my boss pays his son’s wife to do nothing, angry about a disappearing intern, and more

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

1. My boss is paying his son’s wife to do nothing while the rest of us take pay cuts

I have been working for a small UK company (less than 15 people) for the past two years. The company is run by our founder and CEO, ‘’Jeff.” Jeff’s son ”Mike” works at the company in a medium-ranking role.

We use an ordering system that allows everyone on the system to see all outgoing payments. This means that we can also see payments to employees, so we are all generally aware of how much everyone makes — which is why I know that Mike makes significantly more than everyone else. I have never really felt comfortable with this aspect of our system and have brought it up with Jeff in the past, but he brushed it off as ”that’s just how we do things.”

A few days ago, while searching through our system for a client’s payment, Mike’s fiancée ”Carrie” came up on our payee’s list, which I thought was odd since she has never worked for us. I clicked on her name and discovered that Carrie has been receiving regular payments every month for the last year. Five months ago, the monthly amount increased. Given that Carrie doesn’t work for us, I have reason to believe that this may be a way for Mike to avoid paying taxes on additional income. In the UK, you don’t get taxed at all if you make £12,500 or less in a year, and the monthly payments seems to be just below that cut off. Since Carrie is a stay-at-home mom and doesn’t have additional income, she will not be taxed on this money.

This discovery has left me furious. Everyone at the company took a 20% pay reduction eight months ago due to the impact of COVID, and the fact that these payments have increased in the last few months makes me feel as though we are being punished for not being the boss’s son. I feel extra unhappy about this as I have tried to negotiate for a raise in the past, and in spite of my consistently good reviews and successful projects, was told ”it’s just not in the budget.”

What are my options here? I am assuming that Jeff signed off on these payments, but I’m not sure if he realizes we can see them. I’m also not sure if any of my colleagues have discovered this on their own. We don’t have an HR department, and Jeff recently told us that our pay reduction would stay in place for the foreseeable future. Do I let Jeff know what I found and how this makes me feel, do I tell my colleagues, or do I just start looking for a new job?

That’s crappy and I’d tell your colleagues if you can do so without risk to your own job.

To be clear, if it’s a private business the owner can pay whoever he wants, however much he wants. If he wants the business to be a means of income for his kid, he can do that. Some family business operate like that (generally to the frustration of non-family employees). But doing that while simultaneously asking other employees to take a pay cut and claiming there’s no money in the budget to bring people back up to where they should be … well, there are going to be consequences to that if people find out. So let people find out. (Again, if you can do so safely.) The idea isn’t necessarily to foment rebellion (although that wouldn’t be the worst thing if it happened), but to let people have fuller information about the way their employer is operating, especially after they’ve been asked to make financial sacrifices.

I can’t comment on the tax stuff since I’m not in the UK, but it might be interesting to look into whether there’s anything reportable going on there.

Read an update to this letter here

2. My boss is still angry about a disappearing intern

Your recent question about the intern extending her vacation made me think back to another intern situation I had at a previous job that led to a serious disagreement with my boss at the time.

We hired a mid-20s intern who was very socially awkward but did a good job at his tasks and was a conscientious and dependable addition to our team. Towards the end of his internship, he suddenly disappeared without a word. My supervisor was extremely irritated with his disappearance and talked about how unprofessional it was. That said, as he was an intern, his presence was not crucial to our operations so while inconvenient temporarily, we managed fine. Later, I sadly learned that his father had died unexpectedly during that time.

A year or so afterwards, a position opened in another department in our company for which I thought the former intern was well-suited, so I got him an interview. My supervisor was livid and said he needed to learn that he couldn’t just disappear like that and that getting him the job was rewarding bad employee behavior. My position to her was that the circumstance was totally extenuating given the trauma of one’s father dying and the intern’s age and relative inexperience in the working world. She said it didn’t matter. My supervisor did not oversee the former intern’s hiring manager and so did not have influence on the decision despite her dismay. The intern was offered the job and began working in the other department. My boss was extremely angry with me and this opened a rift between us that got worse over time.

Since this was such a bugaboo for her, did I make a mistake in helping the intern get hired? Should I just have let it drop?

Your manager was being weirdly punitive. Yes, it’s not great that the intern disappeared without a word. But it’s not a mortal sin, and he was an intern — by definition, he was still learning to navigate professional norms. And his dad died! If your boss personally wouldn’t hire him back, that’s her prerogative — but getting livid that another manager is hiring him is over the top. She could have just asked the other manager to speak with him about what happened previously and explain how to handle anything similar in the future. An intern whose parent died unexpectedly just shouldn’t be causing this much anger.

You asked if you made a mistake in helping him get hired and I don’t think you did. That said, the question is really “should I not do Good Act X because my unreasonable manager will hold a grudge against me?” … and while in theory it’s easy to say you should stand your ground, in reality you’re the one who has to live with your boss’s anger.

3. One-way video interviews

My friend recently had a screening interview that seemed to me the worst of both worlds. They had to do a video “interview” where they read a question on a screen, then clicked the button to record their answer with a timer running. The first two questions were “tell me about yourself/why we should hire you” type questions that were covered in the cover letter, and the third was a very specific question about their industry that I feel could have benefitted from a clarifying question. Their pre-interview materials also had recommendations about having high quality, clear video and presenting yourself well.

I disapprove of this because I feel like for one thing, expecting people to have high quality cameras is already screening somewhat by income, and for another the video format is absolutely rife with potential for implicit bias. I say “the worst of both worlds” because you’re getting the anxiety of an interview, but without the benefit of body language, ability to build rapport, or ask clarifying questions. On the other hand, they expect you to have prepared better (they did provide background material), but you’re answering a question on a time limit. I think it’s highly likely this is an attempt to improve their processes, but I am full of side-eye and curious about your perspective.

Yeah, they’re terrible. Interviews are supposed to be two-way streets — conversations where the candidate can learn more about the job and decide if they’re interested in proceeding, just as the employer is doing. This is the opposite of that; it’s literally a one-way conversation. There’s no opportunity for the candidate to ask questions or clarify anything — and as you say, it’s rife with opportunites for bias (as are regular interviews, but this is introducing it really early in the screening process) and poses problems for candidates who don’t have or can’t afford “high quality” video.

I don’t think it helps employers much either. They can’t ask any clarifying questions, they have to sit through a bunch of videos (which for some reason are far duller than actually speaking with people), and they’ve just introduced a bunch of potential bias into their process which they then need to work to combat if they’re at all conscientious. It’s a bad trend.

4. Moving to a more specialized job

I’ve been working for a number of years at a nonprofit in a few different roles. I’ve always had a large number of priorities and projects at any given time, usually quite diverse and utilizing different parts of the brain (think, HR + graphic design + fundraising + basic IT). No day is the same.

I’m now considering a position with a company that is far more specialized, where I’d be focusing on supporting their clients through one specific and highly regulated process. I’ve never had a job where you do mostly the same thing every day. Sure, there will be different clients and unique challenges to each one, but the general focus and responsibilities are the same. In some ways, I think being able to specialize might feel more gratifying (and less stressful!) than being so spread out, but I also worry it might feel boring.

Have any of your readers switched from a job with diverse responsibilities to something more specialized? I’d love to hear thoughts on what it was like and why it did or didn’t work for them.

Let’s throw this out to readers to weigh in on and see what comes back.

{ 439 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessie*

    I’m genuinely confused by the first question. If this is his private business and his money, why is it a problem if he gives money to his son and daughter in law? Why would this upset or frustrate other employees? My dad and aunt created a family business when they were young and the whole point of it was to help support their families. And now that we are adults, some of us work there, while the rest get monthly payments. Their money, their business? Or did I miss something?

    1. Crivens!*

      I’d argue there’s a significant difference between a boss using the money they’ve earned out of their own paychecks to help out family and what’s happening here, which is using money directly from the business itself to fund his family. It adds insult to injury that the daughter in law does not work for the company. It adds even MORE insult to injury that the boss is insisting the business doesn’t have money for raises for the people who DO work there while at the same time using money from the business to fund their family.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        “…significant difference between a boss using the money they’ve earned out of their own paychecks to help out family and what’s happening here, which is using money directly from the business itself to fund his family.”

        HMRC would agree with you!

      2. Anon for this.*

        That might depend on where the payments are coming from/going to. It’s possible that they are going through the company accounting but actually drawings from a trust account or similar (so actually are not out of the same company budget/pool as the employees earnings).

        I would caution the OP before they run around and tell everyone to make sure that they actually know what they are talking about, and to consider how it might impact their own role. Small businesses are notorious for this sort of thing and then not liking being shaken about. It could be that this is a tax minimisation dodge for sure, but it might not be that the daughter in law is getting the cash on much more than paper. It might be that Mike took a pay cut, or didn’t get a pay rise but instead they moved some over onto his wife/fiancée. While it’s kind of crappy possibly to tax dodge it’s probably not illegal, and is another way to give a pay rise to someone without actually giving them one.

        All of this is VERY common in small business finances. Even paying hte wife a nominal income. And you don’t really know what she is or is not necessarily doing either, it could be she is doing some strategic work on the side, in a small and remote way.

        1. Anon for this.*

          Right back with more now that the kids are fed.

          So… as an example of above. Speaking personally, about our family business and my income, I am the wife of the owners son who gets a nominal income. Some years it comes to me, some years it’s paid out to our (disabled, this is relevant in tax law) son. Yes we pay this out to minimise tax in this way, and overall our household income is reasonable but not huge. Some years it is more or less depending on the overall company payroll, profits, drawings from trusts and tax positions. Our income varies year on year pending seasonal impacts.

          The money is paid out to us via the usual payments system and anyone looking in our accounting software would just see a payment going out to us (me/husband/kid). They don’t see the backend accounting that assigns this as drawings on the family trust unless they are our book keeper or accountant. Our annual income is derived from a combination of family trust drawings (which have tax paid on it as it goes as profit from the company into the trust, and then again when it comes out), and a nominal wage that comes via normal payroll. Tax returns are lodged each year via the business accountant and it is all very above board. I do small amounts of highly skilled consultancy style work for the family business that most of our employees would have no idea I am capable of and might be making assumptions about me because I am just a ‘stay at home mum’. Never mind my previous experience and skill sets, or the value I am quietly bringing behind the scenes to the business that I am intentionally not running around telling everyone because it’s actually strategic work that is none of the general employees business. The cost of my ‘wages’ is far below the cost of hiring an external consultant to perform a tenth of the same expertise and work.

          If I was in the situation where in our family business someone went firing off half cocked about all this and created significant dissent amongst the staff (who are all paid well above market rate, this is a point of distinction between us and the OP’s complaint, but we are fortunately an industry that has not been touched by COVID at all), I would seriously question that employees value to the company. Not so much on the fact that they have ‘found me out’ but because they haven’t trusted us enough to talk and ask about it and they’ve taken half information and made a whole (incorrect) case about it seeding unpleasantness and conflict as they went. That and the profits of the business are for the family, they’ve worked hard to build the business and it’s their money.

          If the employee doesn’t like their working conditions and they are fair and equitable and follow genuinely the labour laws around pay and conditions, then they are free to pursue other work. If the person is being paid under the legal award rates then they should raise this with their labor / award conditions departments and sue for inaccurate pay. Where this comes unstuck for me is in the 20% pay cut for COVID – I am at a loss about that as I’m not in the UK, but Australia, where pay conditions are protected and you cannot pay below minimum wage and the minimum wage is generally a living wage, even with COVID you are not allowed to pay less than the set wage (and the government has had lots of hand outs to keep businesses afloat in employment costs). Giving a pay rise while others are taking pay cuts is tone deaf and thus I wouldn’t be surprised to see mass employee resignations, but make sure you have your facts straight first.

          1. EPLawyer*

            If there is a family trust fund — then there should be a separate accounting for it. By having it go through the business, you are risking commingling personal funds and business funds. Which can lead to all kinds of messes if anyone takes a closer look.

            Honestly OP1, this is how the company chooses to be. They aren’t going to change. All you can do is look for another job.

          2. HRinUK*

            +1. Some people who have never run or owned a business don’t know all the intricacies involved. The daughter in law could very much be a part of the business’s overall strategy and be an important contributor.

            1. Chinook*

              Ditto. My mom owns a business and my dad is the silent partner. He also does maintenance (think shovelling snow and washing floors in winter) outside business hours when part-time staff may not know he does this. He also gets a regular salary to ensure he is covered by WCB in case he gets hurts while doing this.

              Someone from the outside looking in may see his pay cheques the same way OP does the ones she sees, but if they asked my mom (depending on attitude when asking), they would either get a polite “it is none of your business how I run my private company but you may be interested to know why you aren’t knee deep in slush each morning” or be shown the door for snooping in financial records.

              I also know that my mother draws no income from the store for her hours worked and a new employee may wonder why someone like me may get to to pick up free K-Cups when I come by (I try to pay but Mom won’t let me), but they also don’t know about the times that I have went in for a shift to help my mom and her staff when they were busy around Christmas and I was visiting on my holiday (I joke with the family that I quit that place roughly once every 3 years). For a 4 hour shift, it isn’t worth the paperwork for a family business, so I get free product instead. Mom has run this by her accountant and it is all legit but, to an outsider, it may look unfair.

              Private business only have to follow tax and labour laws. Books aren’t required to be audited as there are no shareholders to answer to and no stocks being traded. If an owner wants to run a business in such a way that it is financially ruinous, that is their prerogative. And if the employees don’t like it, they are free to find work elsewhere, just as they are if there are benefits or wages available. Or they can take the same risk the owners did and start their own business to run how they feel us right. Nobody is stopping them and said owner may even be willing to mentor them with doing just that (I know my mom does).

              1. Bob the Sheep*

                It may be unhelpful to comment if you are unfamiliar with UK law. Even private businesses in the UK have to be audited. The results are public and published at Companies House.

                From a privacy perspective it’s problematic that information on who gets paid what is public. The fact that this happens suggest that the company has a few other issues. In addition, if the employee was summarily dismissed for having access to information, they could justifiably start a claim through ACAS.

                Something like this could justify a question to the owner. Things like embezzlement frequently happen through friends and family. It could just be simple email saying,

                Hi Jeff. I noticed outgoing payments of £X per month going to Carrie, and I’m not sure what role she plays here. I just wanted to make sure you were aware of this. LW1

                It could well be tax evasion, but who knows at this stage.

                Usual INAL caveat, but I do get paid to write about this topic occasionally.

                1. Bagpuss*

                  That’s not strictly accurate.
                  *Companies* have to file accounts with companies house, although there are exemptions for small businesses, and filing accounts is different from being audited.

                  Partnerships, and businesses which are privately owned (i.e. not through a private or public company) are different, and don’t automatically have to be audited or provide any financial information.

                  Our partnership accounts are audited because it is a requirement of our regulator, but no one but us, and (if they select us for checking) our regulator, gets to see them. They aren’t publicly available. Even HMRC gets a Partnership Tax return, not the full accounts (again, unless they decided to audit us, in which case I imagine they get to see pretty much whatever they want!)

          3. Bagpuss*

            Re: Covid – the government here in the UK introduced a furlough scheme when we were first locked down. It’ was intended to preserve jobs and basically allows businesses to reclaim 80% of wages from the government, for employees who are placed on furlough.

            Firms can’t unilaterally reduce wages but in many case employers were able to agree with their (or some of their) employees that the employee would accept the lower rate of pay while they were on furlough, the idea being that it avoided firms having to lay people off completely.

            (And of course salary can always be altered by agreement, even in non-covid times. )

            The scheme was supposed to end last month, and had started to taper off, with the proportion of wages being reimbursed reducing, and firms being allowed to ‘flexibly furlough’ people so that they could bring staff back part time and reclaim the wages paid for the days the employee isn’t working. It was extended because of the second lock-down.

            Some organizations were able to top up their employees wages so the employees got their normal salary, a lot were not, but employees were still able to stay at home, not work, and get 80% of their normal income, and not lose their jobs.

          4. Pippa K*

            It’s interesting to get this view into complicated family trust/family business arrangements, but I’m curious about one point: you say that the fact that you even do consultancy work for the family company is ‘none of the general employees’ business’ but also that you’d question the value of an employee who noticed and mentioned unexplained payments like this without asking the owners about it first. Since presumably the response to inquiry would be “that’s none of your business,” that seems inconsistent.

            From a general employee’s point of view, there seems no way to tell the difference between legit consultancy payments and tax dodging in this scenario (esp. because of the ‘none of your business/but you should have asked us’ catch). Expecting people who notice something odd like this to take it on faith that there’s probably some really good reason for it, and keep the info to themselves, generally facilitates shady business practices (even though that’s not the case in your personal example).

            1. Yorick*

              I assume Anon for this meant “none of their business” not as though it’s a secret, but that it’s the kind of stuff that general employees wouldn’t usually have a particular need or right to know. If someone happened to learn that Anon for this is doing this work, I doubt the family would be upset about it.

            2. Chinook*

              If an employee is concerned about tax dodging, then they should report it to the tax agency and leave it at that. The OP makes it sound like that wouldn’t be good enough, especially if an audit shows that it is legit business transaction. She makes it sound like this is a personal affront to her and other employees.

              As for Anon for this, she may not invoice them for individual consultancy work since she already gets a steady cheque from them. They may just call her up and ask a few questions and she will respond around the needs of the kids.

              As well, how is paying an executive for his wife to stay home with their children different from paying for daycare for an executive who is a single parent or when both parents work depending on the number of children, it may even be cheaper)? It is a benefit at the executive level the same way that a country club membership or a company car is – one that is not available to all employees and probably negotiated at time of hire.

              1. Pippa K*

                The issue seemed to be that the payment looked like work remuneration for someone not apparently employed by or consulting for the company, rather than a benefit or salary bonus paid to the employee as in your example.

                I don’t think it’s really reasonable to expect employees who’ve recently taken a big salary cut to use their imaginations to come up with some reason why it could be fine for the company to be paying relatives who don’t seem to work there, or to see it as nothing to do with themselves.

                1. Anon for this.*

                  The payments are not recorded as work remuneration in the final books, they are not run through a payroll process. They are simply run through the accounting software that manages payments. To someone just snooping around and seeing a payment made out to myself it could be a very large leap to make assumptions about it, which it appears that this OP might have done. The OP says they were looking in the accounting system and saw payments to the wife, and then saw they got larger when everyone else’s got smaller. Now if that was in payroll, run through with tax removed, and a PAYG or ATO equivalent record that’s one thing, but if it was just an outgoing amount of money the OP needs to make sure they know what they are doing.

                  Yorick is correct – most of the employees don’t need to know who is reading the insurance documentation or working with the lawyers and HR consultants, or working with IT people to design and build new work capture software. Those that need to know will know, but the majority don’t.

                  Pippa we’re a fairly rare business I suspect that is both generous (we pay about twice market value) and ethical and open (and allow questions and discussion, from any member). This is partly because our business operates heavily on trust with many lone operators, and partly because of the nature of the people who run the business who believe in the best in people. This means we’ve been taken for a lend many many times (and I’m not talking about a small thing here or there), but it also means we’ve had employees who have chosen to work with the family business their ENTIRE working life – over 30 years. There is some dysfunction in working this way – a reluctance to deal with certain ‘people problems’ happens, employees forget how good it is working for us and demand a lot more (and then when they leave because we won’t give in to demands they come back often apologising and asking for their jobs back). It’s very odd to be a ‘different’ kind of employer in a world that is set up for the ‘other’. Preconceptions run rampant, and over time relationships are built that last. Even with very very good employment conditions staff follow the very well studied and documented human nature of wanting ‘just ten percent more’ and when given it it becomes the new normal and want ‘ten percent more’ again. Not all staff, but enough. I think paying 100% over market rate is more than enough, for that we retain a good crew, who can work seasonally (and do other work in the off season) and demand a professional level of product from them. I know this sounds like wild fantasy that we would do it, but there area. Few out there that worked out that this business model isn’t a bad one, and it works for us. We have people knocking on the door constantly asking for work, both from our competitors and the general population, so as much as I like that we are a very supportive workplace, if you cause dissent and sniping, without valid reason, without attempting to verify your facts… I can replace you very quickly. I might, I might not, but I’m going to think carefully about why you are so cross with us all and how that’s going to play out as you work for us with our customers remotely.

                2. Anon for this.*

                  Oh… and I’ll point out… that most of our employees earn more than us. They are the ones doing the work. My household income falls fairly close to the national average, with a little more coming our way in various other forms. It’s not wildly unexpected. No one complains about my Father in Laws income which is three times ours, or his very shiny frequently replaced vehicles. It really is none of their business.

          5. Kevin*

            “If I was in the situation where in our family business someone went firing off half cocked about all this and created significant dissent amongst the staff […] I would seriously question that employees value to the company”

            This 100%. I worked for a medium business (~100 employees) owned by two sisters. Their younger brother worked in IT for the company and basically did nothing and goofed off all day. He’d come in late, leave early, play games on his computer, make personal calls, look at Facebook, etc. I started telling everybody I could, getting some coworkers seriously riled up about this, hoping that word would get back to the sisters and they’d be so mortified they’d fire their brother or at least make him treat the job seriously.

            Instead, one of them called me into her office and told me that his job responsibilities were different than mine and I should stop worrying about what he does. Then a few weeks later I got transferred to a much worse position than what was I doing. I eventually left for a different company, but I felt like they would have either found a reason to fire me or would have let me languish in a clearly worse role than I was in. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to rock the boat, especially if family is involved for the decision makers.

          6. TardyTardis*

            I once audited a little company that pulled this kind of stuff, and it really does cause resentment. Asking others to make sacrifices only to keep family whole? Stinks on ice.

            Sadly, this is fairly normal for a family business; I remember being let go with such a business who was having trouble (and I knew how much) and the boss’s daughter being kept on. I smiled, because I knew how much work I was doing and how much *she* was going to have to do now (and the business itself was gone a year and a half later).

        2. serenity*

          While it’s kind of crappy possibly to tax dodge it’s probably not illegal

          There may be intricacies involved with this family business that OP is not aware of but this seems to be an untrue and possibly unhelpful generalization (caveat that I’m not familiar with UK laws, where OP is based).

          1. AJH*

            If the owner is paying monies to someone under the guise of employment when that person is in fact a connected person of the owner, the possible areas of illegality are:

            a) underreporting business profits (because the wages are taken as a deduction);
            b) making a deemed distribution which is improperly accounted for;
            c) very probably making a distribution other that out of profits available for distribution.

            Depending on how long it’s been going on, HMRC can go back six years prior to the first year it happened to assess the business for unpaid tax, interest and penalties.

    2. Formerly Ella Vader*

      First, because they’re doing it while telling the ordinary employees that they can’t afford to pay them what they were worth last year.

      Second, because doing it through the company instead of the company paying Mike what he’s worth and the owners just giving Mike and Carrie private gifts of money is probably some kind of tax avoidance thing. Also, in a company where nuances of seniority and hierarchy matter, it represents Mike having more importance than he otherwise would.

      1. Pennyworth*

        I think the tax avoidance issue is significant. The business might also be able to falsely claim expenses relating to the fake employee as a business deduction.

        1. Amaranth*

          Technically, though, can’t they pay someone and give them ridiculously simple job deliverables? I mean, if someone comes to work and looks at facebook all day, it will impact how other employees feel, but the company isn’t required to fire them. If they had a board or investors to answer to, sure, but I’m not sure its actionable otherwise so long as they do pay taxes on the wages, and they aren’t claiming bogus office supplies or travel on that person’s behalf.

          1. Amaranth*

            I guess reading below there is a tax issue, which surprises me because I’ve worked for more than one family owned company that paid even young kids a ridiculous amount towards their college funds, and they used CPAs to do their taxes without any of them correcting the practice.

            1. HB*

              Clients don’t tell their accountants everything, and CPAs aren’t psychic. Unless the CPA is also doing the client’s payroll, they won’t necessarily know that the children being paid through the company aren’t bonafide employees.

              The tax scheme at play is income shifting. If the father owns an S Corp, then the profit from the business could be taxed at his rate (let’s say 37%). Rather than pay 37% on his profit and then gift his son and daughter $30,000 each (which wouldn’t be income to the kids) he decides instead to employ them in his company. He gives them each a salary of $30,000. The kids will end up with somewhere in the area of $23,000 – $25,000 (assuming no other income) and the father gets a deduction of $60,000 for the salary (plus a little bit more for the ER payroll taxes) saving him $22,200 in income taxes.

              Meanwhile the kids have paid between around $5,000 each in Payroll and Federal income taxes so the net result from the IRS standpoint is a tax “loss” of $12,200. Which isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things and is likely to cost more in tax controversy case unless it’s an obvious slam dunk case (say the kids are 12, or the business the father owns only hires highly technical/experienced people).

              And the CPA can advise the client against those things all he/she wants but unless the CPA knows/strongly suspects it’s fraud, they’ll still put it on the tax return (assuming the CPA is just the return preparer and isn’t also doing an audit or other assurance service).

              1. Natalie*

                Also, real talk, CPAs sign off on questionable tax stuff all the time. The idea that it can’t possibly be illegal or the tax accountant would have caught it seems like an is/ought fallacy.

                1. Kevin*

                  There are CPAs and tax attorneys who are known for (legal) tax minimization/tax avoidance schemes. It’s possible they’re the ones who told the guy to put his kids on the payroll.

                2. Meg*

                  Yeah, especially in a small/family business like this, the CPA could very well be another family friend who is more likely to do stuff like that.

                3. Natalie*

                  @Kevin, from what UK commenters are saying this wouldn’t be legal. I am also thinking of more explicitly disallowed things, such as the classic “talk about business for 5 minutes and you can write off this dinner”.

              2. TardyTardis*

                Not to mention, the children are earning quarters towards Social Security by being ’employed’, which is not quite kosher either.

                1. Chinook*

                  Not knowing UK law, I do know Canadian. CPP (pension) comes off everyone’s pay at a certain percentage to a max amount but EI is not allowed to be removed for family members unless they are doing a job that someone else would be hired to do at the same wage (so company accountant who is family pays for/is eligible for EI but child who gets twice the salary for working one shift a month would not). This also means you can’t layoff family after they hit the EI hours worked threshold expecting them to collect pogey.

      2. MK*

        Mike is the boss’s son and will in all likelihood inherit the business. He does have more importance than any other employee and, frankly, it would be hypocritical to try and pretend it’s not so.

        1. Anon for this.*

          I’m not sure it’s hypocritical, but at the very least it would be naive to assume that he is less important than any other employee. You are right, he is probably going to be running the business at some stage. Also the bosses son never gets a proper holiday, always puts up with ‘work talk’ over Christmas lunch and gets nagged at home as well as at work. That’s got to be worth a little something to! It’s not just the employees who view the Boss’ son in a different light, the Boss also has a different set of expectations of that employee than of the other non family ones. And while it might look lax and overly generous to a non family employee it usually isn’t behind the scenes (unless the family business is utterly dysfunction in which case there would be other evidence of this).

          1. EPLawyer*

            They have an open payment system where everyone can see everything. That’s … not great. The boss sees nothing wrong with this. What other information is out there that anyone else can see. Little things like this add up to a lot of dysfunction.

          2. Massmatt*

            We don’t know whether boss’s son is a slacker drawing a big paycheck or is running himself ragged because the boss/dad has extremely high expectations.

            I’ve seen both extremes, and some in between. One guy complained about “all the people on welfare that don’t want to work” while playing Tetris all day. Another guy was always first in to the office and last out, and would jump to work on any problem because he wanted to know every aspect of the business.

            It still stinks that employees are being told their pay cuts are going to last long-term while someone else is paid more, including what seems to be a no-show job for the son’s fiancee. Is it legal? Yes, though maybe there are tax implications. But is it natural for other employees to resent it? Of course. Unfortunately the other employees don’t have much recourse other than moving on.

        2. Kumajiro*

          I think we might be missing a step here. “Founder and CEO” of a business is not the same as “Full Owner” of the business. It may not be all Mike’s to inherit. If there’s other partners in the mix, do they know that someone is being paid for doing nothing? Are they ok with that? Cause that’s the issue I saw while reading, and on top of the tax issue, it could cause serious issues for the family.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      People took a 20% pay cut — a major sacrifice — because the owner said it was necessary to keep things afloat during Covid … while secretly paying family members to do nothing. He’s legally entitled to do it (at least in the U.S.; I can’t speak to UK laws), but employees are entitled to have a huge problem with that if they find out.

      1. Ellen N.*

        Actually, the IRS frowns on giving employees compensation well above their benefit to the company. It’s called unreasonable compensation. The reason people put their family members on their payroll is that not only do they avoid gift taxes, they get to deduct the “salaries”.

        I was made familiar with this concept when I worked in entertainment business management. We had clients who would pay their parents, girlfriends, boyfriends, children, etc. as employees. The CPAs would warn them that the IRS views this as unreasonable compensation.

        1. Borealis*

          This ^. Speaking as a UK accountant (in training), this smells a lot like tax fraud. Assuming Jeff is deducting Carrie’s salary against the profits of the business (and honestly even if he isnt – it looks a lot like a dodgy salary to take advantage of the £12
          5k personal allowance), he’s getting the tax benefit of a fake salary and I imagine HMRC would be very interested to hear about it.

          LW1 if you did choose to report this I understand you can ask HMRC to anonymise you when they investigate, but I could also understand you just wanting to get out of there.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Without going into identifying detail, I’ve seen something similar, where it was a dodge to make Mike’s life easier and Carrie didn’t know it was happening. She then got into trouble with a government office when their records and hers didn’t match.

            “We’ll do it through the company” is often legit, but everybody needs to be on board including your accountant! That said, it’s a very odd choice here where (1) the payments are visible to staff and (2) other cuts are in place.

            1. Borealis*

              It might be completely legitimate and above board, but as Uninspired points out below, if Carrie isnt actually doing anything to earn a salary then that’s definitely a bit sus.

              Having said all that, HMRC is quite busy at the moment with everything going on right now so even if there is something to report they might not get to it for a while.

              (Also the more I think about being able to see everyone in the company’s salary the weirder that feels to me)

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Oh yes, in this case I think it’s absolutely sus. It’s just not the case that all odd payments are necessarily sus, nor that everyone involved even knows what’s going on.

                I imagine Mike wanted a pay rise but was too close to the top tax threshold, so they thought of This One Neat Trick Your Accountant Won’t Teach You and are using Carrie’s tax allowance instead.

                1. BubbleTea*

                  There’s a reason that the maximum percentage of your tax allowance you can transfer to your spouse is 10%. This appears to be a blatant attempt to circumvent that rule.

                2. Someone*

                  Even if it is tax fraud, can anyone honestly prove it?

                  Think of it like this: Mike has title Customer Care Associate or whatever. Customer Care Associates don’t get paid $100,000 salaries. Lets even go further to say that there are other Customer Care Associates working for the company that are making half of this. The owner can literally, at any time, turn around and say, yes, for position purposes right now we have given Mike this title – to communicate with customers and for his day to day tasks. BUT Mike is actually also a VP in training to take over the business and does a lot of shadowing and other work not seen by the rest of the employees. And then to top that off, maybe Mike’s wife is doing some secretary work.

                  I say this because it is probably even true! For instance, my uncle own his business with his father and brother. The wives , as it were, would trade years on who did the taxes, paid the bills, ran the office stuff, etc. They literally were never directly paid for this through his business, but I could see how this same scenario would be playing if they were ever given an actual pay check.

                  Now my uncle’s sons are taking over large parts of the business and even expanding it. My one cousin works a lot of day to to day tasks other employees do, but then does a whole ton of other stuff later. I am SURE his salary is much higher than the rest.

                  And this business is what? Less than 15 people? And we would want to blow this is up for them why? Because we don’t know the entire story? I wouldn’t. ESPECIALLY for SUCH a small business. If the OP doesn’t want to deal with small business problems, then they should look elsewhere. This is over reaching and over reacting.

          2. TechWorker*

            Yeah, the statement that a private business can pay ‘whoever they want, how much they want’ is actually not true in the U.K. either (although, it may be practically true in most cases given it’s difficult to prove there’s not a performance related reason for paying the family member more). It is definitely against HMRC rules to pay someone to do nothing though (the time this most often comes up is business owners employing their spouse to do part time admin and paying them a lot for it, but they at least put up the show of doing work!)

            1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

              Also, if your family status is etc is a protected class in the UK, you also can’t pay a relative more just because they are related to you. (my province has this protection. It makes it illegal to consider who a person is related to when making hiring or other decisions like promotions or raises)

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                It’s not directly – but if you are paying DIL to do nothing, and paying son over the odds, then chances are you are treating them differently to someone in a way that could be seen as discrimination.

                For example, paying son more than a woman at similar level. Or someone who is in a different group for any protected characteristic (sex, gender, disability, race, religion, etc).

                And paying DIL for doing very little is paying her more than a male collewgue at similar level…

                So no, family ties aren’t a protected characteristic in themselves, but paying more because of them almost vertainly means you are breaking equality legislation for others.

                1. Susan*

                  I don’t think paying one employee more is an issue of illegal discrimination unless you are doing so because they are or are not a member of a protected class.

                  You can legally pay a man more than a woman doing the same job, if they are a higher performer, bring in more revenue, have time in job bonuses, etc that are equally available for the woman to earn.

                2. doreen*

                  Is that really true if its just one or two family members who are being paid more than all other similar employees ? I means, if all the male employees are paid more than all the female employees , it’s going to look discriminatory to me. Ditto for all the female employees being paid more. But if the owner’s daughter gets paid more than the other managers ( male or female) and the owners son gets paid more than the other clerks (male or female) than that looks like any discrimination is on the basis of family ties. Which I’m not sure is illegal anywhere.

                3. Bagpuss*

                  But that wouldn’t be illegal. For the discrimination to be unlawful it has to be because of the protected characteristic or to disproportionately affect those of a specific class. So paying a family member more than a non- family member would be unlikely to break equality rules because the lower paid person isn’t getting paid less because of the gender, age, race etc but because they aren’t married to the boss’s son.

                4. Akcipitrokulo*

                  There is no necessity to show *why* there is a difference to come under equality legislation – only that there *is* a difference.

                  So if a company is paying a muslim less than a christian, and they have sinilar experiences and similar duties, then it doesn’t matter that they didn’t pay less because of their faith. That isn’t relevant. The action of paying less, not the intent, matters.

                  And also “we’re paying the man more than the woman because he’s my son!” isn’t going to go down well.

              2. NotsorecentAAMfan*

                You can’t preferentially hire a family member in Canada? I’m pretty sure that’s not true.

          3. Emma*

            Yep. My immediate questions are – has he enrolled her on PAYE? If so, he’ll have to be paying NI contributions (like payroll taxes in the US, you pay NI even if you don’t pay income tax), to have auto-enrolled her in the works pension scheme etc – if he hasn’t done those things then HMRC will have something to say.

            If he hasn’t put her on PAYE, then things get even dodgier. Given that she is related to the owner it’s likely HMRC would see these payments as an attempt to get around the usual, taxed options for company owners who are not employees to take money from their companies (such as dividends and director’s loans). The rules are complex but I can’t immediately think of a way this is legal, even if he is pretending she is a contractor or something.

            I’m a hardass about this and I know HMRC don’t always take such a hardline approach, but personally I think this behaviour qualifies as breaching a director’s duty in a sufficiently serious way that he could legitimately wind up getting banned as a company director (I think usually HMRC wouldn’t take this action unless he has committed this kind of fraud/embezzlement at multiple companies).

            1. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

              My thought was that he was reducing the amount he was paying his son by the 12.5k, and then giving that to the daughter in law. In the UK, each person has their own tax free allowance, so the business would be paying the same amount, but the couple would get a higher net paycheck.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                And the Employers NI on Carrie’s £12.5k is minimal, compared to the Employers NI on the same £12.5k paid to Mike. So it’s probably cheaper for Jeff too, even with the added administration.

              2. Working Hypothesis*

                Unrelated to the topic, but: you have no idea how happy it made me to see your username pop up unexpectedly. :) One of my favorite characters in fiction.

          4. Kate, short for Bob*

            Also, this last year, having someone on the books this way could have entitled them to furlough pay from government funds, which would also be, well, sickening.

            1. Bagpuss*

              True, but they would have had to be on the books before the deadline for furlough, which I think was 28th Feb for the first lockdown. I can’t remember whether there was a new deadline for the later tranches, the first time round we looked at it quite clearly as we had a someone who had been due to start work with us who fell outside the eligibility as they had not been on our payroll on the cut-off date, and had officially left their old employer by the time lockdown began, although they hadn’t formally started with us.

          5. Tomalak*

            Borealis is right. Original letter writer, is she actually listed as an employee, does she have an employment contract, is she on your normal payroll system, is she getting the minimum mandatory 3% employer pension contributions, and so on? You can’t just pay someone a “salary” monthly without going through any motions at all.

            If on the other hand she’s not an employee and isn’t on payroll but is operating as a self-employed consultant, is she invoicing the company for her 1k or so a month? If so, what do the invoices say she is providing in return? It still sounds fraudulent.

            To be honest, there are easy but unethical ways to get around this. Some small businessmen will hire their wives and mistresses at 12.5k per annum, they get put on payroll and they come in every so often for show – maybe sit in on monthly board meetings. It’s a ridiculous hourly rate, of course, but compensation is a matter for the business as long as you aren’t disguising their status as an employee.

            But it *sounds* like this guy hasn’t even gone through the motions because it would be noticed internally and he knows how unfair it would be to you staff members, so he’s potentially defrauding the company instead. You should report him anonymously.

          6. Autistic Farm Girl*

            I came to say the same: report it to HMRC, you can do it anonymously and then they take it from there. It could be that they find nothing when investigating (in which case fine) or that they do. But it’ll never be linked to OP.

            Also as someone pointed out above, their system of everyone seeing everyone else’s information is very likely to breach the data protection act, that’s also reportable (to the ICO), that too can be anonymous and they’ll investigate.

            And regardless of all that, OP should look for another job, it sounds like they’re dodgy.

        2. TardyTardis*

          And…this is why Ivanka Trump is being asked many, many questions about consultant fees that were theoretically income to her, but seem to have been shuffled around a bit to other places.

      2. MBK*

        I realize the following is based on US tax law and the company is in the UK, but I am curious whether Jeff is writing off his daughter-in-law’s “salary” as a business expense. I imagine that would not go over well with the revenue auditors.

        1. Tomalak*

          A business with under 50 staff is only going to be required to have its accounts audited if it has over 10m of revenue and also over 5m in assets (very unlikely). As you indicate, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (i.e. the UK version of the IRS) could still audit the business for tax purposes but it’s unlikely without a tip off. Like most countries, they depend on compliance and honesty and don’t have the resources to check every 13k potential fraud. All the more reason to tip off when it’s discovered of course.

      3. Colette*

        Do we know she’s doing nothing? If she is, I agree this is wrong – but sometimes small, family-owned businesses have people who do work away from the office. (e.g. She doesn’t come in to the office, but she’s their accountant or part-time HR who handles benefits.) The OP thinks she is doing nothing, but it may be that the OP just doesn’t see what she is doing.

        1. BadWolf*

          I was thinking the same — maybe she’s picking up calls that roll over from a busy admin. Or doing some research. Or handling some paper work. Something she can do from home and squeeze in during the day.

        2. A Simple Narwhal*

          Is it possible to ask about it? Something casual like “oh hey I saw [son’s wife] on the payroll, I didn’t know she worked here, what does she do?” Tone is important, it should not be accusational, more like something you’d say as though you just found out a friend of yours worked at your company.

        3. Lynn*

          I think in a fifteen person company, if someone has been on payroll for a year and another employee hasn’t seen them working in that time, their perception could be trusted.

          1. SimplytheBest*

            I really don’t think that’s necessarily true, especially in the scenarios that are being suggested – DIL works from home doing specific things for the owner. We have contract emoloyees at my office that I only know about because I assist with payroll.

      4. CircleBack*

        If this was in the US instead of the UK I’d suspect the owner was paying the fiancee to get her on insurance, and it’s hard for me to blame them. (My uncle who co-owns a company had his son do some work they maybe didn’t really need so he could get him on the payroll for health insurance.)

        1. Natalie*

          That wouldn’t be necessary for a spouse (it’s the son’s wife, not fiancee) – your spouse can always be your insurance dependent. Whereas your child has to be under a certain age (26 IIRC).

      5. Yorick*

        I don’t think LW can really know that the daughter-in-law is doing nothing. She may be doing some part-time work at home that LW doesn’t know about, and that work could even have increased in recent months.

      6. Imprudence*

        Assuming this is a UK Limited company and Jeff is a director, he has a legal obligation to put the interests of the company ahead of any personal interests. IANAL, but it seems to me that it isn’t just the tax authorities that would be interested in this.

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      Because they’re using the business to funnel the money (instead of just gifting it). And the company cut the pay of the rest of the staff. Also, prior to pandemic, they wouldn’t give a raise to a strong employee because it just wasn’t in the budget.

      Can they do this? Sure. It’s their business, they can do what they want. The flipside of that is that employees get to feel however they want to about it–that they’re undervalued, maybe. And they can make their decisions accordingly.

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Except that technically, in the UK, they can’t- she would have to be either registered as a contractor or on payroll (iirc), with paperwork to back that up, and it doesn’t look like any of that’s in place. This looks very much like a tax dodge.

      2. Aquawoman*

        I’d really like people to walk away from the idea of “it’s their business, they can do what they want.” That’s the exact thinking behind allowing businesses to discriminate. In the U.S., a business entity protects the shareholders from personal liability for the business’s debts. That is a huge benefit to the owners. In exchange for that benefit, they have some obligations and regulations, as they should. And one of the governing principles is that the business is separate from the family — the business has its own liabilities and income. It is not the company piggy bank. Under US law, if the company went into bankruptcy, those payments would be recoverable for creditors; even without bankruptcy, if they were unable to pay their creditors, and the fiancee didn’t do any work for those payments, they’d likely be considered a fraudulent conveyance (and so the fiancee could be sued to return them).

    5. Karia*

      Because the other employees have had to take a 20% pay cut while this random woman gets a huge amount of money for doing nothing. Can you *really* not see why that would be upsetting and demoralising for staff who actually do work for the company?

    6. Language Lover*

      The issue is that everyone else had their pay slashed by 20%. The son’s girlfriend, who isn’t even an employee, had her payments increased.

      So I think it’s pretty natural that employees would feel resentful of that choice as they’re doing work that directly is attributed to the success of the business while she, apparently, does not.

      My dad and aunt created a family business when they were young and the whole point of it was to help support their families. And now that we are adults, some of us work there, while the rest get monthly payments. Their money, their business?

      I think it’s one thing if family members are given shares/dividends in the company and paid that way but having those payments be a part of the operating expenses of the business, a.k.a. salary, feels different to me. I definitely didn’t have happy opinions about the family business owner I worked for, who I normally liked, when he suddenly put his younger girlfriend on the payroll while doing layoffs in other parts of the company. I found that out by accident.

      He owns the business but it’s actually the business’s money and it’s the work of his employees that generates that revenue. Getting paid less for trying to generate that revenue while someone is getting money that does nothing to support the business is going to create resentment. As an employee, it can make you feel devalued.

      To the LW, I’d suggest they look for another job. The family business where the dad paid his girlfriend went out of business. (And then she was gone.)

      1. MK*

        If the business is company, yes. But if it is not incorporated, the business is not a separate entity as the owner, and the money is theirs.

        1. B.*

          What? I don’t know about the UK but in the US most companies will be a separate entity. A sole proprietorship usually will not be, but once you have employees you really shouldn’t be a sole proprietorship, and a single member LLC has the option to go either way, but it’s usually better to just get the EIN because it removes the personal liability. And “founder and CEO” is incorporation language, although some owners of (usually small) different types of businesses will use that because it sounds cool, which could be the case here given everything else…

          1. Bagpuss*

            In the UK can run a business as limited company (where you will have directors and shareholders and the business has a separate legal entity to the owners) or as a partnership (where the company is owned by the partners and doesn’t have a separate legal entity in the same way – the partners are personally liable for the business’s liabilities, so it is higher risk for them.

            Until fairly recently, there were some types of business (such as law firms) which were not allowed to be run as companies. They are now permitted, but switching is complex and expansive, and doesn’t necessarily offer much i the way of short term benefits (yes, you get limited liability, but for many organizations the biggest liabilities are to the organization’s bank, and banks often require persona guarantees from the owners anyway, and as the company is a new legal entity with no trading or credit history, it can be harder to get banking credit and credit from suppliers, and there are tax implications for the owners in changing the structure, too.

            There isn’t, as far as I know, any limit on the size an organization can be and still be a partnership or indeed wholly owned by an individual.

          2. Natalie*

            A single member LLC is still a passthrough entity for most purposes, including taxes. There is no functional difference between the business’s money and the owners money.

    7. Kimmybear*

      Transparency. Because this looks like they are trying to hide something. Even if everything is legitimate, legal, and ethical, it looks like they are trying to hide something which makes you wonder what else they are hiding.

    8. Artemesia*

      yeah — it is a classic ‘my house, my rules’ deal — doesn’t mean boss isn’t a douche canoe which he is. I can’t afford to pay staff and they have to take a pay cut, but I can afford to provide a thousand a month bonus to my son by paying his live in — yeah they deserve to be left with only family as staff. He has a ‘perfect right’ to do what he is doing. The term ‘perfect right’ to do something is never used when the things they want to do are noble or kind or fair. No one says ‘he has a perfect right to buy holiday meals for laid off employees’ — they say things like ‘he has a perfect right to cut the pay of his workers and give bonus money to people in the family who do no work.’ Perfect right is like ‘no offense, but’ a dead give away of something ugly to follow.

      I hope the LW sees the handwriting on the wall in this business and finds a job NOT in a family business.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        He also doesn’t have a perfect right to do it from what can see… HMRC would want a word as looks a lot like tax fraud.

    9. Uninspired.*

      It’s very much frowned upon by HMRC to pay wages to somoene who isn’t actually working.

      “You can definitely employ your spouse or any family members and put them on your payroll.

      What HMRC is very much interested in is what your company gets out of the arrangement. In other words, the person who is being paid a wage appropriate to the job should actually be doing the job. There must be no special treatment paid to the family member through an inflated salary, reduced working hours, or anything that falls outside the ‘equal pay for equal value’ idea.”

      At the very least it appears to be a form of mild tax fiddling.

      1. TechWorker*

        Sorry, I basically said the same above.

        Totally legal in the U.K. (and presumably everywhere) – taking money out of your business after paying tax on it and giving it to whoever you want.

        Not legal in the U.K. (maybe legal in the US? Idk?) – paying money out as salary when no work has been done. It’s pure tax avoidance and in cases where it’s been found out the business can owe quite a lot.

      2. Mongrel*

        “It’s very much frowned upon by HMRC to pay wages to somoene who isn’t actually working. ”

        If possible, it’s first worth checking if the DiL doesn’t actually have a job that’s practical to do from home. Yes it feels dodgy as all get out, but the Boss may have given her just enough of a ‘job’ that could be done as WFH that it could be legal.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Yes. The only ways I can think of where this may be Ok would be (a) if the business is a limited company and Carrie is a shareholder, in which case she can receive dividends whether or not she is also an employee. This seems unlikely as dividends are not normally paid monthly. (b) she is an employee but is doing work which can be done from home – again , seems a bit unlikely that other staff wouldn’t know she was working and what her role was, but possible in a dysfunctional business, or if she is doing something which doesn’t much impact on other employees. They might also not make an announcement to other staff if she is being allowed to work from home and they are not. (c) if Carrie and her husband have separated, there might be money going out direct for child support, but I would expect it to be reflected with a similar reduction in the payment to him.

    10. Casper Lives*

      Wait. You don’t understand why someone would be upset to learn that they were forced to give up 20% of their income, AND that their coworker was making much more than the average based on his job, AND that this already inflated coworker’s stay-at-home girlfriend was getting paid from the company despite not working there? AND that you were REFUSED A REASONABLE DESERVED RAISE due to “money problems?”

      I don’t understand what you don’t understand. Are you also getting paid to do nothing by your aunt and uncle while their employees aren’t properly compensated?

      1. Jessie*

        Nope that was not my question.
        I was asking about this part here:
        “Some family business operate like that (generally to the frustration of non-family employees).”
        I was wondering why this would frustrate employees in general. I’m not talking about the cuts. If the business is failing and people are getting cuts, while the owners are living the high life and getting expensive cars, then I get why this would be frustrating. But in normal circumstances, where the owner is fair, why would it be a problem if they decide to give money to their family? If they have invested their money and taken a risk to create this business for the sole reason of providing for their family?
        But people have already pointed out that the issue is that the employees got 20% cuts and the owner may be using this to dodge taxes.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Also you can’t pay people what you feel like if you are paying one person considerably more, or exampting them from the 20% cut, and they are in a different group under equality legislation.

        2. Casper Lives*

          I think I see what you mean. You’re looking at it from the point of view of the business owner. It can look differently from the non-family employee side.

          There’s what I would consider a reasonable vs. unreasonable favoring of family members in a family business.

          Examples of reasonable: hiring family over non-family (family can do the job). Mentoring and grooming family to learn how to run the business. Paying family a higher than market rate. Giving family more flexible working hours or other perks.

          Other employees can be frustrated if family gets things they don’t get. Money isn’t usually it, unless the family brags how much they get, someone is paid not to work, they’re paid under market, etc. But employees could be frustrated if they don’t have any opportunities to grow or advance because the role is reserved for family. They can’t get a flexible schedule, even though they are a responsible person who wouldn’t abuse it.

          Basically it can be frustrating to see coworkers get treated differently. There’s nothing the business owner is doing wrong (legally, ethically, I think it’s fine). But I understand the employee getting frustrated sometimes, or leaving if they need to advance their career.

          1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

            Yes. I worked at a family-owned but very large company.

            His daughter was now divorced. He gave her a job, no interview. She was paid three K more than I was (and accidentally announced it to the world) for having no relevant job experience and I was denied a raise. She was allowed to bring in her kid to work on snow days or March break and no one else was. And her kid was not a sweet, quiet thing, nope.

            So, this put a few noses out of joint. To her credit, I will say she did work and did work hard to learn the job and do it well. It wasn’t wrong for daddy to give her a job (because just about all the kids of the three founders worked there!), but it was not great to allow her to do things we were not allowed to do.

        3. Bostonian*

          “I’m not talking about the cuts”. Well… that’s what’s going on in the letter. We’re trying to have a conversation about that, not some hypothetical situation, which is why your comment isn’t landing how you intended.

          1. doreen*

            That’s true – but I’ve also noticed something over time in the comments section that never has a perfect place to bring it up. And that is the idea that a business owner is somehow doing something wrong if they doesn’t run their business the same way they would run someone else’s business. If I work for someone else, it would be wrong to hire my daughter if she is not the best candidate. That doesn’t make it wrong to hire her for my own business ( that I plan to leave her) , but I’ve seen commenters take that position, and I don’t understand it.

            1. EPLawyer*

              But your daughter would be working. The real objection is getting money for NOT working for the family business.

              You want to start a business to provide for your family members — awesome. But don’t PAY your family members who don’t work for you out of the business. Set up a separate trust — with separate accounting — and provide for them out of the trust. These payments do not get run through the business.

              Running a business and providing for family members who do not work for the business are two separate things. Keep them that way.

              1. doreen*

                In some situations the objection would be if my daughter wasn’t working. But I’ve seen plenty of people ( when commenting on other posts posts ) objecting to situations where the daughter is working ( (but people think someone else deserved the job) , or where the spouse is actually a co-owner but doesn’t normally work in the business and should therefore stay completely removed from making decisions for a business that s/he is part-owner of.

            2. LilyP*

              I will say personally, I would be deeply uninterested in working for a company where I’d always be secondarily-tracked for raises, promotion, growth, etc because of something completely outside my control and unrelated to my work output. So you *can* do it but you should be aware that it will drive away some non-family employees who either consider it unfair or do a personal cost-benefit analysis and decide they don’t see a future at a company that isn’t interested in investing in them.

              1. Meg*

                Exactly. You are disincentivizing strong candidates from wanting to work for your company with egregious cases of nepotism like this. There’s a reason that “never mix business and family/friends” is such a common piece of advice.

            3. tiny cactus*

              I think the issue comes in when you have a mix of family and non-family employees, and they are treated differently. If all of your employees are family, it’s a non-issue. If your family and non-family employees are all given similar treatment, also a non-issue. But if you want to give obvious preferential treatment to your family members and also hire other employees who are clearly never going to be eligible for the same benefits/pay/flexibility/promotion opportunities, it’s pretty much a recipe for resentment. Maybe you’re okay with that tradeoff as an employer, but it’s probably going to result in lower morale and higher turnover.

            4. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

              Whether you own the business or not you’re still giving an opportunity to your daughter based purely on who she’s related to, which is nepotism in the letter of the thing. If it weren’t so much more important to have a job to survive than to own nice china probably no one would care more about you leaving your daughter a business than the Spode, but in the current world of rapidly-increasing wealth disparity due largely to business owners using tax codes to shelter their children that’s not how people feel about it.

            5. MCMonkeyBean*

              I would certainly be within your right to do so, but it would also be within the right of the other employees that have to work with her to feel frustrated about it if they think someone else would do the job better.

        4. Purt’s Peas*

          It makes people feel that the capitalistic promise “workers are paid what your work is worth” is false, and that someone else’s capitalistic dream “someday I’ll get rich” is happening at their expense. I do this work for meager pay and my boss’s daughter in law somehow gets rich.

          Of course the promise has always been a lie and the dream always comes at someone else’s expense. But it feels really bad to see it laid bare.

          1. Purt’s Peas*

            Sorry, I realized too late that might come off as uhhh pretty political and didn’t notice since it’s not connected to electoral politics. Also despite my clumsy use of “I” I’m not OP.

        5. hbc*

          I agree that people often get twisted up about “fairness” in family businesses where they really shouldn’t. (Weirdly, in my experience, it’s often the same people who would hire their own family or friends in a heartbeat, ask for their kid’s teacher to exempt them from due dates, or otherwise have a very distorted view of what’s fair for their own loved ones.)

          But there’s a spectrum from slight favoritism for family members to outright cruel treatment of non-family. You can hire your family for jobs they wouldn’t have earned on their own. You can do layoffs knowing that family will stay regardless of whatever other metrics you’re using. You can fire a worker for the summer so you can give your kid a summer job. You can give everyone pay cuts while increasing your payments to family or getting a “company” Rolls Royce. But the latter two make you a pretty terrible employer and human being, and the least you can do to your employees is not lie about it while you’re leaving the evidence out in the open.

        6. Totally Minnie*

          “I was wondering why this would frustrate employees in general.”

          This seems like a really strange thing to wonder about. If you worked at a company where a certain subset of employees got better pay and more perks than other employees at the equivalent levels, wouldn’t that frustrate you? Put the family relationships to the side. If you worked for a company where Yankees fans make 20% more than all other employees, and you were not a Yankees fan, would you find that frustrating or upsetting? Being a Yankees fan has just about as much to do with doing your job well as being related to the business owner. It’s determining employee wages according to things that have nothing at all to do with the job they’ve been hired for. That’s going to frustrate people.

    11. duckcomputer*

      I feel like some people live in fairyland. If you work for a family business you’re dreaming if you expect the family members to work properly and for appropriate pay as if they were just another family member. And that the family business won’t be used as a vehicle for things like payments to family, friends and associates who may or may not contribute at all.

      Some people come across as very naive. Also naive in expecting that in any company that the company is going to pay you based on what they can afford, rather than what they can get away with. Many companies are worth hundred of billions of dollars and still pay their lowest level workers minimum wage don’t they.

      I’m not saying any of this is right or just. Capitalism, it’s not working great for many people! Just surprised when people get outraged. Like, what did you expect? Do you think that moving jobs would be move ethical and your boss would maintain your wages at their own expense? Maybe those companies exist but good luck with that.

      So many posts could simply be titled “Welcome To Capitalism”

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          In some family businesses, members may work harder due to a deeper sense of ownership.

          1. SwitchingGenres*

            There was an article in the NYT on Japanese businesses that are hundreds, even a thousand, years old. In it it said that having family members work there actually decreases cost—they can pay family less than they’d have to pay someone else. Plus the ownership thing—family feel the weight of knowing it’s their responsibility to keep the business running.

            1. Chinook*

              I have lived the “you can pay family less” portion of a family business (hence the quitting the family business approx once every 3 years). When I go visit my mother’s store, it is nothing for me to go and move something or help a customer when I am not technically on payroll. I want my mother’s business to succeed and am willing to help. And as much as I hate working retail, hers is the only store I will work the day before Christmas or am willing to paid in coffee or a nice garden sculpture (all of which are written off at cost).

              She couldn’t afford to someone like me, or my father (who works maybe 30 minutes every other day on cleaning floors), part-time to do what we are willing to do as she would need to hire them for a 3 hour shift. When she hired my sister to work proper shifts, she did pay her but is also getting someone to run the social media aspect of the store for no extra cost. Family’s may get perks but we alsog et extra jobs that may not necessarily have been done if we weren’t there.

      1. Emma*

        As someone who runs a business which could be not unreasonably described as a family business, I would never dream of taking money out of the business and giving it to a family member unless it was fair payment for work they did for the company.

        My business does support my family, by way of me taking a dividend from profit and paying the appropriate amount of tax on it.

        Sure, a lot of people in the world do commit tax fraud, which it really sounds like it’s what’s happening here, bit that doesn’t mean you should expect or accept it.

      2. Anon today*

        I do work for a family business. The family members who work there have pretty close to the same expectations of value-for-money that the non-family members do. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t keep any good employees. The family members who weren’t well suited to the work we do were gently moved out of the business.

      3. Language Lover*

        Sure, people are awful and have awful business practices but that doesn’t mean we have to give up thinking they’re awful.

        And there are a lot of businesses who don’t do this–who don’t have the luxury of paying people who aren’t contributing to the success of the business.

      4. lailaaaaah*

        Except that, on top of being douchey, this is literally illegal in the UK. It’s not a question of capitalism, it’s a question of their boss engaging in terrible behaviour.

      5. Forrest*

        I think the US version of a family business may be a lot more lax than in the UK? Everything you’ve described would be extremely dodgy here— I think it would be extremely normal for family members in a small business to get some preferential treatment and access to decision-making, but it’s still a *business*! You still have responsibilities to your employees, the wider community and the public purse— you can’t just run it as your personal fiefdom!

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          And this is the difference between the US and the UK. Sadly, in the US, you absolutely *can* run it as your personal feifdom. Oh, there may be some — fairly minor — consequences (in a strong workers’ market, which this very much isn’t, you may have trouble hiring or keeping good employees because they have other choices for where to go), but basically the law won’t stop you in the least, and it’s expected and assumed that people will do it.

      6. DyneinWalking*

        Apart from the fact that it several commenters have said it is illegal, and why, – expecting people to stick to some standards is not “living in fairy land”. You can strive for fairness and still acknowledge that the world is often an unfair place! And I’d like to point out that the ONLY way to push the world towards higher standards of fairness is to EXPECT them, for others as well as yourself, and cut your losses as you see fit (and are able to).

        In other places, the company owner might be in their right to pay family members well while telling other employees to take a pay cut, but in ALL places, the employees are definitely in their right to decide to look for greener pastures when a company treats them like that.

        People cutting down on their loyalty to you after you cut down on your loyalty to them is a wonderful part of natural consequences. I wish more people realized it is a rightful option.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. Most of us accept that the world is unfair and some people do things which are unethical or illegal. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to try and impose better standards, to report illegal conduct and raise concerns over unethical conduct. Nor is it wrong for people to feel aggrieved when they experience flagrant unfairness.

          I should say even in the times of greatest worker exploitation in the 19th century there were people saying that things were not fair and people argued and fought against exploitation. That’s why we no longer send small boys up chimneys and why we regulate health and safety and why we have a national minimum wage.

          1. PersephoneUnderground*

            This exactly! Sure, life is unfair. But it’s a copout to act as if we can’t do anything about that!

          2. Texan In Exile*

            I read an incredible book about labor practices and exploitation in England, detailing all the horrible conditions workers in various industries faced. It was written in the late 19th century. I think I learned about it here. I am trying to find the title in my library’s catalogue, but my search terms are yielding nothing.

            I remember the part about some sort of processing that left all the land around the buildings dead – there was some sort of chemical runoff that killed everything. (Probably people, too, in the long run.) And I think matchmaking was covered as well.

            Now I want to find it and re-read it.

            1. UKDancer*

              The match workers strike was pretty amazing when you think about it. They were the poorest, least privileged people and suffered crippling industrial injuries due to working with phosphorus (including necrosis of the jawbone and mouth cancer for which there was no treatment).

              Their strike action and the publicity they managed to create managed to bring the management to the negotiating table, get direct access for grievances to the management of the factory and improvements to pay and rations. As a trade union member I have so much respect for their achievements.

          3. Washi*

            Exactly. It’s perfectly legal (as far as I know) to give the best raises to employees with cats while cutting everyone else’s salary, but that doesn’t mean I would be ok with it if I found out. What Alison is saying is that this may be legal and it may be the way the owner wants to run the business, but there are consequences in terms of morale and turnover.

      7. EventPlannerGal*

        This kind of edgelord “welcome to capitalism!!” stuff is pretty teenage and unrealistic, honestly. Of course many companies do unethical things but there are also plenty of businesses that stick to the rules or reasonably close to them, either because they want to or because the consequences of getting caught are more trouble than they’re worth. I get that saying this kind of stuff probably makes you feel very worldly and superior but really all it’s doing is making excuses on behalf of the companies that DO pull this kind of pretty blatant and illegal crap and allowing them to get away with it because nobody is willing to hold them to a higher standard.

      8. MK*

        That’s not capitalism, that’s stupidity. In the family businesses I am know the family members work harder than the employees because the business is their future, not a job they will probably leave in a few years.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Exactly. The family members who work for my current company do so, and work hard, so that in another 30 plus years, the place is still standing and still thriving. Most of them plan to stay with the company for the remainder of their careers as well because it’s their legacy and passion.

      9. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

        I worked at a boutique hotel owned and run by a couple of friends. One of them had a kid who asked for a job when a teen. His dad said “it’ll be for BasicJob, go apply if you’re interested.” So kid did, and got it and management was firmly told “kid succeeds or not on his own merits”. And the kid did, and managed to move up on his own merits. He worked his way through college then got a job in his field.

        He was one hard working, non-spoiled guy, I’ll tell you that.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes my mother was a manager in retail and the summer Saturday assistant quit without notice partway through the season. So she drafted me in at 16 to cover the post. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not going to get any special treatment. The staff on duty on Saturday were told they should not give me any special treatment as the boss’s daughter. My one condition was that I should not work the same shifts as my mother (and as she worked Mon-Fri that was not a problem).

          It actually worked really well and the regular staff asked for me to come back the following season. I learnt a lot from the experience.

          It can be done fairly but it takes more work.

        2. Harper the Other One*

          Yep, I’ve seen family businesses that operate as you described here. And I’ve seen family businesses where a child of the owner basically sat around and looked at the internet all day. The former was both more successful and was able to pass the business on to family members when the original owners wanted to retire; the latter had a constant issue with dissatisfied customers and ended up selling the business because there was no way the second generation had the savvy or experience to run a business of that size.

          1. UKDancer*

            My Nanny used to say “clogs to clogs in three generations.” She meant that the first generation built the business, the second generation maintained it and the third generation ruined it. It’s a Northern proverb from the time when labourers wore clogs and more upper class people didn’t.

            1. Jessie*

              That’s terrifying. My dad is actually worried about passing the business to my brother because he’s flaky and never shows up.

              1. Uranus Wars*

                My friend’s FIL ended up selling their family business, mainly because he worked so hard to build it and it was so successful.

                He had 3 sons – two wanted nothing to do with it and never worked there. The one son who had an interest (my friend’s husband) got fired for never showing up to work. As an adult. In his 30s.

                When FIL retired he still expected to inherit the business – which no one in our friend group can even remotely understand.

      10. Tired of Covid*

        Watch “The Americans”. Communism is no better than capitalism and using the OPs situation to push it is disingenuous. Both systems have flaws and the implementation doesn’t match the rhetoric in either one. IN any case, capitalism is not the cause of the OP’s situation.

        OP, your employer has bad judgement is allowing anybody to see all company disbursements. It may not be fair in your eyes what they are doing, but these family owned businesses cannot be expected to be fair. I would advise seeking a different job where at least you don’t know everything going on behind the scenes financially. I completely understand your dismay at taking a substantial pay cut while the owner’s family appears to be prospering. Good luck!

        1. pancakes*

          It is extraordinarily silly to tell people to use a TV sitcom to educate themselves about history and politics.

          1. Crivens!*

            You’re correct in your point but oh dear lord The Americans is not a sitcom. One of the best shows ever, but not a sitcom.

                1. pancakes*

                  That is a very fair correction, yes. I’m sorry for not being clear about that in my first response!

        2. Dr. Sawbonz (formerly newbieMD)*

          Great post! I’ve always thought that a good rule of thumb to determine in a system works in a country is this: if you are not allowed to leave; it’s not a good system.

        3. SwitchingGenres*

          Capitalism and Communism are not the only two economic systems. Just because you point out the problems of Capitalism doesn’t meant you want Soviet or Chinese-style Communism.

        4. AJH*

          One of the conditions for the free market to operate (the free market being one of the underpinnings of the capitalist system) is the closest approach possible to perfect information about market conditions for all participants. The very material information about radical inequity (at its mildest) and unabashed fraud (on the other end of the spectrum) in the management of this company is material information for the purposes of a level playing field for people wishing to make a decision as to whether this is an appropriate company to whom to transfer their labour.

          By saying, “move somewhere where you don’t know what stuffing goes into the sausage” you aren’t advocating for capitalism but for some hybrid between oligopoly and neo-feudalism.

        5. Forrest*

          This same commenter appears further down the thread saying that people are “too political” for standing up for workers against employers. They’re a cynic, not a leftist.

      11. Arvolin*

        Someone who runs a family business and gives nominal jobs with relatively high pay to family members, uses the business to pay out to family, and expects to hire and retain competent employees, is living in fairyland. That’s the flip side of the coin.

        Capitalism in general says the more efficient businesses will thrive, and the others will not. The sort of family business you describe is not efficient, partly because of excess expense for little or mediocre work, and partly because it destroys the loyalty of anyone who is not family. The better employees have more options available, and will be the first ones out the door when they get a pay cut or are denied a raise because of family preference. Nobody’s going to work hard in the hope of advancement, since advancement depends on family relationships rather than any sort of merit.

        Nor will any of the problems with Capitalism be dealt with unless some people are outraged by them. The alternative is to let something slide (racism, bad treatment of workers, serial killing) slide because it’s the status quo and there’s no point in getting upset by it.

    12. Batgirl*

      If it’s standard practice for non family workers to gift chunks of their salary, permanently, to the non worker family members, why would anyone remain working there? ‘Getting upset’ is what people do while they are assessing a deal which is unfairly ripping them off. It’s one thing for the boss’ own profits to be used, or for the boss to budget a job for his son instead of paying someone competent; this however is a pay cut directly from worker’s salaries. So it’s *their* money their business.

    13. Adereterial*

      Because this is income that needs to be reported for taxation and national insurance purposes. It could be nothing, but it could be fraud – on both sides. If she has other income then she’s potentially underpaying tax and national insurance and the dubious ‘employer’ probably isn’t making the NI contributions it should be for her at that income level.

    14. Akcipitrokulo*

      Their money after it’s left the business to go to them. Giving family members money out of your personal money is one thing… and, though that would be legal, it would still cause bad feelings if everyone took a substantial cut, and bosses were paying themselves an extra grand a month to give to daughter in law.

      It’s also very possibly illegal as a tax dodge.

      It is also illegal for this information to be as easily available.

      It may be illegal to give the daughter in law these payments if they are treating other members of staff differently, and a case could be made that they fall into a protected class under 2010 equality act.

      So OP should talk to, respectively, HMRC, ICO, their union (and join one if not already a member).

      Also point was raised elsewhere that there may be furlough fraud going on.

    15. Akcipitrokulo*

      To be clear on your main point – no, a family business may NOT pay their family members more than other staff, or the same for less work, or give any other additional perk, if this would fall under equality legislation.

      For example, it is illegal to pay your daughter £10ph for admin work and her male co-worker £9ph.

      Or to pay Mike more than other mid-level staff of different sex, gender, race, religion, disability, etc.

      Just because it’s your company doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want.

    16. Bluephone*

      I’m not in the UK or tax fields but yeah, this sounds like one of those “it sucks but that’s life” situations (especially since it’s a very small, very family run business with no official HR department). Nice work if you can get it though.

    17. HRinUK*

      the daughter in law may in fact be a director or shareholder of the company so all this is legal. not sure what the issue is. id say the only thing messed up here is that everyone can see everyone’s salary which is stupid on Jeff’s part!

      1. Jennifer*

        I wondered this as well. Is the OP sure there isn’t a legit reason for her to get payments? I’d hate for this to blow up in her face.

    18. .Sam.*

      As Alison said, it’s a private company and he can pay people what he wants, as can your family members. But you can’t honestly be surprised that actual employees who do the bulk of the work feel disgruntled and unhappy that someone else is benefiting from their work while they are being short-changed.

    19. Dr. Sawbonz (formerly newbieMD)*

      I don’t know if you’re being deliberately obtuse or not, but put yourself in the employees’ places. How would you feel if you had taken a 20% pay cut and you found out the boss was paying a family member who does not even work there? Wouldn’t that make you angry?

      If it within the owner’s rights to do that? Of course it is. But it’s okay for the employees to be upset about it.

    20. Lacey*

      It’s not that they’re not allowed – it’s just hugely frustrating and shows that the employees are not particularly valued by their employer.

      For example, I worked at a place where they didn’t give anyone a raise for several years – but they did have money to completely redecorate the mostly unused lobby 4 times a year and buy novelty equipment that went unused.

      It’s totally within their rights to spend the money on those things. It’s their business! But, when the owner tells you they can’t give you a raise – while they’re spending money on frivolous extras, it shows you where you rank. And most people want to work for a business where they rank a little higher.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Also, even presuming this is legal (which, according to our UK readers, it may not be), there are some common natural consequences that typically keep sensible people from doing stuff like this… and the most obvious of them is that your better employees, the ones who have options for where to work, will get pissed at you and leave. If your better employees all leave, you’ve got nobody doing the work very well, and your family business goes downhill and there’s not as much money to give the family. A reasonable owner will know this is likely going in, and will therefore avoid angering their employees by doing stuff like cutting their pay on grounds that the money isn’t there while showing them clearly that, for people they care about, the money *is* there.

        An unreasonable owner will have to learn it the hard way. I recommend letting the other employees know what’s going on and helping each other remove to employers who have the good sense to treat their staff decently… not necessarily because they’re kind and ethical people (although certainly some employers are), but at very least because they realize that’s how you keep a staff that can do the work well and is motivated to do so.

    21. Ash*

      Their money their business, yes. But it’s also perfectly fair to not want to work for a company that has different rules for family members vs for other regular employees. I personally would never want to work for a business like the one you described. I also wouldn’t keep the scheme a secret from my coworkers if I found out about it.

    22. Daffy Duck*

      I think the problem is the employees got a permanent 20% pay cut, refused raises, and family members are getting raises. Made worse by family members not appearing to contribute to the bottom line.
      How the business is set up is secondary. If OP felt valued they may roll their eyes at this but it wouldn’t be a huge issue.

  2. Crivens!*

    I hate those little video recorded screenings. I was very excited that a university system I had been applying to finally selected me to move forward in the process…but it was with one of those.

    To make it worse the instructions didn’t specify anywhere that once you hit record that was it, that’s what you send. Most of the ones I had used before allow a practice one or two. Not this one. So on my very first question my tongue tripped over itself badly, I stopped mid-sentence and said “dammit” and hit “Stop”…and found out that’s what I was sending in my application, no takebacks.

    1. Ermintrude*

      The recruitment agency applications with verbal answers are annoying enough, but at least one can re-record their answers.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      Really? Wow, that’s going to get them a ton of similar recordings where people stop half way to try again like you did. I hope you called or emailed them and asked about a re-do? I’d consider that a technical problem, not a failure on the candidate’s part.

      1. Mimi*

        I used to work for a company that did these, and their system was as Crivens described, where you didn’t get a second chance, just the question, one minute to prepare, and then your one chance to record.

        We had a candidate come for a visit day on my second or third day on the job, which is how I discovered that my boss hated them and usually didn’t even watch them — he was showing me the ropes for an interview, and we opened up the one-way video interview and discovered that the poor candidate had gotten confused about the practice vs. live answer and flubbed the first question, and then tried to answer questions one and two in the second question’s time, but ran out of time for question two, so had to try to stuff that in with question three, but that ran out of time… it was a DISASTER. I have possibly never felt so much secondhand mortification in my life as I did for this poor candidate, who was clearly imagining all possible chances at this opportunity go up in flames before their eyes. (We did hire them.)

    3. HRBee*

      Academia is the only place I have encountered this. I was applying for an adjunct role and had to do this as a first step. It was… annoying.

      1. Cpbol*

        I got it in healthcare. The software also didn’t work in Chrome, but did in Firefox. I’m sure that cut a significant amount of people.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I’m currently getting unemployment benefits, and the money gets put onto a debit card managed by B of A. The webpages for the debit card program ONLY work with M$ Edge. And insult to injury, there is NO indication of this on the webpage.

      2. Xenia*

        One of the big four accounting firms is also well-known for using them. It’s the single biggest reason why I didn’t apply.

      3. bluemasonjar*

        I interviewed with a quickly-growing startup this way. This was after the application process, followed by a very-detailed Q&A I had to fill out where I had to provide tons of examples and scenarios I’d worked in before. On the day of recording my responses to their questions, I was pretty much close to tears. I had to stay within a time limit, ensure that I appeared personable, and look at the screen to make ‘eye contact’ with someone who wasn’t there. I got more and more frustrated and just uploaded whatever I could. The rejection email came the next day.

    4. BadWolf*

      Oh dear, I imagine they get a loooot of those. Also feel bad for the person having to review them.

      I confess this description did make me chuckle on a Monday morning (but am sorry this was your application experience on something you were excited about!!)

    5. Suzy Q*

      I had one of those video interviews for a hospital system. It was terrible! And the last question truly angered and flummoxed me because it was about religion, which WTF. I blathered something about the question being inappropriate in an interview and, wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t get the job.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        But good for you! That is inappropriate, and more of us need to call stuff like that out more often.

    6. Stormy Weather*

      I’ve only had to do one of those once and I never got a call back. I hate seeing my face on video and it distracts me from looking at the camera.

    7. LondonBridges*

      I had to do this for a fellowship I was applying for as a soon-to-be grad, it was not fun. I wasn’t selected to move forward, but the fellowship also advertises their 5% acceptance rate, so I don’t think it was entirely the format.

  3. Karia*

    LW1: I have spent my life working for Jeffs. In my experience there is little to no value in confronting him on this. He will see zero problem with what he is doing. Let other staff know if you can and look elsewhere, because it doesn’t seem like this is Jeff’s only failing.

    1. Crivens!*

      Yup. Jeffs think that every penny that comes through the business naturally belongs to them and them alone, and they pay their employees not for their absolute necessity towards those profits but just out of legal obligation.

      1. Karia*

        Yep. Also, I cannot believe I didn’t spot this immediately, but the timing and percentage of the cut – they’re all on 80% of their wage, since March?

        This is *screaming* furlough fraud.

          1. Batty Twerp*

            The UK has a furlough scheme whereby the government would pay 80% of your staff salary (with a cap of about £2500 per person, net), with the strict caveat that they could not do any work for you.
            There have since been several cases where companies took advantage of the scheme, but still made their staff come to work, provide normal service etc.

        1. Ina Lummick*

          It may be that some people were put on furlough and when they came back the company said that everyone can now manage on 80%. I know co-workers at my place (not been great money wise before covid anyway) suggested everyone take 10-20% instead of layoffs, but luckily management said no as it’s well known they don’t pay market rates. (And 20% would be getting close to min wage for me.)

          1. lailaaaaah*

            Although it’s interesting that OP doesn’t mention furlough at any point in their letter, which suggests that they weren’t put on the scheme. But maybe I’m reading too much into it.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              Maybe they don’t know? If company is committing fraud, they would be claiming the furough money without telling employees.

              1. UKDancer*

                I wouldn’t be surprised if the company hasn’t been claiming the money and not telling the people.

        2. Emma*

          Good spot! This makes me suspect even more strongly that he hasn’t put Carrie on PAYE since if he had, it would have made sense to put her on 80% too.

        3. Adereterial*

          Not just furlough fraud – taxation fraud and also national insurance fraud. Even if this is her only income, I’d bet that the employers and employee NICs are not being paid, that she’s not enrolled (or opted out of) a workplace pension, and a whole host of other things – including benefit fraud.

          Even if the salary is under the annual tax free allowance, she still has NICs to pay and they kick in at a lower amount.

        4. Harper the Other One*

          Ooh, that is a possibility that hadn’t occurred to me but feels disturbingly plausible. OP, is there any way to find out if your business applied for the furlough scheme?

      2. Lady Heather*

        But he did feel very sad about it and couldn’t sleep about it, partly because he felt so bad that he knew some employees would be struggling to afford their rent after the pay cut, and partly becausde the caviar he had for dinner gave him terrible heartburn?

        (Sorry – I’ve been reading a few too many quotes and interviews from company owners, directors, (sometimes politicians) etc. where they feel “losing sleep over it” somehow makes up for/legitimizes “doing a bad/harmful thing”. If you do mass layoffs because it makes business sense, don’t delve to deeply in how bad it made you feel to have to do that.)

        1. Karia*

          Yeah, or follow circle protocol, and talk to your peers / those not directly affected. It’s the same energy as crying when you have to fire someone. It sucks for you, it sucks more for them, try not to put them in the position of having to comfort you.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. I hate having to give negative feedback to my staff but I don’t tell them how bad it makes me feel and how it upsets me. I talk to my peers and my friends about it. I hadn’t thought of it as circle protocol but that’s a great way to describe it.

        2. Harper the Other One*

          Yep, I have a friend who is a CFO for a small business that is running out of money. She’s had to lay off multiple staff members and is absolutely miserable about it – but around her staff, the focus is solely on them, their feelings, and their needs. Her personal turmoil over how hard it is gets shared with our friend group, privately.

          It IS hard to make the right business decision which you know hurts actual people, but there are times and places to address that and that doesn’t include a public bemoaning of how darned hard it is to be a CFO.

      3. anon for this*

        I took over from a “Jeff”, and yeah, he can’t even shake the attitude after he bankrupted his company and it’s not remotely his money anymore. I’ve been in a functional family company where there was that occasional “well, he can get away with it because he’s a Smith,” but this was not Jeff’s company. It took several years for employees to get it out of their heads that they didn’t need to mow his lawn on the weekends to keep their jobs or that they shouldn’t drop an actual work product mid-day to use work equipment to do a personal project for him.

      4. Delta Delta*

        I used to work for a small retail shop when I was a kid. I recall that the owner’s wife would frequently come in and use the shop as her own personal store but didn’t understand that things actually cost money. Once we got some fancy-ish chocolates that were $1.50 each. she would just stand at the counter and eat them, reasoning that “she had already paid for them since they own them and the store.” The store never made any profit; this lady had a lot to do with it. she’d also take a $20 out of the till here and there and leave a note that said, “Mary took.”

    2. Jennifer*

      I agree. It’s messed up but it’s not going to change. Just accept it, and inform the other workers if you can safely. Then start job hunting.

  4. AliceBD*

    I moved from a general digital marketing role doing website and social media equally to a social media only role and hated it (and have since moved back to doing website and social media). The company ended up being a poor fit for other reasons as well (in large part some major changes that started shortly after I got there but that there was no way for anyone anywhere my level or even my manager’s level to know about ahead of time) but a large part of why I didn’t like it is that things were both too repetitive and I was having to be the exact same type of creative all the time. I was only ever writing short social media updates and never longer form content. I had a bunch of pages that were under other pages (think like how Michael’s craft stores have the main Michael’s brand page and then individual local pages; same idea) so I was also doing very slight variations on a theme a bunch of times for content for the different pages. Also, and this may be specific to social media, every single aspect of my job was visible to higher ups and they could comment on it and say if they thought it was good or bad without having all the info. They can still do that with social at my current job, but I have other stuff I do and they know I do that is not immediately visible for comment in the same way.

    1. Snow Globe*

      I have worked in both generalist and specialist roles, and while I personally prefer a job that has a lot of different things going on, there are a lot of people who seem to like the jobs where they can focus on one thing. It really depends on your personal work style and what you value more.

      I would add that one advantage to the specialist role is that you can quickly become a Subject Matter Expert on that particular topic, which can mean being called on to advise on higher level things like developing new policies or new product launches, whereas when you are working on a lot of different things, you aren’t ever the expert at anything.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I went from ‘jack of all trades’ at a non-profit (accounting / audit / IT / web dev) to more specialized positions.
      – The more specialized positions can still have a lot of variety in brain space. I answer customer concerns, analyze data for business controls, finance, and execs, create presentations, present findings.
      – At different times, I dive deeper into one area, which is great for developing / maintaining skills. This happens with the needs of the business and with direction from my boss, but I let him know I have free time and interest in X
      – It helped me to shift roles every 3 – 5 years. Long enough to develop real expertise in an area, but short enough to stay fresh. I’m actually struggling now because I stayed in my current position about 4 years too long. To ‘reboot’ my brain, I’m taking classes in areas of interest (data analysis; python; R). It feels good to stretch that way again, and has really clarified my understanding of my skills development style.

    3. Not A Girl Boss*

      I moved from project management to an individual contributor role. One thing that struck me about the move, which I didn’t really appreciate sooner, is that general roles are still a specific skillset. Project management is just about coordinating and communicating. Sure, you coordinate and communicate a large variety of things – but the day to day tasks are still very similar: host meeting, resolve interpersonal issues, think about the budget, make decisions, take good notes. When I’m trying “hard” at work, its about improving those skills.
      With my individual contributor role, my focus is very specific. However, I actually feel I have more -or at least equal- variety because I can get more into the subtle nuances of things and really refine my craft. Just when I think I’ve seen every possible iteration of llama grooming, there is a new unicorn of a llama with some new little challenge to work around. Before I took the position, I never would have even realized those nuances exist. In this role, trying “hard” is more about experiencing and overcoming all of these different versions so that next time around its a simple wave of the hand, and turning my focus to the more unique/tricky versions that are popping up.

    4. anjiayi*

      I’m at a non-profit and I moved from admin support for two directors + graphic design to graphic design only and loved it. My graphic design responsibilities began to expand to fit the new role, and I could take on areas that I didn’t have time for before. Now I do graphic & web design, video, social media, and anything that fits under that “design” umbrella. I like it because I do multiple tasks (not just social media, for example, which I would hate to do full-time), but I don’t have to split my thinking between multiple fields. It’s let me dig deeper into areas like video that I really wanted to get into, and all the while I still get to support the non-profit I love. In fact, my role has expanded in 2020 and I even got a promotion & raise because all of our non-profit ministry moved online for most of the year and my role was needed more than ever.

    5. CC*

      I thought that I loved being a generalist until I didn’t have to do it anymore – agree with everything that’s been said here: specializing allows you to go so much deeper in a lot of ways. I went from being a generalist at a restaurant company to specifically sales for that company – and I did that for 5 years, long enough to know that maybe sales wasn’t for me but that being able to focus, drill down, and become a subject matter expert was. I recently switched to a specialized marketing role with the same company and am loving it even more.

    6. Nonprofit lifer*

      Gradually over time at a growing non-profit I moved from wearing a variety of hats to just one specialized hat. I’ve since moved to another smaller non-profit. I realized I missed how I could be a person of “influence” within the organization and enjoy a lot having the variety of options. I was able to go deeper and gain additional skills and knowledged while I was in a specialzied role but overall I preferred the broader and more influention times in my career. You may not care as much about this but it’s worth thinking about as you move to a larger organization.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I did miss the influence when I first went from project manager to individual contributor. It was frustrating to not be able to make a call and move on with my day. It took me finding a second job where individual contributors had a lot of autonomy to be happy. I wanted to be an SME, not just a worker bee. But had to earn my way back to that point.

    7. Midwest writer*

      I had a similar experience in a different field. My first job out of college was at a small daily paper, where I could write about a lot of subjects, and then I switched to a much bigger daily and could only write stories on my beat. It was stifling. I like smaller papers much better because I get to cover a bigger variety of subjects.

  5. Karia*

    For additional context for American readers; the U.K. currently have a flexible furlough system where if your business is struggling and you legitimately can’t afford to pay your staff because there isn’t enough work, the government will pay 80% of their wage, with the strict caveat that they cannot engage in work for you.

    In fact – Jeff having cut their salary, specifically by 20%… that’s suddenly looking mighty suspicious.

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      That was my exact thought! Is he claiming the furlough money AND making them work? SO many cases of furlough fraud are coming to light.

      I’d be on the phone, anonymously, to HMRC about this. Pronto.

      1. Karia*

        It just seems the most likely explanation, given that it’s specifically 20%! It really is disgraceful, especially when so many legitimately self employed people were denied relief for months.

      1. TechWorker*

        He’s not, see various comments above. This is definitely against HMRC rules if no work is being done.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, tax evasion is a crime. However, tax avoidance may not be. The former means you’re engaging in illegal activities to avoid paying tax, such as not reporting your full income. The latter means, for example, putting it directly in a savings account where you don’t pay tax on it until you transfer it out of the account, if then. However, there’s a large gray area and aggressive tax avoidance can be illegal.

      1. Bob*

        I can understand the difference between tax avoison and tax evasion.
        As i understand trump is under investigation for a similar scheme, paying Ivanka “consulting fees” to avoid paying taxes.
        Of course UK tax law may differ in this regard to US tax law.

      2. Emma*

        Tax avoidance is usually legal although your example wouldn’t be – you pay the same tax on income no matter where you put it, so in order to facilitate not paying tax on money in a savings account you would also have to illegally fail to deviate that income.

        In any case, with the caveat that we are internet commenters not auditors, what LW described sure sounds like illegal tax evasion.

    2. Amy*

      I can’t speak the UK $12,500 / business aspect.

      But in the US, it’s perfectly legal to give both a child and a partner $30,000 in a year to avoid exceeding the annual $15,000 gift tax exclusion. It’s tax avoidance but also falls under legal estate planning.

      1. Green great dragon*

        There are similar provisions in the UK for giving gifts *out of your income/savings that you have paid appropriate tax on*. They don’t entitle you to divert salary pre-tax or whatever’s going on here.

      2. Bob*

        Y’alls need to move to Canada.
        We don’t allow tax evasion either but once you pay the appropriate taxes you can give your money to whoever you want and as much as you want.

        1. Amy*

          My numbers? Yes, that’s how it goes with the gift tax exclusion.

          My parent can’t give me $30K without declaring $15K towards the estate tax limit. But my parent could give me $15k and my husband $15K. It bypasses the annual $15K limit.

  6. Language Lover*


    I don’t know if there’s a perfect answer to this. It really depends on your personality. At my old job, I did so much more than my current job. I took this job partly because I thought it’d let me specialize. In some ways, it did. But I found new and unanticipated job duties which diversified things in a different way.

    I think I would love to be specialized and just focus on one thing al the time as long as there was enough work for me to focus just on that. Heck, I actually think I wouldn’t hate doing data entry if I could get paid what I get paid for now to do it.

    But I know people who it would drive crazy. So what do you like more–versatility? Or focusing on one thing and developing an expertise in that area?

    1. do you like busy?*

      Agreed. OP4, have you ever specialised at anything even if not in your career? Maybe at college or university? Or a single hobby?

      I have always enjoyed hugely varied interests, and did a BA which allowed me to study a range of coursework. Then I lucked into my first ‘real’ job as pretty much a jack-of-all-trades. And loved it for 6 intense, busy years. My next job was a specialised one. And hoo, boy….I hated it with a passion. After a few months, I was regularly crying tears of frustration to my partner because I was so so so boooooooored! I tried to expand the scope of the role, but it was like trying to steer an iceberg. So I left after 6 months and deliberately sought out a varied job and is what I continue to do with each job change.

      1. AGD*

        Same – I was a busy kid with a ton of interests, and after that I eagerly did a liberal-arts BA. I spent a long time worrying that there might not be any careers I really wanted to pursue. In retrospect, I envisioned most jobs – fairly or not – as doing the same task on repeat for eight hours a day five days a week, which sounded terrible to me even for things I theoretically liked. The job I have in academia is more demanding but wildly more varied, and I love it for that. I spend a lot of time relieved that I don’t actually dislike being an adult with a job.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I have followed a similar path as LW 4, but in a different industry. I worked at a small company where I did a wide variety of things. Then I moved to a much larger company with enough going on to have very specialized roles.

      I found that I am still doing a wide variety of things, just because there is so much going on to get involved with. It’s a matter of depth over breath, if that makes sense. I’m no longer doing most of the tasks that I specifically disliked, but I’m doing more things that are similar to what I do like.

      1. History Chick*

        I was coming hear to say this same thing. I spent 15 years at a nonprofit and really relate to the do it all kind of job (I was also the graphic designer, educator, archivist, IT person, grant writer, PR, etc., etc.). My first step was looking at all those thing seeing what I really liked. My next step was into a communications job where I still did many things – design, PR, photography, event planning, editing, etc. more specialized but still varied. Then I went to a much larger company and not a nonprofit for the first time. I was petrified of leaving the non profit world AND getting bored and/or specializing too much. I’m a full time designer now and I love it and I can say it is specialized but also still quite varied. The nature of the role is that I’m always working on a different project but even within design I might be doing html or print design or video and photography, etc. I’m finding that as I specialize, there will always be variety.

    3. Emmie*

      I did something similar to OP early in my career. I now specialize. Specialization allows you to be a deep subject matter expert. Once I progressed in a functional area, I found that there’s a lot to learn – a lot of knowledge I needed in order to advise others better.

    4. KayDeeAye*

      Whether you like a more specialized role is definitely a personal preference – but it also can depend on how specialized the new role is. It’s like Goldilocks: There are jobs that are too specialized, jobs that aren’t specialized enough, and jobs that are just right. :-)

      About four years ago, I went from a general role (media relations + writing + editing + some photography) to a role where I concentrate on writing and editing (+ some photography). It’s been mostly pretty great, honestly. I enjoyed media relations, but I didn’t have time to do it the way it ought to be done, and I knew that. So being able to concentrate on the writing/editing part of my job has been, for the most part, a good thing for me, and it’s been good for my company, too. YMMV, of course.

    5. Birdie*

      I’ve made this transition, as well. At my last job, I was fortunate to have some wide and varied opportunities, but there was one aspect of the job that I really enjoyed and was quite good at. But because it was only 50% of my job description, I didn’t have time to focus on it as I would’ve wanted. So I found a job where it was more like 95% of the job description. As OP expected, it has made my work life SO much less stressful. For me, the biggest downside has been taking on some of the rote, administrative tasks that I’m now expected to do because I don’t have as many competing demands on my time. (It’s all stuff directly related to the job, so it’s reasonable for me to do it, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it.)

      Still, there are opportunities to take on new projects, so it’s not like it’s the same thing everyday and there’s no development. The scope of those projects does tend to be narrower than before, and while I sometimes miss the kinds of projects that occasionally came my way in that old job, I’ve found ways to keep things interesting and engaging enough within the smaller scope that I haven’t gotten bored. During our slower periods, I’ve taken to training myself on some things I would like to be able to do in the future – things that I think would allow me to expand the job in a direction I find interesting.

      I think company culture and the manager can play a big role here. The person who hired me is very invested in finding new ways to use my strengths, so I have support in pursuing opportunities outside my specific job description and evolving the role. If that ever ceases to be the case, I will probably start looking again.

    1. TechWorker*

      Any source for this..?

      I ask because software that converts speech to text is still notably bad, and I’m not aware of anything easily accessible that judges presentation skills. It seems way more likely it’s just cheaper/lazier for the company to hire this way because interviewers can watch the responses at their leisure, cut it short if the first question is terrible, play it again to someone more senior if they think someone is good, etc.

      (I definitely don’t think it’s a good way to hire but I’d be surprised if a computer were involved given the most likely thing that would do is convert badly back to text in which case they would have just asked for written answers in the first place).

      1. David*

        Well… as someone who works in that industry, I’d say software that tries to “understand” speech and take actions in response is not great, but software that just converts speech to text without any attempt at interpretation is less bad. An autogenerated transcript won’t be perfect, but it can definitely be good enough to skim and get the gist of what was being said (though it also depends on the speaker’s accent, voice, and vocabulary). I can imagine that, if someone already thinks a one-way video “interview” is a good idea, it’s not a huge leap from there to think that getting a computer to email a transcript to them is also good. In both cases the goal seems to be the interviewer’s convenience.

        That being said, I totally agree that a source would be great. All I’m saying is that computer screening sounds slightly plausible given what we already know about this employer, but I’ve certainly never heard of it actually happening.

        1. irene adler*

          There’s a comment in moderation as I included links.
          But, the video interviews are not about the content of the responses.

          The videos are evaluated by AI to measure the candidate’s microemotions. These measurements are then compared to those of employee’s who hold the job. If the candidate’s measurements are similar they are moved forward in the hiring process. Otherwise, they are rejected.
          There are articles on this. Google “wall street journal micro emotions test” or look for this article in WSJ: “How Job Interviews Will Transform In The Next Decade”

          1. Nanani*

            This is bad in so many ways. The massive amounts of inherent bias should get this software kicked out on its own. It boils down to “do you look like your predecessors in this job” with no consideration for cultural differences (from international differences to like, SES and subcultural ones).
            Then there’s the fact that these algorithms have a notoriously difficult time reading darker skin (they’re usually only trained on white dudes and maaaybe a few asian faces) and will therefore not recognize them as having mouths or even being faces.

            And of course, how your face registers these “microemotions” isn’t relevant to your ability to do a job.

      2. irene adler*

        Employers are using AI to evaluate the video interviews to measure the candidate’s microemotions.
        These measurements are then compared to people who perform the job. Candidates with measurements that match (or come close) are moved forward; those who don’t are rejected.

        It doesn’t matter what the content of the responses may be.

        A couple of reference articles:

        1. cat lady*

          This is so bananas. I’m already foreseeing the discrimination suits– people who have had a stroke, who have facial tics or issues with eye contact that may be due to conditions covered under the ADA deserve better!

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Actually, the job candidate dodged a bullet if this company thinks this is the way to go about hiring good people. I can’t imagine what other nonsensical business practices they partake in.

              1. irene adler*

                No argument from me!
                However, one of the best paying and largest and most successful IVD biotech companies utilizes this method for the first interviews (HireVue). When I asked them if this was necessary the HR person happily exclaimed that “everyone” is moving to this method. So get used to it.

                I’d really like to work there (fabulous pay, benefits products, etc.), but cannot get beyond the one-way video interview. Tried half a dozen times so far.

                Recently encountered this method at a few other large biotech companies.

          1. just what I heard*

            I was just in a meeting today where this was pitched as a way to be less biased. They are replacing initial phone screens with the AI reviewed interviews in an attempt to reduce racial discrimination.

      3. PT*

        Google Hire Vue, there was a Washington Post article about it within the last year. Creepy and dystopian.

    2. Amy*

      I work for a large company where we hire many hundreds of people in a normal year. We use the video piece in some roles, for example sales. But it’s definitely screened by a human.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Those video interviews are NOT screened by a computer. The recorded answers are reviewed by actual people, that’s the purpose of the platform.

      I am not a fan of interview-on-demand platforms at all, but I understand how they work. Robots have not taken over. Yet.

  7. Get off my lawn*

    I’m taking the likely unpopular opinion that the intern should not have been recommended nor hired for a job with the company he ghosted. Disappearing from the workplace has become a common behavior and should never be acceptable nor rewarded. Mid 20s is plenty old enough to understand basic workplace/human relationship norms including communicating that a family crisis required an immediate resignation.

    1. Observer*

      Which is all good and fine. But that wasn’t the question posed. The question was the recommendation bad enough that the boss should be LIVID about it? A year later?

      The hiring manager must have known about it, and decided that it was not an absolute blocker. So obviously they didn’t view this admittedly unprofessional behavior in the same the former boss did.

    2. duckcomputer*

      I agree. I feel like there is a political bent in some people that they will side with employees.

      Losing a parent is a serious situation but many serious things happen in life. And I remember being feckless and young and at times a bad employee, which I take responsibility for not blame others.

      I do think ‘livid’ is a bit much but I don’t think it is unreasonable not to want to hire someone who ghosted on a professional internship in their 20’s, even if the situation as serious things like deaths in your close family become part of life over the decades you have a career and you need to handle it. Even just an email saying ‘thanks but can’t go on anymore with this role’ and a sudden quitting would be fine. No word? Nope, sorry not good enough and it feels a bit like emotional blackmail to try to get away with it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Of course, it’s not unreasonable at all; many people would be unwilling to hire that intern back. But you’re reacting to a different situation than what’s in the letter. The fact that she’s livid and directing her ire at the OP is what’s in question.

        1. Myrin*

          “The fact that she’s livid and directing her ire at the OP is what’s in question.” – between this and Observer’s “The question was the recommendation bad enough that the boss should be LIVID about it? A year later?” above I feel like I must be missing something because that’s not what I took from this letter at all.

          What OP asks is “Since this was such a bugaboo for her, did I make a mistake in helping the intern get hired? Should I just have let it drop?” – I don’t see anything about her questioning whether her manager’s anger was justified/reasonable or not (and in fact, it’s clear from OP’s explanation of her thought process that she doesn’t think it is and I didn’t get the feeling that she wanted confirmation of that; the question seems like one about office politics to me – which fits your answer’s very last sentence – moreso than one about whether OP’s supervisor was in the right or not). Am I misunderstanding your?

          1. Reba*

            Well, “was I wrong to do this” could cover “Is my boss right to be mad at me” or in a slight twist, “should I have anticipated my boss’s extreme ire and strategically avoided touching this situation at all?”

            The question of what was ‘right’ to do ethically and what would have been ‘right’ to do for… career advancement, boss-worker harmony… it’s not clear from the question what the OP was asking exactly, but it seems focused on her ongoing relationship with the boss. I’m sort of stretching here but it reads to me like this story happened over a long period of time and has really negatively impacted their relationship. It’s a bigger breach than OP anticipated from this level of disagreement.

            And then, the boss’s insistence on damnatio memoriae and general emotional level on this seems extreme enough it’s no surprise we are getting caught on it.

        2. Lady Meyneth*

          Actually, that’s not what I took from the letter, and I do think the LW thought her manager was being unreasonable in not wanting to rehire the intern, and was asking basically about office politics when a boss is being unreasonable.

          This is the phrase that really throws me off: “Since this was such a bugaboo for her, did I make a mistake in helping the intern get hired?”. Bugaboo seems a word to describe a pet peeve or an opinion not worthy of respect, not something one admits to be reasonable. Maybe I’m off there, and if so I apologise. But it’s possible the LW’s attitude is a little too dismissive of the boss’ POV, and that’s part of why the boss is upset with her.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I think OP may be describing the boss’s feelings that way because the intern was hired by another manager in another department. If OP had presented the intern as an option for an open slot in their department, I could see OP’s manager being flabbergasted that OP would even think to submit him after ghosting – that would be reasonable since the manager would have to be the one to hire and manage him again.

            But Casper was hired by a totally different department, which OP’s manager has no control over, so she shouldn’t care where he ended up – that’s not her circus or her monkeys. It’s possible the hiring manager in the other department knew what happened with Casper and simply didn’t care, or Casper explained the circumstances in the interview and swore to never do it again. Either way, OP’s manager shouldn’t be livid about something that has nothing to do with her. She’s taking all of it (the ghosting, OP’s help, Casper’s rehire) very personally, which is bizarre.

        3. Kelaine*

          I have seen this “lividness” before. The livid person is taking it as a personal insult that their opinion is not accepted by their colleague elsewhere in the company. In addition, the livid person regards it as their “right”, as the intern’s original supervisor, to serve as an absolute gatekeeper for the intern’s career from that point forward.
          This sort of behavior is common in academia, for example. Graduate students are at the mercy of their thesis advisors, who typically hold all the cards as a recommender for the student’s future career. These thesis advisors absolutely hate it if another faculty member “saves” the student by offering them a new position despite the poor recommendation of the original faculty member.

          1. Batgirl*

            Yeah exactly. If I worked here, I may be a little bit surprised at a ghoster intern being forgiven and getting a job, but I would be VERY surprised at the OTT reaction from the boss. The control freak elements would give me extreme pause about whether I could ever work under them.

      2. Forrest*

        You’re ascribing a weird degree of agency to the intern, and a weird degree of personal victimhood to the company. Who is he “blaming”? Who is he “emotionally blackmailing”? He forgot or didn’t try hard enough to let his employer know what was happening when his dad died, then a couple of years later he applied and got a job at the same company. It’s fine to say that you wouldn’t hire him under the same circumstances, but this determination to see the company as somehow the victim of his dastardly schemes is MUCH weirder than “political”!

        1. Batgirl*

          Right, the options here are to look at his attributes then either to forgive the lapsed judgement or decide not to forgive it.. . Unless the application contained some kind of demand or sob story then I have no idea how merely trying to apply is so awfully rude, much less how it’s blackmail.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      It also depends on how thoroughly he ghosted. Missing from work for a couple of days because of a family emergency, in an internship, is the kind of thing I could see as a normal learning experience. With classes at school, you’d generally deal with the emergency and work out the school stuff later. If he simply quit without notice or explanation, and the employer only found out second hand, much later, that there was a reason behind it is a lot more of a problem, and a legitimate reason to mark someone as not eligible for rehire.

      Livid is an over-reaction, though, and sounds like the boss was taking it much too personally.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        I’m not sure if I’m reading it wrong, but if I, as OP’s boss, *had* marked the intern as a do not rehire, and then found out that OP went behind my back essentially (whether or not she knew I’d marked his record as such) to help get him rehired, I would be looking at OP’s judgement and trustworthiness differently and it would affect my interactions with them going forward.

        Would I be livid though? No, that’s unprofessional.

        1. Forrest*

          “Judgment” I can understand, but that seems like a definition of “trustworthiness” which borders on “ability to read my mind”. The OP wasn’t acting on behalf of her manager when she made this recommendation, so I don’t see how she could have been “going behind the manager’s back”. She just recommended someone she thought would be suitable for a role, which presumably the company allows and encourages her to do.

          This all comes down to the company systems, and it seems incredibly weird to me to blame the OP for any of this. They have a hiring process which apparently allowed the OP to make a recommendation for an interview without having to run that by or get the approval of her own manager; and which allowed the individual to be interviewed and subsequently hired, either without OP’s manager having as much influence over the outcome as she’d like. If the OP’s manager wanted her bad opinion of the former intern to be a veto, or for her reports to be unable to recommend people without checking with her first, she needs to take that up with whoever manages the company’s hiring processes. It’s ridiculous to blame OP when the only thing in her control was recommending someone she thought would be suitable for the job: the fact that she was able to do that and the guy subsequently got hired is way out of her control.

          1. MsM*

            But OP did nonetheless go out of their way to make the recommendation, which they didn’t have to do – and personally, I agree with those who think it wasn’t the best call. Mid-20s is not the same as fresh out of high school, and there’s no indication that the intern ever made any effort to apologize to the supervisor directly. I wouldn’t be livid in their place, but I might be a little offended, or question why OP thought this was worth sticking their neck out over.

            1. Forrest*

              But you don’t *ever* have to do that–if there’s a process for it, and it’s possible for employees to “get people an interview” through a recommendation, that’s presumably because it’s something the employer wants its staff to do. It’s not just a favour to the former intern, it’s something you do because you want your company to be able to hire the best person for the job. And the company agreed that he was the best person for the job!

              It seems to me that OP had a choice between doing what she thought was good for her company–recommending someone she thought would be suitable for the role–and what her boss apparently wanted her to do. It’s not at all obvious to me that OP “should have” prioritised her boss’s wishes, or that it’s her problem that her boss’s wishes and the company’s wishes are at odds with each other.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Spot on. People are acting as if the OP was the one who hired Casper back into the company herself – she wasn’t. She made a recommendation (which she clearly did not have to run by her manager or else HR and the eventual hiring manager would have said something or reached out to OP’s managers themselves), Casper interviewed (apparently well), and the new manager hired him. OP’s involvement was the equivalent of passing on a resume from an acquaintance – that’s it. People do this all the time, and most companies encourage it to build their talent pipeline.

          2. SomebodyElse*

            Is it really a stretch to think that someone who abandoned their job would not be eligible for rehire? I think the OP showed very poor judgement in this case.

            Does the intern deserve to be flogged an marked with a letter A for job abandonment for the rest of their career… of course not
            Does it make sense to rehire someone who already showed poor judgement… Not usually
            Does it call into question someone’s judgement about recommending someone who is known to have made a very significant error – Absolutely

            I can see where this would be something that would affect the OP and her boss’ working relationship. I’m most curious about the level of involvement the OP had after the fact with this intern. I’ve had many, and while I wished them luck after the internship ended and invited them to let me know if they ever needed anything in the future, I can’t say that I have clue where they are all now and what they are doing… I’m certainly not suggesting anything nefarious, but the question did pop into my mind after reading the letter again and it struck me as odd.

            The last thing (goodness this is a mishmash of thoughts here today) was the OP upfront with the hiring manager about the fact that the intern abandoned the job?

            When all is said and done, I guess my advice to the OP is to move on, chalk this up to a lesson learned, and to be careful about recommending people in the future. Even a casual recommendation can stick to your reputation.

            1. anonymous 5*

              While I agree that job abandonment is a justifiable reason to refuse to re-hire, the department who hired the former intern was the one responsible for making the hire (it doesn’t sound like OP was, except to put the name/recommendation forward).

              We can debate all we want about whether former intern should have been hired. But OP’s company made the decision to do so. If they “shouldn’t” have done so, they had the power to…refuse to hire the intern. OP didn’t blackmail them into hiring the intern. If OP’s boss is upset that the intern was hired, boss needs to take it up with the people who were actually responsible for making the decision. Right now, it’s more like boss is scapegoating the OP.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                This, so much. OP was not HR or the hiring manager. Clearly, Casper was not marked as ineligible for rehire in their system or he would have never been interviewed for a new role after ghosting the internship.

                Y’all are giving the OP way too much power in this situation, power she does not have.

      2. GothicBee*

        I feel like we never get enough info about what type of ghosting happened in these situations. I mean, was it a matter of miscommunication and someone at the LW’s workplace (like an internship coordinator) knew the situation but didn’t realize the intern hadn’t informed their team? Or did the intern really just never show up to work again and never contact anyone? And if that’s the case, did no one at the LW’s workplace try to contact the intern? Or did they try to contact the intern and just never heard back? Not to mention, they did find out the situation at some point, so how soon did they find out?

        Anyway, I think the boss was taking the situation overly personally. I mean the LW recommended the intern, sure, but the other department is ultimately responsible for deciding to hire the intern despite the circumstances. And really, should the intern be blacklisted from this workplace because they handled a one-off bad situation poorly? I don’t think so, but do understand why the boss wouldn’t want to hire them back in their own department.

        1. Forrest*

          And similarly, what, “I got him an interview” means. People seem to be taking this to mean that she invested a significant amount of capital and energy advocating for him, whereas I’m picturing something more like “sent a two-line email” or “filled in the automatic referral” and the hiring system takes it from there. It just seems very weird to me to assume the OP did something wildly out of the ordinary when she refers to it so causally.

    4. MK*

      That wasn’t what the OP asked about, but I agree that, where the boss is weirdly punitive, the OP is being weirdly cavalier about the whole thing. It’s one thing to be understanding about him dropping the ball after a family death, and another to actively work to get him a job at the same company, especially if he didn’t contact the company after the fact at least. And I am not sure why the OP decided to do it, did they keep in touch somehow, did the former intern ask for a recommendation?

      I think the manager is being unreasonable, but in her I would question the OP’s judgment. Surely there are more worthy candidates to champion than someone who disappeared?

      1. Myrin*

        I have to agree. The OP asks whether she made a mistake in helping the intern get hired and I don’t think she made a mistake per se but, unless there’s something crucial missing from the letter, I do think that she behaved somewhat strangely and I would answer her very last question of “Should I just have let it drop?” with “yes”.

        Because… OP describes this guy as being good at his job and “conscientious and dependable”. That’s of course fine and good characteristics to have in an employee, but they also aren’t exactly rare or particularly outstanding. I think I’d react yet differently if she’d described this guy as an absolute superstar both regarding interpersonal and professional standards but instead he was “not crucial to [their] operations” and his absence only temporarily inconvenienced the team (although I guess that’s to be expected from an intern but might be different for a rockstar intern?) but also he ghosted on the job without so much as a word. I’m also not sure if he ever even contacted the company, even at a later date – the fact that OP later heard of the father’s death could mean exactly that but it could just as well mean that she learned about this through acquaintances/the news/whatever means independent of the company.

        I think where OP erred was in actively going to bat for this guy for, as it stands in the letter at least, pretty inexplicable reasons. I think it would’ve been fine if she’d seen that he’d sent in an application and simply not said anything at all but the fact that she actively got him an interview (! that sounds like he might not have had to apply at all?) gives me pause.

        The former boss seems disproportionately enraged about something she could have written off as unprofessional and then let rest but I can’t say I fault her for her instincts, both regarding the intern and OP, which seem exactly right to me in their basis, just pretty over-the-top.

        1. Susan Anderson*

          Yes this sums up how I feel too. I had a situation which I think has some similarities. In a previous job I managed a department of about twenty, half of whom reported directly to me and half to a different (off-site) manager (Leo) but I managed the day to day operations. One of Leo’s direct reports, Mel, an average but rather negative employee, left for what she loudly told everyone was a much better, higher paid job. Fine. However when I said goodbye, thanked her for her work and wished her good luck, Mel was very dismissive to me, saying only that she was leaving because her job was too boring. No thanks back, not even a smile. This was a person who had needed and been given a lot of support when she started, asked for and been given a lot of time off for family emergencies, and whom I had booked on training courses in the areas she wanted to develop. Yes I know, that’s part of my job, and I honestly don’t expect thanks, but when I heard that she then boasted to people in the department about what she had said to me, I was quite taken aback because she had never expressed this to me before, and I thought that we had had a good working relationship. Oh well. Leo then approached me a couple of months later and said that Mel had phoned him to say that she hated her new job and wanted to come back. I thought that it was strange that she hadn’t contacted me as well as Leo – perhaps she felt that she had burned her bridges with me by being so off-hand to me when she left. Since she hadn’t worked day to day with Leo, I think that she thought that she could get him to hire her again and then just appear back in my department! She got that wrong! Leo left it to me to make the decision. I did not re-hire her. If, as with the OP, someone in my department had actively tried to recommend her to another department, I would have been quite annoyed – I would have felt it showed very poor judgement and a lack of respect for me as his / her manager. I’m surprised that the other department didn’t contact the Intern’s ex-boss before making that job offer.

        2. londonedit*

          Yes, this exactly. I can understand saying ‘Hey, I know that intern ghosted us but it turns out his dad had just died – he was a good worker, I don’t think we should necessarily hold it against him, let’s see how he does in an interview’ – but that’s very different from actively intervening to make sure he got an interview and was highly recommended for the job. I think the boss is probably unreasonable to be so ‘enraged’ about it to the point that a rift has developed between them and the OP, but the boss made it clear they were seriously offended by the intern ghosting the company, and yet the OP went ahead and paved the way for the intern to get a job there. I can understand how the boss might feel that they’d been ignored and undermined.

      2. hbc*

        This is where I land too. If this guy ghosts again, my whole group would look foolish having been a part of getting this guy on board to do it to us again, especially such a short time later.

        OP, I do think you made a mistake by doing so much to get someone hired so recently after they did something that was clearly a Really Big Deal to your boss. A quiet recommendation to the intern that they apply for the job? A mostly positive recommendation? Sure. Actively recruiting someone who left your company without even sending a text? No.

      3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        I agree. Not with OP’s manager, or because of what this situation suggests about the OP’s judgment in general, but more specifically about the differences in where the OP and their manager tend to set the bar for interns and maybe all entry-level employees. There’s a big gulf between letting a lot slide because of the learning experience aspect and expecting refined demonstration of professional norms from day one, and those perspectives speak to two very different management philosophies. If nothing else, this will place an unwelcome spotlight on OP’s professional decisions.

    5. MsClaw*

      Agreed. It’s unclear from how the letter is written, but how long did it take before they found out where he was and what had happened? How long had the guy interned there that the LW formed such a positive impression of the guy to take a chance on him again after he vanished? I get that this guy made a major goof and maybe didn’t understand how to recover from it and let it spiral. And I’m not saying it should haunt him for the rest of career or anything like that. But now he’s been hired into an organization where at least one person in some position of authority has an extremely bad impression of him, and that seems like a really bad situation for the former intern, frankly. Does the manager who did hire him know about the disappearing act? Do other people in the organization know?

  8. Observer*

    #1 – Don’t bother talking to Jeff – Best case, you’ll get no satisfaction. Worst case, you’ll be out of a job. I know, that’s probably not legal, but do you really have the resources to fight this guy?

    Start looking for another job. If anyone asks, you’re looking because your employer has told you that the business is unstable and it’s going to be that way for the forseeable future. (That’s the reason he gave for your pay cuts…)

    Do let the rest of the staff know. If you can do so now, safely, that would be ideal. If you can’t do so safely, wait till you have a new job THEN tell then.

    And, I agree with Alison. It would be very interesting to see if there is anything reportable here.

  9. bunniferous*

    On question 4…I have a job that also varies quite a lot from day to day and to me that is one of the perks. My thought on the question is it really depends on your personality and whether or not you like the specific job duties. For me it would not really be enjoyable but on the other hand if having widely ranging responsibilities is stressful to you, you might enjoy a more focused position.

  10. RG*

    Honestly, the video interview described in #3 isn’t terribly new – I did that back in 2015. I just hope it hasn’t seen a huge uptick due to the pandemic.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      I’ve seen it a few times, but each time its been specifically for Independent Contractor (IC) jobs or strictly part-time remote jobs – but this was all before March of this year. I honestly didn’t have much of an issue with it when I’ve done it but its also been because those were strictly side hustle type jobs; not my main source of income. Not sure how I would have felt if it was a standard job/interview process.

    2. doreen*

      My employer ( state agency ) used to have a device for our clients to apply for jobs which sounds similar to the process in the letter- right up to the one-way pre-recorded interviews.

      The difference is that with the system we had , video quality wouldn’t have made mattered, since everyone used the devices at my agency , the library or the department of labor. And the only jobs listed were the type where interviews don’t tend to be very much of a conversation. TBH, I’m not sure the potential employers even looked at those videos rather than relying on the resume – in that particular system, the videos were not even employer specific.

    3. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      My employer is now requiring everyone applying for internal jobs to complete one of these video interviews as a first step. This is literally kept me from applying for other jobs within my company.

    4. CircleBack*

      I did a pre-recorded video for a hiring agency back in maybe 2010, 2011. I had to go into their offices to record it on their computers the same day I came in and took those mind-numbing Microsoft Word/Excel skills tests. Both seemed less than useful for any companies looking to hire and seemed more as something the agency could brag about having.

    5. LW#3*

      Interesting – I’m not really sure how new they are here as I’m only a few years into a more white collar industry, and my friend is only applying for their second role out of their Masters.

      We are in New Zealand so it’s unlikely the video is to do with the pandemic, plus IME a bunch of the norms (like routine phone screening interviews) discussed on here don’t apply. That could, again, just be my lack of experience in this kind of work/larger employers though.

      Thank you notes are definitely not a thing though, for which I am grateful, and I hope it doesn’t become a thing.

  11. SR*

    LW #4 – I work in social services and have held a number of different roles at nonprofits over the years (case management, housing assistance, etc.). For a couple of different positions, I was providing a very specific service to clients that was narrow in scope (versus other positions in which I provided general case management, etc.), and in many ways the narrower, specialized scope made for a less stressful job with a more manageable workload that was easier to prioritize, because my role fit into a nice, (mostly) neat container. If clients had needs outside of the scope of my work, I provided them with information and resources, but I wasn’t able to do much beyond that. Whereas in other case-management-type roles, I had to be more of a jack-of-all-trades, and prioritizing took a lot more effort.
    In your specific situation, is there someone currently doing the specialized role you are considering, or who has done it before, whom you could speak with about the specifics of the job? Or would you be able to have a brief chat with the hiring manager for the role you are considering? Not to get a leg up, but just to get a bit more context about the role in order to evaluate whether it would be a good fit? This would depend on your organization’s culture, but my current employer very much encourages these types of conversations when there is a position open, because it is in everyone’s best interest to help you determine whether it would be good fit before you even apply.
    Alternatively, if you have a supervisor or mentor or someone else at your organization who knows you work well AND is familiar with the ins and outs of the position you are considering, they may be able to advise you on what factors you should be considering in weighing your decision, or even whether they think it would be a good fit. (In similar circumstances, a former mentor of mine advised me to apply for a job that I was considering but leaning against applying for, and I got the job and loved it way more than I’d ever anticipated!)
    Lastly, if you do get the new job, remember you can always try it for a year or two and then move on if you don’t love it. Good luck!

  12. Lucida*

    LW4: I echo others above in saying that it depends greatly on your personality, but will add that it also depends greatly on your field and the trajectory it’s on. Similar to AliceBD, I once left a fast-paced, dynamic generalist role in PR/Communications for a more specialised role focused on writing & social media, thinking I wanted to hone my writing further. Although there were serious issues with management at the new role that made it a poor fit for other reasons, I hated that my duties were now limited to a fraction of what used to be in my domain, and also realised that I was pigeon-holing myself into a specialization with limited long-term prospects. It was like being demoted from head chef of a trendy fusion restaurant to salad cook at a BBQ joint. For me, at least, I learned that I prefer to dabble in a bit of everything in the range of possible projects in my field while using (long form) writing as my key selling feature. Thankfully, I was able to realise that fast enough to hop into a very dynamic generalist role less than a year after the initial switch and I couldn’t be happier.

    I’m certain that it’s possible to be happy when specializing, but you should be certain that it suits your working style/personality and that by specializing you won’t be limiting your long-term career prospects. (It also couldn’t hurt to do some deep reconnaissance on the management as well, but that holds for any job, really.) Good luck!

    1. lailaaaaah*

      Seconding this. If you’re going for something highly specialised, make sure it’s something you *want* to specialise in, or else you’ll end up longing for a return to more general/different work before too long and may find it difficult to job hunt in those other fields afterwards. I went from a generalist HR role to a highly specialised one, and after that my next job ended up being in IT, simply because no one would hire me for the generalist HR stuff any more and almost nowhere else was big enough to need a specialist in that area.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        If you’re going for something highly specialised, make sure it’s something you *want* to specialise in, or else you’ll end up longing for a return to more general/different work before too long and may find it difficult to job hunt in those other fields afterwards.

        Yeah, I have a very specific skill set (writing/editing) that I was trying to make happen for me for years in corporate America and couldn’t because the jobs I was aiming for in things like communications, PR, or marketing wanted applicants that had a broader range of skills that I just didn’t have (mainly design, video, and photography skills). It took me 8 years to finally find a writing/editing position in proposals, and now I’m back in school trying to gain those skills I didn’t have so that when I job search in the future, I’ll have a wider array of roles to choose from.

  13. OK Computer*

    I went from doing a general job (evaluations of all kinds of public services) to a specific kind (prison evaluations) and it was great for three years as I learnt how things work in much greater detail but then I got annoyed at never being able to ‘move on to something new’ and ultimately went back to my general evaluation institution (but for more money).

  14. Ewesername*

    LW#1 – is it possible that the daughter in law has financial stake in the company? I know someone who has shares in her husband’s company. She made a financial contribution for which she receives a small amount of income. She uses this income to stay home and look after the children.
    So although it looks like something untoward, it may not be. Or it could be. But really, not yours to worry about. I’d be more concerned about the fact that everyone can see what others are making. Who does that?

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      > I’d be more concerned about the fact that everyone can see what others are making. Who does that?

      Someone who is breaking the law :)

      They could get fined – and face other sanctions – for that.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wow, that’s very different from the U.S., where it’s not only legal but a practice used by the federal government with its own employees. There’s even something of a movement toward salary transparency in the U.S., because knowing what everyone is making allows you to spot inequities along gender and race lines.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          (NAL) Salary transparency is a good thing :) and I believe larger companies are being forced to give details.

          I think this isn’t being transparent about salaries as much as it is giving access to people to see individual payments to people (which includes not only high level pay, but how much is left after tax, student loans, wage garnishments and any other reduction.)

          I have more expertise in data protection than salary transparency, but I think one of main places where line would drawn are the personal data, how it’s being shown, and it is the net payment, not gross salary.

          1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

            Yep. A system like the one OP1 describes could reveal some pretty personal information – for example f someone was having deductions made from their salary to cover student loans, bankruptcy payments to the Official Receiver, court-mandated deductions such as fines or debts, or child support payments, or private pensions payments, or even differing tax payments if they have a second job.

            I don’t think anyone would have an issue with people knowing what their SALARY is. But knowing what their TAKE HOME PAY is is a much more personal matter and I would be furious if this was visible.

          2. Forrest*

            Yes, this distinction makes total sense to me! Anyone can google my job title and employer and find out that I’m on a pay band of £25,324-£32,569, but my tax code and how much I pay in other deductions is personal data.

          3. Batty Twerp*

            If there are any identifying details, absolutely. If all you know is 3x employees on pay band 4, and pay band 4 is £27,000 to £32,000 that’s not a problem, since the relevant pay bands can be as visible as the company declares them, and you have nothing to tell you which 3 employees they are.

            Individual employee records are confidential, and should be seen by no one but whoever runs payroll.

            You can discuss your salary with your coworkers though – so if Mike declared to you in conversation in the kitchen “my salary is £42k”, there is nothing wrong with that (legally. Ethically, if you can calculate he’s on twice as much as someone doing the same job, that’s a different issue. Him discussing it with you is fine.)

    2. Green great dragon*

      Someone with shares would get paid (and taxed on) dividends, not a salary, and it would come out of profits rather than running costs. It seems pretty unlikely that’s what’s going on here. And increasing the dividend at a time staff are taking pay cuts seems even more tone deaf than increasing a salary.

      1. Gray Lady*

        It’s not that clear. If it’s a wholly personally owned business, there are no dividends, there are just payments made from the profits. And the level of information OP is talking about doesn’t indicate whether it’s business payments or profits. It just shows there is money going out of the company’s accounts, to this person. It could well be post-tax payments the owners is choosing to make out of his personal profit distributions. The problem is you just can’t tell one way or the other.

  15. Akcipitrokulo*

    LW1… As well as the interest HMRC will have in the dodgy payments…

    They are in breach of GDPR in the way you found out. They *cannot* have a system that allows personal data to be visible in this way. ICO would be interested in talking to your data protection officer!

    Tax fraud and GDPR issues….

    Oh, and all of you should join a union. TUC website has a nice tool to find the right one for you.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I’m not sure that’s true. All the LW says is that everyone ‘on’ the ordering system (which may not be all staff) can see what payments are made to whom – essentially the payroll system is integrated into the general ordering system. May not be a great set-up, but for such a small company not very surprising. LW doesn’t say she can see personal details beyond name (and even if she could it might be considered proportionate).

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        True, is restricted to those on ordering system – but that includes people not on payroll who have no legitimate interest in salary payments.

        And regulations to specify you must have a secure system to prevent data being shown – so the system needs to be fixed.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        (In this case I’m kind of glad they’re ignoring data protection as it is a good thing OP has found out!)

      3. me_and*

        The letter says “we are all generally aware of how much everyone makes”, so I think it’s not just a case of folk in the accounts department or similar, who would have a legitimate need-to-know, but everyone in the company. And yeah, by my understanding, that’s a direct breach of the GDPR / Data Protection Act 2018, as personal information should only be visible to people who actually need that access.

        In practice, I expect the Information Commissioner’s Office is unlikely to issue fines in this sort of circumstance unless the company were reported to them *and* failed to productively engage with them to improve their data management.

          1. AJH*

            Though this doesn’t stop individual employees (or, more sensibly, immediately ex employees) bringing damages claims for data breach

            1. Akcipitrokulo*


              Especially as one of changes in going from DPA to GDPR is that you no longer have to prove damages to get compensation is your data is misused….

  16. Rage*

    #4 – yes, I did! My previous admin roles have always been sooo generalized. At my previous employer, I pretty much did everything (front office, back office, IT, benefits, AP/AR, board liaison, and and and).

    When I got laid 0ff (for no good reason AND they replaced me with somebody making almost half what I had been – but that’s a rant for a different post LOL), I hunted like mad and hit GOLD. My current employer is freaking amazing. I came on as Executive Assistant to a newly promoted C-Level director. Within 6 months, I had absorbed the CEO’s EA position as well. I ended up with my hand in pretty much every department at some point, but not the “ongoing responsibility of everything” situation. 18 months ago, I moved laterally to take up a seriously specialized role: think of going from EA stuff to “Teapot Compliance Coordination”. It’s a position with a lot more responsibility and “trust” factor. I freaking LOVE this – it’s seriously right in my wheelhouse and plays to my strengths amazingly well. Plus I get to do a lot of relationship building with our clients that really just wasn’t a part of my earlier role, but that I did do at my old employer and loved.

    And I’m never bored. Oh no, it’s never dull. And over the summer, when my stuff slows down a bit, it gives me extra time to support others. I still do “extra” stuff too. In fact, during COVID, I ended up working some 3rd shifts because we had so many of the regular staff out due to quarantine. So I’ve found ways to expand my skills that I never would have had the opportunity for before.

    And here’s the real kicker – now that I’m working so closely with the “Teapot Compliance” thing, I’ve come to realize that I am fascinated by a specific higher-level aspect of it, and am in discussions with my boss about possibly going back to get my Masters and then my PhD. (Another thing about my employer: they do a lot of internal promoting, but they also have a very generous Education Assist program, which means that as long as I’m willing to stick around – duh, of course I am – then I could get my 2 degrees virtually for free.)

    So if you like the industry and environment, go for it! I’ve been nothing but thrilled since I made the jump.

    1. Princess Scrivener*

      I agree with Rage, #4. I went from general admin-type duties, seriously different every hour of every day, to *JUST WRITING* for an HR team. It took years, but now I consider myself the expert and love advising, editing for others, and writing and researching very specific documents for the company. This is my fave job among many I’ve had. I’ve had time to grow and learn and become The Writer vs. the jack of all trades.

  17. Akcipitrokulo*

    (NAL) Salary transparency is a good thing :) and I believe larger companies are being forced to give details.

    I think this isn’t being transparent about salaries as much as it is giving access to people to see individual payments to people (which includes not only high level pay, but how much is left after tax, student loans, wage garnishments and any other reduction.)

    I have more expertise in data protection than salary transparency, but I think one of main places where line would drawn are the personal data, how it’s being shown, and it is the net payment, not gross salary.

    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely. Salary transparency (knowing how much people earn at different levels) is a good thing. Knowing precisely who has which deductions and why is personal data. So for example I know broadly what my colleagues in the company are paid at different levels. I know exactly what the senior managers are paid because it’s in the annual report.

      I don’t know which of my staff has money deducted for child support at source and who pays union dues. Individual personal data around salary and deductions is not something I think should be shared with others.

  18. agnes*

    LW #1 I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but family businesses do this all the time. You just had access to information that most employees in these types of businesses do not. I’m sorry to hear that the company is taking advantage of the rest of you by cutting your pay. That’s the bigger insult here. You probably do not have much recourse, but sometimes letting people know you are aware of bad behavior will shame people into doing the right thing. Greed causes people to do all kinds of ugly things, but most people hate to be caught in them.

    1. UKDancer*

      I think the obvious recourse are to report to HMRC what looks like a tax fiddle (which can be done anonymously) and possible furlough fraud. I would also consider reporting the GDPR violations to the Information Commissioner’s Office. You may also want to think whether there are any breaches of equality legislation. In my experience if a company is committing this sort of blatant fraud against the revenue system, they may be committing other similar white collar offending.

      You may want to try and find another job and then report them anonymously to avoid any reprisals / blame. I know HMRC will take anonymous reporting very seriously.

      Whether any of these agencies can or will take action, given that they are all busy and this is on a fairly small scale from the look of it, is a different matter. In your position I’d probably get an alternative job lined up and then blow the whistle.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        I hope if furlough fraud is taking place, that it gets dealt with quickly. Everyone is busy though, as you mention; my feeling (just feeling) is that HMRC might take a while, but won’t forget about it.

        I know have mentioned elsewhere, but OP would benefit from having a union at their back if any of this kicks off.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely join a union. As you suggested the TUC can help find the most suitable one. Even if there’s not an obvious union for the type of job the OP does, there are a few bigger catch-all unions such as GMB (General, Municipal and Boilermakers) which has a fairly diverse membership.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yeah – I’m in Unite which is for, amongst others, “everyone that doesn’t fit nicely somewhere else”. I’m in IT.

    2. Lacey*

      Yeah, this is almost the preferable way for it to happen. I worked for a family business where the owner would hired his various children &/or their spouses at different times. Only two of them really worked. The others just sort of played at working – and there was not a lot of recourse because they were the boss’ kids and excuses would be made for them. It would have been nice to not have them there mucking things up.

      But, I do totally get why LW1 is angry. I’d be angry too.

  19. Harper the Other One*

    LW4: a lot of the answer to this is “it depends.” I am currently in a job that is somewhat specialized, and involves doing a lot of the same tasks. I’m feeling very stale and burnt out in it – there’s little room for progression other than doing MORE of the same tasks. However, I have a friend in a similar job who loves it; she can listen to music and crank through her tasks because she’s so efficient at them.

    Have you ever done a full day of the kind of specialized task you’d be switching to? If so, I’d ask yourself how you felt at the end of it – did you feel satisfied and still pretty energized, did you wish you’d had a few breaks to do something different for a bit, or did you feel ready to crawl up the walls?

    I’d also ask yourself how much variability by time of year there would be in the new specialized job. If it’s literally the same work throughout the year, that will have a different feel than if you are doing seasonal projects etc.

  20. Divyesh Mistry*

    LW#3 sounds like the software Kira Talent. Every time I’ve encountered it, it’s in the place of a phone screener interview…which is what this scenario sounds like.

  21. Just a PM*

    Two things went into my decision to shift to a narrow specific role: 1) what would this do for me in my long-term career plan? and 2) what kind of flexibility would I have to make the position work for me? Because I can do the kind of job where every day is similar as long as I can own the processes and procedures to get my work down (versus following some 30-year old manual “because that’s how we do it”) and I can parlay the experience into a future opportunity.

    But realistically when I got into the job, the hardest part of transitioning from diverse go-go-go to the niche specialty was adapting to the slower pace and the size of the workload. I had to recalibrate not only my sense of time but also my sense of productivity and accomplishment. That was a tough wall to break through but once I had my aha moment, things fell into place and I started to enjoy the new work.

  22. Wendy*


    I transitioned from several all-rounder marketing/comms roles (literally doing everything from PR to digital to events management) into a specialised content role. In the recruitment process i really leaned on the fact that content has been a central element of all of my roles and how my broad experience means i make connections between content and other areas well.

    I am so happy after making the switch, my skills improve so much faster and I’m able to really specialise. I don’t miss the ‘jack-of-all-trades’ aspect of my old jobs, mastering one has reduced stress and improved the quality of my work a lot.

  23. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    It’s difficult to say because so much depends on your personality.
    I have moved from specialist to Girl Friday and back in the course of my employment (career would be an exaggeration). I have always enjoyed variety and learning new things.
    I started out teaching English as a foreign language. The variety was in the students, I taught mainly adults, who worked in all sorts of different places and I loved hearing about their different experiences. I did get burned out explaining the same damn things all the time though.
    My boss was a geek, back in the 80s, and he pioneered a method to teach English on a computer. I got involved in that, writing exercises, testing them on my students, testing the software, writing the user manual, training teachers to combine their in-person teaching with the software, writing a teachers’ manual, writing tests and coming up with assessments. This was obviously very varied, and no way would you get someone doing all that nowadays except in a small start-up. We were very much making it up as we went along. I really loved that job, but the company folded because the boss was hopeless at handling money.
    I then went into translation and was hired at an agency. I was hired just to do translations and proofread the work of other translators. Since the agency was very small I ended up doing project management and dealing with the company website too. Again, I enjoyed the variety. Then when we were bought out (this boss wasn’t much better at handling money than the previous one!) by a bigger, better organised agency, I was told I had to choose whether to work in project management or as a translator. I chose translation, while thinking I would miss the project management, but it turned out not to be the case. In fact, working just as a translator, I was able to focus better on the work. It is work where you do really need to concentrate, whereas in project management you need to always be able to drop whatever you’re doing to deal with incoming mails asap.
    I did miss interactions with other translators, but I didn’t miss having to deal with clients and their ridiculous requests.
    Translation can be as varied as you like, you can specialise in something very specific (I know a translator who only translates documentation for motorbikes, she won’t handle scooters or cars or electric bikes even though she must surely be capable of it) or you can be a generalist. I have charted a median course, with a number of specialist subjects, but a can-do attitude for whatever turns up. And even in the specialist subjects, like art, there’s plenty of variety because artists can vary greatly in their approach, subject matter and technique.

    I do think if you like being taken seriously, it’s better to specialise. When you have several different roles, you can’t really do any of them properly, so you’re a Jane of all trades and master of none.

  24. Ruby*

    LW3, my (huge) employer has gone to those video interviews, even for internal positions, and it is universally hated. I have hope that it will die soon.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I can see the thinking behind it. Ooooooh these interviews are soooooo time consuming and we have so much work to do. I know, we’ll have preset questions and they can video themselves. Then we don’t have to worry about setting appointments, missed appointments, our schedules, etc. we can just view them when convenient. We can even have multiple people screen without having to coordinate schedules. it will be GREAT.

      So they get rehearsed answers to present questions. Which only tells them who is better at giving canned answers while looking good on camera. As always good people with options won’t waste their time.

      1. Roscoe*

        I actually disagree with this.

        I think that you will definitely have people who opt out. But I don’t necessarily see it as “good people with options” option out.

        I feel like I’m in general a good job candidate (When looking). And TBH, doing these at my leisure is actually a bit easier than scheduling a phone screen. I don’t mind them at all. I think you will definitely have people who are offended by this practice, but you’ll also have people who are fine with it. That doesn’t make those people desperate or anything.

  25. Sooda Nym*

    #3 regarding video interviews – our HR department has added video interviews to the process for some, but not all, positions. As a hiring manager, I find I am more willing to look more closely at candidates that otherwise might have just been rejected based on resume and cover letter alone, because its a smaller time commitment to watch a video than to schedule an interview. In the past, for some of these candidates, HR would have done a phone screen and I would have just gotten their notes. Now, I get a feel for the candidate, and whether my opening is a good fit for them. And if they aren’t a good fit for me, I can pass them to a different hiring manager (similar position) without them having to re-do the video. My overall sense is that we’ve introduced efficiencies that almost always benefit both candidates and the hiring manager. But, as with any efficiency, some good people probably do “fall through the cracks.”

    1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      Very curious…what if the person just isn’t good on camera? When you’re in person and someone is nervous (fairly normal at interviews, I would think) it might be easier to pick up on those cues. But someone who is nervous being on camera, who isn’t photogenic…how do you take that into consideration?

    2. Rayray*

      I did a few of these this past summer while job hunting, and from a candidate’s perspective, I see it as a company that is just trying to cut corners. I am not given any chance to ask YOU any questions. I just have to be good at memorizing good answers that I think they want to hear. Some of these programs will let you do multiple takes. I have no chance to engage and have a personal conversation with someone. I don’t get to ask questions. The company might feel like they’re saving time but really, they’re just cutting corners and trying to get by with as little effort as they need to. I’d much rather do the phone screen where I can actually converse with a human being.

  26. BookMom*

    About two years ago, I moved from a generalist nonprofit admin/development position to a much more specialized position in grants accounting. I agree with the comments of others above. I would also add that the number of stakeholders (internal and external) that I’m interacting with has decreased considerably. I’m still juggling multiple projects all the time, but I’ve got about 10 internal and 5 external people I have to work with in any substantive way. For me, this is a plus, but for others it could feel isolating, depending on personality.

  27. Nope.*

    “ I clicked on her name”

    And that’s where you lost me. You didn’t just stumble upon this information, LW. You clicked on it and made it your business, when it never was in the first place.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m kinda surprised it took so long for this to come up. Should they be doing what they’re doing? Maybe not. Should the information have been available? Probably not. Should you be digging into financial records with other folks’ name on, even if the information is there for you to look at? Definitely not. This isn’t “someone left her pay stub on her desk,” this is “I saw a pay stub envelope with her name on it and opened it to take a look.”

      1. Nope.*

        Yes, that was how it struck me as well! I don’t see a difference between discovering the information the way the LW did vs discovering it by opening a paystub envelope.

    2. Mockingjay*

      We’ve had letters over the years dealing with just this issue: “I clicked/read something I normally wouldn’t have access to and found a potential serious problem. Now what do I do? Does the severity of the potential problem warrant action in spite of how I found out (snooping) or do I let it go?”

      I don’t thing there’s ever been a completely satisfactory answer. In this case, the info is openly available to anyone with system access. One could argue that this company has poor IT practices and employees shouldn’t look even if they can. One could say that the company has an open policy and there are no secrets; ergo there is likely no issue. Or, one could note (as several commenters have) that, without context, the information in the database is insufficient to make a determination of wrongdoing.

      These are the kinds of complex letters I hope to get follow-ups on. It’s a messy situation and there are disadvantages no matter which action the OP takes. I’m glad to see some of the UK readers weighing in with helpful advice about taxes.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Eh… this isn’t the case where someone accidently saved a spreadsheet with sensitive info on a shared server. There is a legitimate reason (I’m not going into if that reason is right or wrong) for this sensitive information to be where it is. It’s very common for people to have access in systems but not have authority to look up certain information, because of no business need.

        Typically the accounts are flagged so that a report is sent to the manager of the person who has accessed the account. Then the manager has to go to that person to find out what the business need was for accessing the account. So, current/former employee name, celebrity name, business executive names, local politician names, etc. are flagged upon access, but there is nothing to stop a person from doing it.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          Ack… posted too soon.

          In the cases that I was talking about if an employee did not have a business need to look at the information then it’s usually a disciplinary issue. Depending on the company it could be an immediate firing offense.

        2. Forrest*

          Yes, although it would also be the employer’s responsibility to make sure that everyone who had access to that system had had training on GDPR and what they are and aren’t allowed to access. Given the boss’s cavalier response to OP raising concerns in the past, I doubt this has been done!

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yeah, and I suspect just training wouldn’t satisfy GDPR requirements if it isn’t alongside proper IT security.

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yep — I work with medical records and a lot of my coworkers (including myself) are also patients in our medical system. Opening my own medical record in our system is actually an automatic termination offense, and as a CYA, on the couple of occasions where I have had business reason to be accessing the record of someone I work with in the course of doing my job, I immediately drop my boss an email, a la “FYI, while I was working the ABC Report today, I had to access Jane Smith’s medical record for an encounter on DOS 30 February to confirm that the charges on that claim matched the documented services on the encounter. They matched appropriately and no changes were made.” With 30,000 employees, I don’t think a flag is going up every time someone opens one of them, but just in case, my butt is covered and my boss appreciates it.

      2. Chinook*

        I think these situations are exactly why “snitch lines” exist. If you see something you shouldn’t have, then you can’t let someone who has the authority and knowledge to look further into it know about. Stumbling into the middle of something gives you zero context but it can raise a flag that an agency might be curious about.

        I would say that the OP report it to the HMRC and leave it in their hands. In Canada, it is believed that there will be a lot of 2020 audits done because the way the grants were rolled out left them open to fraud, but getting the money out was more important. I wouldn’t be surprised if the HMRC is going to do the same.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. Just because something can be seen within a system doesn’t mean employees should feel free to look.

    4. Chinook*

      I missed that too. as someone who was once reported for “poor attitude” because someone who was covering the reception desk clicked on her name in my email in the folder marked “personal” (or it might have been the sent folder but not near the top) and complained about my sending a not very polite email to my supervisor (but not hers) about this same person’s not covering my lunches in a timely manner but getting mad when I made up my lost time at the end (i.e. she showed up 5 minutes late but I still took my full 60 minutes).

      I actually quit on the spot when confronted about this because, while I had a poor attitude (and was dealing with it in a private manner), she was publicly SNOOPING. I only agreed to not leave after they gave me a secure login (had to convince head office to create a “special one” for general reception and that that woman would never cover for me again (which I think she saw as a win). Ironically, if she had talked to me directly, I would have been a lot less angry but, instead, she felt she was so wronged that everyone would ignore her blatant missteps (which were at an accounting form, so one would wonder what else she snoops about)

  28. NewYork*

    LW 1 – I would not assume this is a tax fiddle. Unless you have seen the tax return or financial statements you do not know. You can complain to UK revenue, but in the US, very few companies get audited. And if the company is running at a loss right now, they are not getting a tax benefit. I know the paycut is painful. Only you can decide if you can do better elsewhere

  29. Dr. Sawbonz (formerly newbieMD)*

    Letterwriter #3, was the company by any chance a gigantic American insurance company? A friend of mine had an interview there and she had to do that as well. She said it was the most harrowing experience of her job search.

    1. irene adler*

      I’ll bet.
      I’ve done several. It gets easier but never comfortable.
      It made me realize that a background in acting would be of use doing these interviews.

  30. Camellia*

    For #1 – I’m surprised at the number of people saying that it weird or icky that everyone can see what everyone else is being paid. Isn’t pay transparency what we all wish we had, for this exact reason – we can make sure we are being paid fairly compared to everyone else? I would much prefer being able to see this with my own eyes instead of depending on the company’s word for it, if they even bothered to try to communicate it at all.

    1. Itsme.*

      It’s everyone being able to see payroll, so being able to see what deductions are made for each employee, i.e child support. That is no one but the employee’s business (& in the UK gets you into data protection issues / legality).
      Sharing of actual gross wages, is fine, no one I’ve seen replying has an issue with that.
      As a Brit this looks bad and as other Brits have already mentioned in other replies, it is an HMRC (our version of IRS) issue.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I don’t think anyone in the UK has an issue with knowing what people are being paid (gross) but being able to see the detail of payroll is a GDPR violation and a privacy issue. I don’t mind people knowing what I earn and which salary band I fall into. I don’t want my staff and colleagues knowing that I pay £x per month to the trade union and £y per month in repayments for a season ticket loan. That’s personal data and I’ve an expectation that it be kept so.

    2. Bagpuss*

      As Itsme says, it’s not salary transparency.

      If it shows what is actually doing out then it would also provide information about what someone’s take home is, so access to what their tax status is, whether there are any deductions such as child maintenance, court fines or order or student loans. It would potentially also allow them to see, or work out, whether someone was getting sick pay , so it might give rise to personal information of all kinds becoming available.

    3. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      If it’s one pay rate = job title, then I don’t care if everyone can see what I get paid because everyone else with the same title as the same pay anyway.

      If it’s a job where Sally and I have the same job title but I can see that she’s making 8K more than me and I know I’m carrying some of her workload and fixed her mistakes and her qualifications are no better than mine…then it’s demotivating and annoying: why does she get paid more than me? (I asked for a raise subsequently, and got one but still didn’t match her salary.) It was probably a case of “We can get her for less so why not?” and Sally asked for more and got it when she negotiated. I had no sense I could have asked for more than what they offered because it was already more than what I was earning.

      I was very happy with what I had until I accidentally saw that salary spreadsheet. After that, I wondered why I was working so hard for less while she was getting by on charm.

      Now I’m union, and I know what anyone earns, from top to bottom, and it’s published annually. No random raises based on who likes you or odd performance reviews or negotiations. Everyone gets the same COLA raises (in their bargaining units). No gender disparity because the male bookkeeper makes the exact same as the female one because they have the same job title.

  31. Firecat*

    #4 I actually just went through a similar transition and personally love it.

    Where before I was responsible for what felt like everything – financial improvements, process anaylsis, IT systems, legal compliance, business analytics, vendor relations, project management, and even employee moral to an extent… I now am on a team that only handles one specific IT system.

    I was afraid I would be bored, but being on such a specialized team with backups has already drastically reduced my stress. It’s taken a few months but I am finally returning to what feels like normal manageable stress levels.

    It’s also allowed me to focus learning new tools! I would have never had the time to learn a new system well in the past. The number of tools available when a company specializes is fantastic. Afterall it’s unlikely you were the only person juggling a lot of disparate hats mastering none of those trades. When a company is packed with true SMEs it really shows.

    Good luck!

  32. babblemouth*

    For #4: I did a similar move some years ago. Here are the pros and cons as I saw them:
    On the one hand, I really appreciated being able to focus on fewer tasks, and get the chance to learn to do these very well. I learned to have more rigor in my work, simple because I could streamline my processes, and doing the same thing more often allowed me to learn from practice much better. It also helped my work-life balance: focusing on a small set of tasks give you better control over your schedule; while many different tasks tends to make you jump from one to the next and leads to a more erratic schedule.
    On the other hand… I got bored. The repetition got to me (but only after a year or so; it does take a while to set in!). One thing that annoyed me in particular (but this may vary from one organization to the next) was that the more specialized we got, the more people held on to the RACI model – so if something was just a little bit out of their scope of work, they wouldn’t touch it. Some tasks would just linger on for ages when it would really just take a couple hours to do if people stepped out of their strict roles – but because I was one of the few willing to do that, I ended up doing a lot of small extras that were not considered when it came to performance reviews.
    I have recently moved back to a job that has more tasks and less specialization; it’s just a better match for my personality. This is a very personal call though, and you might actually thrive in a specialized job. It’s worth trying, even if you do go back to another position eventually. I still learned a lot, I took the rigor I learned back with me, and I think I am better at my new job for it.

  33. Sam Yao*

    #4 regarding specialization – I’d recommend it but with caution. My experience was that I took a very specialized job with an MLIS degree (library and information science) and ended up working with data mining and developing software to partially automate legal discovery. Big business right now. Unfortunately, when my position was eliminated, I’d been out of libraries for so long that I couldn’t get a job doing that, and because my job had been 100% remote, I wasn’t close enough to a large pool of jobs where I might have been able to get in with my data mining experience. Unemployment started ticking, so I have ended up in a fallback position as a legal assistant. It’s good work and I enjoy it, but it’s not what I had in mind when I went to grad school. So I’d advise you to take stock of your whole industry, where you are, what other opportunities might look like, whether you might find yourself at a disadvantage for one reason or another if this job were to fall through- just get a very good handle on the job “universe” around you before you decide.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      This is a very good point. I talked about this a little upthread – it’s very easy to get pigeonholed once you specialize in one thing and you may have issues later on trying to get jobs that require a broad range of skills.

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      This is a really great point on a couple of levels. Specialization is a pretty good idea when your specialization is not only common in your job market, but is also a specialization that people would “expect” to be associated with your education/training. Not just MLIS folks, but oftentimes people with social science backgrounds who specialize in something that is fairly STEM-heavy wind up in a catch-22 situation when job searching, because the job market favours people with STEM backgrounds for those roles.

  34. Lacey*

    LW4 – it’ll just depend on you. I went from a job that was crazy diverse to one that was hyper specialized and I thought I would really enjoy it, but it turned out that I like a bit more variety in my work. Now I work somewhere kind of between the two. I’m really only doing two types of projects most of the time – but I do them for a lot of different clients and there’s a lot of variation with what they need.

  35. Gray Lady*

    There’s nothing in LW #1’s letter that indicates that these are pre-tax payroll payments. It sounds like the system they use simply shows “payments” made out, which could be anything. It could be the owner paying that amount of his after-tax profit to his daughter-in-law instead of taking it home himself. It’s a pretty dodgy accounting system to begin with where any employee with access to the ordering system basically sees all the payouts of the company in detail, but it’s not entirely clear that there’s a tax issue here. I think there are several details LW would need to get clear on before making an issue of this. If it’s really pre-tax, if she’s really not doing anything, then yeah, there are issues, but those things probably need to be confirmed before saying anything unfair or reportable is going on here. The likelihood is that there’s a real issue, but it’s not 100%.

  36. Jennifer*

    #3 My husband’s company has started interviewing this way but only for very simple entry level type jobs. Even then, they have brought in shall we say some interesting folks. It’s just not a good way of screening people.

  37. bluephone*

    I had to do one of those one-way video interviews a few years ago. It replaced the typical phone screen (subsequent interviews were traditional, in-person ones that were better tailored to the actual position). It definitely felt awkward AF and is not something I would care to repeat but it also doesn’t surprise me if they become hugely popular.

  38. JBPL*

    #4: About 7 months ago, I moved from a job that was a little bit of everything to a lot of just two things; admittedly, two things I mostly enjoy. One of my biggest fears, though, was that I’d be bored quickly because my days were so much less varied. In the last seven months, though, I haven’t found that to be the case at all, and here’s how it’s worked:

    1. I now spend much of my day at a computer. While I spent a lot of time on a computer before, it was typically in between running around doing other things, working with other people, attending meetings, etc. So my day feels a lot more focused– and I’ve been much more able to schedule my time and stick to that schedule. It has been satisfying.

    2. I have been able to work forward instead of always feeling like I was just keeping up. In this position, I have been already able to work on process improvements and think about big picture opportunities for change over the next 2+ years.

    3. Honestly, I didn’t realize how much emotional baggage I was bringing home with me at the end of the day with my old job. The narrower focus of my new job means that I feel like my “realm” is under control and I’m much more able to decompress and separate work from home. I wasn’t aware how badly I needed that. I guess I had been more burnt out than I thought.

    My new job isn’t less responsibility or less important, although I worried I would feel that way (or others would, though that shouldn’t matter.) It’s just fewer types of things each day, each week. And I’ve found satisfaction in being able to really excel at those things. Good luck!

  39. Anansi*

    #5 – I spent many years doing work on a very wide variety of issues and while it was exciting, it was also very stressful! It’s tough to stay on top of everything and the mental challenge of having to jump back and forth from completely unrelated topics all day was giving me burnout.

    I was also nervous about switching to a more focused role, but it’s actually been great! I haven’t gotten bored, but instead I’ve been able to focus more deeply and become more capable and experienced in the issues I do, which means I also have the bandwidth and knowledge to think more creatively and problem solve better than I did when I was just trying to stay on top of everything.

  40. Paddling as fast as I can*

    To letter Writer #2

    I have done three of these types of interviews. I have never hear back form any of them. I have a interesting face in real life it looks fine but on camera one of my eyes appears closed and I am aware of this but can not tell anyone that in this type of video interview. I do not appear well so another type of bias one I can do nothing about. When presented with this I remove myself form the interview process and move on to other palaces. This is a TERRIBLE way to interview.

    1. Rayray*

      I’ve genuinely wondered if these videos are used to discriminate, whether by race, visible disabilities, or if they think the person is attractive or not. Ultimately these same discriminations will happen if that person gets to go in for an in person interview but I bet these video interviews are zapping many people out of the process based on appearance.

      Most of all these make me mad because it’s all one-sided. It’s incredibly arrogant of companies to do these interviews and not allow the candidate to ask any questions.

      1. Ana Maus*

        and this is why I refuse to put a picture on LinkedIn. I’m fat and know there’s bias out there.

    2. emmelemm*

      I definitely agree with this. My face is fine, pretty average, but it doesn’t look great on camera. Which is a real thing!

  41. Roscoe*

    #3. I’ve done a handful of these over the years. I actually don’t hate it. You can do them on your time and they are far shorter than a regular phone screen. And for me, there was far less nervousness involved. But I get everyone won’t love it. But you’ll never find an interview everyone does like.

    Also, I’m really not sure how this introduces any more bias than looking at someone’s linkedin and seeing what they look like. Many companies ask for your linkedin with the application anyway, so the idea that these things are “blind” up to a certain point is less and less true these days. Even if they don’t ask for your linkedin, there is a good chance someone is looking at it anyway prior to the interview.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I know many people who have LinkedIn with no photo on it, so no, this isn’t the same thing.

      1. Roscoe*


        I don’t know anyone without a picture on linkedin. And if someone reached out to me on there with no picture, I think I’d be very unlikely to respond

          1. Roscoe*

            Honestly, because like 95% of the people on there do have a picture. So if you don’t, it seems like you are hiding something and less trustworthy. I’m not trying to tell you what to do. But again, if someone reached out to me on there and there was no picture, I’m ignoring them.

            Also, it just seems unfair that they are seeing me and I’m not able to see them. Its like if I have my video on for a zoom call with a client, and they don’t have their video on, I turn mine off too.

            Why do you refuse to have one?

            1. Ana Maus*

              Less trustworthy? I don’t follow your logic.

              Why don’t I have a picture? I’m fat and I’m not young, two common causes for being screened out of the application process early. I have excellent experience, a professional certification, and quality references. THAT is what people should be looking at, not what I look like.

              1. Roscoe*

                Again, because it seems like you are hiding something. When having a picture of yourself is the norm, and on that site it is, then when someone actively chooses to go against that, it just seems a bit off.

                You do what is best for you. But you asked, so i’m giving you my thoughts. Should your physical appearance matter to get the job? No. But I also don’t see a problem with wanting to put a name to a face, especially if you are conversing with someone.

                1. Ana Maus*

                  So you think giving employers the opportunity to discriminate based on appearance is okay?

                  Really, I am hiding something. I’m hiding factors that should not be considered when looking for a job. It used to be the norm to send pictures with resumes and people of color didn’t get interviews because of it.

                  This should not be the norm and I will not support it.

                  You’re probably missing out on some very good people because you want to judge by appearance. Peace out.

      2. Rayray*

        Also, I think LinkedIn is only getting less popular. I don’t think many people in General Z are using it at all.

        Ever since it was taken over by people writing fake motivational stories about how they hired the man who came in soaking wet because he helped an elderly man cross the street or how they eat only raisins for breakfast and run a marathon before work or whatever it is, people are sick of it and aren’t using the platform anymore.

        I kid you not, some of these “influencers” chastise people who post that they’re looking for work and wondering if anyone in their network knows of anything.

        1. Roscoe*

          I don’t doubt that younger people aren’t using it. But I can say I’ve gotten my last couple of jobs on there. So its being used enough, at least in my field, that I’m going to keep using it.

          If Gen Z finds something else, good for them. I’m not following influencers or using it as a normal social media. 99% of the people I’m “friends” with on there are people I know personally or have been directly introduced to at least virtually. Sure I’ve followed some companies I was applying to, but as far as people, I don’t follow influencers on there

  42. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

    OP #3, I had video-recorded “interview” like that. It was for a NGO, big one (so big HR department) that has as a mission to help people in extreme, dire need.
    It felt dehumanizing and humiliating, and it was clear that for them I was not more than a number. It completely killed my motivation, and given what the company does, raised in me very concerning questions about how they treat the people they are supposed to help.

  43. RagingADHD*

    OP1- You didn’t “discover” this and there is no reason to reveal it to your colleagues. As you said yourself, this is being done quite openly, because everyone can see the payments.

    It was never a secret. You just didn’t think about it before.

    You are angry because your employer is prioritizing his family over his employees. You can feel however you want, but that’s a really weird thing to be angry about.

    None of this is any business of yours. If the paycut means the job isn’t paying you enough for the work you’re doing, look for a better one.

    I’m not sure what there is to be gained by telling Jeff how you feel. He’s not making his family arrangements according to your feelings. He’s not going to cut off the mother of his grandchildren just to make you feel better.

    If you just want to lash out and harm Jeff and Mike and Carrie because you resent them, there’s nothing stopping you. You can stir the pot with your coworkers and try to get everyone else mad about this “discovery” – which, let me reiterate – they have all been able to see happening all along, because it’s not a secret!

    You could also report this as a tax dodge, which it may or may not be.

    Just whatever you do, don’t lie to yourself about your motivations. There is no ethical dilemma for you here. You would not in any way be taking the high road, or helping anyone.

    It’s just spite.

    1. Roscoe*

      You worded this great. If the pay is the problem, then leave. But right now, OP is just mad that the business is being run in a way they don’t agree with

  44. Pikachu*

    #2 – I’m happy you did what you did. I hate to think stupid mistakes we make as early career professionals would condemn us to a life of unemployability. Thank you for erring on the side of compassion and for recognizing talent that deserves another chance.

  45. Jackie*

    For #3, one way video interviews are actually an excellent way to prescreen potential candidates when a pool is far too large to physically spend an hour connected to each person. Especially if there is a full committee involved. It’s highly unlikely that this was being used as the sole method of interview. It allows a candidate to share some details about themselves and their qualifications in a time that works well for their own schedule (ie, they don’t need to take time off of their current job to make a formal meeting work unless they turn out to be a top candidate). I see quite frequently wonderfully written resumes and cover letters only to find that the candidate can not adequately discuss the skills that they claim to have in it. They get the added benefit of being able to spend some time thinking about their responses before starting a recording. Having been in both sides of the one-way video interview, I find them to be an amazing screening tool! (And the notes about tips and video quality are not from the company itself, but rather the organization that owns the video platform).

    1. Rayray*

      But candidates don’t get to ask questions, that’s what really sucks about these. It’s just as important for a candidate to determine if the company is a good fit as it is for the company to determine if the candidate is a good fit.

    2. Ellen Ripley*

      Why on earth would you need to spend an hour with each person? Do a 10-15 minute phone screen, and that allows the candidate to ask questions too.

      I think these video screenings have way too much potential for discrimination based on attractiveness, age, disability, race, etc., not to mention restricting applicants to those who already own the appropriate technology.

  46. MsChanandlerBong*

    Re: #1 I think the advice here is a bit off-base. LW has no idea what kind of arrangement the son’s wife has with the company. My FIL owned a manufacturing company, and I spent quite a bit of time helping with website updates, marketing, getting the company set up with a merchant account so they could accept credit cards, etc., but I did most of it from my home office. I only went on-site when it was necessary to do things like install new RAM in the office computer or look at their inventory to figure out which software would be best for managing it. With the exception of my FIL, no one at that company would have known as I was doing any of that stuff. I did it for free because the business was struggling, but if I had been getting paid for it, it would have been perfectly legit.

    The LW should not say anything; they also shouldn’t have clicked the daughter-in-law’s name and looked at private info.

  47. dee*

    I’ll just say about one-way video interviews….I’ve only ever done this once during a job hunt. It ended up being with a startup, where I had calls with the hiring manager on 5 separate occasions (with no end in sight!!) before I got the sense that it wasn’t a good fit.

    Which was due in large part to the fact that I had 5 phone calls and had no movement. But I remember the video “interview” also feeling icky/performative.

  48. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    Hey OP#4, I was in your shoes a few years ago. I was working in “advancement” (read: fundraising, community outreach, alumni affairs, community health education, events, you name it) at a tiny dysfunctional nonprofit when I first started my career. It was a great way to gain experience in a number of different areas, and I realized I wanted to be a professional fundraiser. I’m now 5+ years into a great career as a major gifts fundraiser in higher ed, and…. while it’s too strong to say “I hate it”, I definitely wish I had the leeway to work on broader, more strategic projects. I was actually starting to look at next steps when COVID hit and then I had a baby, so I’m definitely not going anywhere in the immediate future.

    It’s hard to say whether you’ll like a more specialized area of focus without knowing you and the work. I definitely found it nice to not be spread too thin, but I’m realizing that I’m not gaining skills in other areas I’d like to work in the future. So, think about the actual day to day tasks but also think about your eventual career goals and how this will position you to achieve them, or not.

    Good luck!

  49. ThePear8*

    OP 3: I’ve done one of those pre-recorded one-way video interviews. It wasn’t as terrible as some other commenters have been saying, but I didn’t like it. Mainly also because I’m not sure the company knew how to use them effectively – the idea was that I could do it on my own time and didn’t need to schedule with an interviewer, I could record my answers whenever I was available. Great! But yeah, it felt very weird to not be talking to an actual human. And then when I did get a normal video interview with the hiring managers after that…they asked me all the same questions I had recorded my answers to. I answered them, but I kind of felt like what was the point of that recorded interview if you were going to ask me all the same questions anyway? Did they want to see if I responded differently? It didn’t feel like the most effective way to be interviewed, and made me wonder if they had even watched my recorded video in the first place.

  50. CRM*

    OP4 – I had a similar experience early on in my career. Overall, I found that while focusing on one task may be less exciting in the short term, it can have great benefits down the road if it enables you to become a subject matter expert. On an personal note, it also helped me defeat feelings of imposter syndrome.

    My first job was supposed to be an “office manager” type of role, but I was really just there to do all of the tasks that nobody else wanted to do. Those tasks widely ranged across a number of disciplines (some of which actually required more expertise than I had), and I was consistently in “learning” mode, so I was never able to master any aspect of my job. I struggled as a result, and often felt like a failure.

    My next job centered around only one of the tasks I did in my previous role, and I became immersed that subject. I wont lie, there were some days when I felt the repetition and longed for the opportunity to mix it up (for instance, my previous job had me regularly leaving the office and interacting with people, while this job rooted me at a desk in front of a computer). But that repetition helped me understand and master the subject. I felt good about my work, and I became happier and more confident as a result. Furthermore, mastering this subject has opened many doors in my career, increased my earning potential, and enabled me to do some truly fulfilling work.

  51. Baska*

    LW4: I did the opposite of you: I moved from a highly specialized position (subtitle editor at an international corporation) to a more general one (office manager at a small non-profit). While my job isn’t *quite* as diverse as yours, it’s still quite diverse: HR, bookkeeping, reception, minute-taking, copywriting and proofreading, etc., plus I manage a team of 2-3 people.

    I’d say that for me personally, the shift from specialized to general was a very welcome one. I enjoy the feeling of no two days being quite the same and having a chance to stretch different professional muscles as I complete my various tasks. Also, it lets me feel like I’m a bigger cog in the machine of getting our mission accomplished, as opposed to just a tiny little gear in a massive organization.

    It’s not for everyone, and it may not be for you to go from general to specialized. But it worked for me.

  52. LW1*

    Hi Everyone, I’m LW1 , thanks so much for all of your feedback! I just wanted to offer some clarification to a few points I saw brought up in the comments.

    Re: Furlough – As far as I’m aware, I was never put on furlough, though we did furlough a few employees who continued to work through the scheme – management explained this as ”they are choosing to work while furloughed so it’s not our fault”. While I’m well aware this is defrauding the UK government, we are a small business that cannot function without several employees and Jeff just wants the work done, which is why they continued ”choosing” to work.

    Re: DIL working for us – Obviously I am not privy to every conversation happening in Jeff & Mike’s private lives, so I can’t know for sure what the arrangement is with Carrie/if there is an official one. That being said, its is extremely unlikely that she is working for the company without the knowledge of the general employees. Carrie is a young mum and was early in a career completely unrelated to our company when she took time off to have kids, which would make higher level consultancy unlikely (lets say she was a tea party planner and we deal in nutcracker distribution). The team is also really tightly interwoven, and we are each very aware of what everyone else is working on and when contractors are brought on to assist. In addition to that, we have dedicated admin people who have more time on their hands since our company workload has slowed a bit, so it wouldn’t really make sense that they’d bring her on for something low level.

    Re: What info we have access to – Our system does not show any details about student loans, child support etc, it only shows the final amount of payment outgoing, so I don’t think that infringes on GDPR (though I could be mistaken). Sure, maybe I shouldn’t have clicked on DILs name when it came up in my search result, but again, our company is incredibly lax about what we know in this regard. Nearly all of my colleagues have admitted to looking at outgoing payments to co-workers, and when I brought up the issue of visibility with Jeff he was not concerned in the slightest, giving me the impression that it was essentially free reign.

    After reading all of your comments I’m fairly certain that there is a bit of tax fiddling happening (especially given how the furlough situation was handled) but I’m not sure I’m in a position to do anything about it without having it potentially linked back to me. Nutcracker distribution is a niche industry with not a ton of jobs, and Jeff has a terrible temper – in the last 2 years I’ve witnessed him throw a laptop across the room, curse out suppliers and scream at employees while banging his fists on the table, so wouldn’t put it past him to retaliate.

    I do agree that I shouldn’t throw the company into chaos without knowing more, but I also think it’s important for employees to know if something less than above board is going on at the expense of our salaries. For now, I’ve decided to gently/casually bring this up with a coworker I trust not to gossip who has been at the company much longer than I have – she’s relatively close with Jeff and may know if there’s something else going on with Carrie. Beyond that, I will likely start looking for another job in the new year.

    Thanks again for all your comments, I haven’t been able to share this with anyone yet and it feels really helpful just to get it off my chest and hear that I’m not crazy for being upset about the situation.

    1. Chinook*

      OP, this is where context is very, very important. Give a tip to the HMRC and let them deal with it. This type of thing is a sign that other shenanigans may also be happening in areas other than taxes (think health & safety to cut costs), which will make the business unstable. If possible, try looking for work elsewhere.

      The only part where I think some self-reflection may be useful is “Nearly all of my colleagues have admitted to looking at outgoing payments to co-workers, and when I brought up the issue of visibility with Jeff he was not concerned in the slightest, giving me the impression that it was essentially free reign.” A) if you don’t trust Jeff’s judgement of the pay aspect, why are you trusting it when it comes to privacy? and B) if your co-workers jumped off the London Bridge, would you think it is okay to do the same?

      Basically, just because a place is run in a lossy-goosy, toxic manner doesn’t take away your personal responsibility to work in an ethical manner. The HMRC or another agency are going to check those books at some and how are you going to respond if they ask “why didn’t you say something when you saw X?”

      1. Observer*

        I don’t know what the law is in the UK, but in the US, the OP would not have any obligation to report anything. And there really would be no way for anyone to know what exactly the OP saw or did not see.

        And, I do think that if everyone is looking at everything and the boss knows it, it DOES affect the ethics of looking at the information. Essentially, Jeff knows that he has minimal privacy here and he’s made it clear that he knows it. Also, he’s made it clear that no one else should expect any privacy either.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Certainly, the level of visibility Jeff is comfortable with weighs against thr notion that he’s doing something illegal with payments to the DIL.

          Unless, of course, he’s an absolute moron.

          1. Observer*

            Unless, of course, he’s an absolute moron.

            Or arrogant enough that he thinks it doesn’t matter and / that he’s the only smart person in the office.

            1. Observer*

              Keep in mind that he’s committing furlough fraud pretty much in full view of the rest of the staff. What makes you think he’d be more careful to cover up a less blatant form of hanky panky?

              Which is not to say he’s not an absolute moron – the two are not mutually exclusive.

    2. Observer*

      OP, start looking, and start looking HARD.

      Your boss is toxic. And he’s also committing fraud. Which means you could find yourself out of a job when the authorities come after him for it. It doesn’t matter how Jeff “explains” it – allowing these people to “volunteer” is flat out illegal.

      It also means that you could find yourself out of a job if you wind up crossing him inadvertently. You also don’t want to find yourself in a position to be facing the choice of being fired or doing something illegal / unethical, which is absolutely something Jeff could do to you. Also, give his temper, you might find yourself at a point where your health (mental and / or physical) is taking a significant hit from the stress. Do your best to get out of this mess before that happens.

    3. babblemouth*

      I’m very concerned about “we are a small business that cannot function without several employees”. This goes around the purpose of the economic support governments have been giving out. Furlough exists if business goes down significantly, and there are just too many people doing not enough work. If the business can’t function without them, then there is enough work to go around, and your boss is committing fraud. You might not have to flag this legally, but I think morally, you do.

    4. Bagpuss*

      OP, the furlough arrangement is absolutely your boss’s fault and it is fraud. Someone who is furloughed cannot do *any* work, including volunteering, for their employer. Someone on flexible furlough can only work the hours/days they are being paid for, not for any where the employer is claiming furlough payments. (With the people we furloughed, we temporarily suspended their access to work e-mail and other systems to ensure that they couldn’t ‘just check’ anything and inadvertently do anything that would be seen as working, or feel under pressure to do so)
      You should be able to report this anonymously

  53. Team Player*

    Eight months ago, I went from setting up and running a whole department at a small company to a small aspect of that at a large company. I was concerned about 1- being bored (I’m not, there’s enough variety in the position); and 2- not always being the researcher and final decision maker (a bit hard, since I now have to learn and remember to follow my new company’s procedures, and don’t have final say).

    The pluses for me: I get to work on a team and have backup. I get input into processes but Legal has final responsibility. So many things that I used to be concerned about are ‘someone else’s problem’.there are procedures in place that are not in my lane, and I don’t have to check. I can and do make suggestions and occasionally point out possible issues. Pay is better.

    While the job description was much narrower, it did not convey all I would be doing.

    1. Team Player*

      Meant to add: alot of what I learned in the many-task job helps me to do better and make better decisions in the new, narrower focus position. I know alot about how different aspects of the job should interact with other parts of the business

  54. Lifeandlimb*

    LW 4:

    I spent about 5 years as a coordinator before deciding to move into a more specialized creative role in the same industry. Each has its pros and cons, but overall I gain much more personal satisfaction being specialized. Whether it’s ultimately for you will have a lot to do with your personality, and you may not know until you try it.

    Sometimes the same things I liked about being a generalist were the things I hated about it as well (along with a few other downsides). The disadvantages of my specialized job (less overall knowledge about a given project, a little less socializing) are outweighed by the benefits (ability to focus and do one thing well, hone a craft I feel very passionately about, be a niche go-to for my clients). There is also a lot of variation of content, styles, and types of projects within my specialization that it keeps things interesting enough.

    Always remember that if you like certain tasks, you could continue them as hobbies. And if you maintain good relationships, then there’s a good chance you could return to your old role (there or somewhere else) if you don’t like it. No shame in trying!

  55. I DK*

    OP #4 – I transitioned from a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ role where I didn’t know what was coming in the next five minutes to a specialized role where I knew what was coming for the foreseeable future. While the stress level took a nose-dive and job satisfaction soared, there were times when I felt “bored.”
    Then I realized that not having a fire to put out is not the same as boredom. The ability to know exactly what is on my plate also came with the opportunity expand my skills and improve my contributions to my employer. Occasionally I miss having a full plate everyday, but I also like being able now to decide what goes on my plate on the days when others aren’t holding out the scoops.

  56. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    OP#4: One thing that I don’t think that anyone’s mentioned explicitly yet is political capital. When you’re a generalist, it can be very challenging to take control over which parts of your skillset you get to exercise and refine without using a bit of political capital. Generalists, at least in the roles I’m familiar with, are often valued for being pinch-hitters who can jump in anywhere and do anything that’s asked of them. Even if your role gives you the latitude to do so, it can be difficult to say that you’d like to do a little bit more of X and a bit less of Y because no one’s expecting to hear that from you. To be blunt, being a generalist comes with a risk that steering your career will be perceived negatively.

    Specialists don’t have to deal with this in quite the same way; everyone involved expects that they’ll be focused in the projects they take on and their professional development activities. You don’t have to manage your or anyone else’ feelings about which lane you ought to be in, which can make your work relationships easier. Because you and everyone else are rowing your boat in the same general direction, there’s a lot less risk of you being penalized for rowing to begin with.

  57. Antipodean*

    RE: #3 – For anyone who does need a high quality camera, you can generally plug in your phone and use some free software to make your phone’s camera your webcam. Much higher quality than your standard webcam, and free as long as you have a smartphone!

  58. Akcipitrokulo*

    Wow, that sounds a really tough situation!

    The furlough thing is 100% illegal and unethical and taking advantage of workers – and cheating the government out of those payments. Really angry with that one.

    GDPR – yeah, it almost certainly is a breach. It might not be if they had published gross salaries, but allowing people access to the net payments made is not ok. I’m not a DPO but did do gdpr training and helped write policies at old job. An anonymous contact to regulators (ico (dot) org (dot) uk) would be reasonable.

    Your clicking on it means that you were able to – which is likely a breach.

    I hope you get out soon!

    (and join a union. You may think it’s not worth it in a small company, where you may be the only member … but having someone at your side in official meetings if anything goes sideways, and legal representation up to and including QCs (if necessary and have good case) is invaluable. Also some nice financial perks!)

  59. Jenny Hamilton*

    LW4, many of the other commenters have done a great job offering feedback on possible outcomes during a transition from a diversified position to a more specialized one, so I thought I’d put in my two cents about the logistics of how I made that transition work. When I moved to a more specialized job, one of the hugest problems that I had was that I no longer had 100 deliverables per month; I had something like 20 per year, because my projects were just bigger and longer-term things. I completely failed to anticipate how big of a change that would be for me, and how anxious I would get when I finished a workday and couldn’t point to even one single thing that I finished that day. It helped me a LOT to break down my big tasks into lots of small ones, which made the huge tasks less daunting, gave me clear deliverables (even if it was just delivering them to myself) that helped remind me I was making progress, and helped me to structure my days.

    That last one — the shift from having a day where I jumped rapidly from thing to thing to a day where I had to stick with a single thing for HOURS — was again a major problem for me that I didn’t anticipate being a problem. I love jumping from thing to thing! It makes me feel amazing, like a wizard! So breaking out my big tasks into many small tasks helped me with that mindset, too — I can still jump from thing to thing and accomplish set tasks under parameters I have given myself. It’s just that I have to be a little more proactive about the meta-task of identifying all the smaller tasks.

    As I’m writing this, it all sounds really obvious! You have perhaps thought of all of this already! But it took me ages to work all this out, so I thought I’d share in case it’s helpful at all.

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