employee wants to do more but won’t do it well, talking salary with coworkers, and more

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

1. My employee can’t handle their job and wants to do more

I have been managing someone for three years and it’s gradually gotten more and more difficult. We work in a fast paced industry with demanding clients. This person came from a similar company so that part is not new. But as time has gone on they have proven to be unable to handle any stress or ambiguity. Their job is to be the person who makes sense of ambiguity on projects! I have tried coaching myself and even gotten them their own leadership coach, but it’s not helping.

Now they have spun the narrative to say that the real problem is they don’t like their current job and want to stretch into new areas. The problem is those areas are either a) for more senior staff who have shown they can lead a team under pressure or b) things this person has no experience doing aren’t exactly things we do enough to constitute a new role. I would normally have no problem helping someone develop new skills, but not when they haven’t shown the core capabilities of their current role and want to take on higher roles. Any time they have been put on a “stretch” project in the past they have required a disproportionate amount of support from either myself or the other members of the team. It’s gotten to the point where if I try to assign them on a project other managers protest because it creates more work for everyone else.

They continue to act entitled to do different roles that they haven’t earned and I have no one to do the role they were hired for. When I find projects that are slightly more aligned to their new “interests,” they act ungrateful. I have delivered clear feedback many times and given them things to work on but nothing changes. I dread every 1:1 we have and honestly just wish they would leave. Any advice?

Usually when you wish someone would quit, it’s a sign that you need to manage the situation more assertively. The first thing I’d ask is whether this person is meeting the bar you need in the job they’re currently in. Leaving aside stretch projects, are they good enough at their core work? What about when you factor in how much energy it takes to manage them? Because it’s possible that they’re just not right for the job and you need to replace them with someone who is (after first clearly laying out what needs to change and giving them a chance to do that). Since you noted they haven’t shown the core capabilities needed for the role, this is most likely where you are.

But if that’s not the case, then I’d sit down and have a blunt conversation where you say, “I understand that you’re interested in moving into new areas. I want to be up-front with you that that’s not something that can happen here because I’m not seeing things like X and Y. The job really is ____ and not more. Can you take some time and think about whether you want to stay in the job, knowing that’s not something that will change?”

2. Did I mess up by talking about salary with my coworkers?

I work for a small employer in a senior position. No one here has the exact same job responsibilities so it’s hard to make a salary comparison of what one person vs. another makes and whether folks are fairly compensated. I am a woman.

Through the normal course of my work, I was given salary information from a coworker who is at the same senior level as me. I have more than a decade more experience than him, but he makes significantly more money than me. I thought about this for quite a while, unsure if I should bring it up to my boss (didn’t want to come across as accusing the company of sexism if it in fact wasn’t). Finally, I decided to discuss it, in general terms, with a female coworker, also at the same level, before deciding. I told my coworker that I found out a male coworker made significantly more than me and I wasn’t sure if or how I should bring it up. No numbers were discussed, and I wasn’t (in my mind) giving out private information, just getting a read on the situation. She thought I should definitely bring it up and that it probably was gender-related. But she later reported the conversation and I had a very uncomfortable meeting with my boss and HR in which they said I was cavalierly discussing people’s salary information. I explained my side, that I certainly wasn’t giving out anyone’s information, and why the discussion had taken place to begin with.

My career at this company is stalled anyway and I’ve been job hunting, but who knows how long it will be until I can get out. I feel like this is hanging over my head now and would really like to know your take on it. Did I massively screw up or did they take everything out of context and blow it out of proportion?

You didn’t screw up. It’s important to be able to talk with colleagues about salary because that’s one of the main ways people are able to uncover salary disparities, as well as gather info on market rates (especially given how secretive most companies are about salaries). What’s more, your right to have those conversations is protected under federal law; your company can’t legally interfere with your discussions of salary with colleagues (with some exceptions; more here). We need to be having more of these conversations, not fewer.

(I do want to know why your coworker reported the conversation. If she was raising concerns about salary inequities, fine. But otherwise…)

3. Asking for time off instead of a bonus

Is there a diplomatic way to tell your employer that you’d prefer extra time off rather than an end-of-year cash bonus, or would this be off-limits and sound completely unappreciative? It doesn’t seem appropriate to respond to a bonus with this request, but is there a way to gracefully request it for later years if bonuses are given out? For some context, I’m an attorney at a non-BigLaw firm. We generally receive a cash bonus at the end of year. The amounts vary from year to year, and I can’t figure out how much correlation there is with our billable hours for each year. Even though we’re not a BigLaw firm and have a reasonable billable hour requirement on paper, we’re nonetheless expected to work big law hours (without the BigLaw salary or bonuses), so every year I come in several hundred hours over target. Given how much I work (and frankly how exhausted I am from working all the time — a different topic) and my family’s financial situation, I’d far prefer time off than money as a “thank you.” For example, when I used to work at a nonprofit, the executive director would generally give the whole staff a week or two off at the end of the year without using our vacation time.

In a law firm with BigLaw-type hours, maybe not.

In other types of jobs, the answer is often yes. In many contexts it’s fine to say something like, “Would you be open to extra time off this year in lieu of a bonus? As appreciative as I am of the extra money, time off is the thing that would have the most impact for me right now.”

But if you’re in an office where everyone works relentlessly long hours — the very situation where you’d need the extra time off the most — that’s often a culture that doesn’t see value in time off or will see too many obstacles to making it work. If you have a lot of capital, you can sometimes negotiate for it anyway. But sometimes simply asking can mark you as out-of-touch with the culture (which is absurd, but still a thing), so you’d want to have a sense of that first.

4. Does joining LinkedIn signal that I want to leave my job?

I’m always hesitant to join LinkedIn because I feel like it will tell my employer I’m getting ready to leave soon if I join and start adding a bunch of people from there. I’m in an industry (software development) where people notoriously get lots of job offers from LinkedIn, which I think makes my fear more valid.

Also, I won’t have many connections at all as I’m fairly new to the industry. Is that embarrassing or a red flag to employers?

Joining LinkedIn doesn’t signal that you’re getting ready to leave your job. It just signals that you’ve decided to try out LinkedIn. People use LinkedIn for all kinds of things, not just job-searching— like keeping up on industry news and staying in touch with past colleagues. Maybe someone you used to work with asked you for a recommendation there. Maybe you’re just curious because you’ve heard everyone is on it.

And it’s not embarrassing or a red flag not to have many connections; you’ll just look like someone who doesn’t use the site a lot. But it’ll be a lot more useful to you if you do add people you know.

5. Putting company awards on your resume

I’ve won an annual award between several departments totaling about 200 people. It is kind of like employee of the year but it’s named for an old employee who is important to the company’s history (think something like “Johnson Award”). This award is for people who go above and beyond, develop creative solutions, embody the company’s cultural attributes, and make us a better team. There is a team award and an individual award — only one person receives the award per year. Do I put this on my resume and LinkedIn and how do I word it? Does it go in the section where I list responsibilities for my current position or in a separate awards section?

I also was one of the first winners of a new company-wide quarterly award last year (about five people are chosen each quarter) with a similarly proprietary name, selected by the executives from a pool of people who received kudos from peers and/or other departments in all months of the quarter. Should I include that as well? How much detail do I need to go into about what the award means and how often it’s awarded?

I wouldn’t put it in a separate awards section, since it’ll lack context there. Instead, include it as a bullet point under your current job:

* Won a company award given to one employee a year who goes above and beyond, develops creative solutions, and embodies values like X and Y

If you did something specific that led to the award, lead with that:

* Achieved XYZ (recognized with company award given to one employee per year who goes above and beyond)

The quarterly award doesn’t sound quite as resume-worthy if you have other accomplishments you’re trying to make room for (since it sounds like it goes to 20 people a year, or 10% of the company), but if you do want to include it, you could use a similar format. Or you could do this:

* Won two company awards for top performance in two years for blah blah blah

{ 272 comments… read them below }

  1. Vichyssuave*

    For #2: I’m honestly not sure which possibility I find more icky: If the coworker “reported” the conversation in some kind of sinister way, or if she was also upset about what she felt was inequality and the company is deciding to shut down this discussion by getting real darn close to violating the FSLA.

    Even if the former, boss and HR are still very much in the wrong for making this about “cavalierly discussing other people’s salary” versus, you know, the actual issue with possible pay inequality. If things were on the up and up, that last bit would be a side note in a transparent discussion explaining pay structure. Because while I wholeheartedly agree that people should be able to discuss pay freely, I could understand a concern about OP sharing X’s info without checking in with him first. That’s really X’s concern though, and we have absolutely no idea if he knows or cares.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            FLSA governs overtime, exemption status, and child labor. NLRA gives employees the right to discuss employment conditions, including pay.

        1. Vichyssuave*

          And this is what I get for responding when I should be sleeping. Typo of the wrong acronym to begin with!

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I wonder if the coworker is of the habit of reporting absolutely everything that they feel uncomfortable discussing, because that’s the only way I can think would work logically. Not acceptable either.

      As for fighting for equal pay…had to do this about 8 years ago when I found a massive salary disparity in my team. It came out during a conversation at the pub after work and became clear that women were being paid less, and also a guy who was openly gay was being paid like total rubbish too. All had similar job experience/performance to everyone.

      When I asked management why there was a massive difference (think around £10k/year difference) I basically got told that the straight men have families to support, and none of the rest of us have that kind of financial need for more money.

      (I did report it higher, and they were still claiming various outlandish reasons as to why it was perfectly ok to pay the guys more when I left the firm. Along with several of my underpaid chums. )

      1. Forrest*

        >>I basically got told that the straight men have families to support, and none of the rest of us have that kind of financial need for more money


        1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

          Oh man, as the “breadwinner” in the family (husband owns a small biz…and at this point of owning a small biz…isn’t bringing home much yet) who brings home the paycheck AND the health insurance, I’d sure as the devil have fun if someone came at with THAT certifiable nonsense.

        2. irene adler*

          Yeah, no kidding!
          A co-worker once asked for a raise. She was denied.
          Reason(excuse): as your paycheck increases, so do your expenses. You don’t want that to happen, do you?

          When she told me this, I asked her, “So if you go to the store and buy a chicken, and then your boss goes to the same store to buy that same chicken, your boss will pay more for that chicken? So how do stores know to charge your boss more money?”

            1. irene adler*

              My co-worker’s response was to take the reason/excuse and drop the topic. She knew she wasn’t getting anywhere.
              As to her response to my “chicken” question, she acknowledged my point. But it was too late to trot back up to her boss and discuss his crappy “logic”.

          1. Sylvan*

            as your paycheck increases, so do your expenses

            When you get more money, you become able to spend more money. Therefore, you shouldn’t get a raise.


            1. irene adler*

              And, taking this argumentum ad absurdum, cutting salaries would result in lowering employees expenses. Right?

              Hence, a full-time volunteer would have no expenses at all. So, why don’t we convert everyone to volunteer status? Make everyone a winner!

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Obviously, this company’s handbook and programs all start with the same line of code…

                #define STUPID

              2. Observer*

                Hm, there must be some conspiracy at work here. Because this os such an OBVIOUS win-win that it doesn’t make sense that this is illegal. I mean why would employee advocates not be THRILLED to find such a simple way to make all employees’ expenses disappear?!

                (Yes, this is sarcasm)

          2. alienor*

            My dad used to say “Your expenses rise to meet your income” but all it means is that when people start earning more money, they buy new cars and bigger houses, and you don’t haveto do that, so it’s BS.

        3. Quill*

          Uh, statistically I’m pretty sure more women than men are supporting children, worldwide…

          Regardless, assumptions much? They slapped a pretty damn bad one onto their fuckup.

        4. kittymommy*

          WTF??? Oh hell no. I’m a single female with VERY demanding cats. They have become accustomed to certain lifestyle…

          1. Bostonian*

            LOL. This is funny because I’m always surprised how much I spend on my cats’ dietary needs, medical appointments, and medicines. There are so many other non-child expenses that people can have, as well. (Hello, student loans!)

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

        I got the same response too, only 10 years ago! I discovered that I was being paid significantly less, while having significantly more responsibility than a male coworker and was told “but he has a wife and child”. Seriously, can these timewarped asshats not do the basic math on how much harder it is to meet household expenses on a single wage?

        Give me a wife, I want an excuse to earn more while simultaneously benefiting from a second household income!

        1. le teacher*

          This logic NEVER made sense to me because I’ve always lived in major metro areas were the COL is astronomical, and being single in such areas is expensive as heck! When I was single and living alone, I definitely had twinges of “wow that must be nice” when I saw my coupled friends sharing a one-bedroom with a partner. Seriously, by that logic, single people should be paid more lol! Being solely responsible for all bills is expensive!

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yeah, it’s left over from when men were the breadwinners, and the only women who worked were the ones who weren’t married yet, and lived with their parents or in cozy little apartments and didn’t need much money. Which was, by the way, never true at all.

            1. Quill*

              Historically, the only point in time where women “didn’t work” was when they were of relatively privileged status (so: middle class white women in the 50’s, and victorian era, etc.) and doing the work of maintaining the household.

              (Also in economies that we can’t wrap our heads around using today’s ideas, and therefore don’t ‘count’ the enormous work of logistics in feeding and clothing a family or managing the feeding, clothing, and income of a larger accumulation of people, like an army or a fiefdom.)

              1. Texan In Exile*

                Have you read the book, “More Work for Mother” by Ruth Cowan?

                She talks about how productivity enhancements in the past few centuries – gas and election stoves vs wood stoves, washing machines vs washing by hand, milled flour from the store vs milling wheat at home – have accrued to the benefit of men, not women. (Men used to be the ones who would gather the wood, women had careers as washerwomen, etc.)

                1. comityoferrors*

                  Yes yes yes! It wasn’t the point of this episode, but this trend was discussed in the Stepford Wives episode of the You’re Wrong About podcast. As tech has advanced in ways that could make traditionally female chores easier, society has found more time-consuming markers for good housekeeping, keeping women more and more overloaded*. (I believe their example was: electric beaters were developed and angel food cake, a delicate and lengthy baking process, became a big thing – essentially undoing the time-saving aspect of the electric beaters.)

                  As tech has advanced to make traditionally male chores easier, it just makes those chores easier and frees up their time.

                  *obviously not every woman was interested in, or had time for, these extra “achievements”. Just a note about strange societal pressures and how that work has been devalued in general.

              2. learnedthehardway*

                And that only applied to the upper middle classes and above – anyone lower on the social hierarchy certainly did work, and worked hard, whether in or outside of the house! Heck, even working class children worked – one of the things that made you middle class was that you could afford for your children to not work and to go to school.

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Or by that logic they should prefer to hire women, particularly the more senior the role, as a cost saving measure. Funny how that never follows.

          3. lemon*

            Well, if us single gals want to be more economically secure, then it’s just time to find ourselves a husband to support us! /loads and loads of sarcasm, obvi.

            I’ve definitely found myself a little jealous of those coupled friends who are saving tons by sharing a one-bedroom. But then I’ve seen the other side of things, where people (usually women) stay in bad relationships for far too long because they can’t afford to move out and live on their own. So, there can potentially be a downside, too.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          It was prior to the major car crash that seriously effed up my back else I’d have been tempted to throw in “yeah? And I’m disabled and have higher costs for that!”

          (Note: never would. Tempting though, given that was the same firm who made a big deal about when I was returning to work after said accident. Sorry, a lorry hit my car at motorway speeds, I don’t give a toss about your KPIs)

        3. Dust Bunny*

          I want to know where all these landlords and grocery stores are who let me pay less because I’m an unmarried woman.

      3. PJS*

        This may have happened to me too. I was never given a reason, but I strongly suspect that having a wife and kids was the reason that two male colleagues were paid $10-15k more than single female me AFTER I got a promotion that put me at a higher level than they were. So you think I deserve to be promoted and they don’t, but you’re going pay me less? Okay….. Some other things happened right after I found out and I ended up in a situation where I had to either say something or forever hold my peace. I said something and less than an hour later, I get an email that my salary will now match the higher of the two. I still kind of felt like I should be higher than both of them if I’m in a higher position, but considering it was more than I thought I should have gotten for my promotion (I wasn’t happy even before I found out what my coworkers made), I was happy enough at that point. That was 10 years ago and I haven’t worked there in seven, but it still irritates me when I think about it.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        @K of G and this is how women hold back other women. I hope at some point this problem is addressed, along with other sources of discrimination women face. From what I have seen first hand this a big problem. That was so unbelievably thoughtless of the cohort, I have to believe that there was some malice behind the move. But then again, I have seen variations on this story and I do realize that this type of thing has been totally acceptable. (Hopefully, less now than when I started working, but again, some days I am not so sure.)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Not sure where you got women holding back other women from in my post, unless I spelt something wrong?

    2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      I flashed back to the movie 9 to 5 where Dabney Coleman’s assistant reported people for talking about salaries in the ladies’ room and one was summarily fired and the other was intimidated into silence – made to feel how OP does now.
      OP: You did nothing wrong. They (HR!) did. Your company broke the law.
      Full stop.

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “You’re right. Salary is not something to be discussed in a cavalier way. I’ll try to be more thorough and systematic in talking about it with my colleagues in the future, probably starting with asking a wider range of staff how much they make. Just a couple people sharing that information is far to informal, while getting a fuller picture across the organization would be much more professional.”

  2. Hoya Lawya*

    If LW3 is working biglaw hours but not getting biglaw compensation, it’s time to jump ship and (1) either move to biglaw, or (2) move to somewhere with more reasonable hours. (That “somewhere” is probably outside the law.)

        1. Lawtown Funk*

          OP, Just want to offer you my opinion as a BigLaw lawyer. I work a decent amount of hours, but I have a ton of autonomy in when. That means that, unless I’m in court or a deposition, I can go to my kids’ softball practices or interminable school plays. I also get as much vacation time as I want, so long as I get my hours in and my work done. I’m also very well compensated. So, I guess my point is that not all high-hour jobs are created equal.

          1. CTT*

            Yeah, I was going to say this as well. The nice thing about actual BigLaw is that there isn’t formal PTO; you make your hours requirement and it’s up to you how/when you do it.

            LW, it sounds like you are getting all the worst parts of BigLaw without getting any of the advantages.

      1. Valegro*

        I had to do something similar as a veterinarian. I was working 50 hours MINIMUM (usually 60+) plus on call that could be 20+ hours in a weekend plus potentially all night on emergency during the week plus weekend treatments from the other vets. We took emergencies from every Tom, Dick and Harry who didn’t see any use in a veterinarian unless things got REALLY bad and thus were extremely busy on call. If I didn’t sleep at all I was still expected to do a full schedule the next day and was given grief for not starting my hours even earlier.
        I quit and left for another part of veterinary medicine that involves ZERO on call and I work an average of 38 hours a week. I made 50% more this year than my highest wage including bonuses and emergency fees at the general practice. Best decision I ever made. It’s a very niche field and rapidly growing.
        I completely understand what it’s like to be kept exhausted and trapped and feeling like it’s utterly hopeless to find something new, but try to drag yourself out of the job hole and see what’s out there. I waited way too long.

        1. Sleepless*

          Oh Lord yes, there is no reason to be taking call as a veterinarian in this day and age unless you are choosing to live in a very remote area. I work in a 24 hour practice but I am STRICTLY daytime. Nobody is on call because there’s always somebody there, in the clinic, awake and ready to function like a human. I work about the same number of hours. Veterinary medicine is exhausting and I don’t think anybody should work much more than that unless they want to.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          And people are driving in this exhausted condition. In a different arena, I know of a person who worked 36 hours straight at a job where driving was part of the job. About hour number 24 he no longer trusted his own judgement behind the wheel and his wife had to drive him around to his various job sites.
          This is a big well-known company.

      2. anon for this*

        I don’t know how much under BigLaw your pay is, but have you thought about working for a Legal Aid. I used to work in fundraising there, and our experienced attorneys were fairly well compensated (under 6 figures, though). Best thing is work life balance was great. From what I hear from my friends now, they are still all working from home, and working a 35-hour week. We used to get a decent year-end bonus too. And very rewarding work.

        1. Blj531*

          I know you mean well, but please don’t sell legal aid as a back up job. In much of the US, public interest jobs are very underpaid and work long hours.
          Where the pay and hours are better (and even where they aren’t!)many of those jobs are highly competitive and sought after. My public defender office has a competitive hire rate that, I am told, is not that different from Big Law. You can absolutely transition to a public interest law job, but it takes showing real commitment, a strong explanation of why, understanding that unless you will be practicing in the same area of law you are essentially as useful as a brand new attorney experience wise, and it doesn’t neccesarily mean an easier job.
          There are many things about my pd job that I would take over big law any day, but it’s not a big law back up job.

          Sorry, this is a pet peeve, especially when I have to interview people who do think they can just walk right in occasionally and re very, very wrong.

          1. Blj531*

            And like, I am still mostly working from home because my union fought like hell for that, and so did my employer, and yeah I went and played in the snow today, but earlier in the week I went to a covid ridden courthouse and I regularly take calls at all hours from people legitimately afraid they are going to die of covid and neglect in jail (and my colleagues on the civil side are dealing with evictions and immigration and school and job losses in equally dire circumstances) and we staff court with at least some people 365 days a year from 9am-1am, so there are trade offs!

    1. AnonFed*

      I’ll pipe up that I’m a happy government attorney. I don’t make BigLaw money but I’m happy with my salary and have a good work/life balance.

      1. higheredrefugee*

        Ditto, I love being able to walk away every night, not worry about my work until the next day. As a federal employee, I’ve been home since March, I have excellent benefits, and am never questioned on time off for doctors’ appointments (and get paid sick time to go), and even get paid overtime when I work more than 40 hours a week. It can be tough to get in, and my work is repetitive, but the tradeoffs are 100% worth it for me at my age.

        1. AnonFed*

          My government employer has bent over backwards to accommodate me having my kids home and allowed me to work from home. I work more than 40 hours a week but not more than 50.

      2. Joielle*

        Same here, but state government. And yeah – decent money, awesome benefits, and really good work/life balance. I recommend it.

    2. Alex*

      I know you meant a non-law job but my exhausted brain went “outside the law = a life of crime”? Which…might have shorter hours, it’s true. But yeah, I agree that this firm might not be the place of LW if the expectations are big law hours without the associated paycheck.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Also, that the firm’s target for billables is reasonable–but not really, just kidding! Bait and switch. This sounds like the worst of all worlds. There are lots of areas of law with reasonable hours. The main reason to put up with unreasonable hours is the compensation. If you aren’t getting that compensation, and you don’t need it anyways, why stick with this outfit?

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      There are plenty of MediumLaw places that don’t expect BigLaw hours, there are also government and in-house. As a BigLaw refugee, many years ago I quickly learned that there are plenty of options out there that have a good work life balance (and still supply a very handsome living). It’s hard to see when you are in the prison of around-the-clock hours, particularly because the other hostages in there with you also have the Stockholm Syndrome of “this must be as good as it gets.” It’s not. Get out.

      1. MissMeghan*

        Hard agree! I made a similar change and it honestly blew my mind how different things could be. If this firm is not open and honest about how your are compensated (and how they calculate compensation for all attorneys in the firm), know that there are very good firms that are transparent about this. I got burned out and thought, “Well, I just can’t hack it in firm law,” but that’s not true. You can find someplace in law that gives you a life.

        In my first government interview I was stunned to hear that they had to pay overtime for more than 40 hours. Get out before you’re too burned out to function and use your experience on your resume to land someplace better for you.

    5. Elysian*

      I used to work at a small firm that had BigLaw hours with government-level pay. I ended up leaving and moving to BigLaw, so I’ve seen both sides. My small firm was doing what some would call “civil rights” work, and part of their hours expectation (which was also opaque) was very much because we were supposed to believe in “the cause” more than care about the money. When I was looking to leave I was looking at firms that do similar work, but found they all had the same problem.

      I figured I would at least get BigLaw money if I was working these kinds of hours, so I switched sides. Some might consider my BigLaw firm more of a “lifestyle” firm – the money isn’t as high as other firms, but the hours usually aren’t either. For me, it has been amazing. But the biggest difference in my job satisfaction is the people I work with. It turns out that the kind of people that set up that kind of horrible work environment are also the kind that are no fun to be around all the time. More than the money, I really like the people I work with now.

      It can be really hard to find a job in law that has the right balance. I know government attorneys that work as much as me for less than half what I make. But I also know people who left my firm for government and are happier with their work-life balance now. It’s hard to find, but it can be done! Just don’t be afraid to leave.

    6. EPLawyer*

      Lawyer here. I REFUSE to work biglaw hours. Most days done by 5. A couple hours on the weekends to do administrative stuff or if something REALLY big comes up. Right around trial it might get intense, but rarely do I work late at night (unless I took time off during the day to do something and just wanted to get something done). Most of my colleagues are the same way.

      Small firms do exist with reasonable hours and decent pay and benefits. The ones still clinging to the biglaw hours are finding it hard to keep people.

      1. Delta Delta*

        We cannot, as a profession, scream “wellness!” out of one side of our mouths and on the other hand demand endless work hours and no breaks. We just can’t. I left a firm that demanded long hours for terrible pay (for what it was) because it was completely unsustainable. Since I’ve left that firm they’ve turned over several new hires who just refuse to buy into the notion that if they’re not pulling all nighters they’re not team players. Good for them.

          1. LW3*

            UGH this is totally a thing. I’ve pulled so many all nighters at this firm (1-3/year — I don’t know what the BigLaw standard is, but it feels ridiculous to me). Last night a bunch of folks at my firm pulled all-nighters but I got to go to bed closer to midnight and I felt lucky but somehow not as committed as other people.

        1. AnonFed*

          Oh yes. If I have to sit through one more CLE on “wellness and ethics” that ignores unreasonable expectations, I’m going to be very annoyed.

        2. Joielle*

          Yes! And also – do you want your important legal matters being handled at 2 am by an attorney who’s on their 60th (or more) hour of work that week? At some point it becomes a matter of professional ethics. Just such a short-sighted view.

    7. AY*

      Another refugee from BigLaw (Midwest version) here! I left for a government job after racking up enough bonuses to put a huge down payment on a very modest home. It was a great decision! I spend more time with my husband, who is over the moon about the job switch. Many of my co-workers are young mothers, so I feel I can start a family without any negative impact on my career. Best of all, I didn’t have to leave litigation to improve the rest of my life. I’m still working on huge, high-impact cases.

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      Most people I know in category #2 either go to government or in-house counsel positions. Some also hang their own shingle or join a smaller/boutique firm without the insane hours requirements. You don’t have to leave law for more reasonable hours, you just have to take the pay cut.

    9. L.H. Puttgrass*

      So…what’s the penalty for not hitting the unofficial expectation of making way more than your official hours target? Is it just that you’d get a lower bonus or not make partner? Or could you lose your job?

      If the only downside of working fewer hours is not getting as much of a bonus, maybe that’s a way to “buy” shorter hours.

      But that’s a tactical fix. Longer term: get out of MidLaw that wants to be BigLaw. Law jobs with reasonable work hours are out there.

    10. Busytrap*

      Agree with this — though the “somewhere” doesn’t need to be outside the law, there’s a lot of firms revisiting the billable hour world and banking on alt-fee arrangements.

      I was BigLaw, then in-house, and am back in private practice at a firm working MidLaw hours (8-6 steady, every single day, 1-2 evening calls a week, never weekends) with BigLaw compensation. It exists, it just probably doesn’t look like a traditional practice and involves you doing business development (which was a terrifying prospect for me, but I swear, it’s not as hard as it looks from the outside!). Beware the “inhouse is easier” trap, though — I call shenanigans on the concept that you have a better quality of life in-house. Most of my in-house friends and I found that it was really just a different beast, with comparable stress, comparable hours, and less pay. Just like all firms aren’t created equal, not all in-house gigs are created equal.

      Final point, you don’t say what year you are. If you’re a junior associate, definitely don’t ask for more vacation time instead of a bonus … that’ll be tone deaf. If you’re a bit more senior, I agree with some of the other commenters that you should be able to structure your day and time as you like, and if that’s not permissible at your firm, find a new one, because that’s one of the big perks of working at a firm — you work a LOT, but you can structure your day as you see fit. But it takes a bit of seniority for that to kick in. Good luck!

    11. ...But Not Your Lawyer*

      I’m a nonprofit litigator. I make pretty good money as a low-level associate (just under 6 figures), and I normally work good hours. COVID-19 has wreaked some havoc on my schedule, but normally I’m pretty much 9-5 or 9-6 with very occasional weekends. I think there’s actually a lot of legal work out there with reasonable hours. You have to look for it, but there are places that respect people’s time and pay decently.

      1. Casper Lives*

        *raises hand* I’m in-house, make just under 6 figures as a low-level associate, have excellent benefits, and work 9-6. Unless there’s trial, when I work as much as needed for prep. My bosses are great and I live quite comfortably.

    12. Abogado Avocado*

      LW#3: You need to understand your firm’s compensation structure better. It’s very likely that the firm is not giving you a bonus based on your billables; it’s likely based on your collectibles, minus your salary, benefits and anyone else (like a paralegal) your work “supports.” The firm is not giving you a bonus for billing BigLaw hours if only 1,000 hours of it is collectible and you’re not covering the cost of your practice.

      And, to all those who say, “leave” to LW#3, understand that many lawyers leave law firms every year only to discover that, in their solo or small-firm practices, they’re either working the same hours they did previously (because they’re both practicing and managing) or they’re earning much, much less or both because: (1) they don’t have the same clients as in BigLaw and (2) the clients they do have can’t afford the same hourly fees the lawyer commanded at BigLaw.

      This is not an argument for staying in BigLaw or firms who resemble it. It is, however, an argument for understanding the economics of practicing law before you leap into something else that may not support your lifestyle (and repayment of those pesky law school loans).

  3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP4, almost everyone with whom I interact professionally is on LinkedIn. It’s not just a job-hunting site.

    1. Social Media Snoop*

      I’m on it just so I can look up others who are on it. (I’m often charged with coming up with information on people my bosses or other employees might have to interact with.)

      1. Mella*

        That has become very clear in the last few months. LI updated their reporting structure so that you can no longer report something for being “inappropriate for LinkedIn”. They only accept reports for harassment, illegal behavior, and spam. “My kid is a Marine” and “love my doggo” posts are no longer reportable.

    2. Alli E.*

      If you *are* worried about your employer seeing your LinkedIn and assuming you are job hunting, it would be best to avoid clicking the “let employers know you are available” button on your profile. It’s new. I believe Alison said it was an ineffective tool anyway.

  4. Saberise*

    #2 Wouldn’t it depend a bit on how she found out the other person’s salary. She said it was through the normal course of her job. So I’m thinking she saw payroll or budget information that wasn’t available to all employees. Does the law allow her to discuss someone else’s salary with others in that case? I mean I am privy to a lot of salaries as an assistant but I assume I can’t just go in the breakroom and tell everyone what the others make.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, if she’d said “Joe makes $X.” But the LW says she used more general terms than that — just told the coworker it was a male colleague and didn’t name a number. She was basically saying “in the course of my job I learned that we have gender disparities in our salary structure” without naming names or figures.

      1. underpaid and annoyed*

        I am having this issue right now myself. I know that all of the males make more than I do, even though we have the same job and have been at the company for the same amount of time or even less than I have. They themselves told me how much they made. I am about to send an email to higher ups to mention the disparity, but would like some scripting to help them see it might be illegal and to hopefully raise my salary.

        1. Brett*

          Since I think more than a few people will start wondering about what they know about pay…
          You can use Fisher’s Exact Test if you want to statistically analyze that, even if you only have a small amount of information (though you would still want complete information).


          Use “Above Median” and “At or Below Median” for your left hand category (median should be median for the group of similar situated people whose pay you are analyzing, rather than industry median, company median, etc). For the top row category, use a binary breakdown along the lines where you suspect discrimination. Examples would be “Men/Women & Nonbinary”, “White/Non-White”, “Non-Black/Black”, “Under 40/40 and over”, “Catholic/Not Catholic”. (You can use more than 2×2 categories if it makes sense, but 2×2 generally works very well for this type of categorical hypothesis testing.)

          You will also want to test for correlation between other factors and the significance of that. e.g. “Years with the company less than 5/5 or more”, “Years of experience less than 10/10 or more”, etc. These are more difficult to form appropriate hypotheses, and you might need to do a 2×3 or more test to use more categories here.

          Here is a post I did a long time ago about my last job and how going through the tests made me realize the extent to which pay discrimination was happening there.

          Although I left that employer a while ago, just this year they have been rocked with a series of discrimination lawsuits, centered around promotion and transfers rather than pay.

      2. Annony*

        Does it matter how identifying the information is in context? Using general terms can still be identifying depending on how many people fit that criteria.

    2. LW2*

      I found out the salary because he told me, not in normal conversation but because it was relevant to work he needed me to do.

      1. EPLawyer*

        that doesn’t sound like you found out in a confidential way. It might have been relevant to work you needed to do but that doesn’t make it confidential.

        Pretty sure co-worker is either one of those 1) talking about salaries is just not done as in an etiquette thing or 2) she was afraid someone else overheard the conversation and pre-emptively reported to protect herself from getting in trouble. Either way her reaction and the higher ups reaction says so much about the culture of that place. To be paid fairly I think you are going to have move on.

        1. LW2*

          Exactly-if the information was not about a co worker, all conversations about the info was completely normal and expected. Because it was a coworker, I considered it confidential becasue you don’t just go around saying “Bartholemew makes 35k and I make 15k less and it’s not fair”—but on the other hand, through the normal course of work, it was very common for people to say things like “wow, X Customer is making 350k/year as a Llama groomer-what have I done wrong in my life?” and no one would bat an eye, including HR and the former boss and the coworker that reported the conversation, who all witnessed or partook in those conversations.

          1. Qwerty*

            That might be the missing link in why the coworker reported the conversation! If you see customer’s salaries as part of your job, and the male coworker was also a customer, then the reporting-coworker probably thought that’s how you learned the information and/or thought you were encouraging her to look up the male-coworker’s salary. The dysfunction at this company sounds like it leads everyone to believe the worst of each other. A good HR would have had a regular conversation with you about how you came about the information, but a bad HR made a report like this snowball.

  5. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

    Wow #2 I’m so sorry, what your coworker did feels so slimy to me. Even if she thought she was helping, I feel like she should have given you a head’s up. It’s not like you confided something in her HR or your boss wouldn’t know about and needed to know about…

    1. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

      I agree – that does seem slimy of your coworker to report your conversation. Unfortunately, some people just loooove to report things. They seem to get their jollies by getting others in trouble. Some do it under the guise of trying to “help” or being “concerned.” But, really, this person showed you they can’t be trusted. And shame on HR and your boss for calling you on the carpet for it.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      My first reaction was that coworker sucks if she encouraged you to talk to higher-ups about the discrepancy and then turned around and “reported” the conversation.

      But on second read I thought it is very possible she was stewing on the pay difference and got mad for herself and wanted to talk about her own pay and did so in a way like “I think I am underpaid because of this conversation I had with Jane” and instead of addressing the salary issue the bosses just shut the whole conversation down.

      In that case it probably would have been ideal if she had left Jane out of it but it probably just didn’t occur to her or she thought it didn’t matter if Jane was likely to have her own discussion with the bosses anyway.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I retract the benefit of the doubt that I tried to give to the coworker after reading the OP’s update!

        1. Annony*

          Well the company sounds like a dumpster fire, so maybe she was scared that the conversation would be found out and she would be in trouble as well. That is the only “benefit of the doubt” I can think of.

    3. Mella*

      It is slimy, and stuff like this is why I no longer share salary. Twice I’ve had colleagues approach me in a “solidarity for women” fashion, pump me for info, then peace out without reciprocating. I’m done being a chump.

  6. HiHello*

    I love LinkedIn. There are so many things a person can do there! Follow businesses or other successful people, learn through their courses, ask for recommendations, etc. My favorite one, though, is that it is easy to keep in touch with business contacts. Through years, people change jobs and move to other companies. Your contact that you met 2 years ago that you wanted to speak with about something may have changed employers and their old email doesn’t work anymore. How else would you find them?

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Yes, there are lots of my former colleagues who have since moved on to other jobs, and this is a way of keeping up with them.

      I have a rule though, that I only connect with a colleague when we stop working together.

      1. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

        What do you do about pushy colleagues who try to connect with you when you either don’t reply to their invite right away or when they can’t find you because your profile privacy is locked down? I had a colleague new to the company call me out on it when she couldn’t find me. It was kind of awkward and I felt like I had to connect with her.

        1. Lance*

          Just tell her you don’t connect with people you don’t know very well, or something like that. You’re not obligated to connect with anyone and everyone, co-workers or otherwise; you’re allowed to be picky.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I’m curious–why don’t you want to connect with current colleagues? I don’t mean that as snark. I’m curious, because I don’t see LinkedIn the same way I see Facebook. On Facebook I don’t connect with anyone at work until we’re no longer working together, but on LinkedIn I do.

        1. Scout Finch*

          I do not connect to current colleagues because I do not want them to know when I am looking for a new job.

      3. Colette*

        I have the opposite rule – I connect to people while we are working together. I don’t see any reason to wait – you can still control who sees updates, for example – and that way I don’t have to track people down when I’m not seeing them every day.

      4. Smithy*

        I”m another opposite to your rule. I’ve found that the more people I follow in my current job – the more my feed/updates reflect the work/achievements from my colleagues.

        It may be that because I’m such an infrequent LinkedIn user (very occasional posting of job openings, adjacent professional news) – that I have no worries of censorship around what I’m posting. I find it far more helpful to know who on my team/organization is using LinkedIn regularly, what our CEO is posting and who interacts with her, etc.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I like to point out that you can likely take linled in learning classes for free through your local library. They may still call it Lynda.com

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        +1 for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda, but you do not need a LI account to use it. The only value is if posting your training accomplishments to your LI profile matters to you. (I just use my library card and don’t connect my LI account.)

    3. Colette*

      Yeah, I rarely log in to LinkedIn but it’s incredibly valuable at tracking down former colleagues.

    4. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      And if you’re in an industry that derives a lot of value from personal connections, LinkedIn can be part of the strategy for maintaining those connections.

      In what may come as a surprise to some people, tech is one of those industries! When people switch jobs within the sector every few years (this is normal), LinkedIn is a great way to see who you know that has connections to the place you’re looking at.

      And don’t discount the value of weak connections! Someone I met a few years ago at a conference posted about an entrepreneurship program her company was sponsoring. The program was of no interest to me, but sounded like it could be valuable for my cousin. I tagged my cousin in a reply, so now she can look into the program herself. (My cousin and I are in different fields, but both of us active on LinkedIn.)

    5. SlightlyStressed*

      Has anyone else’s LinkedIn feeds become highly political in the past few months? I can’t tell if it’s indicative of my industry, or the fact that a lot of my colleagues are my parents’ age and therefore in the moms-on-Facebook generation, or if it’s universal.

      1. Mella*

        Yes, I work adjacent to a very red industry, and people use LI like FB. It’s impossible to have useful contacts in my industry and avoid this sort of thing. I just hide those posts and don’t engage.

  7. What?!*

    “(I do want to know why your coworker reported the conversation. If she was raising concerns about salary inequities, fine. But otherwise…)

    What’s at the end of the ellipses? Seems important.

  8. NAL*

    #2 mentions being in a senior position, so if looking at legal protections may need to consider the supervisor loophole

    1. LW2*

      Lw2 here. Can you expand on this? I’m not sure what the supervisor loophole is.
      I did not supervise any of the people in this situation (I did have direct reports, but they were not involved here)
      This situation took place between 3 vice presidents. of 3 different areas

      1. Natalie*

        The NLRA doesn’t apply to people in management/supervisor positions. Whether you’re in a management or supervisory position is based on the work you do rather than you job title, and it’s one of those maddening multi factor tests that pop up a lot in labor standards. Independent judgment and decision making could put you in a management category even if you don’t supervise any workers.

        Some states have broader laws protecting pay discussions, so you might want to check your state labor laws as well.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Just to make sure it is clear (someone correct me if I am wrong) the NLRA does not protect people in management/supervisors positions but that is in regards to unionizing/discussing pay and other rights, but OP is still protected from gender based pay discrimination.

          1. Natalie*

            Oh, yes, that is unclear and you’re correct. The NLRA (and other laws that are primarily about labor rights) tend to exempt management and/or professionals. Civil rights laws apply to all classes of employees absent a bona fide occupational qualifier. Although federally they don’t apply to employers with less than 15 people, so depending on what the OP means by small, and what state she is in, equal pay laws may or may not be applicable.

  9. Titta*

    Im so sorry for that experience! But please, keep in mind, it’s not you, it’s them (manager and hr) who are in the wrong here. They are intentionally intimidating their workers from discussing salary and inequality in the workplace and that’s awfoul.

    And good luck with your job hunting! I am in the midst of searching myself, for similar reasons. I started in my company two years ago. I got a dream position 45min drive from home. From the beginning, I got great feedback from all levels and my manager told me how happy they were to have me. During that time a male colleague, with the same experience (1-2 years) started too. Well, after two months I was transferred into lower position a bit closer to my home. They didn’t as my preference, but announced the decision and said it was so I could “be closer with my baby boy”. At the same time this colleague of mine was promoted, because “his ambitions were better met in a higher position.”

    I work at an industry, where salaries are pretty transparent and we are very much female dominant. And still these things happen. I have been hopeful in the past, I have been thinking kindly of all the people, and thought to myself that making the change to gender equality is a tough process and we need to give some time for the system to change. But now I am fed up. Every time I hear stories like your’s, LW 2, I get even more fed up. Please keep speaking up and bringing up the injustice. With respect, but firmly enough. I have tried to talk to my female colleagues and my current manager, but I get waved away. I don’t know if people are blind or what, but it’s getting infuriating. I’m still hoping for a better future, me working in some dreamland with equality amongst all.

    And now… I have spoken. :D

    1. allathian*

      This is the way. Those who can, leave bad workplaces. Even if an employer is otherwise great, it’s not good if they keep trotting out that old line about men having a family to support and deserve to be paid more because of that.

      1. SarahKay*

        It always reminds me of the conversation in The West Wing where Mrs Landingham tells a young Josh Bartlett that in this case the groundskeeper ought to be making triple what the headmaster gets.

        1. Scout Finch*

          Loved that show! So many jewels in the scripts that apply to non-political life. And Bartlet was soft on turkeys. :-)

  10. Mme Defarge*

    Haha, Johnson Award – in the UK this has a slang meaning, which might make it somewhat problematic.

        1. UKDancer*

          That takes me back 20 years. I worked as a student in a small castle belonging to the local baronet. They had a lot of business events, dinners and weddings to make ends meet. The chefs in the kitchen had 2 rules to live by “don’t touch my knives and don’t touch my Johnson.” The rules and hierarchies in the kitchen were fascinating to observe.

          I’ve not heard it used so much elsewhere so I’d not say it was the most common euphemism. Makes me smile to remember it.

          1. Alldogsarepuppies*

            I”m pretty sure it started in the US because of a certain habit President Johnson had with reporters…

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Anyone else remember the Big Johnson shirts in the 1990s? No actual johnsons depicted but they were very much targeted at the kind of guys who watch “Girls Gone Wild” videos, etc.

            1. Uranus Wars*

              HA! I should have hit refresh. They were all over my town. The one I remember most is a bar one that was “Liquor in the front. Poker in the rear.” So over the top sexist and my naïve 15-year old self had no idea.

          3. linger*

            As also seen in Police Academy (1984), on surveying the new recruits:
            Chief: When I went through this academy, every cadet was the right weight, the right height, the right color, and they all had Johnsons, Lassard […] Back in the old days, there were Johnsons as far as the eye could see.
            Lassard: And what a lovely sight it was…

        2. PT*

          There’s a whole joke about it in Austin Powers 2 (the montage of euphemisms when the Big Boy flies through space, it’s a brilliant little bit of comedy.)

    1. Cj*

      The MN Vikings went from quarterback Warren Moon to Brad Johnson. There was a teeshirt that said “You’ve seen our Moon, now let us show you our Johnson”.

        1. Quill*

          Oh so THAT’S what all those awful fishing-related t-shirts came from.

          (Our dress code did not ban them unless they contained “vulgar language” because god forbid a girl wear shorts that expose anything north of her knee in a building where air conditioning may as well be faster than light travel, but a come on via t-shirt is OK. )

      1. londonedit*

        It’s fairly outdated in the UK too, I know what it means but I haven’t heard anyone use it this millennium.

  11. LW2*

    LW2 here. Thank you everyone for the comments, it’s validating to hear im not nuts. I ended up, in all, having 3 meetings about this (none if which I was interested in having). I was told “salaries are perfectly equitable and in fact we discussed that at s meeting 2 years ago and you should remember that (seriously, something that came up in passing at a meeting 2 tears ago, I should have remembered…and the way it was said was very accusatory).
    I was formally written up for “giving out sensitive customer information ” and it was extremely demoralizing.
    The good news is, that finally finally my job hunt got traction that same week. After a year of looking, I suddenly got s handful of offers and was able to chose the best one, which was a big confidence boost. However, then things got really crazy. I gave 2 weeks notice. I had originally planned to give more because of the amount of projects I single handedly handle, but I was now at the end of my rope. During the 1st week of notice, my boss avoided meeting with me for days, kept rescheduling the meeting we set up. She then started demanding more and more things (which I happily tried to accommodate). She refused my offer to train anyone on the main thing I do (a thing I’ve tried to train for years because going on vacation is a mess because no one else can do the most basic parts of the task despite numerous guides ive written and training offered). Then she abruptly came to me at the end of my 1st week of notice and, almost yelling, stated that I should bring all my equipment in the next day and go straight to HR because I was done working there.
    The next morning, a coworker texted wondering why my boss was literally tearing apart my office (she decided to rage clean, even though I’d already removed my stuff) when I went to collect 1 piece of equipment to turn in that I keep in my office, it was no longer there, and when I politely asked my boss if she had it, she yelled at me to go to HR!
    So at HR, I was finally told that I was being asked to leave early because I was recruiting other staff members. The thing was, I took an individual contributer role, in a company that does something similar to this current one, but they were only hiring for my type position (remember the one only I can do, that falls apart on my vacation). Everything else that people ag my former company can do is handled over seas, if at all, so this accusation just didn’t make any sense, but no one wanted to hear it.
    They acted like I was being fired. I later found out that a vendor that I have a long term friendship with, had asked to see me when he came by, knowing I had given notice, and he was told that I was “no longer employed there and had given out customer information” so they made it sound like I had left in disgrace.
    At any rate, I left. I am happy now, and am now paid what I am worth, doing a whole lot less work, with a whole lot more support.
    The former company has been falling into ruin as my former boss tries to do the work she never let me train anyone on and she is failing miserably. Customers are leaving, other staff members are leaving, and the former boss is having loud, inappropriate meltdowns yelling at everyone.
    As for the woman who reported me, I’m not really sure why. The conversation was so vague, and the reporting of it came weeks later. I have a feeling that person was feeling put upon about another thing all together and just decided to report the conversation to get back at me for her feeling dumped on about work tasks. Lots of maturity at that place I tell you.
    I’m so glad to be out!

    1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      Glad you got out of there, LW, especially since they are now openly defaming you.

      I wonder if it’s worth investigating your legal options here, though I completely understand if you just never want to have to think about that awful place again.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        In most jurisdictions, damaging statements about someone in regards to their profession constitute slander per se. That means the burden is no longer on the plaintiff to prove the statements were false, but on the defendant to prove they were actually true. It means the statements are presumed to be defamatory and harmful without the plaintiff having to prove actual harm. This is actually why many companies refuse to provide references and will only tell reference checkers the dates of employment and whether the individual is eligible for rehire. They consider anything more as a liability risk.

      1. Lance*

        Seriously. There are so many red flags here (beginning with the very direct statement of ‘everything’s fine, how dare anyone say otherwise’) that I hardly even know where to begin.

    2. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

      That’s great that you got out of there. Your former boss and colleagues sound totally unhinged. Love how it worked out for you – and for them! :)

    3. Lance*

      I have to ask: how does customer information come into play here? Was there something else that happened, or are they somehow managing to misattribute ‘coworker salary’ to ‘private customer info’?

      1. LW2*

        Sorry that is confusing. The person who’s information i received had been taking advantage of a service we offer so technically was a customer, while also being my coworker.

    4. Batgirl*

      Yeah, being berated for caring about your salary never bodes well for toxicity. I really think you should leaves red warning signs on Glassdoor if you possibly can. Other than that, congratulations! Happy new year to you…

      1. Firecat*

        You have to be careful with glassdoor. Depending on if OP worked with anyone else there she may not care, but if you put specific examples in glassdoor companies can sue for your name and have won claiming libel and defamation.

        I got a pop up warning from glassdoor when I was editeding my review, I’m assuming based on word length, that explained this.

        It’s best to use opinions and feelings and avoid facts on glassdoor to avoid having your name provided.

        That’s why my review for a former company reads it’s a “tough place to work as a woman, HR seems incompetant, and leadership can’t be trusted.”

        When I would have loved to leave actual facts. “In a recent layoff of senior leaders 8 of the 10 positions laid off were women, 1 was an autistic white man, and the last was a black man. Almost all of these leaders were considered the best of the best and had way better numbers then the white men who kept their jobs. A former black woman boss of mine was laid off and told the role was eliminated. Less than 3 months later the role was brought back and given to a white woman. My black former boss was not brought in to interview for her old role, it was just given to white team lead.”

    5. 2horseygirls*

      Holy herd of cats, Batman! Sounds like the right opportunity came along at the right time. Congratulations on the new position :)

    6. Firecat*

      Your experience matches mine. Every time I have talked salary or raises at work some busy body has rushed to report my “unprofessional” behavior. While all my former companies were smart enough to not write me up, I was dinged by managent and had a vague statement put in my performance review about “Firecat needs to work on discretion and handling confidential information”. I don’t talk about salary now unless someone else brings it up first. Both of these companies had salary secrecy codified on the employee jandbook despite it being illegal.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        Lol seriously. Kicked over bee hive. That place was so utterly full of bees I’m surprised I didn’t hear it from my house. So glad you got out LW

        1. LW2*

          The sad part is, there was SO MUCH more that went on there but I didn’t want to do the feelings dump of every single thing wrong with this job ever-it was not only full of bees but also murder hornets!

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I felt like that when leaving a toxic job, as well. I gave them 3 weeks notice so I could off-load my projects onto coworkers and help the transition, but they kicked me out as soon I gave resignation. I was also accused of trying to recruit coworkers (which I did not) and clients (they called me on their own accord once they realized I was no longer with the company, several offered me jobs!).

            It feels satisfying to know that company fell apart after I left, but also sad because most of my coworkers lost their jobs. For me it was the bees, but for my coworkers/friends it was the murder hornets :(

    7. Smithy*

      First of all – yeah for escape! Well done!

      Second, for the coworker who reported you – clearly you were working in a place with less than professional norms. And unfortunately, I’ve found that otherwise decent coworkers and human beings often end up changing to those situations because they’re either so lost they think it’s normal. Or because they know it’s what they need to do to survive.

      I used to work at a particularly unprofessional/toxic place, and you could see people trying to help their direct reports or colleagues either turn on those staff because the larger system demanded it. Or if those people did not buckle to the system, they were pushed out really cruelly.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        s/I wonder how Ms. Reporting Coworker likes her workplace now? She just had to kick over that lantern and set the whole place on fire./s

    8. blink14*

      I think I can maybe understand why your co-worker went to HR. Discussing salary can be a very taboo topic in many businesses and industries. Maybe she felt uncomfortable knowing the information, and that turned into her thinking that you were “gossiping” about it, and then the complaint. Maybe she went to HR to discuss the pay inequality, the situation got turned around on her in the meeting, and she was forced to admit she heard it from you. Maybe she just genuinely didn’t think it was something legally you could talk about. It’s not like that’s mentioned in staff manuals as an ok topic.

      I worked as a camp counselor for a long time, with terrible pay, and it was known that the male lead counselors (you had to have a college degree to have the most senior position, I worked through high school and college there), were paid significantly more than the female counselors. It was talked about every summer. It was also a male owned, male directed camp, and was a summer income for all of us, but particularly the lead counselors who were mostly in education. Many of them in the same district as the camp owner, who also was a teacher. The camp still has all male leadership. I honestly cannot see a conversation about pay equality going well there, knowing the original directors, and remembering what the current directors were like as lead counselors. Most times, its just a signal that the business is kind of bad to the core (in this case, a great place to be a camper, not a great place to work).

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        I don’t know- are little girls really not going to notice if the female counselors are treated differently from the male ones? I suppose it’s possible it’s well hidden, but if all the leadership is men with that kind of attitude, it’s hard to imagine it’s an empowering place for little girls.

        1. blink14*

          It was very well hidden. In the years I was a camper and a counselor there, a high number of the staff were female. For reference, I was a camper through the 1990s, and worked there late 90s to mid 2000s. All of the activities are “equal” – boys and girls do the same type of activities, everything from art to sports. All of the counselors were treated equally in terms of outward respect and responsibilities. There was no obvious separation of female and male counselors, beyond keeping the counselors same sex to their assigned groups – all girl groups had female counselors only, all boy groups had mostly male counselors with some female counselors spread among the younger groups. That’s a very common assignment situation at summer camps.

          It wasn’t until I became a counselor that the inequalities started to show through, maybe because of the era, maybe because I was now an employee, with other female employee friends, but the cracks started to show.

      2. pancakes*

        What sort of person would assume they’ve overhead something that legally can’t be talked about and report it to higher-ups without bothering to take even a minute to research whether their uninformed assumption is correct? There are people who behave that way, yes, but they aren’t entitled to sympathy. It’s a silly and childish thing to do. It takes less than a minute to search, for example, “illegal to discuss salary.”

        1. Natalie*

          Eh, lots of people are explicitly told not to discuss salary, at enough jobs, that it seems completely reasonable for them to not just guess out of nowhere that they have a legal right to do so. It’s a common enough misconception that it’s regularly featured in “did you know?” type roundups, including some Alison’s written.

        2. blink14*

          A lot of people don’t research anything at all, and just go on their assumptions or what they believe to be true.

    9. PersephoneUnderground*

      Wow… Please put the word out on Glassdoor that they have pay disparities, or at least to your personal network. And any former colleagues you’re friendly with. And I don’t see why you couldn’t contact that old client and tell them what happened, since you’d just be correcting the record and not trying to steal business or anything. Name and shame! Though they seem to be melting down on their own, a bit of light would do the cockroaches good.

      1. LW2*

        The old vendor called me directly right after and was just like “what the actual F, they made it sould like you were fired and said you gave out information-this doesn’t even make sense!” so the record was set straight on that very quickly thankfully. I am a bit concerned about what my unhinged boss (who since I left has become significantly more unhinged) has potentially said about me to other vendors, but unless I hear more, I’m just going to let it be for now. I think if a 2nd person approached me with this story, I might be inclined to see what my options are about shutting them up.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I would consult with an employment lawyer. If the company is falling apart it might not be worth the hassle of a lawsuit since you can’t get blood from a stone. But you might be able to negotiate a small severance/ reference check agreement in exchange for signing away employment claims. After consulting with attorneys some might be willing to take it on a contingency fee basis.

          1. BuildMeUp*

            Yes, a lawyer should be able to send a cease and desist or something to get them to stop lying about the circumstances of your departure.

        2. Boof*

          For what it’s worth, given how overtly erratic you say your boss is acting i doubt many will take their word at face value
          A cease and desist might be helpful and not too expensive tough (or they will double down, depending on the level of self-sabotage and irrational aggression they are capable of)

    10. EPLawyer*

      So glad you got out.

      Laughing at the place falling into ruin. We often say that one person leaving won’t destroy the company but apparently it can sometimes. Guess if your job was so valuable they should have paid you more.

      1. LW2*

        It’s funny becuase it is the exact situation everyone daydreams about when they leave a job-everything going spectacularly wrong becuase no one can handle the things that person did-and it is happening. I just feel bad, because a lot of the people I worked with were really great and the aftermath for them has been that their work environment has become noticably worse.

        1. Observer*

          The best thing you can do is to let people know when you hear about any job openings that would be reasonable for the, pass on the info.

      2. Observer*

        Well, no. OP’s leaving didn’t and is not destroying the company. What is destroying the company is their incompetence and bad behavior.

    11. MCMonkeybean*

      Wow, would not have expected such a dramatic update that quickly! Congrats on getting out and hopefully everything is all cleared up and your professional reputation kept intact after they tried to badmouth you to a vendor!

  12. Xavier Desmond*

    The reply to OP3 is incredibly depressing. When I read the letter I was thinking “Well there’s no harm in asking”. The fact that there are apparently places where simply asking for time off is considered a faux pas is pretty appalling.

    1. 2 Cents*

      BigLaw pays you well so they can own your life. A place with BigLaw hours but not the salary *shouldn’t* have that type of claim on your life, but if that’s the culture there, it’d be very hard to ask for more time off.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, I would like to think that even at a busy place with high hour expectations you could at least ask as long as you frame it in a way where you are clearly prepared that the answer could possibly be “no.”

      But maybe not.

    3. Sleepy*

      Yeah, how sad. I work at a nonprofit that is always short on cash–when someone asks for more vacation time, they actually are over the moon that people are not asking for more cash compensation. Heh, being short on cash is not great but now I’m grateful!

  13. Nym*

    There’s not enough info to be sure but I’m inclined to side with the employer of LW2 here. The problem isn’t that she discussed her own salary, that’s only right and proper, but in the way she handled this she also exposed a coworker’s salary band without his consent.

    Let me put it this way: Payroll at my company has access to my salary in the normal course of their work, but I’d feel betrayed if those people were gossiping about that.

    I’m a huge fan of more openness on this topic, and I happen to be very open about my own earnings socially, but I do consider that a personal decision I don’t want anyone else making for me.

    1. LW2*

      Hi LW 2 here
      I would agree with you, except the conversation was so vague. I literally said “I’ve found out recently that a male VP makes significantly more than me, a female VP, and im not sure if there could be some gender inequality going on and if I should bring it up.”
      I didn’t give numbers (mine or his) percentages, or names (unfortunately the place was small enough it was easy to figure out)
      I felt that I was treading a fine line, but was very purposefully not giving anything away by having the conversation (I thought).

      1. Carlie*

        And in no way should that person have been characterized as giving out information of a “customer” for reason of rationalizing the objection. If that were the case, for instance, no one who worked at a grocery store could ever be discussed as coworkers because everyone who works there also shops there and could be called a customer instead.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, hard to see how this would be a concern unless it was a bank and she was managing his accounts or such.

          In which case… I have some concerns about conflict of interest that don’t start with OP.

        2. Natalie*

          It doesn’t even really make sense if it was just a customer – absent specifically private information like medical care, it’s pretty normal and reasonable for all of the employees of a business to have access to information on the customers of that business.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          OP said that other customers income was discussed and there had never been an issue.
          The problem happened because the customer was also an employee. The company must have known they were on a slippery slope going after OP for discussing employee salaries. So without any further thought they decided to make this about discussing customer’s salaries, since the employee wore both hats. They forgot that discussing customers salaries was occurring repeatedly and apparently left unchecked. Until now.

    2. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      Alison commented above, she didn’t mention the colleagues name or salary, just that a male colleague was being paid more. I don’t think that could be considered gossip or sharing inappropriately.

    3. Scarlet2*

      Based on her other comments, LW found out by speaking with the male coworker, who willingly disclosed his salary. She then just told the other female employee that he made more money than she did, that’s it. It’s not the same thing as knowing it through working on payroll.
      But anyway, I would argue that fighting discrimination is a higher priority than avoiding “gossip” (and I certainly don’t think discussing possible discrimination is gossip).

      1. Batgirl*

        Yeah, its everybody’s business if people are being paid differently; it speaks to the entire legitimacy of the company and how they do things. I don’t consider the word ‘more’ to be a pay band anyway.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      This isn’t gossiping, so your argument is kind of ucky. If payroll has access to everyone’s salaries and in the normal course of their work discover disparities along gender lines (or race or etc), they’re ethically obligated to raise that and suggest the company correct it. That ain’t gossip, and neither was what LW2 did.

  14. WolfWitcher*

    Re #1

    I was that employee once. Not with the poor performance, but with the unrealistic expectations. I lived in a city dominated by one industry and I did not want to work in that industry. So I joined a consulting firm with the intention of working with clients not in this industry. During interviews I was promised this was possible, but 1 year in I had only worked with Industry clients and was getting more and more bitter about it. I was saying this to my mentor at the company, and he bluntly told me, “you’re not going to get those kind of clients here.” It was the first time someone was so open and blunt about the situation. It made me realize he was right. I wasn’t going to get what I wanted there and it made me realize I needed to look elsewhere for the kind of career I wanted.

    I wish people had been blunter sooner. And in general, I feel that being open and honest in these situations is the kinder thing to do. Don’t string someone along and keep their hopes alive that this might work out. It will take them years before they realize it actually won’t. The same is true for someone who is not suited for their current role. Tell them. Tell them they will never succeed in this role/career/company, so they have the information to make a better decision. It’s information we all need to hear, so we can make better life decisions.

    I’m not sure whether your employee will take the news as well as I did, but it’s a kindness to them to give it.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Yes, I’ve had to tell people something similar.

      At my previous company I wasn’t head of the department, but I was the person in charge (my manager had the department head title, but ran two other departments so he was really just the guy signing off on the big stuff). Someone in the department wanted to eventually move up into either my position or my boss’s position, or even just one step up to the senior person’s position. Given the size of the department (about six people) and the fact that I’d just been hired six months prior, my boss had been there 30+ years, and the senior person was there almost 10 years and was happy (none of us were going to leave anytime soon), there was nowhere for her to go and she would become stagnant unless she was happy staying in her role. I told her as much as I’d love for her to stay (she was awesome in every way), the only way to move up would be to leave the company or move to another department within the company. I offered to let her “shadow” other departments to get a feel for what she might like to do, and she did, but eventually she decided to stick with the same specialty and leave the company. She’s doing great and has has many opportunities at the larger company, so she seems well on her way to the top position some day.

    2. Ellen Ripley*

      I’m pretty sure I’ve been that employee in #1 as well, including the poor performance. It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re frustrated and bored with what you’re doing, and feel stuck. For me at least it’s hard not to let that affect my day-to-day actions in the job – not saying it’s an admirable thing, just a ‘we’re all flawed and human’ thing.

      A clear, honest conversation needs to happen, which should help both the OP and her employee. I don’t think you need to tell the employee they’ll never get to do what they want to do, because it could happen in the future given certain performance expectations are met, but you definitely need to tell them that right now it’s not in the cards, and tell them clearly and with metrics what they’d need to do in their current position to bring their performance up to snuff.

      You mention ambiguity and rolling with the punches, and I think you need to explicitly say to this person, as you’ve said to us: “Their job is to be the person who makes sense of ambiguity on projects,” and let them decide whether this position is a good fit for them given that.

      (I am more of a planner and rule-follower at work, and my current position is very roll-with-the-punches, which I’ve been struggling with but hadn’t articulated exactly why, so thank you for this question because it’s really clarified some things for me.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have been one of those type of employees who asks directly “where are my boundaries?”. Where do I make the decision and where do I call in someone else? This question often leads to talking about situations that could be described as ambiguous or just plain in a grey area.

        I have found the question really helpful because a surprising number of bosses are not able to state boundaries up front. And a good number of bosses do not realize how an employee can interpret a situation in several different ways. (Employee self-induced ambiguity AKA overthinking. )

        Even trying to hold this situation in the best possible light, I think this employee is done with the job. It’s over. It could be just me, but OP sounds like they are at their wits end (probably justifiable). All bosses have a load tolerance and after that they are not able to do anymore. And once the boss is DONE, there’s really not much hope left for the situation. It’s the final straw.

  15. AdAgencyChick*

    #3, also think about whether they’ll say yes to your request but then guilt you out of using the days when the time comes or expect you to be available for questions on those days. Ask me how I know.

    1. CM*

      Plus a million, this is why I left BigLaw!! Once I took vacation for my kid’s school vacation week and ended up working the ENTIRE time while my kid played video games. At the end the partner I was working for sent me a fruit basket, which was nice of him, but not what I wanted. And once I took the day off on my birthday, and ended up not only in the office, but missing my own birthday dinner with my family! After that I left.

      Still, if I were #3, I would ask. And I’d ask for this year, framing it as, my hours were XX this year and between that and the pandemic, I need work-free time to restore my productivity. I would like to take the last week of the year off and only check email once a day.

    2. Anon Lawyer for this.*

      Yup. I’m in mid-law with big-law hours. The system is supposed to be “do you billables and we don’t care about your vacation days, etc.” But in reality, the partners don’t care that I’m taking a sick/vacation day. I’ve gotten calls from partners even though I marked on my calendar AND my email that I’m on vacation.

      Why yes, I’m in therapy for burnout.

  16. TechWorker*

    Don’t think it much changes the advice but for #5 the quarterly award is for the whole company which may (or may not) be a lot more than 200 people :)

    1. LW5*

      Yes, thanks! The whole company is about 4,000 people. The annual award was between several departments in IT. But I think you’re right that it doesn’t change the advice.

  17. I'm just here for the cats.*

    Alison, I know someone had posted this in another post but there are adds that play sound. Really loudly and I can’t seem to find any corresponding video. Real home realizations by realtor.com
    I thought I would say something so you know.

    1. Ari*

      I’m also getting these, although I see a video right above the comments. Once I scroll down to the comments, the video moves down and blocks some of the page until enough seconds have passed for me to close the mini-window. It’s a different ad/company every single time and each time it autoplays loudly.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ads that auto-play sound aren’t allowed here, so if you get one, please report it to me (with the name of the company it’s advertising for) so I can get it banned. There’s a link to report a bad ad linked right above the comment box. Please don’t rely on me seeing reports in the comments because I don’t read all the comments (especially right now when I’m on vacation). Thank you.

  18. Minnie Mouse*

    I had to manage an employee like LW#1, but I wasn’t allowed to fire her. It was a nightmare and a highly dangerous environment. She wasn’t qualified to do the job whatsoever and refused to perform her basic job functions, but our department head was a bit doddery and hired her anyway because she seemed “nice.” She threw actual foot stomping tantrums when told she was doing something wrong or actually dangerous and compromised patient care more than once. We worked with a lot of students who HAD to learn certain skills to graduate and she was furious she wasn’t being taught ahead of them. One of the higher managers who was a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen had a massive crush on her defended against her firing saying she was, “just a child.” She was 30. She didn’t even get fired after one mistake that almost killed a staff member and another that almost got herself killed.
    We handled it by foisting her off on the guy who had a crush on her since she seemed to like glomming onto him and just avoiding letting her do anything important. HR and the department head wouldn’t fire her because they didn’t want to fill the position again. It was an absolute toxic nightmare. As far as I know she gradually improved.
    Best of luck to you. I think I still have an ulcer.

    1. Minnie Mouse*

      Also forgot to mention she thought she should be on the same level as the graduate students because taking 7 full time years to graduate with a BA due to failing most of her classes was the same as having an advanced degree. I’m not even kidding. Her parents THANKED US for keeping her employed because every other employer had canned her. She might have had a severe learning disability, but we weren’t made aware of any and it wasn’t the kind of job that can be hand held throughout.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Wow. That sounds like a farce and a half, and I hope HR and the department head enjoyed filling all the positions that opened up because *good* employees got tired of dealing with this person.

      1. Minnie Mouse*

        They have their heads so far up their rear ends it’s disgusting. We had one absolutely amazing manager who could do medical cartwheels around the old guard there and he left in disgust after a year of broken promises. He was a fantastic teacher and could handle the rest of the staff’s incompetence with grace. The head honchos don’t mind running off anyone who isn’t just like them.

    3. Observer*

      One of the higher managers who was a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen had a massive crush on her defended against her firing saying she was, “just a child.” She was 30.

      That’s gross.

  19. Katefish*

    Flat fee areas of the law can be good for more reasonable hours, though it depends on the firm. Signed, a happy bankruptcy attorney. (My industry is economically unstable, though, but that’s a different issue.)

  20. Harper the Other One*

    LW1, I think you’ve been trying to be gentle and it’s done the opposite of what you intended. I think it’s time for a very blunt “in order to ever consider you for advancement, we’d need to see A, B, and C AS WELL AS the X, Y, and Z that are basic expectations of your position. Until you are regularly achieving X, Y, and Z I will not be giving you projects related to A, B, and C.”

    This feels really harsh but it’s important both to the productivity of your section and to the employee’s purported career goals.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree, Honestly my read of LW1’s letter is: my employee does her job badly despite training and coaching. It’s so bad other people refuse to work with her. Now my employee says she want to move up. I’m accommodating her requests by giving her slightly stretch projects and end up not having anyone available to do the job she was hired to do.

      Why? Put her on a PIP and fire her if she is unable to do her job well and you have to keep working around her skill deficiencies. Don’t reward a poorly performing employee with higher level work she will be unable to do well just because she asks.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This was basically how I read it as well. I did this with a report – she kept failing and I kept trying to improve my own management skills to improve her experience in the job. When I finally talked to a coach who helped me understand I did more than enough and it was on her to improve I had a conversation similar to what Harper suggests. Once expectations were laid out and she was held to them, she left on her own, and in a very short window of time.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, LW#1, you sound like a manager who is proud of the ability to coach and develop people. But in this case, you’re being way too accommodating and letting the situation drag on much too long.

      It’s time — actually, way past time — for a blunt conversation: “Your core of your job is X, Y, and Z. Until I see consistent, strong performance in all three of those areas, I will not consider you for projects in other areas. If you no longer want the job under those terms, I understand, and we can start working on a transition out.”

      But don’t let it drag on and on — that’s not fair to your other staff. Put this person on a PIP (your HR people can help you with this, if you’ve never done it), but keep the timeline short — if this employee is capable of improvement, you’ll start to see some results within a month. But if they can’t (or won’t) improve their performance on their core responsibilities, you really need to let them go.

    3. Tinker*

      Something I think about this too: the employee as described sure seems like they’re just Globally Bad, but bad fit can also look like this. Plus, a working relationship that has gotten on bad terms can have a self-reinforcing tendency — it’s demoralizing to be in a situation where you can tell that you’re seen as inept and unvirtuous, and demoralized people tend not to perform at their peak of skill and virtue. When words like “entitled” and “ungrateful” come into play, particularly, I get to thinking that this doesn’t sound like the sort of relationship that supports a person to be their best self — independently of whether it’s more their fault or not that matters have come to that.

      The beautiful thing is, this path leads to the same conclusion: it does a person no favors to string them along in the position of the resentful and resented employee. Be clear about what the person’s future in your organization is dependent on, and free them to shape their future accordingly.

  21. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

    I’d say no harm no foul on joining LinkedIn. Its not a sign you’re job searching.

    Funny story though, in the early days of LinkedIn, I connected with my cousin’s husband. His job at that point was “Technical and Professional Recruiter” for a professional agency. My bosses didn’t realize that he was a relative because there are absolutely no shared surnames, and had a mild freak out…and I got a raise out of it, unasked, because they were afraid I was going to leave! (I was severely underpaid and they knew it.)

  22. Cat Tree*

    #1, I had a junior employee like this. He was fairly new to the workforce, but not coming directly from college. Before his interview, he requested to talk to someone already doing the job, which was me. He wanted to get a feel for the work, which was a great idea but apparently the last one he ever had. He said his long-term career goal was to do XYZ. I told him politely but honestly that this job is ABC. I never told him outright that he wouldn’t like it, but I figured he was smart enough to draw his own conclusions.

    Anyway, I was a little surprised when he was hired because I didn’t expect him to want the job. Well, he didn’t want that job but wanted to break into this company, which I actually understand. As a senior person, I got to train him along with another person hired at the same time. He was so difficult to work with and always put in the minimum effort. Since he was still training, I tried to give him direction about how to get it right instead of just telling him it was wrong. I was giving him the same directions multiple times, and he would look guilty and say he just forgot but wouldn’t actually do it right the next time. So that’s how I ended up teaching a grown man how to remind himself of important things.

    I could tell he didn’t love the job. I tried to really emphasize the vast networking within the company of this particular role, and even said outright that he could use that to eventually find a position he’s really interested in. But I guess I didn’t make it explicitly clear that in order to do that, you have to show that you’re hard-working and thorough at your current role so others will have a reason to want to bring you into their department. Anyway, when it came to year-end review, I was one of the coworkers solicited for anonymous feedback. I was surprised he listed me as an option. I gave the same feedback I had been giving him directly, always focusing on what he should do to improve.

    But, it kinda worked. Either it had more weight coming from his boss, or multiple people had the same feedback and it had more of an impact seeing it all at the same time. But he improved! I got a promotion within the department and rarely work directly with him. He’s not a stellar employee but he is very adequate now. So actively managing someone can actually work.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Oh my goodness, I am constantly amazed by how many people don’t understand “you won’t get the job you want if you half-ass the job you have.” And getting someone like that to “very adequate” is frankly a hell of an achievement. I have never seen this go in any direction but a) employee quits once they realize they won’t be getting promoted any time soon; b) employee is fired; or c) employee continues to be mediocre but their manager doesn’t have the stomach to fire them.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        Yeah, I ended up in my current position because I volunteered with the org and my boss liked me enough to recommend me for first a temp position and then this one. The reason he liked me is that volunteers often do the scut work, and he noticed that I did it well and efficiently and without whining that it was boring. Which it was, sometimes, but I saw no need to announce it, unlike other volunteers who wouldn’t stop griping.

    2. Coincidence*

      This describes a similar event ongoing at my workplace very very closely, Your area of work wouldn’t happen to be pharma would it?

      I believe in our case the employee felt trapped, they’d realised it wasn’t something they liked doing and actively wanted to change, but couldn’t see a clear way to do so without a financial impact or being required to do far more work than just a standard minimum effort 9-5.

      I could see their side of things, it sucks to think you might need to train in something completely different or be expected to do learning on top of the stress of maintaining a job with minor overtime when everyone else on your team is an overachiever with no understanding of a work life balance. Their hobbies and personal time seemed to be highly valued by them and work was a means to an end but wasn’t making ends meet.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I am in pharma but I doubt it’s the same person. This happened several years ago.

        I think it’s just really common for people to take a job they don’t love to break into the industry. That’s what I did. But while most people take it as a chance to prove themselves, a certain fraction aren’t aware of that step.

        FWIW, I have generally good work-life balance even at a senior role. There are certainly rough weeks, especially during regulatory inspections when I sometimes work 12-hour days for an entire week. But at my company it’s usually just managers and above that work long hours on a regular basis.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, because if you’re doing a terrible job at your foot-in-the-door opportunity, surely some other manager is going to assume, “Wow, Bob is terrible at teapot making, but, despite having no evidence of this and seeing his terrible work quality and ethic, I bet he’s amazing at package design!” and move him into his preferred field.

  23. Delta Delta*

    LW 3 – I don’t always like the reaction that happens in the comments sometimes that say to jump ship, but it really might be time for you to look elsewhere for a different kind of job. I’m also a lawyer and lived through many years of “not the size or salary of BigLaw but we want you to work BigLaw hours so we know you’re dedicated.” And you know what? It sucked. I didn’t take a vacation for several years because there was no stated vacation policy and the times I tried to take a few days off were met with guilting and an expectation that I take work with me if I went. (a particularly memorable incident occurred when I was scheduled for several depositions on the *day after my wedding* and when I asked to have them moved I was yelled at)

    But as we’re all thinking more and more about wellness within the legal profession, I think we have to take a hard look at what we do and how and why. Some people don’t mind working insane hours. But the fact you’re asking a bunch of internet strangers essentially if it’s okay for you to ask your boss if you can take time off, means you must know at some level that what you’re doing is unsustainable. Depending on what you do and where, there are likely jobs out there that would be fulfilling, pay well, and would let you get some sleep and have a life.

    1. EPLawyer*

      “a particularly memorable incident occurred when I was scheduled for several depositions on the *day after my wedding* and when I asked to have them moved I was yelled at)”

      Jiminy crickets. When I was getting married, I went through a series of scheduling hearings where they kept trying to set settlement conferences the day before my wedding (it stopped when the calendar filled and we were past those dates). The COURT said “Oh sorry, are you taking a honemoon? We don’t want to schedule you back too soon.” It was literally no big deal to work around the days I wanted off for my wedding. If the court that is really busy and trying to find dates that work for everyone can be a challenge can work around a wedding, depositions can be moved.

  24. Lucious*

    One of the biggest myths I see about compensation is that it’s connected to “market value”. That’s true in an academic sense- but all of us bring biases and background into workplace decisions. Some obvious,and some not. An ethical manager does their best to make a business-driven decision. Others don’t bother , and make important compensation decisions based on sexist, biased criteria without a second thought.

    LW2s case is an excellent example of this. It’s important to note sexist or biased compensation decisions may not be deliberately malicious- again, we all have our biases. Someone may feel it’s perfectly moral to pay married men and women more than unmarried people , because families deserve resource priority. It’s biased, but hardly evil (although the single staff members might think it is).

    1. EPLawyer*

      But apparently the place fell apart when LW 2 left. So her market value was apparently pretty high. Without her, the place literally could not function.

      1. Lucious*

        Allow me to be clear- I don’t support sexist, discriminatory or biased compensation decisions. Yet , the ugly truth is multiple organizations and departments use those misguided principles to set employee compensation.

        Here’s a rule of thumb I pass on – if you want the closest thing to a single-metric indicator of how toxic a company or team is, ask about compensation. The more secretive/opaque they are about compensation, the more toxic the org/team tends to be.

      2. LW2*

        I mean, they are still chuggin along at like 15% of the rate they were before I left, so I can’t say I was propping the place up, but a LOT of signigficant things were my responsibility, 3 of the 4 major responsibilities of mine, they had no one remotely ready to take on and had been refusing my offers of training for years (the 4th thing, my boss was fully capable of doing). They aren’t going under (yet) but I know another key person has since left and more are trying to. This would cause a huge disruption in business and they would quickly need to replace those people and train them on our systems, and it is not insignificant that I was the one who knew those systems best and if everyone else leaves, no one knows those systems.

    2. Kvothe*

      Ummm hard disagree here, paying people different amounts for the same work is absolutely not ok in my books and your example that married people deserve resource priority doesn’t even make sense from a financial point of view as single people have to shoulder all the living expenses whereas coupled/married get to split things like rent, utilities, insurance, etc. And something doesn’t have to be malicious to still be wrong

      1. Lucious*

        I never stated married people SHOULD get or deserve resource priority. I outlined an example of how a manager might think so .I am not agreeing with the method, nor defending or advocating it at all. Are we to jump to the conclusion Alison defends toxic business decisions simply because she posts examples on this blog?

        As I’ve noted earlier- I don’t support that biased approach at all. Broken compensation decisions are an unfortunate reality for many businesses, so it’s relevant to discuss the motivations.

    3. pancakes*

      If you truly don’t support it, I don’t understand why you make a point of defending it. You seem to find it necessary to say it’s “hardly evil,” but no one called it that anyhow, and people who do feel sexist pay discrimination is evil are unlikely to change their minds on account of someone else saying it isn’t.

      You should read the link Alison posted in response to another comment. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 doesn’t have an exception for employers who think sexist compensation is “moral.”

      1. Scarlet2*

        I’m so tired of people who think that if you’re not a moustache-twirling villain who totally WANTS to be evil, then it’s not so bad. Of course bias is often unconscious, it’s the nature of bias. But if I’m paid 20% less than my male coworkers, with equivalent experience and duties, I honestly don’t give a toss that it’s not “willfully malicious/evil”. I’m still a victim of discrimination and paid less for the same work. Honestly, discussing the possible “evil” vs “non evil” nature of sexism is both irrelevant and over-simplistic.

        Intent doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Impact does.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Agreed, and if the motivations are not evil, why do so many companies try so hard to avoid transparency over compensation? I know it is because they do not want to pay anyone more than they have to, which is not exactly “evil” either, but it is definitely not ok. And it makes it clear that they know it is not ok, but want to keep it hush hush. So the fact that there is no “evil” intent does not get anyone off the hook in my book!

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      So do the families not deserve the resource priority if the parents are divorced, not married but living together, or are single parent households? And then there is the fact that single people have to cover all living expenses and household duties without any assistance from an additional income source and/or sharer in household chores. And why should families get resource priority? Especially from an employer? They are paying you for your work, not for your personal life and choices. Suffice it to say, the bias saying married people should get paid more is a ridiculous one (especially since it almost always only applies to married men)!

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think imposing one’s antiquated “morality” onto compensation decisions is indefensible both from a logical and moral perspective. It doesn’t matter if they intend harm with those positions, it’s causing harm and they are doing nothing to better inform themselves into even basic compliance with the law.

      An HR department who allows this sort of biased decision making is complicit and ineffective. There should be policies and checks against the biases people bring with them. If I want to pay two people with similar experience and duties differently, I have to be able to clearly articulate the reason for the delta – Employee A is more efficient, gets along swimmingly with their coworkers and other departments, and produces more widget and therefore gets paid more, not Employee A is a man with a wife and two kids and “deserves” more.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      It’s those decisions that supposedly are done without malice that are the are some of the bigger problems we face. The lack of malicious intent does not automatically mean good intent by default.

  25. Auto Engineer & Project Manager*

    LW#5 – Since you aren’t getting much response here is what I have done on my resume.
    I have a header section that lists accomplishments and I placed in there the “Innovation” award I received with a little background detail of why I got it.
    It helps that the award was a yearly award that the company would do a new release about as a marketing ploy.
    Often I have used that award as an example during interviews of how I succeeded in a challenging situation.
    For the quarterly awards unless it is for a tangible results (X% cost reduction, X reduction is quality issues, X% on-time delivery of tasks) I would not recommend it on the resume. You could use it in a cover letter as an indication of a good example of results.
    Hope this helps

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      I similarly list a national-magazine award, but not the “Oh crap, we have three someone’s who received this national award and an all hands meeting WTF can we present them so we don’t look like dumbdonkeys” corresponding “Neon Orange Pack of Post-Its Award” from the company I worked for at the time. (Orange was one of its trademarked logo colors and played into its social media handles, color changed to protect the innocent). Typically I use the name of the award and the reason for which it was awarded.

    2. Mella*

      My company does awards very similar to #5 (to the point that I’m wondering if LW is a colleague).

      Listing the award is a bit repetitive, because the person who wins it is almost always the team leader for a project that earned the company at least one patent. It’s much more impressive/understandable to a non-industry viewer to just list that you earned a patent.

    3. LW5*

      Thanks!! Yeah, this makes a lot of sense. I’m just trying to figure out how to get a benefit from an award with no raise or bonus. I don’t even get the trophy until we’re back in the office. :)

  26. Zach*

    #4: It doesn’t mean that you want to leave your job, but sometimes crazy managers will think so. I once got hired for a temp job that I really ended up hating (but I was previously unemployed due to a layoff and I didn’t have much choice). After about 3 weeks, despite me repeatedly asking for work, it was clear that they had hired me for the project too early and I had done nothing but look at the Internet all day, which was fun for about… 2 days maybe? Anyway, I immediately updated my resume to include that position and updated it on LinkedIn. The next day the person who hired me from the temp agency called me to ask why I was posting my resume online. It was mortifying. In the end, it turned out that the person was actually very worried that I was unhappy that fast, but I do not think they realized how threatening it appeared when they called to ask me that.

    That said, if you have a manger like that you should be looking for a new job anyway because it’s a bad sign.

    1. Filosofickle*

      PSA for everyone who doesn’t want to be spotted as job-hunting:
      There’s a toggle switch that turns off profile updates so they’re not broadcast to your network. This hides all your activity so it’s not visible that you’re updating. I keep that turned off by default — even if I don’t really care, it’s just noise on the feed — and turn it on only for big updates I really want people to see.

      LinkedIn has also gotten smarter over the years — changes to old jobs no longer trigger feed notifications at all.

  27. voyager1*

    LW1: Of all that you wrote what jumped out the most to me was that other managers do not want the work of your employee. The other managers, to use your word “protest” having your employee work on stuff for them. Get your employee on a PIP yesterday. I get his/her whining about different work is foremost on your mind, but the other managers complaining is far more of a problem. That actually could impact your reputation with your peers or higher ups at your workplace.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Yep – the other managers requesting not to work with someone should be a non-negotiable. OP, I feel like you had done A LOT to try to adjust your management style to develop this person – to the point your own reputation is going to suffer. And it doesn’t appear that this employee is ever going to reach a level that causes others to say “Wow, OP did a great job managing them through some difficult years!”

  28. Mella*

    #4, I worked LinkedIn into my yearly goals, maybe you can do the same since we’re at EOY right now.

    “Increase networking contacts and skills, particularly across COMPANY X industry, using professional social media and industry professional societies.”

  29. Former Retail Lifer*

    I’ve never found LinkedIn to be useful in years past but I have an account because you’re “supposed to.” I get nothing but vendor solicitations (I’m in property management) or the occasional recruiter wanting to talk to me about a job I’m way overqualified for. However, it did come in handy once: we needed a roofer to come out for a leak and we didn’t have a regular vendor so I called a guy who had messaged me (but I initially ignored) a few times on LinkedIn.

  30. Ann O'Nemity*

    For #1, it sounds like an underperformer who lacks self-awareness. It’s possible that some blunt conversations with the employee could solve this one way or another, but it’s also possible that the employee’s lack of self-awareness is too entrenched. Either way though, it’s worth trying to have the hard conversations.

    Also, the comment about gratefulness for work assignments kind of rubs me the wrong way. Expecting gratitude from employees generally doesn’t end well, and managers who get in that mindset can cause all sorts of problems for themselves.

  31. employment lawyah*

    1. My employee can’t handle their job and wants to do more
    Fire them! (after the holidays.)

    Most employers are to slow to fire bad people and this is a perfect example of it.

    You need great workers; this person is a just-okay worker. You need improvement; they aren’t improving. You need them to take less of your time; this person takes your time. You need them to rationally self-assess; this person doesn’t do that.

    They aren’t what you need; there is no reason to assume they will change much; and you have sufficient evidence to show it.

    Fire them.

    After all, why are you continuing to pay them to produce 80% of what you need, when you could pay someone else to produce 100% of what you need? Let them go; stop wasting time trying to improve them; and move on.

    (And don’t get caught up in the “oh it’s a pandemic I cannot fire people” BS. Of course you can. After all, if you fire THEM, then you get to hire someone ELSE who is unemployed, so it all balances out in the end.)

    2. Did I mess up by talking about salary with my coworkers?
    No. In fact this is often protected conduct. And it sounds like it is possible that you are being discriminated against, payment-wise.

    You should actually consider talking to a lawyer now that they know. Sometimes it’s in your best interest to raise this formally (not having the lawyer do it, but getting advice in the background), because it is not unheard of for a company to push you out ASAP. And if they do, it’s useful to have “I just complained about sexism” on record.

    3. Asking for time off instead of a bonus
    To ASK? Sure, maybe, if you know your boss. But I agree it’s risky in Biglaw (or any firm which acts like Biglaw.) The focus there is all about money and the assumption is that you will take your breaks when you retire, make partner, etc.

    You might want to look into a lateral move. If you’re billing 2200 hours/year, you may as well get paid for it. You may also have the capital (careful, though) to push back somewhat on your bonus, push for a promotion, etc.

    The other thing you could do–right now!!–is to try to schedule a nice long vacation which uses up all of your time, so you’re sure you get to enjoy it.

  32. In my shell*

    Does this change Alison’s response since there ARE consumer laws / confidentiality requirements in play here? I work in a field where this dynamic is in play and we aren’t allowed to share customer info with anyone – even co-workers/employees – unless there is a *business need* to do so.

    December 16, 2020 at 7:09 am
    Sorry that is confusing. The person who’s information i received had been taking advantage of a service we offer so technically was a customer, while also being my coworker.

    1. In my shell*

      “Through the normal course of my work, I was given salary information from a coworker…”
      is actually LW2 was given salary information by a customer, not a coworker.

      The whole wage inequity makes me crazy angry and I wholly support LW2 in tackling that challenge though!

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Doesn’t matter. She didn’t actually give any of his information. Just “a male coworker makes more than me in a suspcious way”. He’s not named. The number’s not named.

  33. Anonymity*

    I think it’s ok and legal to discuss your own salary with coworkers. It may cross the line if you find out and discuss another’s salary, no matter how vague you are with the other person’s identity. Maybe better to have gone initially straight to HR to discuss salary inequality then to engage in hallway conversation with The Reporter. And be careful in the future because some people love to run to management and report.

  34. Bookworm*

    #4: The LinkedIn thing is not that big of a deal. On the flip side: the people who appear to have 500+ connections seem like the type to just fish for LinkedIn connections but they don’t actually know people. This can vary, though.

    I think LinkedIn has a setting that can display whether you are openly looking for a job or not (this may have changed) so unless you’ve got that on there, you should be fine.

  35. LW3*

    LW3 here. Thanks so much to Alison for posting and responding to my question, and to all the lawyers who have chimed in. Your comments have really resonated and helped me feel not so alone with this!

    First, to the person who thought Alison’s response to me was “incredibly depressing” – yeah. :/ I was cautiously hopeful that maybe she or others would think otherwise, but I think she’s spot on that my request wouldn’t land very well in my firm’s workaholic culture.

    Someone asked what year I am. I’ll say I’m a “mid-level” associate – not super junior or senior. And I’m a litigator.

    Elysian basically described my firm — a small firm doing “civil rights”-type work where we’re supposed to sacrifice because we believe in the cause. Which I absolutely do, but I’m exhausted!

    Also, I don’t want to give the impression that my firm doesn’t let me take any vacation time. They do, and I take it, and they’ve generally been good about leaving me alone when I’m on vacation unless it’s an absolute emergency (though I think that’s also been because I’ve been good at timing it during less hectic periods – not sure if they’d be so good about it if I had a vacation planned when a crazy court deadline pops up). And if there’s a major family event on a weekend (like a wedding), they’ll usually leave me alone for the entire weekend even if we have a big deadline coming up the next week. (My understanding is that in BigLaw, they’d be like “okay when are you at the event” and make you work when you’re not actually there.). But, for example, if I take off a whole week (technically using 5 vacation days), they’ll somehow think that means I’m working on the weekends on each end of that week?! Someone also mentioned partners not caring about sick days…that’s pretty much non-existent at my firm unless it’s something really serious and you’re in the hospital or something. Instead, you work from home (or at least that was how it was pre-COVID).

    Anyway, my issue is when I’m expected to work or at least be on call most weekends and nights, taking my several weeks of vacation here and there throughout the year just isn’t cutting it in terms of staving off exhaustion and burnout. Working from home has definitely helped, so when there’s downtime I can just be like “nope, not working” and go watch Netflix or something. Like last week, there was a day I only billed 2 hours because I’m already so far past my hours requirement and I worked the entire previous weekend and knew the next week/weekend were going to be super busy. But it’s not the same as being able to completely unplug and relax – after all, it’s a weekday, and I’m definitely expected to be working that day, so a partner might need something.

    Many commenters have said I should jump ship. My husband read your comments and said, “See, the whole world is telling you what to do!” LOL. I’m having a very, very hard time figuring out a good exit strategy. I work in a niche area of the law where there aren’t too many options to begin with. We often sue the government so I’m not sure if that’s a good place for me (I also think I’d probably have to move to DC, which isn’t happening). I’m afraid of running into what Elysian said – similar firms will have the same problem (though maybe not to quite the same degree). There’s also the fact that my firm is at the top of our field in terms of work product quality and meaningful cases (think several SCOTUS wins in the past few years that have been incredibly impactful for the people we represent and shaping our area of the law). I’m afraid of going to a firm that says they have better work-life balance but actually doesn’t (or is better but not that much better), and then on top of that, they don’t do as good of work or have as impactful of cases.

    1. MissMeghan*

      Oof I totally get the dilemma you’re feeling. The clout from being able to work on big issues and important cases can feel like a type of compensation in its own right. I think it can be really helpful to catch up with some old law school friends who are in different positions than you are and see if you can get candid about the pros and cons of your respective jobs. I did this with a few classmates and friends in my field, and they were really open with me about where they were. It helped me get out of my bubble to see what the rest of the legal world looks like in my specialty through lenses of people I didn’t work with. I realized there were opportunities I’d never considered since I was so firm-focused.

      In the end I decided the clout was not worth it for me when I realized my heart rate would jump every time my phone dinged with an email notification. I hated that sound so much I had to change all my ringtones after I left since it was anxiety-inducing. I felt like there wasn’t any time in my day that was truly “mine” and not on call. It’s a tough decision, and I wish you the best as you work through it.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Have you talked to an attorney recruiter who works in your space to see what’s out there?

      I believe that the current climate has made some organizations more open to remote work (dinosaurs that law firms tend to be), and my last firm had a number of consulting counsel who had niche expertise on an hours worked/hours paid consulting basis that let them set more of their own schedules.

      Law firms (and other professional services organizations) are frequently going to have a 24/7 aspect to them because when the client calls (or the court), they expect you to be there for them and to meet deadlines even when they didn’t get you the documents or information until an hour before they were due to be produced/filed. Part of the whole client service experience in this world.

      There are also firms out there with better quality of life (not good, but better). At a former BigLaw firm, the nut job who called someone at the family wedding was considered by other attorneys to be a nut job with no boundaries (and someone on the steering committee had a stern conversation with them about the incident). I was working with a firm going into COVID, and most of the practice heads wanted to know how the firm would accommodate the folks with caregiving obligations and what grace would be given on hours and schedule flexibility. BigLaw is always going to be BigLaw (definitely *not* for the folks who want 9-5 and then unplug, especially not litigation), but there are places that offer more flexibility, more career paths than just associate > partner, and recognize their attorneys and staff and human beings with a life outside of work.

      And, bluntly, I only worked the insane hours/availability (staff side) because they paid me to do it, and they paid me a lot. If you’re going to do the time and stress you are now, at least go for a place where you’ll be appropriately compensated for it. First-year associate pay in BigLaw is about $190K now plus a low five-figure bonus, if you make your hours. (I am not an attorney and didn’t even get paid that kind of big bucks, and BigLaw was worth the ride when trying to buy a home in the DC area. And I know tons of associates who did a few years to pay off their law school loans and then got a less life- and soul-eating job.)

    3. Bobina*

      I feel you on being trapped but at a certain point, you kind of need to decide what’s more important to you : the job as it is, meaningful but stressful – or a job that is less meaningful but less stressful.

      Signed, someone who also really loves their niche job area, but has accepted that they might have to move out of it to get the kind of growth and salary they really want. It’s kind of bittersweet but also freeing to be brutally honest about what I want out of the next phase of my career.

    4. Elysian*

      I feel your pain , LW3! I was there and it was miserable! I ended up using a recruiter to find the position I’m in now. That may or may not be the right path for you, but do feel free to apply for things and look around and keep your ear to the ground and ask your friends/classmates if they know of anything open. Maybe a position will be better, maybe it won’t – an application isn’t a commitment. I interviewed at a bunch of places before actually leaving. For some of them I figured out quickly it wasn’t going to be a good fit. Some of them other people told me when I asked around that it was going to be a draining job. The hardest parts for me were really (1) figuring out what I wanted from most from my career (opportunities for good cases? money? work life balance?) and (2) giving up on the notion that moving jobs made me a traitor to the “cause.” It doesn’t. Even in litigation being on a different side of the table doesn’t make us enemies.

      I’ll be thinking about you and hoping you find a good fit!

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