should I hire someone who’s unhappy with the salary, a coworker’s “people I need to hit” list, and more

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

1. Should I hire a temp who’s unhappy with the salary?

We’re looking for a temp to come in and cover one of my colleagues, Melisandre, who is going on extended medical leave because of pregnancy complications and then maternity leave. We’re expecting her to be gone six months. Melisandre has a blended role that involves high-level logistics as well as supporting several executives with their tasks. None of us were expecting her to be gone this long, and we’re having trouble filling the role. The staffing agency has sent us lots of candidates and I’ve interviewed a few, but only one of them had the skills we were looking for.

Arya has a few years of experience with a similar role, and is new to the area which is why she was looking for placements with the staffing agency. We loved her until we started talking about salary. Melisandre makes around $25 an hour, which is average for our area and her role. Because of the cost of covering Melisandre’s paid leave and the cut the staffing agency takes, Arya would be earning around $10 an hour.

When we offered her the position, Arya indicated that she thought she’d do a great job, but that the salary wasn’t fair considering her experience and education and asked if it was negotiable. I told her flat out that this was the budget we had for the year and she could take it or leave it. She asked to get back to us a few days later after she had time to talk with her husband about their budget, but that it would be a stretch for them. I thought that this was very unprofessional. We’re a large local employer, and we told her that after six months it was possible to move into a full-time role with benefits if she performed well. It’s hard to get a position here at all, and this is a great opportunity to make connections. It’s not like she has a job right now either.

She called back after three days and said she would accept the position, but now I don’t want to hire her knowing she’s so unhappy with the pay we’re offering. Should I withdraw my offer or take her on anyway?

What, no, do not withdraw the offer. Arya didn’t do anything unprofessional. She had an appropriate response to being offered a salary that you acknowledge is only 40% of fair market value for the work (and no benefits!). She didn’t say “you suck” or call you cheap; she just noted that the salary didn’t seem fair, which it doesn’t, and asked for some time to consider it, noting that it would be a stretch for her budget. There’s literally nothing wrong with that. If anything, it’s a good sign about her; she’s smart enough to know what the work is worth and she handles tricky situations professionally. (And “it’s not like she has a job right now” is not a reason for someone to happily accept a job making 40% of market rate.)

It would be incredibly short-sighted to pull the offer over this, especially given that you haven’t been able to find someone with the skills you need. If you pull the offer from Arya, it’s likely you’ll continue to have trouble with that, especially at the salary you’re offering. What you should do is see if you can find money to pay her fairly, or see if you can negotiate with the staffing agency for Arya to get a bigger cut of what you’re paying them.

2. I saw a coworker’s “people I need to hit” list

In a meeting last week, my coworker Tony shared his screen while his OneNote was still visible and the title of the first note (minimized on the side) was “People I Need to Hit.” It was just him and me in the meeting, and I only saw the note title, and I’m sure he doesn’t realize I saw it.

I didn’t say anything to Tony, but mentioned it to my coworker Carmela later in the day. Tony has been reprimanded for being very defensive and verbally aggressive in meetings (nothing outrageous, just notably confrontational and unprofessional, such as saying, “I don’t even know why your department exists, we don’t need it” to Carmela’s boss). Carmela thought the OneNote was a hilarious example of his unnecessary aggression. We even joked that the title might’ve been cut off and was actually just a list of people he needs to hit up for money and that he’s a secret loan shark.

However, when I told my boyfriend, Paulie, the same story at home, he was appalled. Paulie is encouraging me to go to HR and tell them what I saw and is convinced that the “People I Need to Hit” list is a precursor to workplace violence. I don’t agree, and I have sometimes taken frustration out in note titles myself (naming a doc “Stupid 7am Meeting” to capture my meeting notes, for example) just for personal amusement. But I value Paulie’s judgment and maybe he has a good perspective as an outsider, vs. Carmela and myself who think of Tony as just an eye-rolling example of an annoying and tone-deaf coworker (he’s not even the most annoying or tone-deaf person we work with on a day-to-day basis). Am I under-reacting? Is my boyfriend overreacting?

Since you’re the person who interacts with Tony, you’re the one best positioned to know if it’s something to be alarmed by or not. I suspect he’s not keeping an list of people he actually plans to injure in some way … but it’s certainly a commentary on his stance toward colleagues. If you’re really worried, you could mention to Tony’s boss, saying that it was so jarring to see that you felt you should mention it. But I also think that if your vibe is that it’s nothing, this isn’t so alarming that you need to escalate it regardless of that.

3. Stopping people from walking through my office

My office is long, narrow, and has doors at either end. I interact with several departments so I keep both doors open allowing access for each department to enter. Occasionally someone will walk through my office as a shortcut to the other department. The main hallway requires passing through two doors and a key card.

I am a manager with budgetary responsibilities and generally could be working on a project that isn’t for casual viewing. Also, this is just plain rude. I tried blocking the walkway with chairs, closing one door, and speaking to people as they attempted to pass. The frequency reduced for a time, but they are at it again. Suggestions?

Keeping both the doors open is going to read too much like a pass-through area to people. To solve this, you’ll probably have to close one of them.

In fact, normally I’d suggest blocking off one of the doors entirely, like with a bookcase or the way your desk is positioned (as long as your fire code allows it) because if you’ve already directly told people to stop and they haven’t, this might be the only thing that works. But if you haven’t said it directly, try that first — as in, “Can you please use the main hallway instead? When people walk through here, it breaks my focus and I sometimes have confidential materials out.”

Alternately, though, if it’s really only happening occasionally and you’d prefer to leave both doors open, it might be easier to just write it off as a mildly annoying thing that happens occasionally.

4. Do companies have to reimburse mileage at the IRS rate?

I work in a management role that requires me to travel most days around my city to different work sites. My organization has a standard reimbursement rate of $0.40 per mile. I googled and saw that the current IRS rate for 2019 is $0.58 per mile. I’ve had colleagues tell me that it’s illegal for my organization to be paying what they do, but is that correct, or can the organization pay less than the IRS rate?

Nope, employers aren’t required to pay the IRS mileage rate. They can set their own. In fact, in most states (with some notable exceptions, like California), they aren’t even required to reimburse mileage at all.

But it’s a good practice for them to use the IRS rate, and it’s possible that your company originally intended to but never updated it once it changed. It’s worth asking them if they’ll update their rate to match it.

5. Employer left me a voicemail, then wouldn’t return my calls

I have a question about an interview process I went through several years ago that has always made me feel kind of crazy. When I was first out of college, I was applying for roles as a paralegal and received a call from a law firm regarding scheduling an interview. I missed the call and the interviewer left a voicemail, which I returned a few hours later. She did not answer my call so I left a message, which was never returned. I continued to follow up, calling the front desk and the interviewer’s number trying to reach her. Finally I called from a different phone number and my call was immediately answered. The interviewer sounded a little unhappy to hear from me, but still brought me in for an interview, but did not offer me a job (not really much of a surprise, although I was qualified).

In retrospect, and with close to a decade of professional experience under my belt, I don’t think I would handle this situation the same way now, but I’ve always wondered if I was really out of line for calling so many times, or if the interviewer was really avoiding me! It would be one thing if she had just not answered, but it seemed pretty clear that she was actively trying not to speak to me for some reason. What do you think?

Yeah, calling so many times was overkill — but she was also in the wrong. What most likely happened is that she ended up finding enough other strong candidates to interview that she no longer needed to talk with you. However, she should have told you that, especially when she realized you were going to keep trying to make contact. Ignoring you until you called from a different number was lazy and rude.

But you also went overboard. Following up once after your initial call wasn’t returned made sense. Maybe even trying one final time a couple of days after that. But that was really it — at that point the ball was in her court. (And if the reason she wasn’t getting back to you is that she’d been on vacation or out sick or busy with higher priorities, the intensity of your follow-up could  legitimately have given her pause about you. You didn’t say how many times you called or over what period, but I’d be pretty wary of someone who called multiple times a day, or even daily after a certain point.)

{ 822 comments… read them below }

  1. Juli G.*

    OP1, I would urge you to be cautious about thinking of yourself as the only game in town or that jobs at your company are highly sought after prizes. That may work for locals not interested in relocating and maybe some temps but it won’t work if and when the local talent pool dries up.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      OP1 is thinking about people who try to get freelancers to work for a reduced rate (or for free) with a promise of “exposure”.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, “It’s hard to get a position here at all, and this is a great opportunity to make connections?” Huh, that must explain why you’ve been able to find so many other people that meet your requirements – oh wait…

      You’re what’s defined as a Choosing Beggar, LW1. You want someone to work for less than half of what they’re worth and lick your boots for it.

      1. Sir Freelancelot*

        I kid you not, for a sec I thought this was someone who contacted me recently “We want you to work for us for half of the pay we usual offer! You’ll get CoNneCTIons!!”

        Great, but sadly stores and banks don’t accept connections as a form of payment.

        OP1: clearly finding the right candidate isn’t as easy as you’re figuring. Maybe you’re under pressure. Maybe you have personal reasons, but in no way, you have the right to sound so condescending when a candidate you plane to UNDERPAY for whatever reason asks you time to consider it. Also, don’t be so sure this person doesn’t have /won’t find more and better opportunities to work in this industry.

        If you don’t have the money to pay your workers fairly, then you can’t afford to hire someone.

        1. Mookie*

          Not to belabor the point, but what the hell would Arya see in a place like this that she’d want to hire on as a permanent employee?

          1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

            If she’s new to the area, she probably is somewhat desperate for a job, especially if it’s a narrow field.

            Not a good reason to treat her poorly, since she’s probably more in demand than she knows and will figure that out pretty soon.

            1. Mookie*

              Not too desperate to point out the obvious discrepancy in compensation. They were never going to offer her a permanent gig, anyway; that’s just thrown in to make her look unreasonable. After all, they can’t afford her.

              1. Mookie*

                I mean, the LW thinks it’s “unprofessional” to see if you can afford more than a 50 percent reduction in an average wage tier snd still eat. Reason has left the building. I feel for Arya and Melisandre, both.

                1. Mama Bear*

                  It almost feels like the OP is mad about the employee who is out on leave and taking it out on the new hire. I hope OP treats Arya respectfully when she arrives – she’s doing the company a favor, basically, to take a job at a huge pay cut with no benefits and no guarantees. Good point, Mookie, that they can’t afford her permanently if they can’t pay a decent wage now. $10/hr isn’t even minimum wage in some states. I pay our high school aged babysitter at least that much. IMO, there should be less justifying and more concern about why this supposedly big, important company can’t pay someone even close to what she’s worth.

                2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

                  Good point, Mama Bear. I hope LW can treat the maternity-leave coworker professionally when she returns, as well. Less “we weren’t expecting to have to cover so much for you” and more “great to have you back.”

                3. Hey Nonnie*

                  I guarantee you Arya is only taking this job as a stop-gap while she looks for a different job that will pay/treat her fairly. OP has her over a barrel right now, but that won’t always be the case, and if she doesn’t want to be left scrambling for another temp midway through this leave, it would behoove her to find a way to pay her better.

                  If you want specialized skills, you gotta pay for ’em.

                  Also, I’m a little alarmed that OP at the very least knew that this maternity leave was coming, and yet somehow doesn’t have the budget to cover the leave? I realize that six months is more than 3 or 4 months (or whatever the expected maternity leave was); but it’s not THAT much more. If they have so little flexibility for coverage here, it makes me think that very little planning went into this — which is foolish, since they knew this was coming, knew that they needed to cover it, and should have built in some flexibility into that budget in case of unexpected medical events, because that’s the way pregnancy works. It’s not always, and in fact frequently isn’t, a simple, uncomplicated medical event. If a company offers paid medical leave, why does it not have a slush fund to cover costs of one, just in case?

              2. Quill*

                “Now that we’ve hired you and don’t have to pay the temp agency, you can have that extra $1.50! That’s a 15% raise!”

                (Also, I worry for Melissandre, if they really think her job is only worth $10 plus temp agency fees, what sorts of benefits are they skimping out on?)

                1. a good mouse*

                  Seriously. I don’t see them suddenly offering 150% raise on what they were paying her if they hire her on permanently.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Eh, temp agency fees can be quite a bit more than 15% on an hourly rate. I used to help arrange these contracts and it wasn’t uncommon for the staffer’s pay to be around $15 but the bill rate to the company was $27-30. So I can actually see why OP is thinking “We’re paying the temp agency the $25 an hour that Melisandre was making, which is all we have the budget for, which means that the agency is only giving Arya $10/hr out of that.”

                  The problem is, if you’re using an agency, you have to be prepared for the high fees. It’s a trade-off – they do the legwork to find and filter candidates so they’re only presenting you with qualified ones, they handle onboarding paperwork and payroll for you, and in exchange you pay them extra. If you can’t afford a reasonable hourly rate and the premium on top of that, then you can’t afford to use a temp agency, and you need to recruit and hire for yourselves, without that extra support. By sticking to the original budget for the position but using a staffing agency, it basically penalizes the employee. OP needs to either find some extra budget for this role, or recruit/hire the old-fashioned way so they can spend all that budget directly on the employee’s pay.

                3. It's a No From Me*

                  When I had to work as a temp 20-ish years ago, the temp agency was being paid $40 per hour to have me work as an admin assistant to an executive. I was getting paid $8 of that. I took it because I was desperate at the time (my spouse was also unemployed as we’d both been working for the same employer that had gone out of business), but as soon as I had a chance to jump ship I was gone. Later, I worked as a communications consultant to the same company and was paid $40 per hour with no “middle man” taking 80%!

                4. It's a No From Me*

                  That was in a high COL city during a booming economy. There’s no way temp agencies in this city are still getting away with charging so much to corporate clients and paying so little to workers. Not surprisingly, I was the 6th temp within a single year that had been hired for that position. Paying crappy wages to the people doing the work is terrible. It’s a win-lose situation. Since that time, you bet when I’ve needed to hire temps myself, I have not used that exploitative agency and I imagine the owner of that agency will be roasting in a nice circle of hell one day.

              3. Gazebo Slayer*

                Yeah, it sounds very much like the permanent job was not a real possibility, and that the OP was dangling it in front of Arya to get her to take this horrendously paid temp gig. And offering that sort of empty not-quite-promise is a crappy thing to do in itself.

              4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                This re: permanent gig. My experience is that most people who come out with, “Oh if you start in (lower level/part-time/temporary) role and excel, we’ll hire you for a permanent full-time role.”

                There is no permanent full-time role, just like Rover doesn’t live on a nice farm upstate.

                1. HotSauce*

                  Even if there was a permanent full time roll, who the heck wold want to take it at that low of pay? You can make more stocking shelves at Home Depot.

                2. Door Guy*

                  I’ve worked for a few jobs that had temps. One, they only brought in temps (I was the last full employee brought in without having temped for my entire 3 years there). As long as you made it through however many hours and were at least a halfway decent worker, they offered you a full time permanent position; except that very few ever made it that long and of the handful that did, most of them failed the drug screen.

                  The other, it was actually better to be a temp, as the workers hired in-house were paid significantly less. It was a summer position, and if you were hired by the company (a HUGE medical/hospital organization) you were paid something like $7.50/hr (in 2003), but if you were hired through the temp agency, you were paid $11/hr. To do the exact same job, where the only difference at all was how you punched in/out: temps had a paper time card, in-house used the digital clock.

          2. ACDC*

            I work for a staffing agency so I see this sort of thing all the time. Arya is probably taking this position to have some money coming in while she continues to look for something else (read: better).

          3. Antilles*

            Personally, if I’m Arya, I would have completely discounted the possibility of getting a permanent offer. The place is so tight on budgets that they can’t even afford to pay a temp remotely close to market rate; it’s laughable to believe that they’ll suddenly have funds to hire a brand new full-time employee.

            1. It's a No From Me*

              +1 I suspect if a job ever did materialize, it also would be significantly below market rate. No thanks.

      2. Mookie*

        Yes, the LW and employer have it back-asswards in almost every way. Their inability to readily find a replacement is very telling.

        LW1, if your “large” employer literally can’t afford paid leave for this employee plus an agency’s fee without ridiculously slashing her temp’s wages (is Melisandre also part-time, or are you expecting Arya to do her job with half the underpaid hours?), they are not long for this world. This is very strange, the ides that you’re desperate to find someone skilled, know what those skills command in terms of pay, but are confident Arya can’t afford to miss out on this opportunity, which does not actually meet that minimum. If this indicative of the culture where you’re fixed, I’d let Arya go and godspeed to her to finding a job that respects her.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Honestly, OP, employers in my area who say/act like this have a reputation. Everyone knows in a rural area and even in larger areas reputations spread.

          You have a rock and a hard place going on here, OP. It would be bad PR to pull the offer yet employing her for a rate barely above minimum wage is also pretty embarrassing and also bad PR. That too will also spread around through the rumor mill, as people wonder why she is working for such a prestigious place and still worries about her household budget. Yes, people put two and two together like this.

          If you can’t find the additional $600 per week to pay her fairly perhaps you can forego the temp agency and reduce those costs so you can afford to pay her fairly. For me, if I saw this at my job, I would have to start wondering how solvent the company was and if they were going to keep being able to make payroll.

          Perhaps she will withdraw her acceptance and this situation will resolve itself.

          1. Colette*

            They can’t forego the temp agency for this candidate – they presumably have a contract that will not allow them to poach her.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Yup. If they tried to do this, the agency would sue OP’s company for breach of contract and would likely pull all current employees they placed at this location or, if the latter is impossible, would blacklist OP’s company going forward.

            2. AnotherDollar*

              And the temp is likely under contract to not work for any “employer” for a set number of months/years after resigning from the agency. Resigning, not just “not accepting work”.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              Right. Sorry that was not clearer. This time is what it is. However, in the future with other hires they may wish to consider going on their own to keep costs down if costs are such an issue. The real deal is that it costs money to hire people, period, no matter who does the screening.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Also, the employer’s “budget” is not Arya’s problem. If the market for the job is $X/hour, that does not change because the employer has other employee benefit obligations. Arya’s time is still worth $X/hour, and expecting her to be grateful you only want to pay her 40% of that is… not a great look.

          And, if OP1’s company does withdraw the offer, I hope Arya leaves an incredibly honest Glassdoor review for them. Reasonable people would not be on the cheapskate company’s side.

    3. Myrcallie*

      Right? Also, I love how they opened by talking about how specialised her skill set is and how much trouble they’ve had finding *anyone* else out of the dozens of people they’ve looked at, and then they turn around and start saying she should be grateful to *them* for an offer at less than half of market rate, and a frankly derisory hourly pay for something so skilled? If I were the candidate, I’d be insulted.

      1. Triplestep*

        And the candidate does not even know that the person who offered her this opportunity to “take it or leave it” thinks that asking for three days to think about it is unprofessional! Whatever great opportunity this might have been, it’s clearly not now since the candidate will always have to live down the fact that she asked for time to consider this offer she was probably shocked by in the moment!

      2. DiscoCat*

        Haha, yepp, I was really amazed at this 180 degree turn of reasoning. “It’s not that she has a job right now either…” Well, it’s not like LW1 has an employee who fits the bill right now either- *hard eye roll*

        1. HotSauce*

          No kidding! I’d rather work in retail than deal with someone who thinks it’s OK to treat people like that. And the salary is frankly insulting. Why is it Arya’s fault that OP1 forgot to budget for a replacement? Talk about unprofessional!

      3. J*

        I’m kind of baffled by this letter. If they wrote to Alison, I assume they are familiar with the blog. And if they are familiar with the blog, they should already know what her answer would be. This is so bizarre.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Ever read that article about the bullied kid who noticed her bullies cheering as Dumbo’s mom smacked around the bullies in the movie? Everyone thinks they’re the hero.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think I get a ton of letters from people who don’t read here regularly. (For example, I get lots of letters from people who ask me to sign their letter a certain way, something I don’t do at all, or who just clearly aren’t familiar with my approach. I know Captain Awkward also gets letters from people who clearly have never read a single post on her site. I think it’s not uncommon with advice columns that some letter writers don’t read them, but do approach them with questions.)

          1. EPLawyer*

            well that’s a nice behind the scenes anecdote. How do people find out to write to you if they don’t read your column?

            Back on topic — a quick perusal of this blog would have shown LW that Alison is all for paying people FMR. Decently compensated employees tend to stick around. Low paid ones bail at the first opportunity.

            It’s a temp job, she can literally say on Friday, this isn’t working out, won’t be back on Monday. then what?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              My guess is they google for work advice, or they think “what’s that work advice column I heard of / came across once.” Or they read occasionally but not enough to know my approach. I’m just guessing though!

              1. Arbynka*

                Or they might ask a friend/colleague:” do you know any good work advice site ?” I vaguely remember I participated in online poll about this matter. It was basically asking “if you need to find a website do you A) google it or B) ask for recommendation from friends/acquaintances. And it had different categories for buying, seeking advice, seeking reviews and entertainment. I don’t recall what the result were but I believe google was in the lead.

          2. Flash Bristow*

            I can kind of understand. I’m having an issue that I *really* need external advice on. Of the blogs and help forums I read regularly, I’d say Alison would absolutely be the best bet for advice from a detached viewpoint. But it is a personal issue not a work issue. The alternative would be Annalisa from the Guardian, who is awesome, but I would run the risk of “the other party” reading and recognising it there.

            So… I guess I Google and write in to someone else who seems able to help.

            Of course I read every site before I consider contributing, but you can’t read everything. I’ve been reading this site for over 18 months, yet when ill and bored (so, most days!) I’ll click on “surprise me” and go down the rabbit hole for an hour or two. There’s still a lot that I haven’t read! So with an “agony aunt” (sorry Alison!) I can research, but still miss where they’ve commented on similar before.

            I guess they can always reply “this prior reply might help, good luck” if they have the time and kindness, but if they want to publish the letter for discussion, hey it’s their blog! And wasn’t there one just this week when Alison said she was rerunning it because opinions had changed over the years?

            Meantime I’ll return to seeking a potentially suitable source of advice for my issues with family / close friends…

            I don’t see harm in people writing to Alison with a similar / rerun type issue tho…

            … But is it a pain, Alison? I’d be interested to know how many letters you ignore (trolls? Repeats? Triviality that won’t help anyone else?) and what proportion you answer (I often wonder about timescale but I’m guessing there’s no great delay). And I’m assuming few personal private responses unless it’s to get more info for a posted reply, or you’d never do anything else (and we’d all want one!)

            None of my business but I’ve been curious for a while.

            I must get back into blogging, just wish mine was as helpful and popular as yours! But I digress.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I get about 75 letters a day on weekdays (fewer on weekends) and I answer about 30 a week here … so that’s a lot that go unanswered. I do answer some privately if I can do it quickly (like a few sentences) and have the time, and I do sometimes say “see this other answer here” and link them to a past column.

              I don’t mind repeat topics though — there’s often a slightly different twist, but even if there’s not, I figure most readers haven’t read all 12 years of the archives here!

            2. It's a No From Me*

              Years ago I briefly had an online relationship advice column and would spend a lot of time composing thoughtful replies to questions. With few exceptions, people whose questions were answered would come back with follow-up questions like “So today this happened…” as if I were their ongoing personal (unpaid) relationship coach.

              My hat is off to Alison for the incredible number of questions that she answers every week. Seriously, Alison, I don’t know how you do it!

              P.S. Flash, as for your personal issue, I would have recommended Slate’s Dear Prudence if either of the two last columnists (Emily Yoffe and Margo Howard) were still answering questions. I can’t recommend it with the current columnist whose answers often reflect a lack of life experience.

        3. Scarlet2*

          Remember that letter from the manager who got told by Alison she was wrong and came back saying something to the effect of, “it’s called Ask a Manager, I thought you would be taking the manager’s side”?
          I think that was the one who thought she had established an “exclusive workplace”, if memory serves.

            1. Scarlet2*

              Sorry, I can’t find the link, but search for “is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?”

              1. Scarlet2*

                I mean “I can’t post the link”, urgh. Anyway, the letter writer says that in the update to the letter. She ended up realizing she was wrong though and gave a satisfying last update later on.

                1. Wish I didn’t have to be anon for this…*

                  I’d still rather work for the in-manager than the a$$-hat in OP1.

      4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        My take-away.
        “We have an employee who does three jobs for the salary of one. Now that she is leaving we want to hire a temporary replacement to cover all of these roles, but at 40% of the salary. The candidate should jump on board because this could turn into a full time position!*”

        *in case it’s unclear, our current employee is doing three positions, so typically we don’t add positions, we add tasks to existing positions. But we are a great employer.

      5. pope suburban*

        Yes! I used to be Arya: new to an area, needed a job, thought that a temp agency would be a good route. In my case, the temp agency was no prize either (They asked for my minimum rate, which I based on experience and local rates, then sent me to a job that paid $3/hour less than that, which I didn’t find out until the first payday), but the employer was a miserable place to work. I ended up working there after the contract had expired, and it was a tremendous amount of stress for substandard pay. Their attitude was that they were doing me this big favor by letting me work for them, so I should be thrilled with sub-market pay and zero benefits. Arya needs to run, not walk, away from this company, and OP (and her higher-ups) need to be taking a good long look at their budget (and their values, frankly).

        1. TootsNYC*

          this is what too many people think capitalism is–and they’re OK with it. They’d defend it to the death. They idolize it (and I do mean “idolize” as in “worship it as a false god, in betrayal of their true God”)

          1. pope suburban*

            Amen. I started trying to leave that job the day I got hired, because the owner offered me only $1/hour more than the temp agency and made it very, *very* clear that he felt it was generous when I had a conversation with him like the one Arya had with our Letter Writer. When an employer shows that they don’t care about the quality of compensation or market rates, believe them and avoid them like the plague if it’s at all possible. That kind of thing isn’t “smart business” or whatever other poisonous twaddle that people will try to tell you it is, it’s insulting, it devalues human beings, and it will ruin your life in ways you can’t imagine. If that’s “the best system” that people can invent, I want nothing to do with it.

      6. TootsNYC*

        the concept of “supply and demand” apparently means, “we have the money, so we demand and you supply.”

        And unfortunately, it’s working. Though I hope it comes back and bites them when Arya finds a job that pays more than this.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      If OP1 expects a competent replacement for the employee who’s on extended leave, they shouldn’t just expect to spend the same on the replacement, but to pay them on the same pay scale. Sure, go a few notches down, and subtract any raises the regular employee has earned with consistent performance.

      But the apparent absence of a clear salary ladder (or failure to apply it equitably) and the company’s apparent neglect to budget for employees going on leave gives off the impression of an employer that has become a bit too used to being the big game in town. Not that this will bring down a company any time soon, but it means that talented and promising will become harder to recruit as people leave and words goes around.

      1. Alexander*

        When I was hired at my current employer, I came via a temp agency.. the COST for my position was the biggest in the whole department, as I was getting a comparable salary to my colleagues – PLUS the 40% or so share for the temp agency. The only way to get qualified people… and you know that.

        A temp always is more expensive as a permanent hire, or people would only hire temps.

        1. Ray Gassert*

          BOOM! Clearly this company doesn’t understand the dynamics of effectively using temp agencies.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          There are some industries that primarily hire temps. I call them “churn and burns.” *side eyes all my welder husband’s previous employers*

          1. Mama Bear*

            Some industries use contractors because they are easier to fire. I worked for a few where the client could point to you like the finger of God and you would be gone within the hour. The contract was for a body in a seat, and it was up to your employer to reassign you or let you go. At one of them I averaged a new contract every year (being reassigned due to corporate issues, not my performance).

      2. emmelemm*

        This. Yes, going through a staffing agency means you (the employer) pay out the nose. But you can’t really expect to hire someone with excellent, specialized skills for $10/hr. Even, I hope, in a “small” or “rural” area. An employee going on maternity leave can be very expensive for you, because, yes, you may have to pay a big fee to get someone in for those six months, but like, suck it up.

    5. pleaset*

      “I thought that this was very unprofessional. We’re a large local employer, and we told her that after six months it was possible to move into a full-time role with benefits if she performed well. It’s hard to get a position here at all, and this is a great opportunity to make connections. It’s not like she has a job right now either.”

      Clearly, you’re the boss! You have the upper hand!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Well, clearly, with ALL those qualified candidates lining up at the door and the company being able to pick the cream of the crop!

    6. Doug Judy*

      At $10/hour it’s no mystery why OP1 hasn’t found any viable candidates. Although, it doesn’t seem too unusual to offer surprising low pay for temp work. When I was on an extended time of unemployment you’d be surprised on what some of them paid. Bachelor’s degree and 5-7 years experience and often it was less than $15/hour. I did take an assignment covering a maternity leave and I had over 7 years direct experience. They were offering $13 an hour and I said I was sorry but my budget could only allow me to go to $15. They met my rate because it’s super hard to find qualified candidates for temp positions, and when you do, you have to pay what they are worth. I hope OP1 adjusts the “she’s lucky to have us” attitude to one that is grateful that they found anyone.

      1. BTDT*

        “Although, it doesn’t seem too unusual to offer surprising low pay for temp work”

        It’s unusual to me! I used to temp and I got paid slightly above what entry level direct hires were paid. I remember being told by my temp agency that this was A Thing to make up for the jobs being short-term and lacking benefits. I wonder if Arya was told something similar, which would’ve added to her shock at this job’s rate. FTR $10/hr was normal office temp pay at small/med employers in my area ….in 1999.

        1. Mary Connell*

          To look at it still another way, this employer expects a skilled white-collar worker to work for half a year for about $10,000, plus the possibility of full-time work later with a company that treats workers like this.
          Sounds like an employer within a very strong bubble.

          1. Ellen deGenerous*

            Half a year, with no paid sick time, no paid holidays, no paid vacation. What a great deal for the worker.

            1. Autumnheart*

              “It’s better than no job at all!”

              If you have to go all the way to “You’re not homeless and starving!” to make a job seem like a positive, the job sucks.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                “It’s better than no job at all” is fallacy because it ignores the cost of being employed.
                There’s the cost of transportation
                There’s the cost of work clothes
                There could be a higher tax bracket depending on spouse salary.
                There’s the cost of time – if both spouses are working how does food and cleaning get done? I would argue a stay at home spouse is less expensive because they can do all the work.
                Is there a need for child care?

                So no, it may not be better than unemployed.

                1. Anon for this one*

                  Even if there are costs it may still be better for long-term reasons than “no job at all” (similar to the cost of childcare making it not worth going back to work argument) if the alternative is that the person would have a gap on their resume / lose currency with the “latest developments” in their field.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  plus it eats up time and energy you might use to look for a better job, or to improve your skills, or to find side gigs that might actually pay more.

                3. Engineer Girl*

                  Anon for this – my point is that there are other factors. You need to do a cost benefit analysis to see if taking the job is the right answer.

                  If Arya has a rare skill set then resume gaps aren’t as important. That’s especially true if Arya can write a good cover letter explaining those gaps.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          Yeah, sadly, it’s not unusual to me either. After nearly a year of searching for a position after I graduated from college (back in ‘09), I accepted a temp gig that I thought was full-time and paid $8/hr. Then when I showed up my first day of work, surprise, surprise – they were only looking for someone for part-time work since they already had another part-time employee working in the role that would be covering half the shift (we were Office Assistants at a for-profit college). I called my temp agency livid, and the recruiter acted like he knew nothing about this. He also said that had he known, he wouldn’t have placed me here because he makes what I make, so $8/hr was too low.

          The school ended up letting me work full-time hours so that I often overlapped with the part-timer, and then they hired me on almost four weeks later and promoted me into another role there for $13/hr, which was still too low for someone with a bachelors.

          Next temp agency I worked with got me a job at a law firm making $15.02/hr (back in 2011). The people who worked at the firm who did what I did were making about $20/hr, which is what the firm paid my agency for my placement. They did not compensate me for not having benefits through them, and part of that was because 2/3 of their operations staff were temps through various agencies – it was a cost-saving measure.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I’ve had bad experiences with agency recruiters misrepresenting roles to candidates. Multiple times we’ve had a hire covering for a medical leave, made it super clear to the agency that there was no potential for conversion to full-time regular employment at the end of the temp coverage period, and STILL gotten hires who asked what it would take to get converted and were shocked when we said it wasn’t going to happen, because the recruiter had sold it as a “temp to hire” opportunity. I honestly think they always say that to get candidates in the door.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Yeah, I’ve had an agency bait and switch me on pay. They told me a job paid $40k. I found out AFTER signing the offer letter that it was $15/hour, which adds up to more like $30k at the hours I was working. I managed to argue them up to $16/hour, which is the one and only time I have negotiated on pay. Usually I’m too afraid of running into someone like OP1, but that time I was just so pissed off I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.

          2. Coldbrewinacup*

            I have never made that much temping.

            I think it depends on where you live and your skills.

        3. Ponytail*

          Yeah, same here – I temped for my current employer at a pretty good hourly rate, including holiday pay, and after 18 months, I came back, this time as a permanent employee, and I’m only really matching my temp rate this last year, after four years (we get increases every year).
          A temp role that pays poorly gets workers who drop them with less than a week’s notice – and rightly so.

            1. Sabina*

              Right. I could walk out my door right now in pajamas and flip-flops and get a retail or fast food job for at least $12.00/hr.

        1. rayray*

          In my state is above minimum wage, but I’m still shocked because I made $10.50 an hour at a part time call center job in 2007 when I was a senior in high school.

          1. Ms. Ann Thropy*

            In NY state (I realize that’s not where LW1 is based) after taxes, $10 per hour comes out to about $330/week. I don’t know how anyone could be expected to make that work, except as a stopgap until a better job can be found.

            1. Banker chick*

              In NY state (upstate-min wage is higher down state) the fast food min wage is 12.75 and will go up to 13.75 in a couple months. Target (again-upstate) is starting at 13 an hour.

      2. Veronica*

        All this is a symptom of the value of a bachelor’s degree in the job market – when (almost) everyone has one , they’re not valuable.
        (unless it’s in a specialty that’s in demand)

        1. AnonAndFrustrated*

          I’d add that even Master’s degrees these days don’t get most people any extra bump in pay, esp if they’re not related to the job; employers just don’t value them or the hard work it took to earn them.

          1. Quill*

            And it’s just as terrible in STEM: I’ve seen literally the same job description and wages listed for both “requires a Masters & 5 years experience” and “Requires high school diploma” when it comes to QC roles. :/

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Let’s not lump all “STEM” into one category. Engineering jobs require a bachelor’s in engineering. I’m talking about jobs as civil, structural, electrical, mechanical, or chemical engineer. You’re going to get paid well taking a post-grad job in this field.

              That said, there are entry-level QC jobs at my company that may only require an HS diploma and some that require experience and/or a BS/MS. They aren’t going to be the same role or have the same description, though.

              1. Quill*

                Yeah, but I’m literally getting the same (admittedly vague) description for “lab techs,” at highly varying price points. Essentially, it depends on the industry: pharma wants to pay me a living wage, manufacturing does not.

          2. E*

            Even PhDs have a hard time finding positions these days. It’s a symptom of our general tendency to overvalue education for prestige and undervalue technical education and skills as a society. (Said as someone who is way overeducated, but has worked in CTE).

      3. Elizabeth West*

        When I temped here, I made around $7.50 an hour. I don’t know where you could ask for more from a temp agency, unless it was a super-specialized position. I seriously doubt the ones here would agree to it even if that were the case.

      4. iantrovert (they/them)*

        Yeah, I made $13/hour, PT, in my last retail job, in a semi-rural area, without a college degree. Sure, I was getting my health insurance via the state marketplace, but I was eligible for nearly-free insurance and SNAP. As a single person. It was manageable.

        OP’s temp could probably do better at WalMart, even part-time, compared to an offer of $10/hr and no health insurance or PTO.

    7. Brannigan's Law*

      During the interview process, if a potential employee were to tell the interviewer that they should pay him or her 60% more because they just bought a new house and have kids in private school, the interviewer would not be impressed. That’s just not their problem.

      In this case, the interviewer is basically saying to the recruit, “We need to pay you 60% less than standard for this job because we didn’t properly budget for someone to go on maternity leave. We expect you to provide 100% of the standard work level though. Sorry. I hope you understand.” That’s not the potential recruit’s fault, but you’re making it their problem.

      1. Dagny*

        Exactly. It’s not the temp’s problem that you’re also paying someone maternity leave, and it’s not the company’s problem if the person lives above their means or whatnot. Just pay market rates and cut the drama.

      2. Dasein9*

        This. Passing on the cost of Melisandre’s maternity leave to Arya is what’s unprofessional here.

        1. a good mouse*

          Exactly right. Maybe that’s framing LW needs to hear explicitly, that she’s putting the burden of Melisandra’s maternity leave on Arya instead of on the company.

          1. bluephone*

            That’s probably more helpful than my advice which was, “ha ha ha ha, what is LW1 smoking and does it fall under ‘medical waiver’ so I can use it while on the clock?”

            It’s not Arya’s problem that LW’s company doesn’t want to put out any money, ever, on anything because they apparently don’t know who business (or capitalism) works.

      1. Mr. Shark*


        I agree the salary isn’t fair. If the job pays $25, then Arya should be getting that.

    8. Michelle*

      Stores and banks don’t accept connections as a form of payment. This says it all. OP1 wants Arya to accept less than half the going rate to do a job so their company can run and the other employees get paid so they can pay their bills, but they don’t want to pay Arya for her skill set and so that she can pay her bills. AND to think Arya was unprofessional because she needed a few days to think about it ?!?

      OP1, you are the unprofessional one in this situation. If you can’t find a way to pay Arya a fair rate, don’t be surprised if she leaves before the six months are up. That little dig at the end- It’s not like she has a job right now either- so unprofessional.

      1. beckysuz*

        Yeah I found that part pretty galling. What a childish thing to say. I’m not sure you should be hiring or managing anyone OP if you think Arya was the unprofessional one in this situation.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        Right. If I am Arya, I’m looking for another job while taking this measly $10/hour job, just so I have something. Maybe the next employer won’t have that dig and assume that Arya is just begging for work, and will actually pay her a decent wage.

      3. TootsNYC*

        the owners want Arya to accept less than half the going rate so that the owners don’t have to take a cut in profits.

    9. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      As someone who just want through temp work and only recently got a permanent job, at a lot less than I was making, my blood is boiling. Do you truly not realize how condescending and clueless you are? You want champagne work on a Ramen noodles pay scale. Find this woman more money-you know you can if you look- and be glad you got the skills you need. And then take a hard look at what kind of supervisor you really are.

      1. Veronica*

        “Do you truly not realize how condescending and clueless you are?”
        In the 90’s I supported myself with temp work. I did some work for an agency, and they didn’t have another assignment for me. So I went to a different agency and got work there.
        The first agency called and offered an assignment and I told them I was busy. Then they said they wouldn’t work with me again because I “went behind their back to work for someone else”.
        Yes, they really were so clueless they didn’t understand I needed to support myself!

        1. OyHiOh*

          I’m listed with three different temp agencies in town. **All three** of them explicitly told me to register with other agencies and, in fact, told me which agencies were most likely to have the sorts of positions I’m looking for.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Agreed. If $25 an hour is all you can pay and $15 of that is going to a temp agency, then you need to hire for a $10 an hour position. Make a list of critical duties. What needs to be done for 6 months? What can other people take over, kind of like Melisandre did with her three positions? What can just be put aside for a few months until the pieces settle into place while she’s at? What do you really need? An office manager? An EA for three higher ups?
        Please stop thinking that you are giving someone a leg up in local industry and realize that you are trying to hire a unicorn for the price of a good work horse.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          Not even for the price of a good work horse. They’d be lucky to get a broken down ag for that money!

    10. CommanderBanana*

      Also? $10 an hour for “high-level logistics” and supporting several execs?

      Sorry, over here laughing to myself.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        It’s a pathetic, pathetic amount of money for that job description. It does NOT speak well of your company, LW1.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      This is every employer here and a big reason why I’m leaving. We can’t win, it seems. We don’t get paid enough to even live, then employers call us unprofessional when we ask for more, or take the time to consider an offer? Pffft. And to top that, they say “We want someone who will stay a long time.” HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA

      Don’t expect us to be loyal for 40% below market rate and no benefits. And I’m not even talking about temping, but actual jobs.

    12. smoke tree*

      Considering how limited it sounds like the candidate pool was, I was surprised that the LW’s company took such a hard line on salary. I was also surprised that Arya was willing to accept the job under those conditions. If they let Arya go over not being sufficiently excited to be working for 40 percent of what the position normally pays, I think they will have a hard time finding someone else.

    13. Chatterby*

      LW1 should also keep in mind that most job searchers, especially experienced ones, do not believe “temp to hire” promises.
      At all.
      So promising a full-time job with better pay in six months in exchange for working at a lower, temporary rate now, is not going to hold much negotiating weight, or be quite the Trump card LW1 thinks it should be.

    14. Artemesia*

      The argument for underpaying this skilled and talented person seems to be ‘screw her, where else is she going to work’. What a nasty way to take advantage of people. I hope she does get a better offer mid way through her stint and walks leaving you with no one to do the work. You should be fighting to get her a better offer. $10 is insulting for experienced skilled work with no benefits. $15 is terrible but anything is better than what you are doing. Exploiting people because ‘what else are they going to do’ is monstrous. To act as if you have the moral high ground here is stunning in its insensitivity.

    15. huskerd0nt*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to get a temp position that “might” turn into a full-time thing at a company that seems to not value its employees. That salary difference is majorly icky, and it’s crazy to me that LW1 sees things the way he/she does. Employment is a two-way street; y’all are trying to take advantage of someone AND having the gall to call them out when potential employees point that out??

    16. TardyTardis*

      You want a unicorn for $10 an hour? That won’t fly even in my small town. Good luck with that.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, is it possible that your stress about covering Melisandre is affecting your view of your interactions with Arya?

    As Alison notes, Arya behaved appropriately and professionally throughout her interactions with you. As you noted, Melisandre was paid $25/hour, and you’re asking Arya to do the same work (ostensibly with the same or similar qualifications and experience) for less than half that rate. She didn’t string you along, and instead she was transparent, honest, and fair with you. None of that is unprofessional, and it certainly does not merit rescinding an offer (especially after it’s already been accepted).

    Your letter makes it sound like you think Arya should be grateful to have any job at any pay, and that the “networking benefits” of working for your employer outweigh the substandard pay you’re able to offer. That’s really not a reasonable position to take, even if it’s true that your employer has outsized power in the local labor market. And surely you didn’t mean to suggest that people should be so grateful for employment that they accept positions where they do not earn enough to meet their basic needs. I understand that the salary is likely not negotiable due to other factors, but it sounds like you may be taking your frustration over Melisandre’s sudden longer-than-expected absence out on Arya.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I agree. Also, I have to admit I wondered if your current attitude–that the company is the best in town and you, Arya, are lucky to be able to work for us even at $10 per hour–might be carried forward, even unconsciously, if a permanent position does open up later at your firm and she applies. In other words, if you are on the hiring committee or in any way in a position to influence the decision, will your current resentment impact what you say or do at that time?

      I find Arya’s response most professional. What you would like to do is perhaps a bit less so.

      1. J*

        If they do move Arya to a full-time position, what rate are they going to offer?
        “Well, I see in your last job you accepted $10/hour, so…..”

        1. ACDC*

          This. Plus if they convert her from temp to full time later on, they are going to have to pay a hefty recruiting fee to the agency. I just don’t get the vibe that they are willing to spend any of the money associated with retaining this person.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            It depends on how much later. Often that recruiting fee goes down over time because the company is essentially “buying out” the contract.

    2. It's a Yes From Me*

      I just wanted to compliment you on writing a very kind and professional response to OP#1. I was expecting the floodgates to open against her, and have been finding it difficult to put what I want to say to her into words that would be effective. Thank you.

    3. Sharkie*

      I agree with this a 100%. Also, the fact that you are not offering benefits or anything else to make up for only paying Arya 40% less is a slap in the face. She reacted perfectly professional and this is the norm.
      OP you mentioned that you are a large local provider- is this the first time you had someone try to negotiate? Did you tell the temp agency that this was a role that made $25/ hour?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Just to note–cause Alison did this swap too–it’s an offer of 60% less, or 40% of the expected pay for this position.

    4. RedinSC*

      I agree. OP #1, I think you really need to look at the budget and see if you can at least double Arya’s salary. $10/ hour for the work she’s doing really is actually pretty insulting if that work normally pays $15 more per hour.

      What we’ve done at work when hiring in temp work like it is get close to the hourly wage the employee makes and then the fee on top of that is the cost we (the company) incur to get the talent in immediately that we need to get the job done. Currently, we’re paying out $37 for a $24/hour job, but that’s what the firm requires.

      This is the cost of doing business, and I think you’re really really lucky to get Arya in at the salary you proposed. But seriously, look for a way to increase that.

      1. RedinSC*

        Also, need to add on, I think the agency you’re going to is charging WAAAAAAY to high of a fee for what they’re doing. Moving forward, you might want to actually look into another firm in your area because charging that much is a bit of highway robbery going on there.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          It sounds like it isn’t just the agency fees that are causing the pay to be so low – they are also deducting the cost of Melisandra’s medical leave from that rate. Along the lines of “budget is $25, residual costs for Mel’s leave if $8, agency takes $7, so that leaves $10 for Arya”. They are essentially making Arya pay for both Melisandra’s leave and the agency costs.
          Which is not how ANY company I’ve ever worked with does it. The company covers the cost of the med leave and the acengy fees with no ding to the temp employee. It is a cost of doing business.
          Since we are going with the GOT theme here…shame, shame, shame

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Exactly. OP1’s company is assigning costs to Arya that are the company’s responsibility, not the employee’s. It makes me wonder how they treat their employees in general. $10/hr plus the “you’re paying for our business costs and that’s TOTALLY NORMAL” attitude do not speak well of the OP or the company.

          2. Quill*

            Yeah, if you’re going to hire a temp… you can’t take someone else’s pay out of your budget for them!

          3. TootsNYC*

            when I set my budget for freelancers, I was paying 15% to an agency. I figured out how much my people should earn and ADDED the 15% on it to get the number to plug into my budget.

            If I didn’t have enough money, then I just didn’t hire people for that timeframe, and the people who were full-time had to make up the difference, or some departments had to be patient, etc.

        2. T. Boone Pickens*

          Disagree hard on the agency charging too high of a bill rate. It looks like the company is paying a 1.54 markup which is pretty middle of the road without knowing the context of the position (accounting, IT, industrial, admin/clerical.) It’s definitely a fine line companies and staffing companies dance when it comes to negotiating bill rates. There’s lots of other factors too but I don’t want to write a 4 paragraph dissertation haha.

      2. MsM*

        $10/hour seems like a severe lowball of an offer for any role requiring prior experience, tbh. And this is coming from someone in a field notorious for underpaying and “take it or leave it” responses to attempts to negotiate.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Seriously. The Target up the road from me is paying inexperienced seasonal cashiers $13/hr.

          1. Mazzy*

            Yup, I can tell we’re closer to full employment that we’ve been in years. I don’t want this to feel like a pile on but what happened to Arya happened to me in the pits of the Great Recession – ten years ago and during a period when they’re we’re just no job listings so I was desperate, and I still never called them back. I think the company needs to evaluate whether they can actually afford to hire a replacement. It sounds like they might need to split up the job.

          2. Ellen*

            Local dunkin donuts hiring people with no experience for 11 an hour, and offers benefits and full time! And free uniforms, donuts, and coffee.

          3. AnotherAlison*

            My 14 year old made $10/hr *cash* for mucking stalls over last summer. I only add this because I think the OP needs some perspective on how low it is. Around here, skilled admin should be more in the $27-$28, and $18-20 on the lower, entry level side. You’re offering half that.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Tangential to the thread here, but I’m very happy to say this prompted me to check LI for an old temp that worked for me. She was terrible, but she quit to go somewhere else. Her LI profile showed she was still working there, but I knew they had a recent layoff & wondered if she was still there. Well, turns out she only lasted 3 months there, too (this was YEARS ago). I feel better about that because I wondered if she had some hidden skills I had missed. She’s a good crafter/artsy person, but not at all good with Excel or Tableau.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                (Also – she made a very low salary & it was difficult to find someone to take the job at what we were paying through the agency. The applicants were not generally people who had held data-related, or even administrative, office-type jobs in the past. Generally, you get what you pay for.)

              1. beckysuz*

                I made $10 a hour babysitting as a teenager 22 (!!!) years ago. This number is beyond insulting to Arya and asking for skilled work for less than my teen can make at Tim Horton’s is just wrong. The fact that Arya didn’t laugh and hang up on you speaks to her professionalism because I might have asked if you were messing with me. Hell my little sister made 36K last year working as a server at Red Robin while going to college.

                1. Quill*

                  I think the lowest I ever went for babysitting was about $9 an hour, once I did the math? (I got paid $20 for 2 hours and there was a 10-15 minute delay on the parents getting home.)

            2. Artemesia*

              my daughter go $18 an hour for an entry job while she was in school 20 years ago. I can’t believe anyone would offer a skilled person $10 in a job where they normally pay $25 and then consider her ‘unprofessional’ to balk at the offer and take her time.

      3. t*

        You should expect that if you pay anyone 40% of market rate, that they are continuing to search for permanent positions that pay appropriately. Unless your unemployment rate is significantly higher than the national average, she’ll have a better job in 2 months. Plan accordingly.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          This is what I was thinking — if the LW really wants to pay 40% of the market rate, the LW should also be prepared to start their search over in 2-3 months. Maybe less, as Arya is actively interviewing now, and some company might call her for an interview soon. If I were her, I would keep interviewing.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          That’s what I was expecting the letter to be about based on the headline. Something like “Our candidate asked for $50k but we can only afford $45k–he’s accepted the job anyway but I’m worried he will decide it’s not enough and leave for another job.” The actual letter was way wilder than I expected. I thought it was generally common expectation that to hire a temp or contractor you would pay more than you would normally pay an employee so that after the agency gets their cut the person working for you still gets the right amount of money. I cannot wrap my mind around someone getting $10 for a $25 job and I really hope Arya finds something better soon for employers who will appreciate her more.

      4. Mary*

        I can’t get over the fact that LW1 basically expects Arya to cover her own agency fee. That is a business expense! Also, what kind of agency charges 60% of the salary?!

        1. Tallulah in the Sky*

          From what I understood, they already planned to pay her less because they’re still paying Melissandre, who is on leave… So even if they directly hired her, it wouldn’t be 25/hour…

          1. snowglobe*

            The way I read it, they expected that Melissandre’s replacement would cost them the same as Melissandre’s salary. So the agency fee comes out of that. As Mary says, they are making the temp pay the agency fee! And think she should be grateful for that.

            1. Christmas Carol*

              But it costs the company waaaay more than $25.00/hr to pay Melissandre $25/hr, what with FICA, Workers Comp, Unemployment, beneifts, retirement contributions, etc, etc, etc……..

            2. afiendishthingy*

              Yeah, that’s outrageous. Especially since OP ackn0wledges they’re having a hard time finding candidates with the right skills/experience. “it’s not like she has a job right now”? Well, it’s not like you have other qualified candidates right now!

              Contractors/temps usually make a HIGHER hourly wage than regular employees because they’re not receiving benefits. Even when I worked at a call center a decade ago, which did not require highly specialized skills, in a small town with a very low cost of living, I made almost $10/hr. $10 an hour for the position OP has described really is insulting.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Contractors/temps usually make a HIGHER hourly wage than regular employees because they’re not receiving benefits

                I never did as a temp. I think we underestimate how many people screw over the long-term unemployed and get away with it in this country.

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Yeah, sadly “temp’s pay is cut to make up for the agency fee” is 100% standard in my experience, and I have worked a LOT of temp jobs.

            3. Tallulah in the Sky*

              “Because of the cost of covering Melisandre’s paid leave and the cut the staffing agency takes, Arya would be earning around $10 an hour.”

              They do mention Melisandre’s paid leave as a reason for the low salary.

              I agree with you though, they are indeed making her pay the temp fee, which is outrageous. The fact that they are also making her pay Melisandre’s leave doubles the outrage for me.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                Yeah, she’s not just being asked to subsidize the referral fee, she’s being asked to subsidize the paid leave of the person she’s temping for.

        2. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

          A lot of agencies do that. I worked for one in DC/VA where I was making $30/hr and the agency was charging the company $80 (I don’t mind naming them but I’m not sure if we’re allowed to do that).

          1. Mary*

            I’d expect that agency cost to be higher than the cost paid directly to the employee–the agency does have to make some money somewhere! But the basic assumption should be that you are doing work to the value of $30 and the agency fee is paid by the company on top of that, not that you are doing work to the value of $80 and then paying $50 of that to the agency for the privilege of being employed.

            There are obviously freelance situations where a freelancer might be paying a percentage to an agency in return for project management, contacts, etc, but in that case the freelance fee should be *substantially* more than the full-time worker rate to make up for all the things the freelancer doesn’t get from the employer.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, the idea is generally that the temp receives what the work is worth, and then the agency receives money on top of that to cover their work and administration costs (which include the temp’s payroll taxes, which they pay). It’s worth it to the companies using the agency to have someone else handle screening, recruitment, and being able to say “nope, this person isn’t working, send me someone else tomorrow.” If you can’t pay for those agency services, then it makes sense to hire directly rather than going through an agency.

          2. Sharkie*

            I worked for a similar agency in DC / Maryland. Part of it went to a 401k I think. They were charging the company I was at $65 / hr when I was making $13/ $14.

        3. Quill*

          Honestly? A lot of them. I always assume going in that a contracting company is making the salary they’re paying me plus 50-70%.

      5. Media Monkey*

        i agree – the cost of the temp agency fee should not come out of the salary of the person doing the work. that’s a cost for your company to bear in getting the position filled. and certainly not the cost of the paid leave of the person she is covering

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Right. Anytime a temp agency was used at my previous company, we knew we’d be paying much more than the person’s per hour salary.

      6. SomebodyElse*

        Agree with this. Temps are more expensive, because you do have to absorb to a certain extent the cost of the agency. For reference, I paid a temp for an entry level, no experience, first job out of college the equivalent (what he made) of $14/hr about 5 years ago. Obviously the rate I paid was higher because of the agency cost, and honestly I thought that was really low.

        Yes it hurt the budget a bit, but honestly I think you’re being way to rigid with this. I’m not sure how it works with most companies, but there is some wiggle room with headcount and budget. You may go over, but there is another department somewhere that is under somewhere and it evens out in the wash.

      7. Yep, me again*

        I’d also like to add that while OP #1 is right, and it’s ‘Not like she has a job right now’, it doesn’t mean she won’t get another offer. I hope she does. Truly, paying her $10 because it’s ‘not in the budget’ is a company problem, not an candidate problem. To be so shortsighted and cavalier about it-that’s a ‘you’ problem.

        1. Yep, me again*

          The cavalier comment was meant for OP#1, not SomebodyElse or anyone else commenting here. I just found it so flippant and insulting for OP#1 to assume the girl should consider herself so lucky to work there. It rubbed me the wrong way.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I’m right there with you. That line incensed me more than any other letter sent in here in a while.

            1. jezebel*


              OP1, I’m going to assume that Alison’s response and the readership’s reactions are not what you wanted or expected, but please try to dissolve any anger you feel so you can see this situation clearly: you were in the wrong here with regard to ethics, business practices, and–yes–professionalism. But you have a great opportunity now, and I hope you’ll take it. Read deeply into Alison’s posts on managing. If you’re open to it, the insight you’ll gain here could change you into a good manager.

              But first, find the money to pay Arya fairly for the skills she brings to the table.

    5. Blobola*

      Yes agree. OP1 you need to pay market rate. This isn’t on Arya, it’s on your company and shes been very polite about you making a decision which doesn’t feel fair because it isn’t.

      If you’ve chosen to use an agency then this should have been factored into the cost to make sure you were still paying market rate to the temp (we don’t use agency staff because we can’t afford the extra cost, and would never reduce the salary the temp was taking home to pay the agency. )

      1. EPLawyer*

        It is not Arya’s problem that your budget doesn’t cover paying her at least close to what the person she is covering for is making. Your budget problems are the company’s, not the temp workers.

        You are asking someone to take over a highly skilled and specialized role, but are paying barely above minimum wage. if you told the agency that you were only paying $10 an hour, you only got candidates whose skills are worth $10 an hour. If you upped the hourly wage, you get people with more skill.

        People with more skills have more options. You aren’t the only game in town, no matter how much you want to think you are. Treat people as you want to be treated, not as serfs who should be grateful for the handouts.

        1. SuperAnon*

          Seriously, it’s insulting. OP1 sounds so condescending, no wonder the potential candidate wanted time to think about whether she wanted to basically work a professional job for next to nothing — for people who CLEARLY don’t value her skills and experience.

    6. Jimming*

      Very well said. It’s normal and professional to ask for a few days to decide to take a job (any job), especially one below the market rate. OP1 will hopefully be happy to have Arya on board and I hope they can give her a raise soon or negotiate more pay up front.

    7. Harper the Other One*

      As a follow-up to this: OP, if some of your stress is coming from the fact that you budgeted for a maternity leave but not the additional leave for Melisandre’s pregnancy complications, it’s time to go up the chain with this problem. Sometimes something happens that screws a budget! It’s not ideal but sometimes you have to go to the powers that be and say, look, I can’t make this work effectively because of this emergency and I need to request a budget increase.

      Now, if TPTB respond negatively to that, that’s a whole different problem. But it is worth asking, because you might find that when you go up the chain, the answer is that OF COURSE you can have more budget to make sure you have a good person properly paid in that role.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is no different than household budgets but on a larger scale. Individuals can expect to have septic backups, broken cars, and sick pets. The list is endless. The same goes for companies, it’s to be expected that things can end up being more costly than anticipated.

    8. Laurelma*

      You cannot expect to pay a temp the same wage as an experienced employee, but my goodness do at least $15.00 per hour. You should take in consideration the cost of doing the job search. How much time have you spent trying to find someone to do the work?

      At $10 an hour, for a temp position is bad, bad, bad. You’ll get someone in the position that is desperate, but is planning to work for you until they find something else with benefits.

      1. quirkypants*

        The fact that someone is coming through an agency doesn’t necessarily mean they’re inexperienced!

        When I’ve done contract for higher level work I actually charged MORE as a contractor than my hourly wage would be as an employee because I wasn’t being paid for benefits, etc. Paying less just doesn’t make sense of you want skilled people.

    9. Junior Assistant Peon*

      If Melisandre ended up wearing more and more hats over time, it might be impossible to hire a direct replacement to take over her position. We had someone like that retire at my company – a woman who started out in a low-level office assistant type job, and ended up doing a strange blend of high-level responsibilities that required about five people to cover when she retired (not five new hires, but what she did required skills in disparate areas).

    10. Chili*

      I agree that it sounds like LW is projecting frustration with the situation they’re currently onto Arya. I would ask if you, in Arya’s shoes, would actually take this role– one that is underpaying her by at least 50%. Sometimes we all get hung up on making things work instead of considering “wait, this is an impossible situation and I am asking people to do unreasonable things.”

  3. Hotel GM*

    #1 – I run a hotel, so it’s a high turnover thing. Even my housekeepers make $11/hour. Paying somebody only $10/hour to fill in a $25/hour position in a role that directly supports executives is hilariously hilarious. You should be grateful she’s willing to accept the position.

    Your temp would make $12 working a seasonal job at Target.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      All of this. I laughed when I read the condescension in OP #1’s letter towards Arya for daring to think $10 an hour for a high-level executive support role was too low – it is. It’s so disgustingly low, if I were Arya, I would have laughed hysterically on the phone for a minute before hanging up and blocking the company’s number. Then saying Arya was unprofessional for wanting to take a couple of days to talk it over with her spouse to see if their budget allowed for her to take this job is so tone deaf and bizarre that I thought, “She can’t be serious right now. This is a joke.” This is a perfectly reasonable thing for job seekers to do, OP. Arya doesn’t have to be grateful for the scraps your company’s offering her. Please humble yourself and put yourself in her shoes – this offer is ridiculous and you know it. You should be grateful anyone agreed to work at that salary level with the responsibilities the role requires in this day and age.

      1. AnonyLawyer*

        Absolutely my reaction, too. OP seems very tied to sticking within an unreasonable budget rather than offering fair pay for the required job duties. $10 an hour for this job sounds completely ridiculous and insulting.

      2. Robin*

        Honestly if Arya’s being unprofessional, it’s for taking that insulting offer. But she’s gotta eat, I guess.

        1. Allypopx*

          Yeah I’m currently bandying around an offer that’s like….10% below my ask and feeling gross about it. This is just downright insulting.

        2. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

          It is a very insulting offer.
          I think the only reasons Arya wants to take up on that offer is because she and her husband are new in the aria and that the money would be welcome. But I hope, like all the readers here probably as well, that she will keep looking for a better job.

      3. Sam.*

        I would also not be surprised if Arya finds a better paying job and doesn’t stick out the six months. I really hope OP prepares themselves for that possibility and, if it happens, doesn’t react like Arya is doing something incredibly unprofessional by trying to earn what she is worth (and what she needs to live c0mfortably).

        1. the_scientist*

          Oh, I give Arya maybe two months at this job before she realizes she could make more literally anywhere else.

        2. LJay*

          Yeah, when I saw the title, I thought that would be what the question was about – that they were hiring, everything seemed good, but when it came to salary it turned out that the potential employee had made significantly more at their most recent job and now the hiring manager was concerned that they would be looking for a new job that paid more in line with what they were making previously after a few months.

          I wasn’t expecting what was actually in the letter at all.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          LOL, that’s still one of my all-time favorite letters here. I couldn’t believe someone thought that was an appropriate thing to do in the first place and then compounded the crazy by writing here hoping to be validated in that decision. Talk about having zero self awareness…(something this OP also seems to sadly be lacking).

        2. Tallulah in the Sky*

          I thought this exact letter when reading this one !

          Would love an update on this one or the other. Highly unlikely, but I do wonder if people like that do end up realizing how outrageous and unprofessional they behaved.

      4. Ted Mosby*


        If you’re paying less than half the market rate ,and you ONLY want to hire someone who is going to be happy with the salary, the only people you’ll be able to hire are people who don’t know how to use google.

        There’s a reason all your candidates have been unqualified. Recruiters usually give applicants at least a sense of the salary range. You’ve chased all the good candidates away. They also get paid by placing candidates and are going to send the best candidates, who they know won’t accept a fraction of market salary, to you last. Would YOU do your job for 40% of your salary?

      5. sunshyne84*

        Right, even if she was getting $25/hr it is fine for her to take some time to discuss the decision with her spouse.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It honestly made me wonder if OP works for WalMart, or in a very remote labor market with very low COL. The hourly rate is less than I earned at a campus job in college over 15 years ago.

      1. Hotel GM*

        Walmart’s corporate minimum wage is right around $10/hour. Even in LCOL areas admin assistants make more than $20k a year.

        1. AnonEmu*

          Same, in 2012 ish I made 12+/hr working part time as a legal assistant and translator in a lowish CoL area while in college. I had pretty in-demand skills too and I got paid more than OP is offering. OP is way out of line and being really condescending.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Well, that’s telling. If you’re paying less than Walmart and offering fewer benefits, you may need to reassess your compensation practices.

      2. JamieS*

        Since OP said Melisandre made about $25/hr I doubt the low pay is due to being in a LCOL. I grew up in LCOL areas and someone making $25/hr would be almost unheard of save for jobs with a hazard pay premium or very high up job. Even if they did live in a LCOL area the going rate for the specific job in question is $25/hr in that area so the COL wouldn’t justify the low-ball offer or the OP’s ludicrous response.

        Sounds like instead of increasing their labor cost the company is trying their best to take Melisandre’s salary and split it 3 ways: the paid leave, staffing agency cut, and replacement worker’s salary.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          This. Arya isn’t being paid $10 per hour because of the stipulation. She’s being paid $10 per hour because OP1 has not budgeted appropriately.

      3. Corn*

        I made $9/hr working in the dean’s office in a law school (basically a Gal Friday) when I was 18. This was back in 1989!

      4. Old Med Tech*

        I live in a town of 50,000 in Nebraska with a low cost of living. 15 years ago at a women’s organization one women mentioned she paid her teenage baby sitter $10.00/hour. The girl was a good sitter and there was competition for her services.

        1. The Original K.*

          I made $10 an hour for babysitting for families with one or two kids when I was a teen, and then charged $1 an hour more per additional kid. My work study jobs in college paid $12 to $14. I made $15 doing low-skilled office temp work (data entry, filing, basic reception) during the recession. I’m pretty sure delivering for GrubHub pays between $10 and $12 depending on the area (their minimum payout, if there are few deliveries). OP’s offer is just nowhere near competitive, it’s not competitive because she has budgeted incorrectly (and if the company does this as a rule, I’d argue it’s not as good a place to work as she seems to think it is), and her attitude about it is galling.

      5. Mel*

        Yes. I made 12/hr at my first professional job for a very small company in the midwest (i.e. where everything is cheap) and that was 15 years ago. Now they hire newbies on at 15/hr.

        1. Quill*

          Honestly my first job after a degree was paying me something closer to $18/hr in the midwest, circa 2015. (I do still see things advertised for $12 an hour in my field and it’s the same dang job over and over again, pay your people and maybe they’ll deal with a “split shift.” Maybe.)

      6. hellomonday*

        I used to be a temp for the Walmart Home Office in Bentonville, AR – and I can tell you that this guy doesn’t work there. The pay is higher for temps (for most positions) & that’s with COL being ridiculously low. Also temp jobs are placed directly through the Walmart website. In case anyone was curious I made over $25 an hour when I was a temp there.

      7. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

        I worked for a temp agency right out of college in a LCOL city and I made $14/hr with zero experience. This was in 2003.

      8. Michelle*

        I know two people who work at Walmart in what would be considered unskilled labor (AP and Garden Center), they both make over $11 an hour, get benefits and quarterly bonuses. Walmart also allows them to rollover a certain number of unused vacation hours per year and pays out the rest. They have also recently started a protected PTO program and both full and part time employees earn those hours.

        So Walmart would be a better opportunity than this company.

      9. Wintermute*

        I earned more at Taco Bell as a teenager, before I could even do full duties (couldn’t work a fryer because I was under 18), and over 15 years ago as well.

        And this was TACO BELL. The requirements were: Show up mostly reliably. Don’t be too stoned to work (mildly stoned is fine). Don’t be overly insubordinate– but refusing to do unpleasant tasks is just fine they’ll make someone without the backbone to tell a manager ‘no’ do it (still a bit bitter about being stuck on dish duty every day).

      10. Anonymom*

        Starting hourly rate at Walmart is $11 for the lowest paid positions in a store. $10 for a skilled admin is crazy.

    3. Gingerblue*

      Seriously. The OP brings up the cost of Melisandre’s leave and the staffing agency as if it’s somehow their temp’s job to cover those costs once they’re hired.

      1. designbot*

        Exactly this. The cost of Melisandre’s leave is just the cost of doing business, and if you’re such a major employer you should know that. Melisandre’s leave doesn’t adjust the entire labor market around this category of work, and it doesn’t give Arya any reason to accept something so far below market rate. Same way an employee’s high mortgage or family expenses don’t give you a good reason to give them a raise, the circumstances of other employees do not give Arya any reason to take less than she’s worth.

        1. Gatomon*

          Yes. It sounds like OP1’s employer can’t really afford a temp, honestly. It sucks to be in that position, but it’s not Arya’s fault, nor should she have to pay for it.

          1. Alli525*

            It appears they can’t afford to use a temp AGENCY, to be more precise. They could post this job on Indeed/LinkedIn and make it clear in the posting that it’s a temporary gig.

            1. HBJ*

              If this is such an in demand company to work at, I’m wondering why they’re using a temp agency at all. Why not just post it online and let the applications flood in? Then they wouldn’t be out the agency fee and could pay a higher wage.

              1. designbot*

                They may just assume this is “the way” to get temp workers, vs. advertising on their website is more likely to net them people who assume full-time permanent placement as the goal.

          2. Beatrice*

            Or they can’t afford a full time temp. They may be able to afford a temp at a decent hourly rate at 20 hrs/week, and figure out how to reassign/deprioritize other portions of Melisandre’s job until she returns.

        2. bluephone*

          I’m not a betting woman but if I were to bet that when Melisandre comes back from leave, the company is going to betch and moan about all the problems that her going on leave/having a complicated pregnancy “created” for them, it’s sooooo UNFAAAAIR and EXPEN$IVE!!11, etc.

          And if Melisandre just doesn’t come back from maternity leave after all* I could see even more teeth-gnashing, garment rending, and overall wailing because OMG, now the company has to hire 1 (or more??!!1) people at–gasp–slightly below market rates?!?!

          *Especially if her reasons for not coming back are “my labor and delivery wound up being fine, my baby is totally healthy and okay, I just want to be a SAHM for now”

      2. Shan*

        Yes, this is blowing my mind! I’ve covered multiple mat leaves, and I cannot imagine being presented with a figure of, say, $40k for twelve months of coverage for a $90k/year job and being told it’s because they need to pay the employee’s leave.

        1. The Original K.*

          Ditto – the OP foisting the agency fee on Arya is just not how this works, at all. There is zero chance I’d accept a skilled office job that paid $10 an hour (I snorted with disbelief when I read the wage), and I’d go back to the staffing agency and tell them that I turned them down and I’d tell them why. That rate is insulting.

        2. the_scientist*

          Also, OP1 — assuming you’re in North America, remember that you cannot tell your employees that they are not allowed to talk about salaries. I assure you that Arya is going to find out *very* quickly that she is making significantly less than the permanent salary for this role. And when she does find out, it’s not going to reflect poorly on Arya, it’s going to make you and your company look bad not only to Arya but to any employees that are aware of this situation.

          1. Wintermute*

            And since I’m being paid so little, if I were Arya I’d consider taking this job as NLRB bait, just DARING them to fire me for shouting my salary from the rooftops, how badly I’m underpaid, every possible complaint about working conditions, anything that’s protected labor activities. Just hoping they fire me and I can run them through the wringer while still looking for a job that pays a remotely livable wage.

    4. Name of Requirement*

      Yeah, I would stick with Arya. You’re going to have a hard time keeping anyone at $10 an hour for the six months with the half promise of a possible position later, so I would start with the most capable person willing to accept the pay.
      And consider the costs of interviewing and training a new person against a pay bump in a month.

      1. Sonia*

        But you also need to be aware that she will likely be looking elsewhere for employment at a reasonable rate whilst she is with you. Working with a temp agency costs more than having ft staff…Not less. It’s got nothing to do with the temp that you are having to fork out extra leave payments.

        1. t*

          I was just going to say the same thing. You should expect that if you pay anyone 40% of market rate, they are continuing to search for permanent positions that pay appropriately. Unless your unemployment rate is significantly higher than the national average, she’ll have a better job in 2 months. Plan accordingly.

          1. Emily K*

            Yep, and by setting the pay so low that there’s no way to characterize it as even the low end of market pay for the work, LW has given her a really great explanation to offer in interviews for why she’s searching again so soon. $18 might have been borderline and, “Well, you made a six month commitment…” $10 is, “Oh, of course you’re still searching for something better!”

          2. always in email jail*

            ^This. Employers need to realize it’s not 2008/2009 anymore. The unemployment rate is low and people have options. We have to start being competitive as employers again.

        2. Goldfinch*

          I would be surprised if this was true. I work in a field that is usually temp-to-hire, and every contract position I’ve taken required that I commit to the full contract period in writing. Arya may not be allowed to keep looking once she accepts.

          1. Ponytail*

            Really ? None of the agencies I’ve worked for have ever made me commit like that, and I’ve worked in three different fields.

            1. Brett*

              When I contracting a long time ago as an office work temp, that was part of my contract. It was also part of my IT contract the two years I did IT contracting. The contract only affected employment for a similar industry employer though, and basically amounted to fees that the new employer would be expected to pay for me.

            2. AnonEMoose*

              I’ve also temped in office/admin roles, and it was never an expectation that I wouldn’t keep looking for permanent employment. Nor would I have taken such a position unless the salary was REALLY good.

      2. Kate Daniels*

        Part of me really hopes Arya finds another job that pays her what she’s worth a week or two in and leaves OP1 high and dry. My blood is boiling at this letter and how “she should just be grateful for this insulting offer!!!”

    5. MatKnifeNinja*

      The local car wash by me pays $13 with meager benefits. This in the Midwest.

      Where is this business that $10/hr is an acceptable wage? You can’t get a baby sitter for $10/hr where I live. They’re getting $15 +/hr.

    6. pleaset*

      Yeah – this is not a $10/hour position:” high-level logistics as well as supporting several executives.”

    7. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I used to work in staffing and the markup is usually 40-60%. That’s covering payroll taxes, insurance, worker’s comp, etc. If OP #1 looks at the total amount they are paying for Melisandre’s salary & benefits, they will discover it’s much higher than $25/hour.

      OP’s company is terrible.

    8. ellex42*

      Aldi is hiring full time or part time starting at $12.75/hr. And it’s not like they’re looking to fill a position requiring “high-level logistics” and executive support. Some of the fast food places around me are also advertising $10/hr or more, and I live in a fairly low cost of living area.

      It sounds like Melisandre is a multi-skilled employee, which is rare and precious, and if you want someone to come in and fill a position like that, you need to pay them, if not like they’re rare and precious, at least better than barely above minimum wage.

    9. Miz Behaven*

      Absolutely; they need to budget for the temp agency fee, not take it out of an employee’s salary. I hope Arya somehow sees this post and sees what a crappy attitude her employer has!

    10. Viva*

      Yes, I work in food service in a low cost of living area and I make $13/hr plus some benefits. As is common with this industry, most of our staff are teenagers working their first job and many of them make over $9. It’s no wonder OP’s company is having trouble filling the role for $10 and no benefits.

    11. Tinybutfierce*

      Seriously. I made $11/hour working retail at a company that grossly underpaid all its employees and offered crap benefits. If someone expected me to do the kind of specialized work it sounds like the job in #1 requires for less than that, I’d laugh myself right out of the interview (internally, at least).

      My former employer also had the same general “you’re lucky to be working for us and have a job!” attitude the OP seems to have, and let me tell you, that was also a major factor in deciding to peace the heck out from that place as soon as I was able.

      1. emmelemm*

        Exactly. Chick Fil-A near my office has a big banner on the side of the building: “$16/hr to start!”

        Now, granted, I live in a HCOL where minimum wage is $15/hr. But even Chick Fil-A can beat that!

    12. Princess Cimorene*

      The saddest thing about the hotel rates is that hotels have been paying this same rate for decades. Hotels make SO much money and pay their staff pennies and then wonder why turn over is high?

      1. Hotel GM*

        Oh profit margins are slimmer than you’d expect. It depends heavily on the market, but a lot of hotels outside of a few select cities are highly seasonal. A lot of times when you’re seeing really high rates it’s because that location only has high occupancy demand for 3-4 months of the year and that’s really when they make their money for the year, so a moderately high turnover is fine on its own so you don’t have to do layoffs in the off season.

  4. Kelly*

    OP#1: hiring/being hired is a two way relationship. Your candidate was honest about salary, and was thoughtful about not accepting right away then perhaps quitting a week into the position. I’d say it’s a win all around. PS; you may want to pay her more, just because you’re paying for the LOA person doesn’t mean the person covering should get shorchanged (no pun intended).

    1. Allypopx*

      Yes. Employees get to contemplate an offer. You are not a benevolent job-giver distributing opportunities to the unfortunate. You are negotiating a professional relationship. Treat your candidates as professionals.

  5. DariaInABox*

    Oh my, LW#1! You admit that you’re paying FORTY PERCENT WITH NO BENEFITS of the usual salary for this position, and then act as if a possible employee is ungrateful because of how great your company is to work for and future “opportunities” (which often do not pan out withe temp work), and because she’s not already employed? And then want to withdraw the offer because she tried to negotiate and said she wanted to think about it, which is a professional and responsible thing to do?

    That is a really unfair, condescending, and dare I say terrible perspective to have for the people you hire. The hiring manager/prospective employee relationship shouldn’t involve them grovelling at your feet. It’s about everyone benefiting.

      1. AnonEmu*

        This, if she views Arya as unprofessional in this case, I’d argue Arya dodged a bullet. And if their employees find out about this kind of lowballing, it says something about OP’s attitude towards employees and it’s not positive.

        1. blackcat*

          Yeah, I’m kind of thinking I want OP1 to pull the offer just so Arya doesn’t end up working there…

    1. Eve*

      I completely agree.

      I’m half hoping the temp sees this and withdraws herself and finds a company that doesn’t have this attitude.

      1. Heidi*

        I also secretly hope Arya bails. This is not a good workplace. They admittedly need a replacement who can do what the smoke monster does, but they want to pay the Faceless Man less than half? Actual Arya Stark would not put up with that, and neither should this one.

    2. JamieS*

      Agreed. Potentially getting paid market rate “one day” for the position you’re already doing is less a “future opportunity” and more a “presently being screwed over”.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        The other problem is let’s say Arya DOES get a permanent job there – will she have problems negotiating salary because she’s seen as cheap, and if she will work for 40%, why pay 100% wtc?

        1. Amelia*

          This happened to me. I was a temp, making a low hourly wage, and I interviewed for and was offered a different, higher level job at the same company where I was temping. The salary offer was low but not insulting, but the director of HR delivered the number with this commentary: “The salary is $X, and I know you’ll take it because I know what you’re making now.” Dude, really?

          I did take it, and that comment prevented me from attempting any negotiation. I know that’s on me, and I’m much more assertive now, but it’s clear the offer was put together with consideration that I was currently working for Shitty Temp Wage.

          1. Ponytail*

            I went for an (temp) interview where I did really well, but where they were obviously trying to get me for as cheap as possible. They offered me a salary that was bang on the nose what I earned in my previous role. I said that would ‘do’ for a temporary role, but that I was also interviewing for a permanent role the next day that was offering more.
            I got offered more AND a permanent role before I even got home from the first job’s interview. Even the agency were surprised. I never did figure out why they’d advertised the role as temporary to begin with, but I suspect they were hoping to get someone quick AND cheap AND good, and we all know, you can only get two out of those three!

        2. YouCanBrewIt!*

          Absolutely. Where I work the temp will start at the lowest rung of the pay scale if they transition to full time. However if they leave for 3+ months and get hired as a full time permanent employee then the pay is higher on the scale based on education, work history, negotiating etc. I purposely left at the end of my temp period and then started applying for jobs after the 3 month mark. Now I make 22k more a year (not counting benefits and bonuses) as a temp.

    3. MissVicki*

      Completely agree. I don’t want to pile on LW1, but your attitude toward potential employees is really detrimental, to both you and them. That’s worth thinking about as you move forward. It’s not you vs. them.

    4. akiwiinlondon*

      I imagine Arya has also weighed up the ‘opportunities’ and has decided to accept the position – which I find it really unfair that OP is considering withdrawing the role and being so condescending.

      If it was only down to the salary and this didn’t meet her expectations she would have declined straight away, but she obviously saw the value in this role to consider it and discuss the stretch of the budget with her spouse.

      Taking the time to consider the role isn’t unprofessional, and it isn’t any sort of issue with the potential for the role – if anything it’s a complement to the company/role if they’re willing to re-consider their financial situation instead of flat out rejecting the role when finding out there is no budge on the budget.

    5. Missy*

      OP also isn’t considering that taking the job can be a loss for Arya. I’ve seen similar mentalities in other hiring situations (after all, if they are making $0 an hour now then they should be thrilled at making $10 and hour). In accepting a $10 an hour job they are paying an opportunity cost in giving up their job search for 6 months. There is also transportation expenses, the value of their time (the 8 hours a day working could be spent at home doing things that will save the family money like meal planning, clothing mending and care, couponing, and comparison shopping). I could live on less money when I wasn’t working because I could use my time instead. I could go to the weekday farmer market where I could get very cheap veggies because I wasn’t at work. I was able to scrutinize all my bills and find the corners to cut, and sit on hold with Comcast for an hour to save $10 a month on my cable bill.

      People don’t consider that time is a valuable commodity. Asking someone to give you an hour of their time, not even considering the work they will be doing, is valuable and has an associated cost.

  6. Linzava*


    If she accepted the offer, it sounds like the only thing standing in the way of solving this hiring crisis is that you took a normal salary negotiation personally. Allison hit this one on the head. The best thing for the company is to hire the best person for the job, and to not treat her badly because she knows what she’s worth.

      1. Allypopx*

        It’s amazing to me how common this is. I scream at everyone to always negotiate an offer. Normalize it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, OP, it would be wise for you to consider reversing the situation in your mind and pondering what you would do if you were offered $10 per hour for work that was worth $25 per hour.

  7. fhqwhgads*

    For #3, if the normal hallway way requires a keycard, but going through OP’s office doesn’t, I would think management would be very unhappy with folks circumventing the security? So appealing that way might get some higher authority to put the kibosh on, in a way “it breaks my concentration” might not. Still I agree that physically blocking one door might be the only way to stop people.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think OP#3 has to put up a physical obstruction. I used to work in an office that doubled as a pass-through instead of the hallway, which I didn’t really mind because of my working style/personality. That experience taught me there is literally nothing other than a closed (and sometimes locked) door that will make people stop using it as a hallway.

      1. AnonyLawyer*

        I feel like there was a Seinfeld episode, or maybe Mad Men, that had this issue and this solution. Hmm, does that ring a bell for you, too?

        1. Kate*

          Mad Men! It’s Joan’s office at one point. I think she ends up moving to a better one and sticking Dawn with it

          1. Liz T*

            I don’t think she sticks Dawn with it as much as she promotes Dawn to a higher position when two of the execs she’s been supporting unreasonably want her reassigned. It’s actually a beautiful moment of admin solidarity.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        I work in a very new building with a *lot* of multi-person rooms that are open on both sides. Until people got used to the idea that those were offices, not shortcuts, a lot of free-standing whiteboards found a home in the middle of those offices. It was just enough of an obstacle to get the point across.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        If it were just physically shorter, then I think moving the furniture so the path between doors is a maze, not a straight shot, might do it. But add in the two key card swipes and even though it’s logically not that hard to swipe a key card….

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          2 key cards = 2 doors, so you have at least 4 more interactions with the hallway (swipe card, open door, rinse repeat) than the office.

          1) If the key cards are for security, yes, mgmt will be very unhappy to see people get around it through an office. In my company, that’s a formal reprimand.
          2) OP, the only way to stop it is a physical barrier. Since you don’t want to cut your dept’s access, you’ll need to put the barrier inside the room as suggested above. You will actually have to cut the room in two, though – put the desk in the standard path, a whiteboard to the side. A sign outside the office might help, like, ‘Please use the hallway for through traffic —>’.

          1. Pantalaimon*

            If the swipes are for security, I think the blame sort of rests on OP for letting people bypass security by leaving the doors open all day every day.

            1. Quill*

              It’s entirely possible that they work in a shared building and the hallway is neutral territory, hence the swipe out/in, but there’s no actual security reason to separate the two departments.

              1. valentine*

                If the swipes are for security, I think the blame sort of rests on OP for letting people bypass security by leaving the doors open all day every day.
                The doors are open so the two departments and OP can use her office as an office. Even if she can lock the doors, she wouldn’t get much done if she had to jump up constantly to see who’s banging away because bothering her is easier than using the hallway or remembering their keycard, with bonus “OP is a big meanie” if OP’s a woman.

          1. Quill*

            I have a thing about people walking behind my back & if I can’t have my back to a moderately adequate wall, my concentration is over. But having people constantly passing in front of my desk like that would be a close second.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        Definitely a physical obstruction. Exactly what depends on the layout. I was thinking of something along the lines of a file cart. Get one with wheels so you can move it out of the way when you want it out of the way, but most of the time place it right in the middle, blocking the “hallway.”

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I think it’s definitely worth talking to whoever is in charge of security to see if the staff taking a shortcut is a violation of the safety procedures, and if they have any recommendations for you on how to cut the traffic down.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Unfortunately OP will also need to check with fire safety before blocking a door to be sure it’s not part of an emergency evacuation route.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          This is a very good point. We don’t want OP to get in trouble for creating a potential safety hazard.

        2. Ranon*

          I doubt the OP’s office is part of an emergency exit route unless several people including the fire marshal really messed up, there are several reasons (generally you can’t use rooms like you would corridors except for things like lobbies, as far as fire exiting is concerned temporary locking is pretty much the same as permanent blocking, etc) – the only fire egress the OP would likely be impacting would be their own, and if the office next to OP’s doesn’t have a double door then I can’t really think of a reason even that would be a thing.

      2. Bee*

        My guess was actually that the other route takes people through a public area – an elevator bank or something – so it’s not that they’re circumventing normal security procedures, they’re just not dealing with the hassle of leaving the locked area and re-entering. But I could be wrong!

        1. a1*

          That was my thought, too. The regular hallway is open to other areas like the outside (a main entry door or elevators as you say) so then not a security issues to walk through office, it’s just a rudeness issue.

    3. Orange You Glad*

      Is it an option to put a passcard entry to the office on the side that would be the “closed” door? Instead of blocking the door?

      Would that extra step of difficulty be enough of a deterrent?

      1. valentine*

        Is it an option to put a passcard entry to the office on the side that would be the “closed” door?
        This would make it a designated passageway, which is worse than the current situation.

        Blocking off one door blocks off that department, who then have to go through the keycard hallway and through the other department, probably creating several tiers of resentment. I would keep both doors closed and have a whiteboard on each with my interruptible status and send an email to both departments and other guilty parties saying the passageway is dead and to knock. I would redirect subsequent perps to the hallway each time and tell them to pass it on, as well as telling whoever will spread the news fastest.

    4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      You can also try re-arranging office furniture to make it really awkward to get through the office, but that may not work if people are determined. I’m envisioning two offset desks, one facing each way, like: (with = for desk, * for chair, and . for open space)


      1. valentine*

        Is this an obstacle course? Pass the desk and OP3 on the left, then swing wildly right to pass the next desk? I think it’s still worth it to avoid the keycard and people will make jokes about getting their steps in.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Back it up with a ‘Not a hallway’ sign outside and mobile whiteboard completing the blockage and it should work.

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I was envisioning just enough space between the two desks for a person to sit comfortably in a swivel chair, so it would make it awkward since you’d have to scoot right between op3 and the desk they were working at (ideally, op3 would swivel their chair to be facing whichever door just opened and greet people coming in, so you’d have to ignore someone who was making eye contact with you and practically try to sit in their lap/climb over them to get past them). Basically, the desk gaps lead to a place to sit, but not a place to walk, because there is a chair in the way.

          Combine it with an announcement that people are not to use this office as a hallway any more and it might stick. An explicit “not allowed” combined with making it awkward would work better than either alone. Greeting each person who comes in and assuming that they’re there to talk to you would also probably help make it awkward. “Hey Fergus! What’ca need?” “Oh, hi Wakeen…ummm…can you scoot over so I can cut through here?” “Fergus, this is my office, not a hallway. Did you need me for something?” “I’m just trying to get to the copy machine.” “That sounds like a job for the hallway, Fergus.”

    5. Phil*

      I was going to say the same thing. If security saw fit to put a closed door requiring a security pass, they’re probably not gonna like to find out your current system. My old department requires staff to swipe through two separate doors to get in, they’d have kittens if they found people leaving the doors open to cut down on this. I can’t even get in there anymore now I’m in a higher job.

      You could easily cite security concerns for closing down access to your office, and then you’re not even the bad guy.

      1. valentine*

        My old department requires staff to swipe through two separate doors to get in, they’d have kittens if they found people leaving the doors open to cut down on this.
        OP3’s doors are separate from the hallway and keycard doors, but their office is a nice way to breach security.

      2. Colette*

        I used to work on a floor that required badging in to all work areas, and badging out to get to the elevators/bathrooms. If the OP’s setup is similar, going from one badged-in area to another may not be a security concern.

    6. TyB*

      Reminds me of my old job where people were constantly walking through our sensitive equipment room containing toxic chemicals because it saved them a 1 min walk around the corner. Signs (including “hazardous” signs) and closing the door did nothing. Had to install a lock on the door. Made it so it only locked from the outside going in to be up to fire code.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        Back in my lab days, there was construction in part of the building, and the construction workers figured out that it was faster to barge through one of the labs rather than use the hallway. When the usual polite signage had the usual lack of effect, the annoyed inhabitants of that lab put up a large sign: “DANGER! Genetically modified HIV! Genetically modified herpes! Trained personnel ONLY!”
        That worked brilliantly. It was true, too. The viruses were genetically modified to be bad at infecting humans, but there’s no need to spoil a good sign with too much information.

    7. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I hope not(re: circumventing security)! Our contracts specifically require a secure workspace, to the point where our doors alarm if kept open for too long. That’s because most of our clients could immediately cancel our contracts if our workspace ever was found to have allowed unsecure access like that. But chances are the LW only is dealing with employee privacy, which is not to say that it’s not important, but the importance is conferred by the employer, not the client, and so it is often more lax. But it’s still the best justification, IMO! I think the LW should emphasize the fiscal/budgetary angle and start with a sign on each door (even if they’re open) that says “PLEASE KNOCK” or something.

    8. a1*

      I wouldn’t even mention the “breaks concentration” either. I’d just pleasantly say “This is my office, not a hallway.” And definately close one or both doors.

      1. annony*

        Yep. It is possible that repeating that every time someone tries to cut though would eliminate the problem. If people are told that this is not ok, they may stop.

    9. Hlyssande*

      Yeah, people using the office to bypass a security door really raised red flags to me. No bueno!

    10. CM*

      I wonder if OP could put up something like the velvet rope they use at club entrances, with a sign saying “OP’s office. Please use hallway for through traffic.” That shouldn’t be a fire safety issue, but would still be a physical barrier.

    11. Ophelia*

      What about a horizontal half-door? I’m in California and have always called them Dutch Doors (and that’s what Google shows me). We have them at my office; it’s VERY helpful. People enter the suite but can’t enter the office, though all of us in the suite still have open communication. When privacy is needed, the top door is closed and locked. OP #3 could get two interior dutch doors for her office. Her facilities manager should be involved in this discussion anyway – they need to know that security is being circumvented. They will know the fire code and find a way to dissuade traffic, even if it adding a file cabinet in the middle of the room.

      1. valentine*

        What about a horizontal half-door?
        This is a great idea. The bottom part is always locked and OP3 can lock the tops when they step out, in order to secure their documents.

    12. roger that*

      I worked in a very similar office for 3+ years. At one point, I started needing to take some more sensitive phone calls, and it was important to be able to close both doors for the calls. It helped a lot if one was already closed so I only had to shut one door when the phone rang. So I closed the door and my coworker made a sign that said “For access to [roger that]’s office, please use room #X.” We hung the sign on the one closed door, and it worked! Everyone went around except the back-up janitor, who would plow right on in, but it didn’t bother me once it was only one person walking through. The phone calls were really just a good excuse to do what I should have done a long time ago, because people walking through your office like a hallway is annoying. :) You can do it! Shut one door! It gets better! :)

  8. Seeking Second Childhood*

    $10/hour and $25 aren’t real figures, right? I’m distracted by how low that is.
    When I was temping, I made market rate and companies paid the agency more than that. Yes it can blow your budget–but the alternative is having no one to do the job, hiring someone without the skills you need, or taking such advantage of someone that she need not feel obligated to stay for the entire assignment.

    1. JKP*

      Agreed. The agency fee should be on top of what you would normally pay the employee, not basically taken out of the employee’s wages. The money paid to the temp agency is for the recruiting instead of the costs the business would incur in recruiting themselves. Any time I temped in the past, I always was paid market rate and the temp agency got money on top of that. Once I had my own business, hiring temps was always more expensive than hiring directly, but the tradeoff was that it saved me the hassle of finding qualified people.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        One thing that happened when I was temping via an agency – the employer told them after a week that I’d finished what they wanted / it wasn’t working out / whatever… Then hired me privately and split the difference of the extra the agency would have taken. So I got more money and they lost less.

        Now, I think that’s unethical, but I couldn’t afford to turn it down.

        But I’m wondering if there’s a solution whereby you agree with the agency to only pay the fee for a month or something?

        When my dad worked in recruitment, he charged a fee of X% of their salary in month 1, X*2 in month 2, X*3 in month 3, and then that was the end of the deal and he wished them well. Basically if it worked out, he got more – but there was an end to the arrangement, it wasn’t infinite. Could you negotiate something like that maybe?

        (Actually I may have that in reverse, it might be X*3 then X*2 and then just x% in the third month – but you get the idea.)

        Just bouncing ideas around. Because somehow, you need to find more for Arya – if not now then after the first few weeks – and ensure it is guaranteed and she knows it’s coming. She deserves better than you’re offering.

        1. Myrcallie*

          Yeah, that almost certainly went against the agency contract, and could have got the employer sued if they found out (when I worked at an agency, we had the same thing happen, and the employer who thought they’d been terribly canny ended up having to pay twice the fee they otherwise would have done for breach of contract).

          Some agencies will be willing to let you come up with a workaround. Most won’t- they’ll want $XXX a week, or $XXXX to give you the candidate permanently, and it’s important for OP1’s employer to factor that in to the cost of doing business with them. If they can’t afford that, they shouldn’t get a temp. It’s that simple.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, when I was a temp, the company had to pay a fee if they brought me on as an employee before I’d worked there 6 months. After that, they didn’t, I believe. (It was a little silly, since I had talked with the employer before the temp agency, and the employer put me in touch with the agency after they’d decided to hire me, but that was the contract everyone signed.)

          2. Flash Bristow*

            Oh sure, I’m not proud of accepting the deal, but I couldn’t afford to turn down the money. It took me from something like £5 to £7.50 per hour (while ago now) and I was an impoverished student, etc etc.

            Curiously enough, my next job was for a financial company where we were trained, tested and vetted for due diligence, spotting fraud, etc. At the interview I was asked if I’d ever done anything unworthy (I forget the exact wording, but). So I told them about the previous pay agreement. Still got the job! I guess they respected my …honesty?(!)

            I’m not advocating that kind of behaviour, but overall I was wondering if there’s a way for OP1 to renegotiate with the agency – a one off flat fee rather than an ongoing percentage, for example.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      Yeah in Seattle the minimum wage is $15 per hour so paying $10 per hour for work involving any type of skill or experience just seems shameful. Plus, I know it was unexpected due to her medical complications, but six months of maternity leave isn’t exactly extravagant anywhere in the world for the United States.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      Especially as temps are expected to hit the ground running and pick up the role/culture on minimal training!

    4. Jojo*

      I am just trusting that $10 is above minimum wage where the OP is located — but in any event, at best it is just barely above or at it.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Correct me if I am wrong but many times temps are paid MORE than the regular worker because they do not have benefits? So by rights, OP, should be considering $30 or more per hour.

      I hope she runs as hard and as fast as she can.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I think that’s more for a contractor position, as in people they hire for short term projects as opposed to hiring someone temporarily for an FTE that’s out on leave. But yes, generally contractors make more than FTEs because they aren’t getting benefits.

      2. Doug Judy*

        I’m sure it varies a lot from agency and region but where I am I rarely saw anything above $15/hour listed when I was working for one. The recruiter even said they’d have a hard time finding something to meet my minimum salary requirements. Most were about $12/13 an hour, and these weren’t entry level jobs. But I also noted that most of the places were notoriously bad companies to work for.

        1. Quill*

          It really depends on the exact position. I’m in STEM in the chicago metro area, and Pharma is willing to pay me on a scale like Mellisandre, but manufacturing / qc wants to pay me as much as Ayra. For the same qualifications, same contracting, via similar agencies.

    6. a1*

      $10/hour and $25 aren’t real figures, right?

      Good catch/question! They are nice “round” numbers, making for easy math, so very well may be an example.

      1. Quill*

        I doubt they’ve been adjusted beyond making them whole dollar amounts, it’s not like they were paying one $50/hr and wanted to pay the other $20 and thought halving those numbers would help their case.

    7. Allypopx*

      I’d guess they’re real numbers, federal minimum wage is still $7.25 so a lot of places can get away with $10. Though clearly that’s nowhere near market rate for this job.

      Stuff happens that breaks budgets. This is one of them, hiring temps is expensive. Put the budget out of your mind, OP.

  9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, to be fair, when you work with someone who is needlessly aggressive and defensive, it’s easy to become a little numb to their ridiculous behavior. But there’s also a world in which something that’s relatively eye-roll-worthy (but not a serious risk) for you can sound like a scary example of escalating aggression to someone on the outside. So I think there’s a world in which you are not underreacting, but Paulie also isn’t overreacting.

    Which is all to say that you don’t have to report it to HR, but I would pay attention if Tony appears to be escalating his behavior. This sounds like a “frog in slowly warming water” v. “frog dumped in boiling water” situation, and you don’t want the water to get too hot before folks realize they’re cooked.

    1. I don't know who I am*

      This was my thought too. The comment about his “unnecessary aggression” also jumped out at me.
      In the OPs example of “Stupid meeting” file name, that isn’t aggressive towards a person, it’s just a comment about a meeting. “People I need to hit” is aggressive towards people.
      I’d seriously consider mentioning it to someone, even just casually.

      1. valentine*

        This sounds like a “frog in slowly warming water” v. “frog dumped in boiling water” situation
        I read “hit” as punch, so the fact OP1 went to murder is making me think the joking isn’t because the guy’s harmless, but is a method of coping because he’s dangerous and no one wants to face that.

      2. Also*

        Agreed. And I would also stop naming documents ‘stupid meeting’ lest they get OP themself in hot water over job performance.
        To me, these are both egregious examples of not knowing when or how to be a professional

    2. JSPA*

      In the absence of aggression–that is, if you would not have described him as “aggressive” before you saw the note–I’d suggest that your first reaction–that “hit” can be used as shorthand for all sorts of things–is the reasonable one.

      1. “make contact with” or “check in with” (“I need to hit the dry cleaner’s before going home.”)

      2. “hit up”: is he supposed to ask people for money for someone’s gift? Or collect forms that are due from everyone?

      3. ask a question of / get an answer from “I have answers from Jan and Ray, still need to hit Jamie and Sam.”)

      Using “hit” to mean “punch,” in the title of a note, would be strange. Using it to mean “shoot” (as in a hit squad) would be stranger.

      Basically, ask yourself whether the reading of the note is more about Tony’s antipathy towards people, or people’s antipathy towards Tony for being abrupt / unfiltered. As to why your BF would have a stronger reading…is it in the context of you telling “Tony stories” to him? If so, he arguably has both a skewed view (you don’t tell stories about how Coworker A was totally unremarkable today, right?) but also possibly a clearer sense of whether there’s some sort of escalating behavior. If that’s not the case, then BF’s level of insistence / protectiveness strikes me as frankly weirder than the title of the note does. (Assuming BF is a native english speaker with full understanding of all the vernacular uses of “hit.”)

      1. JSPA*

        Forgot to finish the thought:

        If, on the other hand, you’ve been closing an eye towards actual aggression (remembering that being forthright or even rude is not intrinsically aggressive–someone can say, “I don’t even know why your department exists, we don’t need it” without it being a personal attack) then that’s the bigger problem.

        Oh, and I forgot to mention the other potential reading, which is that it’s “hit” as in “I’d hit that,” i.e. it’s a “I want to have sex with these people” note. Which…might not belong on his work computer, but is not per se a threat.

        1. blobola*

          Oh eugh, yes, it could be that type of hit on people, either is a fairly gross thing to keep a list of.

          OP2 I would either ask my colleague directly what on earth is going on with that list, or consider asking someone senior you trust for advice “I saw this, should I report it?” because then you’re covering yourself and highlighting it without making a massive deal out if it if it’s nothing.

          Alison perhaps you could do a callout for the weirdest personal document people keep on their work computers? I had a colleague who kept a list of beers he drank, but the list was just like marking the days on a prison wall:


          1. t*

            +1 to mentioning it casually to someone more senior and/or his boss. If I were his boss, I’d certainly follow up on it because whether it’s people I want to hit (assault) or people I want to hit (have sex with), both of those are highly inappropriate in the workplace. Even if it is innocent, he clearly needs a reminder to be careful what he shares on his screen.

          2. Robin*

            I could imagine someone doing that to keep a tally of how much money they were spending on beer over a year, maybe?

        2. emmelemm*

          “I’d hit that”, as in have sex, with might not be a “threat”, but I’d say it’s even more actionable because then you’ve got some clear sexual harrassment going on.

          1. Ra94*

            A person keeping a private list, for their eyes only, of people they want to have sex with doesn’t constitute sexual harassment in the slightest. It’s weird, and it’s harassment if that person then, well, harasses the people on the list, but having weird thoughts about your coworkers is not an actionable offense.

            1. Snuck*

              But keeping a list at work could be construed as harassment if it was publicly viewable with any frequency or intent. I know this was an ‘accident’… and TBH I probably would just ignore the entire thing … but the second sign of ‘something’ and I’d say “Hey mate, I saw that list you had that time, and now this other thing… knock it off/is everything ok/what’s going on?”

          2. Snuck*

            This is what I thought “hit” meant too… as soon as I read “hit list” I wasn’t thinking Gross Pointe Blank, I was thinking Betty Does Dallas.

    3. Boomerang Girl*

      If this is reported to a more senior person or HR, it might be possible for IT to check on his computer to see if there is anything serious in the file. Technically, anything on the work computer is fair game for review. OP has to decide if the situation warrants this action.

      At my old company, a manager happened to walk by and saw an inappropriate message flash on the screen on his direct report’s computer. IT investigation ensued and 6 people were fired for having sex on company premises. Of course, those were messages, not files on a computer, but they might still be able to remote in.

    4. Mookie*

      So much this. It’s important to keep in mind that normalizing a violent reaction to stress doesn’t just numb on-lookers and bystanders, where one gradually grows accustomed to another person’s obviously unrelieved rage, but compulsive behaviors like manifesto-making and hit list-drafting and arms-collecting can, themselves, function as rituals designed to escalate towards action rather than serve as a productive, healthy outlet.

      Every story of workplace violence seems to contain bystanders who warned people, alerted others to their discomfort, and others who shrugged those warnings off because it was too awkward to address the problem head on. It’s not even that it’s likely this colleague will become violent. It’s that these things don’t belong at work, even if they’re utterly benign, and it’s unfair to protect this person at the expense of anyone else’s peace of mind. Granted, Paulie doesn’t work there, but it’s a good lesson. Keep your shit list to yourselves, confine it to non-public places. It’s not nannyish or overbearing or PC to expect people to keep their violent metaphors to themselves, particularly when they’ve demonstrated instability and antagonism in situations where nothing resembling those reactions is remotely appropriate.

    5. Moo*

      I worked with a guy who had a hit list. And it was an actual hit list. The two of us argued over everything. We *haaaaaated* each other. Hhe was explosive over the smallest things, would yell and swear and throw things in the office. He would sit on his phone loudly chewing while on calls with customers, and then sit there telling me how to do my job (which he didn’t actually know how to do). He frequently talked about his military service and how he knew how to use guns. But working in that environment for so long and coming to think of that as normal, I never bothered to report his behavior because the office bosses were literally sitting there watching him harass me and did nothing about it.

      They fired him when they found his hit list. And for whatever reason, I was one of the few people not on it (the woman in the office he was in love with was, probably because she was with a long-time partner and had a kid and wouldn’t give him the time of day).

      Thankfully by then I was already gone and into a new non-hostile work environment, but it was very surreal when I heard about that list. Looking back on it, I could totally see him walking in one day and killing people. So OP, I don’t think your partner is overreacting. I think you should report it, but that’s based on my experiences and your experiences and reading of the person may be different.

        1. Gingerblue*

          I am putting in an emergency order for more alarm bells, since my current ones aren’t sufficient for this.

        2. Moo*

          Seriously! When I found out about it, I was like, “Ohhhh yeah…that explains a lot.” I’m just glad he never hurt anyone there, and that after he was fired he dropped off the face of the earth and I never heard from or of him again!

    6. The Starsong Princess*

      I just completed the work place violence module at my company. Tony’s exact behaviour is called out as something that should be reported to HR. It’s a red flag especially coupled with his verbal aggression. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be fired or even disciplined but he will be investigated. If it’s nothing, nothing will come of it.

      1. banksy*

        I agree, and I’m horrified by the calls to inaction on this. All of the “well it could be this!” explanations being posited feel like a stretch at best, and that benefit of the doubt won’t be of any help to anyone if Tony turns violent. I’ve had to deal with something like this at work recently, and it turns out that the “oh, surely they couldn’t mean anything by that…right?” comment that pinged me was just one of many, which in aggregate painted a much more alarming picture than any one comment alone.

  10. Aphrodite*

    Alison, could you expand on your answer to question #3. I work at a college in California and our division’s VP likes to hold staff meetings. I mean lots of them. I work as an administrative assistant (classified, union) and having to drive to the other campus so much is taking a toll on me given the price of gas these days. We are not offered reimbursement. Would this be required or not?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Aphrodite, under Labor Code 2802 they need to pay you for your use of your personal vehicle between campus locations. I would double-check your CBA to see if there’s a negotiated provision regarding travel reimbursement, and if there’s not, your employer can either reimburse you at actual expenses, by mileage, or as a lump sum.

    2. Zip Silver*

      I can’t speak to California specifically, but you should be reaching your mileage throughout the year. Even if you don’t get the reimbursement, your could claim it as a deduction on your Federal taxes.

      1. Xl*

        If they are W2 employees, all work-related deductions including mileage deduction have been eliminated under the new tax code.

        1. Jojo*

          I think you mean an individual deduct it from their personal tax return now.

          Businesses need to be careful. Among other things, not reimbursing or under reimbursing mileage can result in employees being paid less than minimum wage (there are big cases on this pending regarding pizza delivery for example).

          It seems the advice on this subject is uncharacteristically casual. Reimbursement is pretty darn standard — it’s not even on lists of what are considered optional employee benefits, people assume there will be at least some reimbursement.

        2. Natalie*

          And even prior to TCJA it was a fairly worthless deduction to anyone who didn’t incur a lot of unreimbursed business mileage. Only the amount that exceeded 2% of your AGI was deductible. For even a low paid employee that would mean driving 1000+ miles for free first.

    3. blackcat*

      Talk to your union rep first. You should be able to push back as a group. Are you at a public college in CA? That may impact things, but I do not see an exception under the text of the law (which is the general business expense law), which is this:

      2802. (a) An employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer, even though unlawful, unless the employee, at the time of obeying the directions, believed them to be unlawful.

      (b) All awards made by a court or by the Division of Labor
      Standards Enforcement for reimbursement of necessary expenditures under this section shall carry interest at the same rate as judgments in civil actions. Interest shall accrue from the date on which the employee incurred the necessary expenditure or loss.

      (c) For purposes of this section, the term “necessary expenditures or losses” shall include all reasonable costs, including, but not limited to, attorney’s fees incurred by the employee enforcing the rights granted by this section.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yup—no exception for public colleges/universities. California does a fairly good job of requiring the State (and its agencies) to comply with most labor and employment laws, including Labor Code § 2802. If the college has a fleet services division, they may ask Aphrodite to use a fleet car instead of her personal vehicle, but her travel is well within the meaning of that section and requires reimbursement.

        I do want to note that some California public colleges/universities are requiring reimbursement requests be submitted within a discrete timeline, otherwise they’ll be treated as taxable income subject to withholding.

    4. Candy*

      Is it absolutely necessary for you to attend the meetings in person? I work at a three-campus university and our all-staff meetings are done through BlueJeans. For this reason we aren’t reimbursed for our bus tickets/mileage because, while attending the meeting is required, doing so in person is not

  11. Kimmybear*

    #1- Arya will be doing Melisandre’s work but because you weren’t able to account for the cost of Melisandre’s leave or the cost of a temp agency, you want her to take a lower salary and no benefits? My department went through something similar and our temp gets paid a reasonable salary (no benefits) on top of the fee to the agency.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP1, your reaction rests on (1) you have a budget, and (2) if that budget produces an extremely substandard wage, that’s the employee’s problem, not yours. In that framework, when Arya expressed concern over that problem, you take it as an insult and call her unprofessional? At no point do you acknowledge the Temp’s point of view as having any validity.

      Every good boss I have had exhibited empathy. It didn’t make them weak or prevent them from making tough decisions, but it allowed them to understand the impact on an employee and why they acted in certain ways. In your letter, you exhibit plenty of focus on your budgetary problem, but zero empathy for how it impacts Arya. I kindly suggest you look at your own attitudes and ask why you cannot show empathy in this situation—and does that say something about YOUR management style.

    2. JSPA*


      It’s the company that’s (by best interpretation) being “forced into” unprofessional behavior by offering a (literally) unprofessional salary–in the sense of, not the salary any professional would expect.

      Though for a large company to say, “we budgeted X for someone’s pregnancy, things got complicated and the situation will be drawn out so we will…still budget X” doesn’t sound like they were “forced into” anything. It sounds short-sighted, butt-headed, and wrong. Unforced error / bad attitude / horrible sense of entitlement at the corporate level. OP, you are deeply at risk of being poisoned by the corporate attitude. Recalibrate your own compass regarding what’s reasonable, customary, and decent (as opposed to “what the 800 lb. gorilla can get away with doing”).

      At minimum, there should be a hefty bonus waiting at the end of the period, whether or not there’s another job waiting.

      1. Snuck*

        I’m trying to work out how the budget is blown… I mean… the pregnant mother has her maternity leave, and her sick or annual leave… all of which is the same as it was before… that should already have been budgeted…

        And then there’s a temp… who was going to be needed before anyway… a known expense that was always going to be needed to cover the maternity leave… but is needed earlier… and maybe for slightly longer… how much longer? Given the pay discrepancy it must be significantly longer… twice as long?

        Nah. This company sucks.

        I assume the temp will take the job… stick around just long enough to get something else… and tell these people she’s found something willing to pay market price … or even better… take it… and then sue for correct pay. I dunno. I’m in Australia… this isn’t even close to minimum wage and the legal protections would kick this sort of shenanigans right out of the park. Nope nope NOPE.

  12. I Heart JavaScript*

    $10/hour is less than minimum wage where I live and is way too low (even if it’s legal where you are) to pay someone who supports multiple executives. I get that you didn’t budget in the need for the temp, but you really need to find a way to pay her market rate. It’s just the cost of doing business—sometimes you go over budget.

    Paying market rate isn’t just fair, it’s also better for you. For $10/hour, she’s not going to stay with you if she gets a better offer somewhere else (which wouldn’t be hard), no matter what your contract with the temp agency says and no matter how great the networking “opportunity” is. You don’t want to have to deal with finding her replacement at no notice because she found something better. Then you’ll be paying more *and* dealing with the hassle.

    1. AnonEmu*

      Yeah tbh given OP’s attitude and the fact that this job seems pretty demanding, I wouldn’t blame Arya if she decided to jump ship.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I agree. OP, it’s time to sit down with your finance department and get creative about the budget. Is there any sort of a rainy day fund? Are you buying new equipment that can be pushed back until next quarter? Can you skim small amounts from a handful of other budget lines to cobble together a reasonable salary for Arya?

      I’m concerned that if word of the salary offer you’ve made to Arya spreads, it may damage your company’s reputation in your industry. If you want other companies and industry professionals to continue thinking of your firm as one that looks after their staff and compensates them fairly for their work, you need to find a way to make that happen here.

      1. AnonEmu*

        Heck, if other employees at the firm hear of this, OP may find more people jumping ship if they can, it definitely doesn’t indicate they value people

        1. Uldi*

          More than that, it could be read as the company struggling financially. A slightly lower offer can be expected, but less than half? That sounds like something is wrong somewhere. They might have cut the budget too close to the bone.

          1. AnonEmu*

            This. Whatever the cause, if/when (let’s face it, more of a when) this gets out, people will start looking for reasons to bail.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              Not necessarily. If the company is one of the major employers in an area without a lot of other opportunities, they’ve got a lot of leverage. If that’s the case, it’s likely that Arya took the job, even at the laughably low salary, because it’s not worth antagonizing one of her few potential employers. And if so, she may decide to keep her mouth shut about the salary, so as to not get blacklisted (which, given the OP’s reaction, is a reasonable fear).

              1. Flash Bristow*

                It’s still gonna come out, somehow.

                “Arya, wanna come join us after work for a pizza?”
                “I’d love to but I’m counting the pennies at the moment…”

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  I think the wage in comparison to other employees is another important thing for the OP to look at. She’s being paid $15 less than the employee on leave, but is she also being paid less than. . .everyone? That would be pretty off base if you have a mail room clerk, or whatever your most entry of entry level roles is, making more.

              2. Jennifer*

                Unfortunately, I think you’re right. People would be shocked if they read what some companies get away with in areas like that.

                1. Marie*

                  Another reason small towns (can) suck. I worked for a woman who also owned a small restaurant, and she was the tyrant of this small empire. After a lot of other abuses, she tried to withhold my final paycheck. I sent a certified letter threatening legal action, and only then could collect my final $110 check.

          2. Snuck*

            That’s a big part of how I read it… can’t pay a reasonable rate, can’t afford it? Then… why the hell not?

        2. One of the Sarahs*

          What does it say to Melisandre that they value her work so little? They’re already treating stressful pregnancy complications as an inconvenience – I’d worry it was a sign I’d have a bad time as a working parent in this org, or would come back to my pay slashed.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, I worry that if her pregnancy is any more fiscally inconvenient they’ll lay her off and dump all three of her jobs on someone else.

        3. san junipero*

          Good point. I actually remember a letter where someone jumped ship at their company not because of anything that happened to them, but because a fellow worker was treated poorly.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        Another alternative is reassign some of Melisandre’s duties (taking non-essential work off the reassignees, of course) and recruit to a part time temp post, paid at market rate.

        Of course, part time hours would need to be legitimate part time *work*, but if the budget really is impossible to fix, this is the ethical solution.

        1. always in email jail*

          I was thinking the same thing. Offer to pay her $20/hr for 20 hours a week instead of 10/hr for 40, and reassign some of Melisandre’s duties. Plenty of organizations just reassign duties while someone is out on medical leave.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            But also be mindful of the current employees if you do this. Someone in my department (but not in my section of it) went on maternity leave, and rather than getting a temp, my company decided to dump “helping” her section on me. With no warning, no guidelines of how much of her work I’d actually be doing, and no reduction in my current workload. On top of it all, her job was pretty much exactly the kind of work I’d worked hard to get away from, and I did not appreciate having it land back in my lap, even temporarily. If you are getting the impression that I am still resentful of that decision, you would be entirely right.

            I’m still here because I mostly like what I do, I know my direct boss wasn’t happy about it (although he wasn’t able to change the decision), and the boss who did make that decision isn’t over our area any more. But yes, I was pissed and overworked, and if just a couple of factors were different, I might have started job hunting over it.

      3. Colette*

        What I don’t understand is how, if the budget is that tight, they will be able to hire Arya permanently in a few months (and have 2 people doing the same job).

        1. Missy*

          I thought that was more that Arya would have connections for another job that opens up in the company, not this particular position.

    3. Tau*

      I also thought of this. To a certain extent, when it comes to employees you get what you pay for. It actually sounds like you seriously lucked out finding someone with the requisite experience who’d be willing to accept the low pay… but $10/hour is not enough to buy any sort of loyalty or longer notice period, and I would not be surprised if anyone you hire jumps ship part of the way in.

      This is actually a good thought exercise: what would you do if your hire quit a few weeks in and you were forced to pay for the hiring process again? Where would you take the money from? What concessions would you make? Can you make any of those now, to increase Arya’s salary?

      Or, potentially: would it be possible to offer to hire Arya part-time, at the same salary you were planning to pay her, so she has a decent hourly rate? This gives her leeway to do a second job to make ends meet, or at least the free time appropriate to her salary if not. She obviously won’t be able to get as much done in the time, but maybe that (+ potentially rearranging some job responsibilities) will be enough to keep you above water until Melisandre gets back.

    4. cncx*

      yes, this is not just a low salary, this is really low and even with the chance to work in one’s skill set, it’s too easy to price out of 10 an hour. this isn’t like paying even 18 for a 25/hour job, literally any other office job is gonna pay more and i would guess the employee will jump ship asap and then OP is out training and time just to be cheap. Like you said, it’s better for the employer to be fair about this because word gets around when employers do this and it becomes a talent retention problem. Also, people only take salaries this low then there are truly no other choices and if this person is as skilled as op says…there are other choices.

    5. many bells down*

      I’m the office manager for a *non-profit church* and I make $15. Temporarily. Next fiscal year I get a significant raise.

  13. CouldntPickAUsername*

    OP 3 for walking through the office, I notice you mention the proper way requires a keycard. I’m surprised then this setup is allowed even, the employees are bypassing security. I’d make sure you’re not on the hook for that.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Ooh good idea! But if they are kept open during the day what’s the point of a lock…?

        My instinct was to be a bit clearer than op3 has been, along the lines of “cmon guys, you’ve seriously got to stop doing this, it’s a security risk AND a privacy risk, I could really get in the sh.. for this so really, you just can’t use me as a walkthrough any more. Maybe I wasn’t clear but it’s not my choice. It isn’t an option, end of story – you can only come in here if you need ME… And a knock would be polite even if the door is open. Sorry, but thanks.”

        And then see where that goes…

      2. JSPA*


        Or make one of them an alarmed fire door, if it can’t be blocked.

        Or research the fire code, and set up staggered bookcases that respect the letter of the law:

        |___ door |
        | |
        | ——-|
        |——- |
        | |
        | XXX |
        | XXX |
        | |
        |——- |
        | ——-|
        | |
        |___ door |

        (assuming this aligns correctly, it’s a slalom course of bookcases or filing cabinets, with a clear 48 inch path winding through; you and your desk are the X’s)

    1. Tau*

      That was also my first thought – but given that the office exists, it’s also possible this is a case where the employees have to leave and re-enter the same secured area. OP will have to know if there are any security implications that she could call up when people try to use the shortcut.

    2. LilyP*

      It could be that the long/proper way passes out through a lobby or other unsecured area, while cutting through the office means they’re staying in the badge-only area the whole time.

    3. Lynca*

      Yeah I would make very sure that whoever is tasked with building security knows that people are bypassing the security point. Especially if they’re supposed to be buzzed in because they don’t have keycards.

      That would be a huge deal where I work and at least one of the doors into the OP’s office would be keycarded to prevent that. Probably on the door that opens to the secured area.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Wincingly true bit of observational humor on one show: The murder investigator managed to brilliantly deduce the 10-digit ever-changing secret access code to the nuclear material storage by reading it off the wall above the keypad, where the employees who found this system onerous had written it.

    5. pleaset*

      The reason may be that that OP is presumed to be in her office, whereas the hall has no one in it. So different levels of control are needed.

      We have doors with key card controls at our office. They are kept open when a person is there.

    6. smoke tree*

      I’m picturing a setup that’s similar to a building I used to work in, where you could pass through two sets of doors to cut through the elevator banks in the middle of the floor, or you could walk all the way around the outskirts of the floor (or, in this case, cut through the LW’s office). So you’re basically signing out and back into the secured part of the building.

  14. Approval is optional*

    So LW1 if I’m reading your letter right, you want to pay Arya $10 per hour to do a role that usually pays $25 per hour and you think SHE is the one who is unprofessional for thinking this is unfair, asking if it was negotiable and asking for time to decide whether to accept your offer? And you ‘loved’ her until she was unwilling to roll over and accept your lousy offer without demure (and with professions of gratitude perhaps!)? I’m gobsmacked!
    If your employer is running so close to the bone financially that they can’t afford to pay a reasonable rate to ‘backfill’ behind an employee on paid leave, then I suggest you start looking for another job. If they can afford to, but simply refuse to release the necessary funds, then I’d still suggest looking for another job because they seem to have zero interest in doing the right thing by at least some, if not all, of their employees- and let’s face it, the chances this attitude will be confined to Arya’s employment is low.

  15. emeemay*

    This “large local employer” kinda sounds like a big ol’ YIKES on the decency-o-meter. If she had any other options, I’m sure she’d be heading for the hills.

    “I’m unhappy that the only qualified candidate is concerned about the 60% pay cut for this role compared to the fair market.”

    You ought to thank your lucky stars that she accepted the job, and feel pretty awful about paying her so far below what her role is owed.

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Suddenly I’m thinking of Enron–big “desirable” employer that crashed and burned.

    2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      This company seems very similar to my former employer, which I refer to as EvilCorp. If there was a way they could flog more work for less money out of their employees, they found it. I worked for them during the recent recession–it was not good. I actually kind of wonder if it IS the same company, because management all had the attitude of “it is a privilege to work here, now stop complaining about 80-hour weeks and no lunch breaks, Interchangeable Peon”.

  16. RG*

    I’m trying to wrap my head around justifying paying less than market rate because my employee is using the paid leave we agreed upon.

      1. MeTwoToo*

        The letter definitely had a tone of ‘I can’t believe how ungrateful this unemployed peon is when we’re being so generous in even considering her’

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Meanwhile, the employee is saying,” I can’t believe this employer is not grateful that I decided to bail their butts in spite of how they are.” Gratitude Street is a two way road.

  17. Is It Friday Yet?*

    LW2: Have you considered that you possibly didn’t see the entire note title, or he was using his own shorthand? “People I need to hit up for updates”, “People I need to hit up for project ideas” , or “People I need to Help In Training”.

    I really would hate to see something innocent get blown up to HR or his boss, when a simple question to him directly could resolve your worries. To be honest though, I’d probably just ignore it, unless you seriously thought he was going to be violent.

    1. Alianora*

      That was my first thought too, although I admit the fact that he’s been verbally aggressive in meetings is maybe a point against that theory.

      1. JSPA*

        “aggressive” is a word that gets misused a lot. Like “the boss yelled at me” for, “the boss called me on the carpet for my mistakes in a quiet but rather unforgiving tone.”

        “you’re crap, and your product is crap” is verbal aggression. “I don’t know why we even have your department” can be a rude but dispassionate statement of fact. Or it, too can be aggression–but only if there’s something about the delivery that makes it so.

        It’s human nature to feel attacked, if someone questions your abilities or purpose, just as it’s human nature to feel “yelled at” if the content of the message is unwelcome and pointed. But “feeling attacked” (as, too, “feeling small” or “feeling ashamed”) are actually reactions that rest with the person having the feeling. They can happen in the context of an actual attack, belittlement, or shaming. They can just as easily happen if the recipient interprets, “I don’t see the purpose of having your department involved / the report was substandard” as “you are a basic waste of oxygen.”

        1. Not a Blossom*

          I understand your point, but at the same time, we are supposed to believe letter writers. If she said he has been aggressive, we should believe her.

          1. JSPA*

            Fair enough, but OP also characterizes him as “annoying and tone-deaf” but “not even the most annoying or tone-deaf person we work with on a day-to-day basis.” So basically, that’s the alternative hypothesis / differential diagnosis. OP basically is asking us to weigh in on one in the context of the other.

            I’m also not saying, “oh he’s probably not actually aggressive!” I’m trying to figure out what “verbally aggressive” means, to OP. Because there’s such a range in how people use the term.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        OP can bring it up to a supervisor or HR, even if or especially if it is an innocent list then the coworker has nothing to worry about. Normally I am not a “if you are innocent, you have nothing to worry about” type of person because I know that many innocent people can get in trouble. But with the coworkers history of verbal aggression I think it might merit being brought up to someone.

        If they have Jane, Fergus, John and Caroline on the list and the coworkers can show that they need to hit them up for updates on x work or project it can all be let go.

    2. M.*

      It seems the OP did consider that but it’s the context (verbal hostility towards coworkers) that is making her second guess her initial reaction.

    3. Rexish*

      I thought it would be hit as in “hit it” meaning to have sex. So I was a bit relieved, not that physical violence is any better.

    4. Myrin*

      She has: “We even joked that the title might’ve been cut off”.
      And while she mentions only one example of how the title could have been meant – Tony is a loan shark, which I love – I’m sure that since it’s crossed her mind at all, she’s already thought of other alternatives as well.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      She says in the letter that she has thought of that possibility, but paired with the other issues she mentioned, it’s totally believable he means he wants to physically hit people. I don’t think she needs to run to HR yet, but I would start paying extra attention to him and document anything she witnesses just in case. You hear of too many incidents of workplace violence and when people look back on the person’s behavior they realize things were “off”.

    6. AnonAndFrustrated*

      It’s not the OP’s job to determine or shoulder the burden of “unless you seriously thought he was going to be violent.” That’s why procedures exist to report suspicious behavior so that HR or supervisors or law enforcement can do their jobs to investigate. See something, say something. If it’s nothing, then great. If it’s something, you’ve done your part to protect others from getting hit, hurt or even killed. I have to think if the LW didn’t at least on some level think this list behavior was suspicious, she wouldn’t have submitted it to AAM asking for input. Trust your gut feelings.

  18. Name of Requirement*

    For OP3, I would engage with everyone who walks through. Greet and maybe stand up. Act surprised when they say are just passing through. Ask them to use the hallway next time, as you were in the middle of something. Make it a bit awkward for them.

    You could also stick a doorstop near the hinge, so it can be opened, but only with force as discouragement, and so you don’t have to move a bookcase before every meeting.

    1. CM*

      That’s brilliant. Instead of saying “can you use the hallway” just act as if they walked in to see you — which makes sense because they’re in your office.

    2. BadWolf*

      I was thinking the same! Enthusiastic greeting and awkward conversation.

      “Ooooh, looks like someone has a case of the Mondays!”
      “Leaving again??? Must be nice!”
      “Working hard, or hardly working!”
      “Hey! Are you going for coffee? Can you get me a decaf double double mocha frapaccino? I’ll pay you back tomorrow.”

  19. Laura H.*

    Op 3, would something like sturdy string across your doorways and a “NOT A HALLWAY” (caps optional) sign work?

    That way you’d have it open, but not an inviting shortcut, and be able to remove and affix the barrier as needed.

    1. Snorkmaiden*

      To be honest that kind of note – however understandable and justified – is going to seem hilariously passive aggressive. I wouldn’t.

      1. blobola*

        Yes! Nobody can get them open! Although OP will get one tall person who strides through and straight over them….

    2. Grand Mouse*

      How about packing tape across the doorway so they run into it, get stuck, then back off? you can use a similar method for training pets

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Traps! Quicksand in front of one door, snake pit at the other. Add some swinging giant balls and the occasional flight of darts.

      … Short of that, I don’t think people are going to give up the keycard workaround.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I like your idea, but I think OP should make it an obstacle course american ninja warrior style. If someone can make it through to the end they earned the right to cut through the office, if they fall they have to go back around through the main doors. Every person can try to navigate the obstacle course once a day.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I feel more like “Legends of the Hidden Temple” – there should be hidden guards jumping out to scare people and they should have to solve puzzles within a time limit. Either people will get good at assembling that silver monkey, or they will have to use the hallway.

  20. Language Lover*

    Your budget isn’t Arya’s concern. She has every right to expect a fair market rate for her work. The cost of Melisandre’s leave/benefits and the money the staffing agency gets are not her responsibility.

    I’m surprised that your company is so great if their best way to handle sudden medical leaves involves hiring temp workers at well below market rates. Temp worker rates often are higher than what your salaried employee gets because they include not only a service fee but also the hidden costs your company pays for Melinsandre that normally don’t appear in a base salary amount.

    $10 is painfully low and if this is the best your company could do because they weren’t prepared for a medical leave and don’t understand how staffing agencies work, then it’s the company, not Arya, who is coming off as unprofessional in this situation.

    You’re probably better off hiring Arya

    1. Mem*

      Right? If you’d bought a bunch of office supplies – say printer paper and for some reason it all got lost you couldn’t then tell you office supply person that you needed to replace it all but you only wanted to pay 40% that just wouldn’t fly.

      Staffing costs are for the business to cover, not the contractor. Personally, I think Arya should run a mile because this sort of mindset does not suggest a positive workplace culture

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      Yes, just like when you purchase anything else. Supply and demand. If you want a nice Italian meal but you only have $8, it’s not the restaurant’s concern why you’re so broke yet so craving of Italian. If you want a nice new car but you only have $5000, it’s not the car dealership’s problem how that situation arose. Likewise when you pay for labor. You want all these skills but can barely pay minimum wage. It’s not Arya’s problem why that is.

      1. TheCommenterFormrlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

        $10.00 per hour isn’t even minimum wage here (Washington state).

  21. nnn*

    For #3, could your desk itself be the obstacle? Obvs this depends greatly on the specific size and dimensions of the room and of the desk, but here’s what I’m thinking:

    It sounds like the people on the other side of both doors need to be able to access you for work-related reasons, which suggests that they need to be able to come to your desk. But you don’t want them walking *through* the office, which means you don’t want them to be able to get any further than the desk.

    If your desk is positioned in line with the doors along one of the long walls of the room, you could walk into the office from either door and sit down in the chair, people who have business with you could walk into the office from either door and approach your desk, but someone attempting to walk through the office would encounter the desk and the chair and your body and not be able to get past – or would have to scootch through an awkward crevice to get past, or would have to ask you to get up out of your chair to get past.

    If the office is significantly wider than the space taken up by your desk and chair, maybe you could also put something behind your chair, or between the desk and the wall.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Brilliant– make a mini-maze of office furniture, and it’s no longer an easy pass-through.
      I worked a temp job in a real hallway once. (*FYI to OP1, I got paid more than $10/hour in the early 90s.)
      It was really distracting, and it only got worse over time because people like to chat.

    2. Tau*

      I like the desk in the middle of the room idea, + a blocker to make it really awkward for them to get by without obviously interrupting you. Like, have a chair in front of your desk for visitors. Have some shelves/room dividers/boxes/etc. behind those which block the space between that and the wall. And if they do try to scootch past, don’t just ignore them. “Hi $NAME, what do you need?” “Oh, was I not clear earlier? You can’t use my office as a shortcut. Please use the hallway.”

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Or some Lego or skalectrix, if toys are allowed for breaks. Stepping over them is nigh on impossible and you can position as necessary, without needing to resort to baby gates or police tape ;)

    3. The Beab*

      This was my thought as well. Maybe a large plant or two (fake if necessary because this sounds like an interior room) so that the have to squeeze between the plant and the wall or OP’s chair.

  22. Sc@rlettNZ*

    OP 3 – I had the same issue in one of my old jobs. People used to cut through our office to get to reception and/or the copier instead of walking about four extra steps. The ONLY thing that worked was one of my colleagues moving his desk against one of the doors, which we closed (it was a huge internal office with four of us sharing).

  23. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP1. I am so astonished I barely know what to say. You pay the temp the proper market rate (in this case $25 an hour) plus a loading to make up for not getting benefits or whatever labour laws require in your state. That’s how business works. You don’t deduct the agency’s fee and the cost of leave taken by the person who is being covered from the temp’s salary. What has led you to think this is how it works? I am not surprised you aren’t getting many candidates with high level logistics experience along with supporting multiple executives for $10 an hour and no benefits. This is really terrible. She has done nothing wrong in the way she has responded to you. Your expectations of the hiring process, and of potential employees, is woefully out of sync with business norms. Further, I can’t imagine an employment agency recommending you pay someone $10 an hour for this job. Is that really what’s in the contract you signed with them?

    1. Myrcallie*

      To be fair, when I worked in agencies, I saw some really shady undercutting going on when employers didn’t care to ask too many questions about how much the temps were getting paid. This, though? This is the worst example I’ve seen of that, up there alongside the trilingual teaching assistant a colleague of mine was paying barely over minimum wage.

      1. QCI*

        My wifes job was paying a temp agency 17/hr (more than fulltime make) so that the temps could make the companies starting pay of 11/hr. I’ve never seen a company dump so much of the agency cost onto the temp themselves.

        1. Thatoneoverthere*

          Also OP, be prepared for Arya to walk the second something goes awry. There is no way on God’s Green Earth I would be put up with any crap for $10 an hour. Our local McDonalds pays more.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            Yup. In the early 2000s I had been laid off for a ear and a half and couldn’t find a job. Finally found one that was temp to perm. They were paying me a competitive salary, but I saw my “bill” on someone’s desk once and the agency was getting paid double my salary. So when they started to provide excuses when they wouldn’t hire me full time, I started searching for a job – when they got wind of that they finally offered me a FT position.

            1. Quill*

              Out of curiosity, do you mean “half of what they paid for me was going to the staffing agency” or “the staffing agency was getting 2/3, which is double my salary,” because honestly I’m prepared to believe either at this point.

              1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

                My salary was half of what the company was paying the staffing agency for me. So for example, if I was making $25/hr, the staffing agency was being paid $50/hr by the company.

                I probably wasn’t clear as to what my point was…I was being paid a competitive salary, but getting no benefits, and they kept telling me I was doing a great job and wanted to hire me. But they were dragging their feet. So if I was willing to bolt for a new FT job even being paid well, I certainly wouldn’t put up with any crap for $10/hr.

                1. Filosofickle*

                  When I was a 22 y.o. temp, at one gig I took on some accounts payable duties so I saw the invoice from the temp agency for me. It was the same as your experience, exactly double the rate; I was getting $12 and the company paid $24. (It was the mid 90s for entry level admin work so that was good.) Over the years I’ve occasionally worked various forms of agency-placed work — back then as an admin, later as a designer — but never again knew for sure what the upcharge was. The highest paying placement I had was $63/hour…I have always wondered if they were paying $126 for that, or if the agency took a smaller cut at that price level!

  24. Bilateralrope*

    OP1: Arya was the only person you found qualified to do the job who is willing to work at the rate you want to pay. What exactly are you planning to do if you withdraw the job offer ?

    Finding someone else who can do the job and is willing to work for so little seems unlikely. If leaving the position empty was an option you wouldn’t be hiring a temp. You don’t seem to have any options other than to hire her.

    You got very lucky that you found her. Even if she finds a better paying job and leaves you before the 6 months are up, you still got lucky.

    1. Flash Bristow*

      This. All the way, *THIS*.

      Please listen to people’s comments about pay, OP1. Even though it’s clearly hard to find, you need to – simple as that. Does your company really not have a contingency fund to cover things like sickness leave temps? Because that would worry me.

      As bilateralrope says, you are already lucky…

    2. MistOrMister*

      I thought that was really odd myself! They have been sent lots of people and only one had the necessary skill set. Rescinding the offer when they have no other prospects and it sounds like Arya has been behaving professionally is one of those cut off your nose to spite your face deals!

      But – OP is mad….because Arya doesn’t want to work for peanuts? $10 an hour at a large corporation that apparently is FAH-BYOO-LOUS is a slap in the face. I am surprised Arya was apparently able to be polite about the whole matter. Entry level into any office I’ve worked in has been at least 30 which comes out to about $15 an hour. I don’t know how you can justify paying someone less than half of the market rate when they come with experience and an apparently rather unique skill set

  25. Don’t get salty*

    #2: I was for sure that the “People I Need to Hit” list was going to be a list of people he wants to have sex with.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          They are always with us, commando crawling their way into new offices…

          (And yeah, I read this like salty–it’s a thirst quencher list.)

    1. smoke tree*

      Either way, doesn’t it seem like a really odd thing to make an explicit list about on your work desktop? Why add the heading for yourself–in case you mix up your violence/sex fantasy list with a list of project contributors? (Also, if there was ever a time for Game of Thrones naming conventions, I feel like this should have been it.)

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I was once calling a potential intern about a job and their voice mail said something like: “Not home-gotta hit this.” So… maybe it’s slang?

  26. Short Time Lurker Komo*

    LW#3 – you are not alone. One of our managers at work has a similar sounding setup for her office, though it is only her department to the building’s main hallway out instead of two different departments. She doesn’t mind if I cut through her office to get to her people – but that’s because I ask her if her people have time to help me if I see her in the office. IE, I talk to her about the work thing and I go around if another work thing is happening in that office. I’ve sat in her office having a work discussion when people from her department cut through to avoid going around when they leave for lunch.

    Closing the doors when you’re doing something confidential is going to be your best bet. I hope people respect close doors!

    If your work place has a sense of humor, have a stick that drops down to ‘block’ someone until they pay the newly enacted toll – something small like work supplies or candy. Collect all the pens and sticky notes! XD

    Good luck!

  27. Longtime Lurker*

    #2, I write horror fiction (or did long ago and was published). I made notes everywhere… in class, at home, at work. Let’s just say I’d hate it if someone saw pieces of my research out of context. Of course, paired with a volatile personality and discipline problems paints a different picture, but the note in and of itself may not mean what you think.

    1. Blueberry*

      Heh, I’m a hobby writer, and I name my notes files really innocuous things like “Staple inventory” precisely so that the titles don’t alarm people.

  28. Dan*


    OP, a few questions and observations for you:

    1. If you withdraw the offer to Arya, to whom would you extend the offer? So far, you’ve said that Arya is the only candidate with the skills you are looking for.

    2. Do you think you will be able to find other candidates that would be happy to do a $25/hour job for $10/hour? I’m pretty sure that those that tell you they would be happy are lying and/or desperate. Nobody is going to be happy working for that little. If someone is truly happy working for that little, you should probe pretty hard to find out why they aren’t holding out for a market rate position.

    3. What is the impact to your business with this role empty? How long can you go leaving it unfilled?

    Allow me to riff on the “we’re a large local employer” thing for a minute… I work for one and know what you’re getting at. The thing is, some departments are better to work for than others. I started in a department that is less desirable to work for (I didn’t know it at the time) and ultimately transferred into a much better one. You know what? It’s hard to transfer, and it’s far from a given. If I didn’t transfer when I did, there was a good chance I would have left the company. Some of my former colleagues are looking to transfer, and the reality is, there’s not enough places for everybody to go. My transfer was a complete fluke, and there’s no way I’d use the mere possibility as an actual enticement to get somebody to take a less than desirable job.

    If you’re truly serious about this as an opportunity for Arya to get her foot in the door, I’d take it a step further and create this as a formal temp-to-hire role. Leaving it as an open ended “if you do a great job you may make some connections and get a full time role” is a bit disingenuous, as it usually takes awhile to establish that one has done a great job as well as develop the appropriate connections.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think you raise an important point–even though there’s a world in which this contract leads her to a great job, the odds of that are probably pretty low. Not zero, and you can point to people for whom it worked, but opposing counsel can point to 8 times as many people for whom it didn’t work.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Specifically, “This really crappy offer will turn into a great job if you give it six months. Maybe longer. But someday…”

        There’s a distinction between “start at the bottom” and “start at minimum wage, even though we demand extensive experience, and accept a paycheck less than half the going rate for this work. Trust us, it’ll come out great for you down the line.”

        1. The Original K.*

          As someone else pointed out, at best it means Arya eventually ends up getting paid market rate for the work she’s already doing, which … is not good. “We might eventually stop completely screwing you over!” is not a compelling argument.

  29. AngelZash*

    LW 2:

    Alison is definitely right that you and your coworker know more about how much of a threat Tony presents. However, I think I would also think about how things seem to sometimes turn out in today’s society. A lot of mass shooters who go into their places of learning or work to commit large-scale acts of violence started out as the weird guy with problems or anger issues. I’m not saying that’s the case here, but I think it might be good to really consider if this guy is a threat by his past actions and displays of attitude.

    Again I’m not saying that he will be someone to do something big and violent and I’m not saying you should definitely go tell Tony’s manager, but I think this, and Tony himself, might be worth some serious thought before you simply dismiss it. It’s sad what it says about society today that I think I should recommend that, but I really do think you should seriously consider whether he’s a genuine threat or simply blowing off steam. And like Alison said, you’re the best placed one to make that call, not us and not your boyfriend.

    1. Loose Seal*

      This. I’m actually kind of surprised that so many commenters are saying to let it go. Tell his boss or HR and let Tony defend it to them. If it turns out to be innocuous then no real harm done. If they find out the list has more sinister connotations (even if it’s a list of people in the office he’d like to “hit on,” WFT!), they can take steps to keep everyone safe and/or not sexually harassed.

      (I may be slightly over the top on this because I watched “Stalking Laura” this weekend where John Boy Walton (!) is stalking a coworker, Brooke Shields. It is based on a true story and he killed several of her coworkers and real-life Laura still cannot today fully use the arm he shot during his rampage.)

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Part of the reason why I’d be inclined to let it go is it is such an awkward turn of phrase and because “hit” has so many non-violent uses. It certainly is possible he’s a serious threat and she’s assuming innocuousness where there is none…but she knows him and we don’t. If it said “people to punch in the face” I’d react differently. But because it could easily mean “hit” as in touchpoints or any of the various other possibilities many have mentioned. It’s not very clear at all whether this is/should be alarming.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        (Richard Thomas is under-appreciated as an actor. I saw him play Richard III and he knocked my socks off despite an odd modern production.)

    2. Myrin*

      This is a very good comment!

      I’m not from a place where mass shootings are common – and what a thing to say! Like, why are there places where mass shootings are common?! – so I have to admit that if I saw something like that on a person’s computer, I’d probably react pretty nonchalantly and in line with Carmela in the letter.

      But on the other hand, I watch a streamer whose workplace fired one of his coworkers last month because he had an actual literal hit list in one of his drawers and a colleague happened upon it. No one had been harmed yet but a police investigation discovered that this guy had indeed planned on killing several of his coworkers one after another.

      So I’m in concurrence with you, Angel – this could be nothing, or it could be everything. I’m willing to say that if OP’s gut definitely tells her that Tony is all bite and no bark, she should trust that. But also, there’s no need to simply move on from this immediately – observe him, think about his interactions and behaviour a bit more closely (maybe through a “Paulie lens” instead of an “OP lens”), and see if there’s anything that suddenly makes you see him in a different light now that you’ve decided to look at him from another angle. And if not, then that’s okay, too!

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      I think it’s also worth commenting on for Tony’s benefit here too.

      Maybe it is nothing, and it’s just his way of “blowing off steam” or whatever. But imagining “hitting” his coworkers is not an acceptable coping mechanism, and he needs to be told that he needs to find a better way to deal with that. The fact that so many people thought of workplace violence shows that this kind of list makes people uncomfortable. If someone ON the list had seen it, I imagine this would be a very different conversation, and it would not go well for Tony, regardless of what he meant by the list. The OP is in a position where they can say “Hey, I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, but someone seeing that note could get the impression that you intend to harm people. You probably shouldn’t have that visible.”

      1. EricT*

        OP only saw the title (and maybe not even the full title at that). No where is there any indication that Tony wants to hit his coworkers (since no names were seen).

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          His behavior indicates it’s possible he wants to physically harm his co-workers. As the original comment stated, I wouldn’t brush this off as nothing. It could be nothing, but it could very well be an indicator of a bigger problem and not something to ignore.

    4. HalloweenCat*

      Yeah I have to agree. It isn’t up to the letter writer and their coworker to decide if it’s serious. If you see something, say something.
      And I think it behooves the letter writer to talk to someone higher up, especially since they’ve already talked to a coworker about it. If their office is anything like mine it will go through the rumor mill and get back to Tony or to HR making it all much messier than it needs to be if it does turn out to be a misunderstanding.

    5. TooTiredToThink*

      My biggest concern is that as women we are often taught to stifle our red flag responses. (Ok, so I wasn’t, but I’ve seen it in so many women). So if there is *any* doubt OP, please talk to his manager

  30. Flash Bristow*

    OP5, since nobody seems to have replied to you yet, I just wanted to say I totally agree with Alison. It sucks that you only got answered from an unfamiliar number (tho she *may* have been waiting on a call, and *may* have been waiting to call you back later… yeah, who am I kidding!)

    But you did rather go overboard and frankly I’d find it easier to ignore you too… “Oh what, not them again… Argh, I must deal with that later…” Tho I would send an email letting you know the situation, once I was less busy and in the right headspace.

    Hope Alison’s advice and links helps for the future, good luck.

    1. Flash Bristow*

      Oh duh, just realised this was in the past. Sorry! But at least now you have an answer (and great advice for anyone in the same boat in future) from Alison. :)

  31. SS Express*

    I’m genuinely confused about #1.

    You say $25/hr is the going rate for this sort of work, but you expect Arya to accept $10/hr – way *below* the going rate – without question.

    You think Arya should jump at the chance because this is a great organisation that’s hard to get into and she doesn’t currently have a job…but it’s not like you can find anyone else to fill this (seemingly pretty essential) position. You don’t hold all the cards here.

    You say this organisation is a large local employer offering lots of opportunities, but it seems that the organisation a) doesn’t budget for leave, b) doesn’t understand how temp agencies work (you generally pay *more* when you go through an agency, so you can cover the agency’s fee and still offer the worker a decent take-home pay), c) doesn’t understand how salary negotiations work, d) doesn’t have much spare cash, and possibly e) doesn’t understand the concept of supply and demand. Is this really somewhere people are so eager to work?

    Unless there are some really significant perks here, like it’s an ice cream taste-testing facility on the beach run by Beyonce and decorated with a cupcake version of Willy Wonka’s edible wallpaper, it seems like there’s a gap between the reality (the organisation makes poor business decisions, is struggling financially and can’t attract good workers) and your expectation (anyone would gladly take a 60% pay cut to work here).

    1. Flash Bristow*

      Trouble is, I suspect the OP thinks that as Arya currently doesn’t have a job, she wouldn’t be taking a *cut* per se…

      But she would be being insulted, but I think we’ve all covered that so I’ll shut up.

      Btw, something that would affect my sensitive teeth? On a beach where I’d burn (and couldn’t use my wheelchair)? Run by someone who is undoubtedly talented, but I wouldn’t recognise? Heh!

      I love your thinking but for me, benefits would be working at night, access to decent telescopes, and free booze ;-) but thank you for the amusing concept, I’m sure most people would love it :D

      1. MayLou*

        This just goes to show that “great perks and benefits” means something different to everyone. The one thing we can all agree is a positive? Being paid a decent salary.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Things like this are why people stay on unemployment for so long too. When I was job searching, I would have been making more on unemployment than I would have by accepting this short term assignment. Pay people what they’re worth. End of story.

        1. Frankie*

          Plus jobs don’t cost the employee nothing. There’s commuting costs, potentially having to buy lunch while out or buy pricier portable foods, maintaining a suitable wardrobe, professional haircuts ($$$$$$ for women), all kinds of extras that add up, especially when you’re new and needing to make a good impression. Way back when I was temping and making very little money, I still needed to purchase business casual clothing to match what others at the company wore.

        2. Quill*

          Yeah, when I was job hunting most recently there was a point at which I would have been paying to work (making less than unemployment and spending more money) and it was definitely higher than $10 an hour

    2. Tuckerman*

      Yeah, this makes me wonder if OP is new to this company (or to his/her role within the company) and doesn’t realize that there are procedures for getting approval/additional funds for out of budget expenditures during emergencies. I wonder if his/her manager knows this is going on!

    3. ellex42*

      While working in an ice cream taste-testing in a facility decorated with cupcake flavored edible wallpaper sounds really great on the face of it…I could see that getting old pretty fast (and having a deleterious effect on my waistline).

      My brain’s attempt to visualize this is pretty impressive, though!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I worked in a bakery one summer, and after a month or so, didn’t think I’d ever want to look at a donut again.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I work in a baking supply company with a test kitchen, and trust me when I say that you get tired of the same yellow cake mix with white icing over and over (it’s our standard for testing bakeware, making videos, etc.) but on the days when the kitchen makes scones or brownies or pizza, then everyone goes nuts.

        1. Lynn*

          My dad worked at a commercial bakery when he was a youth. They allowed workers to take loaves of bread for breaks, etc. He said he got sick of it really quickly and for the rest of his life he was never one to have rolls/bread unless it was for a sandwich of some sort-and those were never his favorite. He would often have sandwich fillings and no bread rather than actually making a sandwich (don’t even ask me about the unheated hotdogs with no bread/condiments-nothing can explain that particular love). He didn’t even particularly like “bready” desserts like cinnamon rolls or foods like french toast or biscuits. He did like most cakes-but I think that was more a function of the frosting than the cake. :>

          Back on topic-I agree with the chorus here. If you pay that far under the market rate, you aren’t a great place to work. And you should expect that, the minute a better offer comes along (and it likely will given her experience and the low pay for the job), she will jump ship. As she darn well should.

          1. Pommette!*

            Just to add to the tangent: a friend of mine used to work for a chocolatier, and this was their approach. Employees were allowed to eat as much of the product as they wanted in-store, and got a rebate on chocolates they bought to take home or to share with non-employee friends and visitors. Most people got sick of eating chocolate within a week or two, and from then on only had the occasional sample when a new product came out.

      3. Luna*

        I worked in a cinema for three months, several years ago. I still have trouble tolerating the smell of buttery popcorn again, let alone eating it.

      4. Aphrodite*

        My mom worked at See’s Candy for a couple of years back when the family owned it. Employees could eat all the chocolate they wanted (plus of course they got a discount on purchases). Funny how it only took about one week of working there before employees refused to touch the candy any more . . .

    4. Frankie*

      This is a really good point that I hadn’t considered. There’s a mismatch btw. OP’s perception of her company and the reality.

      And, yeah, temps cost as much as or more than an employee, but the benefit is you don’t have to spend all your time recruiting and if they don’t work out you don’t have to fire them and pay unemployment.

  32. Not Australian*

    Drive-by sympathy, #OP3; this also happened to me. There were three doors in my office; one came in from the main part of the facility, one led to a corridor outside a meeting room, and the third (closest to my desk) directly into the meeting room itself. There was, of course, another door from the corridor into the meeting room, but it required people to turn right instead of left – something which highly-educated healthcare professionals (surgeons, no less) were unable to do until I put up a screen deflecting them away from my desk. Until then I would have between fifty and a hundred people filing past me, staring as if I were an animal in a zoo. Afterwards, when I politely reminded them that they were supposed to use the alternate door, I was called a (female dog) for expecting them to behave with basic respect. These were all fire doors and could not be locked or barred for any reason.

  33. Beth*

    OP1, I don’t think you’re looking at this situation with open eyes.

    You have a position that you desperately need filled for the next several months. It requires experience and expertise; it isn’t an entry-level thing that you could hire just anyone to do. You have a severely constrained budget, which will pay LESS THAN HALF the normal going rate to whoever you hire AND won’t provide benefits, and which apparently has no flexibility whatsoever.

    Under those circumstances, you should be thrilled that you found someone you like who’s willing to take the job! Arya is a unicorn; she has all the qualifications you’re looking for, she’s willing to accept a frankly insultingly low wage, she’s willing to work without benefits, and she’s been entirely professional through your whole exchange in spite of what must have been really disappointing news to her. In your shoes, I’d be scrambling for whatever perks I could squeeze in that would convince her to stick around until Melisandre came back. Snatch her up, treat her well, and unless you see major red flags, start actively looking for what roles might be a good fit to hire her on full-time when this temporary position ends. It’s the least you can do when she’s going to be filling such a crucial role for you for so little compensation.

  34. HardwoodFloors*

    OP1’s story is bummer way to start a Monday. Any temp job I have taken with no benefits has always ended up with a company taking unfair advantage of me and my skills.

    1. Ico*

      I don’t know, Melisandre is a pretty great character. Really the OP is making some odd comparisons about her employee’s baby. :)

  35. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    OP1, you sound like the kind of employer I hated when I was temping. It’s the bane of temps, but it sounds really egregious in your case: you want top skills but you don’t want to pay what they’re worth. You want someone fill a gap you’ve had a hard time finding qualified people for, but you don’t value the one you find who’s willing to even consider your BS. And you think the candidate should be grateful. Just because someone is temping doesn’t mean they’re desperate. And you’re giving her a grade-A view of what your opany and you as a person will be like to work for–not good.

    1. Not Australian*

      “Just because someone is temping doesn’t mean they’re desperate.”

      Amen. A temp is not the lowest form of human life; a temp is a valuable resource which may be available to fill a short-term need. Paying accordingly, notwithstanding the agency’s fees, is the only way of making sure you get a good one. In other words – pay peanuts, get monkeys.

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Preach. A good temp – professional, on time and able to learn the bulk of a new job on the first day – is worth their weight in gold. I temped in a couple of places that were nervous about the temp and the cost and they were happy with me because I proved myself quickly.

        The agency are not highway robbers for charging the fee: they have to pay for the building space they occupy, the staff, and the time spent going thru hundreds of resumes and screening them. At a temp agency, you get interviewed and tested, saving the employer time.

        Plus don’t promise the possibility – the possibility only! A maybe! – of a permanent job afterwards unless you truly plan to do so. I’ve seen that carrot dangled way too often and it’s rarely happened. It’s cruel and unfair. I bust my gut trying to prove myself at one temp job that had been presented to me and my agency as temp to perm. Thing was, there was never a plan to truly hire me as permanent. I do realize now there was a LOT going on in the background financially that I didn’t know about that affected that decision but to keep me hanging on month to month waiting for that offer was awful.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Years ago, I was unexpectedly laid off and signed up with a temp agency. I had been job hunting already, but I didn’t want to wait to see if I was going to get an offer. The agency sent me to cover front desk at a company for a couple of days. I don’t remember what they paid me (it was more than a decade ago), but the company requested me specifically the following week as a fill in and a week after that, extended me an offer through the agency.

          Good temps are hard to find.

        2. SuperAnon*

          Here’s a cautionary tale: a Big Company in a rural area had a contractor with 10+ years there — as a CONTRACTOR.

          Word came down from above that contractors needed to be converted, and quickly, before running afoul of various labor laws. The contractor — a top-rate contributor whom everyone loved — was offered less than she earned as a contractor for this supposedly fabulous full-time-w/benefits-job (yes, I know, the benefits had value… but she was an 11-year contractor!). And here’s what they said to her: “TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT.”

          She left.

      2. London Calling*

        I was so good at my job as a temp that the last agency I worked with still has my name coming up as a good fit for vacancies nearly three years later – and I have just contacted them about using them to find a new permanent role. A good temp is worth their weight in gold, believe me, and anyone with any sense does not piss their temps off.

      3. Liz T*

        I honestly miss being a full-time temp. I was one of the most in-demand temps at a huge corporation, and they had a lot of short-term absences to cover, so I basically got to wake up every day and think, “hmm, do I feel like going to work today?” The work was easy for an experienced admin and everyone was SO appreciative that I showed up knowing what I was doing. If I didn’t need benefits, I probably wouldn’t have taken one of the perm jobs they did eventually offer me.

        1. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          The lack of benefits is definitely an issue.

          There is also sometimes a lack of opportunities that permanent staff have: training sessions, Christmas parties, etc. At that job where the perm job never materialized, I was not allowed to join staff at the Xmas party and initially not allowed to attend critical anti-violence training (there was pushback from someone higher than me) that came up as a result of a new law.

          1. Liz T*

            Wasn’t an issue at OldJob. They invited me to the holiday party and I was at least in on the cybersecurity training.

            1. London Calling*

              Nor for me and I worked at small companies, medium ones and mega-corps. They all took the view that if you worked there, you were staff and you attending parties, team building, meetings and whatever.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Yup, same with both of my former temp jobs (though that really does blur the lines between who is an employee and who isn’t legally).

    2. Oxford Comma*

      When I was in library school, we would see this all the time. There would be a position for a librarian who could do original cataloging, was fluent in 8 languages, and had 5 years of experience. Then they would put the terminal degree as a BA and offer to pay $19K a year.

      It also reminds me of the tactic that retail employers have: “Well, it’s a part-time job and we’re going to hold out a carrot of full-time, but we’re never actually going to give you full-time. By the way, you need to buy umpteen expensive outfits from our store so you can try and upsell our customers. Also we’re gonna make you work for just under the hours when we would have to give you full-time benefits. What do you mean you’re quitting? You should be grateful just for a chance to work here!”

      1. AnonEMoose*

        You know, depending on the kind of store, if I were looking to build a business wardrobe, I might work there long enough to buy the outfits with an employee discount…then take my new wardrobe and interview for a better job.

    3. Wintermute*

      Exactly! I temped for a while because I wanted to grow my skills and I wanted to get a wider view of my industry, I was promoted in-house into a central operations role and the workplace was dysfunctional in the extreme, I wanted to know if that was typical, so after being laid off I took a few temp roles to decide if it was an industry I wanted to stay in and if OldJob’s dysfunction was part and parcel of the role or a unique kind of messed up (turns out they were uniquely screwed up and have since laid off two more rounds and cut back staffing way past “lean and mean” to “skinny and P.O.’d”)

      I expected to be paid a wage commiserate with my three years of tier-two operations experience, and I got it. I worked for a bank and then an insurance company (where I am now full-time employed, they got me on the temp “rent to own” plan), In fact I earned ~20% more than the full timers at the bank, because they were in a bad spot and I had the skills to walk on to the role and keep the place afloat on an undesirable swing shift.

      In my experience, at least for my industry, temps get paid slightly more than full timers because you have to make it worth it to skilled IT professionals to become hired guns rather than stable salarywomen without things like “benefit time” and “subsidized health insurance”.

  36. Don’t get salty*

    #1: You mentioned “we” a lot toward the beginning of the letter when you described this scenario. Did your team appear to be relieved when this candidate presented herself? If I were a part of the team, I certainly would feel a sense of relief at finding an employee who meets the specialized criteria of the position, at least relieved enough to want to present her market rate at a minimum. I ask this because I noticed, toward the end of the letter, that you referred only to yourself when describing the offer to this prospective employee. Did you discuss this offer with any of your team? Were they involved in this part at all? I would expect that if Arya will serve as a special assistant to the executive team, they would need her urgently and would not be pleased if she decided to look elsewhere or leave the position prematurely due to the abysmally low wages offered. Are you the sole person responsible for making this offer? If so, you might not realize how impactful your decision will be both to your employer and to this perspective employee. Your ability to attract and retain talent is going to directly reflect on you as well as on the employees you hire. If this letter is a true reflection of your attitude (and not mere frustration of having to adhere to unrealistic bugetary restraints you no control over) you can expect over time that no one will want to work with your company and no one will want to work with you.

  37. Myrcallie*

    Is this standard practice, to make a candidate pay for agency fees and take a reduced rate to pay for the person they’re covering’s maternity leave? At my org, we pay all agency candidates the same as the person they’re replacing- we take a financial hit from it, but if it’s someone with a highly specialised skill set like in OP1, it’s worth it.

    1. Xl*

      No, it’s not the standard practice at all—in fact, in my experience the standard has been to pay a rate *above* the rate of the person being replaced to offset the fact that the temp is not getting benefits.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      No, it’s not standard or even acceptable – that’s why the whole commentariat above is appalled by the notion.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And why they haven’t been able to find anyone qualified and willing to take the job, except one candidate whom they now want to run off.

    3. CoveredInBees*

      No. It is common that temps don’t get benefits but the rest of this is terrible behavior/planning on the part of OP’s company.

  38. FiveWheels*

    Given that LW1 is knowingly offering 40% of market rate, it seems like the options are hire someone unhappy with the pay or don’t hire anyone.

  39. His Grace*

    OP1: Let me get this straight. You are offering your temp 40% of what you paid your regular employee, and when she (rightfully) raised concerns about the pay, you seethed about it? Now you want to strong arm her by rescinding the job after she’d accepted? What the hell? You need to take to Arya and the staffing agency and find a way to make this work, especially since Arya’s skill set is so rare. You also should apologize to Arya about how you handled the pay. This is a bad look for you and the company.

    1. Tuckerman*

      This confused me a bit, but I have limited experience with staffing agencies. Typically doesn’t the company negotiate the bill rate with the staffing agency, and then the employee negotiates his/her rate with the staffing agency (and not the company directly)?
      Doesn’t the staffing agency have minimum requirements?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        When I worked in staffing, we’d usually ask what the pay rate should be and then calculate the bill rate from there. If we had an outstanding candidate, we could cut into our profit margin (which are generally much slimmer than one would think) and increase the pay rate a bit.

        1. Tuckerman*

          And then did the staffing agency pay the temp? This is where I’m confused. Presumably the staffing agency knows the approx market value for a job and doesn’t want to low-ball its employee so badly that it reflects poorly on the agency.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Yeah, and we often advised our clients on what an appropriate pay rate for that position in our market should be. Good employers took our advice and adjusted their rates accordingly. The others were the bane of our existence.

    2. a1*

      I took it as they are paying the temp agency the $25/hr and after the agency takes their cut Arya is left with $10. But I’ve never worked with temp agencies so maybe that’s now how that works.

      I also took it that they had budgeted for regular maternity leave, and not the extended leave their employee needs. So they need coverage for longer and sooner than anticipated and budget changes just don’t work that fast, especially in large companies. Budgets are set usually the August before the year (i.e. where I work our 2020 budget was set 2 months ago). They may have thought they might not even need coverage with the original maternity leave timing (with cross training, or just deciding to figure it out, or what have you).

      All that said, of course this is of no concern for Arya. I’m just not reading as much malice as so many others are. More frustration, confusion, and maybe even lack of experience working with temp agencies/temps. LW does need to accept it though.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        But in a company of any size, an employee with paid leave benefits might go out for pregnancy complications, heart surgery, recuperation after a car accident–they don’t alert management in August of the previous year that they intend to have a fractured pelvis next May. Money to cover paid medical leaves that might be taken is supposed to part of the budget, or a wigglable part of the budget. You don’t tell people that you can’t cover their medical leave because they didn’t tell you they would be hit by a car.

      2. Morning Glory*

        “Because of the cost of covering Melisandre’s paid leave and the cut the staffing agency takes, Arya would be earning around $10 an hour.”

        I don’t think they’re paying the temp agency the $25/hour from this wording. It sounds like they are deducting Melisandre’s leave costs first, paying the reduced amount to the temp agency, and then what is left for Arya is $10/hour. I’d estimate, assuming the temp agency is not taking an insanely high cut, that OP is paying no more than $15/hour to the agency.

  40. Marisa*

    This is a really important point!: just because you’re paying for the LOA person doesn’t mean the person covering should get shorchanged

  41. WellRed*

    oP 1, failure to plan on your part does not mean others need to work at poverty level wages. High school kids at McDonalds make more than your company is willing to pay.

  42. QCI*

    OP#1 Arya is going to leave as soon as literally anyone else shows up with a job offer. You better keep searching for candidates to replace your replacement.

    1. Sansa*

      And if they keep trying to underpay the replacements of the replacements will also leave as soon as anything else comes along

  43. Ruth (UK)*

    1. I generally hold the opinion that if you can’t afford to pay employees an appropriate wage then you can’t afford to have those employees at all. By paying less than the market rate, the company is effectively asking the employee to swallow their business costs. It’s pushing a company cost onto an individual. The idea that 6 months is an ‘extended’ leave after a pregnancy is also sitting oddly with me but I realise this is probably an American letter. In the UK, 9 months paid maternity is the legal minimum even without complications. Where I work, HR would not allow a temp to be paid like op suggests either. Each job is graded and you have to pay someone within the correct range for the grade of job they’re in.

    1. Agnodike*

      YES, that stood out to me too! I read “pregnancy complications and maternity leave” and thought, hmm, OK, 18-24 months is a long time for a temp, maybe they should do a contract hire instead, and then was very surprised.

      OP1, things like leaves and temp agency fees are costs of doing business. You pay those, not your employees. Here in Canada, it’s common for employers to top up federal parental leave benefits (which max out at 55% of salary) to the equivalent of 90% of salary; that’s just an expected cost that gets worked into the budget. Parental leave coverage contracts don’t then reduce the salary for the new hire, because, beyond the fact that they would be extremely uncompetitive if they did, that’s also just not how things work. Businesses pay the cost of doing business. And since parental leave is typically 12-18 months here, it can be a significant budget line item. Incredibly, businesses are able to stay in business.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah maternity leave is pretty much non-existent in the US. I’ve been working professionally for almost 25 years and I don’t think any of the companies I’ve worked for have had actual maternity leave. Women usually have to save up their vacation, and are allowed to take 12 weeks under FMLA, and are only guaranteed A job, not necessarily THEIR job when they come back. It’s BS.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        You are correct that people on FMLA are not guaranteed their specific job, but I believe they have to be given a job with similar pay, duties, seniority, and benefits.. For example a senior manager of department A goes on FMLA when they come back they can’t be “demoted” to assistant of department A, they could be moved to senior manager of department B with the same pay and benefits as before.

    3. blackcat*

      They’re legally entitled to fire the permanent employee. This happened to an acquaintance of mine. Her water broke just over half way through pregnancy, then she had hospital bedrest for weeks, then delivered a premature baby who was in the NICU. She got fired when her baby was 3 weeks old because her 12 week FMLA week was up. Two years later, she has a healthy kid and a good job, and she tells everyone what a crap employer that company is.

  44. Al who is that Al*

    #4 – it’s a real red flag when they underpay your mileage, what other expenses will they reduce or refuse to pay ? It’s another one of those “but you should be so happy to work here you’ll pay some of your expenses”. No, if you value your employees, don’t stiff them on the expenses. Fior Example… on Monday I drive to our main office for meetings, it’s a 5 hour round trip. However I get mileage for it so in the UK it works out to £63 for £30 woth of fuel. So on Monday morning I arrive a bit tired but £33 better off, rather than arriving a bit tired and pi$$ed off at being £30 down for fuel. Which one of those me’s would you like to sit down with to discuss the latest projects ?

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      It might seem that you are 33 pounds better off, but the extra mileage rate is to account for wear and tear on the car that you incur, so it is still a cost. You would have to conduct a brake change, oil change, tire change, get a new car 5 hours sooner than you would have had you not put in that mileage for your employer.

      1. LawBee*

        Yeah. The smart thing to do with that £33 is to stick it in your car maintenance budget, and not see it as extra spending money. You’re going to need it.

  45. Asenath*

    OP 3: I agree with those who say you’re going to have to find a way to bar one of the doors if there’s any way you can do it without running foul of fire regulations. When our group moved into a set of offices originally laid out for another purpose and without money for renovations, what had been a reception area became regular office space. The occupants had to keep the door from the main corridor closed and put a large sign on it saying that it was not an entrance to our area; the entrance was now the door the visitor had just passed. I think if I’d been making the sign, I’d have added helpfully “The door with a sign saying “Llama Groomer’s Offices” two feet to your left.” Others in our complex have resorted to putting card access only locks on their corridor doors.

  46. TimeTravlR*

    LW1: If you aren’t getting qualified candidates it likely has quite a bit to do with the salary. The applicant you selected knows what she’s worth and I’d really encourage you to find a way to up the salary. I know it’s hard to balance, but you will likely find in the long run it’s worth it.

    I was also new to an area to took temp jobs until i could get the lay of the land. My first assignment was with a local company that employed a lot of ppl in the small town (sound familiar?). I took the lesser amount the temp agency offered because I was in a financial position to do so. Within a couple months the company asked if I’d come on perm. They had to buy out my contract with the temp agency and I negotiated a hefty raise*. I hope you will have a similar experience with this person. Please treat her well.

    *I was the first assistant to be able to deal effectively with the CEO.

  47. Bagpuss*

    LW1 – AsAlison syas, Ayra hasnb’t ben at all unprofessinal ro ureasonable, she is natuarally cautious about taking a job which pays so far under market rates and it sounds as though your org is lucky to get her. The fact that you have struggled to fill the role would be a big sign that you are not offering realistic pay etc.

    I’m not clear what your rol in the organsiation is and what, if any, leverage you have, but if you have any, use iot to try to get a better offer for Ayra – whether that is bringing her actual pay (after any administratvei costs such as the agency fees are takne into accoutn) is closer to the market rate for the job, or if that isn’t posisble, offering her other benefits .

    I also don’t think that your suggestion that there may be a permenent role in due coruse is as much of an incentive as you appear to think – there’s no guarantee that a job will be available, and if I were Arya, I would be worried that your org. wouldn’t pay a reasonable salary even if they were to offer me a permanent role in 6 month’s time, as currently, all she has to go on is that she is being underpaid by a huge amunt in the initial role. Even if the permemnent role after 6 months were virtually guaranteed, 6 monthsis a long time to expect someone to work for 60% under going rate – you are effectively expecting her to subsidise the business to the tune of over $15,000 on the *chance* of a permanent post after 6 months. It’s not a good deal and she is smart enough to know that.

    As an employer, i know that e costs of providing employee benefits, and the costs of agencies, can mount up (we are a small business and have, by coincidence, had 3 people on maternity leave and 2 on long term sick, all at once – it’s expensive and it’s inconvenient that they all come at once (normally we might expect to have one person off every 2-3 years or those kinds of reasons, given the number of people we employ) but that’s the cost of doing business, and it doesn’t mean that we can, or should, expect any new or tempoary staff to carry the cost.

    1. Myrcallie*

      Right? The ‘oh, there *might* be a perm role in 6 months when Melisandre comes back’ is very much a ‘bird in the hand, two in the bush’ situation- I might sign up for the $10/hr role if I was desperate to make ends meet and not have too big a gap on my CV, but I sure as hell wouldn’t stop looking for others in the meantime, and my morale would take a massive hit in general for as long as I was working there (likely not long at all). OP1, please reconsider. Your business’ basic running costs are not your employees’ burden to shoulder.

      1. Pebbles*

        I’m wondering if OP#1 is thinking that if Arya does a great job, that permanent role in 6 months will be Melisandre’s role after they fire Melisandre when she gets back, and then Arya gets a slight bump in pay, but it will still be much less than the $25/hr they were paying Melisandre. After all, OP knows that Arya can work for cheap and it’s that or nothing, right?

        That’s my cynical fear anyhow.

  48. Delta Delta*

    #1 – So much side eye at this. I worked for someone just like #1. Boss offered very low starting salaries to admin. then when candidates tried to negotiate a salary, he’d call them unprofessional or (my personal favorite), tell them they were lucky to be getting a job anywhere. he specifically said he wanted to find relatively inexperienced people fresh out of school because they were “desperate” and he could pay them less than market rate. This was not a Hellmouth, but close. I hope “Arya” runs away. I strongly suspect OP 1 won’t find someone to fill the role satisfactorily.

    #3 – I had this same office once! (also on the near-Hellmouth described above; that was a bad office) It finally got to the point where I just didn’t ever do any work in that office because it was such a high traffic zone. Here’s the bad news: people don’t care that it’s your office, they only care that they can cut through to their on convenience. Suggestion: find a way to keep the doors shut. That’s the only way it will work.

    1. Frankie*

      Yeah at the worst company I ever worked for, one of the managers in an all-team meeting admitted that their hiring strategy was to lag the market so they could underpay less talented/more desperate people. Wow way to motivate the current employees! Got out of there as fast as I could after that.

    2. Quill*

      Oh, your boss and my old boss must have gone to the same business school! (Mine was hiring lab techs.) His right hand woman was still waiting on citizenship, everyone else was just out of school & had no idea what we were worth. He hit the jackpot with my impostor syndrome…

  49. LGC*

    …ouch, LW1.

    So there’s a couple of red flags – starting with the budget for Melisandre’s coverage. I’m assuming your company just…gave you what Melisandre would have earned as the total budget to cover her leave? That, frankly, is banana crackers to me.

    (I was going to start in on the temp agency, but it looks like you’re both paying for Melisandre’s leave AND her replacement’s salary out of the same pot.)

    Also, I’m in agreement that asking someone to take $20,000 a year (which isn’t much more than the poverty line for a single person) for a job you’d pay $50,000 for is…kinda insulting. Even if it’s a great company.

    Also, I’m wondering if this is the first time your company has hired temps. Mostly because I thought it was well known that staffing agencies take a cut of the wages (so if you pay $20, the temp sees like $15 of that).

    All of that said…if you can only afford $10,000 in salary, would it be possible to hire someone on a part time basis to cover what’s absolutely essential? Basically, get a contractor or something to do the logistics, and let the executives fend for themselves.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, this is not on the agency at all. I have had this conversation with employers.

      “We need someone with x, y, & z skills and we’re willing to pay $25/hour”
      “Okay, if we pay them $25/hour, we will be billing you $40/hour to cover our fees, taxes, etc”
      “No, no, we’re willing to pay YOU $25/hour”
      “… if we do that, we can only pay the person $10/hour”
      “So what? Find me a sparkly unicorn. By tomorrow.”

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Well, honestly, how dare Arya have the gumption to ask for a pay rate that is commensurate with her experience and the market rate? If she was truly a sparkly unicorn, she’d take what she was offered without question.


      1. LGC*

        To be fair, I read it at first as LW1’s employer offering the agency $25/hr and then the agency coming back and saying they can only pay Arya $10/hr of that – which seems pretty steep to me. That’s the agency taking a larger cut than the actual staffer, which just sounds really off in my limited experience with temp workers.

        But on second read, it was actually more like…let’s say $10 to Melisandre, $5 to the agency, and $10 to Arya. Which makes me wonder seriously if they’ve ever hired temps before.

            1. Quill*

              Everything about this makes me wonder if LW1’s company has misrepresented the rate they’re paying.

          1. LGC*

            Not going to speculate on whether they’re misrepresenting or not, but…the payout itself isn’t the problem, I think. It’s not uncommon for people to temp for pretty low amounts – like, one of my best friends temps in offices for not that much. (And when we had temps, they were making around $10, I think – but it was relatively low level work.)

            You’re right in that the rate is bad compared to the actual work they’re asking for, and that’s the problem.

            1. LGC*

              TL;DR – I don’t think it’s weird the agency took on a job that pays $10/hr. I do think it’s weird they took on THAT job for $10/hr. I’m not going to speculate why.

  50. Rebecca*

    #2 – the first thing I thought of was Oct 23 “National Slap Your Annoying Coworker Day” – not that I’m endorsing it, but it was floating around on FB and maybe he saw it and started a list. NSFW, certainly, and yes, someone should say something to him about having inappropriately named note tasks on a shared screen.

  51. nonethefewer*

    OP1: You know, I work for a company where its HQ is a huge name in their town. To my knowledge, they’re actually *more* likely to hire fairly, because being decent to your local folk is how one *stays* being a huge name in a town.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        But is it still a bear trap if it is being deployed against humans, or is it now a human trap?

  52. Bagpuss*

    LW3 – I would start closing your doors. People let the people you meet with on a regular basis know why (i.e. make clear that the door being closed doesn’t mean you can’t be disturbed (put a ‘do not disturb’ sign up for that scenario))

    This creates a visible barrier to disclourage people.

    When someone comes through, greete them as if they are there for a meeting / to ask you something, and if they then say that they are just passing through, as them to use the corridor as it is diruptive to have people using your office as a corridor.

    That way, you are explicitly flagging up *to* the people who are causing the problem, that they are causing the problem.

    If that doesn’t work, I would then escalate to closingthe door and putting a sign on it saying “No through way – pelase use corridor” Or whatever is appropriate.

    I would only put furniture across a doorway as a final resort (and after checking that you would not be breaking fire regs) as presumably you do want people to be able toto come to your room for meetings tc.

    I used to work in an office which was a short cut (there were stairs from the corner of my room up to the kitchen) , but fortunately I found that closing the door worked to stop people using it as a short cut (probably because normally a closed door meant you had a client with you, so even if I did not put the ‘engaged’ sign across, peopl assumed that!)

    1. Colette*

      I agree – close the doors and, when someone opens them, greet them as if they are coming to talk to you and ask them to go around if they are just passing through.

  53. Carlie*

    OP1, I find your comment about maybe hiring her in the future worrisome. You obviously can’t afford the cost of less than 2 full employees right now! That means dangling it at Arya as a possibility is at best delusional, and at worst an outright lie. Arya knows this, believe me. I’m concerned that you don’t seem to.

    1. Zap R.*

      Agreed. I can say from experience that “Maybe we’ll hire you permanently in six months when your contract is up” just makes your employee stressed out, anxious, and afraid to get too invested in their job.

    2. Clisby*

      I figured the only way this could happen was if Melisandre didn’t come back to work after her leave (which, perhaps not coincidentally, is 6 months.)

  54. Marny*

    I hope Arya quits after a week when she finds a job at a company that’s willing to pay what she’s worth and not act like they’re doing her a favour. And then I hope the maternity leave employee quits on him too. I’m truly disgusted at OP1’s attitude and how he justifies treating people.

  55. The Wall Of Creativity*

    #2 Tale a photo of the list when he’s not at his desk. Email it to HR and to everybody on the list. Stress the need to stay anonymous.

    1. The Wall Of Creativity*

      Sorry. Thought it was on a post it stuck to his screen but he has it stored on his PC? That’s different.

  56. Amy*

    I get a reimbursement for my car. I drive about 15K miles a year and my company calculates reimbursements by tiers. Under 5K, gets 58c a mile. At my tier, I get $400 a month + 19c a mile.

    I’d recommend carefully logging your miles for a month. You’d need to anyway if you were going to get reimbursed. At my company, we’re required to use an app but plenty of companies use a notebook.

    Once you have a month’s worth of miles, I’d approach them with calculations on what you’ve spent on gas and how the IRS would gauge wear and tear (which is built in to the 58c formula)

    1. ZuZu*

      Yes, definitely log your mileage. Additionally, the IRS rate is not usually a recommended reimbursement rate (because individual costs vary so widely). Rather, that is the rate that should be used to deduct your mileage as a business expense on your taxes at the end of the year. If you’re reimbursed less than the IRS rate, you can still deduct the difference (so if the current rate is 58 cents and you’re paid 40c, you can deduct the 18c per mile difference) I worked for a vehicle reimbursement company for a number of years and have a weird amount of this knowledge stored.

      All that being said, the IRS updates the rate every year or so (it was 56.5 cents/mile back in 2013 when I was last involved in this) and I’m sure your company doesn’t update it nearly as often. Certainly doesn’t hurt to ask them to increase the rate!

  57. Llellayena*

    Op1: while you may not be giving the temp benefits, the temp company is. The part of her wage that the temp company takes is intended to cover those expenses. So when you hire a temp the calculation should NOT be the same hourly rate as your regular person because that would get slashed by the temp fees. It should be the hourly rate of your regular person PLUS a reasonable amount to cover the temp agency fees. Take home pay for the temp should probably be no less than 75% of your regular person’s take home pay, and matching it would be better if the skill levels are similar.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      They’re actually probably not. The temp agency might offer some level of health insurance, but it’ll be crazy expensive for the temp, and not available to them until after they’ve worked for something like 9-10 months. Same for any piddling amounts of paid leave that might be available – not for the first year, and after that you earn like 5 hours of paid leave a month. I worked through various temp agencies for a total of about seven years, and none of them offered “benefits” that were worth taking, even if I did work there long enough to be eligible for them.

      1. QCI*

        The only benefit I’ve ever gotten from a temp service was an umbrella after logging over 500 hours with them, which I didn’t know about or get until around 800 hours in. Another place didn’t even have bereavement pay when my mother-in-law passed away, they just didn’t “count it against me”

      2. Llellayena*

        Oh I’m certainly not saying full benefits like in a full time job directly with a company, but all the costs of employing someone outside of their base salary would be incurred by the temp company. That may include some limited health insurance, possibly increased tax rates (not sure if temps have higher tax rates than a regular employee), payroll overhead and related administrative costs. I’m not sure how temp agencies fit with FMLA, but there could be costs associated with that if a person works for the temp agency for more than a year. There are other state and federal requirements that could come into play that the temp agency is absorbing the cost for that would normally be in the calculation if the company was hiring a regular employee. The cost of a regular employee to a company is not just their base salary and that should be reflected (at least in part) in the rate for hiring a replacement temp.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I doubt that’s true. When I was a contractor, I had to make a certain amount per hour to receive benefits through the temp agency. When the company was making excuses and dragging their feet in hiring me permanently, my recruiter was able to negotiate a higher hourly rate so I could receive benefits, but I’m don’t think that’s the norm.

    3. Quill*

      In the US a surprising number of temp and contract companies don’t offer benefits, or offer benefits that the company doesn’t actually pay a cent for beyond that their employees are “eligible” to buy the insurance at full cost.

  58. The girl from the Soap Box*

    OP1- This low wage and behavior honestly infuriates me. It is rampant in my area. I was job searching several years ago and this kind of thing happened all the time. I was 12 years out of college, with 12 years of experience under my belt and had places offering my $10-15 an hour for jobs that required years and years of experience. Companies if you wonder why you cant find candidates that stay, or are competent, this is why. Pay people a fair wage. We have bills to pay, student loans and kids to feed and clothe. ::steps off soap box::

    1. Toast*

      This happened to me too. A job wanted to pay $20/hr through a temp agency for a director-level role that probably paid at least $80k/year, minimum (on the low low end). It involved overseeing an entire department and regular public speaking engagements. They wondered why they had so much trouble keeping a temp, because everyone they hired either turned it down or quit within a week.

        1. Toast*

          Yes. YES. Honestly, I think they changed the title from “Teapot Director” to “Teapot Temp”. The recruiter made it sound like, oh the last person in this job did a bunch of extra work because she had xyz license.

          Then I asked the hiring manager in the interview what the difference was between the temp job and the director job and he said NOTHING. He said the “extra work” the prior employee did was essentially just answering one-off, infrequent questions related to her license.

          He also told me that the last person quit after a week because he was too stressed out by the responsibility (I mean — they hired an administrative temp!). Second, they hired the other person (not me) that the agency sent to interview because she’d be a better “long term fit,” and she quit after 3 days. Then they offered it to me. I turned it down (I do have the experience, but the pay was terrible for what it was). The agency said they weren’t willing to work with me again. *Shrug.*

    2. Sansa*

      Honestly even if you had no bills or obligations and we’re just pocketing your paychecks you still deserve to be paid a fair wage for the times, the cost of living and your experience. I’m almost 2020 $10/15 is a fair wage for any level of experience. These were wages for jobs 20+ years ago that are still the same wages for the same roles. Everything else has tripled except basic wages and it’s appalling.

      1. Sansa*

        So many typos while trying to eat kettle corn for breakfast and type with one hand on my phone!


        $10/15 is NOT a fair wage for ANY level experience in almost 2020. Wages haven’t moved in decades while everything else has tripled. It’s appalling

        1. ThatGirl*

          I made $10/hr at my first full-time job out of college, in 2003. It was at a small-town newspaper in a low cost of living area and I was STILL being seriously underpaid.

        2. Toast*

          Yeah……. I literally made more in 2006 as a high schooler with no experience than I did in 2019 at a transitory job. Employers are getting away with murder.

      2. pcake*

        Exactly this!

        It shouldn’t matter that the temps or employees need to pay bills. A company should pay for the work, knowledge, experience and responsibility.

        Besides, what the OP’s company is offering is what our local Target pays for inexperienced, entry level workers with no job skills. That isn’t hyperbole – it’s literally what they offer.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      When I was job searching back in 2015/2016, I learned that my former toxic employer was paying extraordinarily well in my area. Any job I would have taken would have been a pretty significant pay cut. Then I realized that they were paying so much because they were toxic and it was the only way they could get employees.

      It’s all just so screwed up honestly.

  59. Mophie*

    The only think you should do is thank your lucky stars Arya didn’t tell you to go pound sand. And then figure out a way to pay her a fair wage because when you underpay someone by this much, they will leave and not feel much obligation to give you things like notice.
    And lastly you need to rethink your idea of what it means to employ someone. It’s a mutual relationship. You aren’t doing your employees a favor, you are entering into a business arrangement with them. One that needs to be fair on both sides.

  60. PersephoneUnderground*

    I’m sure there’s been plenty written on LW #1, but I was really thrown when she suggested that simply saying she needed time to consider the offer was unprofessional (yes, Arya was honest about the problem being how low the offer was, but the LW was already aware of that). That’s actually *standard* from what I understand. I taught never to accept on the spot because it’s such an important decision. At least a day is minimum to allow for a candidate to give due consideration. It’s like buying a car- you *never* drive anything off the lot the same day, no matter how much the salesman wants you to or how much you like it. Taking time to consider just shows Arya’s taking this seriously, and is definitely not a reason to pull the offer. Just like negotiation is also standard- it’s a perfectly normal thing that most candidates, especially those with options, will do. LW will do herself a disservice if she sees these normal practices as reasons to drop an otherwise great hire.

    1. Zap R.*

      Also, taking time to discuss the offer with your spouse and making sure it fits your family budget is an extremely adult and responsible thing to do.

    2. Look Before you Leap*

      When I was last job searching I got an offer above my asking price and I still told the company I wanted some time to think about it and consider other offers.

    3. Niktike*

      Right? I got an offer that I was 100% sure I was going to accept, and I still took 2 days to think about it. Who is this person who thinks taking time to consider major life choices is “unprofessional.”

  61. Toast*

    It’s interesting — managers only say I’m “lucky” to have a job when I’m being underpaid. I’m “lucky” to have a job making $7.25/hr, but strangely no one says that to me when I’m making $35/hr.

    1. Frankie*

      Yeah, the only employers who have EVER, ever said that to me were either grossly underpaying me or overworking me, or both.

      1. Toast*

        I wonder why this happens lol. I guess because when you’re appreciated, the employer feels lucky to have you?

        1. Frankie*

          Haha, probably.

          Seriously, though. Good managers don’t see the employer/employee relationship as one of maximum extraction.

    2. Quill*

      Exactly. Nobody condescends to you about how you should be grateful when you’re making market rates.

  62. Lalitah28*

    I must admit that when I read OP#1’s letter, I fumed a little at the effrontery and condescension I may have projected into the inquiry of how “unfair” it is for an prospective employee to consider if a salary is market-rate and enough for her to live on.

    OP#1 really needs to think that salary is what people exchange HOURS OF THEIR LIFE for which cannot be returned to them. It’s highly unethical to advocate a high salary for yourself and then turn around and nickel and dime someone else in pay.

    Please think about the implications of your original thoughts on this problem.

  63. Sansa*

    Honestly I hope Arya finds another role. Calling her unprofessional and acting as if she should be grateful for $10/hr makes the OP sound unreasonable and possibly someone who will be very difficult to work for. I wonder if the OP would be okay working for $10/hr. Maybe they can give up some of their salary to pay Arya fairly, since that’s an acceptable rate in 2019. Smh

  64. Me*

    Oh OP1 you sound like a nightmare to work for. I’m sure your place of employment is great and all, but it isn’t worth much unless you have great people working there. Alison was way nicer then I would have been. The attitude in your letter is horrifying and I really hope you just had a moment of terrible judgement and have returned to the land of humanness.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      What happen if the worker does not come back, and the temp is hired, but leaves for a better offer 3 months into the job?

      Not all moms come back after leave. $25/hr might not be enough to tempt a new mom back if she’s indecisive, especially if she has needed skills.

      OP is will then to have to seriously hunt for someone who will take $25, and need them right flipping now. Good luck with that.

      1. Sharkie*

        That is exactly what happened to my mom, and she had an ownership share in the firm. But on the other hand you can’t assume that she won’t be back because everyone is different. OP is really making sure they are not coming from a place of strength to make any good decision whatever happens- she is alienating a good worker with needed skills!

      2. Rebecca*

        I just came here to add this! We’ve read more than a few updates along the line of people on leave, choosing not to go back to work! What if Melisandre decides not to come back after the baby is born. The OP needs to think about that, too. Honestly, $10/hour is an insult given the amount OP pays Melisandre and the fact they want everything covered while she’s on leave.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          If I were Melisandre, I wouldn’t come back, but that’s because I would have found another job in that six month leave period. From the tone of this letter, I’m almost certain this employer is not a good one to work for, and I suspect they don’t treat her any better than they’re trying to treat Arya.

  65. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – it sounds like you’re taking the portion of the salary that you’re paying the temp agency out of the temp’s actual salary and that’s not how it works. She already knows you low balled her but is willing to accept it and take the job. What you’re doing is very unfair, and you’re lucky you found anyone qualified that’s willing to take the job at that low of a salary. Count your blessings and try finding a way to pay her considerably more.
    #2 – I think your BF has a point, and I would start paying more attention to your co-worker. His “hit list” may just be harmless venting, but we hear too many stories of workplace violence that you need to take this a bit more seriously. I wouldn’t go to HR right now, but start documenting things and pay a lot of attention to his actions, and if you ever think there’s even the slightest possibility that he’ll go off the rails, either speak to your manager or take it to HR.

  66. Jennifer*

    I think it’s possible that OP1 isn’t used to people asking for time to think about an offer. If they really are the only company in the area offering decent opportunities, people there probably jump at the chance to accept a job there.

    That said, the pay is just unfair. I hope Alison gave her a wakeup call on how this is supposed to work.

  67. fortheloveofspreadsheets*

    #1 I just want to point out that she works for the staffing agency, NOT for the OP. She should be negotiating with her employer to have her salary/benefits increased. When this happens at my job we refer them back to their agency, as that is who we have a contract with.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      That’s a good point, I’ve worked through a staffing agency once before and they negotiated everything for me. Got me very decent pay too.

    2. Mary*

      I wasn’t sure whether Arya was being employed through the agency, or whether LW1’s company was employing her directly and paying a flat fee to the agency, but basically taking it out of the budget for Melisandre’s leave and paying her whatever was leftover. It sounds like the salary negotiations were all done directly between LW1 and Arya rather than between LW and the agency.

      I would assume that if Arya were being employed by the agency, they would have demanded more for this position than $25 ph. They’re a terrible agency if they haven’t!

      1. Hamburke*

        This – I’ve worked for a staffing agency both as a direct employee and as a placement. There are many types of contracts they can work with.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The thing is, the agency is constrained by what the employer is willing to pay. It is possible that the agency was negotiating on Arya’s behalf and LW #1 left that out.

  68. Spek*

    If you pay someone with experience and qualifications barely over minimum wage, you will get:
    1) Not a grateful employee but a resentful one
    2) An employee that, given a choice, will likely not go the extra mile for the company
    3) An employee, that since she is working for a temp agency, will likely bolt at the first opportunity, giving no notice.

  69. pcake*

    OP1, the company my husband works for uses a staffing company that requires that their staffers receive a fair wage – they literally wouldn’t allow Arya to take this job. It’s normal here in Southern California to pay a temp company the full normal wage for the job – and often a little more – with the temp agency’s money being added on top of that.

    Your company is saving on benefits including monthly health care by using a temp and yet isn’t offering the money the company won’t be paying – easily another $500 a month – to make a highly qualified candidate feel wanted and appreciated – and so they can pay their bills. Instead you offer an experienced, highly qualified candidate an amount that pretty much equals just over minimum wage. Be grateful she’s willing to consider it, and it’s cool that she was so honest with you.

  70. Not a Blossom*

    I feel like OP1 has really lost perspective. You should be focusing on the fact that you have a role that sounds both crucial and challenging to fill. Despite the fact you are paying well under market value, you found someone who both is qualified and behaved professionally and who somehow agreed to take the position. (Think about it: Would you want to take a position that only paid 40% of market value?) Don’t let your inflated sense of your company’s worth lead you to shoot yourself in the foot by pulling the offer. Be grateful you found a qualified candidate willing to work for a paltry salary and see if you can find a way to pay her more so that you don’t find yourself looking for someone else to fill the role halfway through your employee’s maternity leave when the candidate finds a job with a reasonable salary and benefits.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Maybe the LW could take a 60% pay cut to cover. What, that’s not fair pay for the position? Yeah.

  71. Hollandaise in Retrograde*

    OP1, your letter sounds like your attitude is punitive to those that have the experience you seek but are out of work at the current moment. Just because you don’t like what the potential temporary employee said doesn’t mean that it’s unprofessional. It means that it struck a chord and maybe you should rethink the pay for that position. You get what you pay for.

  72. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

    #1 – my apologies if someone else pointed this out already, but in addition to the unfairness of what you are trying to do to the candidate, you have a strong potential to sour your company’s relationship with the temp agency, as well. Remember, they are a vendor/supplier, too, and you don’t want your company to be known for pulling a fast one on people.

  73. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

    #1: If you cannot pay Arya the going rate, then perhaps the situation should be viewed from another angle.

    Are there current employees, each of whom possesses a portion of the skills that Melisandre has? Can they -as a group-take on the tasks that will fill in for Melisandre?
    Then bring in a temp (who properly earns $10 per hour) who will relieve each member of this group of their routine work tasks. That will free up their time to attend to Melisandre’s work.

    Granted this will take a lot of coordination to accomplish.

    1. banzo_bean*

      That’s great advice! Although since they’ve already offered Arya the job and she’s accepted- it might be too late. But that would be a better solution if implemented correctly.

  74. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    #2: So I disagree with Alison’s advice and would alert HR and your manager. I understand that it could be hypothetical, but I wouldn’t chance it. There are so many other ways to channel your frustration – making a fake hit list (if it is that) is not the way to do it. Your “stupid meeting” notes are not exactly the same.

    1. Scarlet*

      I agree. Who does this? And on a work computer no less? So unprofessional. This person has anger issues if they really feel compelled to write a list like this at work.

        1. Mama Bear*

          IMO better to say something and have it be nothing than say nothing and find out later he’s spiking the coffee with arsenic or something.

    2. Colette*

      Yeah, I think it’s worth bringing it to a his manager’s attention – even if it’s not a real threat of violence, it’s a troubling way to think about coworkers.

  75. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: It sounds like I’m in the minority here, but where I live, temping for minimum wage is common, or used to be. Yeah, the employer would pay the agency a rate, the agency would take their cut, the rest went to the temp. It wasn’t really considered the employer’s business what the temp made – their contract was with the agency, it was between the agency and the temp what the temp made. I temped at minimum wage for a couple of years. I remember finally telling one agency I refused to take anymore contracts at that rate, and I was told point-blank that they didn’t offer any contracts paying above minimum wage. This was during the Great Recession, so there was never any shortage of people willing to do it. (I believe there are crackdowns on this system now to stop this exploitation, but all of it is perfectly legal).

    That said, I’m largely referring to entry-level clerical work here. If you needed skilled workers, you were always expected to pay them properly, even if you were hiring them thru an agency. Skilled workers have options, even if they take a low-paying gig for awhile out of desperation, they aren’t going to stay.

    LW1, I’ll advise you, as someone who has made the compromises you expect Arya to make – people who know they are earning well below market rate, who know the permanent employee in the next chair is making double what they are for identical work – those aren’t happy employees. Those are people with low morale, low motivation, who are probably actively looking for better-paying work. If you want good work, you need to pay for it.

    1. Allypopx*

      You’re not wrong, but this is a higher paying job in a very different economy than what you’re describing, so I’m not sure the experience is comparable.

    2. san junipero*

      Yeah, I’m absolutely certain that Arya will be looking again very, very soon, and it probably won’t take all that long to find something better. LW1, if you do hire Arya without fixing both her pay and your general attitude to the position, expect to find yourself in this situation again in a few months time.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I was a temp in 2004 and made more than minimum wage by a long shot.

      They have many different roles. They have many different agencies that specifically aim to fill higher ranking spots.

      You’re right that it’s the low rung jobs that experience that kind of wages. Manual labor and such are around minimum wage. You may get a receptionist or office clerk, maybe. Not one with any experience most likely.

      I just had a colleague who did temp work for upwards of $50 am hour (her cut so billable is around twice that and had her contact purchased out to bring her own as their controller. Nobody is working as a controller for anywhere near minimum wages. But you can indeed find them through agencies.

      Temp rates are high because all the risk is on the agency for taxes and benefits if they’re offered. Along with their overhead. That’s the price you pay to test drive and lease an employee over hiring one directly.

  76. Allypopx*

    OP1, I’m sure this has all been hard to read and I don’t know if you’ll even get this far, but I hope you’re really internalizing the feedback. I’m sure you’re not a bad person, but your professional norms seem skewed. It’s normal to ask for time to consider an offer. When something like an extended unexpected leave happens, sometimes you have to go overbudget to fill it. You need to treat your employees like independent professionals and not like people who are lucky to get the privilege of working with you.

    I’d be interested to know more about your history with filling these kinds of openings. Hiring is hard! And many people don’t know how to do it well, you don’t know what you don’t know. Now you have good information to do better going forward. I hope you do, and I hope you find it in your heart to offer this poor woman more money. You’re not going to get the best performance from an employee who has been so demoralized right out of the gate.

  77. Arctic*

    OP 1 I don’t want to pile on but what is your plan here? This is the only person with the experience and willing to work basically minimum wage. You plan to allow top level executives to go without service? How will you explain that? “She wasn’t happy with the salary offered.” “Oh, she turned it down?” “No, she accepted but she wasn’t happy with the salary.”
    Even if you are above them that is no way to treat execs.
    It’s no way to treat Arya either but also your own employees.

  78. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    You budgeted $10 an hour for a position that pays $25 regularly…woah that’s offensive and you’re lucky she accepted. That’s not even minimum wage out here, how appalling. Yet you’re mad she’s noted how unfair it is.

    That’s why the agency has only sent you bad candidates until now! You’re now taking advantage of a woman who is desperate.

    She’s going to leave before the 6 months is up unless there’s a contract involved with the temp agency. I bet this is just a filler job she takes while job hunting. I would be prepared to retain multiple people the next 6 months given the awful choice to think of your budget as more important than full coverage for an important position.

    You’re a big important company that can’t pay market value because of all the costs involved? That’s really telling about how that’s not at all a fair place to work.

    1. Allypopx*

      Yeah I’d bet the conversation with her spouse was “well it’s something for now, I’ll keep looking.”

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yep. It’s like taking a retail job just to stay afloat.

        She’s also probably waiting to hear from resumes she’s been sending out, interviewing she’s already in the process for and other agencies out there she’s connected with.

  79. Dust Bunny*

    LW1, I made $10 and no benefits as a trained-on-the-job (no degree) veterinary assistant. Fifteen years ago. It wasn’t a living wage then, either. Guess why I no longer work in the field?

    Your company has botched this: They need to have a plan in place to either cover the work with somebody internal or to pay a temp appropriately. You’re asking for caviar on a tuna budget.

  80. stitchinthyme*

    Regarding #1, it really seems like companies rescind offers over such trivial things! Years ago I got a job offer, and I asked the recruiter if they could find out for me whether the role would require me to be on call after hours — as a software developer, this is not hugely common, but it does happen sometimes, and I like to know up front if that’s the case so I have all the relevant info before accepting. They rescinded the offer simply because I asked the question. I still don’t know what the heck that was about; maybe the recruiter phrased it like I wouldn’t accept the offer if it involved on-call (though I hadn’t said that)? Anyway, I had gotten another offer at the same time — for more money — so I wasn’t too heartbroken. I figure I dodged a bullet if they were willing to rescind an offer over one question.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My partner once had an offer rescinded years ago because he wasn’t “enthusiastic enough” about the job…

      A job that was basically a distribution center. At a decent enough pay but in a hard to get to bustling city. So yay…a standard job…woo?

      He asked for a couple days to think. They said sure. Then he called to accept only to be told his assistance wasn’t necessary because he shouldn’t have needed time to think. That it’s a fantastic opportunity and he looked a gift horse in the mouth.

      In a world where you’re competing with Amazon who hires everyone who shows up at their warehouses. Lmfao you’re acting like a similar job is to jump at.

      Yeah we laughed. He didn’t get good vibes there and that’s why he took 48hrs to think on it. We’re glad they showed themselves as the weirdos he thought they may be before dealing with the headaches that we’re sure would have come working there.

    2. Antilles*

      The cynic in me believes the answer to your question is yes, they expected on-call after-hours work, lots of it, probably as a salaried position with no additional pay.
      You know why? Because if the answer was “no, there’s no on-call work” or “extremely rarely, like when a pipe burst in 2012 and flooded our server room” or something of the sort, they could have simply said that.

      1. Luna*

        I was hired and told I would only be given nightshift in case of emergency, when the main, substitute, and second substitute nightshift employee were suddenly all unavailable. I figured, okay, that might mean one or two nightshifts in a total timespan of, what, maybe 3 months? No problem.
        Then vacation time rolled around, I learned the substitute nightshift employee *can’t* work nightshift anymore because his other job requires him more, and he has a kid, so he can’t cut into the little time he has with him by working nightshifts.

        I can’t say I want to accuse my former boss of lying when she hired me, but that she either didn’t think it would be this frequent or she honestly didn’t understand when I told her that I left nightshift jobs behind because they are bad for my health.

        Still a bit torn if I feel just bitter over being let go or getting angry and writing it off as ‘Good riddance’.

        1. 1LFTW*

          It’s OK to feel both. That employer sucked. I still have plenty of Feelings about certain past employers!

  81. 1234*

    OP #1’s situation – I wonder if OP#1 has no control over what the temp agency is paying Arya.

    I think is the fault of the temp agency for accepting the total fee as $25/hr instead of going back to OP’s company and saying “$25/hr is the average rate for this role. For us to successfully find you a candidate and have it be financially feasible on our end, we will need $60/hr.” (or whatever other amount to cover their fee and the salary for Arya)

    That being said, I agree with the other comments that have already been made about this topic.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      No. You tell the agency what you want to pay the temp then they add on fees to give you billing hourly rate.

      Also paying a person $25 an hour as an employer costs overall more due to the taxes paid on top of that. So on the books, the company is paying closer to $35 an hour overall.

      This isn’t on the temp agency. The company knows exactly how temping works and the costs involved. It’s been the same forever.

      The company is just being beyond cheap.

      1. 1234*

        Really?! My previous job utilized temp agencies (to hire someone for a short term gig). We had no control over what the agency paid the temps since the agreement to work is between the agency and the temp. One agency re-negotiated their rates with us every year but I don’t think their staff saw much of an increase.

        I see Temp Agency advertising the role that we are trying to fill and it says $18/hr (average rate for what we are looking to fill, low end is $15/hr). We were paying Temp Agency $30+/hr when I left Previous Job. We do not set the $18/hr rate and have no control over it.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          If the temp agency is doing regular business with you for these roles, they will adjust their billable rates! That’s their negotiated pricing that they have put you on because they are expecting to get X placements.

          Just like if you are using FedEx. My shipping rates are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay lower than the smaller place across the road because of our utilization of the services.

          If they have multiple listings for your company, they’re getting more “bang” for the buck of the recruitment and costs involved to them. So they can give you a lower rate and knock down their margins.

          Sometimes the temp agency will also advertise the role for $18 but they’re not paying that. They do a big old bait and switch on employees. It’s awful but it’s one of those temp agency tactics. So unless you’ve heard a temp you hired confirm that they’re getting paid $18, then it may not be the case either.

          If they’re billing out at $30, that’s right on par for anywhere between 15-18, they will also wiggle around in their profits for certain candidates. Case and point, someone who is one of their perma-temps, will make more. Since they’re a part of the company and they have a track record. Whereas if they fill the spot by someone off the street that just brings in their resume, they’re going to say “oh drats it actually only pays $15 for your experience/skills.

          Are you using actual temp agencies or are you using more of a recruiter system? Recruiters will take a commission cut to pay someone a little more if they think it’s going to get the role filled as well!

          1. 1234*

            You are correct – We needed about 25 – 50 temps/week in different areas across the country. The project spans about 8 – 9 months out of the year. Temp Agency knew that because every year they sign a new contract with Old Job, hence them asking for more $ each year.

            While Temp Agency has a not-so-great reputation in the industry (they specifically staff for a particular industry), falsifying salary is not one of the strikes against them. In fact, if any company purposely does that in our industry, it will spread VERY quickly. I have a feeling they may pay more for some of the perma-terms (such as travel being reimbursed if say, Perma Temp wants to take a gig 2 hours away from home location) but usually not more per hour. It’s an industry where if one person is making $18/hr working a particular gig on a particular project, so is every other temp hired by this temp agency unless there are some very unusual circumstances.

            We only use temp agencies – the people we work with have titles like “Account Manager” or “Account Coordinator” and the top bosses have titles like “VP of Client Relations” (OldJob would be their client). I don’t recall anyone with the title “Recruiter” or something similar.

          2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            When I used to work as a temp, at a place that had many temps, what we eventually figured out is that the temp agency paid us whatever we said was the lowest amount we’d take a job for. All of us who’d told the agency that we’d take $10/hr were making $10/hr, but the guy who said he’d only take $12/hr jobs was making $12/hr. The agency also didn’t do raises, which I hadn’t realized when I’d said $10/hr – I assumed that I’d work short-term gigs at a few places for a few days each at $10/hr to prove myself competent, and then they’d start sending me out on better-paying gigs after they knew I’d show up on time and be an efficient worker.

            (I am extremely good at alphabetizing and filing things – I can do it all day without getting bored, and will use a useful sorting and pre-staging plan if there’s a large number of things to be filed to minimize wandering around. I will also notice that you have 3 different Jose Martinezes and that I need to check employee numbers before putting Jose’s documents in “his” file, and not interleave the file folders for the Martins and Martinezes in the filing cabinet, either. I am a terrible receptionist, though, so back when I was temping I really tried to target the “we need someone to deal with our terrifying file backlog” jobs over the “our receptionist is out sick” jobs.)

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


              When I was temping, I didn’t get a flat rate across all my jobs. Each job had a different rate!

              I worked at the same hospital at one time, two part time gigs strung together. One in records and one in AP. Both paid me different amounts! It’s been almost 17 years, so I can’t remember exactly but it’s something like $12 for one and $13.75 for another.

              And they put me anywhere from medical offices to a gross call center HR department where I was merging files for them. Each one paid differently. It makes me clinch that it’s a straight amount no matter where they find you to land.

              I am too good at filing/merging. I was hired for gigs that they estimated would last 3-4 weeks and I was done within 2.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I think realistically both the temp agency and the main company have control over how much the temp is paid.

          The temp agency can say normally we will charge the company 17/hr and pay the employee 10/hr (7 differential, but we will take a smaller cut and charge the company 17/hr and pay the employee 13/hr (4 differential) the temp agency is unlikely to do this but they could.

          But the main company can also say instead of paying 17/hr to temp agency so that the employee only gets 10/hr (17-10=7 differential), we will pay the temp agency 20/hr so that the temp gets paid 13/hr (20-13=7 differential still).

        3. Mary*

          But I’m that situation, the conversation about how much Arya is being paid would be between the agency and Arya, not between OP1 and Arya. If OP1 is discussing salary with Arya, they’re probably paying her directly and paying a fee to the agency separately, whether it’s a flat fee or a percentage of Arya’s salary.

          1. Mary*

            *in that situation

            (Also I’m pretty surprised that the temp agency is happy to work with OP’s company if they pay so far under the market rate. Agency fees are usually based on the salary for the job, so it’s bizarre for them to accept a job for a company which is only paying 40% of the market rate.)

  82. Goldfinch*

    LW #2 This is a tough call. Safety is of course paramount, but then again I’ve been wildly misinterpreted at work, with unfortunate results (a colleague reported a comment I made as being racist, but it was not).

  83. NEWBIEMD19*

    OP #1 is giving me similar vibes to the manager who wrote in awhile back asking if she should school a former employee who had the gall to quit after she wasn’t allowed time off to attend her college graduation. Taking a situation when a person has a right to be put off and trying to turn it into a personality flaw.

  84. Candid Candidate*

    OP#1 and their employer are the reason we need to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr. Offering someone $10/hr with no benefits when a) they have the experience to do this efficiently and have already proven their skill set, b) their predecessor worked for $25 + benefits, shouldn’t be allowed. That is not a living wage for anyone I know. My jaw dropped and the air went out of my lungs when I read that. Employers should care about whether their employees – even temp-to-hire – have enough to live on.

    I would even submit that the fact that Arya is temp-to-hire is coloring OP’s view of her. Would she have made such a paltry offer to someone who went through a standard application process and said “it’s not like she has a job right now”? That reeks of classism.

    Furthermore, hiring Arya at $10/hr could have an impact on her future wages and hinder her earning potential when she tries to apply for other jobs, because employers often ask for their earning history and try to base their offer on their previous salary. So not only is the employer making it hard for her to live now, they’re setting her up for years of financial struggle. I hope OP#1 seriously reconsiders their perspective on this and goes back to HR to negotiate a fair salary and benefits for Arya.

    1. Candid Candidate*

      Okay, I’m not done. OP#1, you say that you work for one of the largest companies in your area. I applaud your employer for giving Melisandre $25/hr + benefits, plus six months leave to rest & recover from a difficult pregnancy, but the fact that you and your employer are offering $10/hr tells me that you were the ones who were unprepared here. What happens if Arya, a temp employee earning $10/hr without benefits, faces her own health crisis? Cancer? A car accident? The fact that there’s such a huge disparity between two people working in the same position means that your employer needs to reevaluate their contingency plan for a role when an employee needs short-term disability. Right now your company is letting the temp employee bear the brunt of that burden because of poor planning on your part. I just have a really hard time believing that there’s no money to be found anywhere to give Arya a fair wage. Y’all need to reevaluate your priorities.

      1. Mama Bear*

        I agree with many of your points. It feels to me like Arya is taking the brunt of OP’s frustration with Melisandre being out, being hard to replace, and all the finances that go into supporting an employee through this. Frankly, if the baby is born too early or has serious health issues, Melisandre might not be back, and will they have shot themselves in the foot with this hire? If I were Arya, I’d take any suggestion of a FT job with a grain of salt.

        1. Allypopx*

          I’d also be seriously considering if this is even a company I’d want to work for full time, if the offer arose.

  85. Tachy IT Lady*

    OP#1 – I believe you are the one acting unprofessional. You should be grateful that a seasoned professional would accept a position paying $10/hr. I was making $12/hr over 10 years ago working as an intern. Shoot, the current minimum wage in my area is $13. Think about that, there are 16 year olds at fast food restaurants making more than what you are offering.

  86. NEWBIEMD19*

    Shared this with a coworker who noted that he and I went to school for 8 years and are making slightly more than minimum wage but we know there’s a financial light at the end of the tunnel. Not sure if OP’s situation would fit this scenario?

    OP #1 is giving me similar vibes to the manager who wrote in awhile back asking if she should school a former employee who had the gall to quit after she wasn’t allowed time off to attend her college graduation. Taking a situation when a person has a right to be put off and trying to turn it into a personality flaw.

  87. Zephy*

    OP3: I feel for you. When I was in high school, my mom was the Activities Director, and her office was similarly hallway-esque – just a more convenient way to get to the breakroom and exit, more than anything. No security checkpoint at the time, so that wasn’t a concern (although I do agree that’s an angle to approach this problem from, if people are bypassing the badge swipe by cutting through your space), but she did occasionally handle money and sensitive information like students’ PII, the identities of award recipients, etc.

    I have also experienced the high-traffic No Focus Zone workspace – except my workstation was actually in a literal hallway, and was really the only way to move between the public and employees-only areas of the building. Can’t just jam in some headphones or tune everyone out, because (1) as a woman, that gets you labeled “rude and standoffish” (or the dreaded “not a team player”), no matter how unnecessary and inane the interruptions you’re ignoring are; and (2) I did sometimes need to interact with said interruptors to do my work. I also handled sensitive information (PII which occasionally also included credit card numbers, also cash).

  88. 2 Cents*

    OP#1 as a current contract employee at the largest game in town, I’m actually getting paid higher than market rate because I’m a specialist, I’m contract and I’m worth it. If I were Arya, I’d be hesitant to take a position with a company who treated enployees like you’re treating her. You admit you’re paying her below what the job is worth, the get upset when she graciously calls you on it.

  89. Arbynka*

    Few years back I got stuck overnight at Heathrow and read a story in one of the magazines I bought. It was very similar to #3 problem. Guy named Paul needed an office, so his company build one in larger cross hallway. Put couple of walls on both sides and also put doors on each side. So Paul could get out either way. Unfortunately Paul’s mates kept walking thru, without knocking and no reminders and pleas were working to stop them. So one day, Paul, all fed up, left both doors little open and set a little container full of glitter on top of them. You know, glitter, the herpes of craft world ;) The first person to fall to this devious trap was Paul’s boss who was bringing him a surprise bonus check. Boss was stunned for a few seconds, then look at the bonus envelope, then Paul and said “how did you know ?” Boss thought it was celebratory glitter. I love the story so much. I tried google to see if I could find it online but so far no luck.

  90. Agent Carter*

    OP#3 – my immediate thought is to wonder what you’re doing in the moment when people walk through. I think you could cut this off if every time it happens, you stop the person and make them walk back out of your office and take the long way!

    Someone: *starts walking through your office*
    You: “Oh, I’m going to have to stop you there. This office isn’t a corridor, and I’m going to need you to go back out the way you came.”

    If you do it politely with a smile you shouldn’t get too much pushback unless your colleagues are really unreasonable. If they know that you’ll tell them off when they walk through, but still let them use the shortcut, they’ll continue to do it. If you actually stop them and make them go back then I think this would stop fairly quickly. You could use the keycard thing I saw someone comment on earlier – I would phrase it like it’s a rule, rather than for your personal convenience.

    Hope that helps OP!

  91. Spargle*

    #3 – I’d be closing those doors, honestly. You’re working with sensitive material. You need to be able to focus. Your office is not a hallway.

    And as someone mentioned upstream, if areas require a keycard to get into, people should be using the keycard to get into them, not finding a way around it.

    #2 – This is a go with your gut situation, but it definitely isn’t professional for him to keep that list on a company computer.

    #1 – pay the temp more.

  92. Mama Bear*

    OP#3 – I agree to close the doors. I’d let each department that you work with closely know what you are doing and why. It’s in their best interest as well, because presumably some of that sensitive data is theirs. I work in an office where we need to key in everywhere and it’s really not that big of a deal. Your office is not a hallway.

    Agent Carter is taking a page from schools – if you get caught cutting through the gym at my kid’s school (where it’s clearly posted not to cut through), you are sent back out and have to go all the way around, even if it makes you late. No passes are offered. If schoolchildren can learn, so can adults.

  93. Frankie*

    I’m pretty sure that when I was temping as a filing assistant 8 years ago I made more than $10/hr. Wasn’t even enough back then.

  94. Ray Gassert*

    OP #1, I would highly advise the candidate to RUN and not take your offer. The audacity and arrogance that comes through from your post is remarkable. You’re lowballing someone to the extreme and see fit to think SHE has red flags? This is disgusting behavior. Your cost to the staffing agency is NOT the temp’s problem. That’s you premium for not having to on board a full on employee.

    Arya – RUN!

  95. Anonyplatymous*

    Re OP1: Unlike Alison, I hope you don’t hire her. But not because she did anything wrong. It’s to save that poor woman from having to work with your company when you aren’t even willing to move up to a living wage.

  96. AnonAndFrustrated*

    #1 – Is this a prank letter? $10/hr is not a living wage; it’s an insulting rate, especially when you know you should be paying the person in the position much more. No benefits makes the deal even worse. And you’re upset she didn’t deign to be ecstatic about such a crappy deal? I think you need to step back and get some perspective on this situation. $10/hr is what you pay teenagers to rake leaves & now lawns, not a professional admin worker with important responsibilities and valuable experience.

    #2 – Workplace violence happens every single day. Pay attention to warning signs! If this guy went to the trouble and through the physical action of making a “hit list” with coworker names on it (which could be as bad as it sounds), why in the world wouldn’t you report that immediately to HR or your boss or even the police? So maybe it’s nothing and they find that out in the investigation. Or maybe he is stockpiling weapons at home and plans to act on his list in the worst possible way. If it’s even anything near the second scenario, how are you going to feel if people get hurt or killed and you could’ve done something to stop it, but didn’t? Be the helper/reporter, not the head-in-the-sand bystander.

    1. At least tell IT*

      My feelings exactly on #2. This isn’t something you ignore or write off. I disagree with the advice on this letter. This is unsettling and scary. Report it.

    2. Toast*

      Sometimes I wonder if they’re real, but rules of this site designate you have to act like they’re all real. It blows my mind though.

    3. Anonymous, colleagues who read here will recognize it*

      Yes. Also, maybe to you this seems like a joke, but in fact it’s just one other piece of info and you don’t know what the other info is. You see a “hit” list, know the guy as difficult and with anger issues, but feel that (for you) he is ok / “maybe just joking”. Someone else hears him say, “I’m gonna f’n kill my boss”, know the guy as difficult and with anger issues, but feel that (for them) he is ok / “maybe just joking”. Someone else gets into a minor altercation with him in the parking lot, know the guy as difficult and with anger issues, but feel that (for them) he is ok / “maybe just had a
      bad day”. And maybe all of the “maybe he just” is true. And maybe it is not.
      If HR or his boss is not hearing about all the “little” maybes, they can’t see the big picture.
      Some years ago I had a student who for some reason thought I was cool or something, cheerfully told me all about the encounter he had with a neighbor he didn’t like, and then jokingly said “I could just hunt him down with my deer rifle”. I pretended to laugh, made an excuse to get him out of my office, called my boss and campus police. Who proceeded to trespass him from campus and also turn the info over to the local p.d. since plenty of other folks on campus felt uneasy about him.

  97. Quill*

    LW #1: The amount you want to pay Ayra is two thirds of what many people are campaigning to raise the minimum wage to, and half of what is considered a living wage in most areas. If this is really your budget, (even though I assume you’re also paying the staffing agency,) I’m honestly surprised you’ve gotten any candidates for what sounds like a role that actually requires experience.

    Ultimately it’s your business if you want to hire her, but be prepared that she may want to jump ship as soon as an offer with a living wage turns up – and at these rates you may never get anyone else and you’re not looking great to the temp agency either.

    LW #3 The reason people are using your office as a shortcut is that it takes longer to use the hallway, so yes, you probably do need to close at least one of your doors while you have confidential documents out, or on a more permanent basis to make people stop having a direct route from one department to the other past your desk.

  98. Oxford Comma*

    1. It’s normal to ask for time to consider an offer, even if it’s a great offer (which this is not).
    2. It’s especially normal for an applicant to ask for time to consider a substandard offer.
    3. You are not guaranteeing the applicant a full-time role with benefits. You’re just saying that it is a possibility while offering the substandard rate of pay and expecting that the applicant be grateful that there even is a possibility.
    4. Anyone qualified who takes this job at this rate of pay is probably not going to be staying the 6 months you need.
    5. Anyone not qualified who takes this job at this rate of pay is also probably not going to be staying the 6 months you need. Moreover they are going to cost your employer more in checking up on their work, correcting mistakes, and in the time and money it costs you to recruit and interview for the position.

    1. Liz T*

      That’s some gospel right there.

      Cuz yeah, Arya probably will ditch this a month in (I hope!), but so will any other applicant. That’s what happens when an employer makes absolutely now investment in an employee, temporary or otherwise. You get no investment back, nor should you!

  99. Luna*

    “(And “it’s not like she has a job right now” is not a reason for someone to happily accept a job making 40% of market rate.)”
    Thank you so much for saying this, Allison!
    I’m looking for employment again myself, and I really don’t like it when people tell me stuff like beggars can’t be choosers or that I have to take whatever is offered because, hey, it’s a job. Yes, it’s *a* job, but that doesn’t mean I should sell myself below value or consideration.

    OP#2 – I’d see this as a way to just vent in writing. Maybe keep it in mind, but not something you should immediately inform HR or the boss about.

  100. CatCat*

    OP1, you already know that your perspective here is not reasonable and the that the pay is so poor that you need to alter your thinking about who actually has the most value here. It’s Arya.

    You need to treat her exceptionally well, like you’re lucky to have her (because you are!), and the “great opportunity to make connections” that you tout as so valuable (though I am sure you now understand now that currency doesn’t actually pay any bills) needs to actually manifest. Make sure you facilitate these connections and if she is doing good work, going to serious bat for her in converting these connections into something with actual $$ value for her.

    You are so, so lucky that someone with the skills you need is willing to take such low pay. You need to behave like you are lucky, NOT like Arya is the lucky one. She isn’t. You are.

  101. Dana B.S.*

    #3 – You need to keep your doors closed when you’re doing sensitive work or require concentration. If anyone tries to cut through in spite of this, then you need to address it right then.

  102. At least tell IT*

    I think we are all so appalled by #1 that we are ignoring how scary a “HIT LIST” is. I’m sorry, given the current climate in this country (if this is a US) letter, I would not be taking something like a “hit list” lightly. I don’t care how normal the guy is. How many times does the news try to paint mass shooters as some nice quiet guy who nobody suspected? This isn’t something to take lightly. The downside is if he is plotting to really act on said hit list, his getting in trouble or fired for it would be all the more reason he act on it. That’s not something I would be comfortable seeing at all. Sometimes it pays not to mind your own business. I was just listening to My Favorite Murder podcast and an episode where a lady not minding her own business reported a Ryder truck that was parked and plugged into a house and a body of a woman who’d been missing was found. If she had just written it off and minded her own business her murder wouldn’t have been solved.

    1. Allypopx*

      As someone who also listens to a lot of true crime, I tried not to take it that way. LW isn’t worried, and I read it more as a “people to smack” than a traditional “hit list”, given the wording.

      But at least flagging it for someone and seeing how the company wants to handle it wouldn’t be the worst thing. It sounds like this employee has other issues.

    2. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I initially glazed over the heading for #1 until I saw all the comments, and then went back to read it. #2 was what really freaked me out! I understand people don’t want to be accused of being “extra”, but I think it is worth escalating, given recent events!

      1. At least tell IT*

        And if it’s nothing or if it was misconstrued then it was nothing — better safe than sorry. Could have been a longer title that was innocent. But I can’t imagine not saying anything! It’s not normal to write “hit lists” no matter how much one needs to vent or blow of steam.

        1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

          My thoughts exactly. I’m not the biggest fan of the people I currently work for, but I wouldn’t write a hit list!

        2. boo bot*

          I do think it’s plausible that this is just somebody venting – not writing up an actual list of coworkers to hit, but just naming a document that as a way to privately express frustration (like if it’s a list of people going to a meeting or something, and he called it that instead of “Meeting Participants”).

          What I do have trouble coming up with is a longer title that turns out to be okay! I’m on board with it in theory, but everything I can think of is either sketchy or improbable:

          People I Need To Hit On?
          People I Need To Hit Up For Cash?
          People I Need To Hit the Club With?
          People I Need To Hit the Top 40 With?
          People I Need To Hit My Car For New Insurance Fraud Scheme?

          IDK, my imagination might be lacking on this one.

    3. Liz T*

      Yeah, but that’s because the woman in the podcast trusted a gut feeling that OP isn’t getting. (“Gut feeling” usually being the result of unconscious observations.)

  103. wickedtongue*

    LW #1: I earned $15/hour at a full-time gig (through a temp agency) in my very first job out of college 10 years ago, with far fewer job responsibilities. Granted, this was in L.A…but it’s not like the cost of living has fallen anywhere, either. And it wouldn’t have been enough to live on in L.A. had I not had a partner.

    It’s absolute folly to offer $10/an hour to someone who’d be doing the work of three positions.

  104. Rainbow Roses*

    #1 You’re paying the only qualified person an insulting $10 an hour and you think she’s unprofessional by talking to her husband to see if they can afford it? Then you throw a hissy fit and thinking of taking back the offer because they need time see if they can afford to live on that? Someone is unprofessional and it’s not the temp.

    You bet the temp and her husband worked hard to budget and move things around to be able to accept this job. And she only accepted because she needs this job. You bet she will keep interviewing and dump your company ASAP.

    To put it in perspective, I got $8.00/hr as a student helper doing light office work in 1994-1995 (25 years ago!).
    I was paid as a temp through a temp agency $16.50 for a job that starts at $18.90. If you low ball a temp, a few dollars is normal. $15.00 is not!
    This temp needs to get her foot in the door but she can get a higher salary working as a cashier or in fast food.
    I hope we find out when (not if) she leaves before the six months are up because I will cheer her on!

  105. Merci Dee*

    For letter #2 . . . .

    So it appears that Wednesday, October 23 is “National Slap Your Irritating Co-Worker Day”. I had never heard of this before one of my coworkers came in this morning and mentioned that her sister had told her about it this morning. So I looked it up, and . . . yeah. Apparently, it’s mentioned on a number of websites.

    So maybe OP #2’s coworker is getting his list going a little early this year.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      OP #2 does not know that for sure. If nothing is going on, then an investigation will turn it up.

      And frankly, “National Slap Your Irritating Co-Worker Day” is offensive and disturbing all on its own. I would have serious doubts about anyone who thought it was ok to make a list — at work, no less — of candidates for a slap list.

  106. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    #1 – Wait, are you serious???!

    You know what, don’t hire her, even though she is the only qualified person you have seen in months. Good luck finding someone!

  107. Toast*

    #2 are you sure it wasn’t a “people I’d like to hit” list? That’s what I thought it said when I glanced over it. Not that that’s any :better,” but I’ve worked at really gross places where people rank their coworkers based on attractiveness. At least… one dies…

  108. IStealPens*

    OP #5

    I can totally relate, as this happened to me. In my case, I returned her call like 20 minutes later, and she never returned it! However I only tried once more, then not again. Not because I didn’t want the job, but because I found that rude. Like appallingly rude.

    I am actively looking for a job, and I am running across a LOT of instances similar to this. In fact, Alison, if you are ever going to do a follow up on the poor practices of TA and recruiters in the market, I have much to contribute. Like a LOT. I fully admit that job seekers can be just as bad, but as someone who works in HR, I know how this is supposed to work, and I am shocked to be on the receiving end of some of this behavior. Its no wonder they need HR Managers (which is my targeted position) if this type of behavior is acceptable. But whatever.

    1. NPOQueen*

      I have never worked in a place that had good hiring practices. The rest of HR might have been good, but talent acquisition…not so much. If I let HR define my opinion on the company, I’d never work for anyone.

      That said OP5, having been on the hiring end, I always respond, but as has been said here before, people can’t always take phone calls right when you make them. HR maybe couldn’t take the call, and then it fell off her radar. By calling again though, it becomes less an “oops, I forgot to respond!” situation and more a “I don’t think I want to talk to them anymore” issue. I had one candidate who emailed everyday asking for updates, because we said we’d have an answer in two weeks (surprise, we were late). We were considering her and another for the final of two interview spots, but that really kicked her off the list.

  109. StaceyIzMe*

    I agree that the LW who wrote in about not hiring someone with a suitable skill set who will be stuck working for a lower wage is being short sighted. It’s better to emphasize the job offer after six months of acceptable performance aspect and add whatever perks you might be able to. For example, can the candidate work remotely, take a longer lunch, set their own hours on some days, have some type of training or certification paid for, be set up with key contacts that might help her to find the right connection to find a job long term..? Any time that someone requires more resources than are available in a given context, it can make both parties feel defensive. The LW appears to be taking something from a business context in an extraordinarily personal fashion. It’s a strategic business advantage to hire someone with that skill set. Dismissing their candidacy because they didn’t accept the less-than-ideal terms on the spot is a reaction, not a response. LW might benefit from some self-examination by asking whether this tendency to reactivity shows up in other contexts? If so, it will hinder long term career and personal opportunities.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Even if it turns out to be nothing, OP2’s coworker needs to learn to be more mindful of what he displays onscreen. Nothing typed at work is private, not even document names.

    1. Anon for This*

      As someone who is in a large pool of people that didn’t report our bits of clues to the authorities which resulted in horrific workplace violence, report it. Even if it turns out to be nothing, at least you don’t have to stay awake at night thinking about what you did not do and wondering what the people we lost might have achieved, who they might have loved and what the world would be like with them in it.

      The whole creation of threat assessment protocols is based on the blood of those lost or injured when clues were not correlated together in one place.

      And, yes, I have reported both employees and visitors when I have seen things that concerned me since then. While I do not always know the results, I do know that one person was banned from our place of business partially due to my reporting of remarks that he made referencing his support for the violence that happened here. It doesn’t make up for the time that I did not.

      It can be tough to be the person that stands up, but tougher to be the person that didn’t.

  110. Earthwalker*

    #1 This letter recalls for me the attitude toward temp workers that I’ve seen in companies I’ve worked for. Employers need to treat employees with respect, give them benefits, pay them market rate, and be sure they have the tools to do their jobs to keep them engaged. The big advantage companies see in temps is that they don’t have to fuss with any of that. Temps are lucky just to have a job. Even when the temp’s skills exceed those of permanent employees, and they work their tails off, and their loyalty to the company during their limited stint is above and beyond, they’re treated badly. They make way less, have no job security, and are treated like trained monkeys. I’ve never been a temp on the receiving side but I’ve been appalled at my bosses and coworkers for their awful attitude to good people whose only sin is to be temps. I’ve seen this “temps are dirt” attitude in multiple companies, so the fact that OP thinks this is okay is sad but not surprising.

    1. Liz T*

      Agreed. And OldJob had its share of problems but they knew that a reliable temp, someone you could count on to come in with minimal friction and minimal service disruption (if you will), was someone you did what you could to hold onto.

  111. Oaktree*

    My jaw dropped when I saw that LW1 had the temerity to be miffed about paying her temp only $10/hr when the temp knows the job should pay $25. For the record, LW, 10/hr is well below minimum wage where I live- even fast food workers make more than that*, and frankly you should be a bit ashamed that you’re trying to hire someone for a skilled job like this one at such an appallingly low rate. If it’s really all you can afford to pay, and the temp is willing to take it, you should hire her. You’re getting one hell of a bargain in her if she’s willing to work for that wage.

    *I have worked in fast food and understand it’s a difficult job. My point is merely that it’s low-wage work.

    1. London Calling*

      It’s about MW equivalent to the UK too. If I were the temp I’d have to be really desperate for work and it would certainly tell me a lot about the company and how it values its workers.

  112. Semprini!*

    Another consideration for #1: Since Arya is the only person the agency has sent who has had the skills you’re looking for, what do you envision happening if you withdraw the offer? How do you envision Melisandre’s workload getting done?

  113. Anon Librarian*

    #2 – It sounds like the note is not the problem itself but a way to bring up a problem that would otherwise be harder to talk about. Because it’s kind of vague and open to interpretation – he gets angry and aggressive. The note is something obvious to point to.

    You can’t judge the note itself. It could have been “People I Need to Hit Up for Advice.” But it does give you an excuse to raise concerns about his behavior. He’s responsible for what he displays in meetings. He’s responsible for the fact that you saw a title abbreviated(?) to “People I Need to Hit.” Did he catch it and say, “OMG, that looks horrible. The full title is, ‘People I Need to Hit Up for Resumes.’ I’m so sorry if I scared you”? No. He didn’t. So it’s reasonable to say something about it.

    I would make this call based on how concerning the rest of his behavior is. Do you feel creeped out? Do you feel unsafe around him? Is he just run-of-the-mill irritable or does it seem more sinister? This is an opportunity to do something about something that would otherwise be more subjective and therefore harder to raise concerns about. So look at the big picture and report it if it seems like it would do some good.

    1. TootsNYC*

      it may also be his steam valve. If he can write them on his list, maybe he isn’t as crabby with them in person.

      1. Anon Librarian*

        Sure, but he’s responsible for where he puts that steam valve. If he really wanted to avoid harm, he would keep it at home or on a device that he doesn’t use for work. He chose to write that title on a document on his work computer.

    2. Anonymous, colleagues who read here will recognize it*

      I would make this call even if you didn’t feel creeped out or concerned. OP is not a good judge of the big picture regarding this colleague. If there’s nothing to be concerned about, HR/the boss/both will discover that and no harm, no foul. But it could be something to be concerned about on its own OR because it’s yet another apparently small thing that adds up to a real problem. The OP is unlikely to know if it’s the latter.

  114. Artemesia*

    Re office hallway situation. Intermittent reinforcement is the most effective at maintaining a behavior. Let someone walk through ‘just this once’ and it never stops. So Lock one door and make people knock on that side for awhile. If someone comes through you don’t open the locked door you say ‘I’m sorry — I can’t have this be a hallway because I have confidential information out when I am working; you will need to go around.’ EVERY TIME. Pleasantly and focus on the security reason rather than the annoyance factor.

    Alternate which door is closed/locked if you are being accessed legitimately from both sides. It will take a while to retrain. No exceptions. You are retraining an entire office here. Buy a kid candy once at the checkout when he whines and he will whine till he is 13 about it. No exceptions.

    The one women near the front of a cube farm who is always treated as the receptionist because, woman, needs to do the same thing. Start giving instructions or calling people and you are the receptionist. EVERY TIME. ‘Sorry I can’t help with that; I have no idea.’

  115. TootsNYC*

    For the letter-writer w/ the hallway-like office:

    I’m so tempted to suggest you put a baby gate at each end. Then they’d have to open two of them to use your office as a hallway.
    It would be a visual reminder.
    And it would leave the top part open so that people who really want to see you would bother.

    It needs to be a baby gate and not a half screen door, because it needs to be complicated and fiddly to open. And I don’t know if they make tall ones that are extra awkward to step over, but that would be good. Or, if you can mount it to the wall, mount it up 4 to 6 inches so the top of it is just higher than crotch level for most men.

    but it would LOOK like a baby gate, so maybe it would just come across petty.

  116. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

    I’ve been in Ayra’s shoes and taken the job because sometimes some money is better than no money. However, I dropped those people like hot potatoes with minimal notice the second a better offer came along. I hope you’re prepared to replace her as a moment’s notice, because that pay rate will not inspire an iota of loyalty.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      The lower-paid the job, the more likely performative gratitude to the boss is an unwritten job requirement.

  117. gmg22*

    OP #1’s letter makes me marvel at the thought process that goes into some of the letters sent to Alison. I feel like there are two kinds, the “I really am stumped on this one” approach and the “I need validation of what I want to do” approach, and this one feels distinctly like the latter. So not only did OP #1 think that “offer prospective temp a pittance even though she’s the only qualified candidate, then get offended when she negotiates and asks for time to consider” was the right way to handle this situation … they felt so confident about it that they WROTE IN TO AN ADVICE COLUMN clearly expecting a validation of their approach.

    1. Diahann Carroll*