should I warn a store their new hire will steal from them, manager mocks me for my chair choice, and more

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

1. Should I warn a store that my relative who they’re about to hire steals from them?

This may be a bit of a weird question, but I know someone who is about to be hired at a corner store that we both frequent. The issue is, this person steals from that store every time they go. It’s to the point where I refuse to take them (they are a member of my family). They have had multiple jobs in stores and it’s always the same: start working, steal as much as they can (cigarettes, candy, drinks, whatever), get their first check, and either quit or get fired.

Should I warn the manager/owner about this person? I know the cashiers because I went to school with them and thought about sending them a message, but I’m worried about them telling my family member that I did it.

If you know someone is about to get victimized by a criminal, I think you should warn them if you can do that safely, even if that criminal is a family member, and even if your family member will be upset with you if they find out. Alternately, you could tell the family member directly that you know people who work there and that you’ll feel ethically obligated to tell them about the theft if they pursue work there.

2. My manager disparages me for using a chair I need for medical reasons

My office, which has about 25 people, has biweekly staff meetings which take place in a central, convertible space. As such, the majority of the seating options are folding chairs, usually arranged in rows for the staff meeting. I have a medical condition that can be triggered by sitting in certain kinds of seating for long periods of time, so I will usually retrieve one of the full-backed chairs from a conference table at the back of the room to use instead. I’m an otherwise young, healthy, and physically active woman, and my health issues aren’t visibly noticeable. There are a few other people who also pull up the more comfortable chairs, usually about five or six of us in total.

My supervisor, however, has started making disparaging comments about this, saying things like “it won’t kill you to sit in a folding chair for an hour!” when I pulled up my chair and “I left the back row empty for those of you who are special” when it was her turn to set up for the meeting. These comments have left me feeling embarrassed since others overheard them and, frankly, a little angry. I’ve tried sitting in a folding chair for a staff meeting once, and it triggered a multi-day, painful flare of my condition, so I’m not doing this just because folding chairs are uncomfortable. No one else in the office, including our executive directors, have said anything negative about the few of us pulling up more comfortable chairs.

The strange thing is that my supervisor is usually very vocal about supporting individuals with disabilities — including spearheading related projects and sending articles on improving accessibility to our office email list — so I’m really not sure how to address this with her. And it isn’t like she isn’t aware of my condition — I informed her when I was diagnosed because I wanted to be clear about any accommodations I might need moving forward. Do you have any suggestions on how to bring this up without offending her or impacting our work relationship? She can sometimes be very defensive when criticized, and has a forceful personality, to say the least.

The part about her normally being vocal about supporting people with disabilities might give you an easy opening here. You could say, “Jane, I know you’re normally vocal about accessibility and supporting people with disabilities, so I think you must not realize why I and some others use the full-backed chairs in meetings. I’m doing it because I have a medical condition that can be aggravated by the folding chairs. Once when I used one, it trigged a multi-day, painful flare-up. I know you normally want to be sensitive to this kind of thing, so can I ask you to stop the comments about it?”

Frankly, even if she hadn’t been vocal about disability support in the past, you could still use similar language. Sometimes telling people “I know you care about X” or “I know you want to be thoughtful about X” will work even when they’ve given you no evidence that they care about X, because then they feel like they should live up to that (or at least that they can’t say “no, I don’t care about X at all!”). Doesn’t work 100% of the time, but works a lot.

3. I’m fed up with an excessive interview process

I’m a marketing professional who’s been on a serious job hunt for several months now so I can be somewhere with better career advancement (and a higher salary!). A lot of the jobs I’ve applied for have required writing samples and/or content exercises. But recently I encountered a job application process that seems like overkill! It’s for a senior content writer at an e-commerce company. I sent a resume and cover letter and filled out an application online. A recruiter reached out for a phone screening. I was requested to resend my resume and cover letter, fill out another job application again (by hand so I had to scan and send it), fill out a personality assessment, send my college transcripts, and send three writing examples. I was then contacted for a second phone interview followed by an in-person interview. Prior to the in-person interview, I had to complete a 48-hour content exercise in which I wrote a 600-word article and created a PowerPoint. At the in-person interview, I had to complete three exams (math, logic, and grammar).

After a week, the company said they offered the position to another candidate, but would like to consider me for a similar role. They asked me to complete another project (and offered to pay me for it). Three weeks after completing it, they asked me for yet another write-up explaining my thought process for the project.

We’ve now hit the three-month mark for this whole process. I’d like to quit the process. They’re taking far too much of my time and energy! As a tech company, I was really surprised they asked me to resend items that I submitted on their website and that I had fill them out by and scan-send them — that doesn’t seem very progressive for a tech company. And I also feel they’ve asked for far too many materials. I’d rather spend my time focusing on other job opportunities and companies that are more respectful of my time. I’d like to know what you think, and what would be an appropriate way to inform them?

Yep, this is excessive. It’s good that they offered to pay you for the project you did, but this is too much to ask — and I say that as a huge proponent of exercises and simulations in the hiring process. (And a grammar exam, really? They can assess your grammar skills from the many writing samples you’ve already produced for them.)

Do you want to drop out of consideration entirely, or would you be willing to entertain a job offer from them as long as you don’t need to invest more time in their process? If the latter, then the next time they reach out to you with a request for more of your time, you can say, “I’ve invested a lot of time in your hiring process so far — several interviews, a personality assessment, producing written content and a PowerPoint, three exams, what I’d thought was a final project, and then a write-up about the project. At this point I can’t invest more time in the process, and I’m hoping that you have what you need to evaluate my candidacy.”

But if you want to drop out entirely, you can simply say, “At this point I’m not able to invest more time in what seems to be a very lengthy hiring process, and so I need to withdraw from consideration. Best of luck filling the role.”

4. My coworker treats me like her personal pharmacy

My coworker is regularly asking me for over-the-counter pills while we’re at work, whether it be Advil or allergy pills. These things cost money and I’m completely done supplying them with pain relievers. How do I politely tell them to go to the drug store next time they ask? They easily take offense to everything.

“Sorry, I don’t have enough to keep giving them away!”

If that won’t ring true because they see you occasionally given them to others: “Sorry, I can occasionally share in a pinch, but I don’t have enough to supply them regularly.”

If they take offense to everything, they may take offense to this too — but that would be unreasonable! And if they’re unreasonable and take offense to anything you say, then there’s no language that will change that, and you’re better off deciding not to care. Say it cheerfully as if of course they will understand this is reasonable, because it is, and then don’t worry about it further.

5. My company is evaluating salaries — can they cut our pay?

I work in a group of about 50 people at a medium sized company. Our group will be spinning out and become an independent company in the next few months.

We were told that when the spin out happens, everyone’s salary will be evaluated and subject to change “so that everyone is paid fairly.” When I was hired I worked hard to negotiate my salary (your column was helpful to me during that time, so thank you for that!) and I am being paid at the top of the pay scale for my position. Now I’m worried that they might reduce my pay.

Can they do that? Is this a normal thing that happens? It seems unfair that after two years someone can suddenly decide to reduce my salary. What should I say if I’m told my pay will be decreased?

Legally, yes, they can reduce your salary (as long as they don’t do it retroactively; they can only do it going forward after they tell you). That doesn’t obligate you to accept that salary, of course; you can attempt to negotiate, and you can leave if you can’t come to terms on it (which is obviously not an ideal outcome).

But what’s most common in this situation is that some people will have their salaries increased to create internal equity, or salary bands will be adjusted (so the maximum salary level for your role might come down, rather than your current salary). It’s unlikely but not impossible that they’d actually decrease people’s current salaries, but no employer does that without realizing that they will severely demoralize people and lose staff over it … so if they do it it anyway, they’ve likely calculated that they’re willing to deal with those consequences for some reason.

{ 442 comments… read them below }

  1. MK*

    #2, the manager is being an ass for no discernible reason, and I don’t even think it has to do with disability. If some people simply want to be more comfortable and it isn’t causing problems for the meeting, why would you shame them for using a normal chair?

    1. Zona the Great*

      Yes. I once had a woman physically tug at me as she walked by as an attempt to get me to sit down at a meeting. I was standing in the back against the wall because I injured my hip. I had to snatch my arm away. People are weird as hell about what others are doing.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Looking for a molehill on which to die, in a sea of related molehills you don’t care about, is a broadly applicable human trait.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely agreed. The snarky comments had me rolling my eyes, hard. It’s not ok to make those kinds of comments, even if none of the people using more accommodating chairs had disabilities. OP, please do say something to her, as she’s being rude and short-tempered, and it’s not warranted or ok.

      I suspect her true complaint is that there isn’t enough space or aren’t enough chairs for everyone to be seated in a more accommodating chair, and she’s taking it out on OP and others.

      1. nnn*

        This makes me wonder if OP can add to her credibility by (if the opportunity should ever arise – like if they’re ever replacing the furniture or rearranging their space) advocating for all the chairs to be more comfortable.

        The execution might be tricky – you’d have to make sure not to come across as whiny/spoiled about the folding chairs. But if you can carry it off, it would disarm the whole “you think you’re special” narrative if you’re actively advocating for the same thing to be available to everyone.

        1. LavaLamp*

          I had something similar happen at my old job. We had a meeting in my bosses office; which was close to my desk so I just scooted in there in my chair. Another coworker made a comment that I was being lazy and I just replied that yeah I kinda was but this was more comfy because I had arthritis in my hips. The trick is to come off nice and not sarcastic.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          nnn, you have a good point as there is a trend toward more comfortable chairs. I see plenty of metal folding chairs with soft seats and back rests now.
          Not only is the metal hard but it can be cold. With my back issues that is a double whammy. I sit too long on something like that I change from a healthy looking person to someone who limps or is hunched over etc. If I am stuck in a meeting for greater than two hours I have to stand up, it’s not optional. And this is regardless of how good the chair is.
          OP, if you have to, you can say, that one of the reasons you do not appear to being having problems is because you are following the care instructions that the doc gave you. Millions of people do various things to keep themselves going through their day and we never notice what all they are doing. They look like ordinary people having an ordinary day. If they failed to follow their self-care plan this story would change fast.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            +1000 !
            “…one of the reasons you do not appear to being having problems is because you are following the care instructions that the doc gave you.”
            YES. If someone doesn’t get it, an analogy would be a diabetic who avoids carbs. She looks & stays healthy *because* she avoids carbs. (I’m just offering one analogy in case OP’s supervisor blinks in confusion, not intending to derail the topic.)

            1. LW*

              LW#2 here! Thanks for all the support. I’m definitely going to bring it up in my next 1:1 with my manager. I’d love to advocate for more comfortable chairs for everyone; however, our office is a student services office and our meeting space is also our convertible event space for lectures, workshops, social hours, etc. so we need the bulk of our chairs to be able to be stored quickly and in a relatively small space. The chairs at least have padded seats, but with my health issues, it’s something about the actual angle of the chair seat vs. back that triggers my flares (and actively sitting straight without a support also triggers flares because my body hates me). I think our whole office would love to see the chairs replaced honestly, but I know enough about the budget to know the higher ups won’t allow it unless they all break.

              1. animaniactoo*

                I might also say directly something to the effect of having been really bothered by the “Sitting in a folding chair for an hour won’t kill you” comment, and that “No, it won’t kill me. But it will leave me in pain for several hours and I don’t see that as an acceptable outcome just because I won’t be dead. Whatever the frustration you have here is, when you phrase things this way it makes it seem like you either think it couldn’t happen or you don’t care if it did happen.” Make it really clear to her what the underlying message of her words is whether or not it’s what she means to be saying.

                1. Susan*

                  That response feels overly abrasive. I’d keep the point of – I need this to avoid pain, but I’d take out the second sentence.

                2. animaniactoo*

                  I don’t think it’s abrasive. I think it’s direct in bringing home the impact of words and attitude to somebody who is huge on disability accommodation, and yet talks as if she can’t envision a reality outside of the limits of her own experience of her body when it comes to short-term needs/solutions.

              2. ChimericalOne*

                I’m so glad to hear you’re going to bring it up with her. It will make your workday so much more pleasant to not have to worry about this — and who knows who else it might help? Hidden disabilities are so much more common than people think. We’re rooting for you! Please report back afterwards!

              3. AKchic*

                Definitely bring it up. She is singling you out and because of your medical condition, it is drawing unnecessary attention to you and the situation. Either she expects compliance with the seating (which will cause a hardship for you), or she is inviting you to open up about your medical issues, which you are not obligated to do.

                I have spinal issues and can’t sit in folding chairs. Straight-backed chairs are torture for me. There will always be one (or more) buffoon that insists on drawing attention to my posture, “special” seat, or discomfort (standing for any length of time also hurts). I’m also very snarky and when I’m in extreme pain I have a harder time controlling my sarcastic nature.

                1. LW*

                  I can’t say I haven’t fantasized about pushing the chair cart down a flight of stairs or out a window, that’s for sure!

              4. hayling*

                I have a neck injury and I hear you 100% on folding chairs (same goes for benches, ugh). There is no support! I started steaming when I read your letter. Your supervisor is behaving in a way that is completely unacceptable.

        3. pancakes*

          The “you think you’re special” narrative is sort of self-disarming, though, because it’s nonsensical and obnoxious. I think it makes more sense to try to get the supervisor to stop saying it than it does to refurbish the whole office.

      2. I don’t post often*

        This was my thought as well. Her complaint is that not everyone can have a comfortable chair for whatever reason. I’m guessing the others that are bringing in comfortable chairs may not have a medical problem. Or possibly they do but it’s not know. OP I wonder if your manager realizes your problem flares when sitting in a chair with no back support? I say this as someone with almost no medical knowledge, and as someone who would just not put two and two together.

        1. LW*

          LW #2. I don’t think my manager realizes the extent of my flares, since like many women with chronic pain I’ve just powered through and/or masked how I was feeling. But this is definitely something I’m going to bring up in my next 1:1.

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            I also wouldn’t be surprised if she’s “bucketing” the issue as well. “LW2 needs a special chair for her desk so she’s not in pain” isn’t translating into “LW2 needs a special chair so she’s not in pain.”

            It also sounds like she’s fallen in a bad habit of making this a thing every meeting, and probably doesn’t fully realize that the “joke” isn’t funny and is coming across as rude at this point. I know I’ve certainly fallen into that habit before- there’s a monthly meeting where I make the same dumb comment and then remember it doesn’t land well and isn’t necessary. Someday I’ll remember to stop…

              1. BenAdminGeek*

                Sorry, it’s a shorthand I use for how I think. So things I learn about the world or people go in various “buckets” in my mind for organization and I don’t necessarily connect them unless it’s spelled out that they should.

                So for me, someone needing a special accommodation for a chair might get categorized as “desk sitting” but not “core part of this person’s identity.” But once it was mentioned that they needed accommodation when sitting in general, it’d move into more of the holistic view of them as a person.

                Food allergies would always go into a general “things I know about allergies” bucket and also be categorized as a “core part of this person’s identity” so I didn’t accidentally poison them.

                I realize I’m probably not doing a great job of describing how my atypical brain works, but that’s just the context for how I think of a lot of things. It’s honestly not very efficient, but once I get settled on the right bucket I can recall a lot of info on the topic/person.

                1. Serin*

                  I like this term! I have a friend who was a student and a stay-at-home mom when I met her, but has now been a nurse for quite a long time. But I don’t have her bucketed as “has medical expertise,” so I’m constantly forgetting and talking to her like she doesn’t know any more about healthcare than any intelligent non-professional. It’s not like I think she’s an idiot or anything; it’s just that I forget she’s a professional.

                  Now that I conceptualize it like this, mansplaining is a persistent bucketing error — it’s a guy who puts all female acquaintances in a “woman” bucket without ever putting anything about them in a “scientist” bucket or a “lawyer” bucket or an “artist” bucket.

          2. Noora*

            Good luck. Please send us an update if you can! I hope jerk boss comes to see her errors.
            – fellow chronic condition person with unsympathetic boss

      3. Emily K*

        This is not unlike the debate a few weeks back about whether it’s fair to purchase business class seats for employees who can’t fit in a single seat when other employees are required to fly coach. Going on the logic that a single business class seat is usually cheaper than 2 coach seats, it’s the most cost-effective way to meet the needs of traveling employees, but some people were really rubbed the wrong way by it and thought either the company should pay for everyone to fly business, or they should buy the two coach seats even if it costs more, because otherwise it’s an unfair perk given to the larger employees.

        Sometimes the company can’t afford really nice _____ for everyone, but upgrading an employee’s ______ is the most cost-effective way to address their particular need for accommodation. (I think folks who feel it’s unfair would do well to realize that most of the time, the wishbone does not break in a disabled person’s favor when they’re trying to navigate the world, and not begrudge them the one time it does break in their favor.)

    3. Susan K*

      Yeah, seriously, what’s it to her if people want to bring their own chairs? Even if there are no medical issues at play and it’s just a matter of comfort, why shouldn’t people be comfortable? People aren’t even asking her to do the work of providing their preferred chairs, so it shouldn’t make any difference to her. You have no reason to be embarrassed; she’s the one being super weird about chairs and embarrassing herself with these comments. I think I would say something like, “No, it wouldn’t kill me to sit in a folding chair, but I’d rather be comfortable anyway, thanks.”

      Since you have already disclosed your medical condition and your manager has established an interest in accessibility, it would probably help to address it the way Alison suggests in hopes of shutting down the comments altogether. If it were a case where you didn’t want to discuss your private medical information, though, you could just approach it with an attitude of, “It’s weird that you’re so preoccupied with chair preferences.”

      1. JSPA*

        Fire regulations, maybe? Small conference room, can’t safely or legally fit large / solid chairs for everyone? Someone who’s about rules and fairness might focus on those two aspects and not triangulate on a) accommodations and b) not making people publicly declare why they need the accommodation.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It may be seen as a matter of wear-and-tear on the chairs intended for use by customers & C-suite, I suppose. But supervisor is still addressing it poorly in that case.

          1. LW*

            LW#2 here. Thanks for the support! Our space is actually quite large (it’s a convertible event space), so there’s nothing to worry about in terms of fire regulations or space issues. The “nice” chairs belong to a meeting table at the back of the room that has it’s own aesthetic to sort of demarcate it as different (think nice rug and table, and matching modern-style cushioned chairs). The space isn’t intended for anything special other than service as an additional, non-private meeting/gathering space for staff.

    4. CM*

      The way I’m reading the dynamic here, I think it’s common knowledge in this office that the folding chairs aren’t great but, because there aren’t enough conference table chairs for everyone, the polite thing to do is to have everyone sit in the uncomfortable chairs, because then everyone’s equal. By coming in and taking a better chair, the handful of people who do that are sending a message that they think they’re entitled to have something better than everyone else for some reason, which is why it’s annoying the manager.

      The problem is that the egalitarian philosophy that everyone should take one of the bad chairs because there aren’t enough good chairs for all of us — and the reason the OP’s running into difficulty — is that it doesn’t account for the fact that we all have different bodies and the bad chairs aren’t equally bad for everyone.

      So, I think that framing this as equity vs equality might work with the manager. Meaning, emphasize that your shared goal is for everyone to be equal, but because you’re starting from a worse place in terms of your health and what you’re body’s doing, you need a better chair to be on the same level as everyone else.

      1. pleaset*

        “By coming in and taking a better chair, the handful of people who do that are sending a message that they think they’re entitled to have something better than everyone else for some reason, which is why it’s annoying the manager.”

        Very plausible. Thanks.

      2. MK*

        I think it would be more accurate to say they are showing they feel entitled to basic comfort at work that the workplace is not providing. And, well, it’s true.

        Also, if that is the rationale, it can be overkill. Are other people actually complaining about the chairs? If so, maybe do something. If nit, don’t create an issue where there isn’t one. I

        1. LW*

          LW#2 here. CM, that’s probably an accurate read of the dynamic, and how my manager is interpreting things. I hadn’t thought about framing the issue as equality vs. equity. I’m going to go with Alison’s approach to start the convo, but I think I’ll need to also bring up this bit if my manager starts to argue.

          MK, no one has complained to the people in charge per se – everyone who feels they need one just quietly brings a chair from the back table. Given the office’s budget, and our need for chairs that can be stored quickly and in little space, I don’t see them being replaced any time soon, which is why no one has formally complained. And I think probably only 1/3 to 1/2 the office, at best, feels strongly about the chairs. Most everyone else just considers them an annoying part of office life.

          1. Aveline*

            A lot of people will out up with extreme discomfort because they feel making waves/causing drama is worse.

            So many of us are socially conditioned to go along and get along even in the face of easily remedied wrongs. After all, drama queen is a common enough insult.

            I’m so sorry that attitude will make it more difficult to get what you need.

            I’m sure the entire commentariat is rooting for you.

        2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          But if there aren’t enough comfortable chairs for everyone, they’re (seemingly) showing they feel *more* entitled than their peers to comfortable chairs. I’m not knocking the OP- I think grabbing a comfortable chair is eminently reasonable for her. But if there’s a subset of her coworkers who have an entitlement streak anyway, this may be the most visible way in which they’re expressing that entitlement streak.

          1. LW*

            LW#2 here. So…well, yes, there is one person in particular that my manager considers extremely entitled (among other things – she doesn’t like this person at all, for a number of both valid and not valid reasons). This person also takes a nice chair, which I know is for chronic pain reasons, but I doubt my manager is aware of the reason. So that might be a dimension here, which I didn’t think of when I wrote in!

            1. Ralkana*

              This may be something you can bring up with your manager in a general way, rather than outing someone’s unstated need for accommodations. She knows (or should realize) that you need a special chair due to already stated accommodations, but by making these comments, she is making herself unapproachable for others who may not receive the accommodations they need because they’re afraid to approach her. And that is not being open to embracing everyone’s needs.

          2. Howdy*

            I don’t think it has anything to do with entitlement. Those who get to the room earlier can get the more comfortable chairs, those who don’t can’t. I doubt anybody makes a fuss if all the more comfortable chairs are taken. Much ado about nothing.

      3. Kat*

        Seems plausible that this may be what the manager is concerned about. But…as a manager myself, I honestly wouldn’t care one whit about what chairs people used unless grabbing different chairs was taking too long and delaying the start of the meeting. In that case I’d just say “we need to start the meeting on time so please make sure you take a few minutes before the start of the meeting to have everything you need (water, sweater, chair, pen, paper, etc.).

        Unless there was a group of my staff that was griping about some people sitting in better chairs I wouldn’t even presume to make assumptions about someone’s motivation for getting a different chair. It just seems like a really petty use of one’s mental energy and trying to manage fairness about chairs seems like such a waste of a manager’s time.

    5. Mookie*

      Yep. The manager thinks the comfy chair* brigade are being precious and that they’re “hogging” the good seats (nobody else seems to want) or undermining authority by “rejecting” what is being offered to them. It’s a really illogical, unnecessarily adversarial assumption based on nothing, except perhaps a tendency to read normal behavior as flouting authority. I hope she feels like an ass if/when the LW sets her straight.

      *where they have to sit until lunch time, with only a cup of coffee at 11

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, the boss is going to the most negative place in her thinking and getting there as quickly as possible.
        It can be discouraging to try to converse with a person like this. OP, your best bet is to ignore the underlying negativity here and simply explain your setting in a matter of fact way.

        The matter of fact manner of speaking over looks the poor choices the boss is making here. You don’t show, “I see your being crappy about this.” Just use an explanatory tone- it’s a way of taking a higher road. You can avoid the whole topic of “Why are you treating people like they are five year olds?” By role-modeling adult conversation, she may feel obliged to follow your lead.

  2. I Took A Mint*

    #5, my company is doing this exact thing now as we try to align dog groomers across Sarkovia, Wakanda, and other definitely real countries around the world.

    I’ve heard higher-ups say that they absolutely won’t decrease anyone’s salary, but that they will instead just not give them raises/salary increases for a while so that the market catches up with them due to inflation. So for instance, if the high end of the range is determined to be 100 money, and someone is paid 120 money now, every year people’s salaries will be adjusted for inflation (so next year the range limit is 105, the next year 110 money…) so once they are within the range again, they will be eligible for salary increases again.

    Maybe someone can explain this concept better than me, but your company might plan to do something like this where your pay won’t be reduced, it just won’t be increased for a while.

    1. Nines*

      I think you explained it very well. I could definitely seem companies using that tactic. Though I would be disappointed to hear I just don’t get a raise for awhile, but if I really wanted to stay, it would be better than having your salary reduced directly.

      1. I Took A Mint*

        Thank you! My company allows people at the top of their range to still be given small(er) increases during regular merit cycles, and there are one-time rewards managers can give too. But this is how they’re handling the big international alignment.

        The higher-ups, though they all have very nice salaries themselves, were definitely concerned with the optics and consequences of reducing salaries, so as a lowly grunt it was reassuring. It sounds like OP needs that reassurance!

    2. Lucy*

      I was subject to a similar coordination with similar banding and ceilings set during the process (I had an unusual job/title so didn’t get stung).

      They also harmonised working hours. Across the amalgamated companies the working week varied from 32.5h to 37.5h, but it was standardised at 35h *without adjustment in pay* – so although everyone’s headline salary was the same, some people’s hourly rate had effectively gone down. That really annoyed people for a short time!

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      Anything less than inflation is an effective cut in pay. I would be out the door in a heartbeat if a company intentionally froze my salary to make me lose out to inflation over a multi-year period.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        Even if you were overpaid for the market, and other jobs paid less? Because that’s the situation where I’ve seen this happen.

        1. MintLavendar*

          Yeah I mean if Trout can get another job at the same pay on the market, more power to them! But if they’re being paid at the top of the range, and that range is based on market data, it would be theoretically difficult for them to find a job willing to pay them more (and to keep increasing their pay).

        2. Aveline*


          I’ve seen so many people who thought they were smart negotiators and being paid their with, but were regally overlaid relative to the market because of specific conditions at their current employer. That’s a hard, hard lesson. So before one jumps ship, they need to make sure they know what the market rate is for the position, nor their individual circumstances or skill set.

          It’s funny how we are all for pay equity and fairness across genders and races until it hits our own paycheck. Because pay bands based on position is the only way I’ve seen in practice that works. That means top performers make less than they do in unfair sexist and racist systems. But women and minorities are not paid less simply because they aren’t white men.

          Is it individually desirable to have pay leveled if it means we are paid less? No. But socially fair is a different matter.

          Part of the move toward uniform lay bands is to ensure that there’s less sexism and racism in what people are paid.

          Here’s the question I have: is the LW’s company doing this to ensure fair pay for everyone, because they want to pay everyone less overall, or some mix of the two? If it’s the first reason, LW will have a difficult time negotiating out of the system. The whole point of the system is to take individual idiosyncratic argument out of it and to make it fair for everyone. In that case, recourse is to leave if there’s other opportunities for the desired level of pay.

          If, however, the real motive is cost saving on salary, they have much more leverage. I’ve seen companies say they were creating pay bands for equity reasons, but it was really because they wanted to lower everyone. In those cases, the company might keep the high performer at a higher salary.

          That readies the issue of the justification for OPs higher pay. Whatever she negotiated when she came in is fine. However, does her current performance justify being paid at a much higher rate than everyone else? Your salary when you come in is based on your potential. Your salary going forward should be based on performance in an individualized system.

          LW, if you read this, then think about both what the market rate is where you live and whether your performance to date warrants putting you in a salary wherever your desired salary lands in that market rate.

          1. Aveline*

            One if the downsides of negotiating for higher initial pay, is that it can mean fewer raises over time. That occurs in systems even where there are not pay bands.

            It also leads to resentment on both sides.

            This is another reason we need to move away from totally individualized salaries as in the US model and more toward transparent salary bands and metrics for bonuses and raises.

              1. Aveline*

                Thanks. Cringing reading the typos.

                I also don’t want to be too harsh in LW. Wanting to be paid more is human, common, and not a bad thing.

                But actually being paid more than others similarly situated is not always something one can achieve or sustain.

                Also, we have to admit that this sometimes comes at a cost to others. DH has a pool if cash to give out in his department. Paying Jane more means paying Fergus less. It is zero sum in his company. He hates it, but that’s reality. The same system works for year end bonuses.

                He gets a pile of cash to divvy out. Deciding what’s fair gives him gray hairs.

                I personally believe that it’s difficult for Americans in particular to accept pay equity as we are reared in a culture that proselytizes hard work and merit and the individual. It’s easy to feel owed and it’s easy to feel that differential treatment is ok.

                I’m not saying we shouldn’t negotiate for the highest pay possible in a system that is individualized. Just that when companies try to move to equity, we have a choice of being treated like everyone else or leaving. If one really, truly feels the pay isn’t fair in a pay band system because it’s not market rate, argue for raising the pay band. If the pay isn’t fair because one has qualifications or skills that merit more pay, the solution is to move up or leave. Asking for more individually destroys the whole point of pay equity in such a system.

                Finally, so often we try and get the salary we want in order to fund the lifestyle we want. It’s very, very difficult for most of us to reframe our thinking in terms of value to a company based on the system and metrics it’s using. In a pay band system that’s truly objective, the cap is the cap irrespective of our needs or our skills.

                I have no idea if any of this to the letter writer. But I do think she and others can benefit from discussing the philosophy. Discussing why employers pay people what they do and that underlying philosophy of switching to objective pay band systems needs to be something that occurs more, not less IMHO.

                1. Lucette Kensack*

                  Yes. I’m struggling with a pay equity issue in my organization right now. The crux of the problem is one man who is grossly overpaid (in comparison to his female colleagues who do similar work). The only feasible way to get to equity is to drastically cut his salary; the org already pays slightly over median wages for our market, and there simply isn’t budget to lift everyone up to his over-market salary.

                2. nonymous*

                  replying to Lucette Kensack:

                  Given the situation where one is paid at a higher rate, I would advocate for elevating his job duties to merit that additional pay. If he has more seniority than his so-called peers, taking on training/SME duties (in addition, not instead of) would be one way. Another option would be doing some grunt work that frees up your time; again, in addition not instead of the duties that his peers take on. If this is a job that demands coverage at specific times, the overpaid staffer should be the one that is tasked with the least desirable shifts. And it’s totally reasonable to be clear when adding these duties to his plate that you are expecting more out of him because he is paid more – his performance should be rising to the pay.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              Moving to government and no longer having any ability to negotiate for my job was kind of a relief.

              1. Aveline*

                Correct me if I’m wrong: I think that one of the benefits of working for the US government is stability and predictability. You may not be paid as much as one would make it in the private sector. However, you know what you’re going to be paid now and can reasonably predict what you might make 10 years from now.

                I think that’s also a benefit of moving to objective systems with preset qualifications and pay bands.

                It also likely makes it more difficult for someone to be overpaid. I’ve seen that happen a lot in the private sector. People get paid a higher rate because they’ve negotiated it. When they jump ship or get laid off and actually get paid what the market thinks they’re worth, the economics are disastrous personally. I’ve seen so many people live above their means because they were basing it on a bloated salary.

                I tell my younger friends to try and live at the spending level of the low end of the spectrum of potential pay. Because salary in the private sector is too unpredictable

                1. Aveline*

                  One other note: It’s human nature for us to think that our salaries will always only ever go up. We think we get more and more valuable the more skills and experience we acquire. But that’s not always true in a pure market individual system. You might make $200,000 on one job because of a confluence of factors beyond your control and beyond your individual skills. But your worth on an open market when those factors don’t apply might only be $100,000.

                  My husband makes more that I could ever hope to. But I’ve had a higher hourly rate than he ever will. Why? Back in the 90s, I had a software skill that less than 10 people on the planet had. I was the only person in the US. This wasn’t something needed daily, but when it was needed, it was needed.

                  It would’ve been very easy to think that the pay I received on that job was indicative of my overall worth to an employer. Fortunately, the man who hired me sat me down and told me I was going to be compensated very, very well on this job but when this particular skill set became obsolete in 3 to 5 years, my pay would go down drastically. So I was prepared.

                  Unfortunately, American society does a very, very bad job of teaching people these facts and frames.

                  Thank goodness for AAM, Captain Awkward, etc.

              2. TootsNYC*

                Moving to government and no longer having any ability to negotiate for my job was kind of a relief.

                I can totally understand that.
                When I needed to put my kids in elementary school, in NYC I had so many choices (since there were private schools, and sometimes flexibility to switch to different public schools) that it was very anxiety-making.
                The responsibility to choose right was almost overwhelming.

                I grew up in a small town and there was ONE school. So no anxiety or guilt about choosing. Any flaws the school had were something that was dealt with in the day-to-day. If you got a crappy teacher, you tried to find a tutor, or mom/dad spent more time on homework with the kid to try to help. And you focused on helping your kid cope with the world, and not on tryign to choose the perfect world.

                And I once chose an upholsterer because in the newspaper profile of his business, he said he didn’t negotiate. Period.

          2. OP #5*

            The whole thing is very hush-hush. We’re told almost nothing about what’s happening with business development.

            What I do know about our situation is money is tight and most are paid near or below market value. I actually moved up in title when I accepted this role but took a small decrease in salary (only ~1%, but still I was moving to a higher level with more responsibilities). My previous job was at a much larger company that paid well but I had my reasons for changing jobs (more interesting work, greater responsibility and more influence on the company).

            I have no idea what others at my level (or above) are being paid. Since this is a relatively small company a lot of things have changed before I joined, including the way titles worked and I would assume pay bands. My own boss jumped two levels in title shortly after I joined. So, I think they were calibrating then and maybe will do it again once we spin out.

            We did have a very senior person resign recently and he was not replaced. I’m not sure if this will free up some cash for salary bumps or if that role will simply be filled again after the spin out.

          3. Trout 'Waver*

            Yeah, no.

            If I negotiate a higher salary than my coworkers, it’s because the company made a business decision that my contributions are worth it. If the labor market changes to my detriment, I hope to have the kind of relationship with my employer where I can I see the numbers and the rational business reasons for it. If someone punishes you for negotiating, they’re an asshole who negotiated in bad faith.

            The solution to race and gender based pay inequity is not to take away merit-based pay. It’s to make it truly merit-based and remove race and gender from the equation. The fact of the matter is that there will always be places that pay for performance, and the high-performers will seek those places out.

            1. blaise zamboni*

              If you negotiate a higher salary, it’s because the company made a business decision about your contributions…when you successfully asked them to do so. That system means your worth to the company can be, in part, contingent on how well you advertise yourself, your dynamic with your manager, and your manager’s own implicit biases. It would be super neat if implicit biases and a-hole managers who punish [the wrong type of] negotiators just disappeared. But that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

              Companies already have some internal range that they’re willing to pay for a role. Stating a pay band doesn’t mean that everyone has to be paid at the top of that range. High performers can still be rewarded with higher salaries, even potentially bumping up into ‘Job Title III’ to access a higher pay band. Being transparent about salaries just creates a more equitable system for the people who end up grossly underpaid because they couldn’t magically divine a company’s internal range, and thus accept a salary below what they could have (and should have) received. And a lot of the people who get shafted by the weird carnival-guessing-game salary negotiations are people of color and femme people.

              The root cause of race- and gender-based pay disparity is the coy “idk what do YOU think you should be paid” system of managing, so getting rid of that actually would be a great step forward in addressing race- and gender-based pay disparity. If you’re so much of a superstar that you’re worth significantly more than your peers, you’ll still be worth more when they’re paid fair and equal salaries.

      2. PaperGirl*

        We have a situation currently happening in my company…our Inside Sales people start off with a high salary. After a year, they go on commission and have their salary cut. Well…our Sales Director emailed our CFO and Payroll Managers letting them know “John Snow is going on commission, please change his pay structure to this _____”…well, they only did half of what they needed to do….getting John Snow on commission. They forgot to cut his salary.

        Now, 8 months later, this mistake has finally been realized…only because John Snow asked for a raise. We are now dealing with a relatively new hire making more than similarly to even more qualified coworkers who have been with the company for 10+ years.

        The CFO thinks the best thing to do is tell him no to the raise and cut his pay to where it should be (which will almost certainly cause him to quit).

        John Snow’s manager wants to try to collect upon the “overpayment”- noting that the pay cut once John Snow makes the transition to commission was clearly noted in the offer letter (it was mentioned, but not detailed out.) We do have employees sign agreements stating that over payments will be collected back through payroll deductions…but, in my opinion, that does not apply to this situation.

        I think the “best case scenario” is to deny the raise and keep his salary as it is now (with the commissions still), effectively freezing everything for a bit of time. I believe this will still cause the employee to leave, but perhaps in better spirits than if we cut his pay…and perhaps with a bit more notice.

        1. Aveline*

          Awful for all concerned. Being fair to John will cause resentment with others. Being unfair, but sticking to the rules, will hurt him.


          Sounds like some higher ups need to re-evaluate the system

        2. Dwight*

          I think the fairest thing to do would be to not touch the money he’s already been paid, but to cut him back down to where his salary should be. It was in his offer letter. If he leaves for that, then… well… he’s not negotiating his salary in good faith.

        3. Wren*

          It may be illegal in your state to do what the manager wants, even with the signed agreement. There are often limits on how far you can go back.

      3. Smithy*

        I went through something similar a few years ago – and inevitably it ended up serving as a flashing red light for people who got information that they should leave.

        No one had their salary cut, but a number of titles were changed to titles that sounded far more junior and raises were strictly cost of living related.

        Everyone who had that happen took it as a sign how either they were viewed (more junior) or their role (this is the amount we should be paying for x work).

        It absolutely sucked and felt miserable – however, no one got a pay cut and people got the insight that it was time to start looking for jobs ASAP if this new reality felt wrong.

        1. Mk*

          So I don’t know the specific circumstances of what happened in your workplace, but when my firm does compensation consulting, we always analyze the actual content of the role to determine appropriate pay and title, not the other way around.

        2. OP #5*

          This actually happened at my company but before my time there. I had a colleague who had a title that was much higher than her skill set/background would justify. She left the company before the title changes took place and took a role with a more junior (but appropriate) title at a large company.

          1. Sharikacat*

            Sounds like she jumped ship before the title change so that she could truthfully place the better title on her resume and leverage that for a better starting salary in a more junior role.

            1. OP #5*

              That’s pretty much what happened. She applied for a higher level role (with a higher title). They hired her at a high salary but lowered the title to better reflect her background.

              I’m not sure if she strategically planned that out or if the timing of her move just happened worked out that way. I do know that her manager told her she makes more than almost anyone near her level (and even some one level above) and to not share her salary with anyone else in the company.

    4. IL JimP*

      this is exactly what my company did a few years ago, sucks for people at the top of the range but it’s better than losing salary I guess

    5. Mk*

      I do compensation consulting and analysis and this is the approach we always suggest. Another option is that people whose salaries are above the top of the band will get bonuses instead of raises.

    6. OP #5*

      We already missed out on pay increases and bonuses last year due to our company not meeting certain milestones. It’s totally possible this will happen again as a result of the spin out, I don’t really know. I’m really in the dark with the finances and other business-related details.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, but did you send a thank you note?

    I’m kidding. This process sounds time-consuming and unjustified. I’m still trying to figure out what the math and logic exams were supposed to establish. It’s fine to withdraw, and I’d be inclined to tell them why (as Alison does, in her scripts). But it’s also ok to just withdraw without telling them their hiring process is needy and precious.

    1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      Not to mention the college transcripts, especially since this is for a non-entry-level job! What’s the point of that?

      1. Delta Delta*

        I was thinking that, too. It then potentially becomes a point of having to explain why you took ballet as a college freshman or why you got a B- in statistics.

      2. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I was scratching my head at the whole process but especially the transcript piece. That’s nuts. And as Alison said, there’s no reason to do a grammar assessment if OP has done half a dozen writing exercises. It sounds like they’re doing things just to do them.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        That’s the point where I would have drawn the line….I didn’t even keep mine after a certain point.

      4. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup. As soon as they asked for that, I would have laughed and told them no, I’m not going through the hassle of trying to get those. Hell, their entire process is ridiculous. That company would get ghosted for sure.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If you’re tempted to ghost a company with ridiculously demanding interview procedures, think of the interviewees to follow and tell them you’re withdrawing due to the interview procedures.
          Such a simple way to be a force for good in the world. ;)

          1. The Original K.*

            You can also post on the interview section on Glassdoor. I have, usually when a company has ghosted after in-person interviews (several rounds of in-person interviews, in some cases).

          2. EPLawyer*

            a company that sets up this type of interview process doesn’t see it as wrong. Even if you tell them you are withdrawing because the process is tedious, repetitive and non-productive. They will think they are right and you just don’t understand hiring processes for a dynamic start up like them who only wants truly dedicated people who will give 110% to the company.

            You can try, just don’t expect a revelation on the part of the company.

            1. JJ Bittenbinder*

              Absolutely agree with this. They’ll likely shrug and say, “Guess they didn’t want it bad enough” until, maybe, they hear it from several candidates whom they’re really interested in. If it starts to hurt, they’ll change.

            2. boo bot*

              You can’t expect a revelation based on a single person’s withdrawal, but if they repeatedly lose the candidates they want, and a few tell them it’s because the process is tedious, repetitive, and non-productive, that’s information they can either choose to act on or ignore. Telling them why she’s withdrawing doesn’t really affect her, it’s a favor to the company – what they do with it is up to them.

            3. Aveline*

              I’ve always found that anyone that is this our of whack personally or professionally will never see it.

            4. ChimericalOne*

              It might not spark a revelation, but if even just 1 or 2 people involved in the process had doubts about it to start with, it might lend them enough credence to make a difference.

        2. Anna - also Bi*

          If you’re using a combination of education and experience applying to a government job, you do have to send your transcripts in. It’s the only reason I’ve held onto a copy of mine, although I’ve accumulated enough experience not to need them so much anymore.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        It sounds like someone combed advice on all the things you might request from a job candidate at various stages, and decided top companies do all of those things.

      6. Antilles*

        There actually can be a point of wanting college transcripts in certain technical industries like engineering. The theory here is that while you may have focused on building design in your career and your only exposure to roadway design was a couple classes in college, that background still provides some value in working with colleagues on the roadway side of things due to general familiarity with the concepts/information involved. Secondly, having that background lets you help cross-sell your company’s roadway services to existing clients without being completely lost if the client asks a couple vague technical questions. Lastly, if the company is envisioning a dual-role where you’re primarily in buildings but also help out on the roadway side, even that small amount of background makes it a lot easier than someone who’s coming in completely cold and doesn’t even know what AADT or GAB are.
        That said, my understanding is that this is pretty industry specific, so it seems odd that a marketing job would find much use in a transcript from 10 years ago.

      7. Turtle Candle*

        You know, I think that often these kinds of ridiculousnesses are to do with employers having been burned by an employee in the past and reacting to that in an unhelpful way. I used to work at a company that required transcripts because they’d been burned by an employee who lied about where they’d gone to school. The rational response to that is either a) figure it out via more normal methods (such as reference checking), or, if you already did that and were still bamboozled (it happens! some people are good liars!) b) accepting that sometimes things like that will happen and there’s no way to fully protect against it, and that frankly the incidence is realistically low enough to not be worth a bunch of extra shenanigans to avoid it..

        But I think it’s easy especially among people who aren’t necessarily all that seasoned in hiring to instead jump to “We must have transcripts to prevent this happening! Transcripts for everyone!”

        I think a lot of oddities not just in hiring but in management come from that. Why does everyone have to take the What Disney Princess Are You quiz? Why does this entirely normal office job with no security clearances need the name of my manager at the Blockbuster Video where I worked in high school twenty years ago? Why are employees forbidden from wearing coral lipstick? Well, y’see, fifteen years ago we had this guy….

    2. boredatwork*

      My company does this – math, logic, grammar, personality/intelligence testing. One half day interview, one full day interview and the final phase in 3 hours with a trained psychologist. It’s a literal stress test, it’s not uncommon for people to cry.

      The company overall is fantastic, the hiring process makes you want to run screaming for the hills.

      1. The Original K.*

        What kind of work does the company do? This sounds like what you’d go through to join the FBI!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Exactly. If this isn’t for some federal government position, I would nope right out of that mess. If I was unemployed and desperate – maybe. But not as a working professional who already does enough tedious work in her day to day life.

      2. General Ginger*

        Three hours with a psychologist where it’s not uncommon for people to cry? If this is your hiring process, then no, your company is not overall fantastic.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yeah, I have had high-stress jobs (substitute teacher and EMT, both in a huge city). I could still do them, but there’s a reason I don’t, because despite the rewarding nature, the stress made them feel unsustainable for me in the long run. I would walk out of something like the interview process described, it sounds frighteningly cultish. Even for the jobs I had, there is no “stress test”, you just either learn to deal with it by doing it and talking to more experienced coworkers, or you move on.

      3. Amethystmoon*

        That’s bizarre. I’ve worked in office jobs all my career. While a few might have a basic math test, I’ve never had to do anything in an office job that I couldn’t just use Excel for if I needed to, or use a calculator app.

        A trained psychologist? That could be considered discriminatory if they are looking to weed people out with things that would be disabilities under the ADA.

      4. LW3*

        LW #3 here. Wow! I’m sure that makes sense for some jobs. But for a marketing job? Nope. That’s just overkill. Congratulations on getting through that process! I’m glad you enjoy the company you work for is fantastic :)

        1. Burned Out Supervisor*

          I don’t know why you would need to take a math test for a marketing job (unless it involved managing budgets). My husband has a degree in Advertising and Marketing and the big joke between us is how little he has to know about math (beyond basic financial math). We’re a part of a trivia group that is heavy on engineers and science people and when a math question comes up we always look at him and cheer “MARKETING!” Lol.

      5. EmKay*

        … a company with a hiring process that makes you want to run screaming for the hills isn’t a fantastic one.

      6. The New Wanderer*

        That sound awful. I think it would have to be a really, really specific type of work that would lend itself to forcing people through a series of generic testing (rather than specific skills testing) AND also a psych-led stress test. For almost any job, though, that’s … just awful. Great way to screen out good candidates with options though.

    3. Pilcrow*

      I think this is a trend in some tech/software companies. I applied for a tech writing job at a company called Epic (medical system software) and the process was eerily similar to what the OP described. It included college transcripts and timed logic, math, coding (for a non-coding job), and grammar tests in addition to writing samples and mini-projects. They contracted the testing out to a 3rd party which leads me to think this some sort of package deal a consulting company is selling.

      I didn’t get an offer, and I’m kind of glad. The company came off as really hipster brogrammer culture that mistakes tree-houses for benefits. That doesn’t appeal to my middle-aged female self.

      1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        Right? Free wheat-grass juice smoothies in the cafeteria? Uhhh, no. I’ll take health insurance and a 401(k), please.

      2. Else*

        Oh, man. I’m sure sure sure that they have a “cultural fit” aspect to their hiring that works to wall out large swaths of the potentially capable population.

      3. Burned Out Supervisor*

        Epic is the bigwig in medical billing software and Electronic Medical Records (ask me how I know!) and are positioning themselves to be the midwestern Google of medical billing. We have people that go to their annual user group extravaganza in Madison.

    4. LW3*

      LW #3 here. Hahaha! I wondered the same thing about the math and logic exams—I felt like I was taking my SATs again! Luckily, I have had another job offer in the process so that’ll be part of my answer to them.

  4. nnn*

    For #2, depending on the personalities involved, you might leave out the “Can you stop making comments about it?” part, and just end your statement with “it triggered a multi-day, painful flair-up.”

    The reason for this is asking her to stop making comments about it makes it sound like her comments are hurting your feelings, and insensitive people often see “I don’t want you to do the thing that’s hurting my feelings” as non-credible, because it’s “just” hurt feelings.

    In contrast “I know you’re a supporter of accessibility so you must not have realized this is an accessibility issue” is harder to minimize. (And also, might be even more effective if you have an audience.)

    In any case, you know the specific personalities involved better than we do, so use whichever option fits best with your read of the situation.

    1. Amylou*

      I like “Can you stop making comments?”. It is an explicit ask, instead of an implicit hint. The supervisor might not get the hint, but will hopefully ‘get’ the ask.
      As long as you don’t say the script in a too emotional way but very matter-of-factly, I don’t think it comes off as hurt feelings.

      1. KP*

        And the OP has already discussed with this person her need for medical accommodation! I too would be explicit about saying “Can you stop making comments?” and/or reminding her that she and OP have already discussed OP’s need for accomodation.

        1. Yorick*

          She discussed the condition with the supervisor, but maybe the supervisor doesn’t connect it with the chair issue. I would say something pretty much like Alison suggested.

      2. Peachkins*

        Yes, I agree. I’ve seen too many letters on here where the likely reason someone’s behavior hasn’t changed is because the person it’s bothering keeps hinting around about the issue instead of addressing it head on. I don’t think the script comes off as emotional at all. To me, if you take it all together, it says “you shouldn’t be commenting on this because it’s not appropriate”, not “you shouldn’t be commenting on this because it hurts my feelings”.

        1. LW*

          LW#2 here. I agree that I’ve probably not been explicit enough recently about how my condition affects my daily life. My plan is to bring this up in an unemotional way during my next 1:1, and emphasize the “I know you are concerned about accessibility…” angle.

          1. valentine*

            I was wondering if she forgot what you told her, but she shouldn’t be shaming people for choosing comfort over martyrdom or false solidarity. I wouldn’t give her too many details, lest she meddle. If the chairs are always used, they could get better chairs and stack them, but if most people don’t mind the chairs, this would be solving a problem that doesn’t exist and your supervisor might just find a new complaint.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I disagree. When I first read the letter, I figured the boss was unaware of her disability, and just thought she was being lazy or entitled. If that were the case, it still wouldn’t be ok for boss to make the comments, but it would be more on the level of “hurting feelings”. But the boss is well aware of her disability, which makes this even worse, and honestly the comments are inappropriate. OP needs to ask her to stop with the comments.

      1. valentine*

        It may be that she expects OP2 to know she considers her an exception to the comments, but no one else does and the comments are gross and unnecessary. I’m surprised she doesn’t just remove the comfy chairs. (I feel like I’m writing a Python sketch.)

    3. TL -*

      I think just saying, “back problems, Jane. Whatcha gonna do about it?” with a kinda rueful shrug tone (or whatever your condition is) would probably be sufficient to connect the dots for her.

      People don’t always remember disabilities or connect the dots between what people can and can’t do.

      1. Samwise*

        “People don’t always remember disabilities …”

        I’m hard of hearing. Back chatter during presentations and meeting is not only rude, but makes it very hard for me (and possibly others) to hear. Everyone at work knows and has known for years, literally. It’s an office where everyone is genuinely committed to equality, equal access, etc. At this point it only makes me angry to have to remind people AGAIN: why is it on me to have to tell everybody every freaking week? Make an effort to remember, people.

        1. Dragoning*

          I have a very uncommon allergy to a very common food–and my entire office knows this, and has known this. Every time we have a potluck or catered food, I once again cannot eat almost anything provided. And then they’re reminded why I’m not eating and ask the same questions about it they always ask.


      2. Psyche*

        People also have a tendency to think that doing something for just a little bit would be fine. So the supervisor may know the OP can’t sit in chairs like that regularly, but has convinced herself that sitting in the chair for “only an hour” should be ok. I have celiac and have to constantly remind relatives that yes, just one bite WILL hurt me. There seems to be some sort of mental block that small things can in fact cause large amounts of pain.,

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          It’s just privilege, plain and simple. Or, more explicitly, a deficit or blind spot in perspective-taking. In this case it’s very likely ableism, in that many people who have never had a chronic condition literally can’t imagine everyday activities causing intense pain or fatigue that doesn’t go away quickly. It often takes it affecting them directly (personally, or someone in their immediate personal circle, such as immediate family) for them to understand.

      3. LW*

        LW#2 here. I think the trouble with going with just the “back problems” route is that people tend to be super dismissive (in my experience) because back pain is so common. I spent 10 years trying to convince medical professionals that my back pain was something serious, and that’s medical professionals. Before I was diagnosed, I tried to get out of an all day office retreat because I was experiencing (what I now know to be) a very, very bad flare, and my manager was basically like “I’ll look bad if you don’t show up just because of some back pain”. In a perfect world, someone should be able to say they can’t do something because of pain/disability without going into detail, but that’s not the world we live in (yet).

        1. Kat*

          Argh this is so frustrating and I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this!
          I feel like we should take people’s pain or discomfort seriously regardless of whether they have a diagnosed medical condition or disability (visible or invisible).
          I once had a 2-day all-day training and the chairs we were sitting in made my lower back and also my legs hurt soooo much that I kept shifting in my seat and it was hard to concentrate. I wouldn’t be surprised if my constant fidgeting was distracting to those next to me.
          I don’t have any kind of disability or chronic back pain but no way in hell was I enduring a second day of that. On day 2 I just went into another meeting space and grabbed a more comfortable chair and returned it after I was done. One of my staff who has sciatica was fine sitting in those chairs for both days which I think just goes to show that you can’t make assumptions about what will be ok for people based on a condition or disability they do or don’t have.

          I hope your manager responds well to your request and please send Alison an update so we know how it went!

  5. Angel*

    #3: I do feel your pain. I had a similar experience with a potential employer and I went through their process TWICE… required video cover letter, PP presentation, design project, Excel test, a role-playing session…. and didn’t get the position both times. After the second, they asked afterward if I’d be interested in being on their “short list” for other opportunities or contract work, I said sure, but If they reach out and ask if i’m interested in applying (and assuming I’m still interested), I’ll certainly use Alison’ script. They have over 16 hours of non-billable work from me and a combined 8 hours of interviews, that should be enough to evaluate anybody, I would wager.

      1. Batgirl*

        With the exception of certain industries I see that as the most crimson of all the flags.

    1. LW3*

      From LW#3: That’s awful! I’m sorry you had to endure that, especially a video cover letter?? Geez. If they’re going to interview you in person that definitely seems unnecessary. The interview IS the video cover letter.

      1. Angel*

        Thanks, LW3. I should clarify that it was a remote position, and the interviews were over Skype. I feel bad for the folks who got rejections right off the bat. During the interview process, I learned that the company gets about 400 applicants on average when a position opens up. I can’t imagine the hiring manager wading through 400 videos.

  6. Polarface*

    Writer number two, it sounds like your supervisor probably would prefer to take one of those chairs for herself, but for some reason, she thinks she can’t. People find weird motivations for making fun of other people, especially when hiding envy.

    1. I Took A Mint*

      This is what I thought. She actually wants to sit in a comfy non-folding chair (who wouldn’t?) but she’s made up this convoluted logic about how actually she’s too good to sit in a comfy chair. But you wheeling in a comfy chair frustrates her because it exposes the “well then why can’t I do that, why have I been putting up with this” embarrassment, and she’s choosing to double down and berate you with the other end of her weird logic (“I can’t sit in a comfy chair because I’m too good for it. So if OP chooses a comfy chair it must be because they’re weak/bad in some way.”)

      1. Mookie*

        That sounds right. The epiphany that people have free will and can find accommodations for themselves is rocking her worldview and her first instinct is to react with passive aggression to quell outbreaks of individuality. Heavy stuff for her, I guess.

        1. Mary Connell*

          Ah, the old “If I had to suffer, everyone else has to, even if we have to manufacture ways to suffer.” Turns out that sometimes suffering builds character, but mostly suffering is just suffering.

            1. valentine*

              you wheeling in a comfy chair
              The chairs are already in the room and, while it’s possible a lot of people are avoiding the shaming (#flashbacks), I would take the fact there’s always a proper chair for OP2 to mean most people don’t care and they are fine for that hour on the horrible, flat, butt-hurting metal with the stupid gap twixt seat and back.

        2. Busy*

          Well, I’m not sure this spurred on an extensional crisis in OP’s boss. I think it is more just to some people, and without context, grabbing *other* furniture than what everyone else is expected to use for one’s own’s comfort can come across as very entitled. It doesn’t sound like OP or the others who do this gave the manager context. Giving the manager context also allows other staff members who may have medical issues access to chairs they feel like they are “not supposed to take” by having it then be A Thing.

          1. valentine*

            On the other hand, those of us who would endure pain to avoid even a theoretical shaming are literally just hurting ourselves by leaving good chairs empty. Conforming to a ridiculous expectation just feeds the cycle.

      2. LCL*

        I think this take and others like it are a bit too hard on the manager. What is going on doesn’t sound like a desire to squash everybody’s individuality or assert authority. To a manager trying to get a meeting done, moving chairs around and rearranging things that are already set up is just monkey motion, a stalling tactic. OP herself said that the manager doesn’t realize OP needs the different chair because of her medical issues, and that the normal arrangement is folding chairs in a row. So OP, please speak up, it sounds like manager doesn’t realize you need a different chair for comfort. Now, if she pushes back after you’ve told her, then she’s a jerk.

        1. valentine*

          They are rolling the chairs forward to the folding-chair section. Where are you getting rearranging or stalling? It’s not like they’re happy to sit for longer than an hour just ’cause they’ve got the comfy chairs. And there may be more than six comfy chairs, so, people are foregoing comfort like the supervisor wants. She’s the one wasting time with her nasty comments.

        2. ChimericalOne*

          Agreed. Plenty of people are unknowingly / unintentionally jerks because they’re impatient or uncomfortable with a delay that they don’t understand without any other hidden agendas. It’s not necessary to speculate that the boss thinks she’s “too good for” the conference room chairs.

  7. Airy*

    Re: the snotty comments about the use of a chair, it’s been my observation that a lot of people assume that once a condition is diagnosed a cure will follow. They don’t realise that sometimes diagnosis means not “now we know what’s wrong we can fix this” but rather “you still have to live with this, but at least we know why and we can probably manage it more effectively.” They then get impatient if after a while the person is still using accommodations, showing symptoms or otherwise not getting better, because that’s not what they expected. I wonder if that kind of misunderstanding is behind this. It’s still not okay to react with snotty comments, but it could explain the mismatch between her behaviour now and normally being more supportive.

    1. WS*

      Yes, this is very common (“Why aren’t you better yet?”) and so is “But you’re not *really* disabled”, from people who should know better. I think they get a definition of disability fixed in their minds and anyone who doesn’t fit that just doesn’t get consideration – if you physically couldn’t sit in the folding chair for some reason, that would be fine, but the fact that it causes a flare-up of a chronic condition afterwards, well, that’s just not real in her mind.

      1. Dragoning*

        And some people have specific ideas about incurable conditions and curable conditions–I got into a long argument with a (now former) friend about autism and said that if they knew someone in a wheelchair, they would accept that they would be “stuck” that way, but if there was a cure, of course they’d want their friend to get better.

        Despite the fact that autism has no cure, the only “treatments” he was referring to were ABA, which exist solely to make allistic people more comfortable, and plenty of people can eventually stop needing wheelchairs.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I have a friend who’s a healthcare/educational professional for special needs interventions, who is *very* salty about ABA therapies being snake oil provided by untrained laypersons.

        2. AKchic*

          *sigh* It’s like trying to explain to my grandmother that spine surgery won’t “cure” me of my conditions. It won’t repair the nerve damage, or fix the last 15 years of pain, suffering and deterioration. It can only shore up the currently damaged areas, and that fusion of those large portions will cause stress and damage to the surrounding areas, which will mean more surgeries down the road and no surgery is guaranteed to be “pain free” and “cured” and I’d still need my medications and I’m not going to go back to my 20 year old self, pre-car accident, pre-injuries, pre-scoliosis issues (my scoliosis didn’t bother me until after my 4th son was born when I was 25).

          My cousin just had back surgery for a ruptured disc. One ruptured disc that was causing a lot of problems. She is also a life-time retail worker. To hear my grandma talk, you’d think I could do the exact same thing and be “cured”. Explaining that I can’t do the same thing because I have more than one disc bad, and it’s not just the discs, and while my cousin had her mother to care for her (they live together, and my aunt could afford to financially support my cousin during her off-time), I can’t. Grandma hears what she wants to hear, and all she hears is “I don’t want to get better”.

          1. Airy*

            Wow, I’m so sorry you have to deal with your grandmother’s unhelpful attitude at the same time as so much pain and difficulty with your back. Sometimes people have a bit too much faith in medicine and it makes them so unsympathetic to people whose health problems our current state of medicine can’t yet solve.

            1. AKchic*

              Grandma is a “special” bird who thinks that if I were “cured”, she could move back home because then I’d be A-Okay to take care of her physical needs. In her mind, my inability to physically lift her 7 days a week is the entire reason she is in a nursing home. It is not that at all, but that’s what she is currently fixated on, as I am the youngest one who was in on the group decision to “put” her in assisted living. It was a long road to getting her into assisted living, and her care didn’t help my condition at all. It actually exacerbated a few issues, but got the rest of the family (and one extended member who was a chronic guilt-tripper) to finally realize that we couldn’t sustain the “Family Only” care model that my grandma wanted, especially since only three women were doing the work.

              1. Mary Connell*

                What a difficult situation. Caregiving is physically and emotionally demanding! I’m glad your family was able to move forward and hope your grandma can, too, and sooner rather than later.

    2. cncx*

      yup, i have a chronic ankle injury and a more recent knee injury on the other side, and there’s things i just can’t do even if i look able and don’t limp. People really dont understand that things don’t just get better one day, and they really really don’t understand that people who look like they’re not visibly injured can in fact have a chronic injury.

      My personal favorie is my ankle thing flares, mainly due to weather and there are some things i can do or can’t do depending on my ankle’s mood that day. Explaining to people why i just took the stairs but can’t lift a 50 pound package…yeah.

      1. Kate R*

        “they really really don’t understand that people who look like they’re not visibly injured can in fact have a chronic injury”

        This exactly! Since the OP said she was young, healthy, and physically active, I assumed this was what was going on. I have problems with my sciatic nerve, which at its worst had me crawling around my apartment because it was so painful to stand up straight that I didn’t think it was worth making that effort at home. But in public I looked fine, except that things like standing for long periods of time or sitting in stiff metal chairs could exacerbate it for days. I always want to remind people, just because someone isn’t complaining about their pain doesn’t mean it went away.

      2. BookishMiss*

        I am a human barometer, thanks to a history of multiple chronic injuries and weather-triggered (we think) migraines. It’s been particularly bad lately with all the wonky weather. I’m about to print off business cards saying something like that with cute clip art to give to the People Who Think It’s Their Business.

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      +100. OP, I have carpal and cubital tunnel in both elbows/wrists. I had surgery to minimize cubital tunnel in one elbow. However, because I was so young, and the initial doctor didn’t believe me, the surgery got delayed to the point where I now have what I’ve been told is permanent nerve damage in my dominant hand. I have a decent amount of weakness & lack of grip in that hand in my ring & pinky fingers. I’ve gone through PT, and it doesn’t do a whole lot other than make everything hurt much more. So now I just live with that I can’t play clarinet any more, tennis sucks because the shock of the ball hitting the racquet goes up my arm and hurts like hell, I’m not great with cueing my horse through reins, and I drop small things all the damn time. It confuses the hell out of people when I need to wear my braces for a day or I’ve dropped the same pen for the third time in a half hour meeting or that I’m taking notes on a laptop instead of writing them. “But it can be fixed!!! My dad had surgery for his carpal tunnel!!!” Well, yes, I realize, but I already did have surgery, I’ve been to a couple doctors (again), PT, all that jazz….all I can do, in my personal diagnosis & life, is not dwell on the fact that all I can do is minimize flareups. I have angry ulnar nerves.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        OUCH. I’m so very sorry that happened to you.
        I have my own instances where I have to point out that medicine isn’t 100% guaranteed….and it really adds the insult to injury factor.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Those damned doctors who don’t take young people seriously! Did you file any complaint or sue them? They deserve it.

      3. Dragoning*

        I got carpal tunnel painfully early, too, and some of the doctors went looking for any other explanation>/i> despite the fact that my mother had also gotten it young, and it’s known to be partially hereditary (because of the size of your wrists, etc.)

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Definitely this.
      It can take a while to get diagnosed, a while longer to get into a treatment program and even longer to heal.

      My friend broke her back. The heavy end of the healing was two years but she will have things occur once in a while for the rest of her life.

      Nothing is instant. Nothing.

    5. Pommette!*

      This is so, so, so common, and it seems to hold true for physical and psychological conditions, and learning disabilities alike. Barring a small range of very obviously permanent conditions that remain outwardly visible at all times, there seems to be this assumption that treatment always works, if you work hard enough at it.
      Sometimes treatment doesn’t work at all; sometimes, all it does it slow down the rate at which a condition worsens, or make flare ups less frequent. That seems like it should be obvious, but it often isn’t.

    6. CheeryO*

      Honestly, I would just assume that they aren’t making the connection. I have RA and have similar issues with certain chairs/seats. Even the people in my life who know the full story constantly forget that that’s my #1 pain trigger and act surprised when I tell them I’m hurting after a long car ride or whatever. It’s not super intuitive, especially as an otherwise healthy and active person. (Not that I’m absolving the manager here – it’s douchey behavior to pick on people, and hopefully it’ll stop as soon as OP gives more of a direct explanation.)

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I have lupus and possibly Sjogren’s syndrome. Chairs are my new nemesis. I can’t sit comfortably ANYWHERE, but it’s especially bad if I am stuck in a chair. I bought season tickets to the symphony this year, and I think I’ve gone to two performances, all because I’m in so much pain that I can’t bear the thought of going and sitting in one of those uncomfortable chairs. If I do go out, I have to make sure I have an aisle seat because my shoulder joints hurt so much that just one little jostle from someone is enough to make me tear up. If I sit on the aisle, my husband can sit on the inside seat next to me, and he knows enough not to jostle me or poke me.

        1. LW*

          LW#2 here. My condition is in the RA family as well, like CherryO. People really don’t get chronic pain conditions, and assume that because I’m on medication I’m “fixed”. I have to work every day to avoid triggers, do my PT exercises, etc. or even with medication I’ll flare. But I do think my manager just isn’t making the connection, or maybe thinks that because I’m on medication I’m fine (she’s well aware of my medication if not the impact of my condition, because I had allergic reactions to two of my first medications in the office – not requiring emergency medical attention thankfully, but definitely of the “oh crap I need to call a doctor right now” variety).

          1. Airy*

            I hope she has a lightbulb moment, feels intensely embarrassed to have been such a jerk about it and cleans up her act.

    7. Steve*

      I also find there is a certain subset of people who want to be supportive, and send out all sorts of emails and comments about the importance of being supportive to disabilities, and if they meet someone with a disability for a few minutes then they sound wonderfully supportive, yet when they are faced with someone in their life who continuously has a disability which never resolves itself… then they become resentful. As you say, it is probably impatience that the person doesn’t get ‘fixed up’, but whatever the reason… they sound perfect and kind and supportive to most of the world, but if you need their help in an ongoing way… they are not only unhelpful, but mean about it.

      I really don’t think the LW’s manager is this type of person, as this is at the extreme, but the ‘public support vs private impatience’ aspect is something I have occasionally observed and it can be particularly harmful because that person seems so supportive to most of the world.

      1. C*

        Definitely this. I remember reading something on twitter like “let’s all talk about mental health. Here are some materials on mindfulness. You should really get better now” (I think I may be butchering that though :/) some people may appear supportive but what they really support is still limited by their world view, where if you take a pill or do more exercise or change your mindset everything will magically go away. Talking about and understanding the messy , difficult to treat, and painful things that many people have to deal with is still far too difficult. Sigh.

  8. Pjm*

    Op #4. Stop being their pharmacy. I went theough a very similar scenario with my bosses. I was earning pennies compared to their exorbitant salaries, yet I was the one providing all of their over the counter medications and other various toiletries. It really irritated me that is didn’t seem to occur to them to ever bring in their own. Rather than keeping that stuff in my desk, I just started keeping it in my backpack for my own use and pretended that I didn’t have any every time they asked. Even that didn’t make them buy their own stuff, they just moved on to other coworkers!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      When I worked with a mooch, I left my bottle with just one tablet in it. When she came by, I said “I’m running out, sorry. If you want to bring in a bottle, you can keep it here.” She didn’t take my last one & she didn’t bring in another bottle.
      If it were the managers mooching, I’d suggest that they buy Tylenol from petty cash and store it with the first aid kit.

      1. Aud*

        I started storing my otc excedrin in an empty prescription bottle. It was my first job post-college, I worked in an awfully petty environment and wasn’t nearly comfortable enough to be direct, so this was my easy way out.

        1. Burned Out Supervisor*

          Works with cigarette moochers, too (would do this when I was a smoker). “Sorry! I only brought the one down!”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have said, “Oh, I ran out and I don’t have any more right now.” And I have also said, “I am cutting back on how much of that stuff I keep around, so I don’t have any right now.”

      Sometimes, not often, but sometimes it will click for people, “Gee, I really should get my own.” It helps to really know the person you are dealing with. If they are not good at subtleties or they are not good at being self-sufficient this probably won’t work.

      1. M*

        (OP) I like that line, “I’m cutting back on how much I give out”. I’ll try that next time, which is sure to be soon. I don’t think this person is very self-sufficient, so I may just come off as an a**hole who they blame for their allergies, but per Alison’s advice, I just don’t care anymore.

    3. soupcold57*

      Just tell them that based on advice of counsel, giving medications could open you up to legal liability.

      1. Ama*

        To be honest, I’m surprised OP is willing to hand over allergy meds (even OTC). Not only because they are usually considerably more expensive per pill than pain meds but because people have highly individualized reactions to them, and many people don’t realize that they aren’t as interchangeable as you’d think. For example, one of the most popular “non-drowsy” antihistamines on the U.S. market renders me completely useless for anything but watching TV until it wears off (and I’ve had well-meaning colleagues offer it to me on days when my spring hayfever is extra bad).

        This sounds kind of like I’m blaming the OP and I’m really not, I was just surprised because while I have loaned out the occasional ibuprofen, my reaction to someone asking me for allergy pills would be “sorry I don’t have any I can loan out.” (Which is true even if I always have emergency pills in my purse — those are for my emergencies.)

        1. M*

          OP here! I don’t really get allergies (knock on wood), so the random bottle I had at my desk wasn’t getting much use and I felt bad for my coworker (they’re also a work-friend, where boundary lines can be blurred sometimes) and didn’t mind giving them a few. Who knows if they actually worked, but the fact that they continuously asked over the course of MONTHS and never thought to go out and buy their own really got to me, it didn’t matter if I didn’t use them or not.

          1. TootsNYC*

            the fact that they continuously asked over the course of MONTHS and never thought to go out and buy their own really got to me,

            I -should have- gotten to you–I’m glad to see your radar is pinging perfectly.
            This is so covetous of them, and it’s absolutely something to pay attention to.

            Also, feel free to say, “You keep needing these–maybe you should get your own.”

            I also think you can say to people, “You keep asking me for them–you never get your own even though you know you need them, and you don’t offer to reimburse me. This is damaging our friendship, because I’m really starting to resent it. Could you get your own meds from now on?”

            I sometimes think we almost owe it to people to stop hinting, and stop hoping they’ll get with the program,a nd that we SHOULD say to them, “This is a danger zone.”

            It’s a form of “your fly is open” or “that car doesn’t look like it’s going to stop at that red light.”

          2. Kat*

            I think you’re perfectly within your right to feel frustrated regardless of whether you use the pills or you can afford it or not. I once worked somewhere where one of the executive’s wives would come in to the office and do some personal admin stuff for her and her husband. Or she’d be doing some admin stuff for one of his other businesses.

            I worked reception/accounting and she’d ALWAYS ask me for a stamp or two for her outgoing mail which had NOTHING to do with our company.
            This guy owned multiple Jaguars (the car), more than one house, and was from the Mad Men era in terms of how he expected women in the office to do whatever he asked even if it wasn’t their job.

            I got so ticked off that the next time his wife came in and asked for a stamp I just lied and said “sorry I’m all out”. I said it a time or two more but after that I don’t think she came in as often. I also changed where I kept them in my desk cuz if IRC she once went into my desk to get one when I stepped away.

            I didn’t pay for stamps, the company did. But it was my job to let my boss know if we needed more, reconcile petty cash, and sometimes I’d have letters stacked up waiting to be mailed if my boss didn’t buy stamps quickly enough. So I didn’t want to give away stamps I might need for our company. It wasn’t about my own money, it was the wife’s sense of entitlement considering how wealthy she was that bugged me.

        2. Jamie*

          I had a boss who offered me an Imitrex (prescription) when I had a migraine. They got pissy when I declined even though I told them I’d had issues with my heart rate when my doctor prescribed them for me once.

          Same boss another time offered me a Vicodin. It’s amazing what people will risk liability wise.

            1. Jamie*

              Yep, which I didn’t take as my job description didn’t include vomiting violently or falling asleep for 18 hours, which are the only two outcomes for me and Vicodin.

              Didn’t even hit the top 100 of ways they were a crappy boss.

              1. BookishMiss*

                Wow. I’m so sorry you had That Boss. I had a colleague offer me imitrex once, but I declined because I hadn’t yet tried it and figured work was not the place to first try out a new medication. She was cool with it, suggested I ask my doctor about it, and I now have a pack of imitrex in my bag with me every day. I at least know how I’ll react if I do need it, so I can mitigate it, but if it were at your level of side effects…nope.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            That’s amazing he got pissy when you said “no thanks, it makes me sick”
            The layers of selfishness, control issues, and other wrongness that indicates are mind-boggling.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I *have* had bosses say, on the third trip, “You should expense a bottle of these,” and I’ve had colleagues assume I was expensing it.

      But I also think we can say, “You keep asking for these–Can you start bringing your own?”

    5. ThatGirl*

      I am very grateful that we have a nicely stocked first aid cabinet that includes all sorts of OTC meds (everything from painkillers to antacids to allergy pills) so nobody has to be The Pharmacy here.

    6. AKchic*

      Yep. When you have a bottle, keep only the minimum you need for yourself for the week. That’s it. And be frank. “I only brought enough for me for the week. I’m on a budget.” Don’t say you’re sorry, but do be polite.

      I keep a lock box for my meds (I used to work in rehab). If there is a first aid kit in the office (and there should be), then there might be medication in there. Otherwise, some minor discomfort might be a good reminder for your coworker(s) to start bringing in their own darned pain relievers. Stop wasting your money/supplies. Generics can cost under a dollar in most stores.

      Or, just take all the bottles home and keep a small supply in your purse and play the “oh! I took the bottles home to refill and I forgot them!” Then, after a few days, pull the “well, they were taking up space anyway” if asked again.

    7. Burned Out Supervisor*

      That sucks, Pjm. I’m a supervisor and carry a virtual CVS in my desk. I encourage my team to come over if they need something (odds are I have it). I work with almost 80% women so I always have tampons, advil, tums, etc in my desk because I know that time can just pop up when you’re not prepared. However, because I make more than my staff, I can absorb that cost and am happy to be a stop gap if needed.

  9. New Jack Karyn*

    “It won’t kill you to sit in a folding chair for an hour!”

    “Last time I did, my rheumatoid arthritis racked me up for three days. I know you don’t want that, right?”

    1. Not Australian*

      With the added corollary: “I would need to take time off work, and that’s just not efficient when it can be prevented by using a better chair.”

    2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I may have read this wrong, but is it possible that the snarky comment was aimed at the *other* people who were bringing in the comfy chairs, and OP just got lumped in with them by the fact that she’s also on a comfy chair? A case of guilt by association?
      It might be worth clarifying – if the supervisor only meant to snark at the perfectly healthy people who played follow the leader (the leader in this case being someone who actually required the comfy chair), she might be mortified that she has upset OP in this way, since she would otherwise be accomodating to her needs.

      1. Beth*

        Snarking at the other people and accidentally catching OP in her net wouldn’t be OK either, for the record. Lots of disabilities and health conditions are invisible; you can’t know someone’s health or ability status by looking at them. Whether or not OP got lumped in via ‘guilt by association,’ OP’s coworker is still being ableist.

        1. JSPA*

          I think they could say, “space is tight and rolling chairs down the hall leaves marks, so on days you don’t actively need a comfy chair, please leave them at your desk.” Then allow people to be adults, and make their own determination.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            But why? Nothing in the letter indicates the chairs are actually in any way a problem.

          2. Beth*

            I mean, yeah, if the chairs are an actual problem, it’s okay to say that as long as it doesn’t come with mean comments.

            But I don’t think there’s anything in the letter to indicate that people bringing a preferred chair with them is actually a problem–it sounds like they’re setting up the folding chairs because that’s what this particular room happens to be equipped with, not because of space issues. And even if the comfy chairs genuinely aren’t workable, the way that’s being communicated is unacceptable.

            1. LW*

              Hi all! LW#2 here. To address a few things brought up:
              1) The comments were definitely directed to me, but were overheard by others.
              2) Space isn’t an issue. Maybe it doesn’t *look* pretty to have three rows of folding chairs and then a row of folding chairs mixed with table chairs, but we’ve got plenty of space (there’s 24 of us, and our event space can seat 60 comfortably).
              3) No one is dragging the chairs, just lifting them up and moving them (or they roll). And in any case, no one in the office is concerned about the flooring – our office space was previously several different types of offices (including an arts incubator, which is why we have a wine cooler in our kitchen, which is also in the same space) and all the reconfigurations have behind a solid amount of scuffs, dips, dark spots, etc. in the hardwood.

      2. I Took A Mint*

        I think it would still be weird and rude to snark at people copying someone with accommodations, when the the thing is a totally normal thing that anyone might do whether they have accommodations or not.

        If OP had a medical condition requiring them to eat snacks even in meetings, and they brought in snacks, and then someone else saw this and started bringing in snacks, it would be in pretty poor taste (pun intended) to snap “got enough to eat there??”. The snark is based on the behavior, and even though OP has a good reason, she’s also doing that behavior.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Even if that is what’s happening, it’s not really appropiate. It doesn’t sound as though there is any reason why people shouldn’t bring, and sit on, more comortable chairs, and if there is a valid reason then it would be appropriate to explain that rather than snarking.

      4. Lucy*

        If that snark is required, then it would need to be framed as “some employees can’t use folding chairs; since there aren’t enough for everyone, please don’t take a proper chair if you can manage on the folding chairs” (but much better worded).

        I’m pretty sure this falls under “treat people like adults and assume good faith” though, which the manager is noticeably failing at.

      5. TootsNYC*

        but honestly, it’s still snotty to snark at perfectly healthy people who are using the chairs that are available. Maybe they don’t have a diagnosed medical condition, but their tailbone will hurt. Or maybe they just prefer it.

  10. Ammemememra*

    LW1 Please do tell the store. I know it can be hard but the people who already work there will be very grateful to know. Even if it means the store just keeps a closer eye on them or checks in with some previously worked for stores, you will have done what you can.

    My friend and I were in a similar situation a couple of years agao when a mutual friends manager was fired because rather than depositing the cash they received from a day in the stores account she was putting it in her own. Up to twenty thousand dollars that she was convinced she would be able to pay back one day. The company fired her, of course, but because of her home stituation decided not to press charges. However when she applied for a new retail job at a store that was brand new we stopped in to warn them. It’s rough, especially when you want the person to have the chance to do better, but there will be other entry level posistions. Positions where it will be harder for them to repeat bad behavior.

    Best of luck.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      In the OP’s case, I think there’s a good chance the store won’t immediately act on the information – pulling a job offer based on a random customer’s accusation is tricky, because they could also be someone who is harassing the new employee. But at least they’ll have it in the back of their mind, and hopefully catch, fire and ban them faster.

      1. sacados*

        Yeah I was wondering about that. But OP said the relative has pulled the same stunt at other stores, so I wonder if giving some specific names of those locations/managers might also help.
        As in, “I know Relative was fired from [Store X] in the past for stealing, you should reach out to their manager if you want more information.”
        And then it would give them the opportunity to reach out for a reference and confirm the information objectively.

        1. wordswords*

          Yeah, I was thinking that. Also, since OP1 is worried about their relative finding out who warned the store — which, depending on personalities and proximity and so on, could be something that has a serious impact on OP, so I understand the worry — this gives better camouflage for that. OP can ask the store not to say who gave them the heads-up, but if Relative is wondering what anonymous person tipped them off, “some other manager I’ve stolen from gave their colleagues a heads-up about me” is at least as likely a conclusion as “one of my family members MUST HAVE SNITCHED about my totally secret pattern of blatant repeated theft.” Plus, as you say the store can potentially call others for confirmation. And/or be on the watch for the (inevitable) red flags to show up, if they reasonably enough don’t want to fire Relative over one accusation.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            If Relative was front-desk at a series of local stores, it’s not impossible for a random person to have seen them at the other store and tipped off the new prospective hire.
            I’d want to know if it were my business. I’d request a list of all previous jobs to confirm employment… and then I’d talk to Relative to give them a one-warning that theft will be prosecuted even for employees.

        2. JSPA*

          They may have an agreement of “nothing but confirmation of work dates” (or else even the slightest reference check would have exposed this)? I’m thinking OP should say (in a joking but worried tone… and this is about the only circumstance where I’d suggest such a thing… “I hope my klepto relative didn’t name – drop me, as a reason to hire her? It’s a nightmare for all of us, frankly!” That at least passes the sniff test of being “about you.” It fails in making light of a disorder (which may or may not be the actual problem). But it’s really the one word that warns them appropriately, and the tone lets you drop it in as a throw-away. I’d commit the social misdemeanor to prevent the actual felony.

          Has anyone brought the issue up with relative as an actual diagnosable disorder, rather than a moral failing, BTW?

          1. Yorick*

            I think if I stole a bunch from my workplace and then got fired/quit right after the first check, I wouldn’t list those jobs on my application.

            1. L. S. Cooper*

              I think that someone who steals a bunch from work and then gets fired/quits right after the first check is probably not smart enough to leave that stuff off the resume.

            2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              We had an employee who was an utter train wreck, with frequent unplanned/unannounced lateness/absence. I’d say he came to work 60% of the time, and was reasonably on time for half of those times. His behavior was erratic (angry/emotional, constant political rants at inappropriate times, had friends “waiting” for him for 4-6 hours, crazy stories as to why he was absent/late, etc.)

              A few months after being fired, he asked for his job back and we told him no. A few months after that, we got a call for a reference check!

              Some people are…not smart.

        3. Lynca*

          Yeah I would specifically tell them stores and if I could when they were working there. There’s a high probability they may not be listing all of their recent employment history or providing only personal references. Being specific would probably be enough to throw up a red flag. If it doesn’t work- you tried.

        4. SusanIvanova*

          Also if you point them at the other stores, the new employer has something they can double check. With your word alone it could be a useful heads up or it could be Round Zillion of family drama.

      2. Observer*

        There is another issue here as well. When OP’s relative starts stealing, the other staff at the store may bery well come under suspicion. If store management has been warned, you can short circuit that.

        1. MayorDana*

          This this this. We’ve had employees steal from us. And every time it’s the cloud of suspicion over everyone until it gets narrowed down to the person who gets fired. I’d feel awful if someone got caught up in that net that was only guilty of working the same shift as my relative. Most businesses will appreciate the warning if you come to the with a way of verifying the info.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Since this is retail, they probably won’t have too much problem pulling an offer. They know how to pull the rug out from under people’s feet.
        My friend disclosed she was facing bankruptcy. They offered her a job, she gave notice at her old place. Once she gave notice, the new place decided that the bankruptcy was a problem and they pulled their offer. My friend ended going from full time work to NO work.
        Retail is like this and this happens often.
        Trust the store manager to handle the situation.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          That’s just cruel to do to someone who just had to declare bankruptcy. I hope other people who might have been considering a job with them heard about this.

      4. Washi*

        But it wouldn’t be a random customer – the OP says she knows one of the cashiers from school. And I think the fact that it’s a family member gives extra credibility. It’s not like the OP thought she saw another customer pocket a candy bar one time, this is a person she knows well and presumably would not throw under the bus on a whim.

        I would assume the offer will get pulled, and I understand the OP is worried about the family member being angry, but this is the right thing to do. This family member would have ended her employment pretty quickly any way according to her MO, so you’re just depriving her of her next victim, not her whole livelihood.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          The offer might not even get pulled — the business might decide to put the problem family member on stricter probation/observation to start, if they have any doubts about the OP’s claim, or they can’t verify the issue with previous employers. (As others have said, some places only verify dates of employment.) In my experience, that usually is enough to get people like the family member to freak out about being “accused” and leave in a huff, and so the problem sometimes solves itself.

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s retail, they’re rarely afraid to just not schedule the new hire effectively terminating the employment before it starts.

    2. DustyJ*

      I agree, tell the cashiers. It might be different if LW did not already know the store workers so well. A tip-off from a complete stranger would come off as gossipy and vindictive. But LW already knows these people from school.

      And frankly, if the store knows that LW and the thief are relatives, once the thief inevitably gets caught, LW will probably be looked at with suspicion as well. It’s very easy to get tainted with the tag of ‘that family steals’ in a neighbourhood.

  11. HannahS*

    OP 2, I’m so upset on your behalf! Your boss sounds awful. As someone who gets accommodations, I find that keeping medical details vague does a number of helpful things: it focuses the conversation on your needs rather than on your illness, it prevents future “but if you can’t XYZ then why you can ABC? Surely you’ve exaggerated, then!” and it prevents the expectation that you’re going to share medical details. In some cases, I think it can be fine, but if you’re speaking with a jerk or have something rare/poorly understood by the public…eh, it can backfire.
    I’d go for something like this, and I’ve made an educated guess at how the conversation would go.
    You:”Boss, can I just go over something with you?”
    Her: “Sure.”
    You: “I’m not sure if you remember when we discussed the accommodations that I’d get for [condition], but I’ve been bringing in the chairs with full back support into the meeting room for that reason; the folding chairs don’t work for me. If that’s a problem, I’d really like to rope in HR and see if we can come up with a better solution.”
    Her: “No, that’s fine” / “Aw I’m just joshin’ ya” / “Oh yeah, my comments aren’t aimed at YOU, they’re aimed at everyone ELSE who’s taking up space in the tiny room”
    You: “I’m really uncomfortable with my coworkers’ attention being brought to me; I’d like to keep my health and accommodations private, if that’s alright with you.”
    Her: bluster bluster bluster, non-apology, (but she won’t do it again)

    1. AKchic*

      This is a great way to handle it. I know the OP wanted to wait on the next 1:1, but maybe make a separate stop at the manager’s office to do this specific thing, that way it’s done and out of the way, and then see if there’s any retaliation at the 1:1 to bring up to HR.

  12. nonegiven*

    I’d go to HR with a letter from your doctor asap, and tell them she has been calling you out in meetings over the chair and that you need it to stop because it’s getting to be harassment level in light of your disability.

      1. Observer*

        No. Going to HR is way to adversarial as a first step. The OP needs to try to maintain a decent relationship if they can.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      I’d love to call her out publicly by answering the next snarky chair comment withs “Please stop mocking my disability!” (Probably too confrontational, but man, that supervisor’s action is making me mad.)

      1. Not Gary, Gareth*

        My immediate thought was:
        Supervisor: “It’s not going to kill you to sit in a folding chair, is it?”
        OP (as dryly deadpan as possible): “I dunno, it might.”

        But then again, I get an awful lot of enjoyment out of just agreeing with things that people expect me to argue with. “You’re the worst” – “Yep, I sure am.” People genuinely don’t know how to deal when you just cheerfully roll with something that they intended to shame you. To quote the ever-quoteable Captain Awkward: Return Awkwardness To Sender.

    2. Lobsterp0t*

      Yeah you can do that, but why when a firm and clear “desist please” will handle it with way less fallout.

      That’s a big gun, save it for a big enemy.

      Is she wrong? Discriminatory? Yes. Log it. Note it. Ask that it stop. If it stops, the issue is resolved.

      Not everything needs to be headed for an employment tribunal – disabled people’s own self advocacy needs to be seen (by us and by our bosses) as credible and sufficient in interpersonal workplace interactions to effect change and if it isn’t, THAT is when to bring in TPTB, the union, etc.

      I’d also add, in terms of support – a huge value of workplace organising is the solidarity and confidence it gives you to advocate for yourself on a small scale. Not just big actions with big consequences.

      This kind of low hum of ignorance in action has a horrible effect on us – responding to every microaggression with the nuclear option is a tactic, but personally I don’t find it sustainable.

      It’s exhausting and serves to magnify the awful exhaustion and alienation I sometimes experience as a disabled person at work in a wider culture and system that doesn’t respect my humanity or needs.

      I do understand the flip side of this is we shouldn’t HAVE to solve these things ourselves or at all, really. But I think that we need more tactics to hand than just going to HR. Especially when HR can be just as flawed and problematic as bosses!

      1. BRR*

        I agree this is an unnecessary escalation at this point. It sound like a direct request will get it to stop. I’m also not sure if by saying office has 25 people means it’s a branch of a larger company or if they company has 25 people total, in which case they might not have a dedicated HR person.

      2. PB*

        Yeah you can do that, but why when a firm and clear “desist please” will handle it with way less fallout.

        Exactly. If OP tries this approach, and the manager doesn’t change or doubles down, then take it to HR. It’s better to try to address it directly first, and escalate if needed.

        1. LW*

          OP here. I work for a large non-profit educational institution, in a student-services oriented office. We have HR, but getting them involved is basically the option of last resort since expectations are you handle things internally. Not to mention, my manager was brought before HR for her behavior by the person previously in my position (the story I’ve gotten from others that this was largely an issue of just being polar opposites in terms of working style), so she would take it very, very badly if I were to get HR involved. If the conversation doesn’t go well, I’ll likely speak to her boss, since we do skip level meetings monthly.

    3. JSPA*

      Bosses are not required to be mind readers, nor even particularly aware of all the things that might or might not be accommodations. Sounds like OP has never once connected this particular dot for the boss. And it’s camouflaged by a bunch of other unconnected dots (the other people bringing chairs). You don’t have something to escalate until you have connected those dots for the boss. Who’s not actually even supposed to guess and predict what accommodations you’ll need, nor for how long or how consistently.

      1. Observer*

        Most of what you say is true, although the idea that the boss is not allowed to make educated assumptions that don’t harm the OP, based on information that the OP explicitly shared is just not true.

        I am going to say, though, that the boss is being a jerk in any case. Snarky comments about the chairs are way out of line. If there is an actual problem with the chairs, address is like an adult. That’s true even if the other people who are pulling in chairs don’t have official ADA covered disabilities. Even if people are doing this “just” because they simply want to be a bit more comfortable, that’s not a moral or professional failing. And, in my experience, people who take the trouble generally have a pretty good reason for doing it.

  13. Ms Cappuccino*

    1: She’s part of your family. Don’t do it. She will probably know it’s you and it will create problems in your family.

    1. I Took A Mint*

      This is an interesting philosophical question, and many philosophers from Socrates to Confucius have weighed in on “should you turn in your family member if they commit a crime.”

      I think if there is a way OP can discreetly and anonymously tip off the store that their family member was fired from Bob’s Hardware for stealing, as in “Anon for this”‘s example below, it would be a kindness to the cashiers whom OP knows, and to society.

      But if OP can’t involve themselves without inviting drama or danger from the family member, or if they are doing it because they feel obligated to run around cleaning up after this person, I think they could decide to not get involved, and it would be a kindness to OP and their health and safety.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      To be honest, I wouldn’t report them either. You’re going to know this person for life – are you going to intervene in every future job they get? Making this your burden to carry isn’t worth it. It’s not your responsibility to protect other’s from them.

      For what it’s worth, I would have a different opinion if this person was planning to harm someone.

      1. Asenath*

        But they are harming people – they are harming their employer by their theft, and they are harming their honest co-workers who will be under suspicion. And that suspicion might never be cleared, if the employer doesn’t investigate properly, or if the actual thief quits, and the employer decides the thief isn’t worth tracking down since the thefts have stopped.

        1. Jennifer*

          I think they meant harm as in violence. That’s very different from stealing cigarettes.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Regardless of what was meant,,what they meant. But I think Asenath’s point was that “harm” comes in many different flavors.

            1. Jennifer*

              I agree but there are degrees of harm. Some people may not choose to step in unless someone is in physical danger. I think that’s valid.

              1. Kettles*

                There’s a Terry Pratchett novel called Going Postal where a white collar criminal insists he’s not a bad person because he’s never used violence. His parole officer points out that when banks fail, it isn’t bankers who starve. Maybe no-one gets physically hurt here. Maybe it’s just a kid who has to delay going to college, or an innocent shopkeeper gets into debt that takes years to pay off. Or maybe she calls some hard mates, who ramraid the place. Maybe she gets caught by a loyal employee and shoves that person onto a sharp cabinet. I hate this mentality. She’s not stealing bread to feed her starving family. She’s nicking fags because she can’t be bothered to work. Little things to one person are a ‘sorry honey, we’ll have to move / shut the shop / declare bankruptcy’ to another person.

              2. soon 2be former fed*

                I don’t. Anti-social behavior shouldn’t be overlooked because it isn’t impacting you at the moment. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.

      2. Kettles*

        She is planning to harm someone. Corner stores are rarely run by conglomerates. They’re typically family concerns and can’t afford to float this kind of loss.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          YES. OP likes the store and presumably the people who own it — if they want the shopkeepers to stay in business, they deserve a chance to issue a warning and keep their eyes open.

          1. Kettles*

            Yes! I’m not close to them like Cosmic Avenger is, but the couple who run our corner store are lovely. I get on with their employees, I’ve met their dog – if it was a choice between a thieving cousin and them, I’d pick them in a heartbeat.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Absolutely. The guy who owned the corner store at the end of my street gave me my first job sweeping up his store when I was still a tween. He could have done it himself or had one of his regular employees do it, but he liked me and treated me “like a member of the family” (in the commonly used way), and I like him better than I like a lot of my blood relatives. Everyone is someone else’s blood relative, that doesn’t make you special.

        3. 3107*

          And dismissing it as no big deal because it’s “just candy and cigarettes” isn’t right. Depending on where you live, fill a backpack with cigarettes and you might be walking out with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise.

          1. Kettles*

            Easily. I’m not sure about American prices but a 30g bag of rolling tobacco is £15. If she swept the shelves, even a small shop could be out £1000+

      3. Emmie*

        The family member is working at a store she frequents. I understand your point about complicating family relationships, but I don’t think OP is making this her burden. She’s feeling responsible since she has information impacting other relationships.

      4. Jennifer*

        Good point. Is the OP going to call every retail store that employs her until she stops stealing? When does it end? She’ll get caught eventually.

        1. valentine*

          Frankly, just out of blatant self-interest, I don’t want to avoid my corner store because my serially thieving relative is literally too close for comfort, working there, much less after they fleeced the place and moved on.

      5. Janie*

        Shoplifting can mean workers get fewer bonuses (and when my mom was working for 4 dollars an hour when I was a kid, that was taking food out of mouths, pretty much), cut hours (same) and even firing if they aren’t seen to be preventing it well enough. It’s very much not a victimless crime and does cause harm.

      6. soon 2be former fed*

        I wouldn’t associate with a known thief, family or not. And we do have a larger responsibility to society as a whole. Harm is relative.

      7. Observer*

        Well, if this person is going to cause low paid people to lose their jobs under a cloud of suspicion, that’s a really big potential harm, even though it’s not violence.

        I realize that the OP can’t be the person who is constantly cleaning up after / preventing this person’s activities. But when they have a relatively easy way to help you can’t wave it away as “not a big deal”.

    3. jcarnall*

      I think LW1 is fully entitled to self-care – if her dishonest relative is going to know it’s LW1 who “told” and cause family chaos, LW1 has a right not to do it.

      But, in this instance, as others have suggested, an anonymous tip-off to tell the store’s manager that their new hire has a pattern of working at stores, stealing from them, and getting fired for theft, and to check in with the store managers at X store, Y store, Z store: may not be acted on immediately, but will certainly give the store manager a heads-up and will mean other people working there will not experience harm by being suspected of theft themselves.

      1. EPLawyer*

        LW said they won’t take them shopping anymore. So family does not trump all here.

        Definitely say something. If not to your friend the cashier who may or may not pass it along to the owner, then to the owner directly. The owner needs to not only not hire this person but keep an eye on them when they are in the store.

        If getting fired from multiple jobs is not a wake up a call, maybe not getting the job at all will be. Or arrest. Arrest would be good.

    4. Lynca*

      I really don’t get this “don’t make waves, they’re faaaamily” mentality. Currently stealing has not gotten them in trouble but eventually it will. Hiding and pretending the problem doesn’t exist (and that it doesn’t hurt others) isn’t going to help anyone and is going to cause intense drama later. It’s almost always a drama now/drama later scenario in my experience.

      The OP definitely needs to evaluate whether they want to deal with the fallout if it gets back to them. OP may like the cashiers better than her relative. The OP may want to consider stepping far back from the relationship so they don’t have to deal with these conflicts in the future.

      But in my personal experience- I don’t miss the family members that don’t talk to me. There is a distinct reason those relationships have chilled.

      1. DustyJ*

        ‘Don’t Rock The Boat’ must dieeeee. How many times does one read about domestic violence/sex abuse, where the whole family knew something screwy was going on with Creepy Uncle Willie, but nobody said anything until it was too late?

        LW1 should consider the boat *already* rocked by the sleazy relative themselves.

        1. Jennifer*

          This isn’t about sexual violence. It’s about stealing candy and cigarettes. Both are bad but there is a wide chasm between them.

          1. Wake up!*

            Thank you. It is completely reasonable for someone to decide to preserve family harmony instead of righteously pursuing justice when the offender’s greatest sin is petty shoplifting. Seriously. (Yes, I do feel bad for the shopkeeper. But there are other ways to find out that your prospective employer is a thief other than their family member telling you.)

            1. Kettles*

              Cigarettes cost £10-15 a pack. This isn’t ‘petty’. And who cares about ‘family harmony’??? If someone ditches you because you don’t tolerate cousin Jane’s thieving, they weren’t worth being in ‘harmony’ with anyway.

            2. Observer*

              Well, actually “petty shoplifting” can be a bigger deal than you are acknowledging. Worse, what this relative is doing goes waaay beyond petty shoplifting. And the potential fall out to people who could really be badly hurt by this is also quite significant.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          “Don’t rock the boat” often == “Don’t complain or draw attention to the missing stair”.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Hiding and pretending the problem doesn’t exist (and that it doesn’t hurt others) isn’t going to help anyone
        It doesn’t actually help the thieving family member!

    5. Perpal*

      Sometimes we have to do things to protect our own personal safety but… strikes me as enabling bad behavior. LW might be better off setting clear boundaries with this toxic relative (and sorry I think anyone who brazenly steals when you go out together is some kind of toxic) such as “if you steal, I will report it” and/or “I like this store and don’t like how you’ve acted on past jobs, I’m going to give them a heads up” etc

      1. Perpal*

        Arg the first statement came out funny. I meant it’s ONE thing if physical safety is at risk (ie, someone trying to escape from an abuser); kowtowing to them a bit while they plan their escape or whatever. It’s another thing if it’s more trying to avoid drama/dirty looks/ “but faaaaaaamily” type of situation. Sticks and stones, etc. Probably better off NOT enabling those people as overall the momentary discomfort is better than a lifetime of putting up with that… and that’s not even including the bonus of possibly stopping harmful/illegal behavior to others.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Also the thief’s behavior could escalate to something worse in the future, if they’re not stopped.

          1. Wake up!*

            This isn’t really how any of this works and OP isn’t responsible if his petty thief cousin turns to armed robbery or whatever.

            1. Kettles*

              It’s exactly how it works. Someone immoral enough to steal from small, family owned businesses isn’t going to balk at bigger crimes. Theft is literally a starter crime, and as said before she’s not stealing for herself or out of necessity. Thieves steal cigarettes because they are portable and easily re-saleable.

            2. Observer*

              This actually IS how this works a good deal of the time. And while it may not turn into armed robbery, it is highly likely to turn into other things – and the first most likely thing to happen is the person stealing from relatives, and not just petty amounts.

      2. Wake up!*

        Enabling bad behavior would be proactively recommending the family member for a job despite knowing he is a thief. This is more like ignoring bad behavior.

        1. Perpal*

          It’s true there are different levels of action and inaction isn’t the same as actively enabling, ie, covering for someone’s problem behaviors. LW probably knows what works best for their situation, just wanted to encourage them that it’s okay to name and explicitly draw a boundary against behaviors that make them uncomfortable (and most of society would agree are “bad” behaviors), rather than just avoiding them without naming them.

    6. Crivens!*

      Family members aren’t automatically more important or automatically deserving of loyalty.

        1. Wake up!*

          Yes…to most people, bonds with family are stronger and more significant than bonds with other people outside the family. This is really the basis of many societies.

          1. Kettles*

            No, it’s the basis of some people’s personal values, not society.

            The basis of most societies is co-operation, reciprocal good will and self interest. It’s why most people don’t steal.

        1. Kettles*

          To you. I’m far closer to my friends than the vast majority of my family. I see my cousins once every few years; I see the couple who run my local corner shop several times a week. If one of my cousins was planning to steal from them I would *absolutely* tell them. In a heartbeat.

          Apart from anything else, they get higher consideration simply by virtue of *not being thieves*!

      1. Observer*

        I disagree. Having said that, there are limits to this idea. And when the person is actively and intentionally harming people for no really good reason, that limit has not only been reached, it’s been left faaaar behind.

    7. Southern Yankee*

      First, there is no way to know if it will cause problems in any particular family. The OP’s family might expect family members to value ethical and legal behavior over protecting klepto cousin.

      Second, disclosure would not necessarily out OP (several comments have addressed how it could be done).

      Third, I don’t believe that “family” trumps everything. I’m really close to my family with no cutoff members or similar. However, I still would take an appropriate action if something illegal or unethical came up and I was in a position to do something about it. Much harm has been done in the world by well meaning family members covering for bad behavior and deflecting the consequences off the offender. I would happily prioritize potential victims of a crime over a jerk family member. Of course, YMMV.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        This reminds me of something that happened in the 90’s.
        I had been a few times to a local dry cleaner down the street. One day I was waiting for her to get off the phone and her grown son came angrily into the room, said something threatening to me (I forget exactly what), and went out.
        She got off the phone and reached for my dry cleaning like nothing had happened. I said, “He just threatened me!”
        She said, “I’m sorry about that. He’s upset because of [excuses].”
        I pulled my cleaning back and said “I’m not coming here again! It’s only a matter of time before he hurts someone, and it’s not going to be me!”
        She looked so shocked! No one had ever called out her violent son before. I left and never went there again, even though I lived in the neighborhood ~15 more years.

      2. Perpal*

        Lots of “friendly fraud” this way; relative picks up credit card in other relatives name; maybe they think they are just borrowing a bit of money and will pay it back, who knows; gets in debt, can’t/won’t pay it back. Person who’s name is on the card is liable for all the debt (often times tens of thousands, if not more) unless they criminally prosecute their family for fraud.
        Many chose not to, instead labor to pay off the debt :/

    8. TootsNYC*

      thank God that David Kazinski made the ethical choice when he faced that problem. He’s still one of my heroes.

      1. Wake up!*

        Are you seriously comparing a (young person, we think) who steals candy and cigarettes to the unabomber? A domestic terrorist?

        Come on, people. We can probably all agree that the OP should say something, but the truth is…it doesn’t matter that much! This is actually not very important. No need for all the hysterics.

        1. Kettles*

          Cigarettes are expensive and this is important. Theft is important. I find it absolutely bizarre that you think otherwise.

        2. Observer*

          Why is this not important? Because you don’t smoke? She’s stealing a significant amount of good from small businesses that generally can’t really afford this kind of loos. That’s a big deal right there. She’s also putting the jobs of generally hardworking and not well paid people (often without a lot of good options) at risk, and even when not the entire job a significant portion of their already low income. That’s a big deal too.

          Sure, this is not mass murder. But please lets not give a pass to really bad behavior.

    9. AKchic*

      To quote Bobby Singer: Family don’t end in blood.

      If the shop owners did their due diligence, they called for references. Perhaps “someone” called back after the offer was extended to give a true accounting of the cousin’s character and shenanigans. The cousin need not know that it was the OP who alerted the cashier(s), who alerted the hiring manager.

      OP does not need to protect their cousin. For all we know, the cousin may have gotten the job based on the fact that it IS the cousin of someone the family knows (it’s how my little sister got her first job… and she was terrible at it).
      The cousin could do real damage to the store, and OP could very well feel shame and guilt long after the cousin leaves that store. Especially if the store suffers any long-lasting impact. Better to have the warning, because the shop may be better family to the OP than the cousin (who very well could have gotten OP arrested with them at any time during their shoplifting when OP was merely shopping).

    10. Burned Out Supervisor*

      I’d agree if it happened one time at one store 10 years ago, but if she’s a chronic offender I would turn her in. Stealing from small businesses hurts not only the owner, but the people who work at that store. What if she stole so much that the store couldn’t pay their bills?

    11. Observer*

      My family, right or wrong? Interesting idea, but in my opinion flamingly unethical.

      Even from the pragmatic pov, it’s just stupid because if people know you are family dirt will begin to stick. And you can be sure that the thief is eventually going to steal from the family.

  14. Anon for this*

    I was hiring a new staff member and got an anonymous phone call telling me that before I hired her I should check with her previous workplace in another state. I thought it was someone being mean (small town) but I checked just in case and it turned out that not only had she stolen prescription medication from patients at her previous job, she had been convicted of this and not disclosed it.

    So yes, tell the business to check with somewhere your family member has previously worked and been fired, not just “X is a thief”.

  15. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    A weekend free for all could be devoted to dealing with co-workers who don’t mind behaving like asshats to everyone but don’t get called out for it because they are “sensitive”.

  16. CoffeeLover*

    Why not just say you don’t have any on you? “Sorry – I’m out”. Say that a few times and they’ll stop coming to you. Of course you’ll need to be careful not to offer it to other coworkers or take it in front of the offending coworker, but this seems like an easier solution than having a confrontation with an easily offended coworker. Plus this particular confrontation won’t make you look great – even if you’re well within your rights to refuse to be their personal pharmacy.

    1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Coworker: OMG, head’s killing me. Can I have an Advil?
      You: Sorry, I ran out at home so I brought home my work stash and didn’t replace it yet.
      Coworker: Oh…

      Continue to “forget” to replace your work stash of meds. They’ll stop asking but it will take a while.

      1. 3107*

        “Actually, if you end up running to the pharmacy to get a bottle, I could use one myself.”

    2. Lynca*

      This is how I handle it when someone starts abusing generosity. “I don’t have any sorry.” You do have to follow through with not providing it to others, because as stated that might get back to the easily offended coworker.

      I push back on the “it won’t make you look great.” That’s a pretty neutral response and perfectly plausible. Any adverse response from the co-worker is just going to make them look real bad, imo.

    3. TootsNYC*

      in our OP’s case, it may be happening enough that the asker saw the bottle or the bubble pack and KNOWS there are 4 more.

      That’s why I think she should say something like, “I’ve given you a bunch already–I may need these, so you’ll have to get your own.”

      Or, “Why don’t you buy them from me? I’ve already given you six, and there are four left, so 10 out of 12, that’s $.”

      1. valentine*

        She wants to end it and requiring payment could backfire in worse ways than extending this facet of the relationship.

  17. Harper the Other One*

    #5 – I ran into this with my first job, a specialty retail store. They were moving from commission to salary (and also prepping to sell the chain, although I didn’t know that at the time.) My department was always dramatically under appreciated there, because our sales were comparatively low, but a) our primary business was rentals which brought in tens of thousands of dollars a month and b) pretty well the whole chain depended on me for my knowledge.

    The moment when the chain owner told me that, “by the new formula,” I should be making 40% less than I was making was one of many non-fun moments at that place. But I still take some real pride in my response, which was to say that I simply would be unable to continue working there for that pay level. (I saved the emotional response for after the meeting was done.) And they ended up not just matching my previous annual pay, but actually giving me a small pay bump.

    If you exceed their proposed salary, chances are good that’s true for a reason! And they know that reason too. Don’t hesitate to negotiate just because they’re putting in a new salary structure, and it really can help to be upfront that you’ll have to look elsewhere if you don’t at least maintain the same level pay.

    1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      That’s amazing! I’m so impressed you were able to respond like that in the moment. What did they say in response to you?

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I was proud of myself too! There was an uncomfortable “oh… well, it’s not finalized yet and there will be some exceptions…” A week or so later they came back with the “updated calculation.” But I had been very soured on the company by that point, so when my husband was looking for work we didn’t worry about whether we stayed in the area. I ended up leaving less than a year later.

        Amusingly, the purchase of the chain had gone through by the time I left and when one of the new owners came to tour our location just before, he was super excited to meet me but then really deflated when he realized that I was leaving. The new company has a much better understanding of the value of my department, but by that point, it was too late for me.

  18. Batgirl*

    With the exception of certain industries I see that as the most crimson of all the flags.

  19. Klingons and Cylons and Daleks, Oh My!*

    OP #2 (“The strange thing is that my supervisor is usually very vocal about supporting individuals with disabilities….”)

    Now you see that her “support” is a COMPLETE LIE. She deserves to be called out on it. If you’re in a position to quit, do so and cite her dishonest “support” as a reason.

    1. WannaAlp*

      It may not be a lie at all, but simple ignorance. There are many people who have honorable intentions and aims but don’t realise that they are falling way way short, because they aren’t educated/aware enough on the subject.

      1. Lucy*

        Yes – “vocal about supporting” and “supportive” may overlap on the Venn diagram, but they don’t precisely coincide!

    2. CheeryO*

      It’s way too early to come to that conclusion. There’s a huge missing step here where OP needs to lay out the 2+2=4 of her condition. It’s totally possible that they’ll feel like a gigantic ass and apologize.

    3. Anon for this one*

      Here’s the thing. People who don’t have disabilities (or who don’t have your particular disability) just do not keep others’ disabilities/your disability at the front of their minds. It’s not something affecting them. If you have an “invisible” disability, it’s even harder for them to keep it in mind. It’s hard for them to understand how a seemingly ordinary action could cause difficulties for someone with X or Y disability. Even when they *know* what they are supposed to do to accommodate, and in fact can get in trouble if they don’t, they *still* don’t remember. BECAUSE IT JUST DOES NOT AFFECT THEM EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF EVERY SINGLE DAY.

      For instance. My son needed pretty simple accommodations for a vision disability: ensure high contrast for all written materials (paper, board, projections), using black lettering on a light background. Every teacher got a written copy of the accommodation, I had a meeting at the start of every year with every teacher. And yet. He came home with worksheets that were xeroxes of xeroxes of xeroxes (= faint, smudgy = unreadable). He received handouts that had green text on dark red paper or purple on hot pink (holidays were the worst!). He couldn’t read anything on the whiteboard because it was written with a yellow dry erase, or it was black but it was running dry so too faint for him to read.

      Every last one of those teachers liked my son, asked me about his health regularly. Every last one of them apologized profusely when I pointed out the problems (nicely), stopped for a week or two, and then backslid.

      I finally supplied every one of my son’s teachers with a box of new black dry erase markers at the start of every quarter, took time off work every month or so to pop into every classroom to see what was going on, emailed teachers and cc’d the principal every time they gave out materials that were essentially unreadable, and eventually had a come-to-jesus meeting with the principal, in which I used the words Superintendent, Civil Rights, and Lawyer. And that solved it.

      Until he went to middle school. LOL.

      1. MaureenC*

        I would be tempted to make each of the teachers a “Use High Contrast Text And Images” sticker for their computers and some “Make Sure The Copies Are Easy To Read!” signs for the copy room. Maybe with examples of what to do and what not to do. “I realize that you have so much to remember about all the students, so I thought I’d make it easier by giving you these external prompts.”

        Also, what sociopath would use yellow dry erase marker on a whiteboard for text?

        1. Rachel B.*

          Sadly, they do not have to be sociopaths, only ones who are using only the highly inadequate school/district supplied markers. When I taught high school I bought virtually all of my necessary supplies, including a ridiculous number of dry erase markers per year. I could afford to do that ONLY because I was in a two-income household with no kids at home. The majority of my co-workers were not and could not afford to buy their own markers, or felt they should not have to do so. Of course, none of us should have had to, but it was the reality of employment in that district. At the best of times, we were allowed two packs of plain white paper a month, which is entirely inadequate for science and math teachers in particular. Lots of months, that did not happen either.

          People talk about putting kids first, but almost no one in power does. Certainly none of the politicians around here who claim faaaamilies are so important are willing to actually pay for decent schools and supplies for them. Maureen C., YOU certainly ought not to have to supply necessary items for your son’s accommodations–but sometimes that might be the only way to get what he needs.

          1. Rachel B.*

            Aaand I just realized I misspoke–“Anon for this” was the one with the child who needed (extremely modest) accommodations; Maureen C. made the remark about sociopaths, which certainly is logical–but it doesn’t take into account the sad realities of teaching in public schools.

          2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Yup, my husband adjuncted at a state university…and he had to provide his own dry erase markers.

          1. Janie*

            Did you know they make dry erase crayons? I really liked them at work for the whiteboard we let the kids use. Less mess.

  20. Delta Delta*

    #4 Why not tell coworker the products are expensive and you’d like her to chip in? “Hey, Tangerina, I’m going to BoxMart on Saturday and I can pick up a mega-jug of Ache-B-Gone for us to share. Can you give me $5 toward that?” Unless she’s the dimmest of bulbs she’ll probably say yes and chip in.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Honestly, this could backfire. If this person is this much of a moocher, then they could end up asking the LW to do half their shopping “since they’re already going.”

      I think just saying “Sorry I’m running low. But I did see that BoxMart had a sale going on through Saturday if you think you’ll be needing some.”

  21. Rebecca*

    #1 – since the OP’s relative was fired for stealing from previous stores, yes, I agree – give the new store ownder or manager the head’s up. As far as how to protect the OP? I’m gathering from the letter this person is “about to be hired”, so if the OP gives the head’s up, perhaps the store owner or manager can ask for previous employer’s names? Certainly one of them would tell the current store she was fired for theft. If it’s a clear pattern, others beside the OP would have knowledge.

  22. WannaAlp*

    #4, one time I got rid of a moocher, I did so by following the opposite of the other advice. Instead of dialling down the availability, I turned it up! Here’s the story:

    My tennis doubles partner kept turning up for matches without his own bottle of water/liquid, and kept wanting a swig of mine. I didn’t want to be ungenerous, but I didn’t want to share germs either, and I didn’t want my being generous to him to mean that I was short of the hydration I needed. So, fed up of this, one week I bought him a separate bottle, all for him. He asked, as usual, and I insisted he take the whole bottle as I’d bought it specially for him. He never asked again.

    Of course, this might not work if your moocher is immune to shame, but it’s worth a shot!

    1. BadWolf*

      In this case, you could take on the role of overly interested in your medical stuff, “Oh Fergus, you need an advil again? Have you tried yoga? Or acupuncture? Have you had an MRI to rule out a brain tumor? I saw you drink two cups of coffee, maybe this is a caffiene headache and your are addicted and should do a cleanse. Let me give you a brochure on how you can get into using and selling essential oils to cure everything that ails you.”

    2. Klingons and Cylons and Cybermen, Oh My!*

      I can just hear the moocher now: “But, but, but…. That’s not fair! I don’t want my own separate bottle of water. The whole point was to drink YOUR water. It’s not fair!”

  23. MicroManagered*

    Legally, yes, they can reduce your salary (as long as they don’t do it retroactively; they can only do it going forward after they tell you).

    Can someone cite this for me? I’m interested in reading more…

    1. Anononon*

      There isn’t going to be one citation if we’re talking US. Google “reduce salary” and a ton of hits come up.

    2. LQ*

      Part of the thing about US law is you only have laws for what you can’t do. So you’ll find a law about not reducing pay retroactively, that will be detailed, you have to understand that all the other stuff is allowed. You can increase pay retroactively for instance, even though there’s not a law for that.
      Assuming you actually want to read more:

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s due to not having contracts. You just have to notify a person prior that starting At Future Date (a pay period that’s not the one they’re actively within) the salary will change.

      Read your states Labor and Industries page about pay laws to confirm. Each one words it differently. It’s not a matter of the law saying you can, it’s a matter of the law saying No Clawbacks but otherwise aside from minimum wage and prevailing wage, and non-discrimination etc the law doesn’t tell you what to pay your staff.

    4. Antilles*

      I’ll follow up with a link in a response, but one key thing to note that the labor laws are generally written (and interpreted) in a very narrow and negative way – There’s a specific list of items that companies are required to comply with or are barred from doing…and that’s that. Anything which isn’t addressed on that list is up to a company to handle however they feel like.
      So in this case, labor laws bar them from retroactively adjusting your salary backwards…but such laws don’t mention adjusting pay going forward at all – so they can drop your future salary as low as they want as long as it doesn’t violate other applicable laws (e.g., minimum wage law).

      1. Antilles*

        Here’s a link of wage payment laws in my state (Georgia), but they’ve got others for your state as well. The section relating to reducing wages:
        “Georgia does not have any laws addressing when or how an employer may reduce an employee’s wages or whether an employer must provide employees notice prior to instituting a wage reduction. However, a wage reduction can only be applied to hours worked after the change and cannot be applied to hours already worked.”
        (Insert usual caveats – I’m not a lawyer, not providing legal advice, this website may not entirely apply to you, you should consult a real licensed lawyer if you’re really concerned, etc, etc, etc.)

  24. On a pale mouse*

    #4 – I bring one day’s worth of meds at a time (even OTC as needed like Tylenol because I easily lose track and this method keeps me from taking too much). If your moocher is persistent you could try putting it this way. Oh, I only have what I need for today, sorry!

  25. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

    Uh…why does the company in #3’s letter need to evaluate the math skills of candidates applying to be writers? Is the job bizarrely math-heavy or are they worried that candidates can’t do basic addition or something?

    Don’t get me wrong, I loved math in school (and I’m saying this as an English major) and I acknowledge its utility in real life, but what the hell? I doubt it’s a major function of this job, never mind needing transcripts! It’s like the LW who had to submit SAT scores for a director position.

  26. Big Red*

    #5, my wife’s office recently went through something similar and there was a LOT of stress about the re-evaluation. It turns out they actually gave most people a pretty decent raise to bring salaries up to something closer to market value (she works at a non0-profit), and even the people who didn’t get raises did not have their pay deducted. One person in her office was in a similar position to yours (top of a pay band) and she simply kept her current salary, but the adjustment to the pay bands made it so that she could have more chances for raises in the future.

    1. TiffanyAching*

      This is something that my company is working on, trying to implement an actual, somewhat-logical pay structure. We are more or less building pay bands around the market rate for the job, and anyone who is paid above-market relative to their job band is “red circled” — they basically are frozen at that salary until the market, and thus the pay band, catches up to them.

  27. Jennifer*

    #1 only tell if you can do so safely. This person may be harmless or they may be dangerous. I don’t have enough info to judge. I’m guessing you feel apprehensive about telling since you wrote in. Follow your gut. And get this person out of your life as much as possible.

  28. Jennifer*

    Re: pills
    I once was a tampon supplier for a co-worker. She rarely brought her own. I knew I should stop but girl code just couldn’t let me leave her in the lurch. If she hadn’t gotten fired maybe I’d still be doing it.

    If you would feel bad about leaving someone in pain or in the throes of an allergy attack, you could approach her before she asks. This is what I wish I’d done. Just say something like, “Just as a heads up, I don’t have enough pills to keep sharing with you. In the future you’ll need to make other arrangements.”

    1. 3107*

      I use the weird tampons without an applicator–I’ll share, but nobody ever asks me twice. :)

      Likewise, I’ll happily share my ibuprofen, but I buy in bulk and then refill a little bottle to carry with me. As a result, the little bottle has been in my bag for a long time and is quite old and grody, so I don’t get a lot of repeat requests.

      1. Drax*

        I actually kept a pack of those in my desk when I worked with a bunch of ladies. They always wanted my lady product because I kept a stash at work. Got gifted a box of the OB non applicator ones and all of a sudden they all were prepared for Aunt Flow

      2. Jennifer*

        I use those now. I wish I’d thought of that then. Or told I switched to the diva cup or something. I know the feeling of getting your period unexpectedly or expecting it but underestimating how many supplies you’ll need, if you catch my drift. I feel horrible leaving another sister in that situation. I think she knew that and exploited it.

        1. Drax*

          But how often does that really happen? I literally always have a few kicking around my purse ‘just in case’. Your bang on with learned helplessness. If someone else always has them why do I need to keep an emergency stash?

          I mean I do, I have a ’emergency kit’ in my desk that includes tampons, mini hairbrush, tide to go pen, mouthwash, mascara etc cause I’m paranoid, and have been caught in a panic a few times.

          1. Jennifer*

            Yes, I’m happy to help someone who just had a once on a blue moon accident, I’ve been there too girl, but every month gets to be a bit much. I started to feel like her mom.

          2. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Eh, I’m kind of forgetful and my purse is an endless abyss, so sometimes I’m caught unawares.

      3. FallingSlowly*

        Haha we rarely see the applicator kind in Australia, so nearly everyone I know uses the non-applicator ones.
        Once many years ago I had to ask the school nurse for a tampon. Well, it was the applicator kind, which completely threw me at first. I never asked her again, because it was insanely uncomfortable to me to use.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*


        Seriously my response is “I don’t have any because I just stuff my undies with TP, have you tried that?” Or back in the days, I only used pads. The big overnight ones. I’ll happily offer those up as well.

        1. Burned Out Supervisor*

          “Sorry, I stuff my undies with moss and live in a tent in the back yard for a week. I just ran out of moss.”

        2. Perpal*

          I… was wondering about this. I have a really hard time imagining asking someone for personal hygiene supplies! If in dire straights, creative use of a good amount of toilet paper and frequent bathroom visits usually can bridge the gap to buying some supplies on break somewhere…? I get that everyone is different and some probably have a much heavier time of it than me but… most of it’s glorified TP anyway

    2. Bunny Girl*

      I had a hysterectomy when I was young (20) and I feel like every time I would start a new job, I would have every (mostly younger) woman there coming up to me individually at some point to ask for a tampon. Sorry I don’t have them and I never will again.

      1. Burned Out Supervisor*

        I don’t know your situation, but I’m counting the days to when I hit menopause. Thirty years of periods is getting old…

  29. Jam Today*

    #2’s boss is a raging b-. Activism is performance art for some people; they like being *seen* as a “helper” but they don’t actually like helping, or even think of the people they’re helping as real human beings — they see them as vectors for their own self-aggrandizement.

    I don’t know how to deal with situation like that, I learned the hard way that you can’t ask “hey, can you stop being *you* while we’re in the office please?” because it really doesn’t work. I just start looking for a new job.

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      I have an invisible disability, and my read was that she’s clueless, not malicious. In her mind, I bet “disability” = people using wheelchairs, walkers, canes, etc. If she can’t see the effects of the disability, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”

  30. nora*

    #4: I work with someone who makes the office supply/sundry purchases for our unit. They use a lot of over the counter medication, primarily pain reliever or cough drops (i.e take several Tylenol every morning along with their coffee). It’s morphed from stocking the first aid kit with a few of these items for emergency/occasional use, like travel packets of Tylenol like I’ve seen in other workplaces, to now frequently purchasing family-size bottles of Tylenol and cough drops that function as this person’s personal pharmacy on an everyday basis. I find this pretty unethical and am incredibly surprised they haven’t been questioned about it. I can’t imagine being someone’s permanent supplier out of your personal funds! Yes, shut that down.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My liver hurts thinking of how much Tylonel they’re consuming. That’s a OTC that leads to perma damage and reflex pain.

      It reminds me of how my old boss made me band aid keeper because the boxes were going so fast, we knew people were taking them home at some point. We needed them, you get cut open in the shop many ways. It drastically lessened the consumption when you couldn’t just quietly rob a kit and had to ask for one. I gave out two or three at a time even because I knew they’d need to change it later and still they lasted so much longer.

      1. only acting normal*

        There’s a reason you can only buy 16 pills of paracetamol (=acetaminophen in the US) at a time off the shelf in the UK. Even over the counter you can only get 32 in one go without a prescription. OD takes not very many 500mg pills, and can permanently damage your liver.

  31. Pomona Sprout*

    Unless you were already working at least 35 hours? The people who had been working more than that would have ended up working fewer hours for the same money, if I’m understanding this correctly.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      Oh for the love of … that was supposed to have been threaded under another comment! Nesting fail!

  32. I don’t care!*

    I really dislike the “I know you care about…” language when people have given no indication they do actually care about a thing. It seems so manipulative and disingenuous. (Along with it’s cousin “I’m sure you would agree….”)

    Other people don’t need to tell me what I care about or what I think!

    Not specific to this situation, I just dislike those conversational tools in general

    1. 3107*

      Eh, if somebody is being terrible, manipulating them into not being so terrible isn’t a bad thing.

      1. I don’t care!*

        I’m pretty non-terrible in general and people use variations of this one me all the time. I am responding to the broader use of these phrases in the workplace

    2. Sue Wilson*

      I mean, yes, the context of those discussions is often “if you don’t think x about this that you have some moral or social lack” but frankly, if you don’t think x about that issue, then they are going to judge you as lacking just as they said. I would think of it as less manipulative than upfront.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You just have to channel your bratty inner child when people do it.

      My response is “Oh I care about it, do I really?”

      In this case it makes sense since she’s made it clear she does advocate for that specific issue. However yeah, just tossing it out there into the wind and trying to manipulate the situation falls flat to anyone with any natural instinct to stir the pot when the spoon is right there, just looking at me.

  33. I don’t care!*

    I’m pretty non-terrible in general and people use variations of this one me all the time. I am responding to the broader use of these phrases in the workplace.

  34. Cersei*

    #1 – I’d label the person’s behavior as “criminal” but not the person as much. There is too much judgement going around already…

  35. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

    Hey Alison, I posted a comment a few hours ago but it hasn’t posted yet. I didn’t include any links or crude words in it. Please let me know if it included anything that violates site rules!

    1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      Never mind! It’s been posted! But it was bizarre, it took about three hours for it to show up.

  36. Pomona Sprout*

    Another possible script for #2…

    BOSS: It won’t kill you to sit in a folding chair for an hour!
    EMPLOYEE: No, it woudn’t KILL me. It would just make me WANT to die for about 3 days, until I recover from the flareup. I’m sure you understand why I’d rather not go there,
    BOSS: ……

    No, you probably wouldn’t want to use this for real. But I think it’s kinda fun to imagine the look on the boss’s face!

  37. Drax*

    #2 – if you have no issues with people knowing, next time she goes “will it kill you?” say yes. followed by “we’ve spoken before about this but this is one of the things I need in order to manage my condition” said calmly and directly (not rudely) it’s a ‘you seemed to have forgotten but we did actually talk about this’

  38. Gazebo Slayer*

    Yes – this, or as suggested above she doesn’t remember… or she only cares about disability accommodations for people she likes or considers “important” enough and unfortunately you don’t qualify. :-(

  39. Name Required*

    #4, I don’t think giving an explanation to your moocher is a good idea if they get easily offended, and I don’t think one is needed since this isn’t really related to your job duties — you don’t owe them anything in this situation. I would try a simple “Sorry, can’t help this time.” Nothing more. Then share with who you will when you want to. Don’t give them anything to argue with you about.

  40. MaureenC*

    Another suggestion for a script for #2: “Hey boss, just wanted to give you a heads up that I need to bring my own chair into the conference room. The last time I sat in a folding chair for an hour I almost couldn’t get out of bed the next morning.” Don’t even make her acceptance of it a question.

  41. Allison*

    #4 I feel like the “coworker whose desk is basically a pharmacy and has whatever you need” is considered charming office lore to people, and they just love knowing they can always go to Lisa when they need medicine and she’ll just always have it, like a school nurse! I’m not defending these people, just trying to offer an explanation of what their thought process might be like. I also like the advice that if you have to “borrow” something three times, you need your own. Similarly, if you go to Lisa for cold medicine three times, you should probably get your own cold medicine to keep on hand. People shouldn’t mooch off each other, and take for granted that so-and-so will just always have what they need, so OP I think it’s fine to set a boundary here. I’d say “I don’t mind occasionally helping someone in a pinch, but I can’t afford to give out medicine this frequently, so I need you to get the medicine you need and keep it on hand at your own desk.”

    1. M*

      (OP) Most people adhere to the “if you have to “borrow” something three times, you need your own” rule; but I think my coworkers is inept in understanding that since the requests have been persisting for months. This person is also a friend, so I’d like to think I wasn’t being a pushover , and just helpful – thinking eventually they’d eventually build up their own work stash. I don’t want to just say “I don’t have any” next time they ask, and would probably aire on the side of your suggested response, highlighting that lending out medicine is pricey, maybe hinting that I’ve been doing them an extended favor. Thanks for your comment, I’m having a great time reading these!

      1. Drax*

        “whoops, this is the last one! I don’t think I’ll be able to pick up up any soon, sorry!”

        1. valentine*

          thinking eventually they’d eventually build up their own work stash.. […] maybe hinting that I’ve been doing them an extended favor.
          People can’t follow your secret rules or meet secret standards you think are universal and shaming them for this doesn’t make sense. Especially as a friend, doesn’t she think you’d tell her flat-out if it was a problem? Simply tell her you can’t anymore, as it’s too expensive, and turn her down if she offers to pay you later or to otherwise extend this.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Have you tried telling her that you can purchase mini-bottles of said pills at the corner store that’s right across the street? Or something similar [of course this assumes you have a place to go get these kinds of things nearby]. Or just try leading in that ‘Oh you don’t have any? Let me tell you why I have some of these, it’s because I bought them and brought them with me.” which actually doesn’t occur to a lot of people I’ve learned.

        They also don’t know that the corner market has single use packs. If they hurt enough to mooch, they should be willing to go pay the 1.99 at the 7-11.

      3. AKchic*

        You may need to reframe how you see your “friend”/coworker. This isn’t ineptitude. This is feigned helplessness. They are currently incapable of doing this because they are accustomed to coming to you. They know that if they make the sad little face, and act forlorn and in pain/miserable or act huffy and indignant, you are going to feel sorry for them, or get panicky about them possibly not liking you, and then give them what they want. They have trained you just as much as you’ve trained them. It’s an act of codependency.

        It’s time to flip the script. You simply don’t have any available. They’ll need to supply their own. No apologies. Polite, kind, firm. Don’t give in to mournful looks or attitude or misery acts. Adults can figure out how to adult – without you holding their hand and guiding them step by step.

  42. Exhausted Trope*

    LW2, I went through a similar situation at oldjob. The private work cubicles in the office had only hard plastic chairs that no way could I tolerate with my chronic spine conditions. I asked my otherwise supportive manager if I could move a padded desk chair into the cubes and she refused. Her excuse was that the furniture could not be moved because it would inconvenience others who used the rooms at other times. She still refused even after I promised to remove the chair when I left. I guess I could have gone to HR to request an accommodation for my condition but I never did. In light of later events, I really wish I had.

    1. LW*

      OP here. I’m so sorry, that really sucks! My office in general is very supportive of people with health issues, so I’m hopeful nothing like that happens to me. I’m debating requesting some additional accommodations though, in particular a sitting/standing desk, so it will be interesting to see if I get them, or if it will be a “well, the budget doesn’t really have the space for that…”.

      1. Observer*

        No money in the budget is one thing. Not good, but kind of understandable. The snark? No. She may ot be a monster, but there is no real good excuse for it.

  43. ArtK*

    LW#4: Just because someone else becomes upset, it doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong. Stop sacrificing your money to preserve someone else’s feelings. Use Alison’s scripts and if the co-worker gets upset, realize that this is her issue to deal with, not yours.

    I might even avoid the “help in a pinch” wording, because I’m almost certain that she’s going to start having lots of “emergencies.”

    1. Kettles*

      “Just because someone else becomes upset, it doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong.”

      Words to live by.

  44. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    OP #3, that interview process is clearly beyond the pale. I wonder if they’re having trouble making a decision or if they’re just incredibly unorganized!

    The interview process for my current role was also quite drawn out (though nothing like yours) – I had a phone interview and then in-person interview (which involved flying across the country) within a month of submitting my application, but then it took another month for them to schedule the in-person interview for their other top candidate due to internal schedule conflicts. No problem, they kept me in the loop so I knew what to expect. Then they wanted to call my references as well as their other candidate, then two weeks later the hiring manager wanted to have another phone interview to discuss a few things that came up after my interview/during the reference check. At this point I was coming to the end of my lease on the east coast and had a “poop or get off the pot” situation – I needed to know whether I’d be moving across the country or across town! During the final phone interview I reiterated my interest in the job but explained that if they hadn’t made a decision by June 15, I would need to withdraw. I got my offer on June 11 :) I’ve learned since then that my now-boss had two great candidates and was having a difficult time making a decision between us. I can’t say for sure whether my deadline helped him decide on hiring me, but it gave me peace of mind because I would at least have an answer one way or another.

    1. LW3*

      LW#3 here: Wow, that was a really close call! I’m glad that it worked out for you and you got an answer in time. I think sometimes letting companies know that you have a definite deadline or timeline for their decision can help expedite things.

  45. Batgirl*

    OP1, your approach may depend on *why* you’re afraid your relative will find out.
    If it’s A) ‘afraid to lose the relationship’ then I think its caring to spell out that you won’t enable. I would add a positive message to any confrontation that may arise: “You know my position on this. No I will never help you steal from people because I care about you. You’re asking me to wash my hands of you and look away; my answer is no.”
    If it’s B) ‘she will make my life hell’ then there are loads of discreet ways to tip them off especially if you went to school with the cashier. You can tell them exactly where the owner should call to check for a real work history while asking her to keep your name out of it. This makes it anonymous, but still credible and verifiable.

  46. Dust Bunny*

    LW4 just tell them you’ve run out. I have a coworker who never had pain pills despite always having an ache of some kind, and suddenly . . . I was just always out of them. So she can be sore or she can buy her own.

  47. Dust Bunny*

    LW1 tell them. “Because family” is overrated: You don’t owe creeps protection because you happen to share some genes. Go in without this relative, or send a friend with a note, if you have to. (Although I’d be distancing myself from this person.)

    1. Becky*

      This SO MUCH. Every few months it seems I see a news story about kids kids stealing something from a store and when the news shows the video their own parents march them down to the police station. And everyone applauds them. Because that is what you SHOULD do.

      You are my family and I love you, but that isn’t carte blanch. Sometimes the kindest most loving thing to do is help someone face the consequences of their actions, not shield them from them.

  48. Anonymous Marketer*

    Reader for several years (love this blog and your book, Allison!), first time commenter.

    OP#3, I was compelled to ask – is the company in question located in NC? As a naive college senior, I went through the eerily similar-sounding interview process for an eerily similar-sounding company, somehow made it through, and had a very brief stint there. Long story short, the interview process was the first red flag as to how they operated and treated their employees. I’ve since worked at 2 wonderful companies with incredible support, flexibility, and opportunities, and significantly better pay (and reasonable interview processes!). As a still fairly entry-level employee, my professional network and future career path are 1000x better for it. Sometimes these things not working out are genuinely blessings in disguise/bullets dodged/what have you. You deserve better OP, all the best in finding the right opportunity for you!

    1. LW3*

      LW#3 here: hi there! It is in NC. I’m glad that you have had better opportunities elsewhere and you didn’t have to stay there for long. Hearing your experience with the company, if it’s the same place, validates the unsettling vibes I got from dealing with them. And thank you so much for your kind words. I actually got a job offer from a much better company today, so I look forward to a bright future with them. Best of luck to you and I hope you have plenty of success in your career.

  49. voyager1*

    I haven’t read all the comments so someone else may have brought this up already… but I think it is your going into a conference room and raiding a chair that is the problem. If you were wheeling in your special chair she probably wouln’t think anything about it. But I have worked places where there was a conference room people would raid chairs out of if there was a large meeting, esp if there were only folding chairs, those waiting room type chairs or you had to stand.

    Personally I would just ask her why she brings it up every meeting. She probably thinks it is a joke. Also and this is a maybe but you are assuming that the other managers are supportive for all you know one of them gave your manager flak about the cost of your chair.

    Good luck, be sure to send an update.

    1. LW*

      OP here. I’m not raiding a conference room, which I could definitely see being a problem. Our space is a convertible event space that includes a table at the back with its own cushioned chairs (plus a nice rug, some decor etc.). When there are staff meetings, no one can use that little nook for anything else because it would be disruptive to the meeting, since the nook is directly behind where all the chairs are set up lecture style.

      I didn’t think about whether one of the other managers maybe gave her flak. I doubt it, but there is one that I could see saying something.

      I’ll definitely send in an update (T-3 hours until my 1:1 with my manager!).

    2. OhBehave*

      The OP states in the letter that the ‘conference room is actually in the back of the large room. And that others do the same. Boss is thoughtless and rude.

    3. Observer*

      As the OP notes, scenario one is not the case. And NEITHER scenario wold even remotely excuse the manager in this case. If there is a problem, you SAY SO – explicitly and clearly. You don’t make snarky comments implying that people are acting like spoiled children.

  50. Ungennant*

    OP1, for sure tell the store! I definitely wouldn’t want someone working where they stole things from, even though I am probably softer on theft than most.

    My personal view is sort of a Jean Valjean school of thought, in that I will pay for a person or look the other way if I can’t, if someone is stealing necessities. I recently heard of a woman arrested for stealing baby formula, which is a sad commentary on modern poverty.

    But cigarettes and candy aren’t like basic foods, formula, diapers, or supplies needed to participate in school. Plus if someone is stealing every day they probably have a stealing problem at large.

    I will never forget what happened with a friend of mine in college. He was gay and got kicked out and was very short on money to just eat a food, you know?

    So one day, since we would always come to a church for a weekly student meal with a campus pastor, he asked me to be a lookout while he took leftovers from the industrial kitchen. I felt conflicted, but did it because I didn’t want him to be hungry. He was coming out with some bread and peanut butter and canned food, when the pastor caught him.

    I thought he was really going to get it when the pastor sighed and said, “okay, put them back and come with me.” I went as well, to maybe deflect some blame or something? Anyway, I thought we were both in trouble, but instead we went out to the pastor’s car, and he basically said, don’t steal, but you obviously need food if you’re doing that, so we’re going shopping.

    After that there was a little pantry area of donations in the kitchen for college kids.

    1. Kettles*

      “But cigarettes and candy aren’t like basic foods, formula, diapers, or supplies needed to participate in school”

      This. She’s not a needy 13 year old nicking tampons. She’s a person who engages in pre-meditated theft of items that are easy to re-sell.

  51. From That Guy*

    O.P. #3. They may have done you a favor with all this rigamarole. Do you really want to work for a company that does this to prospective employees? Just how will they treat you once you are hired??


    Good luck whatever you decide to do next, or not do.

    1. LW3*

      LW #3: So true! That’s why I decided that regardless of their decision, that is not a place I want to be. I can’t wait to share my experience on Glassdoor to warn other candidates.

  52. my other name*

    The chair situation is ridiculous. People getting there early take the more comfy chairs. I doubt anyone is complaining when all the more comfortable chairs are taken. I advise OP to disregard the manager, who is being petty.

  53. Batgirl*

    LW4: “No, I’m out of (type A pill) it’s so weird how I’m running out so fast lately. I’m not going to carry pills around in my Tardis bag anymore. Say, you couldn’t spot me a (type B pill) could you?”

  54. LW*

    OP#2 here, with an update! I spoke with my boss using Alison’s script. My manager said that it wasn’t about the chair. I hadn’t noticed I was doing this, but apparently I was over-explaining what I was doing (i.e. saying things like “I need to get to the meeting early to make sure I get a better chair” or complaining to my coworker about the folding chairs). It’s apparently a pet peeve of hers that I tend to explain why I’m doing something, or especially why I don’t like or do something, as opposed to just doing/not doing the thing. I hadn’t realized I was doing this, so I’m going to work on reigning that tendency in because I can see why it might be annoying to some people. But she did say that she understood that letting her pet peeve drive her to making snarky comments was inappropriate on many levels, and that it wouldn’t happen again.

    1. cheluzal*

      Still weird of her to make those comments in response to your over explaining….I don’t see the connection and how she thought being rude in public would make you realize what you were doing, but sounds like you might have found a solution for both of you!

    2. MJ*

      So you over-explain and boss wasn’t explaining at all.

      Thanks for updating and it’s good the matter should be resolved going forward.

    3. Observer*

      But she did say that she understood that letting her pet peeve drive her to making snarky comments was inappropriate on many levels, and that it wouldn’t happen again.

      Well, I’m glad that she’s going to knock it off. Because “inappropriate on many levels” is an understatement.

      Oh, and a management tip for your manager, if she reads this blog: The way to teach people to stop under-explaining is to explain at appropriate levels. It is NOT to make stupid snarky comments that don’t even address the actual problem.

  55. cheluzal*

    4: I feel this way about gum. I don’t keep a lot because I rarely use it, but when I do, it’s like everyone around expects a piece. You can empty an entire packet each time like that!

  56. Fluff*

    Regarding situations where an employer cuts the salary – I was wondering if you are then obligated to work out your notice period at that lower salary? In some cases the notice period can be quite long. I had a 3 month notice period (healthcare) where they once did this with a 10% cut to bring salaries in line which was total BS because it was a university and you could look that stuff up! I freaked and told them that I would only work my notice at my old salary. And that is what we did and I busted out of there (for the record good employee, pay scale below average because ‘people want to live in expensive awesome town). Do you have to suck it up and work a notice in cases like this [not performance based)?

Comments are closed.