I’m applying for a job with my sister, my colleagues pretend to shoot themselves, and more

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

1. I’m applying for a job with my sister and think I was treated unfairly

I went for an interview last week for a role that would mean working directly for my sister. I declared on my application form that I was related to her, and when she saw that I had applied, she also declared our relationship. I fit all of the essential and desirable criteria and I was invited for an interview. I was informed via email that the interview panel would include my sister.

Upon arrival at the interview, just as I was sitting down, I was informed that my sister would not be part of my interview in order to “protect the integrity of the process.” She was, however, present for the interviews of every other candidate.

I believe that I was treated completely unfairly because of who I am and neither of us were given the opportunity to show that we can separate personal from professional. She would have been the third panel member had she been included in my interview, so surely any accusations of nepotism could have been easily quashed simply by the fact that there were two other people in the interview who did not know me, and a balanced view could have been obtained by all three.

I know it isn’t discrimination in the sense of me having a protected characteristic, but it does feel like discrimination as I was treated differently to all the other candidates and not given an opportunity to show my professional self to my sister. We don’t discuss work, ever, and so she really doesn’t know my work persona.

FYI, I do not know if I was successful yet so this isn’t a case of sour grapes or anything like that. I want to know if this is a company that I would actually want to work for if I have been successful because either way, I disagree with my treatment.

They actually didn’t go far enough! They shouldn’t even consider you for a job working directly for your sister. Most companies have policies against working for close family members, because the potential for bias and conflict of interest (or the appearance of those things) is too great. That’s not discrimination — that’s responsible hiring and responsible managing.

If they’re seriously considering letting your sister manage you, (a) they’re wrong and (b) they’re right that she shouldn’t be included on the interview panel. Her input is too likely to be biased or to be perceived as biased (which is, of course, exactly why she can’t manage you either). If you were a different candidate and found out the hiring manager had also interviewed her sister, would you assume you got a fair shake? Most people wouldn’t, and the company would look unethical. (They will also look terrible to the rest of your sister’s team and other colleagues if they allow her to hire you.)

2. Can I ask my colleagues not to mime shooting themselves?

Occasionally, when things get stressful at work, colleagues will mime shooting themselves in the head. I completely understand that they are doing so in a lighthearted manner as a means to express their frustration, but it really, really bothers me.

I lost my youngest sibling to suicide, and whilst most of the time I can shrug off the mimed action and ignore it, sometimes it brings all the feelings of grief rushing back. Is there any way to politely ask them to show their frustration in another way without having to explain why it upsets me? I don’t want to come across as a complete stick-in-the-mud when they’re obviously just blowing off steam, but I also want to avoid the awkwardness of potentially crying at work and having to talk about a dead sibling.

Yes! You could say, “Could I ask you not to do that? You couldn’t have known this, but due to some family history, that’s upsetting for me to see people joke about.” Or even just, “Please don’t joke about suicide.” This is a deeply painful topic for many people, and you’re not being a stick-in-the-mud by pointing that out.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I cried at work when my paycheck was short

Right before the holidays, someone made an error inputting my pay and I was short about $500 on my check. The solution offered was to have the difference put on the next biweekly check which, while not crazy, came at a super bad time of the year (holiday shopping, travel, etc.). I was so ashamed that I was in a position where $500 mattered so much and not having it on time would be stressful that I actually cried at work. I managed to make it to the bathroom and wasn’t loud (no sobbing) but my coworkers did see me tear up when talking about it/trying to sort it out. I feel really dumb and I’m hoping you can provide some advice/perspective.

Oh my goodness, you have nothing to be embarrassed about! Money is incredibly stressful, and hearing you wouldn’t have money that you earned and you were counting on is frustrating and upsetting and stressful, and in many circumstances could be devastating. $500 is a lot of money. Lots of people would be stressed and upset by this!

You should not be embarrassed. Your office should be embarrassed that they put you in this situation, and that they didn’t offer to cut you a check that day to make it immediately right.

I promise you any coworkers who knew what was going on were sympathetic and not judging you; some of them may have been judging your company (and rightly so). Anyone who didn’t know what was going on but knew you were crying probably figured something else explained it — there are so many things that can cause tears at work, from illness to a family emergency to terrible personal news.

Don’t give it another thought.

4. All my emails end with “let me know if you have any questions”

Do you have any suggestions for an alternate phrasing of “let me know?” I was filing my emails the other day and noticed that this has become a catchphrase of mine. Since then, I have been pausing to consider other ways of closing emails when I’d usually just say, “Let me know if you have any questions or comments.”

Or, you could tell me that I’m overthinking things and I’ll just resign myself to updating my email signature.

Well, you’re probably overthinking it. But I wonder if you’re searching for a closing sentence when you actually don’t need one. While sometimes you really do need to say “let me know if you have any questions,” much of the time that’s implied by the context and you don’t need to say it explicitly. I would experiment with leaving it off and just signing off with, “Thank you” or just your name.

If you really do feel the context demands it, though, there are other ways to word it: “Hope that makes sense! Let me know if I can clarify anything.” … “Glad to answer any questions you might have.” … “Happy to set up a call to talk further.” … etc. But I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

5. Should a company reimburse employees for personal financial loss for vacations tied to a cancelled off-site?

My partner recently started a job (in the U.S.) at a company headquartered in a major European city. Every year they send all their employees to the HQ for a week-long kick-off event. One of the perks tied to the trip is that they allow some employees (depending on tenure and availability) to take vacation before or after the event. Since it is a faraway destination for the U.S.-based employees, this planning happens months in advance.

This year, because of concerns about coronavirus, the company cancelled the off-site with a week’s notice, including all flights. So, the people who had planned vacation time around the event now either have to book new flights at their own expense or miss the trip and eat the cost of whatever is nonrefundable for hotels, tours, rental cars, etc. Do you think the company has an obligation to help offset the financial impact of the sponsored trip’s cancellation for these employees, or is it a risk inherently tied to the perk? My partner wasn’t impacted (he’s too new to be eligible) but I’m curious to hear your opinion.

Ugh. I think ultimately it’s a risk inherent to the perk, and it’s not realistic to expect the company to pay for everyone’s canceled vacation plans, especially for a cancellation that was out of their hands. But it really sucks, and the company should make it clear they understand the difficulties it caused people (and perhaps try to be a central clearinghouse of info on current cancellation policies, getting fees waived, etc.). What do others think?

{ 585 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessica*

    LW5: At very least, I think they should have offered the affected employees the opportunity to buy the plane tickets back from them at the cost the company paid. Maybe I still want to go on the European vacation, and would be willing to pay for the flight myself at the price it cost when booked months ago, but I don’t want to pay the crazy expensive cost it will take to get a replacement flight now.
    I realize it’s more complicated than that because the original flight dates included the week of work, but maybe some people would be in a position to take an extra week of vacation, or maybe it would be cheaper to change half the existing flight than to buy a whole new last-minute flight.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That sounds like a reasonable option – plus, change fees are generally much less than the cost of a new ticket. However, the reason this is such a nice perk is that the tickets are often the most expensive part of the trip, so I don’t know how many employees are going to be able to shell out the cost of even a company purchased ticket (doubly so if the company books expensive refundable tickets).

      I work in a field where this is an incredibly common perk, and while I think the employer should express sympathy, I don’t think they should eat the cost of the lost reservations. That’s the risk you take with this sort of perk. Also, and importantly, if the company is expected to pay for their employees lost vacation reservations, they’ll stop offering the perk, and require people to come immediately home from business trips.

      1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        I wondered about that too. Whenever I’ve travelled for work, unless there’s a really good chance of me being held up and missing my flight I’ve always been booked on the cheapest fare, which isn’t refundable or transferrable to another passenger. If that’s how it was booked, cancelling it would have lost the company their money anyway. So why not offer for staff to pay the difference for the change fee?

        My guess is that they’re deliberately disincentivising it. Which makes sense, if they deem it too risky to travel for work they’d also deem it too risky for vacation travel and not want people to go and then come back to work with whatever they may have picked up. It sucks for everybody, but I do understand where they’re coming from.

        I think a reasonable compromise could be for the company to engage their appointed travel person/agency to collectively negotiate refunds on everyone’s behalf. They may have better success with it as a group than the individual would, especially if they’re able to leverage company goodwill/repeat business etc. It would show the company cares about the inconvenience they’ve put their staff through, but in a way that doesn’t miss the point of cancelling the event in the first place.

          1. Moncouer*

            Husband works for a big4 health insurance company. They have cancelled all foreign travel and all non-essential US travel. Anyone who travels outside their geographic region for any reason must self-quarantine at home for the incubation period after returning home.

            This is not a vacation. They will be working at home. The company is totally VPN and laptops, so this is completely doable for all but receptionists, janitors, etc. Those staff who can’t work remotely under any circumstances will be paid if the travel is either for the company or bereavement. Not vacation. If it’ s optional travel, they are unpaid.

            Deviation from this will result in immediate termination be the employee a c-suite or a janitor. They mean everyone.

            I suspect if this gets worse, those measures will get worse.

            Companies are staring to be hardcore about any travel.

            I suspect if LW tries to push this, the perks will go away would be the least of their worries. I suspect that a no travel + unpaid quarantine for those that do will be the next policy in place. Not my area of law, but, from what I’ve read, it’s probably legal given the status of the virus’ spread.

            I hate to be harsh to LW, but this is a global pandemic. What will stop it is people stopping the spread. Restricting travel is one way to do that. It’s clear the company doesn’t want them going on vacation either.

            I get it’s hard to swallow the financial loss and disappointment, but what the company is doing is reasonable, prudent, and not outside the norm, given what I”be heard from friends at other corporations.

            Also, bearing the cost of the tickets is a personal matter. Yes, the company could do something to be nice, but it’s not required to fund personal travel. Any reimbursement would be a gift, not an ethical requirement.

            Two words: travel insurance

            If you can’t afford to eat the cost of a trip if it’s cancelled, always book refundable or transferable airlines tickets and get travel insurance. Or, if you can afford it, reframe the issue as sincerely bad luck.

            I suspect that, like most of us, LW is extremely frustrated with all this.She’s unintentionally shifting the blame onto the company b/c it’s ineffectual to be mad at a virus and cruel to be mad at the victims of a virus for spreading it.

            Finally, I suspect that the reason no one was offered the tickets is that airlines are now allowing cancellations b/c of the virus with complete refunds. (Their insurance companies must be unhappy). That’s likely an either/or proposition for the company. Either all participants are at risk and all tickets cancelled or none are. I do not think the company likely had any option to cancel part, but not all, of the tickets.

            1. Willis*

              I don’t think the LW is upset, arguing that the company should pay, or trying to blame the company (and wasn’t even impacted by this). They just wrote in out of curiosity about the situation.

              1. Moncouer*

                Went back and re-read it, you are correct. This is a curiosity question, not an upset/fix it question.

                Please strike that commentary as it doesn’t apply to LW.

            2. Moncouer*

              PS If I were planning any foreign travel or any travel to, say Disneyworld, I’d ask my company if they have, or are contemplating, any quarantines or other measures for people who travel.

              A lot of companies are no putting in quarantine restrictions.

              I would not want to return from an optional trip to find myself unable to go to work for 14 days, particularly if that meant not getting paid.

            3. windsofwinter*

              I don’t really disagree with anything you’re saying, but travel insurance won’t cover cancellation over an epidemic. I’ve booked a trip overseas and neither my credit card protection nor the actual trip insurance offered when booking flights covers this situation.

            4. Emily*

              Travel insurance often does not cover epidemics. I would know because I just tried. Perhaps we could all offer a little more grace to people in a tough spot here.

            5. Hiring Mgr*

              Your husband’s company is asking people to quarantine themselves even just when traveling within the US? (Not sure what traveling outside their geo region means..)

              Maybe I’ve not been paying close attention, but is that common?

              1. Lucie*

                I’ve heard of a couple large companies who already have tons of infrastructure and ability to telework doing this, but that’s it from our side. People are still traveling in the US for normal work from my office as well as our suppliers / customers. My Japanese counterparts all seem to be doing so in Japan as well, so I can’t imagine them doing anything for us here until it happens in Japan.

            6. Brett*

              “Two words: travel insurance”
              Since I just went through the exact situation the LW describes, I also know that most travel insurance will not consider this a covered incident because the cancellation was caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

              1. Marketing Queen*

                Usually you can pay an additional premium to upgrade the travel insurance rider to include cancellation for anything, not just the handful of things normal travel insurance covers.

                1. Brett*

                  It’s not a matter of whether or not corornavirus is covered. The policy I fell under did cover it, up until february 22nd. The problem is that once it passed into a certain status (I think it was a WHO declared epidemic?), the insurance no longer covered it even if it was otherwise a coverable event.

              2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

                I think for travel insurance to cover it, the government would have to be involved (for example, if the government of Milan ordered all hotels closed, or the US forbid travel to Italy).

                1. Misty*

                  Not necessarily. It is entirely depending on the policy.

                  There are cancel for any reason policies. There are policies that require a legitimate reason and those might say that Coronavirus isn’t enough.

                  Most travel insurance seems to be paying if the destination is China, South Korea, Japan, or Italy irrespective of the type of policy.

                  Just what I could glean from google.

            7. Artemesia*

              travel insurance does not cover losses related to the pandemic; I know this as I have a trip scheduled for April/May and if I don’t go, I have to eat the considerable loss. The only travel insurance that would cover this would be ‘cancel for any reason’ taken out before mid January. This is very expensive stuff.

              epidemics like natural disasters are excluded from coverage in virtually all policies.

              1. IEanon*

                Even policies that do cover natural disaster/political upheaval (like the ones purchased for students abroad) do not cover pandemics. Ask me how I know…

      2. Mary*

        I agree with this. Our company cancelled travel as well and I had 2 staff members due to go on a planned work trip with an added on personal holiday. Our company said contact the travel person to cancel, so it would have only been a phone call to change flights to employees expense and allow them to amend dates etc. In this instance my 2 staff decided to cancel personal part of trip too and while our company expressed apologies for the potential loss to the employee there was no offer of reimbursement for any other bookings like hotels etc.

        It is probably the same for the LWs company. The decision to cancel the travel would be separate to the flight cancelling and a phone call from a staff member would probably have allowed the flight transfer. The major difference is it is a major flight and thus expensive. Companies often allow the perk of tagging on personal travel but it does come with the risk that business needs may cancel the business part of the travel at any point.

      3. Malarkey01*

        Agreed, while asking the company to take a hit this time might be possible, I think the result would be to discontinue the perk. A lot of hotel, cars, and tours have more flexible cancellation policies and under the current circumstances they are waiving more.

        I do think the company would also frown on anyone wanting to take the vacation part anyway. If it’s too unsafe for official travel in their opinion they won’t be psyched to voluntarily have people travel (especially when an additional 2 week quarantine is becoming more common for some spots).

        1. Madison*

          Agreed! With the current situation and the need to self quarantine on return, I’d not be supporting people going on vacation where we’ve deemed it too unsafe

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            Hard disagree. There is no need to self quarantine, according to CDC guidelines. The panic is overblown on this one. Read and follow the CDC guidelines. Shutting down the global economy out of paranoia will have a much more disasterous impact, particularly on already marginalized communities.

            1. Moncouer*

              Rationality doesn’t matter. Companies can, and are, doing so.

              Whether or not forced self quarantining is rational, it’s probably legal and already happening.

            2. Aquawoman*

              “Shutting down the global economy” is also overblown if you’re talking about people who can easily work from home working from home.Also, the CDC no longer has a pandemic response team.

              1. Lucie*

                >“Shutting down the global economy” is also overblown if you’re talking about people who can easily work from home working from home.

                The point is that it’s really not though. Like, in the above example a c suite person could go on vacation then self quarantine, where as the Janitor who had been planning a vacation for a year to go to say, Chicago with his family could come back and have to take 2 weeks unpaid off of work. It’s amazingly ineffective for something that had very few issues in many areas. I understand with regards to going to China / Japan / Italy. But not all travel is made equal and if we start imposing this on everyone it’s going to really hurt the working class.

              2. SpaceySteph*

                People who can easily work from home are not that critical to the global economy, except that they buy things. The people who are critical to the global economy are factory workers, food service workers, grocery stockers and checkers, truck drivers etc. All things that have to be done in person in order to move goods throughout the world… can’t buy it if it doesn’t exist or can’t get to you.

              3. Artemesia*

                hundreds of thousands of people in the US will probably lose their jobs in this epidemic and their health insurance with it. It will be an apparently needed lesson in how job based health insurance is a very bad idea. Having costly insurance where seeing a doctor WITH insurance often costs considerable will mean that people sick with mild symptoms of Corona don’t get medical care or get identified will guarantee wider spread of the illness. We are about to see what our model of health care gets us in a crisis.

                1. GeoffreyB*

                  The people on the receiving end of that “lesson” are likely to be the ones who least need to learn it.

      4. Blue Eagle*

        Want to second the idea that if the employees were to expect the company to reimburse them for any paid-in-advance monies lost, the company would probably stop allowing employees to take vacation days on either side of the off-site event in the future. Sorry, but this is one expense that the employees should have to eat. Bummer!

      5. Moncouer*

        It may be reasonable, but not possible.

        Given that this is cancelled b/c of the virus, the position of the company and airline is that it’s not safe for anyone to travel. Saying that LW can travel for personal reasons to a place she couldn’t travel to professional ones won’t be logical.

        If the company’s POV is the area is not safe/the travel is not safe, then it doesn’t matter why LW wants to go.

        Airlines are allowing cancellations with full refunds b/c of the virus. For group travel, they cancel the whole group.

        1. Artemesia*

          Our airline is not allowing it for our European destination yet — they still charge hundreds to cancel. We are waiting 3 weeks to see if that changes. And of course we eat the cost of our two month rental.

    2. ap*

      Right, that’s as fair as the company can be. The company can really only be expected to eat their own business costs. It’s not like they would reimburse you if you had paid for nonrefundable kennel space for your pet or anything else personal associated with your own business travel.

    3. Tram*

      Yes, I found it weird that the company just up and canceled everyone’s FLIGHTS when it apparently is known and accepted that there are enployees who are taking a vacation overseas before/after the conference. Why would a company do it that way?

      1. Mary*

        They might well be able to get the money back. If they’ve booked in bulk through a preferred supplier, one of the perks is likely to be a generous refund policy.

        1. Moncouer*

          Yes, the employee tickets are in bulk and all under the same terms. There will not be an option to cancel some of them but not all if the stated reason is “unsafe to travel.”

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            As a former travel professional – some bulk tickets are bought as a group and can’t be split. Others can be, which would allow individual passengers to be split off and canceled separately. It all depends on the contracts that your supplier has with the airline.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        Because the whole reason they canceled their business trip was to avoid potential exposure to the virus. Vacationing in that location is just as likely to expose the employees as working there.

        1. SD*

          It isn’t just being in that location, it’s traveling to and from. We have a trip booked to England plus a couple of days in Paris in about 3 weeks, and it isn’t England/France that is giving us pause so much as airports/airplanes and public transit. Exposure at Stonehenge is pretty minimal risk while exposure at our local major metropolitan airport, Heathrow, the airport bus, the chunnel, and Charles de Gaulle airport is concerning. I see this trip going away and us losing a chunk of change. We’ve been planning it for months.

          1. londonedit*

            I mean…yes, but millions of us have to use the London Underground (including the line that goes to/from Heathrow) to get to our jobs every day. I don’t think my employer would take kindly to the idea of everyone saying ‘Oh hey we’re not going to come to work because we might get coronavirus on the tube’. Obviously if there’s a major outbreak here then advice may change (although the whole of London would pretty much crumble if you restricted access to public transport so I have no idea how something like that would even begin to work) but at the moment advice is just to keep washing your hands.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              I wonder how employers would handle a situation where public transit was discouraged or even closed down. My city once had a lockdown after a terrorist incident where the whole public transit system was shut down; as far as I know, most employers just shut down completely except for work from home, but I expect there were some unreasonable ones that penalized people.

              1. Mameshiba*

                Here in Japan, many companies in Tokyo have specific leave where you are exempted from work that day if transit is not possible (road is flooded due to typhoon, public transit is shut down, etc).

                In big cities where literally everyone uses the system, companies need to be understanding about this. They have to have emergency supplies now in case people are trapped and have to spend the night.

          2. Anne Elliot*

            I recently cancelled a similar trip not because I was concerned about contracting COVID19 in a country where it hasn’t yet been confirmed, but because of the possibility/likelihood that a case WILL be confirmed there soon (as I think it’s going to be everywhere). So the analysis for me wasn’t “Am I likely to get sick?” as “Am I possibly going to have trouble getting back home and/or have to self-quarantine or quarantine when I get back?” I do not have a “work from home” option (at least not yet) and two weeks stuck in my apartment out of work would be very inconvenient. I decided not to go.

          3. Artemesia*

            I feel your pain. We have a two month trip to Paris that includes taking our 10 year old granddaughter for part of the trip planned for April and May — I am assuming that that trip is toast although we are waiting for 3 more weeks to see how it shakes out to cancel. I think our timing is precisely at the wrong moment i.e. not clear how dangerous it all is and so too risky.

        2. Nita*

          Exactly. As upsetting as this is to the employees, if there’s a risk of exposure it’s the same risk whether the trip is for work or for fun. I don’t see their employer inconveniencing everyone by cancelling the work trip, but then encouraging the employees to buy the plane tickets back and go anyway. There are enough reports of people catching coronavirus from fairly casual contact (work conferences, lunch together etc.) that it’s a real possibility the travelers may bring back an unwanted souvenir. And given this virus’s apparent mode of spreading, they may end up sick/quarantined and missing work/slightly ill but exposing lots of people who may have a much rougher time with the virus than they do. Not worth it for a vacation, maybe. I know vacations can be a big deal, life-changing even, but they’re supposed to be life-changing in good ways…

      3. Moncouer*

        Because it’s a bulk ticket. If the airline or insurance carrier is allowing cancellation b/c of the virus, it completely undermines the argument in favor of the company getting it’s money back to say the virus is dangerous to everyone going for business, but not Bob and Jane who are going for pleasure.

        There is no option for the company to transfer those tickets in this situation.

        I also don’t think there is any option where the employees will be allowed to go on these vacations either, no matter who pays.

        If it’s unsafe to travel to a place b/c of a virus, that safety issue is present irrespective of if that travel is personal or professional.

    4. Moncouer*

      “But the tickets”

      Either all tickets can be cancelled and refunded b/c of the virus or the company isn’t that afraid of it and can’t get any cancelled. Company can’t say they are worried enough about the virus to cancel most of the tickets, but not Bob and Jane’s because they want to go on vacation.

      This is an unusual situation b/c of the virus.

      Also, it’s clear the company doesn’t want anyone traveling to this destination. I suspect that they won’t be happy to enable anyone doing that for pleasure either.

      1. Moncouer*

        If you google “corporate” and “travel ban” in google news, you will see tons of companies banning travel and enforcing self-quarantines.

        Doesn’t matter if this is sane or rational. It’s happening.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Usually the airfare is the part of the expense that’s the least likely to be refundable.

      Though…more hotels and car rental places are offering supposedly low rates in exchange for non-refundability.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        These days, a hotel’s Best Available Rate is highly likely to be nonrefundable/nonchangeable. The industry has shifted over the last ~10 years. It’s always a gamble, because unexpected stuff happens to disrupt travel all the time (not just pandemics – broken bones, family illness or death, job loss), but at the same time, not everybody has an extra couple hundred to throw at a vacation and make it more changeable – or if they do, they’d like to throw that at some fancy dinners or fun tours.

  2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    OP#3, I’d be beside myself if my check was $50 short, much less $500. Your company should have cut a check. Period. It’s ridiculous they didn’t. Please don’t feel bad about tearing up.!

    1. PNW Dweller*

      Depending on what state you live in, not correcting the shortage immediately could be out of compliance with state law. In the spirit of employee relations, it definitely doesn’t promote a honoring culture. I would definitely be crying. I went to a conference and there was a problem causing an issue that my employer was going to fix even though they didn’t have anything to do with the mistake.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        This right here. Always be aware of your state laws re: wages, just in case.

        Not that it necessarily matters, if the company is a trash fire. I’ve worked for a few places that paid late and pretty much just told us to deal with it because it would take longer to sue them than it would to wait patiently for our checks while continuing to work (possibly unpaid? was the company broke? we didn’t know). Plus we’d get a double-check next time so really we should be thanking them for the bonus. (Yeah it didn’t make sense to me either.)

        1. valentine*

          If OP3 didn’t push back on the solution and it happens again, they should request a check when reporting the shortage. And even after crying, it would have made sense to go back and say, “On second thought, with the holidays, that doesn’t work for me.”

        2. Allypopx*

          I recently found out that my company used to pay hourly nonexempt employees monthly. SUPER illegal in my state. It’s not the policy anymore but yikes on bikes some places just do not care what’s legal.

      2. Just Another Manic Millie*

        “Depending on what state you live in, not correcting the shortage immediately could be out of compliance with state law.”

        Wow, I never thought of that when it happened to me. It was when I worked for a stockbroker in New York City in 1985. I don’t know if direct deposit existed back then. It wasn’t offered to us. The first Monday that I worked there was spent at HQ for orientation, getting fingerprinted, getting a physical, giving a urine sample, etc. We were told that we would be paid every two weeks, and that the checks would be dated Friday but would be handed out on Thursday (so that we could deposit them on Friday morning before work if we wanted to). We were told that this coming Thursday/Friday would be a payday and that we would all get put on the payroll promptly and would be given paychecks on Thursday.

        But on Thursday, there wasn’t a check for me. The branch manager said that he would give me an “estimated check” on Friday. That sounded okay, but he didn’t give me the check until 4:50 PM, so I had to wait until Monday morning before work before I could deposit it. At that time, banks tended to close at 3:00 PM and were not open on the weekend.

        Two weeks later, on Thursday, again there wasn’t a check for me. I was very annoyed. And when the branch manager told me that it takes at least one month to get put on the payroll, I got angry and said that it wasn’t true, because at orientation, we were told that we would get paychecks the following Thursday, which was two weeks ago. And that didn’t happen! He said that he would give me another “estimated check,” and I said okay, but I wanted it immediately. He said that he couldn’t give it to me that day, because it would be dated the following day. I insisted that he give it to me immediately. I told him that two weeks ago, when he gave me the check, he gave it to me at 4:50 PM, so that I had to wait until Monday to deposit it. He acknowledged it and said that it was a mistake. I said that if he gave me my check on Friday at 4:50 PM, I wouldn’t be able to deposit it until Tuesday, because Monday was going to be Labor Day. I said that I wanted the check NOW. He kept saying that he couldn’t give me a check on Thursday that was dated Friday, even though we were given paychecks on Thursday that were dated Friday, and even though I promised that I would wait until Friday to deposit it. The only reason he eventually gave me the check on Thursday was that I lost my temper. (But I didn’t cry.) If I had stayed calm, cool, and collected, who knows what time I would have gotten the check on Friday.

        Two weeks later, there was an enormous paycheck for me. It appeared that the branch manager had never notified the Payroll Dept. that he had given me two checks, and the brand new paycheck included the correct amount for the past two weeks, plus the correct amount for the two weeks before that, plus the correct amount for the week before that. It was finally decided that I should deposit the check, and the extra amount would be deducted from future paychecks.

        OP, please don’t feel bad about crying. If I hadn’t succeeded in getting that estimated check issued before Labor Day given to me on Thursday, I would have cried, too.

    2. Aphrodite*

      I agree. I find it outrageous they didn’t immediately cut you a second check for the amount but actually made you wait for two weeks to get it? What a rotten company.

      1. Emily S*

        Right, I would have said, “Well, if you really need a two-week loan from me, let’s discuss a fair interest rate.”

      2. Kyrielle*

        Seriously. At a previous job, we once had a mistake that caused a number of checks to be short on a Friday – and timing meant that the replacement checks/deposits (which were all done through a service, I think?) couldn’t be gotten to people until the following Monday.

        They apologized deeply, and they also asked that anyone who ended up out fees of any sort such as overdraft fees because of this issue file expense reports and those would be reimbursed.

        (The finance person had left, a temp was doing the finance work, and for more fun, this affected everyone who was supposed to get a *bonus* for a specific thing in that cycle – the temp changed their pay rate to the bonus, which was not generous enough to equal a pay period’s worth of pay, as you might imagine.)

        1. Artemesia*

          I have a friend who got paid an extra $1500 by mistake; she immediately notified the company and sent a check for $1500 which they cashed. They then proceeded to withdraw $1500 from her checking account which caused her checks to bounce all over town. It turns out if you have direct deposit, they can just reach into your account and take the money back. This incident had me insisting on paper checks each month for years.

          1. Valprehension*

            This… doesn’t match up with my understanding of direct deposit. I generally fill out an entirely different bank form to allow people to make withdrawals from my account. Simply having the account number shouldn’t have that affect!

            I super hope that there was a misunderstanding here and they actually just double-dipped by withholding $1500 from the next paycheque (still a crappy error, but less completely terrifying!)

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Actually most companies can. We you sign up for direct deposit, the form usually has a line that states “,,,if funds are deposited in error, XXXX company can remove the erroneous funds…” or something like that.

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        A lot of companies aren’t cutting paper checks any more. I had this happen, and asked for a direct deposit, and when they said that wasn’t doable, asked for a check. They said they do not cut checks anymore, they just issue paycards.

        Of course the paycard isn’t very useful if you have a checking account: they’re optimized to work like a debit card with crazy fees and depositing it into your bank account confuses the bank and the paycard company. It took me about 90 minutes to iron it out and get my pay off of it.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          I think they might have fibbed to you! I don’t see any reason that they couldn’t do a special payroll with direct deposit, besides wanting to avoid the fee. I think our fee is like $40 for a special payroll, but that probably differs widely based on payroll services, agreements, etc. We’ve had to do it when there was a payroll error or a timesheet submitted late; it’s our responsibility to make it right. I also find it wildly unbelieveable that they were not able to cut a check, even if it’s not normal process, to fix their own mistake.

          1. Ashloo*

            Yeah, there are definitely ways to do this. My client (I’m an independent contractor) made a mistake with payroll and immediately wired money into my account – plus the fee my bank charged for the action ($10 on my end). It can be done and they should take the hit on fees.

          2. TardyTardis*

            I had to stomp my feet and turn blue to get payroll to fix their error on my departing vacation pay when I took early retirement–a good thing that I knew who to email from home!

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Those paycards are a scam! My state UI comes on those, and I had to go in to the bank (which I had left because of gouging) and make them automatically deposit the money from the high fee, useless paycard into my actual checking account.

          Most of the paycard companies don’t want you to know they can do this – they want to bilk the people who get them, usually low income people, out of the really high transaction fees they charge. Yes, these bloodsuckers charge high fees to those who can least afford it. It’s not a “convenience” for their workers, although they try to pitch it that way, it’s a cash cow for the bank, and probably a kickback to whoever set up the arrangement.

          They infuriate me.

          If your employer tries to pay you with a bloodsucking paycard, push either them or the bank until you get it rolled over immediately (and with no fee) to your checking account. Get nasty if you have to, but don’t let them stick you with that garbage.

        3. TurtleIScream*

          When I used to run payroll, it was outsourced, and getting a new check (or direct deposit) processed timely was complicated. But, we could easily cut a check as a vendor/reimbursement, and the payroll company had an option for “informational” payroll we could include in the next cycle (which would track taxes, PTO, etc.). It was extra work for sure, but doable, and kind of necessary for correcting pay shortages like that.

          1. Aitch Arr*

            This was my experience as well, back in the mid-00s, working with Ay Dee Pee as our payroll provider.

      4. TootsNYC*

        If payroll is outsourced, it may be very heavily procedural, and there may be a lot of difficulties.
        I’ve had an otherwise reasonable employer balk at an out-of-procedure paycheck.
        “We’ll do it if she’s going to be evicted because she can’t pay her rent, but otherwise, we want her to wait until the next cycle.”

        1. Leisel*

          We use a payroll company and they’ve made minor mistakes before. Luckily nothing to the tune of $500, but usually when that happens our company offers to write a check that day for the difference. It’s never been a big enough issue that I couldn’t wait for them to send it to the payroll company and wait for the direct deposit (therefor saving our controller the trouble of writing a check and being reimbursed). I do appreciate that our company is willing to be flexible so we’re not the ones who suffer in the situation.

        2. Observer*

          Well, the answer to that is that it’s not up to the employer to decide what’s “urgent”. And if the employer is the one who messed up that should be top of mind.

    3. Massmatt*

      This happened to me at a new job, my first paycheck was for only 1% of the amount it should have been. It was really bad timing for me too, I had been out of work for a couple of months previously so I needed the money.

      Fortunately, the company cut me a check that day and paid for a cab for me to come get it, which was nice. I didn’t cry but probably would have gone nuts if I’d been told to wait 2 weeks for it to be rectified.

      As a manager I have always made sure payroll issues get fixed ASAP. You can’t mess with someone’s pay, that is a hill I will die on.

      Major side-eye to your company for acting so casually about fixing their mistake. Yes maybe getting a special payment processed is a hassle but it’s really not optional IMO.

      1. WS*

        +1. I’m responsible for payments and occasionally I have made an error, or there has been a processing error earlier. That has to be fixed ASAP – and I mean within minutes of verifying the problem. Not two weeks, not two days. (OTOH, when the mistake has gone the other way, I’m happy to take it out of next week’s pay rather than make the employee pay it back!)

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          Yes, this completely. I have never actually been responsible for payments themselves but have during the course of my stint in HR been responsible for giving payment / perks info to payroll, and of course have made various mistakes along the way. The very moment ANY financial mistake, regardless of actual dollar amount, is realised, there is the very fastest restitution (plus explanation and apology) that is humanly possible. It only ever happened once or twice, and was generally things like not including a car allowance by mistake, rather than shorting an actual salary payment, but even so, it was serious and I remember the occasions many years later. My manager took this extremely seriously and had it happened again, it would have been a formal written warning. You never mess with people’s money and if a genuine error occurs, you instantly rectify it.

          Losing a substantial amount (yes, $500 is VERY SUBSTANTIAL) with airy ”soz, we’ll hand it over in a couple of weeks m’kay” is seriously not on and I’m not surprised at your stress and anxiety. They should feel awful, not you.

        2. Avasarala*

          So true, this needs to be taken very seriously and fixed ASAP. You’re basically giving the employer an interest-free loan on your labor. Payroll is important.

        3. Hamburke*

          I’m also responsible for payroll. Errors happen occasionally and I always fix them as soon as verified as well, sometimes on my day off. Our policy is to ask the affected employee if they prefer that we cut a check immediately or to correct it on the following paycheck. It’s 50/50.

          OP it wouldn’t have been out of line to request a check that day.

      2. Oh_oh*

        Yeah, I worked for a company where an HR temp messed up payroll all summer, but, he always cut us a check on pay day when he screwed it up.

      3. Spreadsheets and Books*

        A similar payroll snafu happened to me once, too. Payroll tried to tell me that the routing number associated with my account was no longer valid (the same one they had been using successfully for over a year). Then they tried to tell me it was probably because my bank was bought out and I should call them to get a new routing number.

        I bank with Chase. Pretty sure it would have been national news if Chase had been purchased by someone else.

        It turned out to be a mistake on their end. They put my direct deposit through again and I had it within hours. There is absolutely no reason OP#3 should have had to wait two weeks.

      4. LabTechNoMore*

        I’ve had my employer act casually about withholding my paycheck for over a month – actually, not so much casually, as angrily. Apparently, firmly asking when I’m going to be paid meant that I was the problem. (Not even demanding they cut a check after not getting paid for a month, just trying to getting an actual pay date.) And, since they were a state employer, many of the paydate laws on the books didn’t apply to them. Years later I found out the suprise-no-pay! paydate was a really common situation for certain classes of employees. And talking to HR about this, they never understood the problem.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          That sucks. I would be dropping a note to whatever politician represented me telling them what kind of shenanigans were happening with government employee pay, and ask that they help update the laws for the 21 century. Messing with people’s pay, no matter who they work for or what kind of job they do, is definitely NOT okay, and it a serious sign of major institutional dysfunction.

        2. TardyTardis*

          I ended up being fired after asking for a check stub from a place (which went out of business about six months later–guess what, the boss’s daughter was kept on, though I knew a lot more about her than her dad did). I found out later that the appropriate taxes had been paid, and boy was I surprised.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        As a manager I have always made sure payroll issues get fixed ASAP. You can’t mess with someone’s pay, that is a hill I will die on.

        YES. Thank goodness our finance department is typically on top of things, but we had some transition in the department a few years ago that messed up A LOT of paychecks, and, in one case, took nearly two months to sort out (first underpaid, then overpaid, then there was something else). I had a LONG talk with the payroll supervisor about it and the fact that we were going to lose good people if they could not be trusted to get the checks right. That’s sort of why people come here everyday.

    4. Bowserkitty*

      Same here!

      Shoot, when I first started at a popular testing company, temp workers were not eligible for direct deposit and my paycheck had to be mailed to me. It was set to arrive the same day as a direct deposit would have but multiple times got lost in the mail! (One time it showed up five days later, completely crumpled.) I was always so furious when it happened because of their stupid temp worker policy and looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t cry at work. I would have bills immediately due and contacting them to explain was such a point of stress for me.

      OP, did they eventually cut you a check or did they actually add it to the next paycheck? That’s just so long to wait, and so much money.
      (I can say that after a lot of teeth-pulling by my supervisor, Finance DID relent and let me do Direct Deposit after the third lost paycheck!)

    5. Lionheart26*

      Ugh I’m shuddering remembering the time that I didn’t get paid for 2 months and couldn’t get payroll to take me seriously.
      I was on summer vacation when my first pay check didn’t go through. The office was basically shut down for the summer, so I couldnt contact anyone to help. Eventually we figured out that when the financial year clicked over, the pay roll reverted back to last year’s data, which meant my salary went directly to my estranged ex husband’s bank account.
      Everyone I spoke to all said it wasn’t a big deal and I should just contact my ex and ask him to transfer the money. In the meantime, a second pay check went through the same way as the first. Eventually I contacted his bank and showed enough proof that they agreed to withdraw the funds.
      In retrospect I’m surprised I didn’t break down sobbing in the HR office. I think I was too angry.
      Payroll is a BIG DEAL. OP your company is being too cavalier with a huge responsibility and you shouldn’t feel badly for reacting in a perfectly understandable way to a stressful situation.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Everyone I spoke to all said it wasn’t a big deal and I should just contact my ex and ask him to transfer the money.

        This whole situation makes me livid…in some cases (including yours, possibly) it just is NOT that easy.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            I know that type, there were many where I grew up… They live in a world of denial. It never occurs to them there might be a problem with contacting an ex to transfer money because they’ve never seen or heard of it personally.

          2. Hills to Die on*

            I think I might have absolutely lost my shit. DO THEY EVEN — I just can’t. Gr….

      2. Ego Chamber*

        Wtf your company should have been clawing back that money since 1) there’s a clause in the direct deposit paperwork that allows them to do that if funds are paid in error and 2) it wasn’t your bank account or your mistake. (I’m kind of surprised the bank was able to help you, since they shouldn’t be doing anything if you’re not listed on the account and when I worked for a bank we had to kick these sorts of things back to the payer/company to correct.)

        1. TootsNYC*

          I think they’d actually prefer to claw it back, for auditing reasons, etc.

          You should never involve a third party in a two-party transaction like that.

          If I were the ex, I wouldn’t WANT to take that money out of my account to give it to my former spouse, because I would EXPECT the company to finally figure out what it did, and then they WOULD claw it back. And I’d be short.

      3. Random IT person*

        But, that company was obviously in error.
        And they make YOU responsible for THEIR mistake?

        i`d go offensive – i did not get paid. (the fact they sent the money to a random stranger is not your problem).
        Pay me – correctly – or get sued.

        (of course, you would need to find employment elsewhere after…)

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          Yeah, unless it was completely beyond my means, the next phone call they got would not be from me, but from a lawyer.* Do NOT screw around with MY money, bitches!

          *I don’t mean I’d immediately file suit or anything like that. I’d just gave a lawyer call them to scare the snot AND the cavalier attitude out of them.

      4. DerJungerLudendorff*

        That is a staggering level of apathy from people who should really know better.
        Seriously, have they never even seen a divorce? Are they all so rich that two months of salary is just no biggie?

      5. Gazebo Slayer*

        Plenty of estranged exes would never, ever have paid the money. Your company is crap.

      6. Parenthetically*

        HOLY CRAP, my brain just went BSOD on this whole thing. Just pure rage.

        “OP your company is being too cavalier with a huge responsibility and you shouldn’t feel badly for reacting in a perfectly understandable way to a stressful situation.”

        YES. The entire point of working is that I exchange LABOR for MONEY. If they can’t get their part of this most basic equation correct, they have no business being in business.

      7. Sharbe*

        Oh, this makes my head hurt. So much. They wanted you to ask your ex for your pay? That is horrifying and beyond inappropriate.

      8. Curmudgeon in California*

        WTF? They put the money in a person’s account who wasn’t you, and they just told you to ask for it from them? What were they thinking?

        Anyone who is that sloppy with other people’s pay data needs to be fired.

    6. Rosie*

      I’ve been self-employed for a number of years but recently took a part-time employed job and naively thought I wouldn’t have to worry about getting paid. My first pay cheque was wrong, and I had to convince them I was owed more then wait 2 weeks to get it. Strange how I felt so powerless, but if it was a freelance client I would have been chasing them down straight away!

    7. Allonge*

      This, OMG, I can’t even…

      I am lucky enough that in my current job it may not be a big problem, but I would absolutely be frustrated, angry, sad, anxious… if the company is not willing to rectify it in the moment, the least they can deal with is the victim of the situation getting upset. Especially before Christmas.

    8. Sleve McDichael*

      A lot of people who say ‘Crying at work is unprofessional’ are thinking of loud sobbing or floods of tears and a streaming nose because that’s how they/their friends/their relatives cry. Tearing up is not a problem, so long as you’re not doing it every other week. In fact, I am personally of the opinion that misty eyes are a sign of someone being pretty darn professional since I have no setting between zero and streaming. I’m impressed when people can hold it back so well if there’s something that’s happened that’s drastic enough to make them cry (and suddenly temporarily losing $500 is definitely drastic).

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I think there are three factors to this. There’s the volume/visibility of the crying, the frequency of the crying, and the reason for the crying. An employee who goes into professional mourner levels of crying every other week because they got scheduled for a shift they didn’t want is doing an unprofessional level of crying in the workplace. Somebody whose eyes fill up one time because their employer forgot to give them around half of their salary for the pay period is not doing an unprofessional level of crying. You’re allowed to have human emotions while you’re at your job, and it doesn’t make you a bad employee.

        It would be bad if they shorted you $5 and didn’t rectify it until the next check. When we’re talking about $500, your employer really did behave in a reprehensible way, OP.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        Years and years ago, I read a magazine article that basically stated something like, “If you cry one single tear at work, you’ve BURNED THAT BRIDGE. Forget about ever getting promoted. You’re going to have to leave town and change your name. Nobody will ever forget that single tear.”

        And I was like…really? ROFL. I don’t know what industry they worked in, but the occasional moist eye isn’t going to bother anyone. I think the “crying at work is, like, ermagherd, SO UNPROFESSIONAL” refers to “bursting into loud noisy tears whenever the tiniest thing goes wrong.” Missing $500 from a paycheck and the company not correcting it ON THE SPOT deserves a tear or six, or even that loud noisy sobbing. The company was in the wrong, not you, and being so blase about shorting an employee pay – are they all millionaires there? Do they all have trust funds? – is a huge red flag.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I have to admit I would be crying and yelling. Yes, unprofessional, but if my pay was shorted and they didn’t fix it pronto, everyone living in my house could be screwed. Anyone that actually needed their pay (which is most of us) would be furious, upset, and outraged. No, I wouldn’t go from notification to yelling immediately, I would give them a change to fix it in a timely manner. If they refused, or were cavalier about it, then I’d go from zero to b!tch in short order.

    9. CupcakeCounter*

      Exactly and I know from reading this site, that waiting the additional 2 weeks would be illegal in certain states.
      OP has nothing to be ashamed of – $500 is a lot of money even outside of the holidays. That’s rent or a car payment. It was perfectly within reason for you to respond “That isn’t possible, I will need a payroll check cut today. Thanks.”

      1. KRM*

        When I was a grad student, my program could never remember that I was in another department (but part of their program), so when the financial year flipped they ALWAYS screwed up my paperwork and missed my (once a month) check. Luckily I had a good friend in the office who could catch the error (she wasn’t in charge of the earlier cause of the error but saw all payroll before it went out) so she had them cut me a check the next week–but I’d have to get a loan from my mom for the rent every year. I didn’t want to bring it to the bursars office because I knew several people who had missed checks, got the 80% advance from the bursars, then they never cut the missed check, so instead took 80% of the NEXT check (as in, May was missed. Advance of 80% given. May check never cut, so June check issued at 20%, paying back loan, but original check never paid out!). And they took ALL SUMMER to straighten it out! In conclusion OP, missing your earned $$ is the worst, they should have immediately paid you what you were owed, and crying over it is NOT a bad thing at all.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          This used to happen when my husband was a postdoc. His contract renewed in June, so every June, they’d stop paying him until he complained to HR.

    10. Calina~*

      My company caught their mistake before most of us did on one paycheck and they overnight expressed everyone affected a check for the missing money. (about 10 throughout the whole state)

      I found out mine was affected when the executive director emailed that 1) I was affected and 2) they were super sorry and 3) to expect the check the next day. Anyone close enough to the main office could choose to come get their checks directly on paid company time. I live too far away and overnight express was enough.
      I think this was the best way they could have handled the shortages; seems only right they make it right, immediately.

    11. LW3*

      After me advocating for myself a little more firmly (after I had collected myself) a cheque was cut for me but I had to travel to another location across the city to pick it up at 4:00pm the Friday before the holidays as that was the earliest/only way they could get it to me. It was frustrating but did get figured out. There had been miscommunication between payroll, myself and the admin who handles our area. Initially payroll told me the cheque would cost 100$ to get it cut rather than wait the 2 weeks and that really made me upset. Upon talking to the admin in my area (who had seen be tear up as I tried to explain how important it was that the cheque not wait until after the holiday) she was horrified and rectified it immediately (it was always on the department to pay the fee, not me). I’m in Canada as well – not sure how above board all of this was

      1. CM*

        Good for you for standing up for yourself in a very stressful situation. Your company did not treat you fairly — once they discovered the mistake, they should have rectified it immediately, not put you in the position where you had to figure out a solution that caused you additional stress and inconvenience.

        Also, this: “I was so ashamed that I was in a position where $500 mattered so much”
        I guarantee you at least some of your coworkers are in this same position. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Not everyone has cash reserves, and your financial situation does not reflect on your character!

      2. Properlike*

        Poppycock. There are still messenger services that will pick up from one office and deliver to another. They cost money, but that’s not your problem.

      3. Nanani*

        It’s sketchy AF. You should not have had to explain anything, your pay is your pay.
        You shouldn’t have had to worry about fees – that 100$ cheque is all on them and NOT you.

        Maybe drop a line to your provincial ministry, just to get confirmation and options in case this happens again.

        1. Chinookwind*

          Definitely call up the provincial labour board and ask them for advice. In Alberta, if it raises any flags, they will drop by for an audit and, if this is a one off, then it will be considered taken care of (We had a labour board auditor come in and he was quite reasonable because they know that a complaint can either be maliciously false or completely true). But, if there any other shenanigans happening with payroll, then they will make sure it is taken care of pay is straightened out.

      4. Observer*

        Miscommunication my foot.

        Whoever it was in payroll was trying to cover their you-know-what and tried to shunt off the cost of the error to you.

        But suggesting that YOU pay the cost for THEIR mistake, is TOTALLY not ok.

    12. Lora*

      At first job out of grad school, our Payroll staff were arguably the least competent, most useless oxygen thieves on the face of the earth. It was a major, major public company that you’ve definitely heard of, and they fked up Payroll for everyone, all the time, every. Damn. Week. No apology, the blame was always turned back on you for some random reason du jour: it’s your job to tell them every week how much you’re owed (eve if you’re salaried and it’s the same every week), the hazard pay for working through a federal emergency was mysteriously not approved by the right combination of management even though it was a FEDERAL emergency, not some little local thing and we had a thank-you note from the Bush II administration for our efforts to help (that was fun), they couldn’t figure out how ACH things worked and you were supposed to call your bank and ask to speak to the ACH person about the intricacies of balance transfers, your 25940682456897 emails and voicemails in an attempt to confirm with them were inadequate communication and only in person discussions would be considered appropriate ways to communicate with them, etc. it never ended. At one point a third party audit found they had shorted me $20,000 over the course of two years, and god only knows how much from other people, and they were ordered by the auditors at headquarters to pay it all, immediately, as a lump sum – so that was a fun tax year… Every two weeks was tears of rage at the absolute horribleness of these people and why we continued to employ them at all when clearly a troupe of monkeys with tertiary syphilis could have done the job better.

      I was complaining to a Finance buddy over wine and she explained: Look, these are the lowest people in the Finance hierarchy. People who are actually GOOD at accounting math, go on to auditing and business management. It’s hard to hire good people in accounting who just want to do Payroll – if they’re good and they have any ambition at all, they move upwards and onwards. Anticipate that everywhere you go, this is going to be mediocre at best, and then let yourself be pleasantly surprised when your paycheck is actually correct.

      I’m convinced this is a very American thing though, because whenever my paycheck came from Germany or Switzerland, it was invariably dead-on. I’m told it was once a USSR thing too, to have paychecks show up sporadically and incorrect.

      1. MOAS*

        Uhhh wtaf? Just because your company was sh*t with payroll doesn’t mean all payroll people are incompetent or unambitious.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I regard the problems you had as a failure, not of the lower-level payroll people, but of the higher level finance people.
        That’s shitty management. There should be systems in place to make those things happen properly.

      3. Observer*

        Your finance buddy was flat out wrong. This was totally a management problem.

        Yes, payroll tends to have higher turnover, but that’s totally no excuse for what was going on. It is quite possible to have payroll staff who are careful, accurate and responsible about their jobs.

        This is totally a management failure.

        1. Artemesia*

          anytime there is a systemic failure — it is management. this includes Fergus who never does any work or is hopelessly incompetent at doing the work you need to get your job done — he is in that position and screwing it up because of his poor management. any time there is sexual harassment, failures in payroll, screwups in staffing, vacation conflicts, failures to properly market or enroll students or advertise effective — it is always a management failure.

        2. Pommette!*

          Yes! If you care about paying your employees, you find a way to hire or contract with effective payroll people. It’s doable, and worth the investment.

          As to the finance friend’s take on things… from what I’ve seen, lot of people who go into payroll work don’t have prior formal finance training. They start as clerks and work their way up, getting necessary certifications along the way. Auditing was never a realistic option for them, no matter how talented they might be.

          Even when they come to it with a business or accounting degree under their belt, people who choose payroll often do so because it offers possibilities that auditing and business management don’t (rather than because they can’t hack the latter). It’s a sub-field that gives you more predictable hours and work-loads. And frankly, making sure that people get paid fairly and on time is rewarding, and lets you avoid the confrontations and tensions inherent in the auditing process, and the often morally questionable decisions required by business management.

          I’d finish by mentioning that, compared to other finance/accounting roles, payroll skews female, non-white, and working class. When you see that kind of pattern, it’s probably safe to assume that the people who are there aren’t just there because they are too stupid to be doing something else.

      4. Risha*

        I can remember exactly once in coming up on 22 years of professional life that my paycheck was messed up (everyone was paid one day late due to a snafu by the person submitting payroll that week), and the company was extremely apologetic. The above dysfunction is not something inherent with low paid payroll employees.

      5. Curmudgeon in California*

        WTF? I have been working for 40 years, for dozens of companies both contract and perm, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times my pay has been screwed up. I’ve been hourly and salary, paid weekly, bi-weekly or bi-monthly, but I have seldom had issues. The biggest issue I ever had was when the state changed to those infernal BofA paycards for unemployment, and I had to run around like I was on fire to get that money to where I could use it. But I’ve never been actually shorted. I’ve had employers mis-allocate my HSA for the year when starting a new job, but that worked out okay, it just made Christmas suck.

        Payroll malfeasance should be rare. If the people are incompetent, hire more and have them check each other.

      6. Anon123*

        I understand the the finance hierarchy you describe isn’t applicable to every work place, but you just explained why my MIL is constantly being wined and dined by headhunters and has had such a stellar career. She’s been doing payroll and accounting for years and does not have a college degree. She can’t do any CPA level work and unfortunately doesn’t qualify for higher level management jobs. Instead, she outshines other payroll folks with degrees and minimal experience.

    13. Sharkie*

      Hell I had a whole panic attack when payroll forgot to do payroll the first check of the year. This is a BIG deal and don’t feel bad about crying.

    14. ACDC*

      The first paycheck of 2020 was short $300 for my husband. He immediately went to HR, they looked into it and turns out someone had altered his tax withholdings and that caused the dramatic difference. They allegedly corrected the issue, but it happened again on the 2nd paycheck of 2020. They refused to cut him a check for the difference, under the pretense that he’ll get the money back when he files his 2020 taxes…. more than a year after the mistake was made.

      1. MOAS*

        Oh that happened to us in January too–it was an error from our payroll processor. and my amount was for approx $40, so not a huge deal for me but understandable concern. The CEO of the payroll company sent out an email to all of us, and the amount was credited back to us within days.

      2. TootsNYC*

        well, they CAN’T cut him a check for the difference, because they DID pay him; they just paid into his account at the IRS.

        They -could- figure out how to change his withholding for a month or two so that the cash flow rectifies, and then change it back to whatever it is he wants generally.

    15. MOAS*

      IMO even 5 or $50 is a lot and if anyone tells you $500 is not a lot, tell them to give you $500 on the spot. Condescending jerks.

      When I was in college, I had a minimum wage job. I was supposed to get paid $120 or so because I put in a lot of hours over the 2 week period. Due to a manual error, my paycheck was $12. I cried. I went to the payroll dept and she was apologetic and explained she mixed up my sheet with someone elses (so someone who worked only 2 hours got paid for 15 hours worth). She said it would come in my next check, 2 weeks later. I wasn’t very assertive then, and didn’t think to push back, and luckily I had family to help me out.

      About a year before I started working at my current job, the company I worked for took a month to pay me my paycheck. I was in a desperate situation then so I didn’t push back but she kept saying “oh I’m sick/the payroll company won’t issue it until next period” etc. Eventually this and other things led to an issue with Dept of Labor but by that time I had already began my current job. Thankfully things worked out in my favor.

      My current company has never had an issue paying me. 6 years on, and never a missed paycheck but I would definitely push back and demand a check right now.

    16. Chinookwind*

      Not only should they have cut you a cheque ASAP, but there is no valid excuse not to. Take it out of petty cash if they have to.

      Everybody thinks of government as slow moving and the military twice as bad when it comes to bureaucracy. But, even they were able to cut my DH a cheque at 3:30 pm on the last day of the month when his pay was incorrectly zeroed and we lucked out in discovering it the day before pay was to be direct deposited. The sergeant not only got a cheque cut within 20 minutes, but also an official letter (with appropriate signatures and contact information) to give to the bank to release the entire amount immediately as there is usually a hold on cheques that there isn’t on direct deposit.

      To this day, that woman is my role model on how you deal with payroll hiccups as she kept us from bouncing our first rent cheque in that city.

      1. Chinookwind*

        On the other end, google “Phoenix payroll Canadian government” and see how angry people can get when their pay is consistently messed up. This is an example of how an organization SHOULD NOT handle it and has other government unions actively working towards not getting their payroll centralized. Honestly, this issue is probably bad enough that people are no longer seeing a civil service job for the Canadian government as a good thing anymore.

        Ditto for the big box store I worked for who’s head office was in New York state and delayed the payroll a day or two due to a snow storm (Which we discovered when we didn’t see our pay in our banks that morning. We honestly thought we had been fired). Considering they had insisted that the stores in Alberta stay open during a storm so bad that the RCMP closed the highways and closing staff had to sleep in the store that night, they got no sympathy and we all refused to open the store until we had proof that our pay had been set up for direct deposit. It was the only time I ever saw a work stoppage organized and approved by local management and it worked. We got proof of our pay stubs via fax and opened the store 10 minutes later than usual (our shifts started an hour before opening).

    17. Observer*

      Definitely ridiculous. And, as noted by others, possibly illegal.

      OP, YOU are not the problem here. Your company is.

  3. jman4l*

    OP5. You can check and see if there are cancellation waivers. I live in China and have had trips to Vietnam and Singapore cancelled and the hotels and airlines worked with me to get full refunds. I have learned the hard way that a refundable hotel/rental car reservation isn’t that much cheaper than a non-refundable one and you can count the price difference as cheap travel insurance.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, and if they paid for any tours or activities, maybe see if they could get a refund or voucher to use at a later time when they could purchase airline tickets more in advance.

    2. Malarkey01*

      Agree- so many companies are waiving cancellation fees (both as a PR for their company and in some cases due to government requirements).

      1. jman4l*

        For hotel and car, non refundable isn’t that much cheaper than refundable. For airline ticket, that isn’t usually the case

  4. Monica*

    The company should pay for travel insurance going forward, knowing people are planning around what they were told by the company.

    1. Willis*

      I think if it’s the employees’ costs related to their vacation portions, it would be up to them to get travel insurance. And even if the company had it to cover the plane ticket costs, I think the cost of new plane tickets would be on the people still wanting to take the vacation and not up to the company to pay for.

      This totally sucks but I don’t think it’s the company’s responsibility to reimburse those costs, especially since the cancellation is not due to a situation of their own making. It seems like a risk you take when planning a vacation…there is some small chance there would be something that could impede it and you have to deal with that. I’ve had it happen with a hurricane before.

      1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Agreed, it’s not on the company to pay for employee’s travel insurance. Plus, can you imagine what a minefield that could be? What if an employee assumed they were completely insured only to discover that their claim is invalid because adventure/sport-related injuries are part of an optional extra package? Or because they didn’t know to disclose a particular medical condition..? Or the medical condition of their spouse..? As long as an employee’s vacation time is 100% their own business, insuring it should also remain 100% their own business.

        I’m also really curious to know how many insurance claims are actually getting paid out for travel cancellations when the destination isn’t a heavily publicised, known high risk zone. This is a major European city.

        1. Anon Same Sitch*

          It looks pretty likely I will have a similar situation, but only a few hundred dollars loss re adding days to a popular travel destination. I am not even going to mention it, but will try to get it back from the provider in the circumstances.

        2. MK*

          I doubt the insurance is paying, unless there is at least a government recommendation to avoid the city. Most European countries have had very few confirmed cases and not much contagion ( in mine, there are 4 cases, 2 who got it in Italy and 2 family members of the first, and 150 people who came into close contact with them didn’t get it).

        3. Ali G*

          Most typical travel insurance isn’t paying for this. Travel insurance only covers you if you or someone in your party gets sick and can’t travel (thus you cancel) or if you get sick while traveling and need medical care.

        4. JHunz*

          FWIW, I contacted my credit card company this weekend about expenses related to a canceled conference. They told me that not only was the travel protection intended only for cases where you or a member of your party is sick or injured and cannot travel, but that epidemic and pandemic situations were specifically disclaimed in the benefit documentation.

          1. Cupcake*

            I checked my credit card’s travel insurance last night. The exclusions list mentioned “disinclination to travel due to a pandemic”.

    2. GeoffreyB*

      I disagree that the company should pay for insurance on employees’ private holidays. That’s effectively providing a financial benefit whose value depends on what kind of holidays the employees are willing/can afford to take. As well as possible inequity (most value to people who can afford to take expensive holidays!) it could also create a fringe-benefit tax liability for employees. (IANA tax lawyer, and laws vary from place to place, but round my end of the world my employer can’t even offer cheap parking without having to consider tax implications.)

      BUT, the employer certainly should be encouraging staff to consider taking out their own insurance against this kind of contingency.

      1. GeoffreyB*

        footnote: my employer does’t let us take ANY vacation time within an international work trip, largely for these reasons of tax liability, though also to discourage people from making unnecessary trips.

        1. rudster*

          The tax issue seems like a week argument, since it’s usually pretty easy to separate. I am a freelancer and occasionally combine tax-deductible travel with non-deductible travel. It’s not that hard to sort out – the part that would be incurred for business anyway is deductible (e.g., getting to the conference location, staying there during the conference), everything beyond that (onward travel/accommodation and expenses for longer than the duration of the business purpose, side excursions) is not. I guess I understand from the company’s standpoint that it adds a layer of complexity to the reimbursement process, but it shouldn’t be that murky legally.

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            Also a freelancer here, and I agree sorting out tax deductible vs non is pretty straightforward, as is a reimbursement process (sort of). How I understood GeoffreyB’s comment about the tax issue though was relating to Fringe Benefits Tax, which, at least in my part of the world, is a WHOLE other bucket of ‘do-we-have-to-go-there’ level complexity. It applies in relation to an employee’s compensation package, and is not as simple as tax deductible vs not. Maybe ok for larger organisations with enough experienced staff to work it out, but fairly prohibitive for many small to medium sized businesses.

            1. GeoffreyB*

              Yeah, I was talking about FBT, not deductibles.

              I work in a large organisation with experienced staff and it’s STILL a headache. I remember a year of interminable discussions about the FBT complications involved with providing free/subsidised car parking for employees.

              Even if I’m on a 24-hour-plus flight to a conference ten time zones away, the FBT issues mean I’m not allowed to arrive more than about 2 days, and preferably 1, before the conference begins. The jetlag is no fun!

          2. GeoffreyB*

            As I said in my previous comment, tax laws vary from place to place, and the situation you describe is NOT how it works where I am. If my work pays for me to go to a conference, and I combine that with significant amounts of private travel (I think more than 25% of the trip duration), then that’s subject to fringe benefits tax. We have to keep travel diaries to document the business/private breakdown of a trip.

    3. Mindy*

      YES to travel insurance! No to the company paying for it.

      If I were the company, I would *highly encourage* employees to get travel insurance for their portion of the trip, and I would clarify up front that the company would not be responsible for any of the employee’s costs if the trip got canceled or the employee couldn’t go, for whatever reason. It’s not just coronavirus… someone could get a new job at a different company, or a promotion at the current company that meant not going on the trip anymore, or a death in the family, or a hurricane at the destination… etc etc.

      I don’t get trip insurance all the time, but I get it if the out-of-pocket trip cost is too much to simply eat, or if I’m traveling somewhere where I couldn’t take land transportation home. The emergency evacuation portion alone is worth it.

      Oh, and if you’re looking for where to purchase it, squaremouth is a great resource for comparison shopping, as well as learning about how it all works.

      1. Anon Same Sitch*

        The only travel insurance that is applicable here is “cancel for any reason” travel insurance, which is quite expensive. Unless there is something specifically applicable here, most travel insurance will not help out with this situation.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          I’ve often found that paying a little more for refundable hotels and flights is way cheaper than “cancel for any reason” travel insurance. I wouldn’t purchase it lightly.

          1. Kasia*

            I was looking at cancel-for-any-reason for a trip I took back in December. The insurance would have cost $200 and would have paid out about $1000 if we had to cancel (every policy I could find would only pay out 50% of incurred costs). For us, it made more sense to self-insure against the risk.

      2. Rexish*

        I’m defo all for travel insurance, but at least here standard travel insurances don’t cover cancellations due to corona virus unless there is an official sttaement from the ministry advicing not to travel (which is only China at the moment). It is possible to purchase an additional insurance that lets you cancel for any reason, but those are then so expensive that you need to consider if they are worth it.

        1. Smithy*

          Being mindful of exactly what traveler’s insurance will and won’t cover – I do wonder if this is a good time for the company just to consider it’s overall policy on personal vacations after meetings, and articulating what they will or won’t cover.

          For lots of people doing this – they may figure that the flight is managed through work, they reserve a hotel where they won’t pay until they arrive or has a relatively low deposit/easy cancellation policy, and then the only other major expense would be the air travel of a partner. With that assumption, the financial risk is fairly low – however for others perhaps traveling with family, renting out a larger home over AirBnb and covering multiple plane tickets – those upfront costs could take a huge leap.

          If the company won’t be stepping in to help with personal vacation if a work trip is canceled – then being more upfront on what the company will or won’t support would be good going forward. You could be having people planning really detailed trips that could involve lots of deposits for tour guides, event tickets, etc. Knowing how many organizations don’t allow tacking on personal vacation to work travel – this could be really beneficial in terms of maintaining this opportunity as a perk that occasionally hits bad luck.

      3. Aquawoman*

        People should think about travel insurance, but rationally. I don’t buy travel insurance because I consciously made the choice to self-insure. Google tells me that 5% of the trip cost is on the low end for travel insurance, and since I’ve taken more than 20 trips without needing to cancel anything, I’ve come out ahead.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t think travel insurance covers “company changed plans on which next week’s hotel reservation were based.” It’s more like if you are too sick to travel.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      The company probably does have travel insurance for their portion but they should not be responsible for travel insurance for an employees personal vacation. The perk isn’t a free vacation, the perk is the ability to fly out early or stay late so the company pays for a round trip ticket either way but the employee gets to pick the dates. Partner/family tickets and all other reservations should have travel insurance purchased by the employee. Even outside a situation such as the coronavirus, lots of things can happen that would impact a trip like this. Huge project that got delayed for whatever reason and now employee has to stay back and finish it, partner/family member or even the employee themselves gets ill and can’t travel, etc…

    6. butters*

      Travel insurance generally does not cover pandemics – I have insurance for an upcoming trip and it basically covers acts of war/terrorism, becoming sick before or during travel, and certain types of common weather events. Insurance that allows you to cancel at any time for any reason is EXPENSIVE and generally not worth it. At the time of booking (a year ago) I was sure I’d be 100% covered for anything but of course a global pandemic was not on my radar at the time. So this is just an unfortunate set of circumstances all around but I have heard that a lot of travel companies are allowing credits for future travel.

    7. Artemesia*

      travel insurance does not cover cancellations due to force majeure — including epidemics unless it is ‘cancel for any reason’ which is very expensive.

  5. Renata Ricotta*

    LW 4, when I send an email that implicitly invites or requests input, I end with something like “looking forward to your thoughts/comments/edits on this.” If comments and questions are possible but not necessary, I end with “let me know if you have any questions.” If they are just remote or unlikely, I say “thanks” or “best” or just my name in closing.

    1. Heidi*

      I also do this, but I guess I don’t really need to. People will respond with questions if they have them whether I’ve invited them to or not. I usually close with “thanks” or “sincerely,” but I’m thinking of shaking things up by throwing “stay gold” into the mix.

    2. Ginger ale for all*

      I used to like Cheers as a sign off but I think I am going to try to make stay gold happen.

            1. Leslie Knope*

              I don’t think my father, the inventor of Toaster Strudel, would be too pleased to hear about this.

      1. Mookie*

        If I had a tombstone, “stay gold” would be in my top three epitaphs* for sure. I will never get over how much I love it.

        *”later tater” currently occupies the top spot

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I think I’d go for “stay frosty.”
          I also like the memetic picture of a tombstone with “it was lit fam” and the other one with “WELL THIS SUCKS.”

    3. Allonge*

      I use let me know if you have any questions if I sent someone a lot of information (think wall of text) – yes, ideally this would not be in an email but it sometimes it is the better option still.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. If I’m answering questions, then they’re invited to ask more. If I want their feedback, I say so.

        One thing though: I wouldn’t use “Hope that makes sense!” I mean, other than seeing no need for an exclamation point there, I’d see that as being either super condescending to the person I’m explaining it to, or super insecure about my ability to explain. Unless I’m explaining something very weird that generally doesn’t make sense, the explanation should make sense, unless one of us is incompetent.

        1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          I was thinking about the rationale for the statement. It does feel a bit like “I’m nervous that I didn’t explain it right” (didn’t think of the condescending angle).

          I’ve been on a campaign of removing “just” and “but” from my day to day writing/conversation unless they are absolutely necessary. “Just” diminishes what you say. “But” completely negates it. I remove “just” and swap “but” for “and”.

          I wonder if you can get similar effect by simply removing the sentence altogether. If they have questions, I’m sure they know they can ask.

    4. Mookie*

      Yes, I’ve found it’s better to customize these under certain conditions. As Alison says, people with questions will plow ahead regardless of the ‘permission’ you give them to do so in your sign-off, but sometimes soliciting questions/comments just looks weird and/or is taken the wrong way. The substance of some e-mails don’t warrant comment and occasionally a normally sensible correspondent will overthink it and feel like they’re missing something in an otherwise straightforward e-mail relating undisputed facts, for example. I worked with somebody who had a tic like this; even though they recognized it as a social and professional faux pas (not to mention a waste of time) they felt compelled to ask a token question when faced with a boilerplate “any questions?” Very exhausting, so we learned never to solicit something we didn’t actually want from her.

      That being said, these are outliers, unless you’re writing to someone who invariably needs to get a word in (‘splainers love an opportunity to ‘splain and critique) or is insecure to a such a degree that suggesting they might be confused about something banal tips them over the edge.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        I had a client that took a similar sign-off the wrong way. I used to end emails and phone calls with something like “If you need anything else, just let me know.” I had one client who took it as an invitation for them to give me something extra to do for them. They replied with something to the effect of “Well, you can do this for me…ok, well then you can do that for me…” The client kept going until they found something else for me to do for them- obviously unnecessary extras. I learned to never use that sign-off with that client again. I still end emails with “If you have any questions, just let me know.” But I agree that’s obvious and people will ask if and when they have them. I like Alison’s suggestions.

    5. Mainely Professional*

      I actually strongly disagreed with Alison’s advice on this one. Rare! But I think she missed a key factor, which is that “Let me know if you have questions” when appended to a completely straightforward email is the kind of softening language that women use in the workplace to their detriment all the time. Her suggestions, especially “Hope this makes sense,” are even worse softening language. “Does that makes sense?” is something women need to eradicate from their vocabulary.

      Men don’t do these things and say these things. When I’m explaining something complex over email I finish with “I’m available to help if there’s anything that needs clarifying.” Otherwise, leave any kind of softening language off your emails! (assuming the LW is a woman.)

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I don’t like this kind of policing of women’s language. Why is politeness bad? Why is the “male” style of speaking and writing always the correct one and the default? Shouldn’t men be pressured to be more polite, rather than women be pressured to be less polite? Aren’t women not taken seriously because of sexism, not because we Do Everything Wrong?

        1. Angelinha*

          I hear you that it shouldn’t be policed, but I agree with Mainely Professional that it makes sense for women in particular to think about the ways we tend to use self-undermining language like “Hope this makes sense.” I also think it comes across differently when typed by a woman than a man. I find myself typing stuff like this constantly, and consciously deleting it before sending it. It’s hard! But I think there’s definitely ways to be polite without undermining ourselves through our language.

          1. MayLou*

            This is an excellent point that really struck a chord with me. I often put “hope that makes sense” on my emails, but that’s disingenuous. If I had any doubt at all about whether it made sense, I wouldn’t send the email. I work very hard to be as clear as possible in my work letters/emails, and there’s no need to introduce doubt or the appearance of doubt where it doesn’t exist. Thanks for making me think about that!

        2. Aquawoman*

          You make a good point, and it carries out of the realm of politeness into other areas. Men often say things like they are definitely sure that those things are right, even when they’re NOT right. That can cause problems. I didn’t read the post as “policing” so much as suggesting thinking about how something comes across, which is always a good idea for communicating. It’s difficult to find the line between reinforcing sexism and adapting to the sexism that IS there. I did also cringe a little when I read “I hope this makes sense,” because that reads as doubt in oneself and one’s communication (to me). “Let me know if you have questions” is polite without being self-apologetic.

        3. fposte*

          I’m inclined to agree (I definitely am not on board with the “it’s terrible to say ‘sorry’ line of thinking.” I would, however, differentiate “Let me know if you have questions” from “Hope this makes sense”–the first is about the recipient, the second is about the message. I will use “Does that make sense?” in conversation after an infodump, but I wouldn’t use it in writing, because I’m supposed to make sure it makes sense.

        4. Traffic_Spiral*

          There’s a difference between politeness and self-deprecation. Politeness is good, adding “but it’s just silly ol’ me saying it, so it’s probably dumb” to your statements isn’t.

        5. Artemesia*

          This is an advice column so ‘policing of tone and self deprecating language women use to weaken their standing in the workplace’ is right in the lane.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I think you’re missing my point. The point is: why are women the ones who should change, not men?

      2. K*

        Hmm, I think it depends on the situation. I can absolutely see situations where this would be softening language, but also situations where you genuinely want to know up front if the person you’re contacting has a question/doesn’t understand what you told them/etc.

      3. CheeryO*

        I don’t know, I work in a technical role, and I see men use those phrases regularly. I think it shows self-awareness to acknowledge that you might not have done a perfect job of explaining nuanced information, and it also gives the person reading an out to ask for clarification.

      4. El_Wray*

        OP here. I’m not a woman in the workplace but I act a lot like one, apparently. Every time I hear a story on the radio that’s like “women say ‘just’ too much” or “women don’t negotiate salaries” or “women don’t take credit when it’s due” I’m like, yup, that’s me.

        “Just” was top of my list in my recent language audit, “let me know” is just next in line.

        1. Mainely Professional*

          Hi OP! I didn’t assume you were a woman, but I do think Alison’s advice isn’t good for a woman, generally. I am a woman (outing myself, darn! On the internet everyone knows you’re a dog!). I do stand by that women shouldn’t do this generally because I always see these as softenings of things that are totally straightforward, things women are telling other people to do, explaining (competently!) to peers/clients/etc.

          As long as you’re otherwise polite, you don’t need to soften either ;)

        2. Mr. Shark*

          I’m right there with you El_Wray.
          I agree that it’s a softening language, and that’s why I use it with particular audiences. It’s one of those things where I may have explained things a few times and apparently they still aren’t getting it, so I’ll add, “If you have any additional questions, let me know.”
          I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We all have to manage office politics, and sometimes having softening language is a good thing, whether you’re male or female.

      5. Quill*

        To be honest, as a lady working in a department of pretty much all ladies, I see no functional difference between “let me know if you have questions” and “I’m available to help if anything needs clarifying,” on an email that might need feedback.

        Except, you know, that one is stigmatized because it’s something women are known to do. If women overall started copying your line they’d be perceived by some as not direct enough (“if there’s anything?”)

        Just like when a profession that was historically mostly male switches over to being mostly female (see teaching) it experiences an industry-wide pay cut, and when a profession that was historically female switches over to mostly male (programming, a lot of business mathematics prior to computers) it comes with an industry wide pay bump.

        The language isn’t the problem, the assumption that women are sabotaging themselves, rather than society devaluing them, is.

        I’ll leave the tangent here and rest on the assumption that LW knows the norms of their professional environment well enough to judge if their communication is out of sync with the rest of their team.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          “The language isn’t the problem, the assumption that women are sabotaging themselves, rather than society devaluing them, is.”

          EXACTLY. It’s the same kind of blame-shifting crap as “women are just paid less because they don’t negotiate.”

      6. Twenty Points for the Copier*

        Hmm, I use “Let me know if you have any questions” as a signoff for pretty much every email. Though the bulk of my job involves explaining complicated matters to people who are specifically paying me to help them understand those things. I am a woman, but I also have a tendency to go way over people’s heads and want to make it clear that follow up questions, requests for further simplification, etc. are very welcome.

        I agree that “Hope this makes sense” is WAY too much softening language in most cases, though.

        1. Clisby*

          “Let me know if you have questions” seems like an entirely non-gendered phrase, based on my work experience I’m kind of surprised some commenters are seeing this as a woman’s comment, rather than anyone’s comment.

        2. emmelemm*

          Same, and same on a lot of my job means I’m trying to explain something complicated. So, “let me know if you have any questions” is sincerely the best thing to say.

      7. fhqwhgads*

        I get where you’re coming from but I think there are many contexts where the nature of the job – and thus the nature of the bulk of one’s emails – would inherently involve a lot of “let me know if you have any questions”ing, that have nothing to do with gender or softening language. For example, customer service or support roles will have a much higher proportion of “client asks staff to explain A Thing” – > “staff explains That Thing” correspondence. It’s the nature of that beast that one is expected to be welcoming to further inquiry and clarification. Hell, I’ve worked helpdesks where it was required to sign off with “let me know if you have any questions”. Maybe I’m coming at this particular letter too hard from a “take LW at their word” standpoint, but my knee jerk reaction was OP knows if OP is in a position where it’s applicable and appropriate to sign off this way, but wants to not sound like a robot.

        Which I guess is a long way of saying, while there is merit to the discussion of the issue of women using too much softening language, I strongly disagree with the idea that if you’re a woman try to make the habit of leaving it off entirely. If LW is in a position that very normally entails use of this type of sign off, I think the variations Alison provided are applicable.

    6. El_Wray*

      OP here, I like “looking forward to” a lot. I guess one thing I wasn’t clear about was that I use LMK in other contexts, like “lmk what works with your schedule”, etc. So I was looking for a basket of phrases that kind of mean the same thing so I could rotate them out.

      1. Super Duper*

        I use a lot of “let me know” too so I try to vary it when I can. Other phrases include: I hope this is helpful, please feel free to reach out with any questions, looking forward to working with you/continuing to work together. I work with clients so I like to end on a positive, helpful note. If no closing line seems right. I’ll just put “Thanks!” and my name.

      2. MoopySwarpet*

        Feel free to reach out [by preferred method(s) if desired] with additional questions at any time.

        I’m available any day next week between 1 and 3. Please send a couple days/times that will work for you and I’ll put you on my calendar.

    7. Stormy Weather*

      I’m a project manager and I almost always have some variation of ‘let me know if you have questions,’ or ‘I look forward to your input’ in my emails. I can’t imagine anyone minding this.

    8. Hills to Die On*

      ‘Please let me know if you have anything further.’
      ‘Please let me know if you have any feedback.’
      ‘Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.’

  6. Phil*

    #4 For what it’s worth, I get self conscious when I notice I sign off all my emails with “Thanks, Phil.” Especially when I’m actually answering someone else’s question. But usually I just shrug and hit send anyway.

    1. Viette*

      “Thanks” and “sincerely” are definitely in the rotation for me and they both can feel kind of stilted and not quite right, but as commenters on this site have discussed before, every sign-off has its proponents and detractors. I have a fair number of colleagues who just write their name and nothing else as the sign-off for internal or otherwise informal emails and it’s never looked rude or awkward. It’s their name. The email is over. It’s all good.

      I wholly endorse shrugging and sending it anyway, and (to the OP) doing away with “let me know if you have any questions” if you’re tired of writing it or it feels weird in the email. Really, I think the sign-off is not super important as long as the body of the email is polite, useful, and clear. If you seem reasonable and pleasant in your email text, I expect most people will feel comfortable replying with questions if they do have them.

      1. MayLou*

        I agree, to the point that my email signature includes “Best wishes, Maylou”. I’d never even think twice about receiving emails with a repetitive sign off, it seems so standard. There are a fairly limited number of ways to say “thanks for reading my email, it’s finished now, bye”.

        1. Tuppence*

          I think I might start signing off with “Thanks for reading my email, it’s finished now, bye” :)

    2. Tben*

      This sort of reminds me of a campground my parents stay at regularly. All notes hung around the grounds by the owner of the park are signed “Love, Dave.”

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Haha! Reminds me of my former colleague who’s tarts all of her emails, no matter how informal with “Dear Dave.” As in “Dear Dave, Can you let me know where I can find file XYZ?” Or “Dear Dave, Can we set aside some time on Tuesday to go over the TPS report?” I know there was a previous AAM letter about this. Nothing wrong with “Dear So-and-So” per se, but it sounded odd when the email was something quick and informal like that.

    3. Mookie*

      I’m convinced the reason why I also experience anxiety over this is because it’s an easier difficult level of anxiety than stressing out about the entire e-mail. So, I hear you on this. Definitely still re-live with cringe a few bad sign-offs from my earlier years.

      1. A reader*

        Yeah, I used to sign off with Cheers in my younger days, but not any more.

        But just think of it this way: Can you remember your colleagues’ sign offs without looking at their emails? I sure can’t! Unless it’s something unique, I am not going to remember.

    4. Phil*

      On a similar note, am I the only one who reads emails where they just open with the person’s name, like, “Phil” instead of “Hi Phil” and think they just sound really pissed off about whatever they’re about to say to you in the email?

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        I read it that way too. Most of the time it’s probably nothing, just the way they start all emails, but I think it’s better to open with “Hi Phil,” etc.

        1. Phil*

          I had one from my dad recently, who I have a great relationship with, but as soon as I saw him open with that, I was like, “oh no, what have I done?” :P

          1. Constance Lloyd*

            My dad starts TEXTS like that, and signs them all “Love, Dad” which naturally prefaces the automatic signature he has set for every text he sends, with his full name and job title. It is the most endearing quirk.

            1. Leslie Knope*

              A friend and I were just having this conversation yesterday! She was laughing because her father has starting signing his texts, “Love, Dad.” She said he started doing it like a month ago and it’s been weird.

      2. NeonFireworks*

        My boss does this and back in the day several of us kept thinking we must have been in trouble. I think it’s just a generational difference in which one is the most neutral baseline (becoming ‘hi’?). Gretchen McCulloch talks about ‘dear’ falling out of use because it sounds not just formal but downright affectionate to younger folks.

        1. Phil*

          The weird thing is, I probably wouldn’t think anything of it if someone left a handwritten note on my desk that just started “Phil.”

      3. ampersand*

        Yes! I immediately bristle at it, even though I know it’s fine. I think some people start emails that way because it’s faster–the directors at my previous job did this, and it read to me as if they were in a hurry to send an email and couldn’t be bothered with typing out hi, hello, hey, or anything else like it (also: what’s the appropriate salutation to your employees when you’re a director…? I always thought this played into it; like they couldn’t quite figure that out so just dropped the greeting altogether). On the other hand: starting an email with ‘Hello’ sounds overly formal to me. There’s no winning! :)

        1. Mr. Shark*

          That’s sort of interesting. If I know someone and I am going to ask them something or ask a question, I might preface my e-mail with a “Hi ampersand,” because I want to tell them hi as the beginning of a conversation. But if I’m replying to a group e-mail with a lot of people on it, and want to speak to one person, I’ll just simply say, “ampersand,” and then write the e-mail.

      4. Elitist Semicolon*

        I am always convinced that I’m about to receive a stern talking-to when I see an email addressed only to my first name. The flip side was a former director who had “HI” built into his email template so that all his messages started like that – even the ones he sent to the entire department to announce the death of a colleague or former colleague. Bad news shouldn’t be prefaced with “HI.”

      5. LQ*

        I rarely open with anything at all, so looping back to add in a “Phil-” is like, oh this is one degree more formal, and then “Hi Phil,” feels like 6 degrees more formal to me.

        It’s odd because I can absolutely see how LQ- reads as sharper, but in my head, it’s just lazier. I read a bunch of stuff about starting with someone’s name because it’s warmer, but then if it’s not Hi Name, then it’s not and oooof this is all horrible and I’ll go back to being lazily cold. But I do Thanks! with a slammer to try to counter act that.

        Email’s are weirdly fraught.

    5. Emily S*

      Honestly when these discussions come up I always feel low-key rude in retrospect because I generally don’t sign off with anything. My company has standard signatures with our title and contact info, which is appended to any new email I start, but if I’m replying to a message my email program doesn’t insert the signature, and it literally never even occurs to me that I should be signing emails with anything until from time to time I see a discussion like this come up. I just write what I need to write and then hit send! They can see my name in the sender field, so signing off feels superfluous.

      1. Teach*

        We just had a very stern email from the head of my graduate program that all emails from students must have an appropriate salutation and closing or they would be considered gravely unprofessional. So I am now starting every email to prof/advisor/dept head with “Good (insert time of day),” and ending with “Warmly, Teach.” The eye rolls are silent.

        1. Allonge*

          Eh, I can see how it is annoying but OTOH expecting students to learn how to write a professional email (I worked in several organisations where it’s Dear X and Best regards every time) is not a bad idea. Don’t we always complain how universities don’t teach life skills?

          One of the things to learn is that you may not be able to email like you text with your friends. And a lot of academics in my circles don’t really appreciate a Hi Sue (or zero salutation) from a student instead of a Dear Professor X. And they definitely don’t appreciate a no sign-off email when the email address does not obviously point at a specific student! ‘Can I miss your Tuesday class? Thanks!’ from everhappy1534@gmail is not very informative.

  7. Gaia*

    $500 is a lot of money to suddenly not have available to someone’s budget! There is a not insignificant portion of this country for which that could have devestating effects (including housing instability) even if it is “only” delayed two weeks.

    OP, you have nothing to be ashamed for. The company that thought it was okay to make you wait two weeks to correct their massive error, however, has some soul searching to do in my opinion!

    1. Psykins*

      I’m not surprised. I’ve had so many issues with my benefits (complicated tuition remission payments) and the solution is always something unhelpful like ‘slowly pay you back over the course of 7 checks’ or ‘just take out all the tax for the whole semester now.’ like, my landlord isnt going to delay my rent due date because you screwed up my check…

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      And even if you’re one of the privileged percentage who’s relatively financially stable, this sort of thing can always happen in that month that your computer died or you had to fly home last minute to take care of a sick relative or whatever.

      1. Leisel*

        Yep, like when someone made a mistake with my direct deposit at the same time I had to pay for a major repair on my car. Luckily I had put the repair on a credit card to get the points, but I was on edge getting the paycheck corrected so I could pay off the card and not get hit with the interest! The interest was a whole lot, but it still would have ended up being a cost to me for someone else’s mistake. It was bad timing for a mistake.

  8. GeoffreyB*

    #1: part of being a manager is the potential to be involved in disciplining and/or firing an employee, perhaps not for any fault of their own. Those processes are bad enough already, but between siblings it’s likely to be far more than usually painful.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, it kind of seemed like LW was thinking they and their sister could prove impartiality or try to show only their professional sides to one another at work. But that’s not really a fun experiment for everyone else at the company, most especially other folks managed by LW’s sister. It’s weird the company still did the interview.

      1. CastIrony*

        That can only be done if they were to be peers, in my experience. I have worked with my sister before, and it only works out because we expect each other to work hard and be professional.

        1. TiffIf*

          We had three brothers in our department once upon a time–they were all on separate teams and none of them had any supervision of the others. We had two other brothers in the same department–again they were placed on separate teams. Right now we have two guys who are cousins–again on a different team. There were never any problems.

          You can’t work under a family member in most companies–and even in family run businesses it can be tricky!

          1. Hömma*

            But if you have 3 brothers as peers, that is only fine as long as you don’t want to / have to rethink leadersHip positions in their department. As soon as you have a free team lead position, you have a problem – you can’t just think about Bob, Rob and Jock for those positions, you need to remember who is related to whom and who cannot manage whom. Not great unless you never promote people.

            1. fposte*

              And you have to prepare for the possibility that if you need to fire Bob, you might also lose Rob and Jock.

          2. Pomona Sprout*

            “You can’t work under a family member in most companies”

            Yes, and for good reason.

            Personally, the idea of managing OR being managed by a close relative gives me the heebiejeebies. There are soooooo many ways that can go wrong!

      2. Batgirl*

        Yes exactly! I think it’s a much easier experiment to trust in when you’re in the driving seat: “I’ll just hold myself to a higher standard and of course I won’t need to be fired which would put sis in an awkward spot etc, etc”
        For everyone else the train of thought is “I hold myself to a higher standard without being related to someone or getting extra time with the boss outside work or being cushioned from firing”

      3. KimberlyR*

        My husband used to have a manager whose brother worked there as his direct report. Manager was decent but his brother was not and got away with a lot. Plus the brother got put in an unofficial lead position over his peers. The company had a middle management shakeup and both brothers ended up being laid off or terminated. They should’ve never worked together like that.

      4. Sharikacat*

        The company may already be giving the LW the benefit of the doubt and allowing them to show off their professional side by letting them interview at all (or maybe the field of passable candidates is that shallow). If LW can only show off to their sister how professional they are by allowing her to interview them, then they are not professional enough.

    2. Djuna*

      It’s all perspective, the LW feels that she’s being reasonable and that of course everything would be fine if her sister was her manager – but that’s only one side. The company needs to look at the wider picture, not just her, but her sister (the painfulness GeoffreyB mentions), the other people on her sister’s team, and the precedent they’d be setting by hiring siblings as direct reports. It’s messier than LW #1 thinks, and has the potential to be messier still.

      Add me to the list of people who are surprised there even was an interview, but they were definitely right not to have LW’s sister on the interview panel. That was a conscious effort on the company’s part to enforce some sort of separation of personal and professional, which could work in LW’s favor because it was an attempt to ensure some impartiality in hiring.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I realize I’m going full tinfoil hat conspiracy theory here but it kind of sounds like LW1 was scheduled for an interview before the person doing the scheduling clocked the connection. LW1 disclosed it in their application (that’s good!) but I wonder if that was by listing their sister as a referral or by answering a question on the app that specifically asks if you have a family member employed at the company, both of these can be overlooked if the person scheduling isn’t super on top of things.

        It also seems a little strange to me that LW1 said they wanted to use the interview as a way to show their sister how professional they are and that their sister doesn’t know what they’re like at work, so I’m pretty much thinking the sister took herself off the panel for sibling’s interview rather than being asked not to participate (also good! v professional!).

        The only way this situation should ever be rationally considered is if they’re literally the only two hyper-specialized niche specialists on a deadly dire project in an industry where actual lives are at stake and even then I’d put a manager between them.

        1. valentine*

          It also seems a little strange to me that LW1 said they wanted to use the interview as a way to show their sister how professional they are and that their sister doesn’t know what they’re like at work
          This stuck out for me because it means there’s ever less reason to believe they can be models of professionalism. It would be very different if the background were, “We have a common/different surname(s). When we worked together as teens, only management knew we were related.”

          And this:
          when she saw that I had applied, she also declared our relationship.
          We don’t discuss work, ever
          has me thinking the application was an ambush. Why wouldn’t you either get your sister onboard or not apply?

          (If the sister isn’t the source, why does OP1 know when the sister declared and that there three interviewers for every other candidate?)

          1. Krabby*

            Yeah, that stuck out to me as well. If the sister didn’t know LW applied until she saw her name on the interview invite, I bet the sister is doing serious damage control.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          …their sister doesn’t know what they’re like at work…

          I think this is critical. If I were in the management chain here, the only way I would ever even consider having someone report directly to their sibling is if they were able to say “We’ve worked together in the past and we’ve always been able to separate our personal and professional relationships.” Even then, it would still give me a lot of reason for pause.

          I worked with my siblings at our college job, and I know them to be hard working, highly motivated professionals. But I’m still not volunteering to be their supervisor. As their sister, I am uniquely unqualified to see them as objectively as a manager needs to see all of their employees.

          1. DarnTheMan*

            I won’t lie, past experience makes me take anyone who claims they can work together with family/spouses with a major grain of salt. If only because of my last job where the two management level roles were a married couple (not disclosed until after I was hired) and they thought they worked amazingly well together with zero impartiality, when realistically it was just that staff knew not to raise anything to either one of them because we’d either be ignored or be told we were lying.

      2. Facepalm*

        I couldn’t even be near the interview panel when there were openings on my team and people I knew applied. I can’t imagine this scenario. LW 1, unless it’s a family business your family owns, any typical company that would allow a sister to hire her own sister is asking for a straight up disaster. I know you believe you can be impartial, but what about if your parents die and your sister takes the heirloom you always wanted, could you go to work and act like a regular employee would with their unrelated boss? What if you stole her baby name, or one of you has a partner that drunkenly insults the other at family Thanksgiving? There are a million different scenarios in which this could go disastrously wrong, and none in which the company doesn’t end up trying to avoid landmines. Even if the two of you are able to keep things 100000% professional, the optics to other team members are horrible. I am super uncomfortable when bosses become overly friendly with my peers on the team; I’d probably start looking for a transfer if my boss hired in their sibling as a direct report. Are they getting perks I don’t know about? Making more money than me? Getting bigger raises? More advancement potential? It’s not fair to the rest of the team to put them in this position and your sister should know better.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yeah, OP would never really get a fair assessment of their skills at this workplace if their sister is their boss. There would always be people wondering if OP got assigned to that high profile project or business trip in a desirable location because of their skills or because of who their boss is.

      3. EPLawyer*

        LW wanted a chance to show how professional she and her sister could be. The fact she is upset by not getting to show how professional she could be shows … she would not be. By claiming it is “unfair” there wasn’t an interview with her sister shows that she very much cannot separate personal and professional. This is only an interview stage and she reacts this way. Can you imagine if she were hired and the company said “your sister can’t do your performance review.” Or boss above sister has a sit down about her performance instead of sister?

        Someone truly professional would not have even applied for the job. They would know how bad an idea it is. They most certainly would not be mad at the company for not giving her a chance to show off how “professional” sis and she can be at work.

        1. tinybutfierce*

          I had the exact same thoughts. It shouldn’t be surprising that a company wants to remove an immediate family member from the interview/hiring processes; that’s literally the least any reasonable employer should do.

        2. Hills to Die On*

          Yes. It doesn’t sound like the OP is being particularly professional. She sounds entitled, naive, and in need of understanding professional norms before she can begin to show how professional she can be.
          If the OP was thinking she could say something to the company about her ‘unfair’ treatment and/or get another interview, it would really reflect badly on her and possibly also her sister.

    3. Alice's Rabbit*

      Yes! I made the mistake of working with my sister once. It was a horrible idea, and I was actually promoted shortly after she was hired to a position where I had oversight of her. She screwed up, and my boss actually wanted me to be the one to fire her. I couldn’t do it.
      OP 1, please be honest and think about having to sit across a desk from your sister while she disciplined you for a problem at work. Would you really be able to keep it completely professional? And would you be able to leave it all at the office and still have an amicable dinner with her at the family get together the next day? Unless they’re not all that invested in their career (and given the tone of this letter, that’s not you) anyone would have problems with that. And if – heaven forbid – she ever had to fire you, could your sisterly relationship be unaffected? I don’t think so.

      1. Tata*

        OP#1, the company wasn’t unfair. That’s how it works…your sister shouldn’t be part of the interview. I don’t agree with Alison completely on working at same employer. My employer has hired siblings, couples, etc. but they all work in different departments. We even have identical twins working here but in different departments that don’t cross over on their work.

    4. snowglobe*

      Aside from how bad it would be for one sister to manage the other sister, the LW’s arguments just don’t make sense:
      – if you and your sister have never worked together before, how can you argue with certainty that there would be no problems if she became your manager? That’s not something you would know if you have never been in that position.
      – it’s not discriminatory for there to be different people conducting different interviews. Sometimes a manager is out a couple of days, so someone else sits in for one or two interviews.
      – “neither of us were given the opportunity to show that we can separate personal from professional.” If your sister was on the interview panel, it’s certainly not her role to help prove to the other panel members that the two of you can work together professionally.

      1. GeoffreyB*

        Another reason for having different panels for different candidates – we interview grads in multiple states, so our panel will often have a couple of reps from the local office, who will be different for each state.

    5. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I once worked for a tiny company. The owner had employed their 3 siblings and then (running out of siblings) me. It was awful. The favouritism was blatant and I lasted less than a year, after becoming the scapegoat for anything and everything that went wrong. Will never put myself in that position again.

    6. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I’m wondering how OP would have felt if their sister had been on all the interview panels, treated them like a stranger, asked them challenging questions, and then possibly *not even hired them*.

      I think it would sting. My guess is you’d need to be unusually emotionally mature and resilient to separate your personal and professional relationships to this extent.

      I’d hate to see my sister every day and not be able to have lunch with her, make family jokes that only we understand, vent to her about my annoying co-workers, make idle chatter at the coffee machine.

      And then it’s the weekend and you’re at a family lunch, and you can’t talk about your annoying boss (because she’s there), or about how you were passed over for a promotion, or about how your colleague’s laugh sounds like a duck quacking, because your boss is there, all the time.

      No thanks, not for me!

  9. Fikly*

    #1: Do not in any way imply to this company that you believe you have been treated unfairly, because that shows that you do not understand the implications of working under a close family member at all, and they would be right not to hire you for that reason alone.

    1. CastIrony*

      That, and I will not get tired of repeating this, will make you look bad in a nepotistic kind of way.

      1. Antilles*

        Yep. Especially since an obvious thought is that the real reason you’re mad is specifically *because* we’re having an impartial process: You were hoping your sister would be part of it so you could skate through the process and you’re now complaining because you have to compete on your own merits.
        That may not be the case, but to an outside observer (HR, department head, etc), it certainly looks like that *could* be what’s going on.

        1. Observer*

          To any outside observer, any claim that keeping Sis out of the process is unfair WILL look like this is what’s at play. They might concede that MAYBE that’s not it, but it is most definitely going to be the first thing they think of.

          Otherwise, why is the OP so steamed? It’s not like everyone always has the exact same people interviewing.

    2. snowglobe*

      Yes, the fact that LW is already complaining about this is a good indication that she would not be able to work for her sister without causing problems. Is she going to suspect that any time a co-worker gets a perk and she doesn’t that it’s because she’s being treated differently because of her sister? That’s a neat way of reversing the usual problem of nepotism.

      1. [insert witty user name here]*

        Bingo. I couldn’t put my finger on why the attitude of this letter was rubbing me so wrong, but that’s exactly why. It’s showing that the LW is already couching a lot of her attitude about the position and the company around her relationship with her sister, but in a “different” way. It would never NOT be “a thing” and again proves why people with personal/familial relationships should be allowed to supervise one another.

        1. NerdyKris*

          LW1 has proven exactly why hiring her would be a bad idea. I think they’re just giving her the interview to make her sister happy and are already intending not to hire her.

          1. Krabby*

            I actually think it might be the opposite: “when she saw that I had applied, she also declared our relationship.”
            I think someone else was screening resumes. When Sister saw that LW had not only applied but been invited in for an interview, she freaked out and went into damage control mode: took herself out of the interview process, apologized to her boss (“I didn’t even know she applied, of course I would have said something earlier if I’d known, yes I agree having a direct report who is related to me is inappropriate”), and then let the interview happen because it was already scheduled.

            1. biobotb*

              Yeah, for some reason it sounds like the LW didn’t give her sister a head’s up that LW would be applying for a position that reports to the sister.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Yep. This. All of this.

        OP, your expectations are unrealistic. The fact that you don’t know that, and are unhappy about the company’s reaction should be a huge red flag for *you*, that you need to rethink your professional norms.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I really wanted to work for my sister’s boss but my sister forbade me to apply and said that it would cause resentment even though I was very qualified for the role. I jokingly offered to change my last name so no one would know. I was bummed but I get it – he is the #1 and she is the #2 at a federal agency and I wanted to apply to be his exec. assistant. It wouldn’t have looked great to have the sister of the #2 in that role.

    4. WellRed*

      Remember the mother who managed her daughter and got all upset when someone complained about her daughter and was demanding to know who it was?

      1. Hills to Die On*

        Yep – I do remember that! Such a mess. She insisted the team was so close, she’d never be biased, and then wanted to go to HR and insist they tell her who complained. *facepalm*.
        She also used her real name as her user name and anyone could find her. *another facepalm*

        1. GeoffreyB*

          And even if the family members are perfect professionals and manage to firewall work from family… the people around them aren’t telepathic, they can’t know that. I’d have second thoughts about reporting an issue in that situation.

      2. AngryAngryAlice*

        I actually don’t remember that one, surprisingly. (I thought I knew every wild letter!) Do you have the link or know the name of the letter by any chance?

    5. Stitch*

      I got nixed from a day of an interview panel (large panel, I wouldn’t have been directly supervising the vast majority of hires) because someone we were interviewing lived in the dorm suite as me in college. And I don’t disagree with that decision.

      1. Quill*

        To be fair, you live crammed into a college suite or dorm room for long enough, and you’re basically siblings, you probably share more microbes with your college roommates than your original family by the time that you graduate. :)

      2. Antilles*

        For me, that would actually be a situation where it could go either way.
        I understand the idea to avoid favoritism, so it’s understandable if they wanted you off the panel. But on the other hand, “friend from college several years ago” is fairly distant connection *and* a common way to network, so I wouldn’t blink if they had kept you on the panel.

        1. Fikly*

          Friend from college, sure. Shared a dorm suite, no. That’s a couple of individual bedrooms and shared common space, that is way different than a person in the same general dorm. You live in each other’s pockets.

          1. Antilles*

            I had three dorm-mates my freshman year and then a different dorm-mate my sophomore year. We were all in the same general major and got along just fine, but the idea that they’d be biased simply because the Random Number Generator picked those names out of a hat and threw us together in a dorm for one year a decade and a half ago seems…a bit far-fetched.

            1. Naomi*

              That’s probably going to vary a lot based on where you went to college and how they run dorm assignments.

              The dorm I lived in had ten living units that each had slightly different cultures. After dorm assignments were released there was an event for freshmen (or sophomores transferring dorms) where you could meet people from each area and decide which ones you liked. So there was some choice involved, and often people would stay in that living group for four years with many of the same people. I actually still live with one of my dorm-mates, nearly a decade after we graduated.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      The fact that OP#1 feels that the company was being unfair to her is ample proof to me that this would be a nightmare situation for the company to hire here as a direct report to their sister.

      The company DID do the wrong thing – they scheduled an interview with the OP#1. They shouldn’t have done that at all. Not because of anything about the OP, except that she is related to the person who manages the role for which she was applying. Her application for this particular role should have been rejected out of hand, simply due to the relationship. The sister/manager should have been able to say truthfully that the OP would not be considered for the role, due to company policy, but that she could apply to other positions not in the same reporting area.

      The second wrong thing the company did was to not have the manager/sister recuse herself from interviewing at the outset. It wasn’t fair that this was a surprise to the OP#1 on the day she arrived to interview. The manager/sister absolutely should not have been involved in the interview with their sibling, and it shouldn’t have been a surprise to the OP#1 (because it’s a huge conflict of interest to interview your sibling for a job), but it WAS a surprise and that’s not fair to do to a candidate.

      I hope the OP comes to a better understanding of professional norms and finds a role in a company where they have no worries about being treated better / worse because of their relationships to existing employees.

      1. Is butter a carb?*

        I don’t get why the sister would be ok with this either. It would be SO hard to manage and try and be impartial. I feel like I may err on the side of being stricter with my sister to avoid any thoughts otherwise. It sounds like a nightmare.

        1. Fikly*

          I don’t know that sister is ok with it! There’s no real indication here that sister is, and while yes, the practice here is to take LW’s at their word, LW’s judgement is clearly so out of whack that I wouldn’t be surprised if sister said she was fine with it to LW, but meanwhile was frantically trying to get this shut down at her company.

    7. Nita*

      Yes, unfortunately. OP, you do not show your sister and yourself can be fair and impartial to each other by having a good poker face in the interview. You do that by not putting yourselves in a position where she can favor you, and others have to take your word for it that she isn’t.

  10. Princesa Zelda*

    OP3, $500 is a lot of money! If I had been $500 short on my last paycheck, I would have been unable to make rent and been evicted from my apartment. It’s absolutely UNreasonable that they wanted to put it on your next check. It might be easiest for them in the moment, but it creates an undue hardship for *you*. They should have paid you the remainder that very day, or perhaps the next if they needed an extra signature or something.

    1. Super Admin*

      This, this, a thousand times this. For many people being $500 short would mean missed bills/mortgage/rent, and the incurred penalties associated with missed payments (not to mention the effect on one’s credit rating caused by a missed payment). It could mean using overdrafts at a fee, or getting charged interest. It is really not ok that OP’s company simply expected them to wait two weeks for the money, regardless of anyone’s personal financial situation.

      OP, I’d have been in hysterics – you have nothing to be embarrassed about.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep. We get paid monthly here (which is the norm in most salaried UK jobs) and £500 out of my monthly pay would cause *serious* problems to me, let alone £500 out of two weeks’ pay! I wouldn’t be able to wait two weeks for the money as pay day is at the end of the month and my rent comes out at the beginning of the month – this would very quickly put me in nearly £1500 worth of debt just on its own, never mind the associated overdraft fees etc. It happens that I do have enough savings to cover £500, but not everyone does and that is nothing to be ashamed of. And even though I do have the money to cover it, the shock of seeing a £500 deficit on my payslip and the panic about having to transfer money, ringing the bank to try to stop any fees being charged, sorting everything out before my rent comes out of my account, etc etc, would probably give me hysterics as well.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, OP3, this is stressful, your reaction is reasonable, people will not think less of you for it.

    3. RC Rascal*

      I was significantly shorted on a check one time. I found out on Saturday morning when I went to the ATM at the grocery store, looked at the remaining balance on the ATM slip, and saw it was much below where it should have been. I sat in my car on the grocery store parking lot and bawled. It was terrifying. (I worked on straight commission at the time so I never knew exactly how large my checks would be, but I knew this one was really wrong). On Monday the Office Manager straightened it out and I got paid the difference later that week but it was a devastating, terrifying weekend.

  11. MillennialJ*

    For #2: I will definitely reconsider my use of this at work, but as a suicide survivor, behaviours like this help me cope with suicidal ideation by making it a sort of foolish or frivolous idea, so that the intrusive thoughts become easier to dismiss. You have my sympathies, but I’m also trying to stay alive.

    1. Mindy*

      Can you find alternate behaviors that serve the purpose?

      One of the most helpful things I’ve gotten from reading these columns is the understanding that your job is both 1. to do your actual job and 2. to contribute to a good working environment. If your coping mechanisms for staying alive are at odds with #2, that’s something that probably needs your attention.

    2. Name of Requirement*

      Wouldn’t it be different if someone at work used the script above? Knowing that type of joke for sure causes them pain?
      Also, thanks for sharing.

    3. Ego Chamber*

      I get it: joking about suicide takes the power away and makes you feel more in control of something that can sometimes feel fully out of your control (me too, high five!). I don’t joke about suicide at work though.

      Mostly because I can’t afford the bill for inpatient therapy if someone takes it seriously and thinks I may be a danger to myself, but also because I don’t want to cause others pain and I know my coping mechanism can be another person’s trigger.

      Do whatever you have to to stay alive; err towards kindness when you have the option.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I’m not one to joke about suicide BUT I do find dark humor and blunt talk of death to be satisfying/therapeutic for similar personal reasons…but not at work.

        “I know my coping mechanism can be another person’s trigger.” Very much this.

    4. Avasarala*

      I guess I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you, but I side with OP in that joking about suicide, miming the actions, etc. makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t have a history with it, I’m just a normal human with normal tolerance levels and I don’t like it. I would be concerned about a colleague who did this frequently–as an outsider, how do I distinguish between “jokes make me remember it’s a foolish idea” and “jokes are pieces of my dark thoughts slipping out in ways I don’t realize”?

      I just don’t think this kind of thing should be common in most workplaces. There have to be numerous other ways to blow off steam and preserve mental health without joking about violent death.

      1. Sylvan*

        I don’t think anyone’s saying it should be common, just that there is a reason some people do it that isn’t simple callousness. I’ve made jokes like that in the past for similar reasons. I’ve stopped because I realized it could be harmful to people who have the exact same background as me.

        I’m just a normal human with normal tolerance levels


        1. Avasarala*

          IMO it doesn’t matter what people’s reasons are, the behavior is objectionable.

          And I was trying to point out that you don’t need a personal history with the issue to find it uncomfortable. “Normal” was probably the wrong word but I want to show that it can be harmful to people who don’t have the exact same background as you, too.

    5. Jedi Squirrel*

      Have you had therapy? Because I doubt a therapist would recommend this type of coping strategy.

      You also have my deepest sympathies. But I’m sure there are other, far more effective strategies.

    6. LW2*

      Thank you for commenting and adding this perspective, it’s something I hadn’t considered.

      I’m glad that you have found a strategy that helps you, and you absolutely should put your own safety and well being first. I’m glad that you survived.

    7. nameless*

      #2: That gesture used to be more common years ago. In my own mind, it always signified frustration… (more of say, an old Tom & Jerry/Bugs Bunny type of action… without a whole lot of thought behind it). Reading this is enough for me to stop using it. When I’m venting with a colleague, the last thing I’d want to do would be to cause pain to someone kind enough to listen.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, it has been something of a reflex reaction for me, although I do it very very very rarely. I also don’t ever joke about killing people (myself or others) and I stopped making that kind of joke even before my brother threatened suicide (which he thankfully did not attempt).

        That being said, even though I do it super rarely, I did do it in a meeting at work a couple of months ago while expressing frustration at something. Immediately after I did it I felt really bad about it, and then in a meeting with my supervisor she called me on it and asked that I not do it again. Again, I felt (still feel) terrible about doing it and apologized profusely to her. I will not do it again.

        So, OP, you should not feel bad about asking your coworkers to not pretend to shoot themselves. If they are even remotely sympathetic human beings, they will understand completely and refrain from doing it. It’s worth a little discomfort for them so that you can have a comfortable work environment.

        I’m so sorry about your sibling, OP.

        1. LW2*

          Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad to hear that your brother did not attempt it. I hope he’s doing much better now.

      2. LW2*

        Nameless, thank you for choosing to stop using this action. It’s reassuring to hear confirmation from others that I’m not being unreasonable.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m glad you’re alive.

      I hope you find another way to cope because this can also trigger others, which I know you don’t want to do.

      We’re all fighting to survive today. You’re not alone.

  12. Beth*

    LW3: Don’t most states have laws on wages being owed within a certain period from the time worked? I wonder if it was even legal for them to short you and then only offer to pay it back the next pay period.

    Even if it was legal, it’s still terrible–especially near the holidays, which is the biggest spending time of year for many people between travel, gifts, holiday foods, etc.! But just in case it ever happens again, checking on the legality of their ‘offer’ might give you leverage to say “Oh, I think that’s actually not allowed! I wouldn’t want the company to get in any trouble; what can we do to get this handled ASAP so we’re in compliance with the law?” It might be worth checking with your state’s laws, at least.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve looked into it whereas the wording makes it sure sound illegal, you can only press the issue via a lawyer. DOL doesn’t get involved fast enough and once it’s paid, they don’t care and won’t help you collect interest and penalties that they’re supposedly responsible for.

      And anyone who is hurt by any kind of short pay is certainly not able to hire a lawyer.

      Yeah. I’m mad about it.

      1. fposte*

        I think this is very jurisdiction dependent, though. States vary in their intervention levels, and of course it’s turned out that the OP is in Canada, which is going to vary even more from the US and probably still differ by province.

        1. Chinookwind*

          Ooohhh…in Canada this is very much a no-no in every province. Labour laws vary from province to province and field to field (some are covered by federal laws), but being paid in a timely manner is considered very, very important. She should definitely contact her provincial labour board even after she was paid. At the very least, this may trigger an inspection of some type to ensure that this is not a one-off

  13. CastIrony*

    OP #1, I have seen this happen with my grandboss and her sister, who got hired over me because her ServSafe certificate was stronger than mine and she worked at my workplace years ago, despite my having been there and doing core parts of her job for the past five years on a part-time basis.

    Did I think it was fair? No. Did I think they were capable of keeping work and life separate? No. Did I believe the feedback I got? Not fully.

    Working for your sister would be a can of worms. The other people in your team could believe you’re spying on them for your sister. They will accuse you of nepotism and resent you.

    On the other hand, it is awesome to work with your sister. I do this for the other job I have, but neither of us can be promoted to a management position. If it were to happen, one of us would have to quit or be fired, and the above and Alison’s reasons is why that rule is in place.

    1. DustyJ*

      I too have seen this happening. I applied for a slightly higher position, not aware that I was competing against my own then-boss’s sister who had just graduated from university. If I had known, I would have known not to bother applying – but it really stuck in my throat.

      OP1, do you really want to be known as ‘that girl who was only hired because her sister was the boss?’

  14. Batgirl*

    LW1, there are lots of jobs in the world where you wouldn’t be working for your sister. You should really consider them since the alternative is a context which isn’t great for your reputation and only gets you a family member reference, which is hard for future employees to take seriously.
    Also, I’m super puzzled how this can be thought of as unfair to you (Yeah, its definitely, definitely not discrimination!). If anything, they accommodated and adapted a situation which can’t possibly work out well for them, in order to give you a shot.

    1. Mookie*

      The first thing I thought of was how this could haunt the LW for a certain portion of her professional life to come. Everyone would look bad in this scenario if it went through, but the LW is the only one who could lose job opportunities over it. The sister need never share with anyone that she used to manage her sibling, and the company itself certainly wouldn’t be telling future about this red flag.

      1. valentine*

        It’s especially important not to work with family if this is a first/early-career job.

    2. T2*

      Just to give LW1 an example. You and Beth from your team schedule a vacation period. You are planning a big family day at Disney World. But Beth scheduled that week first. Does your sister deny your vacation request or Beth’s? What if she was supposed to go to Disney with you? There are so many ways a family member as a boss can put a finger on the scale for you.

      1. Krabby*

        And even if LW scheduled before Beth, people might not know that and jump to conclusions. It’s just problematic all around.

  15. I'd rather be snuggling my cat*

    OP #3, others have commented far better than I ever could about the financial side of your letter. I just wanted to add that your letter made me want to give you a hug. We’re all human, and it would be completely ridiculous to expect that to not show at work from time to time. I hope you feel no shame about that or your finances – $500 is a ton of money under any circumstances, let alone the holidays and/or when you’ve made travel plans!

    And good for you for pushing through the stress and the (completely understandable!) tears and getting it fixed – even if your company didn’t do the right thing and give you the money right away, advocating for yourself while you’re emotional is incredibly hard, and it’s something you absolutely deserve to be proud of.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Same here. I would have checked on you to make sure you were okay. The never cry at work rule is one of those absolute things that are not necessarily possible in real life. We are human, sometimes we cry.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Yeah, I feel like “never cry at work” rule really needs to be thought of as “never make a scene.” There’s no shame in going to a private room to process emotions until you’re ready to work again, and there’s plenty of shame in having non-crying emotional outbursts like temper tantrums in front of others. Heck, any cook will tell you about how the walk in fridge or freezer is for cooling off tempers as well as food.

    2. Reba*

      A coworker once gave me a tip about which bathroom in our building was good for a quick cry (a single on the top floor). I was initially like, “um…. Thank you?” But I have now used it once and I appreciated both the info and the way her comment normalized the occasional need to have a cry. Sometimes you need to have a cry!

  16. Name of Requirement*

    If canceled with a week’s notice, did that include people already there taking a personal vacation before the conference?

    1. Carlie*

      This just happened with the American Physical Society. 10k attendees, cancelled 36 hours prior to the official start. A lot of people were not only already there or in transit, but some pre-conference workshops had already happened! It’s a mess.

    2. Jeweled Potato*

      This happened to me and my company and those that were already there were either allowed to stay until their original flight home, or the company worked to get them home early. I do think they would have been flexible about people who were planning on traveling afterward though, but it would have been the employee’s responsibility to get there (at some point after the offsite).

  17. Anblick*

    LW2: Oh gosh do not ever feel bad for asking people to not mimic suicide. First thing: if you are comfortable sharing that you lost a family member to suicide, I think that shit will stop frickin fast. Second though: If I had advice to hopefully take some of the burden off of you, if you have an office friend who is outspoken and knows your history, maybe you could ask them to kind of speak out when these things come up? I’m sort of imagining myself in this situation, honestly: I would be 100% comfortable saying “dude omfg yup stress but that is dank and noooo jooooke don’t do that again” like. Having somebody else to be around and shut it down and soak up some of it could really be an option, I hope? Also I’m super frickin sorry you’re dealing with all of this and just I’d happily be your blast shield person if I worked with you. <3
    LW3: $500 is A LOT OF DOLLARS and being frickin a bit misty upsetti about it is not even remotely weird.

    1. LW2*

      I think you’re right that it would stop if I explained, but I don’t want anyone to feel bad or guilty. I know it isn’t meant maliciously. I moved to this job after it happened, so no-one at my workplace knows, and I’m not quite ready to share. Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate it.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I understand you not wanting to guilt trip your coworkers. You certainly don’t want to yell at your coworkers that they’re bad people who should feel bad about themselves. That wouldn’t help anything. But I do think that small amounts of guilt can actually be useful sometimes. It helps us realize that we can do better.

        All of that to say, if you calmly and kindly ask your coworkers to vent their stress in a different way and they experience some guilt over their past behavior, that would not be the worst possible outcome, nor would it be your fault.

      2. DarnTheMan*

        LW2, don’t feel bad! When I was a residence advisor in college, my head RA had recently lost her dad to suicide and similar talk/gestures were really hard for her. Generally all she needed to say to people was “that talk/gesture makes me uncomfortable, could you not do it around me?” and people would stop. No need to disclose anything, just a simple “hey can you not do [x]?”

        1. LW2*

          Thank you for sharing. I had to recently ask a friend, “hey, could you do me a favour and not do that, please?”. He agreed immediately without pushing for more information. I’m not sure why it feels more uncomfortable for me to say in a work scenario.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        I think part of this is: it’s fair that you don’t want them to feel bad or guilty, but they probably should? Not specifically about you, and I hear you on not wanting to share personally. But what they’re doing is an inconsiderate thing, in general, across the board. Not malicious, but inconsiderate. I mean literally they’re not considering the knock on effects of what they currently view as lighthearted. If they’re assholes of course they’ll double-down, but if they’re not, it takes that “ah ha” moment of understanding. There’s no way to successfully get the message across that it’s inappropriate without their having a moment of at least some discomfort as they come to understand why they should discontinue it.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          This. I mean, honestly, how hard is it to say “I am SO overloaded at work right now”? Just the facts, works quite well.

        2. LW2*

          Thank you. Yes, I do believe it’s simply a case of literally not considering potential knock on effects. I guess some discomfort may be inevitable.

      4. Reader in Canada*

        LW2 – even if you did feel ready to share, I’m a huge fan of not sharing justifications for reasonable requests. I’ve known enough people who will take it as “ok, just don’t do it around so and so” instead of “don’t do it at all.” At the same time, it is certainly not on you to explain to anyone why it isn’t ok. If you don’t think you can hold it together to talk to the person directly or they’ve done other things that lead you to believe they would respond badly, it is absolutely ok to go straight to your manager, their manager, or HR.

        1. LW2*

          I think my colleague is far more likely to feel guilty than defensive, I’m not anticipating a bad reaction. It’s more than I sort of freeze in the moment and don’t know how to respond.

  18. Money Sucks*

    My husband’s company once failed to charge him for health insurance for an entire year. They realized their mistake at the next open enrollment in November and decided to charge him retroactively, but only half the amount…and took it out of his December paychecks. I do the money for our household, but never saw his pay stubs so I wasn’t aware of the error throughout the year, and he’s simply not observant (eye roll). It was truly sickening and I certainly cried when I learned of their resolution and his unwillingness to fight back. OP3, I’d have been crying, too. It’s okay.

    1. rudster*

      Besides not making the original error at all, what would your preferred solution have been? That the company simply write off the entire amount? That would be nice, but doesn’t really seem fair (assuming your husband was/would have actually been covered during the period). Retroactively charge the entire amount spread out over a year? Only asking for half of what is essentially an unnoticed salary overpayment back actually seems extremely generous, though they might have spread it out more evenly.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        Given that the failing was on their end, they’d first have contacted the person in question and talked over the best way to remedy the matter. They could have spread the payments over 2-3 pay periods for example. Punishing someone else financially for their really big financial mistake is just wrong.

          1. 2 Cents*

            Yeah, at what is near-universally known as a bad time of year to have unexpected shortfall of cash.

            1. Kate*

              During the last recession, my husband (and his coworkers – state-financed job) suffered a 20% pay cut. It was decided in August, and it applied for all that year, also retroactively. Meant something 40% of previous salary for last four months of the year. That was… fun.

      2. Koala dreams*

        Yes, in my opinion they ideally would set up a payment plan for how to pay it back, with the option to spread it out over several months. It’s not fair to suddenly decide to charge it to the december payment, especially for people who have holiday plans.

      3. Bagpuss*

        I think as a minimum, they should have told him when they found the error, and how and when they proposed t claw back the money.
        Also, it would have been reasonable to spread it over more than one pay period, if at all possible. It’s not binding, but where I am (UK) there is guidance that suggests that where an employer is looking to take back over payments of pay it’s often reasonable to look at spreading the repayments over the same period as the over payments, so that if someone was overpaid for three months, they would pay it back over 3 months not one. It may not be practical to do that here where it sounds like the overpayments were made over the court of a whole year (or 9 months if it ran with the tax year) but spreading it over 2 -4 months, and giving the employee a couple of week notice before the first amount was clawed back, would have been reasonable.

      4. EPLawyer*

        They screwed up, they bear the burden. The employee should have noticed. But it’s the company payroll. Errors in payroll go in favor of the employee, not the employer.

      5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        And how is it fair to make someone pay, within 2 pay periods, an amount that would have been spread out over an entire year’s worth of pay because of a mistake that was not made by the employee? There is really no good solution here, but to say it isn’t fair to the company to write off the mistake is way off base here.

        1. Annony*

          Yeah. I think it should have at least been spread out across 3 months instead of only 1.

        2. Anon HR lady*

          One thing I’m not seeing noted (or maybe I missed it) is that the employee did have SOME responsibility here. He got the insurance, he certainly should have known what the deduction should have been, and the fact that he never looked at his paystub, which the employer provided, is kinda on him. TRUE, employer could have tried to find a way to make this less painful, especially at the beginning of the year. But they did “split the difference” with him, which is frankly more than they had to do.

      6. Health Insurance Nerd*

        Only asking for 1/2 back is generous, but taking six months of insurance premiums out of one month’s paychecks would create a serious financial burden for many people!

        1. tink*

          I think that would’ve been roughly a half month’s pay for me at my current job (and now I’m paranoid and going to go check my paystubs to make sure they’re taking my current insurance out correctly)

          1. Money Sucks*

            @tink That’s about what it was. For that month and I think a couple weeks into January, his checks were about half what they should have been.

      7. Steve*

        We have a policy where the payments default to half the time it took to make the error, so if the problem was ongoing for a year then the employee has up to 6 months of payroll deductions, or if it was ongoing for two months then it is paid back within a month. Employees can choose to pay the money back immediately or faster if they prefer. That policy tends to work out well.

      8. Money Sucks*

        I agree, it was a generous resolution to only pay back 1/2, but a heads up that they were going to deduct the balance over two checks before Christmas would have been nice. I agree we should have paid, but that made for a truly painful year, at their mistake. And for what it’s worth, this was not uncommon. His and other employees were frequently shorted, and if we had to pay for something (he worked at a teakettle repair shop, so any time the teakettles needed…tires, we paid the company at cost, out of pocket, it couldn’t be charged on credit or debit). If we paid cash, we’d get a call a few weeks later that the office had misplaced or couldn’t remember getting the envelope of cash. If we wrote a check, it would be several weeks before it was cashed. After the first misplacement, we would take a picture of our payment at the office, and that helped us prove we had given it to them…

        No, he no longer works there.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      So, one year my workplace lost an entire batch of documentation to support employee’s insurance premium reductions. It was something like all of the employees hired within a 6 month period went to the biometric screening, and then the contracted company just didn’t submit the paperwork to our benefits department. They didn’t find this out until three years later, but when they did, we all got letters saying that we had been receiving illegitimate premium reductions, and they would be taking the amount of those premium reductions since the beginning of the fiscal year out of our paychecks. I called three different people and was told there was nothing to be done. My manager and the HR analyst assigned to my department called three more people and got the same reply. It took my department head actually getting in her car and going to the head of the compensation department and demanding that I be given that money back and have my premium reductions reinstated.

  19. Feline*

    OP2, I feel for you. The person I knew who died by suicide was a coworker. Now I have a coworker who likes to throw around “I’ll kill myself if…” about things that she perceives to be under my control, but sometimes aren’t. “…you don’t get back from emergency medical leave immediately” is an example. People like these don’t realize the impact their thoughtless forms of communication have on others. I am sorry you have to deal with this. It’s so hard to speak up at the moment it happens, which is the ideal time to address it. I don’t have an answer about how to unfreeze from your appalled reaction to respond in the moment, since I am working on it too, but I think it’s the only thing that will work.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      You don’t have to address it in the moment. Holy shit you have a coworker trying to use (fake) suicide threats as leverage to make you change something in a way that will make their life easier and yours harder (I assume).

      I would go to HR with that, or to one of your managers. Tell them that you’re very uncomfortable with this situation and it needs to stop and you didn’t feel comfortable addressing it with the coworker directly because of what happened to your previous coworker. Obviously if you can address it with the coworker first, that would be better, and you shouldn’t need to say anything stronger than “Hey I really need you to not joke like that.” And if they double-down/make it worse? Get your butt to HR immediately because that is very not okay.

      1. Random IT person*

        I would at least make my immediate manager aware ‘sometimes Jane says… ‘
        Can I push back if she does this again, or should i alert you ?

        1. Feline*

          She actually said it in a meeting in front of my manager! My manager is one of those bad managers who isn’t going to change. I’d have to shut it down myself — difficult in the moment — or escalate it. She hasn’t done it in a while, but I think that’s mostly a function of my working remote in the wake of my medical leave.

      2. Annon just Here*

        I cannot speak to every office, but at least where I work your “joking coworker” would find herself sitting and having a nice long chat with an on-staff psychiatrist or psychologist (whoever would be available first as it would be a grab and go for that employee immediately)- without the possibility of getting out of having the conversation and not be released back to work until the professional determined they were not a risk to themselves or others.

        Caveat, I’m medical office support and we work with sometimes vulnerable populations. This is one of those things you just don’t joke about.

    2. Koala dreams*

      That’s very cruel of your co-worker, especially the comments about your medical leave.

      It’s fine to speak up later, when you have calmed down. Maybe you can ask your manager or HR for advice on how to bring it up with the co-worker?

      1. Bluesboy*

        It isn’t necessarily cruel in itself, although the comments about medical leave are certainly inappropriate.

        What I mean is that it’s only cruel if the coworker knows that Feline lost someone to suicide. These comments are usually totally a throwaway dramatic thing, and not intended to hurt. I remember when my ex-girlfriend lost her son I started to notice just how often people who I KNOW to be good, kind people say things like ‘I would kill myself if…’ etc (not in front of her)

        It’s 100% not appropriate for the workplace, but I don’t think ‘cruel’ is the right word. That said, it should be shut down, and I always try to shut down comments like this when I hear them. People are always understanding in my experience when I explain why.

        1. Koala dreams*

          I feel the threat of suicide to make someone do what you want, even if it’s meant as a joke, is what makes it cruel, but I can agree on inappropriate too. It’s inappropriate enough that it’s fine to bring it up later, and tell them to stop. It’s good that you try to shut down comments in the moment, too.

        2. Observer*

          It’s cruel anyway. Because you are making a very vicious threat, even if it’s not a “serious” threat.

          Basically, what the CW is saying is “I will do this terrible thing and YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE unless you do what I want.”

    3. DerJungerLudendorff*

      Making fake suicide threats, even as a joke, is really inappropriate for the workplace. Or for most places for that matter.

      And demanding someone gets back from emergency medical leave is pretty bad too. You would be more than justified to talk to them about this later, or mention it to your manager.

    4. LW2*

      Oof, I’m sorry you have a coworker who likes to throw around that threat. I’m more fortunate with my colleagues in that it’s more 2 second finger guns directed at the general situation rather than as a pointed gesture to try and get me to do something for them, and it happens very infrequently.

      You’re completely right that I kind of freeze in the moment. It would feel like I was making too much of a big deal to bring it up after the fact. I might have to try and rehearse a response so that it’s easier to speak up immediately should it happen again in the future.

      1. Sylvan*

        That sounds like a good idea. I think making a big deal would be understandable, frankly, but so would a calmer reaction or being visibly disinterested in the “joke.”

      2. Not Me*

        I think you need to give yourself the right to be as shocked by it as you are in the moment, and let it show on your face and in your reaction. Make a big deal out of it, because it is a big deal. Don’t try to hide your reaction, they need to see how big of an impact their “joke” finger guns makes on you.

        1. LW2*

          I appreciate where you’re coming from, but for me, personally, making a big deal out of it would likely make me feel worse.

    5. Observer*

      OK, that’s a whole different thing – that’s her trying to manipulate you into doing what she wants.

      Create a script for yourself to have in your back pocket if she does that again. And, if it continues DO escalate. That’s horrible, even if she’s not triggering anyone.

  20. Release the killer Sloths*

    OP #1

    I’m sorry, there are so many “red flags” in your letter that I hope this company doesn’t hire you.

    First red flag: Sister will be your boss

    Second red flag: claiming discrimination/unfairness because your sister wasn’t allowed to interview you

    Third red flag: Your inability to see things from the company’s point of view and why they would need to protect “the hiring process”.

    Fourth red flag (biggest): Your level of entitlement in thinking that any company would allow this situation, based on your word alone on how professional you can be working under your sibling.

    In my experience, working under a family member, never works out. There will always be coworkers who will feel resentment because of nepotism.

    What would happen if your sister had to discipline/fire you?

    1. Random IT person*

      I actually had – at a temp job – my mother as a manager.
      Both great and terrible – because of the pressure (from myself) to not be seen as ‘managers pet’.
      Thankfully – other coworkers knew me from when i was a little boy – and it never was a problem (consider this working in a shop with 8 grandmothers – i was the only male person working there).

      But – even so – I would not want to work for my brother or my sister – as great as they both are – just to avoid the semblance of conflict of interest.

      My temp job was clear – everyone already knew me – and i had 9 managers (not just my mother) – and there was never any question or issue – but it was a one time thing, which i do not recommend except when one is desperate (and is willing to risk the family dynamics becoming blurred)

      1. Quill*

        I’m still steamed about the time my brother and I worked on different parts of the same volunteer project and he didn’t fill out his paperwork with his full name, so our contributions to the museum are labeled solely “lastname,” making it look like only one of us cleaned all those bones!

        1. Filosofickle*

          My brother and I worked together for a summer on a team of 8. We worked extremely well together. However, we are close and think a lot alike so the staff tended to think of us as a single unit. They even referred to us that way — Jack&Jane did this, you know how Jack&Jane are. It was really frustrating! We were both hard workers and good staff members, but each has our quirks. They transferred any annoying thing each of us did to the combined Jack&Jane, so we each got hit with double our fair share of criticism.

          We loved working together, but we wouldn’t do it again.

          1. Quill*

            Reminds me a little bit of the time when I was a mod on a forum my brother ran, back when I was in college. Sometime around christmas break some forum peon went off on me for enforcing the rules and threatened to “tell ADMIN” so I got to reply back that ADMIN was on the other side of the room trying to finish a paper and might be able to hop on and apply the banhammer to the peon after dinner.

    2. tamarack & fireweed*

      When I was a new team lead, our managing director mentored me by telling (probably largely invented/embellished) stories about workplace situations and how they were handled. One involved a boss in a family business firing his son for underperformance. It’s not precisely unheard-of.

      I’d always lean towards the side of expecting scrupulous professionalism from everyone regardless of family or personal relations. No one should be handed the juicy projects by virtue of their status. No one should be treated harshly in the first place, and all should be treated with consistency and politeness.

      1. Observer*

        That’s all good and fine. But conflict of interest is a real thing. Human nature is what it is, and expecting people to not have their judgement affected is dangerously naive.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Conflict of interest is a real thing. The way to deal with it is to manage it, and then have some sort of independent audit/review layer to assess whether it has been fairly managed. To pretend it doesn’t exist would be a deception, and to just completely avoid situations that contain conflicts of interest tends to create new injustice.

    3. tinybutfierce*

      I worked for a few years for a mid-sized family business and will NEVER do so again, for a variety of reasons, but the blatant nepotism was one of the biggest. The employee handbook explicitly said that certain rules didn’t apply to the owner’s family (like employees being allowed to live with one another; not even managers/direct reports, but just peers at a retail level). The biggest issue was the CEO’s granddaughter/VP’s daughter. She was shuffled from role to role to try and find somewhere she fit, and everyone couldn’t STAND her because she had such a reputation for being a flake. She would swear up and down that she never received preferential treatment and worked as hard as everyone else, which was a full-on lie. When I was last there, she was put in a role where she was basically responsible for making customer/community relationships, setting up charitable donations, etc.; I lost count of how many times I had a customer or organization reach out to me to say they’d been talking with her about receiving some kind of donation, and then she just disappeared off the face of the earth, so I had to do damage control. I’d let my boss know every time it happened, but of course, nothing came of it; what was he gonna do, tell the VP his daughter was terrible at her job and shouldn’t have it? Everyone learned to just grin and bear it when she was around, and just work around her as best you could.

      While I was once alone around her, she repeated an offhanded joke her husband had made that was WILDLY offensive. When I didn’t laugh with her, she immediately panicked, apologized, and asked me not to tell HR because “she could get in serious trouble”. I wanted to laugh in her face, because even if I had gone to HR, I would have been the one facing repercussions by making waves with the owner’s family. She later complained about me once being late to a meeting with her in front of her daddy and HR; guess who was the one who got a write up.

      So yeah, long anecdote just to say, even not being part of the family involved, working with immediate family is not a good idea.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      5th red flag – the sister declared the relationship as soon as she saw the OP applied. To me, that implies that the OP didn’t discuss this with her sister before applying. I understand wanting to keep some distance, but that’s really something you should bring up and make sure your relative is on board with you working there, esp. when you would be reporting to them! Sounds like if the OP had done that, the sister would have probably preferred that they not apply.

      1. Paulina*

        Yes, looks like the OP was trying to prove something to the sister. But it’s not a good situation for anyone involved, and the sister seems to have been blindsided by it. Every decision she would make as a manager that at all involved the OP would be scrutinized and second-guessed.

        The OP thinks they’re owed a chance to prove they can be professional under these personal circumstances, but they’re really not (potential employees are not owed chances to prove themselves, especially vs. hiring someone else), and even if the sister had been in the interview it wouldn’t have proven long-term professionalism. As it is, the OP is failing to show professionalism in their current reaction.

        1. Paulina*

          Especially since it sounds like the sister is not particularly senior. While a lot of others’ stories are about favouritism that the boss got away with, if the boss isn’t very senior then there’s a good chance that a perception of nepotism will hamper their own career and potentially get them fired. Please leave your sister’s workplace alone, LW1.

  21. JM in England*

    Re #1

    I am very surprised that the OP actually made it to the interview stage!

    1. Bagpuss*

      I am too, a little. Maybe the firm thought that there would be a way of putting her under a different manager if she was hired? certainly OP hasn’t been treated unfairly, it sounds as though the company has taken appropriate steps to ensure that her sister isn’t involved in the hiring process for her, which is enitrely right.

      We had an application a few years back from someone who had a close family member working for us, and where tat family member would have been the line-manger for the role. We discussed it and decided that it would be relatively straightforward to re-jig things so they would both report direct to the next person up, rather than the applicant reporting to their relative. In the event it didn’t happen, as they were not even in our top 3 when we interviewed, and it would only have worked because there was a very simple fix.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      My thought is they decided to plow forward rather than rescind the interview offer. But should have just gone with Option B.

      1. Allypopx*

        Yes, definitely. But they went through a lot of trouble for a courtesy interview, from how I’m reading it.

        1. Paulina*

          It sounds to me like they (or someone more senior) wised up about how much of a problem this would be, after the interview was already arranged.

  22. UK Lady*

    LW1 – I hope you will forgive me if I sound harsh, but you seem very naive when it comes to work norms. I understand that you may truly believe you can work for this company with your sister as your manager and separate your work from your personal life, but in reality this is nigh on impossible. As pointed out in most of the other comments, your coworkers would view you with suspicion – are you the boss’ pet? would you be treated as harshly for mistakes? would you get all the juicy projects? Maybe, just maybe, you would be treated no different to you coworkers, but if I was you coworker I would always be weary and suspicious and question whether you got away with that mistake, got to go to that interesting conference, took a few days “off sick”, was assigned that juicy-career-enhancing-high-profile project because of family dynamics. Yes, maybe you were treated equally in each and every case, but from an outsider’s point of view it will always look different and potentially unfair and no matter how much I would try to ignore it, it would built resentment.

    This company should not employ you, at least not on your sister’s team, in fact, they should not have even interviewed you. I wouldn’t have. I have worked for one or two family run businesses and have seen and experienced first hand that blood is thicker than water and I can assure you it does nothing for your self-esteem and even less for you career prospects having to compete with the boss’ relatives.

    1. Rexish*

      My main concern as LW’s colleague would be not being able to talk about anything during lunch if they are around. There is an increased risk that boss would find out things I’d rather not have them know.

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      Exactly this. I would begin to suspect everything that sister-manager is doing.

      If I’ve been trying to get the Smith account on my desk for months, and Lisa suddenly gives it to her sister, I’d have to wonder about that. Is Lisa’s sister really that qualified, or is Lisa just giving her the best account because she’s her sister?

      Both sisters’ credibility will be questioned going forward if OP gets hired.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      In odd turn around, I have seen this cause other types of misery. Boss hired adult child. In order to give an appearance of fairness, Boss avoided speaking to the adult child, at all times. This meant that the employee did not receive proper instruction/information that all other employees received. And the work day was pretty lonely, as Boss/parent would not speak to them and peers also left the employee alone.

      In the end, the peers ended up on the side of the adult child. They were upset by the boss’ shabby treatment of their own kid. The kid was very likable and the boss/parent not so much. The dislike for the boss/parent grew larger because of this whole story.

      Everyone has their own idea of what fairness looks like and they act accordingly. Unfortunately, this does not play out well many, many times. Worse, it’s the people who are soooo very sure they can act fairly that have the larger difficulties.

      I am amazed that they even gave you an interview. I’d have to think that is because you actually do have a very marketable resume. This means you can find opportunities in other places.

      1. Rexish*

        I have also seen the overcompensation. Basically a manager was so worried that they would appear to favour their friend so they went to the opposite direction. I was voulanterring for the organisation and it was painful to watch. Last I heared was that they are not friends anymore and I’m not suprised.

    4. Daizical*

      These are all great points. I’d also like to add that there’s going to be the added issue of getting a good reference for your next job. Odds are that you’ll want/need to work somewhere else in the future & when you do having your sister be your direct manager is going to completely undermine on not only that but also make your future prospective employer look warily on any achievements you made under her. It’ll be far too easy to think that you got plumb assignments, good performance reviews, and got along swimmingly with your colleagues because of that familial connection.

  23. Been Around the Block*

    OP5: The company should offer the services of its corporate travel department (or contractor) at no charge to help affected employees fix whatever needs to be fixed regarding their personal travel surrounding this canceled event. Often corporate travel departments have a lot more clout than individual consumers and can get airlines, hotels, tour companies, etc. to refund tickets, reservations, etc. that the individual consumer would never be able to negotiate.

    1. Moncouer*

      This is the first truly inspired idea to actually help LW without making it unreasonable for the company.

    2. Jeweled Potato*

      And what if the travel agency had nothing to do with the extra travel the employee booked? What incentive does that agency have to offer help (which will cost them time and resources)? And why should the employer pay for *that*? The extra vacation was something the employee wanted and has nothing to do with the company.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        I think Been Around the Block is suggesting that the employer *pay* for the services of a corporate travel agency to assist the employees.

    3. PB & Jelly*

      That would be very nice, but I’m not sure how feasible it would be, our company uses an outside travel company as do many larger companies. Coordinating this depending on how many people, different hotels (I’m not sure how much clout they have outside the places they contract with) would be a lot of work for a department to take on for a perk they gave employees. There might be some luck where many people were doing the same thing or staying at the same hotel, but a bunch of one offs would be a hard sell.

  24. Waving not drowning (formerly Drowning not waving*

    LW1 – I have both had my sister as a my boss (owner of a small business), and worked with a manager who employs family and friends (I’m neither). There is always a degree of favouritism due to familiarity. I was able to do stock ordering, where other longer standing staff couldn’t, because my sister knew I’d be careful with purchases and trusted my taste. I would get called in to work at short notice because she knew I had no other commitments. There were other tasks I couldn’t do, because I wasn’t experienced, but, if I worked in the shop next door for example, I wouldn’t have had the buying opportunities and the trust that my sister gave me.

    In ex-toxic office job, with ex-toxic manager, she would employ family and friends, despite their lack of experience, and promote (or promise to promote) them. They were given preferential treatment, and opportunities that long-standing experienced staff were not given. It was the reason for me leaving. I could see the blatant nepotism and cronyism taking place, plus other workplace issues, knew that I would never be able to be promoted/get the recognition for my efforts and so I left. I still catch up with the old team, and nothing has changed, despite several complaints to upper management, not just from our team, as other departments can see it happening too. She was very angry with the team that there had been complaints, because in her eyes, she was treating everyone equally, when she clearly isn’t. .

    Working with friends and family can work in some cases, but, it’s nigh on impossible to be impartial when they are managing both you and their team.

    1. Krabby*

      My first job in HR was at the company my brother works for. The company had around 50 people and the role was mostly administrative. Even though I was the only HR employee, I effectively had zero clout within the organization.
      I learned after working there for a year that my brother’s manager had delayed giving him feedback because the documentation “would go through you, his sister”. Never mind that any documentation wouldn’t have gone through me because, when I was hired, the CEO had specifically told my brother’s manager to go to him with any performance concerns so I wouldn’t be a part of it. Never mind that I had already shown this manager I was capable of keeping things in confidence.
      That is when I learned that the perception of favoritism can be just as damaging as the reality. I got out of there and vowed never to work with family again.

  25. tamarack & fireweed*

    Again and again I realize that the area I am culturally most distant from the excellent and wise Alison is when it comes to personal relations at work. Admittedly, my instincts have been honed in Europe, not in North America. But her advice on friends, relatives and even couples within a single workplace seems to me to be underpinned by some assumptions that aren’t purely about US vs. other cultures. For example, she seems to assume that everyone lives in a conurbation of at least 500,000 people sharing a pool of potential labor and therefore with the option of avoiding all those pesky entanglements by simply working for a different employer.

    But I’m in North America now, and this isn’t even realistic for my environment here. I work in a town that is the center of a borough with, all counted, maybe 100,000 inhabitants. Area-wise it spans about the same extent as the state as Rhode Island. The next larger city is a 6h drive away. So basically, that’s it. Out of the 100,000, a sizeable and varying percentage is active duty military attached to either an army or a US Air Force base. These people aren’t even part of the labor pool here. I’m employed by the local university. You can bet that we have: couples in the same workplace, sisters/brothers, parents/children etc. having to navigate these relations. And it mostly works just fine, given everyone is transparent about conflicts of interest of this type and there are structures in place to mitigate them.

    We have two professors who are brothers, one recently tenured, the other a non-tenure-track research professor who recently attained this rank after winning an important grant, in the same institute. They arrived after quite different career paths, and each on his own merit – but they’re both from around here and successfully built careers in the ONLY local institution that corresponds to their interests, talents and expertise. They’re both great, and there is no issue here.

    Elsewhere, there are whole sectors in rural areas – agriculture, small manufacturing, retail, hospitality. – where family businesses are the norm. Does this always work well? NO. Sometimes it’s even a recipe for dysfunction. But on the other hand, the more these structures are a known quantity, the more incentive there is to develop social norms and mechanisms to navigate their pitfalls.

    Most of the readers here I believe consider that humans-as-employees come with attributes that workplaces need to be (and sometimes thankfully are legally obliged to) accept as part of dealing with human beings, and by accept I mean: wholeheartedly, without blame or disapproval. For example, humans need to eat, have children, get sick, menstruate, and have family emergencies. My proposition is that the categories of “have friends”, “have family members in the community” and even “sometimes fall in love with each other” are considered on the same footing. This doesn’t mean that anything goes. In the case of the OP #1, I’d have liked to see the sister excluded from being part of the hiring committee for all candidate as long as the OP is under consideration. Also, if it is possible to have the OP, if hired, managed by someone else, that would be preferable of course. It won’t always work out without conflict, but then, how is this different from occasional conflict around break times, bathroom usage or parental leave? These things all can be handled by well-trained adults, and they’re inevitable parts of dealing with humans.

    I’m pretty sure there are jurisdictions in which it would be illegal discrimination (on grounds of family situation) if the OP had been set aside simply for the reason that the position is designed to report into her sister’s team.

    1. tamarack & fireweed*

      PS: I thought I’d mention, say, Iceland. 200,000 inhabitants all told, half in the capital. If you happen to be the same age of the prime minister you either went to school with them or played sports against their school team. You pretty much are assured you know them. I’m pretty sure people from the same family have to work together all the time there.

      1. valentine*

        I’d have liked to see the sister excluded from being part of the hiring committee for all candidate as long as the OP is under consideration.
        Considering OP1 shouldn’t mean the sister doesn’t get to do hiring. If she were to hire OP1, would you want her not hiring anyone else for her team until one of them leaves it?

        1. Asenath*

          When I was involved with applications, close relatives of applicants certainly withdrew themselves from considering their relative’s application, and I knew of a case in which the relative did not participate in the application process for the entire cohort of applicants. It doesn’t mean that person never interviewed applicants again, but he did not participate in any way in the applications from the group of which his relative was a member. Next time openings came up, there was a new bunch of applicants, none of whom were related to him, and he was back on the interview panel.

    2. WS*

      I live in a town of 800 people and, as you say, it’s extremely common for people who are related – or even have just known each other their whole lives – to be working together, or for one of them to have job-related power over another. That means that everyone works extra hard to be fair, because if you do something perceived as unfair, you are going to hear about it for the rest of your life from your entire community. For example, teachers often have to teach their own children at some stage (only one class in each year level, limited specialist teachers for higher grades). They trade work with another teacher for grading. Almost everyone in my workplace has at least one other relative working there: workplace decisions have to be made by a group, not that individual. Unfair situations definitely happen, but a small pool of potential workers makes it even more important to do what LW #1’s workplace did: make it as fair as possible, and give the relatives as little direct power as possible.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Ditto for me growing up in rural Alberta. If you weren’t related to a teacher or coworker, then your were friends with someone you were related to. Every teacher gets to teach the principal’s kids. I was the daughter of the chairman of the school board and my mom was very, very careful about distinguishing dealing with things as our mom vs. the teachers’ boss (which was good because it was awkward when the brand new principal had to suspend my sister for skipping school and coming back drunk).

        Sometimes, these connections would follow you to other towns and institutions. The dean of my college knew my mom, my first boss gave her condolences on the loss of my grandfather the first day I met her because she had been working with him. I ended up in Northern Japan meeting the niece of another boss from Alberta and a Japanese senior citizen who walked in wearing the company jacket from my hometown. For those from the big city, it seemed weird and like it could influence work relationships but you learn at an early age to compartmentalize certain relationships and to look down on those who try and leverage them to their advantage. Honestly, the boss’ kid usually was held to a higher standard and the threat of your parent randomly seeing you when you were kicked out of class meant that you trued very hard not to get into trouble or cause the other person grief from your actions.

    3. Fikly*

      There is a vast difference between working for the same employer, and being managed by a direct relative, or even working on the same team.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yeah, this is what I was going to say. The problem isn’t working side by side or for the same company; it’s being a relative’s direct report.

        Also, I’ve worked for family businesses before, where parents supervised kids and siblings supervised siblings, but when you work for a family owned business you know that’s part of the deal. The attitude was more “well of course X gets better opportunities, Y owns the business and will probably want to pass it down to them.”

      2. Rexish*

        I fully agree. I feel like family business or very Small Company are something totally different. There the expectation is that family and friends will be treated differently. We have had 4 family memebrs work for the same large Company at the same time. Nobody was anyones direct manager and there were no issues. Even if family memeber was high level executive it would be less of a problem than direct manager.

        1. doreen*

          Even if one is high-level in a large organization , there can be problems. I’ve worked for two large government organizations where a couple of high-level people had a few family members working for the same organization. The family members may have been hired on the same basis as everyone else, but when the executive director’s son gets a desirable assignment or the deputy commissioner’s brother gets a promotion, nobody really believes it was solely based on merit.

          1. Rexish*

            Yes, of course it can cause propblems and not optimal at all. I was trying to point out the problem about the direct manager. I was kind of mirroring to my own job where the highest level executives are so far removed from “Basic level” employees that it wouldn’t have an effect. Since even my manger or her manager don’t have any facetime with that level executives. But it can definately be a problem and not anymeans optimal situation.

        2. Annie Moose*

          Yes, at my current company there’s two sisters who work here–one is a director, and the other is a project manager. But the director sister is not in the management chain above the project manager sister, who’s under a completely separate director. And I actually worked here for months without realizing they were sisters because they don’t work together, don’t hang out at work together, etc.! (not a huge company, either–only about 80 employees)

          If they were working on the same projects and the director sister was directly supervising the project management sister, or if the director sister had hired her directly, it would be very different!

      3. PB*

        This. I am likewise from a very small town. You see family members working together all the time. It’s pretty much unavoidable. However, I can’t think of any cases, apart from family-owned businesses, where a person supervises a member of their immediate family. That’s a can of worms no one wants to open.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’m in a rural part of Europe (so I don’t have an American perspective on this) and I’ve never encountered this model of supervising-a-family-member outside of family businesses, either (and, I mean, it can still be a family business if there are other, non-family people working there, too. Maybe there’s some confusion around terminology here?).

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            No, you’ve got it right. It’s a family business when it’s owned and run primarily by family members, even if they hire in other people to do some of the work. (Sometimes it works and the business keeps going for multiple generations, sometimes it doesn’t work and the business shuts down when the founder dies or retires.)

        2. Quill*

          Even when you have multiple generations of school teachers (not at all uncommon in my home town) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where a teacher and a principal at the same school were sisters, or mother and daughter.

          My hometown isn’t terribly small though. just medium sized.

        3. Chinookwind*

          I agree. Unless the reporting structure is so small that there is no alternative, usually the relative is supervised and/or given an annual review by someone one level higher in the chain and their ability to deal with this becomes part of the evaluations.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah – even in the midsized urban area where I live you’ll sometimes find relatives working for the same large employer – in the same division in one case I saw – but certainly not as direct reports!

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      T&F, there is a big difference between working with and working for relatives. Especially the example you gave, faculty, esp tenured faculty, are very independent positions.

      I am sure that smaller cities/rural areas, and of course family businesses have to work out friends and family working for friends and family, but we all know it often does not go well.

      The LW though, appears not to have awareness that there is anything to be worked out. That is really the issue everyone is pointing to.

      Also, I don’t think there is any legal requirement anywhere in the US that would require employers to allow family to work with or for each other. I’d be curious if anyone knows of one.

    5. Gazebo Slayer*

      That’s not what family status discrimination means legally. It refers to discrimination against people who are (or aren’t) married, or have/don’t have children.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      There are exceptions for every rule, but there is a big difference in working WITH an SO/family member and working FOR an SO/family member.

    7. Senor Montoya*

      I agree with your larger point — that there are many places (not just in North America / US) where job opportunities are slim and people are likely to be working at the same place as a close family member.

      However, I do think a family business is a different animal than any other kind of employer. If you (general you, not you in particular) work for one, you know upfront about the relationships and you should expect that family members will get perks and consideration that you will not.

      Academia is different, too. Spousal hires, for instance, even within the same dept, are becoming more common as a way to attract good candidates. However, you will see the same sorts of problems arise that Alison outlines — sure, some couples are scrupulously professional and some academic departments are able to manage the issues that arise even in the best of situations. When it goes bad… It works best if the family members (spouses, siblings, parent-child, etc) work in different depts, and definitely best if they are not supervising their relative. Doesn’t sound like there’s a supervisory role involved in your example.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. The policies used to be no spousal hires but the women’s movement put an end to this as usually this disadvantages women professionals. The result is that wives who are far less qualified than other potential applicants often get plum jobs in order to be able to hire the husband (and occasionally it works the other way around — I know of one academic husband hired to obtain his wife as a dean). There is no question that is reduces opportunity for people who are not getting the nepotism boost and in the worst cases true incompetents are hired in make work positions.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          OTOH, done right, and of course with luck, the practice can diversify the workforce in a healthy way. One of my mentors was a spousal hire. Started at the bottom of the ladder with a really steep timeline to prove herself. Ended up turning out excellent grant-funded research, with the attendant stream of grad students and postdocs that benefitted. Then went into upper academic administration and is currently doing a great job in a difficult environment.

          There’s a reason not taking family circumstances into account ends up reinforcing the patriarchy.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      But “in the same workplace” is a completely different issue than “working directly under your sister.” The letter writer specified this would be the latter situation. I don’t think Alison has ever suggested people related by blood or relationships can’t work in the same company at all, just that you can’t effectively *manage* someone with that sort of personal relationship.

    9. Jennifer*

      I think exceptions can be made if you live in an isolated area and there are only a few major employers. That would be a very important detail to leave out of the letter if that’s the case for OP1.

    10. Observer*

      The issue of nepotism is not a purely American thing.

      Conflict of interest and how it works in regard to family relationships is something that has been around as an issue since the beginning of time.

      And, I cannot think of ANY jurisdiction where it would be illegal to put someone aside because their manager would be their sibling.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        I see some pretty lively discussions about this in forums involving legal question brought to the attention of employee representation structures pre-hiring (ie, employer submits the recruitment criteria to their co-management board for approval, and people frown at “candidate cannot be a relative of existing employee” or “candidate cannot be related to hiring manager”). I haven’t seen a case where this was tested in court, but I have seen cases where the stipulation was kicked out.

    11. biobotb*

      I’m not sure about your last point, unless you’re talking about jurisdictions outside the U.S.? I’ve never heard of “having a sibling” as being a protected characteristic.

  26. Hope*

    OP #4: I have this same problem sometimes. Here’s some phrases I tend to use (my office has a fairly formal style, so you may need to adjust them):

    “Please contact me if you have any questions”

    “If you need any further information, please email, or call my direct line below”

    “If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me”

    “Please call if you’d like to discuss this further”

    “If you need further assistance, please do contact me. I can be reached via email, or on my direct line below”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s good to look at each setting and ask yourself if you really need to offer help or be open for more inputs. In other words is this offer really appropriate for this particular email.

      I have close with:

      Thanks for reading.
      Thanks for all you have done.
      Please let me know if you do not have everything you need.
      Let me know if I have missed something.

      Some of the closes are situation specific:
      I will find out on Wednesday and follow up with you.
      Next month I will need x paperwork, so we will talk again, if not before.
      In these settings I use my next action step as part of the close.

      For people who I contact regularly:
      I am here until x time today if you need me.
      I will not be in tomorrow, so if you are looking for me I will be back on Thursday.

      I think you are striving to show availability and openness. However, I believe that much of that is conveyed in putting contact info under your signature, so you can feel certain that people know how to find you.

    2. El_Wray*

      OP here, this is exactly what I wanted! And your name is ironic considering I scrolled through 200ish comments to find it :D.

      Let me know, er, please contact me if I can do the same for you sometime.

  27. Leela*

    LW 3 – We just lost a very good, VERY hard to replace employee because of a stupid payroll error that my boss and I fought extremely hard against but payroll just bumbled along and didn’t get on it until the employee finally quit several MONTHS later after 20 or so unpaid hours of their time writing e-mails, checking their accounts, and being forced by payroll (we didn’t find out until later) to essentially do all the work on their end so payroll wouldn’t have to look into it. Unfortunately we’ve adopted a terrible payroll system so as much as well all have issues with the payroll person we can’t afford to lose someone who knows the system right now (according to HR, I say chuck her for her terrible behavior, this is far from the first huge issue and I’ve been warning HR for almost a full year that we were going to lose people over what was going on).

    No one is upset with him for quitting. He didn’t cry but if he had we’d have understood. Anyone who knows what happened is going to have laser focus on payroll, wondering “how long until *I* am shorted 500 dollars and not promptly paid? How screwed will I be at that time?”

    Generally yeah convention dictates that one wouldn’t cry at work but this is definitely a situation where anyone even a little reasonable is going to understand.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I had a situation with a PT job, where they decided to deposit MY check in someone else’s account. I had written checks against my paycheck and I was in danger of bounced check fees. (Making it worse, I am pretty rigid about making sure my checks are good. In 40 years, I have bounced 2 checks. One was my own fault. I never did it again. The second time the bank did it FOR me.)
      I was livid. I was sputtering. Fortunately my boss got right on it. And accounting got right on it.
      It was less money than what you lost here, OP, and I cannot imagine what I would have done if they had lost that much on me.

      Two big rules in the workplace:
      Don’t mess with people’s checks.
      Don’t even JOKE about messing with people’s checks because it is that serious an offense.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      When I was a kid (like 9 or 10) the firm my dad worked for started spontaneously bouncing the entire payroll (with no warning, the owner was a “landfill of rubber fire” of a mess who ended up in jail for financial crimes shortly after the firm was sold) because the owner would borrow money from one account to make another one while. The only reason he didn’t loose his whole staff (including my dad) was because when this started happening the firm was in the process of being sold. Everybody figured they could hang on two more months till the sale finalized.

      Purchasing company turned over the accounting books, especially the pension fund books, about two months after their accountants got them. Former owner spent serious time in jail and lost his houses and all the sale proceeds and that only took the final payback to employees to about 70% of what they had been owed. Like I said, calling him a mess was an understatement.

    3. Editor*

      In the U.S., payroll errors need to be fixed in the tax year they occur, I believe. I am unimpressed by the stories I am seeing about payroll folks being unwilling to fix a miscalculation promptly. I know a couple of payroll managers. It is a thankless and often underpaid job, and dealing with both the employer’s record keeping (or lack thereof), many different tax jurisdictions, and the payroll company software can be a stressful nightmare. Every payroll is a hard deadline that has to be met and executed accurately. Fixing last-minute problems is part of the job.

      So, one of my questions would be whether there’s a problem the payroll staff can’t control — such as, does the management have no provision for cutting a check to make up shortfall, does management have unreasonable expectations of perfection from payroll staff while expecting 60 hours of work in a 40 or 50 hour week, did management buy into a mediocre payroll fulfillment contract because the Vice President was flattered by the payroll-provider’s sales staff, do record keeping deadlines get ignored by employees so onsite payroll staffers have to do a lot of last-minute data entry, does the employer staff payroll for redundancy or is the department staffed minimally?

      There are a huge number of moving parts in payroll. A payroll professional at a multi-state or multi-country employer has to deal with an amazing number of laws, regulations, and calculations in addition to meeting the terms of the payroll fulfillment company and the bank(s) the employer uses. In a number of U.S. states, moving from one school district to another can affect deductions. My take, again, is that an occasional mistake is not surprising, but failing to cut a check immediately to correct an error is a bad sign, showing either a management problem or a payroll staff member problem.

  28. Leela*

    LW #1 – you would have an *insane* amount of access to your manager that your other coworkers wouldn’t have. Even if you don’t talk about work outside of work. You are going to feel an ease with bringing things up to her, she’s going to feel a responsibility to you, you might have two decades or more of a pre-existing relationship with your manager. There’s no way that both this wouldn’t be an issue, and none of your coworkers would perceive this as an issue. If you got a promotion, a cooler project, time off when other people did, etc, even if it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that your manager is your sister and in fact even if she recused herself from those decisions and someone else made them, it’s just going to be impossible for this to not be a morale landmine for the rest of the team.

    And in all honesty, I don’t think anyone, you, your sister, me, Alison, anyone at all, can truly be that objective. I think your sister could easily know better than to go “well I’m going to give her X project because she’s my sister.” But is her lifetime of experiences with you not going to color her decisions in any way? I really think that’s impossible. Think about how annoyed you are with a stranger who bumps into you on the street versus if one of your friends does. I’m going to guess that unless your friend is a serial bumper you’re not as annoyed with them, not because you’re going “they’re my friend so I give them extra privileges to bump into people” but it just doesn’t land the same with your preexisting relationship.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      My supervisor is friends with one coworker. Supervisor was warned to cool the friendship when they were promoted bc of the way it appears. Supervisor did not cool off the friendship.

      Result: everyone thinks coworker is getting special treatment, supervisor is not professional or trustworthy (esp when we need to complain about coworker), and morale is down in the department.

      Supervisor told me they were warned and told me the friendship is not that deep and most of the hanging out time during work is not about work but is about coworker’s personal problems. But that reality does not trump perception.

      1. DarnTheMan*

        I had this with a former co-worker; she was by all appearances BFFs with our mat-leave-cover team lead, regular lengthy non-work conversations at the team lead’s desk, twice daily coffee runs. Then when the actual team lead came back, she (the co-worker) complained to me that everyone was treating her differently because of her friendship with the former team lead, when really they “weren’t that close at all.”

      2. Leela*

        Also that hanging out time is something that unless the rest of you are getting a similar amount of “hang out time” with the supervisor, they’re building a stronger relationship (on top of the one that they already had), and even if the supervisor DID give you hang out time it’s going to go differently because a friend relationship is generally more close/open than a supervisor to employee one. It’s just a bad idea all around and I don’t doubt at all that morale is low. I once took a job and found out later that one of the women on my team was married to our boss (so he was her direct supervisor). It was *impossible* to believe that she wasn’t getting an extreme amount of special treatment. I doubt he was going “well she’s my wife so I’ll give her better treatment” but it just happens naturally because of how humans are. She got to discuss her ideas (or ours, things we threw around) with him at home and they’d come in with things to try that none of us got to weigh in on or pitch our ideas or show what we were capable of. It was awful and the layoff I experienced (which she was spared from but the rest of our team wasn’t) is probably the best thing that ever happened to me

    2. Batgirl*

      This “you would have an *insane* amount of access to your manager”, really sums it up for me.

      1. Leela*

        I think this is the part that people don’t consider when they say “but we’ll all be professional and objective!” Things are just naturally different when you have an extra relationship with a manager and the rest of the team doesn’t. I agree with Alison, I’m incredibly surprised that the company is even interviewing OP for a role where they’d be directly managed by the supervisor. Even people who are always as professional and objective as possible will wind up with issues here, let alone the issues that would arise from people who aren’t such as:

        Say (knock on wood, I’d never wish for it!) their parents passed away and there winds up being a dispute about the estate, then they come to work and everything’s just fine? Even if it was, would they *feel* that everything’s just fine?

        What if one of OP’s coworkers feels that they’re being bullied, how comfortable are they going to be raising this with someone they know to be OP’s sister? How comfortable are they going to be raising it to HR knowing that it could get back to OP’s sister that they said something? Will OP’s sister automatically side with OP? On the flipside, if OP’s sister for some reason felt bullied by OP growing up, are they going to go “oh I can TOTALLY see that I’ll talk to OP” whether or not the reporter is correct?

        Lots of people have family things come up (weddings, funerals, reunions, etc) from time to time, would OP’s sister be more invested in making sure that OP makes it to their mutual family function than they would be in someone else on the team making it to their own family function? Is OP’s sister going to feel as comfortable saying “I’m sorry but we can’t let you take the time off that day, I’ll be off and we need the coverage” to their own sibling as they would be to someone else on the team with no other relationship, who they wouldn’t have to see outside of work?

        There’s just way too many things that could come up here, and if the coworkers feel that something’s off about it (they will, and even if nothing happens I feel like most of them will be waiting for something to inevitably happen), the company is going to look so, so bad here

        1. Kate*

          Re: family functions – that’s a good reason to NOT have family/friends working on the same project because they would more probably to want time off at the same time, or get sick at the same time, or… Once we had to change the location of a conference at only a month before because the owners of that place – a married couple – had just had a baby and they were not responding for several weeks. So, your SO or sibling as a back-up is NOT a good idea even if there was no considerations of nepotism – it’s more like having all your eggs in one basket.

  29. Jedi Squirrel*

    LW #1: You weren’t treated unfairly. You were treated specially, because you got the interview.

    Most companies have anti-nepotism policies, because having people who are related to the people they manage can be very problematic, meaning that you would not even have made it to the interview stage. The issue is not that you’d be working with your sister; you’d be working for your sister.

    This is a serious red flag about this company.

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      LW1, the biggest red flag for me in your letter is that it sounds like you didn’t even talk to your sister before you applied — you said she “saw your application.” That doesn’t speak well of your ability to talk openly about possible issues, to plan for and offset different dynamics, etc. Of course you weren’t treated unfairly but it also sounds to me like you are a bit… defiant? In this whole thing, including how you presented this to your sister.

      1. Annony*

        Yep. You really should have talked to your sister before applying. She could have told you if there was a company policy against it and also whether she would feel comfortable managing you. It is entirely possible that she was the one who asked not to be on the panel or expressed discomfort with the idea of managing you. Honestly, that would be the professional thing for her to do.

      2. Allypopx*

        Yes this is what I picked up on too. What a terrible position to put your sister in! That, if nothing else, will reflect poorly on you and your professionalism. I don’t think this is the work persona you want your sister to associate you with.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Especially if sister said something along the lines of “that’s my sister, didn’t know she had applied, I need to recuse myself now” only when they got to the setting up interviews stage. What would run thru my head is “what sort of drama would I be importing to the company if I hire someone who has such a poor relationship with their sister that is already here that they don’t tell them I applied for X job opening, working directly with you?!” Too late to back out of interview, turn this to a curtesy interview since we’re already scheduling and mark it “decline” for going forward.

  30. PB*

    OP#1, you were not treated unfairly. It’s very normal for companies to ask members of committees to recuse themselves in cases of personal connection. Recently, my supervisor had to recuse herself from my university’s promotion and tenure committee when my resume came up. And that’s my supervisor, not a relative or personal connection.

    The employers’ response, in this part, was normal and expected, not discrimination in any way. I have to agree with Alison and the other commenters for the rest, however. They really should not have interviewed you for this job in the first place!

  31. Oh_oh*

    LW #3: Don’t feel bad for tearing up! Everyone understands this! Especially in these circumstances.

    I had a coworker who was struggling financially and then the company saddled her with a bill for something they’d said they would cover. It was only $25, but it was $25 she just didn’t have.

    It was also an error. They fixed it. But, before that happened she spent a good chunk of the day trying to hold back tears and absolutely no one blamed her.

  32. Not So NewReader*

    Eh, if I were ticked enough, I would say something to the effect of, “I know our company would not want to be out of compliance with labor laws.”

    And I have said this. OP, if the check is wrong, it’s wrong. Does not matter how much it is off by. MAYBE if the amount was low like $5, one could consider just adding it to the next pay period. But $500 is expecting too much of the employee to carry this shortage.
    Yeah, I’d cry too if it were me.

  33. No Tribble At All*

    OP#2, I agree that casual joking about suicide should never be done, and my concern is what if they’re not joking. Especially if it’s about something that’s super serious— I wouldn’t be concerned if someone said “omg I lost my favorite pen, guess I’ll end it,” I’d just think they were tactless. But “I don’t want to go to these meetings, I don’t care about my job, I don’t accomplish anything…” combined with those hand gestures, would be a red flag for that person’s health. “Joking” about suicide as a response to a genuinely tough situation seems like a cry for help.

    I agree with Allison that you can say “please don’t joke about suicide” without needing any justification.

    1. RC Rascal*

      Agreed. I had a friend who used to joke about suicide and it turned out she was actually thinking about it.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Anthony Bourdain joked about hanging himself. I saw a episode where he did it after he died and it made my gut churn. I literally almost threw up. I was watching while mourning his loss to really add to the gut punch.

    3. Anon just Here*

      Yup – you never know when it’s not a joke. I mentioned up above that “jokes” about suicide in my office get you having an immediate conversation with whatever mental health professional is first available to make sure you are okay. I also understand that my office is not the norm.

    4. LW2*

      In my colleagues case I think it was just venting frustration, but you can never really know for certain. The first I knew that my sibling was struggling was when I got the call to say they were dead. It completely blindsided my entire family and all of my sibling’s friends.

  34. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    OP 4. I found myself in the same problem with emails. I want to end them with more than just thanks, but not with some empty words. I second Alison. “Be specific”. If I send someone an attachment, “please let me know if you have any problems with the file” and if there is nothing to be specific about, I let it go. Feels weird at first, but put yourself on the reader’s side. Do you want a letter with every message? Nope.

  35. Employee #24601*

    LW1, this was absolutely the right way to handle things (even if I think they shouldn’t be considering you at all). I’ve recused myself from specific panel interviews when I wasn’t even the hiring manager when close friends have been the ones being interviewed because I didn’t think I could give objective feedback. Fair isn’t always treating everyone the same.

  36. Falling Diphthong*

    When she saw that I had applied, she also declared our relationship.

    OP, I think you are viewing this as the way normal professional distance would work–why, your sister didn’t even know you’d applied!–when to everyone else it’s a red flag about how you guys have weird communication issues that would bog down everyone around you if you were hired.

  37. Lisa*

    LW1: I was referred by a friend from university for my current role, and he was excluded from the interview panel as well, even though he would only be my peer, not my manager, and we are not even close friends. I thought this was completely fair, so perplexed at how you would think your sister not being on the panel was unfair. Agree with Alison that you should not have been considered for the job in the first place.

  38. Jo*

    OP1, I have to agree that it wouldn’t be a good idea for you to be managed by your sister. Even if there was never any favouritism, or never any need for her to fire you, reprimand you or give you negative feedback, the potential for the appearance of favouritism and the resulting bad feeling among the rest of the team would be too high. You would also have more access to your boss than your other colleagues, which could give you an unfair advantage. On the other hand it could also hold you back when it comes to bonuses, projects etc because your sister might not want to look as if she’s favouring you. Or if you need to take time off for reasons you’d rather your boss not know about, it could be harder to do this when your boss is your sister. While there’s a chance none of this might happen and it could all go smoothly, there’s too much potential for conflict that you might not foresee.

  39. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #4 – I can guarantee that you’re more worried about your emails than anybody else, and I would be surprised if most people even notice. I have spent my career going back and forth via email because most people aren’t reading them, they’re just skimming. If I’m sending something for someone to review, I always say “let me know if you have any questions”. And my signature just ends with Thanks and my name/title, etc.

    1. NeonFireworks*

      Agreed. Unless you’re the only person at your organization who sends emails to any of the others ever, they’re probably paying no attention – especially at the end of an email rather than the beginning.

    2. Bluesboy*

      Yes, particularly because 100% of your sent emails will have that signature – but if the other person receives emails from, say, another 20 people, only 5% of those emails are from you – I know I wouldn’t notice if 5% of the emails I received had the same signature every time, unless it was inappropriate or funny.

      Sometimes we just assume that other people place the same importance on things as we do, but I think you can pretty much guarantee that nobody out there is paying as much attention to our email signatures as we do.

      1. MayLou*

        The only signature I notice with any regularity is from a referred who has an unnecessary apostrophe in her organisation’s slogan. Other people from the same organisation have the same signature without the error. It stands out like a neon beacon to me.

  40. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    LW#4, I have had the exact same thought process! I use LMKITHAQ all the time, and wondered if I should cut it out, but: I send quite detailed technical info to several stakeholders, and I need to ensure they know I am here to help explain, and also a large chunk of my clients are ESL, so I don’t want to rely on context. Mostly I work a “please” around there in different ways, or personalise it with “Let me know if you have any q’s on [Doc Name], I can cover them in the call next week etc…”

    1. El_Wray*

      Thanks! Sounds like we’re in the same situation. I work in a design field and I have to ask for feedback several times on each revision, so I’ve defaulted to this phrase and I’m just burning out on it.

      1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

        Yeah, even if no one notices you can feel like a bore just typing it out over and over. Sometimes I wrap it into, “Once you’ve reviewed [DOC], I’m available for any questions or feedback”/”Get in touch with any enquiries”/”If there’s anything that doesn’t make sense I’ll be happy to review it with you” Wordy, sure, and tone can matter, but it keeps some variables going!

  41. CupcakeCounter*

    I am so sorry for your loss. I was one of those people who used that gesture somewhat often and then had an extended family member commit suicide that way. The first time I caught myself doing it after that I was so ashamed of myself that I could joke around about something like that. To make things even worse, it was done in front of the son of the relative. I apologized and he and I had a long talk after and I haven’t done it sense.
    People can be retrained – I’ve done it. You are not a stick in the mud, oversensitive, or a killjoy. Just ask – Alison’s script is great – and remember that retraining takes some time and patience so they might slip up from time to time.

    1. Leela*

      Agreed, I’ve definitely done things and later found out that it was actually horrible for people whose experiences I’d never had and wouldn’t have thought to check against. I was mortified! I definitely want people to mention stuff like that to me, although I can’t say if that’s for sure true for your coworkers OP. But I will say that people would have to be inconsiderate beyond norms to joke around suicide around a coworker who’d had a close experience with one (although I do think that OP shouldn’t have to come forward for something like this, unfortunately I think they’ll have to anyway since it doesn’t seem to be stopping on its own)

      1. LW2*

        Thank you for expressing that it’s something you would want to know about.

        I want to clarify that when I wrote it happens occasionally, I genuinely mean that. It’s only occurred a few times in total, but because it’s so infrequent it catches me by surprise and I never know how to respond in the moment.

    2. LW2*

      Thank you for your kind words.

      I definitely understand that we’re all human, and sometime people slip up. My fiance has done it in the past. He made an offhand comment “remember that old job that made me literally want to kill myself?”, realised just what he’d said the moment it left his mouth and he saw the expression on my face , and immediate fell over himself apologising. I’ve never held it against him. I hope your family member understood after your talk that it was a mistake, and you didn’t intend any harm.

  42. Senor Montoya*

    OP #5: this doesn’t help your current situation, but in the future I’d buy trip insurance.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Most trip insurance doesn’t cover pandemics, and per NPR this morning, true ‘all inclusive’ insurance is very expensive. Which takes us back to the ‘should the company have any role in mitigating this’ question.

      (I lean pretty heavily towards ‘no, the company’s not got any responsibility for personal hotel / car / etc’ but I like some of the ‘if the company wanted to be nice they could do x’ suggestions)

      1. butters*

        Thank you!
        I have an upcoming trip that could be cancelled without refund and it’s annoying to hear “maybe next time you’ll get trip insurance” from people that never travel. I DO have insurance (though it doesn’t cover pandemics) but the “cancel for any reason” insurance is EXPENSIVE.
        It’s an unfortunate situation all around and I agree with you that it would be really appreciated and helpful during stressful times if the company could go above and beyond in some way.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      I bought a cheap policy for my last European trip, and it did cover changes in employment. I don’t know if they would accept a claim for a cancelled work program, as opposed to complete job loss, but that is the coverage I would look at.

  43. CupcakeCounter*

    You letter proves that the company was correct to not include your sister in the panel. As Alison said, they didn’t go far enough. As soon as it was disclosed that you are related to the hiring manager, it should have been an instant no. In fact, that was what I assumed your letter was going to say! “Company refused to let me interview for a job supervised by my sister or Company revoked my interview once the relationship was discovered.” This isn’t a high school part-time job with very low stakes – this could cause serious issues for her team and the company. You get the best project? Favoritism. You get the worst? Sister is picking on me.
    You never should have applied to be on your sister’s team.
    Withdraw your application.

  44. AnonyNurse*

    Years ago, while working at a low income clinic, I returned to my office to find the partner of a client walking out. I quickly opened my desk drawer and found he’d taken the $12 I had in cash. Which was what I made per hour. The violation of trust was the worst part, but it also ate up my small discretionary budget.

    Nothing to be done about the guy. And I cried. I was frustrated and disappointed. The big boss saw me crying (in my office but she had to do an incident report) and said she’d replace the money. Which made me cry more cause now I was embarrassed that I cried and that it seemed I was that hard up.

    I recovered from the tears. I have more grace and perspective and know that it may well have been a habit born of desperation and his own frustration. And I still don’t lock stuff up, because I just can’t live in that world.

  45. Roses Angel*

    OP #1. My boss has been asking all his employees to recommend qualified people for a position. I have a family member that would likely be perfect. I havent recommended her simply because id likely need to train her. She would more than likely end up on a differebt team but I am uncomfortable in case shes not, and because I would be senior to her as I have the most experience. I would not work for your sister. At all…

  46. Moo*

    #4 – I like to say “Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns” because a lot of times I hear “I didn’t want to bug you” or “I’m so sorry to bother you.” I want people to know that they *can* come to me with their questions, it’s not a bother, and not to feel bad about it because that’s exactly why I’m here.

    1. Aquawoman*

      My reports do this and about half the time, I respond, “this is literally my job, you are keeping me employed,” and they still do it. I don’t know if they really think they’re bugging me or if it’s just sort of an automatic nicety.

      1. Moo*

        Right? Like my job is to be accessible, answer questions, and generally help people! You aren’t bothering me!

  47. Jennifer*

    #1 Are you serious? Discrimination???? People seriously need to stop pulling this word and “bullying” out of the hat EVERY time things don’t go their way. Unless this was the only job available in the entire state/country where you live, you shouldn’t have even applied. The very least they could do was pull her off the interview panel. If I were one of the other candidates, even if your sister wasn’t doing the interviewing, I would consider the entire process unfair because my potential boss’s sister was being considered. I’d assume I didn’t even have a chance and this was all a formality. You aren’t the one getting screwed over here and you need to calm down.

    #5 A lot of places are refunding travel costs related to the virus. I don’t think the company should refund everyone but I think providing resources to help people recoup as much money as they can is a good idea.

    1. Allypopx*

      Re #1 – Yeah, in reality no two candidates are ever treated exactly the same. It’s much more fair to level the playing field so that everyone has a fair shake. That might mean taking your sister off the interview panel. It might mean one candidates work experience gets weighed against another candidates more advanced education. It might mean that all else being equal you go with a minority candidate because you’re trying to follow through on commitment to recruiting a diverse team.

      Fairness is subjective, and in this case you were in no way discriminated against. If anything, you were given special treatment by even being granted an interview for a job you definitely should not have been considered for.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, people who cry “discrimination” about nonsense like this undermine the cases of people who really *do* face discrimination by making it look like discrimination is a frivolous or spurious complaint to be pulled out by anybody who doesn’t like something at work.

  48. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP1, you said ‘I believe that I was treated completely unfairly because of who I am and neither of us were given the opportunity to show that we can separate personal from professional. She would have been the third panel member had she been included in my interview, so surely any accusations of nepotism could have been easily quashed simply by the fact that there were two other people in the interview who did not know me, and a balanced view could have been obtained by all three.’

    It seems like you believe being treated fairly means ‘treated just like everyone else’ – but that can’t happen for you in this case. I’m in corporate staffing, and I can’t recall an employer that would hire a close family member to report to another close family member. In fact, they had pretty straightforward and blunt policies about this kind of reporting relationship – it wasn’t going to happen. You may be certain that you can separate ‘personal from professional’, but most employers have policies like mine did because they hired equally certain siblings, children, or spouses. And they learned the hard way that mostt people grossly overestimate their ability to manage the family dynamic in the office.

    So no, you can’t be treated like everyone else because your situation is not like the everyone else’s. You post a more tangible risk than other candidates. Yes, hiring is always risky, but you are related to your boss. I’ll argue it’s hard to be 100% impartial anyway, but the hiring committee can’t help but wonder if your sister will give you choice assignments when someone else might deserve them more. Or if you’ll pout or wheedle or push or drag your feet, because she’s your sister and that’s how you get what you want from her. Or if she can discipline you if your performance is not what it should be. Or if you can take direction from your sister, who was never ‘The Boss Of Me!’ before. Or if she can fire you if it comes to that. It’s hard to discipline or terminate someone anyway, but especially when you’re related to someone reporting to you, and that person will be sitting at the table with you on Thanksgiving.

    You and your sister may mean well but, again, so have countless others who left smoking craters in the office because they ccould not behave like professionals at work – they behaved like relatives. Please, rethink pursuing this position anyway, but definitely rethink your take on being treated fairly. The employer is doing the right thing FOR YOUR SITUATION.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Orrrr they’ll have public yelling matches in the office. Been there, seen that in a family business!

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Yep. I’ve seen a husband and wife have a very public and loud argument. They worked in different departments on different floors in the same building but found a common area to have their argument. Sometimes people just can’t leave their personal lives outside the office door.

  49. StressedButOkay*

    OP1, at every place I’ve worked, there have been strict rules in place that prevented relatives – and spouses/SO’s – from working directly in the same department, especially if someone was in a managerial position. Relatives could work in different departments but never in the same one.

    The fact that moved forward with the interview is unusual for most companies – having your sister sit out from the interview was the least they could do and you were not being discriminated against at all.

    OP3, oh no, I’m so sorry! You have nothing to apologize for or feel bad for. $500 is a good chunk of money and the fact that your organization didn’t cut you a check immediately to cover it is insane. There’s no shame of $500 going missing and crying, at all.

  50. Grace*

    #3 Most of us have been here at some point so son’t think twice about it. For future payroll mishaps ask directly for a check to be cut, if they push back tell them this is a hardship for you. I started my career in Payroll at a large Healthcare company and as a money saving policy (from people who made more on their yearly bonus than my entire team made yearly) since checks cost money and electronic transfers do not we were not supposed to offer a check to be cut. It was available to be be cut and overnight-ed to the employee but only if the employee asked for it we couldn’t offer it. We used to ask over and over if there was something else we could do for them and if they were sure because they just had to ask, trying to get the employee to ask for a check.

  51. Moo*

    #3 – I recently cried in front of my boss (the director of my entire division) because I have been working very hard for a promotion for the last four years and it was finally about to happen, I went through the very last step of the process (the insanely invasive physical) and failed the agility test. I was so frustrated that crying was a completely involuntary reaction. I think that some people don’t realize that crying when you are under extreme stress can be something your body has absolutely no control over. When I feel myself getting to that extreme point, my ears get hot, my eyes start tearing up, and there is nothing on this planet I can do to stop those tears from falling. (For the record, despite failing the agility test I still passed the physical and am now in my new job. But that doesn’t change the extreme feelings I had immediately after being told I’d failed!)

    So try not to feel bad about it. Keep telling yourself that it’s not a normal thing for you, you aren’t sitting in your boss’s office every day sobbing your eyes out over something petty. $500 is not a small sum for anyone and I can guarantee I would have reacted the same way. I’m sure that anyone who knows you at work and knows what happened would completely understand.

  52. Llellayena*

    #4 – I tend to use “Contact me with any questions” because it re-emphasizes that even though other people from my company/team are copied on the email (including people above me), the questions should be directed to ME. I will modify that depending on the email content, but I have had instances where I send an email and the response and/or questions go to someone else on my team or above me who is less equipped to handle those questions (requiring day-to-day comprehensive knowledge of the specific project). This becomes less of an issue as the project progresses, but when the project is starting up or transitioning into my hands, this helps clarify my role.

  53. The Man, Becky Lynch*


    They are obligated to pay you in full. On time.

    Boo effing hoo it’s extra overhead to fix a mistake. I’m disgusted and enraged as someone who’s done payroll for almost 20 years.

    I’m sorry this happened to you and your employer is unethical AF to punish you for their errors. I don’t make it my business to know anyone’s financial situation, I do make it my business to give everyone their full pay no matter how much extra work it requires. I’m not above a clerical error over the years and I’ve never even thought to say anything other than “I’m sorry. You’ll have the money before you leave today.” And I’ve had to personally drive decent distances to get it done if a check signer wasn’t in the office.

    This isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. That’s your money. That’s your life. People can’t eat or pay rent if they miss a single day of pay much less $500.

    1. HR- Occam's Razor*

      As HR Director I’ve had to push payroll to write a corrective check in the past. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked but I believe WA State employers our required to pay within 30 days. With most pay periods either bi-weekly or semi-monthly its technically legal (but reprehensible) to add to the next check.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Honestly, most DOL’s don’t care and have these kind of loopholes built in. So it’s very much “not illegal” but that doesn’t mean it’s not unethical. Ethics go beyond what you’re legally allowed to get away with.

  54. you're not alone*

    #3: Don’t be ashamed! $500 is a lot of money. My company shorted workers on my team about $200 of overtime pay just before the holidays, and refused to reimburse them until the next paycheck, which was after most holidays had ended. I was outraged, because I’ve been in situations where $200 could be make or break, and because my team had worked so many extra hours in the run-up to the holidays. So, you’re definitely not alone–I was incredibly upset about half as much money as you were shorted. That being said, I pushed upper management pretty hard to cut a check and was met with absolute refusal, so I’m not sure it’s always possible to fix. I wish I’d known to look into state labor laws at the time, though.

    1. Observer*

      I hope there is no next time, but if there is point out that it’s illegal to do that, and if they ever get hit by a payroll audit, this WILL show up.

  55. UGH!!!*

    Thank you for the answer for #3! I feel like I am CRAZY because our Accounting dept won’t cut checks when paychecks or short or offer petty cash. It boggles my mind and they just brush it off like it’s nothing. They must never have had to be in a place where even $100 dollars can make help you make it through the week or mean you won’t be eating for the week. It’s literally the worst feeling in the world to watch someone walk out the door with less than what they were promised. One of the many reasons I can’t wait to leave this dysfunctional workplace.

    Thank you for letting me know I’m not crazy Alison! :)

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’d bet money if there was a screw up on one of their checks, they’d get it fixed immediately. They’re treating you as a number and cog, that’s typical nonsense for certain departments I’ve learned.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Ugh, no.

      Years ago, I worked for a small business that used some kind of service to do payroll. It was my job to add up hours and submit them to the service. The service messed up EVERY SINGLE TIME. I’d have coworkers double check before I faxed the submissions sheets to make sure my math was OK and my printing was clear, so the problem wasn’t at our end, but we’d get checks cut for all sorts of random amounts based on hours that had nothing to do with what we’d sent. My boss got on my case the first time or two but everyone else backed me up so he and I did payroll together one week, so he could see what I was doing.

      When the checks came in, I never heard such yelling into the phone in my life. His wife took over after that and got it right.

  56. Sunflower*

    #1 Like others, I’m surprised they even allowed an interview unless they planned to put you in another team.

    I have worked in multiple places were family members worked in the same department but never ever ever ever! where one is a allowed to manage the other. If one gets promoted, the other has to move to a different department.

    So even granting you an interview is more than “fair.”

  57. LGC*

    LW3: but also, next time please feel free to ask if they can cut you a check! As someone who’s messed up a time card or two in his time, I think you’re justified in asking if they can write a check instead.

    If it was something like $5 or maybe even $50, it’d be iffier to push back. (But you can still ask in those cases.) But $500 is a fair amount of money to a lot of people.

    Also, again – as someone who’s messed up a couple of time cards (and then immediately hopped on the phone with payroll in a hurry), I generally feel AWFUL about it. And I would not hold it against an employee for bursting into tears, myself.

  58. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m sorry that these people still think suicide is a joking matter. I’d be extra set off by this behaviour. My cousins didn’t just die by suicide they literally did shoot themselves. Must be fun to be so far removed from an epidemic that you can joyfully reenact ending one’s life and call it humor.

    If you stand up to them, do so knowing you’re supported by many of us who have lost loved ones to this kind of violent end. You may be able to educate someone. Other’s will never understand but that’s not our problem.

    1. LW2*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

      My sibling did not shoot themselves (less common in my country due to stringent gun laws), and I can only imagine how much more visceral my reaction would be if they had.

  59. Virginia Girl*

    OP3: When I was interning, my company short changed me $80 on a paycheck (they thought I was $10/hour when I was actually $11/hour). I was very annoyed but they got it back to me on the next paycheck. You’re right to be upset. It’s $500 for crying out loud.

  60. Front Desk*

    I had to hurry and jump in on LW #2. I lost my middle brother to suicide by gun, and I have zero issue calling people out for miming the same action. I usually will say something like “that’s inappropriate, please stop”, or if they know me (like one of my coworkers do), “you know why I’m not comfortable with that, stop.”

    1. LW2*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

      My sibling was not a gun death, I can only imagine how much more visceral my reaction would be if it had been. Currently I tend to freeze, or reflexively try and laugh it off even though I don’t find it amusing in the slightest. It’s something I need to work on.

  61. cacwgrl*

    OP1 – A reputable company should not have allowed you to interview at all and your sister should have recused herself from any part of the process knowing they had allowed it. I’m hoping they allowed the interview to give you experience and did not intend on taking it any further.

    I’ve been in the situation where I was the hiring manager and family applied. The resume review team told me the next day and I had to immediately recuse myself from the whole process, including any aspect of any other selections to maintain fairness on the panel. Which meant because my family did not withdraw their application, I had no say in any of the selections from that year, where my family did not event make the cut (I honestly suspect the other managers did not select to help me out). Several candidates that were selected did not make it in the program for reasons I felt were immediately obvious to someone with my experience but not to the other panel members. It was a bad situation all the way around, but at least the fairness to other candidates was maintained in terms of equal interviews and evaluations.

  62. Aquawoman*

    LW#2, I am so sorry. I don’t think people would expect you to be lighthearted about your sibling’s suicide. If I was one of your co-workers, I’d be very sorry to have caused you grief.

  63. Laura H.*

    On #3, I’ve had the opposite happen to me.

    I was overpaid due to an AM/PM mixup on a handwritten log(my handwriting in small spaces leaves much to be desired) and I’m more likely to notice an overpayment (major or minor) than I am an underpayment (Minor- I’m sure I have enough brain cells to note a major shortage)

    The response to an error says a ton about the error maker/ beneficiary.

    I informed immediately, because I couldn’t say nothing. It was treated like an advance I suppose and I had to pay it back out of my next check (was I think around 12 hrs worth of extra pay iirc and I was at 12 hrs/ week + or – 2 so it wasn’t forfeiting a whole check) But at the end of the day, my integrity matters to me, as does making things whole as best I can.

    And while your company (hopefully) made you whole- making you wait till your next check wasn’t the best way to do it if they to attempt to repair your moral. I would not be surprised if this will (rightly) change the relationship you have with your employer in a negative way.

    While I’m a work novice and don’t have a clue what this has told you, I know your employer has told you something with their insistence of this delaying what you’re rightly due!

  64. The Great Octopus*

    #3 – I just want to point out that 60% of Americans are one small emergency ($200-1000) from not being able to pay bills and in Canada the last one was about 50% of Canadians are $200 away from not being able to pay bills (from recent financial articles). That being said, I am confident if anyone had any judgment about you being upset they were judging payroll from not making it right right away and making you wait an additional 2 weeks for their mistake. Because that’s garbage. You worked for that time, they owe you that money and they should have cut you a check that day to correct it or pushed through another deposit, not “oh we’ll fix it next pay period so you get to pay additional tax on money we owe you”.

    We all have a realistic expectation that we do work in exchange for the agreed upon money not for involuntary loans to the company. I’m sorry they did that to you, they were 100% in the wrong and you were totally in the right to be upset about this and handled it very well. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it that well.

  65. Observer*

    #1 – The fact that you think it’s unfair that your sister was kept out of the hiring process says that you should most definitely not be working for her (nor should you ever manage a close relative or friend.) This statement makes it clear that you really don’t understand how conflict of interest and appearance of bias work and potentially affect the workplace.

    If the company has any government contract, they may not even be ALLOWED to hire you, as it happens.

    Think about it – Why do you think it’s unfair that she wasn’t in the room? Because she knows you better than anyone and can therefore advocate for you if you don’t present in a way that is positive for you? Even if we assume (and NO ONE will), that she would only do that when she knows that what she is saying is true, no one else would have that kind of advocacy. So, it looks like you are complaining about not getting an extra “in” in the process.

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “If the company has any government contract, they may not even be ALLOWED to hire you, as it happens.”

      Are you sure? I worked at a company for over eleven years, and every year, they entered into a one-year contract with the federal government. The chairman of the board and the president were brothers, and all of their children and step-children worked at the company. I don’t think the federal government even asked them if they had any relatives working for them.

      1. Observer*

        Every government contract I’ve been in any way involved with (and that’s bee a fair number) asks about nepotism policies. and some of them require you to certify that your nepotism policies conform to their policies.

        I get that this may not be universal, but it IS common.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          Well, then, I guess TPTB at my company certified that their nepotism policies conformed to the federal government’s policies. Even if they didn’t. I mean, I never saw anyone from the federal government visit my company’s premises to see for themselves what was going on regarding how the children and step-children were being treated vs. how the other employees were being treated.

  66. Observer*

    #3 – Crying at work is NOT the end of the world. I mean if you did it on a regular basis, created a major scene or did this over something universally inconsequential, that would be one thing. But what you descried? Very, very normal reaction.

    Also, your payroll / HR / Manager all stink. $500 is a LOT of money – asking you to wait an extra two weeks, especially at a time when expenses are typically high is a lot to ask, especially when it was THEIR mistake!

    Lastly, what’s with the shame? Really needing your full pay is not a reflection on you AT ALL. And given how much was at play here, it’s a very common thing, even for people with reasonable salaries and smart spending habits. So, please, let go of that.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I had a part time job and I was getting paid once a month. Except for the months I didn’t.


      One time was so bad I went 6 weeks without a check. Several people asked me in all sincerity, “But why is this a problem?”

      Fireworks are quieter than I was. I informed them that I am not explaining my situation to them. That IS my money NOT theirs and either they start paying me on consistent pay days or I am calling the DOL. After much energy and many discussions I started getting paid every other week.

      I tend to think that when I have to do that much explaining then someone, somewhere is not very good at their job and probably should move on.

  67. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Oh, OP3, I’m so sorry you went through this. But please know that your company…well, it sucks. Most payroll departments would stop everything and cut a check RIGHT THEN AND THERE for the person they shorted. That’s because most employers take payroll very seriously. Heck, I once was shorted a small amount because of a clerical error regarding my insurance contribution. I told payroll about it but assured them it was not a time-sensitive or urgent issue. They saw it differently, and I had a check for the difference before I left for that day. THAT’S how it’s done.

    OP, your employer is being awfully casual about YOUR money. $500 is nothing to be casual about, and you have nothing to be embarrassed about for getting upset.

  68. writerbecc*

    OP #1 – my team has two brothers working on it in peer roles. One of them’s been on my team for a few years, one just joined recently. When we interviewed the new brother for the position on my team, the guy already on the team recused himself from the entire interview process, because he couldn’t be objective. That is, in fact, how it should work.
    OP#3 – if I lost $500 out of my check I’d be freaking out. You have nothing to be embarrassed about!

  69. PeanutButter*

    LW #4: Story time. Once I looked at an upcoming paycheck and noticed it was OVER to the tune of $10K. My usual checks were about $1000. I immediately let my manager know (it was an error and they’d given me several thousand hours of PTO) and guess what they did? STOPPED MY CHECK ENTIRELY and told me I’d get paid the next pay period. When I informed my manager that if I didn’t have a check in my hot little hands Payday morning (I worked noc shift and had no car so their other option was me going two towns over in the middle of the afternoon to get a check from HQ) I would not be coming in that night, she said “Well, I don’t know why you’re making such a big fuss about so little money.”

    (Please note that I was the only person working my noc shifts who was signed off to do certain treatments for ER patients. If I didn’t come in they had to have people drive from their other hospital in a neighboring town to do them.)

    And then they wonder why they have a morale problem.

    PS: The CEO had recently been having “all hands on deck” meetings about how employee morale is the most important thing and we all should feel like we can bring up issues to him so I emailed him, cc’d my manager, and HR had someone in the lobby waiting for me with a check at 8 am sharp that pay day.

    Moral of the story: Don’t be ashamed, be ANGRY. That is what you have to LIVE on, and it is absolutely unacceptable that they are STEALING YOUR WAGES. Start thinking of any pay that is not in your possession at the agreed upon time as THEFT because it is. They’re getting to keep the interest from that money while it is in their possession, interest that is rightfully yours.

    1. Observer*

      Well, at least your CEO put his money where his mouth is in this situation. But how does any competent payroll person tell you “we made a mistake with your payroll, so we’r not paying at all”?

      1. PeanutButter*

        That was their standard MO for any paycheck discrepancy (of course, if they paid over you had to pay it back within a day from when the mistake was found). A lot of my fellow employees had to use GoFundMe or payday loans to cover paycheck discrepancies because a lot of healthcare staff are from disadvantaged backgrounds so they don’t know their rights. When I was on the warpath for my money most of my co-workers thought I was going to get fired because I dared speak up about it. I got to educate a lot of people about NLRB and what your rights were as an employee that week.

        Of course the hospital administration was just shocked – SHOCKED – when we unionized later that year. How very dare we, after they gave us so many pizza parties for pulling 12-16 hour shifts to avoid unsafe staff:patient ratios because they refused to hire or schedule enough people?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          s/And sleep deprived people working 12-16 hour shifts never, ever make mistakes. And they never have slip and fall accidents etc./s

          I think the unspoken in the staff to patient ratio is that staff are alert, rested and not experiencing any mental fog from exhaustion.
          Am shaking my head.

  70. Rozefly*

    OP 1:

    I actually disagree. I just spent the last (almost) 6 years working in close proximity with my brother. We worked on different teams and he was way up the ladder compared to me and worked there for a good 3 years before I joined, but we sat a few desks away and interacted like any of the other employees. I was seconded onto his team for 6 months at one point and worked on a lot of projects with him. I later actually fully moved onto that team, I think at that point he was running another team, but still even if he wasn’t there would have been zero issue with me working for him. But, that is because we’re both professional and would never cross professional boundaries at work – and everyone knew it. He wasn’t part of my interview process (completely different team, but if it had been for a role which he was in charge of, he absolutely would have been) but he certainly gave me a heads up that a role had opened up that I might be suited to. If anything, knowing my bro, he probably would have been harsher on me if I needed reprimanding or if I wasn’t acting professionally.

    Granted, I worked with a bunch of awesome and amazing people at that company – but we had married couples and friends working all working together and as far as I am aware, everyone was just normal and not a juvenile about it. I think issues like this have far less to do with the relationship between these people, and more to do with their overall professionalism/ lack thereof.

    All in all, most people didn’t even realise we were related. A few people noticed the surname and actually thought we were married!

    I’m sure many people will disagree though! : )

  71. Frankie*

    LW 1 – As others are noting, your definition of being unbiased in this situation is really weird. Your letter give the impression that you think you are entitled to full consideration for any job in spite of any real barriers or circumstances that might interfere with workplace dynamics. Being managed by a blood relative has so much potential for bias that the company was right to put some limits in place.

    It’s weird that you think the “right” thing to do in this situation would be to evaluate you as if this relationship doesn’t exist. Do you work in a super small town where situations like this might be more common? Frankly, the fact is that even with your best intentions, your family dynamics will intrude into the workplace and make it impossible to know whether you’re being treated better (or worse) due to your significant lifelong relationship. You and your sister both have blind spots in this area that would be impossible to account for. So even if you both swore up and down it wouldn’t impact the job, you both also can’t be relied on for objectivity here. It’s not possible.

    The company is actually doing what they should be doing here, and as Alison said, probably didn’t go far enough. It would maybe be one thing if you were interviewing for a peer relationship for a lower stakes job.

    Impartiality doesn’t mean you live and work in a vacuum and need to be considered apart from any family or romantic attachments you might have, particularly when a management relationship would be in play.

  72. Anon Same Sitch*

    I thought of another wrinkle on the off-site travel cancellation. I have been specifically encouraged to book a flight for a plus one at my expense so that they could attend the company Christmas party, as they could stay with me for free. So I could see that with this offsite, it’s an expected and probably encouraged perk to book a flight for your partner, at your own expense, to attend with you. In that case, perhaps the non-reimbursement should be reconsidered?

  73. Mayflower*

    OP#2: I am very sorry to hear about what happened with your sibling. You have my deepest sympathy. Having said that, I really don’t think people are “joking about suicide” when they make these gestures. Saying “please don’t joke about suicide” is going to go over about as well as saying “please don’t make fun of religion” every time someone uses the word “awesome”. You will get blank stares from people struggling to understand what you could even mean, and if they do eventually make the connection, they will think of you as someone who has a lot of anger (however justified) and try to avoid you or walk on eggshells around you. I mean, my mother was in Europe during World War II and nearly died from starvation, but I don’t assume people are making light of war and famine when they casually say that they are starving. Alison’s first script is so much better because it accomplished the same goal without assuming the worst in people.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      “Saying ‘please don’t joke about suicide’ is going to go over about as well as saying ‘please don’t make fun of religion’ every time someone uses the word ‘awesome’. ”

      Really? If I did the mime-gun-to-my-head thing, and somebody said “Please don’t joke about suicide,” I would immediately understand what they meant (and I would guess that they had probably lost someone close to them, and apologize). It doesn’t seem like a big leap to make in the moment.

      1. anon4this*

        It would make me think the coworker was a snowflake and must be treated delicately. I might immediately apologize as well, but my opinion of that person would change.
        The joke isn’t in great taste, but I don’t think it quite rises to the “please don’t” category.
        If I said “my wife will murder me if I’m late again tonight”, am I joking about domestic violence? Murder? Where does the line get drawn?

        1. Cheluzal*

          You could ask but the person has the right to do what they want to do. Too precious for my taste.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      With all of the gun violence along with suicide it is really uncalled for to mimic shooting oneself. If someone says that makes me uncomfortable, please don’t mimic suicide a decent and caring person would understand and stop. Also why would the OPs coworkers think she was angry and have to walk on eggshells? Shes not yelling at them, just calmly asking for them to stop.
      One thing that she could do is say “you might not realize this but when you mimic shooting yourself you may involuntarily cause others to have upset feelings do to past trauma. ” plus it is a really juvenile and unprofessional thing to do at work. If I was a manager and saw my employee do that I would question why they feel like a stressful situation results in this type of action and speak to that person.

    3. LW2*

      I agree that for a lot of people there is a sort of mental disconnect between the gesture, and the fact that it is portraying a suicide.

      I hope I didn’t come across that I was assuming the worst in my colleagues. I do not think that they are ill-intentioned.

  74. Coder von Frankenstein*

    To LW5, I’m with Alison. It would be a nice gesture if the company could assist with getting refunds where possible (a corporation usually has a bit more weight to swing in such negotiations). I also like Jessica’s suggestion that the company could allow employees to buy their plane tickets from the company at cost, or even less than cost if the tickets were non-refundable. Basically, if the company can find way to cushion the impact on employees without a big impact to its own budget, that’s a good thing to do that folks will appreciate.

    But actually picking up the tab for people’s vacation plans is going too far IMO. If you personally got deathly ill the week before a vacation trip and had to cancel, you wouldn’t expect the company to reimburse you. In this case, it’s other people getting deathly ill, but the same principle applies.

  75. Curmudgeon in California*

    RE #5:

    My wife is a Travel Agent part time. If people are going on a trip with non-refundable anything they need to go ahead, bite the bullet, and buy travel insurance. It is made for situation like this. International trip where you have your own money committed or spent? Get the travel insurance so that if something happens (you get sick, a family member gets sick, you get in a car wreck, a war breaks out, etc.) you are not just plain out the money.

    Yes, it costs money. It’s insurance. But I know people who have gone on cruises where family members have died of natural causes and travel insurance eased the financial and other headaches quite a bit.

    If you are planning expensive travel that is in any part non-refundable, buy the travel insurance to cover it, and make sure you know the Ts and Cs. You’ll sleep better.

    1. Anon Same Sitch*

      As discussed, except for an extremely specialized policy which most people do not have access to, the only insurance policy that works here is “Cancel for any reason” insurance, which few people get due to expense.

  76. Ravenahra*


    I usually close my emails with “Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.”

    Just to give you another option.

  77. I'm just here for the cats*

    #3 $500 is a lot of money! Don’t feel bad. Once an employer didn’t have our checks ready and myself and my mom who also worked there didn’t get paid until middle of the next week. This was a small town grocery store, and it was a holiday weekend. We had plans to go to a friend’s graduation but we couldn’t since we had no money for gas. Looking back we should have made them take it out of the safe or hot to the bank and then would have signed our check over to them. You have no reason to be embarrassed.
    #5 I wonder if the airlines could make exception and refund the tickets, especially if it was in one of the areas that have been hit with coronavirus?

  78. LW2*

    Thank you, Alison, for answering my letter. I didn’t expect to hear from you so quickly.

    Thank you also to all the commenters. I’m trying to reply where I can, but I don’t quite have the words to respond to everything. I just wanted to say that I’m reading everything, and do appreciate everyone taking the time to offer feedback, advice and sympathies.

  79. Quake Johnson*

    “This company is being unfair by not allowing my immediate family decide whether I get hired” is certainly…a take.

  80. BTS*

    #1: While I agree that the company was right in not letting the sister interview her sister for the position, I think Alison’s stance that the company should not consider the sister for the position is out of touch with the realities of many rural locations. I don’t know where the letter writer is located, but in many remote places and even some small cities, there is a very limited pool of skilled labor and sometimes only one major employer in the location. Oftentimes whole families are employed by the same employer and people wear many hats in the community. In these places, candidates are less likely to be automatically excluded based on potential conflicts of interest; instead, bias is judged empirically based on how the people in question actually behave.

  81. Kate*

    As an immunosuppressed person (recent kidney transplant recipient) this virus is very concerning to me. I already have to constantly be aware of influenza and take medication daily (along with several self protection activities) to protect myself from Aspergillus. But I can get a flu shot and make sure not to dig in dirt/ wash raw veggies carefully to help lower my risk.

    However with coronavirus, I’m at the mercy of people who are unwilling to change their travel plans or who minimize the danger & impact this virus can have on people like me. This new kidney has given me a new life – I work full time, I’m able to raise my family, travel (not now of course), all sorts of things that were off limits to me. And I’m not that old. However while most people may suffer from a week-10 days of feeling miserable, if people like me were to contract this, our consequences are severe, even deadly. At best, I’d only end up in ICU for a few weeks and off work for months. I’d obviously have to stop taking my immunosuppressants which would mean I’d reject my new kidney. At worst, I’d die.

    Please remember what’s a disappointment, inconvenience or ‘overblown drama’ to you is the difference between life & death for many of us who are now finally living productive, active lives after years of suffering.

  82. Greg C.*

    LW3: I’d explain the situation to them and that you really can’t wait for a couple weeks until you get the rest of your paycheck. If your company is smart and considerate enough, they may have an emergency funds safe they can get money out of and they will just take money they were gonna give you in your next paycheck and use it to cover for that instead

  83. moneypenny*

    It’s a huge risk to try to plan outside activities during a work trip, and that risk is assumed solely on the traveler(s) unless the company has encouraged or built in off-time understanding that some would make extra plans. I feel like unless the planner has a way to cover their means or travel even if plans are cancelled on the company side, it’s too great a risk to assume. It could have been anything that cancelled the vacation part of it if not the virus: an illness or accident, terrorism, a hotel fire, etc. and all of that would have resulted in the same financial loss the traveler has to be prepared for when making the plans.

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