can I ask for a raise after returning from furlough, coworker is monitoring my work, and more

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

1. Can I ask for a raise right after returning from furlough?

I work as a program coordinator at a large public university. I have been furloughed since May and am expecting to return the first week of July, which is also the week of my one-year anniversary in this particular position. Previously, I had a different job but had taken on many of my current duties due to several staff members retiring or leaving. I know that I am very valued (my boss has let me know in no uncertain terms that she cannot wait for me to return, and she had no idea how much work I actually do for her), and I would like to ask for a raise, but I am unsure if this would look really out of touch with everything going on. I know that our university is having financial issues and some furloughs are being extended, and there has been talk of layoffs as well.

I want to be paid fairly for the work I do, but don’t want to look ungrateful to have a job, and especially straight off of coming back from being technically unemployed. Do I just need to let go of the idea of a raise for the foreseeable future?

Asking for a raise right after returning from being furloughed isn’t a good idea. Your employer is trying to figure out how to keep people and where to cut and what their finances will look like in a few months. They might be trying to figure out if they can keep you. It’s very, very likely that you’d come across as tone-deaf to that context.

This won’t be the state of affairs forever but right now, when they’ve just brought you back, it’s not the right time.

Read an update to this letter

2. My coworker is monitoring my work

My coworker told me months ago that she “watches other coworkers like a hawk” and that was uncomfortable enough. But she also does things like this: if I have cleared it with my manager to work some hours on the weekend, I will log on to our shared Google sheets to do my work, and lo and behold this coworker logs in EVERY SINGLE time, and just sits on the page to watch me work. You can see me editing the page and you can see she isn’t, nor does her cursor move, unless sometimes she follows my cursor to mark where I am/where I am going on the page to see what I have done. (She can see when I log into to Slack — which I need to do for work info — and must just then go straight to our sheets.)

She is very bossy and calls out any mistakes others make, even if a slight one. She talks more than our manager in meetings, and on Zoom she has asked in a demanding way when I am coming back to work as I am still home working due to COVID. My manager has had to step in immediately and say to me, “No stress, no pressure, I know your situation.” (I’m a single mom with a toddler.)

It’s so frustrating to feel like I’m being watched by a coworker. How do I address this with my manager?

Your coworker is choosing to spend her weekends watching other people work. Her priorities are … odd.

One option is to ignore it and figure that if she wants to spend her off hours this way, that’s its own sort of punishment. Another option when you see her watching you in a Google sheet is to message her and say, “I see you’re in the sheet I’m working in. Do you need something from me there?” Or even, “Let me know when you’re out so I can resume my work in there.” It’s possible that if you do that every time, she’ll start to feel watched herself and will stop.

But this is bizarre enough that you could also talk to your manager about it if you want. You could frame it as, “Jane seems to be watching me while I work and I can’t figure out why. She told me recently that she ‘watches coworkers like a hawk’ — that’s a direct quote — and it’s unnerving to be working on the weekend and see her logging into the Google sheets I’m in and just watching what I’m doing. Is she doing that with your blessing? If not, is it something you could ask her to stop? It’s unsettling to feel she’s monitoring my work so closely.”

3. Is my mom’s email address unprofessional?

My mother is in a profession that requires her to market herself directly to drum up business with clients she’ll have a somewhat personal relationship with. She has recently gotten a new email address she really put a lot of thought into … and I really think it could hurt her business. It is the equivalent of I think this email is terrible for clients! It’s taxing to remember a domain that ISN’T gmail (I have to ask her for her email constantly and am terrified of accidentally mistyping and sending a personal message to a stranger). I think the full sentence before the domain is also hard to remember and feels almost arrogant in the way it DEMANDS your attention to retain.

I told my mother that even as an old millennial, I could be completely impressed with a professional contact and upon getting this email would think, “Okay, this person is not tech savvy and possibly stuck in their ways.” I am ready and willing to hear that this is none of my business, particularly because my mother is both sensitive and convinced her way is generally the right way, but I wanted your opinion, Maybe I can show her your response and she’ll take your feedback into consideration. So, what say you? Can this kind of email address reflect poorly on the user even if the person is in a business that’s a bit more casual and grounded in personal relationships?

Yeah, that’s going to signal “not super professional and definitely not tech savvy.” That doesn’t mean it’ll signal she’s bad at what she does (the two might have nothing to do with each other), but it’s definitely amateur-looking.

Really, she should have a business domain — She can register one for about $10 and pay a small monthly fee for email hosting (around $5-10/month), and it’s a lot more professional than Comcast or Gmail or anything else. (An extra problem using Comcast, though, is that if she changes internet providers, her email address will change! And then all that marketing will have the wrong email on it. A bunch of Verizon subscribers found this out a few years ago when Verizon email addresses were shut down entirely.)

For what it’s worth, I’m not concerned that people will struggle to remember it — most people don’t memorize email addresses and instead rely on their email program filling them in. (Speaking of which: Put your mom’s email in your computer’s address book so you stop worrying about emailing the wrong person!) It’s just about the signals it’s sending, and that’s so easily remedied with a few bucks and a domain registration.

4. My boss keeps saying I’m the head of a new team, but I’m not

My company is splitting into two separate companies and I found out that I’m going to the spin-off. I’m the only one from my department going to the new company. My current boss keeps introducing me as “head“ of the department at the new company, often telling executives who’ll be working with in my new capacity that I’ll be running the department.

The problem is that there is absolutely nothing to indicate that me leading the department is the reality, and he does not have a say in shaping my role at the new company. I’ve asked him numerous times to not jump the gun and just introduce me to others as “part of” the department rather than running it, but he insists on saying that I am leading it. I’m terrified of this getting to my boss at the new company, making me look like I’m promoting myself. Advice?

How clear have you been with your boss about your concern? If you’ve framed it as “let’s not jump the gun,” he might figure you’re just being modest or otherwise not take your concern seriously, and you need to be more explicit about what you’re worried about and why. For example: “It’s really important to me that you stop telling people I’m the head of the new department. That’s not the case and I’m concerned it could even hurt my chances of it ever happening, by making me look like I’m being presumptuous or campaigning for the title. I appreciate your confidence in me, but I feel strongly about this — it could end up hurting me.”

If you’ve already been that clear and he’s still doing it, correct him every time he introduces you that way — “Nope, not the head! I’m the person who does X.”

5. I’m getting a flat fee per project — but only if my client wins his bid

I was laid off earlier this year prior to COVID. While I was searching for work, I was introduced to someone who owns his own business (he is the only employee) and he hired me to work on projects for him. I was hired as a contractor on a per project basis. How it works is a client requests a proposal from him, and I get vendor estimates and enter them into Excel for him to put in his proposal. Once the client approves the proposal and we win the project, I do additional work for him through the project lifecycle and he pays me a flat fee for the entire project (including my time for getting the estimates). If he is not awarded the project from the client, I get paid nothing.

I initially agreed to this because the time spent doing the estimates was minimal (less than two hours normally). Recently his proposals have gotten more extensive and he now asks me to do multiple scenarios for multiple vendors for each project. If we won every project, I would have no issue, but he only has a win rate of about 40-50% so I’m doing a ton of free work for him and I’m starting to feel a little taken advantage of. Is this legal? Even if it is not illegal, I feel like I should be paid for the help I’m providing him even if he doesn’t win the project. Am I wrong for thinking that? This is my first time freelancing so maybe this is just how it works and I’m unaware.

If you’re genuinely a contractor and not an employee (which sounds like is probably the case, but you can read more on that here), this is legal since minimum wage laws only apply to employers. As a contractor, the law says you can decide on your own payment arrangements.

But why not tell your client that the scope of the work has changed and so you need to charge for it differently?  I would say, “Now that the proposals have become more extensive and include multiple scenarios for multiple vendors per project, doing the work for each takes significantly more time. Typically I’m putting in about X hours of work per project, so I need to bill these differently. What I propose is (fill in with what you propose charging).”

{ 439 comments… read them below }

  1. Domain Q*

    A business domain is like $10 a month, not just a flat $10, right? Not that it matters is the context of the letter here- for someone running a business, that’s a reasonable expense either way. Just wondering for personal reasons :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, you’d need to pay an ongoing fee for email hosting — around $5-10/month depending on what hosting company. I’ll clarify the wording in the answer!

    2. Can Can Cannot*

      You can reserve a domain for $10-20 a year from places like Bluehost and and HostGator. Many services provide free email forwarding when you get the domain through them, so you can use your existing email provider (e.g., Gmail) and simply forward your email from your domain. If you want you often use the domain provider as your email provider for a small monthly fee (HostGator charges $2.75/month) and avoid having to deal with forwarding.

      1. Ollie*

        I did the forwarding thing for many years before I found out about GSuite. It was problematic. While I received emails that were sent to email with domain name if I replied it showed the gmail name. Then customers started sending email using my gmail name instead of my domain name. GSuite charges $6 / month and no one ever sees my gmail name.

    3. pcake*

      A domain is usually $15 or under per year, and there are hosts that will charge you under $5 a month for email and hosting – my son uses Dreamhost, one of my buddies uses Gator. And some places, like GoDaddy and Directnic, will sell you low cost hosting as well as your domain name.

      1. pancakes*

        The lengthy “Controversies” section of the GoDaddy Wikipedia page is worth a look before deciding to use them.

        1. pcake*

          I’m not fan of GoDaddy – it took some doing to remove a domain from them and move it to another registrar.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Seconding concerns about GoDaddy, for commercial site at least. I’m only peripherally involved, so will not volunteer specifics.

      3. WorkingGirl*

        Yeah I pay around $15ish per year for my domain through GoDaddy. My site is through Squarespace, $216 per year (there are cheaper options, but that works out to less than $20 per month). Then I pay $50/year for G-Suite email… gmail account with

        1. Facepalm*

          I also use namecheap and it’s true to its name. Much cheaper than other domains and I pay 6 USD a month for my email at my domain which is hosted by google and functions just like gmail

        2. BeautifulVoid*

          Same! I’d just recommended paying the few extra bucks for the WHOIS protection (which I think might be every three years or so), because way back in the beginning, I thought I didn’t need it, and then I did get targeted for a scam.

      4. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        I highly recommend separating hosting from domain name registration by using different companies for each, so that if there is conflict with the host it is easier to move.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Agreed. You can update the address records fairly easily for most domain name providers to point to a new host.

      5. Anon for this*

        We use, a large French company, because the EU has stronger privacy protections than the US. I think it’s about $15/year for the domain name and email hosting; we’ve used the for years with no problem. Privacy is probably not an issue for OP’s mom, just putting it out there for others who are thinking about their own domain.

    4. MK*

      Frankly, I don’t know that getting a domain is necessary; it can depend on what the OP’s mother does and what the scope of her transactions are. If I were the OP, I would just focus on getting her to go for an email address that is some variation of her name.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        That’s really hard to do with something like a Google address, though. Unless your name is really, really unusual, all the simple combinations of last, middle and first names are gone, and you’re stuck with adding random numbers or descriptions to get something unique, which leads us right back to the initial problem. or are no more polished-professional looking that what she has already.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        It depends on what she’s doing. If she’s selling crafts or baked goods, her Comcast email is probably fine. But if she’s doing anything where she has to have a really professional image, I think it looks bad. My close friend is an attorney, and she is…”frugal to the extreme,” let’s say, so she won’t pay for a domain. She uses G-Mail and has her G-Mail address printed on all of her marketing materials. I would never say anything and hurt her feelings, but I don’t think it sends a great message.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          I agree with MK in this case, since the phrase the OP used is “somewhat personal relationship with” clients.

          I’ve had one domain with associated website and email for more than 20 years, and another for “professional use” with a strong domain name for 15 years. And while it’s been nice (and since I am professionally IT adjacent, it presents a strong image), for a single-person business with clients like the OP described, I don’t think this is that important.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Many attorneys use gmail or the like. This is especially true of solo practitioners. It doesn’t present to me an image of unprofessionalism, so much as of being small. And often, this is just fine. It depends on what sort of legal work you need done.

          1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            Yeah. And in part it depends on your field. A tech consultant? Yeah, better have a domain name. A solo attorney or nutritionist? Not that important.

              1. Fieldpoppy*

                I am part of a small consulting firm and we have a business domain but I only ever use my gmail because it is 99.99% reliable and I can easily access it on any device, any time. We have changed hosting providers about 5 times and there are always ultimately some issues or another, either with our domain causing issues with client firewalls or server delays. The advantage of this particularly hegemony is that I never have to think about my email.

                I did get the address 12 years ago, though, so it’s just my name. Which makes it look less “unprofessional”.

        3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          If she is doing hair or the equivalent like OP says, it’s fine. It’s pretty common for a lot of small or one-person businesses to just have an email at a free Gmail or whatever. I see it pretty often. I wouldn’t hold it against my hairstylist/veterinarian/gutter installer/independent coffee shop/petsitter, etc.

          It’s obviously more professional to have your own website and domain for email, but a lot of fields simply don’t require fancy tech skills and people won’t care if you don’t have them, as long as you answer your emails in a timely fashion and provide good services.

    5. MsLipman*

      LW2 is saying that anything other than gmail is unprofessional though, not talking about domain names. That’s a really bizarre thing to say. The most successful, well-respected, powerful industry leader I know uses a yahoo email address with a longer than necessary pre-@ part.

      Honestly “it’s taxing to remember an email that isn’t gmail” and “it’s arrogant to force people to remember a long email address” – these comments are utterly, utterly bizarre and come across as weirdly hostile. Ditto the passive aggressive insistence that the LW has to ask for an email address they already have numerous times, and that they are “terrified” of accidentally typing gmail rather than Comcast (surely people either copy and paste, or use autocomplete on address already in their address book?? Certainly if you use gmail which LW obviously does, gmail will autocomplete if it’s an email address you message regularly. I’ve honestly never heard of someone manually typing in email addresses digit by digit, and I would assume someone doing so is elderly and not tech savvy). The idea that using a host other than gmail will actively damage your career is also pretty strange and hostile.

      It sounds like there are deeper issues here between LW and their mum, and that email really has nothing to do with it. Perhaps if the LW’s anger over this trivial matter is becoming such an issue, family therapy might be more appropriate?

      1. Jack be Nimble*

        I had a similar take reading Letter 3! It’s true that most people use Gmail and it’s true that many active yahoo/ users skew older, but it’s not inherently unprofessional to use a non-gmail domain. That, coupled with LW3’s stated fear that they’ll mistype their mom’s email address (even though Gmail has a contacts feature and auto fills frequently used addresses) makes me feel like they’re not particularly tech savvy or knowledgable themselves.

        I review resumes/correspond with a lot of applicants, and after a few years doing it, I don’t really notice email domains any more. What I’m noticing is the overall professionalism of the communication, not the service the applicant signed up for in 2003.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, it would be one thing if OP were worried about her mom’s business communications disappearing when, say, their telecoms provider decided to quit running email for 100 semi-active users, but gmail is not exactly a business norm, and in fact if you’re using gmail as opposed to your own business’ domain, it’s fairly obvious that you’re a very small outfit, for good or ill. (Also having worked at one of these places: I still have junk related to that job attached to my gmail account.)

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        We get so many scam emails from gmail I am wary of it in a business context, so I don’t. think that gmail is a super hub of professionalism. Having gmail or any of the others indicates you are a one man band usually. But if you are supposed to be, that is fine. Although I do think of yahoo as very old fashioned, but mostly because that’s what my parents used for a long, long time and I think part of our brain connects stuff like that to ‘Old, not cool, no one else uses’.

        1. Greige*

          Yeah, I’ll try not to be snarky here, but there are legit reasons not to use gmail.

        2. ZK*

          And that’s why I give out my yahoo email to most businesses as a contact, haha. I know they’re going to send me spam and sell my address. It’s purely for junk. I have another email address that I use professionally.

          1. schnauzerfan*

            Yes. My Yahoo address is what Netflix, Disney, dog show contacts and OfficeStore get. Friends get the gmail. And work has also an email.

        3. kittymommy*

          “Having gmail or any of the others indicates you are a one man band usually. ”

          This dead on.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I write contracts for my (very large) company, and yeah. Almost exclusively those who don’t have a business domain are “two guys and a truck.” Sometimes that’s fine, but it doesn’t leap you to the front of my mind when I’m making a bidders list for a multi-million dollar construction project.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              I sometimes, in my paralegal capacity, have to find an investigator or process server in some other state. Often, I am perfectly happy with the equivalent of two guys and a truck, and sometimes actively want that. Their websites, however, are carefully designed to make them look like big operations.

          2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            ‘“Having gmail or any of the others indicates you are a one man band usually. ”

            This dead on.’


            And there’s nothing wrong with that in some instances. Like the OP’s mom’s situation as far as I can tell.

        4. EPLawyer*

          Right or wrong, people connect it with old and out of touch. If someone gets me an AOL address, I judge HARD. At least move with the times.

          The advantage of a domain name is that you can use it no matter what general email account goes out of style. Plus branding is good if you are required to keep up relationships to drum up business. If your business relies on personal referrals, you want something catchy and easy to remember.

          Alison also made an EXCELLENT point about not tying your email to your internet service provider. It’s not like it used to be but if a company goes out of business/stops supporting email, ALL your emails are lost. I had this happen to a client right in the middle of a case when Verizon just … shut down its email.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Perhaps it’s only my take, but judging email domains seems like something that has come and gone. Gmail has been around since 2004. How is this signaling someone is young and with it technologically? My dad is 68 and has gmail, as does my mom, and she barely knows how to log on to her account. To Alison’s point about shutdown domains, my first post-college personal email was compuserve, but I don’t understand the gmail love. I hate the email interface. I use Outlook at work, so that’s my preference, but gmail is a distant 3rd. I have a gmail and a yahoo address, and the gmail one is always turning up on the dark web, per my monitoring reports. I use them both online and with retailers, so I’m not sure whether its gmail’s fault or the retailer’s fault, but either way, they haven’t provided any outstanding security or notifications that I’ve seen. The monitoring comes from my credit card service.

            If the OP’s mom is actually a salon owner or stylist, I don’t think the email is really that important. It’s not great, but the level of concern seems unwarranted. If she owns a digital marketing company, yes, it matters.

            1. Mystery Bookworm*

              I tend to agree with you, but I do think the amount of debate on this thread is a valuable data point, especially if OP’s Mom is trying to market herself to new clients.

            2. Observer*

              Let’s put it this way- I have 4 tiers

              1. Tied to your ISP. Terrible, terrible idea and would definitely give me a negative impression. Because this is not just an issue of a one man band, but I’m going to be wondering if they have the basic of their technology down. Even with a hairdresser, eg, that can make a difference. I remember a grocer in pre-computer days who lost tons of money and business because there was a store “manager” who, among other things, couldn’t use the cash register and so did all payment calculations, and recording of cash intake, on paper bags. I absolutely do NOT want to deal with the equivalent for pretty much any business.

              2. Yahoo & AOL – Depending on what it’s for, I might care, but probably not. I am going to be careful, though, in how I handle transactions. Especially with Yahoo, I might keep things on a cash (rather than credit or CC) basis.

              3. Any other free account. Unless I need a large / sophisticated operation, or someone who is marketing savvy, I don’t care.

              4. Their own domain name. I only care if I need a large / sophisticated operation.

              1. pancakes*

                Having one’s own domain name doesn’t signify a large or sophisticated operation, though. I have one for my old blog that’s been inactive since 2012 or so and was a one-person operation. And sending credit card information via email rather than a secure check-out process like Shopify or PayPal or whatnot is generally inadvisable regardless who hosts the email.

                1. Observer*

                  True. But as @AnotherAlison says, NOT having one probably means that you are neither large nor sophisticated.

            3. schnauzerfan*

              Not to mention the fact that many of the “young” are only sort of with it technologically. They may well shine with the social media flavor of the week, but can’t find a file they need to submit to save their souls (and grades.) Some of the “old” only recently gave up their but they can find you any obscure bit of data you need… Judging someone by their email address is pretty foolish, really.

              1. Pickwick*

                This!! My kids can text me a blurry picture of anything. I ask them to email me a copy of some form I need for taxes or something to sign and mail…I may never get it.

                My hairdresser uses text. My last 4 hairdressers used a landline and voice mail.

            4. Courageous cat*

              It’s the opposite – it’s not that gmail signals that someone is technologically savvy, it’s that aol/hotmail/etc signal that someone ISN’T. Similar to “all rectangles are squares but not all squares are rectangles”

          2. Vina*

            Gmail also age skews. It’s a GenX and Millennials. Most of the GenZ I know don’t use it. Most of them avoid email like the plague.

            1. Quill*

              Gen Z is, overall, not at a stage in life where they’re using email for anything besides college applications and schoolwork, so that tracks. I’m a late millennial and I certainly didn’t use my email for anything besides signing up for forums and filling in the contact form for scholarship competitions until I was well into college.

                1. Vina*

                  Bee – the oldest Gen Z are no longer teenagers. The cutoff is between 1995 and 1997. So the oldest among them are college students or recent grads.

            2. Vina*

              PS I read a study of personal email usage be Generation. Boomers checked personal email daily. They frequency of checking email declines until you get To GenZ. Some GenZ would only check email monthly unless expecting something specific.

              The younger the person, the more likely to rely on a chat or DM instead of email for most communication.

              I email or call my Boomer friends, text or video with Xers and older millennials, but DM anyone younger. Call anyone over 75. If I text Anyone I know under 30, they take forever to respond, if at all.

              Just my experience. YMMV

              LWs mother needs to look at her client base and determine their age. Maybe email isn’t the only thing she should be using. Maybe it is.

              1. pancakes*

                No one is suggesting that it should be the only form of communication she uses, though. The number of commenters making needless & sweeping generalizations on this topic and trying to establish rules they’ve just made up is odd.

            3. AnotherAlison*

              Other than for my actual work and interacting with businesses, which are limited activities for younger age groups, does anyone really use email? It seems analogous to letters and snail mail. Back in ye olden days, people sent letters. Then all you got in the mail was bills. In the early 2000s, I emailed friends. Now it’s just bills, mass emails from my kids’ schools, and things like that.

              My salon uses online booking. You pay when you leave, or you can now pay online due to Covid, but it’s through an app. My previous one-man salon used text messages. Emailing my stylist is not something I’ve ever done.

              1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                I use email relating to my kids school teachers and parents. And some personal stuff.

                I’m in my mid 50s, pretty tech savvy (was on the internet pre-web, did web design in the 1990s, have my own domains).

                And I am pretty against apps as the only way to interact with a business, and actually do not – if I can’t buy/pay/book via a browser, I don’t do it. No way.

                I guess I’m old.

              2. pancakes*

                I use it pretty extensively for correspondence with old & far-away friends, and for booking my hair appointments. I don’t see how this is relevant to the letter.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  The letter is about how important it is to have a specific type of email address. I’d argue this is of declining importance. I think email type might have been more important 10 years ago than now because it is only one of dozens of ways to communicate online. OP’s mom could be KarenK @ hotsalon . com and people are still wondering why they’re emailing for appointments when so many salons have switched to online booking, apps, or just use text.

                  People used to be tethered to laptops or desktops. Now people use phones as their primary tool for everything, and email isn’t the easiest way to do things.

            4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              GenZ needs an email to log into their smartphones and laptops. They all have emails, they just refuse to check them.

              They will grow up and learn.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep — I remember this being a complaint about millennials at one point too. Then they all got older and it stopped. It’s just a young person thing.

            5. ieAnon*

              I work with prospective university students and they all use Gmail, with maybe one or two Yahoo addresses thrown in there. I always wonder whether this is because they’ve been told Gmail is professional, or if it really is just an ease of use thing.

              1. pancakes*

                It’s free, and it’s easy to set up temporary email addresses (like .edu accounts) to be forwarded to it.

              2. schnauzerfan*

                Or in the case of the helicoptered… it’s what Mom or Dad set up / told them to use. I’m not saying all prospective college students, but some leave much of the college selection and application process in the hands that still rock the cradle.

          3. Secret Identity*

            I have an AOL address. I’ve had it for years. Yes, I’m middle aged – 45 to be exact. So, while it does date me a bit, it does not indicate how tech-savvy I am. I generally use a gmail address when I’m applying for a job because there are these ridiculous ideas about the type of person who uses an AOL account even though I resent the hell out of it. Unfortunately, I realize that not everyone is capable of thinking past their preconceived notions. And, to me, it really says something that when a hiring manager looks approvingly at my nice, young, tech-savvy gmail address, what they don’t know is that I’m the same person who uses an AOL address for everything else in their lives and all of those judgments that they think apply to AOL users either don’t apply at all or apply in spite of me using gmail.
            I’m always puzzled by people who say they judge email addresses, especially when they say something like they “judge HARD”. If you’re going to judge someone, surely you can come up with a better reason than their email address?

            1. JKP*

              I met a recent grad (high school) who had an AOL address. I was a little taken aback, but her parents had gotten her AOL address when she was born.

            2. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I have a friend who still has a Prodigy email address. He’s a Gen Xer in bleeding-edge technology development and uses Prodigy just to wind people up. He’s why I try not to assume how tech-savvy someone is from their email domain.

              Now, if the email handle is DaydrinkerExtraordinaire or MistressTrixie’sHouseOfSin at domain-name dot com? That’s a different matter.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                I wish I still had my aol email from high school–circa 1993/1994. I quit using it in college. It was great — pellinore3 (at) aol . com.

              2. Crimlaw*

                I still use a prodigy account. It’s my actual name. You will pry it from my cold dead body. It’s almost 30 years old. No one uses my work email; because I’ve had my prodigy since junior high.

                1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  I still use the Hotmail account I set up in 1997. I will use it until I die and, if possible, after.

              3. Secret Identity*

                Reminds me of an old SNL bit back when hotmail was a thing and people were just starting to use the internet and email. It was a group of very professional looking people in a conference room obviously having a meeting. The meeting was just wrapping up and the VP said he was going to need everyone’s email address and they each gave him some version of things like shavedkitty at aol dot com – really silly, but explicit addresses like that. And they were all so professional with it. It was hilarious. At least I thought so.

            3. Willis*

              Yeah, I still have and use an AOL address, mostly for family (who’ve had my email address since email was new) and bills. Judge away, I guess. In my experience, people of any domain name can suck at responding to email, which is mostly what I care about when I email them and what makes them look disorganized or not.

              1. ieAnon*

                I use my aol address as a spam/throwaway account. I used to use it for more serious stuff, but people were always surprised that a millennial was still using AOL and my friends gave me hell for being such an old. Now I have a gmail that I maintain, and the AOL has ~70k unread emails. Oops.

          4. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            “Right or wrong, people connect it with old and out of touch. If someone gets me an AOL address, I judge HARD. At least move with the times.”

            That’s funny – I get judgey against people who judge this kind of thing for what is obviously a single-person business.

          5. Andy*

            Honestly, there is point where peoples judgements reflects badly on them and email address is pretty much that line.

            Especially when you openly ackwnowledge that you don’t care about whether your judgement is right or wrong.

        5. So sleepy*

          Yeah, I totally agree. We have a gmail account for my partner’s business (in addition to e-mail accounts at our domain) and it always feels super embarrassing if I need to give the gmail out (even though it’s more convenient at times – basically all our business e-mails are funnelled into one account, anyway).

        6. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yeah, I don’t think gmail screams professionalism, and using any free or personal service versus having a professional domain is going to read less professional. Using certain, older providers may also date someone age-wise, but gmail is not exactly new either.

          My spouse is very put off by Google’s business practices and refuses to use gmail or even Chrome/Google search as a result. This means we have our own personal domain (so our addresses are, for which we do pay a pretty minimal account.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        Honestly “it’s taxing to remember an email that isn’t gmail” and “it’s arrogant to force people to remember a long email address” – these comments are utterly, utterly bizarre and come across as weirdly hostile.

        I don’t know that they’re hostile, but they’re definitely weird. And yeah, suggesting that you type the email address in, character by character, every time? That doesn’t exactly make you sound tech savvy either, LW.

        1. Katrinka*

          That struck me as well. Also, you still retain your email address even if you no longer have a Comcast account. It’s been at least five years since I switched and the email there still works (I’ve retained it for junk, but I’m getting ready to close it out).

          I did recently add a new gmail, I started job searching and my former married name is long and a bit complicated, whereas my “maiden” name is nice and short.

          1. Observer*

            Not necessarily. We’ve moved ISP’s over the years, and all of our email addresses have tended to disappear (although in a couple of cases they were still marked as “taken”).

      4. Lady Meyneth*

        We’re not supposed to do armchair diagnosis here, so I feel your last sentence is really inappropriate.

        But all the rest is spot on. There’s nothing to say someone can’t have a long email address, and this sounds like her name + her business name, so it should be something people remember pretty easily. It’s not unprofessional, as long as it’s a one-person or really small business. And it’s not like anyone, except apparently OP, will have to type it more than once or twice.

        Another thing, and this might be a cultural difference. But if OP’s mom is really a hair stylist, does she really need email all that much? I can’t remember the last time I emailed my stylist, if I ever did. We talk over whatsapp or over the phone if it’s something that can’t wait. So if the email is basically for Mom to send promotions and discounts and such, people aren’t likely to even notice the actual address as long as her business name is clearly seen.

      5. Dagny*

        The problem with a long email address is the potential for typos, which is especially true if typing on a mobile device. If the email address has multiple components, then it’s easy to skip one.

        Solution here isn’t for the LW to get snitty with her mom; it’s for the LW to set up her mom’s Web presence to be both modern and easy for her mom to use.

      6. Aquawoman*

        Yeah, that was so odd. I really don’t know that someone who doesn’t know how to use contacts should be giving out email advice.

    6. B*

      LW1 – also check what the normal process for this is in your institution. Universities, especially public ones, usually have very set salary bands and progression procedures and your manager probably doesn’t have the kind of ability to give raises that you would have in the private sector. You probably get an annual raise based on the salary scale, or a cost of living increase, or possibly a merit-based annual raise within a set percentage range, and any other types of raise requests would probably be based on the role you’re doing having materially changed, and a process to demonstrate that.

      I know my institution is currently considering cancelling annual increments and/or cost of living increases as a way to save money and avoid layoffs. I have staff who would like to have their roles regraded but it’s a difficult process at the best of times and would just be a complete no-go right now.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        If it’s her one year anniversary, that might be the normal time for an annual increase, though.
        OP could ask her boss what’s going on with annual and COLA raises, given the situation, and especially what the furlough means for her official length of service. Not specifically asking FOR a raise, just wondering if the normal process has been affected.
        Length of service affects other things, like vesting and changes to PTO accrual rates. That seems like a normal question, not an unreasonable request.

      2. Former prof*

        Here to echo this. To get a raise for my reports at a public university we had to show that they either had perfect ratings in every category of their performance review, or that they had taken on duties beyond their job description. But during furloughs I had to justify keeping my reports – we would never ask for an in-range raise then. Typically word would come down the unofficial grapevine when times were flush that it was a good time to apply for an in-range or even a reclass. I can’t speak to private colleges, though.

    7. 2horseygirls*

      Honestly, I cannot stand the way Gmail organizes things. I can never find what I am looking for, and cannot sort by sender (seriously?! why has that not been fixed?!).

      Color me out-of-touch, but I will stick with my Yahoo account that have folders, and I can find things in a few seconds.

      I am still hanging onto my totally-uncool personal email, but have more conventional FirstName.SpecificField@ . . . . . . for other uses.

    8. PhyllisB*

      OP #3 would be banging her head on her desk at me. I have three email addresses. Two personal with hotmail (I use one for newsletters and such and one for personal messages.) and a business one through AOL. (I have a gmail address but have never used it and couldn’t tell you my email address or password if you paid me.) No one has ever commented on it except my kids who tease me and call me old school. However, my email addresses are very simple versions of my name.

  2. Steveo*

    LW1 – your university may have more furloughs, pay cuts, and layoffs coming. And this especially applies in non-teaching roles, which at least here are being gutted. I think asking for a raise isn’t going to go well.

    1. MK*

      Also, isn’t the middle of the summer an awkward time to ask for this in a university setting, especially this year? I would think it is best for the OP to at least wait till the autumn, when her employer will have a better idea how the new academic year will go for them. (I could be completely off base here, I don’t know how the field works)

        1. MK*

          Even so, the OP won’t be returning till the first week of July, so after the fiscal year has began. My point was that at the beginning of July, the university might not know how many students will be coming/returning; depending on how their funding works, they might not know their future resources.

          1. MCL*

            She might have a job that has nothing to do with student enrollment numbers. My university job is funded from a revenue generating line that has no relationship with student enrollment numbers. However given how OP describes the situation it’s a bad time to ask for a raise. But if they have taken on so many extra duties that their job description is totally different, perhaps they could start discussing a title change. At my state university, that’s one of the most straightforward ways to get a raise in pay. Merit based raises are very rare in my environment.

            1. MCL*

              Editing to add, in these times, at my university, I would also be really careful about how and when I broached a title change discussion. Best of luck to you, OP, higher ed is going to be rough for a while.

              1. Sparrow*

                So far, there’s been no serious talk of furloughs at my public university, and I’m taking on an ENTIRE SECOND JOB (my only immediate coworker is taking her long-planned retirement, at which point we had planned to renegotiate my position and also hire an entry-level person, which is obviously not happening right now), so I’m in a relatively solid place to ask for a promotion/raise. And still I was hesitant to talk to my boss about it because I know the financial situation of the university means it’s a long shot and I was concerned about looking completely out of touch.

                I decided I needed to say something, but I raised it as, “I know things are very uncertain right now and that raises and promotions may be unlikely for awhile, but when things settle down a bit, I’d like to revisit the conversation about reclassifying my position to reflect me taking on Coworker’s responsibilities.” I think OP could be fine to say something similar, if they’re careful to avoid sounding like they have unrealistic expectations. In my case, it did prompt my boss to start figuring out what it would take to get a promotion approved in this environment, but I’m still not holding my breath.

                1. MCL*

                  Yep, I think you have a good approach, Sparrow. And honestly it could be a good strategem for that department to keep OP in their position, but at a higher title. Because in my public university, hiring freezes are not unheard of and it would be much easier to figure out a way to compensate OP with a better title (and reflective pay) than it would be to lose OP and then not be able to rehire that position. Depending on whether the OP’s job duties have shifted a lot or a little and whether those changes could be permanent, a title change could be the lever you start thinking of pulling.

            2. Paulina*

              At my university, significant changes in duties for staff would require a change in the official job description, and potentially a reclassification of the position (which would then affect pay). It would likely be difficult to get traction for doing this right now, but the OP should keep an eye on it.

              1. Begonia*

                Yes, if the duties have changed, the job should be reclassified. I work as staff at a university, and even though we have salary freezes across the board, people who are taking on different roles are still able to receive salary changes or additional compensation. Not sure if that’s possible at your institution, but it’s worth looking into.

        2. Sara without an H*

          At my university, raises start in October (i.e., that’s when they actually show up on your paycheck), but are prorated from July 1. The logic seems to be that we wait and see if we’re going to hit our enrollment numbers, then follow through with any raises.

        3. Bumblebee*

          University fiscal years typically start in July, but we decide merit much earlier because the budget has to be approved long before the fiscal year starts – at least that’s true in my large state system.

      1. Daisy*

        Also also, if she’s been off completely for 2-3 months then she hasn’t really been there a year yet. 9-10 months would be on the very early side for asking about a raise, most places.

        1. Katrinka*

          Yes! She has to pause the time-on-job count until she’s back (this is true for FMLA and long-term absences as well). I also think it’s tone-deaf to ask for a raise if not everyone was brought back. If the university doesn’t have the funds to bring everyone back, they shouldn’t have the funds for raises either.

          Comcast retains your email account even after you leave them. I haven’t been with them for about five years and my comcast email still works. And LW’s mom can set up a business account and have the emails forwarded to her personal account, if she’s worried about forgetting to check the business one. Or vice versus.

        2. Hi there*

          This is especially true in higher ed administration, I think, since folks tend to stay longer in their jobs. It is not unheard of for people to still be learning their jobs and how to navigate the system a year in.

        3. notacompetition*

          Came here to say this. Just shy of a year, with a big furlough period in between, is not enough time in higher ed to ask for a raise. I work in higher ed; merit raises are incredibly rare, and most of us are wondering whether we’re going to have jobs in the long run. And I agree with the comment from Hi There about still learning the ins and outs of your job a year in…it does take about that long to get the hang of the process, meet and develop a rapport with all the people, etc. I think you’d look very tone-deaf, and like you haven’t been keeping up with the news in your industry, which is currently “OMG WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO TO KEEP REVENUE COMING PAST THE FALL SEMESTER AND HOW ARE WE GOING TO MANAGE STUDENTS WHO PROBABLY AREN’T GOING TO FOLLOW GUIDELINES ABOUT PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY, MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON ALL OUR SOULS.”

          1. Academia is Weird*

            I would add that it also depends on the type of university. Mine is a large state university, raises for staff are certain percentages based on your evaluation, rarely a merit raise if the state coffers are particularly full. Raises for faculty and faculty adjacent categories (adjuncts, librarians, etc.) are based on a percentage of the salaries, thrown into a pool and supposedly allocated based on your evaluation. Rarely a bonus if they want to give you a small non-reoccurring bump of money If your job responsibilities as a staff member have changed substantially, you might be able to be re-classed to a higher salary band and get a raise that way. Faculty and faculty adjacent have to get a promotion to get that type of raise. A private university might have more control than a public university. Never worked at one, so no idea.

            My university is presenting in better shape as some of its peers, but who knows what is really happening in the financials As it stands, we have had a 5% cut across all budgets and the Board of Visitors has given the President the right to institute layoffs and furloughs. The state voted for a 3% pay raise last year, but that has vanished along with the state revenues.

            For those who don’t know the academic cycle, our President announced in a town hall, that we would know more when the state budget was passed (mid-July) and when they do a census of how many students we still have (mid-September).

            Uncertainty is stalking every academic institution aside from the ones that are well-heeled in foundations or endowments. So long story short (too late), I would highly recommend against asking for a raise. Especially since many universities will be curbing programs in order to reduce the chance of an outbreak on campus, which would create chaos…again. If your entire job relates to programming, I would focus on what you can do within whatever restrictions your university will be enforcing. For example, at my university, all study abroad was suspended for the Fall, so that staff will have to shift to other positions until it is safe to travel. If your university still has people out on furloughs, it would be seen as very out-of-touch to ask for a raise.

          2. MCL*

            Yeah unless the new work duties are extraordinarily different from their original role or require a high level of very specialized expertise, a year is just not long enough in higher ed to ask for a raise (I am at a public university, YMMV). My first pay adjustment came with a title change (from Associate Title to no-prefix Title), which if I recall was 2-3 years after I first started. Now I’m a Senior Title, which happened in year #8 or so. I have been in my position since 2009 (hired during a furlough year!) and I have only had one merit-based raise ever, which happened in January of this year (before COVID, hallelujah). All other pay increases were due to title changes (read: taking on enough new responsibilities to justify a change) or modest universal COL/pay adjustments authorized by the state. I suggest OP also ask around. When I was new at my university job I had no idea merit-based raises were a thing that 99% of the time only existed on paper. Title change is how you get more $$ in my world.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree that’s usually too early, but it sounds like maybe the job duties have changed significantly and if there’s been a big increase in responsibilities I think that under normal circumstances it wouldn’t be too unreasonable to ask whether the compensation could increase as well. But I don’t think it would go well in the current circumstances.

          I think she could possibly ask to revisit the job title and maaaybe gently address whether the salary band for the role might be adjusted in the future to reflect the change in responsibilities?

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            (Want to note that I have no idea how anything works in higher ed specifically, but wanted to speak to the general idea)

    2. Up Too Late*

      My sister just obtained tenure at a major university. Also, she has been informed that she will be furloughed numerous days next term. So, she has achieved tenure status and a pay cut at the exact same time. She does research, publishes, and teaches classes.

      OP, no this is not the time to be requesting a raise.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, and if it’s anything like the situation at a lot of places, the “furlough” time does not come with any decrease in workload. I know one institution where breaks are going to be “furloughs” next year, yet they are increasing the teaching load overall. So less pay (by roughly 6 weeks total, when they’re 9 month employees, so a big paycut) and more work.

      2. Paulina*

        Furloughed days? Oh, that’s terrible. As blackcat suggests, having a furlough be day by day means the workload won’t go down, there will simply be some days unpaid, to get prep and research for free. At least with tenure she can hopefully push back against expectations of attending meetings on “furlough” days.

    3. Alli525*

      Chiming in to add that I work at a college and do a tremendous amount of monitoring what our peer schools are doing, and every single one of the 30+ schools I track daily has implemented salary freezes across the board. Everyone’s expecting public universities to get hit incredibly hard, because higher ed spending is almost always one of the first items cut from state budgets. No one’s getting raises this year outside of a few exceptions (in my school’s case, for some union members), and it would make OP1 appear out of touch to ask for a raise.

      1. hufflepuff hobbit*

        yeah – we just found out our state money (we are a state university) is being cut/removed — the only raises here are for union members in certain situations (primarily the lowest-paid people). *Everyone* else is getting pay cuts. If you asked for a raise where I work, you wouldn’t get one and your supervisor would be concerned about your ability to understand finances

      2. BookLady*

        I was going to say this, too. My university has a hiring and raise freeze right now, so I would advise the letter writer to see if that has happened at their school, too. If so, asking for one would be even more tone deaf.

    4. MissGirl*

      There’s always that saying it never hurts to ask but at this time, it may very well hurt to ask. You mention wanting to get paid fairly for your work. What the market is willing to pay for your job may have changed since February. This might be what your worth.

      I get totally understand your frustration. I work in healthcare (back end role) and I went from having a super secure job to losing sleep at night, wondering what’s coming next.

      1. Annony*

        Yep. Most of the universities I know have hiring freezes and pay freezes at the very least. With furloughs and pay cuts also on the table at many places, now is not the time to ask for a raise. I would wait until the spring semester at least and then only if the fall semester went well. Universities are very precarious right now.

    5. WhatDayIsIt*

      My big research university has totally paused any raises this summer (which is typically when they are allotted out). My team and I are just happy to still be employed, especially because we are in a very hard hit office.

      1. Cassidy*

        Same here, exactly. The governor in my state has canceled merit raises for many state employees this year. I get through it because, although I love what I do, and feel I’ve more than earned the raise, my current priority is to be employed. If it means living without $1,000 bucks for the year and beyond, so be it.

    6. AES*

      Yeah, I don’t mean to pile on but this is going to come across as INCREDIBLY tone-deaf. I don’t know anyone in academia, whether in public or private institutions, who isn’t looking down the barrel of significant budget reductions for the coming year and probably the next few after. Most have pay freezes for faculty AND staff, many have pay cuts, and anyone who hasn’t already had this happen is counting themselves profoundly lucky if they’re not looking at layoffs/terminations. OP 1, do not make this request.

      1. LunaLena*

        Completely agree, this is absolutely the case at the public university I work at. There have been a LOT of layoffs and furloughs – I and most of my colleagues are getting part-time furloughs starting in July, and we are the second wave of furloughs. The first wave was furloughed in mid-June, and the top brass has been taking paycuts since April. All of this is happening because the university is scrambling to save money – in addition to expectations of low enrollment in fall (all universities in the US were expecting a smaller freshmen class this year already simply due to dwindling numbers of graduating seniors; COVID-19 is making it worse, since many students are considering taking a gap year or going to a community college. The reasoning is that they’ll wait until they can have a full college experience), the school took a huge hit because they refunded housing fees, parking fees, meal plans, etc to both students and fac/staff after campus closed in mid-March. A lot of programming has been canceled, amenities on campus like our coffee shops have been seriously reduced, and every department has been asked to go over their expenses and cancel anything that is not essential – including student employment. They are looking to save money in every way they can, on top of trying to figure out how they can open campus safely in the fall. This is definitely not the time to be asking for a raise.

  3. Edwina*

    Spied-on LW, I don’t know how complex your shared Google docs are, but would it be possible to copy it into a private Google doc, work on it there, and then copy your finished work back into the shared doc? That would stop Mrs. Kravitz from spying on you.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      Or, if you won’t inconvenience anyone else, open the file a few hours before you need it and just leave it open on your machine. Perhaps she’d sit there for hours waiting, but maybe she wouldn’t.

          1. pancakes*

            Love the idea of the letter writer taking on the burden of getting up at 6:30 am on a Saturday rather than, say, having an adult conversation about it, and/or asking their manager to put an end to this weird stalking? I don’t like it, and I think it’s more likely to escalate this conflict rather than put a stop to it.

            1. Reba*

              I don’t think that was a serious suggestion, just one of the petty, “wouldn’t it be rich” fantasy responses that come up here pretty often.

              1. pancakes*

                “Do it and report back!” doesn’t suggest fantasy to me. Either way, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for acting like an arsehole in response to someone else acting like an arsehole.

            2. Artemesia*

              It is creepy behavior. If I were the manager I would want to know someone was doing this so I could put a stop to it.

              1. The one being watched*

                I did tell my manager Monday morning. She had gotten several other complaints from other employees and was not okay with the “watchers behavior” she is going to address it. I did find it very strange myself!

              2. Glitsy Gus*

                Yep. I would at least mention it to your manager. It’s weird! After that I would also seriously consider opening a slack channel with her and your manager in the moment and then asking “Hey, Gladys Kravitz, do you need the doc for something? I’m happy to wait until you’re finished.” It’s a bit passive aggressive, but having the time stamp in the thread and her response/lack thereof may help show manager the details.

            3. The one being watched*

              I did end up speaking to my manager about this. It appeared I wasn’t the only one the co worker was doing this to. My manager did not approve of the behavior and is going to address it.

              1. Sunny Purdin*

                Please tell us how it goes.
                I had a coworker like this, and while it annoyed me, I did realize that the problem was with her. She just could not help herself. In the end, I actually felt bad for her because this isn’t healthy behavior.
                Ten years on, I have moved on and one of my friends that still works there has informed me that she is doing this to him.

        1. I Wrote This in The Bathroom*

          Thanks. I am not feeling great this morning due to having gotten hardly any sleep, and this comment was what I needed. OP, do it and report back! Heck, I’d do it every Saturday. (Another option is to open it and go back to sleep.)

          1. The one being watched*

            Told my manager and she is addressing it with the “watcher” turns out others had complained to her that morning as well!

            1. Littorally*

              The Eye clearly needs more to do, if she can spend her time playing panopticon with her coworkers like this.

              1. Nanani*

                Right? Like how is their actual work getting done if constantly monitoring multiple colleagues?

        2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          Keep it open all day, coming in sporadically to make minor edits.

        3. LifeBeforeCorona*

          I was going to suggest setting an alarm and working at 3AM and other random times if you can swing it. Then if she is up and tracking you at that time you can show your boss and ask them, is this normal?

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I would be so tempted to write a script that makes it look like the google doc is active even when I’m not on it, just to waste her time.

        If I were a manager, I’d want to know if one of my reports was doing something so inappropriate and busybodyish, so I could tell them to knock it off. I would also find someone monitoring me like that really disturbing.

        1. The one being watched*

          I definitely found it bothersome from my equal. If my manager was watching then that’s her job if she sees fit but not my coworker. Also the fact she told me when I started how “she watches people like a hawk” was off putting to say the least. I told my manager Monday morning and turns out others had complained as well and she was going to address it with the watcher as she told me it was not okay for her to be doing that!

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      Heh, yeah, I was going to say that too, since I do this anyway! I’ve always felt weird about doing my very first drafts of anything in a place where it can already be seen (and potentially edited) by others, so I work in Word or even just a text editor until I have something substantial, then paste it in (fixing the formatting if necessary). But I’ve never used Google Docs for my job — just for informal hobby-related stuff, and projects when I was still a student.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Same here, and I’m glad the cultural pendulum seems to be swinging back away from “everything should be public and under your real name all the time” toward some notion of privacy.

      2. Dancing Otter*

        I used to put a “DRAFT IN PROGRESS” (or just “Draft”) watermark on all my Word files until I was ready to submit for review. Can that be done in Google Docs?

    3. Anon nonnie non*

      Is it bad, that I would just type out in the document: ‘Please stop spying on me while I am working. Don’t you have other things to do on a Saturday?”

      1. The one being watched*

        I wanted to so badly write on the page by her cursor “Hi! I see you!” However, I know that pettiness isn’t professional and wanted to just stay in my lane. Told manager Monday morning and she is taking care of it, feeling relieved!

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Once last century I was on a train, writing to a friend. The woman next to me was reading everything I wrote. Without thinking, I wrote “I would tell you more but the woman next to me is reading everything I write”. At which point she exclaimed “No I’m not!”. She then turned away so at least she stopped reading then.

    4. foolofgrace*

      Re: pasting into an offline doc to work on it and then replacing the document online: If someone else is working on it while you’re working on it offline, you would overwrite their changes when you upload your copy, thus wiping out their work. I know nobody else is working on your doc in this instance, but I wanted to point this out in case other people were thinking of doing this.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        You can lock the spreadsheet for editing while you’re working locally. Obviously, this isn’t a solution on weekdays, when everyone needs to edit it at the same time. But it could work pretty well on weekends if only the LW is approved to be working.

      2. Annony*

        Does google docs have a way to lock the document to prevent anyone else from making changes? It wouldn’t work if other people needed to be able to edit while you are working on it, but if it can be locked for a couple hours until the next version is up it might fix the problem.

    5. LQ*

      I assume OP has another reason for thinking that this is spying vs just opening it and leaving it open. But I will say I’ve had a few people sort of accuse me of this. I just have all these files open because I opened at one point to do something with it 3 days ago and haven’t closed it since. Or someone asked me to drop something in or send the link and I opened it and then didn’t do the thing so left it open to remind me (this is not a good tactic because of the first thing).

      It’s a google sheet, you can have multiple people editing at once, it’s not going to do anything bad, just do your thing and carry on. (And if it has the side effect of this person actually spending their time watching you work…that’s weird but it’s still having a hobby of watching someone else do boring spreadsheet work…)

      (And is anyone else occasionally compelled to click on the thing other people are on? I mostly resist but I’ve been using this tech since it came out and it still feels like “OMG WE ARE LIVING IN THE FUTURE, IT IS SO COOL!” Though that may be because I seem to be continually introducing new people to it so I get their delight and joy out of it like once a month.)

      1. Paulina*

        Presumably you don’t also tell others that you “watch your coworkers like a hawk.” What the OP is describing is part of an ongoing pattern that the hovering coworker self-proclaims.

        1. LQ*

          Oh, I’d read that wrong and thought that was the OP saying that not that it was self-proclaimed. That is different.

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        OP says the coworker’s marker is occasionally moving to mark the last spot they were on, so I don’t think she’s just leaving the file open. Plus, it seems she enter the sheet only after OP starts working.

        I’d bring this up with management, honestly. Not only is it creepy, but the coworker can have a case for charging overtime for those busybody hours, since it can presumably be proved she was logged on but nobody can really say she wasn’t working. As a manager, I’d want to know if something like that was going on, and would really appretiate a heads up. Something like “I noticed Jane was also working on File over the weekend. It’s a good thing I noticed before locking the spreadsheet to edit it locally.”

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Yeah, I read it as well that Coworker is logging in *after* the OP logs in. It’s also weird that the Coworker will randomly zoom to where OP is working in the document, so I don’t think it’s a case of “opened it previously, never closed”. Coworker also has a history there of being overbearing/incredibly weird.

          FWIW – I just opened a doc across a couple of my Google accounts, and if I load into the spreadsheet, the person who is already in pops up right away in the upper right hand corner. On the other account, it pops up when the person logs in. So if there’s more than a few second delay, Coworker likely has just logged in. However, if the little circle is there pretty much immediately, Coworker probably was already logged in and it’s the “already opened” scenario. Still weird to just zoom to where others are working without doing any work yourself tbh, because while Coworker might have been logged in first, I would then expect no movement at all from their cursor.

          1. another scientist*

            There is also a difference in how the other user pictures/icons show: saturated colors for currently online and muted colors for idle (such as someone who still has the doc open in a tab but not looking at it). It also shows activity when you hover there with your mouse.
            I understood OP that she had checked this feature and determined that the co-worker is active in the document.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I thought there was an indicator for “idle” status but couldn’t remember what it was. Been a while since I’ve worked on Google Docs with other people.

          2. The one being watched*

            When I log in it’s only me on the page, she comes on within a minute or so and is “active” in full color with cursor then placed directly where I am entering. Very very obvious.

      3. The one being watched*

        She told me when I was hired she “watches others on our team like a hawk” she feels it is her business to know what everyone else is doing. There is a more sinister side to it. She wasn’t working, it was clear she was watching. Anytime I logged off, and would log back in within a minute or so here she would come again and put her cursor where I was. I worked odd hours this weekend which were approved by my boss, due to being ill. It was not her business as she is not by boss she is a co worker, however she is a person who thinks she is a boss of sorts and thinks it’s her business to “watch” others.

        1. LQ*

          I may be a horrible person, but I might totally mess with someone like this if they are clearly watching this closely and start setting out something that would have them going down an entirely different path. (I might just start typing into the spreadsheet “Sunday, July 5th 12:03 pm, Susan signed into the spreadsheet and clicked on the field.” “Sunday, July 5th 12:04 pm, messaged Susan to ask if she needed anything from me. Susan did not reply.” “Sunday, July 5th 12:08 pm, Susan selected cell B14.” And then keep doing that ever few minutes. But I’m also a little bit of a monster and have been watching way too much schemeing types of TV shows lately.)

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That’s only addressing one (very small) part of the problem, and would not stop the co-worker from spying. The bigger issue needs to be addressed, and figuring out a way to keep them from spying on each application is not the way to do it.

    7. Rebelx*

      LW mentioned maybe the coworker notices when she logs onto Slack, so you could try setting yourself to away when working on weekends. I don’t think it affects your ability to use Slack in any way, just you’ll appear to others as if you’re offline (so the grey dot by your name instead of the green “online” one). But who knows, with this level of nosiness, she might just be monitoring the Docs directly, so hiding on Slack wouldn’t help.

  4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    LW2: Do you work at my ex-job with Self-Appointed Hall Monitor? :) Your creepy, bossy coworker sounds just like her! So, you have my sympathy. Alison’s advice is good. It’s best to call this person out on her antics. Self-Appointed Hall Monitor got flustered the times I called her out or firmly gave a vague answer to her interrogations.

    And have the satisfaction of knowing that she has nothing better to do than spend her weekends monitoring other people working on a shared spreadsheet. And a reputation for being a creepy stalker. Eww. People like that don’t seem to realize that nobody likes them.

    1. Ping*

      I think the fact that she’s doing it on weekends is a red flag. I’d actually talk to the manager about this. The good news is that IT can confirm the stalking behavior.

      I do like the other suggestion. Lock the sheet. Copy the sheet over to your computer. Work offline where she can’t see you. Copy it back. Unlock.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I am not in the US so not familiar with the rules but if she is stalking you t the weekend, might that not be an issue for your employer, especially if she isn’t supposed to be working, herself, at those times? Wouldn’t that potentially run into issues with them having to pay her if she is logging on and reviewing company documents ? (if she is hourly)

      That aside, I would definitely speak to your manager – after all, if she us using her working time to do this then unless she has been asked to by your manager, she’s presumably not spending the time doing her actual job, quite apart from being nosy and causing you to feel uncomfortable.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Hi, Bagpuss — yes, that’s my understanding. If Nosy is non-exempt and “working” on weekends by spying on the OP, then her employer is legally required to pay her. We’ve had letters here in the past from non-exempt go-getters who wanted to work unpaid overtime and couldn’t understand why their employers were unhappy with the situation.

        Note: I don’t work in HR, and I submit to correction from anybody who is.

        1. Anon for this*

          I’m a manager of one of those non-exempt go-getters who I have to consistently tell to stop working when she’s off. I’ve taken to immediately messaging her when I see her “green dot” and saying “oh I thought you were off today.” I’m not stalking her but if I notice I stop it. I know this is off topic so I’ll stop but this comment spoke to me. :)

    3. The one being watched*

      Oh my goodness that’s exactly what she is like! A self proclaimed HALL MONITOR!!! Love it!

  5. Heidi*

    I don’t think that LW#3’s mom’s email address is as catastrophic as they’re anticipating it will be. It’s cutesy, but I wouldn’t say arrogant. Plus, gmail is good at recalling addresses, so it’s unlikely that a client would need to type the full address more than once (they could search the sent folder or reply to a previous email if auto-filling doesn’t work). I’m also kind of surprised at the claim that no one will remember a domain that isn’t gmail. Universities, businesses, federal agencies, and many other organizations use other domain names.

    1. Ping*

      I thought that claim odd too. And most software remembers emails once you’ve used it.
      That said, having your own domain name is nice:

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But unless the LW’s mother actually owns her own salon, she shouldn’t include the business name in her email address. She might move to a different salon.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I was wondering why this was an issue? Karenking2cutandstyle- what if 2 Cut and Style is the name of her business?

      1. Reba*

        Yeah, without a dedicated domain I actually thought that having the business name in the address was a decent idea!

    3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      Yeah, agreed- as a younger millennial that email address just reads “probably not too tech-savvy” to me, but wouldn’t otherwise color my opinion of the person proffering it. IMHO the OP is blowing this way out of proportion, especially in a business that requires more personal relationships with clients. I might look a bit sideways at a lawyer or doctor with that email, but hairdresser, personal trainer, childcare worker? I wouldn’t bat an eye.

      1. MsLipman*

        I assumed “2 Cut and Style” was the name of the business.

        It’s really about target audience, surely? My dad started an IT company whose only had 5-6 clients but they were all massive corporations and companies like the IRS. He never bothered to register a domain name or put up a website, because his clients were huge companies who knew about him by word of mouth, not individuals who might stumble upon a website.

        The target demographic for (for example) a mobile hairdresser is likely to be older lower income people who are less tech savvy and certainly wouldn’t care about the email address. If the mom owns an actual hair salon rather than being a freelance hair stylist, then the salon should have its own website but if it’s smaller and has a local customer base that might not be necessary.

        1. Works in IT*

          If anything, I would assume the email address was set up at the start of their business, when paying the nominal fee for their own domain was too much of an expense for them, and so they set up what they could get at the time (and while gmail is the go to free email account for most people, if you’re using comcast’s internet service you already have a free, already set up email account) and now they’ve spent so much time marketing that email address, switching to another domain is too much trouble. Not using gmail isn’t unprofessional, in and of itself. The long name is long, but address books save email addresses. Now, if instead of karenking2cutandstyle the email address was actually karensparkles4ubb then yes, I would say it’s unprofessional, but if it includes the salient points of person’s name and business’s name….

        2. another scientist*

          Oooh, interesting! A hair stylist to make house calls totally signaled well-off clients to me! Funny how we went totally opposite there.
          But agree that I wouldn’t worry about whether my hair stylist is tech savvy, that’s not really part of their required skillset. Of course, maybe the fake email in the letter is leading us up the wrong speculation path.

          1. Ikora Ray*

            At home hairdressing is a common thing in the UK and most of the clients are not well off. I’m not even sure that’s allowed in the US, to be honest.

            1. doreen*

              I think it’s maybe one of those things where there are two or more completely separate markets – well-off people , wedding parties and people who aren’t mobile enough to get to a salon regardless of income. My parents were by no means wealthy, but after my father ended up in a wheelchair getting him to a barbershop was too big a production when it was possible to hire someone to cut his hair at home.

      2. Jack be Nimble*

        Most email services don’t even display the email address of a sender anyway, they display the name the sender has attached to the account — as long as LW3’s mom has her full name in her settings, she’ll probably be showing up in inboxes as Karen King, not karenking2cutandstyle.

        I end up corresponding with a lot of job candidates in my current role, and I honestly don’t notice email or domain much at this point. I noticed when someone’s name was listed as just “Mom” in my contacts (because, presumably, that’s what they entered in the name field when they created the account) but even then, I just thought “huh, I bet she doesn’t realize she’s showing up as ‘mom’ to hiring managers.” I think OP is more concerned than the situation warrants.

      3. CheeryO*

        Yeah, agreed. My mom is a seamstress and runs her own small business. She is not the most tech-savvy person, but it doesn’t really matter. She’s friendly and does good work, so she’s always very busy.

      4. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        I have to agree. It makes a difference what kind of business it is.

        In general a more professional presentation is better, but I can’t see her losing business over this mildly dorky email address.

      5. Marny*

        Agreed. I truly don’t care how tech savvy the hairdresser I use is so long as she’s a good hairdresser. She’s not using a computer to cut my hair.

        1. Annie Moose*

          This is just what I was going to say! If she’s a small businessowner/contractor in a non-technical field, I might smile a little at a Comcast email address, simply out of the rarity of it, but it wouldn’t make me think less of her (again, non-technical!) abilities.

          Honestly, having an email address at all is a technical step up for many small businesses, which might still only use the phone!

    4. IOCTL*

      Quite frankly I side-eye business that use gmail addresses. It looks top rate unprofessional to me. Get your own domain.

      1. TechWorker*

        It just looks cheap. If the business is a one person hairdresser I wouldn’t really care tbh, I don’t pay my hairdresser to be good at marketing.

        1. IOCTL*

          I don’t use a hairdresser and if I were I’d expect a business professional who doesn’t give my telephone number, email address and bank info to every rando in their private address book.

          1. MK*

            You are making a really weird leap from “uses a free email provider” to “will give my private info to anyone”. As if there are two categories of people, professional ones who pay for a domain and are organised and careful with sensitive information and unprofessional ones who use gmail and are stupid/careless enough to give out your bank details(!) to strangers. That’s not how humans work, basically snobbish anf frankly a bit bizarre.

          2. Top Knot*

            What a weird, clueless thing to say.

            I really hope this is a result of you having just poor reading comprehension and failing to understand the comment you are replying to, because the alternative is quite alarmingly bizarre and irrational.

          3. Observer*

            You really think that using their own domain means that they have a clue about security? Far, far from it. In fact, this message tells me that you are nowhere near as tech savvy as you seem to think you are.

            Who do you think is actually hosting all of those business email accounts? What makes you think that a small business that is stupid enough to host their own email is better secured and has greater privacy policies than google? Are you unaware that Google (as well as Microsoft, which does the same thing) have FedRamp certification?

        2. Washi*

          Yep! My hairdresser has a similar email and that seems totally normal when you are eschewing a fancy salon for a 1-person business. It would have looked more polished if she’d had her own domain but it didn’t factor into my decision of whether to get my haircut there, and therefore probably doesn’t make business sense to invest in at this point.

      2. Observer*

        In what way? If I see a hair dresser with a rats nest on their own head, yeah. A tailor with torn clothes, also. etc. But, do you require that all of your vendors and tradespeople spend time, money and resources on externals that don’t make a whit of a difference to the finished product? dimain on email is much the same thing. It’s like dinging your plumber because the truck the drive is not gleaming and doesn’t have a spiffy logo on it.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I have a one-person business and I use gmail. Doesn’t stop me from getting plenty of work.

    5. Mary Richards*

      I also don’t think it’s that big a deal. Really, if this is actually something like hair or another service where there is a subjective measure (in this case, whether or not I like the look), I really don’t care about what her email address is, as long as I can see samples of her work. And can reach her to book.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yes, how much I care about the e-mail address will really vary depending on what it is they do.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Yes, definitely. Hairdresser, don’t care. IT consultant, on the other hand …

      2. MayLou*

        I agree. The man who services my sewing machine has an astoundingly bad website, but he is so good at his job that I not only recommended him to my friend but actually took her machine to him.

    6. Koala dreams*

      I’m also surprised. Many small businesses use an address from their internet provider. Some small businesses use gmail addresses, but it’s far from a norm. Sure, it looks more professional with your own domain, but it’s hardly a difference when it comes to ease of remembering.

      1. Willis*

        I agree with this. Her own domain would look cleaner and more tech savvy, but I don’t think this is a big deal. I write to a lot of small businesses/sole proprietors or small nonprofits and addresses like this are not uncommon at all. And assuming her business is something like a hair stylist, I don’t think this is really an occupation where clients demand tech proficiency, esp from someone working for themselves. If she were running a salon, that would be different, but as is I’d care more that she responds promptly and is a good hairstylist. This seems like sort of an odd fight to pick for the OP.

    7. Alex*

      Agreed. I see a lot of businesses advertising email addresses @ gmail, hotmail, aol, btinternet etc.. Mostly these seem to be small one-person businesses – mobile hairdressers, driving instructors, plumbers, gas fitters, cleaners – basically a lot of trades/professions who don’t *need* to be super tech-savvy to do what they do.

      Anecdotally, my in-laws are two such people – FIL is a self-employed gas fitter & handyman, and MIL runs a small cleaning business. Both have just enough tech skills to use the gmail accounts they’ve got for their respective businesses, but neither would know where to start in registering a domain name, setting up email accounts for that domain, or even the ability to use MS Outlook or Thunderbird or any other email program than the standard gmail web interface. For their purposes, they don’t need to, and both (at least before the pandemic) had thriving businesses.

      1. EPLawyer*

        It does matter what the business is. I have a domain name for my law practice. For my side business – quilting — I use a gmail address. But I still would not use an internet service provider address for the reason Alison said.

    8. SarahTheEntwife*

      Same here. I find that kind of email really common for small businesses. To me it would signal someone who is not super tech-savvy, but I don’t *need* my hairdresser to be super tech-savvy. Assuming “2 Cut and Color” is the name of her business, that would actually be a good point to me — it’s clearly a business address rather than a personal one, which potentially speaks well to her keeping business and personal communication separate. The Comcast email PLUS a website that looks like it was designed in 1995 PLUS having to play phone tag to set up an appointment would have me looking elsewhere, but the email on its own doesn’t bother me.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        I was figuring that “2 Cut and Color” wasn’t a business name, but just a description of the service (“Karen King to cut and color”)—and possibly a way to avoid collision with all the other Karen Kings who had already registered Comcast e-mail addresses. It still seems to me more like a business e-mail than a personal e-mail, since it’s describing a service.

      2. Paulina*

        It might not be the name of her business, just a description of what she does, to enable people to remember what they have this “Karen King” email for. That seems ok to me, and beats having an unmemorable string of numbers after her name.

    9. justabot*

      I don’t think the email address is a big deal. I work with a lot of small businesses and local vendors where gmail or other free domains are very common. In many cases people who are good at their craft – whether it’s hairstyling, personal training, woodwork, handmade designs, bakers, contractors, small boutiques, etc – spend the majority of their time on their craft or with their clients. They are good at what they do, responsive, don’t have a large scale operation, and the glossy business image just isn’t a priority.

      I think the biggest downside with a hard to remember email address is that you can’t just “tell” it to anyone on the fly and have them remember. If you don’t have a business card on you, you have to write it down or hope they remember and that’s a pain. That would be a big advantage of having a domain that’s the same name as the company. I work for a fairly small company – our email usernames are simply our first names. If I’m at work and busy, and someone stops in without an appointment and I’m not available – my coworkers can just say “email her at” if they don’t have my card around. It just makes life easy.

  6. CouldntPickAUsername*

    I’m glad I got in on gmail early and have a nice simple email name. It’s the short version of my first name then the first 3 letters of my last name. That’s it.

    1. Quill*

      I was blessed and cursed with a supremely googleable name, so my gmail is also just my name.

    2. Oldbiddy*

      my brother was an early adopter of gmail. so we both have, and firstnamelastname@gmail also defaults to us. We don’t have a ridiculously common last name, but I get so many personal emails intended for people with a very similar address – it’s kind of ridiculous.

      1. Melewen*

        FYI: Gmail ignores the period in email addresses. It reads firstname.lastname the same as firstnamelastname,, and even f.i.r.s.t.n.a.m.e.l.a.s.t.n.a.m.e — you can use that trick when signing up for things to see who has shared your email address. (You can also put notes after a plus sign to track messages — search for “gmail + trick” for more info)

  7. Jaybeetee*

    Okay, that colleague from LW2 is crazy-pants. Logs in on weekends to watch people work? What even is her life?

    Loop that into the manager. I’d be so ooked out by that.

    1. Anne The Teacher*

      I do not understand the appeal of monitoring a coworker at all. Just… why would someone do this? I makes zero sense to me at all. why? Why? WHY??

      I’m a teacher. Therefore, part of my job is to monitor (and document) my students’ attendance, tardies, whether they are on-task or not. Let me tell you, this part of my job is tedious and extremely unappealing. I’d rather spend all of my time designing lesson plans and actually delivering instruction. Being a monitor is so tiresome. Just ugh! The worst is during state testing. I have to watch my students take their tests. I can’t read. I can’t grade. I can’t use my phone. This is almost like torture. I swear I would rather watch grass grow. Why would anyone voluntarily monitor another’s work? SMH It’s so bizarre and creepy.

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

        There’s got to be some unhealthy reward in it for her if she invests so much into this weird behaviour. The sense of power from intimidation would be my guess.

      2. Airy*

        We’ve read letters here from people who thought a co-worker was getting away with something – like PTO use that seemed excessive to the writer – and did things like keeping a spreadsheet or notebook to track the “offending” behaviour, and Alison has told them to a) cut it out and b) bear in mind that there is probably more to the situation than they can see and which is not their business. Chances are this person thinks LW2 is getting away with something – like, “getting away with” not returning directly to the office (for legitimate reasons which her manager understands), working in the Google docs in a way The Monitor thinks is irregular, bringing cheap-ass rolls to the pot-luck lunch, or something like that. It offends her sense of justice, which is overly sensitive because in some way in her own life or work she feels she is not treated fairly, but also feels powerless to do anything about it, so she directs her focus to other people. I can see why she might be thinking that way, not that it’s reasonable but that it’s a thing I know people sometimes do.

        1. Daisy*

          Yeah, my two thoughts are either a) she thinks OP is claiming weekend overtime and then not actually working, or b) she thinks someone is consistently messing up something in the Google sheets and suspects that it’s OP. If it’s a, none of her business. If it’s b, weirdly convoluted way to go about it.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Especially when you can look at edit/version history very easily in Google sheets. Watching someone is…. just plain weird. I agree with others saying it’s a control issue, which Coworker seems to display in other areas as well.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I get the feeling she feels she should be team lead rather than just a peer. I imagine her to be at least 40 and stuck in an entry-level job because she’s just not manager material, and she’s resentful of the bright young things who come in, work for a couple of years alongside her and then are off to better things.

      3. Alfonzo Mango*

        It’s a control issue. She’s going to watch you and tattle ASAP so she always has the upper hand. It’s a bad boundary, it seems abusive, and that employee needs to quit it and go to therapy.

        1. Roy G. Biv*

          Ah yes, the grown up coworker with the elementary school-level need of, and satisfaction from, being a tattle tale. “Teacher! Teacher! Bobby keeps drawing on the edge of his test sheet and then erasing it!”

          My favorite elementary school teacher replied to that with, “Why are you looking at Bobby’s test sheet? Keep your eyes on your own work.” Which is a good analogy for what this boss should say to the Self-Appointed Hall Monitor coworker.

        2. kittymommy*

          I think she is also undermining the manager. It’s like she doesn’t trust the supervisor to effectively supervise.

      4. JSPA*

        Luckily, OP doesn’t need to guess why; OP can complain about how it’s landing, without having to prove how it’s intended.

        Co-worker is worried about fraud? Is an extra-terrestrial studying human norms? Has one of many conditions that make this seem like normal or necessary behavior? Has a crush? Has a vendetta? Is a prankster, and has written a script? (That last is fairly easy to detect; log in a 3 or 4 a.m. and time how long it takes for “her” to pop on. If it’s the same amount of time as it takes at a normal hour, it’s probably a computer routine, not a personal peculiarity).

        Doesn’t really matter. It’s distracting, it’s borderline creepy, it’s possibly an overtime violation for the interloper coworker, and it’s making OP feel insecure about making edits while someone else is also “in” the document.

    2. Coffee Cup*

      I was coming here to say that I think the manager should get involved and get the colleague to cut it out, at work and at the weekend.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        I also wonder about salary v hourly/salary non-exempt since OP writes that weekend work is cleared with her manager. If Mrs Kravitz there is online on the weekend, she may need to be paid. Drop that on management and watch her get shit down.

    3. JSPA*

      Without labeling whether it’s stalkerish, scheming, compulsive, or just over-focused, it’s not something OP 2 should have to deal with.

      I’d probably type, right into the document itself, in ALL CAPS, the following (and delete a moment later):

      “Jane, If you need to work on this document over the weekend, clear it with boss, so we don’t overlap.”

      No reaction?

      “Jane, these are my official work hours and duties. Your presence is not appropriate. Please exit this document now.”

      If that doesn’t work,

      “Jane, your endless e-lurking is disturbing. Please log off.”

      If that doesn’t work, consider,

      “Jane, at some point, lurking takes on aspects of stalking. My weekend work hours are not your weekend entertainment. Log off, or I will have to take this up with HR.”

      What’s Jane going to do, complain to the boss? About what?

      And take a local capture of each stage (the post, and the removal of the post). She may capture the post, but probably not the removal. You can prove it was up for mere seconds.

  8. Snarf*

    LW2: Google Sheets has a chat function. The button is in the top right quadrant, right next to the ‘Share’ button. Clicking it and typing something in will cause a chat box to pop up. The function isn’t super useful in general because the logs aren’t saved, but you could always type in the chatbox to ask if your coworker needed some data from the Sheet or something.

    1. JM in England*

      If I was in LW2’s situation, would be so tempted to type in the chat box “If I wanted something that sits on my shoulder, I would buy a parrot!”…

      1. RF*

        #2: Is there any chance the coworker just left the Google Sheets tab open on her computer at work, but isn’t actually looking at it? I know when I look at Google Sheets it often shows people as having the document open who I know are not really looking at it right now.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          LW says “sometimes she follows my cursor to mark where I am/where I am going on the page to see what I have done.” Jane may not be actively watching LW every single moment LW’s in the sheet, but is definitely actively watching her some of the time so it’s still bizarre and inappropriate.

        2. Persephone Underground*

          Except the part where her mouse moves over to where the LW was last working, like she’s tracking her activity or checking her work… Creepy. Not just logged in but actively tracing her virtual steps.

    2. Nea*

      “Do you need to edit this document right now? I’ll exit for an hour.”

      Start polite. Start assuming the best even though you don’t… because you’re going to screenshot this entire conversation.

      If she admits monitoring you, say “wow” and do not engage. If she says she’s editing every time (and you can let a deadline slip) don’t work and finally say “I cannot complete this work because you are editing. When will this document be available?”

      If she says nothing, keep asking every 10 minutes or so and screenshot. If you see her cursor floating after yours, screenshot. Screenshot, screenshot, screenshot! Put the images in a private document on you computer, then send the whole evidence that you’re being monitor-stalked and micromanaged to your manager.

      A screenshot is worth 1000 words of she said/she said. IT can back you up but shouldn’t be your first line of defense – who knows what she’s done to intimidate them?

      1. Persephone Underground*

        I think this is likely excessive assuming she has a reasonable manager and a good relationship with her (which it sounds like she does). I’ve never had a manager straight up not believe something I told them, and this seems to assume she won’t be believed. Not a bad idea to try if she gets blown off (as in not taken seriously), but if she goes in guns blazing with tons of screenshots up front she may end up looking like the weird one, clouding the issue.

        1. Important Moi*

          I don’t see a problem with preparing oneself for the possibility for both outcomes – she won’t be believed or she will be.

          1. Colette*

            If she’s not believed, a bunch of screenshots will not fix that – and they may cause more problems then they solve (because now she is monitoring her coworker as well).

          2. Artemesia*

            Having receipts whether you show them or not also gives you a quiet confidence when you talk to the manager. You don’t show them the material UNLESS they question if it is really happening.

        2. JM in England*

          The screenshots should be reserved as the “ace in the hole”, should the OP need to escalate the matter.

          1. Mama Bear*

            Agreed. I’d start by calling her out on it. If she can see you, she should know you can see her.

    3. Important Moi*

      LW2 has a bad manager. It doesn’t matter if she says “No stress, no pressure, I know your situation.” Pleasant words with no weight behind them is not a solution. It’s a cop out. Manager needs to tell co-worker to knock it off. Since LW2 asked for a script:

      “I want to understand why Co-worker is watching me when I get on Google docs. Did you askher to? Does she have to watch me? Can I ask her to stop and bring you in if she doesn’t?” Return awkwardness to sender. Make your manager manage. That’s her job.

      Also, LW2 has a bad manager.

      1. Colette*

        That would be really, really hostile.

        There’s no indication that the OP has a bad manager – it doesn’t sound like she’s ever mentioned that the coworker is monitoring her work. Managers do not know everything that happens everywhere. The OP should follow Alison’s advice.

        1. lulu*

          I don’t see the proposed language as hostile at all. It is just stating the facts. If engaging directly with the coworker doesn’t work, I would appeal to the manager in those terms.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            In the US, multiple questions to the manager is borderline hostile, but it’s mostly just a matter of they’re asked. The script above spoken with the pauses below would be ok, where asking all the questions rapidly would be hostile:

            “Hi Boss – Co-worker seems to be watching me when I get on Google docs. Did you ask her to do that?’ [Listen to boss’s answer; I’m going to assume the answer is no] Can I ask her to stop and bring you in if she doesn’t?”

            There’s nothing to indicate OP2’s talked to her manager about this, so nothing indicates OP2’s got a bad manager.

            1. Important Moi*

              I imagined the conversation with pauses for the manager to answer each question. I didn’t include pauses in my post and should have for clarity.

  9. Perpal*

    LW5; start charging what you are working / need, not based on your client’s profits off your work. I’m so familiar with these proposals from my amateur commission art days; very typical beginner artist “scam” (perhaps not an intentional scam, but major red flag) “you’ll be paid once my [movie idea / comic idea / whatever ] takes off” is such a common and yet ridiculous proposal. Someone else can pour their free time and effort into their dream; you are there to work and make money. Don’t work on spec, or if you do, increase your rates in accordance with the odds of getting paid (how some trial lawyers do it I suppose). So if your client insists on spec work, and has a 50% return rate, charge at least double (maybe triple to cover a dry spell and adjust accordingly if it’s starts to be a 33% return rate; then charge quadruple, etc)

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      Slightly different but I used to work compiling and transcribing interviews and focus group feedback and would always clearly state my precise rate, when I expect to be paid and so on, all very simple and clear.

      Almost inevitably, the person I’d do the work for would simply… not pay… and then when queried ”oh but the client hasn’t paid yet so…”

      Yeah. Not my client. I work for YOU. I explained my fee, it was clear and agreed. ”But, but I’m a SMALL OPERATOR!!” Yes, so am I. Very small.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yuck. I love your retort at the end, though.

        I once worked for a company where the owner would sometimes ask us to work on a project and then only tell us once all the work was done that the project was “a favor for a friend” so we wouldn’t be paid for the time we’d spent doing it. Dude, I didn’t volunteer to do a favor for your friend.

        And yes, he was constantly making noise about how being a Small Business made him more ~ethical~ than the big guys and that he was ~a nice guy~ because he did all these favors and didn’t pester people who owed him money. “I’m making a living, not a killing” was his favorite expression.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I write contracts for my company and we sometimes have suppliers provide us with quotes to put in our bids to the government without paying the supplier for the quote — this set up is expected and not shady. It’s considered the cost of doing business. We do have a small subset of suppliers who charge a proposal support fee (frequently per hour, sometimes a flat fee), but they’re niche and in *their* industry it’s normal to charge for proposal support. So all that to say…it definitely depends on the industry. And certainly my suppliers are paying their folks to do the work regardless of whether my company wins the bid.

      In LW’s shoes, since LW seems to be an independent contractor, I’d let the company know that your fee structure is changing and all future proposal support will be $X/hour or a flat fee.

    3. LQ*

      It does sound like this isn’t quite fully spec work. There’s an element of that which is outside the normal scope of work. The proposal work is done on spec, but it sounds like they always get paid for the majority of the work they do which is not the proposal. There are folks who do nothing but write proposals and depending on the industry will do something like if you get this I get a cut. (The idea being that the better you are the less time you waste, but also the more selective you’ll be about who you’ll do a proposal for.)

      I think the thing to do is break this into pieces potentially. Project fee and proposal fee. Hey you do a proposal and it doesn’t go through, ok, you do it and then get the project then we have the project fee. (I wouldn’t drop the project cost at all, but add the proposal fee as an additional/separate fee based on the extra work.)

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, exactly. I had a client who told me she had a flat rate for each project. I had only done one freelance project for her at that point, which I had billed well under her budget. The second project involved a lot more work, and was set to exceed the budget. At this point she asked if I could just always bill the amount allocated in her budget. She told me it would sometimes be more, sometimes less, and would all round out in the end, so I had nothing to worry about. I said no, I preferred to bill as per amount of work for the time being. She said she’d go over her budget for this project, I told her “but it’ll all round out in the end, so you have nothing to worry about”.
      (They didn’t pay my bill, she lost her job, her replacement asked me to work on the next project, I said only if you pay everything you owe me, they paid, and I now work regularly for them, billing the amount of work)

  10. Dan*


    So here’s the the thing about those who think gmail as an indication of being “tech savvy”. I take the opposite view of those folks (not those who have the gmail, but those who think gmail is the be all, end all of tech savvyness.) There’s some legit potential issues with having too much of your tech life tied up with one company, enabling big tech companies to get even bigger, or for that matter, having significant parts of your tech life on a platform that has a ginormous user base.

    I’m not much of a privacy freak or a conspiracy theorist, but there’s something to be said about “letting” big tech get too big. How much of your private data do you want in the hands of a single for-profit company?

    TBH, if you’re running a business out of a gmail account, that doesn’t “signal” tech savvy to me, that signals “amateur.” Because it is is. A “legit”, professional looking company has a customized domain name.

    1. Mary Richards*

      I’m 50-50 on this one. It really depends. I tend to associate custom domains with companies, not individuals. Not saying individuals don’t, can’t, or shouldn’t have their own domain names—just not something I’ve come to expect. Most of my colleagues use gmail, unless they’re associated with a larger company. The freelancers/contract workers are pretty much all using free email providers, and these people aren’t amateurs! Might just be a field-by-field thing.

      1. WorkingGirl*

        I have my own domain email ($50/yr for that). But I know plenty of people freelancing similarly who use gmail. That being said the “big guys” in my freelance fields almost all have domain name emails!

    2. MK*

      I don’t agree that having a gmail address is necessarily amateur, but there is also the issue of how much it matters in that particular field. I don’t actually care whether my haidresser/personal trainer/seamstress are running their bussiness in a professional manner in general, just how good their work is and whether they are reasonably reliable.

      1. TechWorker*


        I think gmail is more professional than say, hotmail. But for anything even remotely confidential it’s a big no.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Working at an appraisal management company, I obviously had the borrower’s contact information, including email. One of the borrowers was a politician who was nationally known for a scandal only a few years previously … and I saw that they were using a gmail address. It was very much a “Seriously? You’re dumb enough to trust that nobody at Google will peak in to see if there are any other juicy tidbits?” moment.

        2. Quill*

          Yeah, and obviously I’m not sending payment details via gmail, but sending, as I used to, questions about if a company sells smaller sizes of xanthan gum than a 50 pound bag is hardly confidential.

    3. Forrest*

      If you’ve paid $10 for your customer domain name, surely it’s sitting on something like Google or AWS for the actual infrastructure? I don’t think you’re creating diversity of internet ownership with a $10 investment!

    4. ceiswyn*

      Yes, but all of those potential issues and signals are even worse when your business tech life is tied up with what is clearly just your ISP.

      1. Observer*

        Yes. That’s my real cut off.

        Google, MS and Amazon do have some pretty good measures in place to protect the privacy of the accounts they hold. They need to because some of their most profitable business lines depend on it. Most ISPs have nothing AND the addresses are far more ephemeral. You may change ISP’s, the ISP may go out of business etc.

    5. Observer*

      A “legit”, professional looking company has a customized domain name.

      Why? That’s a serious question.

      Also, what makes you think that having a custom domain name means that one of the major monster companies doesn’t have the businesses’ data? Both MS and Google make good money off their respective office suites, and they all allow you to use a custom domain.

      1. Ikora Ray*

        They own all the servers anyway. Even video game companies rent servers off of Microsoft and Google. Unless people think all the individual domains are being run off of banks of servers at the company’s headquarters?

  11. Bob Howard*

    OP #2 Are you exempt or hourly? Surely if you are both hourly, you can raise the issue as a straightfoward overtime issue: “You have agreed I can work weekends, but QueenBee is working as well. Is this authorised?” I am sure that any US employment lawyer would argue that regularly logging into your employer’s google docs system and “supervising” would count as work that must be compensated by law. Assuming you are in the US, of course.

    1. Esme*

      Yes, this does sound like unauthorised overtime. I think I would be taking some screenshots to record what you’ve seen (not sure if Google Docs has any kind of log of who’s been in the document, but would screenshot either way).

    2. Colette*


      Whether the coworker is authorized to work is none of the OP’s business – and that’s also not the issue the OP has. The issue is that the coworker appears to be monitoring her work; that’s what the OP should raise (directly).

      1. Just no*

        I agree — why bother bringing up whether or not the coworker is authorized to work on the weekend? It isn’t OP’s business what the coworker has been authorized to do, and if OP’s point is that her coworker should stay out of OP’s business, then bringing that up kind of undermines what the OP is saying and would make her look like a busybody too. Alison’s advice was spot on here. OP should call out the coworker’s conduct itself, not try to get around it by bringing up work authorization.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Agreed. Don’t get sidetracked with “tracking Jane back” or whatever. Focus on the real issue, which is that Jane has told you she tracks her coworkers and has been monitoring your work in a way that makes you uncomfortable. That’s what you need to take to your manager (and, if you haven’t explicitly called out the weird Google Sheets thing yet, that would be worth raising with Jane directly too–“hey, I notice sometimes when I’m working on the weekend, I see you’re on the documents as well, what’s up with that?”)

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Nope, 100% would not recommend. What is authorized for the co-worker is none of OP’s business.

    4. Observer*

      I agree with the others. It’s not the OP’s business, and they don’t want to come off as being the same as CW.

      Now, the supervisor SHOULD care about that, but it’s not OP’s place to bring it up. In theory CW could have her own understanding with the manager.

  12. Keymaster of Gozer*


    I had a sort of similar situation a few times at one job. I had to do some weekend work editing some database connection strings for the company servers and one particular coworker emailed me afterwards to say he’d only seen the central file edited once during the whole day so what had I been doing for several hours?

    First few times I ignored it but started writing a process on how to edit the master file which began step 1 with ‘take a local copy’. Finished that document, sent it off to the boss for approval, got it entered in the knowledge base etc.

    So the next time Mr Stalker reported on my time spent I fired back that as per process I was working on a local copy during testing so of course he wouldn’t see edits until the end. He said I was doing it all wrong. I sent a copy of the procedure. He said I was ‘making it all up’ so I forwarded the email trail to our boss asking if boss could help at all resolve this.

    Took me 2 days of writing and editing to get that procedure down into the knowledge base but the epic ‘focus on your own work d***head!’ rant my boss gave my coworker was worth every second.

    TL:dr: if you can, work on ways that your work can’t be monitored by nosy coworkers and it’s beautiful if you can get your method listed up as a company policy because then you’ve got some solid armor. Can also result in fun.

    1. allathian*

      Good thing I wasn’t drinking coffee when I read this, or I would have spat it on my keyboard. It can be good when a boss rants at someone who really deserves it, even if critical feedback should usually be given in private.

      1. Esme*

        I’m going to disagree and say that this boss handled the situation really badly.

        Swearing and belittling when you have actual manager tools to use? All of the nope.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          This was in 2008 and that boss has long retired. I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of his management style was quite confrontational if you messed up. He wasn’t a paragon of managers, just one who was perfectly fine with you until you took the piss.

        2. Caroline Bowman*

          No I’m afraid I’m 100% in the corner of ”busybody butt out” publicly. Sure, most feedback is a private matter, but this was evidently a huge waste of time and a wild overstep and a small dose of shame would knock it on the head pronto.

        3. Cassidy*

          My guess is that such a strong reply indicates that the busybody co-worker might have been warned repeatedly to butt out, which didn’t work, so an extreme response was called for.

          I have a coworker who is just absolutely dense like that, and boss has had to be quite terse with her – publicly – to get her to listen. Some employees earn a telling off.

          1. Cassidy*

            I should add, co-worker is exactly like the one the OP described: busybody hall monitor who has proclaimed herself in charge.

        4. JSPA*

          Swearing and belittling are deeply problematic as a response to mistakes, or lack of knowledge, or honest confusion, or bad acts that spring from good intentions, or mistakes that don’t involve their interactions with other people, or a thoughtless, passing swerve too far out of their own lane.

          When the intentions are bad;

          the knowledge has been supplied but (offensively) rejected;

          and the problem isn’t a mistake, but an aggressively intentional course of behavior;

          where other people need to be freed from whatever unreasonable fear has been instilled in them, by the bad behavior;

          and they’ve already been reminded to stay in their own lane, and chosen to ignore that…

          there’s something to be said for telling the miscreant off in public. It actually limits the damage you have to inflict in other ways, in that you’d pretty much have to fire them, if public naming and shaming were not part of the response. Basically, everyone (not just the person making trouble) needs to know that this wasn’t OK and isn’t OK. Otherwise, there’s no way to find out if Mr. Trouble just gets up to his old tricks with some new target, the next day.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That boss was a character. Union guy through and through, ex-marine, about 62 and by far the most honest and straightforward guy I’ve ever worked with. Also this was the railway engineering firm so blasting out profanity across the building was really rather common.

        1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

          Is there any field of Engineering where blasting out profanity is not common? XDDDD

          1. Thankful for AAM*

            My spouse is an engineering professor and I have heard him swear exactly one time in 31 years of marriage!

            Professors are different I know but once n 30 years!

          2. Quill*

            Is there a field of engineering where things do not go wrong in shocking, unexpected, or potentially dangerous ways?

            That’s probably where you find the lowest profanity…

            1. Environmental Compliance*


              I’ll say it’s very common in environmental & mechanical. If it’s not swearing, it’s just repeatedly headdesking. This is why stress ball things are often handed out at conferences, and also why they’re often stupid puns.

              If SAP deletes what I’m doing ONE MORE TIME….

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                Ahh, inventing new backronyms for SAP…that brings back tech support memories.

          3. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Dunno, I’ve worked in sewage treatment and railway engineering and they’re pretty profane. And we were IT which adds another ‘oh no, not this AGAIN’ stress which frequently results in swearing.

            Learnt most of my colourful language when I learnt programming actually. (“Won’t compile?! Arggg!”)

  13. Calanthea*

    Oh LW1, I feel your pain. I’d agreed a promotion back in Feb, had pulled together my business case and then…
    As soon as we went into lockdown, I messaged my boss saying what I was going to reprioritise with work, and something like “I know we had discussed promotion but obviously now is not the right time to pursue this. I look forward to picking this up when we have more certainty.”
    I slightly feel like I shot myself in the foot by not pushing for it, but also it felt wrong. Universities are going through a lot of challenges right now, which makes any request for more money seem ridiculous (even I it’s totally fair and in normal times would be signed off, right now your request is being weighed against the actual survival of say, a smaller department!)
    I do think that, if you hang on for another year until the smoke has cleared, you’ll have a *really* strong case for a raise, because of all the extra work c-19 is generating for everyone. That’s what I’m telling myself, at least!

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Same. Hospital-based educational institution here, but considering that our C-suite people came out with an announcement of the significant pay cuts they were taking in order to attempt to not have to cut staff (among many other measures), I’m not going to rock the boat with my direct boss about what my impending promotion might involve.

      1. CheeseGirl*

        I was actually very impressed with my hospital during this time. I’m in New Jersey, so we got hit pretty hard with Covid, and they announced a few weeks ago that they were working out how to get all the nurses and NPs in our organization a raise.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          That’s excellent. Our hospital has been extremely transparent about our financial situation. Everyone I’ve talked to has expressed pride in working here and appreciation of management’s thoughtful responses/plan. I’m hoping our ‘frontline’ teams get the first bonuses/raises when the time comes for that.

          1. Calanthea*

            Ah CheeseGirl I’m really glad to hear you’re getting recognition (and financial recognition too, which is always extra nice!). It sounds like both you and RabbitRabbit care a lot about your work and organisation, and don’t do it for the money, or at least, not just for the money, but because it’s the right thing to do. Maybe I’m naive, but I do believe that long term, working in a job like that, especially if you’re treated well, is better for you than having lots of money but killing your soul.

  14. Birch*

    TBH what bothers me about LW3 is that their mom uses her business email to communicate with her personal contacts. If you’re going to go to the bother of setting up a new business email (I interpreted that to mean she already had an email address, but maybe she didn’t?), don’t clutter it up by making all your friends and family and spam newsletters now go to that one!

    I also think gmail is more professional than others but less professional than having your own domain, and it also really depends on the field. Hairdresser, painter, plumber, cleaner, mover, dog walker? I don’t care what your email address is, I care how good you are at your job, which generally involves a specific type of work done once. I get squicked out when people who handle and store large amounts of sensitive personal data have non-business email addresses, like anyone working with money, university labs, anyone in a medical field, etc. The amount of tech-ignorance I’ll put up with is cumulative. Having an email address at all is a positive sign, having a website that works and is easy to navigate (and is updated!) and actually answering your email makes up for an odd sounding email address.

    1. Mongrel*

      “… depends on the field. Hairdresser, painter, plumber, cleaner, mover, dog walker? I don’t care what your email address is, I care how good you are at your job, ”

      I would say, for these sort of businesses it’s probably much better to get the socials nailed and show their work than fuss about with a business e-mail. As things grow it may be better to have a business domain, with a proper business website & e-mail but the vast majority of people have Facebook\Twitter\Instagram as their first port of call for anything – all of which have a messaging component.

      1. WorkingGirl*

        I book my hair cuts through Instagram, the salon posts pictures of their work right there so I know this salon will do a good job, then I DM them to book. But I’d be fine emailing them.

      2. Persephone Underground*

        Um, no. I don’t care what business something is, but if they use social media instead of an email address they’d have to be truly amazing for me to bother with them. Email is simple and works across service providers, and keeps everything important in one place. Having to log onto a specific social media account just to arrange an appointment (using a glorified IM service that isn’t particularly searchable)? Not happening. I’ve seen small businesses use FB or whatever as a substitute for a website and don’t mind that too much, but as a substitute for email or phone? Nope nope nope nope nope.

        1. Mary Richards*

          I think Mongrel meant that, for a hairdresser or other beauty provider, it would be more important to make sure that the social channels had a consistent name than that the person had an email at a business domain. So Jane’s Salon better be able to get a consistent handle on Twitter, Instagram, etc. and would be fine using “janessalon@gmail” if it were consistent with the social handles.

          1. Mongrel*

            Thanks Mary, but I did mean that the social tools are probably their primary advertising\communication tools. So people will look them up on Facebook\IG first and then use that as a springboard to contact them, whether that’s an in-app message or clicking on the “E-mail us” link or even writing down the phone number (and at that point people probably won’t care what the actual e-mail is)

            A person not using any social media, myself included, are a shrinking demographic and aren’t considered representative of thing as a whole and trying to explain why is just met with blank stares

    2. Paulina*

      I’d missed that aspect (that she’s using the same email address for her social contacts). Now the email just looks like it’s advertising, badly (like she’s essentially using it to push a reminder about her services to her friends).

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Folks who use one email for everything, tend to not be big on email in general. So I don’t think anything is going to be that cluttered.

      Reading this it sounds like the OP’s mom is in a trade, like hairdressing. It’s a microsized “business” and they are more focused on their craft [hair cutting/styling etc] and the tech side is just a limited tool option.

      And I don’t judge anyone’s professionalism by their email, I judge their size and scope more than anything.

      CutsByJaneQ @ aol just reads “hair dresser who rents a chair” and doesn’t mean “unprofessional” or “not tech savvy”, why would I need my hair dresser to be bothered with tech anyways? She’s cutting my hair not programming my computers.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      The question asked wasn’t whether the mother should use her business email for personal messages. It’s much easier to have everything separate, but lots of people don’t separate their stuff. If Karen needs to wade through two pages of mails about OP’s upcoming wedding before finding the email where her client requested a particular service, that’s her problem.

  15. AutolycusinExile*

    Ah, the great email domain debate, we meet again.

    As someone who works closely with a lot of small businesses I see non-professional domain names all the time. It’s definitely common with a certain demographic of companies and I doubt that the regular customers of those small businesses care enough to take their business elsewhere. However, as Alison mentioned, it’s definitely a sign of not being very tech savvy in fairly basic ways, which in my experience is often correlated with a bit of disorganization or a casual approach to interacting with your customers, vendors, and contractors (often their record keeping is handled in a similarly casual manner, so getting invoices and other documents taken care of takes longer, as an example). That’s super common in both newly started and small/family-run businesses, and isn’t my favorite thing in the world, so while it’s far from a deal-breaker the fact that I see it so commonly correlated does mean that I do take notice of gmail/hotmail/yahoo business contacts and it’s not a point in their favor.

    To reiterate, this is not a one-to-one correlation, there are certainly plenty exceptions to this trend, and I don’t think this is something my company would ever take into account when establishing a relationship with client company. For industries like hair styling, I have to assume a lot of that clientele also doesn’t care, given how common this is. But I do notice on a personal level, and my private consumption patterns are definitely affected as a result. I tend to give my business to companies with a business domain if I can, unless I already know for a fact that they offer a good service (personal recommendations from friends, etc). It just reads as being more established, and (rightly or wrongly) my subconscious interprets that as more reliable. It’s far from the biggest faux pas you could make, but from a marketing perspective it’s such an easy thing to fix that I can’t see why you wouldn’t bother if you’re trying to grow business.

    HOWEVER. Not all businesses put a priority on that! Maybe your mom is happy with the size of her clientele already. Maybe she’s just super uncomfortable with technology and the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t fall the same way it does for you. Maybe she thinks the personal relationship she needs to have with her clients means that a casual email address creates a casual relationship that helps her strengthen those relationships. Who knows.
    It’s not going to be everyone’s priority and she knows her own business priorities best. So if your mom says she isn’t interested then don’t push it – this is not worth sacrificing your relationship with her. Mentioning it once or offering to send her a link to an easy domain setup, go for it. But if she isn’t interested that’s her prerogative, and you’ll both feel better if you let it go.

    1. MK*

      I don’t know that I agree with your points, but as far as clients go, these things are just irrelevant for them in many industries. No one has any reason to care that their hairdresser is disorganised in her bookkeeping.

      1. ceiswyn*

        …I care quite a lot if my hairdresser is disorganised in her bookkeeping. Is she any more organised in her appointment keeping, billing, and protection of any personal details of mine that she has?

        1. MK*

          Look, this perception that being in one thing means you are X in everything is simply not how humans work, in my expierience. If your hairdresser is disorganised in her appointment keeping, it will have likely nothing to do with how she does her bookkeeping. And you will much more easily and quickly find out whether she is punctual and reliable than how she does her bookkeeping. Judging either of those things from her email address is frankly simple snobbery, not unlike judging the quality of any service by how lavish the premises are and getting overcharged for them. I don’t even understand what kind of billing a hairdresser might do; you go, you get the service, you pay, it’s not as if you are waiting for an invoice to file. Or what sort of private information she might have, but even an amateurish one is much less likely to leak them accidentally than a huge company to sell them intentionally.

          1. Alex*


            I don’t care how my hairdresser keeps her accounting records, or how quickly my personal trainer pays his invoices. Can thy make appointments and keep to them? Do they cut my hair/make me workout effectively? Is their service good value to me? If yes, then I don’t really care if their email address is or, or if they file paperwork meticulously by date or shoves it all in a cupboard a la Vince Vaughn’s character in Dodgeball.

          2. Environmental Compliance*

            Most of the hairdressers I’ve used for the past few years have actually “invoiced” me because they did payments online. My farriers have also often “invoiced” me in a similar fashion – even if I paid via cash, because that’s how they issued their receipts. I’m not going to judge anything on an email address unless it’s something incredibly inappropriate, but I will be rather alarmed by an individual consultant who loses payments, or bills me for the wrong service, or the invoice doesn’t match the displayed cost, etc.

            I might be reading this wrong, but your comment comes across a little hostile, to be honest, as ceiswyn doesn’t say anything about emails in their comment, just that an individual providing a service shouldn’t come across as disorganized.

            1. Altair*

              I dunno, I thought that MK had a good point with “Look, this perception that being in one thing means you are X in everything is simply not how humans work, in my expierience. “

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                That’s true, and I agree with not judging by email, but ceiswyn does also have a good point as well that if Consultant is disorganized in one area, it’s worth keeping an eye open for any other disorganization that may adversely affect you.

          3. Observer*

            Actually, if someone is disorganized in one major way, they probably WILL be disorganized in other ways.

            BUT that’s it very different than what @AutolycusinExile is saying. In my experience, there is no correlation between a gmail / outlook etc. email and level of organization and carefulness with client information.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          If your hairdresser can’t remember when your appointment is, or that you’ve already paid for your last visit, or what color to use on your hair, you’ll notice. Regardless of what their email address is.

    2. AutolycusinExile*

      I’m responding a little late, but I want to clarify a couple of things. One is that this is absolutely industry dependent. I alluded to this in my original post but could have been more explicit – many industries are inherently more causal, hairdressing included, and standards are definitely different.

      Additionally, companies prioritize their customers over their contractors and therefore the little nuisances I see tend to be found more on the back end than the customer facing end. I’m coming at this from a contractor’s perspective, so I’m positive that the customers notice very little difference even compared to the *small* differences I notice. To be clear: these NOT huge, major differences that makes working with hotmail-domain-guy intolerable. It’s a small delay here or a miscommunication there, which I have found to be a pattern in my personal experience, which is itself undoubtedly influenced by many other factors besides. Lots of caveats. This is in no way scientific.

      I also completely agree with MK that things don’t usually carry over 1:1 so simply. Humans are complicated. Slower response times don’t automatically mean unorganized recordkeeping doesn’t mean negative experience. But part of that complicated human nature is also that we look for patterns and generalizations to form our instincts, for better or for worse. Even though I am 100% aware of the fact that an email domain has no immediate 1:1 bearing on the service I’m likely to receive… it is still a pattern that I have noticed. Statistically justified or not, it’s an instinctive emotional response I have based on personal experience, which can be flawed but still informs my reactions to things. This instinct isn’t one that hurts anyone* and catering to it helps in making a decision between two otherwise equal choices, so I don’t always disregard it. I would never judge someone for not caring about an email domain and frankly I don’t judge the people within the business for their choice of domain either. But at the end of the day, the domain you use is a business decision you have made. Since I’m not the only person who has a similar response, being aware of this point of view can help you as a business owner be sure you made an educated decision, intentionally. Like I said before, this isn’t going to be everyone’s priority, and that’s absolutely justified.

      *as compared to, for example, the instinct that stems from growing up in a racist society which would encourage me as a white woman to avoid hiring a Black man who is bigger than me to do home repairs – which is an emotionally fed instinct that DOES hurt people and should be countered by my intentional action in preventing both overt racism and microaggressions.

  16. London Calling*

    LW1 – we have been furloughed to save the company salary payments at a time when absolutely no money was coming in, and to ensure that when we are up and running again we have a viable business and redundancies don’t have to be made – something my directors are very reluctant to look at for the sake of the staff. I’m sure that in the next year budgets are going to be scrutinised very carefully and trimmed to the bone. I’m afraid I think that asking for a raise when you come off furlough is going to come over as very tone deaf at this time.

  17. Quake Johnson*

    Is it just me or do we get lots of letters where certain people straight up admit “I always watch/monitor everybody else,” as if they’re proud of it? Do these people not have their own work to do?

    1. EPLawyer*

      That’s what I am wondering. If this persons “watches co-workers like a hawk” when is she doing her own work? Has manager never brought up her own performance issues? Manager is aware of this issue — manager needs to manage. OP shouldn’t have to chat with the co-irker, copy the document, document her process or anything else. Manager should already have told Hawk to KNOCK IT OFF with no exceptions.

      1. Cassidy*

        I will never understand the couple of coworkers I have who take responsibility that isn’t theirs to take.


    2. irene adler*


      That co-worker would LOVE my coworker. My coworker likes to ‘narrate’ her actions as she does her work. So that everyone can follow along with what she’s doing.
      Thing is, no one is even remotely interested in knowing what she’s up to.

    3. JustaTech*

      I’ll admit that once or twice a coworker’s absences have annoyed me and I’ve thought about making note of them, but then I think about all the times someone has written in about doing just that and Alison has said “don’t do it!” and I’ve stopped.

      So I can understand the urge, just not the actual doing. And I can’t imagine admitting it!

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      I recall someone who wrote in about keeping track of her coworker’s time out of the office–she was all concerned that the coworker had blown through all their PTO, and was still not putting in a regular 40 hours a week in the office.

      She was told to cut that out, and keep her eyes on her own paper.

  18. PX*

    OP4: you seem to be focusing on the wrong there here. Sure its weird that your boss is introducing you as head of a team when you’re not (yet?) but…have you asked him about why he is doing that? And have you talked to your new boss about your position? Because maybe it turns out you will actually be leading the new department and he knows and you dont? I mean, it wouldnt be the first time promotions were handled badly (in my experience) and a split/merger is a classic case when things like this can happen.

    This is also classic example to me of needing clearer communication/use your words carefully. For example to me your phrasing of asking him “not to jump the gun” implies that you already think this a thing that will happen, but you just dont want him to announce it yet. Which is very different to: this thing will never happen so why are you talking about it and introducing customers to me like that?

    1. Myrin*

      I think the “why” framing is also an excellent starting point for this whole conversation – you can basically go up to your boss and say “I really gotta ask why you keep introducing me in this manner – is there something you know which I don’t?” (a polished version of that, of course).
      If he genuinely does have some insights that he thought you knew, this is the perfect opportunity for him to come right out and say so. If he doesn’t, then he’ll have a bit of a hard time explaining his behaviour and it will be awkward for him and it will give you a wonderful opening to say “okay, then please stop doing this”.

    2. Paulina*

      Since this is a split, and the LW is the only person from their department that’s going (being sent to) the new company: what does the rest of the new department consist of? Is the LW being referred to as its “head” simply because (or to disguise, to those outside) that there isn’t anyone else in the new department yet? I can see how someone may want to give an air of continuity and confidence to those outside both companies. It’ll look bad, though, if they find out down the road that the LW has been apparently “demoted”.

    3. Matilda Jefferies*

      This was my question as well. OP4, you say there’s nothing to indicate that you’ll be the head of the new dept – but is there anything to indicate that you won’t be? Is there another person clearly in place and publicly named as the head? Are you extremely junior compared to others on the department? Is there a specific skill set required, that you definitely don’t have?

      If the answer to all those questions is no…is it possible that you actually are being considered for this role? Maybe your boss has more influence than you thought, or maybe he knows something you don’t, or maybe he’s just very proud of you. Maybe he’s completely out to lunch and making things up out of his hat. Regardless, your best bet would be to approach him with the goal of “making sure you’re on the same page” or “getting clear on the message” or similar. Not, “hey boss, wtf?” or even “jumping the gun” – because PX is right, that phrase implies that there will be an announcement of some sort, just not yet. Just, find out what your boss knows about your new role, and come to an agreement about how you’ll both talk about it to others.

  19. Esme*

    #3 Your letter puzzled me a bit. It’s true that this email isn’t ideal, but I wondered why you’re constantly having to ask her for it? Do you not have it saved, or does she change it a lot?

    But it’s really not an issue that it’s not gmail. After all, most emails people deal with at work, or to/from businesses, won’t be Gmail ones. So I wouldn’t focus on it having to be. (I don’t know what Comcast is as I’m not in America but I will say Gmail would look more unprofessional to me!)

    1. Forrest*

      I am also not in the US, but I think from the responses that Comcast is an ISP, so it’s just using the email associated with your ISP. The main thing that signals to me is “over 60”, as I’m 41 and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone of my generation use a ISP-generated email address since 1998 when Rocketmail turned into Hotmail.

      1. doreen*

        It will only be certain older people that use an ISP-generated email address. I still mostly use one for personal email, but I’m pretty sure I was using email before Hotmail existed. On the other hand, my 80 year old mother is practically the opposite of the letter writer- she give me the first part of an email address, and when ask her for the rest , she says “AOL, of course” because she somehow believes that all email addresses are AOL addresses.

      2. Koala dreams*

        If you mean socially and not for work, I can say as a millennial that I see the same number of people my age using their internet provider as the number using their own domains. Both are quite rare compared to using a free address such as Gmail. For work it mostly depends on the size of the company. However, I associate using your work address for everything with older generations, who got a job email before it was popular with personal email. It baffles me that some young people still use their job email for private things!

        1. Forrest*

          Yes, my dad worked for a university and got an email address for work in the mid-nineties, and that’s still his only email address even though he retired ten years ago! But I think the vast majority of us under 50 started using email when our lives/addresses/jobs/student status changed pretty regularly, so a Hotmail/Yahoo/Gmail style web-based email address was the one thing you could rely on to last you a couple of years.

          (I have also had the same mobile number since I got my second mobile phone at the end of 2001, right after I graduated from university–I suspect this is pretty unusual now!)

      3. Quill*

        I used my ISP mail for junk sign ups until a couple years ago when it shut down. You would never have seen it, I used it to gain access to places which demanded an email but were obviously going to either spam me or sell the address off.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Comcast is one of the internet providers (Verizon is another one) in the US. If you purchase internet service through Comcast, you get a free email address with as the domain. In my family, elder-millennials and younger use gmail for personal email and the older folks almost exclusively use their internet provider’s domain for personal email.

      1. A*

        Most the Gen X’s I know use gmail. And while I do think it’s more common for Boomers to use their internet provider’s domain for personal email, I certainly wouldn’t say it’s “almost exclusively”.

  20. Foxgloves*

    OP2, I would *highly* recommend setting yourself to “away” on Slack when you work on the weekends, so she can’t see that you’re online. I would also type into the google doc/sheet “Sheila, I can see you watching me” when you know she’s there, just to see what happens… but that might just be me.

    1. juliebulie*

      “Sheila, it’s a nice day. Since you’re inside anyway, watching me, would you like to finish my work? That way I can go out and enjoy the day.”

      I mean, not really. But this behavior is just so bizarre and unproductive. When does Sheila have time to finish her own work? Or doesn’t she have enough?

      But yes, I really would definitely let her know that I can see her watching me. It’s another way to return awkward to sender.

    2. Snark no more!*

      I would totally do this, but would phrase it as a “did you need something” question in the body of the document.

  21. Retail not Retail*

    Ah OP1, I assume so many of us are in similar positions. (I would hope those in union jobs who get raises every X are safe – like a certain grocery store that stopped its hazard pay.)

    No one got furloughed at my job (i don’t know how the seasonals were classified but they didn’t get paid or work) and we got a boost from the PPP. We’re a non-profit whose operating budget was in the news.

    So I understand why no July raises. Except. I’ve been here almost 18 months with nothing and we may get the like … “raise everyone’s pay to at least X in steps” increase in January. Or we may not.

    Non-profits pay terribly etc, I’m in an economically depressed area, my job is safe, but. We still have performance reviews this month. It is so hard to care at $9/hr.

  22. Rebecca*

    #2 – I think it’s time for snoopy coworker to go on vacation for a week and have IT rescind their credentials at the same time. Other than being nosy, intrusive, and overbearing, I have to wonder if Miss SnoopyPants isn’t committing some sort of fraud or other malfeasance, and this is her way of monitoring who gets into what on the weekends? I wonder what would happen if you got up in the middle of the night and logged in at 2 AM? Definitely let your manager know what’s going on – and I’m not familiar enough with Google Docs to know if there’s some sort of list of log in times and who logged in to the document, but that might be worth your manager checking out. If there’s a patter of the types of docs, like invoices, something with payables, receivables, etc. it might point to what she’s really up to. She may be doing this to other coworkers too.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I wonder if Google Docs has some sort of notification whenever someone opens the document, that people can opt-in to? Maybe that’s how the busybody stalker knows OP is working in the document. And maybe there is some sort of privacy setting OP can use to not be seen by others when in the document?

      1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        It sounds like OP is logging into Slack, which is broadcasting some sort of notification that the coworker sees so they know OP is online. Then they’re going to the Google sheets (as this seems to be where most of their work is) to find OP and watch them. Which is just.. Weird. Do they seriously have nothing better to do than watch someone work on the weekend? (I now have an image of coworker sitting in front of their computer screen with a bowl of popcorn, eyes riveted to the screen while they try to guess which edit OP will make next!)
        Is it possible to turn off the Slack notifications or otherwise remain flagged as ‘offline’ even when you’re logged in?

  23. TimeTravlR*

    I learned the hard way to make sure you fully understand and agree to the terms of payment when you’re a contractor. (I know OP did agree initially and things have changed so this doesn’t necessarily apply.) In my case, I didn’t realize I wouldn’t get paid until employer got paid. In some cases it was a pretty long time before they finally paid. I was fortunate that I truly was working only because I enjoyed it and the money was secondary, but I still would have liked to get paid a little more timely.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Surely that’s illegal? It is in France. You have a contract with MiddlemanAgency, not with FinalClient.

    2. Betty (the other betty)*

      It’s not illegal since the contractor is not an employee (and can run their business however they like).

      However, the contractor should have a contract or agreement which states that the agency pays the contractor within so many days, whether or not the agency is paid by the end client. (The agreement should include a lot of other items, but that one is extra important!)

  24. Bookworm*

    LW 4: How awkward! Maybe since you’re “leaving” for the spin-off your boss is trying to promote you to your new colleagues?

    That is not to dismiss how you feel though, because that *does* seem a little awkward and weird. Good luck with the transition and hope your boss gets it.

  25. Jady*

    LW #2 –

    It sounds like because of you logging on Slack, that’s when she’s finding out your online and then starts monitoring you? I don’t use Slack specifically, but most chat programs I’ve used like that have some form of ‘appear offline’ / ‘invisible’ status.

    If that’s an option, use it!

    Also, I would just start leaving the shared documents open all day/night just to waste their time, or if that’s not possible for some reason – start using a local copy.

  26. Bob*

    My coworker is monitoring my work: I have many questions here. How does she know to log in when you do? If she has this kind of time why is she not doing any work or is she shrugging her work to monitor others on company time when she is on the clock? Is she collecting data to try and get you or others disciplined/fired. Would the company be obligated to pay for for this nonsense since she is involving herself in company business off hours (if the answer is yes, they won’t hesitate to ensure she knocks it off).
    You didn’t sign up to have someone with a chip on their shoulder watch you like your in a maximum security prison surrounded by cameras. This is in fact a hostile work environment. So go as far as you have to to get it dealt with. And if she escalates then document everything. Screen captures, e-mails, texts, voice recordings made with your phone (assuming legality), whatever it takes.

    1. foolofgrace*

      I was curious so I researched “hostile work environment” and this doesn’t seem to qualify. One of the criteria I found is “The second essential part of the hostile work environment definition is ‘unable to do his or her job.’” One explanation of HWE does indicate “What specifically constitutes a hostile work environment varies from case to case” but it doesn’t seem like this situation rises to that level. I agree it’s a crummy situation, though.

      1. Alli525*

        Yeah, this is absolutely not a “hostile work environment” in the legal sense. OP’s coworker might be hostile, but there’s nothing legally actionable here.

        1. Cassidy*

          Fortunately, many workplaces do have policies that acknowledge hostility as unacceptable, even if that hostility doesn’t fall within a legal framework.

          To me, this kind of checking up on is a form of intimidation and bullying, and certainly would qualify as a disciplinary offense.

      2. Observer*

        That’s actually not the case. Hostile work environment does not require that a person is being so badly treated that they cannot do their job.

      3. Bob*

        I disagree, having someone breathing down your neck at all times is a level of surveillance many governments can only dream of having over their citizens.
        If you want to call it something else thats fine, but i would not work under a microscope like this, its completely unacceptable.

        1. Courageous cat*

          Yeah but “hostile work environment” has an actual meaning. It’s not just a phrase people use. I agree that it is *hostile*, but that’s not the same thing as the legal concept of “hostile work environment” – so that’s why people bristle; saying that it is just spreads misinformation further.

    2. Observer*

      This is in fact a hostile work environment

      Not in a legal sense, that is for sure.

      Legally, hostile work environment requires negative actions based on race, gender, religion, national origin or disability (real or perceived). Maybe I’m missing a category or two, but the point is it’s based on certainly legally protected categories. And, from what the OP says, this is pretty clearly not the case.

  27. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    With SharePoint, I can see who else is in a document with me. And most of the time, they’ve opened it and forgotten about it but their avatar is still there in the top right corner until they close it on their end. I wondered if she’s just opened it but isn’t really following your work…but if the cursor (or whatever indicates where they are in the document) seems to follow you, that’s creepy.

    When I choose to start early and not have ppl chat with me, I’ll stay signed out of Skype (or appear ‘Away’) until I’m ready to be available with others. Can you do that with Slack?

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      OP mentions that they sign into Slack because they need work info, so if they can’t use stealth mode then another option might be to save the required information locally prior to the weekend. Although this will only work if the information is very unlikely to change over the weekend, rather than being highly dynamic.

      Or maybe some mysterious glitch could happen to coworker’s Slack account where she suddenly can’t receive login notifications anymore? (I realise this is unlikely, but I bet the ‘not knowing’ would frustrate her to no end)

      The most effective approach will hopefully be to loop in the manager and get them to tell coworker to knock it off, and letting the manager know would be a good idea anyway in case they’re unaware of her ‘working’ on weekends, in which case she likely doesn’t have authorisation and isn’t reporting her hours correctly.

  28. MeTwoToo*

    I was going to comment that I can’t imaging caring enough to judge anyone on their email address, but then I remembered the resume I received from “Sexbot69@***.com”. So I’ll just say your mom could do worse and leave it there.

    1. jj*

      My old job included interacting with potential customers through email, and i had a “dankman69”

    2. Observer*

      When we first moved to email in a big way, several staff wanted to continue using their personal email accounts. I was very against it for a number of reasons. The thing that got several supervisors on board with insisting on email only was the fact that a few people had emails of that sort. One department head was especially horrified because of the population we were working with.

      So, yeah. If I’m going to judge on email address, it’s going to be stuff like this. If you are supposed to be doing a job, please don’t make it sound like it’s a job in adult entertainment (unless that actually your job) nor like you’re about three years old.

  29. Bowie*

    Would it be ok to ask for a promotion in title not in salary? The financial situation is what it is, bit it shouldn’t stop companies from promoting and acknowledging their employees.

      1. KayEss*

        It depends… I worked at a private university where arbitrary title inflation was so bad, the “director” of a 2-person department got a title promotion to “executive director” when they hired a third employee, because that guy was hired on to start with his own director title.

    1. Colette*

      In some places, yes. However, my concern with that would be that (assuming the new title pays more in general) you’ve missed the opportunity for a raise to go with the title – which would put you at a disadvantage in the future. (In some companies, the raises you can get for promotions are a one-time thing; otherwise, you are just in the merit raise pool).

    2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      It might depend on how closely the promotions and raises are linked at their workplace. In some places each title has a specific pay band assigned to it, so it’s practically impossible to get the title without the raise, or vice versa.

    3. Bumblebee*

      That is a terrible workaround – where I work we have spent years untangling the comp-and-class nightmare caused by everyone having made-up titles that they were given in lieu of a raise. And when I’m looking at candidate resumes, I could care less if someone is an Executive Director or Director, so I am not sure what anyone ever gained by their fancy title.

      1. Bowie*

        My impression is that the title matters a lot. Perhaps not whether you are a Llama groomer or Giraffe groomer but between Director, Officer or Manager, it matters a lot.

  30. irene adler*

    #2: is this coworker being paid for the time she spends ‘monitoring’ after hours?

    I recognize the OP can’t know this. But it would sure steam me if this was the case- in addition to the ‘monitoring’ being done during work hours.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      Good point. If someone did unpaid work like that where I work, and the boss found out, they would get fired for violating the accurate time reporting policy. That’s one of the few things they actually fire people for. I can see, as having had a co-worker who made so many mistakes that I once had to spend 4 hours correcting typos that he made, reviewing things done — but only during working hours. If they were like my former co-worker and the accuracy is 50% and it needs to be at least 90% or 95%, that’s a good reason to review things. However then co-worker should have brought it to the boss’s attention, but if that boss was like my boss and did nothing about it, I can also understand being irked. If the accuracy is 99% and co-worker is insisting it be 100%, that’s another thing entirely.

  31. Koala dreams*

    #5 There are many kinds of fee structures for freelancers. Some charge based on hours, some based on projects, some do combinations. It wouldn’t be unusual to charge lower when you start out, and then raise your prices when you have some experience and can take on more complicated projects. You didn’t mention being locked in a contract with the client, and it seems you are hired on a project basis, so you probably can decide to raise the price going forward whenever it makes sense for you. Some clients just want everything as cheap as possible, and if your client don’t accept to pay more you’ll need to weigh the unpaid time versus what you could earn working for another client, or what your time is worth to you otherwise. Also, remember that the pay needs to be high enough so that you can afford not only to cover your own pay but also any other business costs you have.

    1. foolofgrace*

      This makes me think of the project management principle of “You can have fast, cheap, or good — pick two.” Sounds like the client wants all three.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        This is a saying that comes up often in my field. I disagree: fast and good is not an option, because good is when you’ve had time to sleep on it and come back refreshed and bursting with ideas. I prefer telling my clients that it’s like making cheesecake, it’s always so much better if you leave it in the fridge overnight.

    2. JSPA*

      In this case, a low flat rate with a bonus if the proposal is accepted seems like a smart option.

      It keeps an official “inducement to succeed.”

      This is psychologically helpful. You don’t want someone wondering (even subconsciously) if they’re being taken advantage of, because you no longer have an incentive to do your best work. (That worry can intrude if you change to a higher flat rate, and then have a string of less-successful proposals. Or if you bundle the cost of failed proposals in with the cost of successes.)

      Basically, it keeps you both officially invested in success…but also makes sure you can scrape by, when you hit the (statistically inevitable) moment when there are five unsuccessful proposals in a row.

      Sure, someone should have both the statistical awareness and the interpersonal trust to deal with their superstition or fears. But psychological reactions are not a logical process.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I would feel insulted if the client felt they needed to pay an inducement. I always do my best, and my inducement is that if I’m good, they’ll give me repeat work and recommend me to others (both of which happen enough).

        1. JSPA*

          And that’s the difference between conscious belief (which would be insulting) and niggling, below the surface anxieties (which it’s wise to head off, when heading them off is easy).

          If you somehow only work with people who are

          a) completely clear on all of their motivations
          b) have deep awareness of statistical fluctuations and never mistake a bad run for a bad product,
          c) are never prone to anxiety
          d) have plenty of money and thus can work on a “trust basis,” for an infinite period of time
          e) have major inertia and don’t make changes if they can help it
          f) above all, if they get product from you that’s supposed to work 90+% of the time, not (at best) 50% of the time,

          this doesn’t apply.

          But a 50/50 chance of success–no matter how good the work is–is analogous to a coin flip.

          Flip a coin 100 times, and there’s likely to be a run of 5 failures in a row. A heck of a lot of people will make a change “to see if it helps,” if there are 5 failures in a row. Even if that’s literally an expected outcome.

  32. Dr. Rebecca*

    Skipped the rest of the letters and the comments to come down and say this: LW1: your university is probably budget capped right now and unable to give you a raise, and even if they’re not, if it got out that an administrator got a raise while faculty and staff are facing layoffs, pay cuts, and hiring freezes (which is happening at basically every US university right now) you’d be metaphorically drawn and quartered. DO NOT ask for a raise. It will look COMPLETELY tone deaf.

    1. Claire*

      Context: I’m a precarious worker at a Canadian university.
      This!!! We only *just* got our techs back from furlough – and not for lack of work that needed to be done, I’ve gotten a pay *cut* and reduced work on top of it, and the person giving the update on financial matters couldn’t quite restrain his black laugh when someone asked if upper administration was going to face any of the same financial “restraint” as the rest of us… We’ve furloughed (see above) or laid off what the teaching faculty would call essential people… and we’re expecting more layoffs in the fall. Your supervisor might feel regret at not being able to give you the raise you deserve, but the more deeply affected departments would be giving you some major side-eye. (also, student services of all types have faced layoffs at my university, so a student services admin asking for a raise would be *extra* tone deaf)

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        I would be INCANDESCENTLY angry if admins got raises right now (I’m currently contingent at a major US university, but definitely not saying which one…) And all our upper admins are taking between 5 and 20% voluntary pay CUTS, so…

  33. Dilly*

    #5 – I believe you should renegotiate. I work for a contractor. We often hire consultants to help us out on a bid. Our clients will not reimburse proposal-related expenditures because they are the cost of doing business. So those proposal related costs are built into the gross profit (overhead, fee, etc). Our consultants are paid for their time whether we win or lose. A 50% win rate is considered excellent in our industry. If your client doesn’t want to incur additional proposal related costs, they should do their own cost proposals.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Agreed. I think the OP should charge a flat or hourly fee for the estimate and proposal support, varying depending on the scope of the work, and a second fee for the actual project work (again, the fee should vary depending on her scope). I don’t see any issue with a lump sum fee (in two parts) for her work, but she gets to decide what that is.

      Part of this depends on the overall effort/pay of the won work, though. If she spends 2 hrs on a proposal and gets 2000 hours of work on won jobs, she can afford to take on losing proposals for free. If she spends 8 hours and gets 40 hours of paid work, that’s a different scenario.

      I also wanted to second that a 50% win rate is atypical. We’ve had competitors exit the industry and have gotten a similar win rate in recent years, but 25% would be more typical, and still great, in my industry. I also remember the year a long time back that we didn’t win a single project in our main market. (Our projects are large and have multi-year backlog so it was not catastrophic, but that was still a demoralizing year.)

    2. mindovermoneychick*

      Whoops just wrote the same thing downstream and then saw your post explained it better. Double yes on this one.

  34. reelist1*

    LOL @ ‘my mom comes across as not tech savvy’ and also ‘I can’t remember her email and am terrified I’ll send a personal email to the wrong address’.
    Um the call is coming from inside the house LW.

    1. D3*

      Right? There’s some sweet irony right there. Worried about someone else’s tech savvy and can’t figure out how to save a contact…

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I think letter writers need to stop being so terrified. OP #3 and OP #4 are both terrified. . .one of an erroneous sending of email, and the second of word getting to her new boss that she’s saying she has a title that she doesn’t have. These are more “worried” scenarios, IMO.

  35. foolofgrace*

    This makes me think of the project management principle of “You can have fast, cheap, or good — pick two.” Sounds like the client wants all three.

  36. 2 Cents*

    OP #2 I’d also treat your coworker’s rude questions about when you’ll return like a joke — we’re in the middle of a pandemic with no reliable childcare in some parts of the country! You could say “I’d come in, but I’m afraid Junior isn’t a great officemate.” I trust your other coworkers know she’s a bully. And totally speak to your manager. Whether they do something about it will inform you about what your manager is like.

  37. drpuma*

    LW5, if I were you I’d do some math around what a new flat fee would need to be for the wins, and then let my contact choose between an hourly rate or the new flat fee. There are lots of possibilities for how you can charge, get creative while staying logical. As a small business owner the flat fee may just be easier for him to plan around.

  38. infopubs*

    My CPA of many years recently retired so I was in the market for a new one. A guy came highly recommended from a financially savvy friend, so I visited his webpage. It was so unprofessional that I had real reservations. The kicker was his email, which was clearly something he set up in college. Think along the lines of “” Yes, aol. I couldn’t even bring myself to contact him.

    1. Observer*

      I think the aol part is a lot less concerning than the partydude part. I do NOT want my taxes done by someone who thinks that that’s a good identifier.

      1. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

        I still use my AOL address. I don’t understand all the “hate”. It’s works perfectly well, people who have known me for many years all know it, I can reference emails from years ago, and it is simple and easy to remember. My pet peeve is people who change all the time and they are always long and complicated, with lots of numbers, letters, symbols and a domain that’s 2 miles long.

  39. BlueWolf*

    For LW #1: I’m not in academia, so it’s not the exact same situation, but still. My company still has business coming in and we can all pretty much work from home, but the financial future is still uncertain. We haven’t had any layoffs or furloughs, but people above a certain salary level had to take pay cuts. There are no raises being issued this performance review cycle, but there will still be (smaller than usual) bonuses. I wouldn’t ask for a raise, especially coming off a furlough.

  40. bananab*

    I feel like having a custom domain carries like an 80% expectation that there will be an actual maintained website parked there, which turns a fully custom email into more of an ordeal than it has to be for someone that apparently doesn’t need or want one. FWIW that email looks about exactly like I would expect to find from a solo service provider focused on local work, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

    1. Ellen Ripley*

      Yup. A domain is ‘just’ $10 or something a year, but then there’s hosting which is ~$5-10 a month and suddenly you’re talking about real money, not to mention likely having to hire someone to set up your website, maybe subscriptions for the plug-ins/templates you need, and periodic maintenance and updating so you don’t get hacked. For most solo service businesses, I think they’re better served with a reasonably-appropriate-sounding free email from wherever, a phone number, and maybe a social media account or two if it makes sense for their business.

  41. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – I see a lot of advice about how to appear offline, or work on the sheets without the co-worker knowing, but this doesn’t solve the actual problem. Your co-worker has no business “watching you like a hawk”. Even if they were your manager, this would be the ultimate example of micromanaging. Does your manager know that they do this? If not, I’d suggest a conversation with them immediately. If they do know about it, your manager is not doing their job and you need to address that with them.

  42. The Grey Lady*

    When I was a new graduate interviewing for jobs a few years ago, I had one interviewer that did not hire me but spent some time talking about things I could improve. One thing he told me was to change my email address because it made me look unprofessional (My email handle (which I still use–but only for personal stuff) is a Harry Potter reference and I work in law so…yeah). I was glad he took the time to tell me those things because I honestly didn’t even think about it at the time.

  43. MRK*

    LW 3: my only real concern would be knowing from experience that Comcast is a .net ending, and having people make the exact error you made in your letter.
    The .com version will bounce back and it could be losing clients. I might encourage her to make a new email with an easier to remember email for this reason, but that’s it. Otherwise honestly having a gmail doesn’t really make you any more special or fancy these days

    1. Snark no more!*

      If she’s catering to a strictly local clientele, I would expect them to know it’s .net as they likely have a similar email.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        IDK, I had Comcast cable from 2001-2011, and they were my ISP at some point in there, but I never used a Comcast domain email.

  44. Employment Lawyer*

    5. I’m getting a flat fee per project — but only if my client wins his bid
    This may or may not be legal. A lot of it really depends on the details of the arrangement and on your state. If you have a bunch of hours where you have done work and not been paid, it’s worth checking w/ a lawyer.

    More to the point, are you happy? In theory you can do this arrangement (the risk is more on your employer) but you shouldn’t do it if it doesn’t work. Lots of advice follows here.

    First. it sounds like you’re not pricing correctly. You are not a bank. You are a business. Your lowest rate is “hire on a salary with guaranteed pay and benefits,” where you might get paid for $40/hour. Your next rate is “hire hourly on a contract without any guarantees,” where you might charge $100-150/hour. Your absolute highest rate should be “hire on contingency,” where you would either get paid zero, or $300/hour.

    For example, I will take cases on contingency, but if someone is expecting me to “loan” them $50,000 and up of legal work in the hopes that we win, then I am going to get paid much MORE than $50k if I win, usually at least doubleto compensate for the loan (which may last years) and the major risk of losing / bankruptcy / etc. I am not a bank.

    And FWIW I am completely up front to clients: a) I run a business; b) I am not a bank; c) contingency is free if they lose but very expensive if they win; and d) if they are sure they will win, and if they want a lower rate, they can borrow from a bank and pay me in advance. Same with this guy.

    Second: CHOOSE YOUR CASES!! DO NOT TAKE A MATTER unless you are confident in winning! If you are on contingency then you are a partner, and not a vendor. If a contract is risky, either decline or negotiate for a higher %age. And be wary of client choice: They may be using you (on contingency) for the riskiest contracts, and using someone else (on prepay-hourly) for the safe ones. Price accordingly, to prevent that.

    If you have a 50% contingency payoff rate and if you’re using a “contingent hourly rate” then your hourly rate should be AT LEAST 2x as high to account for the risk, probably 3x to also account for the delay.

    Note that you can also combine those things. For example: If you’re choosing between a normal and contingent rate, you can split the difference on both (a smaller guaranteed rate and a smaller contingent bonus.)

  45. boop the first*

    Heh. Concerned that someone appears non tech savvy, but can’t for the life of them save an email address.

    I understand not keeping “contact” lists directly in an email client because we’ve all been burned by that in 2003 or so when email bots started sending spam to all of our contacts and signing our name to it. I don’t think they give you a choice anymore, though. Mine autofills anyway.

    I still use my hotmail and feel a little embarrassed about it even though it’s a perfectly bland address. It’s just that at some point, every website started requiring sign ins and when gmail came around, I didn’t want to jump on a trendy bandwagon and have to remember which email is for what, and switch accounts, and miss things, etc.
    I reserved an Outlook address upon release, but I forgot about it up to now. I have a private domain address that redirects emails to me, which is fine, but if I reply to them, it will have my hotmail address on it anyway. Boo.

    And I know some people here say that no one notices but I completely disagree. I always notice if the reply address is suddenly different. You SHOULD always notice, because usually the address is the only thing that tells you if an email in your box is real or not.

  46. Dancing Otter*

    OP2 –
    I’ve generally worked with more sophisticated document management systems, so I’m genuinely curious about something. How can two people have the same file open without running into version control issues? Is this a peculiarity of Google Docs?

    Personally, I would be incandescently angry if someone repeatedly opened a file in which I was working, preventing me from saving my changes. My first email would be a polite request, but by the fourth or fifth episode….

    “Boss, I am unable to complete A, because every time I try to work on it, Jane opens the file, which prevents me from saving my work. Is there something of which I am unaware that requires Jane to be in the A file so often? I have tried to address the issue directly with Jane, but [describe interaction & results].” If necessary, listing multiple files and tasks (B, C, etc.) involved.

    Has Jane somehow tapped into the IT monitoring software, to be able to track what everyone is doing all the time? (Security breach, anyone?) How can she get any of her own work done, while putting so much time and effort into spying on her coworkers? Not that Jane’s productivity or lack thereof is your concern, but I’d expect Boss to be interested.

    1. PX*

      Nah, Google Docs and other web/cloud based systems allow multiple users to have the same file open and make changes to it. They dont work in the same form of version control that you are used to (eg opening the same file on a shared drive), but more by tracking who makes what edits, so you can always track changes that way.

    2. Observer*

      The ability to collaborate in real time on documents is something that any good cloud based system allows. It’s the thing that gave Google it’s entree into the office software market, because for a long time they were the only large vendor who allowed that. Now, Microsoft allows that as well – as long as your documents are on OneDrive. (If they are on your local network, even in a shared directory, you still can’t do that.)

      Live collaboration means that you can save your work as you do it, even if someone else is in there, so that’s not an issue. Even with an on-premises version of MS Office, if you are the first person to open a document, the other person can’t lock you out. And worst case, if the other person managed to dash in an open the document first, you do a “save as” and get on with life. That also keeps the coworker from seeing what you are doing.

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      Google Docs is perfect for goofballs like me, who occasionally co-edit some documents for a small volunteer organization. We sit around a table, talk about how we want it to look and sound, and then 2-3 of us edit different sections, refining as we go.

      Or when I’m teaching, and I sit side-by-side with a student, both of us with their doc open, and make edits to their essay, explaining each step as I go.

  47. Anon for this*

    Love how #3 is dragging mom for not being tech-savvy but can’t figure out to save her mother’s email address in her own devices!

  48. mindovermoneychick*

    #5 In my old world as a company who did government contracting we both used sub-contractors and were a sub-contracting entity to prime contractors. We routinely did this type of work for prime contractors and had our subs do it for us without payment. And we would have been thrilled with a 50% win rate in our world. It was considered the cost of doing business and we would have been laughed at if we ever asked for payment.

    Really what would have happened is no primes would have partnered with us anymore. And we would have scratched any subs off our list who did this, unless they had a very specialized skill set that was hard to come by. So this is a “know your industry” type of issue.

  49. Flaxseed*

    Regarding #2, I’m going through the same thing, but the boss’s secretary is the one doing it. I don’t know if the boss is assigning her to watch me, she does it just because, or what. It’s annoying though because there’s no trust. The secretary doesn’t like me so if I turn in a report, she’ll reject it and make me type it over. She orders me around and I feel like I’m a teenager. The ironic thing is that she then wonders why I don’t want to socialize with her! Um, really?

  50. Black Horse Dancing*

    For #2, I’m surprised no one mentioned that the co worker may have been tasked, at one time or another, with the responsibilty but not the power. As in she is held responsible if the deadlines aren’t met, etc. I’m met many managers who like to make one person responsible to running the office/project and use them as the scapegoat.
    Manager: Jane, why isn’t X done?
    Jane: My part is done. All my work was done last week.
    Manager: Deadline passed and it isn’t complete.
    Jane: That’s Chris’ portion.
    Manager: Don’t say it’s not your job. I expect you to deliver. I’m really disappointed.
    That doesn’t excuse her behavior but manager may very well like using her as the enforcer. That way manger can sit back and take it easy. OP have you asked your co worker why she watches everyone like a hawk? (And bossy is really offensive in the fact that it’s a sexist term. I’ve never heard a boy or man called bossy. It’s gendered and used only with women as a rule.)

  51. LizardOfOdds*

    For me, the situation in #4 doesn’t seem all that weird. All M&A situations are different, but I would guess OP4’s manager thinks they’re just doing OP4 a favor by trying to build their reputation. It’s also sometimes true that someone can be the “head of (department)” even if they are not a people manager, especially at smaller companies or in specialties that do a lot of work with agencies and contractors (e.g., marketing). If it really feels disingenuous or inaccurate, I would probably use humor to brush it off. “Haha, head of a department of one, yep!”

  52. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I need to know more about what Mom’s business is.

    Lots of people have to promote themselves in trades but they don’t really utilize email that much. I actually roll my eyes when I know Jane has a small rented corner stall somewhere and has a customized domain. It seems like “too much” to me.

    Unless she’s in tech, I don’t care if she’s “tech savvy”. But I know people who have Yahoo and AOL email addresses. As long as it’s not SexxxyKittensHairSalon69@ I’m really not going to put that much though into it. It’s not the deep. And I don’t think that your mom should be fussed with it, it seems like something that doesn’t require that much focus.

    And I’m the same older millennial been attached to the internet since my mid-teenage years kind of person. And I’m surrounded by professionals with these kinds of “professional” emails, lots of business and working for working owners/freelancers whatever you want to call them. It says “I don’t have office staff, it’s just me” more than anything.

  53. Erin*

    For the contractor: why do you want to work for free? You aren’t the person pitching to clients to get their business. You should be paid if this person gets or doesn’t get a contract.

  54. Ethel*

    Contractor needs to charge a retainer fee and charge for these mock-ups. That’s data analysis work and you deserve to be paid.

  55. For OP#2*

    This sounds so frustrating and annoying. Quick tips that may help:

    Just for the weekends when you’re working, can you change your Slack settings so that no one can tell when you’re available? Can you make a separate private copy of the sheet and then reconcile/merge when you’re done with the work?

  56. Luna*

    LW3: That email address is unprofessional, and difficult to read. I first read it as Karen King 2 Cute.

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