updates: my boss doesn’t believe I’m quitting, we just hired the husband of the person we’re about to fire, and more

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. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. My husband’s boss accused me of calling my mother-in-law a bitch

You were right, we ignored the rumors and they died down quickly. We moved past it easily and didn’t hear much about it in the following months. It seemed to become a non-issue.

I mentioned in my previous letter that the company was a chaotic unstable place, but that B couldn’t quit – we had bills to pay! We should’ve anticipated what came next. B took a Spring Break off to watch the kids (I needed to be at work) and in the middle of his PTO, big boss called to tell him he was no longer employed at the company. We were baffled! Three weeks earlier he had received a 15% raise and an excellent review. So many commenters warned us, but he was short on experience and was trying to stick it out.

Luckily, he found a new job quickly and is now a area manager for an established company (that has HR!) creating a division in our city. New company is a direct competitor to old job. I’m looking forward to seeing how things work out.

Also, some readers guessed that maybe my MIL started the rumor. This could’ve been true. We had just set some “you can’t watch the kids without us present” boundaries and she was angry. Thank you to the commenters who mentioned the grey rock technique. It has been a great way to neutralize interactions with my MIL. I don’t think I could’ve done the last two years without it!

This drama has also been somewhat resolved. Another family member has just placed strong boundaries on her and she isn’t as focused on us. I’m not thrilled that others are going through the same thing, but my inbox has been so peaceful lately!

2. My boss doesn’t believe I’m really quitting

You were right on the money with your comments on nonprofit employees feeling more obligated to help out when they quit. I had to let go of that feeling of obligation so I could fully commit to my new job. I was able to talk to my boss a little bit about wanting to focus on my transition. Part of my problem was because I had been in the position so long, I had a lot of institutional knowledge that I was worried would get lost when I left. After discussing that again, I was able to refocus my time on compiling several manuals about the position, the state of my projects, and the database used. I wanted to leave useful documents for my replacement!

Which is an interesting story in and of itself. I actually was part of the hiring committee for my replacement. We were looking for someone with experience in a particular database, so I reviewed applications and helped conduct interviews. When asked for my advice on who to hire, I gave my honest answer based on the applicants’ experience and familiarity with that database and non-profits in general. They ended up going with another candidate, who was able to start during my last week so I was able to cross-train her before I left. (I feel like this was part of the reason she was hired, but that’s just a guess)

Once I started my new job (which I am still in and love!), I got several emails from my replacement, which I was happy to answer for a few months, but after that had to tell her “You can find these answers in the manual I left for you!”

My replacement ended up quitting after a year – apparently because she found the job too difficult. One of my former coworkers that I kept in contact with said that of course it was difficult for her – she never once looked at any of the materials I left! The organization hired someone else, and I told my former coworker exactly where those documents were in case they could help this new person.

(Additionally, during a yearly fundraising event, the outside event planning contractors who I had worked with for several years ended up reaching out to me privately to do some writing and consulting on the event – because my replacement was too busy to work on the project, apparently. But since they paid me for my work, and I was able to do it over one weekend, I was happy to do it!)

3. How do you do layoffs the right way? (podcast)

First, I appreciate you answering my question! It was good to hear that the way we were doing layoffs was not so bad…at least logistically. For those who don’t remember my podcast episode (because it was part of one about a toilet situation, which is always WAY more memorable–ha!), I described that we pull those who are being laid off into a conference room to tell them, while simultaneously emailing everyone else to announce the layoff. We were a small company, with 20-25 people at a time, and I was basically the number 3 in the company (CEO, VP, and then me). So I usually knew the layoffs were coming, who it was going to be, and was asked to help answer questions for the remaining employees while the CEO and VP were in the conference room. Without a formal HR, the company’s management often didn’t follow traditional best practices for these kinds of processes, so I was relieved to hear that we weren’t being abnormally cruel to our employees in that regard. That being said, the severance was not very good (maybe 1-3 weeks, depending on length of employment), and I’m not sure how long the health care coverage lasted. There was no official job hunting help offered, though I told everyone I’d be happy to provide a reference and help with resume updates and/or point them here to Alison’s resources. Overall, Alison is right that layoffs just always suck, and I hate that we had to do them so often!

As for the commentators who focused on our hire-layoff-hire-layoff pattern, you guys are absolutely right. Most of us on staff were fully aware of the possibilities of project delays, and I was regularly suggesting we hire contractors, as were other employees. The problem was that our CEO strongly distrusted contractors. His reasoning was that they wouldn’t be fully committed/passionate about the projects and would be more likely to flake or check out if a better contract came along. So, his bias was the problem there, and even with as much influence as I had, I couldn’t convince him to hire contractors. It got to the point where I (and others) started to feel uncomfortable interviewing people, because we knew the projects we needed them for were high-risk. I tried to be transparent in the interviews by telling them how work tended to ebb and flow, answering honestly when they asked about why we were hiring, and telling them what the expectations were above and beyond the job description. (I was always a little proud, too, when excellent candidates turned down an offer, citing the need for more structure, work/life balance, or stability, etc.)

So where does that leave me and the company? Separated! A few weeks after my question was published, I applied to a new job and was given an offer! Like many of you, I was stuck in a job I loved, with brilliant coworkers who I loved, and management who weren’t bad people, but something just started to feel like my time there was coming to a close. I was ready to fight new battles and solve new problems. I was also ready to take my big-fish-small-pond skills to a bigger pond to see if I could swim! And unless I wanted to buy the company in two years when our CEO planed to sell it (I didn’t), I’d need to move on. My new company is amazing–a leader in our industry for being fun and caring about it’s people over anything else. And we have a proper HR department! It’s a huge change to go from 25 coworkers to 60,000+ coworkers, but I’m loving it so far! The industry is new for me, but the niche department I’m in is the same as my former company, so I’m well suited for the work while also growing my skills.

As for my now former company, I heard they laid off another few people at the end of this summer for the same reasons as always–project delays and financial cuts. I don’t think anyone will be able to solve the contractor hiring issue there, and I don’t know how this last round of layoffs went logistically, but since the CEO is retiring soon, I’m just hoping that those who remain are able to get out soon enough to find new employment. I’ve told them all I’m here to help them with resumes, references, and even recommendations if they find a position at my new company that they want to apply to!

4. My office refuses to buy tissues

I was the letter writer whose office wouldn’t buy tissues because they were a “personal item.”

This was one of those “tip of the iceberg” issues that put the HR/accounting manager on my radar as someone who didn’t actually know what they were doing but was willing to BS to pretend they did. Their version of the “official rules” seemed to always change, which is *not* what an accounting department wants from their manager, judging by the grumblings I heard thanks to our open floor plan. And again, this was a tip of the iceberg of dysfunction in that office overall. Someday I’ll share our microwave story.

But there was much rejoicing, because the manager was finally pushed out of their job! In fact, there was turnover in almost all of the upper-level management, which was very overdue. When asked if we could buy tissues for the office, the new purchaser didn’t bat an eye.

But as a personal update, I finally pushed myself to apply to other jobs and get the heck out already, and I’ve been in a new position at a new company for a year now – one where they buy name brand tissues. Oh, and they’re paying me over 20% more. Hallelujah!

5. I’m about to fire an employee — and we just hired her husband

Thanks for all your good advice! The situation worked out to be less eventful than I’d ever imagined. The wife was fired shortly before the husband came on board, so there was no overlap. The husband has been a model employee (he was recently promoted) and to my knowledge has never once mentioned his wife at work (I once saw someone ask him whether our former employee was his wife, and he avoided the question). If only all sticky work situations could work out so well!

{ 112 comments… read them below }

  1. Yumnum*

    I worked at a small start up of about 25 employees for 5 years when we hired a new CEO and he decided to cut a 3rd of the company. What was most noticeable about the cut was that everyone who was pulled aside, me included, held higher level positions and/or were more senior employees (aka “old gray hairs”). None of the executive staff were included in the layoff and most of the worker bees were kept as well.
    I’ve been through about 3 layoffs in total and I’ve never seen anyone from Mohogany row included.
    Funny how the people that usually make the decisions generally never get included in the layoffs.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Although it’s not uncommon in buyouts for the C-level staff to be jettisoned to make room for the new owner’s people, and the common workers and middle managers to be kept on. Of course, situations like that tend to involve nice golden parachutes, rather than 2 weeks of severance.

    2. MK*

      Not really “funny”, if you think about it. Layoffs are about reducing land costs while still leaving a company able to perform its function. The top people are usually one per department; you can’t eliminate the position entirely, if you want to cut costs there you need to replace them with others who will make less (which does happen, but is not branded as “layoffs” so much £ “changing direction in leadership”. And reducing the number of workers often is not possible without compromising the company’s operation. It’s notmweird that the middle people are most affected by layoffs.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        For sure in general.

        Though in my organization we had a layoffs a few years ago where in one department we expected the #2 in the department to be kept on and the leaders to be laid off. Both were amazing and could do the job, but #1 was way more expensive. And s/he advocated for this and had a new job lined up. But the leaders of the whole organization disagreed, and so #2 was let go while #1 was retained. #1 left anyway, and the team was really hurt by this double loss.

    3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      My nonprofit had layoffs around 2008 and one of the five or six senior leaders was let go. She oversaw, among other things, HR, and didn’t think the organization needed her position as much as others.

      1. MK*

        Well, the reality is that there are positions that are important for a well-run organization, and there are others that the organization cannot operate without.

      2. TooTiredToThink*

        Wait, does that mean she volunteered herself as one of the cuts? If so that is incredibly impressive.

  2. Andream*

    Why didn’t they just hire temporary workers? I understand the issue with not trusting contractors, but if they hired temporary with the option to possibly stay on longer wouldn’t that have been better?

    1. winter*

      I assume the work sometimes didn’t materialize at all or with several months delay.
      If a project will be postponed by six months it doesn’t help if you just hired somebody who starts now, but will have to leave in x months.

    2. BRR*

      I imagine the CEO would think the same of temp workers. He’s just someone who really shouldn’t be in a position to run things.

      1. LivingThruLayoffs*

        OP for #3 here. He definitely bundled temps and contractors together with the same attitude. Agreed that it wasn’t a good way to operate and was very awkward for me to try to operate in!

    3. Rayray*

      Maybe I’m just so wildly apathetic about my current job (because it’s terrible – and I will be resuming my job search now that the holidays are over) but just because someone works full time doesn’t mean they’ll be passionate about the job. A lot of people just work to live, and they’ll do the job they’re paid for whether they’re contract, temporary, or permanent. Besides, maybe thr contrwxt or temp workers would be passio ate about it if they want to learn skills and add good experience to their resume.

      1. Feline*

        The expectation that people need to be passionate about a job to do it competently is something the HR wonk who came up with measuring employee engagement must have made up. I snark about that term in our emails from corporate and say that this isn’t a romance novel, it’s a job that needs to get done. Passion isn’t something that goes on forever, but commitment is.

    4. Batgirl*

      Well, that’s more honest but it’s not the switcheroo the company is trying to pull. They want to give staff the idea that this is a potential lifetime commitment, give it the whole ‘like a family’ line and tsk tsk whenever someone is sick or has non work priorities. Then, just when you’ve brainwashed them, pull out the ‘you’re not staying’ rug from under them and act astonished that they are taking it personally.
      It’s a bad play for those who want a good retention rate but it’s pretty effective for those who don’t care about that.

  3. Doctor What*

    OP 4 Now we HAVE to hear the microwave story since you’ve brought it up! ;)

    Glad you’re getting name brand tissues now!

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Exactly what I came to say… Need something to cheer me up – please share the microwave story!

    1. Jemima Bond*

      In the meantime, let’s speculate wildly! My guess: The purchase of a microwave to heat up staff members’ lunches was refused, and it was suggested that instead, staff should place their packaged food on their seat and warm it with their bum cheeks, like a chicken hatching an egg.

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        “The request for a microwave has been denied. It’s frankly wasteful and offensive to request a microwave when the sun shines out of the managers arse and any food can be heated carbon-neutrally in-house by appointment.”

      2. LW4*

        I think I need to submit our microwave story separately because I’m paranoid about being connected to my old workplace. But I’ll tease it by saying there was an overreaction to microwave complaints and some management gaslighting the rest of us. So glad to be gone!

      3. irene adler*

        “Given the amount of time employees waste in waiting to heat up their food, the microwave will be available by appointment only. Employees will sign up for 2 minute intervals (max 6 minutes per day). Do not arrive more than one minute before your scheduled appointment time. Daily sign up sheet will be located next to the microwave. Those who use greater than their allotment per day will have their paychecks docked. Thank you, management.”

    1. TardyTardis*

      Even if it involves popcorn. Or perhaps especially if it involves popcorn (I burned popcorn and caused a surprise fire drill three weeks after I was hired on. To be fair, my old microwave at home was not as powerful as the newer models. But they kept me anyway…though I was forbidden from bringing in popcorn, which we all sadly realized was a reasonable directive).

  4. Seeking Second Childhood*

    To others with audio challenges: There’s a transcript for the podcast; link appears at the bottom of the podcast post.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Thank you!

      I know when I’ve looked before, the transcript wasn’t available until several days after the podcast, by which time the post is buried under newer material and I forget to look back.

      As a wider accessibility point, 2020 should be the year society *requires* provisions such as closed captions, transcripts, image alt-text, etc, and scrolls past content which doesn’t meet those requirements. Several popular social media platforms have these features as optional extras, but they should become default settings, so that every time you upload a photo or video you are prompted to describe its content or provide a screen-readable alternative.

      1. Naomi*

        Facebook has an option to add captioning when you post a video, but the UI for editing them is a royal pain to use.

  5. Secret Identity*

    In regards to #5, why would the husband avoid the question? That seems weird to me. I can’t imagine why he’d do such a thing – is he ashamed that his wife got fired? Or ashamed to be married to someone who got fired? Has his wife suddenly become She Who Must Not Be Named at the company? I wouldn’t be happy my husband got fired, but I wouldn’t try to avoid a simple “Is that your husband?” question either. Everybody’s got their faults, after all.

    1. Mary*

      If you think that the next comment after, “So X is your wife?” is likely to be about how she got fired and whether you think that was legit, you’re going to have to politely evade the question one way or another. I can see why sending, “not gonna have that conversation, nope” at the earliest point it’s raised makes sense!

      1. Secret Identity*

        I can see avoiding the conversation about why she got fired, what he thought about it, etc. That makes sense. I guess I was just thinking about an innocent, “Oh, is Jane your wife?” and then husband could say, “Yeah, she is. By the way, did you get that email about the TPS reports?” And the moment would pass.
        But you’re right in that he might have wanted to head that whole conversation off at the pass.

    2. Me*

      There’s no good reason for anyone to ask that question. As Mary said, it’s most likely a way to open the door to gossip.

      Politely avoiding the question is pretty remarkably mature and a sign of an employee with good judgement. It’s not about shame, it’s about keeping work and personal lives separate where they belong.

      1. Secret Identity*

        So…. saying “Yes, Bob is my husband” would be a sign of poor judgment and immaturity on my part were I in that situation? Interesting take.

        1. Me*

          Not at all what I said. Observing one behavior shows something doesn’t mean another behavior doesn’t or equals a negative.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I wouldn’t say that, but definitely not an answer you should give unless you are ready to discuss your spouse’s firing and the potential of probing questions.

          1. Me*

            This. My point was it shows a lot of foresight in avoiding what is almost certainly going to become a sticky situation. Answering the questions isn’t inherently bad good or indifferent. It’s pretty great the husband has the foresight to nope out of the situation.

            I tend to be socially awkward so I’d likely answer it and then immediately regret it once the follow up questions start.

          2. Tzeitel*

            But I can’t imagine that asking about the marriage would necessarily lead to that! And if it did, that would be the time to dodge. I can’t imagine what a non-weird dodge would be to someone asking if they were married to someone who used to work there!

            1. ATraveller*

              That first admission can easily open up a lot of “dodge avenues” though. Some people will want to express their sympathies, some will want to know if it’s not weird to be working in the team that your wife got fired from, some will want to share stories for better or worse, some will want to know how she’s doing, etc. It’s a lot less work to just shut down the initial question.

      2. ElizabethJane*

        There’s not a great reason to ask the question but like so many things it’s become acceptable small talk, particularly if the two share a last name and said last name is somewhat unique. There’s nothing particularly wrong with saying “Oh, last name Focker…. any relation to Jane Focker?”

      3. MK*

        Wanting to develop a surface-friendly relationship with your coworkers is a good reason. Possibly in this case, where the wife was fired, it might have been more discreet not to bring her up in casual conversation. But there would have been nothing wrong with “Is Jane Smith who used to work here your wife?” “Yes, she is” “We used to be cubicle mates. Say hello to her from me”. No gossip, no drama, no inappropriate prying.

        Even is it’s not a good question, the reality is that trying to avoid it would probably draw more attention to the situation than warranted. I don’t know how one avoids a “Is X your spouce?” question, without coming across oddly. Unless what happened was that the wife’s name came up in conversation and he didn’t volunteer that they are married, or that he was asked what his wife does and he answered vaguely.

    3. Jennifer*

      I agree. I think it’s kinda weird. I would have just said, “Yes, he’s my husband,” and if there were nosy follow up questions about the firing I would tell them I couldn’t get into the details and change the subject. Something just feels icky about avoiding a question about whether my spouse is my spouse. Every marriage is different, I guess.

      1. Venus*

        It depends upon how it was asked. If it was a gossipy “Was that person who was fired your wife?” then I would want to redirect with “I prefer not to discuss personal situations at work” (although I’m not sure I would have the presence of mind to react well to a weirdly nosy and gossipy comment).

        We weren’t there in the moment, so we don’t know what was said and how it was asked, and if the LW says that the husband did a good job of redirecting then I think we can believe them.

    4. Tzeitel*

      I was thinking the same thing! It’s a simple, yes she is! And then if anything comes up weird, then that’s the time to dodge. It would be so odd if I asked someone, just to make small talk, hey are you married to X who used to work here? And then they dodged.

      1. Drag0nfly*

        It’s easy to understand the dodge based on just everyday experience. If someone is asking if you’re married to X, that means they know X, yes? How else would they have the name to ask you about X? And in THIS specific context, the questioner *knows* X was fired. This isn’t some random person you’re meeting in some random place like the grocery store, it’s someone in a specific environment — the workplace — who knows that X was fired was fired from that same workplace.

        Would you want to answer questions about X being fired? Then you dodge the question that leads up to it. Pretty simple. You seem to be treating this as if he’s dodging the question at the grocery store, which would be weird. But he’s dodging it in the very environment where it would be sensible. That’s why people are praising his foresight and discretion.

  6. EPLawyer*

    1, 3, 4 — Dysfunction gonna dysfunction.

    1- fired while on leave — classy.
    3 — Good people with options don’t take bad jobs. Contractor or employee — people are in it for the paycheck. Looking for “passion” is a good sign of dysfunction. But, it’s a small world and word will get out about the hire/fire cycle. The company is toast.
    4. I hope you took your personal tissues with you on the way out.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Re your #3: I am extremely passionate about the work I do, but I would stop doing it today if my employer stopped paying me. I sell my labor for money, as do all workers.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Passion is lower on the list of priorities than money to employees. Employers who recognize this can be good employers. Employers who screen for “passion” as a top priority tend to be dysfunctional.

        Heck I am passionate about my work. But I need to eat, pay bills, etc. So getting paid is kinda a priority.

        1. Autumnheart*

          No kidding. If passion were such a great reason to work, why do executives get paid so much money? Shouldn’t they be the most passionate about the business?

        2. Pomona Sprout*

          Yeah, I have had jobs I was passionate about at the time. But I’m also passionate about being able to eat, pay my bills, and, you know, keep a roof over my head? I can’t eat passion or pay my rent with it. Get real, silly employers!

      2. Blarg*

        Almost 20 years ago (ugh!), I got a job at an entertainment/restaurant chain.

        At new employee orientation, the GM said “why are we all here?” People gave the typical answers … “to serve guests,” etc. I said “to make money.” He said mine was the correct answer and I was the only person who’d ever given it.

        Now that place was a nightmare of bullying and poor management and I got out of there after a few months. But I always appreciated that moment.

  7. Jennifer*

    #4 I honestly don’t think ordering tissues or not ordering tissues was that big of a deal. I’ve never worked anywhere where tissues were provided. It’s just something personal I bring with me if I need it and keep at my desk, like lotion, chapstick, hand sanitizer, etc. But I haven’t read the microwave story yet so maybe there’s more to it.

    1. Bear Shark*

      The only place I’ve worked that provided tissues was one of the more dysfunctional. I tend to associate “provides tissues” with 1. Has less or no sick time so employees are more likely to come to work sick and need tissues and 2. Is more likely to make employees cry at work.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s interesting. “Hey, we provide a toxic environment and no sick leave but if you need to break down or sneeze – there’s tissue!”

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I worked somewhere that provided an array of herbal teas, Halls, tissues, and Emergen-C.

          I found out later that the reason they provided these things because they did not allow sick days, and you were expected to come to work sick. I left during my probation period because I’d spent the entire time sick and at the doctor’s office.

    2. Sara without an H*

      I run a library, and we buy them by the case. Colds, sniffles, etc. spread like wildfire in university residence halls, so there’s high demand all winter for tissues. Ditto hand sanitizer. And alcohol wipes in the large economy sizes.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        My office provides all those things too for the same reason. It’s better to spend a little up front so cold season doesn’t completely decimate your open plan office twice a year.

    3. Fikly*

      I work for a lovely company. We have tissues, period products, cough drops, and other small things that just make life a little easier.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s awesome. It’s great if companies provide all this stuff but I’m just saying I wouldn’t judge a company based solely on whether or not they provided them.

        1. Fikly*

          Oh, definitely not. But it can be a symptom of bigger issues. And wasn’t there a company that refused to provide anything but the scratchiest of toilet paper? That is just mean.

      2. ThatGirl*

        We seem to be scarce on Kleenex (though I do see boxes around from time to time) but we have well-stocked first aid cabinets with everything from ice packs to eye drops to allergy medication. So I definitely appreciate that.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Exjob had first aid kits in all the break rooms too. As it was a large multi-story building, they also had emergency go-bags in each section on each floor, close to where the designated evacuation point people sat.

      3. TimeTravlR*

        I used to work for a company like that before we moved. They provided giant bottles of mouthwash in each restroom (with pump tops) in additional to those things you mentioned. It was a great place!

        1. Cookie Captain*

          My gym used to do that. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to wash my hands with mouthwash.

    4. Me*

      We provide tissues and hand sanitizer and we’re government. We would prefer people didn’t spread germs. Many illnesses are contagious prior to people showing signs of illness. And we have fairly generous leave.

      I view personal vs community interest in view of – does not providing it affect others? For example, your chapped lips don’t affect the office but your norovirus and flu sure do. Just like toilet paper, hand soap and dish soap. I personally would consider not providing those things potentially symptomatic of how a company view their employees.

      1. Jennifer*

        My company does provide hand sanitizing stations. I just prefer the kind I keep at my desk.

        I get not providing hand sanitizer looks bad, but tissues? Nah.

    5. Mockingjay*

      My company stocks tissues and sanitizer for common areas: conference rooms, break rooms, lobby. Employees bring in their own as needed.

      1. noahwynn*

        This is how my company is as well. There is hand sanitizer stations in each breakroom and attached to the wall througout the building. Tissues are availble in the restrooms.

        I pay for my own hand santizer and tissues at my desk. That way I don’t have to make a run for the bathroom every time I sneeze.

    6. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I feel like the tissues question was less about the actual tissues and more about what the tissues represent. In workplaces where people already aren’t feeling valued, it’s easy to take little things like “AND THEY DON’T EVEN LET US BLOW OUR NOSES” and spin them into evidence for how management doesn’t respect or care about workers.

      1. Cookie Captain*

        Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the minor annoyances, because looking at the big-picture flaws is just too upsetting. I have a friend who frequently complains that her boyfriend chews too loudly, when their actual relationship is failing for serious issues that she doesn’t really talk about.

      2. Jennifer*

        Ha! Yeah I think if you are already fed up with a company this would just be the final straw. If you’re relatively happy there it’s not a big deal.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The only offices without company provided tissues I’ve been in are when I’m an office of one. Then the only reason for that was that I’m not comfortable adding them. We buy them in bulk with our other paper product. There’d be a riot if we asked anyone to bring their own.

      But we’re for profit and everyone knows we’re not suffering for that profit. We already have free drinks and snacks, so no tissues would be a “lol wtfffff” idea.

      This reminds me of the place who refused to buy post its as part of their office supplies. I can argue both sides for sure depending on which cash setup I imagine. And I always arrive at a job with all my supplies ready just in case I find out that they don’t like buying the stuff I’ve built into my routines. I need highlighters but half my jobs weren’t into buying them because they’re only for me kind of thing. That’s a personal quirk of my own though.

      1. Autumnheart*

        My current employer doesn’t buy tissues or sanitizer, but they do offer a lot of great stuff, so buying my own Kleenex doesn’t feel like an additional straw on the camel’s back.

        I used to work for a major national bank (not Wells Fargo but on that level) and they wouldn’t buy PENS. A bank. We had to provide our own. Now that was ridiculous.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          We’re a bunch of roughnecks here, imagine pitchforks and overalls if you’d like. So it’s very vocal and very hard to staff with reliable individuals, to add that cherry on top. I bought different coffee and heard about it until they tried it and deemed it acceptable [someone threw some cup in our bin that they must have bought and brought in because they didn’t like them…there was a lot of drama demanding why the coffee was so nasty and I was like “I didn’t change a damn thing, what are you talking about?!” I marched in and saw what they were talking about and physically threw them all away because of the issue. Then reminded everyone that communal stuff was great but put it in the communal area so we know that it’s brought in by someone else so people don’t come at my face when they hate it, lol.

          I changed the water vendor and holy…holy hell to pay until they realized that too was actually better.

          I find sanitizer pretty much a weird add-on since there’s ample places to wash your hands properly before eating. I only ever see it in the medical world. But we do have lotion available because of the work we do zapping the moisture out of hands. I also have great first aid kits, whereas I’ve seen shops with “We have band aids, anything else, you’re gonna have to deal with yourself.” and that made me shiver a bit. Those places also had a helluva lot more turnover but it was a much deeper cause for that but it was a symptom of a “you’re cheap and awful and we see it from every angle.” kind of thing.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            *Re: Just Band Aids, also read that we had just band-aids and they had to ask for them. I was not there very long because I’m pretty much a “do whatever you want me to do” until you want me to be the frigging band-aid police.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I don’t use most provided lotions since they often have fragrance added. I have dyshidrotic eczema and when it’s active, scented lotion burns like hell. I’d rather bring my own.

    8. Amethystmoon*

      My company doesn’t provide tissues, either. I wish they did. I have allergies and it adds up to have to buy them for both work and home, even if one buys generic.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I can’t honestly recall if any of my other jobs provided tissue (other than toilet paper), but only one of my last two jobs did. The no-tissue place was a big company with 5000+ employees. They had everything else — TP, tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar, paper plates/bowls, plastic cutlery, and non-dairy creamer. If we wanted Kleenex in our cubes, we bought our own. I think it was a general policy that you provided your own cube stuff, since they were so big.

      The one that did provide it was a little company with around 50 people. They also bought cocoa mix for the break room and hand sanitizer during flu season, since Bosswife was obsessed with people not getting sick and missing work.

  8. ElizabethJane*

    I gotta admit #5 avoiding the question seems a bit over-the-top to me but also I know the way it’s playing out in my head is not the way it happened:

    Coworker: Oh, are you married to Jane LastName?
    Husband: ::looks uncomfortable, maybe breaks into a cold sweat:: NOPENORELATION ::sprints down the hall::
    End Scene

    1. Jennifer*

      Ha! I’m trying to figure out how you avoid that question? It’s a straightforward question. What do you say? “None of ya business!” “That’s classified!” “It’s complicated,” accompanied by a sad smile.

      1. ElizabethJane*

        Yeah other than lying I can’t think of a great way to avoid the question, but I can think of several ways to answer it without being weird…

        “Oh do you know Jane?”
        “Yeah, she’s my wife. BTW did you ever go see that movie we were talking about?” “Did you finish the project for boss?” “Hey this new coffee machine is great”

        “Oh, Jane is your wife? Shame she got fired…”
        “Yeah, those things are never great. BTW did you go see that movie we were talking about?”

    2. Brazilian Hobbit*

      I imagine him answering like the limo driver in The Princess Diaries.

      Coworker: So, are you married to Jane Doe?
      Husband: I can’t tell.
      Coworker: You can’t tell or you can’t tell?
      Husband (same intonation): I can’t tell.

      Maybe I’m just bored at work, lol

  9. Anonymous Celebrity*

    I worked for the State of California for 20 years, and they never provided facial tissue. I simply brought my own. After a while I learned to keep the box in a desk drawer, because other employees would use it up pretty quickly. Until I read this post, it had never occurred to me that a job would provide facial tissue!

    Now, if they failed to provide toilet tissue…!

    One of the things I treasure about this website is all the things I learn about other workplaces. It’s so easy to become myopic and not realize how different other workplaces are.

    I also truly appreciate how fortunate I’ve been thoughout my working life…I’ve never encountered most of the problems other people on this site have described. Not saying my work life’s been perfect, but when I read about some of the crazyness folks here have had to put up with, and the imaginative and effective ways so many folks have dealt with the crazy, I’m in awe. There sure are some insane bosses out there, and some very smart and resilient employees. The former are disgusting, and the latter are inspiring (and I thank them for sharing their skills and success).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This. I’ve had dysfunctional workplaces — one was so bad it drove both me and my supervisor into therapy — but never anything like some of the letters Alison gets.

    2. Salyan*

      That’s basically what this site taught me as well. I first came many years ago looking for information on whether a manager I worked with (not my boss, but someone I helped) was bullying me. I didn’t find the definitive answer for that here… but I did find out how much worse I could have it!

  10. AuroraLight37*

    He probably doesn’t want to wander down the path of, “Why was she fired/how do you feel about it/why are you working somewhere that fired your wife?” That’s not going to end well, as a rule.

  11. RussianInTexas*

    I don’t think I worked anywhere that provided tissues. Soda and snacks? yes. Tissues? No.
    It’s a bit weird small hill for me to die on, when my company gives you only 5 vacation days and 4 sick days per year. And only 5 paid holidays.

  12. Observer*

    #3 – As others have noted, your former company is really going to suffer from the CEO’s stupidity. What he is doing is going to get him LESS commitment and “passion” than using contractors and explicit temp work. Because smart contractors are going to want to do a good enough job to be re-hired, and they won’t be bitter about the short stint of the job. AND it won’t tank the morale of everyone else who is in a more long term position. The Hire and Fire cycle is most definitely affecting morale – I’d be willing to bet that you might not have been so quick to move on had you not been tired of fighting the same battle and uncomfortable with the situation. And, you were also kind sabotaging your own hiring – not it a “we’re going to stick it to CEO” way, but the fact that you were being as honest as you could be about the job prospects almost certainly scared away a lot of your better candidates. As others noted, good candidates with options are not likely to take a job in these circumstances.

    1. Twenty Points for the Copier*

      I do think that there is a risk with a lot of contractors that when faced with a specific end date, you can end up people who are taking contract jobs but would prefer a job without a finite end date. Since they’re going to need a job anyway, many may stay on the job market. The way around this is probably to pay people more than they would make on the open market in a permanent full-time role with a bonus for staying to the end date. I guess there are other ways (relying on a high turnover workforce desperate for any job when they sign on, a restrictive contract that may or may not be enforceable in court, etc.) that may get people in the door but not necessarily people who will stay on and produce a high quality project if the project funding does come through.

      Though a company that develops a reputation for being a layoff mill, they’re probably going to wind up in a similar situation with their “permanent” workforce anyway…

      1. Observer*

        Though a company that develops a reputation for being a layoff mill, they’re probably going to wind up in a similar situation with their “permanent” workforce anyway…

        At best. At worst, it’s going to be a lot worse. Because with most contractors, they know the deal so they are generally going to try to do a reasonably good job and mostly won’t be looking for the next thing from pretty much day one. Phony permanent employees are going to be checked out from day one and will be looking just as soon as any contractor, and possibly sooner.

        1. LivingThruLayoffs*

          @Observer, you hit the nail on the head (I’m OP#3 here). I was very tired of fighting the same battles, which was the reason I decided to finally leave, despite how much I loved working with my coworkers. My former coworkers who are still there have reported that things haven’t improved any, and many are looking for new employment as well. Morale was and continues to diminish for exactly the reasons you stated: the hire/fire cycle, the awkward interviews, the lack of good candidates accepting open positions, etc. At this point, it’ll be a waiting game between how much the company suffers vs. how fast the next two years pass until the CEO retires and sells the company. But I agree with you about the mindset on contractors: the good ones will do good work, and the bad ones won’t. Same with full-time hires! I just wish my former CEO could see that too. Thanks for your thoughts on this topic!

  13. The New AO*

    This is in response to LW#2, what is it about new people not wanting to use the manuals left by the departing employee? I’ve never understood why people are loathe to use them. I could see if someone was fired, and would purposely give the wrong info, but generally they wouldn’t have time to leave info or sabotage existing manuals. If someone is moving on to another job, and has taken the time to provide the info, why not use it?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t get this either. One of my jobs had to hire someone after the original employee moved out of state. It was a laboratory, with very persnickety procedures and exacting regulations about how you had to do things. My predecessor left folders and folders of SOPs and I was so grateful to her that when she came back to City for a visit and dropped by her old workplace to say hi, I could have hugged her.

      I also started doing this for every job I’ve had since. Not only did it help coworkers when I was on vacation or sick, but taking notes and writing procedural documents helped me learn the job in the first place. I can count it as an actual skill now.

  14. Amethystmoon*

    #2, I feel for you. I have to wonder what it is that makes some people so reluctant to read the documentation for a job. I had a co-worker like that at my last job, who constantly needed his hand held. This was even after I had spent many hours creating documentation, even with page numbers, and index, and everything. He asked the questions because he never looked at it, even though he was the one who asked for it to be written up. Yeah, it’s frustrating to put so much time and effort into trying to help people, but if they’re not the right fit for the job, it all seems moot. Hopefully, your documentation will help the next person.

  15. Johanna*

    Never mind tissues. I worked in a place that didn’t even provide water. For part of the work done there, they added salt to the tap water, so that wasn’t drinkable. Everyone carried gallons of water around and kept them locked at their desk. Making coffee was a negotiation of whose water was used last. Needless to say it was a terrible place to work overall. Eventually, it was discovered that a water cooler was brought in for the “important” people and someone still had enough shame left after it was discovered to add to the break rooms. Though they only had it filled half of what was needed.

    1. Short Time Lurker Komo*

      …How was that even legal? I thought places had to supply water so people wouldn’t suffer dehydration or something? And what’s even the purpose? Did they need salt water for a process and didn’t want to put in a switch to swap between?

    2. Even more anon*

      I worked at a county health department where the tap water was yellow. Like whenever you went to the bathroom, it looked like the last person didn’t flush. They insisted that it was fine to drink. And it was the health department, though the enviro people worked in a different building. But no one drank it. We all pitched in a few bucks a month for delivered water/water coolers. Eventually we moved to a new building where the water was not the color of urine and most of the water clubs disappeared. Looking back, it is weird how normal it was. Just the “way it is.”

      1. Asenath*

        I have never worked anywhere that didn’t have drinking water at all – I’m sure that’s illegal locally – but water people didn’t like was pretty common. The yellow tap water might have been fine to drink. I once lived in a town in which the water was naturally a kind of yellowish-brown due to the local geology and and also the fact that it was surface water and not from an artesian well. I’d run into similar but much less severe situations in similar areas. Most people (especially those who grew up in the area) drank and cooked with it. A few people collected water from an entirely untreated and untested spring quite a distance away. A few others either worked in or had some connection to a place that had an artesian well, and got their drinking water there. Getting water brought in commercially wasn’t really practical – I suppose a few people bought bottled water in the nearest largish town, but it was a rural area with few services.

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