does working from home look less dedicated, boss wants me to offer a ridiculously low salary, and more

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

1. My dad says continuing to work at home makes me look less dedicated

My office has been working remotely since March, but a new plan was recently introduced to optionally allow people back in office on a careful schedule. I informed my manager I wasn’t planning on returning to office immediately because I usually take mass transit, which is still a pretty high-risk activity. I also live with other people and wouldn’t want to get any of them sick. My manager told me that was totally fine. I felt the situation was resolved until it came up in conversation with my parents.

My dad more or less said, “If you don’t feel safe, don’t go, but you may not get promotions or other opportunities in the future because you weren’t in office and didn’t seem dedicated.” This feels like some “show gumption” advice that’s probably not correct, but it’s been nagging at me. Is my dad right that this is a career limiting decision on my part?

Does your dad … think you should risk your health and other people’s health for a promotion?

Your manager said it’s totally fine. Believe it’s totally fine. As long as you’re in a decent company and have a decent manager, your dad is wrong. But even if you work somewhere that would penalize you for this, you should still ignore him because we’re talking about people’s lives.

That said, it’s true for anyone who works from home that there can be a risk of “out of sight, out of mind,” so make sure you do all the things that are smart to do no matter why you’re working remotely — find ways to chat with people like you would in the office (like on Slack or I.M.), build relationships, attend virtual meetings even when they’re optional (and consider using video even if you don’t like it), make sure you have regular one-on-one’s with your manager, make sure your projects and achievements are visible to people beyond your immediate circle, etc.

But that’s just about staying visible when you’re remote, not about “not seeming dedicated.”

2. My boss wants me to hire someone for a ridiculously low salary

I am the assistant for a very sweet older man, who works in a field that requires graduate degrees. He wants to hire a new partner and has asked me to recruit from local grad schools via social media. The problem is the salary: only $20,000 a year is guaranteed from the firm, and anything beyond that is a certain percentage of the profit. This is par for the course in entrepreneurship, but very unusual in our field.

I feel that my boss is being unrealistic about our business’s appeal to newly-qualified potential employees. Additionally, I don’t think my boss would be a good partner, as he tends to be very close-minded (“my way is the right way always”). I want to suggest spending our extra money on minor improvements to the aesthetics of our office: It is ugly, and many basic elements of decor look neglected.

Should I suggest putting the hiring on hold in lieu of other investments? My boss and I have a great working relationship, and I believe I could convince him. I just don’t know if I’m overthinking the issues with him hiring. If I should forge ahead with recruiting a new partner, how on earth do I address the salary (and other drawbacks to this particular workplace)?

If your boss feels he needs a new partner, it’s hard to argue the money would be better spent on new decor; staffing is likely to feel a lot more important, especially if he’s been just fine with the decor up until now. But you can certainly make the case that $20,000 is unlikely to attract the right candidates, especially ones who will stick around. (And for the record: that is ridiculously, offensively low.)

That said, if that salary won’t attract the right candidates, he’ll presumably see that for himself when they don’t materialize. Be sure you state the salary (and details of the profit-sharing plan) up-front in the ad, so you’re not wasting the time of candidates who would self-select out on that basis. As for the other drawbacks to working there, if you’ll be involved in the hiring process, here’s some advice on how to be transparent with candidates about what to expect on the job. But you’ve also got to be conscious of how much of that is and isn’t within your purview, and how much you really have standing to intervene.

3. Can I ask to be reimbursed for trips to the office while we’re working from home?

My state went on lockdown in late March and our partners locked up the office and tasked everyone with working from home. The lockdown was lifted and the partners developed a plan for how to work from the office, if anyone wants to. Nearly everyone continues to work from home, though some staff stop in to pick up items needed to for off-site meetings, make copies, etc. One partner does work there full-time. I am the office manager and I go to the office once or twice a week to collect mail, print checks, get packages/deliveries, etc. Most of the time I am only there for an hour or so, but a few times I have been there for 3-4 hours dealing with whatever needed to be done on site. I have been doing this since late March and will continue to work from home indefinitely. I am free to decide when to go to the office and I am very mindful of the health risk. I wear a mask when I am there and I only go in as needed to perform essential tasks.

I asked the president if the company would reimburse me for mileage and parking for these trips, but he said no. He considers this the cost of my commute. Pre-COVID, I commuted to the office by bus, which was not reimbursed by my company. The cost of my monthly bus pass was more than the few dollars I now pay for parking and the equivalent mileage.

I feel like I am at extra risk by leaving my home more frequently than I would if I didn’t have to perform these tasks at the office, and that the company could cover these costs as a good will gesture. The four partners are lovely people and are not stingy about other overhead costs. We always reimburse staff for their work-related travel – though not their commuting costs. Also, we have a healthy financial outlook and have gained a number of projects over the last few months. We did not have layoffs and we might actually need to hire in the near future. I wouldn’t ask this if I felt we were in dire financial straits.

Is this is worth pushing back on? Or do I look like I am trying to cheat my employer by asking them to pay the costs of my commute when they do not do so for others?

Don’t push further. When you travel to your office, assuming you live locally, that is indeed the cost of your commute and not something an employer typically pays for. That’s true even if you work at home most of the time and only go in occasionally.

I get that you’re now commuting by car and not by bus, but that doesn’t really change this … and as you noted, it’s still less than you were paying for a monthly bus pass. If you were paying significantly more to get to work now than you paid previously, and if that was due to pandemic restrictions, I could maaayyyybe see asking if there was anything they could do to help, but even then, it’s a bit of a stretch and typically would be seen as the cost of your commute and not something an employer would reimburse.

4. Do I have a shot at a job with a company that I had a weird interaction with in the past?

Two years ago, I sent my resume to a company that did not have an ad out at the time, but I wanted to inquire about any future openings. Well, the manager of that company forwarded my resume to all of the similar companies in the area without even asking me first. Her reply to my email was something like, “We don’t have any openings, but I’ve sent your resume to other places I know are hiring.”

Needless to say, I was really upset. My phone was blowing up and I had suddenly applied to multiple jobs I had no interest in. Not to mention, she sent my resume to a company that my current boss partially owned, which put me in a very uncomfortable position.

I emailed her back and told her not to send my resume out to anyone else. I also said I was sure she was just trying to help but it was unprofessional to send my information without checking with me first. She apologized, and that was the end of it.

Now this company is hiring, and I’m really interested in working there. Do you think I’ve burned a bridge from our exchange, or do I still have a shot?

Wow — she really didn’t think that through. Forwarding your email around without checking with you? She could have put your job at real risk. (It’s also weird that she did this without talking with you first to see if you were someone she would even want to recommend.)

As for whether you have a shot if you apply there now, it depends on the wording of the email you sent two years ago. If you sounded angry (which frankly would have been justified), she’s more likely not to want to re-open contact. Even if you didn’t sound angry, she might be embarrassed about the episode or associate you with feeling uncomfortable and find it easier not to reengage. But if she’s a reasonable person, she might be happy for the chance to engage on better terms. Or she might not even be there anymore, for all we know!

Either way, I don’t think you have anything to lose by trying. Give it a shot and see what happens.

5. Company interviewed me but wants to talk to other candidates

A company I’m interviewing with has had the job posted since February. They interviewed me five weeks ago but today they told me that while they want to keep communication with me, they want to find a few others to interview before making a decision. They really liked me during the panel interview but afterwards, according to the recruiter, they were insistent on seeing others. The recruiter told them she has nobody else to interview, as she doesn’t want to show them subpar candidates. She really likes me and has been very candid. She told me a few weeks ago that they are interviewing an internal candidate but she doesn’t think they are nearly as strong as me.

What do you think is their motivation here, and what should I do?

It’s not uncommon for employers to want to interview multiple candidates for a job, especially if they weren’t blown away by the person they did interview. That’s good practice — companies make better hires when they consider multiple candidates. It’s possible they have internal rules that require them to consider X number of candidates, or they might just be more comfortable doing that, or they might just not be ready to say yes to you without comparing you to others. Or who knows, they might be leaning toward no on you but aren’t ready to make that official until they’ve evaluated others.

That said, if the recruiter is right that they don’t have other plausible applicants, the most likely scenario is that they’re just not sufficiently sold on you. You can ask her if they have reservations about your candidacy that you could try to address or if it would make sense to offer to come in for another interview — but beyond that, there isn’t much for you to do here other than wait for them to work their way through the process.

{ 313 comments… read them below }

  1. MK*

    Frankly OP2, it sounds to me like your boss wants to hire someone he can treat as an employee but have them assume part of the business risk like a partner. Being paid like a percentage of profit is justified when the worker directly influences profit, like in sales, or they are directly influencing the management of the business, like an actual partner, but you say your boss won’t tolerate that. I am concerned you might get some adventurous but naive new grad who will think they are being made a partner only to find out they are expected to do as they are told and suffer financial consequences for the boss’s decisions. Also, I obviously don’t know your field, but a recent grad as a partner sounds odd to me; most people won’t be ready for that so early in their career. I rejected a similar offer 18 months out of law school, because I thought (rightly as it turned out) that it wouldn’t have gone that well for me.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      OP said the boss wants to hire from local grad schools – grad students can be anywhere from young, 20-something professionals to near retirement age. The boss could be thinking that someone who went back to get a Masters would be interested in this role, not someone freshly out of undergrad.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Hit submit too soon.

        Basically, boss may believe that someone mid-career will bite – and someone at that level wouldn’t be too early in their career to be a partner somewhere – but for $20k/year? Eh – probably not.

        1. Kuododi*

          As a matter of perspective, my first counseling job after finishing my Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy started at a “whopping” $17,500. (State mental health clinic.) This was 1997-2003

          I did get a tiny little raise after a promotion at the clinic and made $18,000 annually. It was an excellent job for a wet behind the ears LMFT to get the base of practical clinic knowledge. My paycheck however, was an obscenity when I look back at the totality of my responsibilities. Best regards

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            My first programming job, in a low cost of living area, in 1997, started at 20,000. I was excited, because I’d been told that no one would hire me without an “American degree and experience” and that the degree and experience from my home country did not count – I was planning on going to a grad school on a Pell grant and assumed that, if I got very lucky, I’d get some kind of assistantship that would pay 10K/year. So 20,000 exceeded by expectations. But even so, it did not go very far for a family of four. My husband was in ESL classes all day. The kids were in daycare. I had to apply for (and receive) a daycare voucher from welfare, because otherwise my entire paycheck would’ve just gone to rent+utilities and the daycare. And that was 23 years ago! Those profits better be spectacular – but then, if they really were, would he be offering a base pay of 20K in the first place?

            Also does the 20K come with or without medical insurance? We are in a pandemic, so having one is kind of important. What’s the premium? if it ends up being a large percentage of the 20K, then who would even care what the profits might be?

            1. Beth Jacobs*

              To put these numbers in perspective, $17,500 in 1997 is worth $28,000 today. $20,000 in 1997 is worth $32,000 today. None of these numbers is a living wage and yet OP’s boss is looking to hire someone for less.

              1. Anon Anon*

                My first full time professional job paid me 24K in 2000, which is about 36K in today’s dollars. And I thought that 24K was low and I found it to be a struggle. I turned down jobs that paid 20K or under in 2000, because I couldn’t live off that amount of money 20 years ago. 20K in today’s dollars is offensively low. And I suspect that anyone worth hiring wouldn’t even bother to apply for the job.

              2. Startup fan*

                Not even a startup would pay base salaries that low to experienced professionals (except, possibly, for founders and perhaps a handful of the very earliest employees). Base salaries will be below market in exchange for equity, sure, but not to this degree.

          2. Exhausted Trope*

            Kuododi, I feel your response with similar pain. My current paycheck is obscene compared to market rates and for what is on my overburdened plate, which has gradually been increasing since The Crisis. Fighting to get to a better place soon.

          3. Georgina Fredrika*

            in 1997 I was still eating PBJ in the elementary school cafeteria haha. 20 years may not feel like a lot but considering the rapid increase in the cost of a degree & also housing, what you made then would probably be even closer to getting paid like… $12,000 per year now! (total estimation)

          4. Katrinka*

            In 1989, I started working in DC as a legal secretary to a billing partner (so, head of a department) for a large law firm. My salary was $20K, which was a good salary. I had a B.A.

            1. James*

              Assuming a 5 day, 40 hour week, that is less than $10 an hour. A person could literally make more working at Target or Home Depot, and no advanced degree required.

              1. Sacred Ground*

                In 1989, $10/hr was a decent if not great wage for “unskilled labor” (I hate that word, there’s really no such thing). It would have been a little more than twice the minimum wage at the time. And still pretty low for a legal secretary with a college education.

        2. Annony*

          It depends on how profitable the company was in the past few years. If you apply whatever percentage you are advertising to those numbers, what would the person actually be making? I’m not saying it would be a smart decision, but some new grads may be willing to take the risk.

          1. doreen*

            Yeah, it’s not $20K a year- it’s 20K per year plus half the profits , which doesn’t sound so outlandish – it’s my understanding that it’s not uncommon for business owners ( partnership or sole proprietors – if the business is incorporated, it might be different) not to pay themselves a salary at all, but simply to take a draw or distribution of the profits.

            But I get the impression the boss doesn’t want a true partner – he might want someone to take over the business when he retires , but you don’t “hire” a partner and insist that everything be done your way.

            1. MassMatt*

              “ Yeah, it’s not $20K a year- it’s 20K per year plus half the profits”

              This is NOT what the letter says. LW says the salary will be $20k and “anything beyond that will be a certain percentage of the profits”. We don’t know what the percentage is—It could be a fixed amount or it could be completely arbitrary based on the owner’s whim. If it were simply half, the LW would likely have said so.

              I have known too many people given low salaries based on promised bonuses or profits that never seemed to materialize to think this is likely to be a good idea, unless (as in sales) the profit is based on identifiable and measurable criteria.

              Even there, a partner is supposed to have a say in the running of the business, which it sounds as this owner is not interested in, and would probably be new to the industry, no matter what their age.

              1. Just J.*

                This is a very valid point, so to entice anyone to take such a low base salary, OP needs to put that percentage in the job posting.

              2. Texan In Exile*

                And you get owners like a woman I worked for who enticed engineers with the promise of profitsharing but then did things like hire me as a temp with company money to do not only legitimate company work but also things like feed her cats while she was out of town.

                That is, she did everything she could to throw her personal expenses on the company, which is, I think, not only tax fraud, but also diminished the profits she had to share, which was cheating her employees.

              3. RH*

                I work in an industry where base + % of production above a certain point is standard. But I would not accept a job where my base does not meet my minimum cost of living expenses. I don’t get my production until I’ve “paid for” my base salary, so as long as a reasonably hard worker in this position can meet the base, the employer should have no problem guaranteeing it. If they won’t, that would make me suspicious that the business can’t actually support an additional employee.

              4. JSPA*

                depending on the form of the partnership, it may also be a share of the liabilities. Just saying.

            2. Kiki*

              I think, though, for most people to agree to $20k per year plus % of the profits, you’d want to be awfully familiar with the business so you would know how much money you could expect to make and you’d want to have quite a bit of experience too, to make sure you can make proper assessments. It seems like LW’s boss is not really looking for someone like that– they’re looking for someone straight out of school. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m definitely getting the vibe that either this guy is out of touch or he’s looking to underpay someone naive.

              1. Sacred Ground*

                Exactly. You need hard numbers to make an informed choice here. Not only disclose the percentage of profits but a contract that defines what counts as shareable profit: gross profits, net profits before taxes, net after taxes? AND you need to open your books for the previous year or two. As in, COMPLETELY open, no unrecorded expenditures, no off-book revenues, every expense and income plain and clear.

                Anything less than full transparency and a clear contract is just an obvious setup to fraud.

            3. Mockingjay*

              Reminds me of Willie Wonka – he wanted a child to take over the business because an adult wouldn’t do things “his” way.

              Although, is this really OP #2’s business? If the boss wants to make a hire, he’s free to make a hire. If the boss’s expectations don’t match current market, well, he won’t get many candidates. If he does, those candidates are free to decide whether to take the position.

              Given that OP #2 wants to spend a year’s salary on decor/fixing up and she’s worried about the sweet, old boss, I wonder if the business is healthy as a whole. Maybe the boss is ready to retire and offload the business, maybe he’s cutting back on nonessential expenditures to fund something else. OP #2 should talk to her boss about the business’s long-range forecast and look at her own options.

              1. Katrinka*

                I read it as the OP wanting to use the profits to fix up the office? But either way, I’m not getting the impression that this is a business that’s pulling in a lot of profit.

        3. EPLawyer*

          A mid-career person who went back to get a higher degree is not going to fall for the low salary but chance at the profits. Some naive recent grad will think oh the low actual salary doesn’t matter because I will be getting tons of money in profit. They don’t know enough to know the business to assess whether a trade off in salary v. profit is worth it.

          Also does the boss know that someone just graduating school these days probably has TONS of student debt? He probably doesn’t if he is older. He probably thinks you can pay for school while working part time and in summers still. 20K is not going to get a lot of interest because that won’t allow payment of the loans plus being able to actual, you know eat and have a roof over your head.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Assuming a 40 hour week and 50 working weeks a year, 2000 hrs and $20,000 per year is $10.00/hr. In CA, that’s the current minimum wage and in many cities around the US it’s well below that. Even outside high-COL areas, the actual market minimum is $9-10/hr, above the federal minimum, and still less than a living wage, no matter how low one’s standard of living.

            $20k/year with a promise, but no guarantee, of more IF the business is profitable is a crappy deal for any job. One that requires education, special skills? Allison called it offensively low. She’s right, it’s an outright insult.

            You will only get the most innocent and naive, or the most horrible and unemployable, applicants. If you get any at all.

            1. ..Kat..*

              If this person is to be a partner, I would assume they would be exempt. Isn’t the current minimum salary level for exempt employees $35,568?

      2. Lizardbreath*

        I think it really depends on the type of degree and how quickly the collections/commission are expected to ramp up.

        For example, if the boss is a doctor or dentist, this is ludicrous. It typically takes 1-2 years for a new partner in a medical practice to get a reliably full schedule, and turnaround time is usually 3-6 months for insurance payments to start, and so usually new grads are on salary for a year or two until they’re able to fully support themselves on insurance reimbursements, because they’ve got loans and rent to pay. (Although even this model is going out of style in favor of salary for many specialties).

        If it’s something like law, consulting or accounting work and the person is likely to start being paid for work relatively quickly, I could see the model working better, although a guaranteed salary of 20K still seems very low unless the boss really has much more work than he can handle (which I think OP would probably be aware of).

        I suppose it’s possible that the boss is really looking for a mid-career partner with an established client base, but in that case he shouldn’t be targeting new grads.

        I think ultimately it’s really going to depend on what the job market is like and whether eat-what-you-kill is still a viable payment model.

    2. Not a Cheapskate*

      Ugh, a whopping $20,000 to be a “partner” to someone who insists everything be done his way, with a chance of earning a percentage of what may be non-existent profit? (It’s funny how cheapskates like that boss can come up with all sorts of expenses to minimize any profit when it has to be shared with someone else.) I co-own a small business and employ a marketing person who earns a commission — on top of an $80,000 salary.

      1. Forrest*

        I mean, the devil is all in the detail of “a certain percentage of the profit”. There’s nothing to say that this is a new start-up and the profits may be non-existent, or whether it’s an established business with a solid annual turnover and the “percentage” they have in mind is 30+%. I can’t tell whether OP hasn’t mentioned those things because they are talking about sufficiently small percentage or gross figures that the $20k really is the majority of the take-home pay, or whether the concern is that the field is sufficiently uncommercial that it it’s unlikely to be appealing to candidates even if it’s a fairly guaranteed $20-40k on top of the $20k salary.

        1. Georgina Fredrika*

          this is true. I think the answer to this Q really depends on the % and the business in question. I got the feeling the work is more “academic” in nature than business-y – as in, maybe they are lawyers, or do court testimony, or are hired to assess companies’ safety… but not something like selling vacation rentals.

          In this situation, you might definitely have a steady stream of income, but presumably that $20,000 is needed to cover you until the first profit share comes in – which really could be a while in a lot of cases. It just seems a bit low for someone unfamiliar with your business.

          1. Sue*

            A percentage of receipts is not an uncommon way for attorneys to be compensated. It’s the “profits” that is a bigger issue as that figure can be manipulated. But $20,000 + decent % of receipts might be a respectable income.

          2. Forrest*

            I was thinking of something like a small counselling/therapy or training business, where working freelance is very common but you don’t necessarily attract a very commercially focused kind of person.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Sure but if the profit is all but guaranteed to bring the person up to a living wage….why not just offer the higher salary and lower the profit % the person gets? The numbers as they stand are unlikely to attract experienced candidates. I know the minimum plus profit makes sense for an owner since owners often don’t give themselves a salary and only pay themselves from profit, but this is still weird from a recruitment standpoint. Although I suppose if the person really will be a partner then there would be a ton of due diligence done and it’s not just a “hire someone who applies” situation.

          1. Forrest*

            For all the same reasons as commission/profit sharing in any role, I assume—the perception that it’s motivating to give the person a bigger personal stake in the success of the business. But maybe that’s the conversation OP needs to have with her boss: is this really a partner position, or a badly-compensated employee? Why have they gone for this salary/profit split, and would a different split make the position more competitive? I just think it’s a different problem if the numbers are 20k + 3% of 100k v 20k + 30% of 150k!

            1. Startup fan*

              The problem is, the letter writer is a personal assistant to her boss. Unless she’s got a very close and longtime relationship with him, she really does not have the standing to press for modified employment terms. The “guacamole Bob” meme comes to mind. If the terms of compensation are really far below market, the boss won’t get takers.

        3. Paulina*

          The profit percentage is a key detail, but so will be the percentage of work expected. To me, since there’s no mention of expansion plans or a need for another person to handle existing business, this reads like an owner who wants to bring someone in as “partner” to take over a significant portion of the work, while the owner retains decision-making control and also keeps significant profits. Plus, of course, concerns about what the owner might count as a business expense that gets deducted from the profits.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I was thinking the inverse– he may want to find someone who would take over his business, take care of his clients, and keep paying OP2 if he retires or dies….but doesn’t have the $ to hire a more senior person.

      1. Just J.*

        I agree on this point as well. This would be a very positive way to market the job posting: The owner is planning to retire and is looking to bring someone to train to take over. But again, is the owner’s planned retirement a year from now, or ten years from now? A year or three from now may sound like a great opportunity. Ten years, not so much.

        1. pancakes*

          I’m not seeing the positive in that. If the business is so unprofitable and/or poorly run that it can only afford to pay a partner $20,000/year, it’s not likely to be a great asset to own outright a year from now, three years from now, or ten years from now. If anything it will be worth even less due to depreciation. The premises already “look neglected.”

          1. T. Boone Pickens*

            Actually, the low salary could be viewed as a positive for tax purposes. Hard to tell though without knowing the specifics on the profit sharing piece.

            1. pancakes*

              Thanks, I hadn’t considered that. My understanding is that commissions are taxed the same as other income but the withholding is higher, so I’m not sure how it would benefit the employee unless they like getting a big refund at tax time. Maybe I have that wrong though.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I am stumbling over the word partner. So perhaps they would get partial share in the company in lieu of actual salary?
      Would this person also be considered OP’s boss?
      He’s using the word partner but I am wondering if that is exactly what he means.

      OP, I would be tempted to start asking the boss questions like this about this new partner.

      It’s a reach but if he is actually offering ownership to someone else wouldn’t he want to beef the place up and make it look like a modern successful business?

      I had a friend who was considering buying a business as a silent partner. I got a little concerned. So I armed him with questions to ask himself and others about the potential transaction. We got to the point in the conversation where he said he would let the other person have 51% controlling interest. I pointed out that meant he could be overruled at any time because he only had 49% interest, there was no equal footing going on there.

      Sometimes to get people to see our point we have to do that deep dive into their focus points first. You may gain ground quicker by discussing the particulars of the partnership with him. And a partner would want more than commissions, they’d want a percentage of the profits, also. Just some random thoughts.

    5. MJ*

      It sounds like a nightmare. Being a partner means he may have liability also. What a mess.

    6. emmaline*

      Here in NY state (not the city, but the entire state), this salary is below minimum wage, assuming it’s a full-time job! I know a lot of folks are desperate but it would be tough to get someone with an advanced degree for even minimum wage.

    7. JSPA*

      I’ve seen someone brought in to take the fall for financial improprieties, a failed project, or be stuck as the figurehead during a bankruptcy. Some people make a niche for themselves being “that person,” and (with nothing explicit being said) are OK being brought in (for enough money) knowing that there are “challenging times ahead.” It’s deeply crappy, scarring behavior to do that to a new grad, though.

      If there’s any chance this is going on at OP’s firm, OP needs to have their own parachute ready.

      1. TardyTardis*

        My friend was hired as a bookkeeper probably to take the fall for the boss’s double billing both insurance and clients (auto body shop). I told her to RUN!

  2. Madame X*

    Really confused by the logic here. If traveling to the office was a normal part of your work commute and now it cost you less money, then I’m not understanding why you feel the need to be reimbursed?

    1. Sara(h)*

      My understanding of OP’s justification is that others are mostly allowed to work only from home, and coming into the office is optional for them. Whereas since OP is the office manager, she has been required to go into the office intermittently in order to fulfill her job duties. Because of this, she has had to place herself at additional risk, so she feels it would be a “good will gesture” for the company to cover these costs. That is my understanding. That said, I would never expect reimbursement for the cost of commuting to my job, regardless of the circumstances, because it’s not a Thing That is Done. I get where she’s coming from, but if I were her employer, I would perceive this type of request as somewhat unprofessional or at least naive.

      1. Jane Plough*

        That was my impression too and in that case it would be better framed as a responsibility allowance rather than reimbursement of expenses. Whether or not the company would agree is a different question..

        1. Delta Delta*

          Not a substantive comment, but absolutely loving on your screen name. From time to time I make my various social media bios say simply, “yes, I can hear you, Clem Fandango.”

      2. Cassie Nova*

        Interesting. I could make an argument either way. No, you typically shouldn’t get compensated for going to your office. But since everyone else isn’t and that’s costing OP time/gas/bus/train fare that the others get to avoid, maybe they should get something back for that.

      3. Ms. Marple*

        Still, though. Most people in her office are working remotely, so when she’s there she’s not around a lot of people. She’s driving instead of taking the bus. She can pick her own times to go in, so she can go when the few people who are still working aren’t there, if she chooses. She’s got a lot of flexibility here, and the letter doesn’t indicate that she’s worried about direct exposure, but a vague “increased risk” that seems pretty manageable to me. I agree with the partners here – she’s commuting to work. It’s not reimbursable.

        (And on her personal financial level, she’s already saving money, right? Which shouldn’t be part of her bosses’ reasoning but should factor into hers.)

        1. Khatul Madame*

          In addition, the OP is now getting paid for the time spent in transit if she goes in during the workday. Prior to the pandemic she was not paid for commute time.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Risk does not come under the heading of travel expense.

        A person can be compensated for their willingness to take on more risk through their pay rates. This might make a little more sense to me if OP got a slightly higher rate of pay for coming into the office because of Covid. Or, OP could be paid at a higher rate when she is in the office. That would make a bit more sense to me also.

        I had a dangerous tree limb here, it was on a wire and causing a very real concern. My friend dropped everything to come over and help. Long story short he went through a lot of loops to reach that limb and get it off the wire.

        I paid my friend a much higher rate than I ordinarily would have for other help. One, it was an emergency he knocked himself out to get here and second, it was pretty dangerous, risky work. Since he is used to these types of situations he did not see the risk as being that high. But I knew that getting someone to come over quickly was worth money. Getting someone to do this risky work is also worth additional money. I made sure he was paid for what he put himself through.

        His expenses to travel to my house remained the same. So it made no sense to say, “Here is extra gas money”. And in my setting here to tell him that he was getting extra gas money would have minimized the effort he had to use to help me. So it would have sounded kind of insulting.

        1. Annony*

          I think that is the issue here. OP does not want to be reimbursed because they are incurring an extra expense. They want monetary recognition for the fact that they need to go in when no one else does. It may be worth addressing it directly. Tell them that you are unhappy going in because of the risk and would like something to recognize the increased risk. Or you can try to see if there are ways to reduce the number of trips you need to take to work. You mentioned that other people do go in occasionally. Maybe they can collect the mail or packages while there or print the checks for you. Depending on the company culture even the partner may be able to do some small tasks that aren’t too time consuming to prevent you from having to come in so often. It sounds like right now they don’t know you are unhappy about the current set up so no one is trying to see if there is a solution.

          1. Anonymous at a University*

            I think if the OP asks for this, she should only ask someone who’s paid more than she is (like a partner), especially if these are essential duties of her job. Asking someone who’s paid less to do work that’s an essential part of the OP’s duties is…not going to be a good look, particularly if it comes across as “I’m asking this because the company won’t pay for my commute, even though my commute is less expensive and more flexible than before.”

            1. Annony*

              It depends on the task. If the task is “bring in the mail” I think anyone can do that if they happen to be in the office.

              1. Anonymous at a University*

                But if it’s not a big deal and not a big risk, then OP refusing to do it is going to be stranger, especially since she can pick when to go to the office and apparently doesn’t have deadlines it needs to be done by. That really would come across as refusal to do her job because they wouldn’t pay her for commute.

                1. ASIA S*

                  Well, as an office manager it’s kinda their job to bring in the mail. Granted there is probably a great deal that OP #2 can do working from home but there are obvious things that they can’t do which would be signing for packages, bringing in the mail, printing out items and mailing them to the correct people, ect. Since OP was originally hired as an office manager and these things were and still are apart of their original job description they should probably do these tasks themselves.

                  I totally understand her work not wanting to pay her for her commute (obviously was not apart of compensation when OP was hired) or give her hazard pay especially if they are trying to make sure that OP and other staff are given appropriate PPE/ect. I understand OP wanting more money for “potential risk” but really it sounds like most of the company is allowed to work from home and that distancing would not be an issue, if they need PPE that is something that they can reasonably request, if their employer can not provide then they could possibly request hazard pay due to lack of PPE. However, to ask for reimbursement on what would be their normal (non-pandemic) schedule is unreasonable and if they REALLY don’t want to come into bring in the mail, sign packages, ect. Then they need to re-evaluate whether they want to continue working in that position and/or for that employer.

          2. Katrinka*

            I think it is something that could be leveraged when it comes time to talk about job performance and salary, but it’s not so much of a risk that it’s worth paying extra money for right now. IMO, the people who deserve (and some are getting) a “risk bonus” are people like hospital workers, mass transit drivers, etc. They are in essential work that exposes them to multiple people for several hours every day.

          3. PAworker*

            I do not think it would look good to have OP ask others who are going to the office (and presumably not being paid for commute) to complete OP’s job tasks. In fact, I would think that rather unfair to those that decide to go in that they would be given extra tasks to complete while OP would still receive the pay. I also think it may look poorly to the partners if OP were to ask the partners to complete OP’s job tasks.

        2. Taniwha Girl*

          I agree with this. I think asking for “hazard pay” is legit. My partner’s company gave them all a stipend/allowance to account for having to set up a whole new office space at home and presumably buy things like chairs and monitors and so on.

          But it doesn’t really make sense to frame this as asking for commuting expenses or travel pay if the company doesn’t cover that normally.

      5. Paulina*

        I understand that she has an expense that others do not, but that’s not uncommon even if the situation is. As for a “goodwill gesture”, once you’re pushing for something that you’ve already been refused, it looks like you’re arguing for an entitlement, not a gesture. Not a problem to ask the first time, but a problem to argue further, unless there is a significant need for hazard pay.

      6. Margaret*

        It’s also possible that the business is receiving a tax break or other type of credit or payment for employees that use mass transit to commute to work. That would explain why they are willing to reimburse for a monthly bus pass even though it is more expensive than mileage reimbursement.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I can see the argument that with working from home being the new normal, having to go into the office is an extra business expense.

      But business don’t pay mileage because they’re generous; they do it because the IRS lets them treat mileage reimbursements as tax-deductible expenses. Those rules say that the cost of the commute to a regular work location isn’t deductible. If an employer did decide out of the kindness of its corporate heart to pay for an employee’s regular commuting cost, the employee would have to treat that money as taxable income and the company would have to include it as compensation on the employee’s W-2.

      I don’t think it was unreasonable to ask for reimbursement, but I wouldn’t push back on an answer of “no,” either.

      1. Bob*

        it might be worth checking with your accountant to see if those costs can be deducted from *your* taxes. With COVID, it’s possible that the IRS would consider your regular work location at home right now, and travel to the office would be traveling to a different work location. If your company doesn’t reimburse, you might be eligible to deduct…. (note: I am not an accountant)

        1. Lifelong student*

          CPA here- even if home is considered the primary work location- which is possible but unlikely- un- reimbursed employee business expenses are no longer deductible. Even when they were, no deductible expense provides a benefit unless all deductible expenses exceed the standard deduction amount. And even then- the amount of tax saved is the marginal tax rate times the amount of the expense.

          Basically, using potential tax deductions as a justification for an expense is a marketing ploy- crunching the numbers is necessary.

          If an expense increases deductible expenses by $1000 over the standard deduction, your tax rate is 20%, you are still out $800. If your deductible expenses are under the standard deduction, you are out $1000.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        By that logic, OP should be paid LESS for working from home because they’re not incurring any commuting expenses. You may be thinking “that’s ridiculous” and I agree. I also think expecting any reimbursement for going into the office is ridiculous and out of touch.

        1. Dutchie*

          Dutch person here. Here it is common to be reimbursed for your commute.

          And boy, did it cause a stink when employers stopped paying commuting expenses to employees who were working from home. Apparently some people saw it as a reduction in pay???

          (The standard amount is €0.19/km, by the way. According to the national traveller’s association, altogether a small car costs on average €0.32/km with depreciation, insurance, maintenance etc. – so while it generously covers fuel, you’re still saving money by WFH’ing instead of commuting.)

          Sometimes I don’t understand my fellow citizens.

          (A reimbursement doesn’t get reimbursed unless there is something to reimburse.. right?)

    3. Georgina Fredrika*

      My understanding of this is that OP is really asking for hazard pay, because that’s the underlying issue – “I’m going in and taking a risk, and other people get to work from home and not drive, so you should reimburse me” rather than “anything happening is outside of the normal scope.”

      That or “fairness pay” because other people are remote, but so many companies offer remote options now and they don’t offset this by paying for everyone else’s bus tickets so it’s weak.

      Hazard pay is a valid enough request but it should have come prior to OP coming in – and honestly if hazard pay is the price of a bus ticket… I’m not really sure it’s what I would want to use my social currency on.

      I am also wondering if there is genuine concern here or it’s just “on principal” – OP doesn’t seem actually concerned about driving there & going in with a mask on. I wouldn’t push for hazard pay if you don’t genuinely feel like there’s a hazard to yourself… it just comes off as… IDK a nice way to say it, feeling entitled to your employer’s funds just because you know they’re generally not cheap?

  3. Courtney*

    LW4 it’s also possible the manager might not remember you – it’s been a few years. I remember incidents and scenarios but often not the people directly involved. I couldn’t point out the person who rear ended me a few months ago now that it’s all settled.

    1. An Elephant Never ...*

      I would 100% remember someone who got angry and called me unprofessional.

        1. Courtney*

          That’s what I was trying to say, but didn’t do a good job of. Maybe the manager will be more like An Elephant Never … and remember the person. I’d like an update from the LW if they do end up applying

        2. The Rural Juror*

          I remember an incident when I was a salesperson some years ago that a client called and yelled at me for about 5 minutes over a misunderstanding. I had sent an email letting them know an order was delayed, but they didn’t bother to read below the first line of the email. It was delayed because of weather and the shipment was supposed to come in like 2-3 days later, not a huge delay. They just didn’t read the whole thing, and called me and became irate without even realizing the whole situation. It was so odd. I’m sure that person must have been stressed about something else…but geez, they wouldn’t let me get a word in.

          I remember the incident very clearly. I don’t remember that person’s name at all. I think the OP will be fine.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        If they were the only one, or the first one, probably. But if the resending of resumes was something that happened to multiple people, and they all were rightfully annoyed about it, the letter writer might just be one of many.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that I would remember the angry person. But in this case, I would like to think that I’d probably figure out that I was indeed wrong. So seeing OP again, probably would be a humbling moment or two for me. I’d make sure I was fair with OP the second time around.

      3. Insert Clever Name Here*

        We don’t know that OP4 was angry in the email. But yeah, I might well remember that A Person called me unprofessional once a few years ago. Whether I remember the *name* of that person depends on how mortified I was to realize they were absolutely correct to call me out.

        1. Yorick*

          Honestly, if I realized I was in the wrong and their email calling me out was nice or at least not rude, I might think kind of highly of them if I remembered their name.

          1. Yorick*

            As in “this person handled a bad situation well, and I learned something from it.”

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Yup. My reaction was go ahead and apply, and don’t make any mention of the previous incident. Maybe it will harm your chances, but maybe it won’t. Refreshing everyone’s memory serves no purpose. It cannot help your chances, and it can harm them.

      1. Clisby*

        Plus, it’s possible this manager doesn’t even work there now. Or isn’t the hiring manager for the current job.

        1. Katrinka*

          If this hiring manager resent resumes regularly, who knows what else she did that was out of line. She very well could have been fired for her unprofessionalism if someone complained to the company.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, this incident was a really big deal for OP but just a brief interaction for the manager. I think it’s extremely possible that they’ve forgotten about it entirely by now, or vaguely remember that it happened but not who was involved. Definitely not a reason not to apply if it’s a job you’re interested in!

  4. Ranon*

    LW1 – also something to consider is that the degree of disconnect is likely to be lower (assuming your company is reopening safely) because even folks in the office are likely to be doing most meetings over video conference, minimizing contact with one another, etc. Tere’s quite likely going to be substantially less in-office contact to miss out on than there might be in other circumstances.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      And OP is definitely not going to be the only person who chooses not to go back quite yet. Would they really be any more out of sight, out of mind than a lot of people?

      OP, it’s between you and your manager what you do, and you’ve agreed it between yourselves, you don’t have to act on what your dad said.

      1. SpookySzn*

        OP here! Yeah Allison’s advice on this was really affirming. I also know lots of other people who aren’t returning to office, as the office is set up to be “open” (think lots of cubicles). And with the exception of one or two meeting rooms, most huddle spaces can only be one person at a time. So yeah, in person meetings are a no go rn.

    2. Oxford Comma*

      We’re seeing better attendance at some of the non-mandatory meetings now that we’re all WFH than we have in years. I now have faces to put with names and there’s been some nice interactions with some of the people who tended not to attend meetings and presentations in person. This goes both ways.

    3. Paulina*

      Yes, “optionally on a careful schedule” doesn’t suggest everyone else will be there having face-to-face chats.
      A decent workplace should indeed discourage thinking along the lines that the father is suggesting, since they wouldn’t want everyone to rush back due to fear of missing out or to “show dedication”.

    4. Not Lois Frankel*

      I agree with Alison’s advice, but with two major caveats.

      1. In the short-to-medium term, during the pandemic, most reasonable companies won’t hold it against someone who wants to work from home due to health concerns. But that will be much less true after the pandemic, particularly if you’re an ambitious employee who wants a promotion.

      I believe that a decade from now, business academics who study the question will see *very* strong evidence that home-based employees will, ceteris paribus, have earned significantly fewer promotions than office-based employees. There will be exceptions, of course, as with everything in life. But folks being groomed for senior leadership will be those who spend their careers in the office. Otherwise, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”

      2. OP1 asked her manager about working from home, and the manager said it was fine — but I think the implicit question there was, “is it feasible to work from home *in my current position,* during the pandemic.” Context matters. If OP1 had a more profound conversation with her manager that covered things like long-term career goals, whether she wants to be promoted, aspires to senior leadership, and so on, the advice might have been very different, particularly if OP1 specifically asked about the practice post-pandemic. In that context, working from home may very well *not* be fine, and it’s that context that her dad was expressly speaking of.

      1. Anony-Mouse*

        1. I hope this is true! I don’t want promotions (I would be a *terrible* manager!) and if working from home keeps me from getting them… ;)

  5. nnn*

    #1: even if working from home did decrease your chances of a promotion, that doesn’t mean you have to go back to the office now. If you work from home for even another year, then you don’t get promoted during that year. So what? Then, once it’s safe, you can go back to the office, put in the face time, and be at the forefront of their minds. Even if staying at home did put you at a disadvantage, it wouldn’t be a permanent disadvantage.

    1. SpookySzn*

      OP here. Too true. Another thing I’ve considered is promotions are unlikely to happen this year anyway given how weird the past 3 months have been.

      1. Katrinka*

        You can also point out to your dad that the usual rules don’t apply here. No one knows how companies are going to view people continuing to work from home because this is totally new territory for everyone. This is a little bit of a generational thing, because a lot of companies did consider WFH to be a disconnect from the business, but that view was changing in a lot of industries even before COVID-19 happened. I think a lot of companies are going to see that productivity didn’t dip during the shutdown and/or that their physical space expenses could be drastically reduced by allowing more people to WFH.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I already WFH, so it doesn’t matter much to me, but I hope my boss realizes the cost savings and stops making other people work from the office. One of my coworkers commutes up to four hours round-trip depending on traffic/time of day. He asked to WFH and was told no (before COVID-19). But everyone has had to work from home due to government orders, and we’ve actually increased our productivity. Orders are up more than 100% from this time last year, and we are handling everything and getting all the work done. IMO, it doesn’t make sense to keep renting a big office when they could let people work from home and maybe keep a small office for meetings/appearances’ sake if they wanted.

    2. Jzilbeck*

      Working from home especially at this time will not impact your chances of being promoted. What WILL impact your chance is if someone interviews better than you or if promotions are no longer being offered…Keep up with your work, make note of when you received especially positive feedback on a project. Absolutely do not go into the office if you are uncomfortable with the idea.

      Signed, a person who was promoted during quarantine.

  6. Heidi*

    Wanted: Recent grad to work with a sweet but close-minded and unrealistic older professional in our ugly and neglected office. Pay $20K plus percentage of profits.

    Seriously, though. If people are insulted by the salary, you can honestly say it wasn’t your decision to make and it’s not yours to defend. Save the feedback to pass on to the boss. If outside people say they don’t want to work in a dilapidated office for not enough money to live on, he might start to believe it.

    1. RecentAAMfan*

      Funny ad!
      I’m curious as to whether the OP herself is paid a decent wage. You can’t buy groceries or pay rent with “sweet”.

      1. 2 Cents*

        “Sweet” doesn’t pay the bills if he’s out of touch with current COL. My dad sometimes forgets that milk doesn’t cost 35 cents anymore, but he would know better than to pay someone $20K, just out of school or not.

        OP, he’s not your family. Don’t confuse any potential “grandfatherly” feelings with your actual working relationship.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      I think the salary has to be stated in the job posting. I cannot tell you how full of rage I would be if I’d been through an interview process and THEN heard that number. It’s pathetic. It’s barely above volunteer status. The OP doesn’t state what the percentage of profits would be (1%? 50%?) and how much that is likely to be. If it’s $20K base plus 30% of the profits and that # has been $80K the past three years running, I feel different about it. If COVID-19 means the biz is currently running on fumes and 80% of the profits is going to be, oh say a thousand bucks… Yeah, no. I also wonder if Ms. Recent Grad/Partner will have an independent way to verify the profits. Bringing on a complete business newbie as a “partner” makes me think it wouldn’t be a true partnership where the full scope of the business is known to all.

    3. Ray ray*

      I agree the salary should be posted upfront too. You don’t see it a lot, but when you do it’s one thing that definitely sways your decision to apply or not apply.

      I really wonder if this guy is just very out of touch or had the idea that a new grad would be so excited about the job opportunity they’d take it and make do living frugally. The thing is though, many retail and fast food places are paying more than this job would be and those don’t require degrees. I also think about how in my state at least, our minimum wage is still $7.25 and this isn’t significantly higher than that at $9.61. Even people living at home would have expenses that exceed what this salary is paying.

  7. HM*

    OP1, that is the boomer-est advice I have ever heard.

    Put your video on during meetings as often as you can stand it. Be a visible participant in whatever forms of engagement are open to you. (Yammer? Be engaged, comment on stuff, like stuff. All-company or all-department virtual meeting that allows comments? Say something, even if it’s a text form “Thanks, [big boss]! Have a good evening everyone!”) But don’t go to the office just to go to the office… and consider that, if you don’t engage ONLINE, you’ll be invisible to all the decision-makers at your company who aren’t back in the office themselves.

    There are more effective, less INfective ways to stay on people’s radar.

    1. LunaLena*

      Ha, that was my first thought to – that the advice is definitely very boomer. Not just because it’s out of touch with current workplace norms, but because it’s rooted in the mentality that you get a job and stick with that company for the rest of your career while you rise through the ranks by showing dedication and loyalty. As if OP1 doesn’t have the option to look for better opportunities elsewhere if she did get passed over for a promotion.

      1. Not Lois Frankel*

        The advice — which in non-pandemic times would be sound — has zero to do with being a boomer and everything to do with organizational behavior. As the saying goes, “showing up is half the battle.”

        Folks who associate with you on a daily basis are “top of mind” when it comes to promotions. Folks who make decisions the results of which C-level executives see *immediately*, rather than finding out about after the fact by Zoom, get promoted. Good networkers get promoted, and in business there’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting to seal the deal.

        You need to rethink your generation stereotyping.

        Again, I think almost all of this get softened — big time — for the next year or so, during the pandemic. But post-COVID-19, yes, you’re going to have further opportunities for career advancement if you work from home.

      2. Not Lois Frankel*

        “the rest of your career while you rise through the ranks by showing dedication and loyalty.”

        The advice-giver said nothing about staying with one company for the entirety of one’s career. He spoke about getting a promotion. It is true that you’re unlikely to get promoted if you’re planning on staying only a year or two. That doesn’t mean you need to stay 20 years, either.

      3. willow for now*

        I disagree that it is boomer advice. Dad sounds older than that. How about The Greatest Generation? Because this sounds like advice my dad would give, and I, as a boomer, would not.

        Or just bad Dad advice. Does not have to be a “generational” thing, just a dad-child thing.

    2. Coffee Bean*

      It is bad advice, but I don’t agree with the “Boomer” classification. I don think it is helpful to perpetuate stereotypes.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Eh, I agree that we should avoid stereotypes, but in this case I think it’s accurate. Workplace norms have shifted dramatically over the years, and a 65-year-old’s terrible work advice is going to be very different from a 35-year-old’s.

        1. willow for now*

          Nope. I am 60, at the tail end of the Boomers, and I know this advice is bad. Because I am still working. Not all Boomers are super old.

    3. HS Teacher*

      I’m so tired of Boomer being used as an insult. We can all learn from all generations. I’m not even part of that generation, and I can’t stand it. One thing I like about this site is that it is usually quite civil. Name-calling doesn’t promote civility at all.

  8. Anonymity*

    Don’t nickel and dime your employer for commuting costs that are lower than they were when you went to the office daily. It looks bad and it’s puzzling behavior. Many people lost their jobs in this pandemic and would love to be in your position.

    1. Malty*

      Hey there’s no need for that – LW is asking a genuine question and it’s not like she’s come in crying that they won’t pay her commute. We’re supposed to be kind to LWs not shame them.

      1. BRR*

        Alison has also asked that people not bring in “be lucky you have a job” because people can still have problems at work. That being said, for all the reasons given in the answer and comments, the LW shouldn’t ask for reimbursement.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      While I think the OP is out of touch on this request, life isn’t a competition and there’s no need to tell them that they’re better off because they still have their job.

      1. Ray ray*

        I agree.

        As someone currently unemployed for the first time since my teens, I can definitely understand the sentiment and I wish I was working but I also realize how many adjustments people are going through and that stress has increased ten-fold for many people. Maybe this person has a spouse out of work and has had their family income slashed significantly.

        We’re all going through a very difficult time, let’s not judge others situations because we perceive it to be “not that bad”.

    1. Important Moi*

      And some of the explanations that people are coming up with in the comments to justify the low salary offer are….interesting.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “Sweet” likely means he is personally pleasant. This is not at all the same as being a good boss, though it helps.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yup. I failed to notice how bad one boss was because he was reasonably nice and very cool. (And I was very inexperienced).

          It is hard for someone who is a bad person to be a good boss, but it is totally possible for someone to be a decent or even good person to be a bad boss. Your boss doesn’t have to scream, or throw things, or grab your butt to be a bad boss. They can be the sweetest person ever, but disorganized, painfully non-confrontational, or plain old inept.

          What I wonder is, if the boss is this out of touch to offer such a tiny salary, what other professional norms is he missing? Is he out of compliance? Operating on really old standards?

        2. Sacred Ground*

          I’ve worked for several small businesses over the years. Most were truly bad: below market wages, unpredictable schedules, no benefits, no health nsurance (pre-ACA), and downright dangerous workplaces.

          Every one of those businesses was run by a really sweet guy. As in, so personally charming that one doesn’t notice the exploitation or tolerates it for far too long.

          Like the song says, “‘Nice’ is different than ‘good'”.

    2. pancakes*

      Not to me either. It seems like the best that could be said of him on this point is that he’s too out of touch and/or unthinking to be cognizant of his own plan to exploit a prospective employee.

    3. Heidi*

      Well, sweet could mean that he’s sweet to the OP. Or that he can be sweet when he wants to be. Or that OP thinks it’s sweet that he’s mentally still living in the 1950’s when $20,000 went a really long way.

  9. OakElmAsh*

    LW5 – in our large multinational, we often have to lengthen the hiring process in order to meet our requirement to interview diverse candidates for all roles – and this applies even if the hiring manager is happy they’ve met a strong contender. This is a good recruitment practice, but it does sometimes have the side effect of having candidates interviewed early in the process have to wait a bit for the final outcome.

    1. Hazel*

      And they may take another job in the meantime and not be available when the decision is finally made. I missed out on hiring great people once or twice in the past because the company took so long to decide.

      1. OakElmAsh*

        Yep that has definitely happened in our organisation too – especially where the role is very niche, or it’s in a part of the world where diverse candidates aren’t as numerous

      2. Max*

        That’s the problem I am thinking here. If they keep on making you wait, you miss out. Time kills deals as they say.

        I think they do this because they know the candidate has minimal options. Does that sound far-fetched

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Maybe not far-fetched as much as biased. Hiring, HR, and recruiting managers just don’t string people along the way a lot of job seekers seem to think. Whether it’s a candidate’s market, or an employer’s market, the interview, evaluation, and selection process just doesn’t neatly and quickly fall into place like a series of if/then statements.

          I have over 30 years in corporate staffing and I know far more than most that time kills deals. But sometimes, we have to take that risk because of valid reasons or situations. No one likes losing good candidates, but that’s sometimes the nature of hiring.

  10. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    This guy is essentially asking for someone with a graduate degree to work for less than $10 an hour and “faith” that there will be enough profit to share. I mean grad students as whole are generally used to being broke and scraping by, but this is ridiculous. A grad student could feasibly earn $20k a year with a TA position and a grant or two.

    1. Cassie Nova*

      Grad students are broke when they’re students, in the expectation that they’ll make more once they’re employed, though. $20 is insulting no matter what the position, no matter what region in the US, and no matter what else is offered in terms of compensation. OP is right to be concerned. This will not go well.

      1. JustaTech*

        One profoundly hopes grad students make more after they graduate. But when I started as a lab tech I discovered that our post-doc (so, had just gotten her PhD), made less than I did. But even that was I think at least $30K, in 2008.

        Grad school can really warp people’s norms about the working world. I did an informational interview with a friend who had just gotten a PhD about an opening at my company that was having serious solvency issues. My friend asked how I had time to do brunch with her, and I said that since we’d had to start work about 3am we were all getting to go home early. She was completely shocked that my boss would encourage us to go home rather than expecting us to work until 5 or 6.
        “Come to industry. They pay us money and you get to sleep.”

    2. MassMatt*

      My SO’s grad school stipend was higher than that, and that was in 1994!

      There had better be a lot of profit to share! And if there is, why is the office delapidated? “Sweet” boss is certainly not giving the impression that this is a profitable business. If I were interviewing at an office with torn carpet, peeling paint, etc, and told my compensation would be $20k salary and a share of profits I would instantly think “WHAT profits? And what percentage?” I would assume either the business is not profitable, or the owner is cheap, or both.

      1. TootsNYC*

        the office may be dilapidated because profits are going in pockets and not being spent on decor. But the condition of the office still speaks to a certain lack of energy

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I had this same thought. I worked for a place once that did minimal upgrades (but it was clean & presentable) but they also paid higher that market average in salary and bonuses as a result.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        The “partner” language implies access to the books, so there would be no mystery about the profitability of the firm, at least in the past. It is not clear to me whether sweet boss understands this implication.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Depending on the state, this could be less than minimum wage. (And it’s not much above federal minimum, which is currently $7.25/hr.)

  11. Jane Plough*

    In letter 2, it’s also a bit unclear what the role of ‘partner’ entails (is this partner in the sense of a law or financial firm, or is this more like someone to share the boss’s responsibilities and take over when he retires)? Also, does the role need to be full time? Maybe it’d be more realistic to offer a salary like this for 1-2 days per week or even in a consultancy basis, depending on the role and the level of seniority needed.

    1. JessicaTate*

      Yes, this is what I’m not understanding either. Is it a legal business partner – meaning a ##% co-owner of the business? That seems to me like a different thing than the interpretation of “employee who gets a profit-based bonus.” To LW#2, I’d advise to actually start there with clarifying what this job is with the owner. To write any kind of “job ad,” or talk to candidates, you need to be crystal clear on what you’re offering them. If it’s a stake in the business – not just a job – what does that look like? If it’s a job with a cheapskate salary + bonus, then what’s the general margin they might be getting a share of?

  12. LGC*

    …so, I have a question about LW2 (if LW2 is in the United States): is that even legal? It looks like LW2’s boss is paying $20,000 in guaranteed (and it sounds like exempt) salary, with a bonus of a percentage of the profits…but the floor for exempt workers is $35,308, right?

    I mean, I know the answer to “is that legal?” in the US is usually “yes, but it’s a jerk thing to do,” but I’m actually curious about this.

    (Also, LW2, if you’re exempt, check your paycheck!)

    LW4: Alison didn’t say this, so I’ll say it: Unless you literally held this woman’s arms and guided them as she grabbed the flamethrower and sprayed napalm all over the bridge, you weren’t the one who burned it. Also, look, I know PANDEMIC and EVERYTHING IS AWFUL, but why do you want to work for a company where the manager sent your resume all over town without your permission?!

    I don’t know. It just feels like really poor judgment on the company’s part – and while I’m sure they have other redeeming qualities, it really feels like they were the ones that burned the bridge here.

    1. Batgirl*

      OP2, describing your boss as a “very sweet older man” is a bit…. alarming.
      Maybe I have mistakenly inferred, but it reads like you mean clueless and lacking direction, but well intentioned and open to being managed by someone a bit more on the ball.
      When you add in that he’s inflexible on occasion my eyebrows go higher.
      This isn’t a relative or acquaintance; someone you can excuse a lack of competence with a sigh and “Oh he means well”.
      By competence I mean soft skills and empathising with people’s positions without needing that spelled out to him. His position means that won’t happen.
      Sometimes managing up can feel great, and is a real flexing of our people skills, but that compliance can’t be relied upon when the power dynamic is his to assume at any time.
      I feel like you can see this when he proposes employing someone else but you can’t see that in respect to his employment of you. How savvy do you need to be in order to handle him being your boss?

    2. Annony*

      I think it depends on if they are a true partner or not. If they are going to be co-owners of the business, then they are working for themselves and minimum wage does not apply. If not, then I think you are right.

    3. CAA*

      #2 – the pay is legal as long as it exceeds the state and local minimum wage (which they need to check, because $20K is below the minimum for a full-time job in some places), but this person cannot be classified as exempt from FLSA. He will be an hourly employee entitled to overtime pay, paid and unpaid breaks, etc.

      For a commissioned sales person to be exempt, which is the closest I can think of to this situation, you have to pay them at least 90% of $35,308 as their base salary, and if they don’t earn enough commissions to make up the other 10%, then the employer has to make up the difference.

      1. LGC*

        Today I learned something new! I figured the pay was at least federally legal (in my state, it’d be below minimum for a 40-hour job, but barely above for 35 hours), but I didn’t realize how the rules worked, exactly.

        (Also that I made a lot of assumptions from the letter.)

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s not an employee, it’s a partner aka another “owner”. They don’t even have to draw a salary, there’s a ton of owners who don’t pull a salary at all for various reasons, mostly in the startup phase.

      It’s a different setup and different laws apply.

  13. A person*

    #3, are you being paid for the time you spend commuting to the office like it is time worked? My office is handling this like if we had to go to another office in town for a meeting – our home office is temporarily “home”. If so, don’t push for the reimbursement. Even if not, if it’s a very small amount I still wouldn’t push. These are weird times.

  14. Springella*

    @PW2: I’m currently looking for a job (as I did a few years before) and it’s incredible how many job adverts with high demands and shitty salaries there are. I’m thinking to myself, if I had skill A plus skill B (both on their own rare and sought after) plus all required experience plus responsibility I wouldn’t work for such shitty salary in such expensive city. Neither do other people because such ads keep circulating around for many months (or even years).

    But it does enable such incompetent employers (you’re incompetent if you don’t understand salaries for certain jobs and how rare such employees are) to go around crying about skill shortages and how lazy and ungrateful people are not to go after such amazing opportunities.

    1. A nonnie nonnie non*

      Yes, this has been my experience since I graduated college. I didn’t graduate with a niche degree, so finding something that pays half way decent has been a struggle. I am in my mid-30s and have yet to break $40k per year. I have been laid off 3 times, bc I graduated in the recession. It stinks and is super frustrating!

    2. MassMatt*

      I see this also, some employers offer terrible salaries (usually not posted in the ads, but word gets around) and terrible or nonexistent benefits, always described as “competitive” lol.

      A friend of mine interviewed somewhere once where the “competitive” benefits consisted of… a discounted bus pass! And this job required significant experience and skills. They were puzzled when he rejected their “offer”.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I applied at the local children’s museum–which was interested in my bachelor’s degree–and when I asked about benefits they told me if I worked an early shift I could probably get a free parking place on the street. Not in their actual parking garage; I’d still have to pay full fare for that.

        The guy looked genuinely distressed when I did not accept the offer.

        What they wanted for this position was a bored, well-to-do, stay-at-home-mom, not somebody who actually needed to support herself, but of course you can’t put that in a job listing. I think the pay was $6.75 an hour (this was about 20 years ago). Noooooope.

        1. irene adler*

          The HR at my first job out of college explained that the pay was low because the job was meant to be a second income job-not meant to be the sole means of support for someone. Ideally the job was for someone with a spouse who was earning a good salary.

          Yet, nearly every employee there existed solely on this salary. And they struggled mightily. They could barely rent a room -with a roommate. Never mind sharing an apartment or anything.

          There was a fair amount of overtime available-that’s how folks got by.

          1. MassMatt*

            OMG, what warped logic. “We hope you’re married to someone with a functional employer, because we are not”. I hope/imagine the turnover was high?

            1. Kelly L.*

              It’s like that tone-deaf employee budget McDonald’s put out back in ’08 or so, that assumed you had a second job or a spouse with a job. It was the only way to make the numbers actually work.

              1. Meganly*

                And it also had ridiculous prices, like $600/month rent and $20/month for health insurance… which is lower than their (admittedly pretty cheap) health insurance prices.

          2. Texan In Exile*

            I truly think that’s one of the reasons I was picked to be the 10% laid off on a team at an old job. Corporate mandated 10% cuts. I was the only person on the team who wasn’t a married man supporting a family. I mean, I was a single woman supporting myself, but my boss was very old school, very traditional, kinda sexist. This assumption that women work as a hobby – I have a lot to say about that.

            1. Ray ray*

              As a single woman, I have also seen this attitude about my lifestyle or other singles. It’s infuriating. There are some places that will manipulate single adults into working all the holidays because married people and those with kids “have families”

              Uhh…I have a family too! I wasn’t just dropped on Earth to raise myself.

              I also think I got paid less because I was single and young living with a roommate. Super frustrating.

          3. Batgirl*

            The thing is, even if you’re the non earning partner, you do things for the relationship that are extremely valuable. Usually it’s something that’s too costly to outsource, like childcare. If as an employer you’re taking up that person’s time, the computation shouldn’t be ‘They’re clearly ok to give their all without financial compensation, jackpot!” It should be “This person needs to be properly compensated for their time because the work is valuable, their time is priceless and we aren’t planning on being a comfort to them in old age”.

    3. Lynn Whitehat*

      Ha. Imagine any of these people’s reactions if someone complained that they “needed”, say, a nice leather couch, but their budget was only $100. “The market is giving you information”, “the world doesn’t owe you anything”, etc. Oh, but when they need someone with valuable skills and they “don’t have the budget”, that is because people are lazy nowadays. Not because the market is giving them information about what those skills are worth.

    4. Anon Anon*

      During 2008/2009, I’d see job ads in my industry with unrealistic expectations and salaries all the time. A company would be hiring for a receptionist and they’d want a person to have a degree, 3-5 years of industry experience, and be paying 17K. Then they’d wonder why they had so many problems hiring staff.

      1. LunaLena*

        The problem in 2008/2009 is that that was the height of the recession, though. So employers COULD lowball and ask for crazy skills and still get people to apply. I had a friend in Major City who was job-searching during that time and said she saw a job listing for a data entry position that required several years of experience and a master’s degree that paid $10/hr. Despite being an insanely talented artist and storyteller (she later independently published a graphic novel she’d been working on for years and won industry awards for it), she ended up waitressing for over a year to pay the bills.

        In fact, when the recession finally waned and she was able to find a job in her field again, she drew a series of comics about that year. They’re still online, and are funny in a if-you-didn’t-laugh-you’d-have-to-cry kind of way. If anyone’s interested I can post the link.

    5. Springella*

      Two more observations: many employers also post what I call “fluffy” jobs descriptions, something quite general and vague, nothing concrete or tangible because they don’t know what they want. I’ve learnt to recognize such ads and I don’t bother to apply anymore.

      The mirror image are ads who are far too specific that it’s not easy or almost impossible to find a suitable employee for. You know, we need an African American teapot painter from Minnesota with grey eyes who wears cashmere sweaters and who’s learnt how to paint left side of teapots in blue (all essential criteria) in east Sichuan near a middle sized river from a woman between 155 – 162 cm tall who regularly wears red scarves (all essential criteria). Plenty of those around, too and I also don’t bother with them either.

      Ah yes, and computer algorithms …

      But the problems are snowflake millenials and technophobic older workforce and not employers with ignorant expectations and requirements.

  15. LawBee*

    LW3 – I can’t see anything in your letter that separates your situation from anyone else commuting to work. You’re already better off financially than you were before thanks to not having to buy the bus pass – take the W.

  16. Valegro*

    I once saw an ad looking for something similar to letter #2. It was a newish business looking for someone with a graduate degree PLUS two different advanced skills that are usually $$$ in our industry due to high demand. They straight up said that they couldn’t pay very much and expected you to chip in with housekeeping because “everyone helps out around here and I wouldn’t ask you to do something I wouldn’t.” A bunch of us in the field passed it around and laughed uproariously. They now have a reputation of the place that does the equivalent of expecting the orthopedic surgeon to clean up his OR after each surgery for a pittance.
    Does your boss expect to expand the business or hire more people? Is it a smallish or close community in your field? This could really get a bad reputation around and drive off qualified individuals.

    1. Springella*

      Oh yes, “But but … I also chip in and work for free over the weekend!”

      Yes rocket scientist, you own the business and work for yourself and your employee works for you. I’ve got an acquaintance like this, she owns and runs a successful business (very good) but continues to be baffled why her employees refuse to work for free.

      1. Ray ray*

        Haha! It’s amazing how people forget that they have something to gain from it all but others don’t. I seem to remember that There was a good letter on that very topic once where a business owner was so shocked that people weren’t willing to work for free.

    2. JustaTech*

      I think I saw that ad posting, some web developer wanted the moon and stars and you needed to bring in 10,000 pounds of sales every month, and clean the kitchen and answer the phones and and and, and have at least a decade of experience in all kinds of technology, and the starting salary was 25K (pounds).

      It was so over the top I thought it was a joke, but no, someone really thinks they’re going to hire a rockstar to work unpaid overtime for 25K. Lol, no.

  17. Former Grad Student*

    OP #2, have you looked at what typical graduate stipends are at the schools you’re trying to recruit from? When I was in grad school, the minimum stipend the university required for grad students on assistantship worked out to $20,000 a year – and this was 6 years ago in a state with a low cost of living. You might try pointing out to your boss that most people don’t want to continue making a grad student salary once they have their degrees.

      1. Former Grad Student*

        Exactly. $20k was the minimum allowed for masters students, but there was a higher minimum for the PhD students and many departments paid more than the minimum.

    1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      I work at an R1 in a Midwest city with a fairly reasonable cost of living, and we just raised our graduate student stipend. For any master’s or non-PhD doctoral student who gets a 12-month stipend, they’re making at least $16K, and the PhDs are making at least $21K — and that’s the absolute minimum for 20 hours/week. I’ve seen as high as $33K for our most competitive programs with grant funding.

      $20K for 40 hour/week is insulting.

  18. James*

    #1: One thing to remember is that work culture matters a LOT in this sort of thing. Some places have a “butts in seats” mentality–if you’re not physically there, you’re on vacation. Others have a “work produced” mentality–you could be sitting on beach for all I care, as long as that TPS report gets in by noon on Friday. For jobs with more physical tasks (construction, maintenance, factory work, that sort of thing) “butts in seats” makes sense; you have to physically be there to do it. For 99% of office work, though, getting the work done is (or at least should be) the important thing. You can fill out a PDF form from anywhere, after all!

    There is one caveat that I’ve seen. People early in their careers need to put more time in at the office than established people. At least where I work, a big part of your early career is networking with internal clients–in other words, convincing people to work with you. And part of that is knocking on doors and getting people to recognize your face. Unfortunately in a matrix-management style office there’s no one feeding you work; you have to go hunt for it. And if you’re not in the office that’s not as easy. It’s the whole out of sight, out of mind thing. A good manager and good team members will take the pandemic into account–and I’d say someone who is able to take an honest look at the risks and come up with a viable solution is an asset–but again, it comes down to office culture.

    Either way, you’re in a better position to know your culture than your dad is. Nothing against your father, it’s just that to know a culture you need to live a culture. I’ve had similar conversations with my father, where he gave me advice that would work fantastically in his company but which would get me fired.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      And all of that is presented with the caveat that OP’s health should matter more than their desire for a promotion. Even if boss wants face time with OP, boss should still understand if OP prefers working from home right now, especially if the stated company policy is that it’s fine to do so.

      1. James*

        I was speaking more generally. Obviously the pandemic impacts things. Again, local effects are important–USA Today ran a story the other day about the differences between states, some had declining cases, some had rising. If you’re in an area with a rising case count you have a lot more room to push back against coming into the office.

    2. Smithy*

      As of 6 months ago, our office and my team specifically had enough of a “butts in seats” culture that even when forced to adopt more remote work policies due to lack of desks, I always encouraged junior direct reports to never pick both Monday and Friday as their remote work days because leadership would interpret that as “long weekends”.

      COVID has really hit home the reality that without in-person business meetings, almost none of our work needs to be done in the office. However, just because that’s made the technical work product clear, it doesn’t mean the overall culture of face-time has gone away. Not that I think it means the OP or anyone should race back into the office, however, if you know your work culture is big of face-time I do think you can work remote and do the following that both help with optics and network building.

      – Always use video whenever possible on meetings – less important on very large meetings, but still utilize those times to give “face”. If possible or relevant, be more mindful of speaking up/asking questions – standard “eager student” advice.
      – Proactively schedule virtual catch-ups, either one on one or in small groups. Knowing your culture, it can either be business oriented in nature (i.e. Sr. Teapot Associate Best Practices) or more social.
      – Seek opportunities to either volunteer as a mentor junior staff or support new hires. Or, talk to your manager about how to seek a mentor within your organization.

      If you don’t feel like you get your team/organization culture – certainly feel free to ask if there are recommendations on whether taking the time to plan a digital happy hour “pub quiz” is more aligned vs every other month requesting coffee with the head of your department. Lots of workplaces still will ultimately reward people putting in the networking/face-time work as opposed to strict work output. But even if you don’t go into the office, there are effective ways that can be done remotely.

      1. James*

        “– Always use video whenever possible on meetings”

        I strongly disagree here. The company I work for never uses video on meetings; there are too many other more useful things to put onscreen. Time spent looking at my ugly mug is time spent not looking at actual data, which means it’s time wasted.

        That said, it goes back to culture. My company has a culture of not showing our faces during virtual meetings, so doing so is weird. If your company has a culture where being on-screen is the norm, obviously you should follow that. It’s one of those things that you have to learn for yourself, though.

        1. Smithy*

          You’re absolutely right – I think with all “how do I get promoted” questions, knowing your office’s culture and practices is truly crucial. And for someone early in their career or just new to an organization, taking the time to figure those pieces out matters.

          But ultimately, tech does provide many ways to “show face” – both highly literal and not. And learning that about where you work can only help you.

        2. Brain the Brian*

          Yes, this is very culture-dependent. Where I work, we had a strong butts-in-seats culture pre-COVID, but we have offices and collaborate with colleagues in over a dozen countries. Because of the limited Internet connectivity in some of our field offices, we have a very, very strong company-wide culture of No Video Unless It’s Absolutely Necessary on calls / remote meetings — because trying to receive or broadcast video can mean the connection just plain drops for a lot of our overseas staff. Of course, the butts-in-seats culture has all but evaporated over the past few months for back-office positions, but that bias *against* video has, much to my relief, remained!

          All to say: you know your workplace culture, and your dad doesn’t.

        3. Not Lois Frankel*

          Time spent looking at my ugly mug is time spent not looking at actual data, which means it’s time wasted.

          I strongly disagree with that. You learn a lot from body language, including facial expressions. (You may learn a lot more when meetings are in person; picking up on subtle cues is a superpower in the business world, which is one more reason why I think office workers are going to be a lot more promotable than remote works.) But seeing and hearing people is better than only hearing them.

      2. SpookySzn*

        OP here. I think all the comments in the thread make total sense. Having remote workers isn’t a totally foreign concept for my workplace. We also had multiple work from home days available prior to the pandemic. Based on that info, hopefully it’s within office culture norms to not have “butts in seats” :)

    3. Hillary*

      I’d add to the caveat – even in a straight line org you learn a lot by osmosis. Part of it’s hard skills – how we approach x, this is how you do this weird thing in the system, and so on. But it’s also soft skills like listening to interactions and negotiations. The best way to learn how a manager handles a tricky situation is to listen to it happen and debrief after.

      Outside the current situation, we don’t generally want our junior roles to be 100% WFH or remote. Face time is too important to their development.

  19. Turquoisecow*

    Op3, I work part time from home. It was explained to me that trips to the office do not count as work, just as they would not have counted as work when I was working entirely in the office. If I’m going to one of our retail locations, which I used to do occasionally before the pandemic, that counts as work. I was told to punch in before traveling to one of those spots and not punch out until I got home. I believe the full time workers also count the traveling time as part of their total work time – that is, if they spent an hour getting to and from the store, then they work 7 hours at the store and this counts as a day. But since the office only employees aren’t paid for their commute to the office, neither is anyone else.

    My trip to the office is usually longer than my trip to a store (part of the reason why I work remotely!) and I go to stores rarely, but the setup makes sense to me.

  20. SweetestCin*

    OP 2 – for perspective, 20 years ago I was paid about 25% more than $20K annually for an entry level architectural draftsperson position. There was no presumption that I had an “advanced degree”, and the entry level nature made it possible to technically DO the job if you had the skillset, you just weren’t likely to advance without at least a BS degree. We also had absolutely spectacular benefits that (wait for it) cost us employees not a single penny out of our paychecks. Complete excellent healthcare, crazy accrual of vacation time, paid sick time, complete dental and optical, family leave that resembled a European nation.

    I was also quite young and on my own so few responsibilities. I would never have been able to have a stable household in that particular city on that salary…and that was 20 years ago.

    At best, your boss is completely out of touch. I do hope you put the salary in the job description.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      Adding to that –

      In 1985, with just a BA in English, my first job out of college, in Texas, which has no state income tax, I made $20K. I didn’t pay a penny for any of my incredibly generous benefits (I have never gotten such good insurance since), we got all federal holidays, and the only thing I ever heard about sick days was, “If you’re sick, don’t come to work.” No OT, but our official work week was 37.5 hours and we pretty much kept to that.

      For someone to expect to pay only $20K today for anything other than just plopping a living body in a chair is offensive.

  21. Impska*

    I think the reasonableness of the letter 2 job offer depends on how good that profit split is. I’m guessing current profit is somewhere around $0 after paying an additional $20,000 salary. But if the profit share is 75/25 with the 75 going to the new person, and the old partner wants to pass his firm onto someone in the next few years, some people may find it attractive. Someone who is good at closing clients but short on experience could grow the client list while benefiting from the guidance and review of the older partner.

    What if the new person feels they could add $100,000 if profit in the next year?

    This is the optimistic view. These situations never seem to quite work out, mostly because the old partner refuses to let go and the partnership agreement is not a true partnership but rather salary plus commission, where the new partner has no actual right to the client list. Even if the old partner wants to retire, they usually expect the new person to buy them out at a value based on the profit that the new person built on their own.

    In truth, most good candidates are better served by starting their own fresh practice after working a couple of years at a normal salary for experience.

    1. A Partner*

      And also what the partnership agreement is. I’m in partnership – as a firm we have been around nearly 400 years and that longevity has benefits that starting a fresh practice doesn’t.
      When we take on a new partner (which is generally from within, rather than advertising for an external candidate, because we feel it is better on both sides to know the people you are going into partnership with) we have a 5-year ‘ladder’ where a new partner starts off with a smaller % of the profit, as they have less capital invested, and gradually build up both capital and % over the 5 years. We also have a 2 tier system of profit sharing which has a (relatively low) set amount for ‘1st tier profits’ and then the remainder as 2nd tier profit share which is based on a % of the profit.

      It’s designed this way as it allows a degree of certainty about monthly income, which is useful for personal budgeting. In practice, it can mean that the new partner gets more than they would get on a straight profit share basis, especially in the first year or so, but it helps ease the transition from employee to equity partner and makes it less likely that they are unable to become a partner because they can’t put in a large capital amount on day one.

      With a set up like that, $20,000 + share of profit *might* be OK if the $20,000 was the guaranteed minimum and there was a fair agreement for how profit was shared, but it’s a very weird way to advertise it – if you were advertising for a partner I would expect to to be on the basis of either advertising and inviting negotiation, or advertising on the basis of a realistic salary with partnership prospects. Itdoes sound less like partnership than a salary + commission / profit share arrangement.
      That said, it doesn’t sound as though it is LW’s responsibility to fix – if she is instructed to put the advert out in these terms then she can does so, and her boss will probably find that he gets few, if any responses. She can of course flag up for him what sort of salaries a job woukld noramlly command, and suggest that hif he is looking for a partner rather than an employer that he may need to be clearer, but ultimately not her problem to fix

  22. Health Insurance Nerd*

    LW1- I think that this is a very generational mindset to working from home. Pre-COVID I worked remotely one day a week, and my dad would always refer to it as “working from home” with the heavy implication that it was essentially a day off. No amount of explaining could make him understand that on my remote day I was actually much more productive than I was in the office due to a better ability to focus and lack of distractions.

    The promotion piece does hold some water- but there are ways to mitigate that; make your presence known on calls, don’t be afraid to speak up, volunteer for committees- even though you are not physically there you still have opportunities to make a name for yourself and stand out.

    1. pancakes*

      Mindsets aren’t generational. Whatever your dad’s age is, there are other people the same age who understand working remotely.

      1. Liz*

        So you don’t think that, generally, those who entered the workforce in the 80s tend to be more wedded to the “butt in seat” philosophy than those who entered the workforce post-2000?

        I agree that there are exceptions to every rule, but in my experience as an older Millennial, there’s a definite generational difference on the WFH issue. And no reason there shouldn’t be — you’re influenced by the environment in which you began working. Most jobs were very hard to do from home pre-internet so it wasn’t as though it was really an option. And those who entered the workforce when it wasn’t unusual to retire (with a pension) from your first employer obviously will have a different perspective than those who started working during the tech boom or Great Recession.

        1. pancakes*

          I think you’re changing the subject a bit by shifting it from age brackets to “entered the workforce” brackets. I’m gen-x and worked for several years before going to grad school and re-entering the workforce in a very different field, and I know too many other people from assorted other age groups who’ve done the same for this way of thinking to make much sense to me. There are still many, many places in the US where jobs are hard to do from home because high-speed internet isn’t available or affordable. There are parts of every state that don’t have broadband. I think that’s likely a much bigger factor holding people back from working from home than rigid ideas about butts in seats, and I don’t think rigidity about butts in seats is as generational as it’s made out to be.

  23. M2*

    #1 My dad has worked for one of the largest tech firms. He has for decades and has been able to WFH and in another state from US HQ since the beginning. He travelled there frequently but decided it was better to stay where we lived. He is at a senior director level but did tell me if he worked at HQ he was told he would be at an SVP level by now. He did loose promotions because he was not in the office all the time but he was happy with his decision because it helped with better work/ life balance. He didn’t care and got enough promotions by working from home. We also saw him and he had weekends and most nights off. He said he would not have had that if he worked at HQ.

    It is clearly different than the pandemic now but I think it’s something to think about LONG term if you decide to WFH for years.

  24. AlNotTheOneandOnly*

    #1 – Times are changing. The people who were out of touch before on jobs before are now even moreso. One of the best things to come out of the pandemic is the technology. It was there before but now that people have been forced to use it, it has proved itself. The big question is now WHY should we have everything back as it was ? Home working has been proved to be a fit for many people, managers are realising there is no difference, in fact its often easier to skive in the office rather than at home.
    One huge company I know has resolved to have only 60% occupancy in their Brussels, Belgium office. Their staff get 2 days WFH. That saves the staff about 6 hours a week on average in commuting, it also saves the company 6 hours worth of fuel from people sitting in traffic jams because most people have a fuel card. Win Win situation

    1. MassMatt*

      I agree, WFH had been a growing trend anyway and the pandemic has forced many die-hard opponents to adopt it. It’s not the right fit for everyone so some people want to go back to the office and some employers are going to try to force it, but overall the toothpaste is not going back in the tube.

  25. Fergus_paints_icky_gross_chocolate_llama_teapots*

    Removed. Do not spread misinformation about the virus here. – Alison

    1. Shhhh*

      I think the “virtual ink” Alison “spent” on tips on how to stay visible when not physically in the office was actually well worth it, though.

      I also think that advice columnists with large readerships are right to take a cautious view of the situation at hand.

    2. James*

      “For all the virtual ink wasted in response to the first letter, the answer could have simply been “What he said is true.” ”

      Not necessarily. Again, it depends on company culture. A company with a strong culture of working from home, or a company with a strong culture of health and safety, may not consider working from home during a pandemic to be a problem–they may in fact view it as a positive, since it shows the employee is actively looking to make the office safer. The company I work for even has a system specifically for reporting actions employees take to make work safer.

      If the OP spins it as “I recognize that not everyone on public transportation will take reasonable precautions and I do not want to risk becoming a vector for spreading this disease” (add something about at-risk folks in the office if applicable) the OP would probably get a commendation in my company, if not a bit of a bonus! That certainly doesn’t hurt one’s chances for promotion.

      That said, a company with a strong culture of “Do what it takes to get the job done” is going to expect folks to show up at the office.

      The reality is, though, that the father almost certainly doesn’t know the company culture. The person working in the company does. So the father’s advice should be taken with a very hefty grain of salt. It is something to be aware of, one factor among many that must be weighed when making this decision–but the amount of weight this factor has can’t be determined by the father. He simply doesn’t have enough information.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      It really comes down to how OP’s management looks at the virus, and the possibility of their workforce being hit by it. Yeah they might not all die from it, but from the experience of the people I know who had it, they will be out of work for weeks, and will be likely to have health issues afterwards. And I guess the management would also have to think that losing their immune-deficient workers is not a big deal, as it does not matter if they die?

      It did not appear to me from OP1’s letter that this is where their management stands.

      With that in mind, people coming into work when they don’t have to (and taking public transportation to get there) might make the opposite impression on the management of what you are saying they will. They will not appear dedicated, they will appear careless and willing to put their teammates out of work for weeks (at the very least). If there’s a company that gives out raises and promotions for that, I’m not sure I would want to work at one.

    4. Khatul Madame*

      C’mon, showing up is not measured in face time anymore. Remote work, fortunately or not, allows workers to be responsive and “dedicated” at all hours (at the expense of work-life balance, but this is not central to the topic at hand).
      And even if staying home longer delays a promotion or an opportunity, there will be others later. OP will have plenty of time to get ahead.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Exactly – I work in one of the most old-school, facetime-intensive industries there is, and we managed to switch to remote within less than a week with very few hiccups along the way. My employer has not reopened out office (densely populated area, lots of workers who rely on public transit) and will not do so until they are confident it can be done safely. In the gradual re-entry approach, we have been specifically asked to encourage people to stay home, unless there’s a compelling reason for them to come in. Never in a million years did I thinkk I’d see the shift from the expectation you were in the office from dawn to dusk or “not committed enough” to what we’re seeing now. Our telecommuting policy is being entirely rewritten from draconian to modern day with strong support from leadership.

        My work/life balance has improved markedly since I’ve been at home, as have many of my peers’. Instead of commuting two-plus hours a day, I’m having dinner with my family and playing board games with my kids. My position requires me to be available pretty consistently, so I certainly am interrupted in “off” hours, but that’s not new. I love rolling out of bed for my 9 a.m. start time at 8:45, too, and the coffee is way better than the office pot.

    5. virago*

      Yes, we get it, you think COVID-19 is essentially as much of a threat as the common cold for everyone who isn’t elderly and/or immunocompromised. “Pff, why are they so rigid about wearing masks?”

      That said, I agree with James that OP 1 is the only person who is in a position to know whether WFH presents a risk to OP 1’s career advancement, or whether OP 1’s boss groks that butts + seats in the same place does not equal productivity.

      My 83-year-old father (and 84-year-old mother) understand that I am working my gluteal muscles off even if said gluteii are parked next to my old “Chronicles of Narnia” collection.

      Dad was a mechanical engineer for a small manufacturer and traveled a lot for business; Mom was an R.N. and a visiting nurse. Sounds like OP 1’s dad had/has the kind of job that values “butts in seats” and he can’t extend his imagination to see how other careers work. Too bad!

    6. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      Wow. And if that tiny amount of people who died included two of your family members, you might not have such a callous attitude.

      1. PB*

        Agreed. And with 120,000 deaths and climbing in the US alone, I can’t begin to think of COVID-19 as tiny. Even if the death rate is comparatively low relative to the number of infections, this is a serious illness. Many people survive it and face severe complications, including stroke, blood clots, inflammation, and lifelong lung scarring. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that people who can stay home should, for their own health and the health of others. Until there’s a reliable treatment, we really need to limit the spread of this as much as possible. Distancing, while not foolproof, is the best way to do that.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        I don’t know about you, but I just love it when I and my toddler are treated as disposable.

      3. pancakes*

        Or not. People who take this stance this often don’t seem to have loved ones so much as people whose presence they endure, and who endure them.

      4. Colette*

        And you don’t calculate the rate based on how many people have died from the disease out of everyone in the world.

    7. Anon Anon*

      Honestly, it really depends on the company and how they’ve been responding to this crisis. My employer has told everyone that WFH is mandatory until 2021 and that you may not be in the office without permission from HR and your manager. I know other organizations either have similar policies and/or they are doing phased re-openings and encouraging WFH. In fact, most responsible organization’s I know are requiring at least some of their staff to WFH, because that is the only way they can make sure that social distancing can occur.

      Butt in seat time probably is necessary for an organization that doesn’t think COVID is a big deal. But, it doesn’t sound like the OP’s organization is one of those organizations. And the OP’s dad seems wildly out of touch. His comments remind me of something that my dad might say (my dad who’s been retired for 20 years with zero idea of what contemporary work place norms are).

    8. Anne Elliot*

      With all due respect, this was kind of my take on Alison’s answer to the first question too. Everyone is making difficult personal evaluations as to what is safe, what is in their best interest, what is in other people’s best interest. But the POV that frequently appears here (and elsewhere) is that _obviously_ we _all_ will do what’s best for The Collective, disregarding our own situations and what’s best for us, and if you fail to do that you’re either selfish or stupid or both.

      But maybe if I get promoted I can move my family to a better neighborhood. Maybe if I get promoted I can send my kid to college. Maybe if I get promoted I can quit my second job. Or spend more time with my family. Or even just move myself along a career path in a field where I really want to achieve. So leaving aside Alison’s ellipses that strongly implied his position was unbelievable, yes, the OP’s dad may well think there’s room to evaluate whether the potential reward is worth the potential risk. That’s not actually a ridiculous position to take. And there _is_ risk. Some companies will promote those who are physically present, even if it’s just based on the psychology of “I know her, I know she does good work, I know she works hard, she’s here every day.” We can all say that this should _not_ be how things work (especially now), but that doesn’t make it untrue. There are risks to not being in the office, in a company or agency that does not historically utilize and may not value remote work. The father is not unreasonable, selfish, or stupid to make sure the OP understands there may be a trade-off here. That said, it sounds like the OP _has_ evaluated the situation and believes they have made the right decision. I would not let the dad’s concerns override that personal decision.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        You have a point. There is a risk a promotion will take longer to come if she WFH, and OP’s father is certainly not a selfish monster for alerting her of this risk. So OP should really weigth the risk to her carreer, and the risk to her health (and her family, her coworkers, etc). And there is also a health risk, even for otherwise healthy people, no matter how cavalierly some people are treating the pandemic.

        But one thing OP should also weight in this equation. Would a promotion even be feasible at all this year? So many indrustries are doing mass lay-offs and raise-freezes, it’s probably a reasonable bet to assume there would be no promotion wether somebody is in the office or not. So OP knows best about her own industry, but it’s worth thinking about the real reward potential of the health risk.

        1. Reba*

          Yes, OP is not being asked to choose between “definitely getting a promotion if you come in” and “never getting a promotion if you stay home.” That’s just not the premise. There is a lot more ambiguity in this situation that she has to weigh.

          (From the letter it doesn’t even sound like a promotion is on the near horizon! it’s just something dad said about “the future.”)

          OP, you doubtlessly know more about your workplace culture than your parent, though it’s good that you came here for a gut-check about the parental advice. Sure, many people will share your dad’s point of view. If you can, I think looking to mentors and others in your company or field — such as your boss, who said it was just fine!!! — for input is a better bet.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        But this presumes that the dad is definitely correct that staying home would be interpreted by the company as something worth holding the OP back over. That is not a given. So it’s not just risk of going in vis a vis health vs potential reward of promotion. The math is more complex than that. There are many many many employers where the dad’s premise is simply not the case at all. So the OP needs to first gauge the company culture, and the OP is likely in a better position to judge that than the dad.

    9. Wednesday*

      You are spreading misinformation about the virus. I have not idea where you are getting 99.9% survival rate but it’s not true.

      1. James*

        I’ve had a few discussions with folks knowledgeable about this stuff (microbiologists, statisticians, that sort of folks–I have an odd assortment of friends). Calculating rates during the event is REALLY hard. The naive take is “death rates divided by infection rates”, but that’s necessarily an over-estimate since some people infected may still die. Unfortunately, any other measure is an estimate based on a number of assumptions, any of which may be good or bad.

        Case studies–for example, the cruise ships–are the best bet, in my mind, of capturing an accurate view of the virus’ behavior and mortality rate. Unfortunately, even there there are a number of complications.

        For a long time, quite frankly the numbers you chose said more about you than the virus (“you” in the general sense, not you specifically). If you wanted the virus to look big and scary, you chose higher numbers; if you wanted it to look like a slightly more nasty version of a flu, well, there were justifiable numbers to show that as well. Now we can say a few things with more certainty (comorbidity is a huge factor in mortality rate, nursing homes account for some 45%+ of deaths, etc), but we’re only now coming to a point where we have anything approximating solid numbers. We won’t know the mortality rate until the dust settles. (And that’s made harder by the fact that some areas are inflating the numbers, while others are playing games to keep the numbers low.)

        And it must always be remembered that 1) figures can’t lie but liars can figure–caveat emptar applies to the marketplace of ideas as well as the marketplace of goods, and 2) our knowledge of the situation is constantly changing, which is what scientific investigation is supposed to do.

    10. Smithy*

      Putting aside COVID-19 entirely, where I think you and the OP’s dad are missing the point is that face-time, gumption, going above and beyond, etc. can all be done without physically being in the office.

      When I joined my team 3 years ago, only 1 person was full time remote due to working in a geography outside our HQ and heavily motivated by face-time opportunities. Due to the team’s success/global expansion (pre-pandemic), more than half of the team is no longer located in HQ – some full time remote, others in different country offices. Offering ideas and volunteering to coordinate activities for how the team could better connect virtually were as valuable as other “in the office” work.

      Being remote all the same “gumption” work can be done – being available during off hours, volunteering for committees/working groups, seeking a mentor, setting up networking meetings. Certainly it’s tweaked a bit for remote vs. in person, and 100% it depends on where you work for how to better refine tactics – but so much can still be done remotely.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Good point – even when remote work was typically not allowed, our team was spread across several states and time zones. I have people on my team I’ve never seen in person, that I have successfully worked with for years.

        1. Smithy*

          My team is truly not on the cutting edge of Zoom – so the first person to integrate Zoom Surveys and Zoom breakout groups into a large team meeting receive all sorts of accolades. If someone junior were to take the time to really learn Zoom/offer to lead or just organize large meetings or remote retreats, that would get way more positive attention than coming into the office.

    11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Like, even before Covid, I had a coworker become an instant office joke when he came into work with pinkeye in both eyes, and went straight to the manager’s office to humblebrag about how dedicated he was. By the time I came into work an hour later (both coworker and manager liked to keep very early hours), coworker had already been sent home, and acquired a new nickname “Typhoid Mary”. No promotions came out of it for the coworker. And I never heard of anyone die from pinkeye. Why does OP1’s dad think the management’s reaction would be any different with Covid? Unless he exited the workforce 20+ years ago and has no idea what he’s talking about.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I used to work with a guy who had a very ill daughter at home who if she got a respiratory infection would be in serious danger. One day another of our coworkers came in with a flu-like infection (fever, coughing, aching joints) and this guy about near hit the roof he was so angry. “You give that to me and I take it home to my daughter and she’ll likely die!” he yelled clear across the office. Our boss finally insisted that flu guy just go home and rest.

        (This was maybe 13 years ago? I can’t remember much about the ultimate outcome aside from the fact that daughter remained safe and flu guy was referred to as ‘plague pit’ for a while)

    12. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Even if the 99.9% survival rate was true (it’s not) people are forgetting those who do survive the virus but are left with long term health issues. I believe that is going to impact on a lot of companies in the near future.

      I’ve lost people to this virus, it’s a real fear. The pandemic isn’t over and while it’s still ongoing I believe that firms should realise that things are going to be abnormal for a while yet – people looking out for their health first (or the health of loved ones) is a good thing because it will slow down the spread of this and thus help bring about an end to this situation.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I also think that we don’t *know* what the survival rates and long term health impacts really are yet, and it’s super callous to just expect people to go about their lives like nothing’s wrong when it’s nearly impossible to make an educated calculation of risk at this stage. I *think* my kids are low risk, but I’m not willing to gamble with their lives or lung capacity to be wrong.

        I’m terribly sorry you’ve lost people to this.

  26. Ancient Alien*

    #2 Ridiculously low salary
    I’ve worked for a similar boss/sole proprietor, so it is a little difficult for me to unpack all the issues you’ve mentioned without reading too much into them. You don’t give many details on the profit-sharing aspect of the compensation for this new role, but given that the boss is “close-minded”, it sounds like it will be extraordinarily difficult for someone to bring in new ideas/strategies to move the organization forward. As such, I get the feeling that the profit-sharing aspect of the compensation is going to be minimal based on what you’ve described. Perhaps that is not correct, but you also mention that this whole compensation scheme is highly unusual in your industry. Either way, due to the unusual nature of things, i think the terms need to be spelled out explicitly in any job ad. I could be totally incorrect about this, but it almost sounds like your boss is trying to lure/bait a smart but naive new grad into a situation that really isn’t going to be good for them in the long run.

    I’m really not trying to impugn your boss’s character, but I have found in my own experience that sometimes older managers/owners don’t account for normal economic inflation when they consider salaries for new hires. I believe the thinking is something along the lines of “well, my first job out of school paid X and i had to work my way up, so they need to do the same” (and they came out of school 30-40 years ago).

    The real test will be when you post the job ad with the salary information. When no one is applying, see how your boss reacts to that. If he starts to insist on keeping the salary information confidential until he has been able to interview the person, I think that is a strong indicator that he knows the salary is not fair or competitive (and I would have doubts about how “good” or “sweet” he is if this happens). On the other hand, if he sees that no one is applying and agrees to sweeten the pot (substantially), then you may be able to arrive at a favorable conclusion for everyone.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, I’ve known several older business owners/managers who really don’t seem to get that inflation exists. Or…. they conveniently “don’t get it” when that benefits them, at least.

      One told me excitedly, in 2003, that if I got REALLY GOOD at my job, maybe she’d pay me $5 an hour!

      (Minimum wage in my state at the time was $6.75.)

      The interview didn’t last long after that.

      1. Ancient Alien*

        LOL yep, been there and done that. To be fair, it’s not just older business owners that pull this stunt. My mega-corp considers a 1% increase to be a “good” merit increase. 1.5% is reserved for “stellar” performance only and is rarely given out.

        1. pancakes*

          Yikes. 1.5% is less than the last annual US cost-of-living adjustment to social security benefits.

          1. Ancient Alien*

            Lol yeah I know. I now make less than when i started the job 5+ years ago and I’m considered a “top performer”. Yes, I am job hunting.

    2. laughingrachel*

      Yeah whenever my dad complains about what I’m making (decent money but relative to my engineering brothers, fairly low) and one of my 65+ year old uncles starts going on about ‘kids these days’ and ‘I only made X at my first job, you just gotta put in the time’ I always just ask, “yeah and what were you paying in rent?” And then tell them how much my rent is. They’re always SHOCKED. Most of my cousins are living with an SO or in like Colo, IA, so as the only one who lives alone and the only one who moved out of the Midwest, their parents cannot BELIEVE what I pay in rent. Like yeah, I wish it was different too my dude. I’m not out here trying to say that 45k is a terrible salary for someone 4 years out of school, I’m just saying that you’re spending 20k of that on rent ALONE it doesn’t go as far as you think. Being able to live alone is becoming more and more of a luxury that is out of reach of a lot of people who want it, and I think that’s a bummer. I learned a lot about myself and independence by living alone.

      1. Ancient Alien*

        Yep, I know. My wife and I were just able to purchase our first home a few years ago in our early 40s and we are both professionals with master’s degrees that make “decent” money. Not engineer money, but decent money. And it’s a townhome that needs lots of work. We feel pretty fortunate about that so I’m really not trying to complain. But, considering that none of my or my wife’s parents even went to college at all, it is pretty stunning how they were able to buy a larger home much earlier in life and have larger families.

  27. Justme, the OG*

    LW4, are you sure you want to work for a company with no boundaries and understanding of professional norms? Because that is more than enough to make me never want to work for them ever again.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      The company may be fine, but this particular manager was thoughtless? It isn’t clear to me that the new job would be under the same manager.

  28. queen b*

    I love my dad, he is very well meaning. But – parents give out some of the WORST job searching advice!!!

    1. JM in England*

      Tell me about it!

      My mam persisted in the thought that the most highly qualified applicant always get the job. Try as I might, could never convince her that other factors come into play such as whether your face fits etc….

      1. queen b*

        I received an interview for a different job but I started my new job a week ago. My dad’s like, it couldn’t hurt!! Just do it!! Uh, no I think it could be pretty reputation damaging to job hop!!

    2. virago*

      Exactly! And it’s not just a matter of age, either.

      My dad is 83 and my mom is 84. They each had jobs that required them to be productive out of sight of the boss. Pre-retirement, Dad was a mechanical engineer for a small manufacturer and traveled *a lot* — including overseas — for work; Mom was an R.N. and a visiting nurse.

      Fortunately, they understand that I’m working my butt off, even though my butt is now parked next to my old “Chronicles of Narnia” collection. But a lot of people think “If I do it this way, and I succeeded, then it must be The Right Way.”

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      I will forever be grateful that while my parents could not figure out FAFSA loans (thanks for that 8% interest student loan, guys), they *do* have an excellent grasp on workplace norms. Mom is fantastic at reviewing resumes & cover letters, and Dad always has great advice on negotiating. Mom was who I called when a boss some jobs ago kept asking me if I was anorexic. Dad was who I called when I had a very troublesome employee or when I wasn’t sure how to manage my boss’s inconsistent decisions while still doing my job.

    4. Tabby Baltimore*

      Which is why I read this blog religiously, so that I avoid doing exactly like that.

  29. Bookworm*

    #1: Nope. You’re also trying to work during a pandemic with all of the dangers and hassles (a grocery store trip usually doesn’t have so many barriers for most people…). Lower productivity *can* be an issue for some people, which is why some companies did away with WFH but it doesn’t mean you’re not as good or have less gumption or whatever. Especially since you’d have to take mass transit–it seems like you and your company are being sensible about it.

    #4: It doesn’t hurt to try again. If you have a good relationship or ended on good terms with that manager, no reason why not. I personally haven’t had any luck re-applying anywhere (but did end up working with a manager who passed on my application years ago in a different organization). Good luck!

  30. EventPlannerGal*

    OP3: I don’t really understand why you are asking your employer for this, let alone wondering if you should ask again. This isn’t an extra outlay, you’re saving money on your original commute. It’s a little odd to be thinking of this as a “goodwill gesture” – are you feeling unrecognised in other areas or something? Do you feel like your employers are taking your visits to the office for granted and want some kind of recognition? Otherwise I just don’t get why a few dollars a month for parking that you would have been paying anyway would be worth arguing over.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Right. Maybe it makes sense to ask for reimbursement if costs were more than usual, but I can’t understand asking when they’re less than usual. For example, if you couldn’t take cheap public transit any longer and now faced exorbitant parking fees or Uber costs. But even then, I don’t think it’s an employer responsibility.

      I agree with EventPlannerGal that the real issue here could be recognition.

    2. Reba*

      Re: recognition, yes, I had the feeling it has to do with OP still having transit costs (low as they are) while most of her coworkers have no transit costs right now, and that’s compounded by her taking on risks that others presumably aren’t.

      I still don’t think reimbursement really makes sense, but I can get why it is not sitting quite right with her.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, exactly – like, I have to go into my office every week for similar reasons to OP and I do sometimes feel like “oh, so I have to take the risk of going in while you all sit at home and does anyone even care?” But even if that’s what’s going on, I just don’t think it’s worth haggling over a few dollars.

    3. Cheluzal*

      I think because there are so many accommodations and changes happening now no one knows where the bar is so they took a gamble. Swing and a miss on this one.

  31. SomebodyElse*

    I, like others, am very confused where OP 3 is coming from on this one. Basically what you described is normal ‘going to the office’ activities, even if you are ‘wfh’ right now.

    I think you need to drop this line of thinking and don’t request reimbursement. At best you’d get a very confused look from your boss and at worst you will be forever thought of as someone who makes unreasonable requests and lacks judgement.

  32. Mrs.Bean*

    I would like to hear from the OP or anyone who thinks it is the company’s responsibility to pay for the commute and parking to get to your job. This question has come up often here and I never understand it.
    I had someone tell me in an interview “My husband said I should ask for $10,000 more a year because I live almost 2 hours away, and that is a long drive.”
    My answer was “If you choose to apply for a job outside the commuting area you are comfortable with, that is on you. Getting to and from work is up to you, not the company.”
    The one exception is when I worked for a company that partnered with a domestic violence shelter to hire and train women who were living in the shelter. We provided them with a public transit pass for a few months until they were receiving a regular paycheck.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      This… I’ve seen and worked for companies that helped with cost in various ways for commuting and parking, but that was squarely in the benefit category and not responsibility category.

      Things like bus pass programs/partnerships, parking passes, and even drive the work truck home for a small fee ($3/week). Great perks if you ask me. But not something employees should expect or think has to be given.

      If a person wants to negotiate the difference in salary to cover commute costs, great. But it shouldn’t be cited as the company needs to defer the cost so they should pay more money. It should be negotiated as part of the overall compensation.

      1. emmelemm*

        Yeah, a lot of companies (around here at least) will offer you a free or subsidized transit pass because the city/county incentivizes them to do that because they’re trying to boost mass transit. But that’s definitely a perk, not an expectation, and it’s like, “Here’s a bus pass, take it or leave it”, not “You can have a bus pass or $X/month for your car expenses”.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Depending on where you live, it’s not always affordable to live in the city in which you work. And it’s not always possible to find a job where you live. I had one job in a very expensive city that either gave you a certain amount to use towards public transportation, or a discounted rate to park in the building’s garage. And that transportation cost needs to be taken into account when determining salary. If salary isn’t presented up front, it’s not wildly out of touch to ask for more if the commute justifies it. As for the OP though, requesting to be reimbursed to commute to a job that she commuted to before COVID was a thing IS wildly out of touch. If she wasn’t being reimbursed before, there should be no expectation of reimbursement now.

      1. Colette*

        Would you expect to take a pay cut if you moved closer to work? If not, why would you ask for more if you lived farther away?

        The company may want to raise the salaries overall if they otherwise can’t hire qualified people, but they should be paying based on what the job is worth, not individual employee’s personal expenses.

        1. pancakes*

          I’m in NYC and it’s quite standard here for employers to offer a transit benefit. Very few people get to work without public transportation. A monthly unlimited Metrocard is $127, and I think a monthly LIRR pass is around double that. Folding that benefit into salary would raise the salary a negligible amount and look out of touch.

          1. Buttons*

            I see it is a perk or benefit for employees, like a gym on site. It isn’t their responsibility but it generous of them.

          2. Colette*

            Sure, that kind of thing is normal – but it’s part of the benefits package, not because of where one particular employee lives.

            1. Reba*

              We get transit benefits, and you are supposed to ask for the amount (up to a certain cap) based the cost of your trip, i.e. people who live farther away are technically getting more of this benefit.

              I still think it’s fair though, because calculated another way, everyone is getting two trips per day paid for.

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          No, I wouldn’t expect to take a pay cut if I moved closer to work, just like I wouldn’t ask for a raise if I moved farther away. But the cost of commuting would certainly factor into my salary negotiations. If I had a short commute, I might be willing to accept a lower salary. There are many factors to take into account when discussing a salary, and I most certainly would never tell an interviewer that “my husband told me to ask for $10K more because we live far away”. But as I said it’s not wildly out of touch to ask for more (if qualified) to cover commuting costs with either a higher salary or as part of the benefits package.

    3. Ms Marple*

      Parking makes sense to me if you work in a location where parking is at a premium, costs money, and there isn’t good public transportation – like in my city. It’s reasonable to expect parking to be included as part of the overall compensation package in that case. Not as an extra $150/pay period or whatever, but given as part of the basic employee package. Here’s your ID, here’s your password for the computer, here’s your parking pass, here’s your phone number. The employee may have chosen where to live, but the employer chose where to put their office, and if they are in a place that has expensive paid parking, then a parking stipend or parking pass makes absolute sense to me.

      If my office relocated downtown and didn’t pay for parking, I would probably start looking for another job because it would be a pay cut of about $200/mo and public transportation isn’t an option where I live.

      It’s not the company’s responsibility, but it sure was something I took into account when evaluating job offers.

    4. Donkey Hotey*

      Maybe it’s me, but I can see the difference between an applicant saying “You should pay me more because I’m coming from farther away” and a person saying to themselves “I’m going to try to negotiate for a higher salary to balance out my higher commuting costs.”
      The former assigns a blame on the company. The latter is personal finance management.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, absolutely commute should be in the calculus of taking a job and accepting a salary. Your framing is right on, but I get what the previous poster is saying. I have had people come to me to ask for a raise because their rent was going up or they wanted to move further away and not because they were outperforming their current position or felt the market had shifted. We are aggressive about staying in market and will proactively adjust people, but we’re not going to review your lease and up your salary by whatever your annual rent increase is.

  33. SomebodyElse*

    Eeep… I must have have missed the part where this was already requested. Honestly that’s bad enough. Requesting again would squarely place you in the lacking judgement category if I was the OP’s boss.

  34. Archaeopteryx*

    OP1 even if working from home did make it look less dedicated (which it only would with unreasonable workplaces), it’s better to be dedicated to keeping yourself and other people safe than to be dedicated to your job at other people’s expense.

  35. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – I get SOOOO sick of people thinking that WFH = slacker. I’ve seen plenty of people slack off in the office. Your dad is out of touch. Bottom line, your manager said you can continue to WFH, so take them at their word.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, I have joked my boss I’m working harder and getting more done from home (as is she, but she’s super friendly and gets a lot more drive-bys than I do in the office). I am never late for work because the train is on fire, getting coffee takes me one minute a cup instead of the five to 10 it takes in the office with the single-serve machine, and I work 10 feet from the fridge for lunch and snacks. No one’s swinging by to chat – my kids are trying to avoid being noticed so I don’t make them put the electronics down or send them to do a chore, and my spouse has a dedicated workspace in the house a floor and a half away (WFHed nearly full-time before all this).

  36. Ann O'Nemity*

    #1: Your employee may not want everyone to come back to the office right away, especially if they’re endangering themselves (and others) to do it. My own employer also started allowing optional and limited returns to the office, but it was primarily for people who had trouble working from home. Terrible internet availability, unavoidable household distractions, etc. It was not intended to be a free-for-all. The people who need to come in are safer if the people who can stay home do stay home.

  37. Buttons*

    OP2, I would suggest searching for that job titled and salary ranges and see what comes up. $20,000 a year is $10 an hour! He can’t expect anyone qualified for a professional position to apply for that. We pay the teenage boys who help with yard work more than that.
    Glassdoor and other sites will give you some idea of what other companies are paying for a similar position. He needs to know what is an acceptable salary for someone with that level of education and responsibilities. He is very out of touch.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      That wouldn’t even be minimum wage in some areas. It’s far less than I received as a grad school stipend, less than McDonalds pays….

  38. Buttons*

    Over the last couple of weeks we have done a few things to check in with our employees. We had IT pull a report showing the average amount of time people were logged into the VPN and then we did a pulse survey to see how people are feeling. We saw exactly what I suspected, we are all working way more than usual. People are averaging 10 hours a day. From the Pulse survey people are feeling stressed out and feeling like they are home all the time, they can’t go anywhere, so they might as well work.
    I have worked from home for years, but because I can’t go anywhere I know I have been working more than usual. I have done so much I could, in theory, take the entire month of July off- I have that much work done in advance.
    I met with the CEO and head of HR yesterday, we are sending out a communication today to tell people to stop it! They need to take some time off. So we are giving people every Friday off, starting tomorrow, through the end of July, they do not have to use their own PTO. We are also encouraging people to take PTO even if it is for a staycation.
    Every study out there regarding WFH shows that there is a dip in productivity the first 4 weeks, but after that people are more productive, work more hours, and take less sick time.

    1. irene adler*

      Wonderful way to take care of your employees!
      And I like the proactive “take Fridays off” approach. Some folks just won’t take time off without some impetus to do so.

    2. D3*

      I know it looks like I’m working more hours every day, but honestly, it’s because I keep getting interrupted and have to step away for a minute or two to take care of something with my kids. So it takes me 9-10 hours to feel like I’ve done the work of an 8 hour uninterrupted day.
      I do think your plan is very kind and generous and I think your employees will appreciate that you see their work and have confidence in them.

      1. Buttons*

        We know that people with family members and kids at home are struggling to work without being interrupted, which causes its own kind of stress! They have earned those extra days off too. I hear from friends that they feel like they are spending their entire weekday either policing their kid to get their school work done or trying to get them to do something else so they can get some uninterrupted work done. Honestly, I think it will do the families and kids good to have a no work and no school day to just relax and spend time together.
        I am incredibly lucky to work for a company that encourages work-life balance and has always encouraged working from home when we needed or wanted to.

      2. Clisby*

        But were your days in the office uninterrupted? I worked remotely for 17-18 years, and the interruptions from my kids paled in comparison to the near-constant flow of people stopping by my office just to ask me a so-called “quick question.”

      1. Buttons*

        We aren’t checking time active, only hours logged into VPN. I know our employees well and they are a high performing bunch. There are always those who will cheat the system, but I think we have a far greater number of people who are working more hours than usual. Also, if someone isn’t getting their work done on time and of high quality it would be dealt with swiftly.
        We are very flexible with our work hours and time. If I have busted my butt all week to get something done and I am fried on Friday, no one would bat an eye if I took the day off without using PTO, because they know what I have been doing. We trust our employees and appreciate their hard work.

  39. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – That’s $20,000 a year, right? And asking for a graduate degree? Four problems with that horrible situation

    1) That’s not even “McDonald’s pay” in some corners of the country. For a 40 hour week it’s $10/hour. If the expression “you get what you pay for” holds true, no self-respecting person would accept this offer – and I always advise young IS/IT techs – DO NOT ACCEPT A LOWBALL OFFER – because you are level-setting yourself at that low level. It’s too damaging in the long term.

    2) Your boss has a bad concept of the labor market.

    3) If word gets out that you’re trying to recruit someone that way – and it will – you’re going to tattoo yourself as a firm “stay away – danger Will Robinson danger!” – and people will thing you’re interviewing candidates for your own amusement and not to find a serious working relationship.

    4) You’re wasting everyone’s time.

    The other thing to be wary of – is if you come across as a firm – especially in a small industry – the word will spread = “that place is a ZOO….” and it could hurt your business – and yourselves, if you ever have to go looking for work elsewhere.

    1. irene adler*

      All they need is a couple of Glassdoor reviews similarly detailing the particulars about the interviewing/hiring process (“grad degree required/pay is $10 an hour”) and an ugly reputation is assured.

    2. Clisby*

      I also wanted to know whether that $20,000 was for a full-time job. The OP refers to it as a “partner” position, so I’m guessing the answer is yes. But $20,000 seems pretty low to me compared to grad school teaching/research assistantship pay – which I think is typically for part-time work.

    3. James*

      “That’s $20,000 a year, right?”

      The thing is, we don’t know. $20k is the base pay, but the profit sharing is a wild card. If the profit sharing has been $100,000/month for the past ten years, I’d be willing to accept a lower base salary and take the risk. If the profit sharing has been $100/month, I’m going to walk away.

      What I’m curious about is WHY they went with profit sharing. Are there tax reasons? Is it seen as an incentive? Is it just how the company handles paying folks at a certain level? That’s also a factor. If the reason is because they can’t get people to apply otherwise, I’m likely going to walk away. If it’s because that’s their standard for partners in the firm, it’s much more reasonable.

  40. Quill*

    OP 1: please have a talk with your dad armed with the science of this virus. If he thinks it’s less severe than it actually is, he is probably putting himself, and anyone he lives with, at risk.

    1. James*

      It won’t make any difference. I know a lot of folks like the OP’s dad. In fact, I’ll admit to leaning that direction myself–it’s why they make me the safety officer, to reign that in (if I say “That’s not safe, you shouldn’t do that” it gets everyone’s attention!). My father, mother, grandparents, and most of my relatives are like this as well. Comes from growing up in poverty; we didn’t have a choice, we did the job or we didn’t eat.

      The thing about this attitude is that it’s not about ignoring risk. It’s a different risk assessment. Let’s say I’m a laborer on a toxic waste cleanup site in the South (I’m not, but let’s use this as a case study). I’m already exposed to toxic waste–it’s monitored under OSHA, but it’s an exposure none the less. It’s the South so heat stroke is always a possibility. So is exposure to numerous poisonous plants and animals, many of which can kill. Wild hogs aren’t unheard of either, which makes life really exciting. I personally have been shot at and nearly blown up, and given my conversations with colleagues it’s not unusual for this line of work. Then you have driving, which is always a huge risk (most people don’t realize it, but driving is probably the most dangerous thing you do in a given month, if not a given year–and that includes now, in the middle of a pandemic). A survey rod and a lightning rod look an awful lot alike, so weather (we call them popcorn showers) can be a real hazard. And so on.

      Someone used to working with that level of risk simply isn’t going to be impressed by Covid-19. In this scenario I’m already facing much greater risks, and have the protocols in place to mitigate that risk; the virus isn’t going to change anything.

      Obviously this doesn’t apply to an office worker–no one expects someone who works in an air-conditioned office to treat being shot at or stranded in a desert as just another day on the job. But if you’re dealing with someone who does have a job that includes things like this, they’re frankly going to have a hard time understanding what the fuss is about. Humans are very, very flexible mentally, and once you get used to handling a certain level of risk anything less dangerous seems pretty mild.

      Please understand: I’m not posting this to say “I’m right, you’re wrong”. Rather, I’m trying to demonstrate that disagreement about the severity of the risk is not necessarily based on ignorance of the science–risk assessment is an interpretation, and subject to a host of factors (most of which are not conscious in most people). It’s an error to simply write people who disagree off as ignorant. It’s very likely the person knows as much about hte virus as you do, but they have a different view on what constitutes actionable risk. Secondly, I’m hoping that this explanation provides some tactical benefits–knowing what the person thinks allows you to find soft targets in their reasoning to attack.

      1. Important Moi*

        I think is an excellent example about the benefit of diversity (of thoughts and people). It lays out in a non-insulting way how a person could come to a different conclusion.

        I am fully aware of the different risk assessment. I know first hand that there are situations if you don’t work, you don’t eat, you don’t have roof over your head, etc. It is a form a privilege to not be in that situation.

        In this situation I just don’t agree with it.

      2. pancakes*

        There’s no particular reason to believe the very specific mindset you’ve described is the same mindset the letter writer’s father has, though, and the letter writer isn’t obliged to attack her father’s mindset rather than simply disregard his advice.

        The idea that the virus doesn’t change anything for people who were already working in dangerous or risky conditions doesn’t make a bit of sense to me — unless they work alone and live as a hermit, the virus is a new and additional risk in their life. Whether they’re impressed by it or scared of it is beside the point.

        1. James*

          “There’s no particular reason to believe the very specific mindset you’ve described is the same mindset the letter writer’s father has, though…”

          First, it’s not “very specific”. It’s a commonplace mindset of blue-collar workers, especially in the Rust Belt (where I grew up), among other places. Poverty and dangerous work tend to go together, and you develop an attitude of “Do what you need to to keep your family fed”. There’s some language in the original letter that leads me to believe that the father grew up in a similar setting. I may be wrong, of course.

          Second, I agree with you. I take it further, however. My whole point was that I don’t think there’s any particular reason to believe the father is driven by denial of science (which is itself a very specific viewpoint). Alternative explanations are entirely plausible and should be explored; immediately leaping to “This person is ignorant” is unwarranted.

          “The idea that the virus doesn’t change anything for people who were already working in dangerous or risky conditions doesn’t make a bit of sense to me….”

          Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I don’t mean it doesn’t change anything. What I mean is, it’s not changing the emotional/psychological stress they’re operating under. Once your baseline–what you consider normal–includes a few dozen things that can kill you unless you take special precautions, the addition of one more is a matter of routine. A dozen hazards may drop off the list and get added to the list of things I need to worry about each time I change job sites; adding another hazard is something I’m used to. Sure, I’ve changed a few things–but those changes are less significant than the changes I routinely have to make based on other hazards that arise in my line of work.

          Think of it this way: If you already are approving expense reports as part of your weekly routine, and someone says “Can you approve Jake’s expense reports as well?” it’s likely not going to be a significant change to your stress levels. It’s an increase in work load, sure, but probably not a huge one and it’s not something new, it’s merely a new application of standard procedures. Frankly, for some people, the risks posed by the pandemic are on that level.

          Please don’t consider that downplaying the risk. Anyone with enough experience to understand what I’m saying knows that downplaying gets people killed (it’s called a trigger state). Exposure to risk does, however, inevitably alter one’s perception of risk.

          1. pancakes*

            I’m not sure why you’re speaking to me as if I’ve never met blue collar workers before, nor why you’re speaking as if you’re their ambassador. There are several blue collar workers in my family. The idea that they’re all sharing a collective mindset is not an idea that I’m open to considering accurate or realistic for even a moment. I’m not sure why anyone would — there are blue collar workers trying to improve their own working conditions and get more PPE and etc. and you’re speaking as if they don’t exist.

            Also, the letter writer didn’t claim to be directly quoting her father in the single sentence about what he said to her. The idea that a paraphrased quote tells you about his class background is not tenable.

            Whether it’s intentional on your part or not, you are downplaying risks associated with the pandemic by speaking as if they’re in the eye of the beholder. A person’s emotional state and stress levels aren’t relevant to whether they’re at risk of contracting the virus. The virus doesn’t care.

            1. James*

              Do you know what a trigger state is?

              I think that you and I are speaking different languages. Well, the parts where you’re not addressing a purely fantasy version of my post, anyway. If that phrase didn’t jump out at you (it’s sort of a big deal in industrial safety, kind of like how Newton is a big name in physics), we’re probably talking past each other. And since you’ve become openly hostile (basically accusing me of negligent homicide, whether it was your intention or not) I’m not terribly interested in continuing the conversation.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’ve read this exchange and disagree that pancakes was being hostile. Disagreeing, yes, being hostile no. I’m going to ask that we leave this here.

      3. Lady Heather*

        I’m not sure if I exactly follow what you are saying, but I follow the risk = impact * probability model. (And something about risk being the sum of partial risks.)
        (I’m about to go to bed, so I’m going to rush through this with wild examples that didn’t take too much thought. Do forgive me.)

        Scenario: staying home for a year.
        Probability of contracting coronavirus: 1 per cent (chosen because it calculates easily, not on actual thinking)
        Impact of contracting coronavirus: 8 (the unit I’m using is ‘weeks it might make me not feel good’ and is picked arbitrarily)
        Probability of being really unhappy because I’m not leaving the house for a year: 100 per cent
        Impact of being really unhappy because I’m not leaving the house for a year: 52
        Risk(contracting coronavirus)=1 per cent * 8 = 0.08
        Risk(being really unhappy)=100 per cent * 52 = 52
        Total risk of not leaving the house for a year: 0.08+52=52.08

        (Fill out the same formula for scenario of ‘going around hugging nursing home residents’ and ‘social distancing while living your life’ and whatever other scenario you can think of. Then compare.)

        I keep six foot distance, I don’t meet up with people, I wash my hands, etc.
        But I’m not ‘Avoid COVID at all costs’. Some people say being healthy is The Most Important Thing Ever and I disagree. (I also think that is a very ableist way of looking at things, btw.) I think being happy is the most important thing. Now, with covid, we trade in a little bit of happiness in return for future happiness, which is fine. (If you like, do a formula of ‘happy-time units equal Amount Of Happiness times Days Alive’) But safety doesn’t have to be the priority. Keeping your job can be a priority. Being happy can be a priority.

        (None of this should be interpreted as me saying it’s fine to behave in such a way that you put other people at risk. It’s not. But ‘not getting covid’ isn’t the most important thing ever. You don’t have to sacrifice all you other priorities and values for that.)

        This got more and more rambly and now I need to sleep.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          The problem, as it relates to this virus, though remain (1) that it’s novel and calculating actual risk and impact is difficult until more is known about the virus and its long-term health impacts; (2) its asymptomatic phase is long and creates more risk for people for whom it’s not about being health being The Most Important Thing Ever but about Staying Alive, Period; and (3) the piss poor job currently being done to test and contract trace so there are actual numbers and models to show spread, frequency, and recovery rates/after effects.

          In short, actual, reliable risk data not yet available, so there is no way of knowing if the people pursing their own happiness, COVID be damned, are putting others at risk or not.

        2. Taniwha Girl*

          Where in your calculations are the risk of spreading coronavirus, and the impact of spreading coronavirus?
          Because for some people, “not getting covid” is the most important thing, because it means death. Which means being very unhappy, because you’re dead.

          So maybe your risk calculation says “I can take a little riskier action because my biggest concern is being happy, and quarantine makes me unhappy.”
          But other people’s calculations are “I can’t take any risky action because my biggest concern is not dying from covid, even if quarantine makes me unhappy.”
          So when we do our risk calculations, we can’t just think about ourselves and our own calculations. We aren’t trading our current happiness for our future happiness. We’re trading our current comfort for others’ lives.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        The two big problems with this is that treating risk calculation as only its effect on your personally disregards the risk one then poses to others and that so much is still unknown about this particular virus and its transmission/effects, the risk calculations still guesswork. I get that this is America, and our own personal interests and desires outweigh the collective good, but this calculus is leaving out the risk of transmission, particularly with the long, asymptomatic phase some carriers have. If you work with toxic substances or in a mine or another high-risk area, you’re putting yourself at risk, perhaps your family, if you don’t have life insurance or some other way of estopping the financial crisis your death would cause. If you’re an unknowing, asymptomatic COVID carrier merrily infecting your worksite or congregation, you’re not just exposing yourself to risk. You’re exposing your coworkers, their families, and the people with whom they come in contact (and maybe the folks at the grocery store, restaurant, and bar). It’s extending a risk you’ve personally elected to take on and projecting that risk onto the people around you, whether they want to assume it or not.

  41. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Any time I hear “a percentage” I’m reminded of the scene from an episode of the Simpsons when Lisa asked about a percent (I think it was a percent content of recycled paper) and the answer she got was “Zero. That’s a percent.” That’s the assumption I make about this dumpster fire of a compensation scheme.

    #3 – I am not an accountant but I have always understood that commuting costs are generally not reimbursable as mileage.

  42. voluptuousfire*

    @OP2–look to see what minimum wage is in your state. Dependent on the state, 20k would be below minimum wage if you base the calculations on a 40-hour workweek. If you present it as “Oh, dear boss, I did some research and the 20k salary we’re looking to offer violates our state’s minimum wage laws” that may light a fire under his butt to offer more money. I’d wager he just pulled a number that sounded good out of his butt and made that the salary he wants to offer. Many business owners don’t necessarily pay attention to employment law all that much or even have a basic knowledge of it.

  43. knitcrazybooknut*

    #4: That person may no longer be at the company after two years. Just a thought.

  44. Long Time Remote Worker*

    #1 , I have been working remotely from locations ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 miles from my office for the past 10 years. It does not impair the ability to get promotions. But I think the real question should be what gives you satisfaction. I like my salary and love my work. I recently turned down an offer to join a promotion track so I could continue to do the work I love. Senior management roles are cool, but you pay a price for having them too.

  45. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I need to see #2’s books and know what their annual profit is regularly. Like show me the numbers, do you make a million dollars a year? 5% would mean you’re bringing in 70k a year, which can be fine enough for many. But if you’re saying say 5% of 20,000k profit, ef that shit.

    20k guaranteed is low AF but again, it’s a partnership and not an actual employee relationship [despite the fact he’s hard headed…that’s what you get for taking on a partner, tbh. He’s going for an eager grad because he thinks he’ll mold them into some kind of protege I’m sure, sigh.]

    Just let him do what he wants. Known these people all my life, they trust and respect you but in the end, they’re going to do what they want. Let him fail or maybe he fishes someone out of the lakes of unemployed and thirsty grads, you never know. You can’t save him from himself.

    1. pancakes*

      I don’t think the idea is to save the guy from himself but to save a prospective employee from an exploitative job.

  46. If Lucid*

    For OP1, as a Manager of a large department I can explain what it looks like from my perspective. We’ve all been working remotely since mid-March, our state and county are starting to ease restrictions and we’re planning a partial return to the office.

    Most of our jobs can be done from home with no loss of productivity, but some roles are better suited for onsite work. Those people are prioritized on the return plan. Some people really (really!) want to get out of the house and back to the office, and some are struggling to be as productive from home. That’s the second tier group in the plan.

    Everyone who is working well at home and wants to stay there is welcome to, encouraged to even. Frankly, they are appreciated. The fewer people we have to coordinate schedules and placement for, the less disruption there is for everyone. It will have absolutely no impact on anyone’s future career growth, or my perception of their dedication. Your dedication and engagement while remote can be (and is) measured in other ways – your reliability and responsiveness, your participation in meetings, projects, and events, and so on.

    Your Manager said it’s fine, take them at their word. But keep the lines of communication about it open.

  47. rigatoni is my favorite pasta*

    FWIW, OP1, there is no compelling evidence that mass transit is a higher-risk activity. A recent article in the Atlantic magazine about this (“Fear of Transit Got Ahead of the Evidence” from June of this year, for googling purposes) outlines this, and this quote in particular is pretty illuminating:

    “If transit itself were a global super-spreader, then a large outbreak would have been expected in dense Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million people dependent on a public transportation system that, before the pandemic, was carrying 12.9 million people a day. Ridership there, according to the Post, fell considerably less than in other transit systems around the world. Yet Hong Kong has recorded only about 1,100 COVID-19 cases, one-tenth the number in Kansas, which has fewer than half as many people.”

    Kansas likely has a lot less public transit on a per person basis, but that Hong Kong does have a lot of transit should let you feel that it’s more a matter of what precautions we take – similar to a trip to the grocery store, where you are also likely surrounded by a lot of strangers in a indoor and confined space – than transit itself being high-risk (transit is also safer than car travel in terms of having far fewer crashes per vehicle miles traveled, and far less fatal/severe injuries overall when crashes do happen, but I digress).

    I am also in a location where my office is once again open, but we have succeeded in convincing our boss (the owner) that staff who don’t have their own office with a door need to be able to rotate through our shared office while the rest of us work from home on the other days. I think there is likely to be a second wave and I really want normalize prioritizing health, especially since all of us have, luckily, been able to work from home this entire time with mostly minor hiccups and inconveniences. My boss is still somewhat resistant to that idea of working from home, but at least we have several months of evidence to show that there has been very little, if any impact to operations.

    1. pancakes*

      That Atlantic article is focused on debunking a shoddy report by someone at MIT that came out in April, and the culture around wearing masks in Hong Kong is very, very different than the culture around wearing masks in the US. Wearing masks is extremely widespread there. In the US there is widespread resistance to wearing masks.

    2. Mameshiba*

      Well yes, being on a train in itself doesn’t cause COVID, but the article and your comment minimizes the precautions that have been taken and encouraged on mass transit.

      You could absolutely catch the virus on the train if all it takes is being in close quarters with people who have it. It was almost impossible to commute to work in Tokyo during rush hour without physically touching anyone. Many people commute for an hour or more, so the risk is much much higher than passing someone in a grocery store aisle.

      But there is a very pro-mask-wearing culture here, and 99.9% of commuters wear masks now. Plus between widespread work from home and staggered commuting hours, there are fewer people on the trains so you can get a bit of space.

      If Kansas also had a mass transit system, we would see cases spreading via mass transit. Really the correlation here is that countries/regions with a high population density and collectivist culture are better at curbing individual behaviors to protect public health and safety. Countries/regions with a strong individualist culture will struggle to encourage individuals to think of the health of the collective.

  48. SNG*

    For OP5. I was in this position about two years ago. It’s like Alison said, companies really just want to have a larger candidate pool to choose from. What happened to me was I had been set up with a job interview by a recruiter, nailed every interview, had a good rapport with the person that would have been my boss, etc. The process dragged on for nearly two months. The issue was that they really liked me, and kept stringing me along but their CMO wanted a few more candidates and because this was all happening during the holiday season, I ended up being the only person they were considering for the job. They were going to make a decision after a fourth in-person interview when they found another candidate who they interviewed that week and ended up hiring. I was crushed (and a little angry). I felt like someone had swooped in last minute and taken a job that myself and my recruiter thought I had in the bag. I did everything right but sometimes being a top candidate isn’t enough, they were obviously looking for something that they couldn’t quite articulate until they met the candidate that ended up getting the job. In the end, I landed a job with a company where I was incredibly happy and creatively and professionally challenged, so it all worked out. At the end of the day, companies are just looking for the person that clicks both personally and professionally. If it’s the right job for you, then I wouldn’t worry about them bringing in other people. It just sucks when they drag out the process because then you’re the one anxiously waiting on them. I do hope that it all works out. Good luck, I hope you get the job!

  49. CW*

    OP2: $20,000/yr sounds a lot like working for Ebenezer Scrooge or Mr. Krabs to me. In other words, cheapskates. Even if you were to hire someone, he/she would probably quit much sooner than later. Nobody would stay with that kind of salary. Especially if it is for a partner.

  50. Elm*

    It might help if the boss with the ridiculously low salary expectations knew that people talk and warn each other about this. When I was applying for master’s-requiring jobs that didn’t disclose the salary that then called and offered me this amount, I told my friends who were also job hunting to not waste their time applying to those places. And since he wants this posted on social media, word will spread even faster, even if the salary isn’t listed in the post. No one will apply!

    But hey, at least you’re not alone. More than one place I applied to called me, saying, “I know you likely won’t accept this amount, but my boss doesn’t believe that his requirements and pay don’t line up, so I apologize for making you a data point in my attempt to get this raised.”

  51. Courageous cat*

    LW3 … you made multiple cases against yourself in your very own letter. There is no reason, *especially* by the logic you presented here, that you should be reimbursed for commuting. And you’re commuting… less than you would have if they made you go into the office full-time. I don’t get this one one bit.

Comments are closed.