where I closed the door, because I inferred—rightly or wrongly—that this part of the process was confidential…ish?). She stayed there, offsides, during the entire conversation. Then she went with us back to my desk where the evaluator took his measurements. I looked around a while later, and she was gone.

The whole thing felt very bizarre to me. A quick web search suggests that ergonomic evaluations aren’t necessarily HIPAA-protected. But the whole thing felt creepy and weird, like she’d followed me into the exam room at the doctor’s office. Particularly since the evaluator refers to his clients as “patients.” I might have been less weirded out if she had asked first, but she just…decided it was okay?

I want to tell her it felt inappropriate and intrusive (at least the part in the conference room—obviously the conversation at my desk in an open office area couldn’t be confidential), but I’m not sure of my ground here. Am I off-base? I’ve worked under this person for over 10 years. We’ve had some differences, but this was the first time I really felt kind of weirded out.

Yeah, it was weird for her to observe. I can imagine a scenario where she was genuinely curious about how the process worked and didn’t realize it would feel intrusive for her to be there, especially if she’s kind of thoughtless in general. But it’s still weird.

It would have been completely okay for you to have said in the moment, “Actually, I’d rather do this in private” or “I feel awkward doing this with an observer — do you mind leaving us for now?” or so forth.

But if you go back and talk to her about it now, I think it’s going to be making a bigger deal out of it than will seem warranted. Partly that’s because this is unlikely to come up again (and if it does, you can say something in the moment). It’s also not clear what outcome you’d want from raising it, and it’s not such a huge deal that it’s something that must be flagged for her. So I’d be privately annoyed but let it go this time, while resolving to speak up in the moment if she does something anything similar in the future.

3. Application assignments when you’re on vacation

My friend is in the tech design world and is currently job searching/interviewing. As is common in his industry, most companies assign some sort of challenge/assignment during one phase of interviewing—they are always way more time-consuming than the company claims they will be and involve a ton of work, which is pretty horrible in my opinion but seems to be the industry standard. My main question, though, is what the right course of action my friend should have taken when she received an assignment like this while on vacation with the due date being when she was still on the trip (about six days later). The timing was generous under normal circumstances, but she understandably didn’t want to dedicate a bunch of vacation time to this assignment. She replied that she might be a day late due to vacation but was excited to work on it, etc. (no response to that email). Is there a better way to handle this, or is the expectation that applicants will drop their vacation plans to work on an assignment?

With a reasonable company, you can reply back explaining the situation and asking if you can instead work on it once you’re back, turning it in by (date). I have candidates do that all the time, and it’s fine.

If they’re on a very fast hiring timeline and that would put you outside their deadline for selecting candidates for the next stage, they’ll explain that, and then you can decide what to do, but it’s a reasonable thing to say. (And if they’re not reasonable, it’s very useful to find that out before you’ve invested time in them.)

4. Letting people know I’ll be slower to respond to emails while caring for my father

My father has had a very tough battle with cancer that has lasted for over seven years. Just this last week, he was placed on hospice and is home, which is hours away from my office in a very rural area with horrible internet. This means when I am with my father I can’t work at all. I am not sure how long he has left, but realistically it will not be longer than a few months. I am lucky to work for an employer that understands and is allowing me to be very flexible with my schedule, and my boss will handle my work when I’m not around.

The problem is that my position requires me to work with committees/boards and most of that communication is through email. I am unsure of how I should let my clients know that I will be in and out of the office for possibly the next two to three months. Would you make an away message even though I will most likely still be checking and responding to email a few days a week? Or email each board individually explaining the situation? I also don’t feel the need to over-explain but a month-long change in schedule will most likely raise some eyebrows, so I’d like to explain myself a little bit, and I feel like saying “family matter” sounds terrible and makes people wonder.

How often do you communicate with the clients in question? If it’s very regularly (like daily), you could t let each of them know individually (since they talk to you enough that they’re likely to retain that information, and also more likely to notice/care about a longer delay in responses). If it’s not that often, or if you’re not up to those individual conversations, an auto-reply is a fine way to do it.

As far as what to say, I don’t think “family matter” sounds terrible, but you can also be vaguer if you want to. Your auto-reply could say something like, “I will be traveling frequently during April and May and may take a few days longer than usual to respond to your message.” (Depending on the nature of your work, you may also want to add, “If you need immediate help, please contact X.”)

I’m so sorry about your dad.

5. Can I use a different title on my resume?

I have two job titles on my resume that I think are not a great reflection of my role, and which I was recently advised by a consultant to change.

I work in higher education and my current title is a pretty general “Director of Student Affairs.” However, all of my work is specifically in academic advising and student support. When I took the job, I asked that they rename the position but the school refused because of some internal politics around the term “advising” and which units got to have advisors. In my world, student affairs units and academic advising units are not really the same. While there is crossover, the academic portion is the big distinguisher. Is it okay to list myself as a Director of Advising or perhaps list it as Director of Student Affairs (Academic Advising focus)?

Also, one of my early roles was with a University whose mascot was the Knight and my job had the title Late Knight Coordinator. can I just change this to Late Night Coordinator?

The thing about listing different titles on your resume is that you don’t want it to cause problems if the employer tries to verify the title with the old employer. So something like changing Late Knight to Late Night is going to be fine — it’s not going to look like you were trying to misrepresent anything.

I would not, however, flat-out change Director of Student Affairs to Director of Advising because it does risk looking like you listed a flagrantly wrong title. But your second idea — listing it as “Director of Student Affairs (Academic Advising focus)” — is completely fine.

In cases where a title is totally inscrutable — like Analyst Level 2 when really what you do is, say, demography research — it’s also fine to list a title that describes the work accurately (and that your manager wouldn’t balk at if a reference-checker read it back to her) while listing the formal title in parentheses, like this:

Demographic Researcher (Analyst Level 2)

{ 402 comments… read them below }

    1. Artemesia*

      Alison was spot on here. This is one to view with thinly veiled pity and condescension.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely, and with a side of unshakable blasé-ness. Think of it like watching a child throw a tantrum.

        1. Spouter of Gibberish*

          ” I am getting increasingly frustrated and angry when this happens. I feel put down and its very demeaning. I am very capable of taking care of my areas at work with my single degree and I don’t see that as a measure of my intelligence. I’m very unsure of what steps to take if this continues. I want to stay at my job but I don’t want to be put down by a rich man who thinks his degrees mean he’s better than everyone else.”

          LW#1, you have created your problem. ” Any time he wants to have pull over me, he tells me he has three degrees and is smarter than me”. His degrees have no matter over my area.”

          Why are you giving him pull? And why would you leave because a “rich man thinks his degrees mean he’s better than everyone”? Your coworker is free to think whatever he likes. The earth is flat, the moon landing was faked, his degrees mean he has pull over you. That doesn’t make it true. And though you say you don’t believe it — your response shows that you do maybe just a little, and that is enough to make you frustrated.

          Instead of being bemused like you would when a child insists “I’m smarter than you! I’m in charge” (see Linda meme) you get frustrated and feel put down – which is why he will keep pushing your buttons, because it works.

          Every time he pulls that, reflect on the Linda meme, let it relax you. Giggle a little over the absurdity. Then leave it behind and move forward, don’t carry the weight of his self importance.

          1. Adminx2*

            She isn’t giving anything. Like she said “anytime he WANTS to have pull.” And she wouldn’t leave because he’s that type of person but because of who he is to the company and thus won’t be moved or put in place as you would expect normally. He IS being ridiculous and her emotions and frustrations are completely reasonable given the context.
            Shifting the frame from “entitled wannabe who tries to push me around” into “sad empty career person who is stuck somewhere he doesn’t fit” helps bring empathy AND empowers the OP to prioritize.

            1. Spouter of Gibberish*

              “entitled wannabe who tries to push me around” “sad empty career person who is stuck somewhere he doesn’t fit”
              And those are both descriptions of the same person – so we are agreed that the solution is to change the viewpoint of the letter writer.

            2. CJM*

              She might not be giving him power over her work, but she’s giving him power over her feelings. She certainly seems to feel inferior to him even though she says she doesn’t.

            3. CJM*

              Anybody that has used a gender term here, including me, has assumed the letter writer is a woman. Are we being sexist because it seems like she seems to be having difficulty handling this emotionally?

              I just read this over before hitting submit, and realized I unconsciously did it again. I said she in that last sentence. FWIW, I’m a woman.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Maybe, but more likely is that Rich Dude wouldn’t try to pull that shit on another male. It’s not impossible of course, but generally speaking males want to put women “in their place” while rarely trying it with males in this manner.

      2. MommyMD*

        Yes. Because in reality if the organization had to choose, it’s him, because of the money his family brings in. It may not be right but it’s real. Change the subject, grin and bear it and don’t internalize it. I would not even mention it because it’s not going to change. His being there means big money and that’s going to override just about anything.

        1. Anonym*

          It seems like OP could bring it to the boss as a “how do you want me to handle this?” so, even if it won’t change, they’ll be aligned. It could minimize potential issues for the OP if it’s being handled in a manager-approved way.

        2. ursula*

          I don’t want to let this person’s manager off the hook that easy (or reflexively back up the LW’s assumption that the manager). I work in non-profit and there’s no one on this blue earth I wouldn’t fire for pulling this crap. They are spewing poison into the work environment and I would be profoundly skeptical of their judgment as a manager, with people who are their actual subordinates in the org. Lots of us in NP are very principled folks, and lots of big donors would be mortified that one of their spawn who they advocated for was acting this way. (Not all, but I want to push back on the idea that everyone in our whole sector needs to tolerate shitty behaviour from people who hold the purse-strings. has some great writing about this.)

          LW: That is wild, shitty behaviour and no reflection on you. Talk to your manager in a “obviously you will want to know about this and address it, bc of its potential impact on all our staff” tone. Take care of yourself and don’t let him affect your perception of your own value. Strongly consider leaving if this is going to be tolerated by higher-ups. Good luck!

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            You’re lucky you’ve had your bosses support you. I’ve worked at two nonprofits where higher ups were stealing (having their children participate in programs without registering or paying) and we weren’t allowed to do anything about it, even if it was denting our budget (extra kids = extra teachers = extra payroll expenses, with no extra revenue offset.)

        3. Observer*

          In addition to what Ursula says, even if they would be ok with his being a jerk and not very competent, this is different, especially if it’s not just in one-on-one meetings between the OP and CW. Because this can cause big enough problems that it might actually over-ride the money his family brings.

          1. CJM*

            It seems that the OP can do what she wants in her department even if he tries to override her since they are at the same level – he is not her supervisor.

            If that’s the case, I think she needs to work on not letting it get to her. He’s an ass (even if he truly is a smart ass), so it won’t be easy, but its way better than if hecwsd her superior.

        4. Batgirl*

          Maybe if it was a ‘him or me’ situation but it’s not down to the company choosing between them. They paid the piper by hiring the guy, if peer pressure from people they actually wanted to hire turns him into a valuable professional as well as a bag of money, then win-win for them.

        5. AnnaBananna*

          Or just explain the simple arithmetic. ‘Since we’re in the same role, I guess that means my one degree is valued the same as your three. Ouch. That must suck.’ And then move on to whatever you were going to implement before he interrupted you.

          Don’t get angry, get practical. Logic him away from his bullying nature. Shoot, it would physically hurt me NOT to mention that ‘at least I didn’t have to have mummy and papa buy me a job here’, but that’s because I can be an a$$. But in your particular situation faux pity works woooonders. Practice it with your friends until you’re comfortable enough to pull it off.

      3. OscarJeff*

        Exactly this. These comments are sad and pathetic testament to his own insecurity. It’s hard to feel genuinely insulted by someone you have contempt for.

        1. qvaken*

          Agreed. My first thought was that he wasted so much time attaining three degrees (which I presume are in three different areas and not a logical progression of a bachelor’s, an honours’ and a PhD, for example, because in that case you would just say you have a PhD) to get a job that only requires one degree. That’s studious, but it doesn’t sound very smart.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        His judgment is so, so off that it doesn’t make sense to let him get to you.

        This. It’s like kids who filed a lawsuit over valedictorian in high school, only to get to college and discover no one cares and valedictorians litter the landscape. Except he didn’t ever get that clue.

        A manager saying to anyone “I can overrule you because (my high school GPA was a 4.0/I have two masters/I went to Harvard)” is going to draw looks of derisive pity.

        1. LQ*

          But this isn’t him saying that, it’s him saying that with a wheelbarrow of money behind him. That’s the real issue, not the degrees, the degrees are a red herring here. He could have 0 or 30 and the problem would still be the money his family gives to the organization. He wants to pretend like it’s his own thing, but the thing that will matter to decide if OP actually gets overruled or not will always be the wheelbarrow full of money.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            This is true. It’s why LW#1 should probably make sure her network within and without the org is spot on, just in case. But I really don’t think she needs to kowtow (such odd spelling) to his ridiculous Sup Bro nature.

      5. epi*


        I come from a family where many people have advanced degrees. No one ever brags about them like this except sarcastically, because everyone knows that sucks.

        I have been on both sides of this because I was taken advantage of and condescended to before I went to grad school. I am not smarter now– just more highly trained. There were many times people really should have listened to the girl with the BA back then! And outside the areas I am trained in, I am still no better or smarter than that person.

        I think it is sad to spend all that time, money, and effort on multiple degrees and come out the other side still having zero understanding of what they are for. And to have learned so little about professionalism along the way, that someone behaves in a way that actually gets them less respect.

        1. CMart*

          My sister will often playfully pull the “but do you have a PhD?” card on me during debates where her credentials are irrelevant (eg: which local Mexican restaurant has the best margaritas, and she is wrong despite her learn’d gravitas).

          What the coworker is doing is essentially this. The number of degrees he has (or where they are from) is completely beside the point in the context of LW being able to make decisions or do their job.

        2. AnnaBananna*

          Exactly. My friends with a PhD would cringe if they observed this guy. It’s just not done unless you’re fighting for tenure or something. But yes, they will use their intelligence as a joke ‘I think my advanced degree in particle physics makes me THE keen expert on how to tap this keg, thankyouverymuch’. *cue explosion*

      6. Bob Bob Bobbin*

        Good natured humor is the best way to deflate a puffed ego. The key is to be good natured when you respond (almost jolly).

        When he pulls his “3 degrees” as his last word on the subject– Don’t Let it Be the Last Word. Keep the conversation going — “You do? Three?? I. did. not. know. that!” “Wow – three? That’s a lot to bring to the discussion! All from good colleges too I bet! Hey Wakeem? Did you know Guy has three degrees? From good colleges?” And then continue on with your point.

        And then bring it up every single chance you get. “Hey Guy, the coffee machine needs a new filter, it’s really hard, but you have three degrees, so I bet you can get it done!” “What should we have for lunch, Guy has 3 degrees, I bet he has an educated guess!” (again, the key here is to be naive in your enthusiasm, happily impressed by his education)

        1. TootsNYC*

          I’m w/ this–I think being amused is a tremendously powerful tool.

          Amused, or bemused (puzzled, confused).

        2. TootsNYC*

          also, especially if he uses the same wording, repeat it WITH him.

          He says, “After all, I have three degrees,”
          and you chime in on the “three degrees.”

          then smile at him–hey, you weren’t being snotty, you were teasing him, right? didn’t he see you smile?

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Also: “*Laugh with sly one eyebrow raise* Is that your [Gauche Famous Person Who Brags About Being Rich and So Smart] impression?”

        1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

          No fan at all of Kanye but at least he made his own money, as far as I know. But a really good example of reflected, bragging glory would be Olivia Jade, Lori Loughlin’s daughter.

          1. Observer*

            If the OP were leaving the org anyway, I’d be tempted to advise her to ask him if he’s sure his Daddy and Mommy didn’t BUY his fancy degrees.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Too risky. Fictional is better. Maybe Gatsby, or someone from _Wall Street_? I’d also avoid anyone who is a minority – too easy to focus on that instead of on the behavior.

              1. AnnaBananna*

                Not knocking it but I have to assume since it’s a nonprofit that his three degrees are a BA, MPH and MBA? Not a whole lot of lit other than general ed in the BA. I would stay away from fiction also. Pop culture he would probably get since it’s a ‘Sup Bro.

          1. MaureenC*

            Gatsby came from a humble background and made his own money (and legend). I’d say Tom Buchanan.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I doubt this guy would recognize any literary reference. It would have to be someone from pop culture. Since I don’t follow pop culture, I don’t have any suggestions.

    3. CastIrony*

      I resent his three degrees in this context; it feels like he was indecisive as to what he wanted to do, and besides, ONE degree is expensive!

      Besides, degrees are NOT an indicator of intelligence. I know people with less education than me who know and can handle things better than I do, and I admire them and look for their assistance when I need it.

      1. Allie*

        Three non relevant degrees is the opposite of impressive to me (like what, a bachelor’s and two non-relevant master’s degrees?). It suggests they couldn’t focus and just burned money.

        You see this on tv shows sometimes, where some scientist character brags “I have 4 PhDs” but why? Unless you are switching fields, why would anyone have more than one PhD? It would be a huge waste of time (and stall out your career). You would do a post doc or just do research with a colleague.

        It isn’t impressive at all, especially if they are not relevant.

        1. MK*

          Usually the degrees aren’t completely unrelated; it’s not as if there is only one relevant master’s degree per bachelor degree. Also, the people I know.have heard of who have multiple PhDs did them simulteneously and/or while continuing their work/research on the side, which is objectively impressive.

          1. Allie*

            I should note my spouse has a PhD. When he finished his thesis they had a long talk about how the thesis will be his least-read and influential paper. Having one PhD means he can teach at his university, no reason to have another.

          2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Wait, what? How would you do multiple PhDs at the same time? And how would you do your PhD while also doing something else? And also, why on earth would you need more than one unless you were going from, say, physics to American history? As an ABD I’m so confused.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I’ve met people who go to school because they enjoy it, so they keep getting degrees. It could be that.
              Doing more than one PhD simultaneously while working sounds like they really cut him some slack – but academia isn’t my field and I don’t know a lot about the process.
              When the characters on Big Bang brag about their degrees, they’re being competitive.

            2. MK*

              The one person I know with two PhDs did them part-way at the same time; the subject matter of each was very closely related to the other, so I am assuming there was some overlap in the research. My sister did her PhD in archeolgolical computing while also working full-time, first as an antiquities conservator in a dig, then as an assistant at the university, though she did take some time off to write her thesis. Every single of my colleagues (my field is law) who has a PhD got it while working full-time on their own time; admitedly that is easier to do in law, because it’s mostly research, taking/giving classes and writing, there is no lad work or experiments etc.

              And, except my sister and one friend who both wanted academic careers, not one of these people “needed” even one post-graduate degree, let alone multiple; it was a labor of love. I live in a country with free university attendance and a culture that values education for its own shake.

        2. pleaset*

          I generally agree with you, but have to say I’m impressed by PhDs.

          Also I got a masters degree that cost very little other than opportunity cost of not working (full tuition plus living stipend was provided to me through fellowships for two years). I did not have a lot of focus, so wouldn’t have paid for it myself. And my second masters degree (20 years later) I got mainly because I thought it was interesting. I paid for it and was happy.

          Yeah, burning money if you don’t have it is not good, but if I was rich I’d probably be back in school again at some point (that’d be degree #4). But I wouldn’t hold it over other people as meaning I’m better than them.

        3. alphabet soup*

          They wouldn’t necessarily be unrelated– bachelors, masters, Ph.D. Most Ph.D. candidates earn a masters as part of their Ph.D. program (so if you decide to quit before you’ve finished your dissertation, you don’t walk away with nothing).

          1. Eeyore's missing tail*

            That really depending on the field. In my experience, that’s how PhD programs that only require a bachelor’s degree do it. When I was in my old field (agriculture), most places required you to have a master’s before being accepted into a PhD program.

        4. epi*

          I hate that trope so much! It doesn’t make the characters sound smarter, it makes them sound ridiculous.

          I’ve known people who just couldn’t stop collecting degrees for some reason. I even knew someone who decided to start med school*after* earning a PhD in a public health field (and at least one masters that was related to health broadly, but not really public health or medicine). They are always weird. A lot of grad school is about mentorship and I always find myself wondering why these people never had a mentor who made clear to them this is a bad idea.

          I have known actual smart, accomplished people get a mid-career masters though. Usually it is a professional one that actually adds something they don’t already know how to do. Like they patented something and are going to start a business, and decided to get an MBA. I can’t say if it is actually helpful to them in the long run, but everyone I know who did something like that was normal, focused, high achieving at things other than degree collecting.

          1. Annette*

            You can’t practice medicine with a PhD. Probably this guy realized he wanted to be a physician while doing his public health degree. What was he supposed to do besides med school.

            People need to MYOB.

        5. Artemesia*

          Multiple PhDs is about not being able to get your career off the ground and being more comfortable as a supplicant. Once you have a PhD you cna acquire any new skills you need without further degrees — your research will speak for itself. Academia hires interdisciplinary experts all the time. I suppose if your first one was in French medieval stained glass and your second was in physics, the case could be made, but otherwise the whole point of a PhD is the training in learning and research — you don’t need another degree to learn new things and people do it all the time as they change research focus.

        6. AnnaBananna*

          Most PhD I know (actually all of them now that I think of it) only get additional masters, sometimes many. To them its the equivalent of a certificate program. For instance say you have a PhD in art history. Awesome, you can teach, design museum curriculum, etc. But if you get a MS in some sort of basic science/research context, you can now change your career to focus on, say, 1/2 art research 1/2 teaching/museum curriculum. There’s no point in getting another PhD unless you’re going in a totally different field that your PhD didn’t cover. I work with several MD/PhDs… although they mostly seem to get both degrees concurrently through focused training programs set up to increase the number of researching MDs in the area. Everyone else just accumulates a ton of masters programs after their names.

      2. Not Australian*

        And, as I tend to respond when people flaunt their academic credentials, “You can’t teach common sense.”

        1. HappySnoopy*

          My dad had an expression for smart people with no common sense: educated beyond their intelligence.

          1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

            My friend Marie used to say that there are a lot of educated fools out there.

        2. Liz*

          So true! I dated someone who’s BF’s gf, now wife, had a BA, JD, MS or MA and was going for her PhD. So while she is highly intelligent and very book smart, and has taught for many years at a state university, where I think she is very well respected etc., the amount of common sense she has could fit in a thimble.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            I also have a lifer friend too. She’s just a huge lover of learning so she just keeps picking up new areas to outfit herself with.

      3. Beth*

        When I mention I have three master’s degrees, which isn’t very often, it’s always with a degree of embarrassment – I really enjoyed being in grad school, and love learning stuff, but it’s totally not something I brag about. Education isn’t everything – my husband makes way more money than I do, and only has a high school diploma. (He’s a business intelligence analyst at a liquor distributor, I’m a senior IT education specialist at a university.)

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          I think you are a different case and are allowed to bask in your accomplishment.

          You’re not rubbing it in people’s faces or using it to make yourself better than everyone.

        2. Happy for Hump Day*

          I love learning but could not afford multiple advanced degrees. Sometimes multiple degrees is just another statement of privilege.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            One of the people I met who loved school was a young woman who was using student loans. I’m not the only one who cautioned her about debt!

          2. GreenDoor*

            “another statement of privilege” – yes, all the more reason why professional people generally recognize that it’s tacky to brag about their degrees or use the existance of them as a point in a debate. Where I work, there are tons of people with multiple degrees that have zero street-sense. We refer to them as “smart dummies.”

        1. Annette*

          This is extremely uncalled for. Why speak like this to another commenter. Esp when you don’t know the full story. Many commenters don’t understand how graduate school funding works anyway.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Eh, it could simply be Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ph.D. Or dual-degree and MBA.
        But the snarky side of me is thinking “Obviously none of them included a business etiquette course.”

        1. Yvette*

          Or how about an Associates, a bachelors, and a masters. Or, is it possible to get multiple associates? Kidding, sort of.

          1. Shad*

            It is possible to get multiple Associates. Associates degrees come in science, art, fine art, and applied (preprofessional).

        2. TootsNYC*

          Or associate’s! my kid went to a high school/early college and often mentions that she has an associate’s degree.

      1. Pommette!*

        For all of the well-deserved mocking we’re imagining here, the OP really is in a difficult position.
        S/he shouldn’t be, but s/he is.

    4. Not A Manager*

      “I have a coworker who constantly brags about how rich he is. His family is well-known in the area and it’s common knowledge he got the job at our nonprofit because of his family’s status.”

      “Oh, that’s interesting. And did you dress yourself today?”

    5. pleaset*


      In a way this clown is refreshing because he’s not like the people who use wealth/connections to get ahead and then pretend they’re just regular folks who happen to be smarter/harder working than other people.

    6. Traffic_Spiral*

      I’d go with [eyeroll] “yes, your daddy’s rich, we know,” every time he brings it up. That, or keep an obvious list called “times [name] has bragged about money,” and mark it off whenever he does – bonus point if you can get others in on it.

      For the degree, I’d just go, “a degree in teapot glazing has no relevance to this matter,” and then just continue on.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I’d advise against the list, especially recruiting others to be involved, because that’s pretty unpleasant behaviour. But saying “yes, your daddy’s rich, we know” Ian great, and “a degree in teapot glazing has no relevance” is even better! OP, I’d definitely use that last one if you have the opportunity.

    7. Lynca*

      “You have three degrees and yet you don’t have the common sense to understand none of us care.” – I’ve actually said this to someone. Not in a job context but someone that just kept bragging about it on and on. We were VOLUNTEERS! It had no bearing on being able to serve food!

      I work in a field in which having a PhD and which schools you went to is something you’re judged on by some people. I had a lot of people dismiss me because I didn’t go to Big State U and settled on a less expensive Little State U that had (imo) a better program for my degree. So I see this “I have three degrees, I’m smarter than you because I went here, etc.” a lot. Thankfully none of the “I’m rich”.

      Things I’ve thought and kept to myself:
      “Too bad they can’t buy you a better personality.”
      “If this is the caliber of PhD students they produce I weep for our future.”
      “I wouldn’t trust this person to be able to fight their way out of a wet paper bag.”
      “Can’t wait to see what kind of robot companion they buy you because no person is EVER going to put up with the way you talk to people.”

      1. AnnaBananna*

        “If this is the caliber of PhD students they produce I weep for our future.” This gave me the giggles.

        *high five*

    8. snowglobe*

      “You keep bragging about how privileged you are because your family is rich. That’s not quite as impressive as you seem to think it is.”

    9. Oregano*

      I have three degrees and I could have been using them to get my way on everything this entire time?????

      Oh wait.



    10. Luna*

      That’s what I would retort whenever he wants to pull the “I have three degrees” and “smarter” stick. You may call it below the belt, but I see nothing wrong with reminding this type of person that, with all their ‘betterness’, they still couldn’t get a job without ‘help’.

    11. Annette*

      None of these comebacks make sense IMO. We don’t know the nature of his own comments. How then can we calibrate. If he’s just mildly condescending. Then LW will look like a huge jerk (rightly so) it she says any of this.

      1. Knork*

        I don’t know how you could interpret someone flat-out telling you they’re smarter than you as “mildly” condescending.

        1. Annette*

          We don’t know that he said that flat out. I think that’s OP’s interpretation. I really doubt he said “I’m smarter than you” even if it came through loud and clear. Or LW thinks it did.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Yes but we only have HER perception of the conversation to go by, and we respond accordingly. Had he been writing in we might see it very different. But we don’t have that data, so we have to analyze the data we do have…

      2. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        Yah, if we take the letter writer at her word (which we are supposed to do) then there’s no question in my mind that he’s a condescending jerk and does not deserve the benefit of the doubt from us.

      3. Artemesia*

        The risk is too high to engage in ridicule because he is rightly viewed as untouchable because he bring in money to the institution. Thus , blase and slightly amused and totally disengaged is the way to go. Be dismissive and forge ahead on what needs done but dont snark at him or especially don’t get all defensive which is what he hopes for. Just a gentle smirk and get on with the job.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I agree. Also – even though it can be highly satisfying and amusing to come up with responses like the ones in this thread, IMO it’s actually pretty easy to tell the difference between “this person genuinely doesn’t care” and “this person is really, really annoyed and has spent a long time coming up with snappy comebacks to show how much they don’t care”. If there’s anything intentional about this guy’s behaviour or if he thinks it’s funny to annoy OP, I think any sort of snarky response will make it worse. As you say, blase and totally disengaged is the way to go.

      4. Observer*

        The OP shouldn’t say these things because it could get her fired, and it’s not a really good idea to respond to jerks in kind if you have other options.

        But, we actually DO know the nature of his comments – he is telling the OP explicitly that he is smarter than them. And He is trying to over-ride their decisions! Because he is SO MUCH smarter (and richer) than them. There is not way that this gets even close to “mildly”. “Wildly” is a FAR better description.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Yep. That overriding nonsense would’ve 100% went up the chain until I found backup, and then would have shut it down asap. Don’t touch my area, Bro.

  1. CastIrony*

    OP#4, I’m so sorry about your father. I am curious if “family emergency” can be used like a synonym to “family matter”, but other than that, I like Allison’s advice best.
    You are in my thoughts.

    1. sacados*

      I think the only potential issue there is that “emergency” is going to read to many people like a short-term thing, when in OP’s case the situation is likely to continue for several months.

      1. CJM*

        Yes, it sounds short term. If she wants to say it’s because of family, I’d go with family members illness.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Unfortunately, I think “family emergency” is going to raise more questions than a “family matter.” I also think folks tend to assume emergencies are short term (like, 1-2 weeks), and this sounds like a longer-term concern.

      If I were OP, I’d keep it simple (Engineer Girl’s script is super useful, imo). And I’d consider exercising intermittent FMLA leave.

      (I’m so sorry, OP, that you and your father are going through this experience.)

    3. Mary*

      I would probably be more explicit and say, “caring for a family member with a terminal illness”. Lets them know that this really is serious, but also time-limited.

      1. TootsNYC*

        If you told me you were going to be working sporadically for several months because of a family matter, I would assume a terminal illness of a parent had a 75% chance of being the reason.

        But I would find it awkward to be told “a family member’s terminal illness.” I’d wonder what to say, and if I was supposed to ask more questions, etc.

        It’s just too much detail.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For me, I simply told people I would be on intermittent FMLA leave because my elderly mother had had a stroke.
      But then again I’ve been told I wear my heart on my sleeve. I do not think that’s a bad thing. It’s easy for us to make mistakes and forget things while distracted by grief. I told my co-workers; they were willing to give an extra eyeball to critical documents, and keep me posted on changing priorities/schedules if I had been off work for a crisis. I have done the same for them over the years.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, if people are comfortable being forthright this can be the way to go. I’d bend over backwards in this situation to accommodate a coworker dealing with this.

      2. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I handled my situation in a similar manner, when my dad was dying. I had a generic “I am out for a family matter and may take longer than expected to respond. Thank you for your patience” auto-reply on my email, but in my conversations with people, I explained the situation for what it was. The reality is, I was a mess when my dad was dying. I mostly handled myself professionally, but I wanted a little bit of grace if there were days when I looked and seemed sad, or when my focus wasn’t as sharp as usual. Because I had built up 7 or 8 years of goodwill and a solid reputation in my role, I was afforded that grace.

        OP, so sorry about your dad. Losing mine was truly the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through, and I hope you have a good support system and the ability to do a lot of self-care.

      3. wittyrepartee*

        I’m this way too. Either everyone will be worried, or I let people know what’s going on.

      4. TootsNYC*

        I would tell people I worked with, but outside boards, etc., I probably would go with a euphemism.

    5. Samwise*

      I will sometimes use “family medical emergency” in my automated response, as that indicates more strongly that “this is serious and really truly I will not be responding quickly”

  2. Beth*

    For #1, I can’t fully agree with Alison’s advice. This guy is a bully, and I’ve never known a bully to actually get bored and wander off when you ignore them. In my experience, usually they do the opposite–they escalate until they get what they want.

    OP, I think it’s past time to make your boss aware this is going on. Even if you don’t feel comfortable asking your boss to make your coworker stop, at the very least you should say something like “I wanted to let you know that Fergus has been making these comments lately. I’m not thrilled with him repeatedly trying to overrule me, and he’s refused to cut it out even though I’ve asked him to stop. Since we’re actually peers, my plan is to continue to follow my best judgment in areas I’m responsible for, and to look for a compromise that works for everyone in areas where our duties overlap. But I wanted to check with you and see if you had any additional advice I could try, since this is pretty frustrating behavior.”

    Maybe your boss will exceed your expectations and take action! But even if they don’t, at least they’ll have your perspective on what’s going on. That way, if your coworker tries to escalate to them (e.g. “OP is ignoring all my contributions, so mean, not a team player!”), they’ll know there’s more to it than that, and if his behavior starts to cause bigger problems, you’ll be able to bring that to them as part of a bigger pattern instead of an isolated incident. Basically, even if you can’t make your coworker stop, you can at least try to protect yourself from the impact of his nonsense.

    1. Perse's Mom*

      I agree it’s definitely worth flagging for the boss. This guy is a manager – I’m taking that in the traditional sense, not in the Project Manager sense – so he has people who report to him. Unless he’s doing this because he actually feels threatened by OP and it’s some kind of weird defense mechanism, how likely is it he makes similar remarks to the people who report to him? This could be intensely alienating to not just his staff but any other employee or volunteer subjected to it and *that* is something the boss should consider if nothing else.

      Then again, if he did indeed get this job and has kept it purely due to nepotism, I can’t say I trust the boss all that much to care. A dysfunctional enough place will take increased staff turnover over the possibility of lost donations if this guy faces any consequences for his juvenile behavior.

      1. Beth*

        If OP’s boss totally doesn’t care, or tells OP to humor the guy instead of holding her ground, that’s still good information to have. That would tell OP that her employer will not have her back, that she’s expected to defer to this guy even though he’s nominally her peer, and that any fuss will blow back on her. If that’s the case (which obviously I hope it’s not!), OP will have to decide if it’s something she can live with or if she needs to be job hunting–either way, at least she’s making an informed decision.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          I think it’s already known though.. the guy was hired in the first place, and the OP already says she cant’ really make waves or she’ll lose her job. I would do my best to ignore this guy or start looking.. Can’t really tell if it’s more that the guy’s just irritiating, or is he actually impacting her ability to do her job

          1. Genny*

            I wonder how much of that is reality vs. perception though. It can be easy to assume that prominent person (big donor, CEO’s daughter, asshole superstar employee) is untouchable when that’s not the case. I agree with Beth’s suggestion/wording. I think it makes sense to at least raise this once with her manager and then determine her next course of action based on that conversation. It would be a truly dysfunctional workplace that would fire someone based on one conversation where they raised concerns about morale, bullying, or inefficiencies.

        2. Mr. Shark*

          I agree, Beth. Worst case, she starts looking for a new job. Letting her boss know what’s going on gives her a chance to provide her own perspective in case the other guy escalates, and find out if she has any backing to push back on other guy.

      2. Proxima Centauri*

        If his family is donating a lot of money, I wouldn’t poke the bear. Right or wrong, that can be a lot of pull in an organization, and I wouldn’t want to the OP to do something derailing.

        I’d stay away from the embarrassment line. This is where I think a blank stare, cocked head, and a “Why would say that?” would work better. I think remarks around “That’s not how we make decisions here” are fine, but I’d avoid anything that could be perceived as insulting.

        1. AKchic*

          I have withheld money from non-profits based on their hiring decisions. A non-profit theatre continued to cast a known sex offender (on the registry!) because “he’s a good actor” and they lost my goodwill, my money, and my support. They lost a lot of support. They finally changed their policy once they realized they were losing money and other actors based on that decision (and the fact that they hadn’t been as forthright with their actors, who’d left children around the controversial actor, and his victim of choice was children).

          I would wager that if this manager is as openly antagonistic at work, and the family continues to donate like they do, it’s because they are subtly buying his job. If he is fired, other revenue sources may open up because others will be happier he is gone.

      3. Drax*

        I did actually wonder if he was threatened by her. I have seen folks take it as a personal attack that someone ‘uneducated’ has the same job as them.

        **Not all folks do this, but we’ve all met someone who just doesn’t get it. It’s sometimes education, or they watched a documentary you didn’t or something like that. It’s a them problem not normal-person-with-degree problem.

      4. Karen from Finance*

        Bullies do escalate until they get what they want, when they know it’s just a matter of persevering and pushing the right buttons. But if you honest-to-god will not be intimidated by them, because you actually do see them as pathetic, they tend to cower and stay away. But there’s a very specific energy that needs to be emanated – you need to actually believe that they are losers that aren’t worth your attention, not play-act. This sadly can’t always be controlled.

        And because in this context, this person doesn’t really hold any true power over OP. He comes from money and has all these titles, so he believes he’s all that, but he’s in a situation where none of that means jack in the workplace, with OP who is in equal standing. And I bet this guy can’t STAND that, and that’s why he keeps flaunting at him. And that really is pathetic.

        So yeah, I pretty sure if he starts getting looked at like with contempt, this guy will escalate at first, and throw little tantrums, which will in turn make him more pathetic. What then? Call daddy? *insert “you have no power here” meme*

    2. OscarJeff*

      I think the point of Alison’s advice isn’t simply to make him stop, but to view his comments as the genuinely sad & pathetic behavior that it is so that OP doesn’t feel so offended by them. I mean I guess maybe he could be a bully, but if so he’s a pretty inept bully b/c I can’t imagine being fearful of him the way I might a classic bully. His behavior is just too pathetic to view w/ anything but contempt & pity.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      He’s insecure and needs validation. If she ignores him, or acts like what he’s saying isn’t relevant, he’ll probably go to someone else. Because his family donates large sums of money to the organization, it’s most likely not going to do her any good to confront him because it may cost him her job. Clearly that’s not right, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened. But she does need to speak to her boss. Who knows if it will do any good, but at least it will be on record.

      1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        No one has said this, but we don’t know that this guy’s wealthy family is actually condoning his behavior. It’s possible that they are perfectly lovely, polite, dignified people who do not know he is acting this way and would be appalled if they did. I don’t know that that changes anything, but it may be something to keep in mind.

        1. TootsNYC*

          but will they ever know? And will they think they could do something about it now?

          Also, the OP said this:

          Because he has a position at our organization, his family gives large donations.

          He got the job because of his family’s status (OP’s wording), and not necessarily because of their previous support of this charity.

          His family’s donations may be coming not as a tit for tat but because they’re aware of this nonprofit because of his job, and they want to support whatever it is he’s doing. (My daughter works with a theater group, and we make it a point to attend all the performances; we did attend performances before she started, and if she left, we would still attend some, but not nearly as many; we’d go back to what the level of involvement was before.)

          So if he ends up not working there because he quits in a huff, the family will probably lose interest in this organization and moves on to donate to wherever he next works. That’s the clout he has, probably.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I think Alison’s advice is good advice, and with some people it may genuinely get them to feel embarrassed and stop. However, I have my doubts it will do so with this rich obnoxious boor. Because you’re right, bullies generally do not back down and will actually often double down to get what they want (although in this case, it’s a bit unclear what the boor’s end game is).

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think that the point it to get him to stop. More like to get the OP to be less stressed about it, and to stop the interference.

    5. Observer*

      It actually is a bit more complicated than that. A really important thing to realize about bullies is that they are opportunists, regardless of what other factors play into their bullying. As one researcher I heard put it “Bullies bully because they can.”

      Ignoring a bully most often doesn’t work because the dynamic allows the bully to escalate in ways that become impossible to ignore and / or there are other factors that impel the bully (eg trying to keep their hold on all of the bystanders etc.) But in a case like this, there is a good chance that if the OP is careful – so no snarky or unprofessional comments – the CW is not going to have any power to really escalate. Even if he doesn’t get fired, the OP is also not going to get fired for a bland and utterly bored response to his bragging and insults. Even refusing to allow themselves to be “over-ridden” by this idiot should be ok, as long as the manager is looped in and it’s done in a work appropriate and professional way.

      Sure, it’s likely that CW is going to have some tantrums, but that’s not the OP’s problem. And the key thing the OP needs here is not to change the CW, but to reduce their stress and keep him from interfering with their work.

  3. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – Been there, done that.
    I put an auto response to something like this:
    “From date x to date y I will be away from my desk. I will only have sporadic access to my email account. I will reply to your email as quickly as possible but please allow for an additional response time of x days.

    Please contact Joe if your needs are urgent”

    1. Tom*

      I sometimes do this for holiday.

      From Date1 to Date2 I will be on holiday.
      Due to the location, internet access will be very limited.
      Please contact (team) for emergencies, otherwise I will be back on Date3.

      Emails received during this holiday will not be processed, if you need a reply or action, please contact me after my return.

      I realize the last line might be somewhat agressive, but I have to do this, otherwise on my first day back I get angry people ‘why didn`t you answer my mail’ – and with this line added, i more or less block that route in advance.

    2. hbc*

      Depending on how frequent the contact is, I might do this in combination with a temporary signature line on my emails. If they get the auto-response today, get a few emails handled in relatively normal time for the rest of the month, they might need something quickly answered in mid-May and have forgotten all about that schedule email from 6 weeks ago.

    3. epi*

      I like this. I have had colleagues leave up an out if office message when their schedule is not going to be 9-5 M-F, and I find it super helpful. For example, coworkers who work 60% or 80% time will have a permanent message letting you know what days they are in the office.

      If the OP doesn’t always know what days they will be checking email, their message could just say they will be away intermittently with limited access to email during whatever month, with a contact person for urgent matters. Then proactively contact the people they normally deal with most.

  4. Reliant*

    I’m genuinely puzzled how anyone could consider an ergonomic assessment so sensitive that confidentiality is required. Bad ergonomics is not a health matter, although it could cause one. What’s the concern?

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Some ergonomic issues need to take health matters into account. Say, someone has disk issues in their spine and their doctor has told them to sit in a certain way. You may not want to disclose that to others.

    2. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*

      When I had one they asked about my current health – any diagnoses I had etc.

      1. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

        Same here, and they made adjustments accordingly. I love your username by the way….

      2. AnnaBananna*

        Mine didn’t. I literally sat in a chair and the guy measured all the angles between me and my set up and then educated me on how to adjust everything. If someone had watched I wouldn’t have cared. So YMMV.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Oh! And the ergo consults are expensive to departments, to boot. So I could see this manager wanting to observe so that she could do this herself and save the department a few hundred bucks in the future. Not that she would be qualified, but that doesn’t stop some folks.

    3. Beth*

      Ergonomics can be as simple as making sure your desk chair is a good height for you, but it’s not by any means limited to that. It can touch on weight, on physical disabilities and other chronic medical issues, on old injuries that might have healed badly, etc. There are tons of health conditions that might impact someone’s ergonomic needs, and depending on how customized the setup is, the consultant may need to be able to ask about those kinds of needs to set it up properly.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        I was coming to say the same thing, just not as eloquent as Beth. Our office’s policy is that all ergonomic meetings are private one-on-one meetings with just the consultant and the employee. It’s also why our ergonomics consultant reports to our HR director.

    4. MommyMD*

      Bad ergonomics can definitely relate to a health matter. Or a weight matter. It’s ok to want privacy.

    5. Gen*

      I had one of these assessments to try to keep me in work after a chest injury. The purpose was to get an official list of items I medically needed, like specialist chairs etc. I had to list out all my conditions, all my deterioration, the medications I was taking and any effect those things had on my ability to work. A number of these were things I’d rather my manager not have details of- I got enough retaliation for costing them money, if I’d thought my manager would get enough googleable info to figure out my life expectancy at that stage I probably wouldn’t have gone to the assessment.

    6. Cambridge Comma*

      Mine was to deal with a pregnancy related condition, and nobody knew I was pregnant except the ergonomics advisor, so I was grateful for the confidentiality.

    7. only acting normal*

      We have to do self-assessments unless we’ve got a health issue that could need a special chair/desk/other equipment, then occupational health come to do a more detailed assessment and approve the non-standard equipment/furniture.

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I was thinking the same thing. If a confidential medical condition is the reason for the assessment, I can understand wanting it to be private, but otherwise it seems odd to me that she’s so weirded out by it.

      1. Observer*

        Have you read the comments above? Pretty much any REAL and competent ergonomic assessment is going to include questions about health conditions. – especially if you’re going to be recommending spending any money based on it.

    9. LQ*

      Even if this is wrong (as a number of people pointed out) this is likely what the boss was thinking. It’s much more likely that the boss was actually curious about it and didn’t know that it would be a health question. I don’t think this is something to be overly concerned about with the boss.

      1. LaurenB*

        My ergonomic assessment was conducted alongside my co-worker’s. Basically we were both told to sit up straight and not cross our legs, and they recommended buying a smaller chair for both of us. Based on that experience, if I had been asked to order an ergonomic assessment for the person I supervise, I would never have thought to make a point of leaving the room or booking them a quiet room. I’d have been happy to do so (and a bit embarrassed to have had to be asked) had she requested it.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Me too. From the comment above, apparently we are the outliers with crappy ergo departments though. LOL

      1. AnnaBananna*

        Do you live in the US? The reason I ask is we are very litigious as a country. It makes companies very sensitive to not breaking their employees as much as they can, so they’re not dealing with lawsuits and workers comp.

    10. Sleepytime Tea*

      I have health issues that I need to tell an ergonomic consultant about for them to take into account when doing an assessment. While those issues aren’t something I personally have an issue sharing with my boss, I could absolutely see some people not wanting to discuss their health concerns with management. Ergo evals can vary pretty widely when it comes to what is asked, but they do frequently include asking if you have any health issues.

  5. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*

    #2 I’m not in the US (presumably the mention of HIPPA means the LW is) but when I had a similar assessment it involved confidential questions about my health and the report they sent was password-protected.

    I’m surprised the evaluator didn’t insist on privacy and my beef would be with them.

    1. MommyMD*

      HIPAA has to do with medical personnel and charts and who can view them and the release of information. It has nothing to do with this situation and is poorly understood.

      I also think the evaluator should have insisted on privacy. But OP also could have mentioned it. We can’t be rude or insubordinate to our bosses but we are allowed to speak with them and have reasonable requests.

      1. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*

        I think you’ve misunderstood me – I know what HIPAA is. I was saying that, due to it being mentioned, I assumed the LW was in the US.

      2. AnnaBananna*

        It is also used in research to ensure that the subject’s data is as secure as possible during a clinical trial. (Just did my mandatory annual training…blah hipaa modules for three hours? I don’t even touch medical data in my role. GAH.)

    2. Triplestep*

      I am also surprised that the evaluator did not insist on privacy just due to the nature of the questions they ask.

      My work involves workplace design, and I typically work with the recommendations generated by these kinds of evaluations. These days most large workplaces establish a set of standard furnishings, and make some special items available to employees who need them (standing desk, chairs with extra adjustments, fatigue mats, keyboard trays, etc.) And many of those companies use professional ergonomic assessments to determine who may have the special furnishings. Often the assessments are provided by the company’s insurer, but the furniture and accessories that the evaluator may recommend are costly.

      LW#2, my guess is that your manager was using your assessment as an opportunity to see if you – or any one else – could “game the system” to insure the cool ergonomic furniture and accessories were suggested because those things would hit her budget.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Similar to your last paragraph, OP2’s manager may need to assure *upper* management that the evaluations mean that specified furniture is not an aesthetic-only choice.

        1. Liberry Pie*

          Yes, I also thought it had a whiff of “I want to make sure you’re not exaggerating the recommendations that we buy you new furniture.” Though I think it’s also possible the manager had no ill intent and just thought she’d learn something herself about ergonomics. It’s still weird to have someone watching over you during any kind of consultation.

    3. Observer*

      HIPPA wouldn’t apply here, even if the OP have genuine medical issues to discuss, because HIPPA really only covers medical providers and the information of their patients / clients.

      1. AnnaBananna*

        That is incorrect as a generalization. Because ergo practitioners are considered ‘business associates’ they are covered under the newer HITECH provision. So they’re data guardians, of a sort.

        “This new federal law ensures that covered entities and business associates are accountable to the Department and to individuals for proper safeguarding”

  6. CJM*

    OP1 said the guy got his job because of his families status, but nowhere does she say he has to rely on his degrees because he can’t make it on the merit of his ideas or quality of his work. In fact, it sounds to me like the OP is dismissing his ideas because she doesn’t like him, not because her ideas are better than his.

    Just because a guy is a “boorish ass”, it doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

    1. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*

      He keeps mentioning his degree, so he seems to be attempting to rely on it.

      1. Allie*

        My read on the letter is that he has simething like a master’s in teapot design and this is a llama grooming company. So it really doesn’t matter.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that. And really, given that he announces that he’s overruling the OP in her own area of work without the authority to actually do that — based solely on his degrees, money, and self-proclaimed intellect — it’s more likely than not that he doesn’t have a ton to offer. Maybe he does, who knows. But there’s certainly nothing in the letter that indicates that his ideas are good; that feels like devil’s advocacy or speculation without basis.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        The point being – if he actually had a legitimate argument to overrule the OP he would use it. The fact that he’s resorting to “I have degrees!” shows he has no argument.

        This is a logical fallacy called “appeal to authority”.

      2. CJM*

        But there’s nothing in the letter to indicate he can’t make it on the merit of his ideas and the quality of his work, either. So I am skeptical of *your* speculation.

        Why is your saying his ideas don’t have merit any more valid than me saying his ideas might be better?

        And at least I said might, whereas you said it as if it is a given.

        He is totally out of line over ruling her in either case, since it appears he doesn’t have the authority to do so.

        1. WS*

          Whether or not he *could* make it on the merits of his ideas and work, he currently is not doing that, hence the letter. For a counter-example, “Ms Moneybags” below talks about being in the same situation and handling it differently.

          1. nonymous*

            I wouldn’t be surprised if he is just generally new to working. I work with a team that has a different education silo than myself (we have different roles, my education is suited for the work I do and theirs is for their duties) and with every new hire on that side I have to give basic background of why some non-intuitive approaches are beneficial. Likewise my coworkers have to step back and explain background info, b/c I am not in their domain.

            And it’s generally the new grads who don’t have the breadth of experience to realize just how narrow their slice of academia really was (especially with advanced degrees), so the instinct is “of course everyone with PhD knows XYZ!”

        2. Mookie*

          He’s not saying “might,” either. He’s making An Unequivocal Pronouncement like it’s gospel rather than just cringe-inducing.

        3. anonymous 5*

          If he had good ideas, he’d express them *instead* of expressing how many degrees he holds and how wealthy his family is. That’s why Alison’s take is better than just speculation.

          1. Lance*

            Exactly. If he had actual merit, sure, it would be worth looking at… but as long as he keeps harping on about his riches and degrees to push his ideas, there’s really no reason to take him seriously (and plenty of reason to think that his ideas probably aren’t so good, if he can’t come up with anything better to back them).

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          >>nowhere does she say he has to rely on his degrees because he can’t make it on the merit of his ideas or quality of his work

          @ CJM Website’s standard policy is to trust that the LWs are accurate in their descriptions. OP says that his overriding is because of his degrees, not because of his reasons.

          1. CJM*

            OK. I retract the part where I said that maybe she should listen to his ideas. It is her department, and I’m sure she knows it better than he does.

            That wasn’t my main point anyway. My point was at Allison said he can’t make it on his merits or the quality of his work. Going but those words, she meant not just in this context, but in his job or career in general. That’s not what the letter writer said.

            What MK posted in this thread says it a lot better than I did.

        5. boo bot*

          “Why is your saying his ideas don’t have merit any more valid than me saying his ideas might be better?”

          I don’t think establishing this is necessary, anyway. It doesn’t really matter to the OP’s situation whether he’s good at his job. He’s trying to assert authority over her, when they’re on the same level, and that wouldn’t be acceptable behavior even if he was the best idea man ever to idea.

          If he really did have good ideas on the merits, he could talk to her about them as a peer, or bring them up to their mutual boss, or put them in the organizational suggestion box, or tape them to the refrigerator in passive-aggressive note form. What he’s doing now still wouldn’t be okay.

        6. LQ*

          If he was smart he would use the strongest case to make his argument. He’s using an exceedingly weak argument which indicates that he is not that smart or he doesn’t have a good argument. Either way it is deeply unlikey that his ideas have merit.

        7. Observer*

          Actually, as others have pointed out, there is A LOT to indicate that he can’t stand on his own.

          Basically, his behavior is not just out of line – over-riding your colleague is out of line under any but the most dire circumstances. When you do so regularly and STATE that it is because YOU have degrees and the person whose authority you are trying usurp does not, there is every reason to believe that he actually believes that that’s a good enough reason. If *HE* thinks that his degrees are all that is needed to “prove” that he has the right to over-step this way, why should anyone think that he actually has a genuine and useful insight here? He’s proven that he’s out of touch, arrogant to the point of delusion and ignorant.

        8. Batgirl*

          So are you advising OP to redirect the conversation and ask him to outline actual ideas?
          Because if he is just waffling about his college days he does need to be redirected.

        9. Someone Else*

          I’m thinking of it this way: if his ideas had merit, or his reason for overrules has merit, he would articulate the logical reasons why that is the case. If he’s not doing that, he’s just dropping into the discussion that he has three degrees, it suggests a lack of actual reason.
          Maybe the LW wasn’t being specific and guy is saying “overrule cuz reason” and she says “that’s a bad reason” and he says “I have three degrees in this, I think I’d know if it’s a good reason” then that would be a different situation. But from the letter what I’m getting is he has 3 degrees that aren’t necessarily related to LW’s job; LW has mucho experience in her own job; and when LW says “ABC”, he says “overule” and she says “why?” and he says “I have 3 degrees so my idea must be better”. If that is indeed what’s going down then it strongly suggests there is no reason to believe the guy’s ideas are better. Heck, even if they are, if he’s unable to articulate why, he’s making a poor case. That’s why from the letter I’m leaning toward “his ideas don’t have merit” more than “maybe his ideas are better”. It’s true we don’t know enough to be sure one way or the other, but there’s good reason to lean one way.

          1. CJM*

            I agree that there’s a good chance the ideas he has for the OP don’t have merit. That’s a far cry from saying he can’t make it on his merits or the quality of his work *in general*.

            There are many, many people who got where they are through family connections. That doesn’t mean they are all stupid. And no doubt some of the extremely smart ones are just as big of jerks as this guy.

            Some asses are actually *smart* asses.

            For the curious wondering why I’m,so annoyed about this, I grew up lower middle class. No family connections. So that’s not it. It just seems really unfair to assume this about the coworker, and by extension, anybody with money or family connections.

        10. disconnect*

          It’s not about his ideas, it’s about his behavior. He’s behaving like a jackass, which is a pretty good way to ensure that his ideas gain zero traction. He might have figured out how to reverse entropy, or travel backwards through time, and it’s not going to matter, because his behavior is the problem here.

      3. Annette*

        Wish we knew what he actually says. Could be spoiled brat saying “they’ll never fire me because I’m a Kennedy.” Or could be LW with a chip on her shoulder reading into “my PhD advisor told me once that X is actually dangerous because…” We’ve had many letters in the second category.

    3. I Took A Mint*

      That’s the downfall of bragging about your family’s status and your academic achievements and other irrelevant things in the workplace. People don’t like you and don’t take your ideas seriously. You lose respect to the point where it doesn’t matter if your ideas are good or bad… <i<you're wrong.

      1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

        Very good point. He may well be right, but he has undermined his credibility with his own hands. Now he’s just reaping what he has sown.

    4. MK*

      There is nothing in the letter about whether he is good at his own job or not, or if the opinions he has about the OP’s work are good or not, even that he actually got the job solely because of his family connections sounds like gossip to me. But that’s not really the point.

      I don’t actually agree with Alison that a person who brags about their money and/or education is more likely to be incompetent than anyone else; it’s mostly a stereotype of the stupid, lazy rich person, grounded in confirmation bias, because people don’t call to mind the lovely and humble yet incompetent person, or the braggart jerk who is also brilliant, or the many stages in between, and remember the privileged stupid lazy braggart.

      But this guy is about something else. This isn’t about the OP dismissing his ideas about a shared project because she dislikes his behaviour; it’s about him injecting himself to her own are of work (which is separate from his, as far as I can tell) and trying to act like her boss because he has more degrees! It doesn’t matter how brilliant his ideas are, that’s not a reasonable thing to do, especially in such a boorish manner.

      1. Mookie*

        I disagree with the notion that Braggarty Geniuses don’t otherwise get their dues. The world at large worships them almost as much as they do Bullying Grifters.

        1. MK*

          Oh, I wasn’t arguing that they don’t get their dues, they do. But I often come across the attitude that none of their accomplishments “count” because of their initial priviledge (and possible bad behaviour), which is actually counter-productive, especially if you are in competition with them. To get my current position in the court system, I beat out several children of high-level judges and very successful and established top lawyers, some of whom were obnoxious about their connections. It wouldn’t have helped me to dismiss them as competition because of this, especially because I had been to law school with some and knew that, on average, they were as good or as bad as the rest of us.

      2. CJM*

        Anybody that has used a gender term here, including me, has assumed the letter writer is a woman. Are we being sexist because it seems like she seems to be having difficulty handling this emotionally?

        I just read this over before hitting submit, and realized I unconsciously did it again. I said she in that last sentence. FWIW, I’m a woman.

        1. Mookie*

          It’s the convention of this blog to refer to LWs using female pronouns when they don’t otherwise identify themselves. An ongoing exercise in not defaulting to male.

    5. Mookie*

      Wait, what is he not “wrong” about? That he’s smarter (questionable), has three degrees (congratulations, this is a non-sequitur), or he’s “overruling” her (unlikely to possess that kind of power over a peer)?

    6. Samwise*

      She didn’t say his ideas were wrong, she said he’s obnoxious and demeaning and he’s overstepping his authority by telling her (a peer, not a report) what to do. The problem is his behavior, not his ideas.

    7. LQ*

      Why on earth would you assume that someone who only got his job because of his family’s money and continually brags about meaningless accomplishments instead of actual work place accomplishments has any good ideas at all. If he had contributed anything of value to the company (and let’s be clear, he’s taking something away because some of that money his family donates goes into his pocket, and everyone would be better off if his mommy and daddy just gave him the money and he stayed home as the dilettante he is) he would be talking about that. “I ran the biggest X program that we’ve ever done here so you have to listen to me!” “I built the Y system myself so you have to listen to me!” He’s not. He’s worthless.

      1. Annette*

        CJM’s point – LW seems to hate this guy and is way past the point of BEC. So we do not actually know that this guy got his job only because of his family. She did not give one real example of his behavior so I’m equally ready to believe real problem or projection.

        1. Observer*

          But they DID give an example of his behavior. This guy TRIED TO OVER-RIDE them, even though they do NOT have the authority to do so! And his “reason” was that “he has 3 degrees”. I’m not sure how you get projection from that.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This sounds like an example to me: “and any time he wants to have pull over me, he tells me he has three degrees and is smarter than me so he’s “overruling” my authority.”

          We could go on about how LW may have made it all up and he was really asking her how she was doing, but we actually can’t, because the rules say to take a LW at their word.

    8. Frankie*

      Anecdotal experience, but I’ve worked with a few people who were convinced their degrees gave them the right to make decisions that weren’t in their purview or qualified them for work or responsibility they hadn’t earned. I have never known those same people to consistently offer superior ideas. It’s always been an indicator of their limited applied experience, actually, and their ignorance of the full picture.

      The credentialed people I have worked with who have great ideas don’t have to tout their degrees, because the ideas have their own appeal. Sometimes someone will explain, “this fits well with what I learned in X training or degree,” and that’s fine. Not the same as what this dude is doing.

      Maybe this guy’s the exception? But there’s nothing in the letter to indicate that.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Incidentally, this is a huge reason the anti-vaccine movement has gained so much traction. People with degrees making decisions outside the scope of their training and expertise, and deciding that their, say, law degree or MBA is just as good as their doctor’s medical degree.

  7. Dan*

    #2 – I’m not 100% sure about what an ergonomic assessment is, but my guess is that it’s basically someone seeing if your workstation is ergonomically correct. That, for example, your monitor is the right height and you have the right kind of chair, etc. If I’m right about that, then it doesn’t really seem like a very private thing. After thinking about it in this context I’m guessing that actually perhaps some personal information could come up, like a person’s weight or something, but at least my first impression when I hear “ergonomic assessment” is not something that would require privacy. So I wonder if your manager just thought of it in the same way that she would think of an IT consultant helping you properly set up your software. So maybe she just thought “oh I don’t know if I have time to go through the whole process myself so I’ll sit in on someone else’s session.” Or maybe she was trying to evaluate whether this was worth paying for. And you wouldn’t have felt weird about her sitting in on an IT consultation, even if she followed you into a conference room for part of it. I’d have a very different opinion if you or the ergonomic assessor asked to have privacy and she didn’t give it to you, or if some private info came up and she didn’t leave but it doesn’t sound like that happened.

    1. Gen*

      I’ve never worked anywhere that had an individual assessment for every employee, most get an online guide to setting up their chair/keyboard/monitor and are left to it. To have a specialist come in and do an assessment that the manager has never seen before suggests this is an unusual occurrence. I don’t know why OP had theirs but mine was done by a rep from a government agency to get me back to work after a chest injury. I’m short with mobility problems, I couldn’t use the standard office furniture without worsening my health. The process involved discussing my medical history in detail and demonstrating some of my limitations, they would then find the best equipment for my situation and present the results (but not the reasons) to my employer.

      1. Amali*

        Yes, ususally when I see such individual assessments they are the result of Occupational Health involvement due to health conditions. I would assume any such consultation ought to be confidential and private as a result.

      2. LaurenB*

        Mine was like a hybrid of the two – an occupational therapist came in and pretty much delivered the content of that online guide you’re talking about. She showed us how to sit up straight and sit correctly at our workstations and recommended we all order smaller chairs. She did mine and my co-worker’s at the same time, so the assessment was not treated as private health information. I don’t know what they would have done had they discovered a more specialized problem – not much, I suspect, since they’d need to change the furniture and layout of the entire room. This was done by a government-approved occupational therapy clinic, though I’m not sure if the assessor was a licensed OT or an OT assistant.

      3. wittyrepartee*

        If the company is big enough, a lot of times they’ll have this service available for everyone. I know for a fact that Google and Janssen both strongly recommend that their employees make use of the ergonomic adviser (usually it’s a contractor that comes in once a week or so).

      4. Safely Retired*

        I just figured the boss, or at least the company, was shelling out real money for these assessments and he wanted to know what they were so as to be able to judge whether the money was being wasted. Which seems reasonable to me.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I went through a whole personalized assessment at a former company. While it’s not exactly HIPPA level security, ergonomic assessments can and should take any health issues into account, such as height, weight, injuries, etc. The assessment would involve the assessor observing sitting and working practices, and perhaps light touching and aligning the body in various poses and asking about pain and such. So, yeah, I can see how the OP might not have wanted to share all of that with their manager.
      It sounded like the manager was more curious about the evaluation as opposed to anything unusual, but I mean, yeah, it would have been better addressed in the moment, as in “Hey, can we have some privacy for this.”

    3. londonedit*

      Where I work (UK) we can ask for a workstation assessment. It’s basically to make sure that your monitor and chair are at the right height, and you have anything you might need like a special mouse or a wrist-rest to reduce the chances of repetitive strain injury or whatever. They also offer advice about things like getting up and moving around during the day, and making sure you have your eyes tested (in the UK if you use a computer you can ask for an eye test, which your employer pays for, and if you need glasses specifically for computer use – rather than a regular prescription – then your employer will pay for those too). A colleague had one of these assessments when she started working with us as she was having back pain, and it was just someone from the Facilities department who was trained in doing the assessments, who came and talked her through her workstation set-up and whatnot. There wasn’t anything medically confidential in the advice – we work in a small office room and we all listened to the assessment as well, because there was some good advice for everyone!

    4. BelleMorte*

      It can be a HIPPA thing though. For example, If i needed an ergonomic assessment, I might need to mention my lower back injury or my knee surgery as all that will affect how my workstation will be set up. You will likely need to disclose health issues.

      1. Liberry Pie*

        I work at a large university and have had people come out 3 times to do an ergonomic assessment of my work station! They recommended a certain kind of chair and then came back to adjust the chair for me. They are very willing to keep coming back, and it doesn’t cost the department any money. Still, I am the only person in my department to have done it. When I worked at a smaller university there was no department for this, but we had a Physical Therapy professor whose role it was to come look at work stations. Again, he didn’t mind coming multiple times and it didn’t cost anything. But it was not well advertised. So I think more people may have this option available to them than they realize. Then again, in certain work environments there may just not be anyone on staff who can do it.

      2. yup*

        But isn’t it that only a handful of professionals (specifically healthcare professionals and admins) are covered under HIPPA? I’ve worked in an industry where a lot of people were certified to do ergonomic assessments and none of them had any traditional healthcare background/education.

        Just because a health issue comes up, doesn’t mean it automatically falls under HIPPA.

        1. Someone Else*

          This is true, however since the assessor referred to the employees as “patients” it’s a little murkier. Just referring to people as patients doesn’t necessarily make this a provider-patient relationship, but it does beg some questions. That said, this doesn’t need to be a HIPAA situation for it to be uncomfortable for the employee if it is likely that health stuff would need to be disclosed to the assessor but (other than boss choosing to remain present) would normally not need to be disclosed to boss.

  8. I Took A Mint*

    OP#1: You know how people often joke, “Well if I won the lottery, I certainly wouldn’t be working here!” or “If I went to [Prestigious School] I wouldn’t be middle management at a desk job!”

    Well, this guy has all the money in the world, and prestigious degrees (multiple!) to boot, and he’s still… doing the same job as you, with your average income and only one degree. He’s basically admitting that even with all the help in the world, he can’t do better than you.

    It’s like if Kardashian the Younger was working at Starbucks, you’d be like, why are you here though? Did you suck at modeling that badly? Did you get cut off of family money for some reason? If not then how bored are you where this is how you’re choosing to spend your time? Maybe that can help you reframe how you think of this sad, strange little man.

    1. I Took A Mint*

      I use this even with friends, family, strangers…it’s like Reverse Drake. You started from the top and… now you’re here?!

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I am going to steal this phrase from you. I love everything about the concept of a Reverse Drake.

    2. MJ*

      Boorish colleague: I have 3 degrees and my family is rich. Blah blah, boasting, bragging…

      OP: And yet, here you are. [soft smile]

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, you beat me to it.

        “I have three degrees.”
        “And yet you have the same job I do.”

    3. MK*

      Frankly, that sounds more like something normal people tell themselves to feel better about the privileges they don’t have. A rich person who had multiple degrees and a middle level job at a non-profit is just as likely to be an unambitious person who had the luxury to get the education they wanted without regard to money or employability as someone whose family bought their degrees for them and who is still too incompetent to get a better job.

      1. logicbutton*

        I think it’s pretty fair to talk about this guy like that, given that he’s citing his privilege as a reason he’s better than LW. If he were an overprivileged but unambitious guy just trying to fit in at his non-fancy job, LW wouldn’t have even written in.

    4. thestik*

      What about those of us who would still work the same job even after winning the lottery? (I admit I’d do that because the routine a job gives me really helps with anxiety management.)

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        I agree. People find me weird when I said I wouldn’t quit my job.

        I mean… why would I? I will probably use that money for other things and buy the time it van be use as “fun money”… I will probably still need to work.

      2. Seifer*

        Same here. I have far too much anxiety to ever quit my job even if I won one of the big lotteries, like the recent $700M one. But at the same time, Lucy Liu instilled in me the concept of a ‘f*ck you’ fund, so I’d probably stick a bunch in savings and then go see a financial adviser about the rest and then go to work with the knowledge that I don’t need them. What a novel idea.

      3. Pommette!*


        Honestly, if I was in my early twenties and had Kardashian money, I probably would be working 2-3 days week, in a coffee shop or a bakery (or perhaps doing landscaping!), volunteering in a hospice setting 1-2 days a week, and spending the remainder reading and exploring the city, and loving my life. Because the unpleasant thing about those jobs, for me (and I suspect many others) was not the work itself; it was just the reality of being poor, with an unpredictable income and no benefits.

        1. wafflesfriendswork*

          “Because the unpleasant thing about those jobs, for me (and I suspect many others) was not the work itself; it was just the reality of being poor, with an unpredictable income and no benefits.”

          Oof, yes! I always talked about how awful my first retail job in college was, and while it wasn’t exactly great, I realize now there were parts of that job I actually liked! I would 100% be more willing to stock shelves a couple of days a week if it meant I wasn’t relying so heavily on the paycheck.

        2. boo bot*

          “Because the unpleasant thing about those jobs, for me (and I suspect many others) was not the work itself; it was just the reality of being poor, with an unpredictable income and no benefits.”

          Yes, indeed – and, when you’re poor with unpredictable income and no benefits, it’s harder to push back against being treated badly, meaning that a lot of the unpleasant aspects of the work itself happen BECAUSE the workers are dependent on that unpredictable, low income. If you’re not working for the money it’s a lot easier to stand up for yourself.

          I guess that’s less about the lottery and more about capitalism, but I only have personal experience with the latter.

      4. Loux in Canada*

        Mostly same! If I won the lottery though, I’d probably go back to school and get a degree for the coolest job I could think of, then go work there. :)

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, I work because I like it.

        If I win the lottery the only thing that changes is I go on more exotic vacations with my PTO. I would also donate most of my salary to charities since I wouldn’t need it.

    5. Pommette!*

      From what I’ve seen of smaller non-profits, it’s super common for people with money to choose to work in non-upper management roles in that field. It’s not because they are incompetent failures; it’s because they have the luxury of choosing what they want to study, and what work they want to do, without having to worry about money.

      There is always a contingent of employees who are there because they care about the organization’s mandate and/or enjoy the role, AND are lucky enough to be able to afford to work for a lot less money than they would make by working in a different sector. Sometimes these are people who have family money; more often, it’s people whose spouses work in very high-income fields. One of the things that having all the help in the world will buy you is the freedom of not having to be ambitious. It’s definitely something that I envy!

      (Which isn’t to say that OP’s coworker doesn’t sound petty, pretentious, hard to work with, and deeply troubled – because he absolutely does!)

      1. Dagny*

        I see what you’re saying, but I’m not sure that I agree. There are people whose spouses earn a lot of money and have “fun” jobs, but that’s also because they take on a disproportionate share of household duties (childcare, cleaning, cooking, scheduling, etc.).

        Ambition isn’t just about money. People can be ambitious in non-monetary ways, like wanting to, say, be a published novelist, or become an expert in a certain field. You can try to be the best janitor you can be, even if you have no aspirations or need to be anything but a janitor. The problem is that this guy wants the perks of excellence and ambition without putting in the work.

        1. Pommette!*

          Good points all around.

          I think that “ambition” was definitely the wrong term for me to use there – something along the lines of “power and prestige hungry” would be have been better (but unnecessarily harsh). In any case: the people taking the low-paying client-facing roles are working really hard at something they care about. It’s just that they are interested in and able to stay in one role for a long time.

          And I think that you’re largely right about the high earner/flexible worker responsible for domestic and family responsibilities tradeoff that happens in a lot of couples, and may not leave a of room for choosing higher-paying or more planning heavy roles.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      He stinks and is a bad person but this shade won’t fly.

      He’s rich. He has a non-profit job not a barista job, so he’s able to work for little additional income simply to help the less fortunate. Unlike the LW who needs their job to survive and isn’t just a professional snobby philanthropist. That’s the catch here. Acting as though he’s a failure will only hurt her standing against his nastiness. He’s pathetic but having his job isn’t part of his flaws.

  9. CJM*

    OP2 don’t bring it up. If you do, she’ll think you have a medical issue you don’t want her to find out about, even if you don’t have one.

  10. Ella*

    #4 I’m so sorry about your father. In my line of work, if you’re going to traveling/at a conference/otherwise away from reliable internet it’s quite normal to put up an autoresponder with something along the lines of “I will away from the office on [x dates] and may be slow to respond. For urgent matters please contact [person Y]. Otherwise, I will respond as soon as I am able.”

  11. nnn*

    I think #1 could also be approached from a point of view of the organization’s reputation. If he keeps talking about how much money his family donates as though it’s relevant to his position or his authority, that could give the impression that the organization is spending money on providing sinecures for donors’ children rather than on its mission, which surely is horrible optics.

    1. Observer*

      That’s a good point, when you talk to the Manager. If he’s doing this in front of outsiders, it could really harm the organization.

  12. Ry*

    Late Knight Co-ordinator.


    I mean, I get why you wouldn’t want to put that on a resume but I think that’s brilliant.

    1. FD*

      My concern, as an applicant, would be that the employer would think it was a typo, and that I’d used the wrong homophone. So I see why the LW wants to change it!

    2. Overeducated*

      It’s a little unfortunate – I mentally cycled through potential meanings and definitely hit on “dead Knight” before “late night.”

    3. LSP*

      As an alum of Rutgers (the Scarlet Knights), this is exactly the kind of punny ridiculousness they would use in a job title, with absolutely no forethought as to how it would look on someone’s resume.

      Btw – I’m a huge fan of puns and I like my school very much. I don’t know if the OP is referencing Rutgers, but I just want to say that if she is, that is so believably on-brand for that school.

      1. Elemeno P.*

        I also go to a school with a Knight mascot. They LOVE using it everywhere. Skating Knight? Movie Knight? No opportunity left alone.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        UCF grad here, and we definitely had “Late Knight” events and like a thousand other terrible Knight puns. It was really awful.

    4. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Could put “Late (K)night Coordinator” to make it seem obviously purposeful

  13. WS*

    #4 I live in a rural area with horrible internet (and we had a natural disaster last year that left us with no internet for weeks) but once you’re staying there regularly you’ll probably be able to work out your own routine for the work emails – either find somewhere you can get enough phone reception to use as a hot spot, or travel to another town for usable wifi etc. – and have a better idea of when you will be able to access email. Then your message can be something like “I am unavailable until Wednesday [when I can use cousin’s phone with better reception], in the interim please contact X with any urgent queries.”

    1. boredatwork*

      +1 my husband travels for work, sometimes to the middle of nowhere, if you’re up for it, see if your company has mobile hotspots or will reimburse you for one.

      If could help you continue to answer emails, and stay minimally up-to-date on work. Otherwise, I’d take the other advice and apply for FMLA.

      1. Cherith Ponsonby*

        +1 on mobile hotspots! I’m in a rural area with terribly patchy phone reception, but with a mobile hotspot + cradle we have good enough internet for streaming audio and low-quality video (and with a fixed antenna it’s good enough for regular videoconferencing).

  14. MommyMD*

    HIPAA is very misunderstood.

    I would have just said politely to boss that it’s kind of a personal thing and you’d rather do it in private.

    1. Anononon*

      Agreed re: HIPAA.

      (There is no private cause of action. Even if someone actually violates HIPAA, you cannot sue them. You would just have to report them to the regulators.)

      1. AnnaBananna*

        They still get fined though, and it can totally ruin any reputation that you have and even strip your license. There are vast consequences for breaches. Please don’t minimize it.

        health higher ed data analyst

  15. Ms Moneybags*

    FWIW, I am reasonably wealthy, which allows me to work for a non-profit to which my family and I have previously made donations. (My income means I can accept a low salary for my level of experience and skill.) I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about how this means I should act.

    I pride myself on taking this job every bit as seriously as if I were dependent on it for my income. I don’t talk about my income, and I don’t make donations now that I could, because I don’t want to confuse my roles. The only people that know about my income are the people for whom it was relevant, ie those processing donations.

    There probably (well, almost certainly) are times that I screw up and talk about my life in such a way that I show my privilege, but I try to avoid this. It does mean that I have a level of confidence in dealing with unreasonable stakeholders, but that’s probably a good thing for my role, as there can be attempts to bully certain post-holders, as in ‘I’ll make sure you never work in this town again.’

    The crucial thing is that when I’m at work, I’m there to work, to respect the skill and insight of my co-workers, to do the crap bits of the job alongside the rewarding bits, and to be the employee the organisation needs.

    I don’t think that wealthy people can’t or shouldn’t work in the charitable sector, if that’s where their talents lie, but I think people have to do it thoughtfully and responsibly.

    1. valentine*

      It’s better to do it where there’s no conflict of interest. Even if OP1’s colleague were perfectly professional, he shouldn’t be a manager and who would feel they could treat him the same as his peers?

      1. Ms Moneybags*

        Yes, you’re probably right about the conflict of interest.

        On the other hand, I’ve got a long term commitment to this specific cause, hence first donating and now working for it. I don’t know if I’d be so willing to deal with some aspects of the job without that personal commitment. So not ideal, as you say – but I will say that my line manager and co-workers have no issue addressing any issues with my performance! Perhaps some of it relies on the professionalism of the organisation?

        1. Winterfire*

          It will mostly depend on how reliant on your family’s support, financially and/or politically, the org is.

          However responsible and thoughtful someone is, they are still risking making things much more difficult for their colleagues and managers than is desirable. And I know how I’d feel about someone who brought that level of stress and potential problems to a job they didn’t even need while I was scraping by on a low income at a nonprofit. It’s not a good look.

        2. Asenath*

          I think local culture comes into play a lot. It would be unthinkable here for someone to boast about their wealth and influence – no one would take them seriously, even though the area is small enough that people generally know which are the wealthier families and if the speaker belongs to one. We do, of course, like anywhere else in the world, have people who try to inappropriately take over other’s work – on the basis of education or simply a claim to greater expertise – but that’s a different issue from the “my family has so much influence that I can do what I want here” thing, and certainly isn’t limited to the rich or highly educated. Getting angry or even just annoyed does, as Alison says, encourage a certain personality type to continue their behaviour since they are getting a rise out of the target. I think keeping cool, and focusing the response on the work issue – “I’m going with my plan” (or getting a decision from whoever actually has the authority) is the way to go.

            1. Exceler*

              It would be cringy everywhere. I don’t think culture has anything to do with it. I don’t know of any culture where boasting about wealth is considered socially acceptable behavior.

              1. Asenath*

                Well, there are and have been cultures and sub-cultures in which it’s socially required that the “fortunate” – the wealthy – live a certain way, demonstrate their wealth and power in certain ways. This looks remarkably like boasting to people who are not part of that group.

                The examples that come to my mind are mostly older cultures, but if we’re talking about sub-cultures – look how many celebrities in western societies demonstrate their position in society by ensuring that everyone who follows the media reports knows the cost of their clothes, their houses and their social activities! That seems to be socially acceptable in their sub-culture, and in that of their fans.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  In the US South, understated demonstrations of wealth are expected from ‘old money’. Donations, political activism, extensive volunteering, hosting large parties are all expected, and compensated with access to jobs, schools, etc.

                  The old money families don’t *talk* about it, and would shudder at KUWTK or RHOx, but yeah, there’s an established tradition of how to perform your wealth in order to get additional benefits from it.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      You sound like you’ve found an excellent balance. Certainly based on what you’ve said, I’d be happy to work with you!

    3. Lily Rowan*

      You sound very thoughtful — I once worked with someone who was from a rich family whose name you’d know, although it was not his last name. He became a social worker (I’m sure at least partly because he didn’t have to live on his salary) and when I worked with him was a manager of social work programs. I don’t believe he took his full salary, but most people would have never known that, which is exactly right.

      1. valentine*

        There’s something unpalatable about taking a job you don’t need and also taking a pay cut. (Except maybe for actors.)

        Unless the social worker’s family member determined the budget, his situation is very different from being a name whose family money runs your employer. I don’t think colleagues can help but to treat such a person differently.

          1. Ms Moneybags*

            The broader concern is that this prices good people from diverse backgrounds out of working for the not-for-profit sector, much along the lines of the way they’re often already priced out of working for the media. It is an issue people discuss quite a bit in the sector.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Additionally taking pay reduction can lead to an under inflated budget, then if this person ever leaves it puts the person in charge of explaining why now all of a sudden the budget needs 15/20k more a year. By taking a pay reduction/not taking full salary I am imagining someone who was offered say 40k for the position but they said actually I will work for 30k. Or if the salary band was 30k (for entry level recent grad) to 50k (for several years of experience) but someone who has 10 years experience says they will work for only 30k.

            I forget what the term is called but there is a calculation that people make of non-profits of how much of their donation is spent on overhead/admin costs and what amount goes to direct services. Someone working at an under-inflated salary can make it look like an org has low overhead. But then once that person leaves and they have to hire someone at “full market price” for the position it can lead to look like the overhead is increasing significantly and that can cause a red flag for donors.

            This is in addition to the concerns that Ms Moneybags brings up.

            1. Miss Moneybags*

              Very true!
              My friend and I suspect that there are certain non-profits in high CoL areas who are unconsciously relying on workers with high-paid spouses to cover their costs.

    4. AnnaBananna*

      Oh gosh no! I don’t think any of us commenters are saying that the wealthy are so out of touch that they can’t work at a NP. It’s more that this jack-hole is trying to use his wealth as a (really blunt, and therefore annoying) weapon.

      And thank you for seeing your privilege! Sometimes that is all we need. :)

  16. Localflighteast*

    Letter Writer 4

    I’m in a similar position, my father was given a month to live ( 6 weeks ago!)
    I’m back home to be with him, with the added complication of home being on a different continent and 5 time zones different

    I have set up an auto reply on my email saying that Im working remotely in xx time zone dealing with a family emergency and therefore may be delayed in my response

    I’m sorry about your father. Spend as much time with him as you can

  17. rudster*

    Confused about the Late Knight/Night Coordinator bit. How is the change clearer? I assumed that the job title is play on words with Knights also being a nickname for students of said university, but what does a Late “Night” Coordinator do – coordinate only late at night? Not that “Late” is particularly clear here anyway – perhaps referring to mature students/latecomers?

    1. MK*

      I think Alison meant that writing night instead of knight is unlikely to cause confusion, even if it is noticed, which it probably won’t be, and itcould be dismissed as a typo.

      Writing yourself down as Director of Advising could make you sound like a liar, if a reference checker contacts your employer and they vehemently deny that there is any such position in their organisation. Which theyare likely to do, since apparently not giving this title was a deliberate choose.

      1. rudster*

        It was LW who mentioned that she had been a Late Knight Coordinator and suggested the change, so I assume that it was her real title, not a hypothetical from her or Alison.
        FWIW I would leave it. Anyone familiar with the university in question would probably get the reference, while Night makes no sense unless the job involves working at late at night or coordinating things that happen late at night.

          1. Dragoning*

            I assumed the same.
            Now seeing the comments here, maybe they coordinated night activities–it is a university, after all.

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              The after-hours dining hall operations at my college were the “Late Nite Cafe.”

              It was the same boring dining hall, selling only fried food, Ben and Jerry’s, and chips. But hey it had a fun name!

            2. AnnaBananna*

              See and I thought it was coordinating the mascot somehow. Certainly is a role that needs description!

              I also wouldn’t change to (Academic Advising focus). That infers that the Director works in the Academic Advising department when it sounds like it’s a general crossover role for both/any departments but that LW’s work manages more of the academic advising side. I would only change to (academic advising) and then clarify if asked, as I’m sure the title will accompany a description of duties and/or project successes, no?

    2. Mookie*

      To answer your question, yes, the title literally refers to the working hours. I recognize the institution being referenced, and with that context what that role entails is very clear.

      1. Samwise*

        To avoid the appearance of a bad typo, LW could put scare quotes around Knight, maybe.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          + 1

          Late “Knight” Coordinator (cafe supervisor), or what have you makes a lot of sense, actually.

    3. Blue*

      I think we can trust OP that it was a play on words and “Night” is the word people outside the university would expect to see for a position like this. (And as a higher ed person, I’d expect a “late night coordinator” to be exactly that – someone on duty at nights, likely in a dorm or housing office. Either way, the title will have more context on the resume itself.)

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Overnight Coordinator or Night Shift Coordinator (or 2nd or 3rd Shift Coordinator) seem like more common terms to me, but if the OP thinks Late Night Coordinator will be understood, ok.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          As someone who works in higher ed, it wasn’t 100% understood to me. As I sadly admitted above, I thought it was coordinating the mascot’s efforts at night. *siiiiigh* Yes, true story. /shameface/

      1. Someone Else*

        I think it’s less that OP “thinks Late Night Coordinator would be understood” or not; it’s that it was her literal title, minus the pun, and the concern is that the punny spelling would look like an error to someone unfamiliar with the fact that the Knight is the mascot for that school. Whether we commenters find “Late Night Coordinator” to be a clear title or not, that was essentially the title so it’s truthful to list it as such; omitting the pun doesn’t constitute any kind of inappropriate misrepresentation.

  18. Stained Glass Cannon*

    LW5: At one job, I was never given a job title at all, and I had an annoying time figuring out what to put on my CV. In the end I settled for a title that’s fairly generic to the work (think something like “Teapot Display Maker”) just so I had something to describe the job. The important thing is that whatever you call yourself must match what you spent most of your time doing, so that even if a new employer calls back to verify and OldJob says “Oh, Cannon made teapots for our display case”, it’s not super far off.

    1. BurnOutCandidate*

      My situation is the opposite; I have different titles, depending on where I look. If I look in the payroll system, my title is one thing. My office nameplate has a similar but different title, and my business cards also have a similar but still different title. (The title in payroll is a subset of the nameplate and business card titles.) Then my title in the employee directory is something completely unrelated. (There was also a brief time of about two months when I had “Manager” in my employee directory title, even though I managed no one, because the company was trying to classify as many people as managers as they could for payroll/exempt purposes.) For my resume I use a combination of the business card and employee directory titles, joined with a slash.

      1. AnnaBananna*

        hahaha me too! I am either an evaluator, an evaluation analyst (biz card), a research analyst (HR) or just an analyst II (payroll). All different systems. Oh, and they just changed our system again and I’ll be getting a new role name. Uh-huh, yup. This is happening.

  19. Folkie*

    #1 Seems a bit like when Malfoy got onto the Slytherin Quidditch Team because his father bought them all new brooms. I’d almost be tempted to go full Hermione:
    “At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in. They all got in on pure talent.”

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Considering their has ben a recent scandal of rich folks essentially “buying” their degrees…

      He probably DID buy his way in. His parents paid for his degrees, his parents paid to get him his job, he probably doesn’t have much to say about himself except being a boor….

      (Calmly sips her tea)

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Well, there you go: “Is that your Malfoy impression?” Current enough he’d get it, obnoxious enough he might take it to heart.

  20. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 “How nice for you. Now, what we’re doing with the Peterson account is…”

  21. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, I’ve found the best way to handle these types is to be very calm, and use blunt statements.

    “That’s a very odd thing to say.”

    “No, I’m in charge of this project. If you have an issue with that you can speak with (manager.”

    “You know, people will think you aren’t able to stand on your own merits when you talking about how your family bought this position for you.”

    “It’s tacky and gauche to discuss money, especially when its money you haven’t earned. Let’s move on.”

    1. FD*

      You know, I actually like the third one a lot. If you can honestly pull it off in that sort of ‘genuinely concerned that you’re hurting yourself’ tone, without letting any jealousy or resentment show, it might have a bigger impact than the others.

    2. hbc*

      And if they’re repetitive, there’s always pointing that out:

      “Can you trust at this point that I will remember the number of degrees you have?”

      “You keep bringing up the number of degrees you have, which makes me think you’re looking for a particular response from me.”

      If he has the gold-plated gall to outright say that he wants OP to defer to him on all decisions, she can tell him she’ll discuss with her manager whether that’s reasonable. (Not recommended, but I’d probably add some snark like, “Well, my reading of the org chart and our job descriptions says that this is up to me, but I only have one degree, so maybe you could point out what I missed.”)

      1. MuseumChick*

        I love a good deadpan, “You’ve mentioned that.” or “You’ve said that before.”

  22. Rollergirl09*

    At most work places in the US, an ergonomics assessment is only done as part of an ADA accommodation request. I would say it was inappropriate for the boss to sit in, especially if it is a larger company where HR keeps management out of ADA issues. That said, it needed to be brought up in the moment, after the fact will be really awkward.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I think the one way OP could mention it after the fact is to bring it up in prep for anyone else who might need evaluation. Compliment the manager, imply that *OF COURSE* it wasn’t a problem for me — and then explain that I’m not everyone.
      “By the way, when the ergonomics consultant was here, I didn’t say anything about your coming in to observe the evaluation. But it felt awkward even though you & I have been working together well for so long that I know I can trust you. If you have someone come in new who needs an eval, you might want to think about asking them to join. Some people could be made very uncomfortable because of their past history. We wouldn’t want a new employee thinking this place is hostile to people with disabilities.”

  23. Carlie*

    Rich jerk:”Blah blah money degrees me me blah”
    You, beaming: “Thanks for the compliment!”
    Him: *confusion*
    You: “We’re both in the same place at the same job level, so you’re saying my (common sense/gumption/state school degree/whatever) is worth just as much as all that money and degrees put together! How nice!” *wander off*

    With the trying to overrule you, I’d be tempted to treat him as a visitor who is unfamiliar with the norms. “Oh, interesting. But you see, although that might be how things work in your social circles, here in the nonprofit world we do things differently. That’s ok, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it sooner or later.” (But seriously tell your boss and get that shut right down)

  24. Gilmore67*

    At job ” X ” my title was ” Sales Clerk”. I kept my title on my resume and put in ( Sales and Marketing Assistant ) right next to it. My duties and tasks completely aligned with the title I put down better then the actual title would have.

    No one blinked an eye and I got several interviews. Employers know that titles are sometimes kind of weird for what the actual job does.

    But sales clerk looks like I am selling something in a store so that is why I tweaked at.

    1. Asenath*

      For a while I had a completely misleading job title – I think it was because they wanted to hire people to do a particular kind of admin work, but the employer didn’t have that kind of job on the books. So they picked out something with the same pay scale and that’s why I was initially classified as a research assistant – but I didn’t assist with any research! My title is now the appropriate one, but I was in a meeting recently when it was discovered that a lot of the wrong people had been invited due to confusion over job titles – they really wanted people doing a related but different job than mine, but people doing this work had at least three different job titles, including mine. It’s very common to have misleading job titles – at least, it is in my experience – but I think the best option is to put down whatever your employer calls the job, with a brief clarification (if needed) added in brackets afterwards.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        At my public agency it’s very difficult to get new job titles and descriptions approved by HR, so when people want to hire they often look through the existing job titles at the right pay grade and pick one that isn’t too far off. So we have people in completely different departments doing totally unrelated work with the same job title.

        Mine is close enough that I’ll probably keep it on my resume when I look to move on, but if it weren’t I’d just use the parenthetical style that Alison suggested.

        1. Dragoning*

          Our company, last year, actually changed a bunch of people’s titles so people doing similar work in different departments would have different titles to differentiate them in HR.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Yes, my last job did this. We all had multiple paycodes based on what we were doing, but sometimes it was too much work to get a new one added, or HR wouldn’t allow it for some silly reason, so you’d just use the paycode that paid out closest to what you were doing. It makes resumes messy (because you’d obviously never put Teapot Spout Sculptor: Oversaw the operations of a 50 llama riding barn on your resume.)

    2. Drax*

      That’s what I do as well. My formal job title is “Purchaser” my actual job duties and role in the company is “Operations Manager” but because I’m a mat leave coverage I can’t have a manager title even though I am the manager. So I usually just put “Purchaser (Operations Manager)” on my resume and make sure my resume is clearly indicating that I am actually doing the other work not just confused on titles

        1. Gilmore67*

          Certainly the title ” Sales Clerk” was to make sure the pay would be lower then what a admin or something like that would be !!

  25. Not Today Satan*

    I’ve changed my title a bunch on resumes and it’s never been an issue. Especially nowadays with “Excel Ninja” type jobs, titles can be really weird and basically nonsensical to anyone outside of the company. My first job I was “Assistant to the Director of Photography” for a year after the Director of Photography position was eliminated. Another job, my official title had a cheesy internal brand name in it. I don’t use either title on my resume.

    I think as long as you act in good faith and don’t change it from say, Manager to Director, you won’t run into any issues. (But honestly, even with those parts of the title, it’s tough. Some employers use Coordinator to indicate administrative assistant work, while other Coordinators are project managers, and other Coordinators are people managers. But I’d make that part clear with the bullet points of accomplishments.)

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I know someone who asked to have his job title changed simply because he had a hard time spelling one of the words in it. Think “Analyst” vs “Planner”… he now uses only the simpler one on his resume.

    2. Miss Elizabeth Bennett*

      In this case, though, changing the title from Director of Student of Affairs to Director of Advising *is* substantially different, especially if the LW is looking for a new job in academia. Making that change would make LW look like they are lying or trying to pull a fast one.

      1. Psyche*

        It would be especially bad because she advocated for changing the title and it was rejected. So they explicitly do not want her using that job title. Using it anyway could come across poorly.

      2. Not Today Satan*

        I don’t really advocate for it in this case, partly because from what her letter says her title doesn’t seem that off from her work. But this question comes up a lot. People have titles like “Customer Love-Bomb Specialist II” and most people don’t think they’re “allowed” to change them on their resume. I think if it’s done in good faith (without “promoting” yourself to a role with more seniority, and with accurate understanding of what titles indicate in your industry) it’s fine.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I think the key question really is what would happen if someone called the past employer and said, “Did Not Today Satan work there as Assistant Director of Photography?” If the HR person, who may not have even been there when you were and has no idea of the history, says, “Um, no, they were Assistant TO THE Director of Photography,” you might come off like you are lying to inflate your resume. Which would not go over well with most hiring managers.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        I would definitely consider removing the “to the” to be the same as changing “seniority” types of titles, which I specify wouldn’t be cool. But changing “Assistant to Defunct Position” to “Portrait Photography Assistant”? Why not?

  26. PW*

    Going off of #5, is there an accepted way to indicate that a job with the title of “Consultant” was as a real W-2 employee rather than some kind of contractor? I’ve had people get confused by it.

    1. Toastedcheese*

      It might help to put an adjective in front of it – for instance, “Teapot Consultant,” to indicate that you were a staff person providing teapot assistance to departments across the organization. Maybe even “In-House Teapot Consultant” or “Staff Teapot Consultant,” although I’m not totally sold on either of these.

      1. Psyche*

        I do think that “In-house” helps clarify that it is a regular W-2 employee position. That is a confusing title to have since it so often means contractor.

        1. alphabet soup*

          Agreed. I think Toastedcheese’s suggestion is good. You could also do “Teapot Consultant (In-House),” or clarifying this in the first bullet point in the job duties section: “Key member of in-house teapot consulting team” or something like that.

    2. Someone Else*

      I assume this doesn’t apply or you wouldn’t be asking but often when someone works for what is obviously a consulting firm, the title “Consultant” doesn’t need clarification. It would already appear that one were a Consultant as a W2 employee for Consulting Firm Name Inc.

  27. Blue*

    OP 5 – just my two cents here, but if you put “Director of Student Affairs” and all the accomplishments listed were advising-related, I think most people in the advising/student affairs world would recognize what that means. During my time in higher ed, I’ve encountered several people with titles like yours who really focus on academic advising, so I think I’d easily put it together, in context. But if you’re not confident about that, or if the resume is going to people less entrenched in student affairs, I agree with Alison that your second suggestion will work.

    1. Carlie*

      I’d definitely put the parenthetical statement (Academic advising focus/specialty) right in the same line next to the job title. The academic job market is dismal, they are likely to get a lot of applications for the position, and you don’t want to chance someone glancing at the original title and shuffling it immediately into the “not the right fit” box without reading further. They really are so far apart in some institutions that “What? No” could be the gut response, especially if a lot of other applicants do have “advising” in their job titles.

    2. Tupac Coachella*

      I agree (another advising administrator here). Director of Student Affairs is such a common title, and I would say it’s reasonably well understood that what that person actually *does* varies widely based on where you are and how centralized that institution’s student services programs are. The duties will tell the story, not the title. Director of Advising conjures up much more specific image for me. In my sphere, the Director of Advising oversees advisors and advising programs, which doesn’t sound like a great match for OP’s role. I like the second suggestion, especially if OP is looking to work within advising specifically, but they shouldn’t come across as deceptive if they choose to leave the title as-is.

  28. soupcold57*

    Number 5 is a an excellent reminder that job TITLE should always be part of the job offer negotiation. Keep in mind that TITLE can be distinct from POSITION (actual work responsibilities). Asking for a better title may be easier as it costs the company nothing, but can be valuable to the individual when job hunting in the future.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Asking for a better title might not always be such a great idea, title inflation can be a detriment sometimes. A friend I know first got a job at a small 3 person company as “Manager of llama boarding,” with no room for growth. After about a 1 1/2 or 2 years due to the great work they were doing in addition to a raise they also received a bump in title to “Director of llama boarding” but the job was the same. After a few more years the person moved on to a much bigger more prestigious company, where “Director of llama boarding” is for more senior people with additional experience, so their new title became “Manager of llama grooming,” on paper it looks like the career move was a demotion. Even though at worst it was a lateral jump, but probably a step up due to the increase in room for growth, and the greater prestige of the organization.

      1. soupcold57*

        Im not sure if that person did or not, but that’s the exact situation where I would have pushed to be titled “Director of Llama Boarding” even if the pay was that of “Manager of Llama Grooming.” Now, whether that is dealbreaker or not is obviously individual consideration, but I would certainly ask and ask hard for that.

    2. Cercis*

      I negotiated a higher title when I took a job, business cards were printed, my name tag was engraved and I was listed on the website with that title. Then a year later a new boss came in and decided she didn’t like me. 6 months after she started, she pulled up my offer letter (which had the lesser title) and insisted that since that’s what the letter said, that MUST be my title. I argued that I negotiated higher and she just ignored me (she was really good at ignoring what she didn’t want to hear). So now, I don’t know what to list on my resume, if I list the title I accepted, I suspect she tells reference checkers I’m lying (and I have some reason to suspect this given that there’s been a couple of jobs that went so far as to do reference checks and then rejected me). But if I go with the lesser title, then my resume looks like a lie because my accomplishments are out of line for that lower title.

      So my advice: if you do negotiate a higher title, insist on getting a new offer letter and having it added to your file. I mean, she could have still demoted me, but it would have been harder for her to do it.

  29. Miss Elizabeth Bennett*

    #5. I work in exactly your area (academic advising unit associated with a student affairs unit — it is indeed…um, delicate). If you changed that title, you would not do well trying to get a job here — I assume you are looking for director-level jobs and above, and for sure the committee is going to look you up and see that you lied (that’s what it’s going to look like). Use the actual title and then the advising piece in parentheses.

  30. Luna*

    “he tells me he has three degrees and is smarter than me”
    And yet, you couldn’t get a job on your own… pity, isn’t it?

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      I have nine, and op’s coworker is an *ss. The degree doesn’t make the person, the person makes the degree…it’s what you put into it. Also, a degree is a foundation. You build on the foundation with experience, and experience isn’t something you can get in a classroom.

    1. SigneL*

      I mean, does OP say, “I’m sending out a letter about the fundraiser on May 1,” and he says, “No, you can’t.”? That makes no sense, if he is her peer.

    2. NotThatCompany*

      I worked in a toxic and dysfunctional place. We had a problem that fell solely in my area of responsibility to decide how to fix. One of my coworkers disagreed and we argued about it. I finally just walked away and said I’d consider her opinion on the matter.

      Next thing I knew the company owner was announcing we were going to fix it her way. She’d gone up to him and told him this is what “we” had decided to do.

      That’s how.

      1. Lance*

        Also, in this case: influence. As Alison mentioned, there is a possibility of the boss listening more to rich guy by sheer merit of his family’s large donations that they wouldn’t want to risk losing.

    3. MuseumChick*

      None profits can be very, very, very weird in how they deal with people like this. It could be the the while this person doesn’t technically have the authority, they know the the Powers That Be will not stop him because of how much money his family gives the organization.

      I’ve seen dynamics similar to this that I’ve talked about on here before. Basically, elderly volunteer who screws up every project given to them, argues about everything, cannot take feedback of any kind, refuses to do anything differently then how it it’s been done for 10+ years. BUT, the staff cannot get rid of this volunteer because they are best friends with several board members/they or their family has given a tone of money to the organization/they are friends with people who give us a lot of money/etc.

    4. LQ*

      The grandboss/executive director/donor handler tells LW that the Richie is not to be touched and that they will always pick Richie’s opinions over LWs because if they don’t Richie’s family may pull the donor money which could be a very significant part of the organization’s funding. It doesn’t have to actually be said for it to known and for people to behave in that manner. Richie isn’t actually an equal level manager…it’s sort of like at a small family business where Richie is the boss’s son. Technically they are equal level’s but the amount of influence and authority they have is radically different.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      It’s very easy if his family has money that funds the organization. Money talks.
      It’s also possible that OP works in marketing, which can be a very subjective. So you get the “everyone’s a copywriter,” and “everyone’s a designer” stripe people trying to tell you how to do your job even though they majored in accounting or something completely unrelated.

    6. Jennifer*

      His family donates a lot to the non-profit. He is not her boss but I imagine a lot of people want to avoid pissing him off for that reason. It’s kind of like if the boss’s kid works there. They may only be an intern but I’d be nervous about confronting them.

  31. Imaginary Number*

    Oh man. “What you were saying was embarrassing for you, so I thought it best to move on,” is my new favorite polite diss.

  32. Database Developer Dude*

    OP1: I have earned nine college degrees. That means exactly jack and squat if I can’t perform my duty. Your co-worker is a world-class jerk, and you need to escalate to your boss. This is unacceptable. A degree is the foundation, but experience builds on the foundation, and you don’t get experience in a classroom.

    Plus, being condescending to someone who’s not being condescending to you is a jerk move anyway, so freeze his punk self out, and do what you’re going to do anyway…you say he has no authority over you, so make sure he knows that.

  33. Toastedcheese*

    #1, is your coworker Draco Malfoy? If so, transfiguration into a ferret has been known to work wonders.

    (J/k – transfiguration of coworkers is never okay! However, you may imagine your coworker as the “amazing bouncing ferret” whenever he acts up.)

    1. LGC*

      J/k – transfiguration of coworkers is never okay!

      …I mean, I’d make an exception to that rule for LW1’s coworker.

      Although, to be honest, I wouldn’t turn him into a ferret. I’ve known a few ferrets in my life and they’ve all been little sweethearts (albeit a bit stinky). They don’t deserve to be associated with that guy.

    2. librarygal30*

      Luckily I wasn’t drinking anything, or else I’d be cleaning off my monitor!

  34. Rez123*

    In my workplace a there is an ergonomic evaluation automatically whenever there is a new hire or someone changes desks. I have also done some of these assesment in my precious life as a physio. Usually the discussion part is confidential. Maybe not legally, but as a practise. Usually the offices are open or shared so those are not private, but at that point you don’t share any of the previosuly discussed info unless the employee brings it up. The evauator should have asked to have the dsicussion in private.

  35. Jennifer*

    #1 Another guy who got everything he has because of family money and connections instead of merit. Just remember that and his insulting comments won’t have as much impact. This is what happens when kids get told how great they are their entire lives and their parents snowplow the way ahead of them so they never face difficulties. He’s no smarter than you.

    1. fposte*

      Though the irony is that he may be a capable guy–the OP hasn’t complained about his work product. But this “I’m so important” schtick immediately makes people think he *isn’t* capable, because otherwise why would he need to draw on stupid crap like that?

      1. Jennifer*

        If he were capable he wouldn’t need to mention his money, pedigree, and degrees so often. He does it because he has nothing else to offer.

        1. fposte*

          You’d think, but I’ve encountered people, especially young people, who are reasonably capable but also deeply insecure about their value outside of systems of privilege. People can be competent *and* be braggy assholes.

          1. Jennifer*

            I understand that you can be insecure about your capabilities because you come from privilege. My experience has been that braggy people usually don’t have much to back it up, but I’ll take your word that you’ve met competent, braggy people. There’s nothing in her letter to indicate his competence one way or the other.

            1. fposte*

              I think–I hope–it’s because I work a lot with young people, and the competent ones grow out of the bragginess. So you may work with decent people who are former braggers :-).

      2. a1*

        I agree. Some people can actually have good ideas or skills, but still be in a boorish ass in presentation, discussion, or in saying why their ideas should be followed .

  36. CommanderBanana*

    Telling someone who says offensive or inappropriate things that they’re offensive or inappropriate doesn’t work when the person is saying them because they’re offensive or inappropriate. If his family has bought him the job, this guy may just be the price of admission of working for this nonprofit.

  37. irene adler*

    He’s so rich yet isn’t offering to buy lunch for everyone.
    What a waste!

    1. valentine*

      Catered! Workday!

      He could provide a much better experience for the “potluck” people the other day.

  38. Sarah Mary*

    Hi LW4. I’m sorry you’re going through this. My dad died of cancer 4 years ago and had a prolonged period in hospice before. I found it was okay to tell people, “My father has cancer and doesn’t have long to live.” I work in a healthcare field, so people were very understanding and respectful of my time, and it wasn’t weird at all. My office sent my mom a fruit basket and it meant a lot to her. I’m pretty sure that it prevented people from sending me some irritated emails because I’ve convinced people to not send such emails when I’ve known that the recipient was away for a funeral. Your work contacts may not be quite as comfortable with this much information, but it’s also possible that it can save them embarrassment of knowing they sent trivial work stuff during bereavement leave.

  39. MaureenC*

    LW 1: I’d consider approaching it as a “hey, I need clarification on the chain of command” question. Like, “Hey, Wakeen? Does Fergus have the authority to overrule me on teapot design? On anything? I think there’s some confusion about the management structure.” Because if Wakeen isn’t willing to push against Fergus, he should at least be willing to share that with you.

  40. LaDeeDa*

    Alison is so spot on with #1. I always do the “tilt head, sad pitying smile, small head shake” and then move on. No way does he deserve a response to his little rich boy tantrums.

    With him trying to overrule LW, I would mention it to the manager… maybe something like “Little Richy keeps trying to overrule my decisions, he might need some clarification on each of our roles.”

  41. Important Moi*

    LW#1: My thoughts:

    1.”I feel put down and its very demeaning.” My ego must be HUGE. The idea that his opinion would have so much weight boggles my mind.

    2. “I am afraid to report it to my boss because I don’t think it’ll be taken seriously or I’ll be the one facing consequences due to his family’s large donations. ” The possibility exists that his family’s money is more important than your concerns to the organization.

    3. “I want the behavior and putdowns to stop, but talking to him only works for so long.” His behavior may not change because sometimes you can’t change things and it sucks. Try the advice but, if you can’t develop a thicker skin, you may need to leave this organization.

    1. DaffyDuck*

      I think she should definitely mention it to the boss. Not in a deal-breaker “Shut him up or I’m gonna walk” kind of way but more of a heads up “He comes across very poorly/it makes him difficult to work with for many people (hint: maybe you could manage him). ” I wouldn’t expect anything to really change tho and suggest looking for another job if you really can’t stand it. I figure every office has at least one person who is a pain to work with – only you can decide if this is a dealbreaker and worth it to start job hunting.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      “The idea that his opinion would have so much weight boggles my mind.”

      Well, I doubt the OP is going around thinking “oh yes, that guy’s opinions about life are definitely worth my consideration” or anything. But – speaking from experience – it can feel incredibly demeaning and demoralising to work with people who believe you are stupid or not worth listening to because you don’t have the right degrees, even when you really don’t care about their opinions otherwise. I would imagine this only gets worse if your organisation essentially backs them up by allowing them to over-rule your decisions, so I don’t know that’s it’s a question of the OP needing to “develop a thicker skin” – although I agree that if the organisation continues to allow this behaviour it may be best to think about leaving.

  42. Observer*

    #1 – Your coworker is gross. But Alison is right – you shouldn’t take him any more seriously than a bratty child. Think about it – he needed his family to “buy” him the job, and they apparently need to keep paying to keep him in it.

    Stop trying to school him, that’s not your place and it’s not going anywhere. But do NOT let him get away with trying to over-ride you. Alison’s scripts are good. And definitely loop your manager in – ESPECIALLY if he does this in front of your staff or clients.

  43. Batgirl*

    Ooooh OP1, what a tempting balloon to pop!

    “But we’re out of school now and can make decisions like working adults”
    “I’m sure your manager has better things to say about your performance than that. There’s surely more to you than a fancy school/family!”
    “Um, I like hearing about families and college days at break time but I really need for you to draw on your work experience right now”
    “Yes you come from a rich family but we’re willing to overlook it and value you for yourself!”
    “Ok you keep mentioning that but I’m not sure why. (…) OK but what does that have to do with x? (….) Anyway….”
    “Wakeen could you possibly stay on topic? As I was saying….”
    “Overrule me? Haha no. I expect your input on the existing plan. I will need it by Wednesday”.
    “We’ve talked about this”

  44. Queen Anon*

    That would be me as well. If I were independently wealthy, I’d have all kinds of degrees, just because studying for them would be so emjoyable.

  45. Kathy*

    #3 – I am always hesitant to complete application assignments, especially if they require a huge amount of work and if they look more like “work” than an actual skill assessment. There are many unscrupulous people/companies out there who use these types of “assessments” as a guise to get free work done. I’ve had this happen to myself as well as some of my peers.

  46. Shoes On My Cat*

    OP#4: First, I’m so sorry about your dad! That’s really rough.
    Regarding work access, I live in a rural area too- no phone lines! We used to get internet via satellite dish ( I think) but now have smart phones that can be used as hot spots once we figured out sure reception was the best. Your boss sounds really understanding and may be willing to find a way for the company to sponsor those or similar options, especially if your family’s home already has a satellite dish for TV? Also, our local library always left it’s wifi on – on purpose – even when closed so we could sit in the car or the outdoor furniture in the summer, giving us 24/7 access when it was convenient. Good luck and virtual hugs if you want them!

    1. Shoes On My Cat*

      Argh! Figured out *where* reception was best. Spell check! (Btw, in my house, it’s in the living room next to the central stairway at 5 1/2 feet. -I have a wire basket I hung from the above balcony to slide the phone into)

  47. Caro*

    It might be worthwhile for OP#1 to frame it as a work-optics thing for boss/manager. Giving the impression of integrity is essential for non-profits, and allowing a rich lout to buy a position (and then brag about it as though incompetence and parental dependence are desirable qualities in a manager), may not do the organisation any favours. If a prospective donor, journalist, or even people who change jobs pass it on, it is going to make the company look rather bad.

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