contractor wants a raise 2 months after starting, fired for no reason, and more

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

1. Contractor wants a raise two months after starting

Two months ago we brought on a new editor on a 1099 contract basis. We’ll call her Arya.

Overall my partner and I have been very pleased with Arya’s work. There are a few things to still iron out, but we were happy. Arya is aware that my partner and I are having a baby in January and will need to count on her to be self-sufficient for editing and occasional article writing for a few months after the birth. She knows it would be hard for us to onboard a different contractor until that’s over.

Last week, Arya approached me and said she would like to revisit her rate. When we first offered her the job, we asked her to name her rate; it was at the higher end of our budget but we believe in paying for quality and didn’t haggle at all. She got the rate she named.

Now she is saying she isn’t used to working as a freelancer so much, and didn’t realize how much she would pay in self-employment tax; she thinks she should have asked for a higher rate. Frustratingly, she has also intimated that she would normally charge much more for article writing than editing, even though we were clear that writing would be part of the role. We even had her write a test article before hiring!

I’m at a loss. She isn’t aware that we’ve actually cut back or let go of other contractors given the tough economy this year. Meanwhile, while I want to assume good intentions, she knows we are really going to be in a bind if she leaves suddenly — this feels a little cutthroat. Are we being taken advantage of? And, more to the point, what should we do — try to pony up more to get through the next six months, or tell her a deal is a deal?

If she’d asked for the higher rate originally, would you have agreed to it? And knowing what you know of her work now, do you think it’s a fair rate? I’m not a fan of people agreeing to a particular rate and then saying “no, wait” a few months later (unless the work has changed significantly), but ultimately you want to pay what’s fair. So the question really comes down to whether or not this new rate is.

But if your understanding of the market tells you that she’s already paid fairly, it’s reasonable to say something like, “We think your work is great and we want you to be happy with the pay, but it’s already at the higher end of our range and for now we’re not able to go higher than we agreed in September. I think it’s a fair rate and I hope we were up-front about the writing part of the role from the start — for instance, having you write a test article during the hiring process. So I hope the rate we agreed to will still work. Will you think about it and let us know in the next week or so if it still makes sense for you?”

Of course, then you need to be prepared for her to decide that it doesn’t and you’d need to replace her — but a lot of people are looking for work right now. And you never want to feel like you have to find a way to keep any one given person at all costs. Not only can that drive you to make bad decisions, but people leave unexpectedly for all sorts of reasons — health, family crises, a better job falling in their lap, etc. But before you have the conversation, make sure you’re okay with all the possible outcomes.

2. I was fired for “poor performance” after years of glowing feedback

I was recently let go for “poor performance.” It came as a complete surprise and I did not see it coming at all. I was given absolutely no notice at all that my performance was not up to par.

The crazy thing about that is that I literally got GLOWING performance reviews for three years in a row. Not just good reviews, like actually amazing reviews from 15 people who I work closely with, including from someone very senior at the company. My manager did not submit any comments for my review, which I thought was weird, but not a huge red flag considering she had only been my manager for three months, so she probably thought that she did not have enough information at that point to provide a review. I just got my review feedback and it was all amazing, which is why none of this makes any sense at all.

I probably have no legal action against them since it is “at will employment” and they can let me go for any reason or no reason at all, but what could possibly be the reason for letting an exceptional employee go for “poor performance”? Maybe they were experiencing layoffs, but did not want to call it a layoff in fear of other employees worrying about their employment? Or maybe there were some shady internal politics going on? I guess there could be a bunch of reasons, but I am still in absolute shock and would welcome any insight that you have in regards to this. Additionally, now that I am job searching, how can I explain why I was let go from my previous job?

I’m sorry this happened! It’s impossible to say from the outside what might be behind it. It could be some kind of internal politics (a higher-level manager had a problem with you, or the CEO wants to hire a nephew into your role). It could be that your manager did have serious concerns about your work but was a terrible manager who didn’t bother to talk to you about them. It could that she personally disliked you. It could be an illegal reason — something connected to your race, religion, age, disability, pregnancy, or other legally protected characteristic. It could be that your new manager decided you didn’t fit in with the team (which might or might not be connected to those illegal reasons). It could be that she you remind her of a hated ex. There are a ton of possibilities and no way to know from here which is most likely.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the fact that she only started managing you three months ago is probably significant. It sounds like the glowing feedback might have come from your previous boss and others you worked with, and it’s possible her take was very different (or even that she came in with a mandate to change things up). If that’s so, she handled it terribly — you don’t fire someone who’s always been praised and refuse to explain what why — but terrible managers abound.

If you want to explore the legal angle, you could meet with an employment lawyer; they’ll ask questions to figure out whether your firing might indeed have been illegal (meaning something like discrimination or retaliation for legally protected conduct — things that are illegal even under at-will employment) and if that looks like a possibility they can negotiate with the company on your behalf to get you a better severance package or other restitution. In fact, I’d consider doing this even if you’re doubtful that it’ll lead to anything — sometimes lawyers spot things that you didn’t realize would matter. Most lawyers will give you an initial consultation for free.

As for what to say to future interviewers, explain that you had three years of glowing performance reviews (which ideally you’d offer to provide) but a new manager came in, seemed to want to clean house, and let you go without explanation. You can also see if that senior person who gave glowing feedback in your most recent review would be willing to be a reference.

Your company sucks for not giving you any reason.

3. Requesting more lead time for international meeting requests

I work with teams whose members are located in the opposite time zone from me (12 hours ahead). Every so often, team members send me meeting requests when I’m not checking my email (weekends, nights, and times when I’m out of the office). Due to the time difference, these meetings tend to be first thing in the morning … the very next day. Sometimes, the only way I‘ve found out about these meetings ahead of time (without checking my email) is because my work calendar is synced to my personal device.

Is there a way for me to politely say, “Please don’t send me next morning meeting requests when I’m not checking my email”?

Sure! You could say, “Because of the time difference, if you send me a meeting request at 12 pm your time for a meeting at 7 pm, that’s 7 am my time and I won’t see your email in time to attend — especially if it happens to be the weekend or other time when I’m not checking my email. Can you give me X hours of notice when you’re scheduling meetings so there’s time for me to see it and respond?” (Obviously you can’t ask this if the nature of work makes that kind of notice unrealistic, but I’m guessing you wouldn’t be raising the issue if that were the case.) It can also help to translate it into their time so you’re not expecting other people to do the math every time — “If you email me after X your time, I won’t see the email until Y your time.”

You can also try putting an auto-responder on your email when you leave work for the day, saying something like, “I am out of the office and will not see this email until 8 am EST/1 pm GMT.” (Translate it into the time zones you work with most frequently too.)

4. Explaining why I’m relocating in a cover letter

My fiance and I live very far from our respective families, and we hate that We’re planning to relocate to a city halfway between them in the next 6-12 months. So, thus begins the job search.

How should I mention this in my cover letters when applying for jobs in these halfway-in-between cities? I currently live in a city with a ton of opportunities in my field that also happens to be a popular vacation destination. These other cities will still have opportunities in my field, but not nearly on the same scale. I worry that hiring managers will think I’m not serious about moving when they see my current city on my resume, and I’m not certain how to address that.

Say that you’re moving to be closer to family, which you are! Everyone understands that.

It’ll also help to put a note about your intended relocation on your resume in case the employer misses it in the cover letter. On your resume, directly under your address, include a parenthetical note that you’re soon relocating to __ (fill in the city). For instance:

Valentina Warbleworth
(Relocating to Boston)

It’s even better if you can list a specific timeframe:

Valentina Warbleworth
(Relocating in February to Boston)

That doesn’t require you have rock-solid plans for the move to definitely be in February — move timelines can change — but it can be helpful to give employers a sense that (a) the move is definitely happening and (b) in this rough timeframe.

5. Two job titles in three months on a resume

I was promoted about a month ago to a mid-level title of my current position (from a product manager I to a product manager II). My company is now standardizing some job titles to align with industry standards. My manager has informed me that my job title and level will change again due to this, and in January I will be a product manager III. From my understanding, there is no change in my job description, requirements, or even salary. It’s just a title change.

I’m not sure how to represent this on my resume. I feel that two promotions in such a short amount of time will lead to me looking underqualified. At the same time, if I were to go back and properly level my previous titles using the current guidelines, I worry that it will look duplicitous. And if I cut the middle title out completely (my current position), I go from a I to a III, which also looks weird. Do you have any advice?

One option is to list it this way:

Product Manager, Employer Name, dates
(product manager I Jan.-Sept. 2020, product manager II Oct.-Dec. 2020, product manager III Jan. 2021-present)
* accomplishment
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

{ 200 comments… read them below }

  1. learnedthehardway*

    #2 – at a guess, your new manager wants to build their own team, and gave you the performance rating to justify letting you go, so they could do just that.

    I had the same sort of thing happen to me one time – I was hired by one manager, who left after 6 months, and after giving me an amazing initial performance review. The new manager fired me within 3 months of joining the company – and then told my client group within the business that I had quit without notice! I was both blindsided and bewildered. It took someone I interviewed with in my industry, who knew the new manager I had reported to (it’s a small industry), to point out to me that this was a pattern with this individual – everywhere that manager went, they got rid of the current team and built their own. Sure enough, I was one of a few people the new manager got rid of.

    I will be forever grateful to the person I interviewed with for pointing this out to me, because that really helped me get over the experience and move on. Explaining it required a bit of tight rope walking – it’s hard to not sound negative when you mention that a new manager wanted to build their own little empire and had a track record of doing so – but I found a way to put it diplomatically.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Yes, when a new supervisor or division head arrives, things have to change. In my case, my then boss had her team reorganised and emphasis was placed on us all following the company’s buzzwords. (Sorry but having “Passion” for my filing isn’t going to work, but you can have dedicated and hard-working instead)

      1. Massmatt*

        “when a new supervisor or division head arrives, things have to change”. Well, do they, really? If there are problems on the team or productivity is low, then absolutely. But if you are hired to manage a team that’s working well, don’t fix what ain’t broke.

        But quite a few managers think they need to completely remake a team in order to make it “theirs”. But the team is employed by the company, not the manager, and decisions as to who stays or goes should be made based on who is productive and has the needed skills. Other managers won’t completely overhaul a team but will fire someone early into their tenure to “establish authority”. Whether the person fired is the worst producer or just someone the new manager dislikes or considers a threat depends on how good or bad the new manager is.

    2. Casper Lives*

      I’m interested in how you put it diplomatically. That’s unfortunate but I’ve seen managers push people out to hire their preferred team before.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I was able to say that I’d been brought in by the old manager to do X, Y, and Z exciting things, but that with the departure of my former manager, that strategy no longer had any senior-level support. I also explained that the new manager had a different vision for the department, that was aligned with being more traditional in how things were done, and clearly felt that I wasn’t a fit. I said I understood the decision, and that it was for the best, as I wanted to be innovative, aligned with the needs of my client groups, and proactive about how I did things (etc. etc.)

        This was absolutely true – I’d been brought in to get around the stranglehold that one department had on the company, and the new manager was very traditional about how they did things and did not want to upset that department.

        I left mentioning that the person was an empire builder out of it, for the most part, except for one or two interviews where they really wanted to dig. At which point, I said that it was clear the manager wanted to build their own team, and that this had been confirmed to me by a mentor. (With one particularly aggressive interviewer, I referred them to the manager’s LinkedIn profile, pointed out that they’d lasted in jobs for 2 years, at most, in every company they’d worked for, and listed “built a team” under every job, and pointed out that those were all established companies that had staff before the manager joined them. Did the interviewer think that all those companies needed a team replaced? But by then, I was rather ticked off and had decided I didn’t want that job, anyway. I learned later that the interviewer was a personal friend of the manager who’d fired me, so had some satisfaction of knowing that my rather scathing analysis of the manager’s track record was shared with the manager.)

        1. Jen*

          I was in a similar situation. I wasn’t fired but the new manager made things very difficult. I liked my job and wound up getting another job in a very similar position. I explained the search for a new job by saying (truthfully) that the new manager was interpreting regulations differently and that changed my job responsibilities significantly. The agency I applied to and eventually worked for interpreted the regs closer to what my old manager did so that is how i explained the shift.

      2. Hillary*

        I say that I had three managers in five years and the last one had a different vision for the department, you know how it is. They read between the lines. Then I go into how it wasn’t on my own terms but it was the push I needed, look at how awesome my career has been since then. It helps that I’m now in a role like his with more responsibility and better pay. He’s still in the same chair.

        I don’t say he was a 40-something white jerk who had support from some senior execs and who pushed out every woman above clerk level, replacing all of them with 20-something dudebros.

    3. JM in England*

      In the UK, we have a saying “If your face fits, you’ll go far!”. I can tell you from personal experience that if it doesn’t, your work life can be awful and often does result in firing despite your job knowledge, skills and output being outstanding.

      Perhaps your face didn’t fit with your new manager?

        1. Tavia*

          I’m also from the UK and have always understood the phrase to basically mean fitting in: whether that be physically, personality-wise, politically, etc.

          I’ve worked somewhere that valued outgoing, boisterous and loud people. Our manager described them as people “who have something about them”. Myself, as a quiet introvert, didn’t fit in and soon left for a more suitable job. In essence, my face didn’t fit.

          1. Karia*

            My previous manager expected her team to follow her hours, be her personal friend and agree with her on everything. Sadly I didn’t figure this out until she began regularly insulting me and assigning me nonsense work.

            1. TL -*

              Yeah, I’m the big no-sayer of my boss’s direct reports (we’re getting more, but they’re all more senior than me) and I’m really grateful that she is open to it, even though I can tell it often is frustrating for her. (to be fair, it is frustrating to get one or two responses going ‘this is fabulous’ and then mine going ‘well, actually…..’)

              But she takes the time to look at results. My results are generally pretty good, so she listens and we usually end up with a compromise between our two POVs that’s better than either of us had originally.

              1. Karia*

                Yep. The boss she replaced had been very collaborative and had pushed me to speak my mind. And new boss made a lot of changes that were affecting the bottom lines of other departments, and annoying the H out of them.

                So I trundled along, thinking I was being helpful, right up until I got moved into a menial role and realised she’d taken it as backtalk.

          2. Batty Twerp*

            Yup, it’s almost a tribal thing. Your face ‘fits’ if you are One Of Us.

            [struggling (but not trying too hard) not to mention the heavy weighting towards Etonites in UK Government as an example…]

            1. Massmatt*

              Yes, this term is new to me but the idea sadly is not. Sometimes it has to do with what traits actually make sense for the job but too often this kind of thinking (and “company culture” generally) has to do with “people that look and think like the boss does”.

              An old company of mine had a C-suite executive from a regional university strongly associated with a particular religious/ethnic group. Management ranks quickly became filled with guys just like him and people with different backgrounds were not getting opportunities and moving on. And this was in an increasingly global business, it was becoming glaringly obvious. I wrote elsewhere here about the multiple “town hall” meetings where upper management talked about diversity yet everyone onstage was white and 90%+ were men. And mostly favored ethnic group also. I pointed this out to a coworker and he seriously suggested the single VP with an Italian surname represented a diverse group. Uh, no. Though compared to the rest of them he was an outlier.

        2. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

          I’m not JM (obviously) but I imagine actual appearance. A former coworker and I were both let go within weeks of each other (we were 30s/40s at the time, overweight, average looking), and the people hired in to replace us were tall, blonde, thin 20-somethings, who looked rather like Boss and GrandBoss and GreatGrandBoss.

            1. JaneB*

              Ive also seen departments where everyone went to one of a small group of elite unis, or where everyone was super outdoorsy and athletic – mix of genders and ethnicities, but there was a defining thing that made their face fit in that setting…

              1. JM in England*

                JaneB, I have an example of my own.

                At OldJob some years ago, two co-workers at my level applied for a senior role in the team. One played with the department manager in the company soccer team and the other didn’t.

                Give you three guesses who got the job!

    4. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Do you have the recourse of telling your client group that you were fired instead of suddenly quitting? Or contacting the manager and tell them to stop with such an obvious lie. Both stories affect you but I think being labeled a flake is worse than being fired.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Oh, I found out about the lie when I approached my client group manager about getting a reference. At which point, they went down to my former manager, and tore a strip off them in the middle of the department. After that, nobody was under any misapprehensions about why I wasn’t there any more. I heard about it from former colleagues. The new manager didn’t last more than a year or so at the company.

        1. EPLawyer*

          What’s the point of building an empire if you are only there a year or two? It’s not like you have accumulated enough power to DO anything. I can see trying this once or twice and then realizing you need to be more subtle about it. But if you keep doing it immediately and then being let go after a year or two, you have to be pretty dumb to not realize your empire building is failing badly. The point of empire building is to give you job security because everyone is afraid to challenge you because you have a power base to protect you.

          1. Anon for Today*

            That’s what’s so infuriating about empire building by inferior managers. Good people leave or get fired, only for the new manager to flame out 1-2 years later leaving their yes-men/women to either hack it out without them or follow the manager on their next grand adventure. It’s incredibly disruptive.

          2. The New Wanderer*

            It makes it sound like something only a poor manager does – one who doesn’t trust that they can work with anyone with more time/experience/seniority in the company than them and prefers to hire their own team, that they can ‘own’. But they can’t even do well with a hand-picked team and end up moving on or failing out. In that case, the replacing-the-team is a symptom of a bad manager, not a goal in and of itself.

            I’m waiting for my own empire-building ex-grandboss to be pushed out due to his alienation of many, many people. He also fits the “hire face-fitting people” profile too, except for the long-overdue if slight increase in diversity among the new hires. Unfortunately he didn’t rotate out after a few years, but the signs are there that he isn’t going ‘up’ anytime soon.

          3. IsolationNation*

            Yeah this is definitely how bad managers build empires. I feel like lots of good managers build empires just by being good managers. It’s about cultivating loyalty and giving people opportunities. One of the best bosses I had was really good about giving people opportunities to lead projects, grow skills, and then advance internally. So pretty soon they had a bunch of former reports who had lots of goodwill towards them scattered throughout the rest of the company. I think that’s the way an empire should be built. Sometimes you don’t even need to bring in your own people, just win over the current people by being a good manager.

            1. Tabby Baltimore*

              I really like this comment, and I wish more mid-level managers in federal government would take it to heart.

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

      I went through the same thing once. I’m my case the new manager decided not to renew my contract which would’ve been fine… If I haven’t had to chase him to get a answer. I ended claiming it was a restructuring (a shady one tbh)

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Sadly this happens way more often than people think. And no, it’s not fair.
      I don’t know why companies don’t just call it a layoff or redundancy (sucks but fine) instead of faking the bad reviews though, because it’s the fake bad reviews that are a shitty way to treat people.

      1. JM in England*

        I totally agree re the fake bad reviews. Star performers who suddenly get them will tend to wonder what they did wrong to merit it…

        1. irene adler*

          Not only that.
          The star performers will want concrete things to do to restore the good reviews. And no one will provide this information. Very disconcerting. You are suddenly labeled a “poor performer” and you cannot be given an avenue to become a top performer once again. Rage inducing (for me, at least).

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, my company will just lay you off or try to put you on a new team to avoid a layoff when they reorganize due to a new hire in the C-suite.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        If someone is fired and replaced so that the position is not eliminated, it’s not really a layoff. Layoffs are often more than one person and they are for business reasons (usually cost cutting measure like not having to keep paying the salaries).

        It’s also super likely the new manager doesn’t have leadership permission to obviously come in, fire the old team and bring in a whole new team. So she’s doing it on the sly and saying it’s a performance problem or a fit problem.

        1. JM in England*

          One of my friends was let go from his job under the pretense of it being a redundancy. They later found out someone had been hired into their exact same role but at a much lower salary. Legal action ensued and they received a decent amount of compensation, with the case being settled out of court.

      4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Depending on the state, the fake bad reviews can mean you don’t qualify for unemployment because you were fired for cause.

    7. C M*

      I think something similar happened to me. I was once offered a job by someone high up in my company, which would require relocation to a new plant they were building, but they hadn’t hired the manager for that department yet. They hired her about 6 months before my relocation date, and I met her in person once and had a few phone meetings with her. I was usually the one to initiate those meetings because I wanted to make the eventual transition smoother. She was generally unreceptive to my suggestions even though I had been in that role for years. (For example, my team had an issue with a machine and put a fix in, but when I suggested the same fix for a new identical machine, she just said she didn’t think they would have the same problem (they did though).) She seemed like a hands-off boss, but I had dealt with that before and could do it again.

      Anyway, a few days before I had to start the relocation process I was told that I no longer had that job. She gave two reasons. First, I once expressed surprise that they were planning to hire fewer staff for a larger plant, and she interpreted this to mean I was afraid of hard work. Second, I requested to change my relocation date either earlier or later to avoid relocating to a snowy area in the middle of winter. The timeline couldn’t accommodate that, which I understood, but she thought I was pushy for even asking about it. All of this came as a complete surprise. I realize she wasn’t my manager yet but she could have expressed these concerns to me before then. Now I wonder if she just wanted me gone so she could pick her own team.

      Anyway, at least I hadn’t started the new job yet so there’s no firing to explain on my resume. They offered me a terrible consolation prize job instead, which I turned down, and in about a month I left for a different company (without relocating). So it all worked out in the end because I didn’t end up working for a manager who resented me being there.

      1. Former Employee*

        It sounds as if the manager was afraid that you knew more than she did and would show her up. A good manager who was new would have welcomed an experienced, knowledgeable employee and seen you as a valuable resource. Definitely dodged that one.

        1. C M*

          Yeah, in hindsight I’m super glad I didn’t end up relocating for that company. There were so many red flags even before this issue, starting with the manipulative way they pressured me into accepting the relocation offer in the first place. Honestly, once I got over the shock of potentially being unemployed in a few months, I felt a vast sense of relief. That place was so toxic I don’t know how I didn’t notice earlier. They actually offered me a retention bonus to stay until December 31, which was still on the table and separate from the relocation offer. As soon as I got an offer at a better place, I gave my 2 weeks notice and left the first week of December. My sanity couldn’t handle three more weeks there, even though it meant forfeiting that bonus. I have no regrets about that decision.

    8. Kara*

      I had a new manager who was out to fire me but he knew he couldn’t because I was pregnant. Now I’m about to go back to work and I’m actually quite scared I’ll get fired. He also feels threatened by me because I know our jobs like the back of my hand but he made it very clear before I went on leave he did not want to get to know me and that he hated me and also has views that once a women has a baby she better stay home….

      1. C M*

        Do you have documentation for his remarks about working mothers? That sounds like a pretty clear-cut case of discrimination based on gender, and maybe family status. It’s amazing how many people will actually put these things in writing (email or IM). If you have anything like that, print a hard copy or email it to your personal account. You can also document verbal remarks but those probably won’t be as helpful.

      2. Anon 2.0*

        Talk to a lawyer before you return so they can guide you on documenting what is needed for the lawsuit that is more than likely coming.

    9. Momma Bear*

      Or it’s just a manager that doesn’t like OP. I had good reviews and then we got a new manager. We clashed immediately. The CEO later apologized for prior managers not being good and setting me up for failure (??). I knew within months that the new manager and I were completely incompatible. When I tried to set up a clear the air/communicate better meeting, he tried to throw me under the bus and didn’t tell me our meeting (that *I* had asked for) was a mid-year review. The whole thing stank. When I left, I made it clear that the new guy was 90% of the reason I was leaving. I was fortunate to leave on my own terms but I definitely felt pushed out.

      My spouse similarly had to fight for good reviews when his management chain shifted. All of a sudden he was just average. Sometimes it is a lot about personality clashes or managers who don’t see you the same way.

  2. Eric*

    #5, not sure if the titles you gave are exact or examples. In my case, I went from being an assistant programmer to a programmer. Then there was a reorg that had me be a senior programmer, with no change in job or salary. I list as:
    XYZ Corp, assistant programmer (2015-2017); programmer/ senior programmer (2018-2019)
    *bullet 1
    *bullet 2
    *bullet 3

    1. LW5*

      They’re close-but-not-exact titles for my current position, but not so different that your/Alison’s suggestions wouldn’t work. I do like the suggestion of bundling all accomplishments under one! That isn’t something I had considered before.

      1. Mockingjay*

        I don’t pay attention to the numbers after a job title other than a possible indication of years of experience. Every company has slightly different titles and ranks for the same thing.

        I usually list only my current title without numbers or qualifiers: Technical Writer. How many years I spent labeled as a II or a III is far less important than what I accomplished during those years.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          The only benefit I can see of these “grades” are that you can show progression in an individual contributor role. My company does a similar thing (llama wrangler, senior l.w., principal l.w., senior principal l.w., vice president of llama wrangling) – these are externally visible on business cards. Many of these are subdivided in two salary grades which are not externally visible. My last promotion is visible only in internal documents (and my payslip) but my next one (could be next year at the earliest, 3 years in grade is minimum) would be a title change.
          The whole system is set up for a dual career path of experts vs. leaders; one can get on any level below C-suite without managing (and switch back and forth between the two).

          1. LW5*

            That’s basically what I worry about. Maybe I overestimate the “grades”, but it feels like in my industry there’s a pretty common understanding of the scope of the problems you work on at the big & mid-players (I’m at a mid-player with 20k employees…pre-COVID, at least). By II/III, you’re expected to be able to run cross-domain programs with some notable impact, whereas in entry level, your scope is really limited just to your own team.

            It does sound like the smarter way to handle that though is by just discussing my accomplishments and not get so hung up on the level.

    2. Budgieman*

      I hate titles! I’m 35 years in IT, and they are so often meaningless….With all deference, the semantics between “Assistant Programmer”, “Programmer” and “Senior Programmer” can only be understood in the context of the size and culture of the organisation, and not on the actual work. I do a lot of work for a financial company where 40% of the people have “Manager” as part of their title… Ugh!
      If the description is not an actual formal grade, I’d hide from it completely by listing the position “title” as something that describes the work rather than the title…(e.g. just Product Manager)

      1. Casper Lives*

        It’s so true about the title mattering in the context of the company. No one instinctively knows what the difference is between Call Center 1, Call Center 2 and Call Center 3 without explanation. Is it a duty change? Is everyone who survives a year bumped up for a title / raise without changing the job? Etc.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I agree. I’m in banking and VP titles seem to be a dime a dozen. Most, if not all, branch managers are VPs, as are loan officers. Years ago I asked my then-boss about this and I was told that banks do that because customers will see the VP title and feel as though they’re working with someone important who has the authority to get things done. And in the case of things like Personal Banker (every bank calls tellers something different) I, II or III, progression through each level carries a small amount of increasing responsibility, but it’s really meant to be a path for promotions and to give tellers something to work towards, an incentive to keep growing. But yeah, there really isn’t much difference between the three levels.

          1. Dave*

            My boss has made many a person VP so they came across as having authority with customers. Meanwhile actual skill set and ability to do job was sometimes entry level.

          2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            In my early working years, I worked at a tiny employment agency. The owner ordered business cards for me and my two other entry-level coworkers. I was startled that she put my title as manager and asked about it, and she explained that whenever a client called, they would be talking to a manager.

      2. Deborah*

        Hard agree! My titles over the last seven years:
        Customer Service
        EDI Coordinator
        Order Entry Supervisor
        E-commerce Specialist
        It sounds like I have been bouncing around between jobs, doesn’t it? The first 3 were at the same company and doing basically the same work, and just adding on more responsibility. The last one is moving into a new job in a different company…in the IT department where what I’m actually doing is more along the lines of an EDI Coordinator or Analyst. I don’t have the slightest idea what our website looks like. (Well, I looked at it when i was interviewing, to research the company.)

  3. TurnaboutIsFairPlay*

    LW1:

    > “She isn’t aware that we’ve actually cut back or let go of other contractors given the tough economy this year.”

    > “this feels a little cutthroat.”

    Did any of those contractors you laid off have children or plans for children? I’ve noted with some businesses owners, its “business is business” up until they find themselves on the raw side of that deal. The tone of your letter strikes me that you have a similar entitled attitude. Moreover, the use of “contractors” to skirt around labor law hasn’t gone unnoticed. It seems you are asking that this person take on additional tasks, in that case you should offer additional compensation.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      It reads to me like that’s not at all what happened. It seems like the point of the contractor was specifically to cover this period? And they seemed to be up front about the nature of it, or at least intended to be and thought they were.
      If the contractor is saying things like “whoops I didn’t understand my own taxes” as the reason for adjusting the rate, that doesn’t say to me the role is different than what they expected. It sounds like a first-time contractor who A: didn’t know enough to factor that in during the initial negotiation and B: is too green to know that saying it plainly makes them look super green.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s nothing here that indicates that the OP is using contractors illegally or unethically. Lots of people both write and edit as contractors, perfectly legally. (It would only be skirting labor law if they were treating her as an employee — as described here — which the letter doesn’t indicate.)

      And the employee saying she didn’t understand her taxes is very different than saying the role is different than what was described. I ask that we take letter writers at their word, which in this case includes that they were clear about what the work entailed.

      Please don’t leap to negative conclusions about letter writers that aren’t based on actual facts in the letter.

    3. MK*

      There is no indication that the OP is using contractors inappropriately or that they are asking Arya to take on additional duties; they explained to her that writing would be part of the job, and if she wanted to negotiate a higher rate for the writing work, she should have done so before she accepted that job. And the reason she gave about wanting a raise is specifically not about that.

      However, I do agree that the OP’s attitude is along the lines you mentioned, with a side portion of “employees are ingrates who will take advantage and stab you in the back”. OP, you sound as if you believe Arya, knowing how hard it would be for you and your partner to onboard a new contractor until a few months after your baby is born, is trying to blackmail you into giving her a raise. That’s both paranoid and self-centered, when her explanation that she miscalculated her freelance fees is perfectly reasonable, though of course 100% on her and very frustrating to you. Same as when you fired other contractors because you could no longer afford them.

      You are a business owner, and with the vaunted freedom of not working for someone else comes the responsibility of making decisions. If you won’t be able to find someone to do the work in a quality that you need for the money you are offering, give Arya a raise. If you can, let her go and do the hard work of onboarding a new person while expecting a baby. It is just as hard to have a baby while working for someone else and depend mostly on their good will to accommodate you, if not harder.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Yes, this. I don’t see any reason to believe that the OP was unclear about the job or that they are using the contractor designation illegally, but I also don’t see any reason for the OP to suspect that Arya is pulling a power move here. Arya failed to factor in all the costs of self-employment, and is trying to justify a raise. That’s it.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Also “at the top end of our budget” is not the same as “fair market rate”. The fact that you can’t afford to pay more doesn’t mean that you’re currently paying her fairly.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        I don’t buy the explanation that Arya failed to understand her tax implications. Generally, a self-employed person can claim all kinds of expenses on their taxes, which limits their tax burden. Anything that is reasonably a business expense can be claimed on tax forms, where I live.

        At any rate, it would be hard to pay MORE in taxes as a self-employed contractor, than you’d have taken out of your paycheck as a permanent/full time employee.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, you pay way more in taxes as a self-employed contractor. You pay the normal payroll taxes everyone pays, plus the part of the payroll tax that the employer normally pays.

          1. Truthurts*

            Thank you for pointing that out. A younger person I mentored took a contract writing job and did not understand that. She ended up in financial trouble because her actual income was significantly lower than she anticipated due to the reality of paying the employer payroll tax.

        2. D3*

          Oh goodness. You have no idea. Every heard of self-employment taxes? They’re ADDITIONAL taxes on contract workers, above and beyond the income taxes deducted. And they are very, very real. Deductions do not undo that.
          I suggest you not make assumptions about what the taxes are for contractors unless you’ve BEEN a contractor and know what you’re talking about.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            Many people do not understand how the tax structure works in the United States. One of the “con lines” used on the unsuspecting is “If I gave you a raise, you’d be behind, because you’ll now be in a higher tax bracket” (WHICH IS NOT TRUE, YOU NEVER ARE BEHIND IF YOU GET A RAISE).

            I have always recommended that everyone do their own taxes – at least once – to understand how it works. It’s not just about your refund.

            1. ian*

              To go a step further, you should probably try and fill out your own taxes, at least once, by hand – tax software hides a lot of the calculations so it’s hard to see what’s actually happening.

              (and then you can use tax software to file to make sure you haven’t made any errors. But it’s good to try and look at the actual math.)

              1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                Agreed – because there are certain things you might miss in a 1040 calculation that a GOOD tax return program (one you pay for) – will turn up. Social Security is taxed at a lower rate. So are capital gains.

                The interview questions that take place in a tax software session may very well afford reductions that you’d miss on a 1040. Yes, that would be educational, to take the taxes both ways.

                Also – re my note on REFUNDS. Your refund is not a “gift from the government” – it’s what you OVERPAID. People think their taxes are lower because they received a larger refund. “taint necessarily so, folks.

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              My grandfather was an accountant and he had the best response to this ‘your taxes will go up with a pay increase’ argument ever: “maybe my tax will go up, but they’ll never take all of it.”

      1. Autumnheart*

        I’m not really sure what “We’re having a baby, and we expect Arya to be self-sufficient” means. Is she working without supervision? Or is she doing 100% of the business while LW and Partner are on leave?

        It sounds to me like Arya was led to believe that her job would be 80% editing and 20% writing, and now that LW expects her to do 100% editing and 100% writing, it’s way more work than Arya anticipated when negotiating her rate.

        1099 contracting presumes work billed by the hour and with a specific set of conditions about how much work is guaranteed. How long is the contract for? If I were Arya, I’d work out the length of the contract and then raise my rates to better reflect the demands of the role.

        And yeah, it’s a little cutthroat. That’s capitalism. If a business owner wants to pay less for the work, she can do it herself.

        1. MK*

          I think it’s unfair to suggest that Arya was led to believe anything, when we don’t know how that conversation went. It’s possible the OP was perfectly clear about what the job entailed and Arya didn’t pay enough attention; after all, by her own admission she messed up when fixing her rate by miscalculating taxes. Or it could have been a miscommunication. And in any case, that’s not really what she is saying, she isn’t asking for the raise on the basis of the job duties changing.

          On the other hand, I find nothing cutthroat about even implying you will quit when your boss’s partner is having a baby in two months. Cutthroat would be threatening to leave a week before a major project is due and there are heavy penalties for missing the deadline. Maybe I am harsh, but in world where many mothers have to work till their due date and fathers have difficulty getting a couple of days off for the birth, I can’t master much sympathy for a business owner having to hire a new contractor a couple of months before their partner gives birth. It’s not as if Arya is threatening to leave the OP ina desperate situation.

        2. Colette*

          I think raising her rates at the end of the contract is totally valid, but it sounds like she wants to raise them mid-contract, which isn’t. Arya should have done her due diligence before accepting the job, and it sounds like she didn’t.

          1. Autumnheart*

            Agreed. Arya is stuck with what she signed up for, for the period that she signed. But once that contract is up, then it would be entirely appropriate for her to change her rates.

          2. Uranus Wars*

            I agree with this!

            I also feel that Arya’s own failure to calculate needs isn’t the burden of the OP to cover. I took a job once that didn’t net out as much as I thought it would. I didn’t ask for a raise because I left to take a job that wasn’t as much of a pay raise as I calculated on my calculator. I found other ways to make up for my mistake.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yes, I don’t get the impression that the LWs are doing dodgy things with employees vs contactors. Freelance writing and editing is frequently a legitimate contracting job, the contractor set her own rates, and there’s no indication that she can’t take other clients, or has to work at a location and/or daily schedule set by the LWs, or any of the other things that indicate a dodgy setup.

        1. pancakes*

          In this particular letter, yes, we don’t have information that supports reaching that conclusion. Looking at the industry overall, though—including the number of publications that have laid off writers and editors, offered them buyouts, etc.—it’s abundantly clear that freelance workers are widely used to cut costs. It’s estimated that 7,800 media workers lost their jobs to layoffs and cuts in 2019, and 5,000 between 2014-2018. It’s not a coincidence that the same employers replaced them with freelancers who don’t get benefits.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      There’s nothing in the letter to indicate they let other contractors go because of having kids or planning to have kids. And I have no idea why you think OP has an “entitled attitude.”

      1. PossumToTheMoon*

        I don’t get the hate on OP for using contractors – I love being on contract, I have total control of my own schedule and workload. It’s a choice! I went on as a fulltime employee after I had been working for one company for a long time because there are laws in Canada re: duration and hours, but being a freelancer was and remains my preference! If you’ve ever struggled with workplace anxiety it honestly is a godsend to just answer to yourself and choose what you want to do. When you can pull it off as a writer there is no better feeling.

        1. pancakes*

          Are you Canadian? There are many US freelancers who would like to have healthcare they can rely on. Having to pay out of pocket or skip it isn’t a godsend at all.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I think this is really really dependent on the person and we can’t make blanket statements. I have quite a few friends who freelance and love it! I did it for a few years (as a single person) and even though I had to pay more for health insurance it was worth it for the flexibility I needed at that time in my life.

            1. pancakes*

              I’ve freelanced for several years off and on too, and would have preferred the health insurance. I’d prefer it now. I am paying for my own ins. and expect to continue to do so, because even staff attorney jobs in my city (i.e., non partner track) tend not to come with health insurance these days. I don’t feel at all flexible having to make my $1,100 ins. payment every month or face going without continuing care from my oncologist & the meds that help keep my cancer in remission. One shot I receive monthly, for example, has to be administered by a nurse and cost approx. $1200 per dose the last time I inquired, a couple years ago. That’s just one medication. People who have never faced serious health problems may feel at ease going without ins. or paying for only the most minimal coverage, but not all of them will be lucky enough to have that gamble pay off for them.

        2. DataGirl*

          Yeah… my husband is a contractor in the US because he can’t find a regular job on W2 in our area. It means no health insurance, no retirement fund/401K, MUCH higher taxes, and at least in his case- no control over his own schedule and workload because he can’t afford to pass up jobs when they come by. He did that ONCE in the five years he’s been doing this, because he was already on another job and was put on a ‘do not hire’ list by the company for not immediately being available. And now thanks to COVID there is much less contract work available so he hasn’t worked since March. We’d be thrilled if he could find a normal, 40 hour week job with regular 9-5 Mon-Fri schedule that didn’t require him to fly all over the country at a drop of a hat.

          1. PossumToTheMoon*

            So like obviously freelancing isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t at a level where you are making enough money to cover your own health insurance, you shouldn’t be freelancing. That also means you might need to pass on gigs that ARE heavily contract only – if you can’t hack it then go get the 9-5 job. But don’t crap on employers that hire contractors because lots of contractors love the freedom they have.

            1. DataGirl*

              “If you aren’t at a level where you are making enough money to cover your own health insurance, you shouldn’t be freelancing.” LOL, says the Canadian. Do you have any idea what health insurance costs on the open market in the US?! HA.

              1. Lady Meyneth*

                Yeah… What Possum said was pretty basic common sense. I get the health situation in the US is frustating, but regardless, if your insurance isn’t covered, you need to pay your own health costs, no matter how expensive, or find a job with insurance.

                Freelancing isn’t for everyone and that’s fine. But if you choose to be a freelancer, you need to consider those costs and others when you set your rate, and it’s not the employer’s fault if you fail to do that (as OP’s contractor did).

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              DataGirl was pretty clear, “my husband is a contractor in the US because he can’t find a regular job on W2 in our area”. Sounds like he is a contractor by necessity and not choice and would rather have a W-2 9-5 job, but they are in short supply in his field and in the area they live in.

            3. pancakes*

              It’s incredible to see someone speak as if people who aren’t earning enough money to cover their bills with ease simply haven’t considered making more.

    5. Mary Richards*

      I’m sick of having to defend contractors. None of us—not even Alison—can speak to every industry’s standards. I work in an industry where contractors are the norm. It’s not an attempt to skirt labor laws; we are the definition of a “gig economy” and that’s what the people of our industry know and expect. And yes, we are in the US.

        1. Mary Richards*

          At the same time, that’s the way this industry goes. I can’t see how I could be an employee. It makes no sense with the way things are structured.

  4. Kona*

    OP 2, AAM’s advice was great but I might offer an addendum for the last line. If the employer can’t give you a good reason for letting you go, you don’t want them to try to cook up a reason. That could be far more damaging to your reputation.

    1. MK*

      If an employer can’t give you a good reason for letting you go, they should give a generic/vague one, like restructuring etc, not “poor performance” which is doubly problematic: it clearly damages your professional reputation and it’s difficult to refute.

    2. Mockingjay*

      If OP2 meets with an employment lawyer, I recommend that they negotiate a neutral explanation for the OP’s firing (i.e., don’t call it firing) and designate a reference (not the new manager).

      I am so sorry this happened to OP2.

    3. Mel_05*

      Yeah, I was let go for “poor performance” but the managers who told me I wasn’t performing well couldn’t tell me where I was falling short. Couldn’t describe what would have been better.

      And that’s really been fine. I got a job at one of their vendors and I worried that people from the old company might bad mouth me to the new one. But they didn’t, because what would they say? We didn’t like her?
      Now it’s been long enough that it wouldn’t matter. My new job loves me.

  5. The Wall Of Creativity*

    #OP1
    All depends on the terms of the contract.
    If they signed a six month contract and are wanting to change terms three months into it, the contractor’s being unprofessional.
    If the contract has come to an end or if the way it works is that every job is effectively a separate contract, then prices have gone up and you need to get over it. Just like I’d have to if I started reading your magazines and you bumped up the price after two months.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes. Contracts are temporary. If the person is in the middle of the terms, it’s hard to renegotiate and the person is a little in the wrong to attempt it because they underestimated the freelance rate.

      But if contract is ending soon, by all means it’s fair to put out a renegotiation of the terms. You can accept those or not, but the person doesn’t owe it to you to stay in that case.

    2. WellRed*

      I think it’s pretty clear the contractor is trying to change the terms of the existing contract.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        That is what I thought too. Because they underestimated how much they should have charged.
        But I’m not clear on the length of the original contract or how much longer they have to go in it (could’ve been 6 months only and they are 2 months in?). Is it fair to ask to reevaluate the rate? Sure. But a contract is a contract otherwise, and you can ask as this one ends and/or part ways.

        1. Momma Bear*

          If you get into a contract and realize you lowballed yourself, that stinks. But it may not always be able to be changed. The contractor should bear this in mind for future work. I once realized I’d shorted myself on a firm fixed price contract and considered it Lesson Learned for the next one.

        2. EPLawyer*

          If they underestimate their taxes or normally charge more for writing than editing, that’s not grounds for renegotiating the contract during the term of the contract. Those were things known or could have been know prior to entering the contract. Wanting to renegotiate to improve your side because you messed up is unprofessional. It’s not cutthroat but it is not a good look for the contractor. The owners are under no obligation to renegotiate.

          1. PossumToTheMoon*

            When someone says “on contract” it doesnt always mean anything was signed. Some businesses are really on top of their paperwork and others are …not. If there is no actual physical contract signed the contractor can ask for whatever they want. Usually when I bump up my prices it’s because I’m trying to gently leave without telling the client I don’t want to work for them anymore.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            This is what I was thinking. Honestly, if I were the OP and she and her husband, who I am guessing both normally would have a more hands on role than they are planning for the next few months, I might reconsider keeping Arya on. Not because of the renegotiation, but because it sounds like she isn’t used to doing contract work with minimal to no supervision.

            This line worries more more than the rate negotiation: “Now she is saying she isn’t used to working as a freelancer so much…”. If LW1 and her husband are planning on being very hands off, they seem to be leaving their business in the hands of someone who isn’t used to working quite that independently.

  6. London Lass*

    #3 Is it always the same person or small team inflicting these last-minute calls on you? If so, in your shoes I would very tempted to stop being so vigilant about checking/synching my accounts and let myself miss a call. Make it their problem and they will be more careful in future. If you keep showing them that you are available at silly times and no notice, they will continue to act accordingly.

    But do the out of office thing to so they have a chance to reconsider as well.

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

      Oh, I absolutely agree – once you’ve communicated your availability let yourself miss those calls! Otherwise you’re just training them to believe that your stated work hours don’t mean a thing. And being “on” all the time is the express train to Burnout Station!

      I noticed a setting the other day when setting up my out of office that was something like “automatically decline meeting requests scheduled during this time” – that might be a good idea?

          1. Julie*

            Microsoft in a forum from 2019 indicated that Outlook did not have a method to allow you to auto-decline meetings based on the time zone, but that you could set up an auto-reply based on timezone parameters: https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/msoffice/forum/all/how-to-auto-respond-auto-decline-meetings-outside/8367740b-10ab-49cd-aab4-213ae7a4bd25

            You can set up a rule to auto-decline meetings if you have a scheduled conflict, but then you would need to go through the steps of scheduling something – even just a placeholder – for your off-hours.

        1. Well Then*

          Not sure about Outlook, but Google Calendar lets you do this. There’s an option to create an “Out of Office” event (all day or specific hours) and a checkbox that says “Automatically decline all new and existing meetings because I am out of office.” It will automatically send the meeting organizer an email declining the invitation (even if you previously RSVPed yes, I think).

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, and perhaps also ask that if they have to schedule at short notice that the meeting is set for not before 10 a.m. your time, as that way even if they schedule it for a Monday morning you do have a brief window pre-meeting to prepare, rather than it being at 9 a.m. with no prep time. I appreciate that time differences may mean that this is fairly late in the day for them, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that they pick whether they would rather (say) 9 a.m. your time on a Tuesday, giving you 24 hours notice, or 10 .m. on the Monday, effectively giving you 1 hours notice but possibly meaning that it’s 5 p.m. their time.

      1. Hi there*

        Or, if the most annoying request is for a Monday 9 am meeting, could you put a hold on your calendar for that time? If they are picking times using free/busy in Outlook you’d appear unavailable. Even half an hour here might be a help.

    3. Lora*

      Yes, I have had to do this. It sucks, but I have met too many people who don’t know how to use the Scheduling Assistant function of Outlook to see that I am Not Available, schedule something where I am supposed to be doing the majority of presenting and communicating, and then being completely mystified when everyone in Europe and Singapore show up and none of the US office make it…because it’s 3am here. Then they get mad at us for not showing up and wasting their time, go to reschedule but this time with a whiny note about people showing up, and all the US people politely point out that we are NOT going to make a 3am call, pick a different time. “Oh…didn’t know you weren’t in Europe…” and then miraculously they are able to schedule meetings for more reasonable times (e.g. 8pm my time) It would have taken them about 30 seconds to find out, they just couldn’t be arsed.

      I have had to do this when the grandboss or great-grandboss’s time was wasted, and the great-grandboss actually pointed out to them that by sending the meeting invites at such a stupid time, they had deliberately excluded me and seemed to be playing at some Mean Girls nonsense.

      1. Mill Miker*

        Would the scheduling assistant help with this though? By the sounds of it the OP is free and available at those times, just not checking their email in the 12+ hours immediately before them.

    4. Coffee Bean*

      I have had people in Asia Pacific countries and Europe contacting me to join a call at the last minute. I am located in the U.S. East Coast. In one case, they were sending emails to me at 3:00 AM my time asking if I could join a call at 3:30 AM my time. When I didn’t respond or join the call, I received a slew of emails asking why I hadn’t responded or joined the call. The kicker here is that one of the people asking me to join the call and asking why I wasn’t responding knows I am located in the U.S.

      When I started working later that day, I saw the emails. I responded that I am located in the U.S., and I hadn’t been been working or checking e-mail at 3:00 AM. I wouldn’t be able to join a call at 3:30. People were actually a bit put off by this. I don’t have an on-call job, and this wasn’t an emergency, so. . .

      I also identified that I can join calls starting at 7:00 AM my time, but I need a couple of days advanced notice. I feel that is reasonable.

    5. gsa*

      I think Alison mentioning GMT is important.

      My wife has clients who Greenwich meantime and Greenwich meantime + (1). We are Greenwich meantime + (5)

      She and her clients understand that there is a small window when they can do business calls.

      12 hours apart would be a pain in the ass to accommodate on both ends. As long as all parties understand the leadtime the schedule meeting and that no one wants to be up at 3 AM to other side can I have a 3 PM meeting.

      OP#3, talk to the people scheduling these meetings.

      Good Luck,

      gsa

  7. Torienne*

    #1: There is always the possibility that the manager has been told to shrink headcount without incurring liability for unemployment. This happens a lot: Someone is suddenly fired – or “reasons” are collected to fire them, and their unemployment payments are contested. People who are fired because they were told their performance was poor will sometimes be too ashamed to file for unemployment, or will wrongly believe that being fired means you can’t get unemployment.

    So no matter what, the writer should file for unemployment benefits, make sure they have copies of their feedback for proof, and if it is contested, appeal (appeals are VERY frequently denied) and go to hearing if the appeal is denied. And this is true for everyone who is terminated for any reason.

    1. MBK*

      Yeah, I immediately thought the “poor performance” thing was a way to frustrate OP2’s ability to collect UI.

    2. Chriama*

      I don’t know about US employment law, but here in Canada you’re still entitled so severance in almost any situation. Employers can try to cite poor performance, but common law provisions don’t care about anything less than gross misconduct. The standard is about a month/year. I don’t know if at-will employment means the standards for severance are different in the US, but I think OP should definitely talk to a lawyer to confirm. Quite frankly if the 3 years of glowing reviews and sudden removal under a new manager could be spun to intimate even the appearance of illegal discrimination, that might prompt the employer to offer a settlement. Definitely don’t walk away without even trying!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        There are no “standards” for severance in the US, nor is it required under pretty much any circumstances unless there’s a contract (with the individual or with a union) that requires it.

        1. Chriama*

          It’s not legally required, but there are standards under common law. That is to say, if you took it to court a judge would be on your side for reasonable amounts of severance, but there’s no government agency to contact to act on your behalf compared to outright illegal acts like deducting tips or just not paying you. Basically any indication that you know your rights or have a lawyer gets employers in a negotiating mood because settlements are cheaper than court costs.

          If I understand correctly, are you saying that in the US if you took an employer to court for not paying severance you would have no reasonable claim unless you were let go for an illegal reason?

          1. Ferret*

            “It’s not legally required, but there are standards under common law” this statement doesn’t really make sense. If there is no law stating that severance must be paid or an explicit contractual/ union agreement to do so then no violation has been committed and there is nothing to sue for. Someone might ‘be on your side’ with regards to unfairness or bad business practices but without an explicit legal entitlement there is nothing a judge or anyone else can do for you.

            Caveats – I am in no way a lawyer and am not in the USA so I might be completely misrepresenting this. I learned most of what I know about US employment practices fro reading AAM

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            In the U.S., no law requires severance. The only legal issue would be if you were fired for a specifically illegal reason (discrimination, retaliation for legally protected conduct, etc.) and even then the issue would be the firing, not the lack of severance.

    3. CatCat*

      Interesting. In my state, being let go because the employer thinks you suck at your job still entitles you to UI benefits. There’d have to be some kind of misconduct to get denied.

      1. doreen*

        I think that’s true in most ( if not all) states – but that doesn’t mean someone who is let go for poor performance knows that, and they may not even apply because they think they aren’t eligible. Which still saves the employer money.

  8. MBA*

    #2. Something very similar happened to me. 5 years of glowing reviews and promotions. New manager and I was laid off in less than 3 months. They went with “eliminated the role” because it was easier- what was really going on is he wanted to hire his friend into my role. They eliminated my role technically and brought his friend in with a different title to do the same job.

    Anyway, what was helpful as a processed the whole thing was to reach out to other senior mentors/friends across the company. All of them-including my old boss-were equally shocked.

    When you were laid off, was there any reference to actual poor performance (Eg failure to do X or Y)?

    I would recommend reaching out to a lawyer just to see if there’s any shady business.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, maybe the lawyer would do a fake reference check for you, so you can find out what they are telling your potential employers.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, and while that does suck, companies do have the right to downsize, restructure, or reorganize their staff as business needs change. But if they do so, they should just enact the layoffs.

      It’s the outright faking of sudden bad reviews to otherwise long time good employees, or manufacturing of “cause” to try to avoid paying severance or unemployment I have an issue with. And there aren’t many protections for employees when this happens.

      1. 653-CXK*

        My former company was notorious in doing this…they didn’t want to do the layoffs because (a) people in my unit would go into a full-blown panic and (b) they would have to pay out one week’s severance for each year of service, and some people were there for more than 10-20 years.

        Thus, the company “target sniped” people who were at the end of their salary band, who had worked many years, and

        1. 653-CXK*

          Whoops…I meant to continue my thought and hit submit instead…

          In the unit I worked with, if you reached the end of your salary band and/or worked there for many years and/or challenged the dogma that resided in upper management, you were a prime target for being managed out, and any deviation from your work, no matter how slight, was grounds for getting written up and then terminated.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah. My brother’s company considered going this shady route to avoid severance and unemployment. The lawyers finally got through to them how penny-wise and pound-foolish it was. (Appeals to common human decency got nowhere, as usual.)

        1. If people who have been successful are suddenly fired “for poor performance”, some of them will suspect discrimination and get litigious.
        2. Severance agreements commonly come with conditions of not suing and sometimes non-disparagement.

    3. some dude*

      Same thing happened to me – glowing reviews, lots of raises and increased responsibility, then new manager and I’m fired for poor performance. It MESSED with me. She hired her friend to replace me. I also suspect there were some illegal reasons (she was a different gender and ethnicity than I, and made it clear she had issues with people of my ethnicity and gender), and she just wanted to clean house. She ended up being horrible to work with – my colleague quit without a job lined up because she couldn’t hang anymore. That place of employment fired maybe half the staff that way. Just random firings with no notice, because they couldn’t be bothered to actually manage anyone. Some were legit (i.e. the employee had performance issues), but many weren’t, and even the legit ones were done in ways that didn’t give the employees a change to improve or learn.

      I spoke to my managers and VPs to see what advice they’d offer me to move forward in my next position, which was helpful – they were all very cagey, which made me think they didn’t agree with my being let go. I got glowing references and landed a better job, but to this day I have severe imposter syndrome because I think I am actually a terrible employee and I am just about to be fired.

      What has helped me (besides therapy) is acknowledging that there are ways I can be a better employee and work towards them, while also acknowledging that my manager was on their own bs and I was just collateral damage. It stinks though.

      1. Coffee Bean*

        I am sorry you went through this, Some Dude. I really wish you would consider those glowing references as substantiation of your great work ethic and performance.

        1. some dude*

          Thanks. The glowing references helped. I quickly landed a new gig which helped, and I had needed to move on from that place for a couple years. I also had the opportunity to talk with former colleagues who had also been axed uncerimoniously, so we could commiserate.

  9. Not So NewReader*

    OP 1. You say you have cut back or let go of other contractors. Can one of these people do that work in her place?

    To me she sounds like she is relatively new to doing contract work. Did you ask her how long she has been doing contract work?

    You had her submit her own writing as part of the interview. OP, to me that is a leap in logic to think she should figure out she would be writing, also. I say this because I have seen things on an interview that were necessary to complete the interview, yet had nothing to do with the job. This happens often, in my opinion.
    My husband had to take a mechanical test to do a job that involved circuit boards. He had been in the arena for 20 years so he knew the test had nothing to do with anything real world. Long story short the whole thing ended up in court because of reasons not related to my husband. It was just a bad test.
    My point is that interviewees often encounter things that are irrelevant on an interview and they learn to skate by it.

    Honestly, OP, it sounds like your ability to trust her is broken. And perhaps broken beyond repair. I am not convinced from what I see here that the situation warrants this reaction. There maybe more background stuff that would fill this out.
    Somehow more background doesn’t really matter that much. Trust is a make it or break it thing, OP. It’s either there or it’s not.

    Here’s the bottomline: Let’s say you cave and you pay her more. Will you be able to trust her work then?
    Going the opposite way, let’s say you keep the current rate of pay, will you be able to trust her work in the near future?
    Hanging on to an employee/contractor for the reason there is not time to get anyone else is NOT a strong reason, OP. Matter of fact, it’s a recipe for disaster for you and for her.

    I am wondering if she fully understands what you mean by working independently. Do you mean one phone call a week? Do you mean zero contact? What do you envision here?

    Just going on what you have here, OP, I think that your expectations sound pretty high. You might be justified due to extenuating circumstances. If this is the case then my suggestion is that you find a person who is more seasoned than this person and is able to carry the ball with little to no inputs.

    1. ian*

      I feel like it may be hard for them to find a person “more seasoned”, considering this (apparently junior) person is already asking for pay near the top end of their budget…

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      I completely agree with this. I’ve had a few smaller freelance editing jobs that made me submit writing samples, basically to establish a baseline of my abilities. Sometimes editing is more than inserting a coma, but rather rewriting entire passages. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it in this case.

  10. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – Be careful. Be VERY careful. Oftentimes, a company will say they terminated your employment “for cause”, when all they’re trying to do is make a pre-emptive, obstructive tactic against any unemployment claim you might make.

    I live in Massachusetts, where the unemployment office won’t tolerate that crap, and they see right through it and the company will almost certainly lose any appeal (given the circumstances you state). Also – is there a company handbook, which lays out the process for corrective action / discipline ??? Did your manager follow that?

    But in other states, the authorities might not be as employee-friendly, and some larger companies actually hire consulting firms to advise and assist them in the blocking and obstruction of unemployment insurance claims.
    Yes, if you use Google and look for them, you’ll find them (just as you’ll find union busting consultants)…

    Good luck…!!!

    1. Mel_05*

      Poor performance doesn’t usually count as “for cause”

      It typically has to be something like not showing up as scheduled, actually not doing the work, doing something illegal….

      I was fired for “poor performance” and had no issues getting unemployment.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Just being fired can hold up an unemployment claim. Depends on how it’s presented.

        If OP is in a competitive industry, being fired may make it even more difficult to get another job.

      2. Former Employee*

        Well, the manager may be stupid as well as obnoxious and actually believe that this will work.

  11. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – the consultant who wants a higher rate. God Bless America (and Canada) and the free labor market.

    You’re free to pay it. You’re also free to NOT pay it. And you are within your rights to remind the contractor that you budgeted X dollars for her services. BUT – two things to remember —

    1) You can say “no”. And your consultant can walk. A deal is a deal is a deal. You’re allowed to pay more, she’s allowed to walk.

    2) Let’s put your budget aside for a minute. Is she asking that her rate be adjusted to the current market, and you can’t afford it? In other words, you got her for a bargain rate, and she wants more money? Especially after the contract ends? We see this all the time in the IS/IT world – a company hires a rock star and gets him/her at a bargain rate. Then said Rock Star learns he or she is getting paid way below market rate and seeks to remedy the situation.

    As I said – you’re perfectly within your rights to say NO, you said this, we planned and budgeted for X, and that’s all we can do for now. I have always kept my commitments, so, if I were a contractor, I’d stick to the deal I struck. But not forever.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Well, a contract is a contract. How is this contract worded? Because if it’s a 6-month contract the contractor who failed to understand her expenses has to just suck it up or break the contract and deal with consequences of breaking a contract.

      OTOH if the contract allows for the rates to be changed, she can choose to change her rates going forward and the the LW has a decision to make.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Right – actually what I said but the rate can be re-negotiated at renewal time. And as I said in another post – some don’t understand tax ramifications. For instance, a $100,000 salary in Florida is much better, tax wise, than the same salary in Boston, New York, or Los Angeles. But some don’t think of the total package.

        – health insurance costs
        – living costs (food, fuel, housing)
        – taxes (state income tax, local taxes, county taxes, and – of course, federal taxes which are unavoidable)
        – quality of life issues which extend into spending — crummy school district, security of your home, etc.

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      Also, please please don’t mistreat her for asking for more money! It’s not a betrayal or an insult. (It may be ill-advised after such a short time, but that’s a different thing.) Say yes it you think it’s wise, no if you don’t. But don’t hold a grudge. She’s just asking, and that’s not a crime.

      (And it’s HARD to figure out the tax ramifications if you’re new at being self-employed. Seriously. Signed, a freelancer.)

      1. SmallBizOwner*

        Shirley, that’s a good reminder. We don’t want to hold a grudge or mistreat her, assuming she continues on. But it’s helpful to be reminded that, since it certainly *feels* like a betrayal on our end, even though I hope it’s an honest mistake about her tax liability and not a calculated move.

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          Thanks for jumping into the comments! I promise (despite the vastly entertaining Machiavellian stories earlier), the vast majority of us simply not up to calculated moves and wicked schemes. Mostly we’re just stumbling around trying to remember our passwords and where we left our keys.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yeah, but if you want to be a free-lancer, you have to learn how to do it BEFORE you start it. You have to learn the realities of taxes, accounting, expectations on both sides, and it’s best to learn from others who are doing it.

        I have a friend who did a session at a professional conference “so, you want to be a contractor?” — and — it was enlightening. Very much like people who get what is called in northern New England “Newhart Syndrome” — they think running a B&B would be so much fun, you can make cookies and serve them to your guests, etc. — a couple might get a buyout from Bigdome & Company on Wall Street, and they sell their house in Jersey or Lawn Gisland and move to Vermont and buy a huge house and try to start a business and realize it’s not all it’s hepped up to be. 80 hours a week – 7 days a week – a lot of service work.

        Gee whiz, it wasn’t what you expected? Same with freelancing.

    3. SmallBizOwner*

      OP #1 here :)

      @the_artist: I can say she is definitely not being paid below the market rate. I’d say the current rate is competitive although not the highest out there, but above middle of the market. (Based on: having seen several hundreds applications during hiring and having also worked freelance in this industry myself, at least.)

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Good – we weren’t aware of it. Sometimes some employers (not you!) lowball someone and then he/she realizes they’re being grossly underpaid.

  12. Karia*

    2) “she had only been my manager for three months”

    I am 95% it’s this. A couple years back I had my dream job. I got employee of the month twice in one year. I’d gotten a raise, consistently good reviews, was good friends with my boss. Then he was replaced, and within six months I’d been bullied out by the new boss.

    I initially took this very personally, but over the next year, she used various pretences ranging from ‘budget cuts’, to fabricated performance issues, to cut two thirds of the team. Mysteriously, only the ones who’d been with the company 2+ years. She replaced them with contractors (invariably her mates) and relatives.

  13. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP1, it sounds as though Arya is inexperienced when it comes to contracting or freelancing, and has both miscalculated the rate she should be asking for, and not made sure the two of you are clear about the type of work required.

    This does happen, although she needs to work (really important) aspect of working for herself, and negotiate future contracts more effectively – rather than asking you to re-negotiate.

    That said, if she feels that she is being underpaid, she may neglect your work in favour of other clients who are paying her more, and that will cause more problems for you going forward than just paying the higher rate. So that’s an argument for agreeing to her new rate, if it’s not unreasonable. But I would suggest you have a really clear conversation with her about your work relationship going forward, and be very clear about your expectations.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      EDIT: she needs to work _on this_ (really important) aspect of working for herself

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’m wondering if there’s a win/win there.

      OP#1, would you be willing to pay the difference in the two rates from here to the end of the contract as a conditional bonus if measurables are met during the postpartum period? If you get what you need during that period, would that feel like money well spent?

      1. SmallBizOwner*

        OP #1 here. Sola, that is a GREAT idea. I’m going to discuss with my partner what kind of goals we might set to tie it too (which are achievable but would indeed make it worth our while.) Thank you!

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Also, LW1, really think about if you want someone who is admittedly inexperienced with freelancing/contract-work-with-minimal-supervision while you and your husband are otherwise engaged. It may be hard to replace here at this stage, but it might be even harder if she isn’t really suited to doing fully independent work to fix things when you are also juggling a new baby.

  14. Ash*

    OP1, the fact that you are having a baby is irrelevant to the situation at hand, aside from you just deciding whether or not you want to pay her the higher rate to save yourself the headache of hiring and on-boarding someone new. You mention a few times that “she knew” the situation you were in, but it’s really not her concern. People have babies or have to go out on leave all the time. The other employees don’t have to put their needs on hold due to your needs.

    1. SmallBizOwner*

      Op #1 here :) Respectfully, I disagree. It might help to get some context: at the start we made clear that this is a major reason why she is being hired and we will need to count on her handling things during that time. If someone is contracted with the specific goal of covering someone else’s maternity leave, then actually working through the maternity leave is very much their concern — on a basic business level, not just a “aww be a nice guy” level. It’s what she was hired (in part) to do. And deciding to ask for more money or walk shortly before baby is born is, on a professional level, a very big deal. At least, that’s the way I see it :)

      1. Ash*

        Do you have some sort of clawback written into your contract with her if she leaves prior to the pre-determined end date? I think the problem is that she is trying to re-neg on the terms of the contract, due to her own lack of research about what she should be charging. It would be perfectly valid to say that you cannot change the terms. I get that this feels extra urgent because of your upcoming maternity leave, but again, I think that ultimately if you don’t have a clawback how could you have guaranteed she stayed the whole time anyway?

  15. TootsNYC*

    I’d punctuate thusly

    (product manager I, Jan.–Sept. 2020; product manager II, Oct.–Dec. 2020; product manager III, Jan. 2021–present)

  16. Chriama*

    #1 – People are really reading into OP’s letter, assuming that she’s paying below market rate or wasn’t clear on the job duties. I think that’s a little uncharitable. Contractor agreed to the rate, and now wants to raise it, and it seems like OP feels they’re doing it because they know (or believe) that the extra cost is less of an inconvenience than trying to rehire at this point.

    OP, if you truly think they’re doing this now because they’ve got you over a figurative barrel, decide what matters more to you – if you can afford to pay the increased rate, and it’s still within market rates, do so. If you can’t, or it’s unreasonable, or you feel taken advantage of and just don’t want to work with the contractor anymore, let them go. Like Alison says, plenty of people are looking for work now. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either decision you make, nor do I think April is necessarily in the wrong. You guys have to do what’s best for yourselves, and nothing in this letter stands out as unethical behaviour on anyone’s part.

    1. WellRed*

      While I agree that folks are reading too much into this, the OP’s. view of why the contractor is trying to renegotiate is equally uncharitable. Why go immediately to “cutthroat” instead of asking herself, “Are our rates fair?” “Did I lay out the job expectations clearly?” (not saying she didn’t, but worth considering). FWIW, if it’s solely b/c the contractor messed up, that’s on them.

    2. another Hero*

      tbh I’m assuming op1 is paying below market rate specifically because they couldn’t afford to pay their old contractors and then hired Arya instead of keeping on one of the people they already worked and had a relationship with. I might be wrong, but when combined with Arya’s stated reasons for a raise, I don’t think it’s out there to say (as Alison did) that op should evaluate whether Arya is being underpaid and making a reasonable request.

      1. SmallBizOwner*

        OP #1 here. Our previous editor left for reasons related to COVID. Meanwhile, we actually pay Arya (the current person) even more than we paid the old editor. I think you’re misreading my original message — the contractors who we cut back on were in other, unrelated positions. Think of it like a restaurant having to let go of some waiters and a sommelier to make ends meet but making sure they still have a good chef turning out great food.

    3. Just Another Zebra*

      I don’t think OP is necessarily being unethical, but it’s certainly possible they aren’t paying market rate (hence losing their other contractors and hiring someone who sounds newer = less experienced = lower pay), or are paying at the very bottom range. I agree that Arya should have done more homework on her tax rate, and the OP is certainly free to not increase salary. But they’re still valid questions to ask.

  17. Geek*

    #3

    What happens if you miss a meeting? Are the people scheduling the meeting aware of when you start work?

    I work in a distributed, round-the-globe, international company. We deal not only with different time zones, but different primary languages. We use English to communicate, but we also explicitly remind each other than English is not the primary language of everyone and that different cultures and idioms may be interpreted differently. Our first rule is when in doubt, extend grace. Assume good intentions on the part of our coworkers, which is especially important if you don’t have constant, personal relationships.

    What happens if you reply to a meeting request with a request for a more convenient time for yourself? What would happen if you set non-working times in your calendar? Maybe even include the first hour of your as either non-working, or mark it as tentative? What happens if you make a habit of checking your calendar when you wake up to see if you need to login sooner than normal? I’m guessing that if they are willing to meet from 7p-8p their time, they are already making concessions. Maybe it’s important to start your day at 7a so you have a planned hour overlap?

  18. JohannaCabal*

    #2 As far as I’m concerned, you were “laid off.” While your state may have At Will employment, it never hurts to get a lawyer to negotiate with HR about reclassifying it as a layoff and ensuring at least a neutral reference. HR exists to protect the company and while you likely do not have a case for a lawsuit, no company wants to be bogged down in a lawsuit. This means HR will often agree to these terms.

    Also, no matter what you do, have a friend (there are also services that will do this for you) call your old employer for a reference on your behalf. Document what is said on the call.

    You may also find that due to the pandemic, employers will just assume you were laid off. I know some people who were fired (not laid off) in 2008-2009 and according to them, most prospective employers just assumed they were laid off.

  19. cncx*

    one of the things i have noticed with OP2 type situations in my career is that when someone is gotten rid of for political reasons, they usually can count on good references because somehow these people know they are wrong for what they did. I agree with AAM, see if someone higher up who signed off on your performance reviews can be the official reference for that job, and chalk it up to petty people being petty. it probably wasn’t you, OP and it’s unfair.

    1. Rayray*

      This is good advice. I left a job a couple years ago and I never had a good relationship with my manager (she was promoted during my time there) and the partner who had taken over and was in charge. However, I had a wonderful relationship with the partner who was running things when I had started and a few others so I am able to use them as my references.

  20. Rayray*

    Even if this new manager has an issue with the employee who was fired, it seems very unfair to me that they could actually fire someone they only managed for three months unless something major happened, but if it was just performance not being totally up to par, it still doesn’t seem like three months is quite enough time to judge that fairly.

    I’m very sorry OP. This happened to a coworker of mine, the management made no efforts to communicate to her that they were unhappy with her performance. They encouraged her to stay home when her kids were sick and while I and others felt it was excessive, management still let it slide and never indicated to her that it was an issue. It bothered me a lot that they let her think all was good and then just out of nowhere fired her. People suck, and I see fee too many people in management who lack basic communication skills and empathy.

  21. employment lawyah*

    2. I was fired for “poor performance” after years of glowing feedback
    Call a lawyer–by which I mean an “employment specialist who does plaintiff-side work”–ASAP.

    A lot of these are some sort of cover for discrimination. Even if discrimination is not obvious, it’s often possible to negotiate severance.

    Don’t make this call on your own. Obviously it will trigger if you have any protected class membership. But even if you’re a white young able bodied male, you still may have coverage for various reasons. Some *conduct* can be protected, as well.

  22. Lucy P*

    #1, Just for my understanding, and my apologies if this isn’t the place for it, what determines a fair rate? Is that rate something that is industry-wide, or is company size and geography a factor? I’ve always worked for small companies. The salaries, or what the executives are willing to pay, have always seemed less than what larger companies pay their staffs. I help with recruiting, but almost never have a say in salaries or pay rates. One thing I have to do though, is ask for expected salaries. On average, expected salaries are at least 25% more than what is “budgeted for”. Most often these people are coming from companies with staffing levels of 100+ employees, while the small company is staff of 25 or less. We had someone quit last year because the company refused to match the salary that they thought they should make. This was a under-30, with a post graduate degree, less than 5 years of experience, in the deep south. They felt they should be making 80k+. However, as the ex-employee tells it, the job that they took (which was with a global company with lots of employees) only paid marginally more than the job they left.

    1. D3*

      There is lots of research out there on market rates and how they’re calculated and it’s readily available online. I suggest you research that and present it to your employers.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Geography definitely plays a factor. Fair market rate for a job in NY is much more that fair market rate for the same job in the country. If it’s not a remote job then you need to consider how much it costs to live and work near your company.

      It is quite possible that your company is cheap and doesn’t pay fair market rates since many applicants say they expect a salary 25% more than your company budgets for normally budget for.

  23. Three Flowers*

    LW3, have you considered using an appointment management tool that will let you refuse appointments less than X number of hours in advance? My office (which takes a lot of 1-1 client consultations and was previously relying entirely on Google Calendar meeting invites) now uses Calendly, and it was *amazing* to realize I could set up a rule that prevented people from setting meetings with less than 18 hours notice, which effectively prevents first-thing-tomorrow meetings, or block meetings before X:00 AM.

  24. Khatul Madame*

    OP#1 you must prepare for the contingency of Arya leaving. If you had any comparable candidates from before (people who lost to Arya), consider if any of them would work. If not, start recruiting now. As AAM says, there are plenty of qualified people on the market and you may be able to onboard a new hire before the baby comes.

    1. SmallBizOwner*

      Thank you Khatul! (OP #1 here). Yeah, that’s my big worry is that this is a sign she might be looking for other clients and planning to leave whether we give her the raise or not. We definitely had other finalist candidates, none as good as her editorially although at least one that seemed quite promising. Good call about potentially beginning to hire again, too. Thank you :)

  25. SmallBizOwner*

    Hi all, I’m the person who wrote in with question #1 about the contractor. Alison, thanks for your answer — that’s a good way to look at it! To answer your question, would we have gone with the higher rate if she’d originally asked for it? It’s tricky. She was already near the top of our range but not the highest candidate we looked at. I suppose it depends on *how much* of a rate increase we’re talking. Maybe the first step would be for me to ask what specific increase she’d like to see. It will be tight for us even if it’s small, however. I’m tempted to be frank with her about how we’ve cut back other people to balance the budget so that she knows that before we start talking numbers.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s totally fair to say, “I want to be up-front with you that like a lot of employers we’ve had to make a lot of cuts this year, including to our freelance budget, but I also want you to feel you’re paid fairly. What specific rate did you have in mind?”

      (Also, if she just asked you for “more” without specifying how much …. that is odd, and I think goes to what others have said about her being inexperienced at freelancing, and it being worth you thinking through whether you want an inexperienced freelancer operating so on her own while you’re elsewhere.)

      1. SmallBizOwner*

        That’s great wording Alison, and a good point about whether we want to rely on her. She’s an experienced editor but not experienced working in a freelance capacity, it seems. I’ll discuss that with my partner.

        1. Wisteria*

          I don’t think that’s a good point at all. First, she is an independent contractor to your business, which is a type of freelancing but it’s not quite the same as going out and finding clients. Being an independent contractor to a business is not functionally that different from being an employee of that business (which is why there are such heated debates about whether independent contractors are or are not employees). It still boils down to: you give her assignments, she does them. The elements of doing what is asked, balancing your time, and turning in assignments on time is actually identical between independent contracting and regular employment. If she was a good employee, she will be a good contractor. If you have seen anything outside of her rate that would indicate that she is not a good worker, then pursue those questions with her. Just not knowing how to set her rate should not be enough to say that she won’t be a good independent contractor in terms of working reliably without oversight.

          Also, I don’t know if you saw my comment below, but she is correct that writing pays better than editing. If you are paying a writer at editor rates, you can expect them to ask for more.

  26. Wisteria*

    LW1- I have been a freelance and a contract editor. Your contract employee is correct that writing pays better than editing. Do you research market rates before you agree to a contractor’s rates? You don’t mention whether you pay by the article by the word or hourly. I recommend you research market rates for writing and editing and review the rate that you pay all of your contractors for all of their work based on that.

  27. anonforthis*

    I haven’t had a chance to read through the responses but –

    OP1 – I’m sure you’ll have a discussion with Arya about her new expectations. I want to encourage you to not be afraid to make a change NOW if you feel as if she is being unreasonable or won’t be able to do what you need her to do during parental leave. Eight weeks is enough time to get someone new in place, and you definitely want to do it prior to the baby’s arrival instead of handling this in January while on parental leave. As someone who has hired many, many contractors (and employees) and is out of the office a lot for travel or for parental leave, I trust my gut on these things and make changes sooner rather than later in nearly all cases where I am concerned it may not work out.

    OP2 – I’m so sorry about this. It sounds like your new manager had other ideas about how to use the role you were in, and it’s not fair to not get feedback. Am not sure how long it has been since this separation, but please remember that severance is negotiable. Things you can discuss are 1) will you deny unemployment, 2) what severance is being offered, 3) try to negotiate a good reference, or at the least, an agreement that you as the employer will only confirm dates of employment, 4) how long will health insurance go and even ask for it to go longer, 5) are you eligible for re-hire at the company, and 6) a copy of your personnel file. Obviously the goal is make sure you have a financial bridge between this job and your new one, and if possible, secure a strong reference for future employment. I run a nonprofit, and in the very unfortunate event we have to separate from an employee, unless violations are egregious, we try to do it with as much dignity as possible including not denying unemployment, offering severance, and if we can do so in good conscious, agreeing to offer a reference. Good luck.

  28. lazuli*

    The missing period on Letter 4 is cracking me up:

    My fiance and I live very far from our respective families, and we hate that We’re planning to relocate to a city halfway between them in the next 6-12 months.

    I think that’s not exactly what the writer meant to convey!

  29. Dragon Toad*

    I’m just looking at the last letter – if our job title changes, but the job itself (and by that I mean the actual position, rank, and duties) does not, do we have to include that?

    I’ve been in the same job for about 5yrs now, but in that time the “title” that we are given, and that we use in our email signatures, etc etc, has changed about…..three or four times? Except the titles have got less and less explanatory as time has gone on; the original title sorta gave you an idea of what my position was, and it’s now impossible to tell what my position is based off my title. The current one also makes my position look like a lesser one than it actually is. So I’ve just put a generic explanatory title on my resume that actually says what I do – for example, for a job advising and assisting llama trainers, I put down “Llama trainer advisor” rather than “llama trainer ambassador”, followed by “llama farm team member” and “llama farm team assistant”.

    Is that cool, or do I have to list all my titles and the dates by which I held them? The job has not altered, they’ve just kept coming up with new names for my job, most of which are rather useless at saying what I actually am/do.

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