are angry customers just part of life, my company overpaid me, and more

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

1. Is getting yelled at by angry customers just part of life?

I studied accounting in school, then got hired for my first-post college job in the tax audit field (not federal; I have worked at state and local level agencies). Fast forward seven years, and I bounced around a little, but still work in the audit field for a government entity.

I like accounting enough, I guess, but I have so much trouble interacting with taxpayers. Unless they are incredibly kind to me, I get nervous and filled with dread about the prospect of non-email communication. When they outright disagree with me or get confrontational (or yell!), I can barely work for the rest of the day, I am so rattled and upset.

Is this (being unable to cope with being yelled at) enough for me to admit that this field is wrong for me? Or do I just need to accept that angry people are a part of life, and suck it up? I know I have barely over a year in this position, so that is worrying, but I have been in this field long enough to know that irate taxpayers are not going to disappear.

I moved into a new job just before the pandemic and my manager is lovely and the workplace has excellent benefits. Yet all I can do on a day like today (after having to sit through a very mean phone call) is look at the classifieds and wonder if I should leave. I could make it financially for a while, which makes the prospect of leaving even more tempting.

You sound to me like you want to leave! And if that’s the case, you get to leave. You don’t need to muscle through for a certain amount of time or reach a certain level of unhappiness first.

If you’d written a different letter — if the vibe was more “I really struggle with this but I love the work” — I’d give you different advice. In that case, it might help to talk to colleagues about how they handle angry callers, get advice from your manager, do some role-plays, maybe take a training or two. And who knows, maybe those things would be useful to you. You could try them and see.

But if this is truly making you miserable, it’s okay to decide you’d prefer a career path that doesn’t regularly upset and rattle you. There are a lot of jobs — including accounting jobs — that don’t involve dealing with angry people at all, and there are a lot where it’s a highly unusual, once-a-year kind of thing, not something you have to be braced for on a regular basis.

2. My company overpaid me — are they handling it ethically?

I was hired a few years ago and recently found out I had been overpaid by 10% the whole time. HR investigated on my prompting and found out my position had been coded in payroll incorrectly, leading me to get extra pay for a shift differential even though I was working a standard shift. My first year I didn’t work the full calendar so I didn’t notice the salary was off, but when I got my W-2 this year having worked the whole year I noticed it had higher pay and commented on it to my boss. He said to get it corrected, so I dutifully contacted payroll, HR, and timekeeping.

Timekeeping told me to do labor corrections for my timecards going back to the start of the year and that there would likely be an adjustment, but didn’t give details on how that would work, with corrections further back to be hashed out by payroll and HR. I was not a part of any of the discussions on how this would be sorted out, but HR told me it was unlikely I’d have to pay back anything.

Several days later, my paycheck was short over $1,000, with an indication that this was due to the corrections I had been instructed to make. Additionally, my hourly rate on the salary had been reduced to line up with what base pay should be. They tell me they won’t pursue making me pay back the 2020 overpayment (which was nearly $10,000).

My office has struggled the past few years with employee retention, and we lost three people in the last six months alone which has led to long nights and weekend work to try and meet deadlines. So the salary issue was ill timed, to say the least. From my perspective, I’m being given a large pay cut through no fault of my own and that has nothing to do with my work performance. I’m rather upset at this point and tried to escalate the issue, as it seems wrong to work longer hours for less money than I’ve ever received from this company. The response from management was a harangue over the phone about how I should be grateful and insisting I’m not being penalized unfairly.

Given this situation, it seems the company is inviting me to find another job. What advice would you give for this? I enjoy my work other than the recent events and get along fairly well with my project team, but I can’t ignore the fact I’m out nearly $10,000/year in salary. I feel like staying would be condoning what’s been done and don’t know what other options I have. I’m no thief but I feel like I’m being punished as if I were one.

I can see why you’re upset about some of this — the money shouldn’t have been deducted from your paycheck without any warning, and they certainly shouldn’t be haranguing you about any of it.

But you’re not out $10,000/year going forward. It’s the opposite of that — you got an extra $10,000 last year (and extra the year before, as well). That was your company’s error, yes — but that’s a lot of extra money that you’re getting to keep that you weren’t supposed to receive.

When a company overpays an employee, they’re legally entitled to get that money back. Under federal law, they can deduct overpayments from future checks, even without your consent. Some states, like California, do require the employee’s authorization for the deduction, but the employer is still entitled to recover the money. Some states also limit the amount of time the employer has to notice the error and correct it (so it’s possible they’re not letting you keep the earlier overpayments to be nice, but because they’re legally out of time for those).

But when this happens, a good employer will be apologetic (because they messed up) and will work out a repayment plan that’s doable for you. The way your employer did this — first telling you it was unlikely you’d have to repay anything, then surprising you with a large deduction to your check, then chastising you about it — was bad. (And frankly, given how long the mistake went on, in their shoes I’d just correct your salary going forward and not ask you to repay any of it, but a lot of employers would do what they’re doing.)

It sounds like there are other problems there right now that might be coloring how this feels. But they’re not cutting your pay; they’re letting you keep most of a massive overpayment.

3. I got penalized for taking company-mandated quarantine days

I’m a retail manager and I started a job about two months ago that uses a point system for attendance. I’ve been told by my manager that it’s generous, but I have no frame of reference because I’ve never worked for a company that uses a points system like this.

Unfortunately, I was forced to miss a week of work recently, due to the company’s Covid guidelines. I tested negative, my only symptom was a fever, and for the last 2-3 days my doctor told me I wasn’t contagious. At the time, I contacted my manager and district manager and was told that even with a negative test and clearance from my doctor, I could not come back to work until I was fever-free. I wasn’t thrilled about this, I was actually super bored but I accepted it.

Then today, I found out that despite using sick time for the days I was off and asking to return sooner, I received an attendance point for taking too many consecutive days off. I find it incredibly frustrating to be punished for following company policy, especially since I did everything I could to return to work sooner. Would it be okay to bring up how unfair I feel this is with my district manager? Or even my manager and ask him to refer it to my district manager? The company has a lot of policies I dislike/disagree with, but the idea of being penalized for following company policy, at the insistence of my manager and district manager, just really rubs me the wrong way.

Yeah, this is a crap policy. Pretty much all points systems for attendance are bad, since they paint with such a broad (and punitive) brush and don’t allow for individual circumstances, but this is a particularly crap implementation.

And assuming that the points can lead to firing if you accumulate too many of them, it’s absurd to give people points for being out sick (employers should want people to stay home when they’re sick so they don’t infect others, especially right now), and it’s something worse than absurd to assign points for complying with a company-mandated Covid safety policy.

So yes, push back on it. Companies that use this kind of policy tend to be ridiculously rigid, so I don’t know how much luck you’ll have, but you might have a stronger chance if you make it specifically about not penalizing people who comply with the Covid quarantining rule.

4. I had to consent to body searches as part of a job application

For a recent job application, I had to consent to several statements about employee surveillance. The first one was not surprising: employer may monitor IM and email. The second, however, was about searching personal vehicles, belongings, and even body searches. I checked the box, but the truth is I don’t want to consent to this.

I’m trying to use the most charitable interpretation: given the little I know of this company, they may receive confidential samples of pre-released products or media. In a situation where something disappears, people working in that area might be searched. But my job would be unlikely to touch any of that stuff. I also know some companies do daily, invasive searches of warehouse employees, and got Supreme Court permission not to pay workers for the time spent waiting, as much as an hour or two a day. I’d rather not work at a place that does that, even if I’m not affected. Further, it makes me worry whether the email and IM surveillance is more than the usual “we monitor in a distant, automated, non-invasive way.” If I get an interview, is there a way and a time to ask about about these policies?

Yeah, that’s not typical for most jobs. You might be right that it’s because the company receives embargoed products or info, but even if so, it’s a real overstep to ask you to consent to body searches without a lot more info about why and exactly how and when those searches are used.

So yes, ask about it in your interview. I’d say it this way: “When I applied, I was surprised to be asked to consent to body searches and searches of my vehicles and belongings. Can you tell me about how and when those searches are used?”

5. What’s the best way to use PTO for burnout?

I have worked in academia for eight years and over the last two years have been struggling with burnout. I have worked with my manager to adjust my schedule and workload, but there is only so much that can be done as I try to gain promotion.

I have been able to shift some of my student and research responsibilities to either this spring or next fall, so I have a rare opportunity to try and take some additional time off this summer (~120 hours between June and August). Is there is a “best” way to use this PTO to help with burnout (e.g. large blocks, extra full days off, or frequent half-days)?

One issue is that I can’t easily take multiple weeks off in a row. I help with two community programs that run year-round, and it is hard for me to take more than a week off at a time. I am the only person doing the majority of the work in these programs, so when I am off the work either doesn’t get done or piles up for me when I return. These programs are important to justify my position, and I also feel personally responsible for their success. My program responsibilities are usually four days a week, about five hours each day, mostly mornings.

I feel very fortunate to get this time off, especially given how so many others are struggling due to the pandemic. I feel a lot of pressure to make sure I am using this time off wisely.

The more you can take the time in large blocks, the better. When you take time off work, especially when you’re already burned out, it takes time to mentally disconnect. Not just a few days, either — it can take a week or longer to stop thinking about work, move into “I have no responsibilities” mode, and truly reap the benefits of your freedom. (I take off most of December every year after working a relatively punishing schedule the rest of the time, and I really only begin to feel the benefits toward the very end of the month.)

That’s not to say there’s no benefit to half days or full days here and there. They’re relaxing! They help. They’re fun! But if you’re specifically trying to combat burnout, longer blocks will be more helpful.

So, as much as you can: Full weeks. You said you can’t easily take off multiple weeks in a row. If you really can’t, then do one week at a time — but if there’s any way to do two or three weeks in a row, try to make it happen. I get that the work will pile up while you’re out. I get that you feel personally responsible for the programs. It’s still worth it. (And there are probably parts of your workload that you can pare back if you’re rigorous about striking off your list anything that’s not 100% mandatory to do this summer.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 393 comments… read them below }

  1. AcademiaNut*

    For LW#5 – if you had to take three weeks off for a planned serious surgery, they’d have to come up with a plan to cover you while you were gone. And if your burnout got bad enough that you were off on medical leave, or quit outright, they’d have to figure out something. So it’s not so much a case of you not being able to leave for more than a month, as it’s not been a priority to figure out how to do so.

    That may be a way to approach it – not just that you’re burning out and need a good break to really recover, but also that having a vital program dependent on a single person with no backup plan is an intrinsically risky setup.

    FWIW, I work in an intensely project based job, where each individual is working on a separate, vital, part of the work. If someone were out of commission abruptly, it would take some scrambling to get back on track and redistribute their part, but we can and have arranged things so that people can get appropriate vacation or medical leave.

    1. Forrest*

      I think the danger is possibly that they simply won’t resource the programme OP runs if she isn’t there, and the programme won’t run. Which the OP would feel responsible for.

      But OP, if that is the case, think about it seriously. Is this programme asking for more than you can reasonably give? If the programme doesn’t allow for you to recover properly, you are going to burn out, and it’s going to fail sooner or later. If the choice is between the programme not running this summer, or not running for one month whilst you take time off, and the programme failing all together because you ill enough that you simply can’t work on it, which is better?

      If that all feels completely impossible to think about– well, that’s burnout for you. Sometimes you can only think about these things WHEN you’ve taken the time off to recover and move out of panic mode. If you can only think “but the programme MUST run and it MUST be me and MUST MUST MUST”, then take that very seriously because the programme is asking for more than you can give.

      And “I feel pressure to use my time off responsibly” — that IS burnout, you’re literally seeing time off as time *you owe to work* to recover. Not for yourself, for work. I know it’s a paradox but the time off isn’t “working” until you don’t care whether you’re using it for work or not!

      1. Formerly Ella Vader*

        LW5 – 120 hours is the equivalent of 3 full weeks, right?

        In your situation, I would let everyone involved with the community programs know early on that you won’t be as available as usual. Talk about what kinds of issues they can solve on their own without getting in trouble later for doing it “wrong”. Make a list yourself of the kinds of things you’d want to be called about when you’re off, and then look at ways to cross stuff off that list – for example, if one of the things is “program participant gets injured”, you might be able to get one of the senior staff to take whatever health and safety training is needed to do an incident report, as well as find someone else senior they can call in lieu of calling you.

        Once you’ve set your time-off schedule, be strict about it the first couple of weeks – otherwise, you’re teaching everyone that you aren’t really off. I find that people really do like the idea of supporting me by coping on their own, now that they understand I mean it. I do ask them to copy me on the emails while I’m out, but I don’t answer them.

        What I would do with 15 days to take during a summer of running programs: You say the programs need you 4 days a week 5 hours a day. If that’s Mon-Thurs, take five Fridays off. Maybe every second Friday. If you choose to have short days some of the Mon-Thurs days, great, but don’t count them in the time off. That leaves you 10 vacation days – and take those as 2 full but separate weeks. Plan around the vacation time of your senior program staff. (For example, don’t take the week of a major general holiday, and offer them the chance to take a day or two that week even if they traditionally don’t get any time off.) If you take one week early in the summer, once the programs are running, and then take a week near the end of the summer, you’ll always have something to look forward to, and you’ll be more rested/restored when the fall semester starts. Send everyone a list of when you’re not available and put away messages on your email,

        Oh, and if Covid co-operates, try to have some of your time off being low-expectations resting-at-home time, and some of it being travel or adventure.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Another argument for taking all three weeks at one time is that three weeks might be a period of time that justifies hiring a temp employee.

    3. Lara*

      I’d like to argue a counterpoint to taking weeks off at a time for burnout (although I agree LW should take a week off at the beginning of summer). I found when I was really burned out taking a week or two off and then jumping back into the exact same schedule quickly resulted in the burnout returning. So LW- is there something you could do for your schedule every single week that would make the summer better?

      In my case, when I was adjusting my schedule- I realized one of the negative thoughts I kept having was “work is taking all my best time”, in that I felt like I was drained in the evenings and wasn’t my best self for loved ones. So I changed my schedule so I don’t come in on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Instead I have a standing coffee date with a friend, I work out, and I read for pleasure and it’s amazing. Maybe for LW it’d be being done by 4 every single day, or Friday afternoons off for more weekend time or whatever! (Although I found mornings off to be better than afternoons off to fully escape from work).

      I’d also encouraged scheduled fun activities during the time off- for me it was exercise but for you it can be anything! I just found that while deep in the burnout I’d automatically start thinking about work during my “free time”.

      1. Edie W*

        I think in answering this question it would be helpful to think about what you want from this time (beyond just time not working). As Lara mentioned, that might influence the way the time should be structured. I’m also an academic, and I took a similar approach to Lara’s last summer where I took Fridays off for most of the summer and made sure to plan leisure activities / time with friends during those Fridays, and I felt like that definitely helped. Knowing that my work week was only 4 days and that I had a fun Friday coming helped me feel less stressed when I was working as well. That being said, if the goal is to get tasks off your plate in a more regular way, I think taking longer stretches of time might be helpful for that. If you’re only taking off a day or two, it’s easy for everyone else on your team to say “we’ll just leave this for Fergus when he’s back in the office” whereas if you’re gone for a week or more you / your team may be more inclined to arrange for other coverage.

      2. Sparrow*

        I like the idea of trying a combination of things if OP doesn’t have a good idea of what works best for them. Definitely a full week off at least once, but perhaps she can also scale back to part time some weeks so she can keep things running without it being her entire life? Hopefully OP doesn’t have to commit to all the days at once and can adjust their plans a bit as they figure out what works best for them.

        I personally like taking an extra day when we have org-wide holidays because four days is the bare minimum for me to feel like I got a breather. It helps sustain me between the full-week breaks. I work in higher ed like OP, and a normal summer for me is: 1 week PTO in late May/early June, 1-2 days PTO around July 4th/my birthday, 1 week in early August, 1-2 days at Labor Day. I’ve tried a two-week break before, but more breaks spread out over the summer works best for me, even if some of them are shorter.

  2. somi*

    I empathize with LW#1, it’s just like retail in that it’s customer facing and there’s really not much you can do with that part of the job. At least now you know that you’re not up for those type of work where you have to interact with different types of people. Alison is right that there are other work out there (ones where you don’t have to face people at all even!!) especially with accounting or even taxation. It’s up to you to find that niche with those classifieds and find a good fit for yourself.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      #1: I have the same reactions as you do. I can’t stand dealing with upset clientele and it deeply scares and upsets me. But my therapist, and many others, have pointed out that this is just what dealing with customers is like. My therapist was all, “They act the same way to you if it was retail, except they’re screaming at you over a sweater.” Unfortunately, most jobs involve some form of customer service and someone getting mad at you for it, is what I’ve been told. (And frankly, I haven’t been able to find something non-customer that wants me.)

      That said, I’m surprised your accounting job has so many customers with that behavior in it. My mom used to work in an accounting firm, and I had a friend at the same firm, and nobody was screaming at them all day that I ever heard about. Maybe it’s your clientele. Or maybe my mom/friend just dealt with high rollers who had to be polite, I don’t know.

      1. allathian*

        Auditing is a different beast from standard accounting, because auditing can be a bit like detective work, you’re trying to find where people screwed up, either intentionally or unintentionally.

        There are plenty of jobs that don’t involve external customer service, but maybe not so many at entry level. There’s a huge difference between internal and external customers as well, because people are less likely to scream at coworkers, at least in a reasonably functional company.

      2. PollyQ*

        “most jobs involve some form of customer service and someone getting mad at you for it”

        This is simply not true. There are thousands of different jobs, white-collar & blue-collar, that have nothing to do with customer service. You’ll almost always have co-workers or bosses, and they’ll sometimes get mad, but since they’re in their workplace too, it gives them more incentive to behave and at least not scream & curse.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          Ditto! I would say I’ve never worked any job that was customer service. I guess you could say I serve internal customers, but I’m on long term projects so I serve these customers for months to years at a time. They’re rarely/never angry. Sometimes they’re frustrated, but often I empathize with their frustration.

          LW should look for something that serves the same internal customers long term. Something that doesn’t have multiple customers or clients in a day or a week. Something that doesn’t have obviously delivering frequent bad news to people.

          Angry customers are a staple of retail and the IT service desk, but it’s not “most jobs.”

        2. Lacey*

          Yup! I work for an advertising company, the only people who deal with customers are the sales teams and account execs. The graphic designers, social media team, accountants, HR, IT, office manager, and maintenance crew never talk to customers.

          I’ve talked to one in the last two years and that is because he didn’t know the extension he needed.

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          And even in client/public-facing positions, not all of them involved dealing with angry people regularly. I answered phones for a small nonprofit as part of my job, and the people who called us were generally very polite and easy to interact with. It wasn’t social services so most of the people who called were participants in our programs, our board members, vendors, venues where we were holding events, etc.

          The worst calls were actually the wrong numbers – I realized eventually that we were one digit off the number for the psychiatric unit of the hospital down the street, and occasionally got a distraught family member searching for a missing relative.

          1. Koalafied*

            Yeah, I answered phones at a nonprofit for a couple years and aside from a single phone call from a conspiracy theorist who was fixated on the idea of our board president being at the center of a satanic cabal, for the most part the only thing that sucked about it is how many older people who call and pretty clearly are lonely and just want someone to talk to. We were a health advocacy org so a lot of them would be talking about really serious/sad health problems they or a spouse was dealing with. It was hard to gently end the call within a reasonable time limit without seeming curt and offending them. (We were purely an advocacy org that didn’t provide any direct aid services so there was nothing I could do for these folks except try to listen kindly for a few minutes before I needed to get back to my main work.)

            1. EmKay*

              Did the conspiracy theorist give details about their conspiracy? I’d be interested in reading more!

          2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            I worked at a nonprofit that must have had a phone number one digit off from a lawyer because we frequently got calls from inmates at a local correctional institution. I felt so bad that they had wasted the call on a wrong number!

        4. Sans Serif*

          Agreed. My first full time job was customer service, but never since then. I do my job, I talk to the other people in my dept and those in departments I need info from, and no one yells at me or gets mad. Of course, there is stress and deadlines, but in almost 40 years, I can remember only one instance where someone came close to yelling at me. I said nothing, updated my resume that night, and started looking for a new job.

        5. A*

          Agreed. This is exactly why I went into Purchasing – I hate working with customers so I figured I’d stay on the side of the fence where I’M the customer.

      3. somi*

        One caveat is that their customers are actually taxpayers who are supposed to pay up more probably in these cases (because nothing grinds people up than money I guess) and those people are not paying OP for their service and need to be professional to them.

      4. Forrest*

        Unfortunately, most jobs involve some form of customer service and someone getting mad at you for it

        If you can find a role where your “customers” are internal, they have MUCH more incentive to be polite! LW, look into jobs in large companies where when you answer the phone, it’s someone from the department two floors up finding out what happened to that purchase order, because they’ve got way more incentive to stay polite than a taxpayer. And check out the company culture before you take the job and make sure you’ve got a boss whose starting point is, “you don’t get to yell at my staff”. There are plenty of them out there!

        You could also look for jobs where you’re working with external customers, but on a business side rather than personal. You’ll still get the occasional jerk, but someone who is a) paid to understand finance and b) calling to chase up $10k of their company’s money is frankly less likely to be stressed and mean about it as someone who is doing their own taxes and worried about paying for their car, their house or their vacation. You are definitely doing the hardest kind of customer service work here, and there are easier and less angry options!

        1. flk*

          I kind of wondered about the manager as well. Good managers don’t allow verbal abuse of their staff members. I’m fully aware that there are tons of managers out there who don’t follow this policy, and have worked under quite a few. However, the managers I’ve worked under who didn’t allow it set up clear lines in the sand where we were allowed to disengage from helping the customer. Raising your voice, using profanity, personally insulting staff, were not allowed as “just part of the job.”

          1. Lars the Real Girl*

            I think in this case, the nature of the work being auditing of individual taxpayers, there’s not a lot the manager can do….you can’t really “fire” a taxpayer like you can a client. The people she’s interacting with aren’t really their customer – the US Government/Treasury is their “customer”, and these are people who aren’t paying their bill. I’d think of it more like a collections agency calling you – it really is part of the job to deal with irate people.

            HOWEVER, there are so so so many accounting jobs that don’t work like this! Most accounting jobs are not customer-facing at all. This niche field she’s chosen is probably not a good fit – there are many that would be!

            1. flk*

              Yes, I think you’re right about it being the nature of the work in this case. I wonder if they have the ability to tell “customers” that they have to come back or call back at a later date when they are calmer? I work in a public service/government field as well, although angry customers are the exception, and this is what we tell people when they can’t follow the rules.
              I feel OP is also probably very sensitive to this type of abuse and as someone who also is very sensitive to it I haven’t found a good way to deal with it other than time and distance. “Not taking it personally” doesn’t work for me unfortunately.

              1. Regular Reader*

                Good call centres should also provide a script to use when customers are being abusive so that the staff member can end the call politely without trying to think what to say. If you are new to the role or find it hard to end a call, it certainly helps.

              2. Elsajeni*

                Yes, I think a key detail here is that any interaction where the customer isn’t actively being “extremely kind” is causing a lot of stress for the OP, and it sounds like even non-hostile disagreements are in the “I can hardly work the rest of the day” category — there may be a management problem here with abusive callers not being shut down, and if there’s a history of extremely hostile or abusive calls I’m sure that’s contributing to the OP’s reactions, but it does also sound like they’re just very sensitive to, and anxious about, any kind of conflict or confrontation. Even if the managers do everything in their power to protect their employees from actually abusive callers, the nature of the work means they’re still going to have to deal with unhappy or irritated people — I think this is just not the right job for OP, and other customer service jobs probably aren’t either, and that’s fine!

                1. nonegiven*

                  There are also auditing jobs where they audit large financial institutions but it involves a lot of travel and long hours. Maybe a smaller auditing firm that audits smaller banks or businesses instead?

                  If she doesn’t like auditing maybe look in to being an in house accountant for a business?

            2. anonymouse*

              I was very surprised to connect the customer facing position to accounting. I thought that they did the work and there were customer service reps to speak to people about their accounts.
              Because there are two kinds of people, those who can sit at computer and complete work for 12 hours a day and happily never talk to anyone and those who LIKE talking to people. They can brush off the jerks, roll with the a-holes. Yes, I’m brushing with broad strokes, but generally, there are work people and people people.
              OP 1, you will find your place. This is not it.

            3. LizM*

              My employees are allowed to disengage when a member of the public is abusive. They have a script that basically says, “This is unproductive. Please email me to schedule a time to talk when you’ve had a chance to cool down.”

              If it’s more of an investigation/fact finding, where we need info from the member of the public (as opposed to them trying to get a permit from us), if we try two or three times and they can’t be civil, we switch to a letter, with clear deadlines, and if they don’t provide the info, we mark that the info is unavailable. Generally if we’re trying to get info from them, it’s to their benefit to give us their side of the story. I suspect it would be similar for an audit.

              That said, public employees who deal with the public do need to have a thick skin, and it’s not for everyone. I tend not to react when I hear digs about whether my agency should exist under the constitution, the president and general politics, etc., and I encourage my team to not take that bait, but truly abusive behavior (swearing, yelling, threats) isn’t tolerated and when appropriate is reported to law enforcement.

              1. LizM*

                This nested in the wrong place. It was supposed to a reply to someone about the OP being conducting audits and the “customer” not being the people being contacted, but the agency. But now I can’t find that post.

        2. Kit*

          I worked in “customer service” for a company that sold exclusively to other companies – aside from the occasional call where I had to explain to an end user that they couldn’t buy directly from us, I was dealing with our outside sales team and people who were working at other businesses. That meant that I had someone cussing me out on the phone exactly once in seven years, and I *did* hang up on him. (He also accused me of being drunk on the job, so I felt no guilt whatsoever about it. He was a notorious jerk and a chauvinist.)

          Knowing that the person on the other end of the call has someone to answer to about their behavior is a great incentive for people to curb their worst instincts, OP, so I’d urge you to look at roles that have you auditing either internally or for corporate clients, if possible. (External auditors aren’t the BFFs of their clients, but you’d have a lot more leeway to push back or report bad behavior on the part of their employees.)

      5. anonymouse*

        I think it’s the part where OP works in taxes. People are going to freak out about that.

      6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        OP mentioned tax, and that’s something that people are rarely happy about paying.

    2. lailaaaaah*

      Yeah, IT is a lot like this – people only get in touch when something’s gone wrong, and they’re often unhappy about it. Frontline HR was even worse. But if you can get a more backend job, then you’re usually fine.

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        I have a call center Job. I’m hoping to get off the phones and either support my coworkers or go to chat. I can deal with getting yelled at by text easier than by voice.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        This is part of the reason I’ve never worked first line support. 2nd and 3rd line, system training, development and management have far less interaction with angry people on a day to day basis.

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

        Agreed. My first job was internal first line support, and while most of the “customers” were polite, the rude ones were extremely rude (“I won’t stop until you’re fired” level of rude). The pay was good for the sector, but the manager’s attitude was bad enough I was happy to never look back when my contract ended.

    3. Mongrel*

      “I empathize with LW#1, it’s just like retail in that it’s customer facing and there’s really not much you can do with that part of the job.”

      Having worked in a few roles that were customer facing, it depends.
      Having a backend support from the company can help a lot, whether it’s an enforced “No verbal abuse of the staff”, rather than the lip service that’s so much more common, or the ability to take 10 mins off the phone after a difficult call to de-stress.

      Too many places have normalised “That’s just the way it is, suck it up” rather than actively discourage this sort of behaviour at the expense of their staff.

      1. WS*

        +1, I work in healthcare and having a boss who shut down sexual harassment from clients immediately and directly made a massive difference to my quality of life. Especially as we then knew we could shut down sexual harassment ourselves before it got to unbearable levels and we would be backed up.

      2. MGW*

        I work in veterinary medicine and there’s been a decent pushback against verbally abusive clients- obviously we understand that our clients are often emotional due to the nature of the field but I’ve now been in several practices where management has firmly told clients they cannot yell at staff for minor things (being abusive for not having a room ready when the client is 20 mins early, cursing because we no longer carry a certain medication, etc) and that has made the world of difference.

      3. Lacey*

        Yeah, a friend of mine worked at a Blockbuster (R.I.P.) that actually BANNED a customer for swearing at her. And another friend waitressed at a restaurant that told customers they needed to calm down or leave when they were belligerent, but unfortunately, that’s not super common.

      4. Artemesia*

        I think the level of civility has changed dramatically over the past 50 or 60 years. I did retail, worked as a waitress and was a teacher in my youth and never had anyone shout or be unpleasant in the first two jobs and only the occasional upset parent with the latter — but even there, shouting or real ugliness did not occur. There was a time when yelling at someone in customer service was ‘not done’. Especially in the last decade, performative anger has become a real thing.

        1. BadWolf*

          Was it more civil? Or can we now easily record everything and broadcast (either as the bad actor or sharing someone else’s behavior). And there’s nothing civil about segregated shopping/dining/etc where going into the wrong store could lead to serious harm.

          1. MK*

            I think it was more civil, because politeness was considered a virtue, while today many people reject it as hypocrisy or being “inauthentic”. It was mostly a surface-level civility, but it was there. Also, people were, generally speaking, less entitled in their dealings, in the sense that they quietly tοοκ their custom elsewhere if they weren’t getting what they wanted, instead of insisting on being accommodated.

            What does segregation has to do with being polite? No one is saying that things were uniformly better 50 years ago.

            1. kt*

              I have a feeling that BadWolf is my age and so assumes that 50 years ago was the 1950s… rather than the 1970s.

          2. Myrin*

            I mean, Artemesia is talking about her own experience, not about recordings she viewed, so I’d say we can take her at her word regarding what she experienced in her own life (which my older coworkers in the drugstore I work at concur with, btw).

        2. PersephoneUnderground*

          I don’t know if I buy that it used to be better, but I think you have a point about “performative anger” becoming a thing lately. I mean, YouTube is full of incendiary titles designed to be bait for “rage clicking”. I find it hugely unproductive.

        3. Malarkey01*

          IDK, I have a friend who is a black woman in the south and things were not great for her in the customer facing world 50 years ago. She would not agree that people were more civil, in fact people spit on her while she was trying to wait on them and called her racial slurs. I think some of the differences we’re seeing are people who have always felt entitled and acted badly but didn’t necessarily have to yell because the institution was already behind them hitting up against people that are no longer behaving as they expected and standing up for equal treatment.

        4. iiii*

          There was less to yell about 50 years ago. Used to be, a well-run store had enough staff on the floor that customer wait times were pretty short. A well-run store paid their staff enough and treated them well enough that some of them would stick around for years, so they’d know the stock and the customers.

          Now, ‘well-run’ means scrimping on labor to maximize shareholder value, so all customers find in the store is badly-trained badly-paid staff on just-in-time schedules, and nowhere near enough of them. Nowadays it’s ordinary to wait half an hour to get a clerk’s attention, just to find out they know less about their stock than you do.

          It was a lot easier to be civil to the clerks when the shop wasn’t actively wasting your time.

      5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Nothing exposes one’s lack of humanity like being a customer (at least from my experience). I’m actually not eligible for rehire at one of the largest employers in the US because I stood up to an abusive customer two decades ago.

        The ****** phrase is “the customer is never wrong,” i.e. “don’t tell the customer when they’re wrong,” not “the customer is always right.”

    4. Batgirl*

      I’m always amazed at how much tolerance angry people are given out in the wild and how accepted thier behavior is. Is this new? When I worked in retail, aggressive customers would be asked to leave. When I did call center work we would tell them that we would hang up, and we did hang up. It leaves more time for the people who actually want to do business! I’m a teacher now, and while I’d have more patience with an upset parent (it’s not like you can just go shop elsewhere) it very rarely happens that a parent will go for my jugular, because they have a lot of incentive to work with me. It’s really not something that is necessary is work interactions, so why do we put up with it and talk like it’s an inevitability?

      1. Artemesia*

        Many businesses don’t respond and fix a problem until it get ugly. We have all read stories from customer service people who don’t honor the expired coupon, or the coupon from another stores, or accept obviously used and dirty clothes on return or whatever and then had the boss overrule them. Or the restaurant that comps the meal of the person who harasses the waiter. Some phone systems are trained to give you to a person to talk to if you swear and are angry and keep running you around the branches until you do. I have personally tested that after I read this and the first time I tried it, the moment I swore, I was transferred to a person to help me. So many businesses are training people to be jerks in order to get service.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Some phone systems are trained to give you to a person to talk to if you swear and are angry and keep running you around the branches until you do. I have personally tested that after I read this and the first time I tried it, the moment I swore, I was transferred to a person to help me.

          Well, that’s interesting. And potentially useful. (I mean, I won’t swear at the person who eventually talks to me, but throwing an f-bomb to get there in the first place? Yeah, I’m not above that.)

          1. Managing to Get By*

            I’ve done that, either sworn at the voice recognition system or spoken gibberish. Either one will either get you through to a real human or it will hang up, depending on the programming I guess.

      2. BadWolf*

        Some businesses have added rating systems that give the customers a lot of options, but anything not at the top is bad. There’s no medium. Like we if you ask customers to rate you on a scale of 1-10, but only a 9 or 10 is really acceptable, then you’re going to drive people to feel desperate to get a good rating which probably leads to allowing terrible behavior from customers.

        1. Free Meerkats*

          When I bought my Honda, the person I know who works there straight up told me that anything lower than a 9 gets them a call from Regional.

          1. PT*

            I worked somewhere that did a twice a year customer survey on a scale from 1-10. Most of our customers chose to not fill it out. Say we sent out 6,000 surveys, we might get 120 answers. Usually the short answer portion was a collection of random thoughts where it was obvious why those 120 people chose to fill out the survey, they either had an axe to grind, a suggestion to give (that they were very enthusiastic about and also was impossible for us to implement, and they had already been told no in person several times,) or an employee they wanted to recognize.

            There would be serious fretting if we went from a 9.34 average to a 9.27 average from the fall survey to the spring survey. People would be In Trouble. There’d be audits of staff and observations and monitoring and PIPs. When really it was totally random who filled out the survey that season.

        2. CaVanaMana*

          I work somewhere with a rating system like that and regularly deal with angry and abusive people. I don’t take abuse. I will end an interaction if someone is abusive. I can’t tell you how many people will say “do what I want or I’ll rate you badly” or how many times I’ve replied, “Okay. That is your choice but, let’s go back to discussing the matter at hand.” Usually shuts that right down.

    5. Grump*

      I mostly agree, but I think that working in auditing has given LW1 skewed sense of what working a customer-facing position is like. As a general rule, people being audited won’t be thrilled to hear from you. That’s totally different from customer-facing positions where, for the most part, people *want* to work with you. You’ll always have the occasional difficult/challenging customer, but people shopping in retail or using services for something they want will generally be nice. If LW1 likes the numbers part of accounting, perhaps something like working for a tax preparer would be fine. And I know from my own experience in nonprofit, there are always organizations looking for good finance staff. A background in auditing would probably be a real plus to any future employer.

      1. Hamish*

        Yeah – I’m in public accounting and while my clients and I get very frustrated with each other on occasion, no one has ever yelled at me.

        1. pandq*

          This is partially why I moved from individual/corporate tax into building a niche with non-profit tax. People bring their emotions with them with their tax situation and also get their tax advice from their neighbor or at the local bar. I couldn’t handle the angry folks, but also the people that were upset or someone who was counting on a large refund that wasn’t coming.

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience but my own– tax prep is the furthest from a non-customer facing job. When I started out, yes data entry and no client interaction was normal but nowadays most firms use software for data entry; they hire preparers who can actually talk to their clients to get the returns done.

        When I was a manager at my former company, my peers and I spent a lot of time trying to calm down angry clients. When I first began taxes, I was truly surprised at how much soft skills were needed to get information from clients without upsetting them.

        Add to that the pandemic and the massive changes that happened literally in the middle of tax season causing so much damn confusion, all of my peers are reporting about angry/confused clients.

    6. HailRobonia*

      What resources/support does your work provide you to deal with angry customers? Ideally they should provide some sort of coaching or training, but if your place is anything like where I have worked, the support is your boss saying “people get angry, deal with it.”

      I work in an administrative roll in academia which, as everyone knows, can be quite toxic when it comes to the power dynamics of dealing with faculty. My office provides services to a large group of faculty who range from fantastic human beings to absolute petty tyrants – they are effectively our customers. As much lip service as my boss and administration gives to “we are all partners in this” the fact is that our professors Can Do No Wrong and we pretty much have to put up with all their bad behavior.

      One very helpful technique I have learned to use is the “Gray Rock Method” ( I let faculty rant and vent and just try to let it wash over me, then try to get to the solution as best I can, all the time trying to be dispassionate and not let myself get worked out by their unbalance.

    7. lilsheba*

      It’s true there are an astounding number of jobs that are considered customer service in one form or another and will come with “customers” who feel it’s their right to belittle you and yell at you. I worked in those kinds of jobs for years, most recently in a call center for 5 years. And it seems during the pandemic it’s getting even worse! I for one don’t believe in just sucking it up either, we have the right to be treated like human beings, not dirt under thier shoe. But that being said it is also possible to find jobs that don’t deal with customers so much, from warehouses to telecom to whatever, accounting too I’m sure. They don’t seem as plentiful but they are there. In my job now I have to call customers occasionally and I hate even that, from the trauma. But I won’t put up with abuse anymore.

  3. Sylvan*

    OP1: I think this is a part of many (all?) customer-facing roles, some more than others. People can be really unpleasant, and if it’s taking a toll on you or the good interactions aren’t making up for it, it’s really understandable that you’d be thinking about finding another job.

    Personally, I don’t work in customer-facing jobs anymore and it’s been good. No more yelling. :)

    1. AcademiaNut*

      The irate customers are pretty much par for the course. The best option is when you have the personal authority to hang up on or kick out people who cross the line, and second best, to be backed up by a manager who has that authority and is willing to use it.

      What the OP describes, though, sounds pretty extreme. There are lots of jobs where people yelling at you is really, really unusual, but having people disagree with you is much more common. And expecting incredible kindness on phone calls is not practical.

      So I’d say that they OP probably does need to look for a different type of work, but that they’d also benefit by working on the anxiety through therapy to get to the point that they can handle disagreements in a more even keeled fashion.

      1. somi*

        I think it would be hard for OP since the ‘customers’ are taxpayers who have to deal with penalties and interest or whatever the government would impose upon them when there’s fault in their papers. They’re gonna come back and they have no choice but to keep coming back since it’s not a business where you can just boot people out. I do agree that their manager could step in when it gets too much and the most they can do is impose decorum and keep the taxpayers in check.

        1. Sasha*

          They may keep coming back, but if the call is terminated when they raise their voice, they will stop.

          We have this in medicine all the time – patients are aware that you can’t shout at your doctor, and if you do, we will end the conversation. There are polite ways to do it. You’ll get another appointment in a few months’ time (or whatever is clinically indicated). Inpatients are reviewed again at the end of the day when they have had a chance to calm down.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            The difference there is that those patients *want* another appointment. The people OP is talking to likely do not want them to come back.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Yes, this is what I was thinking. Dealing with customers who are genuinely irate and yelling is really hard and something that you can absolutely structure your job search to avoid. Dealing with people speaking to you with less than incredible kindness or people disagreeing with you is just a basic part of a huge number of jobs – even if you never have to deal with customers you will still have colleagues and other stakeholders to deal with. I think it would be worth OP really having a think about why those things are so difficult for them and if there is anything they can do to learn to handle them differently – scripts? Customer service training (even if they plan to avoid customer service the training might help their confidence)? Is it partly a phone anxiety thing? I have huge sympathy for OP but having someone disagree with you, even angrily, shouldn’t leave you so rattled you’re unable to work for the rest of the day!

      3. Sylvan*

        While I agree, I also think that if you find your job upsetting on a personal level, the solution is more likely to be a better job than therapy.

      4. I'm just here for the cats*

        Yes, I think if the LW felt more authority they may feel better. Maybe if they like the accounting side of things but not the tas payer/customer service side they could find a different job but still within accounting? Could they create their own business or something where if a client starts being a jerk they can shut it down with “I’m sorry you feel that way. If your going to speak to me like this, perhaps you should find someone else.”

    2. Marillenbaum*

      That’s true, although I think there’s a range of what you’re likely to come across in customer-facing positions. I am in a customer-facing role, and there are definitely people who get upset, but my office explicitly empowers me to shut it down, or to have the person removed if they get really aggressive.

      1. TROI*

        OP sounds like they are personalizing these phone calls way too much. I was not prepared for phone calls when I took a position where I had to interact heavily on the phone, and anything other than a neutral or nice call used to rattle me. I had to come to a point where I had to disengage my sensitivity and see myself as just a representative of an organization and not “myself” if that makes sense. I moved up from that position and now usually only talk to the angriest customers. It’s to the point now where if a customer apologizes to me for being upset because it’s not my fault, I tell them it’s OK and to not worry about my feelings; I want their feedback good or bad. Some phone training will definitely help here, but if this person is really hating this part of their job, time to move on.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this. It sounds like the OP is internalizing the nasty comments in a way that isn’t healthy in the long run.

          1. Batty Twerp*

            There’s also a world of difference between [angry voice] “What’s this extra cost line on my PX42 form?!” and [angry shouting] “You’re stealing my money, you stupid witch!!”
            Even if the customer isn’t using those words, the mental framing (1 – I’ve got a customer who is angry because she’s confused vs 2 – they’re actively blaming/accusing ME of something) can make all the difference.

            1. Grace*

              Yeah. I grew up near a call centre that was the first job for a lot of people, calling for surveys and so on. They tended to hire young, and paid well for that age bracket, so a lot of people had jobs with them.

              I know a lot of teenage girls who were subject to death threats and r*pe threats from people who were sick of cold calling. Aren’t we all, but you can just hang up the phone instead of telling the girl on the other end of the line that you know where she works and you’re going to come there tomorrow and–

              Yeah. There’s over-personalising calls that are angry about the company’s/department’s service, and then there’s getting death threats over the phone from strangers. The reason that job paid so well was in a vain attempt to keep anyone hired past about 3-6 months.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, this. When I was a student, I worked for a call center on outgoing surveys. Most of the people we called were decent, even when they didn’t want to participate in the survey. I guess it helped that we weren’t selling anything, only asking for a bit of their time, and there was no pressure to participate. If someone said no, we hung up and called the next person. The calls weren’t recorded, but they were randomly monitored for quality control. As callers we also had an option to attract the attention of a supervisor for a difficult call. They could intervene, and in the case of abuse, act as a witness. Callers could mark numbers as do-not-call for a particular survey, but supervisors could do that for a longer time. They were also allowed to instruct callers on how to register for a nationwide do-not-call list.

              2. Sunny*

                Good Lord. I can understand some degree of being upset at incessant cold calling (I admit to having answered the occasional spammer with “take me off your list and never call me again”), but it’s not the person on the other end of the phone’s fault. There’s no call to be that nasty to them.

                1. Artemesia*

                  I literally could not get a bill collection agency to stop calling us until I became ugly and angry. We were not the people they were looking for – my husband has a name shared by thousands across the country — we had never used the services of the hospital involved in the debt. I finally exploded an was ugly and got the ‘we can’t continue if you aren’t civil’ at which point I pointed out I had been civil for the first 20 calls and explained we were not the debtors and it had availed not. It did get it stopped for a couple of years until they sold the debt to another company. We got hassled about this non-debt for at least 15 years.

              3. DefinitelyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

                Firstly – Yikes!
                Secondly – OP1 isn’t in a call centre though – she’s not making outbound calls. If anything it would be like calling IN to a call centre to scream at her for cold calling. Although if they ARE phoning in to give death threats that should be something that is flagged on their account and/or their account suspended and OP needs to maybe get HR involved. Unlike outbound cold callers, inbound calls – especially to an accountant – tend to be connected to a verified account for a known person, rather than a “random” telephone number.
                Thirdly – YIKES!!

          2. Sylvan*

            Maybe. Sometimes callers are really nasty, though, and it’s hard not to internalize what they say. They can get threatening or inappropriate.

            My customer-facing jobs included time at a newspaper during the 2016 US presidential election. People were very aggressive and accusatory – not always towards the newspaper in general, but towards me in specific, although I wasn’t a reporter and had no control over what was in the paper at all. Anyone in that kind of situation should gtfo unless their employer allows them to hang up on callers quickly.

            1. Lana Kane*

              I work in healthcare, and our staff gets calls like this almost daily. Reframing the call can help to a point, but then you’re just asking that person to absorb all this anger themselves. And that leads to pretty bad outcomes over time.

              We end calls very quickly – when a voice gets raised, when a curse word or insult comes out, we give the caller 1 chance to cool their jets. If they don’t, we inform them that we are ending the call. Even with that, it’s a lot of anger to absorb all day.

        2. Dan*

          OP works in a role where more likely than not, the people she talks to half uncharitable opinions of her, and probably don’t hesitate to tell her that.

          We can call it “personalizing these phone calls way too much” if we we would like, but I would never tell somebody that they need to just get over it in a situation like this. If the role is not for her, it’s not for her, and there’s no shame in admitting that.

          Years ago, I used to work as a ramp agent for an airline. Much of my role was non-customer facing, but every once in awhile I had to do a shift at the lost luggage desk. While most of the time it wasn’t too bad, it didn’t take me long to feel sorry for those people for whom that was a permanent assignment. Why? Because every. single. customer. wasn’t happy. They didn’t want to be there, and they didn’t want to deal with you. They have other things to do, and that circumstance is keeping them from it. Best case scenario? They know it’s not your fault, and there’s very little you can do about it. They’re at least polite. Worst case scenario? You get some hot heads who don’t have any manners.

          Bottom line: Not every person is cut out for every role, and there’s no shame in admitting that.

          1. Allonge*

            I think the point of ‘personalising it too much’ was the same as yours, that is, this is not a good place for LW1. Some people cannot separate conflict – any conflict – from their own self-worth very well. TROI is not saying they should tough it out – as far as I can see, TROI is saying that this may be something that can be made easier but the other option is to leave.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, that’s how I saw it. There’s certainly no shame in admitting that a certain type of job is a bad fit. Some people are just naturally able to take a conflict less personally than others. In some cases they can be trained or train themselves to distance themselves a bit from the conflicts, but that’s not always the case and that’s OK.

        3. Dennis Feinstein*

          I sympathise LW1. I also hate confrontation. Some people seem to thrive on it, but I find it upsetting. So yes, it’s probably a good idea to look for a different job.
          In the mean time, however, the best way to deal with angry customers is to depersonalise it. They’re not yelling at YOU – LW1. They don’t even know you. They are just expressing frustration at “random tax auditor person”. And the best way to deal with them is just to remain calm and professional. I’m sure your job probably has scripts for de-escalating situations and calming people down by being polite and matter-of-fact. Best of luck with the job hunt!

  4. Mockingbird*

    For LW2, make sure you also talk to HR about any adjustments that need to be made to their share of the taxes paid on how much you got overpaid. Like if it looks like they took back more than they’d overpaid you this year, then they’ve also clawed back their share of taxes. If not, you need to get that organized. I had a friend who had the misfortune to get overpaid by more than one job and it’s expensive and inconvenient to sort out.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Yes, very much this. Make sure that what you think they should be paying in taxes is what they actually are. It is an unpleasant revelation in January if you don’t confirm now that you’re going to come out even.

      1. Not Karen*

        I need someone to explain. Like, payroll taxes, or income taxes? I’m not understanding the issue.

        1. Evan Þ.*

          Both, but payroll taxes are more important. If LW2’s job did it right, they calculated both payroll taxes and income taxes based on her incorrect salary. Now that they’re correcting things (and giving her a W2 reflecting her lower, corrected salary – they’re doing that, right?), when she eventually files income taxes, she’ll get back the overage withheld for income taxes. But still, she’ll have been out of that money till tax time. But with payroll taxes, she wouldn’t get that extra money back ever, unless her employer fixes things.

          1. Lars the Real Girl*

            She would actually get payroll tax overages back. It’s calculated as part of your tax filings and you would receive any overages as a refund (or a reduction to federal taxes owed.)

  5. Chc34*

    LW 2: I once had a company overpay me and whoosh it was a mess. Paychecks worth of money just kept showing up in my account. By the end of my first three weeks there, I had been paid for nine weeks of work. Luckily it was pretty noticeable so I was able to bring it up quickly, but it took months to get resolved: they reversed a direct deposit without telling me, then took weeks to figure out how much I owed back, then told me to mail a check to the payroll department in another state, then took two months to deposit the check, so I just had this whole bunch of money that wasn’t mine hanging out in my checking account for months. So yeah, they should have been more upfront with you about how the whole thing would be handled, but just consider the overpayment a nice signing bonus.

    1. Not sure of what to call myself*

      My current company made a mistake which I caught in my first full pay period. They were really nice and offered to let me repay over an extended period, but I just wanted to pull the bandaid off and get everything sorted as soon as possible so I could get used to budgeting on my new salary.

      I think LW2s company were really generous to not want to reclaim more of the overpayment. From the finance side I’ve seen companies reclaim any overpayment in the current and prior tax year.

      The takeaway from this is that everyone should be checking their payslips and W2/P60. Its tom important to rely on your company getting it right.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        I think LW2s company were really generous to not want to reclaim more of the overpayment.

        I got the impression it was mostly a pragmatic decision — probably they have something like a “year end” process with their systems including time keeping, production, sales and so on — and having closed off month end, it would be more than $10,000 worth of “hassle” to reopen an old financial year, re-process and re-report a bunch of numbers etc.

        1. Not sure of what to call myself*

          We’d adjust it in the current year, if the prior was shut. We adjust payroll in the current month for prior months all the time.

          If I were in theat company’s finance team I’d be spot checking other people to see if there was a bigger problem out there.

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        I actually understood OP didn’t have to pay anything back, and is only “short” the money that was being overpaid each month. Maybe it’s the wording, but the difference is attributed to “corrections”, not “repayment”, and seems in line with receiving about 10k overpayment in the previous year.

        If that’s true, OP’s company is indeed being extremely generous, and if OP continues to complain about it, she’s going to burn bridges fast.

        OP, you’re entitled to look for a new job if you think you’re being underpaid. But before you do, remember you are now making what you originally signed up for, and it’s not unfair of your company to pay what you both agreed the work was worth.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          I understood it was an extra $1000 they took out of her paycheck to “correct” for overpayment in the current year. Separate from just adjusting it to the correct amount going forward. It was really low to do that without warning. Unless she makes over $240,000 a year assuming two-week pay period paychecks, $1000 is a huge chunk of a single paycheck, definitely not 10% which is how much she said she had been overpaid by, so it couldn’t have been just the correction of the total amount.

          1. pmg2016*

            Let’s be honest – this person has severe budgeting issues if they were overpaid $10,000/year and didn’t notice for 2 years. $1,000 missing from one paycheck is going to be the least of their problems as the year progresses.

            I’m not sure what this person was expecting to happen either. If you report an overpayment, you should expect the company to correct it as soon as possible and to collect as much of it that is legally allowed. Anything else is just pure luck.

        2. twocents*

          Yeah I was a little surprised by the anger over adjusting her salary go forward. Did she anticipate that they’d just go “oh well” and continue to overpay?

          1. LilyP*

            It may not be the perfectly ~rational~ way of looking at it, but OP is de facto getting a pay cut, in that she’s now making less money month-to-month than she’s used to. I think it’s natural to feel upset about that. There’s also nothing wrong with taking this impulse to reevaluate the compensation she initially signed up for and deciding it actually isn’t enough to cover the hours being asked, especially if she could make more somewhere else (which the comment about turnover suggests).

            It makes me wonder if the company has been leaning on a “loyalty” message to get people to work more hours, so this is stinging because it’s showing that the loyalty doesn’t go both ways.

            1. Smithy*

              I think that this is a very good way when opening room for the feelings of a situation to matter, just in a different way.

              When I first took a job in DC, I was living in Virginia and my transportation compensation was calculated based on mileage to the office. When I moved into DC, my transportation compensation decreased because technically I lived closer to the office even though my metro costs went up (based on number of metro stops). I think it also felt like my pay went down further because of taxes, but overall it just could have been part of other issues.

              In the grand scheme of things, the pay change wasn’t nearly as big as what the OP is going through – but it was enough at the time to really make me reconsider my current job. When that if I was going to make a relatively normal decision around where to live – if it would through off my budget that much, maybe I really needed to consider job hunting as opposed to being upset in my transportation compensation changing.

          2. Not Karen*

            I also thought that, but I’m also a little torn.
            On one hand, yes, LW is getting what she initially signed up for. Why the outrage?
            On the other hand, it feels crappy. I don’t expect someone to give me a new car. But if someone told me that I won a new car, then a week later, told me it was a mistake and I don’t get a car – well, I would be a little miffed even though I never expected in the first place. So, I think it’s a natural reaction.
            I also personally did not know employer could take back, so I can see why LW felt wronged.

        3. Reba*

          Having a paycheck reduced by that much, with no warning, would be a shock! The company should have made a plan with the OP.

          So that part is worthy of complaint, but the overall situation is that OP essentially gets to keep most of the mistake money! The company has decided to leave the error in OP’s favor, but it’s not surprising that they don’t want to keep the error going forever. I don’t think the company is like, amazingly generous to let the 2020 overpayments go, but they are perfectly reasonable to correct it going forward.

        4. starsaphire*

          I had a different take, and I re-read the letter a couple of times — it’s ambiguous on this point:

          “Additionally, my hourly rate on the salary had been reduced to line up with what base pay should be.”

          I thought on first read that this meant that, *in addition* to cancelling the shift differential, they knocked her *salary* down to base pay. Rather than the salary she had been making.

          I hope the OP comes in to the comments to clarify, because if my first read was right, then I’d be angry too.

          1. Lizy*

            I read it as the salary had been reduced to line up with what OP should have been making all along.

            So, if OP was being paid $15/hr (making up figures), the next paycheck was deducted by the amount of overpayment since January 1, as well as listing her actual salary of $10 (or whatever) for the current payperiod.

            sticker shock, for sure! But anger at the company is not necessarily warranted, IMO.

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            I think that’s right. She said “my paycheck was short over $1,000, with an indication that this was due to the corrections I had been instructed to make.” so I took it that there was a deduction of some sort to the tune of $1000, with some kind of annotation on it like ‘recuperation of overpayment’ or whatever. And that the base salary had been reduced (which wouldn’t result in a ‘short’ paycheck, just a reduced one).

          3. LW#2*

            LW #2 here. Hopefully this missive will clear up readers’ questions.

            Your first read is correct- that’s exactly what they’re doing. The actual amount clawed back was actually > $1000 and my salary is less than the $100K I imply in the letter (percentage of pay is correct though) because I’m trying to avoid outing myself and getting into more hot water in case my manager reads this column. The offer letter was for $xxK/yr and the job description on paper said shift 2, which in their payroll systems means an extra 10% on top of base (the amount the letter indicates). First year, I joined the company several months into the calendar year, so the W-2 amount was less than base and didn’t raise any alarm bells. I had also just come off carrying rent for the old place and the new (had to move for the job, nearly got evicted as I didn’t have rent if they hadn’t hired me). The offer was bigger than anything I’d ever made including the work I’d done in the same career before a 4 year stint to try another career (the move that nearly bankrupted me).

            I assumed the amounts paid, taxes, etc. were all fine. Pay amounts were the same check-to-check so I had no reason to be suspicious. 2019 W-2 was less than full pay, but I had worked less than a year so expected. 2020 W-2 I worked Jan-Dec and decided to file right after I got it, around the same time I had my performance review, February 2021. Seeing the updated pay it clicked that base + raise for this year was less than what was on last year’s W-2 and I mentioned it to my manager, which sparked the whole fiasco. The req had been setup by someone upstream of local HR, so for two years everyone downstream, in local HR, payroll, and accounting assumed everything was fine, that I was to get the extra money. So they coded that into the software, and thus paid based on that (my timecard also defaults to that shift when filing hours). In effect, what I was making before (110% of base) WAS my salary, whatever the semantics are. The text “shift 2” should never have been on the job description according to HR, yet it was, so I got that money. The situation is like throwing a burger to starving hobo then telling him you want the pickles back because those are extra.

            Where it all got heated… First six months on job I’m kicking butt, the old hands take a shine to me and tell me they’ve been here 10+ years each and that I don’t have to kill myself like I’ve been doing, that working bare minimum vs 60 hrs/week to get tasks done on-schedule pays the same (raises barely cover inflation). I don’t believe it, work myself into the ground the last two years only to prove them right, thinking as a new hire and career shifter I have to work hard to prove myself useful. Later on I notice the company intranet posts guidance on salaries for positions, based on experience level and locale, I find I’m on the bottom 30% despite having more experience than the role requires. I also quickly encounter serious comms issues within the company, between HQ and satellite offices, between projects, and between departments when deadlines get tight, repeatedly, which leads to tension with my boss and a very fraught relationship. Despite that my reviews have all been good (meets and exceeds).

            The rest you can get from the letter- the lack of comms strikes at a really bad time, leading to heated words between me and the management. They’re angry I’m not happy about their decision. I’m angry that they didn’t give me a voice at all in that decision and a number of others that relate to the work I do, a pattern that has persisted since I started but that I’ve kept silent about because I didn’t want to rock the boat (my tasking and priorities shift quickly without explanation, not being in the room on some things I can understand, but asking for a rationale at least shouldn’t be pulling teeth). Additionally I unloaded on them that their entire attitude towards me has been reactionary when being proactive and involving me in the loop would have avoided most of this. So far the reaction has been muted since, other than a meeting scheduled with upper middle management to discuss workload (at least hearing me out in theory on the working conditions).

            You all are correct that I’m lucky they didn’t go after me financially for the past two years of extra income, a law I seriously disagree with. Had the salary change been due to performance issues, I’d be upset but understanding. This I don’t understand; I’m paying for a mistake that was not my doing, in fact a mistake made by someone no longer employed by the company (old hiring manager left 18 months ago on his own). Working the math based on the last two raises, I’m looking at 2-3 years to get back to what I was making before I brought this to their attention. If I hadn’t, it likely never would have been caught. The company makes billions in profit every year, and shares none of that with the employees (they discontinued that long ago). I half figured they’d just adjust my salary to match what I had, chock it up to something to learn for the future, and move on. I’m small potatoes on pay compared to a CEO. Instead I’m left holding the bag for being honest. What kind of moral lesson is that?

              1. Engineer Woman*

                I am still confused, LW#2: you say the offer letter was for $xxK/yr. Is that (plus whatever % raise you just received) now what you are getting paid?

                If so, then your company is doing the right thing. If they are saying that $xxK/yr is for shift 2 and therefore you now get 10% less since you are actually shift 1 (which sounds like you would have no idea of), then that’s your company acting extremely poorly. But I think the former is what is going on and just because you think
                you ought to be earning more doesn’t make it so. As others have noted, you should have figured your hourly rate on your pay checks don’t add up to $xxK/yr but $xxK+10%/yr. It really doesn’t make sense that they would continue paying you an incorrect salary.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              Woah woah woah hold on cause some of this sounds like potentially 100% a wildly different scenario than what most of us were envisioning. The most important question is this: is what you were getting paid the amount that *you* agreed to? What was the salary on your offer letter. Did you expect to get $X while your boss thought you were supposed to be getting $X+Z so they didn’t think it was odd that was what your paycheck said? Or is the salary you were actually offered $X+Z and then it turned out that was by mistake? Because that is very, very different and in that situation they can NOT change your salary retroactively (though they can lower it going forward).

              1. Willis*

                It sounds like the offer letter had the base pay (which is what OP’s correct salary is) but job description said second shift, which would have gotten the extra 10%. The second shift part was incorrect and OP is actually working first shift, but through the clerical error in the two shifts was getting the additional 10%, which no one noticed until this performance review. If that’s the case, I feel like this could have gotten cleared up when OP realized she wasn’t working second shift and presumably wouldn’t be getting a 10% bonus beyond what was in her offer letter.

              2. LW #2*

                Screw it, if I burn the bridge it’s burned. Let’s talk actual numbers. I was offered $75k/yr, the job description was worded wrong and said I was entitled to 10% more than that, which I was dually paid. Come to find out I wasn’t entitled to that 10% and didn’t catch on to the fact until the first full year’s W-2 showed up 24 months later, by which time my pay had been bumped twice by small amounts for good reviews. Had my review, it went well, notified my boss it seemed off, then followed process and reported it. They copied me on an email thread saying they’d discuss it among themselves (no mention of involving me in that), instructing me to correct the shift going back to Jan 1 this year in the meantime since those records were open, then I heard nothing for two weeks, the time it took for my next paycheck to come out. They took all the extra for all three months of this year back on that pay period, resetting the hourly rate to what the last review said I should be making (yearly divided by 2080), and the entire process didn’t involve my input at all. I recognize it was a compromise but I should have been part of that discussion.

                Worse still, the company HQ is in another state and after apologizing to local payroll for asserting myself loudly on their chosen approach, said payroll staff strongly implied they’d have preferred Amy’s solution (take nothing, reset to what it should be) but were overruled by corporate. This after I’d already flamed the local HR, payroll, my boss, his boss, and the timekeeper over email about the lack of comms and not being involved in the discussion. HR responded to the initial salvo with “we were oblivious to what payroll has done” despite supposedly talking it over for two weeks, reporting they were unaware of the claw back and rapidly pulling my manager and payroll into a meeting I didn’t get the invite to, other than a courtesy “we’re going to discuss what to do among ourselves” notice. The butthurt from my immediate manager came from him working out the deal they went with behind the scenes (of which I have only his word to go on) and then seeing my overwhelmingly negative reaction, which I copied his boss on and the other heads involved in the discussion I wasn’t party to. I had to apologize to everyone for being vocal, despite not cursing or stating anything untrue in my short invective.

                Basically, yes to the first two questions- I thought my pay was fine until I found out it wasn’t and decided to do the right thing and report it (after reading similar things here on the topic and being torn, but clearly not thinking through the now obvious consequences, a lack of sleep and high stress over a long period will do that). My boss, HR, payroll, and everyone else involved thought it was correct too until the investigation by HR spawning from my tipoff that the pay didn’t line up.

                Not changing retroactive per se, but they are addressing it going forward and the whole thing leaves a nasty taste in my mouth and a lot of burned bridge beams (somehow the bridge is still intact though).

            2. Gumby*

              Instead I’m left holding the bag for being honest. What kind of moral lesson is that?

              If you only do the “right thing” when it benefits you in some way, that’s not at all exceptional. It’s exactly what the *least* moral person on the planet might do.

              When I was a child, if we found money on the ground at a supermarket my parents taught us to turn it in to the cashiers. Even if it was only a penny. On rare occasions the store employees would tell us to keep it, but most of the time not. And that is what we expected. Sure, we could have pocketed the money and it would have been great. We were 3 – 4 – 5 years old and even just a few coins did seem like a lot to us. But that money was not ours and our parents were teaching us a valuable lesson. This is obviously on a much larger scale. But the money should not have been yours in the first place and expecting them to keep overpaying in the future because they had in the past seems unusual to me.

              Often, doing the right thing is not financially rewarding. Sometimes your reward might be reputational. But there might be no reward at all in it for you other than the internal satisfaction of knowing that you have lived up to your values. How much is your integrity worth to you?

            3. The Rules are Made Up*

              That’s all super messy and unfortunate, but whether it was your fault or not, that wasn’t your salary. It sucks, a lot. And it’s probably super jarring to see the extra amount gone. But it may make it easier if you start thinking of it as if it was borrowed money (because it kinda was).

              My best friend was overpaid one month (by A LOT) by an HR person rushing to finish before a holiday break and had to give it all back. So the fact that you got a year’s worth of extra money is great and if adjusting to what your salary is supposed to be is too hard then absolutely look for another job. But this really isn’t something that will benefit from you escalating it after you just got a year of free money.

            4. pmg2016*

              You shouldn’t wait for your annual W2 to check your pay. Your very first paystub would have listed your hourly rate and you could have quickly determined your annual compensation by multiplying that # by 2080 (40*52). That’s one thing you need to take away from this. You need to pay more attention to your finances and you absolutely 100% should put the first full paystub under the most scrutiny.

              I think you are slowly coming to grips with takeaway #2, which is the fact that corporations aren’t going to give you a pat on the back or a reward for pointing out a bank error that went in your favor. They are going to make the adjustment, claw back as much money as is feasible, and move on. You are nothing more than a ledger entry as far as payroll is concerned.

              If you are truly on the lower end of their pay scale, then you need to ask for a raise on your merits, or find another job that is willing to pay you what you’re worth. You can’t argue for a raise based on an accounting mistake that was corrected. You need to pretend you never had that salary, because you really didn’t.

            5. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You’re not left holding the bag; you’re being allowed to keep an extra $10,000 they didn’t mean to give you. Your salary is now being corrected to what they originally told you it would be. You’re not being punished for being honest. A mistake is being fixed because it was a mistake, and you are being allowed to benefit financially from it — but not forever. Of course you can’t go on getting the wrong salary now that they’re aware of it; if you expected that, I think that’s where your confusion is coming from — that’s not money they owe you.

              1. LW #2*

                I’m starting to see the sense in all this. I get their perspective, yours, and some of the other commenters, but it’s still very tough to swallow. I had to take a step back in pay when I changed careers years ago, and I knew that going in. I came into this profession a few years after college for a role that was massively lowballed (think half of what someone straight of school makes, average, for the role, in a high cost-of-living area, below $40k in a top-10 richest county). Slowly ramped up to something more reasonable over four years but still well below regional average (family and friends in the field plus data from Salary, Payscale, and other places confirms). I then did four years in that other field before coming back, only to find out I’m still probably the lowest paid for what I do (so that first time at the rodeo was even worse than I’d thought, early salaries definitely have an impact long-term).

                This is different. I’m taking a step back because of something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place and I don’t know how to handle it other than to see the large number of negatives coming out of the situation. End of the day, I’m making less, which will have consequences not just on budget but my earning potential 5-10 years down the road, same as taking such a low pay the first job I had out of school. Is asking for status quo before I reported anything amiss reasonable? Possibly not. Is it defensible to ask for my salary to remain what it was despite the error in my favor? Probably not from a corporate perspective but from mine a reduction of this amount will be quite a lot 20 years down the road if I stay with this employer as some peers have done. I tend to take the long view, especially on salary.

                If we’re talking goods, you probably notice right away that you’re paying too much for an item and take it up with the store manager. Likewise if a friend hands you a $20 to payback for something you got them (say movie tickets for both of you), and its more than the cost, you do the right thing and hand back change. This isn’t pocket change and the timeline wasn’t that I noticed it early, reported it, paid a few bucks and moved on. Given it’s been two years and I caught it late, my perception of what my labor was worth was set by what I was actually paid, not what the offer letter said (base pay alone). It’s very unfortunate I found out so late that that figure wasn’t what I was actually due, otherwise it wouldn’t be a big deal, I’ll admit that. I’ll also grant that I could have checked earlier and avoided the worst of this.

                However at this point it’s hard to accept the end result, significantly lower earnings going forward. A good rule of thumb for doing the same job successfully year after year is that the pay should never go down. Regardless of semantics, it’s going down, so the gulf between what I think I should be getting (but was okay with less when conditions were better) and what I will be getting going forward is widening, leading me to rethink everything and adding a lot of negative emotions around my job. It’s also got me thinking about past non-pay issues I’ve had with this employer, particularly working conditions and the long deteriorating relationship with my boss. I didn’t want to think about so soon about leaving after being in this role but I don’t feel like I have much choice. The salary on paper is just too low when factoring where I live, the experience I have already, what I’ll be doing down the road (been told I may be working the current project another two years, a project where the scope keeps increasing but staffing doesn’t rise to match), and the pay bumps I can expect even if I succeed. I doubt my supervisor will budge on anything, particularly after how this played out and the fact I went over his head to his supervisor looking for a better deal. I went from being on a paid contract to overhead R&D four months ago, and was ignored when I raised concerns about the project not related to salary that now seem totally justified (see previous parenthetical).

                On the plus side, I’m to meet with my boss’s supervisor tomorrow morning to discuss working conditions after I raised the issue as part of escalating to try for a better settlement (getting the $1000+ they took back). Depending on how that goes, I might be willing to stick around, but given staffing problems I don’t expect much and am planning accordingly (job search).

                1. The Rules are Made Up*

                  This must be a VERY hard pill to swallow. It’s jarring. It’s a sticker shock. That’s all very reasonable. I think it’s important to remember that something sucking doesn’t mean someone is treating you unfairly (in the specific instance with the salary, not with all the other stuff). And just because it’s hard to adjust to and accept and is disappointing as hell doesn’t mean they’re doing something wrong to you (in the specific instance with the salary). And the other stuff definitely added to that frustration but like everyone else already said, you are now being paid what you were offered when you were hired.

                  Your pay went down in the sense that you will now get less than you were, but its not like they lied about the salary or offered you 75k in your offer letter but now, 2 years later told you that you now to make 65k just because they feel like it. They offered you 75k and you got 80. Going back to 75 after that sucks, and it’s okay to feel crappy about it. As long as you remember that this isn’t a punishment. It’s the correction of an error.

                2. Delphine*

                  It’s incredible to me that you’re fighting to get the three months of pay back that they’ve recovered instead of thanking your lucky stars that they haven’t asked you to repay everything you were overpaid. I appreciate the frustration, but you were being paid unfairly before. You should be relieved at how this has all turned out.

                  The only thing the company did wrong was pulling the three month repayment from a single paycheck without giving you a heads-up or working with you on another, staggered option.

  6. BetsCounts*

    LW#1, I feel for you. I regularly have to call the state or local tax board to discuss issues related to my clients and I am always SCRUPULOUSLY polite for your exact reasoning above. If possible, you might see if you can transfer to the line that is responsible for business taxes, rather than individuals- for businesses it is much more likely that their accountants are calling and they know what you are going through!
    Allison’s advice about chatting with your colleagues to see how they deal with the negativity from the public is a good one, but some people just can’t deal with being yelled at or harassed and it’s fine that you’re one of them!
    One suggestion for looking for other positions- your experience in government would make you a valuable part of any corporate tax department. Most large companies prepare their taxes in house, for income, property, and any other types. Good luck!

    1. Not sure of what to call myself*

      Yup, time to move to the other side. With your experience in the reviewing prepared taxes you should be able to move over to business and prepare them. Gamekeeper turned poacher.

  7. Smishy*

    LW1: I’m an auditor. In audit, your job is to find the things people did wrong and then report on them. I’ve had people yell at me, cry on me, threaten me, what have you. It is indeed part of the job. What you are doing is stressful to the people you are doing it to, even if you are as kind, respectful, and professional as possible and even if they did nothing wrong.

    Having to deal with upset people is the nature of the audit beast and it’s not a job for everyone. Luckily, there are PLENTY of accounting jobs that aren’t auditing and accountants are very much in demand. You should be easily able to pretty easily transition to something else if audit isn’t for you and there’s a LOT of people in the field who will be fully willing to respect it if you say you’re making the move because it wasn’t for you, because anyone who has done it knows it’s hard.

    1. BigBodyBill*

      I agree 100%! I mentioned this in my post LW1, but the job they are currently in is definitely not for them. I think what would be good for them are 1) internal auditing since she now has audit experience or 2) accounting analyst roles, which are in very high demand!

    2. Natalie*

      For whatever it’s worth, this isn’t even my experience with external auditors as an in-house accountant! I’ve always had a neutral-to-positive relationship with auditors, and I don’t think it had to be adversarial at all. (Although I’ve worked with a few people that thought having to explain anything ever to the auditor was some kind of huge failing.)

      In general, I think OP will find much better working conditions in B2B or in-house positions, whether they stay in tax or not. And I hope you start looking now, OP! It’s a really strong job market out there for accountants (we have to make people offers incredibly quickly lest we lose them to another job) so you should be able to find something less yelling-filled quickly.

      1. Hamish*

        Yeah, I think business audit and government audit of individual taxes are entirely different beasts when it comes to customer interaction. I’ve been an external auditor of public companies and probably the worst interactions I had were with internal staff who were annoyed at the extra work I was making them do to get records for me or verify the number of widgets on shelf 33B.

        I wouldn’t recommend going into public audit, though. It’s a miserable and overworked profession. Extremely stressful for reasons other than client interactions. (And I’m not sure how much the skills would translate anyway… they’re both “audit” but…)

      2. Smishy*

        Oh for sure, an audit doesn’t HAVE to be adversarial. There’s people in the world who are capable of being audited and remaining adults about it who treat people with respect and know you’re just doing your job. But it nonetheless is a job with a much higher chance you’ll have someone melt down on you because there can be some very real negative repercussions for people and people get worried about those.

      3. Elizabeth Bennett*

        Same – I’ve had neutral-to-positive relationships with auditors as in the only in-house accountant. I treat them as guests (coffee, water, workspace, office supplies) and view them as checking my work to show me how I can do better (albeit some people are better at giving constructive criticism than others). I made it a game to clear an audit with flying colors.

    3. Venus*

      There are also auditing companies who review businesses that request it, and that seems to involve teams of auditors so there would be some protection from the group. I’m thinking of condos with property management that get a yearly audit, and I’m sure there are many more. There are also internal auditors for some really big companies.

      If OP1 wants to move to something different then there are many options that take advantage of their current experience, and even more in accounting overall. It’s time to see what else is out there!

      1. Hamish*

        Having worked in external audit, if OP had problems managing their stress levels, I would very strongly discourage them from a move in to external audit. It is awful.

    4. Nicotene*

      I agree, audits by nature are extremely stressful and somewhat adversarial, I can’t think of too many other jobs with that degree of pressure (probation officer??). I’m sure OP can find calmer roles for their accounting skills.

    5. Not trying to be rude, just good at it*

      One of my first jobs out of college was working for an accounting firm that did federal audits to determine if public agencies were doing egregious things with government money. These were cursory audits, not serious in-depth audits and would usually keep me on site for 2 or 3 days.
      Often, I was treated poorly. I would tell the people that the worse they treated me, the longer I would have to stay and the more in-depth the audit would entail. Suddenly, everybody was very nice and accommodating.

      These agencies were either unbelievably honest, or very good at hiding wrong doings. It was a great 2 years with so many great stories, but all good things come to an end and the government contract ended (don’t know why/above my pay grade) and I moved onto new adventures.

  8. Irene*

    This is a bit dark, but I once went on an excellent management course & I remember being told: “graveyards are full of people who thought they were indispensable”. I understand being conscientious & feeling responsible for a great deal. But I also made myself seriously ill by not taking care of myself properly. So listening to your body & taking the time to take care of yourself and recover is a serious matter.

    1. Burnt Out on The Coast*

      It is dark but I agree. LW #5 needs to take the PTO the way they need it.

      And I don’t know their situation but if it’s anything like mine, they don’t want to look back and regret it. I have routinely built up PTO. I’m always at the point of almost losing it because I dedicated myself to keeping the department running smoothly. Even the days I took PTO, I was usually around a phone or computer. But I too was hoping for a promotion. Previous people in my position were given the chance to move up. So I was happy with the burden.

      Spoiler alert: I did not get the promotion. By the time my boss left their job to move to be closer to where they grew up, the culture had changed from one that fostered growth opportunities for employees to one that almost always looked externally to fill rolls.

      It leaves me trying to figure out a new boss and afraid to take PTO because I still know more about what the public expects from our department. I’m afraid of any potential blow back I could get from not being around for the two or three week break I need should something hit the fan and my new boss not know how to handle specific customers. A reasonable boss wouldn’t blame me; I don’t know if they’re a reasonable boss yet.

    2. Allonge*

      Yes, honestly – it’s so easy to get the feeling that I, Personally Am Responsible for the success and failure of everything and arrive at a situation where even half a day off is impossible and too much.

      LW5, I know it feels like it’s impossible to take time off, but please do anyway. Burnout is a serious thing that only ever gets worse if you ignore it or try to push through. In the end, you may get to a place where you have to take months off, just to be able to function again. Taking time now is the only way to prevent that.

      The skill to take time for yourself is also like a muscle: you need to exercise it and it gets stronger. (Yes, I know not everyone has adequate leave, but still).

      See what taking a week off can do for you. Then do it again.

      1. Nicotene*

        Also honestly sometimes it’s easier to plan for a whole month off than for scattered weeks here and there. We handle it for parental leave at the office and it works out. Maybe you can identify the lowest month of activity for these other commitments (it might well be December) and just use it for a total re-set this year.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        And planning in advance to take multiple weeks off in a row could be the best thing for those projects: you’ll have to rejigger them so that they are not 100% dependent on only you, even if they really were in the first place. It’s not sustainable for any department or project to depend on one single person busting their ass for its success or failure, so now would be the opportunity to make it into something besides a tent held up by a single pole. If you can rework it for a vacation that you know is coming, you won’t have to wish that you had done so if an emergency comes up that you didn’t know was coming.

    3. Emi*

      This reminds me of a line I heard about the Apollo Program, that if you want to know how much it really cost you have to visit the graveyards and the divorce archives around Houston.

      1. Generic Name*

        OMG seriously. I recall one of the principals at my company discussing health and safety with respect to COVID at the beginning of the pandemic. He was telling employees that if a project didn’t get done or didn’t get done on time because of precautions needed for employee health, it wasn’t the end of the world. He said something along the lines of, “we’re not doctors and lives are not at stake if we have to push back or cancel some fieldwork.” and I really appreciated that perspective. Sure, the client or the company may lose some money, but that’s not what’s most important in the grand scheme of things. OP, I assume that nobody will die if your projects aren’t successful. I hate to be so dramatic, but you keep saying you CAN’T take time off, and I wonder what the consequences actually will be if you take time off. What if the worst thing that happened is that something simply didn’t get done? And what if that’s okay?

    4. CCSF*

      My first job out of college was in retail management and my store manager told me this as we were preparing for inventory: “If you’re hit by a bus on the way in that day, we will all be sad and people will cry, but we’ll still take inventory that day. Make sure your maps and notes are clearly labeled and able to be read by someone else.” I’ve repeated it many times in the past 20 years. In that situation, I think I was merely incapacitated at the hospital, but it’s the same concept.

      I have a surgery coming up at the end of April, and although the surgery itself is long, invasive, and not routine/scary–I’m legitimately looking forward to the 3-6 weeks off work I’ll have to recover.

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      As my mother always says, nobody’s going to give you an award for working yourself to death.

  9. Ludo*

    I’ve been working a job that I hate the past year (sticking with it for now because it’s full time work from home and we’re in a pandemic) and the only thing getting me through has been taking one or two Fridays off a month.

    That means I can’t take a week or more off at once, but man the 3 day weekends save me

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      Those 4 day weeks for no reason are nice – my birthday fell on my Monday this year so yeah I took it off. My boss didn’t work on my Friday so it was more pleasant to take the first day of the week off.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I like Mondays off better than Fridays because I like coming back from the time off and feeling like “thank goodness I only have to work 4 days this week.”

    2. Dan*

      I have a job I actually like, and 3 day weekends *still* save me.

      At my last job, we went from a schedule where you had to work 80 hours across two weeks to one where you had to work 40 in one week. While that comes out the same on paper, in practice, that takes away *lots* of flexibility in schedule. (For most people, these were IC roles where the precise work days and hours don’t matter.)

      Let me me tell you… the fastest way to piss off staff and make them quit is cutting their pay. Second is cutting schedule flexibility.

      To this day, I’m not sure why they thought that was a smart business move. They weren’t saving any money. (How do I know? Because the job I moved on to keeps an 80/2 schedule. And since we’re a non profit, you can bet if there was money to be saved with work schedules, they’d find a way to do it.)

      1. UKDancer*

        Long weekends are great. I definitely feel more rested when I take them and I like my job.

        I’m so happy it’s Easter coming up because we get the Friday and the Monday off. Not that there’s anywhere to go or anything to do much with lockdown but it’s nice having 2 shorter weeks.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I get a long weekend as well. My coworker gets a 10-day vacation and uses only 4 vacation days because he’s on vacation this week.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          I totally forgot Easter was coming up this weekend until I updated the dry erase calendar on the fridge this morning. What a wonderful surprise to find out I’m only working 3 1/2 days this week instead of the full 5! And the weather is going to be perfect for hiking too. I am stoked to get more trail time than originally expected!!

    3. BubbleTea*

      I love my job but it is emotionally hard, and I use time off this way too. It’s made trickier by the fact I have a side job on Saturdays, so I only get two full days in a row off by either using PTO or sacrificing a day’s pay from the side job. Taking a single day off next to some public holidays works well – I’m taking one side job day off over the Easter weekend which gives me four clear days free!

      One day off is a nice way to catch up on home errands and sleep in a bit, but it takes several days before I have fully switched off from work. I try to take one week each quarter.

    4. Beth Jacobs*

      I had some vacation left for 2020 that would not transfer. I made all my weekends in Nov and Dec three day weekends! Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t take a proper vacation somewhere, but those Fridays and Mondays were spent sleeping late, going to the park with my baby nephew and watching HBO. I absolutely loved it and might actually do it on purpose once the pandemic ends.

      1. Jay*

        For the last few years, I’ve taken two one-week vacations each year and used the rest of my PTO for long weekends. Since I don’t work Wednesdays (and man oh man did that make a HUGE difference for me), a Friday off gives me a week that feels really short. I love it.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I did that at one point too! In fact my colleague was on maternity leave and her replacement wasn’t very confident, so I suggested taking several Fridays off instead of a whole week, she was very grateful for that.
        Then later when I wanted to change my hours to work longer days and then always have Friday off (because I found that I never left on time anyway so I was doing a lot of – unpaid – overtime) and the boss said it wouldn’t work because Friday was often our busiest day, I was able to point to that period and ask whether there were any problems – there weren’t, so grand boss overrode my boss’s objections.

    5. Foxy Hedgehog*

      I was going to suggest the same thing, but with 4-day weekends.

      Take off a Friday and a Monday–it’s like having 2 weekends in a row, plus you have back-to-back 4-day weeks. I find it to be a great way to recharge but without using too many of my PTO days, which I like saving for one longer vacation late in the year.

      Obviously everybody’s way of recharging is different, and this might not work for you, but I find 4-day weekends to be perfect for a short time away from work.

    6. Ali G*

      Another great strategy: summer hours! Soon I’ll be starting my summer hours where I work an extra 3-4 hours Mon-Thurs and then my weekend starts around 1 pm on Friday. It really stretches the weekend without using PTO.

  10. Phil*

    I think it varies from person to person, how much break they need and when. I personally take a week or two here and there, and tend to keep my accrued leave balance around 2.5 to 3 weeks (we get 4 weeks of annual leave and 2 weeks sick leave per year). Other people I’ve worked with will just power through the whole year and take 4 weeks off in one hit for a super-vacation. I’ve never really seen anyone in the latter camp show signs of burnout, but for me, working nearly the whole year without break would probably drive me nuts.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, me too, although because I’m in Europe and have a lot of vacation days, I’ll typically take 4 weeks off in the summer, preferably 4 consecutive weeks, and shorter vacations at other times of the year.

      1. Juniper*

        Ditto — Like Alison said, it’s only at the end of my 4 weeks that I start to feel like I’m really starting to unplug. Where I live (also Europe) it’s actually the law that employees have to have at least 3 consecutive weeks off.

        1. Artemesia*

          We used to do a two week summer vacation to the beach with your young kids. It as not until week two that I began to feel relaxed. I think the longest break you can do is the way to go, but at least 2 weeks and preferably 3.

        2. Overeducated*

          Wow, as a US person who accrues a bit less than 4 weeks of vacation time a year (and has never taken more than 8 days consecutively), this is almost unimaginable to me. But I am very good at detaching from work at the end of the workday.

  11. BigBodyBill*

    LW1 There are so many different kinds of jobs out there for people with accounting degrees. Tax accounting doesn’t seem to be the area that fits you best. Many times, colleges push graduates towards accounting firms because those firms are the ones they work with for internships. But, there is a whole world out there just waiting to grab people like you. Look into different fields, specifically any accounting ANALYST positions. In general, most accounting analysts do not work in customer service. The utility industry is constantly looking for accounting analysts, and they pay very well. Those normally have no interaction with the public and are suited for people with your personality and skill set. Also, you now have experience in auditing so look for internal audit positions — no interaction with external customers. Heck, you can even apply for analyst positions with the FBI. They hire a lot of accountants due to ability to analyze data. Please do not feel like you have to be in the tax field. When I graduated from college, I was pushed towards working for one of the big 4, but I knew I was not suited for that kind of work. It took some time, but I found work as a cost accountant in manufacturing. I worked that job for 3 years, and then my dream job fell into my lap. I’ve been in that job for almost 14 years and never been happier. Be patient, and shop around. I wish you the best of luck!!!

    1. Moos*

      One of the beauty of the industry is that you can even find remote work and work from home if the company would allow it. Dealing with bosses and co-workers are much more manageable and can expect decency from them at least.

      1. BigBodyBill*

        Yes, absolutely. I went to mandatory WFH March 2020, and I haven’t been back to my office since then. It took some adapting because of my personality, but I love it now. Once mandatory WFH is lifted (likely June 1st), my company is likely going to allow us to choose whether or not we want to make it permanent since productivity has increased. I say that to say that in our profession, WFH is the future so LW1 can find that in their search fairly easily; especially as an analyst for a large company.

    2. Professor Moriarty*

      Yesss, I went straight into and trained in in house accounting for larger companies and I love it. Vast majority internal stakeholders and any external folk I deal with are usually working for us.

      1. BigBodyBill*

        Absolutely! Interaction with the public is considered abnormal in my current role, and depending on the circumstances, I very well could get into trouble with my company for doing it.

      2. Lacey*

        Yup, I’m not an accountant, but when we all worked in an office I worked right next to the accounting office. They always seemed like a very happy, chill bunch of people – probably because they never deal with clients.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      As an analyst, I wish there were more accountants/financial gurus that became analysts. I stay far away from financial analytics because it is an entirely different world from business analytics. My head nearly exploded the first time someone tried to explain accruals to me.
      And there really is a need for financial analysts. There still is a lot of pressure from the C Suite, but it isn’t dealing with screaming customers.

  12. Not sure of what to call myself*

    LW2 there are two issues to think about.

    You were overpaid. Your company handled it both badly and well at the same time. It was bad to tell you that you wouldn’t have to pay it all back then take $1,000 away the next week. And is was INCREDIBLY generous not to ask for the other 10k+back. I wonder if the person who told you that you wouldn’t have to pay it back knew that the company didn’t chase overpayment from prior years? It was unfortunate that you had to pay $1,000 in one pay period and it would have been nicer to agree a repayment plan with you, but it wasn’t your money to keep.

    You seem angry you are now getting paid less money to do your job, but if you can take a step back and think about it clearly, you are now getting paid the amount you agreed to be paid for doing your job.

    When you start a new job you get used to having a certain amount of money each period for a certain amount of work. The overpayment has warped your view of what you are due to be paid for the amount if work you do. I think you need to try and reset your expectations, and since this had been going on for so long, perhaps also reset your budget too.

    I know this will be hard, but if you look at it from your companies perspective, you are being paid the agreed amount (after getting to keep thousands you didn’t earn) and yet you seem belligerent and ungrateful. The company didn’t handle it well, but now you are handling it badly too. The company has corrected it from their side, you need to correct yours, by accepting your agreed pay rate and moving on. It may be hard to accept but you need to do that if you don’t want to sour your relationship and reputation at your company.

    It sucks when you have to repay an overpayment but try to look on the bright side, you have been given a free 10k+ which a lot of companies would have tried to reclaim also.

    1. Kiwiapple*

      + 1 to all this.
      Also OP, if you’re not happy about your pay and worth then you will likely need to start job hunting to get that payrise.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      This is a much better wording of what I was thinking. OP2 needs to “frame challenge” the internal narrative she has about this, and separate out some of the issues here. It’s unfortunate that the salary error was discovered and corrected at a time of increased workload and people leaving etc but I highly doubt it’s a “message from management” for OP to reconsider working for the company (although she may want to and I wouldn’t blame her!).

      It isn’t a pay “cut” – well, I mean technically it is, but it’s a reversion back to what the pay ought to have been all along. I’m not sure what OP thinks the alternative is — it’s unclear what she has tried to ‘escalate’, what decision does she want to be changed and what would that outcome look like?

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        This is what I was thinking, too. OP brought the error to management’s attention – not the other way around. I’m not sure what she expected to happen? The $1000 hit off the bat was, IMO, a bad move on the company’s part. They should have spoken to OP and split it maybe over 4 checks, 10 checks, whatever. But the overpayment isn’t a pay “cut” – it’s rebalancing back to where she should have been all along, with $10k extra.

        I would, however, check to make sure they kept any raises OP did earn as her base pay, and didn’t just reset it to the rate you were hired at.

    3. Legalchef*

      The way the letter is written is a little confusing, but I read it to mean that she was only “short” money in that the paycheck was adjusted down to what it should have been all along, not that they took any extra money as repayment.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, I’m a bit confused about this. Was the $1,000 an adjustment for the current pay period, or was it cumulative money owed that they took back on one adjustment?

        Either way, OP’s salary wasn’t decreased by $10,000. It was adjusted to what they originally agreed to when they took the job. And the company was generous in not making them pay back the overpayments.

        Also, this is why people need to check their pay statements when they get hired, take a new position, get a promotion, etc. Even check it randomly “just because.” Payroll makes mistakes. Even employees make mistakes in filling out paperwork or changing selections online in their HR/payroll system. Had OP checked at least once, I’m guessing they would have caught it much earlier and this wouldn’t have happened. At least not at this magnitude.

        1. Willis*

          Yes! Ten percent is an amount that should be noticeable if you check your pay stubs. What if this had been an underpayment? I know some of the taxes on a paystub may be hard to check, but gross pay should be easy enough.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I’ve known people who made a beeline to HR and/or Payroll if their paycheck summary showed small changes – new benefits enrollments, 401k contributions, withholdings, etc. I guess I’m a little surprised that people don’t check their paystubs, if only to confirm everything is accurate.

            1. Not sure of what to call myself*

              You would be shocked at some things that happen. People treat money in different ways. I’ve seem people querying the rounding on pay slips to the nearest penny and yet I knew of a contractor who didn’t put in an invoice for 14 months then put in the backlog in one claim. His manager had missed it and so got a heck of a shock when his budget was blown by the invoices.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            From what the letter says, it doesn’t even seem to be the taxes–it’s the hourly rate and shift differential. Those are typically clearly labeled line items. My husband sometimes works third shift and these are line items. So OP didn’t need to calculate taxes, just check the hourly rate.

        2. Hamish*

          Yes. I work in tax and it’s amazing to me how many people don’t realize there’s something wacky (even just very low tax withheld) going on with their paychecks until I’ve done their taxes. It’s mind-boggling to me.

          1. 1234*

            But how would you even know if there’s too little tax withheld on your paycheck? I don’t think the general public knows exactly how much should be withheld to see if an amount is “too low?”

            1. Hamish*

              I’ve had single people making $60,000 have no tax withheld. I’ve also had single people who make $100k in one year and have $20k withheld, and then make $200k the next year and only have $22k withheld. I’m not talking small “let’s get this as exact as possible so you don’t owe or get a refund” amounts.

              Or, here in Ohio where almost every city has a municipal tax, they’ll be working in Cleveland and not have any Cleveland tax withheld, then get annoyed when they owe tax to Cleveland. That’s a very common one.

            2. KX*

              We get direct deposit (which only shows net), and to see our actual stub we have to logon to the company intranet; they don’t mail them to us. It’s very easy to not do. Not a good excuse but still.

              I notice immediately when I am paid something different because I’ve had years of paychecks. But if they’d screwed up the first one and all the others were broken the same way? It could be hard to catch.

        3. Not sure of what to call myself*

          I read it as the 1000 was a one off YTD adjustment, assuming the letter was written in late Feb or early March. Ad the salary going forward would be the agreed true rate.

          And I think everyone should be checking payslips a couple of times a year. There are some good salary calculators out there which allow you to work out what you should be getting (well there are for UK salaries so assuming there is for other countries), so there is no reason not to know. Its how I caught and corrected an error last year before it got too big and painful to correct.

          1. Hamish*

            Unfortunately there aren’t really calculators like that for the USA, our taxes are too complicated. I used to work in the UK and I miss! There are really too many moving part to have something like that in the US and it be accurate.

            1. Daisy-dog*

              There is an IRS calculator that shows how much will come out based on completing the W-4. You do need to know what your gross pay will be minus your section 125 & 401k deductions. It’s called Income Tax Withholding Assistant for Employers on the IRS website.

            2. Me*

              There are calculators for the US. I have one that I’ve used regularly.

              No it’s not going to calculate any deductions and credits you might take when you file your tax refund, but it will calculate your paycheck based on state and federal income tax, other payroll deductions like benefits, and the deductions you take.

            3. Natalie*

              Oh, I disagree! There are pretty good paycheck calculators out there, the problem is that you have to have a lot of information available for the inputs. Garbage in/garbage out.

              I’ll also take this opportunity to plug the IRS’s W4 calculator. Particularly with the new W4 form, if you’re confused and annoyed by it grab some paystubs and 30 minutes and it will tell you exactly what to do.

              1. Hamish*

                >the problem is that you have to have a lot of information available for the inputs. Garbage in/garbage out.

                Ha, I think that this is why I just default to not trusting them whatsoever; I’m an accountant and my clients are constantly giving me garbage information. It’s hard for me to imagine people using these calculators accurately. But, maybe people who do have enough knowledge also don’t use accountants to file their taxes.

                1. Natalie*

                  Indeed, I think it can be legitimately confusing! Especially if you have unusual benefits that are exempt from income tax but not payroll tax or other oddball items.

      2. Damn it, Hardison!*

        That’s how I read the letter as well. It totally sucks to suddenly find your paycheck $1000 less than before, but what else was the company going to do? They aren’t asking you to pay back the extra they paid you, so consider yourself lucky in that respect.

      3. Colette*

        Here’s how I read it:
        – the OP was asked to adjust her time cards back to the beginning of the year (January) and was told there’d likely be an adjustment
        – she was also told she probably wouldn’t have to repay anything
        – she then didn’t have to repay the overpayment from the previous years but they took the overpayment from 2021 off her next paycheque.

        The only thing the company did wrong (other than messing up her pay in the first place) was not warning her that they were going to take the overpayment off her next cheque and explaining specifically what they’d be taking and why.

        1. Willis*

          I can see how the company may think they did tell her. It sounds like the dept dealing with the current year (timekeeping) had her fix the timecards and told her to expect an adjustment, meaning based on the updated timecards for 2021 and going forward. And the depts dealing with the past year stuff (payroll/HR) said she wouldn’t have to repay those amounts and she hasn’t.

          It would have been better if they were more explicit and let her know how much would be clawed back and when, with some options to take it back over a few pay periods if needed.

          But I’m kind of confused what the OP thought would happen? The company isn’t likely to give a raise just because of this mistake, and it would be weirdly unfair to other employees there.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I read “there would likely be an adjustment” to mean “we’re going to take back some of the money we overpaid you”, but I don’t think the OP did. Even if she did, the company should have been clear about what they were going to do instead of just taking it off one cheque.

          2. joss*

            The one thing that has caught my attention, which no one has addressed yet, is that LW was requested to correct her timecards for this year. That, to me at least, looks like LW has been coding her timecards incorrectly until now. So at least part of the problem (from my POV) lies with the LW. The other part lies with the person who signs off on the timecards for not auditing those entries better.

            Be that as it may, she received the “bonus” of not having to repay previous years overpayments and now will no longer receive that extra money

    4. Person from the Resume*

      I agree while acknowledging at the same time, it will be difficult. The LW was unaware that she was getting the extra pay windfall. She went about her life spending and saving based on this being accurate. She may have to have to downsize her lifestyle. If she got an $10,000 annual overpayment that’s about $200 extra a week and would be a seeming “loss” of $800 a month. And her paychecks will be extra short until the 2021 correction repayments are made. That hurts.

      It will be hard to reframe, but if the LW can’t reframe she needs to job hunt. The company is paying her less than she got used to over the last 2 years or so, but it paying her the amount agreed to when she started.

      If she’s bitter about making less for more work and vocal about it, she will seem out of touch. Other people and the company will say that she’s lucky they’re not going after more of the overpayment. She got an unexpected windfall. They don’t see or feel that she is quite likely forced to cut her own spending quite significantly because of this.

      1. Hamish*

        >The LW was unaware that she was getting the extra pay windfall. She went about her life spending and saving based on this being accurate.

        I don’t have a lot of sympathy because of this part. If $10k a year will make this much of a difference to your lifestyle, as it would for many of us – how do you not realize that you’re getting so much more than you were told when you were hired? OP never looked at their paystubs and realized that the gross pay was $833/month higher than it was supposed to be? Where I live, that’s an entire monthly mortgage payment…

        1. Spearmint*

          I think many people just look at the amount that is deposited into their bank account, and if that’s what you’re doing it would be easy to assume that if the amount looks weird it’s probably something to do with withholding or benefits.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I notice changes (i.e. my paycheck went up/down by $100, what happened?) but I never calculated what I should have been getting when I started the job.

          2. Hamish*

            I mean… okay, but at that point you kind of need to accept that you aren’t really being responsible or knowledgeable about your finances. Which, fair enough! But if something looks weird and you just make an assumption that it’s “something to do with withholding” and go on without checking into it, then don’t get mad when it turns out you were wrong.

          3. MCMonkeybean*

            I really hope the people in this thread will start doing more than just looking at the amount deposited in their bank account in the future after reading about this.

            This particular scenario is probably an outlier, but there is always room for human error in payroll and everyone should definitely look at what they are getting when they start a new job and make sure that is in line with what you agreed!

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          My company gives a discount on insurance if you participate in an online “wellness” type program. The discount is $40 per month, so about $20 per paycheck and you receive it if in the previous quarter you earned enough “points” on the program. I failed to meet the point quote one time and even with my perfectly decent salary I definitely noticed the impact of losing that discount on my paycheck.

          So I have to agree I am having a very difficult time imagining how anyone could possibly not notice getting overpaid by an amount that significant.

      1. agnes*

        +1 I meant this meaning “not sure what to call myself”‘s post. Yes, it is a hard pill to swallow, but you are getting a gift not having to pay back almost 10K. My company would most definitely make you pay it back. It sounds like the communication was not clear, and that’s something maybe you can discuss for the future.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      Timekeeping told me to do labor corrections for my timecards going back to the start of the year and that there would likely be an adjustment, but didn’t give details on how that would work, with corrections further back to be hashed out by payroll and HR. I was not a part of any of the discussions on how this would be sorted out, but HR told me it was unlikely I’d have to pay back anything.

      Several days later, my paycheck was short over $1,000, with an indication that this was due to the corrections I had been instructed to make. Additionally, my hourly rate on the salary had been reduced to line up with what base pay should be. They tell me they won’t pursue making me pay back the 2020 overpayment (which was nearly $10,000).

      I also see a miscommunication here because of technical language the layperson may not understand which is unfortunate. The LW needs to do a lot of reframing. She should also reframe to acknowledge that she was told what would happen only it was not done clearly and she misunderstood. That’s not great, but it’s a miscommunication or misunderstanding and not malicious.

      Timekeeping was going to handle the 2021 correction, and they said that there would be an adjustment. That is them saying the company will take back the 2021 overpayment. IMO once they determined how they were going to do it and they should have given the LW a heads up about what was coming, but they did say that the LW would owe the company the overpayment back. And the LW should not be at all surprised that her pay now accurately reflects the correct non-shift differential hourly wage. Did the LW get the impression that the company was just going to keep paying her the higher wage? Does the LW think she should be getting the higher wage because of long nights and weekend work?

      The 2019 and 2020 overpayments were to be handled by payroll and HR who accurately told the LW that the company is not pursuing those overpayments.

      1. twocents*

        Yes, in hindsight, it’s an excellent learning opportunity to go “I made assumptions here that I should have clarified.” Not to sound like I’m ragging on LW, but you can only control yourself. If she thought there was conflicting information, instead of assuming it would also just sort itself out, she should have asked. And now she knows for the next kerfuffle to explicitly confirm understanding.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        I agree, I thought that even from what the OP described in their own recollection of events thought it sounded like the communication from the company seemed fine and that the events that rolled out sound perfectly in line with what OP was told to expect.

    6. Daisy-dog*

      Yes, it was very unfortunate that they did not tell you that the overpayment would be taken all at once. I process payroll and I always allow employees to pick how many pay periods they need to pay back any overpayment issues (it cannot go outside of the tax year).

      But another way to look at it OP – your company did not budget for you to get paid $10,000 extra. They would have had to adjust their budgets to accommodate this. This might mean issues with completing the necessary work which would make the company extra money (and maybe allow for salary increases in the future). If you feel you are under-paid now, that is a different issue.

      Everyone: Always, always, always check your pay stubs. I would recommend that you look at it at least once a quarter, but more often if you are making changes.

    7. TWW*

      For me, the “agreed upon” pay doesn’t really mean much.

      When I evaluate whether or not I’m being compensated well for my job, I take a big-picture look: “Is my bank account trending up or down?” If it’s going up, everything must be fine.

      I know I should be carefully tracking all my income and expenditures, but I don’t like doing that and I don’t have to, so I don’t.

      Let’s say for the last several years, my savings have increased by about $5k/year. If I suddenly realized that trend was about to reverse (even if nobody’s fault), that would most certainly light a fire under me to get a new job.

      1. twocents*

        I think “am I making a comfortable amount of money” is a fundamentally different question from “am I being paid appropriately for my work?”

        1. TWW*

          They are different questions, but one is answerable, and the other (for some people) in unanswerable.

          I have no idea if I’m being payed appropriately for my work, and there no good way to determine that. I can’t compare my pay to other people doing the same job because my job is unique. And I can’t calculate how much I contribute to my employer’s bottom line–those numbers don’t exist and I wouldn’t have access to them if they did.

          However, I can easily answer question “am I making a comfortable amount of money?” Can I afford the things I want with a little left over? Yes. After work do I have enough time and energy to enjoy those things? Yes.

          If I suddenly discovered that I would need to cut back my annual expenses by $10k (or start working regular overtime), that would change my answer from yes to no.

          1. Willis*

            But presumably you take that stuff into account before you accept a job/salary, right? You don’t just take a job and then leave it to chance if it will pay you enough to meet your requirements. Likewise, if you agreed on a salary but then they kept shorting your check, you wouldn’t say, well that’s fine if you still had enough to enjoy your life.

            If OP doesn’t want to do this job based on the agreed upon salary, she should quit and/or look for new work. But her idea that the company is being unfair by paying her what they both agreed to is rather silly.

            1. TWW*

              I think we agree, the company is being fair in how they’re handling the situation, and OP should look for another job.

              I guess my points are that OP isn’t unreasonable in how she’s feeling, and OP’s employer shouldn’t be the surprised when she resigns.

              To your point about taking into account pay and expenses when you accept a position, in my experience, it’s that that easy. When I took my current job, it was at a significantly lower rate than my previous one, but for various reasons it was my best option. I did my best to calculate if it would be sufficient, and my conclusion was that I might just be able to make it work if I really scrimped.

              But I didn’t really have good data to put into that calculation: I didn’t know exactly how much a 60-mile commute would cost (figuring gas use was possible, but tires, brakes and insurance not so easy). I didn’t know how low I could get my grocery bill (I’ve heard rice and beans are cheap, but no idea how much I could stand to eat). I knew I could save money by using less electricity and water, but no idea if I could save 10% or 50%. All these small unknowns added up to a huge uncertainty.

              As it turns out, after several months I discovered my bank account growing, so I relaxed a little–more varied diet, extra degree on the thermostat, Christmas presents, etc. After a couple of years I’ve grown comfortable with the new lifestyle.

              If I discovered my comfortable life was due to a clerical error and I had to go back to rice-and-beans every day (even though that’s what I originally planned on), that would be such a blow to my moral I can’t image any amount of “reframing” would make me happily accept my fate.

              1. LW#2*

                Exactly the boat I’m in. For the first time ever, I started saving for retirement, putting a huge chunk into a savings account also. I started thinking about all the things I could do now that I had the means instead of worrying over the next rent payment or food on the table. Now I’m having to cut expenses, thinking about the years it will take to get back to the income I literally had last paycheck. I think about how many years I’ve bounced in and out of this profession, coming back because the money kept me afloat when passion didn’t, and wonder if any of it was worth it. Outside of work and family, I have nothing, and so to have my work devalued by an administrative kerfuffle that I myself brought up (feeling foolish about that now), it hurts beyond the pocketbook. I’ve been less engaged and feeling ill used lately, and to have the people I trusted with my financial wellbeing take a huge swipe of my income away abruptly, I can’t “reframe” that as something positive, I might never be able to. I’m an all or nothing sort of person, for good and bad, and what’s reasonable depends on perspective, so I likely have to look elsewhere to be made whole again.

                1. Delphine*

                  It wasn’t your income to begin with. Your work was being unfairly overvalued, it is not being devalued now. You are not a victim here, you’re the beneficiary of an an incredibly lucky couple of years where you made more money than you were offered.

                  Imagine how it would look to your coworkers to find out you’d been getting an extra $10k per year, were not being asked to pay it back, and would continue to receive the $10k going forward even though it wasn’t in line with your job.

            2. LavaLamp*

              I do look at my pay stubs, but as an hourly worker with no set schedule they fluctuate A LOT. At my old company, someone somewhere used my information to deduct money for a life insurance policy for my nonexistent spouse and child. I had all the insurance offered to me, and was use to seeing a bunch of line items so I assumed it was something I signed up for until I got an email asking for my nonexistent families social security numbers. My company ended up paying me back over 1000$ of deductions, and I think someone got in a lot of trouble because they never should’ve been able to do that without the information to begin with. My coworkers all double checked their information too, and I got teased about what other family I was hiding from them for a few weeks, but at least they payed me back.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        That is definitely not a big-picture look and to be honest sounds like a very ineffective and short-term way to budget!

        1. TWW*

          At age 45, it’s been the way I’ve tuned my level of spending/saving to match my income for my entire adult life. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s worked for me so far.

  13. cncx*

    I feel OP1 in my soul. The early part of my career was working as a legal secretary in some big shot law firms, so the law people here can guess how much anger and yelling I got for not being a mind reader, for being the person who happened to be there at the time, for existing.
    Ultimately I liked the work and stayed, but as i got into my thirties i realized i was too old to be yelled at, or, at least not yelled at for stuff that wasn’t my fault.
    There are so many accounting jobs that are more chill, have less urgency and drama- it may be that the particular field of tax is not what you want, but that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute somewhere else.

  14. Bookworm*

    OP1: I feel this. I worked in a few customer service-heavy positions at the start of my career and hated it. I’ve made it a point to be in jobs that don’t require that type of facing (even with internal “customers”!) job and it’s definitely a relief for me. It’s not for everyone and that’s ok.

    There are lots of people who thrive in those types of jobs and like talking to people and don’t mind that the yelling is part of whatever job they are doing. Bless them, because I still remember some of the most pissy clients, customers and the like. Good luck!

  15. LKW*

    LW1 – All of the comments around yelling and appropriate behavior are great but I’m concerned about the statement you made that your anxiety grows ‘ When they outright disagree with me “. People are going to disagree with you and you have to find a mental place where you are ok with that. At that time all you can do is say “Well, I’ve said my piece and what I believe the ramifications will be.” Then follow it up with an email “Per our discussion, I’m advising X because the consequence will be Y and the penalty /outcome could be as severe as Z”

    Disagreements will happen, even if your coworkers are the kindest, sweetest, politest, most professional people in the world. You will need to learn how to deal with disagreements productively.

    1. Claire*

      I agree, but there is a big difference between the occasional disagreement with a coworker and nonstop disagreements with clients! When LW1 gets into a role where they don’t have to deal with conflict all the time, they’ll probably be able to manage it much more easily.

      1. LKW*

        I agree- what you’re describing is toxic and unproductive. What OP1 described was a non-confrontational, but direct, disagreement that leaves the OP unable to function for the day. I think that’s an extreme reaction.

        Disagreement, especially in gray areas is a great way to find the best solution for a problem. If everyone agrees then you get group think; nothing is challenged and nothing really changes. You may end up with a solution that doesn’t factor in complex realities. If you have a group that disagrees but can work together to find a compromise, you get a solution that may not meet all needs but hopefully satisfies most, within a realistic framework.

        Disagreement shouldn’t be viewed as something negative, it should be viewed as a difference of perspective. If you’re working with clients (internal or external) then you can explain your rationale and if the client is the decision maker, make sure they understand the options and the consequences of the options.

        One important step is confirming all parties have the same goal. Whatever those goals are, make sure you get agreement on the outcome first.

    2. MassMatt*

      I am wondering whether the disagreements and arguments etc are partly stemming from the fact that the LW lacks confidence and clients are picking up on this. Some customers smell fear and jump at the chance to argue, especially if you are telling them something they don’t want to hear. Also, if you are a professional they have hired, sounding unconfident undermines their trust in what you are saying.

      I spent years as a supervisor to people in a somewhat similar field in a call center environment, sounding authoritative (not a pompous jerk–but someone who knows what they are talking about) was essential to success.

      Dealing with irate people is part of the territory in doing any kind of customer-service type role. If you can’t make your peace with that there are undoubtedly many different ways to use your skills that focus less on customer service.

  16. Rebecca*

    OP#1 – you said you have a lovely manager and excellent benefits, did you talk to your manager about this? Years ago, as part of the customer service work I did, we were tasked with A/R reconciliation and collection calls, and along with that, making calls to pry money out of an A/P department’s hands. Some of my coworkers reacted in a similar way as you, but there were several of us with thick skin who made/took the calls, dealt with the angry customers, etc. while others worked on the internal journal writing and getting the accounting done. It was just as simple as Jane saying to Acme Anvils, pls hold for Rebecca, she will take care of this for you, and I’d deal with them, give the info to Jane, and she did the paperwork.

    Maybe this could help? Talk to your manager and see if there’s a way to divide and conquer, so to speak?

  17. MissBaudelaire*

    I have never, not once, worked somewhere where a points system made any lick of sense. It basically meant that people came in sick and got whole departments sick, and this was a hospital so likely also patients got sick. It meant that if people were going to be two minutes late they just didn’t bother because the points were the same. And every year, management would send out surveys, all wide eyed and shocked Pikachu faced about why this would happen. And we all said the same thing. It was stupid. And they never changed it.

    Same hospital also didn’t accept sick notes. So if your doctor said you couldn’t go to work, you should probably still go. And it took 365 days for a point to fall off. Draconian and asinine. They said this system kept it ‘fair’, in the sense that no one went unpenalized for not being at work. Well, that’s all well and good, but should we really be penalized for not coming in when we’re sick?

    1. doreen*

      I think the current one where I work does make sense . Technically, it’s not points but “occasions” – only unscheduled absences of 2 hours or more count ,absences for any length of time are a single occasion with a doctor’s note, etc . But really, I think the part that makes sense is that there aren’t any automatic consequences – the only automatic part of the policy is that at X number of occasions , Y title is to review the person’s attendance record . It isn’t like you get suspended if you have more than 6 unscheduled absences. It’s literally if you have more than 8 occasions in 12 months , your supervisor speaks to you if he or she determines it’s warranted.

      1. EPLawyer*

        8 sick days off in 12 months is a problem? That’s less than one day a month. It STILL encourages people to come in sick.

        My boss speaks to me because I missed EIGHT lousy days in 1 year, I am telling my boss “yeah I wanted to speak to you too, here’s my 2 week notice.”

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Eight days.

          So let’s say you got a cold/virus and were out for two days. We’re down to six. Your car broke down, and you missed another. Takes us down to five. Your spouse became ill and had to go the ER, and you missed the next day to be with them. We’re down to four. Your child gets sick, and so you have another two days off because they can’t go to school, and no one is watching a sick child. We’re at two now. Your parent gets sick and is hospitalized, you go and see them, and that eats up those two days. So lets say you were particularly unlucky and that all happened from December to June. There’s still six months to go!

          1. Nicotene*

            Sadly that’s a pretty common amount of sick leave in the US. A week isn’t generous, but I’ve certainly seen it many places, including places that are considered otherwise good to work. I’ve even seen only 2 or 3 sick days in a year (with the implication being that any more would need to come from vacation leave – a princely two weeks – or that you would need to use FMLA for anything long term).

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            Your car broke down, and you missed another.

            You can take sick days for when your car is ‘sick’?!

            Where I am, calling in unexpectedly for a broken down car or similar would be treated as unpaid, have to make the time up or take it as (vacation) annual leave, depending on any agreement between you and the company.

            1. introverted af*

              I mean, if I was under this kind of system I would say I had come down sick to get paid. Maybe not the most ethical thing, but yeah.

            2. MissBaudelaire*

              The last place I worked with this points policy, any time out was a point. Any missed time was one point. Didn’t matter if you were sick, your car was broken, your child was sick, you had the cable guy coming. If you didn’t request it off two weeks prior, it was as point. All our PTO was in one pot, no differentiation for sick days or vacation days, so there was no such thing as taking it ‘unpaid’. If you weren’t there, you got a point, and it came out of your PTO. If you didn’t have PTO, you were in even more trouble. In my department, there was no such thing as making up the time to get the point removed. You could, potentially, work a weekend to get the pay, but the point still remained.

        2. doreen*

          You’re missing that the supervisor speaks to the person if the supervisor determines it’s warranted. The supervisor doesn’t have to speak to a person who has eight unscheduled absences – just review the record and see if they are the person who had two days sick here, and a trip to the ER there adding up to eight occasions over a year or if they’re the person who shows up two hours or more hours late with no advance notice every few weeks for a job involving phone coverage. The supervisor doesn’t have to treat both of those people the same way because they have the same number of occasions. And although I didn’t want to go into too much detail, some of those examples wouldn’t have to be more than one occasion – for example, if my parent is hospitalized on Tues, calling out Tuesday morning will be an occasion , but if at that point I request time off Wed to Friday, those days wouldn’t be unscheduled.

          1. comityoferrors*

            If it’s up to supervisor discretion, why do the occasions even matter? As a supervisor, I’d like to be able to discuss and discipline someone being >2 hours late frequently *before* they’ve done it 8 separate times. As an employee, I’ve only seen policies like this punish people with chronic illness and encourage staff to call out entirely rather than run a little late. (Our occasions start at 7 minutes late, not 2 hours, so that does sound better in your org.)

            You could just as easily have a policy that says “Employees are expected to report to work on time and as scheduled; a pattern of disruptive lateness and/or absenteeism may warrant disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” without specifying that 8 is the magic number of absences.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              Yeah, if you’re bebopping in two hours late with any frequency, I would want to have a chat with you.

              I agree with you, these points policies and the silliness they bring just cause resentment and punish people who have a chronic illness and just end up with people not coming in if they would only be ten minutes late. When I left the last job, they had taken away our five minute grace period, but made it a half point if we were between 1-30 minutes late. But then people decided to just go and get breakfast since they already had a half point. So they made it 1-60 minutes late, because surely that will fix it! Nope, not people just come in 59 minutes late. Might as well make the points count if you’re going to get them.

            2. doreen*

              I don’t know for certain why this policy was created – but I will say that this happened when my agency merged with a larger one. My original agency didn’t have that policy. They had something very vague and general along the lines of what you describe – and many supervisors ignored latenesses and absences since there was no policy that required the supervisors to say or do anything, even for people who had unscheduled absences 20 days a month. This policy forces the supervisor to at least review the person’s attendance and decide what to do , rather than saying ” Has Michelle really been absent half the year ?- I hadn’t noticed ” – which I was actually told once. And she really was absent half the year ( although not all of it with pay) with a couple days here and three weeks there that added up to six months but no medical or FMLA issue that kept her out for months at a time.

        3. Cat Tree*

          Yeah, I have multiple chronic health problems, which are generally well managed but require a bunch of medical appointments. Fortunately I’m at a place now that is super flexible about this so I don’t have nickel and dime my vacation days a half day at a time. And we have unlimited sick time, although managers can bring it up if the work is suffering because of it.

          This is how companies can show that they truly care about diversity and inclusion. Healthy people might never think twice about having only 8 sick days in a year. But if the company cares about including people with disabilities, just let us judge and manage our own condition, and let us take the time we need to follow our doctors` guidance. It makes a huge difference to not feel like I need to skip or postpone appointments.

    2. sofar*

      Yep. This policy is exactly how a COVID outbreak happened last summer in a major fast food chain at a large mall in a large Texas city (where my friend works).

      This chain made a big fuss about how they were allowing workers to take two paid weeks off if exposed to/testing positive for COVID. If you tested negative twice in a row, you were allowed to come back. The workers, however knew that the chain had a points-based attendance system that was STILL IN EFFECT despite all this. One worker, who was on his last “point” was exposed to COVID via a roommate still came to work (and was coughing so badly about a week after his exposure that, finally, the manager told everyone to go get tested). So many of the employees had gotten it, the location had to shut down for several days b/c they literally didn’t have enough people to run the place — and also needed to make a big show of cleaning out the place, since the outbreak was common knowledge.

      The location then adjusted its policy, but it was almost worse — you could avoid losing a “point” if you actually had COVID, but only IF you showed up at work first and got sent home by a manager for having “COVID-like symptoms” and then got a positive test. This policy is how my friend eventually caught COVID.

      1. Aine*

        Fast food and grocery stores are some of the worst places to have people work while sick and they have the worst attendance policies and some don’t even have sick pay.

        The store I work set up a separate Covid attendance policy and exempt absences due to Covid (testing, exposure quarantine, having it) from counting against the allotted 3 per 90 days.

        There’s no other exceptions, even with doctor’s notes. My coworker had both parents die and her son had to have multiple surgeries for a thankfully benign tumor along with getting sick herself last year and was suspended twice for absences.

        We had a store manager who used to brag about never taking a sick day. He would come in sick and spread it to every department and heaven only knows how many customers. He also used to try to pressure people who were calling out sick to come in anyway.

      2. nonegiven*

        I live in a small town and they had to shut down a drive in fast food place because so many got it.

    3. Momma Bear*

      The other thing is OP needs to clarify the COVID/fever free policy before this comes up again. Frankly, all this point system will do is encourage people to lie.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        People lie and begin to take on a “Don’t ask me for one speck extra.” mentality. If I’m in trouble for being five seconds late, don’t ask me to stay five seconds past my clock out time.

  18. A Beautiful Mind (ironic)*

    LW 1 – hi, are you me? ;)

    I also got an accounting degree and then started working at a government agency (not in the US, and not tax but also money related) where I had to talk to loads of upset people on the phone every day. It was awful and turned me into even more of a hermit in my off time, like sometimes I couldn’t even talk to my parents for 10 minutes because I was so people’d out.

    For coping while you’re in the job, discuss this with colleagues. Is there anyone you’ve noticed handles these calls well? Ask if they have tips! Do other people mention struggling with it? Maybe set up space/time for debriefing. I became very close with one colleague and we would pretty much daily have a rundown of what type of calls we’d had that day, who had called us what, what uninformed assumptions had been made etc. On one hand it was venting and may have looked like unproductive wallowing or ranting but we found it very productive in that it let us move on afterwards – and I think it was easier to take these calls because I knew we would debrief later. (This did not stop me from crying at my desk when people had insulted me personally or threatened to report me to management or whatever. But those were a lot rarer than the standard-level unpleasant ones.) I also frequently talked to other colleagues too but not as regularly – but Indefinitely got the sense that these types of conversations were helpful to most of us.

    But also, not all jobs are like this!!! I now work as an in-house accountant/bookkeeper in a company where I hardly ever have to talk to anyone outside the company. I do have contact with a fair few people within the company but for the most part they’re nice and it really helps that I know their names/jobs/may have met them. And the ones that are not nice for some reason are much easier to handle because I feel confident in my place here, so when people say something insulting about timeliness or something I can be pretty blunt about the fact that we have other things to do etc.

    So I highly recommend looking for a job where your “customers” are internal! And just know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Good luck!!!

  19. DiscoCat*

    #1 Isn’t it part of an employers responsibility to ensure that their employees are not faced with abuse, aggression and inappropriate behaviour? At least grant the employee to refuse service/ walk away/ hang up after a verbal warning that unless the person changes their tome they will not be dealt with? Since when is shouting and verbal abuse such an accepted part of normal work day? Once in a while it happens, ok, but not regularly that you come to accept it/ live with it.

    1. doreen*

      I would say on some level it’s part of the employer’s responsibility to ensure that employees don’t have to deal with abuse* – but the OP isn’t just talking about abuse. They’re rattled for the rest of the day when customers disagree with them or get confrontational – and neither of those things necessarily involve abuse , aggression ,or inappropriate behavior. I mean, if the state tax auditor tells me I owe $1000 in taxes and I reply by saying that according to my calculations , I only owe $267, I have disagreed- but I haven’t necessarily been abusive or behaved inappropriately. If the OP is rattled for the rest of the day by disagreements , I don’t know that they can find a job where people don’t disagree. There are lots of jobs without angry customers , but I doubt there are any without disagreement.

      * Although with government , it also depends on which type of government agency/service we are talking about. I have no problem with a permit-granting parks employee refusing to serve an angry customer who is yelling, but I don’t think the 911 operator should be able to hang up on someone because they are angry and yelling.

    2. Natalie*

      They work for a government agency, so the options the agency has to refuse service are likely limited. This isn’t asking someone to leave the library for the day, they have more of a right to get their tax issue sorted out, even if they are being an asshole.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yeah, what are they supposed to do? Tell them “you are abusive, so now you don’t have to pay your taxes any more”?

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          “You are being abusive, you will have to sort out your tax problem without my help or pay the penalties for leaving it unfixed/ pay the amount as billed even if you think it’s incorrect.” Depends on the situation but actually there’s plenty of power in the situation from what I can see on the part of a government worker.

      2. Malarkey01*

        And honestly an audit is pretty confrontational and emotional to begin with. This isn’t a customer contacting you wanting x service, this is the government coming to you to take money. It’s always going to be pretty fraught. I agree you don’t put up with threats and violence, but very few people are going to take the news that the government is coming after more money with a “okay sounds good, who do I make the check out to good sir?”

  20. MrsRamsey*

    For OP #1. Unfortunately with customer service yelling abusive behavior and threats from people do come with the territory. I work in property management. It has gotten so much worse over the last year. I have been called every name in the book, threatened verbally and physically, had people so obviously in the wrong threaten to sic their lawyer on me. Not easy to keep going. I have to remind myself that how they treat me is on them and how I respond is on me. Yes it’s stressful.
    But I also have a tendency to internalize things. Remember it’s not about you personally , you’re just the target because you’re the bearer of bad news. You’re not letting them hide, but making them face reality.

  21. Washi*

    I’m genuinely confused about what OP2 thought would happen in this situation. She brought up to HR that she was being overpaid, but she seems super surprised that the company is correcting her pay going forward? Not warning her about what her next paycheck would look like was not a good move on the company’s part, but it seems like she’s primarily feeling shafted about being paid the rate she originally agreed to when she took the job.

    1. Nicotene*

      I totally understand emotionally how losing the, what, $800 a month would feel terrible, even if logically it’s what she agreed to; honestly I’m always surprised by take-home pay because different jobs have taken more or less for insurance, I change 401K withholding, etc, so the take-home amount feels a little arbitrary anyway. But OP might just need to start job-searching for a job that pays the salary she wants, because her company isn’t really treating her unfairly.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Why do you think they are treating her unfairly though? They are now paying her the agreed upon salary, and also not collecting the last 2 years overpayments. What would fair look like to you here? (Just curious, tone can be hard)

        1. Nicotene*

          Sorry, I said they’re *not* treating her unfairly. But if she feels like she’s gotten used to the higher amount, she may well end up job-searching anyway.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            You shouldn’t really be surprised by your take home pay, even with different jobs charging more or less for insurance and other deductions. All that information is provided upfront and if it is not, you can ask for it. I ask for the benefits package before even accepting a new job because the benefits can make or break a job move. You might make $5k salary more in the new job, but if you end up with a $7k reduction in benefits (health insurance, retirement contribution etc…) you end up with a net compensation reduction.

            Even if you can’t calculate your take home pay, your gross pay is easy to calculate. Gross pay divided by 26 paychecks if you are paid biweekly, or gross pay divided by 24 paychecks if you are paid bimonthly. If you are actually paid hourly you then take your gross pay and divide by how many hours you normally work to find your hourly rate. Gross biweekly paycheck/80 hours.

            If OP did not calculate it, they are partially to blame: we agreed on a salary of $90k being paid biweekly (26 pay periods) it means a gross pay of $3,461. But my first paycheck shows a gross pay of $3,807 that does not seem right.

            You should always analyze your paystubs at least a few times a year or when ever there is a change due to taxes, raise etc.

            One time as I was looking over my paystub I noticed that it was not showing a 2% employer retirement contribution. It turned out that the company was indeed making the contribution (I confirmed it on my 401k account) but it was just not reported on the paystub.

            Another time my partners first paycheck came in significantly higher than what they, should have been making. They were an exempt employee and agreed to a specific salary. Payroll used that salary to calculate her “hourly rate,” for salary employees the employer counted a 35 hour work week, 9 to 5 but assuming a 1 hour lunch everyday. All employees clocked in and out. Salary employees would only get “credit” for 35 hours worked even if they worked 40/50 hours. But when my partner was entered into the system they were somehow entered as an hourly employee. So they were being paid for 40 hours a week and a few times even OT at 50 hours a week. They alerted HR right away, we knew it would eventually get caught and did not want to be on the hook to pay all that back. Since it was only one paycheck, they did not have to pay it back, but it was fixed moving forward.

      2. HungryLawyer*

        +1. A lot of other commenters are being obnoxious saying “how could OP2 not have noticed the difference between offered salary and her actual (incorrect) pay.” Anyone starting a new job isn’t going to know their exact take home pay until the first paycheck or two because of deductions. Same thing if you change your insurance plan or tax withholdings at any point. It’s reasonable that OP wouldn’t have caught the error for the reasons you pointed out. I have a lot of empathy for them, the whole situation just sorta sucks.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Yeah, I would have chalked it up to having different deductions or perhaps cheaper insurance or something. I know the onus is on us, as employees, to make sure those things are all as they’re intended. But for the first paycheck or two, how would anyone know the difference?

          I really feel for this OP. My current company did something similar. They did it incorrectly, because in my state if they’re taking back an overpayment, they have to do certain things like notify you one pay cycle before hand, and there’s limits on what they can take back at one time. I would feel pretty upset if I was told I was probably fine and then just realized my check was short by a thousand dollars. That would throw my budget into the trash.

        2. SomebodyElse*

          Yeah, this is what I was thinking. It’s pretty easy to figure out if something is different with your take home pay, but doesn’t exactly scream incorrect if screwed up from the start.

          From this point on though I think the OP is handling this not great. I can understand the ouch factor of $1000 unexpectedly being gone from a check (even though I think they could have reasonably understood that this was coming). The payroll should have worked with them to come up with a plan with the OP for that amount -lump sum or smaller amounts.

          What I don’t understand is the being salty about getting paid “less” going forward. Again, is it great the OP is now going to be paid their real rate, no of course not – from the OP’s perspective. Is it realistic that the OP is going to paid their real rate, yes.

          I’m actually wondering what the conversations have been like between the OP and payroll at this point. I’m less inclined to buy the ‘haranguing’ and more inclined to think that frustrations are running high from the OP and now from Payroll to the OP based on unrealistic expectations.

          1. boo bot*

            “What I don’t understand is the being salty about getting paid “less” going forward.”

            I can kind of understand it! I think we all make calculations about what our time is worth, whether we’re getting paid enough to put in longer hours, extra effort, etc. If the OP has felt satisfied with their pay until now, then of course it feels bad to be told (a) you’re getting less money from now on and (b) you were never worth this much in the first place.

            I think the best response really depends a lot on how much they’re getting paid! If the new, agreed-upon lower salary is enough to live on, then it makes sense to decide, “Wow! I got a 10K bonus!” and move on. But if that $10K put them over the edge into “I can pay all my bills” and now they’re going to have to go back to “I can’t really pay all my bills,” that’s a lot harder. Then the issue is, their originally-offered salary was never enough in the first place, and they should probably be job-searching, not trying to feel good about what’s happened.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              Everything you said, and if the job has increased in workload but the pay wasn’t really increasing… maybe at that base rate, it just really doesn’t seem worth it to OP. I could get behind that feeling, too.

              1. Washi*

                That’s a good point about the workload changing. I still think she’ll get farther addressing that directly than implying the company is screwing her over, which in my opinion (with the information given) they are not.

        3. Daisy-dog*

          It *is* confusing, but paystubs do show your gross pay amount. For non-exempt employees, it will show your hourly rate and then your amount of regular hours. It may even show your OT rate next to the number of OT hours. Then it’ll show all the different deductions like taxes & insurance premiums.

          1. Environmental Compliance*


            I’ve been exempt for a while now. I’ve never had a paystub *not* show my YTD wages, my calculated hourly rate, my deductions for taxes/insurance/retirement, both for that paycheck and YTD.

            And to be honest, I always check my first couple paystubs at a new job and calculate up to make sure it matches my offer letter. For those that don’t – it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting paid correctly. Typos happen. HR/Payroll are humans, too. I’ve had issues before where the withholding was done incorrectly, or someone forgot to start my retirement deductions. You want to catch that at month 2 rather than month 20.

          2. Just Another Zebra*

            +1 agree 100%

            If this were a difference of $1,000/ per year, I can see OP missing it.
            But most people can at least ballpark their paychecks – $x/ hr * 40hrs *52 weeks = rough gross
            The opposite works, too $x salary / 52 weeks = rough gross

            It isn’t perfect, but I think most people would notice an extra $200/ month in their bank account

          3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            It can still be confusing if the company has a fiscal year that’s different than the calendar year, or if you receive a raise/COL increase part way through the year — your salary was $X January – March and then $Y April – December. It’s just a lot of math to do for most people, who think they should just be able to trust their employers are doing the math on their end.

            1. Daisy-dog*

              Just note – the employees who process payroll are human! We can still make mistakes. Plus, the person who hires employees (or processes promotions/pay raises) may not be the person who processes payroll. So if an error was made at one step, the person who made the error may not be able to catch it. For OP, it worked out in their favor – they got a $10K bonus! But people should feel comfortable to at least ask questions if something doesn’t look like what they expected. I’d rather spend 20 minutes on Teams walking an employee through their pay stub than have a surprise like this!

            2. pmg2016*

              It’s not a lot of math. It’s literally whatever gross rate is listed on your paystub multiplied by 2,080. Yes, you can get a raise in the middle of the year. Yes, your company can have a weird fiscal year. None of it matters when you are simply trying to calculate your current annual compensation to verify you are being paid correctly.

        4. Bluesboy*

          I’m not seeing a lot of comments saying that. I’m seeing some saying that it would have been wiser to check, which is rather closing the gate after the horse has bolted, but not really ‘obnoxious’ answers.

          I think part of the issue, and part of the reaction is because of the sums involved. This is 10% of her salary and it’s $10k over a year, so she makes $100k a year roughly. That’s about $8333 per month gross.

          Some commentators are seeing ‘wow, an extra €800 a month, how could you not notice?’ But these things are relative. If you expect to take home $1k per month net, and instead take home $1100, I can imagine someone thinking it’s due to benefit contributions being lower, or maybe different local taxes in a different metropolitan area etc., but it’s the same 10%! So I don’t blame the OP for not noticing, although of course it would have been wiser to check.

          I sympathise with the OP, and I can understand her being upset. But really, the only thing the company has done wrong (apart from overpaying in the first place, which I’m sure was an honest mistake) is not warning her that they would be taking the money back for this year before doing it. They have a right to claim it back and are being generous by not claiming back prior years.

          Alison says that chastising the employer about it was bad; maybe for the first time ever I don’t agree with her! I can understand someone in HR getting frustrated by an employee insisting that because they have been paid too much in the past, they should get to keep the same pay level going forward! Like, mate, you’ve been paid $10k too much already, we’re letting you keep it, and now you’re breaking my balls that I’m not going to keep overpaying you in the future?

        5. Curious and confused*

          Genuinely curious – are pay stubs not offered in the US? Here (Ontario, Canada) an employer legally must provide every employee with a statement of earnings that lists their gross pay and all deductions. Surely the OP would have noticed the gross amount was wrong?

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Can’t speak for OP, but my checks are deposited directly The stubs are posted on my HR website, so I can go at any time and seek them out. But they’re not just handed to me.

        6. identifying remarks removed*

          Yes – I once moved from Manhattan to Miami to remain working at the same company I’d been at for over 10 years. I was told I’d be getting a pay cut but it would even out because I would no longer be paying so much tax in Manhattan. I didn’t bother to check my payslips over the next couple of months cause I was relocating/getting use to new office/work mates etc. Then my new manager hauled me into the office with HR and asked me why I had not told them the paycut hadn’t happened and this could be considered as theft. I had no idea, was horrified that my new manager was accusing me of stealing and felt stupid that I hadn’t noticed. I insisted I had no idea and started hunting for my cheque book (yes it was that long ago) so that he could take a refund cheque for the extra money immediately. When he realized I really didn’t know he apologized but I never trusted him after that. And after my initial shock I was pissed off that my 10 years of work history and good working rep didn’t even get me the benefit of the doubt.

        7. pmg2016*

          This is why paystubs are a thing. OP #2 may not have known their exact take home pay at first, but they would have been able to see the breakdown after the first paystub. Every paystub I’ve ever received lists the gross hourly rate (even my salaried positions have listed it). Not checking this for 2 years is not at all reasonable. It’s negligence.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I’m not the OP, but I can see where someone who has been earning a certain amount for 2 years might think that the company would just go ahead and continue paying them that rate, and mark it down as a raise for 2 years of good work. Especially since it was the company’s mistake and the rate isn’t wildly out of proportion to the job — it’s the rate for a different shift but the same job — but that’s a pretty Utopian outlook.

      1. Willis*

        …but presumably there’s some reason that shift is more? Does everyone working the OPs shift then get a raise? Do the people working the other shift also get a raise, since now they’re making the new base pay?

        If OP wants to advocate for a raise based on her work or look for a new job that pays more or has fewer hours, she should. But, that should be separate from this mistake with her pay checks.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Your second paragraph sort of proves my point — she could just as easily advocate that in order to retain her in a high-turnover company, after a sustained period of overtime (unpaid, since she’s salary), that they should keep her pay the same as what they have been paying her.

          1. Willis*

            Sure, but my point is negotiate for a raise based on things having to do with the job/market rates/her skills. Not “well just keep paying me what you (mistakenly) have been.” If she can’t make a case for a raise w/out referencing the mistaken pay bump, that’s not a very good case.

      2. TWW*

        Right? Receiving what is effectively a 10% pay cut (even if justified) would be demoralizing for any employee, and no one should be the slightest bit surprised if OP loses her mojo at work or starts looking for a new job.

        If the employer is at all interested in retaining OP they should at least consider giving her a raise to offset her disappointment.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          This is so unreasonable to me. “Disappointment” is really not a valid reason for a 10%(!!!!!) pay raise. She is now being paid what she agreed to work for AND got to keep a huge bonus. I am baffled at what better outcome anyone could possibly expect from this situation.

  22. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#4–
    Body searches? Body searches?

    I could maybe see this making sense if you’re applying for a job at a prison, but not otherwise. If you get called to an interview, go and ask very pointed questions about this. And unless they can come up with really dazzling answers (which I doubt), do NOT take the job if offered.

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      Prison, diamond mine, microchip fabrication, supervillain R&D…has to be something pretty specific.

      1. Nesprin*

        My first instinct is that its either abundantly obvious why a consent for a search is on their hiring docs, or it’s a terrible amazon-eque type workhouse. That OP4 can’t grok the reason behind the consent for search is a pretty good sign that this is a drunk with power style terrible company.

      2. Cat Tree*

        I once interviewed at a company that does research on precious metals, and had to walk through a metal detector on my way out. (I remember this because my blazer had a decorative metal button so I had to take it off and had only a tank top underneath). But that’s impersonal and completely different than a body search.

      3. AnonThisTime*

        I don’t think I had to agree to body searches, but I am pretty sure I did agree to vehicle searches. For the job, not the interview. In our case I am 90% sure it is required because some projects on occasion deal with export controlled data. I also have never seen it happen in 3 years on the job. But if TPTB suspected anything, the *could* do the search. And I am fine w/ that because if they want to search my car they will find that I drink an inordinate amount of diet coke but nothing else alarming. (I keep a bag for the cans in my back seat so I can recycle them.) That is my personal level of comfort and I would understand if someone chose to not agree.

    2. MissBaudelaire*

      I knew a friend who was employed as a holiday employee at a video game store. They took her purse every shift to check, along with jacket. I don’t know if they were fully patted down, but I’d believe it.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        In retail it’s not uncommon for management to be required to search people’s bags when they leave. Or require people to use clear/see-through bags for their stuff.

        I worked places that checked bags (usually a quick peek) but have never been patted down by an employer.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Ditto, the store I worked in back when I was a student checked bags as employees left, but nothing more intrusive than that.

        2. I'm just here for the cats*

          I was at the checkout at bath and body works and one of the gals came up to the checker to ask if there was someone who could check their bag before leaving.

      2. Jill*

        I worked at a very awesome toy store of “advanced building blocks,” and whenever new characters came out they would check our bags and have us turn our pant pockets out to check for figures.

    3. EPLawyer*

      OP4 if you have other options don’t even bother with the interview. If it bothers you this much already it will bother you no matter their dazzling answer. Although I will bet you a million internet bucks their answer will be “Oh don’t worry about that, it never happens” and then you find out it is happens fairly regularly.

      If they call to offer an interview, just decline politely with something like “I’ve decided not to move forward in the process, thank you.”

      1. Sara without an H*

        I admit, I would have gone to the interview just to see how they justified the practice. Your answer is probably a better use of OP’s time.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Yeah, it’s interesting how ‘Oh, don’t worry about that, it never happens,’ seems to happen a LOT once you’re hired.

        Seconding EPLawyer’s advice, OP#4. Pat-downs aren’t benign, non-invasive security measures like checking your badge or searching bags for concealed weapons and contraband, etc. Best not to submit yourself to a system you can’t endorse.

      3. Antilles*

        The only way I’d trust the “oh don’t worry about that” is if the interviewer themselves shows surprise, like they never realized it’s even in there because it’s so rare that it’s effectively irrelevant.
        Short of that, yeah, I’d cynically assume that it ranges between ‘any time something goes wrong’ to ‘standard operating procedure’, regardless of what the interviewer’s verbal reassurances are/aren’t.

      4. Cat Tree*

        It is especially weird that this is required just at the application phase. A lot of things like this would come up at the offer stage or even the first day of employment. It’s good for candidates to get this warning, but it makes me wonder about a bunch of things, none of them good.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I think it might be worth asking about before bailing if you’re otherwise really excited for the job. I signed some sort of boilerplate about drug and alcohol testing when I was hired five years ago and it’s never come up for office employees in all that time. We have a lot of safety-sensitive positions (think heavy equipment operators) and there are actual testing procedures for them, both random checks and when there’s an accident or incident, so it gets tossed into the paperwork that they can send any employee for a drug test at any time if they suspect they’re drunk or high on the job.

        Body searches are much less common and more of a red flag, but it’s possible that someone grabbed boilerplate from a different context and it’s just not an issue for the job OP is applying for.

    4. drpuma*

      If it’s otherwise a really wonderful job you’re dying to take and they promise you “what, body cavity searches?! They never happen”? That’s when you smile graciously and say, “okay great! Then you won’t have a problem taking it out of my employment paperwork” (or stipulating “not subject to searches” in the offer letter).

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        This! Never sign something you don’t feel comfortable complying with. Offer paperwork can definitely be personalized, it’s not take or leave boilerplate they have no control over. A cover letter or addendum you write into your offer letter when you sign it saying “my signature includes consent to everything in this paperwork excluding the body searches referenced on page #” can be enough.

    5. MassMatt*

      I’d recommend trying to talk to potential colleagues (a good idea in any interview, if possible) and ask them about the frequency and invasiveness of searches. Managers might either sugarcoat the issue or be unaware of just what it’s like, people working at your level at the workplace may give you the scoop more honestly. It might be something they reserve the right to do but use only if something goes missing or they suspect something or maybe it’s a pat-down at the end of every shift.

    6. TWW*

      Regardless of what you sign, could you refuse to submit to a body search if it ever came down to that? They may fire you and escort you off the property but would it be legal to forcibly search your body or prevent you from leaving?

  23. Roscoe*

    #1. I mean this is the nicest way possible. But everyone isn’t cut out for customer facing roles. I do sales. 95% of the people I talk to are people who reached out to me, so its not like I’m cold calling. I’ll have people schedule a time, then be a jerk on the phone. That said, they can also be a jerk via email. There are always going to be jerks when you are working with the public. If you aren’t able to just move on from those bad calls and are thinking about it all day, you probably aren’t the right fit for a customer facing role. There is nothing wrong with that. I know I would absolutely HATE just sitting and doing excel sheets or other things like that all day

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Unfortunately, there’s a lot more customer service jobs out there than just “sit and do spreadsheets.” I used to have a job like that and I wish they still existed, but I can’t find any.

      1. Roscoe*

        I’m sure there are, but OP is probably better off looking for one of those instead of staying in a job she is miserable in

  24. Noncompliance Officer*

    Lw#1: I work in local government. There are plenty of accounting/finance positions in government that do not interact with customers (I’m working in one right now).

    That being said, detaching yourself from customer abuse is certainly a skill. I used to work in more public-facing position and because I tend not to let this kind of thing get to me, I often ended up dealing with irate customers.

  25. CCSF*

    OP #2 – Look, I fixed it.

    “I’m out nearly $10,000/year in salary” –> “I received nearly $10,000/year in (unexpected and unrequired) bonuses”

  26. Natalie*

    LW #4, this isn’t to say you should take this job, but I do want to note that SCOTUS has never held up any kind of general right for employers to conduct body searches. The case you refer to was employees waiting in a security line for searches of their bags, packages, etc, not their persons. Some states have stronger privacy protections than others, of course, but as far as I can tell a random, blanket body search policy like you’re describing is likely not legal.

    1. Generic Name*

      I think the scotus ruling was whether or not the employees waiting in line had to be paid for that time (meaning whether or not waiting for your mandatory search constituted work time) rather than were the searches themselves legal. Still a crappy ruling.

      1. Natalie*

        You’re correct, but they also weren’t body searches at all. The OP seems to be misremembering that case and extrapolating from it that routine body searches are acceptable, and that’s just incorrect.

  27. Dust Bunny*

    Accountant: Client-facing jobs, and jobs involving money, are going to be like this.

    I used to work for a veterinarian, which is a job that includes both a lot of emotions and lot of money, and, hoo boy, did we have some “situations”. If were were lucky, they only stopped checks and disputed credit card charges (for things and at costs to which they had already agreed). If we weren’t, we occasionally had to call the police. I can handle all kinds of blood, poop, mucus, and weirdness but presenting cost estimates was hands-down one of the most stressful parts of the job because you never knew how people would respond.

    1. Nicotene*

      I totally believe this; the combination of loving a sick animal and feeling all that fear and anxiety, plus the shockingly high costs that are usually due up front can definitely result in fireworks. I’ve had this at the dentist and doctor too but it’s less common because more often they claim to bill insurance first and then you get the huge bill later, not right there at the desk where the attendant is waiting for your CC. I know there’s pet insurance but it doesn’t seem to work for everything.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I know there’s pet insurance but it doesn’t seem to work for everything.

        I wish they’d brand it “Cat & Dog Insurance,” because that’s all I’ve ever seen it cover.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I think they can also ding pets for preexisting conditions, too, the way they do with people.

          The costs should not be a shock: It’s medical care on a small-business model. It’s very, very, expensive to run a veterinary practice–the supplies are expensive, the medications are expensive, and you need a lot of staff to keep the place clean and pets adequately monitored. (Furthermore, it’s a weird situation in which you need to hire smart, conscientious, honest, people . . . and then get them to work for peanuts. It’s not an accident that your vet’s staff is probably mostly young women who can be on either their parents’ or their husband’s insurance.) And veterinarians and staff are shamefully underpaid; I never made a living wage or got benefits, which is why I no longer work in the field. It’s also extremely high-stress: Veterinarians have an shockingly high suicide rate.

          On top of all that, you are constantly expected to give away care because “you should do it for the love of animals”. Yeah, well, I don’t get a break on my rent or groceries because I love animals!

          So . . . it’s not shockingly high. The public has a wildly unrealistic expectation of what medical care costs for animals.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Nothing you’ve said is wrong… I can vouch for much of it.

              Ironically, though, I’ve actually found veterinary care for our guinea pigs to be very reasonable. Part of me thinks I might actually be lucky that insurance isn’t in the picture.

    2. Hamish*

      I hear what you’re saying, but there are really plenty of jobs in the accounting field that aren’t like this.

    3. Sleepless*

      All of this, so much. The main piece of advice I give young colleagues is not to take anything personally, but the truth is that I have to keep telling myself that. I am so bad at taking things personally! A pet owner gave me a piece of her mind the other day. It was the last straw in a whole chain of events that had left me incredibly anxious, and I wonder how she would feel if she knew that I angled the phone away from my mouth and quietly sobbed the whole time she was speaking. I’m a f*cking rock star at fixing diabetic ketoacidosis or doing a GDV surgery, but an angry client can reduce me to tears.

  28. Beebop*

    LW #1 – I work as a staff accountant for a medium sized company and work pretty independently. I rarely interact with any clients, besides some collections calls that don’t often get heated. This might work for you! There are plenty of accounting/finance positions where you don’t often deal with customers/clients. Hope that helps :)

  29. CupcakeCounter*

    Look at transitioning towards corporate tax and internal audit. Since it is a company, as opposed to people’s personal finances that are involved, the yelling phone calls are pretty much moot. It can be much more stressful at times for other reason, but if the big issue you are having is people yelling…head on over to corporate. Bonus points for you if you can find a large, privately held company that holds themselves to the standard of a publicly traded company. I was in general accounting of one like that and a good friend, and former classmate, was in the tax department. She said it was a cake walk compared to public accounting and her first corporate job.

  30. Dwight Schrute*

    OP1 I’m sorry you’re dealing with that! I also get super rattled by irate customers and I hope you can find a less customer facing role in auditing/accounting. The customer facing role I have now I’m lucky to have a boss who backs me up and I rarely deal with irate people, and it’s a massive improvement for my mental health.

    OP2 I’m not sure I really understand the frustration? Isn’t your paycheck just being returned to what it should have been all along? You’re not being required to pay back $10000 so I’d consider myself pretty lucky if I were you

  31. Sunny*

    LW #3 – The sick policy at your work sounds bad, BUT – your anger about being asked to stay home WHILE YOU’RE RUNNING A FEVER is wildly misplaced. You don’t need to have COVID to be sick and contagious to your coworkers. And even if you’ve tested negative, if you pass your fever on to someone else, that person will then have to isolate and get tested, b/c there’s no way for them to definitively know that their fever is the one you had. You’d be creating problems for a lot of other people. Personally, I wouldn’t want to work with someone who thinks going in with an active fever is no big deal.

    1. Generic Name*

      I’m guessing they’re upset about it because they know they’re being dinged for not being at work while also being told they can’t come to work. If they company said that they can’t come to work and there won’t be any negative consequences for taking the time off, I’m guessing they wouldn’t feel mad about it.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        It feels like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It’s fine, reasonable, and good to have a policy not to come to work when you’re sick. It’s not fine to say in the next breath that there are disciplinary results for following that policy.

      2. Anonapots*

        Mmmm, I didn’t read it that way. I was especially struck by the OP saying they were bored, and that their doctor said they didn’t have COVID, so why shouldn’t they go in. The answer is, because you have a fever. It sucks you get dinged for something you can’t control, but if the OP is fighting so hard to go back in when they’re still actually sick with a fever, I think making them stay home is probably a good idea. Two things can be true: The OP could be a jerk for going in while they have a fever because they’re bored; but also the employer is a jerk for punishing the OP for staying home.

        1. Sunny*

          Exactly this! We’re all very hung up on whether someone has COVID, but illness is illness. But particularly right now, spreading anything to other people has a very disruptive ripple effect on them. I think OP’s company sucks, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for someone insisting on coming in to work while ill, especially if it’s just b/c the OP is bored. If the OP wants to push back on their company’s policies, they’re going to have a hard time making a case for the “injustice” of not being allowed to come in while actively ill.

  32. Hi there*

    LW5, I have been in your shoes and also have a community-connected role in an academic institution. For a long time in my 2-person office I thought it wouldn’t work for either of us to take 2 weeks off in a row since it was too hard on the other person to cover both roles. What I now realize I should have done was adjust the workload and expectations.

    This year of all years your manager is going to understand needing a good chunk of time off, and I wonder if your manager can pick up some slack. Your manager may not realize how unsustainable this model where you do everything is because it seems to be working fine.

    I suggest making a plan that has you taking a bunch of time off and bringing it to your manager. Your choices seem to be 1) Cut the program back (whatever the version of movies on Fridays is for you. “Fieldwork Fridays”? “Talk amongst yourselves Fridays”? ) so you can have a lot of long weekends in a row, or trim the program so you can have or a week or two off. 2) Figure out a way to get more help. Can a student run some sessions while you are out? How about a grad student thinking about the alt-ac track? What would you do if you were sick? Pull out that emergency plan. 3) Get your manager to run some of the sessions/do some of the work. This helps make your work more visible. Good luck, let us know how it goes!

    1. Reba*

      This is great insight. If no one can ever take time away without everything crumbling, that’s a planning problem. (“winning the lottery”/”hit by a bus” plan)

      What would the consequences really be if a session were cancelled? Or if there were a few “light” weeks?

      Inviting some students to fill in could be a winning move, although arguably they should be paid.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2, it sounds like they’re letting you keep $9K out of the $10K they overpaid? That sounds pretty generous.. ?

    1. Hamish*

      I think they’re actually letting them keep all of the $10k they were overpaid last year, and just taking back the amounts overpaid so far for this year.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      It sounds like she paid back $1,000 for Jan-March of 2021, and was allowed to keep $10,000 from 2020 *plus* some additional overpay for however long she worked in 2019. Seems extremely generous to me!

    3. Daisy-dog*

      Actually more than that. OP didn’t mention how much they were overpaid in 2019 – just that they didn’t notice because they weren’t paid for the full year.

      OP’s anger is unrelated to this issue, but these are happening at the same time which is making if feel related.

  34. MCMonkeybean*

    LW#1 I think that yes, as a tax auditor for the government having people yell at you is probably an expectation of the job because your presence automatically puts people on the defense. That doesn’t make it right, but I think that’s probably always going to be the case and it is 100% okay for you to decide you don’t want to deal with that.

    But as a fellow accountant I am here to say that you have so many options! It sounds like you have experience with both tax and audit so there is really a lot you could do with that. I would recommend you consider whether you would be more interested in the tax side of things and moving into preparation (either preparing the same individual returns you were previously auditing, or for larger entities), or if you like the audit aspect there are many places you can do that where you don’t interact with strangers who yell at you all day.

    If you want to stay in government work there should be some availability there, but you could move into industry as well. Or you could go public though I think in terms of hours worked that might be a big jump from government. But if you go public, the relationships while auditing a big company are different than auditing individual’s taxes because the people you work with know it’s part of the job. I mean they may still feel a little annoyed sometimes but for the most part it sort of feels like both sides are working together to produce good financial statements But big companies also have internal audit teams so you’ve got opportunities there as well.

    Good luck! I hope you find a place that makes you happier!

  35. Jake*

    In regards to #5, I hate having a job where nobody does your work while you’re gone. It makes coming back from vacation ridiculous.

    1. Asenath*

      There’s always the place where Co-worker is going to cover for you, at least for the stuff that’s on deadline, and you leave detailed instructions. When you get back, between the things Co-worker didn’t get to at all, and the things that were done and recorded in a different way than described in the instructions, you can have fun trying to catch up, while puzzling through the records you need, wondering why on earth the data weren’t put in your nice simple spreadsheet as you had requested.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


        A job where everything just piles up while I’m gone and I can power through the backlog when I return sounds like paradise.

      2. Jake*

        Honestly, I’d prefer that to the 90 hour week I come back to. Any benefit I get from the week off is immediately destroyed when I have to work the next 12 days straight for at least 10-12 hours a day.

    2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      This is why I only take off 4 day weekends. My work feeds to 7 other employees on 2 different teams. It literally won’t be done if I am not there and eventually they’d not have any work. I took 1 week off as a block before and came back to a week’s worth of work (which my supervisor and coworkers and nicely organized but not did any of) I took one look at the pile and thought “Never again.”

    3. Alexis Rose*

      Yeah, I’ve been trying to take 3 day weekends but…it just makes the other four days miserable.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Yup. Why go on vacation when it only makes your workload worse?

        It’s like being told to go relax on the beach while an almost-stranger burns your house down while trying to gather your mail!

  36. BadWolf*

    On OP3 — you may be assuming that the person who gave or signed off on the negative points fully understood the days you took off and why. I would not assume that. Even if they are people that you told at the time that you were off for COVID/etc. There are some bosses who correctly juggle all the information in their head, but don’t assume your boss/higher ups are doing that. Remind them of the policy you were following and it doesn’t seem to match what happened in the end. Approach it like a mistake. Some places are stupid and will have two contradictory rules and punish you for it, but sometimes it’s just someone seeing some days off, not thinking anything more than “Strike!” and moving onto the next.

  37. Chauncy Gardener*

    LW#1 Flee!! There are TONS of accounting jobs that don’t involve any customer interaction at all. You can even go into internal audit at a company. Your “customers” will be other parts of the company. Or be a financial analyst or general ledger accountant. No customers at all!! I would hate your job too. Who wants to be yelled at? No one.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      My coworkers tell me they are perfectly fine with being yelled at, so I guess some people do like it…. go figure.

  38. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Re OP#2: I got paid via direct deposit from 2 different regional payroll centers at my employer for reasons I still don’t understand. I told my HR team and payroll manager immediately, asking them to reclaim the funds ASAP. They ‘had to work on it’, swore they fixed the problem, and never reversed the overpayments. Lather, rinse, repeat for about 3 months.

    I moved the overpayments into a savings account I created, if only to prove I was aware of them and needed to show I was treating the funds as mine to spend. They finally realized they never reversed the overpayments and asked how I wanted to schedule them. I said I had moved the overpayments into a separate account so the funds were safely available. I could have them wired the same day. Not only did HR want the repayment, but they also wanted the interest I accrued. They did not receive it.

    I checked my direct deposits diligently afterward, which is the best advice I can offer OP#2. Catch mistakes early, handle the overpayments appropriately, and stay on top of the situation.

    1. MissBaudelaire*

      They wanted the interest too?? That’s gutsy. What was the reasoning there? That it had been their money all along, so therefore the interest must be as well?

    2. SomebodyElse*

      I once got a bonus I was no longer eligible for. That kind of stung, I had received it the year before, then they changed the bonus structure, but my name remained on the list. They did handle it correctly in that they asked me how I wanted them to take it back. I didn’t want to face possible tax implications, so I begrudgingly told them to just reverse the payment immediately (it was Direct Deposit w/in the 14 day claw back period) and to make sure the taxes were reversed.

      That was a bit cheeky to want the interest back though, I wouldn’t have given it to them.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Yes, someone in HR wanted the interest because it was the company’s money and I shouldn’t benefit from it in any way. I pointed out I tried very hard NOT to, documenting all my requests, the company’s promises to fix things, etc. The interest wasn’t a lot, and no one ever followed up on it.

        Also, should have said ‘was NOT treating the funds as mine to spend’ in my initial post. Can’t type today.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Maybe if they hadn’t taken three months to sort that out, you wouldn’t have had interest to ‘benefit’ from.

  39. windsofwinter*

    I really sympathize with LW2. Even though logically I know she’s getting the pay she originally agreed to, it would be very hard for me to swallow lower paychecks after becoming accustomed to the higher ones. It would probably push me to job search tbh, since it’s compounded by an increased workload. I would have a bad taste in my mouth over the whole thing and it would be hard for me to get past.

  40. HigherEdAdminista*

    LW #5- I work in academia as well, and I often end up with a bunch of days like this for the use-it-or-lose-it deadline. I agree with Alison, that if you are burned out taking a big stretch all at once is important. I took two last year and it probably saved me going into this year.

    One thing I have done that might be helpful to you is, if you can, schedule the time around a holiday weekend. So for example, if your university is closing for July 4th this year (this year it seems to be a weekend, but many places then observe it on July 5th), maybe that would be a workable week to start the vacation. It will be a shorter week, so taking some time before and after might help.

    But in this environment… there will always be more work. I could probably work 365 days a year and not run out of things to work on. It is important to take the time. And as far as using it “wisely,” well… be flexible with yourself. Taking the time off only to start a home renovation project or book all the medical appointments you need isn’t going to help you to recharge. When I took my long stretches of time last year, I made a list of things I wanted to do during that time as far as leisure (since both were staycations), but I let myself do what I needed as well. I did productive things, like cleaning in the house, but I was also intentional about doing things that were just fun. I was worried if I didn’t have a plan, I would waste the time futzing about on my phone, so having a list of fun activities I wanted to do helped a lot.

  41. Erin*

    For the person with the attendance points: I worked for a company that did that. It’s ridiculous, and super micro-managey.

    I had never been late/called out when I was hit with a serious illness that landed me in the ICU on a ventilator for a week, which accumulated points. I fought back by working with HR to get retroactive FMLA for the time I was out, which removed my points. I had all of my documentation and followed the rules of FMLA to the letter to get it all approved. It was a pain to have to handle all of that on top of recovering. And knowing that my company did not trust me (an employee who literally has never been late anywhere, and who had maybe called out sick once at that point) was just plain sad. But, whatever.

    One of my co-workers at that job had a chronic condition, and he had accumulated enough points for disciplinary action. As I researched FMLA, I also found out about intermittent FMLA, and passed the info to him. He was then able to not stress out about calling out when he was having a flare up of his condition.

    Anyway, I hope this helps. Points systems are so outdated, and all they do is push good employees out (hellooo you were following the rules!!) or push them to get more creative. Why not just deal with the employees who call out more than average/are chronically late on a case by case basis? It’s just dumb.

    Good luck to you!

    1. MissBaudelaire*

      I am really sorry that happened to you. It’s BS to be recovering from a life threatening illness and also playing games with FMLA and HR.

      As for the ‘case by case basis’ my manager at the place with Archaic Points said that case by case caused too many problems. When probed, what it came down to was that employees who would be disciplined for their issues would then spout off with “But what about Jane? She misses work!” and instead of telling people to mind their own business and that this is work and not fifth grade, they made the stupid policies.

      I honestly think it was also a good way to run us on skeleton crews. They never had to worry about coverage, because so many people were afraid to take time off because of the policies. But what they didn’t realize was that people would be bold enough/sick enough to take the time off. And that painted us into a corner and left us short staffed, and then they had to pay weekend premiums for people to come in and make up the work. Tripping over dollars to pick up pennies, really.

  42. CarCarJabar*

    LW#1: I had a very similar first accounting job after graduating into the terrible job market of 2008. It was a soul crushing 2.5 years. Luckily, I made a few great connections that helped springboard me into a lovely, satisfying, interesting career in accounting. So, maybe governmental auditing is not your sweet spot- but don’t necessarily give up on accounting altogether.

    (The best contact I made through this first terrible job basically ‘gave’ me her job when she was moving on, the job where I met my husband! Our oldest children are best friends and she’s going to be godmother to my youngest child. I definitely made lemonade out of that terrible bushel of lemons.)

  43. M*

    #2. This happened to my SIL and not only did they recalibrate to her regular salary, but they made her pay back the overpayments quickly deducted from her original salary. She had to pay it back in a few months and it was awful for her. I understand how you feel since it was the organizations error (although look at your paychecks people) but the fact you get to keep the extra $10k is really generous on their part. They made the error, you found it, they are letting you keep that money. You basically got a $10k + bonus for a year and then whatever you got the next year. That is a lot of money (and a lot extra in your monthly paycheck). Look at it as a win.

  44. Alexis Rose*

    Irate customers are so difficult. I used to be a teacher and parents were our ‘customers’. One of the reasons I left was that I was tired of dealing with them.

    One parent actually wrote me a note saying she hoped her behavior didn’t drive me to leave. I didn’t reply. If you have to write such a note, you’re definitely part of the problem.

    1. Alexis Rose*

      Also, just have to add that the majority of parents were totally lovely. I guess I never figured out how to not let a few jerks get to me.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        It honestly feels like a case one one or two awful ones almost outshine the ones that are good. And it sucks because in order to even be a teacher, you have to be really dedicated, and you don’t make the money that reflects the time and energy and soul you pour into the job.

        I am not a teacher, I am a leader for a youth organization. I volunteer. And there have only been about three parents that I could not stand. I couldn’t tell them their kids couldn’t participate, and for the record, the kids were fantastic. But these grown ups, man.

  45. Koala dreams*

    #1 Since most people have to pay taxes, it’s difficult to avoid interacting with taxpayers at all. That being said, there are plenty of accounting jobs where you interact less with the public. If you still like accounting, you can look for jobs where your main contacts are co-workers, other accountants or a limited number of clients. When you have a good relationship the rest of the year with people, they are less likely to scream at you when it’s time to pay taxes. Your experience from the government side would be useful to many companies out there.

    It also helps to have a good employer who gives you guidelines and training for dealing with difficult customers.

  46. M*

    #5 is there $$ in the budget to hire an intern maybe one from your school to help cover the work while you’re away this summer and so when you come back there isn’t so much piled up. Or even maybe to hire a student worker the entire year even for 10-20 hours a week? I know many universities are struggling right now, but employing a current student is beneficial for the student and the school. You could train them before you left and then take a couple days off? That way when you come back so much isn’t piled up for you.

    I’m also for taking a day off a week for multiple weeks because then you know that you have that time and can relax.

    Def. ask about the interns or student workers that way students can help with their costs and the university can help their employees have a better balance. I would also write all this down with data and a plan so it’s not just “I need an intern I have burn out” that should be part of it but also sell it as a win-win for the university and department.

    If they say no and you have access to the budget for your department (or ask a supervisor) see where you can make cuts even for 10-20’hours a week in the summer to hire a student. Good luck!

    1. M*

      I meant to say couple weeks not days off.

      Also, someone I know heads a department and they can’t hire interns because of confidentiality but they take chunks of time off not during the super busy season. They also try and break it up when other people aren’t away so stuff doesn’t get piled up for everyone.

  47. a clockwork lemon*

    LW1, it’s a little concerning that you’ve got “outright disagreement,” “confrontation,” and “yelling” all in the same bucket that are causing this extremely visceral reaction in you. It’s pretty easy to get out of audit world and to do some other type of accounting, but anything where you’re dealing with money for people is eventually going to cause some disagreement–that’s just the nature of the the industry.

    You should definitely not be in government-side tax accounting if you don’t want to deal with people who are annoyed or angry that the IRS has opened an audit, but it might not be a bad idea to take some time and think about why you’ve got such visceral reactions to disagreement and non-yelling confrontation and get some tools in your toolbox to not spend the whole day being rattled if someone argues with you about your assessment of something.

  48. irritable vowel*

    LW4: I would add to Alison’s advice (to ask in the interview about the searches) – it’s entirely possible that they’ll say something like “oh, that information is outdated/we don’t do that any more/we wouldn’t do that for someone in this role,” etc. But don’t just take them at their word on that, because you have still consented to it and won’t have any recourse if any of that is not actually the case. I think it would be reasonable, if you’re offered the job, to have a line added to the offer letter (or contract, if it’s that kind of job) stipulating that in this role, you will not be subject to body/property searches. That way, you have more than just what someone said orally in the interview (someone who may not even still be working at the company when you’re subjected to a search).

  49. I'm just here for the cats*

    I hate point based systems and I think they need to be done away with. I know someone who was out on medical leave, had doctor’s note that said she needed x amount of time and the company counted those as points against her. Unfortunately she hadn’t been there long enough to qualify for FMLA but looking back she probably qualified for ADA. She was gone for 1 month, each day she had to call in still, even though supervisor and HR knew she was out. When she came back they didn’t tell her that her shift start time had changed so she got written up for being late, and they expected her to makeup all of the time she missed. She would have had to work 16 hour days (open 6am close 11 pm) 7 days a week for at least a month to makeup the missed hours.
    There was a bunch of other stuff that happened too but they fired her right before she was 1 year. I think they were punishing her for having to leave and didn’t want her setting up any FMLA.

    1. MissBaudelaire*

      I bet you’re right. It sounds like they wanted to make the workplace super inhospitable to her, so she’d either quit or could never really dig herself out of that hole of hours, and they could fire her.

  50. Spicy Tuna*

    LW #5 – it really depends. If you are the type of person that gets overwhelmed when you return from work breaks, then it’s probably better to take off Fridays or Mondays (or both). Sometimes a long weekend is just what’s needed to recharge without getting slammed when you get back. I’m self employed now but I was at my last job for 10 years and I never took off more than one or two days at a time. It was more stressful to use all the PTO than to just do the work. YMMV, of course.

  51. Veteran*

    LW1, I work for the IRS and seriously had to learn that taxpayer’s responses are not personal against me unless they started calling me names. The trick is to have a very monotone voice and once they start going off the handle, you just wait them out quietly and then continue with what you were saying. That being said, it is extremely difficult to learn to do that. I just keep remembering that people are scared, upset, and not handling it well when they are going off. You also need to learn to stand up for yourself and project confidence in your answers. Once people seem to be able to place a crack in your facade, it is hard to shore yourself back up. I very rarely have issues with taxpayers anymore, they don’t like what I am telling them, but they are better armed with new information on how to resolve their issues now. Sometimes I just flat out tell them, the mess they are in is their doing. But if they are willing to listen and work with me, I’ll do everything I can to help them out.
    The key is you have to learn when to say something and how to say it. We all know people that can’t hear us when we are telling them something they need to hear and that is definitely not the time to tell them this mess they are in is of their own doing. But at the same time, we also know blustery people and sometimes to stop their ranting and raving and blaming others is the perfect time to tell them this mess is of their own doing.

  52. heynonyanon*

    Just out of curiosity, did they take the gross amount back, or just the net amount they paid you? Because I’ve heard of companies taking the full amount back (say $1,000) even if they only paid part of it (say $800) and sent the rest to taxes.

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Your logic is faulty. The company pays the gross amount. The employee will likely have to settle tax matters when they file their next return, as there will likely have been an overpayment made.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Because it is still Q1 of 2021, they likely were able to adjust all the taxes. If they use any HRIS and not like Quickbooks or accounting software, there is a way to calculate taxes. OP can still confirm from the HR person. They can provide a breakdown of the correction.

  53. Greg*

    I am going to give a bit of different advice.
    When I first started working, I was really stressed. (A bit different than your problem)
    Stressed about change requests. Stressed about making deadlines. And my health was taking a toll.

    I finally came to the realization that what I was doing wasn’t brain surgery. If I did not make a deadline no one was going to die. What is the worst that could happen was I could get fired. And why do I care what people think of me around the office. I certainly don’t care about them.

    It does take a while to really train your brain to not care. I am not sure if I would say meditation was my solution. It certainly was not meditation in any traditional sense. More like relaxing.

    I did this 20 years ago. So I cannot recommend a book like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*.
    But that is basically what I came up with 20 years ago.

    I would give the advice to keep off of social media as much as possible. Since social media is the exact opposite of what you are aiming for.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      I think what people think of you around the office is very different ballgame than the kinds of things people might yell at you when you show up to audit their taxes. Customer service in general comes with a lot more rudeness than general office politics but a job like that–or something like debt collectors or the people who come to repossess your things or whatever–they are going to face significantly more verbal abuse than what I think you are imagining. So sure, there are plenty of people who are able to not let it bother them and that’s great. But many, many people would not be able to deal with that every day and that is completely okay.

  54. roger that*

    #5: I strongly agree with Alison – take the longest single chunk of time you can. And then work on adjusting expectations for when you return to work, too. I work in a role where no one can cover for me when I’m out and I also have a lot of medical issues and hit extreme burnout recently. Because of the medical problems, I’ve had to get creative with how someone can cover when it seems like no one can cover. And you know what? The world goes on, and it’s ok. I talked with my boss, we triaged what was crucial, reassigned a few tasks where we could, and then I took 8 days off work with basically 24 hours notice. (I spent the last couple hours at work writing up instructions for the things that needed to be covered.) It wasn’t until day 5 that I had a dream about anything other than work and that I actually started to unwind a bit. Plus, when you take at least a week, the expectations for what you get done that week actually adjust. If you just work four day weeks or take some half-days, people will still expect the same outcome at the end of the week.

  55. ih8myjob*

    Ugh, LW2, this happened to me 15 years ago and it’s still painful. We went from being paid monthly to bi-weekly after a chunk of my company was sold to another company. So a change in my pay was not obvious until I was pulled into a room by HR, my boss, and the site manager and asked if I knew it was happening. When I said I had no idea, they said “ok, you have to pay it back” which I understood and they garnished my paychecks for sometime after that. After the meeting, my boss said that he knew I lied about not knowing but was glad I didn’t admit to it as they would have fired me if I had (except, I really didn’t know). I requested acknowledgment from the company that they entered my salary wrong in the transition as they keyed my salary in as $xx,162.35 instead of $xx,xxx. They refused to admit making a mistake. So, yes, I was overpaid, but then I had to suddenly adjust to a drastically lower take home which was tough. But the worst part was how stupid I felt not knowing that I was being overpaid. I was pretty new to professional work and didn’t know that these types of errors happen. So, one piece of advice I always give younger professionals is to check your paycheck, every time! In fact, just check everything and all numbers your boss or HR ever give you.

  56. Cedrus Libani*

    LW #1: I’m in the sciences, where it’s VERY normal for people to choose their path in a way that avoids certain duties. Maybe it’s blood and gore, or animal models, or high-level pathogens, or things that go boom. Most people have at least one deal-breaker. That’s not a moral failing; you don’t have to “work through it” if you don’t want to, just do something else.

    Maybe you’re OK with the kind of accounting where you have no life for the two months prior to Tax Day, but you can’t handle the kind where you get yelled at by a parade of entitled tax dodgers. That’s fine! The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can make it happen.

  57. Orange You Glad*

    LW1 – I’m one of those taxpayers you have to deal with in local audits and unfortunately, I know exactly the type of people that are yelling at you. Early in my career, if they weren’t yelling at you, they were yelling at me to yell at you. I am happy to say I’ve never risen to a level of being “irate” but I have had my fair share of disagreements with auditors over the years. I would speak with your manager/coworkers about how they cope with these situations. I’m guessing that if anyone is being abusive, you can push them up to your supervisor.

    Lucky for you, your experience as an auditor will go a long way if you jump to industry.

    I don’t understand the thought process of people that are instantly angry at auditors for just trying to do their job. My experience is that showing kindness toward a fellow human being and presenting yourself as a knowledgeable and compliant taxpayer goes a long way towards a favorable audit result.

  58. Nope, not today*

    LW#1 – there are a TON of accounting jobs that do not involve customers. At all. I did three years in a CPA firm, doing bookkeeping, payroll, and taxes. Tax clients were by far the worst – either they were incensed they owed the government any money at all or they were angry the refund wasn’t bigger. And it was always my fault. I left and vowed to never work in tax again. From there I worked in the accounting department of a mid-sized construction equipment company – no customers on site even (bliss!!!). And now I’m in a private investment firm, also a position that never ever has to deal with a client. And I wont voluntarily do any client-facing work again. I can handle it, I just hate it. So start looking, there are tons of accounting related options out there (especially for audit, if you move from government agencies to other types of audit roles your clients become a very different animal and its much less stressful, from the client-facing perspective anyway)

  59. Kevin Sours*

    #5. Are those community programs important to you personally or to your organization? Because if it’s the latter your organization has a bus factor problem. You *should* be able to take 2-3 weeks off without the world falling apart and if you should look into fixing that. And then take 3 weeks off.

    I think it’s healthy to have people occasionally take a few weeks off not just for their own wellbeing but also as a dry run for “if this person was suddenly not available how screwed will we be?” Because it’s better to find all of the things only they know how to do when you can still contact them if it’s a legit crisis.

  60. Mimi*

    I’m in a bit of the same situation as LW #1 right now. I work in a public library that will probably be opening back up to patrons in the next month or two, and pre-shutdown I was really struggling with the combo of the more intense behavioral incidents that come with the addicted/mentally ill, and the “I pay your tax dollars!” from many others. Now my happiness at vaccine dates being moved up is tinged with dread that these days are coming back.

    OK, that turned into venting, but a thing that has helped in my particular case is talking to my boss a bit about it. They know how people are, and even if there’s nothing that can be done I found it helpful to have that background in case I do need to breathe or take an afternoon off or whatever.

  61. Megan*

    At my old job, I was hired when I was 6 months away from finishing my Masters. I was told I would be receiving a payrise upon finishing. Once I did, I sent all the paperwork over to HR to process the payrise. I was then told I had actually been receiving the higher amount the whole time, so no pay rise. At the time I was mildly annoyed but reminded myself I had actually received the payrise 6 months earlier, thus was coming out ahead.

    OP you seem very upset about this but ultimately you have got a bonus of $10,000 which is a huge win in anyone’s books.

  62. Been there, still at it*

    LW#1: I have worked 10 years as a state tax auditor. My first couple years, I was nervous and didn’t handle confrontation well. Once I could recite laws that I was applying and knew what steps could be taken, dealing with angry taxpayers was easier. If someone won’t give you information, calculations are used. If someone doesn’t like or agree with your findings, there’s an appeals process. If someone is really difficult, talk to your supervisor or coworkers for advice. If you still don’t like it, states have other accounting positions that you can transfer to and still be a state employee with the benefits, seniority, etc.

  63. armchairexpert*

    I have a lot of sympathy for LW2! She’s said in comments that the workload is very high, that she’s one of the lower paid employees and that she’s been a great performer. You can see, in that context, why she might have hoped that her company would go “look, it was an error, but you’ve definitely earned that [higher] salary, so let’s make it official and call it a generous raise”.

    Not necessarily realistic. But when you’re giving something your all, and you feel like you’re finally being rewarded appropriately, it’s a blow.

  64. Van Wilder*

    LW#1 – That sucks. I work with state auditors and it would never occur to me to yell at them (or anyone in a business context.)

    FWIW, I work in a Big 4 firm and we have hired state auditors in the past into a Senior role reviewing state tax returns. Of course, Big 4 life comes with long hours during busy season. But if it’s something that might interest you, I can nearly guarantee that nobody would yell at you.

  65. Been there! Anon for this*

    OP1 – I was you. I put up with the same thing for years. In a related industry but the rest I could have written. The dread about every client call, remembering how great the benefits and pay are, all of it. It lead to health issues, burnout, and a bad end at a job that could’ve had a neutral end if I hadn’t stuck it out.
    It didn’t help that management only had to say “yes, don’t take it personally just deal with it”.
    Start planning to go now while you have your wits about you and not when it’s your only choice.
    Thanks to Alison’s various columns I was able to get another job while I regain my bearings. That reminds me, I should write in for covid good news

  66. Daniela*

    I work in customer service. I can tell you that I enjoy talking to people and that even when people are upset, that is a motivator for me to go above and beyond to solve a problem. It does make me nervous and it is much more enjoyable talking to people who are happy, but it doesn’t stop me from liking my job.
    One thing that helps me is picturing the many times I have been upset about a problem and how some people in customer service have made the experience different for me.
    There are many techniques to deal with angry customers, and you can learn to handle interactions better, but I think that you might want to try to find a non-customer facing job if you dread these interactions that much.

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