update: I ask candidates their salary expectations and don’t feel bad about it

Here are updates from three people who had their letters answered here in the past.

1. I ask candidates their salary expectations and don’t feel bad about it

I reflected on Alison’s response and many of the comments, and have to admit that the letter I wrote was pretty obnoxious! For that I apologize. It unfortunately also quite reasonably gave people the impression that our office is an awful place to work, and I wish I could convince you how far from the truth that is, but I don’t think there is much point in trying.

With regard the substance of the issues, I have thought about it a lot, and will seriously consider changing how we do things in the future with regard to stating/asking about salary. I do have partners who would need to be consulted, so I make no guarantees about that. (Also, I hope to not actually be hiring for a very long time, given how terrific our current employees are!)

At any rate, once again, mea culpa.

2. Co-lead causes confusion with voice-to-text (#3 at the link)

I chose to wait until the issue happened again to discuss it with him, which it did several days after my letter was posted. We had a regular check in call later that day, so I used that as a chance to say ‘Hey, I noticed that you used voice to text on your email about X this morning, and that your meaning was mixed up because voice to text made several mistakes. When your sending emails about our project in the future can you please either take the time to proof read them before hitting send or wait until you can type them out later?’ He basically blew me off, gave me some response about how busy he was (an excuse I despise). I doubled down on the issue of the mixed up meaning, and he said it wasn’t an issue.

So then I went onto plan B. Which was the ‘return inconvenience to sender’ idea that was mentioned in the comments (I think with a hat tip to Captain Awkward if I recall correctly). So anytime he sent out one of these emails where it was unclear what he meant because of voice to text I now quickly respond, to everyone on the email, saying “Hi X, I think your phone might have auto corrected a few things here, I’m not clear on what you intended to say about X. Can you please review and send out a clarification?”. Which has saved me a ton of stress, as I’m no longer trying to mind read. This works pretty well, in that he will follow up within a several hours with an email that is easy to understand. But it doesn’t appear to have changed the frequency of the confusion emails being sent. The only downside is that now I feel more pressure to keep an eye on my email on evenings/weekends, so that I can get the confusion sent back to him right away, before others reply and creates more confusion. But its overall a better solution for me.

Thanks again to all in the comments, who offered such great support and ideas. Many of you correctly identified that I am a much junior woman colleague to him, a senior dude. Which is likely playing a role here a well, and yes, academia is super weird, which is why there aren’t any formal channels for me to go through.

3. Our CEO calls employees’ babies “future employees” and gives us no paid parental leave

Quick update for you: I got a new job and I’m leaving this terrible industry (business process outsourcing) behind forever. When I was interviewing for my new position, I spent roughly three hours in conversation with the CEO of my new company, who seems like a completely normal person who doesn’t overshare. I didn’t ask him what his position on the Holocaust was, but I can safely assume he’s at least as against it as my old CEO is.

I also really appreciated the commenters offering to make me a custom onesie to wear on my last day. I won’t be doing that, since I’m the only one in my office who received the onesie emails and everyone would be extremely confused, but the thought is hilarious and helped carry me through months of applying for jobs.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    LW 1 – it takes a big person to reflect and admit a mistake. Good for you.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s one of the reasons I love this commentariat–I do actually see apologies.

      1. Jake*

        Yes, there was a lot of argument from the OP in the comments on that. I’m proud of them for being able to take a step back and reflect, even after the defensiveness she had in the comments.

    2. BRR*

      A definite tip of the hat. The LW read through those comments and we all went in hard on her. So to have any self reflection after that, or at all in this day and age, is really admirable.

    3. Triplestep*

      Sure, but is “mea culpa” ever not sarcastic? (I’m honestly asking – I have never heard it used any other way, so to me it read like a sarcastic punctuation on an update that does not commit to a change in practice.)

      1. Observer*

        It didn’t sound sarcastic at all, to me. It wouldn’t make any sense in the context of the rest of the post, either.

      2. Amy Sly*

        For those not familiar with the non-sarcastic usage, it’s Latin for “through my fault” and is used in the liturgy of the Confiteor (Confession) at the beginning of a Mass.

        In Latin:
        Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres, quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo, ópere et omissióne: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.

        In English:
        I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers [and sisters], that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;

    4. MtnLaurel*

      Yes, I’m so glad to see you can see the merit in opposing views. That’s rare and it gives me hope.

    5. Maxie*

      I agree. #1, it takes a lot to reexamine yourself and admit this in public. I admire your willingness to do this.

    6. Viette*


      I think that when you’re running a small business, it can feel like you’re not the person everyone’s talking about when they talk about wages — because it’s “your money” that will be paying your workers. It comes out of LW1’s salary and it feels, to the LW, like that makes a difference. The original letter was putting forth its argument as if no one had ever considered that it might be LW1’s personal money on the line! But of course it is. It always was, with rich bosses and with poor bosses. They’re still bosses. It takes a lot to look at the system and recognize where you fall in the hierarchy.

    7. ArtsNerd*

      I was so delighted by their thoughtful reflection and response! I’m so glad they took the response to heart.

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      Hear, hear. Way to go, LW1! I hope what you’ve learned and what you’re considering ends up working out for you in ways that are good for you and for your employees!

  2. EPLawyer*

    Kudos to 1 for stopping to think. That’s about all we can ask sometimes. At least you realized yours is not the only way to do things and might in fact be harming the company rather than helping it like you thought.

    #2 — some people will never change. You can only change how you react to them. Definitely never work with this guy again.

    #3 — glad you are out of that looney tunes place.

  3. Long Time Lurker*

    LW 1- Really appreciate you reflecting on what Alison and the commenters had to say and recognizing that maybe you aren’t completely right here. Glad you have a great business and good employee retention.

  4. HelloHello*

    Wow, LW 1 is actually making me reflect on my own mindset! I’d assumed the writer was wildly unreasonable, but clearly they’re quite open to critique and self reflection. Impressive! Perhaps I should take this as a lesson to make fewer snap judgements myself.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, really. I had an ugly go-around years back and, boy, did it teach me. Society is not stagnant and neither are the way people think about things or what society and people deem as important. These things all move. We start realizing there is another layer and another layer. We think things through deeper and have a broader
      understanding of the impact of our beliefs and our choices. So we change what we ourselves are doing.

      OP is right about taking a strong stand, as a strong statement will cause people to escalate. There are times when a strong statement is appropriate. But no where near as many times as we might think necessary.

  5. MissMeghan*

    OP1 Thank you for this update! I was so disappointed to see Alison’s very well laid out response seem fall on deaf ears, so it makes me happy to hear you’ve been able to come back to and absorb the information she provided. It does take a lot of self awareness to give a mea culpa, and it was a pleasant surprise to read this morning :)

  6. Kristin*

    LW 2: It’s possible if you don’t get back to him immediately, one of the other people who received the email will follow your example and ask for clarification. It shouldn’t be all on you, anyway! Regardless, good job on finding a way to make it work.

    1. Myrin*

      I thought that as well.
      And OP, I think as a next step you need to take it even further and work on not caring if there’s going to be any confusion on anyone else’s end. You’ve implemented the basic advice really awesomely thus far but I think you need to mentally distance yourself even more.
      I understand that you feel invested and like you need to do this because you’re co-leads, and I also think you shouldn’t be totally unwilling to jump in when you see that a conversation is going totally off the rails, but generally, if his stubbornness causes confusion and someone answers and thereby makes stuff more confusing, let your co-lead figure it out.

      1. Yvette*

        Maybe sometime when the stakes are low, you could take a valid, yet “harmful” interpretation of one of the ambiguous emails? Maybe with regards to a meeting time or agenda?

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          No, their positions are just too unequal. OP would be blamed for not checking, even if his lack of clarity was the cause.

    2. Name*

      Agreed. It’s not your responsibility to prevent other people from getting confused by his confusing emails just as it isn’t your responsibility to read his mind. Putting the onus on him to clarify is only part of distancing yourself from the responsibility you feel. The other part entails letting everyone experience the consequences of his poor communication skills. Either he will change his ways and stop using voice to text or he will be transitioned off his role on the project, or nothing will change and confusion will abound. There’s really nothing you can do other than requesting clarification when you are confused. If someone else is confused, it’s on them to request clarification.

      By the way, I totally get the feeling that you must smooth the way and make everyone else’s life easier, often at your own expense. I was definitely raised that way, and it’s a hard habit to break.

      1. Name*

        Oh, and hopefully others will take your lead in requesting clarification if you don’t happen to get to it first.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Yeah, this is what I’m hoping will happen. Some verbal support from the OP to these other email recipients, like “Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification” might help.

          1. work life balance in my pjs*

            Yeah, don’t hold his hand. You’ve modelled sending incoherent back to sender and you’ve done it publicly so that the other people can see it. They know now they can ask for clarifications as well.

            Don’t be his babysitter. Don’t monitor all his e-mails.

            And if what ends up happening is that every time he sends an e-mail, someone asks for clarification, he might at some point, some day, hopefully, get the message.

            But monitoring all of them and jumping on them is just another way of making a junior woman colleague into your assistant.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              “But monitoring all of them and jumping on them is just another way of making a junior woman colleague into your assistant.”

              Bingo. OP don’t be his assistant.Let him deal with the consequences of his choices. He’s a grown up. He will survive.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        idk, i can see it being the case that the responses could make a mess that’s harder to clean up than clarifying the email in the first place, like if people misinterpret the email and start making decisions based on that misunderstanding. I agree with the person above who suggested picking a low stakes email to choose not to respond to and see if others will step up on asking for clarification

        1. emmelemm*

          That’s definitely what OP said has happened in the past. Not that the mistakes were catastrophic, but that the emails actually conveyed the *opposite* of what was meant to happen and people began moving forward on that wrong information and had to backtrack.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Then that’s on OPs co-lead no? He is responsible for the mayhem, not her. Let him carry the weight of his hubris, not the OP.

    3. Sparrow*

      I think the OP could even explicitly tell them, “Feel free to follow my lead on this. I don’t want you to waste time trying to decipher a confusing email just because I haven’t gotten to it yet.” I do think there’s a chance that the guy will eventually give up, especially if this is a universal response and he can’t write it off as OP’s unique quirk.

      1. Oranges*

        THIS! Make it a standard response!

        And if the other email recipients can’t tell what is and isn’t confusing/a bad idea because they don’t have the institutionalized knowledge, I’d tell them that any time they see an email that is obviously voice to text to ask for clarification. Regardless.

        1. OP#2*

          I had not considered talking to the broader team about this. Seems worth considering, especially in chaotic times like these when my ability to monitor email is going to be more spotty for while.

          1. hbc*

            If you have more standing over those other people, you can kind of…make it their responsibility too. As much as it’s a problem that he’s sending out these confusing messages, it’s a problem for other people to react to confusing messages from a known-confuser by creating more trouble. It’s labor they shouldn’t really have to do in a fair and just universe, but it’s a lot less work to be pragmatic about it and accept that he’s going to keep being confusing.

          2. Glitsy Gus*

            I think the current situation is a great way to bring it up. That way you can keep it in the context that you may not see things right away for a while, and since there is already a history of unclear emails leading to mistakes everyone should be sure to ask for clarification if there is anything unclear in instructions they receive from anyone on the team.

            I mean, it’s a good practice to put in place anyway, but since there is going to be a lot more remote work and possibly weird time and access things happening it’s the perfect time to say it out loud to everyone.

          3. RUKiddingMe*

            Please stop holding this guy’s hand. Let him deal with the repercussions of his actions.

          4. JessicaTate*

            You absolutely should. In a constructive, positive, non-gripey way; like, helping them with a solution that works for this particular issue they’ve all been struggling with. Not vilifying this dude (even though he totally deserves it), but in an empowering way, like, “You shouldn’t feel you have to mind-read. Follow my lead and get clarification when one of these issues arises.”

            I strongly suspect it will buy you capital with the rest (or at least some) of the team, who will see you as a positive, professional leader who is helping them have less frustration in their job by finding a workaround. Particularly in academia where you are the younger woman having to make sense of terrible working habits of the self-centered old dude who gets all the credit but frustrates most of the people he works with. It can pay off someday; it has for me.

        2. Oranges*

          Clarification: If the other people are new to whatever it is you’re doing so they don’t know best/standard practices yet.

          Example: If an electrician told you to wire a house and use the green wire for the “hot wire”. You might not know that the green wire is only supposed to be used for the “ground/safe wire”. So you do what he says (he’s the electrician after all) and make the green wire the “hot wire”. This will cause a heck of a lot of rework because 1)the house might not pass inspection 2) it’s an accident waiting to happen*.

          *Because if an electrician didn’t turn off the circuit breaker when messing with wires (you’d be surprised how often this happens), they’ll think the green wire is safe and cut it. And get electrocuted.

        3. maddierose2999*

          Standard response- even better if you are outlooking – create a quick step template asking for clarification. it might help you put more mental distance / less mental effort

    4. Fikly*

      Yes, I would not spend the time (outside of work hours!) waiting for his next incoherent communication.

      His lack of preparation is not your emergency.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I think it would be a good idea for the rest of the team to have a convo about adopting that approach.

      If any of those people were supposed to take direction from me, I’d give them directions to do this as well.

      And maybe even just all of them making a pact to reply, “I’m sorry, this isn’t making sense. I’ll wait until you’ve had a chance to reply without using voice to text.”

      Don’t read it any longer than the first weird-looking thing. Even if it sort of makes sense.

    6. Koala dreams*

      Mistyping and weird voice to text messages are well known by now, and other people can also pick up on these things and ask for clarifications. If the confusion remains next time you get to work, you can step in. No need to sacrifice your time off work for this.

    7. another Hero*

      Agree! If you create a norm of replying asking for clarification rather than trying to mind-read, hopefully you’ll make other people treat that as the default response.

  7. TyphoidMary (...my username seems in bad taste now)*

    OP1, I think sometimes when our workplace is generally positive–which it sounds like yours is!–it can be almost harder to notice the practices we need to change, and it’s easy to feel protective and defensive of this lovely thing we’ve helped build. You got some VERY strong feedback from this community, and I appreciate you updating us on how it’s changed your thinking!

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      Very true. I consider myself to have built an extremely generous and positive work environment (at least that’s what I get told all the time from ex-employees). But that does make it harder to see the things that need to change, and if I am not careful it can be very easy to slip into a mindset of “but everything seems to be working!”

    2. Nervous Nellie*

      On the contrary – I got a huge and badly needed chuckle from your user name. Thank you for the nicest moment in my day so far!

  8. Delta Delta*

    #2 – The excuse of “I’m busy” is really ridiculous for not proofreading an email before it goes out. I get it that autocorrect does weird things and it’s not always going to be perfect, but it can’t take more than a minute or so to proofread and correct an email before it goes out. I love how OP is dealing with it. Maybe it’ll help the boss see that it actually takes longer to send something and then have to send it again.

    I had a similar experience recently. I’m involved in a business where a partner voice-to-text emails constantly and it’s full of errors. He made an error that made it sound like he was admitting to committing a crime. About 10 minutes later there was an all-caps email from him saying he didn’t mean that and he actually meant something else but autocorrect changed the word. So, yeah. Maybe don’t do that. Or maybe take three seconds and proofread.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Its completely unacceptable as an excuse. It creates MORE work for them and others, so it’s so counterproductive. Spend your extra minute NOW and proof read. The mistakes and confusion and back and forth is more time and people’s productivity destroyed because “oh no, I’m too busy to do my job right the first time.”

      Sounds like he needs to be replaced TBH but I know OP isn’t in that position at all. Which just gives me a little bit of an extra twitch.

      I’m cackling that your colleague responded in all caps though to make up for his bad error that’s in writing.Bless his heart.

      1. Admin Formerly Known as Actor*

        Yup, my thoughts exactly. My dad has a saying for this: “Never time to do it right; always time to do it over.” Meaning that if you don’t take the extra time to do it correctly on the first go-round, you’ll have to MAKE time to come back to it and do it right the second (or third or fourth…) time.

      2. Oranges*

        Really, anytime you have a practice that ends up making more work for others. That’s usually a bad practice. I have a bad habit and I know it cost my co-workers 30 minutes on Friday. I don’t like that. I’m trying to change but it’s really hard. But needed.

      3. Viette*

        Plus it’s not like proof-reading is some novel development or new technology. People have been managing to proofread their business correspondence since the advent of writing.

        If this guy is like the people I’m thinking of who do this stuff, it’s a longstanding habit brought about by a lifetime of other people picking up all the slack and allowing whatever excuses they make in service of their Important Work.

  9. spock*

    LW 3, your writing continues to be delightful. I’m glad you got out of that place and thanks for putting a smile on our faces.

  10. Emma*

    Gosh, I love the response in #1! It’s so hard to take that kind of feedback and turn it into positive action. I’m sure that actually says something about what it is like to work at your organization.

  11. Ermintrude*

    I totally forgot about OP#3’s original letter. That would be hilarious on film, I imagine, but I’m glad you’ve moved on to more reasonable pastures.

  12. Fallinleaw*

    Op#1 – I know we’re supposed to be very supportive of those who write in with responses. You’ve gotten a lot of that. I don’t recall you giving the impression your company was unpleasant to work for and I remember your initial question. Maybe I was the only one that didn’t think you worked someplace horrible, I feel like you seemed to like your business? Anyways, I won’t be commending you or your company more appropriately, until a policy that should not ever exist is undone. That salary policy is completely unreasonable to applicants, lends to racism, sexism, judgement of great potential employees and should be thrown away period.

    1. ACDC*

      In the comments on the original letter, I noticed a lot of people making some assumptions about OP 1’s business. Asks for salary expectations = underpays employees = must treat employees badly in other ways too = unpleasant place to work.

      1. Oranges*

        Which to be fair, is a common pattern of behaviour, but it doesn’t always. It’s like seeing a little diner on the road to nowhere and stopping in. We all have expectations of what it’ll be like to eat there and our expectations are normally met.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          True. But I think one of the limitations of the advice column format is that we get such a narrow little slice of people’s lives. Someone describes some particularly crappy policy and it’s so, so easy to jump to “well, the whole place must be a dumpster fire!”

          Similarly, we hear about one terrible management decision and conclude that that manager obviously must be worse than Hitler. I’ve said it before: the internet is where nuance goes to die.

      2. Ice and Indigo*

        I think it’s more that LW1 seemed to be conflating things. She described two long-term employees as being ‘very happy’, which they might have been in terms of what kind of place it was to work – but she used it in a context that implied they must therefore be ‘very happy’ with the crappy attitude towards pay.

        The latter was was really got the (merited) pushback; people basically pointed out that it was unlikely those employees were as happy as LW1 thought about being paid as little as the company could get away with. They might be happy with the actual job, but even if that was the case, it wouldn’t justify the salary shenanigans.

        I think that’s part of a blind spot LW1 is hopefully now becoming aware of: it seems she wants the employees to be happy, but paying fairly rather than cheaping out needs to be part of that picture. Happiness with other parts of the job doesn’t make deliberate lowballing ok. So I hope LW1 is able to follow through with that and improve the salary system – best of luck with that!

      3. biobotb*

        I also recall people warning that the behavior could *inadvertently* lead to underpaying, and therefore inadvertently undervaluing/mistreating employees.

      4. Nanani*

        If certain groups are disadvantaged by asking for their salary expectations, and that disadvantage IS that they get underpaid, which is the reality, then asking for salary expectations = underpaying at least those employees.
        There is no assumption needed.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think it wasn’t necessarily that it seemed the company was unpleasant to work for as much as it was that OP was very insistent that all of the employees were definitely all very happy and some of us were trying to make them understand that they can’t really know if that’s honestly true.

  13. Wing Leader*

    Good for you, OP#1. Not many people can suck up their pride and admit they may be wrong. Sounds like your employees are lucky to work for a good person.

  14. work life balance in my pjs*


    The only downside is that now I feel more pressure to keep an eye on my email on evenings/weekends, so that I can get the confusion sent back to him right away, before others reply and creates more confusion. But its overall a better solution for me.

    It might be worth not doing this. Let some slip through. Let some people be confused. Let him experience the consequence of his actions.

    1. Name*

      Yes! I’ll reiterate what I said above. It’s not your responsibility to clear up confusion he creates. If other people are confused, that’s his fault, and he can deal with the consequences of his actions.

      1. Kes*

        Agreed, as annoying as it is I think OP is taking on more than her responsibility. It’s not her job to proofread for him. If she can see it might cause confusion in a way that will cause a hassle for her, it might be worth asking him to clarify that question, but otherwise I think it would be better to step back and just let it go a bit.

        1. OP#2*

          yah. constantly watching my email is…not healthy for me. I think I’m going to take the idea of some folks in another part of the comments and start spreading the word throughout the time that whenever they see ‘sent from my iPhone’ they should double check the email and be sure to as follow ups if anything seems out of place. That way its not just me doing the initial screening.

          1. work life balance in my pjs*

            This sounds good. I recommend checking only as often as you would be doing were your colleague NOT a jack in the box of misinformation waiting to spring, and not more.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            That’s a great idea if you can do that! Now that you’ve set a precedent and shown that asking for clarification works and is helpful, hopefully that will make it easier for other people to follow suit and you can stop worrying about being the first to respond.

          3. Yvette*

            I used to think the “Sent from my iPhone/Blackberry” (ok I’m old) messages were pretentious until I started using one on a regular basis and saw how easy it was for typos etc. to slip through. Now I realize they were a warning!

  15. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I see myself in you, #1. I’m glad that you are able to rethink your own opinions when you’re given feedback and more data points to pull through. I’m much the same way, I can come across as stubborn AF and then after information is flung at me, it is a “oh wait, okay I was wrong, time to readjust from there!”

    It’s so much easier in the long run because being stubborn is exhausting. Thank you for the update and for making others understand we do exist ;)

  16. somanyquestions*

    #2, I would suggest not worrying about this more on weekends unless that’s really part of your job. If he creates confusion, dump that back on him too. “Your phone seems to have auto-corrected here, can you clear this up? And can you explain for Belinda and Charles what you meant, attached are the emails of confusion”
    I dislike this guy and his “I’m too busy to not be a jerk” whole schtick. I’m sorry you have to deal with him.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      I was thinking similar. If its not LW’s job; don’t stress about it. Especially since, unless these are always new people on every email, enough of the original emails being sent out should start clueing them all in that there might be issues with the text.

  17. jamberoo*

    “I didn’t ask him what his position on the Holocaust was”

    But it’s such a normal interview question! /s

  18. Ray Gillette*

    OP2, have you considered setting up an auto-respond to automatically send your “please proofread” message to him?

  19. Susana*

    LW 1 – What a gracious update. I’m glad Alison’s answer and comments made you re-think it.

  20. Observer*

    #3 – You seem to have stumbled on at least one marker of a possibly reasonable vs a totally bonkers boss. If you have to wonder about the Boss’ opinion on the Holocaust or you get to hear about it, you probably want to run away verrrrry fast.

    1. Violet Rose*

      Based on the comments on the original letter, the first boss also had a very reasonable position on the Holocaust (it was an atrocity of unspeakable levels) – he just happened to share this opinion in a rambly all-staff email after a visit to the Holocaust Museum.

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