updates: the company stealing stimulus checks, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. My company plans to absorb any government stimulus checks that employees receive for themselves

Unsurprisingly, my hours have been cut to part-time. According to our executives in a pep-rally style corporate meeting they scheduled a few weeks ago, our “sacrifices” will help them to make payroll and avoid as many layoffs as possible. We all want to avoid layoffs, right? Don’t we all want to see the company through the storm? Let’s all keep our hands on the wheel and our eyes on the metaphorical distant shore, okay? Blessedly, I’ve avoided meetings of this type most of my working life, so the nausea lasted the duration of the afternoon.

I was warned that my hours may be cut further depending on our financial situation over the next few weeks, and I am prepared for this inevitability. I think when the higher-ups indicated they planned to absorb our tax rebates by commensurate pay cuts, they didn’t realize it wasn’t the best way to lay out that plan, since they really aren’t required to justify cutting our hours in the first place.

It may be little consolation since I know I was encouraged to reveal the name of the company, but I did have a very candid conversation with my boss on the day you originally published my letter, and it put my mind at ease for having done so. Regardless, my boss and I don’t work in the corporate office, but in a city a few hours away, so my work life has been comfortable and low stress for the duration of my employment with this company. He has provided me with so much flexibility and more than adequate time off that I want to hold on to my job as long as it exists. My pay is considerably higher than in previous jobs in this industry, and I can work remotely as needed. Since we switched to fully remote work, I’ve considered myself lucky to be doing okay at the moment. I haven’t been very busy, so I do sometimes struggle with feeling adrift, as I’m sure a lot of us are right now.

I did dust off my resume, but I haven’t applied to any other positions yet. I know I don’t owe my boss or the company anything at all, but I continue to hope I can keep my job. Thanks so much for taking an interest in my situation. I appreciate your advice and the community here, even though I’ve opted not to out the company at this time.


I loved your advice, and I also loved the advice from the commenters! My new approach when met with “I bet you just can’t wait to be a mom!” or “When are you going to have your own?” actually comes from the comments. Someone recommended that I make some cheerful reference to how many kids I work with in a year and indicate that my work is kids is more than fulfilling, so that’s what I do! When someone asks me when I’m going to have kids I usually give them a warm smile and say something like “Oh gosh, I see about 7,000 kids a year! That is more than enough for me.” It’s friendly and understandable, and so far nobody has pushed back against it. So thank you Alison, and thank you AAM commentariat!

3. I’m so anxious about working that I keep ghosting employers before I start

A lot of the advice was around seeing a doctor and getting therapy and that had been something I knew in the back of my mind I should probably do but seeing so many strangers say the same thing really just gave me the encouragement I needed to make appointments. It was really difficult at first but eventually I found a medication that works for me. It’s absolutely remarkable how much of a difference I saw with that! One reader told me about spoon theory which has been helpful for understanding what I can handle in any given day and doing my best to not feel like garbage all the time. I began therapy too, and it took me a while to get the hang of but right now I am working on setting small goals so I can take things one day at a time rather than feel like I’m starting the next fifty years of my life in the face and I need all the answers right now.

I delayed my start date with the doctor office but I’ve been working there for about five months. I am still looking for a career that will be a long-term fit for me but I think it’s going to be in healthcare!

{ 49 comments… read them below }

  1. Mid*

    Update 3: I am so proud of you and happy for you!!!

    My partner and I both deal with anxiety, and getting help can really be overwhelming. I’ve been in therapy for some 7 years now, and it took me a good 3 years to get to a consistently manageable point.

    So, while your journey isn’t done yet, I’m so happy you’re in a better place now! I wish you all the best in the future.

    1. Venus*

      In my experience with health, our journeys never end yet they become easier to travel and we get better at navigating them. We can get to points where we can really enjoy the scenery!

      I really like your attitude, and am also so happy for Update3 that the journey is getting better. For so many people the hardest part is to start getting help, so please know that future years should be easier than the last 6 months. The understanding to focus on now rather than the next 50 years is such a good one, because the work you are doing now is going to change a lot of those years.

    2. Junior Dev*

      I’m especially happy they found a medication that works for them. It took me a long time to do that and it’s made such a difference to my quality of life now that I have.

  2. Cookie Monster*

    I’m glad #1 is keeping such a positive attitude, as best they can.

    But what I would have LOVED is if someone during this “rally” asked the higher ups: “So what financial sacrifices are YOU making to keep the company afloat?”

    Obviously not realistic but still, would’ve been great.

    1. Rachel in NYC*

      yeah, a friends’ company recently cut pay for everyone VP and above. one of the VP’s told her- he would much rather they do that then more layoffs. so while she doesn’t love getting the emails about how people should take vacation now- everyone can’t take off the month of August- that helped.

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        At my company there were a few “pep rally” style corporate-wide meetings that referenced things like cutting contractor hours, ceasing 401k matching etc… with no mention of how the executives/BOD would be “contributing” to keeping the company afloat, and some VERY pointed questions to that effect were indeed asked by some bold folk.

        Then a few weeks later they did indeed announce a sort of top-down ‘spreading the pain’, and were very clear about how while yes, we’re all in this together and blah blah blah the people at the top of the food chain are in a better position to both absorb some cuts as well as actually benefit the company by taking cuts. So executives and board members are getting something like a 35% salary reduction, the lowest ranking salaried employees a 5% reduction, and hourly employees are seeing no reduction. It still really sucks, but it does help morale and increase trust in the leadership.

        1. Blueberry*

          I am just as impressed with the brave souls who asked as I am with the execs for actually taking a paycut.

    2. HR Jeanne*

      Did they ever refer to the stimulus checks again? That was such an appalling thing to say, I almost can’t believe it.

    3. Wintermute*

      Don’t assume they’re not. Contrary to expectation and the common narrative several high-profile executives have taken serious pay cuts and it’s inspired that becoming a bit of a trend, while not incredibly widespread it’s not rare either right now.

      Honestly I think that some people have finally realized how crappy and disingenuous it looks when you’re grabbing cash with both fists while dumping workers and begging for cash injections, so we might see executive pay cuts become more normalized when companies start looking for emergency cash injections or government money. The stock market is driven by perceptions, and if people start correlating rapacious leadership with company failures then the quite logical thing is to watch for signs the leadership is bleeding the company into their own pockets before considering something a sound investment.

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        we might see executive pay cuts become more normalized when companies start looking for emergency cash injections or government money.

        As it should be.

      2. Perpal*

        Our hospital has had to announce austerity measures; those making these decisions are taking about a 20% pay cut. Though there are still furlows, hiring freezes, canceling the usual merit bonuses and yearly salary increases. It sucks all around but they’re transparent about what they’re doing and why and it is appreciated that the leaders are willing to tighten their belts too.

      3. Cookie Monster*

        Sure, but I assumed they would mention that they were doing that. Even the most modest of executives would probably let their employees know if they were also taking pay cuts or whatever.

  3. EPLawyer*

    So #1, they are cutting your salary and considering the stimulus check enough to make up for that? They do know those are one time checks right? Or do they believe $1200 is enough to see someone through this time?

    1. MK*

      I think the title of the post about ”absorbing” the stimulus checks is somewhat misleading, since it implies the company is appropriating the money somehow, when they are not actually cutting salaries but hours of work. This company basically casted itself as a villain for little to no reason. They decided to cut their staff’s hours to reduce payroll, which they could have done at any time without having to justify it and in the spring of coronavirus is par for the course. But some idiot had the bright idea to try to sweeten the pill by saying that the stimulus will make up for the lost income and probably worded it in a very offensive way.

      1. J.B.*

        Or they planned to cut pay but not hours until they were smacked down by someone aware of the legal challenges…

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Maybe my sense was that they were hoping that just cutting a few hours would be enough to keep them afloat. But as this has gotten longer and worse just cutting payroll by $1,200 is no longer an option, and now more severe cuts are needed.

      While their initial rational/explanation was poorly worded, the need to cut hours is not unreasonable.

  4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    Really glad to see LW3’s update – and I think everyone can benefit from considering the Spoon Theory particularly at the moment.

  5. Detective Amy Santiago*

    LW #1 – Not sure if you’re aware (or if this came up in your last post), but having your hours cut should qualify you for partial unemployment.

    1. Mouse*

      LW1, you should definitely look into this, but to avoid getting hopes up–eligibility for partial unemployment really varies by state, and the ones I know of all require major reductions. Examples: In my state your pay has to be reduced by over 50% to qualify. In my parents’ state, you have to be making less than your unemployment benefit would be if you were fully unemployed, and then you’re eligible to receive the difference. It can be complicated, so look for your state’s details!

  6. CommanderBanana*

    I find the best way to convince people you don’t want kids to just continue not having kids. I just won’t engage with people on that topic or deflect by gushing about my friends’ kids (they are quite adorable). Not being married and getting into my mid-thirties has helped, if someone pushes it I just shrug and cheerfully remind them that I’m not married.

    Another 5-7 years and I figure I won’t get asked any more. :)

    1. Nervous Nellie*

      Don’t count on it. I am in my 50s, and when I am asked if I have kids and I say no, I often get, “Awwww, what happened?” Good heavens.

      Nosy people will always be nosy. People who have one child will be asked why they haven’t had another. People who send their kids to one school will be asked why they are not sending them to another. People who drive old cars will be asked why they don’t replace them. People who choose one college or job will be asked why they didn’t choose another one…..you get the picture. The vacant nod-and-smile is a daily shield that protects your sanity. You are under no obligation to explain yourself. It’s very freeing, really.

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      My go-to reply to questions about when we would have *another* child was to say that the situation was up to the Deity. (Warning: This works best if you already are known to be at least somewhat religious and you know that the questioner is not themself actively anti-religion or militantly atheistic. No point in triggering a rant on Problem Topic #2 when you just wanted to avoid discussion of Problem Topic #1.)

    3. Ann Onny Muss*

      Yeah, I’m in my late 30s and have made clear since my early 20s parenthood was not for me. I still get comments to the effect of “Better get on to having kids. Time’s a-ticking.” Or “But I love my late-in-life child(ren)!” If you are equipped with female reproductive anatomy, there are *plenty* of people who feel the need to remind you it is/was your duty to have kids and you fail as a human being if you didn’t do that.

      1. Doc in a Box*

        “female reproductive anatomy” (or presenting as female) being the operative phrase. This isn’t a question that gets routinely asked of men.

      2. Pupp-aliscious*

        Which is great if you struggled with infertililty and just couldn’t have kids. I have factor V Leiden and am homozygous, which means that just walking around I am 80 times more likely to have a blood clot. Getting pregnant multiplies that even more, so – you figure that out. Yes, I really wanted to have kids but when I started on the highest doses of lovenox injections, by day 5 I couldn’t stop the bleeding on my shirt (tummy injections). I really didn’t want to die having a high risk pregnancy, and yet every conception clotted and I lost it. Just consider the potential for a massive hemorrhage over nine months, and then delivery. Ugh.

        There are so many silent grief stories like this behind someone not having kids, not all are by choice.

      3. KoiFeeder*

        The lowest of that already-low group of people are the ones who act like miscarriages are punishment for “waiting too long” to have children.

        I have never met one of those people personally, so I hope they’re only brave enough to say that sort of thing on the internet.

    4. Amanda*

      Yeah, that doesn’t always work. My best friend is in her 30ies, doesn’t want kids and never have. She’s been fielding questions since she was SIXTEEN about when she’d have children, and they never stopped.

      The worst offender was, bizarrely, her dad. At 16, when she answered she was way too young, he told her he’d finance the kid and help babysit whenever, no problem. And that her HS boyfriend was really good looking and she should take advantage of that. She doesn’t speak with him much anymore, but whenever she does he still insists on baaaaabies!! I still wonder if he’s not a large pat of the reason she never wanted children at all.

  7. The Bimmer Guy*

    I think it’s so creepy to be that invested in someone else’s reproductive plans, if that person isn’t your partner. Where do people get off?

    1. Doc in a Box*

      Sounds more like they think the OP isn’t getting off.

      (Sorry for being a bit crude, but I agree, it’s far cruder to ask about a coworker’s sex life!)

    2. Lizzo*

      My observation: women of a particular age/generation grew up in a time when you had children. That’s what you did. Expectations have changed, but their mindsets haven’t. On top of that, these folks also think this is a safe topic for “small talk” or an opportunity to “bond”. My mother-in-law did this for a long time until I notified her that motherhood had not been a childhood aspiration of mine, and could she please adjust her expectations and topics of conversation accordingly?

    3. KaciHall*

      My mother in law has been trying to convince me to have another kid since my first was born almost five years ago. She’s gotten my kid asking for a brother or sister. I bought him a couple baby dolls when he demanded a baby, and he’s satisfied, even if she was horrified by it! (At first, now she’s made them dresses so he can change their clothes.)

      I tried bringing up our marriage relations a couple times to dissuade her but it didn’t work. I went into detail about the birth control I’m on and why a pregnancy would be terrible with it and she has backed off ever since. It probably also helps that three of her grandchildren have had four kids between them in the last eighteen months.

    4. Amanda*

      And it actually never stops. Even if you do have a child, the questions only change to “when are you giving him a brother or sister?”

      Creepy indeed!

  8. MK*

    A casual question to someone you are friendly with about their future plans is hardly a bizarre amount of investment; the problem is that usually you get 100 someones asking. And while I agree asking about whether people want children should become taboo, the fact is it has been considered an ok social question till the very recent past.

  9. CorporateDroneLiz*

    OP #1, I completely understand hoping that the job will work out… but you lose nothing by applying for jobs. It actually might give you some peace of mind to know what your options are- hell, you might find a place that offers you the same perks that this one does. You can always decide not to go through with an interview or decline an offer if you’d rather stay at your current job- but you won’t even get to that point if you never get your resume out there.

  10. CeeBee*

    LW1 – please consider anonymously outing the company, bc it just seems like even though they are being generally crappy, they’re specifically ok for you, and in effect you’re covering up for them. If they are large, national chain, the public has a right to know of their practices. I want to know where my money goes, now more than ever.

    1. Frontline worker*

      Honestly, what they are doing is not terribly unusual, just worded in a very strange way (basically implying that the stimulus check will make up for the hours cut.) Instead of laying off workers, they are cutting hours. My mom works in a warehouse and they are doing the same thing. They had to do it once before during the recession because sales were down.

      Honestly if it were me, I wouldn’t out the employer either, not even anonymously. These are tough times. I would be too worried about someone suspecting me and losing my job.

  11. Adele*

    OP#3 sounds a lot like me. I hated working in offices, but I grew up with the expectation that that’s just what adults “do”. So I spent 20 years (off and on due to mental health challenges) sitting behind a desk, making the same small talk with the same boring people day after day.

    At a really low point, I quit my last office job and talked my way into an entry level retail position at the store closest to my house just to pay the bills. I’d avoided retail because I’m an introvert, but I was too exhausted to put energy into a “real” job search. It was my first customer service position and turns out I love it!

    I’ve learned I’m the type of introvert who prefers having short, superficial interactions with a rotating cast of near-strangers. The workplace melodrama is much lower because we’re too busy helping customers to spend 20 minutes every morning looking at pictures of Brenda’s grandbaby. I also eventually got a customer service position that is not entry level and is more aligned with my experience and education. It also helps that I have excellent bosses who fully support me if I need to kick out a customer who’s behaving badly.

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