I want my employee to be more engaged and work more hours

A reader writes:

Just to preface, I’m not in the U.S. The minimum wage in my country is about $20 an hour, but the cost of living is higher than the U.S. Something that costs $3 in the U.S. will cost $10 here.

I am currently a manager of a women’s apparel boutique and I have a part-time employee who I’ll call Emily. Emily is currently attending a very prestigious graduate school and has a government scholarship which pays her fees and gives her a living allowance.

She is a good employee in that she is very good with customers because she’s very likable, she’s very smart and she speaks three languages which is very useful because she has often assisted customers who don’t speak good English in those languages.

But she also is really uninvested in the store’s success and has a bit of a “I don’t care” attitude, but she also technically doesn’t do anything wrong either. I noticed she doesn’t try very hard to close sales and has just shrugged and said, “If they don’t want something, they don’t want it.” Whenever I show her how our sales are tracking, she seems disinterested. I called her out on it a couple of weeks ago and she said something like, “Well, it makes no difference to me, I get paid the same whether we make budget or not.” We do get a bonus of a $20 voucher to spend in store if we make budget each month, but even with our staff discount, the products are very expensive and not at all Emily’s personal style based on how she dresses outside of work (she comes in every Thursday and goes to lunch with one of my other employees, Sarah, who is her best friend).

Emily refuses to answer the phone or return messages on her days off, and sometimes it has been obvious she knew I was trying to call her in (because it was Thursday and she didn’t show up at 1 pm to have lunch with Sarah, meaning she already knew the other person was out sick). Emily also refuses to cover any extra shifts whatsoever outside of her contracted 12 hours a week. She can earn about $250 a week without penalty; if she earns more, her living allowance gets reduced by a lot. She negotiated her contract with my predecessor and signed on to work exactly enough hours that she gets to keep everything she gets paid and her whole student allowance, and she refuses to work even one more hour a week. She said it isn’t “worth it” to give up time that could be spent studying or with her family, because she’d be working for $4-5 an hour (the equivalent of working for $1.50-2.00 an hour in the U.S.), and I get it, but I’m starting to get frustrated too.

This isn’t her dream job and I get it. Being a store manager isn’t my dream job either and I’m sticking it out for another couple of years before I’ll go to graduate school myself. But I need her to care more. She surely can’t expect to have a retail job and never have to help out by picking up extra shifts from time to time, even if it is inconvenient. She knows we don’t have a lot of extra staff, being a smallish boutique and not a department store. She can come into to the shopping center to have lunch with Sarah, but can’t do a three-hour lunch cover on the same way. Like I said, this isn’t my dream job. But I care about doing my job well for now, and I get the impression Emily couldn’t care less about the success of the store.

I’m reluctant to fire her, because it is hard to find employees because unemployment benefits due to Covid are so generous here right now and also because customers do like her. Also, she is very well liked among other staff, and there would be a real sense of “why did Emily get fired? She never did a thing wrong” AND Sarah might quit if Emily got fired and I can’t afford to lose two employees right now. But I also need some flexibility and for her to not just do her 12 hours and basically disappear for the week, and showing zero interest in the store’s success. And I need someone who is willing to step up every now and then if someone is sick. How can I approach this?

Well, Emily has told you very clearly what she is willing to offer, and you need to decide if that will work for you or not.

It’s not unreasonable for Emily to have limits on what she’s willing to offer you. Most people have limits on how many hours a week they’re willing to work, and hers are especially reasonable, given the income limits on her scholarship! If working additional hours would lower her pay rate to the equivalent of $1.50-$2 U.S., of course she’s not interested in that. (Would you work for that? I wouldn’t.)

Emily has also been up-front about her level of interest in the store’s success — she doesn’t really care about sales numbers, and she’s not up for pressuring people to buy things they don’t want. That’s not a terribly unusual attitude among non-management employees, frankly! If anything is unusual, it’s just that she’s being up-front about it rather than pretending to care when she really doesn’t. But it sounds like she does a good job and customers like her — so why does she also need to perform interest in sales numbers that don’t really benefit her?

All of this is entirely reasonable on Emily’s side. But even if it weren’t, there’s not anything you could do to force her to change it. This is what she’s offering you. That’s her prerogative. Your prerogative is to decide whether it will work for you or not — whether you want to continue to buy this specific amount and type of labor from her.

If you look at the situation and decide, “Nope, as good as Emily is with customers, I really need someone with some schedule flexibility who can fill in when someone else is out sick,” that’s entirely legitimate. You get to decide that! And if that’s the case, you’d explain that to Emily and let her decide if she wants the job knowing that’s part of the requirements. It sounds like she’ll say she doesn’t, and at that point you would say you appreciate all of her work so far but you’ve got to hire someone who can work the hours you need, and you’d amicably part ways. That’s not firing her; that’s “here’s what I need / can you do it / no, okay, thanks for being realistic about it.”

I suspect you don’t want to look at it that way — you feel like there’s got to be a way to reason with Emily until she comes around to your way of seeing things. But Emily is acting in her own interests, and there’s nothing wrong with that. She’s not going to come around to your way of seeing things, because you’re not offering anything that would make it worth her while. If you could offer her more money, maybe that would be persuasive. But when your argument is “you should work hours you don’t want to work and do it for the equivalent of $2/hour to help increase the profits of a business owner who won’t give you anything additional for your effort” … why would she? Why should she? There’s no inherent virtue in helping someone else make money (and especially when she herself makes less!). If you want her to do more, you’ll have to offer something that will make it worth it to her (and even then, she gets to decline).

I think you’re feeling like “this is just what you have to do when you have a job — you have to pitch in toward the greater good of the business.” And in some situations, that’s true — to an extent. But everyone gets to decide what their own limits are. And Emily has decided on hers! She has negotiated a specific schedule, made her limits clear, and probably is willing to walk away if those boundaries are pushed too hard because this is only a 12-hour/week job (and in a market where it’s hard to hire people, so she likely could just find another one if she needs to).

Emily is offering you a clearly defined product (her good work for 12 hours a week, without emotional investment) at a clearly defined price. Just like when you’re dealing with anyone else offering a product for sale, the choice for you is just whether you want to keep buying it or not.

{ 1,159 comments… read them below }

  1. Infrequent_Commenter*

    Thesis sentence is missing a very important word (I think):
    But she also is NOT really uninvested in the store’s success and has a bit of a “I don’t care” attitude…

    1. h*

      no, it’s already right. “she is uninvested” means that she is not invested in the store’s success. saying that she’s “not uninvested” would imply she was invested.

    2. Just Browsing*

      I thought the same thing at first, but it was written correctly. Emily is UNinvested in the store’s success.

      1. Just Browsing*

        Oops, I swear I didn’t see the multiple replies to your comment before posting. Carry on folks, carry on.

        1. Ryan*

          What I love about the response is it points out that a transaction is taking place between employer and employee. Everyone is an entrepreneur, whether they own a business and sell goods or work for a business and sell their labor to it.

          Emily stipulated what she wants to sell, the store stipulated a price, and the store wants to revisit the implicit contract. No one reasonable does that when they transact business between two companies, but companies do it all the time with their employees and contractors.

          In doing so, the store is making some common mistakes: that the worker’s time is not inherently valuable to the worker (the things you do with that time can be more valuable to you than the money you could be making), that the worker should be invested in outcomes without being remunerated (why, when there’s no tangible benefit), and that the store has a claim to her time whenever it’s convenient for the employer (does the worker get to work extra when it’s convenient for them, even if the store doesn’t need her working then)? If the store was really interested in getting her to do more, they’d at least offer her a commission instead of a gift card that isn’t enough to pay for anything the store sells.

          It surprises me this isn’t an American, because it sounds exactly how American companies treat wage workers. I’m not a wage worker, and I’m on the job market precisely because my employer’s attitude is “sell more in exchange for keeping your job.” Not like I got some big raise with the understanding is sell more; it’s just the typical corporate “we know you can do more because we always think everyone can do more if we badger them enough.”


          1. Skytext*

            Ryan I agree with everything you say except for the part about the “implicit” contract. There is nothing “implicit” about it—it’s pretty clear it is a full on written explicit contract that the LW is trying to nullify. I say this because the LW says things like “she negotiated her contract with my predecessor” and “she refuses to work more than her contracted 12 hours”. I’m surprised Alison didn’t address this: in OP’s country can they just fire someone who is an excellent worker and has an employment contract, just because the new manager doesn’t like the terms of that contract?

            1. Chris Hogg*

              I’ve had a fair amount of experience working with refugees who are seeking employment upon arrival in the US. In many countries, there is a 12-month employment contract between employer and employee, at all levels within the organization. Neither party can unilaterally change or not comply with the contract, without facing consequences. That sounds like the situation here, but without more information, who knows?

          2. Instructional Designer*

            You raise such good points all around but one thing your reply made me think of is how some employers want their employees to be completely altruistic in their desire to work somewhere. Hate to break it to you, but I work to make money. Of course I *hope* to work a job that I also find fulfilling, but if it weren’t for needing money, most of us wouldn’t work as much as we do. It drives me insane when employers think their employees should be equally as invested in the business without giving them any incentive beyond their paycheck. Ultimately the success of a business does not yield the same rewards for workers and employers need to realize we work for ourselves, not for them.

            1. Pennyworth*

              I really don’t understand the OP’s mindset. Her employee is working her contract hours and is not available to work additional hours. Why is OP even asking her to do more? It is like banging her head against a brick wall – the only person she is hurting is herself. She needs to find someone who IS available to work those extra hours rather than railing against an employee’s clearly stated and enforced boundaries.

              1. Momma Bear*

                Emily is comfortable with her 12 hrs, she knows she needs to keep under a certain income to qualify for benefits, and she is not beholden to the employer to do more than that. I would honestly expect someone to have a low personal investment in a store given Emily’s parameters. This is her side gig. One of my first jobs I worked only weekends because also working during the week and trying to go to school was too much. I rarely took extra shifts because I had other priorities. The managers could ask, but they could not require.

                OP inherited this employee and needs to decide if this is really a deal-breaker or not. Sounds to me like OP might want to let this go b/c they have an employee that is good with customers, has the value add of speaking multiple languages, and is reliable for the shifts they are assigned. Is there another employee who would rather take the extra shifts? If so, focus on them and not Emily.

              2. MCMonkeybean*

                But if she’s willing to have a nice enjoyable lunch with her best friend, why isn’t she also willing to work extra hours for less pay endangering her scholarship and possibly earning a $20 voucher for clothes she doesn’t like?? /s

            2. Caroline Bowman*

              100000% this. The idea that one should be emotionally entirely invested in the place where you go to earn your living to fund *your actual life and loves, whatever they may be* is funny, when one thinks about it. Yes, one wants to be liked and to be highly-regarded. Yes, as people we do like to go along to get along quite often, just because we’re a collaborative species generally. Most of us will occasionally take one for the team, which might not be to our instant financial advantage, but may grow personal capital where we work and so on.

              But that’s about it. I work for money. I enjoy the work I do most of the time, it can be really interesting, I feel like I’m good at it, it suits my life and circumstances virtually perfectly. I have no complaints and like the people I work alongside. My boss is a very reasonable, decent person so that’s all great. Saying that, I would most definitely not do it for a pittance, and this is my actual long-term job, unlike Emily, who is doing this to earn cash while she’s studying. Why would she give too much of a hoot about sales figures and suchlike? This is her student, part-time job.

          3. Teapot Tía*

            Yeah, I found myself thinking that it’s kind of cynically comforting that retail management even outside the US, in a country where they apparently have some sort of social safety net, fundamentally believe they own their employees.

            I get scheduling issues, but – ‘she should jeopardize her main income source because we need another warm minimum-wage body on the sales floor” – no.

  2. Roscoe*

    OP, you are coming off REALLY bad here. She doesn’t get commission, yet you aren’t willing to incentivize her to care more. She has a schedule, and you are mad that she won’t work non scheduled days. You call on her days off, and are mad that she doesn’t pick up. Not only does she come off doing nothing wrong, you sound like a pretty awful manager. All of the things she is doing is very logical, both based on the fact that its a part time job, and especially being on the scholarship she is on. But essentially, you are upset that she isn’t bending over backwards to make YOUR job easier.

    I’m shocked Alison was as nice to you as she was here, because you are very much the problem here.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Also, I think the OP is transferring some of her resentment at not being at her dream job to Emily.

      1. Tara*

        To me, it entirely read that LW is jealous that Emily is getting to go to the prestigious university on a scholarship and work for fun spending money without caring about the store, when caring about the store seems to be LW’s route to grad school.

        Maybe LW should stop seeing Emily as an adversary and trying to find issue with her work, and instead ask for some advice regarding grad school applications, applying for scholarship and funding? It doesn’t sound from this that she would be opposed to that, and may help LW see her as something other than ‘the enemy’ which she sounds like here.

        1. Chelsea*

          I thought the same thing. Alarm bells were going off in my mind about this manager. She seems weirdly obsessed with Emily, or maybe jealous. Emily seems to have a lot going for her. I think the manager wants Emily to validate her manager’s self-perceived lack of status by showing tons of interest in this entry-level job.

        2. facepalm*

          Yes, that’s exactly what I read: the OP is stuck in this job she doesn’t love, and as a manager she has to care about stuff like closing sales. She seems resentful and envious that she is in the exact same place as Emily (working in the store) but Emily has freedom NOT to care about the numbers, or worry about who’s covering the lunch shift, or not having to work unscheduled shifts, and after all that not caring, will emerge with a prestigious graduate degree while OP will still be stuck in the store. Really, kudos to Emily, who has negotiated such clear and strong boundaries.

          It’s just bonkers to read this: “I want my employee to answer the phone on their days off and respond to my demands that they work shifts they weren’t scheduled for and which jeopardize their financial situation and academic scholarship.” If it weren’t so personal for OP, I bet she would find that ridiculous as well.

        3. Momma Bear*

          Absolutely. I also read a twinge of jealousy here from OP. Emily has more options and freedom than OP and I think OP is taking this personally. Emily really isn’t doing anything wrong to warrant being fired. To fire someone for having lunch with a friend or for prioritizing her education is…low.

      2. Ryan*


        Retail is the pits. I don’t blame anyone for being resentful if that’s what they’re doing at middle age.

        In a way, the OP is asking this woman to make the same mistake and invest more of herself into something the OP wishes she hadn’t gotten bogged down in.

        1. Dahlia*

          …the letter does not say OP is middle aged or that they made any “mistakes” to be a manager in retail.

        2. A (OP)*

          I’m 25.

          I hope to not be “bogged down” in this field for the rest of my life, but given that I am doing it for a couple of years to fund my own graduate studies and it will be a big part of my resume, I’m simply trying to do the job as well as I can while I am here.

          And even if I was middle aged…..why is that such a bad thing? Ageism against women in the work place is the pits and we should push back on it (my middle aged mother is battling this right now).

          1. Marillenbaum*

            I think part of the issue here is that you feel like you don’t have the resources you need to do your job well, and you see Emily’s lack of investment as the problem you have to solve. She isn’t. Emily’s availability is a circumstance, rather than a problem. Like the weather, or a car crash several feet ahead of you on the road, you cannot fix it, and so instead need to find another way. Do you generally feel like the company you work for provides you with sufficient support to get your job done? Because that might be the issue.

            1. Stevie Dedalus*

              Off topic, but I have to say it is quite hopeful to see the Marillenbäume blooming here in Austria. It such a nice sign after such a difficult year.

          2. Violet*

            OP, I don’t think this is the comment to reply to. It’d be much more interesting to hear whether you think it’s a fair assessment that you’re projecting jealousy on to another employee at your store, and what you plan to do about it. Not respond to one part of a comment which doesn’t match up with the rest of the comments section, who are talking about you as an individual, with no interest either way on your age.

            1. NaN*

              I agree that OP is responding to the wrong comment, but the ones about “projecting jealousy” are also the wrong comments to respond to (and the wrong comments to take heed of, for that matter).

              I’m interested in the OP’s thoughts on the wealth of comments explaining why her expectations are out-of-touch for the situation and why Emily drawing a hard line at not working more than 12 hours is completely rational. Emily’s lack of flexibility is the expected outcome of hiring students (or anyone) with contractual limits on the amount of money they can earn. Expecting/demanding more dedication and enthusiasm from Emily is not the right place for the OP to focus her frustrations.

              That’s the message OP should take from the comments, not any of the speculations about her age, motivations, or psychology.

          3. Caroline Bowman*

            However old you are or are not (and yes, ageism, particularly against women in workplaces is a huge thing), you have an odd sense of how dedicated Emily should be to what is a 12-hour-per-week part-time job while she clearly and entirely openly is studying for her actual career job. A career in retail is absolutely fine. A career being an astronaut, also fine, a career in waste management is not just fine, but essential. None of this is relevant.

            What’s relevant is that you seem really quite upset and dismayed that this person doesn’t prioritise her student job above literally her study grant. Why would she? It’s not a priority beyond 12 hours per week, work hard, be ready to use her considerable language skills and that’s it. Job done.

      1. Julia*

        I’m not sure about that. I think the commentariat here is seeing this situation as a little more black-and-white than I’m seeing it.

        LW is a store manager at a small boutique trying to keep her profits up during COVID. That’s not easy. It’s true that she shouldn’t be expecting her employees to pick up the phone on their days off, or work more hours when they won’t get paid appropriately for it. But it’s also true that, as LW says, retail works this way at small stores: sometimes you have to pick up shifts unexpectedly. And really, pushing a little bit to sell a customer on a product is part of most retail jobs. It’s a subset of sales.

        The way I see it, both are acting reasonably given their incentives. LW wants the store to run profitably, and Emily wants to work her contracted hours and keep the rest of her precious free time.

        As Alison said, if their needs aren’t compatible, they need to part ways. But there’s no need to come down so hard on the manager; this is a case of differing needs.

        1. Spaceball One*

          Sure, it’s hard to keep a boutique afloat during COVID. Emily has a contract to work X number of hours; above that and she starts losing overall income. Picking up extra shifts is outside her contract and jeopardizes her overall income. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a small retail boutique or a car wash or a huge company or whatever else — management wants to “own” more of Emily’s time than what they’ve agreed to in her contract. Emily is not less of a team player to conform to her own contract.

          And frankly here in the States where almost no one gets a contract, retail employees get jerked around. Can’t get high enough wages or hours to make a living, so you need to add other jobs, but you really CAN’T, because all the employers want you to be on call 100% of the time. That’s ridiculous and if a business can’t operate in a more ethical way they need to reconsider their business model.

          1. NaN*

            This is where OP lost me. “[I]f she earns more, her living allowance gets reduced by a lot… and she refuses to work even one more hour a week.”

            Like… of course she does? This is exactly why she has a contract, and it’s not something she can bend on just to be accommodating for her boss. She can’t just work more hours without consequences and those consequences outweigh the normal retail pressure to cover shifts.

            1. MissBaudelaire*


              I also would not drastically reduce my living allowance. Why would she? Because she’s just a really super nice person who wants nothing more than for the shop to be successful? Like, even if that was true, she still has to live. There is nothing wrong with choosing your overall well being.

            2. Phoenix Wright*

              Yep, why should Emily sacrifice herself for a business she doesn’t own, for no reward at all? While OP’s business needs make sense, her expectations of Emily’s work do not.

            3. Mimi Me*

              That was the line for me as well. I don’t think the LW understands what she’s asking Emily to sacrifice all for an extra shift. It’s not worth it.

              1. Observer*

                I don’t think the LW understands what she’s asking Emily to sacrifice all for an extra shift.

                I wonder about this – the OP actually states that Emily would wind up having to effectively work for $1.50-2.00 USD per hour. And they SAY “I get it BUT”.

                1. JessaB*

                  At the absolute minimum if you have to beg her to come in, the company should make up any money she loses. Now this is presuming her aid is calculated on a period by period basis and it’s only that week or month that she’s short. If it permanently or long term messes her up, I wouldn’t do it if I were her either. But there’s no acknowledgement by ownership that if she picks up the slack or gives them extra she needs to be paid what she’s missing. Nobody is going to work extra for less money whether that’s from payroll or other sources.

                2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                  JessaB (who I can’t reply to directly) said something that strikes me as really important, so I’m going to repeat it:

                  “Nobody is going to work extra for less money whether that’s from payroll or other sources.”

                  Bingo. This is the bottom line right here (literally). Expecting an employee to be so “invested” in a part time job that she’d be willing to pick up extra shifts for chickenfeed and possibly jeopardize part of her other income in the process is just plain unrealistic. I would do exactly as Emily is doing if I were in her shoes..

                3. Mimi*

                  “Nobody is going to work extra for less money whether that’s from payroll or other sources.”

                  I was in this exact situation with a friend. She was furloughed, and we were talking about her doing a bit of work on the side for me. I was willing to do 1099s and clearly stipulated scope and pay so it was all legit. She’d get a bit of extra money, I would get the work done by someone I could trust, good thing all round. And then we realized that any extra income would jeopardize her unemployment benefits, not just for the week she worked in (where we’d been planning to be careful about hours to make sure she wasn’t just working a bunch to make the same overall income) but indefinitely, and we were both NOPE! The pocket money wasn’t worth it to her, obviously, and I was not about to ask anyone to take that risk, especially not a good friend.

                4. MBK*

                  JessaB, I get the impression that Emily’s living allowance is reduced proportionally to her earnings over her limit – say, she loses 85¢ of allowance for every $1 she makes over her 12 hrs/week max wages. So even if the company tried to make it up to her by covering some or all of the difference, the living allowance would just be further reduced due to the extra income. There’s no reasonable way for OP to make this work for Emily financially.

            4. Littorally*

              Same. I got to that line and thought, how is this even a question? Emily has a very firm incentive not to work extra hours over and above her contract.

            5. The Impossible Girl*

              Another thing to mention is that often, if she works the extra hours and gets her living allows reduced, it stays that way. As in, even if she returns to her contract hours from then on, the government will keep her allowance reduced.

            6. birdie*

              Right. The only one of OP’s complaints I thought was reasonable was not being flexible in swapping coverage when needed…until OP explained the ramifications on Emily’s income and noted that Emily specifically negotiated to cap her hours at 12. Of course Emily isn’t willing to work more than that. And of course Emily isn’t bending over backwards for a job that’s only a fraction of her week and has nothing to do with her future career. I’m not even emotionally invested in my full-time job – I’m just there to do good work during my contracted hours and get paid in return, and it sounds like Emily has a similar attitude here.

              I agree with Alison – this is what Emily is willing and able to do. If that fundamentally doesn’t work with what’s needed for the position, fine, but if it’s just that OP expects a (very) part-timer to have a high-level of investment in their side job, care a lot for the success of the company, and act out of their own self-interest for the sake of said company…with all due respect to the OP, I don’t think that’s reasonable – nor should it be, imo.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          The LW is using pretty black-and-white framing for this though, which is probably limiting any sympathy to her position. She wants Emily to *want* to work more, at Emily’s own cost, because it would make LW’s life easier. She’s acknowledging the reasons Emily won’t do so (which gives us more context to see Emily is acting in a way that’s best for her), but then discounting or dismissing them because they aren’t what she wants to have happen.

          Absolutely they have different needs that are current in conflict. But LW needs to let go of “How can I make Emily [do whatever],” which is not good management, and deal with the situation as it is.

          1. iantrovert*

            This! In my decade of working three different retail jobs, if someone on the schedule called out and no one else was available to cover (didn’t answer phone, on vacation, shift is one they are never available for, other commitments, etc.), the manager was responsible for covering the shift.

            If LW doesn’t want to have the responsibility of finding coverage given the real possibility that all employees (not just Emily) aren’t available, and she isn’t willing to work those unplanned shifts herself, maybe this management position isn’t a good fit for her.

            1. Mongrel*

              It’s a common misconception I’ve seen in every retail position I’ve worked at (UK).
              Some managers think that a minimum wage, or close to it, job also purchases employee loyalty and engagement without any form of reciprocation.

        3. Working Hypothesis*

          The reason I’m coming down pretty hard on the LW is that instead of thinking, “I have extra hours to fill — what can I do to fill them?” they think, “I have extra hours to fill — I’ll call Emily, and she’ll fill them, even though she doesn’t want to.” Except they shouldn’t be calling Emily on her day off, and those hours are not Emily’s problem. Similarly, instead of thinking, “I’m not making enough sales — what can I do to better interest customers in buying?” they think “I’m not making enough sales — how can I pressure Emily to pressure people to buy more than they want to?”

          The LW’s *real* goal is to help the business thrive (to whatever extent the LW themself actually cares about the store, anyway; they may not have an interest in having the store thrive at all beyond making sure it continues to be able to employ them). But the LW continually translates “How do I help the business thrive?” into “How do I pressure other people to do what they don’t want to do so my business will thrive?” They do it to their employees and they do it to their customers. That’s not the sign of an ethical manager.

          1. Julia*

            To be fair, we actually don’t know that the LW isn’t thinking the way you describe. She may be trying all sorts of things to fill extra hours and better interest customers. All we know is she called Emily on her day off and she asked Emily to push a little harder in sales – those two facts aren’t quite enough to construct the house you’re building.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              We don’t know if she’s doing other things too. But we do know that she’s trying to make it Emily’s problem, when Emily has already clearly stated that it is not her problem and she has very sound reasons for not making it her problem. So, at minimum, the LW’s tool kit for helping the business thrive *includes* pressuring other people into making it thrive. And since multiple period on this thread have suggested other alternatives — ask the other employees who might *want* to pick up additional shifts (or at least not have such an extreme disincentive for it); hire an additional employee for swing shifts to fill in when there are holes; take the shift themself — there pretty clearly are other ways to approach this that don’t involve making Emily do it. It is possible that the LW has already tried all those things, but if so, she doesn’t say so… and honestly, even if she’s tried literally every other alternative, it still doesn’t make it Emily’s job to do the extra shifts against her own interests; it just may mean that the LW needs to replace Emily with someone who is willing to do extra shifts, if that is really 100% necessary for this position (and in that case, give up all those nice extras Emily brings to the table like additional languages).

              At very minimum, the LW is trying to have her cake (Emily’s good points) and eat it too (get extra shifts out of that particular staff role), and they’ve already been told NO and are not accepting it as a final answer. That’s wrong. This is just as much a consent situation as sex — when somebody says No, you have to accept it. In both cases, you’re free to break off the relationship if it’s not giving you what you want, but you’re not free to try to badger them into changing their mind.

          2. Smishy*

            I’m really confused why, if she already knows Emily both won’t work those hours and in fact can’t work them without impacting her scholarship, she keeps just repeating the solution of trying to call Emily. You’d think at this point she’d try another tactic, like hiring another part time person.

          3. Genny*

            But filling those hours is OP’s problem. Let’s say the store has five employees and 1-2 are scheduled to work at any given time. If one or more call out, OP only has three people (possibly herself included) she can ask to fill the shift on short notice. If Emily is never available, that leaves OP two people to call. That’s just not sustainable – those people are going to get irritated that they’re always called in or they inevitably won’t be available. OP can’t hire more people just to have them on-call in case someone calls out – the ROI for both the business and the potential employee isn’t there. It’s not Emily’s job to fix the problem, but fixing the problem for OP likely means letting Emily go so OP can hire someone with more availability. Doesn’t make Emily a bad person, it’s just the reality of working on tight margins.

        4. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Sure, but LW’s problems are not Emily’s problems. Emily is not the store manager, and she isn’t getting paid for manager work.
          And Emily is giving LW everything she can reasonably demand IMO. She’s a good employee who works her contracted hours and tries to complete all the tasks she’s given. If LW wants her to work more or change her tasks, she needs to change the job and let Emily go if she doesn’t agree to the new work.

          1. Julia*

            I’m not sure why you said “sure, but”, as none of this contradicts what I said. I agree with all of it, and none of it requires piling on LW, which is happening a bit in this thread.

        5. BigRedGum*

          I worked in retail for 4 years, and i didn’t pick up extra shifts and I certainly didn’t come in when I wasn’t scheduled. I did just fine.

        6. CouldntPickAUsername*

          “you have to pick up shifts unexpectedly.”

          nope. speaking as a retail worker: unless I’m being paid to be on call I don’t ‘have to’ do anything.

          1. Lionheart26*

            I have felt guilty for 20 YEARS because when I was 15 I turned down a shift. I normally didn’t get offered extra shifts, because my manager knew I was at school. But once, it was school holidays, and I was at home watching daytime TV. Manager called and asked me to come in, but I didn’t feel like working, so I said I was too busy. The next Saturday, my co-worker told me she was en route to the beach with her boyfriend when manager called her. When she said she had plans, our manager said if she wasn’t in the store in the next 30 minutes, she’d be fired. I felt AWFUL. and I continued to feel awful until now when I’m reading all these comments!

            1. Workerbee*

              For what it’s worth, I’m glad you can shake that off now. Tell your younger self that the manager was 100% at fault!

            2. HigherEdAdminista*

              My first retail job had a culture of “on-call” shifts, and I always called in for them and if I was called in I reported for work, but I never picked up additional shifts. Sometimes people would call trying to get you to take their shift on a weekend, usually at the last minute when plans came up, so I wouldn’t answer the phone or had my parents say I wasn’t home (it was still a time when cell phone use wasn’t rampant). It was not required that we be open to pick up or trade shifts. I never asked anyone to cover for me, and if I needed off (since it wasn’t a fixed schedule), I requested it far in advance so it could be worked around. And I didn’t ask for much in terms of time off anyway.

              One time after a late night, my mother woke me early to tell me that my boss had called and said I missed an on-call call in and they needed me to come in. When I called them back, they said they hadn’t said that at all, but now that they had me on the phone… could I come and do an open-to-close? My mom knew for sure they said I had missed a call in (because she knew I was diligent about checking it), and they likely knew for sure there was no way I would get in touch with them unless they made up a lie since I wasn’t a routine shift-swapper.

              So try to let yourself off the hook! These managers can be ruthless when they want to be. Your colleague was likely the last person they had left to call and everyone else had turned them down, so instead of covering it themselves or losing the hours (larger retail stores often get extra hours from corporate if they are meeting their goals, which is what happened to me in the story above; they had a busy day the day before and were given 8 extra hours for the next day they had to use toward their goal), they decided to threaten someone. There is often no incentive to picking up an extra shift if you don’t need the cash, and instead of making it worth someone’s trouble, they do things like this!

        7. Raskolnikov's illegitimate nephew*

          But it’s also true that, as LW says, retail works this way at small stores: sometimes you have to pick up shifts unexpectedly.

          Not in jurisdictions where employees have contracts, and the employee has honored the contract.

          And really, pushing a little bit to sell a customer on a product is part of most retail jobs. It’s a subset of sales.

          So you incentivize your sales force by providing commissions.

          1. Newbie*

            Commissions probably aren’t wanted by Emily as they too would affect her income and thus her schooling subsidy. As a contract employee I don’t know if she can be fired as long as she’s doing what she’s contracted for but the OP’s only option, if it IS an option, is to not renew her contract when it expires and open up the position to someone with more flexibility.

            1. Susana*

              And with someone who won’t actually be working for free by taking on extra hours. Since Emily’s stridden would be reduced if she earned more, asking her to who extra hours is asking her to work voluntarily for an employer which already is paying her only minimum wage.

          2. allathian*

            As a customer, I actively avoid stores where I know the employees are on commission. I hate to be badgered into buying when I’m just looking. Pushy salespeople aren’t traditionally a part of our culture. A single offer to help is okay, but I don’t want to be badgered by five different salespeople who want to make their commission on a sale. I’m more likely to turn on my heel and walk out of the store.

            When I was a student, I worked in a situation that was fairly similar to Emily’s, although my store was bigger with more staff, and the pay periods were a month. I was perfectly willing to work more than my contract stipulated for one week, but then I’d be unavailable for any shifts the following week. My store manager was a difficult supervisor to work with in many ways, but at least she understood why I wasn’t always available. It was also a basic grocery store, so there was no expectation of active sales.

            1. Self Employed*

              I wondered if part of the reason customers liked Emily is that she isn’t pushy. I hate pushy salespeople, and most of the time I will actively avoid talking to staff unless I have to. If Emily is willing to answer customers’ questions without any “Always Be Closing” nonsense, that’s a good reason for customers to like her and possibly return to that boutique after comparing the options elsewhere in the mall.

              Part of the reason I don’t do as well at craft shows selling my own wares is that I don’t want to be pushy. If people don’t want to get something, I’m not going to push them and I’m no good at making small talk just to keep them in the booth long enough to feel obliged to buy something.

              1. Momma Bear*

                Agreed. I get that people need to sell things but the quickest way to get me to leave a store is to hound me about my purchase. Emily has apparently approached people and talked to them, but then respects when they say not interested. She can’t force people to buy things. If she ignored all customers, sure, problem. But she says “If they don’t want it, they don’t want it.” Does OP want her to chase them through the store with the item they don’t want?

                This is why some stores go so far as to have color coded baskets for “help me” and “leave me alone.” Some people really don’t like pushy sales. If the items aren’t selling, is that Emily’s fault or corporate for not choosing better product? If sales on Emily’s 12 hrs are make or break for this store, then there are bigger problems than Emily, IMO.

                1. Æthelflæd*

                  Emily’s lack of pushiness is actually more likely to encourage me to buy something than a pushy salesperson who is try to “close me”. I just really am turned off by pushy sales tactics, and I’m clearly not the only one who feels that way.

            2. münchner kindl*

              Yes, I hate that too. I want the employee to be paid by the store for their hours, and trained, so they can impartially give me advice – does the blue or green sweater look better? Is the jeans from Brand A a better fit than from Brand B?

              If they work on commission, they will lie and push what’s best for them, not for me. Which means instead of trusting employees to be trained and impartial, I have to spend my own time reading test reports and finding info on what product is best for me; at which point I might as well buy online instead of at a shop.

            3. No Name #1*

              I work in retail at a store where we do not make commission in sub-industry where workers typically make commission but we are paid above minimum wage (still not very much compared to the cost of living in some places but it’s better than most retail jobs). It is, however, still very important for individual sales associates to make sales though, especially at a time like now when people are getting laid off due to COVID. If I was consistently underperforming with sales I’d be concerned about my job security.
              Fortunately the company I work for explicitly does not want us to be pushy sales people, but I’m making this comment to say that just because a store doesn’t pay it’s workers commission does not mean that we will be less inclined to close sales.

        8. Lance*

          A thought to consider, regarding pushing for sales: the fact that she doesn’t may be why she’s as well-liked by customers as she is. I get that stores like that need profits, and people often attempt harder sales; and of course, that may work for a lot of stores, in the end!

          But there’s still people out there who would appreciate the softer, ‘offer assistance but back off a little and let them decide what they want’ approach.

          1. Julia*

            That’s a classic fact of sales: what makes you well-liked may not be the same thing that makes you profitable. Everyone hates online advertising, for example, but these days that’s what makes the world go round.

            1. Chaordic One*

              So many well-liked people just can’t make a living when they’re paid by commission. I’m just sayin’.

            2. BBA*

              Who knows how this math on this particular case works out, but a more laid-back approach instead of a pushier approach could mean the store gains/retains a longterm customer who doesn’t purchase that day but will purchase on other days, versus someone who’s noping out of that store for the foreseeable future or forever to avoid the pushier approach. (See also: Why I never set foot in a Buckle store a second time)

              1. Instructional Designer*

                This is a good point. I will literally stop shopping at a store if I feel I can’t go without people pushing sales on me. I want to browse and not be bothered. In retail, I don’t want sales people to try and “close” all the time. It’s obnoxious and you’ll chase me away instead of making a sale.

                1. Julia*

                  I’d argue the point of sales is to walk that line – push the customer enough so that they buy something they might not otherwise have bought, but also know when to back off before they get frustrated enough that they leave. The line is different for every customer, of course.

                2. Instructional Designer*

                  @Julia. I think it’s a bad sales philosophy. I’m a grown adult. I know what I want and what I don’t want. If I want assistance it’s usually between choosing two things and I need information about the product. But I don’t need someone to decide if I should buy something or not for me. Sales people should educate the customers on product features and benefits. That’s what helps people decide to buy.

                  I say this as an Instructional Designer that works for a channel learning and readiness Learning & Development company. Our goal is to educate people all along the sales chain about the products they sell because having that knowledge yeilds the best sales.

              2. allathian*

                Yeah, this. It’s not the employees’ fault, but I definitely appreciate a softer approach and will actively avoid the pushy stores.

              3. a drive-by commenter*

                So it wasn’t just me who ran into a pushy Buckle employee! Haven’t been back to that store for more than a decade, despite the fact that their esthetic is right up my alley. I still remember how teenaged me went in to shop, discovered that one pair of shorts would cost most of my paycheck, and was still pressured by the sales associate to buy. “We have a payment plan!” Great, your business model is to tempt teenagers to get into debt (and hope that their parents will bail them out?) I vowed then and there to never act like that, and I’ve still been quite successful working retail.

              4. Monkey tree*

                This is me. In clothing stores if you tell me something looks good and it doesn’t, or you try to push me to buy what I don’t want I walk away. I’ve walked away from large purchases of stuff I did want because I was annoyed at being pushed towards stuff I didn’t.

                I also almost never make large purchases without thinking on it.

                I may be an anomaly. But if there was a small store that sold clothes I like with a sales assistant I trusted you’d probably getting me shopping there almost exclusively. Not being into fashion this might not be a great return for you – but it is the most you could ever get from me.

                I wonder if OP knows the data on where they make their money (one off vs repeat customers), and how to target the profitable customers long term.

          2. A Genuine Scientician.*


            A few months ago, I needed to buy a new couch, so I went to a couple of furniture stores. I knew what dimensions I wanted the thing to be. The saleswoman who said “I have 3 options on the floor that meet those requirements. Would you like me to show them to you?” and then, after showing me those three, said “Here are the product sheets for each of these. Each one has several fabric swatches on the tag that would all be the base price, though we can look into other options if you don’t like any of those. Can I give you some time to try each of them out and see if you’re interested in any of these?” made *such* a better impression on me than the aggressive, pushy people at all the other places that her demeanor was a significant fraction of why I decided to go with her company, rather than the roughly equivalent option elsewhere. I didn’t buy that day, but I did come back and make my purchase from her (and I strongly suspect she got a commission out of it).

            1. Momma Bear*

              I had a similar car buying experience. I gave the salesperson my specs, they showed me the cars that matched. They came out later to see if I wanted a test drive, said, “By the way you could get a new car within your budget, here look at the numbers and let me know what you think.” Low pressure. I bought the new car.

          3. E Liz*

            +1 I literally left a store the other day without buying anything (when I mostly likely would have otherwise) because the two sales ladies were SO pushy and annoying.

          4. SD*

            Just because Emily doesn’t hard sell an item on Monday doesn’t mean that the same customer won’t be back next week and buy something else because she was comfortable with Emily’s approach the last time she came in. It’s a version of going into the car dealer and getting nailed to the wall to buy the car RIGHT NOW when you just wanted to check it out. Are you ever walking into that dealership again? Not me. Emily’s customer may well pass up the $200 whatever today, but is likely to come back again another time because the first time was a positive experience.

            Have we forgotten Emily’s language skills? Three languages is a huge bonus. I was in Belgrade a couple of years ago and was freezing to death in May. I needed a jacket. I was very happy to be able to communicate with the boutique salesperson who came up with just the item-and it was on sale, because May. As I don’t speak Serbian, I was really glad she spoke English. Bonus.

          5. Marion Ravenwood*

            Yep. There’s a well know cosmetics chain here in the UK that I was a big fan of when I was a student. I had two branches near me – one in my university town and one in the nearest major city, about half an hour away (which at the time was the second best performing branch in the country). I used to hate going in the big city branch because they’d grab you as soon as you walked in the door and you couldn’t look at a product for more than a few seconds before a sales associate was asking “can I help you?” and trying to press the products on me. By contrast, the university town branch had staff who were friendly and happy to chat, but also knew when to leave well alone, and consequently I was much happier making purchases there because I didn’t feel pressured. The bigger branch’s attitude towards sales clearly worked for them but given comments I’ve heard about the same chain from other people, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who preferred the more hands-off approach.

          6. Bagpuss*

            Yes – I hate it when staff are pushy. I’ll just leave and not come back.
            It’s hard to measure – from the store’s perspective, they aren’t going to know that that’s why I left without buying or why I don’t then return.

          7. CowWhisperer*

            I work at a big-box store where sales are important – but the reason I’ve stayed there (besides flexible scheduling) is that we aren’t supposed to jeopardize future sales by overly pressuring customers today.

            I work in a department that is a good starter spot for DIYers. At least once a month, I spend 30 minutes or more educating a customer about a potential project that has little or no sales attached today.

            Does management get mad about that? Nope. A lot of those customers will spend quite a bit of money over the next few years on improving their homes and possibly loop in some commercial uses.

            Emily may well be picking up on the fact that pushing hard to get $100 in sales from one customer today may well cost the store ten missed $100 sales from that customer over the next five years.

        9. Ellen N.*

          Being pushed to buy things I didn’t want to is why I switched to shopping for clothes 100% online.

          I used to go to a boutique for plus sized women. They sell lovely clothes. However, the constant attempts to talk me into buying clothes I didn’t like made me stop shopping there.

          I would have been delighted to have a salesperson with the view that I shouldn’t be pushed into buying things.

        10. münchner kindl*

          This is an expensive boutique, not some store selling hand-made stuff, because the 20$ “reward card” doesn’t buy anything – not even scarf, or similar decoration.

          Given the bad planning (not enough coverage) I do think of the usual make-work vanity project of upper-class housewifes married to rich people and don’t feel much sympathy with keeping this store afloat.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            To be fair, we have absolutely no idea about the ownership situation of this store. We only know it’s a fashion boutique with a tight margin and inadequate staffing. There are a lot of those.

        11. Caroline Bowman*

          Well sure, they have different priorities. That’s true and reasonable. But Emily was hired on a specific basis and seems to fulfil her obligations – and use her language skills – very well and to a good standard. She doesn’t wish to try and upsell, it wasn’t part of the contract, nor does she want extra hours.

          The issue is the real sense of outrage in the OP. I mean, sure there’s no commission and yes she’d lose money on the deal, but WHY WON’T SHE come in on her day off? To me, that’s the thing.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            That’s what got my attention also — the offended tone throughout, of entitlement that wasn’t being met. They acknowledged that Emily has no obligation (and no incentive!) to do the things they want, but they still seem to be acting like Emily *does* have some more nebulous kind of emotional obligation to solve LW’s staffing problems for them. She doesn’t.

    2. Ellena*

      Not to mention, most people (especially who attend prestigious grad program) literally wouldn’t lift a finger for 2,50 USD an hour! What kind of enterprise is this for a country with significantly higher standard than USA? How is it even legal?

      1. DC Cliche*

        I’m guessing it’s a Scandinavian country and the scholarship functions more like government benefits.

        1. Chaordic One*

          There are similar rules in effect at some colleges in the U.S. Back in the day, I had a roommate who entered and won art contest to design a new logo for the dormitory food service. The prize was a small amount, something like $50.00 or so. The college cut her financial aid by the amount of the prize.

          1. WS*

            If it is Australia (which it could be based on these criteria) the COVID supplement to benefits has stopped as of today, so that factor is gone.

            I had a similar situation in postgrad – I could earn up to a certain amount per fortnight (in my case it was about 10 hours work per week) and after that you start to lose money. I had to stop my hobby because I couldn’t afford it without selling things but couldn’t sell things because it was relevant income!

            1. Monkey tree*

              Not Australia I suspect. 1. We don’t talk about “grad school” 2. The standard PhD scholarships don’t limit income (but tax changes whether it’s worth working if you receive other benefits). 3. If you want to sack Emily (you would either have to fire her or make her redundant) you need to satisfy FWA requirements that her refusal to work overtime were unreasonable. The fact that Emily would suffer financial penalty such that working the shift might cost her money (parking, travel etc) I wonder if you’d meet the “reasonable” test.

              But if OP is in Australia I recommend getting relevant employment advice from someone versed in Australian law. You would also need to ensure that your company would be happy with any negative community backlash. Scholarship student sacked for not working overtime – could be a headline that harms your profits if people decide they don’t want to shop there because of that.

              And if you are in Australia, you clearly have a genuine need for a casual with flexible availability in your staff. Hire one/some

              1. MugOfTea*

                Yeah, definitely not Australia. In fact, full time PhD scholarships here don’t even count toward taxable income. Scholarship income can be affected if you have another source of income *for your PhD research* (for instance, if you were employed by a phramaceutical company who is in a partnership with your Uni, and the research you are doing for that company is contributing directly to your PhD; or if you had another scholarship that supported your PhD research), but there are no actual limits on income you can receive from non-PhD-related sources. Having said that, scholarship recipients aren’t supposed to work more than a certain number of hours per week (averaged out over the whole year), but it’s not monitored closely, and the amount of income is fairly irrelevant – for instance, it doesn’t matter whether someone earns $20/hour or $200/hour, so long as they don’t average more than 14 hours per week over the whole year.

            1. MT*

              Not NZ either. Sure, the cost of living can be high and as a former post-grad student myself her financial situation sounds similar, but the language used isn’t really how we talk about university. We don’t distinguish between undergrad and graduate school, it’s all just university. We also would never refer to a specific university as prestigious – they are all public and all at around about the same level of prestige. Unless the OP went out of their way to make the letter relatable to a US audience, that doesn’t really makes sense. Also speaking three languages and having regular customers who don’t speak English but do have another common tongue seems unusual for a Non-European country. I currently live in Sweden, and it won’t be here as there is no set minimum wage here. So still unsure on this one.

              I don’t have much to say on OP’s attitude in general, other than to agree with many of the comments above. Emily is completely in the right here. It concerns me that you feel entitled to her emotional investment and time outside of her contracted hours, and tbh there seems to be some level of resentment on your part.

          2. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

            No, I don’t think it’s Australia – the $ equivalents and amounts quoted don’t make sense for AU.

        2. allathian*

          Probably. I’m in Finland and contracts are pretty much mandatory for most jobs, certainly any with any responsibility for handling money. The only exceptions I’ve encountered are either delivery jobs where the staff aren’t employees but rather entrepreneurs and some call center jobs. You can quit both with no notice at any time.

          Tuition is free here up to a Master’s degree, but you do have to pay for accommodation and other COL stuff. There’s a government student subsidy available for that, and the income restrictions are fairly strict, mainly to ensure that students don’t work so many hours that they don’t have any time to study. This also struck me in the LW’s letter, the LW gives the impression that Emily is lazy when she’s not working, but she’s a student and that can be a full-time job.

          Finland doesn’t have a statutory minimum wage, but we do have collective agreements that have been negotiated by the unions, which apply to both unionized and non-unionized employees. This system is currently being dismantled, though, so we’ll see if and when it will become necessary to set a statutory minimum wage.

      2. Bee*

        I suspect that I’m living in the same country as the OP, and how the government benefits work here that subsidise the cost of living for students is as follows:

        The subsidy is $X per fortnight, and you can work to top up your income. But once what you earn through your job goes past a certain threshold, the amount of money you receive through the government benefit reduces dramatically or stops. So if Emily works extra hours, she would still be paid the $20 per hour by the shop, but her overall income would be less due to the loss of the subsidy for that fortnight, thus reducing the average amount of money she’d be earning per hour. Does that make sense?

      3. Daisy*

        The shop isn’t paying her $2.50. She gets less of her student grant for every hour over the 12 she works. I don’t think it’s unusual for means-tested benefits to work like that.

      4. joss*

        There is also the fact to consider that as a graduate student Emily may not even have all that much time to relax in addition to the time she spends at the boutique – she has do do her course work as well. Ask whether I would give up an hour of my limited free time to work for $2? The answer would not just be no but h*ck no! That would not even buy me a coffee!

        I think the LW needs to reconsider what she is really asking especially since Emily is just sticking to what she negotiated prior to accepting this job.

        1. Roseclef*

          Absolutely this. When I was in grad school, I took 4 classes a semester. It wasn’t unusual to have 500 pages of reading per week for any ONE of those classes. And that’s just the reading – I also had to sit exams and research and write papers and attend class. The only way I could hold it together was by living with a family member and not paying rent, so I didn’t work. It’s clear Emily IS an exceptionally hard worker – because she worked hard enough as a student to earn a place in a prestigious university, and because she chooses to work to cover her bills rather than restrict her lifestyle or find other ways to limit expenses. She is managing better than I could when I was in the same circumstances! She SHOULD be extremely defensive of her free time and she SHOULD place a high value on it. I for one am not doing any task more onerous than picking my own nose for $2.50 an hour, and I have LOTS more free time now than in grad school.

          For someone whose job is in sales, it’s strange that OP doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t get something for nothing. You’re getting what you pay for, and a hardworking person with no other relation to you and with other stuff going on isn’t sliding you extra gifts and treats for free. This is not the kind of thing that rational complaints are based on.

          1. Instructional Designer*

            Yup! Grad school is HARD. I went to a prestigious school in NYC and I had to work 2 jobs at the same time in order to afford it. They paid about $20 an hour and I had financial aid. Even if I wanted the extra money or would have liked to work more, it was impossible for me to do so. Meeting a friend for lunch is not an indicator that she has a lot of spare time on her hands.

            1. iantrovert*

              In fact, I’d argue that meeting a friend for lunch on the regular is precisely an indicator of a lack of other free time to socialize. Everyone needs to eat. And as the pandemic has shown us, plenty of folks struggle without socialization (and no, interacting with customers/coworkers at work doesn’t count as socialization!). For all we know, getting lunch with her friend is the only consistent non-work non-school time Emily gets, and she’s already combining it with the necessity of eating.

              Heck, when my former roommate and close friend was getting his doctorate, the only time I ever saw him over several years was if I brought him food or he needed an extra pair of hands to move furniture. Oh, and that one day that we went kayaking when he was supposed to be on vacation but was working on research for most of his two weeks off anyway. Grad school is intense!

    3. Volunteer Enforcer*

      Imo, part of how the manager comes across badly is judging the employee from a position of privilege. If she did what the manager wanted, the manager would have slightly more convenience and it would be untenable for the employee. Loving your job and being invested in the company is a position of extreme privilege Imo.

      1. Instructional Designer*

        Yeah and I would add that Emily isn’t necessarily privileged, although LW seems to think she is. Most people get into prestigious grad schools and receive scholarships for working really hard to achieve that. Maybe Emily had more opportunity or something but LW didn’t mention any sort of broader relationship outside of work so what would LW be basing that on? To me it sounds like Emily probably worked for what she has and isn’t just getting a free ride on no merit.

        1. parsley*

          Also, if she has a scholarship and is relying on that to pay her dues, it likely means that she doesn’t have a parent or someone who can supplement the loss of income if she took those extra hours that would bring her down to $2 an hour.

    4. Essess*

      That was exactly my reaction too. You pay her to work on days that you scheduled her. She has every right to do what she wants when she is not on the schedule. If you are demanding that she be at your beck and call on days you didn’t schedule her, that’s really not appropriate. If you are trying to require her to be available on her days off then you need to schedule her as ‘on call’ and you pay her to be available to work without warning. I was really upset reading your letter and your expectation that she needs to work when you didn’t bother to plan for her to work. This is completely a manager expectation and scheduling problem, not an employee problem.

      1. münchner kindl*

        And it is a big scheduling problem! Because in non-US countries, employees have by law x number of vacation days / year that must be taken (not deferred to infinity or paid in money), so if the covering schedule is so thin that an unexpected sickness leaves a hole, how does the store deal with planned vacation? Not give them at all?

    5. Chriama*

      I feel like people are being a little willfully ignorant here. Emily has stated her boundaries. OP’s choices are to accept them, or find another solution. OP has said that she doesn’t want to fire Emily, but how much of that desire was based on the hope or belief that she could somehow convince Emily to work more hours or care more about the job? It’s very possible that once she accepts the fact that Emily will not change other solutions will become more appealing. Those solutions could be anything from reducing Emily’s hours to outright firing her, in order to afford hiring someone who can work more than 12 hours a week. If it’s not possible now, it will likely be possible in the near to mid-future, when enhanced unemployment benefits end.

      OP has options here too, and people are a little too happy to criticize her for her expectations of Emily without acknowledging that if OP acts on her other options Emily may not be happy with the outcome. I think extending a little more grace OP’s way is not a bad thing.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        Based on the OP’s letter, Emily has a contract to work 12hr/week. It’s probably not easy (or in OP’s interest) to rewrite that contract. And if she loses Emily, she now has 15 hrs to find coverage for (12 + that 3hr lunch shift). And if Sarah also leaves, that’s now 27 hours without coverage.

        I understand where you’re coming from, but in this situation Emily has most of the cards.

        1. Alex*

          Other than in most circumstances it’s going to be easier to hire someone for 15 or 27 hours a week than it is for 3 hours so it may well be that the OP could easily fill a position that offers a reasonable number of hours but cannot get anyone to take a position with so little hours.

          1. Chriama*

            You said this much more succinctly than me! I don’t think that hiring someone willing to work 12-15 hours a week is this monumental task it’s being portrayed as (or 27, if OP is worried about losing Sarah and also wants to attract people who make more on unemployment for 15 hours but not for 27).

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              There’s still a number of questions here:

              1) Can the LW even fire Emily? She’s got a contract and she’s living up to its terms. That may make it difficult, though the LW’s language does seem to suggest that it’s within their power.

              2) Can they get somebody else to fill the shift? They seemed to think that would be difficult due to Covid unemployment benefits. It may not be all that hard, but they are at least concerned that it might be.

              3) If they do replace Emily, will Emily care? This isn’t something the LW needs to worry about either way — just as the success of the store isn’t Emily’s problem other than to do her assigned work during her contacted hours, the success of Emily isn’t the LW’s problem other than to pay for those hours so long as Emily continues to be employed there. But you specifically brought up that “people are a little too happy to criticize her for her expectations of Emily without acknowledging that if OP acts on her other options Emily may not be happy with the outcome.” I’m not sure this is at all accurate. Emily’s a trilingual, experienced salesperson in a market where it’s difficult for retail to hire; the odds are pretty high that she can get another job within the day if she loses this one. Within the week if she wants to make sure to hold out for a better one where they won’t push her to do more than she’s said she can offer. The only way I can see Emily having any difficulty getting a different job is if the LW decides to be unbelievably spiteful and poison her reference just because she wouldn’t go beyond the terms of her contract when it could wreck her scholarship to do so.

        2. Chriama*

          > but in this situation Emily has most of the cards.

          I just don’t think that’s definitively true. Hiring for 2 employees might be a short term pain, but if it meant OP had people willing to cover every so often, it would be a long term gain. It might be that OP needs to slog through until the enhanced unemployment benefit ends and the candidate pool opens up a bit, but she could also potentially find one employee willing to work 27 hours a week because it’s more than they make staying home and they’re looking for a long term position. Total pay is a function of hourly wage and hours, after all.

          Bottom line is, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect employees to be flexible enough to cover a shift for a sick coworker every couple of weeks. (Note that I don’t think Emily’s request was unreasonable either, and the fault may simply be with the previous manager who took on the burden themselves or accommodated it in ways OP is unable to do now). I don’t know how often this is happening (and if Sarah is also regularly calling in sick then it might be just as well if OP is rid of both of them), but when OP acknowledges that Emily’s hard limit is not going to change, she might find that hiring 2 new employees is a more appealing solution than it seemed at first glance.

          1. Sam*

            If I were asked to break my contact to work unscheduled overtime which payed notably *less* than my actual wage every few weeks, I’d have words with my manager.

            1. Chriama*

              Sure, but from OP’s perspective, Emily is a single employee who has very particular requirements, for a job that doesn’t really need specialized talent. “Emily holds all the cards” implies that it would be hard to replace her. If OP realizes that making Emily care more is an impossible task, replacing her might start to look a little easier.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                The LW has explicitly said that replacing Emily would be hard in the current market, though. I think we have to believe her. I still agree that it may be the best of the available options… if the LW absolutely needs flexible scheduling from this role and Emily cannot be flexible in her scheduling, then Emily is probably not the right employee for this role. But I’m going to assume it’s as difficult as the LW says it is to hire for retail right now in their location.

              2. Susana*

                Maybe replacing Emily is hard because it’s not a very good job. And minimum wage (if things cost more than 3 times what they do in the US, and min wage there is $20 an hour, it’s like making less than $7 an hour in the States) isn’t appealing to begin with.
                Emily *can’t* work more than 20 hours without essentially working for free. Why would she do that?
                Maybe it would make sense to hire someone who can work more than 12 hours – meaning, that t person wold actually make mont for the hours past the 12. But you can’t tell people they have to be on call unless you want to pay them to do it.

          2. Instructional Designer*

            Expecting an employee to cover a shift every couple of weeks is A LOT of variability. Especially for someone in grad school who may desperately need that time in order to complete their work.

            1. Anon for this*

              And what about people who work multiple jobs to make ends meet? It’s unreasonable to expect that sort of investment for a part time job that is inherently not the employee’s only responsibility.

              1. Chriama*

                But are we talking about the way things *should* be or the way they are? If I had my way, we’d have UBI and every employer would have to offer full benefits to all employees no matter how few hours they worked. But nobody consulted me on how to structure employment law, and I think there are decent retail jobs (decent for retail) that would expect you to be somewhat flexible with your hours. Some employees may self-select out, but not all would.

                1. Instructional Designer*

                  But where Emily is concerned, we are not talking about the way things should be, we are talking about the way things are. Emily has a contract and has been very clear about her inability to take on more. Someone DID accept that and gave her a job.

            2. Chriama*

              To be fair, I was the one who said every couple weeks. But I think that someone who got a retail job with an agreement that they would work exactly a certain number of hours without ever having to work less or more knows that they’re getting an unusual deal. I don’t think retail workers who can commit 12-15 hours a week are unicorns.

              1. The Other Katie*

                This is a very America-centric viewpoint. In Europe it’s not uncommon even for retail employees to have a contract that specifies a set number of hours. Some employees might be more willing to work extra hours than Emily is, but it’s not exactly unicorn-level rarity.

              2. Instructional Designer*

                It being an unusal really has no baring on the situation. Emily negotiated a situation that works for her and all parties agreed. That’s what matters. While I agree that in most retail situations there is variability, that doesn’t mean exceptions can’t be made. But the reason I was raising this point was because it was indicated that every couple of weeks isn’t a big deal. That may be true for some people, but we know it is not true for Emily and she has made that clear. It’s not right to penalize her for it.

            3. Self Employed*

              Right! Her classes would be scheduled on the days she’s not already working, and even if she’s not IN class, she will have tons of work. Maybe even research, if it’s that kind of program.

          3. Juniper*

            Depending on where she is, OP might not simply be able to replace her. She could very well have been describing my country, and you can’t fire someone without cause. Redundancy is a long and arduous process and can leave you legally vulnerable unless you have an airtight case. Definitely wouldn’t be worth trying to pursue where I am.

      2. Roscoe*

        My problem is you can’t make someone WANT to work more. You can incentivize them to be willing to do so, but that doesn’t mean they will want to. Like, I get paid very well and make commission, and I still don’t want to work more, however I know that if I do, I’ll likely be rewarded with more money.

        The idea that “its retail, you HAVE to pick up shifts when you don’t want to” is absolutely ridiculous. I worked retail. I was able to pick up shifts, but it was never an expectation. If there was a coverage issue, that was never shifted to me or my colleagues, it was on my manager to figure out. But we weren’t looked at negatively if we had other things to do and couldn’t do it.

        I’m not willfully ignorant. I’m going by what OP says. Emily contracted a certain amount of hours. OP is mad that Emily is sticking to what she contracted. That is a ridiculous way to be.

        1. Lionheart26*

          Exactly. Every retail store I worked in when I was a student offered some kind of perk for extra shifts. One store paid overtime if it was a pick up shift, another had a commission structure that was based on sales per hour scheduled, not hour worked (so if you worked extra hours, your sales/hour increased). In every job there were a mix of casual workers like Emily with very fixed hours, and casual workers who LOVED the extra shifts and would skip classes for the chance to go to work. Managers just didn’t bother calling the Emily’s, and everyone was happy. I can see how challenging it is for the OP who obviously doesn’t have a shift-loving employee on call, but what are you doing to incentivise them?

        2. em_eye*

          At every retail job I had, there was a healthy barter market for swapping and picking up unwanted shifts. I was always happy to do it because I could use the money, I liked my coworkers, and doing them a solid meant they were more likely to do it for me when I needed it. But no one *had* to do it. Ultimately, filling the shift you were scheduled for was your responsibility if no one would take it. If someone got sick or there was a weird time period when no one was available, it would first be offered to whoever wanted it, and if no one took it the GM or even the owner filled it themselves.

      3. biobotb*

        I’m not sure what you mean by “willfully ignorant” since we’re all working with the same information, which is that the LW thinks Emily should work more at the shop, even if it drives her overall income lower, just because it would make the LW’s life easier. I don’t think Emily will be as upset to lose the job as you think, since she would be able to retain her full scholarship support, which she wouldn’t be able to do if she worked more for the LW.

        1. Chriama*

          That might not be the correct phrasing. Emily took the job on terms that worked for her. Someone literally said “Emily holds all the cards”. If Emily would be unhappy to lose the job, she really doesn’t. (Note that I don’t think she would choose to work for $5/hr, but I think it’s possible that she would have been willing to take a job for 8 or 10 hours a week with the understanding that flexibility would be needed but it would never put her over 12 hours). I just think people are a little too happy to dump on OP without acknowledging that she has options too.

          1. Sam*

            I think you’re generally missing the direction of causality here. People are “dumping on” the OP because she doesn’t realize she has those options, and seems to be wildly personalizing it as being about Emily’s dedication.

            1. Chriama*

              > People are “dumping on” the OP because she doesn’t realize she has those options

              OP is the one who wrote in. Making comments like “Emily holds all the cards” and “Emily is a role model” instead of simply stating “OP, this is what Emily wants. You decide if *you* want it and if not, what you want to do about it” seems a lot more focused on telling OP why she’s wrong than trying to help her understand what options she actually does have.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              This letter is odd because Emily doesn’t do anything wrong but she won’t take on more hours and she won’t push to close the sale. So is this a problem or no?

              I think OP has to decide what she wants from her staff and apply that expectation to everyone there.

              1. Chriama*

                > I think OP has to decide what she wants from her staff and apply that expectation to everyone there.

                Right, exactly. I think the problem is that OP is seeing “convincing Emily to care more” as a viable option. Once she acknowledges it’s not, she can decide if she can live with it or not.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  But that’s exactly what people are saying in the comments you’re describing as “piling on,” — “LW, you can’t solve your problems by convincing Emily to care more, and the sooner you recognize that and stop trying to go through the brick wall instead of around it, the better.” Just because they’re also recognizing that it can be valuable and brave to refuse what certainly sounds like pretty heavy pressure from your manager when it’s against your own best interests (which, as far as I can tell, is where the “Emily is a role model” comes from), it doesn’t change the advice LW is getting.

        2. Roseclef*

          We’re also talking about an environment in which there are more low-paying fewer-skills-required jobs than people who want low-paying fewer-skills-required jobs, because people are getting unemployment benefits that allow them to continue to live at least somewhat comfortably. It’s pretty obvious that LW needs Emily more than Emily needs this specific job. That’s probably part of why LW comes off as so resentful of Emily, because she wants something and has no real way to coerce Emily into giving it to her. Frankly, I envy Emily because I have seldom been in a situation where things fell so clearly in my favor, and I think it’s great that Emily seems to have an idea of her power and the will to use it!

          1. Chriama*

            I do think there could be some resentment at play! OP also says this job isn’t her long term goal either. So Emily being unwilling to share her “we’re all in the same boat, let’s make the best of it” mentality hurts more than it would if OP was happy where she was.

          2. pleaset cheap rolls*

            “We’re also talking about an environment in which there are more low-paying fewer-skills-required jobs than people who want low-paying fewer-skills-required jobs, because people are getting unemployment benefits that allow them to continue to live at least somewhat comfortably. ”

            Where is this? In the US? Nah, not true.

            Perhaps you could say that there are fewer people afraid of losing their housing/starving due to unemployment benefits, but “somewhat comfortably”? No.

            1. Instructional Designer*

              Agree. Unemployment benefits do not enable you to live comfortably in the US. My husband was laid off due to covid. He had a job that paid $55k per year. He gets less than 50% of that with his unemployment benefits. Thankfully I have a job and that’s enough but retail workers who have been laid off due to covid are starving here.

              I believe OP said they weren’t in the IS though.

              1. Polly Hedron*

                Yes, the letter begins, “Just to preface, I’m not in the U.S.”
                Several commenters have speculated that it’s a Scandinavian country.

                1. Random European*

                  What I am beginning to wonder is if the LW is local or some form of expat. If they are, say, American, it might explain their cluelessness as to what they can expect from a student worker who is not planning a career in the field of boutiques…

            2. Chriama*

              In general circumstances unemployment is not a comfortable income. But if you were at the bottom of the pay scale (say, a minimum wage retail worker), then I think that the temporary boost of COVID benefits could very well mean you’re living more comfortably now than you were while working. The catch, of course, is that it’s temporary.

              1. Roseclef*

                It’s literally not in the US. First sentence. This is not an instance of “temporary boosts,” this is an instance of a country with a robust welfare system. If you’re at the bottom of the pay scale in a country where minimum wage is a living wage, and where welfare programs guarantee that you CONTINUE to make a livable income when you’re not employed, then the incentive to perform panting gratitude and meth-user enthusiasm to work a drudge job simply does not exist.

                1. Chriama*

                  “It is hard to find employees because unemployment benefits due to Covid are so generous here right now”

                  It wasn’t the first sentence, but it was certainly in OP’s letter.

                2. Polly Hedron*

                  Roseclef said

                  It’s literally not in the US.

                  Chriama said

                  It wasn’t the first sentence, but it was certainly in OP’s letter.

                  OP’s first sentence was

                  Just to preface, I’m not in the U.S.

                  Roseclef was right.

              2. Susana*

                UI isn’t the same for everyone – it’s based on your pay when you were working, and it differs tremendously by state. In Alabama, it’s a maximum o $275 a week. In DC, a very expensive place to live, it’s $444.

            3. Random European*

              I mean, I’d hope unemployment benefits are better than minimum wage at a less than 1/3 of a fulltime job.

              12 hours a week isn’t a live-on job, it’s supplementing other income. Most of which, whether students or pensioners or whatever, will probably have similar “if they earn more than so much, their other income decreases” issues. Even supplementary unemployment benefits can work like that.

              But if LW wants somebody with more flexibility in where those 12 hours are placed, maybe don’t hire a student worker in the first place. You know they already have a primary “job” that does not care about your boutique’s scheduling.

            4. ceiswyn*

              But we know the LW isn’t in the UD, so what’s your point? That they’re wrong about their own country’s current workforce situation?

          3. allathian*

            It’s not unemployment. Emily is a grad student whose studies are fully financed by a scholarship or grant that sets limits on how much she can earn to receive the maximum amount of the grant. It’s in Emily’s interests not to have any of the grant deducted, because she would then essentially be working for free. Everyone knows that grad students are busy, but the LW didn’t even consider that in the letter and that’s why she comes off as being completely out of touch with reality.

            1. Self Employed*

              The reason unemployment is relevant isn’t that Emily is on UE, it’s that the pool of applicants to replace Emily is very small because people can afford to stay home on unemployment and not expose themselves to COVID-19 during a pandemic.

              This sounds like a better place to live in some ways than where I do–I graduated with $80K in debt during the recession, and our unemployment benefits are not really enough to live on even with the additional weekly funds from the Federal government. And you can have enforceable employment contracts!

      4. Raskolnikov's illegitimate nephew*

        OP’s choices are to accept them, or find another solution.

        Allison’s response noted that LW has the choice of accepting Emily’s terms or rejecting them (implicitly “firing her” in the latter case). It may not be so simple. If the contract is for a particular term, it may be impossible to fire her or terminate the contract early.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Ehh, that seems unlikely. Usually contracts include terms of how they can be terminated.

          it may involve a sufficiently large penalty that terminating the contract early is impracticable. But almost no one writes or accepts a contract which it is impossible to terminate early.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          Maybe so, but the LW’s language (saying that they “don’t want to” fire her because she is well liked and it is hard to hire right now) seems to suggest that they can do it if they choose. They just may find that replacing her isn’t easy, especially with somebody who can talk to customers in two other languages.

      5. Observer*

        OP has options here too, and people are a little too happy to criticize her for her expectations of Emily without acknowledging that if OP acts on her other options Emily may not be happy with the outcome.

        Actually, it’s the reverse. One of the reasons people are so down on the OP is because they DO have options, but they don’t want to use them, because they do require some effort on their part. If the OP actually had no other options, then I would have a LITTLE bit of sympathy. Not a lot, because their attitude and expectations (especially expecting Emily to take their calls when she’s off) are completely off base. But when you have options? No. Don’t blame Emily for this.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I went the opposite way, I said to myself this is why retail sucks. You have to answer your phone, you have to take on more hours and so on.
          However, in this specific setting here, the previous manager made this agreement with Emily. What I have seen done in these instances is that the new manager just comes in and says, “Yeah, well Old Manager agreed to that but I did not. Deal is off. Here’s what I need [blah, blah, blah] take it or leave it.

          1. allathian*

            That may be how it works in the US, but not in, say, Scandinavia. Pretty much all jobs, certainly all jobs in retail, are based on contracts between the employer and the employee. Not the manager and the employee, please note. If a manager wants to change a contract, they have to renegotiate and may well find that the employee will resign, if negotiating is even allowed, because these contracts are pretty standard.

            Arranging for coverage, as well, is always, without exception, the responsibility of the manager. Sure, employees can switch shifts if they agree to do so and their respective contracts permit it, but coverage for a sick employee is always the responsibility of the manager. If all else fails, the manager pulls double and triple shifts.

          2. Susana*

            No. You don’t *have* to be available whenever, if you work retail.
            Lots of people love the extra shifts because of the extra cash. But not everyone has the desire for extra $$ or the flexibility to take them.

            And in this special case – the terms of her grant – she literally CANNOT work more hours unless she’s working for free. And LW seems to think that shows a lack of character.

          3. fribble*

            I’ll never forget when my restaurant got a new manager, and he THREW OUT THE REQUEST OFF BOOK without telling anyone, because he didn’t think he should be held to any agreements the previous manager had made. We all found out when his first schedule went up, 2 weeks later, and then he was a real asshole while the rest of us tried to basically fix his schedule through swaps, not approving many swaps for literally no good reason.

            He couldn’t understand why literally everyone hated him.

        2. Chriama*

          Blaming Emily is not the same thing as saying Emily might not like what happens when OP realizes that wanting Emily to make OP’s life more convenient out of the goodness of her heart isn’t going to make it so. I *don’t* blame Emily for setting and enforcing boundaries. I just *also* don’t blame OP for wanting an employee who’s a little more flexible.

          1. Susana*

            Right, but… this isn’t a typical situation, wanting someone with the flexibility to fill a shift. This is expecting her to WORK FOR FREE. Which is unreasonable.
            OP knew when Emily was hired that her max was 12 hours. So she either fires her – really acknowledging her own mistake in hiring someone who can’t work unpaid extra hours – or accepts that those empty shifts need to be filled by someone else.

      6. Lily of the field*

        Emily does not have enhanced unemployment; she and her manager do not live in the United States. Emily is a grad student and has a scholarship and stipend for living expenses that would be greatly reduced if she works too many hours. There is zero benefit to Emily if she works more hours, and life changing detriment if she caves to her manager’s wishes. Emily is working for extra money, and would probably not care if her manager acts on her other options. This manager basically wants Emily to work more, for free. I do not work for free, ever, and I do not know anyone else who would work for free, either. Would you?

        1. Chriama*

          A: working 3 hours for less than minimum wage is not the same thing as life-changing detriment.
          B: No, I would not work for free, or less than minimum wage, and I’ve *said* OP isn’t reasonable to expect it of Emily. I honestly don’t know where the wires are getting crossed.

          1. Anon for this*

            If those three hours cause her overall stipend to be reduced to the point that she is making less money per week than she would be if she didn’t cave to her manager’s demands, yes. It is to her overall detriment.

            1. Chriama*

              Haha, I commented on this below, but I’m pretty sure that she will still be making more money overall. Basically, if she works 12 hours, she takes home $240(12*$20) +her stipend. If she works 13, she takes home $260(13*$20)+her stipend – $15. So she would still take home more money overall, but the marginal benefit of every hour after 12 is only $5.

              1. Sam*

                Why on earth are you so focused on the fact that the math makes it so she’s not actually losing money? It’s obvious that, as a grad student, she’s got other obligations and a hell of a lot better things to do with her time than work for (what would be for anyone else) an illegal wage.

                1. Chriama*

                  I’m focused on the math because it makes OP a sympathetic person in my book. Note that I didn’t say *reasonable*. I feel sorry for her.

              2. Loraine*

                You didn’t math in the lost time spend studying, cleaning her apartment, relaxing, or whatever else she wouldn’t be able to do with the extra time she’d have to spend working for a pitance.

                1. Momma Bear*

                  I think one of the problems is that OP is jealous of the lunch meet ups between Emily and another employee. If they were not such close friends, OP would not be privy to these outings. OP seems to hold these lunches against Emily more than Sarah. It seems personal.

              3. allathian*

                No, the way the stipends work is that once you earn too much, you may lose more of the stipend than your excess earnings, because while both the stipend and the salary are taxable income, the tax rate for the stipend is lower, at least initially. Emily will get the difference back in next year’s refund, but it’s effectively an interest-free loan to the government that Emily may ill afford.

              4. The Other Katie*

                Since you’re hung up on the economics, I’m sure you’re aware of the term “reservation wage”. $5 an hour is more money, technically speaking, but if this is one of the Scandinavian countries, that extra $15 won’t even be enough to buy a value meal at McDonalds. Would you, as a grad student who is already juggling four classes, hundreds of pages of reading or hours in the lab, and the need to maintain a basic level of existence otherwise, sacrifice three hours of your week for a Big Mac? It’s totally reasonable for Emily to not do so, no matter what the math says.

          2. Susana*

            But Cariama – it *is* working for free.
            She gets min. wage there ($20 an hour, which has already been explained as being less than $7 an hour in the US, with cost of living). She can work a max 12 hours – $240 – without having her stipend reduced.

            So if she works, say, 15-20 hours – she’s still getting $240, one way or the other. Either because her per hour gets lowered (probably not legal, since that would be below minimum wage) or because (as has been explained) her stipend is reduced. So she works longer hours , has less time to study, and gets no cash or anything else out of it. There’s really just no argument here in LW’s favor, at least when it comes to someone with Emily’s job-school-stipend limits.

    6. Sandangel*

      I work in retail in the US, and managers, or at least mine, don’t always grasp that we don’t have much of a reason to be invested beyond staying employed. Yes it’s nice to help customers, but that’s just the job. Going above and beyond feels good, but it’s not going to change anything. Knocking myself silly isn’t going to make me more money or more valuable to the store, especially if I decide to leave, so why should I create more stress for myself?

      Yes, it’s a cynical way of looking at things, but that’s how retail is.

      1. Nonprofit Lifer*

        That’s why I was pretty happy that when I had to work retail (because my former job went back on the promise to give me full time) I worked somewhere we got commission on purchases above a certain price point. I had a LOT of incentive to make big sales and make the customers happy. It made my goals and my managers’ goals align.

        1. allathian*

          Perhaps. How many customers turned on their heels when they realized you were pushing them to buy something they didn’t want? I can’t stand pushy salespeople and will actively avoid stores where I know the employees are working on commission. One reason why Emily is so popular with her customers may be that she doesn’t push them to buy things they don’t want.

          1. Self Employed*

            They may walk out without buying–and return later to get the item Emily was so helpful with, after they decide it’s the right item/store/price. They may decide this is their favorite shop because they’re not getting pushed to buy on the spot.

    7. Raskolnikov's illegitimate nephew*

      Fully agree. If you want your sales force to be more energetic about closing sales, you need to offer them a commission.

      Moreover, her contract says she works 12 hours a week. It doesn’t make a twit of difference whether your predecessor negotiated the contract; the contract is with this business, not the predecessor personally. The contract does not, apparently, require her to respond to your communications when she is not working.

      She also has very sound reasons for entering into that contact. She does not want to exceed maximum income levels under her student stipend arrangement.

      That she comes to your establishment to have lunch with a friend on her day off also makes not a twit of difference. She can do what she pleases on her day off and is not required to work longer than stipulated in her contract.

    8. Esmeralda*

      Wow, no need to be so unkind. Alison was nice to her because why not? And why not assume the LW is asking in good faith and really doesn’t understand? From the letter, it sounds to me like the LW is not a very experienced manager (LW is biding time in this retail manager job until they can get to grad school). Slamming the LW is not going to get the point across any better and, in my experience, only makes people defensive and unable to hear any sort of advice, even good advice.

      1. Koalafied*

        I agree with you and Chriama. LW’s expectations are unrealistic, probably because of some combination of experience and the sort of tunnel vision people can get in a stressful situation where it becomes harder to see things through a different lens. She’s feeling stuck in a difficult situation – the store is not doing well and may be in danger of closing – and she’s focusing on Emily as the one piece that if she could just get into place, maybe the store’s numbers would improve and she wouldn’t be so stressed out. But she hasn’t been taking punitive measures against Emily, berating her, forbidding her to come in for lunch with Sara, or anything like that. She wrote in asking for advice and hopefully the advice she got has reset her expectations and helped her see that she needs to consider replacing Emily, not because Emily is a bad employee who needs to be fired, but because she has a need for different terms than Emily can agree to. I feel bad for LW that commenters are expecting Alison to have ripped her a new asshole and attacking her character when she’s just an inexperienced manager in a tight spot, doing the best she can by asking for advice.

        I think a lot of the commentariat have bad boss PTSD too the point they’re often unwilling to attribute any mistakes a manager makes to anything other than The Man being cruel and seeing their employees as less-than. It leads them to pile on with unnecessary personal criticisms, which is a shame if it ends up discouraging other inexperienced managers from writing in for advice.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I don’t see anybody — literally, not one person, though I haven’t read every single comment so there may be some I’m missing — who says they think Alison should have ripped LW a new asshole. Some of us are doing so ourselves, but that’s different. And I’m not sure you’re right that LW hasn’t been taking punitive measures against Emily, or at least doing some pretty unreasonable things to her… calling repeatedly on her days off to try and pressure her into coming in when she has no duty to do so is not okay.

          That said, I do think you’re correct that a lot of people here have bad boss PTSD and it’s coming out in how we respond to this LW. Not in making us believe they’re doing things they aren’t doing (most of the comments I see are pretty specific about what the LW is doing, and it’s only the things she actually says she’s doing) but in making us feel more urgent about convincing the LW to stop. Just as the LW seems to have a bit of tunnel vision around “if I can only convince Emily to want what I want her to want, everything will be okay,” I admit that I’ve been reading with a bit of a feeling of “if we can only convince LW to change her ways, then…” something? Then it will feel better compared to all the bad bosses we couldn’t convince or change? I don’t know, I just recognize it’s there. I doubt I’m the only one. It’s the same feeling that makes it easy to spend more time trying to persuade a relative to change their vote than registering new voters who already agree with you… somehow even though that’s not actually an efficient use of your time, it feels a whole lot more urgent in the moment. :)

        2. Susana*

          Koalified, you are right that berating a LW does no good for anyone. I also don’t think LW is venal – but so utterly clueless you just don’t know what to say. How to respond to someone who says, “I get that, but..” when what she’s saying is, “I get that this is not her shop, she has no vested interest in its ultimate success, that she gets minimum wage, her outside earnings are capped, but really, why won’t she work for free to make my life easier?”

    9. SnappinTerrapin*

      Frankly, a lot of customers respect and appreciate sales people who respect the customer’s boundaries.

      Emily may be a lot more valuable to your bottom line than you realize.

      I just gave a scathing review yesterday for a high pressure pitch that ignored my actual needs and wants.

    10. MissM*

      Yeah, I think the incentives aren’t great for any employee. While Emily probably wouldn’t be motivated by commission because of how her scholarship is structured, the gift voucher program could be more sliding scale based on how many sales are made a month so that any employee could use it to buy something because right now it doesn’t sound like it’s anywhere close to being enough for anything in the store. But also this is a job not a career for both Emily & LW.

    11. Instructional Designer*

      Exactly. No wonder she avoids her calls and doesn’t stop in on her day off. Why would she? She’s be pressured into working when she wants that time to herself.

    12. Al who was that Al*

      A minor point, but the OP mentions that the employees get a $20 voucher a month and also says that things that cost £3 in the USA cost $10 there. So basically it’s $6 worth of goods in the USA every month – well, whoopee skip, what a cash windfall there. I’d view that as more of an insult than a reward.

    13. BlondeSpiders*

      This letter makes me think of all the awful retail and food service jobs I’ve worked over the years, with the garbage pay, multiple “clopenings” in a week, (closing one night and opening the next morning, sometimes with 8 hours between the two) mandatory purse checks before I leave, and last-minute schedule postings. Meanwhile the managers are hassling me because my sales aren’t so great during that shift. Why should I care about YOU making a bonus? You’re not going to share it with us in any way. Even as an asst. manager making $6.10/hour in the 90s I had a hard time caring about my numbers.

    14. Librarian1*

      Yeah, seriously. The OP is mad that Emily won’t work more than 12 hours when it means she’d get paid way less and possibly lose her living allowance? In what universe would ANYONE do that? I doubt OP would. This is ridiculous.

    1. Scots_girl*

      Absolutely agree. Why not employ another member of staff to help with the flexibility.

      If Emily is a good employee, turns up on time and is dependable then why would you fire her because she can’t be effectively on call and at the whim of her employer?

      1. M.*

        It also seems to me that LW doesn’t give a damn about the legal boundaries Emily moves in. I see that from a perspective of a fellow student who can only work such and such hours before my special status with insurances would stop. In my case, that means I am only allowed to work 20 hours per week – and you basically have to say no if an employer tries to make you work more (they thankfully usually do not, it’s quite a bit of work for them, too, if you get too much over your hours as a student). That means no overtime, no extra shifts, nothing of that sorts.

        What I want to say is: Don’t think your employee should care more about your business than their own financial situation, because potentially giving up your special status which either saves or gives you money, that’s never worth being seen as more flexible and invested.

        Emily is a good employee, and just looks out for her own best interest. And why shouldn’t she? LW does as well, but in a way that seems like another person’s best interest isn’t important enough to be considered.

        1. Velawciraptor*

          I agree with all of this. I’d also add that responsibility for having the flexibility within the staff to cover shifts lies with the employer, not the employee. If the company insists upon short-staffing the business, then the resulting coverage problems are theirs to resolve because they chose to create them.

          1. Mina The Company Prom Queen*

            This!!! I once worked as a bank teller where they always short-staffed shifts and then had to scramble whenever anyone called in sick, which was frequently. I was just part-time but felt like I wasn’t able to enjoy my time outside of work if they called me to cover at the last minute. That was on them, not me but at the time, I felt like it was on me. Just cough up the money for sufficient staff.

          2. Nick O.*

            Yes and no. If I as manager hire more employees, then I have less hours to give to each staff member, they then leave because they have less hours. I understand my staff isn’t on call 24/7 but asking someone to help pick up a shift every now and then is called teamwork.

            1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              I think there’s a difference between asking and demanding/expecting (as OP is doing), especially in the context that it would make the employee’s financial situation worse.

            2. CommanderBanana*

              I have a part-time job where everyone else is also part-time, and we have no backfill if someone is sick, on vacation, etc., which means that people get asked over and over to fill in on very short notice, which means that people get fed up and quit. Getting asked to fill in on short notice a few times a year? Fine. Getting asked multiple times monthly? Nope.

            3. disconnect*

              There’s a chasm between “asking someone to help pick up a shift every now and then” and “I want to fire this person because they’re doing what we agreed they would do”. If you don’t want the responsibility, don’t be a manager.

              1. marine dreaming*

                And if you want full-time availability from somebody, well, pay up and hire them full-time.

            4. Jerusha*

              I don’t think people are generally suggesting that the manager take the existing pool of hours and divide it amongst more people. What ought to happen is that the employer (not the manager, unless it’s within their power; usually it isn’t) needs to expand the existing pool of hours, because the “emergency” of needing coverage is a function of bare-bones staffing. If the baseline level of staffing were higher, it might not be necessary to get someone to cover on an emergency basis, because n-1 people would take them from “well-staffed” to “lean, but we can get by for a shift or two like this”. As it is, n-1 people more often takes them from “lean, but that’s all Corporate will pay for, so scrambling is a fact of life” to “absolutely impossible – we cannot function with n-1 people. Quick, who can we call!?”

              1. Serin*

                Right, exactly. You say, “If I as manager hire more employees, then I have less hours to give to each staff member,” as if “hours” are a natural resource — there’s X amount of water, there’s Y amount of land, etc.,

                In fact, the hours that you have to give are a budget created by the people who own the business. They could budget for more staffing if they chose; they’d just have to take a tradeoff of some sort. Raise the prices, reduce the overhead, reduce the profit, decide the business they’re in can’t make money in that location and close it to do something else.

                I’m not necessarily saying any of those would be a better choice, but they *are* choices.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  What I have seen done is the manager says, “If people don’t pick up extra hours I have to hire another person. In order to hire another person I will have to give a few hours from each person here to offer the new person some hours to start with.”
                  What happens next is the Emily in the group gets their hours cut in half. Emily’s hours become the new person’s hours plus whatever shifts they can pick up.
                  Not saying it’s right, but this is what I have seen happen over and over.

                2. MentalEngineer*

                  This this this this this. Budgets do not fall from the heavens as if produced by God. Someone somewhere has the power to allocate institutional resources differently and is choosing not to. Sometimes that’s for a good reason. Sometimes it’s not. But it’s always a choice.

                3. iantrovert*

                  This is why I quit working for Large Yellow Label Box Store’s Clip-On-Bowtie retail division. I was part-time getting about 25 hours per week when they suddenly dropped my hours to literally four per week because they hired back someone who’d moved out of the area six years earlier. I was the only person at that location with an IT background, too, everyone else had joined via sales. I couldn’t live on that, even with the state-sponsored healthcare and SNAP I was already getting because my wages were so low and I wasn’t offered healthcare because I was part-time (just over a decade ago). I ended up going to college as a nontraditional student because at least with student loans, grants, and scholarships I had a steady income. Worked out well in the end, but man, retail is hard to live on.

                4. tapping in occasionally*

                  A small retail business, on the back of a pandemic, may not have flexibility to just “Raise the prices, reduce the overhead, reduce the profit”. Honestly, people in this thread talk like small business ownership is a piece of cake. Yes to hire more staff you may need to divvy the hours up.
                  And if they “decide the business they’re in can’t make money in that location and close it to do something else” then no one has any hours?
                  Emily might like it how it is right now, but having no flexibility in a small team in a small retail location is challenging. If the letter writer had phrased it so that she had three staff and one of them refused to ever cover the others, this thread would have gone the other way.
                  Maybe if Emily put her back into it a bit more they could afford to hire more staff. It’s a rock and a hard place for this manager.

            5. Rusty Shackelford*

              Asking someone to pick up a shift that will literally cost her money is not teamwork. Look, it’s entirely possible that Emily’s lack of availability means she’s not a good fit for this position. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the LW wants to have her cake and eat it too. She wants to keep Emily, because she does a good job, her customers and coworkers like her, and staff will be unhappy if she’s fired (and one might possibly quit). And yet she wants more than Emily is willing or able (or REQUIRED) to give her. So, something’s got to give. The LW has to decide if Emily is worth keeping, or if the cons outweigh the pros. Instead, she’s trying to force Emily to do what she wants, without considering Emily’s needs at all. That is not teamwork.

              1. And they all rolled over*

                This reminds me of the LW who thought that teamwork meant declining to eat the pizza or sign up for the health insurance their employer provided.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                I agree that Emily really does not want to do retail.

                In OP’s own words Emily is good at the job except for where she is bad at the job. She doesn’t push sales, she doesn’t take extra shifts and she is not invested in the place. I guess the part that she is good at is the part where everyone likes her.

                1. MassMatt*

                  It sounds as though you have never managed retail. Emily is a valuable employee and OP is not appreciating that much. Being liked by customers and being able to help them in 3 languages and having no drama with coworkers are all valuable qualities. I doubt you will find another employee like her in 50 hires.

                  If pushing sales is the goal, pay should be based on commission. The only incentive being offered “for the store meeting budget” is a $20 gift card for expensive clothes Emily doesn’t wear, which is laughable. This is not the way to generate sales.

                  If she is expected to be “invested” in the store, then “invest” in her, expecting a FT grad student and PT employee to care about a business she doesn’t own like an owner is unrealistic.

                  And where is the owner in all this? Is the owner working extra hours?

                2. allathian*

                  Emily is reliable, works the shifts she’s agreed to work, arrives on time, is pleasant enough with the customers that they love her, doesn’t cause drama with her coworkers… Frankly, she’s gold. Most people only tolerate pushy retail employees because they work on commission and it’s sort of understandable. I’ve certainly turned on my heels and walked out of a store with pushy employees more than once. A few times I’ve even left items I’d picked out and was ready to buy, because the employee was too pushy. But I’ve never heard of any customer ever complaining if an employee is not pushy! Sure, if they’re unavailable and prefer to hide between the racks or fold clothes in the back rather than serve customers, that’s different. But Emily’s not like that.

            6. MassMatt*

              This is one of the major challenges of retail; margins tend to be low so it’s tough to have lots of staff, especially at a small store. Managers want multiple employees so they have flexibility if someone doesn’t show up, but employees not getting enough hours are likely to go work elsewhere. In addition, this employee’s particular situation is such that the flexibility LW is asking for means she would be working for the equivalent of $1-2 per hour.

              I don’t want to pile on the LW here, I have managed retail for several years, but OMG, LW you are staring a gift horse in the mouth! You have an extremely reliable PT employee (hard to find!) that customers and coworkers really like (even harder to find!) that speaks multiple languages (very rare here, maybe less so where you are?). Count your blessings! Stop expecting her to act like an owner of the company when she’s neither being treated as one nor has interest in being a part-owner of a store. If sales were important, then her pay should be commission-based. A $20 voucher for expensive clothes she doesn’t wear is a laughable incentive.

              I managed stores for several years and had to deal with no-shows, people with terrible customer-service skills, lazy employees, thieves, people showing up reeking of alcohol, and people with drama like you wouldn’t believe. I’d trade them for your “problem” any day!

              At some point she will move on, and you will no doubt regret losing her. Enjoy it while it lasts, don’t hasten her way out the door with unrealistic expectations.

              1. serenity*

                At some point she will move on, and you will no doubt regret losing her. Enjoy it while it lasts, don’t hasten her way out the door with unrealistic expectations.

                This is key and I think OP will learn this the hard way.

            7. BigRedGum*

              I never ever ever did this in retail. not when i was a floor employee and not when I was a manager. being short staffed is a manager issue, not an employee problem. I never answered on my off days. yall aint paying me when I’m off.

          3. MissBaudelaire*

            Yes! I wish I could get more employers to understand that. If you want to run on a skeleton crew because it saves money, be my guest. I can’t stop you. You’re also trying to place a bet that everything will always be perfect and you’ll never have to call anyone in, and that’s no realistic. But your lack of realism is not your employee’s fault, it’s yours!

            What’s that saying? Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part?

            1. Homophone Hattie*

              Yes. It’s like people who are frequently late because they don’t factor in extra time in case of normal problems that crop up, like traffic or a train being delayed, and assume that all conditions for travel will always be ideal. These things just happen, and the norm should be to expect them and build the possibility of them happening into your planning.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                I have spent years trying to convince a few key people in my life that it is not coincidence that I’ve never had a fender bender, and it comes from the same reason it’s not coincidence that I’m also virtually never late. I build in margins and then margins on the margins. I have room to react to the unexpected without it turning into a disaster. :)

                That said, I accept that it may be difficult to do this in retail when you’re already on short profit margins. Add in more employee hours and you may find you’re losing money, if the store is that close to the edge of making budget most months. That’s still not Emily’s problem, but it does make it harder from the LW’s perspective.

                Bottom line: I’m not sure there’s a good solution to this; this store may just be in a difficult enough position that it can’t meet all its needs on a budget it is capable of earning during a pandemic. That sucks. Pressuring Emily (or any other of their hourly sales employees) to ignore her own needs in order to solve it for them is not the answer, though.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Retailers do not understand that if you put the same people on the same shifts each week, everyone works into patterns where stuff is handled more efficiently. They probably would have less call-ins for sick time also.
              Here in NY, you have to have 8 hours between shifts. My cohort would get out at midnight and his next shift would be at 8 am. He lived about 50 minutes away, in a snow storm it was more like 2-2.5 hours. It was conceivable that he could spend 4-5 hours of that 8 hour respite JUST driving back and forth.
              If he tried saying this was a problem, management simply said, “Want the job or no?”

              1. allathian*

                Was there an option to sleep at the store… I guess not.

                But in a case like that, I’d rather work a double shift and get 16 hours off…

              2. MissBaudelaire*

                Retailers also don’t understand that the refusal to give people real schedules makes certain groups less likely to apply. 40 hours of availability for 20 hours of work doesn’t make sense. Different schedules each week also doesn’t make any sense. It’s like you said, give people schedules and then they can know their tasks and things run smoother.

                My fast food job, they would mix up the schedules randomly now and then, and those would always be the days they’d run short. Because people had other obligations they made with the mindset of that was always their day off, and they didn’t care to change them or just were not able to. And their insistence on everyone keeping open availability for them meant that people couldn’t get second jobs.

                1. Momma Bear*

                  I had an office job and offered to take weekend shifts at my old job for some extra money. I had a manager who didn’t seem to understand that I was not available on week days. After a few times of dealing with this, guess which job I quit? It was also not great for my coworkers because after I left, someone else got stuck working all the weekends.

          4. Koocore*

            I feel like this is a case of “OP/The Company’s^ lack of planning is not Emily’s emergency”.

            ^ It’s hard to know who is responsible in this case because it depends on the company. Maybe OP over relies on Emily, maybe Emily’s contract doesn’t work for OP’s needs and she’d have never agreed to it but she inherited Emily and the contract and is “stuck” with it, maybe the store really needs another employee but OP isn’t allowed to hire one, etc.

            Either way, provided she shows up to her contracted shifts, it is not Emily’s emergency if they are short on her days off and she can’t come in.

        2. Nanani*

          Yep. I wonder if LW has never worked with such a situation before, since they mention that Emily negotiated the current contract with LW’s predecessor.
          It doesn’t sound like Emily has a special sweet deal that no one else has, so much as it sounds like LW has read too many Corporate TM Advice Bootstraps Books that do not apply to this actual situation.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It’s pretty normal in retail in the US for new managers to trash the agreement between an employee and a previous manager.

            1. allathian*

              Employment contracts in Scandinavia are always made between employer and employee. Not the manager and employee. For a long time I’ve wondered what the difference between a European employment contract and a simple agreement as in the US was, but I think you may have put the finger on it.

              Our contracts are always written and pretty much carved in granite, and a new manager coming in can’t change them unilaterally. If an employee quits because the company tried to impose worse working conditions, they’d probably qualify for unemployment. It’s possible to change contracts in a fairly lengthy cooperation process between management and employee representatives/shop stewards, but that process wouldn’t apply to a single employee and it’s usually undertaken when the company is downsizing or restructuring and laying off employees.

              The vast majority of employers are also unionized, meaning that they’re bound by collective agreements even if the employees aren’t unionized. They’re allowed to offer better benefits and working conditions than those stipulated in the CA, but not worse. It would be interesting to know whether LW and Emily are working for a chain, which probably would be unionized, or a small business, which probably wouldn’t be. Franchising businesses are usually bound by some sort of collective agreement with other franchisees, so that conditions of employment are pretty similar if not identical.

              Also, any college town has a floating population of students, most of whom are bound by similar limits to earnings as Emily. Any employer that hires a lot of students would know about the limits. They might even have a contract template for such cases.

              1. em_eye*

                Most employees in the US don’t have contracts whatsoever. You have to sign an offer letter when you accept a job (this will be something super basic like “You start on Date, your title is X and your salary is Y”) and you sign an employee handbook that lists policies and some other benefits. These usually have legalese that says they can still change at any time but unless the manager is a monster they usually more or less honor them – it would be at least abnormal for a company to dramatically change things like hours and compensation, and they’d probably lose a lot of staff over it, and spend money fending off legal challenges even if those were ultimately thrown out, so that can at least act as an incentive not to negotiate in bad faith.

                For more informal agreements, yeah, those change all the time. I might accept a job offer on the condition of always being able to leave early on Thursdays or whatever but in my experience those will get thrown out pretty quickly if the business needs change or I get a new manager. There are always exceptions, if I’m the best employee they might make some concessions so they don’t lose me, and if I’m desperate for a job I might let some things go so I don’t lose it, and there are a million different exceptions to this rule – government jobs, academic institutions with tenure, and anything that’s unionized do tend to be harder to change.

                The flip side of this is that employees have some flexibility on their end too. You can literally walk off mid-shift and never come back, and while the employer would be pissed and it would ruin your reputation if it got around, they couldn’t *really* stop you. The constant turnover in most industries also means that, other than recessions like the one we’re in now, *most* people can usually get some type of job, somewhere, even if it’s not the one they really want. Of course there’s a huge power dynamic at play – you probably can’t live for more than a few weeks without a job, while the business could almost certainly get by without you even if it was inconvenient, so it’s not a truly equal relationship.

                This letter absolutely *could* happen in the US though. There are people who find themselves in situations where their employer doesn’t have a lot of power over them, which is why we see letters here that are like “my employee is a hot mess and I just can’t fire them”.

            2. Talia*

              And in a lot of the world other than the US, that’s a breach of contract and gets the business sued.

        3. tangerineRose*

          “Don’t think your employee should care more about your business than their own financial situation” This!

          1. Faith the twilight slayer*

            I had a boss who always complained that people never cared about his business and wondered why that was. This same person told me that he thought I didn’t deserve a raise one year because I hadn’t done enough to bring in new business. I was the accountant. His marketing guy, whose qualifications were “he’s good at racquetball but still lets me win, plus he needs a job”, was busy playing games on his computer.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Doesn’t sound as if the marketing guy cared too much about the business either. :)

      2. Rainer Maria von Trapp*

        Agreed. Clear boundaries and expectations without guilt? I kind of want to be like Emily when I grow up!

      3. Rose*

        Imagine paying someone minimum wage and being angry they don’t answer your calls on their day off. This is the inverse of gumption.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        Ditto. I admire her clarity and her willingness to set boundaries.

        As someone who used to be both a retail employee and then a retail manager, there is definitely a tendency towards a culture where everyone is supposed to be very passionate and invested in the company doing well without any focus on how that benefits most employees (i.e. a very literal lack of return on personal investment). And the reality is? That’s because there’s not really any benefit to your average employee! Alison nailed it:

        “There’s no inherent virtue in helping someone else make money (and especially she herself makes less!).”

        Too many businesses want you to want to help them just…..because. But they rarely feel the need to reciprocate and ensure those benefits are for more than the shareholders/owners or senior leadership. If the company were asked to invest in something with no potential for any kind of return, they’d never in a million years consider it. But they regularly expect employees to do that (and ones that are often making minimum wage! With no benefits!).

        OP, I think you need to do some reflection here on what you are really asking and if it’s reasonable. You need someone more flexible for scheduling/coverage reasons? I can see that. But you don’t get to dictate how people feel about their jobs and you don’t get to treat their boundaries as if they should be negotiable.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Oh hey wait — she DOES get something if she helps the store make budget. A $20 gift certificate — for the store. Doesn’t that just make you want to jump up and sell, sell, sell to help the store make budget?

          OP, I think you need to be very realistic about this job. You yourself say its not your dream job. But you want Emily to be invested in it like its going to be her career. It’s not. This is something that helps her makes end meet until she graduates and gets a job in her chosen field. Period. She is treating it that way. You need to accept that.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            A $20 gift certificate to a store where nothing is $20. What an award.

            1. BubbleTea*

              It’s the equivalent of one hour of her pay. Not really a generous bonus even if she could spend it anywhere she chose!

              1. Marny*

                But it’s even worse if the only way she can use it is by giving her paycheck money back to the very store that’s paying her. It’s pretty scammy for a “reward”.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  My favorite part is that she’d have to add money out of her pocket to the $20 to buy anything at all in that store; and it is not a store she normally shops at, or a style she wears. Paying your own money for the honor of being recognized for meeting a quota. That’s certainly something.

                2. LazyBoot*

                  Makes me wonder if the bonus gift cards also gets (or should be) counted towards the limit of how much she can earn…?

            2. TootsNYC*

              I once got a “reward” for some incredible extra effort and expertise: a $100 gift card to Bergdorf Goodman. I went through the whole store, and I could have bought: one pair of tights, OR two pairs of socks, OR one lipstick, OR six pieces of stationery, OR one 4″ decorative ceramic dish.

              I never spent that gift card. It sat around for years until it expired, and when I finally checked on it, it had been rescinded or something.

              I know the person who gave it to me didn’t intend to insult me, but it was pretty fucking insulting that all that extra that I gave was only rewardable by a couple of pairs of socks.

              (I did realize a few years later that it was good at Nordstrom, where I could have bought a shirt or something.)

            3. Not So NewReader*

              Companies don’t get this. I worked for one place where they gave me a $100 gift certificate to their catalog business associated with my company.
              The stuff looked like LL Bean but fell apart like Walmart. The prices were in between those two companies. There was nothing there I wanted. I sold the certificate for 50 cents on the dollar to someone else.

              The company could not figure out why I was not overjoyed.

          2. Mina The Company Prom Queen*

            Yeah, great incentive, huh? Back in college I briefly worked at a popular clothing store where we weren’t on commission. We got berated if we didn’t meet quota for sales amount and number of items per sale each week. But if we did meet those quotas, we got ‘rewarded’ with more hours. I didn’t work there long. That is so laughable now.

          3. MissBaudelaire*

            Twenty bucks for a store that doesn’t seem to have anything she wants and everything is way more than twenty dollars.

            So… A pat on the back, I guess?

            1. Phoenix Wright*

              I wish she’d get a pat on the back, because at least that’s free. This is even worse: her high performance is rewarded with the suggestion that she give some of her paycheck back in exchange for a product she doesn’t want.

              1. MissBaudelaire*

                When you put it that way, the vouchers seem super icky.

                “Hey, gimme your money back.”

              2. Littorally*

                Well said. The whole voucher idea is terrible, even setting the rest of Emily’s specific situation aside.

          4. Batgirl*

            I used to get an extra £1 for every switched ticket I spotted from customers trying to get items cheaper. I’d have about ten quid to spend anywhere by the end of the week, having saved the store a bundle on shrinkage. A £20 part value instore voucher? I probably would have quit in disgust. I can’t believe OP thinks haranguing an employee on her day off is more motivational than dealing with the crappy reward system. Emily might be lower paid but that does not make her an easier target than your own boss (who actually does have a vested interest in coverage etc).

          5. em_eye*

            Honestly this is such an easy fix too. Just give cash (more than $20…$100 minimum and more for exceptional performance). Yeah it costs money, but it’s money the store only has to spend when they, in turn, have more money coming in. If you still can’t swing it, have some kind of competition where the top seller gets a real gift of real value (something like concert tickets comes to mind, although that doesn’t really work given the pandemic). It doesn’t sound like any of these will motivate Emily specifically, but maybe the other employees will be into it enough to make up for that.

            I have a friend who manages massive numbers of low-wage, part-time, WFH employees and she has basically a never-ending stream of competitions, raffles, little bonuses, fun gifts, you name it to keep people motivated. It does work, especially because they still pay above market for the work so people don’t get resentful that the company is spending money on goodies for the top five widget makers while they can’t pay their bills.

      2. I'm that guy*

        I came to post exactly this. Emily is my hero. If all workers set boundaries like this Allison would get far fewer letters.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or a lot more letters from people who don’t feel their employees should be allowed to have boundaries.

    2. WalkingLibrarian*

      Agreed. I was coming in here to say I aspire to have Emily’s level of appropriate role/level of investment balance!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I really don’t see Emily as heroic. She is doing what she has to do.
        There are plenty of people on Social Security income here in the US that cannot go over set limits without losing some Social Security money.
        There are many other reasons why people limit their income. Emily probably doesn’t feel that she has much choice or say in the matter. I think LW is failing to grasp how the system works. No means no, it does not mean ask 30 more times. The system will not let her earn more money, period. If she wants to stay in the program she is in, then she has to say no.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this. The limits are also usually set so that students aren’t tempted to work so much that they have no time to study. Grad studies are like a full-time job in themselves, and I don’t understand how anyone can both study and work full-time. The earning limits for me were more flexible, when I was getting my Master’s, I was also working evenings and weekends. My contract was for 15 to 20 hours per week, but there was some flexibility. I could work 25 hours one week if I worked 15 the next. I usually worked two 5-hour shifts during the week and a 10-hour shift on Saturday. In the early 90s, only very tiny convenience stores were open on Sundays.

        2. em_eye*

          I think there’s something really refreshing about how she’s not apologizing for it or torturing herself with guilt though. The OP hasn’t said why the other employees aren’t stepping up to take these extra hours – they probably have their own reasons and stuff too, but that’s not what OP is bothered by. She’s bothered that it doesn’t bother Emily.

    3. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

      Right? I like that she’s comfortable setting boundaries. It’s hard when you’re young, and it is hard in customer service jobs, especially with small staff. I think that understanding where the lines are and being able to compartmentalize will server her well.

      Anecdote: I *tried* to be an Emily back in my restaurant and retail days. I was a full-time college student and a part-time hostess. I had no interest in anything but putting my 20-30 hours of work in and making sure that when the energy drink reps came by, I snagged a can (I know they’re gross! But I was a chronically busy student, powered by caffeine, sugar, and righteous anger). When my bosses were irritated that I would skedaddle immediately after closing up and doing everything on the checklist, I would always feel annoyed and confused as to why they cared. I didn’t have ambitions in hospitality, I DID have other professional references, and I really just wanted to make rent and afford groceries. I couldn’t understand why they cared about making *me* care, especially since by their feedback, and the feedback of the other servers and hostesses, I was good at my job. I was efficient, I never oversat, I knew the preferences of the different servers and how to handle the bullies, and I was always available on Valentine’s Day, which was the most trafficked day.

      1. Meghan*

        When I was a student I went from a full-time job to a retail job where I specifically let them know I wanted only part-time hours, no more than 20 per week. Worked 2 weeks and it sucked but whatever and then I was on the schedule for 38 hours. When I went to the store manager I was told they were so impressed and wanted to move me to the manager in training program blahblahblah and refused to let me only work 20 hours. I wrote an “I quit” note and left my stuff on the register that night. (They also tried to withhold my last paycheck which was awful)

        1. Tara*

          I did something similar with a job! I had an 8 hour contract whilst at university, they completely ignored this and scheduled me around a 40 hour week, with shifts during all of my lectures. When I said that I only wanted to work 8 hours they told me that “8 was the minimum, not the maximum, and if I didn’t want to work the hours I could quit and they’d find someone who did” (this is not true, my contract was to work 8 hours a week). So I told them I didn’t, they were shocked and told me I needed to give written notice. In my break I wrote my notice, handed it to the manager and left. I’d already worked my 8 contracted hours. It felt so good.

        2. LizM*

          I had an experience similar to this in grad school. The chain I worked for got a new software system for scheduling. I was hired for 15 hours a week and wasn’t available for any more. But when the store manager input everything into the system, she forgot to enter that limit. I was a highly rated employee (despite not really caring, ironically, I’m just good at sales), and the system matched the highly rated employees with the busiest shifts. I ended up scheduled for 36 hours. When I complained to my manager she told me it was my responsibility to get those shifts covered if I didn’t want to work them.

          Funny that they couldn’t figure out how to limit my hours to what they’d agreed to, but you can bet they kept our hours under 36 (the limit at the time in that state for being considered full time and getting benefits).

        3. KateM*

          Oh yeah, I have had a similar situation. “The people who pay us were so impressed they increased your hours by 50%! Isn’t it nice to have more money?” Except I had chosen so few hours because I had a baby (and half of my pay went to babysitter – I was lucky to have one that cheap), and whether I bring in 4% or 6% of our family’s total income does not really make much difference in finances.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            When I was a baby, my mother was just out of law school. Her income as a lawyer literally paid LESS than she was paying for a babysitter for me, so our family actually lost money for the privilege of having her work 40-60 hours a week. But at least that was a deliberate stepping stone towards a career she loved and wanted; my parents decided it was worth it for a while to get Mom the legal experience that would help her move on to jobs which would pay better. They did, in fact… she had a good 40-year legal career. So she got what she meant to out of working for negative net pay for a while — Emily isn’t in a situation to claim that type of benefit.

      2. pope suburban*

        I had a job as a student where I brought in both my class and my finals schedule at my interview, just to make sure my availability was going to work. We reviewed it, I was hired, I thought it was no big deal. Until they scheduled me during my last final of the semester, which just so happened to be for my capstone seminar I needed to graduate. They wouldn’t budge, so I figured I’d sit my exam and show up when I could, because I’d made my limits clear, it wasn’t my fault that no one could cover, and I wasn’t going to delay my graduation (and cost my parents a few thousand dollars!) for a part-time job doing giftwrapping at a toy store.

        As fate would have it, I sat that exam during a blizzard that would eventually shut the region down for a few days, which…look, it snowed all the time there, and we didn’t stop for anything. They absolutely blew up my phone during the exam, leaving messages that went from “Just wanted to remind you that you’re scheduled,” to, “We’re very disappointed in you, you need to take your career seriously,” to, “Don’t bother to come in” in a tone of pissiness rather than concern for my safety. So…I didn’t! Campus was closed, stores were closed, it objectively wasn’t safe even for experienced snow drivers, and I wasn’t going to risk my car or my safety for that job any more than I was going to risk my graduation/ability to continue at my university. The entitlement there was mind-blowing, and I can’t for the life of me understand why *anyone* would want someone to drive to a toy store during a natural disaster, all the while throwing a spanner in their educational/actual career plans. When I say I see that attitude in this letter, it is not a good thing.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Wow. Take your career seriously. Sounds like you did! You took your investment in your education which would get you a better career very seriously. You took their advice!

          1. pope suburban*

            Haha, yes! I felt that way at the time, even. Like, I made it clear that I was a student first and that I would be attending my exams, because I had plans for after graduation. Plus, my manager at a part-time student job had only so much influence over my life- my parents, on the other hand, would have tanned my hide if I’d skived off an exam for that job, even without the complicating factor of a natural disaster! I found out later that they store was notorious for that kind of thing, so it was easy to shrug off. I picked up another part-time job the following semester, and that one never once thought to stand in the way of my studies.

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          More like “take my bottom line seriously instead of your career”.
          Good on you for not letting these people mess up your priorities!

          1. pope suburban*

            Seriously, it was my junior year, I’d put in a lot of work and I was at the point where I was taking required classes for my major, some of which were only offered for one of our two semesters. The idea that I’d drop a bomb on that for a student job was insane. When I told my parents what I’d done, they not only didn’t yell at me, they approved of my choice and told me they’d float me until I found a better job.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          I am seeing the entitlement also.
          However, I have worked very few retail jobs where they did NOT have this level of entitlement.

          The problem is that for every Emily there are dozens of Janes who need food on their table and the retail job is the only source of income. If Jane takes another job she loses the retail job because she is not available 24/7 to do a 20 hour/week job.

          1. pope suburban*

            Bingo, and that’s why I take exception to work culture in the US (Can’t speak to other countries, as I’ve never worked in any). It’s unreasonable to expect anyone, for any price, to set aside their very human needs for a job, and it’s worse when that job doesn’t even afford them a decent living. I don’t have all the answers myself, but I do know we need to change, and I extend people grace when I am in a position to at work. It might not be a big thing, but I try to model the kind of workplace I want to be in, and I hope it helps others.

    4. AnonEMoose*

      Agreed. I’m Team Emily on this one.

      She does good work during the hours she agreed to. That you don’t have enough staff to cover absences is not her problem, but OP is clearly trying to make it her problem. Emily is declining to cooperate in that.

      You said it yourself, OP. This isn’t Emily’s dream job or anything she intends to do long term. OF COURSE she is focusing on grad school…that is exactly what she should be doing, and hopefully what you’ll be doing once you’re ready to go to grad school. She’s acting in her own best interests, and doesn’t owe you or the store anything more than you’re getting from her.

      And speaking as a customer, I HATE being pressured by sales staff. I want them to help me find what I want, bring me a different size if I ask, things like that. I don’t want to be pushed.

      1. merp*

        Yep – the part about not pushing sales could very well be why customers like her so much!

        1. Suzy Q*

          Yes, this. I hate pushy salespeople or even being greeted when I walk in the door. Leave me alone!

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I don’t mind a brief “Hi, let me know if you need anything!” As long as they don’t follow me around pushing things at me.

            1. Tisiphone*

              Same! I walked out of a furniture store when the salesperson wouldn’t leave me alone. Not getting to browse in peace put me off. I’d come prepared with a few specific items I wanted to see in person before spending a significant amount of money.

              Greet me, let me know that you’re available for questions, but don’t hover.

              Hooray for Emily!

              1. Cat Tree*

                And this is why ordering online is so popular. Yes, there’s a risk to buying clothing or furniture that you can’t try out first. But to avoid pushy salespeople, that risk is often worth it.

                I get it that many salespeople rely on commission, and I really feel for them. But ultimately I’m at the store to buy something that benefits me personally, and not to make a charitable contribution in the form of buying an item I’m not sure I want.

              2. MissBaudelaire*

                Yup. I have been known to leave stores when workers follow me around and start in with the “What are you looking for today? What can I help you with? What do you need?”

                I need to be left alone so I can look for what I need. I have seen you, and I will find you if I need help.

                1. Here we go again*

                  As a commissioned salesperson please just be polite and just simply say I’ll come get you if I need anything. I took this kind of job because I’m good at it and I make way more money with great benefits and I have flexibility for my family than I would if I were an hourly person.

                2. Jill*

                  It’s pretty common in retail for that to be a part of their job that they can get fired for if a manager or mystery shopper catches them not offering some kind help to a customer.

            2. UKDancer*

              Definitely. My favourite clothes shop is my favourite because the staff don’t press me to buy things. I can go in, be acknowledged and then be left alone to look around. When I want assistance I can look at the assistant and she’ll come over and give me helpful advice.

              She’s not pushy and so I’ve been getting my trousers there for years now.

              1. Lady Meyneth*

                All my jeans for the last 15 years (where did the time go?)were bought from one place and one place only, precisely for this reason.

                From time to time, I’ll see something cute at other stores’ display and go inside to try it on, only to be pestered into seeing this and trying that. I’ve walked out on more salespeople (and cute outfits) than I can count over the years…

                1. Momma Bear*

                  And yet I can never seem to find anyone to open a fitting room in those pushy stores. They all vanish when I actually want to try items on first (pre-pandemic).

              2. allathian*

                Yeah, same here. I buy the vast majority of my clothes from a plus-size store. All of their employees are also at least slightly plump if not overweight, which I love, because they really understand the problem of finding decent clothes as a plus size woman and it makes me feel like a valued customer rather than judged. If there’s discrimination, its closer to affirmative action because overweight people are generally discriminated against in the workplace. I think they get a pretty decent discount as well, because they’re usually wearing something that’s also on the racks. (The employees have a name tag but wear their own clothes, not a uniform.)

                They’ve never been pushy but always helpful when I’ve needed something. I hate shopping for clothes, and I’ll take whatever reduces my anxiety even a little bit. I tend to buy clothes about twice a year and spend quite a lot of money when I do.

            3. Koocore*

              Agreed. If Emily is a “Hi……..you’re happy having a look? Cool, let me know if I can help”, no wonder customers like her. I avoid shopping in stores with pushy sales people.

        2. Miss V*

          I used to work in a specialized retail store where I made commission on sales. I was not pushy. I was happy to answer questions, ask questions to help the customer figure out what was best for them, give demos, absolutely everything you’re supposed to do in sales. But if the customer said no they weren’t interested I let them leave.

          And yet, I always accounted for more sales than anyone else on staff. Because customers felt comfortable with me, and a lot of times those ‘no I have to think about it’ came back a couple days later and bought. And I ended up with repeat customers who would only deal with me specifically because they knew I was like that.

          So it’s very, very possible that the reason Emily is so liked by customers is exactly because of what the LW is reading as not caring about her job.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep. This is what I did too. Our items were expensive for our area but they were not top end items, if that makes sense.
            People were nervous about spending so much money. Hey, if the sales person pushes then that sale is GONE. I knew not to push. “Take your time. Think it over.”, I’d say. I had the top sales in the store.

            A man came in to buy an item. He narrowed it down to 2 similar things. One was almost twice the price of the other. “Which one is better for me?” I chose the cheaper one because it was actually better for him. He said, “Why?” I explained in specific detail. Later he brought his entire family in and bought them each a similarly priced item. He came in a couple weeks later with his Ex and bought her one too. I sold 7 of these items off this one guy because I did not push him or bs him. If corporate saw what I did with that first sale, they would have fired me. I should have sold up. I guess so the guy could come back and scream at me weeks later when the item failed to perform the way he needed it to. Management didn’t get it. The chain went under a few years later.

      2. On a pale mouse*

        I agree with you and Emily on this point – that’s why I’m not in sales! However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a manager to prefer salespeople who do push sales, and I’ve known people let go from sales jobs because they didn’t sell enough. Alison’s answer already covers what to do in this case, I just don’t think the manager is out of line on this. To put it another way, people are saying she doesn’t have to be passionate or care about profits she isn’t sharing in, which I agree with, but I don’t think that’s the same as requiring a certain level of sales performance from a salesperson.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I’m only saying that, as a customer, I really hate “push sales,” and it sounds like I’m not the only one who does, so that’s a thing the OP may want to consider. Some customers may prefer Emily’s approach, and may be more likely to come back and spend money at the shop in future if not pushed to buy something now. Long term thinking vs. short term.

            1. Paris Geller*

              Yes, and if it’s a repeat pattern, I will not only leave the store, but not frequent it in the future.

          1. On a pale mouse*

            Oh, me too. Not only would I not work there if they required pushier selling, I wouldn’t shop there either. I just wanted to make the point that that’s something I think is reasonable for the manager to choose, even if I also personally wouldn’t like it. (100% Team Emily on the scheduling though. Of course she’s not going to go over her limit.)

          2. Chriama*

            I think it’s also very possible that Emily is doing less than would be effective. Proactively mentioning discounts or promotions can encourage people to buy without pressuring them. If I buy a $10 shirt and there’s a sale of 2 for $15 that I don’t notice, it’s very possible that telling me about that sale will result in $5 more for you. Or, if I looked at a dress for a while and put it back and you say that it’s actually 30% off, I might reevaluate how much I liked it.

            I think we can probably take OP at their word that Emily could be more proactive about getting sales without engaging in aggressive sales tactics. And I think that an employer would not be unreasonable to expect an employee to be more proactive, or even to fire someone who didn’t do those things because they simply didn’t care to.

            1. sb51*

              Agreed. While I’m on Team Emily around the hours/scheduling/not answering calls, I think it’s fine to say that part of this retail job is upselling/pushing sales and that it’s required. Don’t incentivize it with something she doesn’t want, just require it.

              (I hate pushy salespeople as much as the next antisocial AAM commenter, but I understand that it’s the job, and I’ve done it cheerfully the one time I was in a customer retail position.)

              1. Chriama*

                I also think that all the people talking about hating pushy salespeople don’t necessarily have the data to back up their claims. Some tactics objectively result in more sales. I mentioned elsewhere that OP should try to get some data on how much Emily sells in a year vs. other employees, and whether it’s proportionate to how much she works. If it’s proportionately higher, it might make sense to look for other options to keep Emily’s existing schedule. If it’s lower though, it could give her some relief at the thought of just finding a better employee (better, not as a measure of morality or worth, but better for the business).

                1. allathian*

                  They might result in more sales, but will they result in more repeat sales?

                  Sure, I don’t mind an employee pointing out that I get 50 percent off the second item if I buy two, and I might even take them up on the offer with thanks. But I have no interest in buying both a bra and a matching pair of satin panties, because I only wear cotton or microfiber panties, no matter how much you keep pushing. So please take my “no thanks” for an answer before I have to go into specifics.

              2. Roseclef*

                If I sell enough that you don’t want to fire me, and I don’t make commission on higher sales, I’m not going to be going against my own personality or the good relationships I have with customers to upsell anything. No benefit to me exists in that margin between ‘good enough, more pain to replace than to keep’ and ‘highest sales numbers on the team,’ especially in a context where my need for and interest in the job is so clearly temporary.

                1. Chriama*

                  > If I sell enough that you don’t want to fire me

                  That’s the key point, though. There are some jobs where being proactive about sales is the norm, and if an employee refuses to do that the employer can insist on it and fire the employee if they refuse. OP has to decide if that’s the job or not, and I don’t think either answer is incorrect.

            2. boo bot*

              Yeah, and I think it’s also worth noting that this would be asking Emily to her *behavior* and not her *motivations.*

              The OP can tell Emily she needs to be more assertive about getting sales, without telling her she needs to feel greater passion about the sales numbers (nor would greater passion for the sales numbers necessarily translate into more assertive sales techniques).

              1. allathian*

                Perhaps, but they should also keep in mind that more assertive sales techniques don’t always translate into more sales, if the customers who’ve liked the low-pressure Emily go elsewhere because they hate pushy salespeople. It’s also probably going to make Emily decide she can live without that job.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  Yeah, I equate it to getting a date: being non confrontational and willing to back off will get someone way further with me than if they aggressively try and ‘talk me into’ a drink with them.

                  I wish there was a universally agreed badge or something I could wear that broadcasts ‘do not approach me. I’ll find you if I have questions’

            3. Koalafied*

              Yes, “Emily doesn’t push sales enough,” doesn’t mean, “Emily isn’t pushy enough.” It’s unfortunate that the two words area so closely related but not all pushing (meaning: advocating for or advancing a goal) makes one “pushy” (meaning: pushing something without reading the room or knowing when to soften or change tactics because the prospect is not interested enough).

              There’s actually been some research into this and the best salespeople are the ones who are very attentive, provide information that’s not really available to customers, answer questions, and recommend a product that the customer will be happy with. People come into stores because they are looking for a product that can meet a need or want they have. A good salesperson actively works to figure out which product the customer is going to be glad they bought and help them see how it can benefit them – that is a useful service! A pushy salesperson is just trying to make any sale or the priciest sale they can for the sake of revenue. A poor salesperson doesn’t provide any service at all. If a customer says, “do you have this in with X additional feature?” They say, “no, sorry, we don’t,” instead of, “we don’t have that exactly, but if you need X feature and don’t mind not having Z feature, here’s this other product you might want to look at.”

              As in some of the examples above, good salespeople who consider it their job to meet a customer’s needs, even if it doesn’t result in an immediate sale or the most high dollar sale, have been documented in research to be generally more valuable because they generate repeat business, and a repeat customer is worth 10 or 20 times what a single sale is worth. In marketing it’s commonly accepted that acquiring a new customer usually costs money – you don’t break even on the cost of acquiring them until/unless they become a repeat customer. That’s why so many businesses have those unfortunate pricing models where they sell you the first X item or period of service at a loss in the hopes you’ll like it enough to pay full price for it when the discount is gone. (Or, more specifically, out of every N new customers who they sell to at a loss, N-X will like it enough that after X time period the repeat sales generated by the N-X repeat customers will have paid for the discount given to the X customers who never bought again… Dead weight from people who will never pay full price is built into the model’s assumptions.)

        2. Aitch Arr*

          Then she should be compensated on selling more. It sounds like she just gets a base hourly rate.

          1. allathian*

            She’d probably quit. The one thing Emily wants is a predictable income so she can maximize what she’s allowed to earn.

        3. LunaLena*

          Just want to point out that her lack of pushiness might be the reason why customers like Emily in the first place, though. I personally hate pushy salespeople and am extremely uncomfortable with them. If there’s a store where the associates are friendly and aren’t pushing me to buy buy buy, I’m much more likely to buy something and/or come back. I’ve already decided that, the next time I need to buy a car, I’m going to Carvana or another online only car seller just to avoid the sales experience, for example.

        4. Observer*

          However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a manager to prefer salespeople who do push sales, and I’ve known people let go from sales jobs because they didn’t sell enough

          If that were the worst issue in the OP’s attitude, I think responses would be very different. Nevertheless, it would be to the OP’s benefit to recognize that perhaps Emily’s lack of pushiness is actually a benefit to the store.

        5. LizM*

          A good salesperson can close a sale without being pushy. I don’t necessarily see LW pushing for pushiness here.

        6. münchner kindl*

          It is unreasonable because it’s short-sighted that if sales are not at the (arbitrary?) goal the management sets, then the *only* solution management can think of is to be more pushy.

          There are a lot of factors on why customers buy which things, why they buy twice as much this month than last month, why they return or don’t.

          Salespeople not being pushy enough is only one factors, so management is harming business by ignoring all other factors; and forcing salespeople to be pushy runs the real risk of driving away those customers who hate that.

      3. Chaordic One*

        I previously had a not-so-hot job at a grocery store that paid a bit above minimum wage. (It was worth a bit more back then.) I was written up because I did not attempt to “upsell” a secret shopper who reported my failure to “upsell.” I was all about helping people find what they were looking for. If there was a good sale going on I was happy to point it out and recommend it, but I really felt uncomfortable about trying to talk people into buying things that they didn’t seem to be looking for. As a customer I find that behavior annoying and off-putting.

    5. merp*

      Hell yeah, also team Emily. She clearly has other goals that she prioritizes, she stands up for her own needs, and she’s not tied to her phone on her days off. She sounds like she has a really healthy relationship with this job! And imo, it is not a good look to try to convince someone to work more than the rules of their scholarship allow. If it were me, I’d quit before I risked my scholarship, as it sounds like it brings in a lot more value than this job.

    6. anonymouse*

      OP, you do not understand the program that is funding her education.

      1) the program funding her limits her hours because they want to provide funds for as many students as possible. Get in, get your degree, get out. “I need another term, because I couldn’t complete class because I kept taking extra shifts. I didn’t sign up for the Fall semester only class because the it was in the afternoon and I never knew when I would be called in for an afternoon shift.”

      If you do end up in graduate school, please realize that the program is your full time job. You may still need to make up the difference with a part time job, but please remember to treat it like a part time job.

      1. Properlike*

        Shoot, I hear this all the time teaching *undergrad* in the US – where grants aren’t enough and my community college students *have* to work to support themselves and, often, family members. I’ve had more than one student with “my job scheduled me on the day of the final” discussions, and our college policy was that the final exam times are sacrosanct except in extreme circumstances.

    7. Mina The Company Prom Queen*

      I agree. Emily isn’t doing anything wrong here. She and the person who hired her agreed on a 12-hour work week, due to Emily’s scholarship requirements. It would be unreasonable to expect Emily to accept getting penalized by violating those scholarship requirements just because her new manager wants her to be on call. Emily did not sign up to be on call and work extra hours. It’s also possible to be a good employee (as it sounds like Emily is) and not be passionate about the job. I think the new manager is being unreasonable.

      1. münchner kindl*

        Even if Emily wasn’t bound by maximum hours because of her scholarship, Emily is fulfilling her contract, but LW wants to get additional service – 24/7 availabilty, more hours – at same price.

        Like a customer wanting a dress of 4 000 $ quality for a price of 200.

        Even if Emily wasn’t a hard-working student, but lying on the couch reading trashy novels to relax after work – it still would be 100% her right to refuse to be on call for additional shifts.

    8. Zennish*

      This. The answer to “How do I get an employee to invest and work more without providing any additional compensation or consideration?” is that you don’t, generally.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This one in fact had an added spin of “how do I get her to work more in exchange for a steep drop in her stipend?” I… don’t know the answer to that.

        1. marine dreaming*

          “This person will lose money and also study time by working more. Why doesn’t she want to do that?” The world may never know.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Thank you, Zennish.

        The best that can be expected here is for Emily to increase the amount of sales she has while she is working her current hours. Instead of telling her HOW to do it by using your preferred methods, just tell her to figure it out and do something.

        Alternatively, if you are trying to get sales up, how about offering a wider range of price points? How about weekly sale items? Maybe use clearance racks to draw people?

    9. The Rules are Made Up*

      Especially the not answering calls on her day off lol. Good for her. Sounds like Emily has solid boundaries and work life balance and I love that for her! More employees should take her approach to be honest. There isn’t anything wrong with doing your job well and going the **** home. Employers get a lot of free or cheap labor out of the idea that employees have to do more than they’re contractually obligated to do or else there’s something wrong with them. When in actuality, it’s YOUR store, not Emily’s why should she care about how the sales are going??? Her pay isn’t based on commission lol.

      1. Quinalla*

        Right? What is the point in her answering calls on her days off? She’s said she won’t take on more hours – period. It would be one thing if she didn’t have the situation with her school funding, then it would be more reasonable to expect her to pick up a little extra here and there where possible with her homework/classes, but when she basically will be paid almost nothing for the extra hours? There is only negatives here for her – missing out on free time/homework time/etc. for basically nothing. I think most folks would decline extra hours for about $1 an hour. Even my kids make more than $1 an hour doing chores…

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          You know, I’m going to say that even outside of the school funding, I don’t know if it is reasonable to expect someone to pick up more hours all the time. Maybe once in awhile? Yeah, that’s how retail goes once in awhile. But I get the feeling the it wouldn’t just be ‘once in awhile’ or ‘here and there’.

          I know a lot of people decline extra hours because if you agree to do it once or twice, trying to be a team player or whatever, you’re suddenly the person they call all. The. Time. They will schedule you off with the knowledge that you’ll probably call you in. And if you politely decline, you get the song and dance and the guilt trip, and the part I hate the most “But why?”

          Because I said no. It doesn’t matter if it’s my school funding, I have homework, I have to walk my yak, I need to darn my socks. I have the day off on schedule, and it should not be anticipated that an employee will just drop everything to come in because they’re ‘needed’. You can ask, certainly. But you (proverbial you) should never be angry or surprised when your employee says no.

          1. Sandangel*

            This is exactly why I’ve mostly stopped volunteering for shifts. Setting boundaries with work so that my time off stays that way has done a lot for my mental health through this pandemic, along with reminding myself that if they’re that badly understaffed, then that’s their problem, not mine.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I have worked retail jobs where I picked up extra hours 3 or more days a week. I ran on to OT doing this.

            When I see this type of stuff, it usually happens because one or two people call out on a regular basis. Instead of blaming Emily for not coming in, perhaps the thing to do is to write these other folks up for excessive absences.

          3. Koalafied*

            It’s definitely a thing that happens. In my late 20s I took on a part-time evening/weekend job to pay off my student debt, because my nonprofit day job didn’t leave much leftover after paying my basic expenses. I was always willing to pick up an extra shift because 1) I already had no life outside of working 20 hours PT on the side of 40+ hours FT, so 24 hours instead of 20 hours didn’t feel much differently, qualitatively speaking, 2) it was a job where I earned good tips, so it wasn’t just 4 hours at minimum wage, and 3) the only reason I was working two jobs was to pay off a finite amount of debt, so working more hours in a single week = paying off my debt sooner = quitting the second job sooner.

            It was very clear to me that after I said yes to an extra shift once or twice I was absolutely the first person they called every time thereafter, because most of my coworkers were teenagers or had families and didn’t have the same incentives I had to pick up shifts, so obviously they figured they’d skip calling a bunch of people who were probably going to say no and go straight to someone who 99% of the time said yes. It was also very clear to me that I was their favorite employee 99% for this reason alone. I was always given a bit more leeway on rules, I worked a non-standard shift start time from everyone else to make it easier to get from my day job to the store in the evenings on time, I was allowed to skip the mandatory all-staff in-store meetings, and they looked the other way when I reported $0 cash tips every night so that I would only pay income taxes on my credit card tips, even though on some slow nights when most of my tips were in cash that meant the store had to pay me a higher hourly rate to make sure that my official tips + wage = minimum wage.

            Point being – my impression is that most employees DON’T pick up extra shifts. I was in a unique position of being able and willing to pick up lots of shifts, and my managers practically worshipped the ground I walked on because of it.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              If I had gotten any benefits from working extra shifts, I might have been more willing to do so myself. But that didn’t happen at my job. If you said yes, it was like you said, they’d always ask you. They’d bank on you saying yes, so when you didn’t they turned their wrath on you.

              And I really quit saying yes when they had to mandate people. I had said yes so many times, given so many weekends. Surely that would put me on the bottom of the list? Hah. Nope. That was the last time I volunteered, and when they asked me why I wouldn’t do it, I pointed that out. I didn’t get anything from doing it.

              “But what about the extra money?” What about it? I still paid taxes on it. Weekend premium was a whole .25 an hour, so in an eight hour shift that was two whole dollars extra. Two dollars! Can’t even buy a candy bar and a Coke at the vending machine for that. It didn’t even cover my lunch.

              I also once broke down the math for my boss. Let’s say I took that shift. I had to find care for my kids, pay the sitter, pay for their lunch while they were at the sitter, and then pay the gas to drop them off and take them to the sitter. There were some shifts that cost me money! It made less than zero sense for me to take the shifts.

          4. Working Hypothesis*

            It matters to me if you have to walk your yak! That would be totally awesome and I would close up the shop and beg to be allowed to come along.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              Maybe I’d pick up the shift then and pay you to walk this Hypothetical Yak (which would be an awesome screen name)

      2. Chriama*

        Haha, she doesn’t answer calls because she’s ignoring OP, not because she’s hiding or pretending. Literally the only reason OP would call is for something she’s clearly said she’s not going to do. I feel like OP things she’s being sneaky or secretive, but I think she’s just enforcing a boundary she already set.

        1. ThePear8*

          You put this really well! This part of the letter really rubbed me the wrong way – she’s off work, she’s not supposed to be working at that time, and therefore has no obligation to work that time. She has every right to enforce that boundary and be actually, completely off work when she’s not working! People can and often should be completely disconnected from work when they’re off the clock – she hasn’t agreed to any additional hours and of course is not going to make herself available at every drop of a hat when she’s off.

        2. marine dreaming*

          Exactly! She’s not hiding, she’s just declining being roped into working for THREE HOURS on no notice, just because she went to lunch with a friend.

          1. Zephy*

            Working for three hours and making the equivalent of like six dollars for her trouble, to boot. I’d probably be fired from a position like this if it were me, for laughing in my manager’s face the first time they asked me to do that.

          2. The Rules are Made Up*

            That part was especially baffling “She can come in to have lunch with Sarah but not to work” as if going to lunch with your best friend and working 3 hours of a retail job are totally comparable lol. Duh she can come in for lunch, she’s OFF WORK. She can go for lunch, take a stroll, come in the store to chit chat then leave, shop at the store next door or whatever else she wants to do because she can spend her off day however she’d like.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          She has already informed OP that she cannot work the extra hours.
          So OP keeps asking anyway, expecting a different answer.

          OP, THIS right here is why young women feel they are pushed around at work. Here it is not a huge leap in logic to think that her boss keeps asking her over and over after she has already answered the question BECAUSE she is young and she is female.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            I remember two of my supervisors spending an hour one day nagging me into covering a shift at exjob. I said no, politely, four or five times, and then not so politely said no. About ten minutes later, my boss comes over and says “Can you–?”

            And I snapped. “No! I said no! I said no an hour ago, I said no a half hour ago, I said no fifteen minutes ago. No is no. Pestering me does not make me think I should do it. Leave me alone.” Bossman didn’t know that the supervisors had already asked me and I’d already said no, so it was a lack of communication from them. But still. How many times can I say no before you believe me that I really mean no?

      3. biobotb*

        Plus, she’s already working on her days off — at her degree. That’s not something you can just drop when someone else decides they have higher priority work for you. I’m sure she’d like to graduate some day.

      4. justabot*

        Especially for a part time with part time minimum wage pay and no benefits. That’s the whole point of having a part time job- you get to clock in, clock out, keep your personal time for yourself, and not have to make yourself available when you are off the clock.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      If I were half as assertive as Emily when I was Emily’s age, I would… oh, probably be comfortably retired in a tropical paradise now.

    11. Mina The Company Prom Queen*

      Also, it’s okay for Emily to enjoy her time when she isn’t working. Some people think that you should be working if you have any free time whatsoever (like when Emily goes to lunch with her co-worker friend). That is unreasonable as well. It’s okay for Emily to work her 12 hours and then spend the rest of the week as she wishes.

      1. Zephy*

        Yeah. Bold of the manager to assume that because Emily has a standing lunch date with someone who just happens to be a coworker, that she’s available to work at that time. The manager is absolutely not entitled to know what else Emily does with her time outside of those 12 hours, and in fact they only know about how she spends this particular hour in the week because her friend happens to work at the same place she does.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I will say that most retail jobs I have had I would not dare show my face during my time off. For this very reason right here. But managers were very snotty about it. Just not worth it.

          Going one step further one place I worked did not allow employees in the store UNLESS they were starting their shift.

    12. turquoisecow*

      Yeah, as a former part time retail worker – I didn’t want to put a lot of effort in. Especially when she’s also a grad student. The success or failure of the store doesn’t and I might argue shouldn’t matter to Emily – she’s a part time worker and her long term career isn’t going to be at the store. If the store does well, she may not even see any benefit. If the store closes, she can get another job.

      There’s a healthy level of investment most employees should have in their companies – for full time workers with stock options it’s maybe a bit more, but for part time workers who intend to move to an entirely different field, why stress yourself out worrying about it?

      1. skunklet*

        yeah, I was a single parent in college, receiving food stamps & medicaid for my kid – so I knew EXACTLY how much I could earn per month in my part time job and would do my best to not go over it, to avoid losing either one. my employer had no problem with this (it was a building supply store, so plenty of employees, no hard sell required).

    13. Liz*

      Right? she’s got boundaries, and the OP needs to respect them. She’s doing exactly what she should be doing, for the job. Just because the OP thinks she should be doing more, doesn’t mean she’s wrong not to.

    14. Stef*

      I feel for Emily and understand her 100%.
      I just left a job at Lowes as a cashier because they sentenced me to 2-11 shifts for three days when I told them that it was too late for me to work. I managed to work there for 1 year and three months due to the pandemic, but I left because the asm of operations stated after I asked for shifts between 9 Am-9 Pm its offensive to the people who close if I never close (btw, there are people who never close).
      To boot, I’m one of the most hardest working, disciplined people on the front end. During my last three days, I sold one protection plan and three credits. There are many people on the front end who don’t do their job and aren’t disciplined and will argue with the head cashiers. I give 200% of myself to the job when I’m clocked in because the managers demand and expect excellence, but when I ask for something to have Fri, Sat, and Sun hours between 9 a-9p, it’s a big deal and too much to ask for. I upheld my end of the business partnership, but they didn’t so I found another job that scooped me up and is more flexible. The store manager at my new job has an accounting degree and has stated she’s flexible and it’s not the end of the world if I have to change my hours.

      I’m going to college for accounting, I plan to obtain 150 credit hours to sit in for the CPA exam, and I plan on leaving retail behind in the dust for a more stable job.
      OP, don’t try to fence someone in or cage them to more hours because eventually Emily will pack up and leave, just like what I did.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        It is always interesting to see these companies demand ‘flexibility’ from their employees. What they really mean is no boundaries, give us all your time, let us own your soul. When an employee asks for flexibility, it is met with pearl clutching and “We could NEVER do that!”

      2. Jerusha*

        And just to (redundantly) point out that your manager was a moron – I have delayed sleep phase. I would be delighted to work nothing but 2-11 shifts and close every night, if it meant I never had to be there at 9 AM. I suppose my schedule where I would never open would be offensive to the people who do? I swear I rolled my eyes so hard I saw the inside of my occipital bone…

    15. Michelle Smith*

      I couldn’t agree more! Emily has internalized something extremely important at a much younger age than I did – you are the CEO of your own career. You should not bend over backwards for an employer that isn’t going to do the same thing for you. You should not sacrifice your wellbeing, your mental health, or your personal life for someone else’s financial gain. I respect the heck out of Emily. May I learn from her example.

  3. Rbeezy*

    I think this lines up nicely with what Alison has always said about “passion” for your job. It’s completely fine not to be super passionate about your job or the business that you’re working for. You’re trading your labor for compensation, that’s it. It sounds like Emily is doing a perfectly reasonable good job. OP just wants her to have more “passion” and dedication, to the point where she work against her own interests (reducing her pay rate to $2/hour). That’s not really a reasonable expectation.

    1. Mina The Company Prom Queen*

      Yes! It is definitely possible to be a good employee without being all ‘passionate’ about your job. I’ve had managers who seemed to expect their employees to be emotional train wrecks over their job. It was ridiculous. Of course you want employees to care about doing a good job but do they really have to cartwheels and cheers over spreadsheets, sales, meetings or PowerPoint presentations? Or act like the world is ending if something goes wrong? Being told you’re not ’emotionally invested’ or not ‘passionate’ enough about your job is like having a needy boyfriend. Most people truly care about doing their jobs well. They shouldn’t have ‘passion’ as a KPI.

      I think it sounds like Emily is just fine- she is a good employee, does her job, and is popular with customers and other employees. I know this new manager is trying to prove herself, but it does not sound like Emily is a problem to solve.

    2. Kes*

      Yeah, OP expects Emily to be very invested in the company succeeding, but clearly OP and the company are not very invested in making the work situation and hours work for Emily. Why should that go only one way? And yes, that does occur in some cases anyway, but the the question is on both sides, if you don’t continue with this, can you find something else that’s better? And as far as I can tell, the answer is: Emily is likely ready to walk away if needed, but OP is not sure whether she can find a better employee for the position. So OP has to decided if they want to let Emily go and try to find someone better, or accept that for what you’re offering Emily is likely the best you’ll get and work with Emily and the limits she has imposed

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Passion is a vague term. I guess it’s just me but I feel it’s a gross term to use. My job is not my lover. Sorry.

      OP needs to be specific, “I need to see you suggesting additional items. I need to see you asking the customer for the sale.” [etc].
      OP needs to lay out using concrete examples what Emily should be doing.

      1. Self Employed*

        And could OP create some kind of promotion that would make it easy for Emily to add more items to orders? I don’t know if high-end boutique culture allows for things like discounts for buying multiple items, or buying a whole ensemble, but those techniques have worked for me.

        The minimum pricing in the store is also going to affect sales. I know some artisans who make, say, leather purses and messenger bags, but who also make coin purses and keychains so they have something in their booths that’s not priced in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. They’re not selling cheap imported junk–it’s just small items they make using scraps of the high-quality leather and techniques so that people can try out something from their brand. They can sell enough of these at a craft fair to make a significant profit, as well as starting a relationship with a future buyer of the full-size bags.

        I don’t know enough about the brands OP sells to know if they could supplement the current high-priced items with some high-quality smaller items suitable for impulse purchases or stocking stuffers. Hair accessories? Fancy hangers and sachets? Or does the shop already have those, but even a nice barrette is over $20? (I don’t shop at places like that, sorry if this is really ignorant.)

      2. Mina The Company Prom Queen*

        “My job is not my lover.” LOL! Yes, they really need to keep language like that out of the workplace. I was at an internal sales conference at a previous employer years ago where one of the senior execs said as part of his speech that he wanted us all to know our clients very ‘intimately.’ While we knew what he really meant, we all had to stop ourselves from bursting out laughing. There was a lot of snickering in the audience. Like you, my job is not my ‘lover’ and I am not about to be ‘intimate’ with my clients. Just…eeeewww. :)

  4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Your options:

    Replace her.
    Offer her commissions.
    Lower your standards.

    1. designbot*

      I think there’s a hidden option #4. Emily’s currently contracted for 12 hours a week, and this seems to balance with other employees such that LW’s calendar is perfectly filled, meaning that when someone calls out or they need extra help for another reason, her lack of flexibility is to their detriment. What if LW talked to other employees and found someone else who wanted to pick up an extra say, 4 hours a week standard? Then reduce Emily’s standard hours from 12/week to 8/week, so that when extra shifts come up she now has the room and the incentive to pick some up like most employees, without it costing her a bunch of money.
      This also sends a more balanced message: we need flexibility, an we’ll find a way to build it in if we need to. We won’t fire someone like Emily, but we’ll put more guaranteed hours (and therefor pay) towards someone who is simply a better fit for that need.

      1. Wicked Stitcher*

        moving her to 8h a week just to have grounds to demand flexibility would be such a petty thing to do. what if nobody calls in? what if she values the ability to make plans ahead? being “on call” is something people get paid extra for because it’s inconvenient. this would just read like a punishment and if I was in Emily’s shoes I’d find employment elsewhere because of it.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I don’t think you can unilaterally change the terms of a contract like that, either. I think she either has to agree to the change or the business is liable for redress from breaking the terms of the contract. OP may well have to pay her for 12 hours/week whether she’s scheduled for 8 or 12.

          1. designbot*

            oh, in my state an employer can just staff you fewer hours and there isn’t squat you can do about it.

              1. skunklet*

                yes but we know that OP isn’t even in the US, so there may be a contract; and it still appears crappy to call ppl in on their day off when they may have other plans.

            1. Nanani*

              They aren’t in the US and specifically mention a contract, so the nonsense american corporations pull on people probably aren’t possible. And definitely not a GOOD idea even if they are technically legal where LW is.

            2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              yeah, that’s normal in the US, but other countries have very different employment laws (at will employment is, to my understanding, not a thing in Europe, for example).

        2. TiTi*

          Being on call is literally built into my job. I hate every second of it. I don’t want to have to answer my phone at 3am but I am well compensated to make sure I answer my phone at 3am. When I used to manage a restaurant I never understood why other managers would be annoyed with people not wanting to come in on short notice. It sucks! They asked how I convinced them to do so and I offered incentives (I would cover a weekend shift for you, free meal, free drink, whatever I felt was worth the coverage I needed) but I myself wouldn’t expect them to do so. If I run short, I run short and I figure it out.

        3. designbot*

          Then it doesn’t work for her, which is always a possibility. Just putting out there another option that could be on the table to make the balance of hours work better for the business. If flexibility is what they need, staffing people to precisely a number of hours that they know those people can’t go above just doesn’t make any practical sense.

        4. Le Sigh*

          I’m also so, so tired of employers acting as if they get full domain over part-time employees’ schedules. Leaving them on-call and creating constantly shifting schedules limits their ability to work second jobs, schedule doc appts, and deal with school. I had an retail job where they wanted to pay at or slightly above minimum wage (not living, just minimum), provide 15-20 hours max without any kind of schedule consistency, but also wanted me to be available to pick up shifts on call. Yes, yes, at $9.25/hr before taxes x 15 hours I can definitely pay the bills, yup, don’t need a second job or anything.

          Same store also got in our face about not getting customers to sign up for the free rewards program and constantly reminded us during shifts that “so and so had signed up 6 people” already. What do I care? I get nothing if more people sign up and this is a discount clothing store — my goals are simply are to clock in, clean the store, ring people up, and go home without getting yelled at.

          1. Chriama*

            I think there’s a difference between wanting full domain and wanting someone who has flexibility. A lot of people who work part time want x-y hours a week. As in, they need x to take the job, but wouldn’t be unwilling to go up to y at least some of the time. The fact that OP inherited an employee who negotiated for y hours doesn’t mean she’s unreasonable. It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to hire Emily for x hours (8? 10?) instead. I honestly wonder how the previous manager dealt with it. Maybe there were other employees who were more flexible at the time, or maybe the manager was able to offer incentive pay. Or maybe the pool of available employees was just easier because COVID and enhanced unemployment benefits weren’t a thing. If it’s causing OP this much distress, she could look into how things were previously handled.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Sure. And I think if this was the only point OP complained about or came across more measured in general, I’d agree and people wouldn’t be having such a strong reaction. But when you read the OP’s full list of complaints — not answering phone on off days, not taking fewer hours that would actively jeopardize her scholarship, not feeling motivated to sell based on a $20 store credit, etc. — it comes across as unrealistic and ridiculous. If the letter were more like, “I have a great employee, but her schedule is inflexible, for reasons that make sense, but this puts me in a tough position, etc. — what’s the best way to approach it?” that I would understand.

              Instead, the OP reads like so many store managers I had, who would also try to guilt me — and being a retail managers is *hard* as heck, I respect that. But I also was making minimum wage, was penalized for calling in sick, and generally not treated well — and then would get lectures about loyalty and teamwork when I couldn’t cover a last minute shift. If you schedule me PT, pay me below a living wage, and offer no sick days, etc., you have to keep your expectations in check.

              Setting up her contract for 8 minimum would probably have made sense, but I also suspect cutting her to 8 at this stage might come across poorly at this point. OP needs to weigh how much it’s worth keeping Emily on or not.

              1. Chriama*

                The only 2 complaints I see are:

                1) Emily doesn’t proactively try to sell things (I’ll repeat the caveat that we don’t know exactly what sort of sales tactics Emily is refusing to use. It could be as simple as reminding someone that something they’re on the fence about is actually 30% off)

                2) Emily has is inflexible with her schedule.

                Emily is (understandably!) uninvested in the job, which comes across in different ways and one way in particular is making OP’s life actively harder. I don’t think hiring someone willing to work 12-15 hours a week would be particularly difficult in normal circumstances. COVID may make it harder, in which case OP can resign herself to the situation for another 6-12 months. But I do think that once she’s given up the idea that she can somehow make Emily care more, OP will have a clearer understanding of whether keeping Emily in the job makes sense.

                1. Lily of the field*

                  Emily is inflexible with her schedule because she is a grad student, a fact you keep ignoring. She has limited flexibility because she is prioritizing her education. You need to consider Emily’s circumstances that limit what she can logically do.

                2. Chriama*

                  I’m not ignoring anything. I don’t know how many times I have to say that I don’t think Emily is in the wrong for wanting the job on the terms she originally agreed to. What I’m saying is that OP, knowing that Emily is inflexible and that won’t change, needs to decide if she wants Emily in this job on these terms.

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        While that would be fair enoughin a business sense, I don’t see why Emily would agree to it. In an employee market as LW described, she could easily find another job for her full 12h/week. So effectively, by decreasing her hours, LW would soon default to option #1 of replacing her.

      3. Rainy*

        No. If Emily is a student, her hours are not flexible. She has more than likely worked out a schedule that works with her classes, and she is never going to have the flexibility that OP (and other delusional retail managers who only employ part-timers) think they should be able to demand of their employees.

        If OP reduces Emily to 8 hours a week on the understanding that she will expect to call Emily and demand that she show up even if she has class or a meeting, that’s unreasonable and Emily would be well within her rights to tell OP to get in the sea.

      4. Chriama*

        I think the risk is that Emily wouldn’t pick up those hours. The issue right now is 2-fold: Emily doesn’t want to work extra hours, and she doesn’t want to work in her time off. There’s no guarantee that “solving” the first issue would solve the second one.

        However, if the first issue is really the only problem, OP could ask Emily to swap hours rather than working additional hours. It would mean coordinating 2 people’s schedules rather than just one, but it’s an option.

        1. Rainy*

          Why are you ignoring the fact that Emily CANNOT work extra hours? You’re framing this as “doesn’t want to” when she has made the contractual arrangement that fulfils the requirements of her student funding, and you are implying–if not outright stating!–that Emily is somehow “lazy” or “defiant” because her primary focus is her graduate work.

          Why are you so determined to paint Emily as the asshole here?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            LW presents the problem as Emily has choices. And she really doesn’t, not if she wants to keep her program.

            If LW pushes to hard, Emily can go find an employer who would be happy to have her for a limited number of hours and Emily can be shed of this job.

          2. Chriama*

            I am honestly surprised that this is how my comment was perceived. I don’t think Emily is even a little bit of asshole. I have said, explicitly and repeatedly, that Emily is doing what is best for herself, and OP shouldn’t expect Emily to go against that just because it makes OP’s life easier.

            The comment at the top that I was responding to said that OP could cut Emily’s hours to 8 instead of 12, so she’d have the room for covering other people’s shifts. What I said in response is that this would only be a solution if the lack of flexibility OP claims is only due to Emily’s resistance to work more than 12 hours. OP’s letter makes absolutely no mention one way or the other about whether Emily has ever agreed or refused to *swap* shifts to keep the same number of hours. I simply wanted to point out that reducing Emily’s hours doesn’t mean she’s going to be more available to cover shifts, if part of the issue is that she wants a fixed schedule and not just fixed hours. It was a critique of the solution, not of Emily or her motivations.

      5. ElleKay*

        Good point! This is an option since the LW seems to discount the fact that Emily can only work 12 hours w/o losing her other benefits.
        Now, dropping her to 8 hours so there’s flexibility “just in case” might be enough for her to leave but it’s an option you could offer.

        (*also assumes that her contract can be renegotiated currently)

      6. TootsNYC*

        If I were Emily, I’d quit.
        You’re going to take hours away from me? I’m outta here. I’ll find somewhere else to work.

      7. joss*

        and this “solution” is exactly what is wrong with this type of management. Employees have the right to know when they are expected to show up for work. The tendency of retail to just act like their employees have no other obligations than to jump when being told to jump. In another situation where Emily were not on a scholarship this could easily be a second job she is holding down needed to pay the bills. Yet demands like “I did not staff sufficiently so you need to come now” make it impossible for many minimum wage workers to get themselves out of the working poor situation we are in.

        I am sorry if my response sounds harsh but this is a sore point for me as it shows a total disrespect for other people’s life under the guise of “team work” (note that aside helping from out my grandmother in her store as a teen I have never worked in retail)

        1. Koocore*

          Yep. Like many, I worked retail when I was a student and my managers just couldn’t understand that just because I wasn’t rostered on for a particular day didn’t mean I was available to drop everything and come in that day. I had life outside my part time retail job, a fact that was constantly lost on management.

      8. Tía Teapot*

        She has another job, full time, as a student. Setting aside the money issues, she has classes to go to and homework she has to get done. Even if they cut her scheduled hours so there’s room for her to pick up a random shift, she might have other inflexible obligations.

      9. The Other Katie*

        Employment contracts, where they exist, are binding on both parties. The OP may not be able to unilaterally change Emily’s working hours or schedule or require flexible hours.

    2. anonymouse*

      Or hire another part time person.
      You hired a person to work for 12 hours a week. When you interviewed her, you said you need someone 12 hours a week. Emily said she can work 12 hours a week.
      But you really need someone who can work more than 12 hours a week, on a flex schedule and you are upset that the person you hired for 12 hours a week won’t suck it up.

      1. Suzy Q*

        This manager didn’t interview her. Emily was an inherited employee from a previous manager, and she negotiated her time/compensation with that previous manager.

        1. Homophone Hattie*

          That doesn’t really change anything, though. Emily has the agreement with the shop, not the manager.

        2. onco fonco*

          It’s no different from Emily’s point of view, though, where ‘you’ is the company rather than the OP. The company decided this was OK, and it’s no one’s fault that OP is now the facet of the company that deals with Emily and isn’t happy with what their employer previously agreed to.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Replacing her might not be an option. Because that requires firing her and firing might require a good reason to be legal in whichever country this is.

    4. Random European*

      Depending on where this is, firing an employee for no reason other than them working according to their mutually agreed contract, and then hiring someone else to replace them? Might very well not be legal.

      I know around here the relevant union would start licking its chops at this, because that would be an open and shut case of wrongful termination.

      It’d be helpful if OP had given more details than “not the US”. Or had written somebody local for advice, though I expect somebody local would have called them out for being an idiot, and OP expected more sympathy from an American.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        The LW said that they didn’t want to replace Emily. That makes me think it would be possible if they did want to, or they probably would have just said “I can’t replace her due to her contract.” They didn’t, they said “I don’t want to replace her because she is well liked and it’s hard to hire in the current market.”

        1. Random European*

          LW also seems to be having a hard time understanding that a part time student worker is not obligated to take extra hours for nearly no pay for her employer’s convenience.

          Which is to say: I do not trust that the LW knows what they are talking about and would really like to know what country this is, to allow some locals to be able to say either way.

    1. Beth*


      Seriously. Why SHOULD she work more hours and be penalized? How can any boss think that makes sense?

    2. Tussy*

      This has probably been said but…

      Scholarship rules are no joke. There is a reason why they don’t want their recipients working more and why they will dock their scholarship if they do. Because they are paying them to do well and have enough time to excel at their course without worrying about money, they don’t want people to be spending time working so they heavily deincentivise it.

      And if she is continually working more than her scholarship stipulates (which is sounds like she would be if she did it once you’d probably expect her to do it more often) she isn’t coming across well to the people who she relies on a lot more than the people who gave her her retail job.

      That isn’t her being lazy or uninvested, it is her being responsible to the scholarship providers.

  5. Madame Defarge*

    No hourly employee is obligated to answer phone calls from work on their days off, and you shouldn’t expect them to.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        In retail, you must answer the phone. If you don’t answer the phone or return calls, then you probably will end up fired. It’s the retail mind-set.

        1. Juniper*

          Chances are the OP is in a country with robust labor laws where things like that don’t happen.

        2. Batgirl*

          That’s not how it should be and since Emily knows her worth, she’s ignoring undue pressure.

      1. Sofia*

        Can I get the name if the store, and the hours Emily is working, so I can shop there without having some pushy fashionista breathing down my back??
        I actually had a salesgirl follow me into a changing room to “help” me decide which item best hid my knee brace, (which was going to goodwill as soon as I recovered from the knee surgery.)

        She would.not.leave.me.alone., and wound up tripping me. Emily, you rock!

        1. Sofia*

          Oops–and I know I can’t have the name OF the store, but these shops are 95% of the reason to shop online….

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Her not pushing customers on stuff they’re not interested in probably results in more sales, not less. If I go “nah” and staff keeps trying to upsell me, I’m probably going to leave a lot sooner than if they’re not all up in my grill!

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Same. I used to do a decent job with retail sales using the approach of trying to make people happy vs. trying to make them buy stuff.

            If they have a good experience, they will probably buy something – the very fact of their coming into the store means they were at least open to the idea. If you dog them and make them uncomfortable or embarrassed, they will just leave to get away from you.

    1. Elenna*

      Something tells me that OP continuously pushing back on Emily’s (excellent) boundaries is, if anything, making Emily less inclined to pick up the phone…

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      That really stood out. Of COURSE she doesn’t have to answer her phone on her own time.

      The expectation that she should is not good.

      1. anonymouse*

        I think it was a letter from the US where some floor manager wanted Alison’s advice on how best to word some caring tough love to an employee who walked out on him/her.
        Anyone remember?
        “My best employee just quit and I want to tell her this is not professional to walk out. She was by far the best employee I’ve ever had, starting in her teens when she was homeless and never missing a day and picking up extra shifts.”
        She walked out when that OP said no to her taking two hours for her college graduation, because work is work and the only reason he gave her coworker a day off was because that guy had U2 tickets and well, clearly there’s a cost for those.”

        so there are people everywhere who think their staff should serve the company to point where it hurts their own interests.

        1. Nea*

          I remember that one! And the Letter Writer who was trying to figure out how to “tactfully” tell future potential employers that their former employee was so unprofessional as to scream and quit the second time she was pinched on the job.

          Employees aren’t meat machines. They will put their own human priorities first and someone who expects them not to isn’t a good employer, period.

          1. Lady Meyneth*

            What?! I remember Graduation Girl (and what a pity she never found the post and sent us an update), but there was a Pinch-Quit?!

            Off to the archives I go…

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            I really wish we’d gotten an update on that one… but even if we had, it probably would only have told what happened to the LW and what I really want to know is what happened to that awesome young woman who got out of foster care, put herself through college, and then had the strength of spirit to walk out on her job when it showed her such incredible disrespect as to refuse her two piddling hours to go to her own college graduation. I suspect and hope she has gone far, in all the best ways.

        2. Social Commentator*

          Yes! Not only that, it was for a day that she was not usually scheduled for work, and wouldn’t have expected to have had a conflict in the first place!

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Silly employer. Probably Employee won’t graduate college again any time soon, so it is doubtful that she will have recurring offenses.

          Employer: When you graduate college you cannot skip work. They will fire you.
          Employee: Not seeing a life long problem here.

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        Running the risk of falling into the US-work-reality-sucks trap, there aren’t that many cultures out there who expect their employees to be more invested in work than the US. Odds are LW’s expectations are even *more* out of place and absurd in her country.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            In the UK it would be at best dodgy but I’ve heard enough horror stories of ‘zero hour contracts’ among my friends to know that it does go on.

  6. Harvey JobGetter*

    There isn’t any country where the general cost of goods is 333% higher than in the U.S. This is a very important point because it shows OP isn’t really very realistic about how much things cost and yet her response to this situation is very much focused on financial metrics. Frankly, OP likely doesn’t have a realistic view of what these amounts of money mean to people. In order to entice people with money, you have to understand what money is worth and OP isn’t even close

    1. Elenna*

      I’m not quite clear on whether OP means that a 3$ item in the US will cost 10 US dollars in OP’s country, or whether it will cost 10 of the currency of that country (which might also be called dollars). The latter could definitely be possible, with higher inflation rates. I don’t know enough to say if the former is possible.

      Regardless, I agree with everything Allison said – Emily is holding perfectly reasonable boundaries, good for her, now OP has to decide if Emily’s boundaries work for them.

        1. A tester, not a developer*

          Canada feels your pain. At least in the before times I could pop across the border once a year and buy a few things I can’t get here (and it was still pricey because of the exchange rate).

        2. Koocore*

          I’m an American whose been living and working abroad for several years, and things I could buy cheaply off Amazon or from Ulta are very expensive here. A packet of 4 of my fave eyelashes are about $11USD, and I can get a second packet for 50% off. Here, the same pack costs the equivalent of $21USD AND you can’t get the second half price.

          I have a much better quality of life here, but stuff is EXPENSIVE.

          1. Harvey JobGetter*

            you’re talking about a single, IMPORTED item. There is no country where this is generally true.

      1. Not Australian*

        Ummm, you also need to factor in the cost of bringing these goods to the OP’s country if they don’t have a strong manufacturing base of their own – and even if they do, they are paying a higher minimum wage than the US does and goods are going to be proportionately more expensive.

      2. Michelle*

        I’m an American who lived in Iceland for 2 years. An ironing board that I could have bought in the US for $10 USD cost the equivalent of $35 USD.

        1. Self Employed*

          I haven’t seen a decent ironing board in the US under $50 at a retailer in this century. Maybe a flimsy one that will tip over for $25. Are you talking about thrifting or flea market?

          1. Snailing*

            I’m in the eastern US and though I bought it a while ago, I just checked online and a similar model from the same store is about $15 USD. It’s no super-sturdy ironing board that will last me forever, but it’s not rickety either.

            And in any case, it was just an example that Michelle likely estimated to make the point that it’s entirely possible that something ~$5-10 in the US could cost 3x as much overseas depending on the product.

    2. Bleah*

      This could be a Nordic country that has a high cost of living, and a high VAT. Many of those countries do have a rather high cost of living to pay for their really strong social programs. I don’t think it’s fair to assume the OP doesn’t know what they are talking about without evidence. Also, a VAT can easily increase the price of common goods to very high levels above what they cost in the US.

      1. GreenDoor*

        If anything, the mention of the value of the dollar in OP’s country only works in Emily’s favor. She clearly knows the maximum number of hours she can work without jeopardizing her guaranteed scholarship funds. Why would she take on overtime hours on a random basis and risk losing her reliable, set income from the scholarship? She’d be giving up financial security in a high cost of living area. That makes no sense.

        1. designbot*

          Honestly your second sentence is all that we need to understand. I kind of tuned out all the dollar amounts once I realized that. All that matters to Emily is that her schedule/budget is tuned so finely that if she works an extra hour she starts losing money. Case closed, you’re not going to get her to work that extra hour. Find another plan.

        2. Harvey JobGetter*

          For sure. A manager who doesn’t really understand how much things cost has no way to judge the value of increased income to an employee.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah I’d assumed Switzerland (because of the speaking 3 languages point) but Norway would have been my second suggestion.

          1. Julia*

            I’m in Switzerland, but the point about Emily being able to help non-English-speaking customers confused me, since most people would speak another language first.
            Maybe Singapore?

            1. we say Ope here*

              Oooh! I was originally thinking Norway, but Singapore is probably a better guess!

            2. joss*

              that would assume that her other languages are Malay and either Mandarin or Tamil. However the educational system in Singapore is totally bi-lingual where, starting from elementary school half the school day is instructed in English and the other half is based in your ethnic origin. You would be hard pressed to find a person who hardly speaks English there (I lived there for multiple years so I have some first hand experience)

      2. AVP*

        yeah I assumed something Scandinavian – prices obviously don’t translate perfectly from item to item but generally in Copenhagen a domestic beer that would be $5 US is like, $13, and a sandwich with chips can come out to $18-20. Of course, plenty of other things are cheaper than in the US – but I get the point that the OP is making (sort of against her own interests here).

      3. Harvey JobGetter*

        I’m not assuming anything. I’m professionally familiar with the relative costs of products around the world. You can find tons of items for which this is true. You can’t find any economy for which it is.

        1. Copenhagen*

          The thing is, OP might not be professionally familiar with the relative cost of products around the world. So the estimate she has made might not be true for the entire economy of the country in witch she is located, but it’s still helpful as an estimate so that we understand that the 20$ minimum wage does not get Emily as far in their country as it would in the US.

      1. SC*

        Yep, that was my first thought, too, although there are some interesting other suggestions in this thread. A rail drink in any Swiss bar will be about US$20-$50 when it would be $6-$10 dollars in the US. A meal for 2 in a casual restaurant is easily US$100. It was truly a shock for me.

      2. Oh Brother*

        Yeah, that was my thought too. It’s not cheap to live here, and everyone in stores in Geneva speaks English!

    3. Lyra Silvertongue*

      I’m entirely team Emily here but I don’t think this comment is really fair or accurate. It may well be that cost of basic goods in their country are about three times as much as in the US on certain items. For example, you might not think that Canada is an especially different place to the US living costs wise, but grocery shopping in your average inner-city Canadian supermarket is easily going to be 25% more than in a comparable US city. If you’re in Norway, your average food shop is about 80% higher than in the US. In general (by which I mean in general, and am not referring to food deserts or abnormally high COL areas), the US has incredibly cheap food and produce compared to other countries, and pretty cheap gas and cars. These are quite significant parts of what make up people’s daily living costs. Don’t just assume non-Americans are wrong about our estimations in this regard – we have a lot more insight into the COL in the US than you do of our non-US countries, because we have far more exposure to media and information about your country than you do of ours.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I thought Canada, too. Once you get out of the Golden Horseshoe and St. Lawrence Seaway, transportation costs rise significantly. I don’t know that’d make it to 333%, but OP may well be accurate but not precise in that claim. Costs in the US aren’t uniform, either; I had relocation offers in the past where my CoL would have gone up 300% but I’d still be in the US.

        Either way, it doesn’t detract from the question. Emily’s and the OP’s stances and actions make the sense that they do at any cost point.

    4. Smithy*

      I’ve been on work trips to Copenhagen and Geneva where my per diem just followed what the US State Department set the figures at.

      Giving generic trust to the system as being aligned with the price of goods, the lived experience was one where it felt like I wasn’t given nearly enough for Copenhagen based on the prices I saw where the amount for Geneva felt more accurate. Someone could have walked me through all the reasons why those figures were appropriate, but my lived experience and how it felt were different.

      If anything, it seems to me that the OP very deeply understands that she has no genuine financial incentives to offer Emily – neither regarding her student grant status nor with company designated bonuses. That’s why there’s so much emphasis on caring. When you have nothing financial to give, what are other incentives to make a workplace more worthy of someone’s investment….and in this case, I really don’t think the OP has much cause this likely also isn’t a job where the OP’s reference or networking connections would mean anything to Emily either.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I was thinking of places in the Caribbean, where the cost of importing things means prices can be really unexpected.

        1. Yvette*

          If you can even get them. Restaurant dinners in Grand Caymen didn’t include salad. You paid extra. And even then you rarely saw a cucumber.

    5. Dahlia*

      Uh, try buying food in the Canadian far north. Unless 30 dollars for lettuce is a normal US price?

    6. Save the Hellbender*

      That could totally be true for a basket of goods used to determine difference in purchasing power, but there could be items with high import taxes or VAT, and low-dollar items are the most likely to be disproportionately expensive, as adding just a couple dollars will make it “333%” more. There’s a lot that’s out of touch in OP’s letter but I think we can believe them about their country.

    7. Maree*

      Australia? I’m constantly surprised when reading recipe sites about the cheap food in the US. Housing too. Our minimum wage is close to what she describes.
      I had a friend who’s son was on student benefits. Son lost 50% per dollar father earnt over a certain threshold. Father lost 30% perdollar of child maintenance (mum was deceased). Father paid 30% income tax. Past the threshold he was losing money for every hour worked. That’s an unusual circumstance here but it does happen. Only a fool works harder for less money.

    8. AnonymEr*

      Probably Norway. Cost of Living is extremely high due to the massive influx of oil money.

      “The average cost of living in Norway will depend on the lifestyle you lead and where in the country you choose to settle. Generally, though, you can expect to spend between 20,000 to 40,000 NOK (2,176–4,352 USD) per month to live in this Nordic country.”

      Minimum wage depends on the sector but is around $20+

    1. Aggretsuko*

      She’s certainly mine. I don’t give a lick of extra to my job either-the job isn’t going to be doing any more for me than it already is, so why bother? And in her case, she doesn’t even want that.

    2. Analyst Editor*

      I mean, I guess it’s admirable that she stands up for herself, but a frankly obvious attitude of “not mine so I don’t give a sh*t” is also really off-putting.

      1. Kim*

        That is the LW’s view of things. Could be that Emily doesn’t want to pressure clients. I know I would be more willing to return to a store where the sales people are okay with not purchasing anything, as opposed to some stores where they’ll tell you something looks AMAZING even though I can clearly see it fits as well as a potato bag.

        1. anonymouse*

          This. This is OP’s letter and OP is entitled to view Emily’s words and actions as “bad attitude” and not “woman who is standing up for the agreement we made when I hired her” if she’d like.
          OP would not stop finding ways to do an end run around Emily’s boundary and Emily had to be blunt. “No, that is not what I want to do. That is not why I’m here. This is what I will do.”
          OP would not stop pushing.
          One person’s “boundary setting” is another person’s “insubordination.”
          Emily said she will not work on her day off.
          OP continues to call Emily on her day off and tell her that the store is more important than whatever Emily had planned that day
          Emily said she cannot work more than 12 hour or she will lose scholarship money and study time.
          OP said that Emily would still be making enough money and that she’d still have time to study.
          OP explained to Emily that if she sells more, the store makes more money and Emily will get a gift card!
          Emily said, I understand how retail works.
          So, yeah, Emily may have been blunt, but OP didn’t leave much choice.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, but is Emily going to get any benefits from putting more care and energy into, I repeat, a part time retail job that is not her career or business?

      3. Smithy*

        I get that it’s off-putting, but if a number of your staff is there to only provide 12 hours – it’s highly likely they have other commitments in their life that are of equal or greater priority.

        1. Nanani*

          Not just likely. LW knows perfectly well Emily is in grad school.
          That means she has classes to take and/or teach, a thesis to write, and depending on the field, perhaps lab research/archive visits/field work to schedule. Probably a lot more.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Why, though? She does a great job in the hours that she’s scheduled. She draws the line at working extra hours and at harassing the customers into buying items they don’t want or can’t afford. For all we know, she might be getting the store a lot of return business. If I was pushed into a purchase I later regretted, I likely wouldn’t go back to that store except to return the thing.

      5. Elbe*

        If someone offered up the “I don’t benefit, so I don’t care” stance unsolicited, it may be a bit off-putting.

        But as a response to someone who is pushing you to work so many hours that you’ll lose your stipend? I think it’s very fair. Most minimum wage employees don’t have to explain this attitude because it’s taken as a given for someone in their position. The LW seems to need it spelled out, for some reason.

      6. Dahlia*

        Why should she though? She does her job and does it well. Why does she need to care about how the business runs?

      7. Chriama*

        It really depends. OP is not an unbiased narrator, but to be honest there’s a difference between someone who enforces boundaries and someone who doesn’t care. I’m imagining all sorts of ways that someone liked by customers would not be a great employee. For example:

        – they spend time chatting with clients instead of helping with merchandising or inventory

        – they bend store policy a lot (for some customers, the loss incurred by bending policy is not made up for in repeat business from them *or* their word of mouth)

        – they’re nice to regulars, but potential new customers get ignored (the way OP talks makes me think there are a lot of regulars, and I can imagine someone leaving without buying anything because the cashier was taking forever to ring up another customer, or chatting with a customer and ignoring me clearly needing service at the register.)

        – they’re not proactive about mentioning things that could incentivize customers to spend more money (I talked about it upthread, but mentioning discounts, BOGO deals or loyalty programs are all things that could get a customer who’s on the fence to commit to a purchase, and the delivery doesn’t have to be aggressive)

        I don’t know if OP’s employee does any of those things, but if she does, then I’m willing to believe she could actually be a sub-par employee.

      8. Observer*

        but a frankly obvious attitude of “not mine so I don’t give a sh*t” is also really off-putting.

        The OP is not a reliable narrator here. I don’t think that they are lying. But their expectations are simply ridiculous. The idea that “I have to work hard at a job I don’t like, so you need to work essentially for pennies” is ridiculous, but Emily’s refusal to play that game is what the OP considers a “bad and uncaring attitude”.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          No matter how we cut it, Emily is a bad fit for this job and/or this boss.

          I am not getting the double speak – Emily is great at her job- except for all these things that she does not do.
          What’s up with that.

          I don’t think Emily is going to change. So I think it’s up to OP to figure out her next steps. Since everyone there likes Emily and OP does not, I think this is a good heads up about the cultural values of the place. It sounds like a group of people who place a high value on kindness.

          1. Chriama*

            I don’t think OP dislikes Emily, I just think she’s frustrated! And she needs to stop seeing “changing Emily” as a way to end that frustration. Alison has said before that you can’t be held hostage to a terrible employee. Emily doesn’t sound like a terrible employee, but OP is holding herself hostage right now. It’s a problem many managers make, especially new or inexperienced ones.

            1. Observer*

              And she needs to stop seeing “changing Emily” as a way to end that frustration.

              This is completely true.

          2. Observer*

            Sure. It’s quite possible that Emily is not a good fit. Or maybe the OP is not a good fit. Certainly, Emily is not a good fit for the OP’s current expectations. And it’s really in the OP’s court to do something about that. But, the ONE thing they cannot do is change Emily. That’s what they want to do, but it’s just neither possible nor appropriate to try to do.

        2. Koocore*

          “I have to work hard at a job I don’t like, so you need to work essentially for pennies”

          This is kinda the impression OP is giving me. That she is in more deep with something that isn’t her dream job and she resents Emily doesn’t need the job as much as she does…..

      9. Batgirl*

        I think it’s really off putting when business owners and managers think that entry level, part time employees should set themselves on fire just to keep people who have more warm.

      10. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        Why? It’s not like she’s in a role where more effort would improve society, she sells pricey, entirely optional goods. The only thing harder work produces is more profit for her bosses.

  7. Anonymous Educator*

    Honestly, even though the letter writer is frustrated, the more I read the letter, the more I felt that Emily sounds like an amazing employee. She doesn’t answer the phone when it’s her day off (it’s her day off). She’s good with customers and speaks several languages. And she’s honest about what matters to her and what motivates her.

    If you need more hours, does Emily have to work those hours? Could you hire yet another part-time employee who could cover those hours, perhaps?

    But, yeah, it either works or doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, she either quits, or you fire her.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      The closest thing to a substantive complaint about Emily’s performance is that she doesn’t subscribe to the ethos of Always Be Closing. If that is what you want, to pay commissions. Of course then you run the risk of your pushy employees driving customers away. In the meantime, the problem you can get from not paying commissions is your sales staff ignoring customers. That seems not to be the case here. Indeed, the LW manages to complain that Emily is simultaneously great at her job, doing things no one else in the shop can, and lousy at her job, for not obsessing over the p&l sheet.

      1. Shelley Levene*

        I agree! Not everyone is like this by any stretch, but personally I am always more likely to buy something when people employ the helpful but still laid back approach. Nothing worse than being hounded when I just want to spend money in peace.

        1. Sondheim Geek*

          Yup! My husband and I were shopping for a liquor cabinet about a year ago and went to one place where they had employees standing at the door to greet you. We told the one who spoke with us that we were just browsing (I’m the “I’ll find you if I need help” type). Not two minutes later she was at our side as we looked at stuff and kept trying to push us toward pieces. We did not buy from that store.

          To be clear, I get that when you work commission (as I assume she did) you really need the sale, but it’s important to be able to pick up cues as well.

        2. Forrest*

          Really great sales people AREN’T pushy though— there at other ways to close a sale. They’re the person who knows who to let go, but also has an instinct for when a casual, “our policy is a full refund in the first 28 days, you know” will tip someone over the edge, or who is actually listening when you say, “it’s lovely, but really I was looking for blue” and says, “oh, we do have blue in the back, actually!” They don’t close every sale, they just know how to tip the balance of the “nearly theres”, and you don’t feel like you’ve been ~sold~ to, you just feel like you’ve had a nice shopping experience with a helpful person.

          I can’t do it, but I’ve worked closely with good sales people and what they do is brilliant: I always think it’s so unfair they’re lumped in with what people think of as “close every sale” people who are actively NOT good at it because they’re pressuring people.

          1. Social Commentator*

            To me, good salesmanship is matchmaking. Matching the needs (including budget) and wants of the customer with the best product you have to offer, and understanding that sometimes you won’t have what they’re after.

        3. MapleHill*

          Right! If I’m in a store or even a booth at a fair and someone is hovering over me and trying to explain the details of and show me all their products, I can’t get out of there fast enough. Let me browse in peace. Sometimes even if I like the product, I get driven away by the pushy salesperson.

          Had the same thought as Richard, how can you expect a sales person to care about how much you are selling if they aren’t making commission? Without that, they are essentially in a customer service role and Emily is performing well in this regard. It’s not that she doesn’t care about doing a good job, she is doing a good job in customer service.

    2. RecoveringSWO*

      “If you need more hours, does Emily have to work those hours? Could you hire yet another part-time employee who could cover those hours, perhaps?”

      Agreed. I also bet that Emily would be willing to work less hours a week if that made it easier to hire another employee.

    3. Suzanne*

      I don’t think a $20 gift voucher that can be used only in the store is that great of a bonus either.

        1. Suzanne*

          And points out it won’t buy anything there. So give her a discount? Or a general gift card? I mean really come on

      1. London Lass*

        Yep. Reminds me of a client I was had where employees got a massive discount on their products (like, I think it was 75% or something from memory). Problem being this was a very expensive fashion brand and so these prices were still beyond the budgets of those working there, even if it did align to their tastes. What’s the incentive there?

        1. Self Employed*

          I worked very briefly at a gift shop whose products included various health-food-y lotions, shampoo, etc. and they “offered” 25% off so I could buy the products and try them out to better advise customers. Mind you, I wasn’t even full time–I was just picking up a couple of days so the owner could have them off. This was very pricey stuff, so basically I would be spending most or all of my pay on products. (They got mad when I asked if they had samples instead, of course.) I think I quit after the second shift.

      2. Chriama*

        I agree that the benefit almost seems worse than no benefit at all. Can the vouchers at least be combined? Because if not, your reward for working for the company is basically giving the company back some of your salary.

        Commissions can promote unhealthy competition between employees if done wrong, but at least they encourage employees to care about sales. I think some sort of profit sharing deal, based on their store sales and divided among employees based on how many hours they worked, would address more of the issues. Although it could mean that you have to share your profits with the slackers, it would encourage people to work more hours to get more of the profit “pie”.

    4. Smithy*

      I’d also add that pre-pandemic, my understanding was that the luxury goods part of retail was really struggling to find enough qualified staff. Even in stores where you make commission, it is a far more unique skill set than the OP may be acknowledging – particularly when you’re considering that multiple languages is a value add.

  8. TeamEmily*

    Emily frankly sounds like she has a pretty mature and healthy approach to work, especially for a (I’m guessing) young-ish person.

  9. tink*

    Honestly I’m a little surprised Emily hasn’t just quit. If my boss was pressuring me to work just enough extra hours to cost me my living stipend but not offering something to make up for that I’d probably err on the side of “this person/job is no longer good or healthy for me” and leave. If Emily’s working more for less (because she lost her stipend), she’s going to be stressed, which is going to affect both study and work. Ultimately, bringing home less could make her housing insecure as well. I feel like LW hasn’t thought at all about how her pressure could cause these problems if Emily gives in.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Particularly given the statement about how hard it is to hire staff right now, this also suggests that Emily could walk away and into a new position pretty easily.

    2. Specks*

      I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’d argue it’s downright immoral to pressure someone to work “just a couple of extra hours” when you know for a fact that this would COST them hundreds of dollars that they rely on to pay rent and eat. The OP really needs to examine what is driving her to be so over-the-top loyal to her employer and myopic about the store that she would want to screw a really good employee in that way. The fancy boutique’s staffing problems aren’t Emily’s to solve — if you need someone to fill in extra hours, hire more standby employees, pay more, or do something else along those lines. Don’t pressure one individual to come in when it’s completely against her well-being.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      “I understand that I’m asking you to do something that’s minorly convenient for me at a great cost to yourself, but I don’t care because teamwork flows in one direction: from you to me.”

    4. Chriama*

      I mean, it doesn’t really seem like she needs to. She doesn’t answer OPs calls. She’s very comfortable saying “I’m not paid to care about that.” Just because someone is annoying doesn’t mean I won’t put up with them for money.

    5. Lady Meyneth*

      She doesn’t have to quit. She just has to continue ignoring LW’s demands for extra hours and follow what she was hired to do. If the company doesn’t think its’s enough, let them fire her so she can get severance from the broken contract.

    6. another scientist*

      From the letter it wasn’t super clear to me whether OP is a very pushy stressful boss, or whether she maybe would just like Emily to magically change her attitude and is expecting that Alison has some secret spell that will solve the problem.

    7. Batgirl*

      I’m quite surprised that she hasn’t quit too. I think her hard boundaries have helped her put up with this manager enough to stay (I’m sorry OP; I’m sure it’s unintentional and borne of genuine difficulty, but you come across like if Emily gave you an inch you’d take a mile). If being called up on your day off and pestered for something you can’t provide was a stress out, you’d quit and go work somewhere healthier. As it is, Emily has decided she doesn’t mind being called as long as OP doesn’t mind being ignored, which is kind of impressive; delivering natural consequences without snark. She’ll have no trouble if there are difficult in laws are in her future.

  10. Spicy Tuna*

    This sounds like the “pieces of flair” scenario. Emily is giving you the requirements of her job. If you don’t like it, change the requirements of the job, but don’t be shocked if that means she can’t stay.

    1. Accounting Otaku*

      Yes. This right here. The problem is less with Emily and more with OP expecting the extra mile out of Emily when she’s clearly going to do what’s required and that’s it. You can’t expect the extra mile out of employees if there’s no benefit to them go for it. I stopped going the extra mile when it stopped benefitting me and for some reason my boss was shocked at the time.
      At this point, you know Emily isn’t going to pick up extra shifts. Stop asking her at all. It’s a waste of effort. Just go to other employees that are eager for hours, or even fight back against skeleton crew culture and schedule enough staff that you can afford to be down a person.

    2. Gail Davidson Durst*

      Yuuup. I immediately thought of that passive-aggressive restaurant manager and “Look! If you want people to wear 37 pieces of flair, just make the minimum 37!”

      1. Properlike*

        Thank you! I was trying to remember how many pieces of flair it was. Someone beat me to the reference!

    3. Bilateralrope*

      However, the letter writer needs to check their employment laws first. Especially laws around firing and constructive dismissal.

      Expect Emily to know her rights. Especially if the letter writer gives her time to research them.

  11. Curlykat*

    Having worked in retail for many years, both while in school and after graduation, this is very normal and to be expected. This is a JOB for Emily, not a career.

    1. Johanna*

      Exactly. This job is just very small part of her life. Good for her for setting, and sticking to clear boundaries.

    2. WellRed*

      Having worked in retail I agree with all this. I also agree with Emily that if a customer wants to buy something they will. I’m sure high pressure tactics can work, but I’m not sure it’s the best option in the long term. I’d hate it and I certainly wouldn’t find a voucher equal to one hour of minimum wage to be a motivator.

      1. Colin*

        Especially not a voucher for a spendy store where I wouldn’t (or couldn’t afford to) shop anyway!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      And embedded in the problems are the reasons why it will only be a job not a career.

  12. HiHello*

    I am kinda confused by this letter. Emily has a part time job that she is doing just to help her out a little. If she works more, she will lose on her scholarship money. She needs time to study and to relax. This is just a store. She is not working on a cancer cure that requires long nights. She is not working towards promotion in her field or for a raise. I get that a job is a job but really, why WOULD she be invested? And to the point of losing her scholarship for a mediocre job? And why would she be checking the phone on her days off? Are you going to pay her for that? I’m hella confused as to why Emily should be more invested

    1. Save the Hellbender*

      +1000000000 I’m truly shocked that any boss would ask their employee to lose money to pick up an extra shift

      1. MissDisplaced*

        This is the thing so many small business owners (like tony retail boutiques) fail to understand.
        Their employees are not invested the way they are. Because they’ve got no stake in beyond a paycheck. And that is perfectly fine.

  13. Brandine*

    Does Emily have a TED talk by any chance? I could stand to learn a thing or two from Emily.

    1. Purple Cat*

      It took me longer than I care to admit to learn that “TED” wasn’t a person. But gosh darn it, the E should be Emily!

  14. Aggretsuko*

    Why should Emily be putting in extra for a part time retail job that has no advantage to her to do so? Literally, she’s not going to get more pay or a promotion or anything, and a $20 voucher to spend in the store isn’t something she actually wants. If she works more, she gets LESS pay? Even worse!

    OP can choose to get rid of her or not, but Emily sounds like a sensible girl to me given those circumstances.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      …not just no advantage, but in fact is a DISADVANTAGE for her?

      I am honestly baffled as to why LW thinks Emily would and should lose her scholarship for this job. LW needs to adjust her expectations for Emily, AND hire an additional person.

      1. Batgirl*

        I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a store which provides rewards in mill money probably uses guilt tripping and obligation on its managers. If OP is starting to think that employees should suffer and go without in order to be considered good, they might want to start learning their professional norms from Emily, rather than from above.

  15. Penguin*

    Good for Emily – she has negotiated her working hours and sticks to her boundaries. Why should she take calls or her day off or pick up extra hours if it’s going to reduce her financial allowance from the government? She doesn’t have to give you a reason for not wanting to pick up extra work and not everything is financial – she’s in graduate school so may wish to focus on her studies outside of work rather than working to the maximum $250 a week limit.

    Maybe you could do something on the attitude that she needs to close sales but she’s right – if it’s not commission based and she gets paid the same, it is ultimately up to the customer if they buy the product. A $20 gift card isn’t a huge incentive – perhaps you can frame it differently.

    1. JelloStapler*

      I am not in sales because I have the same approach as Emily- I’ll be helpful, I’ll be courteous- but I am not going to push and bully into a sale (and any salesperson that does that to me loses my interest very quickly).

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        This is the main reason my only job in sales was such a nightmare for me. I was pressured to try and close sales, to the point of hounding potential clients, and I was like “I’ve asked this person five times in the last two weeks if they want our service; what makes you think the sixth will end in something that isn’t ‘leave me the hell alone’?”

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Don’t people who were pushed and bullied into buying something just return it when they’re out from under the pushing and bullying? Or most people just walk away from pushy sales situations? I don’t even see how pushy sales are effective, but I guess they must be at some percentage of the time, since people continue to do it.

      3. Autumnheart*

        I had a sales job for a while, and I rose quickly to the top of commissions (even though I had the least experience) because I knew how to talk to customers to find out what they needed, and give them useful advice on what kind of products that would best fit their needs. Even if it meant selling them an item with a lower price and fewer features, because they didn’t need the deluxe item. Luckily this was part of the store’s sales strategy, so I wasn’t going against policy, but I apparently had a good beside manner. And honestly, that was the only reason I even stretched into sales. I wouldn’t have been comfortable with a hard-sell, no-matter-what kind of ethic.

        1. Chriama*

          We don’t know that that’s what OP wants, though. All we know is the company apparently has some sales strategies that Emily refuses to follow. I feel like a lot of people are projecting their own experiences on the situation. It’s quite possible that the kind of helpful, proactive service you describe is exactly what OP wants from Emily. It might not be, but I don’t see any proof one way or the other.

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            The overall tone of this letter makes me think this is unlikely. OP describes Emily as an employee who does her job well and is well liked by customers and employees. If she had low sales numbers, or had frequent call outs, I’m assuming OP would have listed that with her other faults of having *checks notes* set contract hours and the audacity to want days off.

            1. Chriama*

              Well, we don’t know about the sales numbers, and if she isn’t frequently calling out it’s because she wants to maximize her income (which I don’t fault her for!). OP is saying basically that Emily is an unengaged employee who also has a rigid schedule that makes her life harder. Maybe OP’s frustration with the schedule is causing her to lose perspective on what is and isn’t reasonable to expect of your employees, or maybe Emily is simply an unengaged employee who also has a rigid schedule and OP just focused on the things she could clearly articulate.

              I truly don’t think OP is wrong for wanting an employee who’s a little more flexible. I do think she’s wrong for hoping or expecting Emily to be that employee. That’s all.

    2. Colette*

      And even if it is commission based … if you pressure people into buying stuff they’re not sure about, are they going to come back? Is the goal the short-term sales or the long-term customer relationship.

      1. limotruck*

        Yeah, this. I briefly got sucked into the MLM world and really struggled with the high-pressure ‘overcoming objections’ tactics that I was instructed to use. If someone says “no”, I tend to respect that. And in fact, on the occasions where I did manage to talk a clearly reluctant person into buying something/buying more than they intended, they invariably came back and returned it, and certainly never contacted me again. High-pressure sales tactics are extremely short-sighted in a ton of ways.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I get SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE at being SOLD TO and I hate businesses that do that. I wouldn’t want to go into this store if they acted that way. Or at least I would not go back.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          It’s my personal trigger, honestly. I spent my 20s, started a career and a family, in a country where the economy was moving in a steady downward spiral throughout that time; with the banks failing, hyperinflation, all the good stuff. Which in turn led the crime rate to skyrocket and a lot of people to turn to con jobs as their way of making a living. You had to always watch out for being ripped off. To this day, 20-30 years later, my hackles go up when I sense that I’m being seen as a walking bank account that needs to be drained of money asap. I’d be so angry if I found myself being persistently and aggressively sold to.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I wouldn’t either. I always feel too conspicuous in very sales-y places, like the vultures have spotted me and I’m stuck in their sights now. I just want to shop and be left alone except for brief pleasantries and the staff being unobtrusively available to help.

        3. Cat Tree*

          Actively being sold to makes me suspicious. I bought a car 6 years ago and went to three different dealerships to shop around. At two of the places, the sales guy was really high pressure (and one of them literally had cartoonish eyes bugging out of his head as we walked past a woman who was leaning over to buckle her kid’s carseat, but that’s a different story). The third place had a sales guy who was not only low pressure, but he was accommodating and got me a model to test drive since I was most interested in an uncommon model. But the most important part – he also got me the best deal by a wide margin. He never had to pressure me or so to me, because he just offered me an enticing deal. So when salespeople use high pressure tactics, it makes me think that they don’t have confidence in their products and/or the prices.

          (BTW, next time I need a new car, I will go back to that same guy as long as he still works there. Same deal with my excellent real estate agent next time I buy a house.)

  16. The Original K.*

    When I was in undergrad I had an on-campus job working about the same number of hours Emily does, maybe a few more. My boss (who was a grad student, I think) told me that I should prioritize studying during exam times because she knew my main job was to go to school, not to work this job, so if we needed to adjust my hours during exam weeks, that was fine. I was reminded of that reading this. Emily sees her main job as going to school, not working retail, and she’s prioritizing accordingly. And based on what’s described here, I think she’s right to do so. There’s no real incentive for her to push hard to close sales (a $20 gift card to a place she doesn’t shop and where it sounds like $20 wouldn’t go far anyway isn’t much of an incentive), and really, when I got to the part about jeopardizing her stipend if she works more than 12 hours a week, I thought “That’s the beginning and the end of the story.” It sounds like she actually loses money if she works more.

    1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      Yes when I worked on campus as an undergrad, it was understood that school came first (because school was the employer). It meant everything had to be rescheduled over finals week but that’s how it was. You picked regular shifts, changed them when classes changed, and if a student worker missed work they didn’t call another student in to cover it–only non-student workers. Or else they were just understaffed, and that’s how it was.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I almost failed out of school in my second year because I took a second-shift shop-floor job with strict hours, that had a 30-40 minute commute. I wish I had an Emily to tell me not to do it. I was a model worker at the factory, missing and failing all my classes. Talk about messed-up priorities. At least I had the good sense to quit after a month.

      1. Batgirl*

        I think this is likely to be the Emily replacement if OP does fire her. Someone who succumbs to the pressure or agrees to be available whenever, in spite of only needing a part time job, is someone who is going to start failing in other areas of life, or who will struggle to live up to the commitments they’ve made. Emily is a good employee because she refuses to promise something she can’t deliver (and therefore probably doesn’t call in sick to make up time). There’s a reason that “good employees are hard to find” when the expectation is that they are free all the time, and paid only part of the time.

  17. JelloStapler*

    Emily is emotionally invested in her grad program, not the gig is extra pay or a nice distraction or way to be social while she is here, but not her end goal or dream– so she is not interested in extra days or working on days off. Plus, there are numerous examples of how there is no reward for Emily to work harder (honestly a gift certificate/coupon for the store as a reward? That basically just says – “Congrats! Re-invest your reward in us”). If I were working at a grocery store to help pay the bills to get me through school, I would not set myself on fire for the good of the business.

    If you need her, accept her view of the job is not the same as yours.

    1. Elenna*

      Plus, according to OP, it’s the equivalent of a $6 USD coupon. What are you even going to buy for $6 USD? A single cheap shirt? That’s so insultingly small that it would almost make me LESS invested because OP’s company obviously doesn’t care about it’s employees, so why should they care. (Yes, I realize OP probably can’t change that.)

      1. GreenDoor*

        Yea…the voucher….at a store that is still expensive even with the voucher. That’s like when I got a gift card to a restaurant “so you can enjoy a nice night out” but the value of the gift card didn’t even cover the cost of one entree, let alone my companion’s meal and our drinks.

        It’s like, keep your voucher and just give me the money!

        1. And they all rolled over*

          I had a friend who owed me a few bucks once, and he wanted to cash in some vouchers he had gotten from work (he worked at a seller of board games, which was our shared hobby). Not only were the vouchers not that much but everything was sold at full MSRP vs. typical street price at the time was 60% or 70% of MSRP. AND he could only use them for half the price of the games. So really, the vouchers were worth only a fraction (20 to 40%) of their face value.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        If it’s a fancy store, she’d need to have a LOT of those cards in order to buy anything! A shirt? Hell, she’d be lucky to buy a fancy paper clip.

        1. CircleBack*

          I’m really curious about how many months the store would need to hit budget before the vouchers could pay for the full price of an item from the store…

    2. JelloStapler*

      EDIT: Holy run on, Batman. Try #2:
      Emily is emotionally invested in her grad program, not the gig that is for extra pay or a nice distraction or way to be social while she is here. It’s not her end goal or dream– so she is not interested in extra days or working on days off.

  18. Kits*

    She shouldn’t have to answer the phone on her day off! What an entitled thought. That is her DAY OFF.

    Also that is a big increase in cost of living. Do you live in Dubai?

    1. Monty*

      I remember working a shift work job where my bosses treated my day off like it was a massive favour that they were doing for me and not, you know, my legally-mandated rest period. This was also a job where I was regularly scheduled for just one hour less than overtime pay, regularly worked 6 days in a row, and didn’t have 2 days off together for months at a time. I have ZERO loyalty to that brand or the location where I worked.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        And this is one thing I love about working in California: daily OT as well as weekly OT.

        1. Self Employed*

          Daily OT in California paid for the down payment on my only new car, about $2500 on a $8300 Honda Civic HB in 1991. I was the admin for a DoE contractor and it was contract renewal season…

      2. Sharrbe*

        When I was in high school (summers), I would work 6 days a week, 10 hour days in a small business. I actually wanted the hours because I was saving up for college, etc. One of the owners would come in to take my place on my one day off a week. He would often call and ask me to come in because “it was a great day to golf”. He’d make me feel guilty for saying no. These were the days when caller id wasn’t really a thing, so when the phone rang, it was a crap shoot as to whether it was a call you wanted to take or not. Thank God those hellish days are over.

  19. Yes Ma'am*

    What…what is confusing about this, OP? She literally can’t work any more hours or she loses her living allowance that she earned through her scholarship. I’m at a loss here.

    1. Jen*

      Bingo. Why would anyone expect someone to take a financial hit for their job. It makes no sense.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Right – I will never understand why, after OP typed that part, they didn’t stop and say to themselves “Oh wait a minute – it all makes sense to me now. Guess I’m not going to send this letter.”

  20. Jennifer Thneed*

    I don’t get it. LW wants Emily to “care more”? Why should she? As long as the store stays open, she’s got a job. If the store does really well, she doesn’t she get a bonus. LW even notes that if Emily works more, she’ll ultimately earn less, so LW thinks that Emily should, essentially, take a pay cut to … what? Prove loyalty? No. We’re loyal to our friends and maybe families, because it goes both ways, but we have all learned that we should not be loyal to our employers because it emphatically does NOT go both ways.

    I suspect that LW has talked themselves into feelings of loyalty etc and is irritated that Emily won’t do the same. LW, management usually gets more money — is that true for you? If your pay is not tied to the store’s success, then you should be emulating Emily a little more, for your own mental health.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      I suspect that LW has talked themself into feelings of entitlement. Because bosses those employees actually NEED the job can demand extra shifts that don’t benefit the employees, or types of performative engagement that pretends to care passionately about the success of the business, they think they’re also a manager and should be able to count on those things too. But those things don’t just happen because somebody has a job. They’re demanded and enforced by bosses on employees who need their particular job to survive. If your employee doesn’t need the job to survive, none of those abusive tactics will work — the employee will (and should) just leave.

      One more reason for the Universal Basic Income. Then nobody would be in a position where their boss could force them into stuff like this.

        1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

          Carbonated soda in the sinuses is a very uncomfortable feeling. Thanks for the laugh!

  21. Monty*

    I’ve got to say, as someone who has been in a position similar to Emily’s, that I’ve always been more inclined to take an active interest in the success of the business when my boss demonstrates that they see me as a person and are willing to work with me to meet my needs as well. It seems like Emily is a good employee and it might be in your interest to respect the conditions she negotiated with your predecessor.

  22. AndersonDarling*

    This is so incredibly common with managers hiring students. There is an understanding at the time of hire that the student can only give so many hours and they have to work around their school schedule. But then the manager starts asking for more, and then starts demanding more and the manager has no idea why the student isn’t willing to skip class to work. As soon as the manager needs something, the agreement with the employee loses all value.

    1. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

      Reading this letter gave me flashbacks to the fast food manager back in college who tried to schedule me DURING a final exam. I pointed out that I had provided my finals schedule far in advance and was told it doesn’t matter. I went into the back, changed into my street clothes, and walked out. It sounds like Emily is a good employee on the terms that she negotiated at the start of the job. If things have changed enough that you can’t accommodate that, you need to let her know- and be aware that you’re going to lose her. If losing her is unacceptable, you’re going to have to find some other way to meet the store’s needs- she has made it very plain that she is not willing to change her terms.

      And yes, Emily is a hero.

    2. Other Duties as Assigned*

      I’ve been a university instructor for a long time, and this is a pattern I’ve seen more often in the past few years. A company will hire a university student for a part time role, the student will share their class schedule and availability, and the manager will almost immediately start scheduling the student during their classes. I’ve had some students who were actually fired because they said they weren’t able to work a shift that conflicted with one of their classes. When I was a student years ago, all the managers at my part time jobs respected my class schedule.

      One way to think about this is that the ‘occupation’ of these student employees is “university student.” You’re a side gig and nothing more. You should be able to expect good work (which Emily is clearly providing), but don’t expect these employees to treat the job as their primary focus.

      Cheers to Emily.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I quit one of two part time jobs I had just before my senior year of college because the manager had this backwards. I wasn’t in school to be a good part time employee: I was working to support my education.

        Get mad because I asked a couple of weeks before school started back about a schedule that didn’t have a 16 hour overnight in the middle of the week, don’t be shocked at being short handed when the truck comes in tonight.

        You helped me decide to keep the OTHER part time job.

      2. Anima*

        Oh god, yes. I provides my schedule for my bookshop cashier job every semester and I had classes on Saturdays – I was almost always scheduled on the few Saturdays I wasn’t able to work because, well, classes. It sucked big time and I never understood!
        Emily is right in setting her boundaries. Her “job” is uni – shop comes second.

    3. me*

      I had a Wednesday night commitment at college that I participated in as part of my scholarship package. I tried to get another very part-time job with another department on campus that kept trying to schedule me only on Wednesday nights. As soon as I saw the schedule, I’d say “I can’t work Wednesday night.” They would say “ok so you can switch with somebody else.” I said, “I don’t know anybody on the list to switch with” and finally just stopped communicating with them because it just wasn’t worth it for potentially an extra $20-50 a week.

  23. Ell*

    It doesn’t sound like this is something OP has control over, but if the only benefit being offered for engaging in high pressure sales tactics (which many people find unpleasant) is a tiny amount of store credit that won’t go very far (AND that’s only if EVERYONE meets their goals, not just an individual???) it’s no wonder Emily and probably others aren’t that into it.

    If employers want employees to invest in stuff like this, they have to provide actual incentives that their employees find valuable. Money towards an overpriced sweater isn’t going to cut it.

    1. And they all rolled over*

      A $20 coupon once a quarter is such a joke of a “bonus” that it’s more insulting than just giving nothing, or nothing more than a heartfelt thanks.

  24. Lexie*

    The fact that Emily doesn’t push customers to buy is probably a key factor in why they like her.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s such short-term thinking. As a customer, I’m more likely to return to a store and keep buying from a store if I like the product and feel no pressure to buy anything. You pressure me to buy something? I’m probably not coming back.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Yup – I was at a store once trying on a few things and the sales people all told me how AMAZING everything looked on me. I knew that a couple were downright awful – I have eyes people – but very expensive and they worked on commissions.
        Didn’t buy anything and went to the next store. Came out of the changing room in one outfit and the sales person took one look at me and went “that’s a hard no” and brought me a fabulous dress from the clearance rack instead. Looked great and I bought it for about $8. The original outfit was about $90. I have her card and call to see when she is working anytime I need something new. Never been steered wrong by her.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Oh yeah, if they know what they’re doing, then I’m more amenable to buying. I got a salesclerk like this at Long Tall Sally in London; I told him I needed jeans and he eyed me up and down and brought me some in a size I never wore. I was like, “Oh that will never fit” but tried them on, and they were perfect. I spent $400 that day and even walked out with a scarf I never intended to buy but absolutely love. All because he knew how to fit me and did not push.

          Don’t blow smoke up my skirt and expect me to be happy, because I will probably end up returning whatever it is if you managed to talk me into it and it’s not what I need/want.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        There are some sorts of retail where commission makes sense. These typically are when the sales person needs to have specialist knowledge and to spend a significant amount of time with the customer. There is an electronics store near me that I go to for any major purchase, in large part because the sales people are very good about discussing with me what I need. The danger of course is that they will try to upsell me above my budget, but I have not had that happen in this place. This likely is different from, say, a clothing boutique, where there is a lot of window shopping and impulse purchases. When I go to that electronics store and tell the sales person I need an X in the Y price range, their task is straightforward, to help me give them the money I have already determined to spend.

        1. Batgirl*

          I hope I’m making a wrong comparison, but I worked for a lot of small, expensive boutiques in my college days which relied on pushy staff to get people over the hump of the price tag… Their reward schemes for staff were also self serving “buy our stuff” vouchers. None of them are still in business today. The only store I stayed with is one who are still trading.

    2. Jen*

      I’m actually way less likely to buy something when I get pressured. The place I ended up buying my wedding dress from was the place that let me take pictures and encouraged me to sleep on the decision.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Me too. I hate that pressure, and it brings out my mule-like stubbornness. Even if it’s something I want! It’s partly because I know myself — I’ve made quick decisions in the past and then regretted them, and that’s how I learned to not make decisions quickly. I’m lucky I learned that about myself when it was “all my weekly spending money at 14 years old”. It hurt at the time but wasn’t actually harmful in the long run.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Exactly! There’s a radio commercial that plays regularly on my favorite station, all about a sales training book and class they’re trying to sell to small businesses. All I can think whenever I hear it is “if my small business had employees who tried to sell the way you’re trying to sell to me now, I would fire them.” You don’t form relationships with customers by pushing them into something they don’t really want to do; you build loyalty by meeting their needs.

          Come to think of it, this LW is making exactly the same mistake in both directions. First they’re asking their sales people to pressure customers into doing things that aren’t in their best interests, just because the business wants them to, and never mind if that means they lose the customer for the long term. Then they are trying to pressure their employee also into doing things that aren’t in her best interests, just because the business wants her to… and if they don’t cut it out, they’re going to lose her for the long term too. And in both cases, they expect a loyalty they’ve done nothing to earn.

          You don’t build strong business relationships — whether with employees or customers — by pressuring people into doing things they don’t really want to do. You have to EARN loyalty if you want any… by meeting their needs.

    3. nnn*


      My loyalty to Fluevog shoes began when I was trying on an awesome pair of boots, and the saleslady told me pre-emptively that, while they are awesome, these particular boots can’t get wet.

      The sale she made that day was smaller (another, less expensive pair of boots that can get wet), but she won over a lifelong customer. Whereas if I had walked out of there with the more expensive boots and they’d been ruined when they got wet, I would never have gone back.

  25. Rez123*

    There is no incentive for Emily to work harder and there is no benefit for her. So cannot really blame her for not stepping up only for the benefit of the company that gets her nothing extra.
    Don’t get me wrong. It really sucks for you and I can understand it being frustrating. However, you need to either accept it, cut her hours and get someone else or find a way to motivate the employees.

  26. Cordoba*

    True story from a performance review I had a few years ago:

    Boss: “You do good work, but the big bosses are concerned that you care more about your own interests than those of Big Company.”
    Me: “Of course I care more about myself than I do about this company, don’t you?”
    Boss: “Yeah, when you put it that way it makes sense.”

    For most people work is primarily a hustle they do in exchange for money. I like my job, but if they stopped paying me I would immediately stop showing up. It’s not realistic to expect more than this out of your employees, especially not in a for-profit non-life-sustaining business.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      This. All of this. I’m here to pay the bills. Interpreting llamas’ dreams is what I do on the weekend for fun.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I actually know several people who have deliberately made a choice never to do for money what they do for fun, even though they could have easily gotten hired at it. A former girlfriend of mine was a brilliant musician, and wouldn’t consider looking for musical jobs even when she was near homelessness, because she said “I don’t ever want to ​learn to hate the music. And I would, if I had to do it whether I liked it or not, in order to get paid.”

        Sometimes it’s best to save the llama dreams for the weekends.

  27. antigone_ks*

    OP, you said Emily “signed on to work exactly enough hours that she gets to keep everything she gets paid and her whole student allowance, and she refuses to work even one more hour a week.” Does that mean that if she works more hours, she risks her student allowance? If so, of course she doesn’t want to work more hours! It’s not reasonable of you to expect her to pick up more hours if it’s detrimental to her, particularly since, the want you explained it, it seems her pay would also be extremely low. I’m sorry you’re understaffed, but that’s categorically not Emily’s problem.

    1. Professor Moriarty*

      I ran into a similar thing when I worked payroll at a fast food company in the UK about 10 years ago but not with students with state benefit payments.

      Someone could earn up to £x monthly without a reduction in their benefits so if contracted to y hours that would give them x pay they would refuse to pick up extra shifts.

      Because it would lead to reduced state benefits and no guarantee of higher wages for shifts in the future so they would have been financially at a loss. If they were contracted for more hours they know they’ll get the higher pay so it wouldn’t be a problem.

      But Area Managers love the low hours contracts for “flexibility”.


    2. AndersonDarling*

      I don’t know why the OP isn’t supporting Emily by asking her to TRADE shifts instead of asking her to work more hours. If there is a gap in the schedule, ask Emily if she is willing to work Wednesday over lunch and in exchange she can come in late on Monday.
      If the OP actually needs more hours covered and exchanging shifts won’t work, then the OP needs to hire another employee.

      1. ElleKay*

        Right?! I really want to know where this is b/c everywhere I lived that used work contracts you’d either HAVE to trade shifts or the penalty rate for having someone work over contract doubled or tripled their standard wage!

      2. AFac*

        Assuming her days off are actually days off, and not days she has 3 lectures and a 3 hour lab.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        THIS! Cover for a 2hour busy shift, get 2 hours off the next morning. As long as that’s not a class period the trade makes it manageable within her work/study balance.

      4. Kesnit*

        The way I read the letter, the OP isn’t calling Emily for shifts where someone planned to be out. The OP is calling Emily because someone else called out. So there is no shift to swap. Even if the OP told Emily “cover this and you can come in late tomorrow,” that doesn’t mean the person Emily is covering for today can come in and cover for Emily tomorrow.

    3. lunchtime caller*

      I’m glad you highlighted this line too because “she gets to keep everything she gets paid” is SUCH a gross way to word it? Like what do you mean “gets” like she’s somehow cheated and double-dipped here?

    4. SnappinTerrapin*

      I had a job with some employees who would lose social security benefits if I scheduled them for too many hours.

      I respected that. Nobody wants to pay out of pocket for the privilege of working.

  28. NYC Taxi*

    I wish I had been like Emily early in my career. She has the correct attitude. I would love to manage a department of Emilies any day of the week. She asserted clear boundaries, does a great job while she’s there, has a great rapport with customers and doesn’t seem to bring any drama into the workplace. OP, on the other hand, would drive me nuts with her over the top expectations of an hourly college student. OP has only two options: Keep her and accept the situation for what it is or fire her and try to find someone who would be up to your standards of caring about the job. And good luck with that.

  29. LTL*

    This letter is a bit baffling. LW seems really clear on why Emily is doing what Emily is doing, yet seems to expect more from her.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Not quite. LW is quite clear on why Emily is doing what she is doing, but WANTS more from her. And, like many people in a petty position of authority, they have persuaded themself that their want equals somebody else’s obligation.

      Memo to LW: it does not. Emily doesn’t care what you want and there is no reason why she should. She is doing what she agreed to do, professionally and well… and she has exactly zero duty to do one minute more than that. No matter how much you want her to.

    1. Rainy*

      The job will never love LW back.

      The boutique will never show LW loyalty.

      When LW goes back to grad school, the owner will bust her down to sales associate, take away her KPI bonus, and then schedule her to work during her final exams.

      Everything LW is currently doing to Emily will be done to her, but she won’t see it as a problem until it’s a problem for her.

  30. Lynn*

    If I were to engage in some armchair psychology — I think the root of the bitterness is that LW and Emily are in fairly similar life situations (both students in retail work as a stopgap) and Emily has the financial means to disengage from this retail work, but LW can’t.

    When you’re doing something you don’t want to, a common tactic to reduce the cognitive dissonance is to tell yourself that you are doing the “right thing” and feel morally pleased with yourself, but then seeing someone else behave differently can undermine this self-assuredness, so the brain decides that either this person is behaving wrong, or you had a false sense of morality. I think LW has decided that because Emily does not have the same values, Emily’s values are wrong, but they aren’t, they’re just different. LW, recognize that you have different priorities, and Emily is fulfilling the letter of her contract, but that doesn’t negate the value of your own work ethic.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Agreed it seems like OP is resentful. I’m sorry that you don’t have the opportunity to do what Emily is doing. Hopefully soon you can take more steps to get to the place you want to be. You are working hard, keep it up!

    2. EPLawyer*

      Absolutely brilliant.

      When I was reading your response I was thinking about the employee who cut her own benefits to save the company, then got mad at everyone else for not doing the same thing. Either everyone else is wrong or you are in your thinking. No one wants to believe they are wrong, so they must try to convince the others that the others are wrong.

      In this case, convincing Emily to be “more invested” in a business that Emily does not care about.

    3. Roci*

      Totally agree. OP isn’t invested in this job either but has convinced themselves to “care” and work hard on principle, telling themselves it’s because they have “integrity” and a “sense of duty”. Then here comes Emily and she does not perform caring about the job, she works and goes home. It must be because she has no integrity and no sense of duty right?

      Because if the answer is just, Emily doesn’t have to care about the job so she doesn’t, then why does OP care about the job?

      It’s fine to have a strong work ethic and go above and beyond, you have different situations and priorities after all. But OP, if you look at Emily and decide to change something about your own situation/emotions, that is fine–that is for you to reflect on and has nothing to do with Emily.

  31. CupcakeCounter*

    So you basically want Emily to be financially penalized to make your life easier.

    Would YOU be willing to give up your hours and pay to make up what Emily is losing from her stipend adjustment? The point of a job is to MAKE money. If she does what you ask, she will be losing money. Would you bend over backwards for a temporary, part-time job that caused you to lose money? Especially a fancy-pants boutique where even if you did like the clothes you can’t afford them even with an employee discount?

    And on top of that, the terms of her employment are laid out in a contract!!!!! You can’t get more clear boundaries than that.

    You approach this by realizing that what you are asking of Emily is ridiculous and back off. Since you aren’t in the US and have an employment contract, you either decide at whatever the end term of the contract is that you are not willing to give her the same terms as your predecessor and try to renegotiate (which I doubt Emily will go for) or say that you cannot renew the contract at the current terms and agree to part ways.

    Emily’s attitude are inflexibility are perfectly normal and appropriate considering everything you wrote in your letter. You are the one being unreasonable.

    1. Talia*

      Just to mention that in most countries with employment contracts, there is no term. My contract runs until I resign or am fired and they can only fire me by following procedures as laid down by law. I might be made redundant if my role is no longer needed no but there are laws about that, too – they can’t get rid of me and hire someone else.

      Therefore, it may well be that the LW would not be able to get rid of Emily and hire someone more flexible.

  32. Jen*

    I’ve worked in retail and honestly, nothing wrong with Emily. It’s not her job to care about sales numbers and the compensation of a $20 gift card is far too low to be a motivator. It sounds like she does her job well and I don’t think doing stuff on her day off is a.reasonable expectation.

    I will also say her tactic of not being pushy may be very good for your store, I don’t like being pressured into buying something and will avoid stores that have that tactic.

  33. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m glad you said you weren’t based in the United States because you write as if you very much are. (Given your cost of living reference, I’m going to guess you’re in Switzerland where a value meal at Burger King was $10!)

    Peter Gibbons from Office Space can sum up your situation quite nicely:

    “It’s a problem of motivation, alright. Now, if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see a dime. So where’s the motivation?”

    Yes, where *IS* Emily’s motivation if you don’t pay her more? Also do you understand you’re asking her to work more hours for less money? Would you do that? I bet you wouldn’t. She’s supposed to, what, want to contribute more to your business because…you want her to care as much as you do? Of course she’s not emotionally invested in your store. She doesn’t get anything out of it. Oh you don’t think money should be a motivation? Great! How do you pay your bills then? I can’t pay my mortgage with motivation.

    Trust me, this is not a good look to have. You wouldn’t give away your expensive products for free simply because customers really wanted them but they couldn’t pay, right? So don’t expect Emily to work more hours for less money simply because you think she needs to care more.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Not only is Emily not motivated, she is negatively motivated. Putting in more hours at the store isn’t a wash, like it is for Peter Gibbons. It costs her. (Which you said, but I’m just dumbfounded that the LW is ignoring this.)

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Right? The OP correctly puts together all the correct details (high cost of living, working more means less stipend, unrelated life goals, expensive goods, etc.) and proceeds to go to a completely different conclusion.

        I don’t get it.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, OP is saying that if she loses some of the money from working too many hours that it’s like working for like $2 an hour, but I actually would call it Emily *paying* to go to work. Why would she do that? She should not to that and OP needs to stop asking her to.

      3. EchoGirl*

        If I’m understanding OP correctly, she *would* technically still gain from it (my reading of it is that “she’d be working for $4-5 an hour” refers to the net increase in her income after the benefits reduction), but the gain would be way too small for it to be reasonable to sacrifice her time for it.

  34. Merci Dee*

    The OP starts off by saying that Emily is enrolled in a prestigious graduate school. Soooo . . . maybe she can’t work all the extra hours you want her to because she’s . . . like . . . taking her classes for grad school? Additionally, if she has government scholarships that pay her tuition and living expenses, then chances are very good that she has to keep sufficiently high grades to keep her qualification for the scholarship. And you’re upset that she’s not putting any of those things in jeopardy by picking up some extra shifts whenever you want her to? I’m sorry to put this out there, OP, but I don’t think you’re facing the reality of the situation. Many people (myself, included, when I was working part-time jobs in college) put their classes and school work first, and then fill in around those things with part-time jobs. Because I went to college to get an education, not to be available whenever my manager tried to put me on the schedule to work during one of my class times.

  35. Dr. Rebecca*

    “Emily refuses to answer the phone or return messages on her days off”

    Because…they’re her days OFF. As in, not beholden to work. Honestly, even retail should treat those days like the person is out of the country–they very well might be.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      And if Emily knows that the OP is calling to ask her to work more shifts, then there isn’t any reason to answer the phone.

    2. On a pale mouse*

      We always call, because we need the coverage, and many of our hourly folks want extra hours. But there’s no penalty for not taking a shift or not even answering your phone. If you want to keep your day off, you get to. Occasionally I’ve seen a department be so desperate that they start trying to persuade people who’ve already said no, but that’s the point where they start throwing in additional incentives.

      1. PT*

        This. I worked somewhere where we did have to explicitly tell people that they were more than free to tell us NO if they could not come in on a day/time they weren’t scheduled, but that we really needed them to say no. They didn’t have to say why! (And we did have to add a stipulation that it was no-excuse-needed because apparently someone came in high because they were afraid to say no because they didn’t want to tell anyone they were high because they were paranoid from being high.) Because it’s hard to figure out how to move forward if you aren’t getting any responses either way. Are all those non-responses a soft no, and we should ask someone who’s already here to do overtime even though they’d rather go home on time, or are people just in class/asleep/at their other job and they’ll say yes shortly and we should hold off on going to Plan B? Just text back two letters, no.

        1. Jessica*

          Being constantly called can be a problem too though.
          When I was in university I had a volunteer gig for which I lasted 1 week before quitting.
          The gig itself was fine. The required minimum commitment (2 shifts a month) was fine.
          What wasnt fine – especially since I was a commuter and this was pre cell phone so these calls were going to my parents house and disturbing them – was that during that week I got called every single night by the volunteer coordinator looking for people to take extra shifts. It would be less disruptive nowadays with cellphones and online scheduling systems but at the time it was hugely disruptive – and ineffective (either I was on campus already and not getting their messages or I was home and not about to return to campus).

          And honestly even with cell phones being called every night for a gig that was supposed to be very low key would have gotten old fast.

          1. EchoGirl*

            I think cell phones are moderately better because you can make it less of an interruption by putting in certain settings (either an overall “do not disturb” or else special settings, like no ringtone or sending calls straight to voicemail, for that number), but yeah, it would still be a lot of calls.

      2. Batgirl*

        Plus, you can always leave a message or text. If Emily needs or wants the shift she’ll call back. Why on earth would OP need to speak to her in person? Let me think…

  36. staceyizme*

    It sounds like there might be a little projectoon here, Op. You’re working this position on an interim basis, as well. But it sounds as if you believe that your employee is obligated to share more of the burden. She’s part time, she’s not management and she offers some valuable skills in certain cases through her language skills. It sounds like you feel a little pushed on by the demands of retail. Understandably so. But you’re focusing on an external (and incidental) factor instead of whether you are really in a job that works well for you.

  37. Anonintheuk*

    Do also consider that depending where you are, trying to make Emily leave because she won’t work more than her contracted hours may cause all sorts of unwanted legal complications. I expect she knows a lot of graduate law students.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      Or some professional legal advice through a student organization.

      Or worse. The letter writer never said what she is studying.

      Plus we aren’t talking US employment laws here.

  38. Salsa Verde*

    I think this is a great example of how the modern workplace is trying to (has already?) condition employees to give more than we really are required to, for no extra benefit. I agree with Jennifer Thneed, that the OP feels loyalty to the company and feels like Emily is not being a team player, but really, isn’t being a team player, especially at a retail establishment, just doing extra things that benefit the business for no additional pay? All the things that OP is judging Emily for not doing are not part of her job.

    As everyone else has said, why should Emily work more hours if she’s going to make less money, why should she care about increasing sales if it doesn’t benefit her in any way? I hope we can all move towards exhibiting the same behaviors Emily is exhibiting here, and I hope we can move away from judging those who do.

    And honestly, isn’t this what businesses get for trying to cut all costs, including employee pay and benefits, in order to increase profits every year? It sounds like what the OP is looking for is someone with an owner-level investment in the business, and it is not realistic or reasonable to expect that from an hourly employee who will not benefit from that level of investment.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      That’s where I went too. There’s a strong culture in management in many companies that everyone who works at the company should be personally driven to see it succeed, including a desire to do extra work that doesn’t benefit themself for the sake of that success.

      They often get away with it, because so many employees are so desperate not to lose the job that keeps their family fed and housed that they’ll keep doing things they shouldn’t have to do just to avoid the risk of getting fired. Managers shouldn’t take advantage of the power to essentially threaten your life and your children’s lives if you don’t do more than you’ve already agreed to do — but they do, and they do it so routinely that most of them don’t even notice that they’re doing it. They just think they’re asking for a commitment to the company… and they don’t really think through what that “commitment” entails, or how utterly one-way it invariably is.

      Regardless, though, it *never* works when the employee doesn’t need the job. In this case, Emily doesn’t. Of course she’s going to respond to being ordered to do things she should never have been demanded to do by giving the boss the finger and leaving. Why shouldn’t she?

  39. Raine*

    The retail mentality is so, so poisonous. When I went from office work to retail, I was very much an Emily type, and held fast to my boundaries. When coworkers would trudge in on their days off and whine about being called in, I would point out that they could have always refused. I liked the work but hated the culture, and when it got to be too much, I left. No regrets.

    That was bad enough as it is, but now I’m seeing it affect my roommate in the worst way. They’ve spent years in retail, moving up to management, and always had the mindset of “get the job done, even if I’m not paid or if it means working 12-hour days on my feet with no breaks”. Now they’ve graduated college, are situated in their career, and I spent time every single day convincing them that 12 hours of work is more than enough for a single day and that they’re allowed to relax for the evening. They still don’t, and will often be checking their work email during and after dinner to respond to questions that can absolutely wait until morning.

    So the retail mindset of ‘sacrifice yourself for the good of the company’ is poisonous, and good on Emily for not letting it infect her.

    1. Jen*

      I once got yelled at for insufficient devotion to the company, at the minimum wage pizza place I worked at during high school. Yes, of course my AP Exam is more important than taking an extra shift.

      Funnily enough, now I have a job that requires post college education and my manager literally told someone asking to go home because of a family thing with “of course, get out of here! We’ll cover for you!”

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This is very typical in the corporate world. The higher up an employee, the more likely they are to be regarded as a real human being. With real human beings, life happens that they have to deal with. Low-level employees, on the other hand, are meat puppets. They exist to bring in revenue. When life happens with a meat puppet, this merely means they are an inefficient meat puppet not bringing in as much revenue as they should.

        In related news, there is the well known phenomenon that the more you make per hour, the more freedom you have about how you spend your time at work.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Also that the more physically difficult, uncomfortable, and miserable the job is to do, the less it pays.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        You have to *inspire* devotion before you can expect it! …And that usually doesn’t happen with pizza wages.

    2. Shenandoah*

      God yes. Retail mentality will break your brain.

      I have some sympathy for OP, I spend a couple years as a retail manager and definitely picked up some of this garbage in my mind. But man, I hope OP is able to realize how toxic that mentality is and how it is effecting her.

  40. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    I spent years working full time career day jobs and part time evening and weekend jobs of a retail nature. I learned very quickly to never answer my phone when retail job called. Even though I had entered in what hours I was and was not available in the official schedule program, even though each shift leader and manager knew I worked full time job from X to Y on These days of the week, they’d still blow up my phone all the time while I was at work wanting to know if I could come in. It’s even more ironic when they would be mad at me for not answering the phone while on the clock at my full time job when they (part time job) had a no cell phones when on the clock policy. They also gave out my phone number to other employees with out asking my permission. So I had people I had never meet (different shifts) blowing up my phone wanting me to cover for them. I told management if it kept happening I would change my # and part time job would not get the new one. Retail employers want with both hands while being stingy on things like salary, bathroom breaks, or the ability to drink water during your shift without a doctors note. Mad props to everyone who is doing time in the retail trenches.

  41. Zach*

    I personally have been known to sing the praises of places that don’t BS me and try to upsell me on things that I don’t need. To be honest, I wish more businesses had employees like Emily.

  42. Anon in Midwest*

    Go Emily! I strive to be like Emily – I am trying to set clear and reasonable limits on my work, since our company will just take, take, take if you give.

  43. Akcipitrokulo*

    I’m missing something – what is she doing wrong?

    She agreed to do 12 hours of good work for an agreed wage.

    She is doing it.

    She did not agree to be over-invested or bouncingly enthusiastic, and made her limiys clear in a polite way.

    She doesn’t owe you more.

    You don’t owe her more.

    You have a good employee – take it and move on.

    (Oh – and she *shock* *horror* doesn’t pick up phone on days off!!!

    Good for her.)

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      The LW does owe her more. They owe her the courtesy to stop pressuring her into doing things that she has already explicitly said no to, and that are outside the scope of the contract she negotiated.

  44. RetailSurvivor*

    This sounds sort of like New Zealand — minimum wage, incredibly expensive products compared to the US (not for some things like groceries, but a lot of things are shockingly expensive compared to the US when considering the exchange rate), the limit to working hours that affect student allowance — though it’s more like $230, but when I worked retail last year I could only work 12 hours before it capped out. The minimum wage does go up every year, and the limit adjusts with that. I could be wrong, and the Covid element makes me think I am (Covid benefits have been good here, but they’re only active in lockdowns), but I would like to comment with this in mind to offer a perspective closer to the ground.

    I think culture can also play a role. In retail and other minimum wage jobs (in New Zealand, at least), there’s a huge expectation to always be available. I experienced this in retail, my boss experienced this and I don’t know one person who is working a minimum wage job where there isn’t an expectation to drop everything to work. It’s a really difficult situation, and since New Zealand is so expensive so many people are willing to pick up more shifts and that just perpetuates the cycle of it being seen as okay, or at least normal. Good on Emily for not giving in, honestly. My friends were working 30 hour weeks while studying for 40 and were suffering but they felt like they couldn’t say no because they were afraid of disappointment their coworkers and managers, and really needed the money.

    1. The Wandering Scout*

      I was thinking the same thing – I worked retail in NZ and it was atrocious.

  45. Dust Bunny*

    LW, your shop has a staffing problem, not an Emily problem.

    If you need more hours covered, you need to hire another person who *doesn’t* have other financial and time constraints, not try to make it the problem of your employee who has a bunch of very valid reasons not to take on those extra hours.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Yes! Or, if the issue is the need to work a shift she’s not scheduled for, either reduce Emily’s regularly scheduled hours so that she CAN pick up a shift without going over the limit, or (as someone mentioned above) facilitate trading shifts.

      Meanwhile, she’s in school. There will be shifts she’s unable to work no matter what.

  46. Not Australian*

    What this boils down to IMHO is that you absolutely cannot dictate to a member of staff how they feel or what they think about *anything*, whether it’s connected with work or not. You can explain your point of view, but it’s 100% up to them whether or not they choose to accept it. OP may thing sacrifices are necessary; Emily clearly does not; the point is that there *is* no objective truth here, and they are both right and they are both wrong. Accepting that and learning to live with it is the path to true enlightenment, grasshopper.

  47. Rusty Shackelford*

    I expected to disagree with the LW when I saw the headline. I didn’t expect to disagree quite so strongly.

    Working more than her maximum hours will COST HER MONEY. Lots of money. You know this. And yet you expect her to do it anyway because… she should want to? She should care? The store thriving should be more important to her than the money she has to live on?

    Emily refuses to answer the phone or return messages on her days off, and sometimes it has been obvious she knew I was trying to call her in (because it was Thursday and she didn’t show up at 1 pm to have lunch with Sarah, meaning she already knew the other person was out sick)

    You *know* she’s not able to work extra shifts, so why even bother to call her?

    She can come into to the shopping center to have lunch with Sarah, but can’t do a three-hour lunch cover on the same way.

    You do understand that working three extra hours would cost her a significant amount of money, so why are you acting like these are the same thing? This reminds me of the manager I had who wanted to cancel an employee’s maternity leave because she came in for the Christmas party.

    But I also need some flexibility and for her to not just do her 12 hours and basically disappear for the week, and showing zero interest in the store’s success. And I need someone who is willing to step up every now and then if someone is sick. How can I approach this?

    Hire another part-time employee.

    1. Elenna*

      Even if the three extra hours didn’t cost her money, there’s a huge difference between “has time to do fun things with a friend” versus “has time to do work”. Hanging out with a friend is fun. Doing work is not fun, it’s work! Spending, say, two hours a day doing fun stuff for myself does not at all mean that I would be willing to do 10-hour days at work, even if I got paid for it.

    2. The Original K.*

      This reminds me of the manager I had who wanted to cancel an employee’s maternity leave because she came in for the Christmas party.
      I beg your whole, entire pardon?

      1. Ruby*

        Right? Rusty, I hope you didn’t work for this person very long.
        Also, submit this for a worst-boss column.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yep. The woman had a physically stressful, on-your-feet-all-day job, and when she came in for the Christmas party, Evil Boss wanted to get her maternity leave canceled because *clearly* she was able to work. Which (a) no, showing up for an hour-long party isn’t the same as being on your feet for eight hours, and (b) even if it was, she was on maternity leave, and you don’t get to cancel that just because you don’t think she deserves it. Luckily, Evil Boss either dropped it or got smacked down by someone higher up.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          So freaking what if she was “able” to work?!? Maternity leave isn’t sick leave; it’s time to bond with your baby! She’s entitled to that time whether she’s able to work or not.

          1. EchoGirl*

            Not to disagree, but I read it as the employee still being pregnant, so the “bond with the baby” part doesn’t come into play. On the other hand, that really, really decreases the chance that she’s *actually* able to work; the boss seems like one of those people who thinks that everyone is either virtually immobile or fully physically capable.

    3. OyHiOh*

      I wonder if the Letter Writer is jealous? LW mentions planning to return to grad school herself in a couple years, possibly expects to not qualify for the same type of government scholarship Emily has.

    4. Elbe*

      “She can come into to the shopping center to have lunch with Sarah, but can’t do a three-hour lunch cover on the same way.”

      I think that the LW is confusing “can’t” and “won’t”. It’s not physically impossible for Emily to cover a shift. She’s just doesn’t want to – for some pretty solid reasons.

      A lot of managers have an unconscious attitude of “if you have any free time in your schedule, it should mine for the taking” and that is so wrong. Emily agreed to X hours, and she’s giving X hours. The company isn’t entitled to more.

      1. tka*

        It might well be impossible for her to cover a three hour shift. She’s a graduate student; she may well be grabbing lunch inbetween classes or other university commitments

    5. Foreign Octopus*

      Hey, Rusty, you really need to tell us about that manager of yours and wanting to cancel the maternity leave because – and I mean this sincerely – what the actual frak?

    6. WannabeEmily*

      yup. and i really doubt that a weekly lunch with a friend is consistently taking 3 hours, especially assuming that this is during Sarah’s lunch break. not that Emily needs any more reasons to say no, but aside from energy/finances/motivation, it still might be logistically impossible

  48. Jam Today*

    We should all be reading from the Book of Emily. She’s not going to give up her personal time to do work for free (answering emails and phone calls is work.) She’s actually going to *lose money* if she picks up extra shifts. Why would anyone agree to that? Would you? She is not going to knock herself out to close a sale that has no impact on her income — a $20 voucher that she can’t use is not only not an incentive, its an insult. She values her studies, her family, and her friends and is putting her happiness in life before an overtime amount that is so low the only thing she could buy after an 8 hour day is a burger and fries. Emily has it right, and since she’s so good with customers, you should think twice about letting her go just because she doesn’t want what you want.

  49. JG*

    On top of all the other misgivings people have towards the LW, I also zeroed in on this bit:

    “I’m reluctant to fire her, because it is hard to find employees because unemployment benefits due to Covid are so generous here right now…”

    This sort of attitude from any manager re: unemployment benefits is a towering red flag. It’s saying that you want your employees desperate and vulnerable.

    1. ronda*

      Then every business that pays min wage (or near it) has that red-flag.

      Here they are getting to phase 3 re-opening and articles in the paper are restaurant owners complaining that they can’t find employees……. So it is totally a thing and for some people the unemployment is higher than the employed wage they had…. so they make the correct economic decision…. but the employer that now wants someone back is often going to have trouble getting them in. (& possible employee doesn’t really feel it is safe yet too)
      It is just the economics of some businesses that they can’t meet the current unemployment amounts.

      1. Nanani*

        Why yes, yes they do. This is not a gotcha, it’s a glaringly obvious problem that a lot of people already knew about.

      2. Self Employed*

        Some businesses pay people so little (especially those in states where tipped workers can earn only $2.30/hr) that they are taking advantage of desperation in times when employees aren’t being paid to stay home during a pandemic for their own (and family’s) safety.

        Remember, owners of restaurants and retail shops are asking people to expose themselves to a potentially fatal disease to make less than a living wage. How many of these workplaces have a “How to apply for SNAP” poster in the breakroom like WalMart and Amazon do? That means they’re expecting the taxpayers to subsidize their profits through supplementing paychecks because employees can’t actually live on the wages available.

      3. The Other Katie*

        There’s actually research on this, and near-minimum wage employers actually have several really easy ways to steal employees from competitors.
        They can pay them a little bit more. And I do mean a _little_ bit – 5% or less will be enough to convince a minimum-wage employee to change jobs.
        They can treat them a little better. For example, if you’re the manager of a fast food chain location and you think your employees don’t know that the workers in the chain across the street get a free lunch on-shift? You’re wrong. They know, and it will factor into their decision to leave.
        Those are both easy and low-cost ways for employers, even those who pay their staff near the minimum wage, can assure themselves a flow of good-quality applicants. It’s not rocket science.

    2. Working Hypothesis*

      Oh, it’s very clear that LW wants their employees to be desperate and vulnerable. The thing is, they may not even be aware of it. The whole attitude they’re following — “employees should be always prepared to go the extra mile and do more than they agreed to do,” is based on the typical business’s willingness to implicitly threaten the employee’s financial stability if they *don’t* do more than they agreed to. Put bluntly, the only reason that culture among managers exist is that the managers know that they can get more than they have a right to any time they threaten to starve somebody.

      It doesn’t work here because the LW can’t starve Emily. She’s not desperate and vulnerable — she’s protected by her school stipend. And that is driving the LW crazy, because they have bought into a style of management which only works when you have desperate and vulnerable employees.

      I don’t think they’ve thought all this through enough to be doing it consciously. Most managers haven’t. Most employees, on the other hand, are 100% clear on what threats are being issued, and know very well the reason they knuckle under to those threats, if they do.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      It is possible that is what she meant. But I do not think we have enough information to conclude that she wants employees to be desperate and vulnerable. We do not know how much control she has when it comes to the amount of money the employees get paid. The company may have a set policy on that. Or the business may legitimately be unable to afford it. And if the unemployment benefits are so good that she cannot offer a payment tempting enough to compete, then she has good reason to be hesitant to fire any employees (especially one like Emily, who has honestly done nothing wrong, but I admit that OP seems confused on that point). She is just explaining the facts of the situation. She never says the unemployment benefits are a bad thing in general or that she hopes they stop offering them. She never says she does not want to pay the employees more. So, I am just not sure we can really make any conclusions on the level you are suggesting.

  50. Ann O'Nemity*

    Two issues here – the scheduling and the sales approach.

    For the scheduling, Emily has been super direct about how many hours she’s willing to work, and why she has a hard maximum. The OP needs to stop pressuring her to do more. Either accept what she’s offered, or find a replacement.

    For the sales approach, I don’t think the OP has been specific or direct about expectations. If the OP expects Emily to close more sales, those expectations need to quantified and directly communicated. Sales targets, number of upsell attempts, etc. Retail jobs don’t always incentivize or offer commission for those things, sometimes it’s just a requirement for the hourly pay. So the flippant response of “Well, it makes no difference to me, I get paid the same whether we make budget or not,” can be met with “Well, these are the requirements of the job. You need to do X, Y, Z if you want to keep this job.”

    1. Nea*

      It’s not a flippant response, though. It’s a plain statement of fact. OP wants Emily to do things that actually harm Emily – threaten her scholarship and her schooling, significantly reduce her income – without any incentive other than “well, I expect her to spare me having to hire anyone else.”

      It’s pretty obvious that if OP actually says “You MUST put this business over your clearly stated priorities or you’ll lose the job” Emily won’t have the slightest problem with saying “Okay, bye.”

      1. Chriama*

        The flippant response was in regards to the sales tactics, though.

        If she has the data, OP should look into how much Emily sells vs. how much the others sell. Look at it over a long period of time, to take into account repeat business. Everyone here is talking about how pushy sales tactics turn customers off, but we don’t know for a fact that those tactics are in play. If Emily sells less than other employees, it’s very possible that the store would make more money by firing her.

        I agree with Ann – sometimes the reward for more sales is that you get to keep your job.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Okay. If the LW discovers that Emily doesn’t actually, over the long run, sell enough to be worth her pay, then it’s certainly reasonable to replace her… if you can replace her, and if you can replace her with somebody who sells more. Neither of those are guaranteed, since the LW already said it’s hard to find people right now because of the Covid unemployment benefits (and, no doubt, also because this doesn’t sound like a very attractive job, with low wages for its country and a chronic short-staffing that they expect their employees to make up by frequently covering shifts they don’t want to).

          Maybe if you fire Emily, you get somebody who sells more. Maybe the only people you can hire still don’t do pressure sales, and also can’t communicate with those people who speak Emily’s other languages. Maybe you can’t hire anybody at all, because nobody capable of doing it really wants that job right now, and so you have to put even more extra shifts on your other salespeople and they leave in frustration also, and you have a full blown staffing catastrophe on your hands.

          You don’t know. Sure, if Emily really sells too little for the store to survive without the person in that role doing better, you may still be better off rolling the dice… but it’s definitely not obvious or certain that you’re going to end up with a better result that way.

          1. Chriama*

            No, I don’t know. None of us do, including OP, but she can at least look into it. Maybe the numbers are close enough that hiring someone else would leave sales the same and make scheduling easier. Maybe they’re low enough that decreased sales + no flexibility means it makes no sense to keep Emily at all. Or *maybe* it turns out that Emily is selling at or above average, OP knows she has a good deal and it might make the schedule thing more palatable for her!

            I have no disagreements with the fact that OP’s desire for Emily to increase her flexibility is a reasonable thing to impose on Emily, given the consequences to Emily’s stipend. I was just objecting to the idea that Emily’s disinterest in actually making sales is a similarly unreasonable objection for OP to have.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              I think you dropped a negative in the second to last sentence someplace, but I know what you meant. :)

              I also basically agree with you that it’s legit for the LW to fire Emily (assuming there isn’t a contracted reason why this isn’t legal) if Emily’s needs and the store’s needs don’t coincide. That happens all the time, and it doesn’t mean either side is doing something wrong… it just means that they have different priorities right now and it’s better for both if they’re not trying to work together anymore.

              But it may not be *wise* to try and replace Emily, even if it’s entirely ethical to do so. If she’s otherwise an effective salesperson and she is reliable with the hours she did agree to work, and there aren’t too many other people out there who can do retail and are looking for a 12-hour/week job — well, then she may very well be the best the store can do right now. In any case, the LW should at least be thinking that through pretty carefully before deciding whether or not to fire an otherwise reliable and competent employee.

  51. Philly Redhead*

    “She surely can’t expect to have a retail job and never have to help out by picking up extra shifts from time to time, even if it is inconvenient.”

    It isn’t just inconvenient for Emily — it’s detrimental! If she makes extra money at this job, she gets less money for her living expenses from her scholarship. Good for her for standing her ground.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      And who expects an employee to get prettied up and commute into work for a 3 hour shift! Even if she wouldn’t be docked her education assistance, that is a crappy move.

  52. TiredMama*

    I worked for a department store in the US for several years, moving from part-time cashier to full-time sign/display manager. No one ever tried to make me care about store sales, that was management’s problem. And when they wanted you care about sales as a store associate, they gave you a commission. You need to adjust your expectations.

  53. Raq*

    I feel zero percent bad for LW. LW, Emily is making the equivalent of $6/hour in the US- you state she’s making twice what a $3 item here would be there ($10), assuming she’s making the $20 minimum wage. It’s preposterous for you to hold this attitude over her when you have every option to hire someone else who would (inexplicably) be as invested in a part-time, pays-next-to-nothing retail job as you think is necessary or warranted.

  54. learnedthehardway*

    Emily isn’t invested in the store’s success and has an actual motivation to NOT do well (ie. her funding gets reduced if she DOES make sales).

    I think you have to realistically look at whether it is really worth continuing to her employ her. While you say that she is not under-performing or doing anything wrong, I think she does have a performance issue in the sense that she’s not making a good effort to close sales. Emily’s attitude is also likely to demotivate the rest of your team and have the rest of the team think they can be lackadaisical as well.

    On the other hand, if her putting in a real effort would only realistically result in a small increase in sales, perhaps it is worth keeping her in order to get her language skills, etc.

    Something you might want to do is to look at her compensation – is there a way to change out her bonuses (that she doesn’t want to get) to give her something that she would value instead? I have no idea what this would be, and no idea how to make it not a taxable benefit, but perhaps ask her what it would take to get her to put in more effort. She might have some ideas you’d never think of, but that would be motivating to her. eg. instead of discounts at your store, what about gift cards for groceries or something else?

    1. JSPA*

      Hunh? She’s paid by the hour, not on commission. Her funding gets reduced if she takes more hours; not if she makes more sales in the hours she’s working. There’s a tiny, piddly prize for the store if they make budget, but that’s not relevant to Emily.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I’m trying to think of a way to make a bonus that IS relevant to Emily. That’s the only way the store manager has of getting her to increase her efforts to close sales.

        1. Chriama*

          > I think you have to realistically look at whether it is really worth continuing to her employ her. While you say that she is not under-performing or doing anything wrong, I think she does have a performance issue in the sense that she’s not making a good effort to close sales. Emily’s attitude is also likely to demotivate the rest of your team and have the rest of the team think they can be lackadaisical as well.

          Yeah, this is a very real potential situation that seems to be getting deliberately ignored. The extra hours thing is a non-starter, for obvious reasons. (though I don’t know why OP doesn’t try to switch shifts). But it’s true that someone who cares enough to do a good job *while they’re at work* is not an unreasonable request even for minimum wage workers. And we don’t know if Emily is actually doing a good job. We know she’s well liked, but if that doesn’t translate into money then it’s really not worth much. Ironically, that’s the same issue Emily has – if “being helpful” by taking in extra shifts doesn’t translate into more money for her, why would she do it? So it’s possible Emily and the store are just not the right fit for each other. No judgement if that’s the case.

          1. Lily of the field*

            Are you the letter writer? Because you seem to be quite invested in proving that Emily is in the wrong here, when she is only trying to preserve her scholarship and stipend and making the correct commitment to her education . I am not sure why you are so dead set on the opinion that Emily should lose her job; it seems you are quite heated about this, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why. It is a puzzle, reading through the comments and seeing your heavy investment to this position.

        2. Rainy*

          There’s no evidence that Emily isn’t closing sales, she just doesn’t get pushy with customers. LW is complaining that Emily won’t upsell/hardsell customers (when the truth is that there are an awful lot of people who hate being upsold and will simply leave if you press them too hard).

      2. LazyBoot*

        Depending on how the authorities classify the bonus gift card, it could very much be relevant to Emily (in a would actually hurt her if properly accounted for way)

  55. Formerly Ella Vader*

    I don’t think your store and Emily are a good fit. Both of you would be happier and more productive with different situations. Emily might be able to find a part-time job now, and/or a career later, where being respectful of customers, not pushy, and looking towards building the long-term relationship rather than short-term sales are rewarding for her and for the employer. You might be able to find someone who is available to work more hours on short notice, and who either takes an interest or feigns interest in the success of the store.

    I agree with Alison and other commenters who suggest focusing on the more objective of the mismatches, your need for having someone who will be on call for short-notice shifts, and moving to replace her on that with the appropriate notice period for terminating a contract in your jurisdiction.

    As for your preference to have employees who are motivated by seeing high sales numbers, perhaps you need to look at a different kind of hiring to get that. Rewrite the job description, and prepare structured questions for the interviews. (“Tell me about a time you made an improvement in your employer’s practices.” “Tell me about a marketing initiative you tried, and what you wish you could have done to make it better.”) Hire an assistant manager. Hire some kind of trainee and commit to giving them scope to try new things. Hire one or two full-time people with the expectation of periodic reviews, raises, and promotions, rather than several part-time workers who are also students.

    Also, be honest with yourself (maybe ask for a 360-review or employee feedback as part of this) about whether you are doing anything now to discourage potential initiative and engagement by your salesfloor employees. Do you let them make suggestions and try things? Even little things like, what if we put the sunglasses on the same display as the shorts? do people get to run with that or do you need to approve it? If they need your approval, do you almost always give it, and quickly? If a person’s new idea works, do you praise them and make sure that head office and everyone else knows it was their idea? (“We sold five more pairs of sunglasses today! Thanks to Sarah for suggesting it – let’s look for more ways to create tempting impulse-buy combinations.”) Have you tried addressing with your employer that you’d like to have more tangible rewards to offer employees who go above and beyond?

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I dunno–Emily seems just fine with the arrangement. She makes some extra pocket money, and holds good boundaries.
      If OP wants employees to care more, they have to pay more.

      1. Formerly Ella Vader*

        Yeah, true Emily sounds like someone who would leave if it wasn’t working well enough for her. I do hope she is aware that her attitude and behaviour would be viewed positively by other employers, though.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Did you mean that her attitude and behavior wouldn’t be viewed positively by other employers?
          Her next employer is likely to be a professional-level job, given that she’s in grad school. That’s a different set of expectations than retail–and one that Emily seems to be living up to already.

  56. Scorpio Szn*

    Honestly LW sounds like she sort of resents that Emily won’t have to do this for much longer, but as manager, LW will have to stick around.

    1. Elbe*

      There could be an aspect of that going on here. If that’s the case, though, the LW is definitely going to have to get used to employees leaving for bigger, better jobs. Most people who work in retail don’t stay in retail. And most minimum wage workers will leave once they can find better pay elsewhere. It seems pretty normal for Emily’s role.

  57. cbh*

    I’m on “Team Emily” but I do have a solution. How about your other employees? Are they looking for more hours? Are you?

    While you are managing the store, it sounds like this is an upper management problem. I wouldn’t fire Emily. Heck I’d go back to a store with someone as helpful and resourceful as Emily. She is an asset to the company. However upper management needs to give you the tools to efficiently manage the shop on a day to day basis – whether that be offering compensation to other employees, hiring additional staff, etc. I also need to say OP I do think you care about your job but upper management needs to also look out for you…. you don’t want to get burned out having to cover other shifts. Take it as a gift that you have Emily for X hours per week. Emily has a contract and has set boundaries. In the meantime you need to work with your supervisors on how to handle “what if” scenarios. I’m not saying that as you (OP) are not doing your job; I’m saying it as this is what you have, that is what the business wants…. lets discuss a solution.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m also wondering if other employees want more hours. The OP has Emily for 12 hours a week. Asking someone who works 30 hours to work 38 hours is much different than asking a student to go from 12 to 20 hours. The 30 hour person may really want/need those extra hours where someone working 12 hours is putting other commitments first.

      1. PT*

        LW isn’t the US so this wouldn’t apply, but a lot of service-sector employees in the US are capped at 29 hours so they don’t qualify for benefits. So the 29 hour a week employee would desperately love the extra 6-11 hours that would bring them to 35 or 40, because that would bring them up to a more sustainable weekly paycheck, but they’ll never get it because the company will have to pay them benefits. Meanwhile the person who’s working 12 hours a week is probably busy with school and doesn’t have the bandwidth to pick up 6-11 hours a week, they can maybe pick up an extra 4 if it’s a real pinch.

        It’s a catch 22 where the employees who need the hours most can’t have them, and the employees who are offered them don’t want them.

        1. Rainy*

          I had a retail management job while I was job-hunting, and the only time I was actually able to both pay rent and buy food was when the ASM was out sick for a month and I got her hours.

      2. Dreep*

        Guaranteed they don’t want to give the extra hours to employees if they are close to the full time line where they need to be paid out benefits. That’s my guess. Retail does this all the time in Canada, they will only book you x hours or else they have to give you benefits and / or overtime.

  58. Working Hypothesis*

    I was pretty aghast at the LW’s position also. But I can see where it comes from. The thing is, in a lot of places and a lot of times, it *is* possible for bosses to demand all sorts of “extras” from employees just on the threat of firing them if they disobeyed. It’s a horrible thing to do, it’s abusing the power differential that comes from the company being able to survive the loss of any one employee but the employee not being able to survive — often literally! — the loss of a job. Nobody *should* be able to force somebody to do work that’s not what they agreed to, because their life may depend on not doing it; but they do. They do it all the time.

    And because they do it all the time, people like this LW get so used to it being just part of the employment process that they don’t even think about it. They don’t notice or realize that the leverage which allows any boss to pressure their employees into doing amounts and types of work that are not what they mutually agreed on comes simply and solely from the fact that many of those employees can’t survive without that job. Maybe literally so, maybe not but they’d risk bankruptcy, homelessness, hunger and lack of medical care. Either way, the only reason they have to do it is because getting fired would be catastrophic for them… and their bosses know that and use it to force them into things they should not have to do.

    But that’s not the situation here… and without that situation, LW doesn’t have the usual leverage. Emily doesn’t need this job to survive — she’s got most of her needs covered already, this just adds a bit of a cushion. And since she’s an excellent employee in a place where there aren’t enough available employees, she can get another job easily enough… one which, if her boss there is smart, won’t push her for more than she’s agreed to give.

    But despite having no leverage, this LW is mentally still operating from the usual script… the one which says that managers can demand all the “extras” they want because their employees are in no position to refuse. That’s never a good tool to use, but sometimes, in other situations, it will nevertheless work.

    It won’t work here. LW is going to be stuck treating Emily fairly or losing her. I wish that were true more often.

    1. Sara M*

      I think if LW fires Emily, her story will forever be retold for the next three decades by Emily and other employees as, “This one time I had this manager with ridiculous expectations! She fired me, and went through five more employees before finding one even half as good as I was.”

    2. Observer*

      The thing is, in a lot of places and a lot of times, it *is* possible for bosses to demand all sorts of “extras” from employees just on the threat of firing them if they disobeyed.

      What makes this delusional is that the OP explicitly doesn’t want to fire Emily because she’s actually a good worker. What they want is for Emily to

      1. Care more.

      2. Take on work hours that will cut into her family and STUDY time.

      3. Accept that it is proper to take on work hours that will affect her stipend and cause her pay after loss of stipend to be $5 per hour (in a country with a $20 per hour minimum wage – the issue here not being legality but showing how RIDICULOUS that pay scale is.)

      4. See her obligation to the job in the same way as the OP sees their obligation to their job despite the starks differences in their positions.

      Now, while in some situations, the OP could force the issue and threaten to fire Emily if she won’t take on those hours, there is no way that they could ever get Emily or anyone else with a healthy sense of reality to accept these attitudes. And their attitude that Emily actually doesn’t really have a moral right or a good reason to turn them down is also delusional.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Of course it’s delusional. But it’s a delusion that stems from this type of unethical behavior being something that other managers get away with all the time… because, unlike the LW, those other managers employ people who are so desperate to keep their jobs that they will do a great many things they shouldn’t have to do in order to avoid the risk of losing them. The pretense that it’s a moral obligation for employees to care so much about their jobs that they’ll bend over backwards to their own detriment for them is a necessary part of the abuse cycle, because the bosses who impose those demands cannot tolerate the truth that they’re being abusive. So they convince themselves that they’re not doing anything wrong because this is what the employee *should* be doing anyhow.

        The thing is, in this case the delusion is stripped bare and is visible, because Emily doesn’t need the job enough to be forced into doing more than she should have to and has too healthy a sense of self to be gaslit into doing more than she should have to. This is great and I wish it happened more often, but I know perfectly well where the delusion the LW is harboring comes from. It comes from the fact that all too many bosses can and do get away with what the LW wishes they could get away with.

  59. jonquil*

    This strikes me as less an “Emily doesn’t care enough” issue and more an “OP isn’t managing people well” issue. If there are specific sales techniques you want Emily to use to close sales and she is not using them, be sure she is trained in those techniques, tell her that using the techniques is a requirement of her job, and go from there.

    It also feels like OP might be personalizing this in a way that’s unhelpful, based on the comment that they plan to go to graduate school themselves one day but seemingly can’t right now. Emily having the life she wants does not preclude you from having the life you want– and like anyone, Emily isn’t living a perfect life, either. For one thing, her income is pretty constrained in what sounds like quite an expensive place to live.

  60. JSPA*


    1. if Emily speaks three languages, she may also be culturally aware enough to know when a hard-sell will be offensive.

    2. Even people who are not overtly offended by a hard sell may avoid the store in the future, if they find it “pushy.” Conversely, they’re more likely to return to look for an item that “might” work, if they’re not worried about a pushy hard sell.

    3. Any metric from this year–even in Australia or New Zealand–is colored by the world covid situation. Focusing on the numbers without acknowledging that is tunnel vision.

    4. You’re treating a part-time employee who’s shown no interest into rising within your organization as if she’s someone you’re trying to develop into a manager. This is misplaced effort / time wasted. Stop wasting her time with development and charts, leave her to selling.

    5. She’s doing exactly the job she was hired to do–and doing it well. You’re (probably?) allowed to change the job description (this will vary by country). But you’re not allowed to feel injured or retaliate, if it no longer fits her needs.

    6. There’s nothing magic about retail that demands, “we are required to be under-staffed, so therefore you must be over-scheduled.” If you’re fairly commonly short a shift a week, hire another part-timer.

    7. The one thing you can perhaps offer her–that she doesn’t already have by virtue of doing her job, exactly as described, solidly–is the chance to add an achievement to her resume. For example, “boosted in-store sales by X% after instituting a new procedure for people coming in to window shop.” Only if she’s interested in that, you can suggest she set up her own metric for praising people (their style, their taste, their current clothes) and following that up with one or two suggestions for items that she thinks would work “excellently” for them. Or, “designed, ran and analyzed an in-store comparison of selling techniques.” But…she’s allowed to not want to do that! You’re allowed to think that it’s not a great use of her (limited) paid hours!

    8. “I’m not liking the job either, and they’re not rewarding me meaningfully, yet I’m invested in it…so she should be too” could well be a reason for you to change your relationship with work. It’s not a reason for her to do so. What would happen if you drew clear boundaries with whoever’s paying you?

    1. SeluciaMD*

      I think a lot of this is quite excellent but my fear with #7 is that it is leaning in to this idea that Emily lacks appropriate motivation and should be doing more or doing something differently. This is not her career. This is a part-time job to supplement an educational scholarship/stipend. She does her work as a part-time sales person/clerk – by all accounts – very well. That is what she is paid to do. She’s not paid to “care” or “invest” or “build the business.” Those things are far more aligned with the OP’s role (though I’d argue she should feel free to establish her own boundaries on those things, too.)

      Let’s be honest – if she’s in graduate school in a very demanding program what are the odds that any “achievement” along these lines is going to be remotely relevant in her next job search? As a manager, these kinds of things can absolutely matter as a resume builder. But as a part-timer? That’s a reach.

      1. Lils*

        I’ve been an Emily. I agree with all of the comments here.

        I like idea #7 and thinking about alternate ways to reward the sales behavior OP wants to see. Is there anything that *would* incentivize Emily? Everyone is different in their motivations–“company pride” isn’t going to work on Emily (or me) so find something else. Also OP should examine the desired behaviors and think about how there are multiple ways to make a sale, as has been pointed out above. I am not and will never be good at the “hard sell,” but I can be a persuasive salesperson using other techniques, on my own terms.

        One thing that used to motivate me: silly contests with low stakes and a prize I would have wanted anyway. I liked contests because they were fun and made the shift pass quicker, NOT because I was helping to meet some vague overall sales goal. For example, “anyone who can sell two items from the accessories rack today, the manager will treat you to a fancy Starbucks and give you a high five.”

    2. EchoGirl*

      My guess with 6 is that this may not be within the manager’s control — decisions about how many employees a store has are usually made higher up on the totem pole than a location manager, so I could see OP not being able to hire more staff even if she wants to. However, this still doesn’t make it Emily’s problem.

  61. Gnizmo*

    I think this is a situation that can’t possibly resolve any other way. The LW has made it clear they will choose to the stores good over Emily’s good and that is is expected. Why would Emily ever make a different choice? If you want an employee to invest in the company then the company has to invest in the employees. Until and unless you are willing to show Emily she is a priority for the store then I can’t think of a single reason she would make the store a priority.

  62. KWu*

    I will say in OP’s defense that I could understand a manager not wanting to give their strongest recommendation in future reference checks for an employee that is so upfront about not wanting to do something because it won’t directly benefit them. I think a store manager is entitled to ask their employees to sell more…even if as a customer, I certainly dislike that kind of shop. You can’t expect someone to truly care about the company’s goals (looking at the profit numbers statements), but I think there is something to wanting to work with people that generally make it a work environment that feels like you’re all in it together. OP can probably use stronger boundaries but I could also imagine a situation, even in a retail environment, where it’s frustrating to have colleagues that deeply don’t care about doing a good job even when they’re on the clock.

    That said I support Emily’s setting of her boundaries and I really hope OP realizes that taking a direct, personal financial hit is not a fair thing to ever ask of an employee. They’re an employee, not an owner!

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I would say that about a staff member who was constantly checked out, had to be hounded to finish their tasks, was unpleasant to customers and/or coworkers. But OP doesn’t say Emily is like this–she says Emily’s popular with well-liked.

      1. Jennifer*

        Right but if part of the job is employing certain sales techniques to close the sale and she is refusing to do that, that is a problem that should be addressed. That’s where the OP needs to step up as a manager.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I mean, they can address it — perhaps by offering more than a $20 store credit (per month) *if the entire store collectively hits its budget.* (And from what OP describes, it doesn’t even sound like it’s a store Emily can or wants to shop from.) What a scammy bunch of nonsense.

          I worked at a retail chain store that hounded us to sign people up for a free rewards program. It was minimum wage and there was zero incentive for sign ups, besides praise over the loudspeaker. Was it part of my job? Yes. Did I care? Not really. I was a great cashier, always on time, and great with customers — I would ask if they wanted to sign up but if they said no, I moved on. Because honestly, who cares?

          1. Jennifer*

            Totally, I was in the same spot and didn’t care much either. But I didn’t outright tell my boss I wasn’t going to do it. Like you, I at least asked. Emily just outright refused.

            1. Le Sigh*

              I didn’t get that she outright refused, just that she didn’t push super hard to close a sale, which isn’t quite the same thing (and frankly something that some customers might prefer). It read to me more like she did the basics of her job well but wasn’t willing to push further. And that she didn’t seem that interested or invested in the store’s monthly sales numbers, which isn’t that shocking either. OP didn’t read like the most reliable narrator here and her perspective feels really skewed.

            2. SeluciaMD*

              Uh, no, Emily is doing her store’s version of what you did. She’s clearly working the floor and helping customers (in 3 languages no less!) so she didn’t “outright refuse.” Emily is supposed to be hard selling items with actual price tags while you were supposed to hard “sell” a rewards program. You and Le Sigh both (I would argue) correctly declined to hard sell. You put an offer out there and accepted a “no” which is what it sounds like Emily does as well.

          2. münchner kindl*

            Aren’t a lot of those targets chosen arbritrarily by US management because they
            – don’t know how to measure real goals
            – don’t know how to asses which factors influence customers
            – want an easy way to fire people at will, so they introduce an impossible-to-meet-quota, and then enforce it when they want it?

            1. SeluciaMD*

              As a former retail manager, they also use it as a way to justify cutting payroll costs (which improves their profit margin, even when quotas aren’t made). In every retail store I ever managed (and I worked in a few national chains, and one of those was in NYC at a top 5 company store) your payroll budget was a defined percentage of your sales goals for the week/month. And when you didn’t hit your goals, they would cut down your payroll percentage. It was the dumbest system because having less help is never going to get you more sales. In the top 5 store it was never an issue – we had tons of foot traffic in one of the shopping capitals of the US – but in the Maryland stores where I worked? It could be hugely problematic.

        2. Rainy*

          I refused to employ certain sales techniques because a small sale is better than someone dropping all their shit in the middle of the sales floor and leaving the store because they’re tired of being pestered.

          A small sale where someone is made happy, has their taste complimented, and has an easy checkout experience without having to give three refusals to a frankly usurious store credit card will lead to more sales. Being harangued with upsells that make no sense, pestered about a store credit card, etc, might, if someone is avoidant or anxious, get you a larger sale that day, but that person is more likely to come back to return the upsold goods than to come back to purchase again.

          1. CowWhisperer*

            Building on your comment, I might be able to use sales techniques to artificially bolster sales by upselling the snot out of people for a DIY project at my home improvement store – but that would be passing up a whole ton of future sales when the people realize that I’ve sold them a ton of extra unneeded junk.

            I sell people the paint that will do what they need it to do at the price point they are able to meet. I don’t upsell the highest brands if the paint can’t do what it promises – eg., the one coat paint isn’t a one coat paint in the color the customer selected. I’ve point-blank told people that they should buy the midline option for the color they picked because the color they picked is too light or too vivid to work in the one-coat option per the manufacturer – so get a cheaper paint that does two coats well.

            I don’t do this to screw sales today; I do this because honesty on my part gives good results to the customers – and hopefully the customers will chose us again for future purchases.

            1. Rainy*

              Yup. My husband worked at Blockbuster (yes we are old) when he was in college as a team lead, and his GM was a super-seller. She sold every box of Whoppers and bag of gummi bears like she was selling bottled water to scuba divers. She was so high-pressure people would buy candy, popcorn, and soda they didn’t want.

              As a result, when his GM was working the register, the regulars would mill around in the family-movie aisle near the counter waiting for her to go to the back or step away from the counter for one second and Mr Rainy to step up to the register. Then they’d mob the counter to get checked out and leave before the GM got done peeing. They didn’t dislike her! Everyone loved her, and the regulars wanted her movie recommendations, but nobody wanted to be hard-sold on a box of candy.

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          Maybe LW needs to do a deep dive into the numbers. Emily won’t do a hard sell. Are sales down during her shifts, compared to similar shifts? Customers like her–are those repeat customers? If Emily starts the hard sell (or if LW fires Emily), will those customers shop there less often?
          I’m just thinking this out as I type, but this might be the retail version of the butts-in-seats mentality to some office job managers. In many offices, 8 to 5 every day doesn’t make a difference to the business, as long as the work gets done. In this situation, does a hard sell from every employee actually make a difference to the business?