update: my coworkers won’t cut expenses

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who was upset that her coworkers wouldn’t cut more expenses since their company was struggling financially? She was walking five miles rather than take public transport, not submitting her overtime, refusing to eat company-ordered pizza, and even reduced her retirement contributions (matched by the company) … and was frustrated that her coworkers weren’t doing the same. Here’s the update.

A couple of months after writing the letter to you – about 8-9 months after receiving the original email – we were pulled into an all-staff meeting (for this business unit) at short notice which was headed by our overall boss and a couple of other big bosses, with representatives from HR present. A few different senior people spoke for a few minutes each, but the gist of it was that they have been undertaking an audit of how much it costs to carry out our usual business activities, how much we were able to cut costs by, etc. After analyzing all of it, they had concluded that it wasn’t profitable the way it was going, and so further action would have to be taken. We would now be entering a review period of how we could make efficiencies. An outsourcing/consultancy company would be doing those reviews.

Well, the further action turned out to be that they were going to lay off about half (out of 80 or so) of the staff in this business unit. We went through a process of individual interviews of what we do, how we interact with others, etc. and the outsourcing company recorded all this. Then they came back with their recommendation to lay off about half the staff.

I was one of the “lucky” people who got to keep their job. The urge to say “I told you so” to the laid-off others for not putting more thought into cutting their own costs was strong, but I zipped it! But I put “lucky” in quotes, because in retrospect they were the lucky ones to be let go with severance pay, whereas the outsourcing thing didn’t work out so well and those of us remaining were landed with the workload of the people who had been laid off, as well as hand-holding the outsourcers. There were many long days, weekends, etc. (all unpaid of course!).

Unfortunately most of the laid-off people who I am in contact with still don’t have new jobs to go to. Partly it’s because one of the things they did get right in the laying off process was to keep the strong performers and lay off the weaker ones, who by nature were less able to get new roles in a short time.

I feel guilty about that every day, like “what if I could have done more to convince them to help cut costs?” For for my own situation, I left there for a new role outside that company a couple of months ago and I’m still wondering if that was the right decision, as the people remaining are struggling even further now.

And to answer some of the questions that came up in the comments: I was “senior” in the sense of being slightly more senior in my role than the others, not in a management position or in age. I am not suffering from anything affecting my thinking processes (that I know of) – as it turns out that I had correctly picked up on something being amiss. I know that in general “disappearing” overtime or other costs of projects so it appears that they are less costly than they actually are is counter-productive for the future (due to the need to make budgets and stuff) but my hunch that they were looking for “right now” viability, even if there were a few unacknowledged fudges in there, was on the money!

Yeah, rationally I realize it was “too many sacrifices” (and based on some of the other comments — I know it’s a small amount relative to the amounts of money a business is typically dealing with, as the scale of a business is 100x or more compared to my personal finances).

The reason I felt that I should carry out these small cost-cutting endeavors, although I knew they were small relative to the whole, was something I had to dig quite deep to identify (as I really did it as just a knee-jerk reaction originally). On one hand, it’s like recycling, etc. where any individual person won’t save the planet by putting their glass jars into the recycling rather than the trash, but you need the accumulation of everyone’s efforts to have any effect. Each person just contributes what they can (and I feel like I tried to contribute more than would be expected of me).

But on the other hand … I know, rationally, that $500 in expenses that I “forgot” about is not even a blip on the radar of the finance people. Ultimately I just needed to feel like I was doing something, rather than doing nothing. I had been making the others feel guilty about not cutting their own retirement contributions, etc. but I saw then that that could be seen as “bullying” behavior. I was suspicious of the HR people who didn’t question any of this, actually, though.

I took into account your response from the original answer and I did dig deep as to whether I was just projecting from a previous past bad experience or whether there was actually some deeper need for cost-cutting here. I still don’t know if I was oblivious or I just didn’t see the signs, as I had a lot of other things going on in my life at the same time (a difficult housing situation where I may be evicted at short notice, etc.).

I did quit the “hunger strikes,” etc. (in the sense that I stopped overtly sitting and rejecting the company-ordered pizza) since, as you said, people were quite resentful about that and said so (explicitly or almost). But I didn’t order anything for myself on the subsequent occasions this happened, and I’m still disappointed that my coworkers held their hand out for pizza instead of planning ahead and bringing some food with them when they knew they would have to stay late, almost as if they were still planning to take advantage of the company!

{ 629 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I know this update will bring out a lot of disagreement with the letter-writer, so this is a reminder that comments must remain kind and constructive, per the commenting rules. If you don’t feel you can do that with this letter, please pass this one by!

    1. mguiney*

      … Oh my god she tried to get people to cut their medical insurance.

      OP, you need to take a moment to reconsider your priorities. Bullying people into cutting their (potentially life saving) benefits is not only not going to save a company, it puts literally everyone who does it at massive financial and health risk

      1. bluephone*

        Seriously. OP *really* doesn’t get it, doesn’t want to get it, will likely **never** get it. Which is fine, you do you, life is a rich tapestry, etc…but when it crosses into the realm of screwing up other people (i.e. harassing them to cut their medical insurance or 401k matches) or greatly screwing yourself over (the 401k matches!!!), then it gets to be everyone else’s problem and people get to tell the OP that they’re being a Crazy McCrazyPants :-/

        OP, your company (and any company, everywhere, ever) is not a person. Corporations are not people. Your company does not care for you. It will not say goodbye to you on your deathbed. It won’t visit you in the hospital when you’ve been hit by a busbecause you worked overtime (for free WHICH IS ILLEGAL) and were then too exhausted to avoid being hit by said bus. When your lack of health insurance (because you dropped it!) renders you bankrupt (and by the way, medical debt CAN’T be discharged in bankruptcy so you’ll STILL have crushing debt while your credit score is now tanked through the next 1.5 presidential elections), your company will not be there to pay your rent, hash out repayment plans with creditors, or even find you a nice tarp to live under at the corner of Walnut and Pine because oh yeah, you’re homeless now too. Your company won’t visit your headstone after you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, as all must eventually do. They won’t even pay for the funeral.

        I would suggest that you get A LOT of therapy to dig into why you’re STILL sooooooo insistent on lighting yourself on fire (and encouraging others to light themselves on fire) to keep your company warm ESPECIALLY when you now have direct experience at what a pointless endeavor it was to strike those matches in the first place. The fact that you apparently still can’t see that is DEEPLY unsettling and any future employer would be well advised to outright doubt–let alone deeply question–your judgement. This is like a martyr complex on steroids. Or performative suffering, maybe.

        Seriously, OP, please get real, professional, EXTENSIVE help.

          1. Bluephone*

            My bad, I thought it was one of the things that couldn’t! I might be thinking of student loans though? Sorry and thank you!

          2. tiffbunny*

            The letter writer is not in the US, and withouth knowing what country they’re in, that cannot be assumed.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I agree with every point you made here in terms of the OP’s choices, but a technical correction: it *is* possible to discharge medical debt in bankruptcy, at least in some states. I’ve done it.

          1. Bluephone*

            Bah, my reading comprehension is off today. Thanks for catching that! I still think it’s a bad idea to approach overtime work the way OP did though if only because it gives managers an unrealistic view of the actual workload, necessary resources, etc. Since this company was in bad financial straits it was a moot point anyway.

        2. Economist*

          Just pointing out that while this is all true, companies do have a general interest in happy and healthy employees because it in turn helps the company. This is why no decent company is going to take your job over the irrelevant cost of pizza…

      2. Bananarama*

        No kidding!

        OP, you need to realize that your employer would drop you like a bad habit tomorrow if it would improve the bottom line, regardless of whether or not you’d saved them a few hundred bucks in fringe benefits. Showing this kind of slavish devotion to an employer is misguided.

        A company is not going to be magically made profitable if people stop accepting free pizza when offered, or reduce their 401(k) contributions in a misguided attempt to cut “costs”. There were/are clearly signs of structural problems at your employer. You were especially wrong to lean on your coworkers about cutting their health insurance, and frankly if you tried to pull that kind of stunt with me I’d have complained to HR so fast your head would spin.

        1. valentine*

          There were/are clearly signs of structural problems at your employer.
          It’s a sinkhole, not a business.

          OP, you don’t seem to have learned that your former employer is wrong and breaking the law. I don’t understand why it’s the company, not your former coworkers, that has your loyalty and empathy. I doubt the layoffs were of weaker performers, given how skewed your perspective is, which includes considering people beggars for accepting pizza as payment.

          1. Life is good*

            I wonder why OP felt like they needed to invest so much personal energy in helping this company save money. Did they have an ownership in the company? The personal sacrifices they made are what OWNERS of companies are supposed to do to save it. The OP just lost out on all that extra money and contributions in their retirement acct that could have compounded. Not to mention the unpaid OT and reimbursement of expenses. Geez, $500 is a lot of money!

          2. Mookie*

            Well said. Given what we all now know, everyone here was right on the money. This company undermined and destroyed itself, and yet the LW is still convinced it was those “unemployed” former colleagues who were to blame. At least the lay-offs helped them escape this dysfunctional workplace, and I can almost guarantee none of them are eating the crow the LW thinks she’s serving them.

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP, I can’t help but feel like you didn’t really take Alison’s advice to heart. It sounds like your company is a sinking like the Titanic and you’re in the band, desperately playing on. I really hope you’re job hunting now and not waiting until the place shutters the doors.

    Though if I can offer a piece of advice – I would not mention your extreme cost cutting behaviors in future interviews.

    1. R*

      OP took a new job already. But agreed, they really didn’t take on board fully how um…odd…this behavior was.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Oh, man, I totally missed that part because I got so caught up in the details about the layoffs and fallout of such.

      2. Another Sarah*

        Agreed. One thing that I don’t see OP having addressed in this post or the original, is the realisation everyone was trying to get to her that the company wasn’t asking her to make these kinds of savings.
        The company asked for cost-cutting measures. The cost of having an employee is budgeted to include travel expenses, benefits packages, employee pension contributions. The company expects all these things as part of the cost of having an employee.
        To cut costs as a company you have to save money on overheads, office space, supply arrangements, and number of employees, which is what they did.
        Printing only when necessary to save ink and using double-sided paper to reduce paper costs, or sending emails with PDFs instead of printing and posting letters to clients – that’s a drop in the ocean, but a reasonable expectation of an employee. Walking five miles hauling a bag full of stuff takes longer (wage cost) and adds risk (loss of contract by being late to a client/looking exhausted and disarranged when you arrive, dropping and breaking company property,) from a purely mathematic perspective, it’s not a cost saving.
        I honestly wonder if anyone in management at OPs company was even fully aware of the changes she was making or the fact she was urging others to do the same. If they were, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d pulled her up short and told her to stop, because it demonstrates poor judgement and a lack of understanding, not cost savings.

    2. Precious Wentletrap*

      Agreed. Your employer is not your friend. You owe them nothing. If you’re not the business owner, you’re under no obligation to suffer for them, and for heaven’s sake, don’t work for free.

    3. Falalalala*

      I think they did leave? “For for my own situation, I left there for a new role outside that company a couple of months ago and I’m still wondering if that was the right decision, as the people remaining are struggling even further now.”

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        OP has some serious Stockholm syndrome to the point where she’s even still blaming her coworkers for her former company’s failing. OP, your coworkers weren’t “taking advantage” of the company because they ate company-purchased pizza – your company was taking advantage of all of you by not getting their financial affairs in order sooner and then guilt tripping you all about it later.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          I tend to agree, the company seriously did guilt-trip them. The company’s execs should have done something months before the firings. Some people are very good at guilt-tripping others. I’m related to a few.

          1. AKchic*

            Absolutely. The company offered a “perk” or even a “thank you” to staff for staying late (in regards to the pizza for afterhours work) (and in OP’s case, for doing it completely free), and she seems to think that they all should have passed on it and engaged in timecard fraud simply because the company gave them a sob story about their own financial hardships.

            Paying your employees is the price of doing business. If your employees are subsidizing you so you can keep your business afloat, you do not deserve to be in business. If you are guilt-tripping your employees to feel like they need to engage in state and federal crimes that you turn a blind eye to that benefit your bottom line, you do not deserve to be in business.

            1. Angwyshaunce*

              According to the original letter, there are no such overtime laws in the country where they work.

              But I agree with your main statements.

              1. Mongrel*

                “According to the original letter, there are no such overtime laws in the country where they work.”

                I’d take that with a grain of salt. They may have been told there’s no such law by people who have a vested interest in that being true…

            2. Alicia*

              Also, almost all companies talk about cost-cutting, hard times, etc. Many companies in which the C-suite are paid millions do this.

            3. annony*

              Probably, the company decided that buying pizza was cheaper than losing employees or paying overtime. Telling people that they shouldn’t eat the pizza goes directly against what the company is trying to do.

              As others have noted, the company was a sinking ship. Everyone can try to poke their fingers in the holes but it will go down anyway. Get your life preserver instead. The people who were let go hopefully were eating the pizza so that they could increase their savings in preparation of lay offs.

            4. Meredith M.*

              Reminds me of one of my favorite Onion stories – Potential Employee Uprising Quelled with Free Pizza.

        2. Kittymommy*

          Yeah, if a company can’t afford to cover pizza then they’ve had those financial issues for a lot longer than staff probably realized.

          1. TootsNYC*

            and the company COULD afford to cover pizza–they ordered it!
            Not eating pizza is not the cost-cutting they were asking for, or they’d have told people to bring food from home.

            1. Archaeopteryx*

              Exactly- not eating the pizza is wasting it, and buying food for employees who are working late is a pretty normal perk/cost of doing business. It’s totally unreasonable to expect coworkers to sacrifice these basics just to keep the company afloat. If it can’t afford to pay for overtime worked, it doesn’t need to stay in business.

        3. Emily K*

          Yes, it’s not “taking advantage” to avail yourself of benefits that are offered. We’re not talking about some scheme where people are expensing work purchases and then secretly returning them for cash or something deceptive and fraudulent. If the company can’t afford to offer those benefits, they should rescind them. IF they can’t afford their travel policy, they should cut it back. And if they find that they can’t attract or retain employees without those benefits and the more generous travel policy, it means the business is fundamentally unprofitable and can’t survive. So be it.

      2. Lady Jay*

        Which, YES! It was!! It’s not on you to go back and save the people still struggling there. Put your own air mask on first.

      3. Mama Bear*

        OP has a new job, and I think for OP’s mental health and overall well-being needs to let go of the old company and their problems. It’s not OP’s concern anymore. OP made a choice to walk, as could any of OP’s other former coworkers.

        It almost sounds like OP took the finances of the company personally and needs to now “forgive” themselves for the outcome that was above their pay grade.

        I also think that OP needs to reconsider judging people who took what was offered – continuing to order pizza was a company benefit and if the company could no longer afford it, someone should have stopped ordering. That wasn’t the fault of those who ate the pizza for a long (and sounds like unpaid) night of overtime. Corporate financial mismanagement is a company problem, not an individual employee problem. Depending on the industry, not reporting all hours can constitute fraud, which I wouldn’t recommend either.

        I hope OP is now able to let it go and enjoy their new job without feeling like they have to pinch pennies or overextend themselves.

      4. Mookie*

        Yeah, the LW seems more divorced from reality than ever.

        You and your colleagues were never going to save the company, LW. It wasn’t even your job to do so. Hopefully you didn’t waste a lot of company time trying to instead of just doing the job you were paid to perform.

    4. Caramel and Cheddar*

      Same, this update was a bit confusing to me, especially the “The urge to say “I told you so” to the laid-off others for not putting more thought into cutting their own costs was strong” bit. Not submitting your genuine expenses was not going to save 40 people from being laid off!

      1. OhGee*

        EXACTLY. If they laid off half the staff, OP, those people wouldn’t have saved even if they all cut out free pizza, expense reimbursements, and public transportation benefits. Not a chance.

      2. Sans Serif*

        Also, there’s no reason to say “I told you so.” The OP said the people who were laid off were the lower performers. That’s why they were laid off, not because they didn’t cut their 401k contributions or eat pizza. When the company interviewed everyone, did they ask about stuff like that? Or did they try to find out what each person’s role in the company was? They asked about each person’s role, because that’s what they took into consideration when doing layoffs.

        This person needs to stop identifying with her company. She’s just going to be taken advantage of again and again. And if she really thinks her sacrifices were why she was kept, she didn’t learn anything from this at all.

        1. Shadowbelle*

          The OP *assumed” the people who were laid off were lower performers. I’ve been through multiple layoffs, and in my experience, performance is only one of many factors. Having opinions, being part of a category, being well-paid, being disliked by a manager, are just as likely to get you into the laid-off group. Who’s going to be kept? People who toe the company line and are reasonably competent, or are honestly indispensable (these are very rare), or are liked by management regardless of their abilities.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            I also think there’s a valid argument to be made, in the case of this company, of keeping the employees most likely to stay loyal to the mission (true believers) and endure increased austerity measures like bigger workloads and even longer hours unpaid. Higher performing people have more options and very few of them would stick around for long in those conditions unless they are also as personally invested in the company as OP was.

            1. Socrates Johnson*

              I would also say this. High performers who CAN get jobs elsewhere would want to get out. People without options would stick it out more likely.

              1. Glitsy Gus*

                This. I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a couple high performers volunteered for the lay off, since severance and the ability to say it was a no-fault lay off might heavily outweigh staying on that Death Star for another minute.

            2. Mookie*

              This is probably the case. They saw the marks, willing to overexert themselves, and cut loose others with sense and options.

          2. CL Cox*

            A lot of times, they are going to cut the more senior people (whose pay is higher), not matter how they’re performing. Keeping a younger employee who gets paid considerably makes more sense in the short-term, and I suspect that’s what the decision-makers were focused on.

          3. SusanIvanova*

            I’ve even seen the indispensable people laid off, because the people making those decisions and the ones who know who keeps things afloat might not overlap. And the company takes on even more water without understanding why.

        2. BluntBunny*

          I don’t think she had the right to say I told you so because it seems like the company didn’t implement any company wide cost saving measures before the lay offs. Like not filling in vacant roles and reducing non urgent travel etc. Also she says that the ones who are still there are now doing the work that was left so you were working twice as hard for the same pay. If they weren’t needed there wouldn’t be so much work to do.

        3. bluephone*

          “Also, there’s no reason to say “I told you so.” The OP said the people who were laid off were the lower performers. That’s why they were laid off, not because they didn’t cut their 401k contributions or eat pizza.”

          Right! The fact that OP still doesn’t seem to grok this is INCREDIBLY disturbing. It shows a severe lack of…I don’t even know what? More than common sense. Basic comprehension of like, anything?

          I would bet 0.2 percent of my next paycheck that if OP’s current boss and/or coworkers found out:
          1) about OP’s level of attempted penny-pinching at Old Job (and how fruitless it was anyway)
          2) that OP still has the mindset that led to such penny-pinching
          3) that OP is pulling a Mona Lisa Saperstein about said penny-pinching and the mindset that led to it (“I have literally done nothing wrong ever”)

          then they should be DEEPLY concerned about OP’s judgement in like, everything (but ESPECIALLY as it relates to one’s work quality, ability to prioritize, time management, etc). Deeply concerned in a “we might need to include the letters ‘P,’I,’ and ‘P’ in our next one-on-one” way.

          1. bluephone*

            D’oh, forgot to add that yes, “lower performer=will be laid off” isn’t always set in stone. Hell, there was a Scrubs episode where Dr. Cox lambasts Dr. Kelso about wanting to lay off a friendly, helpful, hard-working, much-loved cafeteria employee simply because his salary covers the exact shortfall in their budget–only for Dr. Cox to go through the numbers himself and realize that yeah, they can either keep this easily-replaceable, not-specialized, entry-level employee OR they can like, not have an extra dialysis machine or whatever (I haven’t watched the episode in a while). Yes, it’s a fictional TV show. Yes it was dramatized and played for laughs. But corporations lay people off ALL THE TIME and performance reasons are only a small part of the rationale. In fact, I’d wager that high performers are often more likely to be laid off because if their salary and/or benefits reflect their high performance, then the bean-counters are going to look at all those zeroes in Paycom, tab over to the budget numbers in red, and go, “2 plus 3 equals chair!!”

        4. L*

          I will say based off of her slavish devotion to her employer and complete misread of what’s professional, appropriate, ethical and expected in the work place I doubt OP’s assessment of her peers.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I could go either way on this. I’m in full agreement that the $6.23 in meal expenses saved would not save anyone’s job because they offset enough to save a $50k salary, but could that level of conscientiousness have factored into the OP being viewed as a high performer and being kept? Possibly.

        I have caught a little flack on this site for some views on people taking advantage of PTO or not working OT when needed. BUT, today I was with my direct boss in a meeting and we were just chatting beforehand about people who do their jobs vs. those who don’t. He mentioned a previous convo with an EVP where they noticed people’s performance correlates with their banked PTO, so it’s not something that goes unnoticed. (I realize people have health issues, etc.)

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          I mean… I’ve reported to enough people who see “rears in chairs” as = “highly productive”, to have a knee-jerk reaction that anyone who is drawing this correlation may not really know how to measure performance, especially given that the literature says that people who take regular, longer vacations are more productive.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Oh, I know. We have a very specific work-people-to-death culture here. : ) My boss answers emails at 11 pm.

            That said, the trend here actually is long vacations. That’s the only way you get time off on your “time off”. Good luck taking a Friday off for personal relaxation without answering a single question from the office. So, of your six weeks, feel free to take 2 weeks in the summer and 1 week at Christmas + 8 paid holidays. It’s not the worst. Just don’t have a million unplanned little needs where you’re out a day every other week. They see that is looking unreliable, and I do see people who do that struggle with performance on fast paced projects.

            1. pancakes*

              Sounds like your workplace won’t hire or keep anyone with chronic illness, if it “looks unreliable” to be out of the office for any reason besides vacation. It’s repugnant that you think this mindset is admirable.

              1. SMH RN*

                Yeah speaking as someone who has used 5 sick days in the last 2.5 weeks because my usually well behaved autoimmune disease flared up I have to say it’s kind of insulting to be toldI would be viewed as “unreliable” compared to someone who doesn’t have unexpected health issues and can plan a big chunk of time off…I’d much rather be in Hawaii for 2 weeks…instead I’m currently blind in one eye hoping the drops kick in. Sorry I’m not enough of a go getter??

              2. Pomona Sprout*

                “It’s repugnant that you think this mindset is admirable.”

                I wouldn’t go as far as “repugnant,” but I do find it disturbing that anyone would find tha mindset healthy or acceptable.

                1. pancakes*

                  We’ll have to agree to disagree on that because I do think it is repugnant. Last month the American Journal of Medicine published a study indicating that 42% of new cancer patients in the US use up all of their life savings within two years. I’ve been in remission for around seven years now and I only get more and more fed up with people who share AnotherAlison’s mindset on healthcare. We don’t have to treat people who are ill this way, and people with views like hers are holding the rest of us back from moving on to something less brutal. It’s such a self-regarding mindset as to be insulting to others, too, as SMH RN pointed out. Of course I’d have preferred to take time off in 2010 for vacation rather than chemo. The idea that I’m a less reliable employee because I didn’t get to make that particular choice is repugnant.

        2. PTO #1 fan*

          What do you mean by taking advantage of one’s PTO? Isn’t that what it’s there for?
          It might be a cultural difference, because I’m from a country where PTO is legally mandated (you get 20 or 26 days, depending on how long you’ve been in the workforce), but I can’t understand how using one’s PTO could be taken as a sign that someone doesn’t work hard. Are you from the US? I’ve been told that Americans have this attitude sometimes, but I’ve never really encountered it before.

          1. Dreamcatcher*

            PTO is legally mandated in my country as well, and I’ve always found it strange that Americans feel like having 5 paid days off and a few weeks of maternity leave at best is ok. I’m not always able to take my full leave within the year, but I can’t imagine having only a couple days per year!

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I would have 38 days off if I took all my annual leave plus our paid holidays. We start at 4 weeks, so those folks would have 28 days. Yes, if someone one my team only had 5 days off per year, I would certainly stress that they should take that time off, but it is a challenge to take off 28-38 days each year when we have the type of workload we have had recently. 38 days is 15% of the working time in a year. That’s quite a bit.

              1. Mx*

                I have 38 days too (including 8 bank holidays) and I take them all. It’s a statutory right and I don’t see why I should deprive myself for the benefit of the employer. I am not even sure it is legal to renounce them. Up to 5 days can be carried over the next year in my organisation, which would make 43 days, even more complicated to take.

              2. Ego Chamber*

                If your employer is giving you 38 days of annual leave but also assigning work based on those 38 days being considered “15% of the working time in a year,” your employer shit at scheduling. They need to hire enough people to cover all the work they need done based on 85% of the working days if they’ve agreed to give everyone 15% of those days off. That’s pretty basic math.

              3. Frances K R*

                I’m a bit confused. I usually think of 4 weeks as being 20 days off, not 28–it’d only be 28 days if I was getting paid for the weekends associated with those four weeks as well. 28 workdays of paid vacation would be 5 weeks and 3 days, not 4 weeks.

                Are the 38 days off all actual “I would be in at the office on the usual schedule except I’m literally being paid to not work right now” days, or do they include 8 days of weekends?

            2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

              “Americans feel like having 5 paid days off and a few weeks of maternity leave at best is ok.”

              Some of us don’t. A lot do, which is f’d up.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            I’m in the US. We have a “work hard, play hard” company culture that is more “old school” than most companies with a lot of people who start here straight out of school and stay here forever. Key exec roles are often filled internally. Many employees are stockholders, which has historically made people quite well-off. This gives them leverage to get people to think company-first. So, while taking PTO isn’t specifically frowned upon, they really don’t expect people to spend it all every year–we can role over and bank up to 2x the annual amount. Some people seem to make it a goal to spend it within a week of accruing another day off, and that’s what I mean by taking advantage. It’s not in line with our cultural norm.

            1. JustMyOpinion*

              I understand it’s not in line your company’s cultural norm, but it’s not taking advantage. They earned the PTO, they used the PTO, the PTO is part of their benefit’s package. I find it very distressing when people use what they have negotiated (PTO, sick leave, etc.) and it is frowned upon.

              1. hunto*

                Agree with JustMyOpinion. One way of thinking about PTO that can help folks to access it guilt-free is that your PTO is built into your wage. Companies structure employee wages with PTO accrual in mind. Not taking as much as you can is kind of ripping yourself off.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                Yeah, it sounds more like the *company* is taking advantage of PTO by “offering” a package that sounds decently generous for a lot of places in the US in order to attract people but then expecting them not to actually use it.

                If they don’t want people to take 4 weeks off then they shouldn’t offer them 4 weeks off. Let the people who prioritize flexibility and time off know to look elsewhere.

            2. Another Sarah*

              I also agree with JustMyOpinion and I would add – if your company’s culture is to take people out of school from entry level and keep them in the organisation forever, while that is admirable in terms of employer loyalty, it also breeds a lack of understanding about workplace norms, due to a lack of experience in other workplace cultures.
              Essentially by not seeking talent from outside the current company pool and by keeping the same group of employees who have been taught that “this is how work should be” by the same set of high level employers, your company is creating an echo chamber that could (not saying it is) become highly dysfunctional and out of whack with modern ways of working.

              This holiday thinking is a perfect example.
              It is normal to take the holidays you are allowed to take. It is normal to budget for people to take the holidays they are allowed to take. To assume that anyone doing that – in any iteration, long breaks or short, early in the year or late – is somehow not contributing to the workplace as a result is a very alarming attitude to have, and one that is compounded by a lack of understanding that this is not how workplaces are supposed to operate.

        3. Annette*

          “He mentioned a previous convo with an EVP where they noticed people’s performance correlates with their banked PTO”

          Ugh, so ableist.

    5. Adlib*

      OP does mention they took another role outside the company, but feels guilty (!) about it! I agree – OP needs to go back and look at Alison’s advice again.

      OP, I hope you can take a step back. You are personalizing this company and potentially the position you have now by your attitude. The people who lost their jobs didn’t lose them because they didn’t listen to you. Your urge to tell them “I told you so” is so off the mark, I just can’t even.

      Find a cause to maybe throw your energy toward because this much emotional and personal investment in a company that will clearly do what they need to to stay afloat without regard for your needs (like most companies) is pretty dangerous.

    6. lunabean*

      Exactly, Amy. And this quote – it’s not a good thing you were right about this! It’s actually a very, very bad thing. And I don’t think OP sees that.

      I know that in general “disappearing” overtime or other costs of projects so it appears that they are less costly than they actually are is counter-productive for the future (due to the need to make budgets and stuff) but my hunch that they were looking for “right now” viability, even if there were a few unacknowledged fudges in there, was on the money!

    7. Mazzy*

      Everyone is negative today! OP I commend you’re trusting your intuition that something was amiss, as is often the case, you may not have pinpointed the issue exactly, but you were close

      1. Washi*

        Erm, the problem with the others isn’t that they don’t have the intuition that something was amiss. Companies rarely start “cost-cutting exercises” just for the heck of it; it doesn’t take much intuition to realize that things are not going well financially and layoffs could be in the future. The others just CORRECTLY realized that not eating $5 of pizza or submitting a $40 cab ride was not going to make up for a potential need to lay off entire positions, and that making sure their job performance was solid would be a more effective way to preserve their own jobs.

        I hope the OP has a big aha moment about this, because you really need to be able to look out for yourself in the job market and someone that is relatively easily convinced to go as far as opting out of health insurance is really vulnerable to being taken advantage of.

        1. Elbe*

          Agreed. Making the jump from cost cutting to potential layoffs is not difficult and I’m sure the LW’s coworkers connected those dots.

          The possibility of a layoff should make you more aware of your own cash flow. The LW just as easily could have been laid off and regretted the $500 is company expenses she paid for.

          Her coworkers aren’t dim. They just didn’t feel the need to make unhelpful, unnecessary sacrifices for a job they knew was likely on the line.

          1. Works in IT*

            That’s the most important part. The people who were laid off might be struggling to find work, but at least they aren’t struggling to find work after spending their own money on dinner instead of eating company provided pizza, or absorbing their own travel expenses instead of requesting reimbursement from the company. It is up to the company to determine where to save costs, whether by choosing to lay off the important person’s lover/family member/blackmailer who makes six figures a year and whose only responsibility is feeding the office goldfish once every few days, or by cutting executive level bonuses, or by laying off some of their workforce.

        2. Senor Montoya*

          Right. The analogy with recycling is not apt — there are some things for which everybody doing a little bit adds up to a genuinely big difference. And then there are things like the OP’s former employer, where it does not. Even if the “savings” to the employer is as much as a couple thou per employee, that’s still not enough to prevent laying off *half the staff*.

          OP, your company was either mismanaged or suffered from conditions beyond their control, but in no case would penny-pinching on the part of employees like yourself and your officemates have made a real difference. It just would not, and you should not feel guilty OR (even more so) want to point a finger at your former colleagues.

          BTW, don’t ever cut back on your retirement contributions and definitely not ever on the company match. You are stealing from your older self. Don’t do it.

          1. Lord Gouldian Finch*

            You know glass recycling might actually be an apt metaphor… because there’s little environmental benefit to doing so, it’s not economically viable, and stopping recycling glass can mean more resources to apply to, say, plastics recycling.

            1. Nobody Here by That Name*

              I was going to say the recycling metaphor is more apt than OP realizes: yes it’s nice for individuals to do what they can but ultimately nothing will get better until the big corporations responsible for the majority of damage change their ways.

          2. TardyTardis*

            Exactly. I know someone who prided herself on working under the table for most of her life. She still doesn’t have enough quarters for Social Security, and she’s over 50. I have no idea what on earth she plans to do when she’s older.

      2. Erykah Badu*

        I wouldn’t look at it as negative. Just because you saw the smoke and tried to put out the fire doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn why that wasn’t necessarily your duty to do as a civilian. Weird analogy a bit but basically being right and trying to do the “right” thing doesn’t mean there aren’t underlying issues that could affect OP in future places of employment.

        1. Elbe*

          Running with that analogy, the LW was dumping her personal drinking water on a forest fire, bullying her coworkers into dumping THEIR glasses of water onto the forest fire, and then thinking “I told you so” when their houses ultimately caught on fire.

          It’s a really unkind impulse to blame people for not preventing a hardship that they realistically never had any control over.

          1. Mazzy*

            I guess this might be true, I just find the comments below to be extremely unhelpful. Someone wrote below that the martyrdom is strong with this one. Do we think being 100% negative and name calling every changed someone’s mind? As a manager, I would never say any of the things people said here to an employee. I know the comments are lot meant to be coming from a managers perspective, but I mean that they are no productive

            1. Elbe*

              I agree that some of the comments aren’t phrased in the most tactful way, but those seem to be the minority.

              For the most part, I think that the comments here are “negative” because the situation IS negative. Getting the feedback, “you had very unrealistic expectations, which let you to treat your coworkers poorly” isn’t going to be fun to hear, no matter how it’s worded. I think that the LW was deeply unkind to these people. And I think she’d benefit from giving her reaction to this situation some serious thought, potentially with a professional.

            2. Mia*

              Bluntness can be plenty productive. Pointing out that LW clearly has some…not great ideas about company money and the burden that falls on employees isn’t unkind or “negative.”

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Thank you. OP is walking around acting like a martyr and she needs to have that pointed out to her because that thought process is not remotely helpful to her in the business world. In fact, it’s detrimental to her as an employee and will result in her future employers also taking advantage of her the way the former company did. I said what I said.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  If I were her new manager, it would affect how I viewed her.

                  I’d be really unhappy if my new employee didn’t file for overtime so as not to burden us, or hinted that my other employees were greedy for digging in to the pizza for late-nights.

                  I don’t want greedy, avaricious employees, but I also want things to be straight-forward. I don’t want to feel that I’m taking advantage of the people who report to me, and I don’t want my employees to be pressured into feeling guilty about enjoying the perks–or spending the actual money necessary–that come with the job.

                  In fact, I’ve been in situations in which someone’s reluctance to purchase a $40 reference book was a performance detriment!

                2. Mia*

                  Exactly. I’m sympathetic to the idea of needing to find a source of control during a high stress situation, but OP’s behavior is so out of bounds that it could very likely make people not want to work with her. It’s a kindness to call that out imo.

                3. Wintermute*

                  @mia– You hit it on the head, it’s about a sense of control over uncontrollable circumstances. The impulses people get when they have no control and want to exert some control over their circumstances are often unhealthy.

                  It’s the same impulse that leads some people (though by no means is it the ONLY reason people engage in) self harm, disordered eating (as your username refers to? not sure if that’s intentional or not?), and other deeply damaging behavior, because even if they can’t control anything else in their life it’s one thing they can.

              2. Mazzy*

                I don’t know anymore, being blunt on the internet is cheap. Actually trying to work with someone and please things in a way to help them or make something click in their head is the rarer trait on the intrawebs these days

                1. Mellow*

                  So the problem isn’t making co-workers feel guilty for their unwillingness to sacrifice their own retirement funds on behalf of the company.

                  No. The problem is the REACTION to the person making her co-workers feel guilty.

                  Got it.

                2. Mia*

                  LW isn’t even asking for advice. Allison gave her perfectly reasonable, kindly phrased guidance that she chose to ignore. I’ve noticed that you tend to defend unpopular LWs and I can appreciate that on some level, but sometimes someone’s perspective is just off. No one is saying “wow LW you’re a terrible human.” We’re just pointing out that some genuine reflection and reconsideration of the original advice may be in order.

                3. LemonFizz*

                  I’m genuinely curious what it would take for this letter writter to think, “Oh thats asking too much. I can’t be expected to do that.” I realize the the letter writter was the one who came up with a lot of unrealistic things on her own but I wonder if the company had asked for even more ludicrous things if she would have gone along with it. Would she have been willing to sell her house, assuming she has one, give the proceeds to the company, and live in a homeless shelter if they had asked? I mean that seems totally bananas but I really want to know what bizzare situation would have to occur for her to say I’m not on board with these cost cutting measures? I mean seriously! What would it take?

                4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  OP is beyond overdue for a big come-to-Jesus talk; for her own good. This is what she is getting here. Hopefully there are people in her life whom she trusts that would be willing to give her one in real life, too. But, in absence of that, the comments on this thread might do the job. It’s like with recycling, you know? putting one glass bottle in the recycle bin might not save the planet, but it doesn’t mean we should not try ;)

            3. Oh So Anon*

              It’s productive to the extent that it strongly sends the message that the LW is in the wrong. If they’re not able to internalize that when it’s couched in nice, professional, sympathetic language, maybe putting aside the country club niceties is the only way they’ll understand how damaging their perspective is .

              1. Elbe*

                Yes. I do hope that seeing people unanimously disagreeing with her makes the LW rethink her stance. I do hope that she can gain something from this.

                But, also, this is an update letter, not an initial request for advice, and a lot of the comments here probably aren’t specifically intended to help the LW or offer guidance. That was the previous post’s purpose.

                1. bluephone*

                  Ran out of nesting for Lemon Fizz (https://www.askamanager.org/2019/12/update-my-coworkers-wont-cut-expenses.html#comment-2762539) but YES. This exactly! I actually know someone on twitter who has come very close to the type of crazy scenarios Lemon Fizz suggested (“sell her house, assuming she has one, give the proceeds to the company, and live in a homeless shelter if they had asked”). It’s *allllll* about performative martyrdom for that user and I strongly suspect that OP is way too addicted to that as well.

            4. NotAnotherManager!*

              No one here is OP’s manager, and there is no obligation to use the same language or tone to offer advice on an internet comment board as one has with the people one supervises. Alison used manager-appropriate language in her first response to this poster, and that doesn’t appear to have made an impact on OP at all either. I doubt tone is the problem.

              I find OP’s position on this just bizarre. She worked at a place that could not profit or break even, and she blames her fellow employees for contributing to that rather than the company owners or managers. The idea that declining company pizza, refusing to absorb corporate expenses personally, and some of the other extreme suggestions she had would save this sinking ship is just so misplaced – and to think, upon hearing of layoffs, “I told you so”? I am having a trouble seeing where any advise or feedback she’s received has been taken in, so I can see where others are resorting to blunter language.

              1. Loretta*

                I really don’t like to diagnose people online, but the exaggerated and irrational response to workplace requests reminds me of my anxiety disorder. I can get focused on food or money in a very microscopic way. My emotions (fear, loss of control) are too large to handle so I become fixated on managing details and worrying about how other people are responding.

                So I guess I’m saying you can’t reason or bully a person out of anxiety. They are responding in what feels to be an appropriate way to something very real to them, and others perceptions of the situation just won’t “feel” right.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I hear you. I have anxiety as well, though mine manifests in world-class catastrophizing rather than being microfixations. My spouse does not have anxiety and struggles to understand how I can come up with a low-probability/high-disaster outcome for nearly mundane situation in my head, and having to step through my disordered thought process with him has also helped me to understand how insane my anxiety-driven thoughts sound to others.

                  Really, there is nothing anyone can say here that will force OP to reassess her unrealistic perception of the situation – positive or negative comments – but I do understand why commenters are frustrated by the fact that she learned very little from Alison’s original response or the comments and seems to still be locked in that irrational mindset, whether it is caused by anxiety or not and particularly when we’re asked not to armchair diagnose people.

            5. Door Guy*

              As a manager, I wouldn’t want any of my employees behaving like LW was. All the condescension of their fellow workers, the not turning in their legitimate expenses, the conspicuous hunger strikes, the time wasting (walking with the heavy equipment vs taking public transport. If they were on the clock, they wasted hourly pay that could be productive by not going the faster option).

              The martyrdom comment does seem fitting though, this LW is giving the company EVERYTHING at the expense of themself. Free labor, reduced 401k contributions, opting out of health insurance. What did it gain them? They got to keep their job in a mass lay-off only to leave a few months later because the broken company wasn’t fixed by cutting away 50% and taping a shoddy stopgap on.

              What exactly did they hope to prove? That they were better than their coworkers as a person and employee because they “saved” the company a few bucks here and there? If they truly thought the policies were costing too much money (something way above their pay grade as a regular worker) then they should have spoken to someone who COULD change things, instead of virtue signalling to their fellows.

              There is a huge difference between minimizing unnecessary expenses and what LW was doing. Allison had a lot of good advice in her original response and it seems like LW took in the words but not the intent. That they think less of their coworkers for accepting offered amenities and think “I told you so!” when lay offs happen, and feel guilt months after leaving this organization, says a lot.

              1. Rainy*

                If they were on the clock, they wasted hourly pay that could be productive by not going the faster option

                In one of my early jobs as a teenager, in food service at a small family-owned restaurant, I was rummaging to give a customer change and hit a coin wrong, making it spring out of the drawer, where it hit the floor and rolled behind a prep table. It took me 15 minutes to winkle it out using a variety of tools, getting on the floor, etc.

                My boss (the owner) came by about half-way through this, and watched me get the coin. I triumphantly dropped it back in the drawer, and my boss said “Rainy, I appreciate the thought, but I just paid you $2 to retrieve 25 cents. Think about that from my perspective for a minute and then come tell me what you’re going to do next time instead.”

                I’ve carried this lesson with me in the nearly 3 decades since.

                1. Daniel Atter*

                  Your old boss gets it!

                  Unfortunately not enough people think like that. But not only does he understand good use of time, he also took it as a teaching opportunity. Wow!

              2. RB*

                Yes, I really find the holier-than-thou attitude emanating from this follow-up to be personally offensive. To have such a low opinion of your fellow co-workers is really disheartening to me (notwithstanding the few positive comments she added in the followup). It sounds like they were dealing with enough crap already, working for a failing company and all that entails.

              3. Kate R*

                Excellent comment! This is what I found most disheartening about this update. It’s one thing for OP to refuse pizza or cut back on their 401K contributions (though I think that’s a bad idea), but a lot of their actions are actually causing harm to the company, and they don’t seem to recognize that. Carrying heavy equipment for 5 miles is such a time waster, not to mention the potential for injury. “Forgetting” to submit overtime and opting out of health insurance would violate the law in some places, and at the very least, it gives the company a skewed view of how much time and money it’s costing to run their business. They laid off half their workforce and reallocated their work when employees were already working nights to get everything done. I’m not sure they even know how their business functions. Even the minor things like the “hunger strike” is going to come across as sanctimonious to other employees who understand that rejecting already paid for pizza isn’t going to save the company from financial ruin. I’m glad OP has left this company, but bringing those attitudes with them is going to alienate their new coworkers as well.

            6. Eillah*

              “negative” does not mean “bad” and I really wish more forced-positivity people could understand that.

              1. Scarlet2*

                Yeah, I hope Mazzy isn’t a manager or a teacher if they feel can only say positive things to people.

            7. Richard Hershberger*

              Martyrdom: Is it “name calling” if it is true? I would characterize this as “analysis.”

            8. pancakes*

              Observing that someone seems to see themself as a martyr isn’t name-calling, and it’s strange to me that you seem to think readers are open to being told it is.

      3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yes because OP still doesn’t get it. Trusting her intuition that something bad was going on isn’t the issue here. It’s the fact that she thinks not submitting legitimate business expenses and not taking part in a company paid lunch are the right way to go when your company is having financial problems. That’s not how it works. It’s not the job of the employees to fix a company’s financial issues because as she saw, they will get rid of you in a second if that’s what will save them.

        1. Natalie*

          It’s not the job of the employees to fix a company’s financial issues because as she saw, they will get rid of you in a second if that’s what will save them.

          I’d expand that a bit – it’s not the individual employee’s job because *they can’t*. They literally do not have the power to fix the problem individually. The changes required are generally significant enough that they have to come from the executive level, as part of an overall re-positioning strategy.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Exactly. Also, I get the thought behind comparing it to recycling, and I have a lot of sympathy for the OP on this one, because I do get the rationalization there, but it really isn’t the same thing, you’re comparing apples and oranges. If anything what you’re doing is emptying the soda bottles on the store shelves into the sink and then putting the bottles in the bin because, hey that’s even more plastic being recycled! Kinda, yeah, but it’s more wasteful in another realm to do it that way.

            Being payed what you are owed, and taking care of your own situation by having healthcare and a 401k is more equivalent to putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. You can’t help the company do well if you’re not taking care of yourself. If you do want pizza, that’s fine, but others don’t “have their hand out,” they are accepting (extremely discounted) compensation for extra effort. You earned that 401k money, so did your coworkers. You do you on the choices you want to make on that, but don’t push them onto your coworkers. Even 120 coworkers ALL giving up their 401ks would not have been enough to save 80 jobs. That’s just math, it’s also ethics because 120 people should not have to go without having any kind of safety net for their retirement so the owners of this specific company can continue to turn a profit for themselves.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I don’t think any of those employees were missing the message that something was wrong–the OP didn’t have some amazing revelation that everybody else missed.

          I mean, some people do blithely ignore the warning signs, but the end result is the same anyway, right? And the proper EMPLOYEE response to warning signs is to job search. Or perhaps to do their own job really well so as to increase their value relative to their salary.

          And yes, don’t be wasteful. But…

          1. Rainy*

            I think the employees who were laid off and got severance were the ones who played it correctly. Everyone else got twice the work at the same pay and is going to get fired anyway when the company goes under.

            OP says that the people who were laid off “haven’t found jobs” but I find that…mmm, let’s just say that given the givens, I find OP an unreliable narrator.

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              I highly doubt that everyone who was laid off is still unemployed. But the nice thing about a severance package is that you have the money to take your time and be a little more picky with your job search. Unlike OP, these guys don’t have to scramble for the first place that makes them an offer.

              1. Scarlet2*

                I also highly doubt LW is still in touch with a lot of former coworkers after the way s/he behaved with them.

      4. Anonymouse*

        When you feel like something is amiss financially with the company you’re working for, you start looking for a new job, not resort to Extreme Couponing- Office Edition. Why would any reasonable person double down on a sinking ship when she/he doesn’t have any financial stakes at risk? OP here was no where near close to the real issue at hand, which is the need to be an OTT martyr with some seriously unkind outlooks regarding their coworkers’s “insufficient” sacrifices. Seriously not a good look.

        1. EPLawyer*

          “Extreme Couponing- Office Edition.”
          So glad I work alone. This made me crack up — loudly. Complete with hand clapping.

      5. Mia*

        It seems odd to write off people pointing out the issues with LW’s reasoning as needlessly negative when, realistically, cajoling people into doing the kinds of over the top, self-sacrificial cost cutting measures she was is pretty harmful/negative in and of itself. Guilt tripping your coworkers isn’t something to praise.

    8. LGC*

      Honestly, I feel like it’s a combination of “nonprofit disease” (even though I think this is a for-profit she’s talking about) and digging in her heels after getting roasted on the internet. (Yes, I know she’s not really getting roasted. But she did get criticized for her stance.)

      On one hand, her loyalty is weirdly admirable – I can’t say that she doesn’t care about this company. (Like everyone else, I think it’s misplaced loyalty.) But on the other hand, she loves this organization way more than they loved her and her coworkers there. (And the way she was showing her love was…not helpful at all.)

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        While I agree that some non-profits do take advantage of employees, non-profits should still pay their employees legitimate business expenses. I know plenty of non-profits that will not pay for alcohol expense, but they will certainly reimburse for food, that is fine.

        It is one thing for a non-profit to pay lower than average (compared to for profit sector) salaries, people go in agreeing to those. But it is completely different for a non-profit to expect employees to pay for their own food/hotel/travel on a business trip or not to reimburse cab/public transit cost from off site meetings.

        I think appropriate cost cutting (in for profit and non-profit sectors) is different from cutting costs. The way I see it, it means ordering pizza from the local cheaper pizza place instead of ordering from the “fancy” expensive pizza place, taking a cab/uber instead of a hired town car or uber black, booking a 3 star hotel instead of a 4 star hotel etc…. What OP was not cutting expenses, the expense was still there it was just OP who was shouldering it instead of the company.

        1. Anonymouse*

          My former toxic hellhole expected everyone to be extremely sacrificing to the point where intl’ travel for business trips and conferences came out of the employee and volunteer’s pockets. I also got reamed for printing a legal document single sided (as required by multiple jurisdictions to be standard practice) because double sided would’ve been cheaper to mail. There was no way a 20 pg settlement agreement was going to fit inside a standard trifold envelop but that didn’t stop my supervisor from trying. Our project director also once told us to use postcard stamp rates for smaller mail items to save the difference. Behind close doors, they done countless other financial wizardry to keep the employees underpaid with no COL adjustments ever just to stay financially afloat. That was an unhealthy nonprofit and there was nothing I could’ve done to save it. And reimbursing necessary business travel was certainly not the cause of its financial worries.

          Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the heavenly stars for giving me other career opportunities to leave that cheap-ass place.

        2. Emily K*

          Exactly this. Even nonprofits with bare bones budgets can do better than the kinds of cuts OP was enforcing on herself, and most importantly, people who work at non-profits are generally before they accept the job that a nonprofit is operating on a shoestring budget with austere travel policies and minimal benefits, and that those things are common across the industry. If people are promised one set of benefits at hire and then it turns out there’s an unwritten expectation to adhere to a much lower standard once on the job, that’s a bait-and-switch. People need to be able to make informed decisions about their own careers and lying about policies and benefits – which is what OP is suggesting the company do by advertising benefits people ought not to use – prevents them from being able to do that.

        3. LGC*

          True, but what I meant by “nonprofit disease” was that LW herself was so “committed to the mission” she martyred herself. This isn’t that uncommon, and I’ve seen some degrees of it up close (and actually “suffered” from a mild case myself).

          I’ve had to shut down employees (and coworkers) who are hourly trying to work off the clock because we’re behind and “not profitable” or something. (I’m at a social enterprise.) Obviously this isn’t unique to the sector, but I feel like it’s more common there.

    9. TootsNYC*

      At least the band on the Titanic may have given encouragement to the people who were trying to get on lifeboats (some people WERE saved).

      Sacrifice for a noble goal is not something to sneer at.
      That was my problem with this OP–there wasn’t a noble goal to sacrifice for. Not at that level.

      In fact, the layoffs actually prove how wrong the OP was–no level of cuts any single employee could do would have made a difference in the outcome, and those people who got laid off would have only felt betrayed.

      Especially am I still aghast at the OP’s attitude toward people’s retirement savings!!!

      1. EnfysNest*

        Yes – the band on the Titanic was a group of brave men who chose to comfort others with their last minutes when it became clear that there was no escape for themselves and others.

        What the OP did was run around a collapsing building sticking scotch tape over the cracks in the walls and then blame their coworkers who the building fell on because they didn’t apply any scotch tape themselves (in an alternate universe where your future health care and retirement options depend on how much scotch tape you keep for yourself, nonetheless).

        OP, you are worth so much more than that! You (and your coworkers) deserve to be paid for your time and you deserve to be in a stable job that can compensate you fairly, where you don’t feel the need to sacrifice your own financial and medical security to save someone else’s company even if you could. If you’re putting in extra hours to help out in a pinch, getting a token of appreciation like a provided meal is the least of what your company can do. You have valuable skills to offer the company and your efforts are worth much more than just the price of a bus ticket. Being careful about spending doesn’t mean providing free labor or treating your time and efforts as if they are worth no compensation. I really hope that you can learn to expect more for yourself and for your coworkers – you deserve better!

    10. Emily K*

      I especially am concerned with this part:

      I know that in general “disappearing” overtime or other costs of projects so it appears that they are less costly than they actually are is counter-productive for the future (due to the need to make budgets and stuff) but my hunch that they were looking for “right now” viability, even if there were a few unacknowledged fudges in there, was on the money!

      There is no point in “right now viability” where no long-term viability exists. All that does is punt the crisis down the road some amount of time and leaves the company permanently on the precipice of crisis. In the absence of having a really unusual year/temporary extenuating circumstances, if the only way the company can be viable “right now” is with “a few fudges” then that’s the only way the company is ever going to be viable. Which means it’s not viable. Period.

      1. Phoenix from the ashes*

        The place I left 6 months ago was making some big system changes within my department. Several of my colleagues worked a lot of overtime to get the new system up and running. Probably because they were nervous about future redundancies and wanting to seem to be team players, they didn’t claim their overtime.

        Now I hear that almost all of them have been made redundant anyway. Except for the ones in a Hunger Games scenario competing for the single remaining job.

        Ah well. We all learn this lesson at some point in our careers. I learned it the hard way too.

        Claim your overtime, people! Never work for free.

      2. MsSolo*

        It tends to introduce much bigger costs in the future, too. “We can get by without replacing the printer this year, which saves us $80 on the IT budget, allowing us to scrape along” becomes “having not replaced the printer in ten years, it caught fire and burned down the office, costing us $80,000 because we also thought saving money on insurance was the only way we could get by”. Right now viability vs long term viability is the difference in closing down gracefully and everyone walking away with decent severance and going dramatically bankrupt, leaving everyone missing several months’ wages.

    11. FrenchCusser*

      Speaking as someone who works in accounting – she’s not cutting costs, she’s refusing payment. The costs are incurred when the action happens (travelling, working), etc.

      The costs are still there, and owed by the company.

      What ‘cost cutting’ means is not doing unnecessary actions – not ordering supplies, reducing travel, etc.
      It does not mean refusing to eat the pizza that’s provided. It does not mean working for free.

    12. Blue Horizon*

      The whole ‘cut costs’ thing seemed to have taken on an almost talismanic quality. You could substitute ‘sacrifice a goat’ or something every time it appears and the post would still read much the same way.

      From the last few paragraphs I think the OP gets this up to a point, but not to the level where they are able to fix it.

    13. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, it’s a shame because there are a couple of moments in this update where they almost seem like they get it and then they turn back around and end up back where the started.

      I think the piece that stood out most to me is where they say “I had correctly picked up on something being amiss” like that somehow retroactively justified their wildly unreasonable behavior. Suspecting there’s trouble when the company sends out an email telling you they are struggling financially isn’t exactly impressive detective work. The company literally told you there was something amiss. Your coworkers probably all worked that out as well.

      I think in that situation the best response is not to bully your peers and sacrifice your own financial future in a futile attempt to save a sinking ship, but to go ahead and start job searching right away so you can be prepared if layoffs come.

    14. Nerdy Teacher*

      Ugh, at least the band provides comfort and support to the dying. OP is calling people greedy opportunists for accepting life vests and encouraging half empty boats into the water.

      OP, you have to stop this. You were only right that the company was struggling, which they already told you. You didn’t crack a code. You are not helping. If a company can’t meet its responsibilities to its workers, the company is no longer viable. You should ALL be looking for new jobs, not stacking and protecting the deck chairs.

  3. samecoin*

    same, though i have no right to say this. I feel the OP went way to far to accommodate a company, that would not do the same for them

    1. TootsNYC*

      or that could not do the same for them.

      Sometimes businesses (or business units) simply can’t be profitable. Trying to preserve them with nickels and dimes is completely ineffective, and it goes against the laws of nature.

    2. tamarack & fireweed*

      A similar way of looking at it is to say that this series of posts is a very clear example of someone who tries individual solutions to what is a structural problem. Just like we can’t turn around climate change by imposing a draconic recycling regime onto one’s own family unilaterally, you can’t save a company whose budget doesn’t add up by practicing unilateral cost cutting.

      It is one thing to be understanding when a troubled company nixes perks like free pizza. But availing yourself of the retirement contributions you’re entitled to is your responsibility, while structuring the company in a sustainable way is not. The finance people were right to not even blip at $500 savings when what was much larger.

      The OP is, however, insightful about the main effect of her cost cutting: allaying her own anxieties. Except of course that providing an anxiety-free workplace is also the employer’s responsibility.

    1. Sally*

      Also, submitting your legitimate business expenses is not taking advantage. I guess the thing that really strikes me about the two letters is that the actions by the OP are not going to make much (if any) difference to the company’s longevity. And in the meantime, the OP is doing or not doing things that will benefit them, like leaving the 401(k) at the max for a company match. As others have said, if the company needs to take action to cut costs, it will (and this one did). It doesn’t need or expect individuals to voluntarily make personal sacrifices.

      1. Door Guy*

        Exactly. If the 401(k) matches were such a hardship for the company, they’d have adjusted their matching policy. A company I worked for did that when the parent company went through chapter 11 bankruptcy. If the health insurance costs were too great, they’d have been negotiating for a change in providers or plans for the next year. Even the pizza, if it’s something that happens as frequent as it sounds due to client demands on late work, has a budget, and the fact that it wasn’t cut tells me that the cost involved was deemed necessary even if just on a morale level (or else used to disguise what WAS being cut slightly more out of sight)

        All of these actions LW took that only harmed themselves, that allowed themselves to be taken advantage of WILLINGLY because they felt misplaced guilt and loyalty, and then shamed their fellow workers for not volunteering to self-harm themselves.

      2. Alex*

        My department of three people has a budget of ~3 Million Dollars a year for equipment and labor costs (which are about 20% of the budget) – I’m pretty sure my five cab rides a year and bi-monthly office pizza make a significant dent in my department’s budget…. /s

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, that really stood out to me — doing the company a huge favor by working late/unpaid and then expecting to be fed is not greedy, and a couple hundred bucks on pizza is also not going to save anyone’s job.

      LW, I can’t diagnose you and I’m not trying to, but this reads as very anxious (an attempt to control things you can’t/a desire to “do something” to control anxious thoughts) and I wonder if you have similar thoughts about other things in your life.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “LW, I can’t diagnose you and I’m not trying to, but this reads as very anxious (an attempt to control things you can’t/a desire to “do something” to control anxious thoughts) and I wonder if you have similar thoughts about other things in your life.”

        I agree with this! OP, I think these cost-cutting strategies were actually just attempts to get your anxiety under control by feeling like you were controlling something, anything – even your co-workers’ behavior. This probably feels like it works in the short-term but it’s an unhealthy strategy for managing your stress in the long term.

        I think you should focus on self-care and stress management….and, agreeing with Alison’s original reply, while at the same time NOT cutting into your retirement and salary. That’s ultimately self-destructive and will not solve the problem anyway.

      2. Mia*

        Agreed. I’m a very anxious person and I frequently find myself in “but I just wish I could DO SOMETHING” mode with problems that are out of my control.

      3. Smithy*

        Totally agree with this.

        I think it’s also worth adding that lots of people who are working in dysfunctional environments for a lot of reasons – it’s just worth emphasizing how stress and anxiety responses to those environments can lead to some very disordered thinking over time. After leaving a bad work environment, it took me a year if not longer to notice moments where Old Job Brain was taking the reigns and driving responses that made sense to survive at that job but were not “best workplace practices”.

    3. londonedit*

      Absolutely. When a company says ‘we need to look at cost-cutting measures’ that means ‘the big bosses need to look at where serious savings can be made’, not ’employees need to take it upon themselves to try to cost the company as little as is humanly possible’. Until the bosses announce that the company will no longer be providing pizza or reimbursing travel costs or whatever, those aren’t things employees need to be worrying about. If the bosses think it’s still important to provide a meal for people who are working unpaid overtime, then that’s their decision, and whether someone sits there and refuses to take a slice really isn’t going to make a bit of difference in the grand scheme of things.

      1. designbot*

        If anything I wish someone from OP’s management team would read this and realize what pressure it puts on people when that message is delivered to the entire staff, most of whom can’t do anything of real substance about the problem, instead of the specific group(s) that could have an impact.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I don’t know that your assessment is correct. I think that staff could have had a reasonable impact. For example by using a cab/uber/uber pool instead of a hired town car or uber black, by booking a 3 star hotel instead of a 4 star hotel, ordering a $10/15 dinner instead of a $25 dinner etc… I don’t think management could have or should have envisioned employees reacting like OP did, it seems all the other employees understood what the company meant.

          1. designbot*

            The thing about that is, those should be company policies, not individual choices. Employee travel should have guidelines—most places I’ve worked have had something like a $40–50/day food budget (no alcohol allowed under any conditions), least expensive direct flight, and standard uber written into their policies, and if you didn’t follow the guidelines you didn’t get your reimbursement. HR or whoever did travel booking should have been alerted, determined what a reasonable policy would be, and then distributed that policy to employees rather than them getting some blanket “cut expenses!”
            That said, if the end result of this was massive layoffs, then even a good faith effort at this would’ve been a drop in the bucket, probably not even one job would’ve been saved by everyone cutting back.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              That is very true, I agree with you. But I still stand by my assertion that individual employees can be told we need to tighten expenses, in the hopes that reasonable employees can point out process xyz that involves 5 steps can be streamlined to 3 steps thus saving $35k a year, or we order $100 worth of x supplies every month but we could save $30 by ordering x supplies in 6 month quantities etc…

              I by no means think the extreme that OP took it to is okay. But individual employees can be asked to look for ways to cut costs, sometimes employees on the “front lines” can have ideas or see things that upper management does not see on a daily basis.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Yes, this. I once proposed something that ended up saving the company millions of dollars – a year! It was a simple and obvious solution to me, working “in the trenches,” as it were. But the idea had just never occurred to management. It was a fairly simple thing to implement, too. (Basically, training the teapot makers at the companies supplying us, so we wasted less time on QA and trying to paint crooked teapots so they looked normal. Yeah, we had to pay for someone to travel there and train them, but we saved so much time sorting out the 99% of the teapots that were useless,and actually started getting a quality product to work with.)
                That’s the sort of cost-cutting companies need from employees. Not refusing to use the benefits in their contracts.

    4. Goldfinch*

      I don’t even understand how rejecting already-purchased pizza is helping. Are they returning half a soggy pie for a partial refund?

      1. Erykah Badu*

        I think this is the part OP might be missing. If the company is openly cutting costs AND buying pizza for its employees, what does it say about OP to their coworkers to refuse it? That you know better than the executives (which you might, who knows)? It reads a bit self-righteous or at least out of touch if the company has considered it an expense worth taking.

        1. designbot*

          Also in my state it’s the law that employers need to provide meals when employees work late. So employees not taking it makes the employer no less required to give it, and the employer would just be left in an odd situation when they’re just trying to follow the law.

    5. MistOrMister*

      I’ve never felt bad about eating any time food has been provided. My feeling is, they wouldn’t offer it if they couldn’t afford it. That being said, if everyone gets to order what they want, I would certainly not order the most expensive thing. But if it really hurt the bottom line that much, the company would not have kept doing it. And, I highly doubt that the people that go let go were all/only the ones who would eat the free food and it seems like they were let go because of performance issues and money issues, not for taking advantage of free food offers.

      In one department I worked there were a few times a year when it was understood there would be a lot of OT worked forna couple of weeks. They never provided any food (although you can bet those hours went on my time sheet!!) but I would not have hesitated for one second to partake if food had been provided. Not a single, solitary second….

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Especially given the fact they were taking advantage of free labor…

      But really, in the end it boils down to this company sucked and did it to themselves.

      Who cuts expenses but still allows for pizza purchases to begin with? That’s pretty standard, you cut all the tiny perks that add up. Coffee, snacks, company funded meals. Does it sink morale, you betcha but when you’re sinking and bleeding your employees dry of their time without paying them their wages properly, the morale is already dead.

      1. Natalie*

        That hasn’t been my experience through a couple of significant layoff/reorg situations (one large national company, one small local company). The dollar figures involved are generally always significant enough that cutting the small perks isn’t worth it compared to the morale and staff you lose. And there absolutely is morale to lose. If you’re truly trying to reposition your company to survive, you need to try and keep the staff you decided to keep. Turnover costs money to.

        When a company has truly done everything they can to reduce big costs – labor, facilities, utilities, etc – and they’re still circling the drain, it’s time to close.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Layoffs and reorgs take just as much morale out of the sails and they’re longer lasting because then everyone is on edge the entire time, waiting for the axeman to find them next.

          I’ve never seen a reorganization work to retain staff or morale, it’s always ended in massive turnover. Everyone not cut goes to find a stable job elsewhere because they aren’t ready to be next.

          1. Natalie*

            They certainly can be, and of course, some amount of turnover is inevitable. But I have been part of a large layoff that retained plenty of staff. I suppose I’m technically in the middle of another one, although it’s a merger which comes with a different set of problems.

            My point is, in the vast majority of situations there’s no point where cutting coffee and pizza will do anything to help, and may well hurt what you have left.

        2. Economist*

          Especially because laying off 40 staff is not a small number. Their salaries could cover thousands of pizzas. Cutting pizza is irrelevant at that point.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        This was a debate I just had with my husband. His step-father is retired from a major organization in a field that has high-highs and very low-lows. One of the perks that the company provides is tickets to an annual local event including vouchers to buy food/games, parking passes, and sets up a pavilion at the event with more food/drinks. This perk continues after retirement. The company is in a low period and has laid off hundreds of people. My husband was questioning why they continue this tradition during that time. A mid-level employee at that company probably makes $75K, so skipping this wouldn’t even be a drop in the bucket. It may feel like rubbing salt in the wound for those laid-off, but the company prides itself on providing many perks to those they keep.

        1. pancakes*

          Sponsorship of an annual event almost certainly isn’t as small a drop in the bucket as ordering pizza, though.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Not when you consider the size of the companies. OP worked for an 80-person organization versus a major organization that can lay-off hundreds of people and still be operational.

      3. International Payroll Pro*

        In multiple countries and industries outside the US it is legislatively required that if employees work more than a certain number of hours per day then the employer needs to either provide a meal or pay an additional amount to compensate for a meal. It’s intended to discourage employers from making employees work regular long days.

        It’s possible that OP is in one of these locations as they mention they’re not in the US, and they may not be aware if this kind of legislation affects them as they seem unaware of business norms in general. If this were the case then the pizza is not a perk, it’s a cost savings to the company to give $3 each in pizza rather than $10 each in meal allowance.

    7. palomar*

      “Letting the company feed you when you’re wokring unpaid overtime is not “taking advantage”.”

      Came here to say this. OP, if you’re reading and open-minded enough to take any of the commentary to heart… none of the things your coworkers were doing was in any way “taking advantage” of the company. Truth be told, everything you were doing to cut costs was allowing the company to take advantage of you, ESPECIALLY the part about reducing your own retirement savings contributions so as to reduce the matching amount from your now former employer. I hope at some point you internalize the idea that it is actually reasonable to be paid a fair wage including benefits, offered a meal when asked to work unpaid overtime, and reimbursed for expenses incurred while doing business for an employer.

  4. NJAnonymous*

    I remember this OP’s original submission. I don’t think she learned any of the lessons that Alison or the commenters tried to impart.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Not at all, which is sad. I hope she can take a step back now that she no longer works there, rereads her original letter with Alison’s advice and the comments, and maybe work with a therapist to find out where this martyr complex is coming from – it’s not healthy, and it will not serve her moving further in her career.

    2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      In addition, the “I told you so” is strong with this one. And OP still feels that this company deserves fealty. The company was failing, to the point they had to hire an outside company to fix it. Their only fix was to make half the people do twice the work. Not that there were too many people in the first place, that there were too many people to PAY, not too many people to do the WORK.
      So no, OP does not get that working for free is not the equivalent of buying reusable straws.

      1. hugseverycat*

        Yeah, the analogy to recycling was off-base. The human race won’t end if the company fails. We don’t need to all band together and sacrifice our well-being for a company, because companies don’t actually matter. When we do sacrifice for the sake of a company, all that happens is that our sacrificed state becomes the new normal, and everyone (aside from the company) is worse off.

        It’s like looking at those graphs of the widening wealth gap and saying, “How can I further reduce my wealth to benefit the 1%?”

        1. Aquawoman*

          The analogy to recycling as stated was bad, but in reality, it’s accidentally perfect–recycling is in the neighborhood of rounding error and for real impact, what needs to happen is at a systemic level. So recycling does = not eating free pizza, because both of those are minimally effective when what needs to happen is at the C-suite level: cutting retirement matches, reducing healthcare costs, layoffs, etc.

          I’m concerned about the LW’s sense of boundaries, it doesn’t seem like she understands what is her monkey and what is not her monkey. That’s not a problem that goes away with a new job.

          1. 5 Leaf Clover*

            Oh that’s SUCH a good point. OP is the person hand-washing their yogurt lids to recycle them, while companies throw away thousands of tons of packaging every day because they change their branding looks.

      2. AKchic*

        Not only are half the people doing twice the work, it seems like the remaining half are still on “cost-saving” measures of working unpaid overtime. If I am not getting paid for my labor, getting twice the work, and am still getting guilt-tripped by both management, an outside agency paid to find “efficiency” *and* a coworker who seems to relish being frugal with the company’s “dime” to the point of miserly competition, then I would be job hunting with a passion.

    3. emmelemm*

      Not at all, unfortunately. I work for a very small company (<5 people for most of the time). In a company that small, there *may* be things that I could personally do to affect the bottom line (and sometimes, not even then).

      But in any company of, say, more than 25 people, one person not eating pizza ain't gonna save it. You have to recognize that. If things aren't profitable, then the high-level leaders need to make big decisions to direct the future path of the company. As basically an individual contributor, that just ain't your job. And it sounds like the company did make some big decisions, whether ultimately for good or not, time will tell. OP not expensing a taxi ride or whatever did not affect this in any way.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Even in a small business, if your business hangs on that $500 an employee floated you on, your business is probably going to fail! No business should be hanging on by a few hundred or thousand dollars, ever!

        Even if everyone at that 150+ employer had taken on $500 extra that’s 75k, that’s probably one or two salaries at best. Not enough to save that sinking ship. Ever.

      2. Aquawoman*

        In that case, though, it is management’s obligation to say “sorry, folks, no more free pizza,” not the individual’s responsibility. They have both the power and the information to make the cost-benefit call.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I mean, an individual contributor could find cost savings.
        They could say, “We waste a lot of paper with printouts people end up not collecting. Let’s put in a system that makes you have to click on your filename at the printer, and lets people delete files sent in error before they’re printed.”

        One IT guy at my company saved thousands with that.
        Another person negotiated a new paper contract and got hundreds of thousands.
        My boss and I streamlined freelance scheduling and cut $30,000 out of a year’s budget.
        Another person identified a revenue source, and bingo–more money coming in.

        So in your ROLE, you can find ways to help your company cut costs and eliminate waste.
        But not eating the pizza is actually counterproductive because it focuses you on small solutions instead of big ones.

    1. Data Analyst*

      Yes! OP, You say you dug deep to see what was going on in your thought process. Sounds like you landed on the idea that in a precarious and stressful situation, you grasped for the only thing you could control, which felt better because then it felt like you were doing something instead of nothing. This makes sense from a “this is what happened” level of analysis, but…[shouts in a nice, tough love way] THIS IS NOT RATIONAL AND IT DID NOT HELP AND IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU WERE RIGHT! And with a little more digging (and therapy?) I think you could come to understand that.

      1. Nessun*

        This is the part that I think struck me most. OP did examine their reasoning, but only the surface level ‘why’. Understanding why you chose to do something is an important step, but further growth comes with further examination! So you know why you thought what you thought (sort of) – What made you think this was good thinking? How could this thinking ever have lead to your desired outcome? (Seriously – if OP had convinced every person at that employer to do the same things she did, would the company have been suddenly fiscally successful again and fiscally responsible in future? …I’m gonna say No.)

      2. Lance*

        All of this. OP, you say cutting down on costs you were billing the company made you feel good about it (which is great! as long as it’s not hurting you), and you say that it didn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things… but I’m not sure that you’re fully realizing that. There’s still an element of superiority, suggesting that your coworkers still should’ve followed suit, that they should stop ‘taking advantage of the company’ by eating the pizza… that the company is buying, presumably without being directly asked every single time.

        Hopefully your step back at a new job will help you see how your view on this is still skewed, and, ideally, how pushing ideals that ultimately won’t make a difference onto your coworkers isn’t helpful.

  5. otterbaby*

    Hmm…I think I’d rather be laid off with severance than work for a company for 6-12 months knowing that I’m not getting paid for my overtime or business transportation costs. I feel like that’s setting yourself up for some pent-up resentment. But, to each their own.

  6. East of Nowhere South of Lost*

    I read this with a general ‘WTF’? I mean you really think you deserve to be rewarded for ‘cost cutting’ and ‘sacrificing?’ . The company won’t care. If your position is useful, it will be retained, if its not, it will be cut. If you are good at that useful position, you were just lucky the cost cutting blades didn’t fall your way. The next time you might not be and then it won’t matter that you refused pizza.

    1. Zephy*

      Right? TPTB didn’t decide not to lay off OP because she walked five miles carrying heavy equipment and refused a slice of pizza and cut off her financial nose to spite her financial face. For all she knows, they threw darts at a list of names, or her name happened to fall in the “don’t lay off” half of the alphabet, or they laid off every other person.

      1. Antilles*

        To be honest, as a manager, if I knew you had walked five miles carrying heavy equipment rather than spending $20 on cab far, that would actually be more likely to land you ON the “lay off list” because I’m immediately seeing huge liability numbers popping in my head.

        1. Leslie Knope*

          Exactly! If you’re hauling around heavy equipment you should take some sort of transportation! What if you dropped the equipment when you got tired? Or somehow injured yourself? How would that save the company money?

          If someone higher up the chain had seen that behavior they would have questioned the OP’s judgement.

          1. Door Guy*

            Beyond that, 5 miles takes time to walk when not encumbered. How much productivity did LW waste in comparison to that transportation cost? I’m willing to bet that the company lost on that one.

          2. Elitist Semicolon*

            I’m stuck on what kind of “heavy equipment” we’re talking about, here. In my mind, “heavy equipment” is something like a jackhammer or a full-size photocopier, which makes the liability and lost productivity even more disproportionate to the $2.50 public transit fare saved. And unless the OP is, I don’t know, secretly The Hulk, why would carrying something that heavy for that far even seem feasible?

    2. Mary*

      In the UK, AFAIK it would actually be illegal to base your redundancies on whether individual people are good/bad. It has to be about whether a case can be made for keeping or losing a specific role.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        I’m also in the EU and this is harmonised. I agree that a lay off means eliminating roles and not people, but if you have multiple people in one role, you can definitely eliminate the weaker performers. And even between different roles, there’s quite wide discretion: there’s always more than one possible way to do a reorg.

        And in most of the US this wouldn’t apply at all, as most states allow for termination without cause.

        1. MsSolo*

          In the UK, in this scenario, you would usually have everyone currently in the roles re-interview for the positions that will remain, so they can argue their case why they should get one of them.

          1. Another Sarah*

            And/or offer voluntary redundancy first so that people who don’t want to stay can take the payout and leave

      2. Randomity*

        Depends. If the job is substantially the same you can be matched to it, but if you make just enough changes to it that it’s not quite the same, you can make people interview still. Amazing how when they did this where I am all the people who weren’t really up to standard weren’t successful and ended up being made redundant.

      3. TootsNYC*

        In the cost-cutting layoffs I’ve been through, smart managers don’t want there to be a perception, and certainly not any actual statement, that people got laid off because they weren’t good at their jobs.

        It really hits the “survivors” badly.

        However, it IS often the case that managers will use a layoff as a way to weed out their staff; they just reorganize it a bit so that there’s a role for the people they want to keep, and not for the people they don’t.
        They’ll eliminate a role and spread its duties around, and a year later recreate it.

      4. londonedit*

        Yep, when I went through a round of redundancies it was all done by scoring our jobs on various categories, and the ones that went were the ones with the least amount of proof that they were necessary to the company. In the UK you don’t make a *person* redundant, you make a *role* redundant. Of course there are ways and means for people to end up getting rid of lower performers, but unless you want to end up at an employment tribunal you have to have pretty solid proof that you’re following all the rules.

      5. WannaAlp*

        Can confirm. Have seen up close situations that illustrate this, including

        (a) A situation where the best performer in a department was made redundant, and this was sort of because of the high performance: having two sets of skills meant that they had a foot in two departments, which meant that it was less easy to make a clear-cut case for that kind of role. Their coworkers were deeply shocked that the company made that particular choice of redundancy.

        (b) Another situation where it was regarded as desirable to get rid of certain poor bosses, and because you can’t just pick on them specifically to be made redundant; instead a massive restructuring exercise had to be undertaken in order to reorganise 4 sections into 2, in order to get rid of the 2 bad bosses; one was found another non-boss role to have (nice person, other skills, but boss-unsuited), and the other was made redundant. It all had to be by the book to make a case for why these roles are here and those roles are gone, but we (well, most of us) knew why this had really happened.

      6. Tuppence*

        Sort of, depending on the situation. If you have five llama groomers on staff and need to make cuts to the department and go down to three llama groomers, it’s reasonable to base the decision of whom to keep on various factors, including job performance.

    3. AKchic*

      And what, exactly, is her reward for all of that cost cutting and sacrificing? Certainly not a financial reward, and certainly not pizza. A job she ultimately left? She was already short-changing herself there and being underpaid, undervalued, and overworked. She was physically putting herself in precarious positions (walking 5 miles with heavy equipment?!)

      It’s not like she is going to bring her real timesheets and expense reports to a gov’t agency and say “I withheld these to ensure the company could succeed and now that I know they won’t, I’d like my withheld wages before they completely dissolve, thanks!” That seems ludicrous. If the company manages to turn itself around, they aren’t going to seek her out later on and cut her a check for being so “financially efficient”.

    4. Cookie Captain*

      It’s possible the company did reward her–not for the cost cutting itself, but for demonstrating intense blind loyalty at her own expense. A toxic company is indeed going to try to keep an employee that will tolerate mistreatment indefinitely. It’s not a good thing for anyone involved.

      1. Door Guy*

        That thought popped into my head as well – the only company to be impressed or happy with their actions is one you wouldn’t want to work for anyways.

    5. Perpal*

      Your reward for cost cutting and sacrificing is… more cost cutting and sacrificing!
      I don’t think this is like a startup that will suddenly blossom and everyone originally there has amazingly valuable stock or something. (is that even a thing that happens? Or is it only the heads who get the windfall?)

  7. Falalalala*

    “The urge to say “I told you so” to the laid-off others for not putting more thought into cutting their own costs was strong, but I zipped it! ”

    WOW. That’s really all I can say about this.

    1. The Original K.*

      Yeah, that was many layers of staggering. For one, it was a really unkind impulse, and second, 40 workers refusing pizza that the company had already ordered would not have saved their jobs. It wouldn’t even have come CLOSE to saving their jobs. That urge was unhelpful, unkind, and inaccurate.

      1. Jimming*

        Yes… especially what she said about their retirement savings rubbed me the wrong way. Financial planning for retirement is personal and people can put as much (or as little) as they want. The company had a match as a benefit. If the company needed to cut costs, they could have removed that perk.

        1. biobotb*

          Yeah, she put bullying in quotation marks, but what she did was *actually* bullying. Trying to get your coworkers to short their retirement accounts for a company that will have no problem laying them off??? I can’t say more, because I’d get very rude.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Yes, and it’s such a privileged position to be in, to not have to worry about health insurance, retirement, $500 every month, overtime etc – but hassling other people to do the same, especially when earning more and being senior, is really unfair.

        2. TootsNYC*

          We just put my dad in a nursing home. And looked at the amount of money he has to sustain himself. It’s not enough.

          So I’m really side-eyeing the idea that she pressured people to forgo their retirement savings and match!
          And I’m hurting for her, that she did so! Retirement is real–you are going to need money!

      2. Elbe*

        Yeah, the LW seems to be thinking that not being laid off indicates that she was right. And it most certainly does not. She’s still wrong.

        The demands she was making of these people (cutting retirement savings?!?) were completely out of line and would not have changed the situation at all. Had they listened to her, they would just have had less retirement savings when they were eventually let go.

        It’s painful to see someone who is so off base gloat about being “on the money.”

        I genuinely hope that she doesn’t need any type of reference or favor from any of these former co-workers in the future. I think that her behavior has probably gained her some ill will from this people.

        1. Lilo*

          The retirement thing is just crazy. It would definitely make me flee the sinking ship. Retirement matching is a benefit used to recruit and retain talent. If that gets cut that is a sign of trouble.

          I am not putting my financial future at risk out of a warped sense of loyalty.

      3. Quill*

        It also reads as OP having real difficulty with a sense of scale & burning bridges with their coworkers, who are more likely to be good references in the future than bosses of a company that’s going under.

      4. Spreadsheets and Books*

        Right? Unless OP’s selfless measures and the participation of her coworkers resulted in like $2,000,000 in savings (40 employees paid let’s say an average of $50K a year), her oddly dedicated pursuits were so beyond worthless I’m not sure why any of it even crossed her mind. That’s the equivalent of 720,000 skipped rides on the NYC subway or not eating 133,000 pizzas or 4,000 instances of not submitting $500 in expenses or like 53,000 hours of skipped OT.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah. They were not laid off for eating the pizza or for not walking to a meeting and back while carrying a desktop computer in their hands, or whatever other cost-cutting measures OP had taken (I’m frankly afraid to look them up). Their names could’ve been drawn out of a hat for all I know.

    3. Karo*

      Yeah, OP not taking Alison’s original advice is her prerogative, but this sentence really got me. Her coworkers were in no way in the wrong here.

      1. Cookie Captain*

        It really does demonstrate a major lack of empathy. LW’s coworkers may have had debt, or medical expenses, or young children, and sneering at them for not being able to make financial sacrifices is pretty awful.

        IMO the most necessary lesson isn’t about the self-destructive inclination to endlessly sacrifice, it’s about remembering that other people don’t share your particular needs/priorities/measurements of success, and it doesn’t make them inherently wrong or inferior.

    4. Phoenix Wright*

      That line told me everything I needed to know about where OP is coming from. This is mean and nasty, and almost makes it seem like she wanted this to happen, as if it was what they deserved for not screwing themselves over.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes. I heavily sympathized with OP after her first letter, because I have strong martyr tendencies myself as a way of making up for my unimpressive job performance, lack of skills, and crappy work history. Now most of that sympathy is gone.

    5. BRR*

      Either A) the employer isn’t factoring in these small things and irrelevant things for lay offs or B) the company is monitoring these thing and used them to decide on layoffs in which case I can definitively say they’re an awfully run company.

    6. Antennapedia*

      Right? This company is not laying them off because they didn’t decline pizza, this company is laying them off because they didn’t have a realistic understanding of their own cost of business (possibly because SOMEBODY keeps making it look like the cost of doing business is lower than it actually is…)

      1. TNT*

        THIS! If I were in finance at this company, I’d be upset at her *because* of her “cost-cutting” measures. I need to know what it costs to run this business for real.

    7. tinybutfierce*

      Yeah, it’s incredibly… weird that the OP seems to have more sympathy for their former employer than those who were laid off.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I can’t help but wonder if it’s the “temporarily embarrassed millionaire” mentality – if OP identifies with the company’s owners because she believes that someday she’ll be in their positions (unlike all those other uninspired sheep).

    8. Beth*

      Right? Even with being an internet stranger with no familiarity with this company beyond these letters, I feel 100% confident in saying that the “cost cutting measures” OP is talking about played absolutely no role in 1) whether layoffs would happen (the cost of an annual salary is wayyy higher than the cost of an occasional pizza, those aren’t comparable) or 2) who would be subject to them (if your role is considered essential, you’ll keep it whether or not you ask for reimbursement for work travel; if it’s not, well).

      OP was grasping for whatever feeling of control they could find in an out-of-control situation. That’s understandable on a human level, and can be a useful (albeit limited) coping strategy. But it’s about FEELING in control of the situation, not it actually magically BEING under your control! OP’s ‘cost cutting’ is throwing a waterbottle into a wildfire and claiming that’s why their house didn’t burn and their neighbors’ did.

      1. AnonForReasons*

        I completely agree. It’s a form of magical thinking and hope that only good things will happen because they did what they felt would help.

        But as so many others have noted, the things OP did — like walking with heavy equipment instead of taking public transit (what would that cost $5?) or refusing a slice of pizza (saving another $3?) were not what led to her keeping the job! Those things were about as effective as carrying a magical talisman or saying a prayer or doing anything else to try to feel “in control”.

        Maybe with more life experience she will come to see this situation for what it really was.

    9. Aquawoman*

      That line got me thinking that this is really the “we’re like a family here” idea but coming from the employee’s side rather than management. And as we know, that idea generally leads to really bad boundaries. It made me curious about her role in her family of origin and whether that is influencing her–like, I can see someone who was parentified having these kinds of beliefs.

    10. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Yes- this attitude toward the laid-off colleagues is just wrong. How would OP feel in their shoes? (I’m sure some people would be thinking “well, IIIIIII would never be in their shoes…” but to that I say, don’t be so sure.)

  8. 2 Cents*

    OP, I say this kindly, but you need help from an outside party to identify why you feel alsich a need to make sacrifices for a company. If this was about saving your family, I could understand, but your company is not your family. You’re also taking on a lot of guilt for a situation 100% out of your control.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Agreed 100% with this. Therapy ASAP. And I’ll throw this out there. It sounds like LW might have been at a very toxic job and sees all this as normal behavior. A good therapist or outside 3rd party can help you see a toxic situation for what it is.

      Good luck!

      1. NJAnonymous*

        This 100%. Alison talks all the time about toxic environments warping peoples’ sense of working norms and this is an excellent example of that, unfortunately. I hope she’s able to see that before it causes her trouble at her new employer. I am on hiring committees and have a number of direct reports in an industry where expenses are not only expected, but make a massive difference when scoping out work. If a report of mine refused to submit expenses, suggested other teammates forgo 401k matching (doubly so if they had a leadership/management/coaching role as a more senior team member), and maintained this holier-than-though attitude despite coaching to change this behavior, it would absolutely be terms for performance improvement plans and/or poor reviews (at least!).

    2. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

      Yes. Extremely misplaced sense of loyalty and devotion. No company is ever going to love you back, because companies do not have feelings.

      1. BethRA*

        Forget whether or not the company will “love you back” – OP’s efforts and focus were completely misguided. Not eating pizza, or submitting for legitimate business expenses or hours is not going to save a failing company. At best it’s pointless, and at worst, it’s going to distract from things that will help – which is working to make the company/business unit profitable. The only way you can contribute to that is to focus on your job, whether you’re front line, or supporting those people who are.

        I appreciate that OP gave us an updates, but…oof.

    3. Pretzelgirl*

      Agree completely. As someone that suffers from anxiety, you would fully benefit from therapy. Please seek help.

    4. I Like Math*

      Agreed. Still feeling guilty about the situation, even after leaving for a new job, makes me feel for OP and wonder if this is going on in other aspects of their life. Therapy would help unwind some of this.

    5. Kes*

      It sounds like OP rationally knows her actions won’t make a difference but is still holding onto her position emotionally. Obviously this is speculation but it sounds like there’s been a lot going on in OP’s life (difficult housing situation, employed at a struggling company) and she may want to believe that it’s not all out of her control and that her actions can make a difference to keeping her life stable. I agree she could use some therapy and I’m glad she did take the decision to leave for another job, which is really the best way to take control rather than rejecting pizza when the company has to cut half the staff to be able to continue.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I was coming here to say much the same. This is clearly someone under enormous stress and anxiety. We don’t always think clearly at those times. It’s easy to wind up irrationally resentful or to furiously try to impose some control. Some people double down on the just world fallacy – bad things happen to bad people, but I’ll be safe because I’m good.

        I hope things get better financially for the OP. I think that will help more than any advice we can give.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, I think maybe it’s just too hard for her to look back at that and see that all of the financial struggle and probably ruining relationships with her coworkers was basically for nothing.

    6. Sharrbe*

      Honestly, I think upbringing might play a big role here. If one grew up in a family where financial sacrifice was preferable (and expected) over comfort, I can see how LW’s world view would be a little different. Alternatively, she could have grown up around parents who spent carelessly, and this is her way of feeling in control. These are very deeply rooted beliefs.

  9. Don*

    I am still just astonished that someone could be so resolutely attached to this idea of their compensation being something they should deliberately turn down, never mind not understanding why coworkers might resent someone communicating “we don’t deserve this!”

  10. FormerFirstTimer*

    OP was on the verge of eviction and still let $500 of business expenses come out of their pocket?!?! That’s… a little bizarre.

    1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

      $500 is just so much on the scale of whether you make rent, compared to whether a business stays afloat, I wonder if being in that situation made it hard to recognize that cutting pizza days wouldn’t have any effect.

      1. FormerFirstTimer*

        Really. If things were so bad they had to lay off 40 people, $500 one way or another is not going to make a bit of difference.

        1. Cookie Captain*

          Bottom line: even if everyone managed save the company $500, under the circumstances they would probably preserve their jobs for, like, a week. Or maybe a single coworker’s job for a few more months. Hardly worth it.

          1. Quill*

            If two people save $1000, that generates enough to keep one of them for the next two weeks! The staff just reduces by half every payday…

      2. Lilo*

        I have participated in cost cutting meetings. We typically talk contracts in hundreds of thousands of dollars, not $500. Whereas $500 for an individual can be an extreme emergency.

    2. Miss Muffet*

      this jumped out at me too. I mean, I make really decent money and don’t live paycheck to paycheck anymore and I STILL think $500 is a lot of money to float to ANYONE, let alone the company?! And here’s someone who might lose their housing? They said they dug deep on the ‘why’ but not deep enough… therapy, my friend. Stat.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        Exactly what I was thinking. The OP says they realized the cost-cutting measures they were doing weren’t going to make any difference, but still has a strong urge to say, “I told you so!” to their coworkers???

        They said several things in the letter that seem very contradictory. This update was very frustrating!

  11. Brass*

    No amount of cost-cutting would have prevented 40 people from being laid off. The cost of wages and benefits for 40 people is astronomical compared to the cost of a pizza.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Which is why the recycling analogy didn’t work.

      Yes one person recycling might not make a difference but a million people recycling would.

      However small expenses like the ones she originally listed STILL don’t make a significant difference if everyone sacrifices pizza. The OP never mentioned the entire operating budget, which is the most important detail here. I’m wagering office pizza will be in the single digits percentage-wise.

      Salaries, commercial rent/mortgage, equipment, and utilities are usually the biggest expenses. There’s no way to for an employee to sacrifice those though.

        1. Antilles*

          There’s no way it’s in the single digits.
          If your business unit has 80 employees and the average employee costs $30,000 a year (probably a lowball estimate), that’s $2.4 million annually right there. There are around 260 working days in a calendar year, give or take. Even if you spend an average of $250 on pizza every week for the employees of the business unit (seems like a lot unless it’s literally every single day, but let’s go with it), that’s $13,000 annually.
          In other words, your pizza costs are around half a percent of the budget spent solely on salaries even using our lowball estimate on salaries…and we haven’t even gotten to rent, utilities, equipment, and all the other various overhead costs.

          1. Lora*

            Very lowball. Let me put it this way: even in a relatively middle-of-the-road place for cost of living (e.g. a house is about $300k, groceries for one person under $100/week even at Whole Foods), a new grad’s actual cost to the company is something like $100k/year when you include benefits, the cost of stuff associated with their jobs, etc. The cost of the floor space and utilities for one person’s desk and chair alone, in a mid-priced commercial building in my area, is about $10k. Business licenses for enterprise software, whatever hardware they need, add another $1500 per person, and that’s just for the most basic of operations where people only need a desk and a computer to do their jobs. Even if all 40 of the laid off people didn’t get $10 worth of Panera, that wasn’t going to do a damn thing to save just one single job.

            When a company is in that dire of straits, the ONE thing that will pull them out of it is a new owner, new CEO, new executives, and a CFO and controller who know how to manage cash flows properly. Nothing else works really.

      1. EventPlannerGal*


        I also dislike the recycling analogy because, like, people recycle even if their contribution logically won’t make a big difference because the idea is to save the planet. People generally don’t (And IMO shouldn’t) feel that kind of moral compulsion to help out their company. It’s a business enterprise! If it fails, it fails! The market etc etc etc! (And concern for other people’s jobs doesn’t seem to apply in this case…) I think it says a lot about the OPs mindset that she’s comparing the two.

    2. AdAgencyChick*


      OP, I hope that in your new role you DON’T ask any direct reports you might have to take these kinds of measures.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I kind of hope that OP doesn’t have any direct reports, until she gets this mindset straightened out.

        1. Cookie Captain*

          I’m sort of worried about just having coworkers in general. Openly judging and sulking because your coworkers are okay with free food does not a pleasant colleague make.

          And I like my company, but if a new employee vocally cared more about the company than their coworkers’ very well-being, I think most people here, executives included, would have serious doubts about their ethics and judgment.

    3. Jamie*

      This. The mindset of the OP aside, every employee costs the company far more than their salary to retain and unless they were purchasing diamond encrusted staplers no amount of this type of belt tightening would have made any difference even if everyone was on board.

      And declining part of your compensation (401k and OT) is something I would strongly advise anyone against, in any circumstances. If a company cannot afford to pay employees what they are entitled to then they can’t afford those employees.

      Kind of related, but one of my sons worked in a kitchen of a retirement home while in college and when I asked why he had a bag of those pot scrubby things in the car he said they kept running out at work so he bought his own and kept them in his locker so he could do his job properly. While I admired his ethic, I was irate that he was going out of pocket even a minimal amount for something that absolutely should have been supplied by his employer.

      Subsidizing one’s employer either with needed supplies or waiving wages goes against everything I believe.

    4. Jedi Squirrel*

      Exactly this. If you have to lay off half your staff in order to stay in business, you are making some bad business decisions somewhere. There is something really wrong in this company, and it’s not reimbursing employees for mileage or providing pizza when they’re working late. I wonder how long it will manage to stay in business.

      Also, I’m getting a real whiff of Stockholm Syndrome here. This situation just isn’t healthy in any sense.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Stockholm Syndrome is exactly what I am thinking. It feels like this is an abused person’s response to abuse: “look, I’m doing everything I can to please you so you won’t get mad at me! And if I’m good, you’ll love me!” I’m annoyed at the OP’s behavior toward their coworkers, but am really concerned about their well-being.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Same. The therapy suggestions are excellent because a licensed professional can help her get to the root of this problematic thinking and, hopefully, help her find ways to change the narrative in her mind.

    5. Antilles*

      Yeah. Even if you want to be ridiculously generous and assume they were ordering an average of $50 of pizza every single day for the entire 8-9 months between the letters (about 200 working days). You’re looking at a total of $10,000. On the flip side, even if the company is super stingy and pays minimum wage with no benefits, skips out on payroll taxes and has no overhead, the raw salary of a single full-time minimum-wage worker is around $15k a year.
      In other words, there’s no level of “stop eating the pizza!” that would have saved even ONE worker’s job, much less 40. And again, this is a wildly exaggerated estimate – it’s unlikely they were spending $50 on pizza every single day, the laid off people were likely earning more than minimum wage, and presumably they aren’t skipping payroll taxes.

      1. Ali G*

        Yes this so much. I can put this in hard numbers:
        In May of this year my org (and non-profit, but we pay competitively, have a matching 401(k), good PTO, great Benefits, etc.) laid off 9 people. The full savings, when you take into account all the added benefits + salary was estimated to be close to $1 million.
        So OP, your company didn’t need to just stop ordering pizza or not pay out small expenses. They needed close to $4 mill dollars, and I bet they are still struggling.
        You can’t fix this. Move on.

    6. Person of Interest*

      Exactly. Anyone who has been through this kind of situation knows that the cost cutting is usually a precursor to layoffs, since personnel costs represent the vast majority of expenses for most companies. No amount of nickel and dime savings is going to add up to the savings of laying off even just one person.

  12. Roscoe*

    You are still blaming the people for the company’s problems. Acting like they should’ve sacrificed for the greater good is kind of ridiculous. If the company wanted to cut costs, managers salaries would be something they could do that would really make a difference. But trying to guilt people into not bringing food when the company is forcing them to stay late is pretty crappy. Even the fact that you had to bite your tongue to not say “I told you so” is ridiculous

    1. Pidgeot*

      I like your phrase, “sacrificing for the greater good”. Sometimes it’s appropriate to make sacrifices, but your company is not “the greater good”, and even if you’re in a really great non-profit, it doesn’t benefit you to think of your company that way. You have to look out for yourself, because the company will not.

      Flipping this around, what kind of sacrifices would your company make to keep you? Think about that, and calibrate your own sacrifices accordingly.

      1. Alicia*

        “You have to look out for yourself, because the company will not.”
        +1! This is what I’m saying. I’ve seen it many times.

  13. londonedit*

    Oh dear, it sounds like a real mess. But I have to say…if a company is looking at that sort of financial trouble, then things like individual employees not taking a slice of pizza really isn’t going to make any difference at all. The people who were laid off weren’t laid off because they hadn’t cut their own individual expenses, they were laid off because the company was in such dire financial straits that it couldn’t afford to pay salaries for half its workforce. If the company had wanted people to stop having free pizza as a cost-cutting measure, it would have stopped offering the free pizza.

  14. EPLawyer*

    OP, why are you so invested in this company? You don’t even work there and yet you worry about the effect of you leaving on those left. You even wonder if you made the right decision to bail. YOu did. This company is not profitable or well run. YOu staying and working unpaid overtime (!!!!?????) was not going to save it. It was only going to delay you protecting yourself.

    As you saw with the layoffs, and subsequent failure of outsourcing, this company DOES.NOT.CARE.ABOUT.YOU. They will fire anyone necessary and dump a ton of work on those left without a thought for YOUR well being. So why do you care more than they do?

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      OP, I get the sense of over-identifying with your employer – I did it for years at a mission-based nonprofit. I also graduated into the recession where I was begging for jobs alongside far more experienced workers, and I wonder if there’s some of the same fear going on (this is the ONLY job I’ll EVER get and finding a new one will be IMPOSSIBLE).
      It takes a long time to unlearn this stuff. I hope at your new position you’re fairly compensated and supported.

      1. emmelemm*

        I mean, I definitely have that feeling. (Must stay here, probably can’t find another job.) But the OP has already gotten a new job!

    2. Harvey 6-3.5*

      While I totally agree with you that OP is overinvested in the unprofitable company, I’m not sure it necessarily isn’t well run. It may simply be that the market changed (whether due to our current tariff war with China, changing fads in clothing or other items, or other external factors).

      But your fundamental point that the company doesn’t care about OP is spot on. And so OP should move on (and maybe devote her extra efforts to a cause that touches her deeply).

      1. Observer*

        Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

        The bottom line is that as it stands, this is not a division that can be made profitable and a reasonable workplace under current conditions. Whether those conditions are market forces beyond the ability of any company to change, bad management, or both doesn’t really matter. What DOES matter, in addition to the point about the company not caring, is that the situation is not getting any better and it’s not going to regardless of what the OP and former coworkers did!

    3. TeapotNinja*

      Never, ever be loyal to a company, unless you OWN (part of) it!

      Most people realize this only after they’ve been laid off by their “loyal” company.

    4. Oh So Anon*

      I don’t think it’s about the OP’s investment in the company so much as it’s about their investment in their sense of self. I could be a lot more harsh with that statement but I’ll choose to leave that aside.

  15. Womanaroundtown*

    I’m sorry to hear about your coworkers, and I’m glad you were able to get a new job. It sounds like you’re definitely doing some good soul searching into why you felt the need to become the office martyr, but I would caution you to realize that you are still blaming your coworkers for their layoffs when it doesn’t sound like any similar cost-cutting measures would have saved their jobs. In the long run, people have the right (and responsibility!) to take care of themselves, and the company asking for cost-cutting measures should not come at the expense of employees’ health and welfare (which is what long hours with no overtime, failure to feed employees after hours, cutting health insurance, and carrying heavy equipment five miles would actually serve to do).

    1. Quinalla*

      Agreed, glad to see you are starting to dig deeper into your reasoning, I hope you keep at it as I think there is more to uncover! If an employer has to lay off 40 people, that is something unsustainable leadership let go on for LONG time, likely hoping business would pick up or whatever, it happens, but don’t put the blame on your coworkers, not even a little bit. When a company offers benefits like 401k match above minimum required by law, pizza, etc. it isn’t on employees to refuse those, company should not offer them if they can’t afford them. And reimbursable business expenses should be reimbursed, if someone were overspending, then sure I can see annoyance at that, but again it would not have saved the 40 jobs.

      I’m glad you got out of there, hope the new place is much better and please keep examining why you are so focused on what employees could have done here instead of what your former employer should have done.

    2. Quill*

      Not to mention the laid off coworkers may have been better off financially than those who stayed to the bitter end: they got severance. People who haven’t got off the deck by the time this ship sinks definitely will not.

  16. Lady Jay*

    (I confess that my first thought was that this was an update on Guacamole Bob. I was disappointed when I realized it wasn’t.)

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      You know, Guacamole Bob had such a great ending, I feel we don’t really need a followup. It is complete in itself.

      1. London Caliing*

        ‘Ordering extra guacamole is wasteful of member dues.’”

        I run the company expenses and I LONG for a situation in which I can reject an expense and use wording like that.

  17. Observer*

    I see that you’ve done some thinking, but to be honest, you still have a long way to go, in my opinion.

    Obviously the company was in trouble, but your instinct to say “I told you so” was totally the wrong thing, so I’m glad you zipped it. Given what you describe, it would not have made a difference. Both because the deficit was SOOOO deep, and because your company was clearly not any good at managing the situation reasonably or effectively.

    Also, why on earth are you ruminating on your choice to move? If your former company decided to “save” some more money by not filling your job, then that’s on them. And that’s who your former coworkers should resent. Not you.

    Lastly, you REALLY need to re-frame your really judgemental view of people who handle the situation differently than you and expect a company to meet extra effort with a little help in ameliorating the effects. Your indignation at people “holding out their hands” (what an ugly term!) rather than planning and bringing extra food when they are being expected to work late makes no sense. When people are working long hours it is quite reasonable for them to want to have something fresh, hot and tasty. That’s not unreasonable – it’s simply a way to make a difficult situation more tolerable.

    1. Observer*

      I just want to point out that all of this speaks not only to your personal situation, but your ability to grow in your career. If you ever want to be in any sort of position of authority or management you NEED to leave go of this mind set. To effectively run a company you need to pay people reasonably, pay them for ALL their work, cover ALL genuine business expenses and make a real effort to ameliorate issues that crop up, such as (but not limited) providing hot meals if people need to work long hours. If you balk at any of these as a manager or as someone with any input into management, you will NOT be a good manager, and that’s putting it mildly.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Yup, this is a very clear cut example of someone who is taking bad habits and awful ideas on how the workplace should work from a toxic environment to their next job and it will lead to stunted career if they can’t get over it. Definitely need to work on retraining herself to the norms of a functional workplace.

        But on the other hand… Plenty of jobs don’t feed you if you have to work late. Mine doesn’t, if we work late we chip in for our own takeout; this is also why I keep a stash of snacks at my desk. The company could have (and maybe should have) shut down the authorization to order dinner, but their failure to do that is on them, not on the people eating the pizza. .

        1. Zephy*

          Other people have also done the math and pointed out that even if the company was paying for pizza (OP really doesn’t have a way of knowing whether it was paid for with company funds, IIRC she’s not in the finance department), the cost of pizza even if they ordered in every day for the ~9 months between the original letter and this update wouldn’t cover even one of the laid-off employees’ salaries. Pizza isn’t the problem.

      2. emmelemm*

        This is a really good point. It’s fine if OP wants to be nutty and take all this on themselves, but if they’re ever in a position to actually require/expect this from others, no, no, NO.

      3. BRR*

        I think this is the reply I hope the LW reads the most. While I’m interested in the letter’s subject, I was thinking about how this might play out if the LW is in charge of something. Basically, someone else writing in about them. This view is so wildly outside of the norm that even if the LW doesn’t agree with it, she really needs to go by it.

      4. BluntBunny*

        Yes I was very surprised when they said they tried to talk people out of putting money to retirement, that’s money they have earned and is needed in old age! If you don’t start putting in money now you will never afford to retire. OP needs to realise that you shouldn’t be suffering in order to do your job.

    2. Birch*

      That really rubbed me the wrong way, too. If people are working unpaid overtime, the LEAST the company can do is fork over for cheap pizza, considering the loss of time with family and friends, not getting properly compensated, and the impact those long hours have on physical and mental health.

  18. Amber Rose*

    OP, the salaries of 40 people are considerably more than the cost of pizza for every single person, every single day, at every single meal. Your forgotten expenses and their pizza would not have saved even one person their job.

    I understand the desire to not feel so helpless and the “survivors guilt”, but not a darn thing is gonna save that sinking ship. I’d be taking advantage of the pizza too, honestly. Might as well, since it sounds like there’s little else to enjoy while working there as it tumbles in pieces into the void.

    1. [insert witty username here]*


      Put another way, EVERYONE would have had to sacrifice HALF THEIR SALARY in order for the company to stay afloat operating as it did. Cutting out some pizza and retirement matching would not have done it.

  19. Librariannie*

    Wow. Being a martyr will never win you the love and admiration of this company in as equal measure of your sacrifice. To cast judgment on your coworkers who accept reasonable benefits the company offers for their work and extra time is ultimately only going to hurt you. I hope you can find balance and peace in your future work.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Or your co-workers. This came up in first post today about you never know who you will meet later in your career. OP mentions trying to guilt co-workers into not taking the pizza and not contributing to their 401K (!!!????) which was met with resentment.

      Now suppose one of those past workers becomes a hiring manager in the future. Would you hire someone with a martyr complex? Who tries to guilt her co-workers? Defininitely not for a management position because that is not a good manager as was pointed out elsewhere here. But not even to work with. It would tank morale.

  20. Granger Chase*

    Yes, I also agree it seems OP did not really take heed of the advice Alison gave. If your coworkers were “explicitly (or almost)” resentful about you not partaking in the food provided by the company on these late nights, I wonder how many of your other endeavors to save the company from financial doom that they felt that way about, but you just did not pick up on.
    Also, having to bite your tongue to not say “I told you so!” when half your coworkers were laid off? Yikes.

  21. CatCat*

    I’m still disappointed that my coworkers held their hand out for pizza instead of planning ahead and bringing some food with them when they knew they would have to stay late, almost as if they were still planning to take advantage of the company!

    OP, overall, you still need to work on your perception of what is normal here. No one was “taking advantage” here. The company needed people to work late and provided a meal. That’s it. Why do you see the employees as “taking advantage” of the company here? If the company refused to provide a meal, why would you not see that as the company taking advantage of the employees?

        1. Doc in a Box*

          So is the prosperity gospel. I don’t know if the LW is religious at all, but her wording reminds me very strongly of those who believe that God (the company) materially rewards blind adherence and martyrdom.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Or who believe that God rewards those who send their life savings to some grifting televangelist with a private jet.

    1. ACDC*

      When OP had to do the interview with the consulting firm, a sick part of me hopes that she highlighted her hunger strikes as a reason for them to keep her over someone else.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      It’s so odd. If the company declared that it would no longer pay for meals and employees were still expensing meals, then that would be taking advantage. Eating a $5 sandwich that was purchased to sustain you so you could work for another 3 hours is not taking advantage of anything.

    3. pcake*

      Those pizza-eating employees were working overtime for free. I’d say they’re not the ones who were taking advantage :(

      1. Lilo*

        Yeah, even at minimum wage, you would earn the cost of a couple slices of pizza (depending on the pizza, or course) in 15 minutes.

    4. MistOrMister*

      I wish this didn’t come across so strongly as blaming the coworkers for not doing enough to help cut costs. I honestly don’t believe the burden should be on the employees to figure out what to do in this type of situation. The company should have looked to see where they could trim fat and specifically said, we need you doing/not doing X, Y and Z going forward. Otherwise you end up in a position where no one really knows what they should do and what will be helpful and, as happened here, that kind of thing can breed resentment from those who think they are doing the most and that others aren’t doing enough.

      Also, I don’t see any reason for feeling guilty about leaving and the other coworkers now having more work. They are all free to leave as well! And honestly, the added work from 1 person leaving is usually not going to make things impossible for everyone else. It sounds like things were pretty bad before OP left, so how much worse off can they be now?

  22. Dragoning*

    This is a genuinely disappointing update. Feels like OP didn’t actually do anything, things just happened to them with them on stage but not actually an actor, and simply reported.

    OP, I’m still worried about you. I understand the need to feel like you’re doing something, but augh, wearing a hair shirt isn’t it.

  23. AndersonDarling*

    Companies fail and it seldom has anything to do with the frontline employees. I’ve seen plenty of companies go under, sometimes its because industry changes (anyone remember ordering clothes from catalogs?) , sometimes from bad decision making from the executives, and sometimes because there is fraud or flaws that generate a lot of lawsuits. The first time I was at a failing company I was really worried and I felt like it was a reflection on me and I would have made small changes to save some pennies. But now I see the signs a mile away and get a new job.
    It’s a job, not family. I’ll sacrifice for family and friends, but not for a job.

    1. NW Mossy*

      And to extend the point further, it’s not the frontline employees’ job responsibility to manage the overall financial wellbeing of the company. That responsibility is explicitly given over to the company’s leadership, and the leaders are the ones given the information and tools to make the financial-stewardship decisions. Sometimes those decisions turn out well, and sometimes they fail spectacularly. Other people end up in the impact zone through no fault of their own. But ultimately, the leaders are the ones the company’s entrusted to do this work, for better or for worse.

      Working for a struggling company is really hard, and one of the hardest things about it is the combination of knowing that something is deeply wrong but being powerless to fix it. The OP tried really hard to empower herself by taking every action she could think of to make it better, but ended up crashing against the harsh reality that individual contributors are rarely in a position to take the kind of deep structural action that really changes things.

      If there’s a lesson, it’s this: sometimes, you have to let other people be wrong. Trying to force them to be right when you lack the knowledge, tools, and authority to do so is setting yourself for a Sisyphean ordeal.

  24. Jennifer*

    This is a sad update. I’m sorry the people that were laid off are unable to find work. I don’t think cutting pizza days would have saved the salaries of 40 people, and accepting pizza doesn’t mean someone is “taking advantage” of the company. It seems that this may have been a poorly run company, or that there are some other issues going on behind the scenes that you are unaware of.

    Here’s hoping the laid off workers come to this site to get some advice on zuzzing up their resumes and improving their interview skills.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      The last time I was at a company that had layoffs, we lost 20% of our staff. The next day, everyone had a new company t-shirt and closed circuit TVs were installed with motivational images to boost morale for the remaining staff. It was obvious to me that we could have kept a dozen employees for the cost of all the “motivational” junk, but that’s not the way corporate finances work. Heck, the executives still got their year end bonuses! The OP’s sacrifices were tiny in comparison, but they also don’t even calculate into how savings are tallied. The OP’s co-workers understood this…and ate their pizza.

      1. Jennifer*


        I remember being told there’s no money for raises and bonuses this year – but the execs and sales teams still went on their annual retreats. I was laid off a few years later along with many others after we were acquired by another company. I ate the pizza too.

        1. Quill*

          Sometimes the pizza purchases your silence about the fact that your working conditions went straight down the toilet and you hope it’s a temporary thing.

        2. Autumnheart*

          This is one thing I appreciate about my employer. When they have to make cuts to bonuses and raises, the directors-and-above are affected before the rank-and-file.

          1. Door Guy*

            I know my company operates that way. It’s bonus season and on the call the other week, the CFO mentioned that they had to dip into our line of credit for the employee bonuses (November/December is always a more out than in season financially for us, but we’re also waiting on a few large payments from bigger projects) and it was emphatically stated that they would NOT be dipping in for Owner bonuses.

      2. IHerdCatsForFood*

        Same think for me at a previous job–the day after a significant round of layoffs we came into work to find a company-branded stress ball, water bottle and t-shirt on our desks. You can imagine how that went over with the remaining staff.

      3. Kes*

        Eh, the cost of tshirts and even some TVs are likely small relative to the cost of staff. However, I agree that morale boosting methods like this right after layoffs, especially with obvious associated costs, are really more likely to backfire.

        1. Quill*

          Bulk ordering T shirts and the probable corporate deal on TV’s mean those were probably cheaper than they look but still terrible optics.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, if a bunch of my colleagues just got laid off and I’m worried for my own job, I don’t want cheery ads and tchotchkes that seem to gloss over what we all just witnessed.

          1. Alicia*

            Yes, that’s the real problem. It’s the company disrespecting the normal feelings of employees and trying to pretend everything’s fine when everyone knows it’s not.

      4. knitcrazybooknut*

        I was in charge of organizing a summer celebration for our company back in 2000 ish, and after the event, I sent out the survey asking how employees liked it. Probably about 900 employees in the company at that point. Many people said they would rather have gotten raises. I’m assuming they didn’t understand that, at most, they would have gotten a one dollar raise for that year only.

        1. Door Guy*

          I’ve always viewed it as “Everyone wants more money” and the average worker doesn’t see or care that an employee appreciation event (like the summer celebration or holiday parties) is not the same budget as payroll. Unless that party costs ~3% of each employees’ current salary, the party was cheaper by far than any raise they would have gotten.

          I’ve heard it before from fellow employees and I’m sure I’ll hear it again, and it’s a mindset I’ve never quite gotten. While obviously no 1 thing is ever going to appease everybody, enough people do enjoy a picnic or a party to make them a worthwhile investment.

  25. you missed the point*

    I think you’re still missing the point. This company can’t afford to be in business. It still doesn’t seem fair of you to judge that the others didn’t take any possible steps to cut costs – some things are just part of the cost of work. You didn’t have to keep taking that extra time handholding the outsourcers/consultants and picking up the slack of a smaller workforce unpaid. It seems like you are painting yourself as a martyr, and it’s not in your best interest. As shown by the recent layoffs (hopefully) – your company doesn’t care about you. Your company cares about making a profit. There is no familial tie that keeps them taking care of you. You have to take care of yourself on this, which means getting paid what you’re owed. A company (or business unit) that can’t do that shouldn’t stay in business.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      This company can’t afford to be in business.

      This – this is the crux of the issue. That company sounds like it needs to go under completely because they can’t afford to run it properly. And they better hope the people working unpaid OT are salaried because if they’re hourly and non-exempt, the company’s also breaking the law.

      1. you missed the point*

        They did mention that their country doesn’t have overtime laws in the previous letter I think.

  26. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

    OP, I’m so sad for you. A business isn’t something employees are supposed to “contribute” to like a charity or a mutual aid society. If you’re working unpaid overtime and paying business expenses out of your own pocket, the company is taking advantage of *you*.

  27. TexasThunder*

    I think this is some seriously distorted thinking unfortunately.
    The OP seems to be overestimating the effect their and their colleagues small decisions have.

  28. Captain S*

    Well I’m pleased you didn’t say “I told you so” to people who had just been laid off. That would’ve been immensely unkind. If all of those people had stopped claiming overtime and stopped their retirement contribution and never taken public transportation, they still would’ve been laid off. Laying off 40 people really demonstrates how in-the-hole they really were. No personal sacrifices were going to save that place.

    I’m glad you got out. You need to run the other way and do some reflection on professional norms, because that job seriously skewed your thinking.

    1. The Original K.*

      I’m trying to imagine how I would have responded if someone had said “Well, you shouldn’t have taken the holiday gifts your boss gave you” when my team was laid off. I’m guessing I would not have responded well.

    2. Allypopx*

      I’m still a little awestruck that they believed *thinking* it was acceptable enough that it should be included in the update.

  29. Rabbit*

    You compare your actions to recycling in terms of small individual actions adding up, and continue to lay a lot of negative judgement on all your coworkers for not joining in, which is absurd given that this was in order to protect a business. To be clear your actions would still be wrong if this was a charity or possibly a job involving caregiving responsibilities, but it would at least be understandable.

    A company that cannot afford reasonable expenses and wages does not deserve to survive and your apparent belief that employees should starve themselves and assume responsibility for saving their employer is bizarre. Your martyrdom is not some grand moral action and your colleagues were entirely correct to ignore you, and have no responsibility for the company’s actions in laying them off.

  30. Trout 'Waver*

    Swing and a complete miss. In following with Alison’s rules, I won’t lay into you too much. But there is one thing I want to clear up:

    Thinking that layoffs only happen to the weak workers is also completely off base. In general, people who are well compensated get laid off first. Those people are usually more competent, not less competent than their peers. I think you’re placing a disproportionate amount of importance on personal martyrdom and not enough on actual professionalism. This is leading you to be a poor judge of your coworkers. You owe them more empathy.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Very true, the best employees may still be cut in layoffs. In this case, the company may have kept the most downtrodden staff that would be willing to put up with the most abuse.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends. It sounds cold-hearted, but some employers do a good job of looking at who is most expendable, part of which is role but a big part of which is performance. (That’s what I’ve done when I’ve had to be involved in layoffs, and it’s what I’ve coached other managers to do.) It’s possible that this company’s layoffs did take performance into account.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Yeah, I think in general, it’s better to remember that layoffs aren’t a reflection on performance. Good employees get laid off, mediocre employees get laid off, bad employees get laid off. Employees who eat the pizza get laid off. Employees who don’t eat the pizza get laid off.

        Layoffs aren’t an indication of your talent or worth. They’re a business decision, even when companies try to be considerate about the process, and the company is making decisions based on what it thinks the business needs (rightly or wrongly). So you should make decisions based on what is best for you as well–look out for yourself and your family.

        It’s not a good system, but it’s also exactly why sacrificing yourself for the company isn’t a great idea. Just eat the darn pizza.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        Given the way the letter writer describes the company, the consultants, and the outsourcing situation, I’m inferring that this company is not great at evaluating talent.

        I didn’t really want to get into the weeds, but I’d argue it’s more about performance per $ than strictly performance. And I meant to push back against the letterwriter’s perception that those laid off were lower performers, which is an unkind assessment.

      3. RC Rascal*

        I’ve seen this be more a reflection of who the boss likes, not performance. They can also do this for other reasons, like who has higher health care costs (a friend was in a lay off and hat was pregnant women & folks w expensive medical conditions or who had family with them). Legal? No. Hard to prove? Yes.

      4. International Payroll Pro*

        It’s true that as a whole performance may be taken into account, but the reason why Bob was laid off may not be because he was a poor performer.

        I’ve been in situations where I’ve been told I have to eliminate 1 headcount and I don’t have a specific poor performer, so I based my decision off which role my function could survive without until the next budget increase, which was Bob. My peer also had to eliminate 1 headcount and did have a poor performer so that’s who she chose.

        While it’s true performance did play a role in the layoffs, it was not true that everyone laid off was a poor performer. I think it’s that generalization in the update that people are commenting on, and some like Trout ‘Waver are trying to push back on.

    3. Allypopx*

      Not necessarily. They don’t want the business to go under so they want to keep the people who are most likely to keep making strong contributions after the layoff cycle, even if their compensation is a little higher. It’s not just about saving direct dollars, there’s a longer term strategy.

      1. Lora*

        Meh, I’ve seen employees put at the top of a Layoff List because they have personality conflicts with another manager even though in terms of ROI they were far above the rest. In bigger companies I honestly think it’s all about internal politics more than anything else because it’s so hard to pick out which contribution to the revenue streams is actually the most significant one. Sometimes it’s R&D because their contributions are so far in the future in many industries; sometimes it’s Sales if a McKinsey dude says they’re “performing below benchmark,” sometimes it’s support functions like IT and HR because they can be outsourced or automated to a certain extent. Sometimes it really is a coin toss, a department head is told they need to cut $500,000 worth of headcount and everyone is actually good at what they do but some programs are considered more fluffy than others and less tied to an obvious immediate high-impact revenue stream, so the department head cuts that whole program for better or worse, and then a competitor swoops in, picks it up and makes a pile of money from it.

    4. Jennifer*

      I noticed people that were working on projects that we didn’t really need that had roles kind of created for them were the first to go usually.

    5. Quill*

      It depends on what they’re looking to cut. R&D is often at the front end of the chopping list because it doesn’t drive immediate sales, but the people who go first there are the actual developers, not their bosses, because their bosses can hoard all the notes and data until the company hires new scientists.

      If someone is making mega bucks in marketing management but their team basically runs itself, that person goes, because marketing creates sales but the team that actually does the marketing can get by without their manager. It’s never just competence or compensation.

    6. Mama Bear*

      Performance is often, but not always, a factor. I had a couple of managers actually sacrifice themselves to preserve some funding for the rest of us on a contract. The money left was finite, and they were buying us time because we cost less per hour. I’ve also worked places where every department was required to put forth a name for layoffs, even if the supervisors had no performance problems with any of them. Last hired first fired applied in many cases as a “fair” way to determine who left.

    7. JamieS*

      I think that depends on the salary disparities between employees. If most are being paid pretty similarly it makes sense for the company to let go of weaker performers first. If paying the same there’s more bang for the buck to keep high performers over low performers.

  31. Henrietta Gondorf*

    I had been making the others feel guilty about not cutting their own retirement contributions, etc. but I saw then that that could be seen as “bullying” behavior.

    Oh my goodness, OP. You antagonized your colleagues about their *retirement contributions*? Where were you hoping this situation would end up? I think it can be useful to reflect on “what problem am I trying to solve here?” and “will the path that I’m taking actually get me to a solution?” because it seems like you jumped from being frugal to trying to shield the company from legitimate expenses.

    1. mark132*

      Yep, it wouldn’t have made me feel guilty, it would have just p*ssed me off. I’m so not into forgoing contributions to my 401k by my employer.

      1. The Original K.*

        I’d have told OP in very plain language that my retirement contributions were none of her business and not to mention them to me again.

        1. eldrich outlook*

          Plus, matching retirement contributions are part of her salary. Well, “overall salary package”. Whatever. She’s telling them to take a pay cut. Voluntarily. On top of not paying for overtime.

          One wonders what part of the compensation the coworkers should be allowed to have.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        Yes, this is wild! 401k contribution is part of your compensation. This is functionally equivalent of the OP telling you not to cash your whole paycheck to save the company money.

        1. Lilo*

          I remember once there was some question about how we could be thanked for our work. My thought was that the money in my bank account every 2 weeks is a pretty good thank you.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            But the point is that is not a “thank you.” The company is not putting the money in your account as a favor. It is something they owe you. It’s good for employers to want to show appreciation in additional ways. (And it’s definitely not good for employees to try to show appreciation by refusing to take all of their compensation.)

    2. cmcinnyc*

      So did the OP stop contributing to her own retirement account to save the company money? Down the line when she has a paltry amount for retirement, is the company going to remember how swell she was and swoop in and gift her with all that money she left on the table to help out? NOPE! This isn’t just misguided, it’s borderline crazy. The OP seems to be seeing the business relationship through an almost parent-child lens.

      1. eldrich outlook*

        “The OP seems to be seeing the business relationship through an almost parent-child lens.”

        This letter really resonates with me as a child of abuse. Tying yourself into as small a ball as possible to take up as little space as possible, being trained to feel anger toward those who spoke their needs and got them met when you didn’t get your own needs met when you needed them, how dare other people be taken care of properly when you, the good kid, had to suffer… god, this is really familiar. In my case, it led to teenage me stealing money from my parents so I could buy food, because part of being the Good Kid meant I didn’t get as many meals as I needed. (My parents still don’t know I did that. But, hey, I don’t talk to them much anyway. I feel no guilt over the theft; the social contract requires them to feed their dependent children, I just made sure their resources contributed to that.)

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, it’s reminding me uncomfortably of the verbally and emotionally abusive ex boss who taught me that “we’re like family!” is the starting gun for running for the hills.

    3. Red5*

      Yes, this! I lost it here as well. The idea that people should sacrifice their financial stability after retirement for a company is so far out there that I can’t even wrap my mind around it. Guilt tripping people for making necessary financial decisions so they don’t end up bankrupt when they’re too old/frail to work is not just behavior that “can be seen as ‘bullying'”…it is straight up bullying. No quotes. No “can be seen.” It is.

      LW, I really want to urge you to dig deeper about where this thought process originates and why you still feel justified in your behavior. You could potentially do a LOT of damage to people if you are now or in the future in a leadership or management position.

  32. PizzaDog*

    Oh man. Taking advantage of some $20 pizza isn’t taking advantage of the company. If they don’t have $20 to spare on some Dominoes, there are bigger problems at hand.

    In general, employees don’t get paid enough to give a **** about the minutiae like you do. Did any C-suite folks take pay cuts, reduce retirement contributions, get rid of their company cards and cars? Probably not, right?

  33. obviously*

    Sounds like the laid off folks should rather be telling OP “told you so.” Not eating the pizza was never going to save the company. Everyone except OP knew that.

  34. SDSmith82*

    If it wasn’t for the fact that the OP mentioned that it was a large company- I’d say she was like an old coworker of mine who treats her “survival” at my old job like a badge of honor when everyone else had moved on.

    The original owner sold it, the new owners cut salaries even lower than they were (which was $5-15,000 a year under market value already), killed the bonuses, and made it a terrible place to work, and some how she acts like she’s better than everyone for sticking with it. Her attitude was one of the many many reasons I left that job a year before it sold. She had the same “principals” as the OP about not taking advantage of the few perks the original boss did offer, and because of that killed the spirit of the office.

    Please, OP, go back and read what Allison wrote an reevaluate your thought process. Don’t give more of yourself to a company that won’t do the same, and please, rethink your smugness.

    1. Observer*

      Interesting counterpoint to the earlier letter about whether to quit over not getting their preferred vacation time.

      What you describe is a perfect time to walk, especially if you can find another job before you go.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Difference there is the LW from the first letter showed up in the comments and seemed to take Alison’s advice to heart; she also explained that her parents had been influencing her thinking on it. This one doesn’t seem to have learned a whole lot.

        1. Observer*

          Oh yes. That OP seems to be in a MUCH better place. I was just thinking of al of the people who were saying “but we shouldn’t expect people to make sacrifices for their employer!”

          Which doesn’t really apply to that letter, but REALLY DOES apply to this one.

    2. Captain S*

      Thi sort of reminds me of a job I took early in my career that paid literal poverty wages, had very little stability and regularly worked employees 80-90 hours a week and insisted it was normal and fine because it was a non-profit for a good cause.

      Among people who stayed long term, there was a definite superiority “I sucked it up and defaulted on my loans, so can you” attitude. It was a weird groupthink pride thing.

      It doesn’t sound like OPs workplace perpetuated that attitude though, so it’s confusing/concerning OP took it on so staunchly even when she received pushback from colleagues.

      1. SDSmith82*

        Old job was a very small business with 9 employees (10 if you include owner). Other than myself and one other person, all had been there 8+ years, and they were miserable. They had that “we’ve stuck it out, so should you” attitude when I left and there was some resentment. But- they had loyalty to the original owner because of her past actions that made the underpaying “ok” in their minds. Making the sacrifice was acceptable to them. (I didn’t share in that philosophy and flew the coop before I could be infected)

        The new owners removed all the group think/loyalty when they killed the vibe (so to speak), and they all left until only the one I mentioned stayed. I truly think that the only reason she hasn’t been pushed out is that they are afraid of the potential of being sued and/or destroying all of the old relationships with clients that are already in danger. I still have connections in that town, and for the sake of maintaining industry bridge have remained friendly with some clients who’ve told me that this person’s smug attitude is passed on to customers. Being the last man standing is not always a good thing.

    3. Red5*

      “…and some how she acts like she’s better than everyone for sticking with it.”

      This makes me think of that Offspring song, Self-Esteem. “The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care. Right?”

      There are some people that really think this way. :(

  35. revueller*

    Thank you for the update, OP. I worry that your tireless, monk-like investment in a company you do not own will only exhaust you, not reward you. Look into why you feel the need to compensate for your performance (which is all you really owe any company) and “make up” for whatever “benefits” (read: wages, retirement plans, business expenses) you get from a company. Maybe look into other places in your life where you try to compensate for taking up too much space (instead of realizing that you are in fact entitled to that space).

    In a healthy company, you are paid for what you produce. It is not a crime, sin, or hindrance to be paid for what you do for someone else.

    The next time you feel like your company is failing financially, consider not blaming your coworkers for taking what they’re owed: just start job-searching instead.

    1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

      Hint: if you are as devoted to someone else’s profit-making venture as a monk is to his monastery, where everything is owned in common and leaders are elected (at least in some), you are very very confused.

    2. biobotb*

      I’m not sure it will exhaust them. They seem to get a lot out of a sense of martyrdom. I just worry that someday they’ll be in a management position where they’ll have the power to badly mistreat employees who don’t share their short-sighted mindset.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I’m not speechless, but I don’t want to get banned from the blog because I have nothing nice to say.

  36. SuperAnon*

    The idea that a coworker of mine would even *think* of saying “I told you so” to me as I was handed a pink slip on my way out the door is just… unconscionably cruel.

    1. Elbe*

      Especially if what they “told you” was deeply unhelpful and unlikely to have change your circumstances in the first place.

      1. Dragoning*

        It’s also “I told you so, you weak under-performer who demands pizza when working OT.” Does OP think eating impacts their productivity?

        Just wow.

        1. Observer*

          It probably does – but POSITIVELY. Because it’s much harder to be productive when you are hungry.

      2. pope suburban*

        I worked at a company that had expectations similar to OP’s for three years. We were underpaid, overworked, treated like OP expects everyone to be treated, and we didn’t even get pizza. On more than one occasion, we had less than $10,000 in the company bank account (I was the bookkeeper, so this is not speculation, this was on the statements). We had to take hour cuts and we never got raises (Not that the company president ever cut back on his salary or perks). If someone had gloated at me during my layoff that “I told you so,” I would have snapped and yelled at them as long and as hard as people permitted me. That is wildly insensitive, and even more so when you’re talking about people who have already been stressed and ground down and told how little they matter. I’m flabbergasted and very sad that someone could be this way.

        1. Elbe*

          I’m sorry you went through that.

          I think that the LW means well, but she’s focusing on the needs of the company at the expense of the needs of the living humans in front of her.

          It’s appealing to think that you have some measure of control over the bad things that can happen in life. But assuming you have control can lead people to assume, then, that bad things happen when people bring it upon themselves somehow.

          The LW assumes that her job was secure because she was a high performer or cost conscious, but the truth is that her job was on the chopping block just like everyone else’s. They laid off 80, but they could have laid off 100.

          1. pope suburban*

            Yes, exactly. I understand that the OP feels anxiety, but I am dismayed that she does not apparently think that anyone else at the company is struggling (Even as I know that anxiety can give one serious tunnel vision, which seems to be happening here). Everyone on that sinking ship was stressed, burned out, and doing their best. Everyone there was just trying to get by. I can well imagine how it would feel to have someone tell me that I should not eat or contribute to retirement funds; the message, however it was intended, would land as “You don’t matter, you deserve this treatment, you should be grateful for what most people would consider a nightmare.” In situations like this, you take what scraps of good you can, and being told that you’re a bad and lazy person for that is painful. I get that OP has her own set of problems- that likely require professional assistance- but wow, I really found myself identifying with her former coworkers. I hope she gets the help she needs to show compassion toward herself and others.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I just experienced my first round of layoffs in my 20+ years in the corporate US workplaces. “I told you so” was not something that was on anyone’s mind as our teammates were being walked out. Everyone was thinking about these people’s family situations, and generally feeling awful. This is hopefully a very rare reaction.

  37. Drowning*

    OP I mean this kindly, but you may need to take an honest look at why you are so determined to be a martyr.

  38. Colette*

    I’ve worked for a company that laid off people over the course of … probably 7 or 8 years and subsequently went bankrupt, so I understand that the OP was doing her best but ultimately, I think she misinterpreted the “cut costs” directive and still is.

    If you are a random employee of the company, this was not your responsibility. Management authorizes overtime, pizza expenses, etc. It is on them to stop authorizing it – whether you eat the piece of pizza or not doesn’t reduce the cost. And while it may be easy for you to bring more food on days you’re working overtime, that would be a major dissatisfied for me. I’ve figured out a system for bringing lunch; I have not figure out a system for bringing additional food for another meal.

    (In general, it’s a good practice to assume the people who aren’t doing what you’re doing are doing the best they can.)

    If a company has to cut salaries (i.e. not pay overtime), retirement pay, health insurance, and other standard benefits in order to stay afloat, it’s not a viable business – at least not without structural change. And you deserve to be fairly compensated for your work, which includes being repaid for expenses and overtime, having the company make the agreed-upon payments to your retirement account, etc.

    You couldn’t have saved your company, and neither could your coworkers. And it wasn’t your company to save.

  39. Decima Dewey*

    The pizza you didn’t eat was already paid for. And your sacrifices were the equivalent of turning on a faucet and throwing a cup of water on the burning house up the street.

    As individual workers, there is a limit to what we can to save our employers money. And a limit to what we should do. If I buy a couple of dozen books for my branch, put on barcodes and enter them myself, it may make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. But it doesn’t improve the library system’s materials budget by any measurable amount.

  40. Elbe*

    Getting laid off is a hardship, but it’s not the worst outcome here in the long run. Working for a company that can’t afford to pay your overtime or legitimate business expenses will have consequences for years to come. It depends on the situation, but I generally wouldn’t encourage people to trade short-term stability for long-term hardship. If a company can’t stay afloat while being fair to its workers, it deserves to go out of business – even if that creates short term struggles for the employees.

    Even if the LW’s coworkers had engaged in the same type of “cost cutting” that she did, they likely still would have been let go. The only difference is that they wouldn’t have have the $500 of reimbursement they were owed.

    Please do not make drastic sacrifices (like your health insurance!?!) for a company that likely isn’t able (or willing) to make it worth your while.

  41. Sedna*

    OP, I found this paragraph in your letter very interesting.

    “I feel guilty about that every day, like “what if I could have done more to convince them to help cut costs?” For for my own situation, I left there for a new role outside that company a couple of months ago and I’m still wondering if that was the right decision, as the people remaining are struggling even further now.”

    You seem to feel very guilty about things that you realistically had no control over. Would convincing your other coworkers to give up necessary benefits and to bring food from home have saved any of their jobs? Your workplace had to fire half- half!- of their staff. Forty people! How many pizzas and cab fare would it take to save money for that many salaries? You did choose to leave the workplace when things got difficult, and that can be hard, but it’s your right to pursue new employment. You’re not making your old workplace a hard place to be, changes from the higher ups are doing that.

    It might be worth looking at this again. Why do you have to be the one holding yourself responsible for the sins of the world?

    1. Sedna*

      I will also add incidentally that for many people it’s impossible to take on the cost-cutting measures you assumed. People need cabs and food and money for retirement and really, really need health care.

        1. Sedna*

          Yeah, that was the one that really stood out to me. I live in the US and have multiple major chronic conditions. If I had to give up my employee healthcare, I would have no choice but to leave my job and look for one where I can get back on health insurance. Eat the pizza and save yourself.

          1. Quill*

            It’s taken me so long to find a job with health care – not that it’s adequate health care for my own chronic conditions – that my skin is crawling.

    2. Heidi*

      This reminds me of a friend from high school whose family did a lot of mission work. They felt genuinely bad that all of these people’s immortal souls were going to be lost and they spent a lot of their time and resources towards trying to convert people and wondering if they couldn’t have done more to save them if they wouldn’t convert.

      1. Quill*

        I have multiple essays worth of thoughts on how specific churches are run on patterns of abuse, but that’s not the point of this letter other than that abusive tactics turn up fairly regularly in businesses or boss/employee relations, as we’ve seen on this blog a lot…

    3. 5 Leaf Clover*

      Well, I agree with the OP’s own self-assessment that they were trying to feel in control of something. Unfortunately they seem to still be clinging to this mindset. It WOULD be wonderful if convincing our coworkers to skip pizza night would save their jobs. It WOULD be great if we could stop this ship from sinking by covering a few expenses. It is scary to be in a bad situation we have no control over. But the hard truth is that the OP did not have this kind of power, and the fact that they seem to see the layoffs as proof they were right tells me they still have a lot of work to do on this magical thinking.

  42. IHerdCatsForFood*

    Wow. You are in serious need of therapy to discuss your perceived moral superiority. You didn’t hear a word of what Alison told you. The company doesn’t care about you. The workers who were laid off were probably the most highly paid, not the ‘weak’ performers. It’s not a moral failing for people to partake of overtime work pizza, and it absolutely none of your business how they manage their retirement accounts.

  43. Quill*

    OP, I hope that you don’t carry over this much misplaced responsibility/financial matryrdom into your next job. Some of the steps you took were reasonable and kind, but not submitting your overtime and reducing your retirement contributions were 100% not the right move for your own financial stability and well being. Ultimately, working for a company is not like recycling: there is no net positive impact to you or to future generations by making personal sacrifices to keep it afloat!

    Cutting perks is a reasonable response to the situation, but not paying people for the work done is not. I recommend a course of therapy to learn how to prioritize your own wellbeing over saving a company, which is actually not a person, and possibly some financial advising to make sure your 401k is in shape.

    1. Observer*

      And some of their moves were just wrong. Full stop. Trying to guilt people into making irresponsible financial decisions – decisions that could seriously harm yet other people that the coworkers have a responsibility for – i simply pathological.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, that was so far out of line, but I feel like therapy will help OP on that front, since the problem with their behavior towards others seems to be “why is nobody matryring themselves as hard as me?” and the fact is that the other people are 100% correct in this situation, but OP has to take a whole worldview adjustment to see that.

          1. Quill*

            Yup! Sometimes it seems like half the work of therapists is teaching people boundaries that weren’t taught to them before they grew up.

  44. littlelizard*

    I know there’s a certain expectation that people pretend their company is Especially Important to them for the sake of promotion and professionalism and all that, but it’s not supposed to actually be internalized like this. Not to go all “class consciousness now!” on here, but…OP, you are supposed to be identifying with your coworkers way more than the bosses whose company failed. People eating pizza when working late isn’t “taking advantage”. You are allowed to expect reasonable pay, benefits, and yes, pizza from your company. You were in the same boat as those people, and for some reason see them as the enemy. They are not the enemy. You were all together in an unfortunate situation of working for a failing company. It’s super weird that you still feel bad for the company and angry at your ex-coworkers.

  45. Lady Phoenix*

    This update made me see red after she wanted to tell the now unemployed, laid off coworkers, “Tee hee, I told you soooo.”

    All it proved is Op did not learn their lesson and will continue to let companies leech off their hard work.

    A company is SUPPOSED to pay for your job. If YOU are paying for their job, it’s not working. May you never pass your ideas to your next employment.

    1. WhatsUpSusan*

      Yup, I’m pretty bummed out by this one too. This company did its staff real dirty. Its leadership isn’t owed any loyalty by anyone, especially people who don’t work there anymore! I hope they don’t speak to their laid-off former colleagues with this level of smugness…it sounds like there was nothing to be done at the rank-and-file level to change the situation, and someone who’s desperately job-hunting really doesn’t need to hear that.

    2. pope suburban*

      I would walk away from a job over a manager with an attitude like this. Employment isn’t a favor someone is doing me, it’s a mutually beneficial contract (Well, at least ideally and in theory; late-stage capitalism is…a lot, let’s say) that creates certain obligations for both parties. And there is nothing wrong with viewing it that way, rather than as some dysfunctional family relationship or high-fantasy blood oath. Treat your employees like people, because that’s what they are, and because that’s the right thing, and last of all, because that tends to result in higher productivity and loyalty. I sincerely hope that this person seeks therapy, because it is unhealthy to be so suspicious of and negative toward everyone all the time, and to look at human beings as worthless cogs.

  46. A Simple Narwhal*

    Hmmm, this was not the satisfying update I was hoping for. There’s hints of it in there, but overall I get the impression that LW still thinks they were in the right and their coworkers were wrong. The last part about being disappointed in coworkers for “taking advantage” of pizza offered when they worked late was especially alarming. If I’m working late for a drowning company that I might lose my job at any day now, you can for darn sure bet that I’m not packing three full meals, I’m taking that slice of pizza.

    I can understand your recycling-only-works-if-you-get-everyone-to-do-it analogy, but we are not talking about saving the planet. This is a company, an unfeeling organization, it does not provide the air we breathe or the ground beneath our feet, and it is not worth making personal sacrifices for. And if we really want to expand the recycling analogy, a lot more environmental good could be done if corporations cut back on their wasteful practices, as opposed to loads of individuals making small changes.

    1. Observer*

      It’s also worth pointing out that there are also some issues in recycling where it doesn’t matter (much) what individuals are doing. For example, I and all my neighbors cold be meticulous about recycling, but if our municipality has a bad program, it’s not going to help. In fact, sometimes it’s even worse than just sending stuff to the landfill.

        1. it's me*

          But extending the analogy in a way the LW didn’t seem to intend, it’s corporations that have to do the work on recycling in a way that the average consumer cannot control or make up for!

  47. new kid*

    My last role before my current one was in a struggling start up that went through two separate half workforce layoffs in the 2.5 years I was there. Did I think it was ridiculous that they still kept ‘perks’ such as catered lunches as they were laying people off? Absolutely. Did I not partake in those lunches or resent my coworkers who did? WOW NO. My blame was 100% where it should have been, on my employer and their gross mismanagement of the situation (they were still hiring people in the WEEK leading up to both layoffs… good lord).

    I do feel you though with the guilt on leaving, because I had that too. I really cared for and respected the team I worked with at that job and one of the things I hated most about that place was how undervalued I felt all of my crazy talented coworkers were. But at the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for you. I made the right choice by leaving, and I fully believe you did too, OP. I hope with enough time at your new (hopefully non toxic!) workplace, you’ll be able to better see this one for what it was.

  48. Helena*

    The latter half of your update (and thank you for providing one!) seems to be far more reflective of Alison’s advice which I think is a good sign. But I want to reiterate that it sounds like there was NO amount of personal sacrifice that would have saved your co-workers jobs. They laid off *80* people. There was nothing, and I mean NOTHING that you and your co-workers could have done to prevent that.

    And the thing is… I think you eventually came to realize that? Because yeah, the $500 wouldn’t have made a blip on their balance sheet. If everyone else had gone to the extremes you had it *still* wouldn’t have made a blip. So that ‘I told you so’ instinct you had? I think it was more because you realized the company was in dire financial straits and everyone should have been looking for a lifeboat.

    Just a thought.

  49. Mathilde*

    I had been making the others feel guilty about not cutting their own retirement contributions, etc. but I saw then that that could be seen as “bullying” behavior.
    This… and the mention that the OP “overtly” refused the pizza just seems so out-of-touch and holier-than-thou. How awful for her coworkers.

    1. Allypopx*

      It could be seen as bullying behavior because it is bullying behavior. No quotation marks required.

      1. Observer*

        Seriously. This is a major reason I posted above about how this could affect the OP’s career – they clearly have no compunction about making outrageously unreasonable demands of people. NOT someone who should be managing.

  50. eldrich outlook*

    LW, I still remember your letter, and I’m not surprised they laid people off. I just want to highlight the last line of your update “almost as if they were still planning to take advantage of the company!”.

    There’s no “taking advantage of the company”. That’s not how this works. The company isn’t some friend who can’t handle their own expenses well, so if some moocher friends come over and make that friend take the group out for pizza, those moochers are taking advantage of your financially-struggling friend. That’s not what happened here.

    I would push a little to ask yourself why your sympathies are entirely with the company as if it’s a living being instead of a company.

    You can’t save “the company”. It’s not a person. You sacrificing and not eating and shaming other people for eating, all of that does nothing to help “the company”. It sure does a lot to promote late stage capitalism, but it doesn’t help the company survive. It just helps alienate you from your coworkers and makes you blame them for problems with the company.

    basically: your coworkers were never the problem here and they still aren’t.

    1. Midwesterner*

      I wonder if it’s one of those situations where there is really only one major employer in town for miles around, where people think the company has to survive for the entire town to survive, even people who don’t work there themselves. It still doesn’t justify the OP’s extreme measures, though.

  51. Allypopx*

    Oh OP, no. No no no.

    First, they’re legally required to pay overtime to anyone who’s nonexempt, so you’re putting them in more danger there, especially if they were undergoing an audit.

    But overall it is not the employees’ fault that the business wasn’t sustainable. If they couldn’t afford to pay for an occasional pizza or reimburse travel expenses, they couldn’t afford to be in business. I am coming at this from the nonprofit perspective where buy-in and organizational loyalty are huge and pursestrings are very tight – you’re being unreasonable and please don’t carry this mindset into your future jobs. You can dictate your own behavior all you like but this resentment towards your coworkers is toxic and irrational.

  52. LGC*

    Oh man.

    So, I’m glad you wrote back because I remember that letter and it got a little spicy in the comments.

    I’m pretty sure the other 69 comments have said some variation of this and you know this intellectually, but unless you’re at the very top you weren’t really able to save the company. You did what you thought you could, but there were MUCH bigger forces at play (as there usually are).

    To wit, I work for a nonprofit, and even I have to remind my employees on occasion that just because we’re a registered charity doesn’t mean they should be afraid of regular business expenses. I’d rather spend a bit more now to save a lot of time and money later. (Or to keep morale from falling through the floor.)

  53. Queen of the File*

    I won’t pile on about the further work you might need to do OP–just wanted to say thank you for sharing the update. It was interesting to read about your thinking process and how things have turned out so far.

  54. Dust Bunny*

    LW, trying to save the company via not eating their pizza is working at the wrong end. Their biggest expenses were probably not day-to-day things but big, systemic things that employees at your level couldn’t fix. That they had to lay off half your staff underscores that. They weren’t overspending on overtime since they were actually getting work for their money; the problems are somewhere else.

    I’m in an academic library–our burdensome expenses are things like building maintenance and journal subscriptions. Declining the office ice cream social wouldn’t rescue our budget.

  55. the_scientist*

    OP, you were in a bad housing situation where you could have been evicted at any moment and yet you:

    1) “forgot” to submit $500 worth of business expenses for reimbursement

    2) tried to decline part of your salary and 401K

    3) worked hours of unpaid overtime to train the people who your old company outsourced to

    …..I……..I am truly at a loss for words here.

  56. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    OP, I have a question for you, and I hope you will consider it. If you feel passionate about helping – about working hard without pay, donating money and generally being selfless, have you considered redirecting that energy to helping out a church or a volunteer organization? I think you could be a huge asset. It is possible to help a small charity organization in ways that are not always possible at a large corporation, where you are a smaller piece of the puzzle. And you will be able to see where you have done good and helped people who really need it.

    Please do give some thought to the idea. I think your passion could go a long way in a different set of circumstances.

    1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

      I generally think volunteering is a great idea for anyone, but I want to caution the OP about keeping her judgments in check if she decides to do so:

      If you volunteer at an organization that serves people who are struggling, it is not your place to decide who does or does not “deserve” aid. Please resist any urges you have along the lines of, as a hypothetical example, “well this poor person has an iPhone so they must not really be poor and therefore don’t deserve this [service].” If you find yourself struggling to rein this in, consider volunteering in a non-public-facing role for the time being.

      1. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. I volunteer at a food pantry. I pointed out to my kid that if we were all walking down the street, you’d never know who received and who gave. I trust that whoever sent them to our pantry determined their need. Some people are very embarrassed to need the food and I would hate for any of them to be treated shamefully when they already feel bad about their situation. If OP isn’t in the right headspace to volunteer without judgement it would be kinder for everyone for OP to not be customer-facing.

  57. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

    So, the company had to lay off HALF ITS WORKFORCE and still isn’t necessarily viable.

    Skipping a slice of pizza contributed nothing OP. Your POV is strange and unkind to your co-wokers.

  58. Mel_05*

    OP, the company offered pizza to mitigate the frustration people felt at being asked to stay late for no over-time. It was a cost of doing business and no one was taking advantage. They were being put in a frustrating situation and they took the slight consolation offered to them.

    This is what companies do when they need extra from their employees.

    My husband manages workers who are all hourly, but when he needs them to work more than they normally would, he springs for pizza or donuts or coffee on TOP of the overtime pay. Because they’re doing an extra thing for him, he does an extra thing for them.

    But ultimately, he’s doing it for himself. He needs something to happen.

    It’s not taking advantage for them to accept what he’s willing to offer them to make that happen.

  59. pentamom*

    Oh, OP, you didn’t “tell them so.” You told them that they should sacrifice their own financial security and nickel and dime themselves at the cost of job efficiency for the sake of their employers, but that was never going to help. What you wanted them to do and what happened to them have no connection. Companies do not cut their workforce in half for cost-cutting reasons because the employees ate pizza, used transportation, and had their retirement contributions matched. Financial difficulties that lead to action that drastic are not remedied by such penny ante measures. And had it actually been a matter of “every little bit helps,” the company could have eliminated matching and pizza and discouraged the use of transportation. But they didn’t. Your co-workers rightly realized that the measures you recommended were not worthwhile, it’s not that you were right that the worsening situation was caused by their failure to adopt them.

  60. Phoenix Wright*

    The only thing OP is going to cut with this mentality are her own relationships with her coworkers. Not only this isn’t healthy, but it also paints OP under a very mean light, even more so than the first letter. Wanting to make fun of the people who had just been laid off, or trying to feel superior and claim everyone else is “planning to take advantage of the company”, doesn’t make her seem like a nice, concerned employee or an over-invested one, but as someone who craves attention and praise and doesn’t mind throwing others under the bus. Your absurd “too many sacrifices” read purely performative, not coming from an honest place.

    OP, for your own sake and your coworkers’, please stop with this ridiculous attitude. It doesn’t benefit anyone, not even your company, and it will certainly make everyone resent you. It’s a shame you don’t appear to have learned anything from your first letter, so I hope this time you will.

  61. JJJJBBB*

    They are very defensive and set on the fact that they were right and all the other employees were wrong. They are very superior and full of themselves, including the bullying and pouting about food. The bottom line is, the company was in trouble and, even if everyone saved $500, it wasn’t going to save the company nor stop the layoffs. This person still feels a need to brag about what they did as if theirs was the only right way. They still take joy in putting down their coworkers, even though they tried to browbeat them into lying on their timecards, cutting their own retirement benefits or neglecting to walk 5 miles with heavy equipment so they could be a martyr.

  62. Diana*

    If you keep up this mentality and these actions at other companies (because any shitty, spiraling out company would be thrilled to have you doing the grunt work for free until the end) you will end up broke, with no retirement savings. You need therapy, and you need it now. You’re gonna reach the end of your career with nothing to show for a lifetime of sacrifice except Brownie Points In Corporate Heaven.

  63. !*

    Yeah, I think the point being missed by OP was that the cost cutting efforts on her part were not part of the overall cost cutting by the business. If there was no direction from management to do the same, then why would other employees follow suit (and even if there were a directive to do the same, I’m sure the majority of them would balk at it)? I don’t think, in the overall scheme of things, even if the other employees did the same that the result would have been any different. And not submitting your (business-related) expenses and forgoing public transportation to walk miles for work is something that should never be asked of any employee. If there is a problem with the company finances, that is usually a problem with how the company is performing overall, so if someone is not *managing* the company correctly, the employees cannot be expected to put themselves out to save it. I would not recommend you do the same at any future jobs.

  64. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    I remember reading your original post, and the feeling got then was reinforced by your update. You seem quite self-righteous and feel you’re more moral or care more about your company than your co-workers who (rightly) did not follow your lead. No one should use their own money for business expenses, including food when asked to work late. Plus, you have no idea of your colleagues’ circumstances or personal choices, other than you look down on unfortunate your company is having financial problems, but your contemptuous, judgemental attitude about it would have made that bad situation worse for me.

  65. Jaybeetee*

    I think I see where OP is still disconnecting. She seems to be framing the issues at her previous company as short-term financial woes. She acknowledges that her own actions were both extreme and not particularly useful on their own. But she still seems to think that if *everyone* had scaled back as much as she had, they would have collectively saved “enough” budget that layoffs wouldn’t have been necessary and they could have seen it through to better times.

    The truth is, still, probably not. 40 layoffs, 40 sets of salaries, benefits, office equipment, etc.? That kind of saving is beyond what OP’s entire department could do, short of eliminating itself. If everyone in OP’s department had done what she had… there still would have been a shortfall, likely a significant one. And that assumes a light at the end of the tunnel, that if they had been able to scrape through this quarter or whatever, they would have been fine. Which, also, likely not.

    OP mentions a difficult personal situation, and I know how it can be to feel like a bunch of stuff is happening *to* you, and that there’s nothing you can do. OP still seems to struggle with the idea that… there was nothing she could do.

    The USA has this strong meritocracy narrative where if you’re smart enough and work hard enough and sacrifice enough and make good choices, bad things won’t happen to you. The problem is, there are limits to agency. Companies go out of business, people get sick, living arrangements fall through, and it’s not always because someone did something “wrong”.

    OP, it’s awful feeling like important aspects of your life are at the whims of fate. But in this case… there really wasn’t anything you could do, and nothing else your colleagues could have done either.

  66. Natalie*

    I don’t know why the 401k thing sticks out to me so much, but uh, here we are. Shorting yourself on retirement savings (and the all important time for them to gain value) is so short-sighted, if you’ll forgive the pun. Hopefully you’re young and have a lot of time to make up for this, because I can guaranfuckingtee you that when you’re 70 this company won’t recognize your sacrifices of many decades ago and pay you a pension.

    There’s a popular saying on the internet you really need to internalize: don’t set yourself on fire to keep other people (or companies) warm.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The way the company is going, the company probably won’t exist by the time the OP is 70 even!

      Sacrificing your future at the expense of a business you have no equity in is killing me inside.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Oh, the company is without a doubt done.

          Out of the 40 people that were not laid off, some already left (including OP) and I guarantee that the rest are looking. If OP is correct in their assessment that the ones not laid off were more marketable, then they will soon be gone.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Oh, the 401k absolutely should stick out to you!! That’s a very, very big deal. So is skipping overtime pay, of course (that’s illegal!) but the 401k cutback is the decision that’s likely to have the longest repercussions for the OP. Considering what it costs to retire, retirement savings are something people should absolutely not compromise on. It’s all of a piece with the OP’s overall shortsightedness, but definitely something to worry about.

      1. Observer*

        That and the fact that they tried to push people into doing the same thing! The idea that the OP felt it was appropriate to even SUGGEST this to others, much less “shame them into” it just boggles the mind.

        1. Quill*

          Am I the only one who’s getting vibes of the “faithful old servant” archetype from gothic literature? Because those people generally were NOT right in that their employers would offer them anything in their old age. Either their employers did not give one single poop about them, or they ended up executed / dead of tuberculosis / broke because of stupid class pride / broke because of stupid spending / the last in a long line of broke nobility / dead / imprisoned / insane / literally anything else but secure, competent, and able to let their stalwart old butler live out his declining years in some comfortable corner of the family property.

    3. Antilles*

      when you’re 70 this company won’t recognize your sacrifices of many decades ago and pay you a pension.
      Heck, I’d be surprised if the company at large remembered you even five years down the line. Former employees quickly fade into the background, only brought back when your name randomly comes up on a document or a conversation and a brief jog of memory of “hey, Jane Doe, wonder what she’s up to now?”…and even that stops eventually when the people who personally interacted with you themselves move on to other places.

  67. Emma*

    OP I would really recommend therapy. This behavior and this line of thinking is not normal. You sound like you have a really difficult, grating personality. I’m not trying to be rude but life will not be kind to you if you keep this up.

    You wanted to say “I told you so” to people who had just lost their jobs? Those are not the thoughts of a healthy, well-adjusted person.

    I really hope you get the help you need.

  68. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    Even now, I think your efforts are misguided. In a personal budget, your actions are totally warranted. If you’re not aging your salary appropriately, you would start cutting out non-essentials until you’re healthy again. That makes sense, on a personal budget, where those expenses are a significant part of your overall budget.

    Those efforts aren’t so worthy on the corporate scale, and most of what you were/are doing sound like a necessity. How much productivity time is lost because you’re walking instead of taking transport?

    If you want to have a more meaningful impact, your focus should be instead on what business process could be adjusted to reduce the company overhead. Can anything be automated? Is it possible to streamline a process to remove extraneous hands or delays? I typically perform a resource assessment for businesses I work with, showing them what technology solutions they already have that they’re underutilizing; as well as underutilized staff and misutilized physical resources (think using prime real estate as storage).

    Counterintuitively, your reduction to your retirement may not have saved them much. All of your pretax contributions help to reduce the employers effective payroll tax burden. One of the first things I coach companies on is to increases their utilization of perks like this.

    For the most recent org, I helped them setup a non-matching 401(k) with profit sharing. I provided the staff with tools to see how the various contribution levels would affect their paycheck, so they could see how aggressive they could get. As there was no match, there was on a minimal expense to the org that was dramatically offset by the reduction in payroll taxes. Those freed up revenue dollars then went to debt reduction and restructuring; which increased profitability and provided a nice employer contribution to staff retirement accounts.

    Transit Commuter benefits have a similar affect, next to no cost for the employer, but a reduction in payroll taxes.

    Overall, I’m concerned that you’ve been coached into founders syndrome. It’s feeling like you believe the success of this business rests squarely on your shoulders.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This might be the most informative and interesting post on this thread, or close to it! So are you in the same consulting role that the consultants hired by OP’s employer were? I am interested to hear your opinion on why, instead of any of the (totally rational and common-sense) things that you say you propose to your clients, these consultants suggested cutting 50% of the staff and doubling the remaining 50%’s workload? It makes no sense to me. Thank you.

      1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

        To clarify: The reduction is due to controlling gross wages by means of paying employee in other ways. Though there are ways to reduce your employer payroll tax burden, this doesn’t necessarily do that.

        Appears that the consultants are management consultants, so likely we’re at the same level. As far as why it failed, it sounds like the consultants gave high a level overview of things that could be done to improve profitability and then whoever took on the project of planning and effectuating change totally screwed the pooch.

        Outsourcing can be an effective way of reducing your cost to operate. If a third party can do a process for you much more efficiently, why continue to do it in house. Example: why spend hours printing and binding your own manuals when the print shop could do just the same at a fraction of the cost. I’d posit that the outsourcing was poorly selected or improperly set up and the internal monitor didn’t know how to correct for that.

        It’s also possible that was the plan, companies too easily bloat because of poor process controls and then struggle to maintain their position. The excess of employees carry a real cost with little to no return. Outsourcing temporarily could have been their way of cutting their workforce and rebuilding their processes to produce the same results on a smaller payroll.

  69. Alex*

    OP, I’m glad you have a new job! That was probably a good and wise move on your part.

    I think the reason people had (and are having) such a strong reaction to your behavior and perspective is because it comes off as unhealthy. I don’t by any means mean that as a criticism of you–you sound like someone who cares about others and wants to do your best. Those are great things, but there is a point, and I think you’ve reached it, where making a personal sacrifice to further a greater good isn’t called for.

    What if all your coworkers HAD sacrificed in all the ways you had? Let’s say (and this is extremely doubtful) that doing so would have kept the business going. Who does that help? Is the success of a business that can’t properly compensate its employees really success? The employee/employer relationship is supposed to be mutually beneficial, and it is healthiest when it is such. It seems like from your perspective, the point of your existence and employment is to help the company succeed, but really, loyalty is only healthy when it flows both ways in equal amounts, and the company certainly was not holding up its end of the employment bargain. The company is not entitled to your or anyone else’s time or money regardless of whether or not providing compensation will break the business.

  70. Alicia*

    Hi OP. I remember your letter from before. I’m glad you got out of this company that’s floundering.
    I’m concerned that you treat your job as if it was your family or community of friends. The feelings and things you’re doing regarding your job are more constructive to do with a close community, not a job.

    A job is a contract. You trade your time and labor for salary and benefits. You use the salary and benefits to meet your needs for food shelter, health care, recreation.
    If things change for the company and they no longer think they need you they will let you go, and the contract is ended.
    So while you’re working there you need to accept the salary and benefits – including meals they buy you – so you can be alive and healthy and save money in case you get laid off, and save money for old age.

    ~Your family and friends will care for you in hard times or when you’re old, but your employer won’t.~

    When your colleagues accepted the pizza the company bought them, they were saving the price of the meal for when they got laid off. Saving in small ways like that makes a difference.

    I think you need to get past this tendency to treat your job as a close community. It’s not. It’s a job, and you will work there only as long as they need you. Take your pay, use your benefits, and save for the next job change and your old age.

    1. Allypopx*

      Yeah this seems either like an issue with someone who ties their identity too closely to their career, or who needs to convince themselves their job is important for their own sanity because they devote so much of their life to it. And our jobs are important, but not to the extent of personal sacrifice OP is suggesting.

      You need to work to live, OP. Not live to work.

    2. Alicia*

      When your colleagues accepted the pizza the company bought them, they were saving the price of the meal for when they got laid off. Saving in small ways like that makes a difference.

      I should have said, makes a difference at the individual level. As others have mentioned, it’s not enough to make a difference to an entire organization.

  71. ENFP in Texas*

    Unfortunately most of the laid-off people who I am in contact with still don’t have new jobs to go to. […]

    I feel guilty about that every day, like “what if I could have done more to convince them to help cut costs?”

    OP, you have a skewed sense of responsibility, and of your importance in the grand scheme of things. I think you really need to take an step back and re-evaluate why you feel you “could have done more” with regards to anyone else’s behavior or your perceived influence into a company’s hiring/firing practice. And I sincerely hope you do so, because taking on that responsibility when it is not yours to carry will wear you down and negatively impact your life.

  72. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    They were going down and yet people with the purse strings were buying food and even paid consultants to come in to help them with cost cutting?! This company took itself down, it was never structured right if they were hit so harshly. Your sacrifice didn’t do anything at all. They don’t know about it, they don’t care about it. It never hit their books so they can’t even calculate that into their equations. Instead you wasted food or simply ate costs that were insignificant.

    As someone who has seen businesses fail multiple times over the years, you’re taking on too much in your head and taking too much credit as well in the end. There are no back pats to hand out here and I’m sorry you’re still going back to that mindset. This had nothing to do with you. They took advantage of YOU and the other employees. Nobody takes advantage of a business. It’s impossible, the business has all the power and can cut loose both customers or clients if they feel they’re not worth the cost.

      1. Natalie*

        Salaries for 80 people are easily into the millions. Even an expensive consultant is a drop in the bucket compared to the changes they ended up making and *still* failing.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


        Yes, you have to spend money to make money but don’t throw good money after bad…

  73. Wherehouse Politics*

    Making personal sacrifices for a for-profit company is a poor choice. It’s not valued nor appreciated by the company itself, nor your professional peers. It doesn’t add to some cosmic greater good either. You are wasting your energy and austere displays for absolutely nothing, and no one cares about it. You are the biggest culprit out of everyone in the situation in terms of wasting time, energy, and money. You could have been actually helping someone, a charity or non-profit who is truly deserving of those resources.

  74. Krakatoa*

    I think you sound like a really good and dedicated worker, and that’s not a bad thing in and of itself.

    But I think you put too much of a company’s profitability on your own shoulders, when it really shouldn’t. You were caught up in a bad situation and were desperate to do anything to keep what you had, but you ultimately did the right choice in moving out of the bad situation entirely to a new one. You need to be willing to move on and not internalize the other company’s struggles anymore.

  75. Jessie the First (or second)*

    OP, your “I told you so” is not only a cruel impulse, it is misplaced.

    The company is saving over 2 million a year with the layoffs of 40 people (on the very conservative end).

    The cost-cutting measures you suggest (walking to offsite meetings instead of taking public transportation or taxis, cutting 401(k) contributions, not submitting for expense reimbursements, not eating a slice of pizza) do not come even remotely close to that number.

    I know you wanted to feel you were doing something, but what you chose was not rational. Had every single person in your company done the same as you, it would not have saved those jobs. So you *didn’t* actually do anything. You were just spinning your wheels, harming your own finances, with nothing to show for it and nothing to gain. Thank goodness your laid off colleagues didn’t take your “advice” – they would have been laid off anyway and they they would be in a more precarious financial position than they are now.

    You really have some more thinking to do. You have some really disordered thinking on this issue, and on what makes for a sane and professional employee/employer relationship.

  76. anon4this*

    I’m not sure how to feel about this update (or the unwavering loyalty to Corporate America’s bottom line…wow).

    But this comment: “On one hand, it’s like recycling, etc. where any individual person won’t save the planet by putting their glass jars into the recycling rather than the trash, but you need the accumulation of everyone’s efforts to have any effect.”
    I’d just like to point out the recycling myth isn’t true, it doesn’t help save the world (or would in a marginally unnoticeable way) and recycling plants (as hybrid cars) cause much harm to the environment just to be produced, never mind the amount of energy and cost a plant uses just to recycle one item. There’s an “Adam Ruins Everything” episode about this, people. These green schemes are guilt from large companies that overproduce plastic to consumers… only to then blame them for polluting. Wealthy whites tend to feel guilty about this and in some cases actually pay to recycle, and companies get to look “good” by supporting these initiatives but they often solve nothing, hence the crisis.

    1. lost academic*

      With recycling, there’s an argument that the act of recycling is valuable in that it helps individuals reframe their thinking about waste and consider environmental impacts in other areas of their personal lives where their choices can have greater impacts, and that the regular act of recycling helps make that kind of thinking a regular part of decisionmaking. That’s not the case when talking about the relation of a personal expense report to corporate P&L.

      1. anon4this*

        Or it reinforces to wealthy individuals that extreme wealth disparity and other real factors negatively impacting most other peoples life are not so bad, because “look…I’m a good person, I recycle.” Billionaires and Millionaires pay $$$ to PR teams to look good/philanthropic because the truth is, no individual having that much concentrated wealth is a symptom of a healthy society. It’s a hallmark of a bad one.
        I also don’t see any evidence anywhere it changes thinking in a bad person. It appears to be more like a reinforcement of “goodness” in a passively-good upper middle class person (whatever that is worth in a society) who can’t be bothered with real change because then they would have less money.

    2. Quill*

      There are ways for recycling to be useful and low impact, but between corporate waste and shipping the problem overseas, and the continuing sidelining of the ‘reduce and reuse’ part, it’s not having an impact beyond reinforcing the idea that consumer choice, not the structure of capitalism and continually exponential profit and production, is the problem.

    3. Wintermute*

      Thank you for saying this. No, absolutely NO amount of personal sacrifice will change the environment without major systemic changes to our fundamental system of economics and mode of living.

      Your choice of a gas-efficient car versus a giant smoke-belcher is basically a rounding error in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to the carbon costs of producing either vehicle. An electric vehicle is great on paper but the rare earth metals required, shipped by bunker-crude-burning ocean transports around the world multiple times for various stages of manufacture, the costs of plastics production and metal refining, combined they make the total emissions from the vehicle itself a tiny fraction of the total carbon that car required.

      Now there’s other good reasons to be green, smog impact to your local cities, for one, but to solve the problem we need to reconsider everything about our modern lifestyles on a systemic basis, not an individual one, and get buy-in from the thus-far resistant BRICS nations.

  77. lost academic*

    I see so many continued problematic gaps in understanding:

    Corporate finances and operations are not analogous to individual or community financial decisions or management. Corporate financial health is not impacted in any sort of figurative or relevant fashion by employee overtime, expenses, retirement savings – any of the things OP was attempting to make a big public gesture with. The big picture here was entirely missed: OP was setting an example that addressing poor corporate management was the responsibility of the rank and file through inappropriate personal sacrifices that could only negatively impact both the immediate health (personal and financial) of individuals without making any measurable impact on the health of the company. The concept that “every little bit helps!” is just not applicable here – it’s better to compare the actions to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”.

    If such a person wanted to work for me, I would not hire them, because they will drive off the good workers I do have and hope to retain.

  78. Mr M*

    Worked for a company a few years ago that suddenly declared bankruptcy. At the meeting where we were informed that ALL 800 of us were being laid-off, management acted very hostile & angry at US, as if it were our fault, despite the COO & CFO being under investigation by the SEC, & the board of directors being sued by the stockholders. The cherry on the top was that the bankruptcy court wouldn’t pay us for unused vacation time & I read online a few months later that the company asked the bankruptcy court for $4.3M for bonuses & asked the court to keep the bonus recipient’s secret!

  79. Amazing A*

    OP, I really hope that you don’t take this mindset into future management positions. No employee should ever “sacrifice” for a company. And expecting that employees should is not healthy for you or for the employees. I would not want to work for a company where that was the expectation. As many have said before, if the company can’t afford to compensate its employees fairly, it shouldn’t be in business.

  80. No Name Reader*

    I agree that OP went overboard in his/her reaction to the company’s plea to cut back. I’ve done that myself in similar and different situations, overreacting in the same way I do to personnel criticism. For me, I wonder if it isn’t a reaction to having a hyper-critical mother who I now suspect was a narcissist, who wanted a little girl who was cute, smiley and talented but instead got me: a somewhat clumsy introvert? For example, if I came home from school in tears because I was being bullied, she say, ‘You must be doing something wrong.’

    I wonder if OP was hyper-compensating, as I have done?

  81. Dahlia*

    “On one hand, it’s like recycling, etc. where any individual person won’t save the planet by putting their glass jars into the recycling rather than the trash, but you need the accumulation of everyone’s efforts to have any effect.”

    This is kind of the perfect metaphor, OP, because recycling is also a thing where individuals take the burden when really the big issue is far beyond that.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Also, you need the participation of large corporations and the government, not just individuals using canvas shopping bags. If you don’t have large-scale systemic investment, it’s not going to work.

      1. Quill*

        Systemic investment and a reduction in the overall creation of and selling of Brand New Things. Eliminating / outlawing planned obsolescence could cut our global e-waste in half, for example.

    2. Antilles*

      It’s also a good metaphor because recycling *seems* like you’re making a ton more difference than you actually are.
      Recycling Theory: Hey, I filled up my blue bin with recyclable plastic of putting it all in the trash, great! If we all do this, it’ll be great!
      Recycling Reality: Sorry to burst your bubble, but vast majority of things people put in their recycling bins actually ends up either burned or in a landfill – until recently, it all got shipped overseas to China; now China has mostly stopped accepting it, so it ends up burned/landfilled locally instead.

  82. Tristan*

    I know from personal experience how maddening, stressful and difficult life can become when you let all the world’s troubles fall onto your own shoulders. Please, if you can afford it, talk to a therapist. I suspect that these kinds of behaviors aren’t limited to your work life and I know how painful living like that can be and you deserve some respite from that pain!.

  83. OnTheSpot*

    I own a small company and we had some financial difficulties a couple of years ago. I cut back expenses and took a 40% pay cut. My team still got annual raises and holiday bonuses – maybe not as big as I would have liked. I would never have let team members feel like it was on them to turn things around. They weren’t the ones who should have noticed that with shrinking revenue, our payroll was way too high. When employees quit, I didn’t replace them and we organically got to the right size staff for the amount of work we had.

    I would have been taken aback by OP’s behavior through all this, frankly. There’s got to be a healthy balance between what’s good for you and what’s good for your employer, and that seemed to register a bit on the ‘martyr scale.’

    I love it when employees feel invested and help move the company toward our goals, but my job is to take care of them because they take care of our clients.

  84. Beehoppy*

    OP-since you say the decision as to who to layoff was based on merit (top performers) rather than “sacrifice”- imagine if some of your colleagues had emulated your efforts-stopped retirement contributions and absorbed business expenses as their own, and were STILL laid off. They would then not only be out of a job, but in a worse financial position than they would have been otherwise. And those who remained were “rewarded” with longer hours and working weekends. None of the sacrifices are being noticed or appreciated.

  85. diaphanous*

    LW seems to be focusing on the 40 people who were laid off and how they didn’t do any extreme cost cutting. What about the other 39 who DIDN’T and still kept jobs??

  86. QCI*

    So doing some very round armchair math, lets say each employee made 40k salary, that means the 40 people laid off were equal to 1.6m$. No matter how much you pinched pennies and tried to save the companies money for them, you were never going to get close to 40k a year, and even if everyone martyred themselves like you it wasn’t going to save anyone’s job. The fact that OP couldn’t/can’t see that is honestly disappointing.

  87. Laura H.*

    I’m not at all experienced in this sort of thing (just a few part time jobs to my name), but I understand that cost-cutting is not my job or even in my purview. I am affected when hours get cut or I get shifts taken off my plate because business doesn’t demand as many workers as originally slated for. I don’t know what all goes into those decisions and that’s fine with me!

    But I’m treated with respect and my time is valued- an axed shift is always met with an apology, and I’ve been notified with plenty of time to cancel my travel arrangements.

    But I don’t pursue surrendering shifts of my own accord. I’ve taken an offer of early leave once or twice (if I don’t take it, someone else does.) It’s not my job to pursue cost cutting measures. And I think it’d make me look flakey (due to the job), and like I’m out of touch if I were to pursue it.

    I do hope you figure something out.

  88. j beans*

    Hmm, this is interesting. I wonder if OP has made business too personal, here. The line about “taking advantage” of the company when it comes to the benefits of being employed there (retirement contributions, transportation costs, pizza for overtime, etc) is particularly telling. (I also wonder if there’s some type of HR violation for discouraging fellow employees against using company benefits?)

    While some companies may blur those lines a bit (and I, certainly, have worked at places like that, too, where I have been friends with most of my coworkers), it is important to remember that being employed anywhere ultimately boils down to “it’s just business”. Being an employee of a company is a business transaction, not being a part of a family. Not only is that a perspective on my part, but is reality due to how businesses are realistically run – there are people at the top of a power hierarchy (that probably do not know you personally, dependent on how large your company is) making decisions that are motivated completely by money (or whatever capital is necessary to keep the business/organization running). Those decisions are not influenced by what would be in your best interests as an employee if your interests were to conflict with business priorities. Thus, to take a hit for the business (as in OP’s case, not utilizing the benefits that the business offers to its employees) is to put yourself in an incredibly vulnerable position.

    Especially the piece about feeling guilt about leaving a company that was floundering that OP mentioned – that is not a good mentality to have. It’s just business and you’re looking out for your best interests, which you *need* to be the advocate for because no business entity will do that for you. It may sound cold, but ultimately it is a healthy attitude to have when it comes to your job, which is ultimately supporting your livelihood and your *real* family (or yourself). A business will not protect you if protecting you conflicts with business interests. It’s the same reason that you should advocate for yourself for a raise and negotiate a higher salary when joining – you want to see yourself as having worth. Pizza, for example, offered during overtime hours by the company is a perk that you are being given because you have value to the business. Rejecting that pizza because you want to save the company some money is only negatively impacting you and will not be reciprocated by the business.

    In fact, I’d go so far to say that if I felt internalized pressure to not use my benefits from a company, I would leave and look for a different job because that is not valuing my hard work as an employee. If benefits are slashed, then you need to re-evaluate if the new compensation package will support you in the ways that you need/want. There’s no need to remain loyal to what ultimately is just a business entity and will not remain loyal to you.

  89. Beehoppy*

    One more thought: you were also making decisions about how the company spent its money that weren’t yours to make. When the company instituted cost-cutting measures, if they had felt that no longer matching retirement contributions would make an appreciable difference, then the CEO would have instituted that across the board. If they felt they could no longer afford to subsidize meals for late nights, then they would have stopped ordering it. Obviously the higher-ups still felt like these were an appropriate use of resources.

  90. Night Heron*

    OP, there’s something “old me” can relate to in your post. Somewhere along the way at work, I started asking myself, “am I doing *everything* I can do to make this situation better?” I figured I would have no regrets if I knew in my heart I gave it my all. On one level, it served me well – I was promoted multiple times, and my salary at one place increased 300% over the span of 4 years in one company. I didn’t understand why other people didn’t have this “drive.” That philosophy turned me into a workaholic with a co-dependent relationship with my company. At the end of my time there, I realized something: I was making money for other people, and those people didn’t care about me. They didn’t attempt to create a situation where my team wasn’t working 60-80 hour weeks, and long after I quit, they had no loyalty to the hard workers and laid a few people off. The owners made their (literally hundreds of) millions, and didn’t look back at the people who literally worked from 6am-3am the day before/morning of Thanksgiving to ensure contracts weren’t broken. I’m sorry, but wherever you work, your company will never care about you or look after you to the level you deserve. Only you can look after yourself, so take care of yourself FIRST, there is nothing wrong with that. Additionally, you’re doing the company no favors by “hiding” the real cost of doing business from them by not submitting expenses they are legally required to pay you. Please: take care of yourself and treat yourself at least as well as you’re treating your employers.

  91. theelephantintheroom*

    This update doesn’t sound like she read anything Allison or the rest of the community wrote. At all. Honestly, I get the impression she just has a superiority complex over this whole thing and wanted validation–anything else was ignored.

    Sorry, OP, you’ve missed the point entirely.

    1. Oh So Anon*

      Yup. The underlying issues here are ones that will probably destroy OP’s professional relationships and career eventually. They can put a stop to the path they’re going down, but there’s no self-awareness here at all so I honestly don’t see any of this changing until they hit rock bottom or become entirely unemployable. At that point, someone’s going to say “you brought this all on yourself” and they’ll have no choice but to listen.

  92. CMR*

    “I had been making the others feel guilty about not cutting their own retirement contributions, etc. but I saw then that that could be seen as “bullying” behavior. I was suspicious of the HR people who didn’t question any of this, actually, though.”
    Maybe I’m mis-reading this but OP, did you just blame HR for not noticing your bullying behavior? Where’s your accountability for your behavior?

    1. biobotb*

      Yeah, that was weird. You thought everyone should short their own retirement accounts, but also that HR shouldn’t let them? Did you just want points for “trying” to sacrifice yourself, without actually doing it?

      1. Observer*

        I read it as being suspicious of the HR people who didn’t question why people were taking their matching 401K etc.

    2. Antilles*

      I wasn’t sure either, but I *think* that sentence is actually referring to the ‘cutting retirement contributions’ as a whole.
      OP believes she’s making a big sacrifice and expecting HR to notice the revised paperwork and ask about “hey, why are you zeroing your retirement contributions?” so OP could mention the cost-cutting and the company could encourage others to do the same…but instead HR just saw “New Retirement Contribution: $0.00” and wordlessly processed that paperwork without a second thought.

      1. CMR*

        I should have stated in my original post…but I work in HR. Which is maybe why I keyed in on the comment. But I still stand by it. ;)
        Your interpretation makes sense now that I re-read it. With that being said, questioning employee’s on their financial decisions is a fine line to walk in HR, if that was the intent of the statement. Sure, I might dig into a big picture issue of “weird, we just received a huge uptick in employees changing their retirement and I wonder if I need to look into something with our benefits partner [most companies have a third party administrator for benefits]” but it is not ok for me to question employees when they make changes or act as their financial advisor. If employees have questions on retirement, I will help answer questions related to the benefit offered but I will always direct them to the retirement third party administrator (usually they offer financial advisors as a part of their service) or to their own financial advisor to make financial decisions.

        1. bluephone*

          That is a good point b/c I was wondering about that bit too. I sometimes tweak my retirement contributions based on conversations with a financial expert, while still trying to maximize my employer’s match (my employer’s match policy is bizarre though). It would be super weird if HR or Payroll emailed me to ask what’s up about that.

  93. tink*

    Well, I’m glad you got a new job. I hope with time you’ll realize that going to the extremes you did to cut costs is not the norm and not something that employees should be expected to do.

  94. tinybutfierce*

    “But I didn’t order anything for myself on the subsequent occasions this happened, and I’m still disappointed that my coworkers held their hand out for pizza instead of planning ahead and bringing some food with them when they knew they would have to stay late, almost as if they were still planning to take advantage of the company!”

    Eating a meal the company chooses to provide as partial compensation for working late isn’t “taking advantage of the company” and it’s honestly really bizarre to see you say that immediately after acknowledging that $500 isn’t even a blip on the radar for finance folks. I would very strongly encourage you to continue doing some self-discovery about why you feel you have to be so intensely self-sacrificing for a job (any job!) to the point that you still feel that way, because it’s genuinely not reasonable or healthy. I also can’t imagine it does much good for your reputation among your peers; if anyone ever came to me and told me I should reduce my retirement contributions in order to save the company money, I wouldn’t have been able to keep myself from laughing out loud (at best), and I certainly wouldn’t trust your judgment from then on.

  95. WineNot*

    The company shouldn’t have to explicitly say “DO NOT CANCEL YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE AND ELIMINATE YOUR 401K” when discussing being money-conscious. I can’t ever imagine sacrificing my own overtime pay, health insurance, 401K, etc, for a company. I would be out the door if I ever thought that was what was expected. This OP seems slightly off her rocker to still be concerned about her ex-coworkers taking company pizza and not doing the above, feeling like the whole world let her down.

  96. Morning Reader*

    If I sensed that a for-profit company I worked for was going under or contemplating layoffs, I would increase my retirement contributions to get the maximum benefit while I still could. The opposite of what OP seems like to think is correct behavior. Capitalism is not a friend to the worker. The worker is a resource and most companies will do everything they can to maximize their use. Workers should do the same as it is the only way the system works.
    Now, if you want to move to a different economic system, where everyone works for the greater good and all share in the profits…. then it might make sense to sacrifice personally for the company. This is not that.

  97. Middle Manager*

    If your co-workers were making USA federal minimum wage and had no benefits at all, the cost of 80 employees would still be around $1.2M/annually just in wages (which doesn’t take into account taxes, cost of office space, supplies, phone lines, etc). With just the minimum wage wages, every single one of the employees laid off would have had to “forget” expenses/turn down retirement/work free overtime/refuse pizza that added up to about $16,000 per person to keep their jobs. The math simply doesn’t work, nor should it. If the company can’t afford the cost of employing people, than it can’t expect people to work there. Full stop.

    I love the suggestion above that you redirect your charitable impulse towards an actual charity or community group. There are places it’s much more appropriate to donate to/give time freely to. It should never be an expectation you have for yourself or co-workers at your place of employment.

  98. different seudonym*

    You know, I used to think this way.

    I valued sacrifice, up to and including deprivation, and I looked down on others, sometimes berated them, if they demonstrated by their actions that they didn’t agree. I was both a tool of oppression, and blind to it. I did this for a long time.I agree with others that it is a distorted thinking process, but I would also add that I ended up thinking that way because of years of sustained, serious physical and emotional abuse.

    There has been, despite the header note, a serious lack of compassion in these comments for the OP, who has not harmed anyone here, and probably not anyone at all in the world (annoyance is not harm). So ask yourselves: What makes a person think this way? None of us know the answer, but it may involve long deprivation and fear, and/or a serious illness. Your “u r crazypants OP” does not repair deprivation and fear and illness; it can only add to it.

    1. cleo*

      Well said. I’ve been mulling over what to say about the lack of compassion – you said everything I was thinking beautifully.

    2. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

      I don’t think most of the comments in the original thread (nor in this thread, at least so far) were uncharitable, really. Some were, of course, but most were not and could be boiled down to: “OP, what you’re doing is not helpful, and what you’re thinking about your coworkers isn’t helpful either. You need to stop both of those things right now.”

      Which is *true*. The fact that she’s still fretting – still *bitter* – about how her former coworkers didn’t make enough sacrifices to keep this exploitative employment ship afloat shows exactly how true it was. If she could bring herself to accept this, she would be a more contented person.

      1. Mg*

        If a business needs to deprive it’s workers in order to stay afloat then it’s probably going under anyways.
        If they had the funds to hire outside consultants then they had the funds for pizza. Extreme self sacrifice won’t save your jobs it will only delay the inevitable.

        Unless the organization is a charitable non profit these types of sacrifices by salaried employees aren’t noble or really even effective. This isn’t planet Earth so the recycling metaphor doesn’t apply. I think this employee has the mindset of an owner or shareholder which is good, except they aren’t the owner. They aren’t supposed to be sacrificing to keep a for profit org afloat. It’s a noble gesture but given to an undeserving recipient. They should consider starting a charity or working at a non profit organization where their dedication and sacrifice does more than just line shareholders pockets.

    3. Observer*

      Well, the OP actually DID try to harm people – in a very serious manner, in fact. It’s bad enough that they tired to bully others into not using the small perks their employer was offering. But they actually tried to push people into making seriously bad financial choices. So, in this instance, the OP was lucky that no one besides themselves was hurt. But that doesn’t mean that the next time they act this way, things will go so well.

      Most people are actually being pretty compassionate. Pointing out that the OP’s sense of superiority is not actually consonant with reality or any level of virtue or moral superiority is not cruel. It is the basic thing that the OP needs to understand if they are to get their attitude and behavior into a healthier place.

      You may be right that this is coming from a history of being abuse. Nevertheless, the behavior is still deeply unhealthy, and in some respects just flat out wrong.

      1. bluephone*

        If OP’s mindset is stemming from a history of abuse, then that is even more reason to get the [bleep]ton of therapy that OP sorely needs.
        Letting OP bumble along like this would probably be the non-compassionate option, for OP and their (current) colleagues who could still be at risk of OP badgering them to cut their retirement contributions the next time their current company has a bad quarter.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think most of the comments have been perfectly respectful. Sometimes the compassionate thing to do is to tell someone in no uncertain terms that they are being very wrong and very unreasonable.

  99. Spek*

    Overly emotionally invested in a company that doesn’t reciprocate. I’m sure this isn’t the only situation where over-zealousness has been an issue

  100. Tobias Funke*

    OP, I learned a lot of really bizarre ideas about sacrifice as it relates to my self worth and my value as a person when I was a little girl. It sounds like you may have as well. I encourage you to continue to interrogate these beliefs. You may find they are not serving you as well as you think they are. Many things we do as adults are childhood survival skills that have outlived their usefulness and become obsolete. Please consider this.

  101. CanCan*

    OP, please remember that the company is not your business! If they decide that offering pizza to people who stay late is a perk they want to offer, employees should feel Ok to use this perk. (“Taking advantage” would be staying 10 minutes late just to have the pizza and then leave.)

    My dad’s hi-tech company used to offer this perk (meals on wheels if you stayed late). It was cut when the tech bubble burst. Guess who stopped doing (always unpaid) overtime? Most people.

    Same with retirement contributions – no reason individuals should put their own retirement savings on the line for the benefit of a corporation they do not own and for whom it may not be much of a benefit anyway. If the company feels this perk is unaffordable, they’ll find a way to cut it (if legally possible).

    Your acts of sacrifice will not (did not) save the company or jobs. Perhaps time to reconsider?

  102. Not A Manager*

    Dear LW,

    I haven’t read the other comments, although I assume that someone else has already said this. I have such compassion for you and I’m so sorry that you have been experiencing this level of anxiety and guilt. I think the key to your behavior is this:

    “Ultimately I just needed to feel like I was doing something, rather than doing nothing.”

    Extreme behaviors and magical thinking can be a way to try to manage unbearable anxiety. You say that you had other stressors in your life at the time, so no wonder you wanted to maintain an illusion of control in a situation that really was, objectively, entirely out of your control.

    I urge you to think about whether this is a pattern in your life, and what are constructive ways to address it. You acknowledge that your coping behaviors didn’t really affect the outcome, and probably even if everyone had joined you in those efforts they still wouldn’t have affected the outcome. Ultimately, your actions inconvenienced you and possibly did you professional harm by alienating your colleagues. While it is TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE that you managed your anxiety in this way, I think it will be better for you in the long run to find safer coping mechanisms.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I said something similar (but shorter) above, and I agree — it has hallmarks of serious anxiety and I would recommend she consider that further and perhaps consult a professional.

  103. Des*

    It’s quite the opposite, the company was taking advantage of all of you by asking you to work UNPAID overtime in the evenings and only providing a pizza in compensation, instead of pay. Your coworkers were quite generous to accept this ‘tip’ instead of payment for their work and expertise.

    1. Des*

      Further, I can imagine how the coworkers were treated.

      OP: I cancelled my health benefits to help the company, what about you?
      Coworker: I uh…used them…to pay for treating my broken leg.
      OP: The gal of you!

  104. animaniactoo*

    LW, I think you need to dig deeper than you have. I think you need to dig in to what you think the responsibility of a company is to an employee. What is the responsibility of an employee to themself?

    At a base, consider reframing your narrative about what happened at your company like this:

    • They did not cut the weakest employees. They cut the employees who were not willing to shoulder the responsibility for keeping the company afloat without recompense for it. Those are not the weakest employees – those are the employees with the clearest view that they have sold their time and effort to someone who is going to receive more benefit from that time and effort than they themselves will. This is the underlying truth of profit. Sure, there were probably some underperformers in there. But from your description, it sure sounds like “underperforming” also included people who simply didn’t attempt to pretend that the work took less time than it did. That it cost less than it did. That’s not a fault in those people.

    • When somebody is getting something “extra” from you – even IF they are paying what you might normally be paid for it – then accepting a minor bonus that recognizes that it’s extra is not taking advantage of the company. In fact, it would be more the company taking advantage of the employees to expect them to plan and provide an extra meal for themselves onsite due to the company’s increased need for their time. Remember – the company got something more than the “average” for that time. They got something sooner, etc. And in your case, they were getting it for free. How much did that pizza cost per slice compared to what they would have had to pay you for those hours? The company got a major discount, didn’t they?

    • Stop and look: What other measures might the company have taken? Could they have reduced salaries of top executives/owners? Could they have dropped perks from that level which cost a heck of a lot more than pizza in exchange for working late? Could they have taken a sharper look at what was profit-producing and scaled back projects and work that had narrower margins? Could they have reduced payouts to shareholders (if there were any)? Could they have invested money in something that would have been more efficient and reduced production time somewhere along the way? How much of this kind of stuff did they do before and as they were pushing you to churn out more for less?

    • Think hard about the fact that the company’s solution was to lay off half the people in a business unit where people were already struggling to complete the amount of work they had.

    Sure. Nobody likes to see a business fail and employees out of work. But even more than not wanting to see a business fail, we need to not want to see a business succeed only because of what sacrifices they can convince employees to take upon themselves. Because that damages workers and their worth not just within that company, but everywhere. Every business that then has to compete with the business that is managing to get ahead because of what they have managed to get the employees on board with doing. Because then the only way that the other companies can compete and show profit is by convincing their employees to do similar.

    Dig in and think really hard about what it means to be a successful company rather than a still open for business company. Think hard about the power imbalance a still-open company has for people who are trying to pay the rent and put food on the table, and whether the short-term and long-term costs of keeping that company open are worth it to the average employee who wants to be able to continue to live and thrive off the pay that company is willing to share in return for their effort.

    Do not devalue your worth, or your co-workers’ worth, because a particular company has a problem paying for it or prioritizing paying for it.

    If you need more control over something that is completely out of your control – the goal is not to take on a piece of it that is not yours to be responsible for. The goal is to start doing what is within your responsibility and your control and takes care of yourself in that way. In your case, a good goal might have been to start job hunting and getting yourself out of a company where you sensed that something was seriously amiss. That would have kept your responsibility focused on you and taking care of you regardless of whether the company survived.

    1. stitchinthyme*

      I couldn’t agree with this post more. The OP’s attitude reminds me of the protests of business owners who say they can’t afford to pay their workers a decent living wage. But that’s exactly the same as saying that you expect your business expenses to be borne on the backs of people who are not being compensated fairly for their work. If you can’t afford to pay your workers, you can’t afford to own a business, and your employees are not obligated to do free work in order to keep your business afloat.

  105. Alton*

    Expenses are part of running a business. Not only would things like skipping pizza not save this sinking ship but…if this company can’t survive while paying people their rightfully-earned overtime or benefits, maybe they shouldn’t be in business. The services they’re providing to society probably aren’t critical or irreplaceable. No one has a moral imperative to make sure that they survive. Frugality is smart to the extent that it helps staff and management maintain a mutually-beneficial situation.
    Once people are no longer being fairly compensated, it’s a different story.

  106. Lisa B*

    A $5 subway ride doesn’t shut down a company, even if you did it every day. Ordering dinner for employees working late doesn’t shut down a company. Adding guacamole on your business lunch at Chipotle doesn’t shut down a company. The things that shut down a company have massive impact that you have no control over. Things like introducing a new product line without doing test markets. Having a top-heavy organizational structure where you have VP of Midwest Flour Tortillas as well as VP of Midwest Corn Tortillas. Buying a new fancy office building because you’re pretty sure that maybe you’ll need the extra space sometime.

    It’s great that you were being cost conscious, but this is going too far. To use your recycling analogy, you were essentially berating your neighbors because you found a piece of newspaper in their trashcan.

  107. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    Hmmm…while its great to care about how the company is doing financially, OP’s self-appointed cost-cutting measures were really extreme. And to top it all off trying to push it on everyone else was inappropriate. I Think we can all agree that we should be reasonable and responsible with the company’s money. But if a co-worker tried to guilt or bully me into the same extreme cost cutting measures she was taking (especially if they didn’t come from our boss) I would absolutely find ways to avoid having to deal with her. Getting all up in other people’s business (Especially regarding 401k, health insurance, etc) makes you That Person. Don’t be That Person.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Also, at ex-job, I had a colleague who was over the top about keeping business expenses low. Nobody wanted to go on business trips with him for the projects he led. Some of his extreme cost cutting measures backfired because they would cause something to happen where more money would get spent anyway. He was just so rigid and uncomfortable to be around.

  108. cleo*

    OP – I’m so glad you found a new job! And I’m glad you wrote in an update.

    It sounds like you took some of the previous advice to heart – I’m glad you stopped the “hunger strikes” and thought more about what you were doing and why. Your statement “Ultimately I just needed to feel like I was doing something, rather than doing nothing.” really resonated with me.

    I wish you all the best.

  109. Nancy Pelosi*

    A lot of the commenters have mentioned validation as an element of why OP took these actions. I wonder if OP has acknowledged that her organization’s leadership never acknowledged or validated her efforts. If the cost cutting measures she had done were that significant, leadership would have thanked her in some way. Commenters mentioned that financially her actions were not even a blip on the radar, but I’m sure that’s true with leadership as well.

  110. Something Better*

    I feel bad for the OP and a great amount of empathy. The thinking exhibited are often found in situations where poverty is high and opportunity is low and people will do whatever they can to keep a job because any income is better than no income. That scenario is ripe for exploitation of workers.

    I don’t in any way condone the OP’s thought processes, but if she’s in a situation where she’s sacrificing so much at her job while also facing eviction and having unstable living conditions, I’m not really comfortable judging her from the safety and comfort of my own home where I want for nothing. I can only encourage her to keep growing, to keep an open mind, to read a lot, to travel if possible, to learn that success isn’t just a numbers game but about the meaningful impact we have on one another. Good luck, OP!

  111. Likeaboss*

    OP. I don’t know about your countries culture, or the particulars of the culture of your previous workplace.
    I was a top performer at my previous job. But I was also there for a while, and as such, I was expensive. I was moved to a different position ( it was a demotion, to a position they knew I would hate, so I’d start looking for a new job, and leave and they wouldn’t have to pay me severance) This agency had a culture of “we’re dumping 75 hours of work on you. You are not to work more than your allotted 37.5 hours a week. HOW COME YOU DIDN’T GET IT ALL DONE!!!???”

    I actually did leave the job ( the demotion didn’t go through) but I realized that they were gunning for me. I had come back from maternity leave and had my annual review with my new supervisor. I could see the writing on the wall, they knew that if they put me on a PIP after being out for maternity leave, they’d have a lawsuit. So they were going to give me a few months… and then give me the boot. I obtained a new and better job in the meantime.

    I ended up in therapy over that previous job. We talked about the agency, my job as a social worker and the therapist one day said ” you’re job is listening, and absorbing, and hearing people in the worst moments of their lives. You want to help people. That’s what makes you a good social worker… but… You ARE NOT required to light yourself on fire in order to keep others warm” and y’know what…. 6 years later….. I still say that to myself and to others and I got it put onto a throw pillow.

    No one likes a martyr. And no likes a martyr who makes a big ole scene about being a martyr. Stop lighting yourself on fire to provide others with warmth and light.

  112. Kella*

    My comment will probably get lost in the sea, but I came here ready to talk to the OP about where the habit of taking responsibility for other people’s problems comes from, and then I went back and read the original letter.

    I think people are putting too much weight on OP’s response and not enough on the company’s actions. The company *asked her* to cut costs. That was a problem in an of itself for all the reasons folks have outlined above, and I’m not sure that OP understands that, but without that knowledge, it stands to reason that if you go above and beyond for your job, you do that when they ask you to cut costs too.

    The email they sent requesting cutting costs reminded me a lot of a conversation I had with a terrible manager of a small sinking company. He sat us all down one day and outlined how our expenses were way higher than what we were bringing in. I asked if he was looking for ideas about how to bring in more income, he said no. I asked if he was wanting us to raise our prices, he said no. I asked, what he wanted us to do about it, and he said, nothing, I just want you to *know* that this is what’s happening. We were all left with a sense of doom over our heads and our jobs and absolutely no plan for how to get out of it. He had made us feel like it was our job to fix it and also stopped us from doing any of the things in *our* control that might’ve fixed it.

    I think the thing OP could’ve done differently here was to ask what the company had in mind when they asked for cost-cutting. Where were they hoping people would cut their costs? Because by being vague, this company was placing the responsibility for assessing where and how to cut costs on the employees, which is a job they are in a terrible position to do. If she had asked and the company had stayed vague even after being asked for clarification, to me, that would mean either ignore their request to do their job for them, and/or start job searching.

    As others have said before, OP, your company took advantage of your generosity. They shouldn’t have asked you to figure out their budget for them, and it was wrong that they let you give up so much so that they could continue running a failing company. You felt powerless because you were. Nothing you or any of your non-management coworkers did could’ve saved this company. The guilt is not yours to bear.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I agree with you that the email from Big Boss was a manipulative one. What does this even mean, “please cut costs as close to zero as possible?” Taking a mental account of most of the people I know, I’d say 70% would’ve shrugged and done nothing if they had received this email, because it is asking to do the impossible. And the other 30% would’ve cut the costs to zero by leaving. But at this company, the email ended up in the inbox of someone overly conscientious like OP, who not only ran herself into the ground trying to do what it said, but tried to guilt others into doing so. I agree that this was an irresponsible email to send – not everyone is jaded and cynical like my work friends or myself. This email could (and did) do a lot of damage to someone who took it too seriously.

  113. Marmaduke*

    I’d like to suggest a lot of introspection and maybe some therapy related to the internalizing that’s going on here. The vibes I get from this letter remind me of the ones I get from people who grew up being emotional surrogates for parents and became convinced that the adults’ financial issues were theirs to fix. For whatever reason, OP, you seem to see an entire company’s finances as having been resting on your sacrifices and your persuasive efforts, to the point where you sound as though you consider the layoffs a personal failure. You were an employee of the company. Your responsibility was to do your job well and avoid expense *when reasonable.* You did that and more. Your colleagues’ responsibility was to do their jobs well and avoid expense when reasonable. They did. This is not their fault or yours, and I think you will be more successful in the future if you recognize that.

  114. Andrea*


    This situation brings to mind many people I know who act irrationally at work and attempt to justify their actions or get others to also act this way. Is this a trend you’ve seen in your review of HR matters? Could you write on it? It seems to be a trend where people take one thing and then go off on a crazy tangent.

  115. LemonFizz*

    I’m genuinely curious what it would take for this letter writter to think, “Oh thats asking too much. I can’t be expected to do that.” I realize the the letter writter was the one who came up with a lot of unrealistic things on her own but I wonder if the company had asked for even more ludicrous things if she would have gone along with it. Would she have been willing to sell her house, assuming she has one, give the proceeds to the company, and live in a homeless shelter if they had asked? I mean that seems totally bananas but I really want to know what bizzare situation would have to occur for her to say I’m not on board with these cost cutting measures? I mean seriously! What would it take?

  116. Leela*

    OP – having worked in tech and games, industries where there are frequent long nights and weekend work, it’s very expected and normal to have the company you work for provide free food if they are requiring you to stay late, especially if you’re salaried and you won’t be getting any more money for staying. There are certainly a lot of places a company could look to cut costs but shouldn’t because they’ll lose good people over it, and I think that providing food when requiring people to stay late fits the bill there. Having people have to pack and transport two meals is annoying enough, especially if (god forbid) there space issues with your refrigerator, or there aren’t enough microwaves that people won’t lose 15 minutes of their break waiting to heat up their food, or deal with cold food every dinner to offset the last two things.

    A company isn’t legally required to provide food if you stay late as far as I know, but it’s a pretty good business practice, especially if you’re not paying people for the extra time there.

  117. Koala dreams*

    Congratulations on finding a new job! I hope your new employer treats you better and don’t take advantage of your work ethic.

    Since you feel very concerned with cutting costs for your former company, I’m at loss at why you should feel bad about quitting. Payroll is one of the bigger costs for companies, and you quitting is the single biggest cost-cutting thing you did for the company. Shouldn’t you be proud?

    I hope in the future you get better at taking care of yourself and learn to refuse unpaid overtime. Good luck!

  118. Old Med Tech*

    OP I am glad you found a new job. I also take work seriously, but you should not sacrifice pay and benefits to help your employer. Employment is a two way street. The employer and employee each have obligations.
    Were you expected to be the family member always getting the short end of the stick and being expected to like it? If so please reflect on Allison’s comments and do not let your new job take advantage of you.
    I worked in a hospital laboratory and taught students getting their BS in Medical Laboratory Science; and then taught in a 2 year Medical Laboratory program at a community college. The 2 years were more fun, but many had issues relating to family obligations. These students were taught to sacrifice for their families even when it was not in the students best interest.
    Good luck in you new job.

  119. The Other Katie*

    One of the things I see in this OP – both the original letter and the update – is the idea that employees need to sacrifice to make sure the company that survives. This is an exact inversion of how the situation should be, which is that a company has an obligation to support its employees. No one owes it to their company to both work late (and implied, unpaid or salaried ) _and_ pack a dinner to make sure the company doesn’t have to spend a fiver on a few slices of pizza for them. No one owes it to their company to go without healthcare or retirement funds.
    Those aren’t perks or presents.
    They’re part of the compensation.
    If the company can’t afford to compensate its employees and pay their reasonable expenses, it needs to wind up its accounts.

  120. LQ*

    Oh, OP. This company, in fact no company, deserves what you gave this company. I get it. I do. But they don’t deserve what you gave them. They didn’t deserve that at all. They weren’t good enough for you to do that for. It doesn’t matter what they did. You were way way WAY too good for them. No company is ever going to look out for you the way that you tried to look out for that company. Never.

    You need to take care of yourself. And you need to start doing that soon. (Or at least find someone else and make a buddy system where you take care of them and they take care of you, but no company can be your buddy in a buddy system.) Companies are heartless, soulless, brainless money machines. They don’t deserve your love, your loyalty, your kindness, or your consideration. You need to take care of you. Please.

  121. Safetykats*

    Realistically, the OP still just needs to do the math. The kind of cost-cutting they are talking about never would have worked out to fully burdened rate for half the staff – and so was doomed to be irrelevant.

    Also, benefits are part of compensation. Suggesting that people give back compensation – whether you’re suggesting that they decline medical coverage or just don’t cash their paychecks – is simply inappropriate. People took these jobs based on the compensation they were offered.

    The lesson here is really that when you see the kind of mismanagement that is ultimately going to end in bankruptcy or dismissal of half the staff, you should start looking immediately. OP still seems to think it was their job to help save the company, which was never the case.

  122. Sir Freelancelot*

    I found this type of toxic mentality and blind, almost patological, idea of loyalty to a company that OP carries, while working with some Japanese businesses (not all of them, of course). OP, I pity your colleagues, who where living a difficult situation and received nothing but blame from you, and for something they weren’t guilty at all. The company didn’t keep you because they were grateful or because you were right. They kept you because they realized they could throw bricks in your face and you would thank them. I hope you can become a better colleague for your new fellows.

  123. Perpal*

    OP; the company is not a person (and even with a fellow human you’re allowed to set boundaries / put on your own O2 first, no matter how desperate they seem); work is a transaction, money / goods for labor. There are more jobs out there as you can see. It’s not about how much you can cut to save the company, it’s about is your effort adequately compensated and if not, move on. It’s really not right to tell others they should be compensated less for their time and energy, especially when that agreement is already worked out between them. Hope everyone is doing better with better jobs now!

  124. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP: Congratulations on leaving that job and getting a new one. You’re now an employee with another company. Your loyalty should be to them, not your old job. You can’t do anything to help that company now.

  125. Ele4phant*

    Oh final LW – your coworkers weren’t taking advantage of your company. In a way, your company was taking advantage of you.

    This is business. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself to keep your company afloat. It’s work, not family.

    If they aren’t being profitable, then they aren’t properly running things properly, or offering a product/service the market wants, and it’s not own the worker bees to cut back and cut back to keep the lights on.

    Please don’t carry this self sacrificing behavior into your next job. All you owe to your employer is to show up, be present, do your best work within the confines of what you’ve been hired to do, and be reasonable with your expenses.

  126. Princess Cimorene*

    I really want to understand this letter writer’s mind set, even still. For a moment, reading this, I thought she was on the right path with some realizations, but at the end I sorta felt sad. “taking advantage of the company” as if the company is a human being being used up by the employees there. It’s just very difficult for me to process this line of thinking. The company is a business. It’s not being taken advantage of. It’s being managed poorly it sounds like, but the rest of this is just a lot.

  127. Alice's Rabbit*

    OP, what you did only cost the company money in the long run. When a company asks employees to worry about costs, they’re asking you to do two things. The lesser one is to take the cheaper options (but walking 5 miles instead of taking the bus is not the cheaper option, unless you’re making less in two hours than bus fare costs; it means flying coach instead of business or first class, sharing an uber instead of each employee renting their own car, not wasting office supplies, and ordering the less expensive pizza for the office instead of the deluxe menu from the fancy restaurant).
    But the bigger one – and what they’re really hoping for – is that one or more employees might propose ways to streamline processes, or otherwise save big bucks, with solutions to problems that higher management might not even know about.
    I once proposed something that ended up saving the company millions of dollars – a year! It was a simple and obvious solution to me, working “in the trenches,” as it were. But the idea had just never occurred to management. It was a fairly simple thing to implement, too. (Basically, training the teapot makers at the companies supplying us, so we wasted less time on QA and trying to paint crooked teapots so they looked normal. Yeah, we had to pay for someone to travel there and train them, but we saved so much time sorting out the 99% of the teapots that were useless – not to mention what we paid for all the wasted teapots – and actually started getting a quality product to work with.)
    That’s the sort of cost-cutting companies need from employees. Not refusing to use the benefits in their contracts, working unsustainable hours, or declining a meal on the company’s dime. Actual long-term solutions.

  128. Rui*

    Being offered company meal when staying late is the norm, not exception. People stay late for business reasons, therefore rightly expect accommodation made by their employer wherever possible. It’s not taking advantages of the company; it’s just plain social and business courtesy.

    OP, I don’t know your upbringing, but you are seriously out of touch with modern workplace culture here.

  129. Genny*

    As an interesting thought experiment, let’s say all 80 people in LW’s office followed her extreme cost cutting example. Let’s say they all saved the company $25,000 by cutting 401k contributions and healthcare, not claiming OT, not requesting reimbursement, etc. That means the company would save $2 million. Assuming everyone makes $60k (about the average salary in the US), that means the company could’ve in theory saved 33 jobs. Seven people would still have been let go and the remaining 73 employees are now all essentially making $35k a year working for a company with incredibly shaky finances. Is that any better of a situation than what happened?

  130. TG*

    Wow, this is terrible. Even though you feel you “won”, your cost cutting measures were the wrong way to handle a failing business. Those were not your responsibilities. As the saying goes, don’t set yourself on fire to keep somebody else warm. And we don’t need more businesses with absolutely horrible business practices to succeed. I honestly don’t get it.

  131. casinoLF*

    It is, I have to state, decidedly NOT taking advantage of a company to get dinner when you are working late. Period. That is the LEAST they can do if they are detaining you during a mealtime. Your expectations of your coworkers are STILL bananas and you are horribly misguided for harming your future by reducing your retirement savings “for the company.” The company is not looking out for you. You have to do that. God this letter is bonkers.

  132. Three raccoons in a trench coat*

    Agreeing that this sounds like a very anxious thought process. Someone upthread mentioned the Just World fallacy, and OP, I think it might do you some good to look into that concept specifically. It’s incredibly seductive to think “If I just do the right backbends, bad things will never happen to me”; it makes one feel safer and more in control of a chaotic, unfair, often horrible world, and sometimes that seems like the only way to cope.

    But as you can see, it also tends to lead to “Well, Bad Thing happened to someone else who didn’t do the backbends I did. If they had, Bad Thing wouldn’t have happened to them.” This conclusion is not only untrue, it’s unhelpful and comes off as cruel and lacking compassion. I’m sure that isn’t your intention, but it’s the road you started going down here, and that’s concerning for your own well-being too. Bad things happen to good people. It’s much more productive to accept that and work towards practicing kindness than to cling to a false perception of safety.

    I know life is probably terrifying for you just now. That doesn’t make you a bad person, but it’s not an excuse for unkindness, either.

    Hang in there.

  133. jiminy_cricket*

    Ohhhh, this is someone who believes the lies of capitalism. Once you redo that in your head, a lot of what they write makes sense. I was reading it as satire and it slaps.

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