update: I work at a boarding school and my partner can’t visit during the week because we’re unmarried

Remember the letter-writer who worked at a boarding school and her partner couldn’t visit because they weren’t married? Here’s the update.

I was the letter writer who worked at a boarding school as residential faculty, and whose partner couldn’t visit her during weeknights. I had been wondering whether to bring this up as part of negotiations to see whether the administration would change their minds; although you encouraged me to be open with the dean of faculty, the commenters on Ask A Manager largely suggested that as a new teacher, I had very little leverage and should avoid rocking the boat. I wanted to provide a (very happy) update to this story!

It has been really hard to see my partner only a couple of days a week this year, on top of everything else that comes with your first year of teaching and living on campus (during a pandemic). Since I was scared of losing this job if I pushed too hard, and also scared I wouldn’t be able to find a new job if I decided to leave, I didn’t say anything to the administration beyond the conversations we had already had on the topic. I quietly sent out a couple of job applications, not expecting much to come of it, and resigning myself to another year of missing my partner.

Fast forward… and I just landed the teaching job of my dreams, in the city where my partner lives. Astoundingly, I am going to be making $33k more than I am currently making – a difference that will more than cover the rent and food that I will now have to pay for. I’m thrilled with what I learned about the school from the interviews, and they really seem to understand work-life balance in a way my current school does not. Best of all, my partner and I are going to start looking for apartments so that we can finally move in together.

When I gave my notice to my current school, I realized that I had a lot more capital than I had thought, due to my performance this year and my ability to teach multiple subjects. My department chairs were very upset at the thought of losing me, and they took it up with the dean of faculty and the head of school. The dean of faculty said that she wished I had given the administration an ultimatum so that they could have found a compromise; the head of school asked my department chairs if they thought there was a chance I would change my mind if my partner could stay more often. Looking back, though, no compromise would have been as good as what I have been able to secure for next year, but it’s nice to know that I was more valued and had more power than I thought, even if that knowledge came too late (and after a year of angst and frustration).

In any case, I am so excited to live with my partner, make almost double my current salary, and finally get to live life as a fully-fledged adult, outside of a dorm. My advice to young teachers who are considering working at a boarding school is to ASK about the visitor policy during your interviews! I wasn’t told about the restrictions when I interviewed, even though I let my interviewer know that I had a partner who would be visiting me. This left me feeling like I had been baited-and-switched when I got here and he could only stay two days a week. Get the policies in writing, if you can.

Also, ask to be put in touch with current young, unmarried residential faculty at the school – and then ask those young teachers for a brutally honest picture of what it is like to live and work on campus. The school will “sell” itself to you, and if you don’t have much knowledge of what boarding schools are like (I didn’t), you may get stuck in a situation you regret. And if you do get stuck in a situation, just remember: you may have more power and more capital than you think.

{ 168 comments… read them below }

  1. Madame X*

    Very happy to hear this result! It really does sound like the school pulled a bait and switch, because they knew they had a policy against on unmarried faculty having overnight guests. However, they chose not to clarify or correct your assumption that you would be able to have your partner visit you when you had a conversation with them during the interview.

    Now I’m curious to know if the rest of the faculty is mostly married or not, because if they have a significant number of unmarried faculty surely this issue has come up before. Perhaps, like you, the other teachers did not feel like they had enough capital to be able to push back. Hopefully, this event will force the administration to reconsider how they handle faculty that have partners regardless of their marital status.

    1. Teacher Track*

      I wouldn’t assume it was a bait-and-switch. I’ve worked in those environments before, and it really is just taken for granted that people understand these things about the culture there. They often don’t spell this stuff out because it is so obvious and normal within that sphere, and they don’t realise others won’t know that. If it matters to you, always ask! No one minds explaining when asked, but if you apply to work in that environment it’s often assumed you will know what you are getting yourself into.

      1. Helen Burns*

        I guess they figure Jane knows better than to bring Mr. Rochester around Lowood school before the big nuptials.

      2. AJ*

        I haven’t worked in a boarding school but have worked in a residential setting and I would just assume that anywhere that had staff live on property would not have permitted overnight visitation.

      3. DiplomaJill*

        but why would they take for granted that you would know their culture if you werent already in this environment? Seems like it ought to go both ways – interviewer should explain explicitly, interviewee should ask explicitly.

      4. DiplomaJill*

        but why would they take for granted that you would know their environment’s culture if you werent already in this environment? Seems like it ought to go both ways – interviewer should explain explicitly, interviewee should ask explicitly.

        1. Becca*

          I think it’s often that they’re not even aware that it is a specific culture. They’re so immersed that to them it’s just normal or how the world works and it doesn’t even occur to them that it would need to be explained or warned about.

      5. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        I think there is a nuance here that the “sphere” may not be the industry, but even as small as the actual workplace. So even if you have worked in boarding schools before, you should still make sure to ask. Both you and the people interviewing you may be assuming that their experience at a single school is universal to the industry. This can also be regional, or even temporal–if you worked at the same school ten years ago (or are applying to a school you attended), the culture there may have changed so much that you would hardly recognize it, and even the people who were there ten years ago may have forgotten how drastic the changes have been (at least when it comes to getting others up to date).

        This is the case with all kinds of industries, but I find schools to be particularly different from one another, while simultaneously having very few people who realize it and apply that knowledge to teaching newcomers.

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      What bother’s me is the after the fact message of “Well, if you had tried *harder* to tell us you were unhappy about the thing you told us you were unhappy about, of course we would have done something”. Hopefully they will re-evaluate their policy around these things for the next person. Its easy for them to act like would change it once they realized they were loosing you, but couldn’t be bothered to when they knew you were unhappy but just not quite unhappy enough to leave. That’s not a good way to keep good people.

      1. Caliente*

        That’s what I was thinking. You should’ve given them an ultimatum? Um no….I can’t believe they said that *eyeroll

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Especially since they seemed to be saying her giving an ultimatum would prompt them to agree to a compromise. Ultimatums and comprises don’t usually happen at the same time.

        2. TardyTardis*

          Yeah, I always get told how valuable I am when I leave, but never when I was there…

      2. Le Sigh*

        Yeah, I get why OP wonders if she could have done more, but I’m not sure she could have! If that’s their response to her leaving, that tells me they’re more interested in shifting responsibility and doing the bare minimum to keep staff. Despite the Dean’s protestations, I’m not convinced an ultimatum would have done anything for OP.

      3. Artemesia*

        This. What do they expect when they treat a faculty member like a teenager? Many bosses are all ‘WHY didn’t you tell us’ when they have inflicted misery on an employee and that person leaves.

        So glad you found a great job where you can live like a grownup and so glad you didn’t agree to stay based on their sudden valuing of what you have to offer.

        1. Artemesia*

          ps I understand a boarding school saying no unmarried partners can visit; I would not agree to it, but I understand it and it clear. But to say you can have a partner on weekends and not during the week makes no real sense except to make the employee’s life harder.

      4. Distracted Librarian*

        This was my reaction too. Because of the power differential, employees aren’t usually going to push hard. If you’re lucky, they’ll tell you something is a problem for them. Once. If you don’t address it then, they’ll (rightly IMHO) assume you aren’t going to do anything about it, and they’ll act on that assumption.

      5. Esmeralda*

        Right, that’s ridiculous. OP let them know about it; why didn’t the boss try to address it? Why did the OP even have to “try hard”?

      6. Richard Hershberger*

        Yep. They made a rule, then were surprised when the LW took that rule seriously. This merits a vigorous roll of the eyes.

        1. Anon, Anon*

          I have just been denied a promotion for the sin of daring to comply with my grandboss’s instructions. My eyes are not all that’s on the move.

          1. 'Tis Me*

            That’s… What?! By who??

            Also, yes. If that isn’t a sign of dysfunction, I’m not quite sure what is.

            1. Anon, Anon*

              Head of the department into which I would have moved. The contention is that, after being told ‘no’ by my current grandboss, I should’ve kept asking until I got a ‘yes.’ (No, this is not for a sales position.)

              Thank you for assuring me that yes, the lights are a little dimmer in here.

      7. Brooke*

        Yes, it’s pretty ridiculous that they said no but are claiming she should’ve ignored the fact that they said no and then risk losing her job to see if they were serious. If they valued her so much, they should’ve said yes the first time she asked.

      8. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed. Had the OP expressed concern upfront, she would have been told they COULDN’T make an exception for her and that the policy was in place for a reason. It’s highly unlikely that they’d have been as flexible as they say they would have been.

      9. Ally McBeal*

        Yeah, unless LW’s school has since changed their guest policy to make it more friendly for future employees in situations similar to LW, they weren’t totally sincere, and the exception they said they wished could have made for LW might’ve resulted in resentment or other negative sentiment down the line.

    3. IndependentSchool*

      Not sure if it is true about this school or not, but there is definitely a culture in some independent schools that expects high faculty turnover from young, often unmarried faculty. Like you expect people to come in, throw everything into teaching/boarding/sports for 3-5 years and then they leave for another school with different or better conditions. Or quit teaching, since the attrition rate is also fairly high for a lot of early career teachers.

  2. Clorinda*

    Fantastic update!
    Yeah, no, even if they let your partner visit every other day and doubled your salary, still too little, too late. Enjoy your new career!

    1. chewingle*

      That’s what I thought, as well. “Offer an ultimatum.” How about they just be more upfront with their rules (and more reasonable, as well) from the beginning? Then she wouldn’t have been motivated to job-hunt in the first place. I realize this is the reality is basically every company, but it drives me up the wall.

  3. D3*

    That’s a great update, but how awful of them to throw it on you and say you “should have made an ultimatum”
    New employees don’t get to make ultimatums, and it most likely would not have gone over well. So to blame you now is despicable.
    Thankfully you got out and have a better situation personally AND professionally!

    1. I Want to Break Free*

      Yeah, this. Relationships (business or otherwise) that require ultimatums for people to be reasonable, sound so very tiring.

      If I am talking to you about X, I am serious about X. Otherwise I wouldn’t have brought it up.

    2. Smithy*

      Three cheers to this one.

      Last year I left a position and got a very strong “omg what can we do to keep you” push. The person who was in a position to make those moves knew for about six months that I was struggling with key features of the job, but clearly was only going to do anything once I gave my notice. Then her solution was for me to essentially write my own job description that would put me into increased conflict with a team that would be under essentially no obligation to change. It was also clear that if this new position was created, I would be in such personal capital debt that if I remained miserable and/or an amazing opportunity fell into my lap – I’d burn so many bridges by leaving “too soon” based on their definition of whatever too soon was.

    3. WhoKnows*

      +1. That isn’t how you should treat an employee you apparently value quite a bit. If they bring up an issue more than once, listen to them, versus putting it on them (silently) to use all their capital to make an ultimatum or they walk. That’s not fair to anyone.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      If the LW *had* given them an ultimatum, I seriously doubt they would have come up with anything close to what LW is going to get with the new job. No matter what they’re saying now, they would not have negotiated in good faith. Any employer who puts the onus on the new employee (really, *any* employee) by saying “You should have given us an ultimatum” is not going to operate in good faith.

      1. Ms. Anon*

        There’s no way she would have come out with the $33K pay increase! That’s fantastic. This worked out for the best.

    5. Beth*

      Yes! They knew you’d asked about your partner staying over; if compromises were possible, they should have offered them already. That goes double for an employee they apparently value and wanted to keep! It’s 100% on them that you went looking. Hopefully they learn a lesson from it and reevaluate their approach.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        It’s another way the work world is like dating: if someone won’t make the changes you need when things are negatively affecting you, but falls all over themselves swearing they’ll change when the consequences shift to them (ie you break up or quit), leaving was definitely the right choice.

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        “If compromises were possible, they should have offered them already.” Exactly! If it was okay for the OP’s partner to stay with her because she was upset enough to leave over it, then it was okay when she was only asking. Either treat employee’s relationships with respect or don’t, but don’t say, “It’s on you to force us to treat you respectfully!” Ugh.

    6. NerdyKris*

      Yeah a new employee making an ultimatum is basically a job ending action in most circumstances. The Dean of Faculty is a little naive or out of touch to think that people in LW’s position would feel safe giving a “Do this or I quit” statement for something that isn’t a legal issue.

      1. mcfizzle*

        Or at least the employee has to be prepared for the bluff to be called, so who wouldn’t already be job searching / probably more like having a job offer before they’d take that plunge!

        1. Joielle*

          I thought this too – like, if you actually want staff to make ultimatums when they’re unhappy, of course they’ll want to have another offer in hand before doing that. So you run the risk of someone getting a much better offer and just leaving rather than bothering with the ultimatum at all. It’s a ridiculous stance (and, I suspect, not really what the dean wants, just a justification after the fact).

      2. Ex-Teacher*

        I’d argue it’s 100% out-of-touch. I used to teach, and after leaving education I’ve learned really quickly that people involved in education are often out of touch with the professional norms that the rest of the world uses. The expectations they have are incredibly old-fashioned, and communication is awful. The “this is how we do it because this is how we have always done it” mentality is incredibly strong, and administrators rarely accept accountability for their actions/decisons.

        1. Pikachu*

          Ironic, considering the purpose of education is literally to continually get better at things.

        2. Opalescent Tree Shark*

          That’s not my experience, really. Just to provide a counter-argument to this sweeping generalization.

      3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Don’t discount inertia as a factor as well. Many organizations run the same policies until they are forced to change, since any change requires effort. Shame on the Dean for not taking the initiative and blaming you for what could be his own inertia.

    7. Pickled Limes*

      The school told OP the visitor policy was non-negotiable, and now that she’s quitting they want to know why she didn’t demand that they change their non-negotiable policy? That’s not good faith, and OP is lucky to be leaving these school administrators behind.

      1. Ros*

        I had an ex who did that – I was like “this thing is not negotiable to me”, he kept trying to negotiate this, I figured we were completely incompatible (and by then he was working on my last nerve) and dumped him, and he was legitimately surprised and SHOCKED and I was just like… WTF DID YOU THINK NOT NEGOTIABLE MEANT??!

        Similarly, a ‘non-negotiable’ work policy is one you can either live with or leave!

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, the dean seems really out of touch.

        I get it that residential schools need some sort of policy for guests and I can certainly see them banning overnight visitors who are more or less casual dates. That said, if it’s a committed relationship where the partner would be willing to undergo a security check like they do for employees, and I presume, married spouses, getting all worked up over marital status seems very silly to me. Unless it’s a strongly faith-based school where the parents would be up in arms about unmarried people living “in sin” on campus and showing a “poor example” to their kids. But if that’s the case, then I’d expect the school to be very explicit about these expectations, especially when hiring someone who doesn’t share that cultural background.

    8. Desk Peacock*

      I was just coming here to say this too – telling OP that she “should have given them an ultimatum so they could have found a compromise” is a terrible way to treat your employees. If you know – or even suspect – that there is a compromise that can be made, you should be looking into it without your employee having to tell you “I will quit over this”. It’s putting all of the responsibility for the employer’s conduct onto the employee, but not giving the employee all the information upfront.

    9. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. OP went with the data in front of her and made an informed choice. OP was right to worry about what if the ultimatum left her unemployed and homeless. The school should have better/more flexible/more transparent policies!

      I’m also glad that hearing this OP was still able to determine that the new job/situation was still the best option.

    10. twocents*

      I agree. I think the letter writer made the correct decision to not push it because it doesn’t sound like, if this other opportunity hadn’t materialized, that she would have been able to afford being unemployed. I really think in general that you should leave ultimatums on your side as an employee to things that you’re genuinely willing to be unemployed over.

    11. Beth*

      YES. “You should have given us an ultimatum”!?!?!? No, you should not have put your employee in a position where an ultimatum might be needed.

    12. JM in England*

      Whenever anyone tells me “You should have….”, I reply “If you give me the means to go back in time, then sure!” :-)

    13. TWW*

      I’m an old employee and I wouldn’t make an ultimatum.

      Best case scenario: they meet your terms, but now everyone knows you are (or were) unsatisfied and ready to leave? I can’t image remaining much longer in a job in that scenario.

    14. hbc*

      Yeah, that line was total gaslighting nonsense. “I know you said over and over again what you’d like, but I didn’t think that it would have any impact on *me* if you were unhappy, so you should have tried harder.”

      And dangling a potential *compromise*? They’re admitting they wouldn’t have even considered providing anything as good as the new job.

    15. Pirate Queen*

      Came here to say this exact thing! It shouldn’t be the responsibility of the school’s employees — especially first-year teachers — to give their employers an ultimatum. The school should institute better visiting policies or, if it doesn’t, they should have made this clear to you during the interview process. This is 100% their fault and their response doubles down on their overall suckitude. I’m glad you are moving on to a much better place!

    16. Well...*

      Agreed. They lost their own talent due to their bad policies. Weird for them to blame you for that, since they are the ones who should have been looking out for the future of the institution.

  4. Allypopx*

    While I’m super glad it worked out this way, I’m sad the commenters talked OP out of doing a negotiation that would have been personally beneficial. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess. Though I do think it’s odd that the administration outright said “I wish you would have brought us an ultimatum”….that’s not really how these things should work. It should be a conversation.

    ANYWAY, I’m happy for you OP. Best of luck with your relationship and your new position!

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Those of us who said “I’d start looking for another job” offered that based on direct experience with similar situations. Any employer who says “You should have given us an ultimatum” is going to do the bare minimum or nothing at all. With such people, saying “I have a problem with X” usually leads to the employer explaining why the employee should not be bothered by X. Sometimes there will be a small, temporary change or a vague promise for the future, but nothing substantial changes. Then, when the employee does leave, there’s resentment and surprise: “Well, you never said you were going to quit over this!”

      In addition, looking around can make you think “Eh, this situation actually is OK” and then you feel more secure in trying to address “problem X” with the current employer.

      1. Pickled Limes*

        Yeah, I’m guessing that if OP had given the ultimatum, the school still wouldn’t have allowed an equal amount of visit time as married partners get. They might have offered three days instead of two, or a full week once a year, or something like that, but I’m really skeptical that they would have made the kind of meaningful change that OP would have been asking for.

        1. Becca*

          This. It’s very easy for them, now that they know they in fact didn’t hold all the cards to say that they would have been open to change if she’d tried harder to force their hand. But she did ask, they showed no willingness to alter their policy at all when she didn’t have an alternative job on the table and there’s no evidence at all if it would have been any different if she’d asked again or given them an ultimatum. And really, in what world ever could it be good advice to give your job an ultimatum (especially without another offer on the table)?

      2. Aquawoman*

        While I’m very glad for the LW that it has worked out for her, I think it’s a disservice to advise everyone to immediately despair of change ever happening. It’s entirely possible that the school wouldn’t have changed but it’s also possible that if they had realized how important it was to her and that they were at risk of losing her, they would have changed their policy. I think it’s going to be really unusual for anyone to get fired over just asking for something reasonable so unless there is some blatant toxicity/dysfunction, I don’t get advising people not to bother trying.

        1. Clorinda*

          Maybe they would have made exceptions to their policy for her, but would they have given her an extra $33k? I think not.

          1. Simply the best*

            Considering they’re paying for her room and food, which op now has to pay for herself, they wouldn’t have needed to. They would have just had to make up the difference in order for her compensation to match.

            1. Jackalope*

              Sort of, and the OP may have been happy with that. On the other hand, it makes a big difference when considering future salary negotiating power, Social Security, pension amounts, etc. Getting free room and board is an awesome benefit, but doesn’t completely equal more money.

            2. Jackalope*

              Sort of, and the OP may have been happy with that. On the other hand, it makes a big difference when considering future salary negotiating power, Social Security, pension amounts, etc. Getting free room and board is an awesome benefit, but doesn’t completely equal more money. Again, she may have been fine with that especially if it’s early in her career, but the two are still not entirely equivalent.

            3. Anonapots*

              Yeah, this. It’s unlikely room and board are equivalent to $33k, as nice as it is to get those thing as perks.

        2. Le Sigh*

          OP did at least talk to the Dean to try and change things, and got nowhere. And now the school is saying she should have issued an ultimatum??? (Famous last words of employers who can’t be bothered to change unless it becomes their problem.) She could have done that, but a) they already knew this was an issue, had a chance to change, and didn’t and b) ultimatums can absolutely put employees on shaky ground. The sense I got from the letter was she *could* perhaps go the middle route — no ultimatum, but keeping pushing — but they’d already shown themselves to be pretty inflexible.

          So I think that light, the commenters’ advice was less “don’t bother trying” and more “I’ve worked in education, you’ve tried, this might be the reality so at the very least, go look for other jobs and go from there.”

          1. allathian*

            Ultimatums always do put employees on shaky ground. Either the employer is willing to accommodate the employee’s request without a need for an ultimatum, or it’s vastly more likely that they’ll call the employee’s bluff and they’re out of luck.

      3. Good Vibes Steve*

        Or they’ll give you an inch, and will make you feel like they gave you a mile – using that as an excuse to turn down many other reasonable accommodations, bringing it up every time you ask for a raise etc.

    2. Jess*

      I don’t think there’s much to be sad about. If they’d have needed an ultimatum to let her spend time with her partner, I doubt all the other good stuff about the new job would have been at all on the table – I don’t see a scenario where her staying after having to use up her capital on *having a relationship* would have been personally beneficial.

    3. switch*

      It’s probably good that she didn’t – would she have applied for and gotten this better job?

    4. Pikachu*

      I don’t think the negotiation would have been beneficial at the time. Disclaimer: I believe the policy is bananas and at some point we all have to live in the real world. However, technically, the requirement was a personal one rather than professional, and one to which moral objections could be made based on the school’s philosophy.

      OP only realized their level of professional capital after a year of stellar performance. Had she pushed at the beginning, things may not have worked out this way. The fact that they are retroactively blaming OP is a glaring red flag that reasonable outcomes aren’t a priority at this organization.

    5. biobotb*

      I’m not convinced that a negotiation would have benefited her. It’s easy for them to say NOW that they’d have buckled in response to an ultimatum, but I doubt they would have been as understanding if actually faced with one. Plus, then she’d have used up a lot of her political capital and they possibly would have resented it coming to that (even though they put her in the position of having to go elsewhere to get her needs met). Employers who turn to guilt-tripping when things don’t go their way are not generally good employers.

  5. Ginger*

    So the dean wishes OP had given an ultimatum but what if the resolution wasn’t in OP’s favor? Then what?

    OP – congrats on all the happy updates! It sounds like you are winning across the board and have an exciting future to look forward to!

  6. Weekend Please*

    I am so glad you found a new job! I would take their talk about “finding a compromise” with a grain of salt. Even if they had allowed your partner to stay more often there probably would have been some feeling of resentment that they had to give in and they would feel like you owed them since they compromised so much to keep you. Any time you need to issue an ultimatum to be treated fairly you are already set up to fail.

  7. CatCat*

    So happy for you, OP!

    Also, the dean of faculty is ridiculous. Like it was on you to give her an ultimatum (WTF, lol, no) instead of on her to try and meet your needs when you spoke to her about it and she shut you down with a policy reason that seems, in retrospect, like something totally made up.

    But an employer suddenly caring about something important to the employee at the time the employee gives notice instead of when the employee raised it is a story I doubt we’ll ever stop hearing.

    1. Joielle*

      Yes to your last sentence in particular! When I left my last job my boss was very much like “Oh I wish you would have told me, I could have changed things” but I had been telling him for years! He just didn’t think I would actually leave over it.

      Lesson for managers – just because someone brings up a problem politely, doesn’t mean it’s not a real problem. An employee shouldn’t have to make a huge production about an issue (or issue an ultimatum! wtf) to have it taken seriously.

      1. Former Usher*

        Yep. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but one time I resigned from a job and my manager said “I knew you were unhappy but I didn’t think you leave.”

    2. The Rural Juror*

      Unfortunately, it’s a story we’ll always hear in regards to work and personal situations alike. “Oh! Why didn’t you tell us?! We could have made it work!” is easy to say, but actions speak louder than words! People have to feel like they have the option to speak up, and the OP definitely didn’t feel comfortable enough to do that (for good reason).

      I’m so happy they’re on to greener pastures! Good luck!!!

    3. Jackalope*

      Someone on this comments section once gave the best response to this I’ve heard, both for work and personal questions: You didn’t care about resolving this when it was hurting me, you only cared to resolve it when it’s hurting you. Such a clear explanation of this dynamic and one I wish more people (in both of the above contexts) would take seriously when someone brings a concern to them.

      1. minhag*

        “You didn’t care about resolving this when it was hurting me, you only cared to resolve it when it’s hurting you.” Such a great framing! There’s something so sinister yet banal when you realize that people can see that you are hurting or struggling but have no motivation to help you until it actually threatens their comfort.

      2. Ros*

        I’m saving that. I swear the next time someone pulls this I will SAY THAT WITH THOSE WORDS.

      3. Old Admin*

        “You didn’t care about resolving this when it was hurting me, you only cared to resolve it when it’s hurting you.”

        *slow clap*

      4. Kiki*

        Yes! This so clearly lays out the dynamic that often is obfuscated, usually willfully by the person with more power. I see this so often with companies and fair/equitable pay– “If we had known you wanted to be paid the same as your white, male coworkers, we would have intervened! I wish you had spoken up sooner instead of leaving!” It’s disorienting to hear because it makes the recipient feel as if they are responsible for their own exploitation, but of course it’s absolute bunk! Companies and managers are aware of discrepancies but it’s easier and temporarily cheaper to ignore them.

        1. Anon anon this time*

          No kidding. I spent at least six months telling my current employer about their gender equity problem: we’re gonna get sued, we’re gonna lose, and we’re gonna deserve it.

          Very much got the shocked Pikachu face when a group of women (including me) then turned around and sued them. Suddenly it was all “what a shock! Why would anybody sue us? We could have just talked about the problem and found a solution.” All while talented women were also leaving over their unfair treatment.

          Who doesn’t enjoy the gaslighting of being told “we had no idea there was a problem” when they’ve been screaming about the problem from mountain tops for ages?

    4. m m*

      The “you should have come to us and we would have fully accommodated your request” is straight out of the 1980s. It’s such a relief to hear the update, that the LW got a posting that proactively treats employees properly as they should be treated, here in this third decade of the 21st century.

  8. Bookworm*

    Congratulations, OP! I’m so glad to hear it worked out (I was worried it might not end well). Sorry they learned to appreciate you far too late but am very happy that it seems like this is a way better solution for you.

  9. The New Wanderer*

    Congratulations! I’m glad your story has a happy ending for you, better than if you’d gotten the school to agree to more visits.

    I will say this stuck out to me: ” The dean of faculty said that she wished I had given the administration an ultimatum so that they could have found a compromise…”

    Why should it have to come down to “I need X or I walk?” She’s basically saying they weren’t going to take you seriously or give you this (pretty minor) thing you said you needed until you showed you were willing to leave (by giving notice). Would you have had to pull this card for everything you needed out of the job in the future? I mean, I know that companies do this all the time, take no action until they’re about to lose a valuable resource but it’s putting the burden on you to risk your job or spend all your capital in one go, when instead if they had shown they valued you by just *giving you the thing you said you wanted* you probably wouldn’t have been tempted to look around.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yeah, it’s really foolish. They should know that *every time* an employee comes to them with a concern, there’s a risk that if it isn’t addressed they’ll become unhappy and may leave. Especially if it’s raised more than once. It’s the unspoken assumption when you raise an issue, just like if your boss keeps telling you to change something and you don’t, eventually they might fire you. And the employer doesn’t get to be surprised that the employee wasn’t more forceful given the obvious power imbalance. I mean really.

    2. Smithy*

      Completely agree. I think it’s also fairly cruel to put staff in a place where they do have to burn all of that capital when you’re left in a far more ambiguous spot on what they’re expecting from you for expending that capital. Are they expecting a year? Two years? If part of what you wanted changed was more qualitative (i.e. I want more authority) and you don’t believe you’ve actually received it – how do you push back?

    3. Pickled Limes*

      The line you quoted is the same one I keep going back to. The dean shouldn’t have needed an ultimatum to find a compromise. They could have found a compromise when OP initially asked about the visitor policy. They’re trying to make their bad management OP’s fault and I don’t like it.

  10. Knope Knope Knope*

    I definitely thought a wedding announcement was coming here. While I don’t think marriage is a requirement of a happy life and you just had a nice win for singles everywhere, please update us if that time comes! Happy for you, OP!

  11. Al*

    Good for you! Maybe this will make them look at their policy for unmarried faculty and update it for the next faculty member in your position.

  12. enlyghten*

    You really shouldn’t be expected to give your employer an ultimatum for them to consider a reasonable request. It sounds like the employer put the onus on the OP to be more aggressive as if the only reason they didn’t acquiesce was because they weren’t leveraged hard enough.

    This calls into question a few things. I think we can all guess the official reasoning for not letting unmarried partners visit. If the school considers it an important rule, why imply that they would have bent the rule for the OP? It also implies that they would have bent the rule, but only for the OP, which isn’t terribly reasonable. If it’s not an important rule, why not bend it when asked in the first place? If you only bend it for the OP, how do you justify it to the rest of the unmarried staff (as well as the married staff that care about their coworkers)?

    Ultimately, I think OP made out better than they imply in this post. Their employer appears to make arbitrary rules that they’re willing to bend, but only if leveraged by an employee. I.E., not because it would be considerate, or kind, or reasonable, but because their arm is being twisted. Then, to top off the smelly pile, they imply that it’s the employee’s fault they didn’t get what they wanted because they didn’t ask hard enough.

    Obviously, this is a lot to conclude from this relatively little amount of information, but I don’t have as much faith in employers as I used to. If this was as easy to change as they imply, and they were as willing to change as they imply, the last thing they should be doing is implying it was OP’s fault they didn’t make the change. You shouldn’t need to leverage your employer for a little human decency.

    Good luck, OP!

    1. Ellen Ripley*

      Yeah, exactly. If they genuinely believe that having teachers’ unmarried partners stay over is inappropriate, then it’s inappropriate all the time, for everyone, not just for the less good teachers or the ones who haven’t negotiated an exception because they have some sort of capital to burn on the issue. If they don’t feel that strongly about it, then they need to reframe their policy to be about distraction and the length of time guests can stay, irrespective of marital or relationship status.

  13. IL JimP*

    Congrats OP

    This boarding school administration sounds crappy all around, their expectations are weird as well

    1. Phil*

      I went to a boarding school in high school and to call them insular is an understatement.

  14. EPLawyer*

    Congrats OP. There is no compromise that would have worked because 1) you get to LIVE with your partner instead o a couple more overnights and 2) almost DOUBLE your salary.

    I know teachers are poorly paid and private schools often pay less than public schools but $33K should NOT almost double your salary.

    1. Properlike*

      I have seen the salaries for RCs at a local residential school, which the school touts as a “great gig” because of the free housing and meals. But if you added all that up, it’s still poverty wages, even in a high-cost area.

    2. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      I think the justification for a lower salary was because she had all her living expenses paid, but the salary loss is rarely worth it. My dad was a lecturer, and I spent a fair amount of my childhood living in college accommodation. In the second college, his salary was pitifully low, even back in the late 1970s, but he was still expected to entertain staff and students, and host visiting luminaries.

    3. IndependentSchool*

      Honestly, $33,000 would double the salaries of an incredibly large number of teachers in the U.S., even in public schools. The national average teacher salary is something like $65K, and there are a lot of people making less.

      I made about $33K in my first year teaching at a private school and I wasn’t even in the boarding program at that point. I’m only over $50K now because I’ve gotten two larger salary adjustments in the past 10 years – otherwise we would basically only get cost of living adjustments.

  15. Funny Cide*

    Long term relationship unmarried person here as well – I really worried about your situation because I know how frustrating it can be to not have your relationship respected because you don’t have a piece of paper that isn’t wise to rush because ultimately it comes with a lot of financial implications! I’m so, so glad this worked out well for you!

  16. Home Away from Work*

    An ultimatum? That’s like not giving raises or promotions unless the employee comes to you with a job offer from someone else.

    Just no.

    1. CatCat*

      I worked somewhere where you couldn’t get a raise unless you presented an outside offer!

      “You want me to look for another job? Ooookaaaaay.”

      And now I don’t work there anymore. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  17. Mainly Lurking (UK)*


    And I LOVE the detailed advice you give to any unmarried teachers who are applying for boarding school jobs.

  18. lilsheba*

    Yay that’s awesome! Now maybe this boarding school will do away with such archaic and ridiculous rules.

  19. Lobsterman*

    OP, you know perfectly well that former employer is lying about what they would have done in the absence of another job offer. Move on, don’t look back. Talk is cheap.

  20. TiredMama*

    Congrats! But also, “The dean of faculty said that she wished I had given the administration an ultimatum so that they could have found a compromise . . ..” You raised it and the dean said no. If it was not a dealbreaker, then they should have said something and not waited to see if you pushed more. And is that supposed to make you feel better? That if you had pushed them on the no then you wouldn’t have had to spend a year missing your partner?

  21. What's in a name?*

    I thought posts that had an update were now getting links to the update. The original post has not been updated with a link here.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not sure how I’ll manage it going forward — I might do them in batches periodically so they might not be instant. But you know … busy.

    2. enlyghten*

      I see a link to the original article in the ‘You may also like’ section under the post. Is this what you were referring to?

      1. NerdyKris*

        Earlier this year she had someone go through and add a link saying “update” to any original post that had an update, so if someone finds it in the archives they can see that there was an update at some point.

  22. RC Rascal*

    Some states have brothel laws that prohibit the kind of visitation rights the OP wanted with her boyfriend. This is especially common in the South.

    I was late to the original posting and didn’t make this point, and I don’t believe anyone else has. While many of the commentariat feel the school’s policy is archaic and ridiculous, please remember this:

    It may be the expectation of the parents who are sending their kids to this school.
    It may be driven by the state law where the boarding school is located.
    It may be driven by need to comply with background checks and other requirements.

    All in all, it sounds like the school wasn’t a good fit for the OP, and she is now in a better situation. I am also skeptical of the comment that she should have given the administration an ultimatum. That sounds like an attempt to push responsibility back on the OP.

    1. enlyghten*

      Then why say they wished OP had pushed harder? If they wouldn’t have or couldn’t have done anything, it would be disingenuous to imply they could have or would have. If there was a legal reason or if it would have negatively impacted the school, it would have been more honest and effective to just have said so.

    2. hbc*

      I’ve heard that there’s some kind of laws like this in Massachusetts (or maybe just Boston?), but I doubt they’re ever enforced if they actually exist. I’m also charmed by the idea of a law that’s supposed to prevent sex work that seems to presume that this behavior only takes place during the weekdays when you spend the entire night.

      1. kitryan*

        I believe there either is or was a law of this type in the St. Louis area as it was the reason given for why we did not have sorority houses at Wash U (but did have frat houses). However, the law (as rumor had it) was about X number of women living together in one house being (potentially) a brothel, not about a single person being visited overnight during the week by a person of the opposite sex.
        As far as the possibility offered upthread about it being for a good reason, I think the fact that, if I’m remembering correctly, non-romantic visitors of faculty *were* allowed to visit in similar circumstances seems to eliminate most of the possible ‘good’ reasons (such as background checks, laws regarding occupancy, distractions to the faculty member), leaving only the puritanical one (they might have *sex*!), and the puritanical one doesn’t really make sense if weekend visits are ok (they might have *sex* *on a weeknight*! Oh my stars and garters!).

  23. ahhh*

    Congrats OP!

    The part of your update that stuck out to me the most was the “you should have given us an ultimatum”. Really? You should not have fight for something basic in most living situations. They put the pressure/ fault on you to fix the situation not for the school to compromise until it was too late. It’s their lesson to learn and figure out, not yours. You did the best you could to fix the situation.

    1. Old Admin*

      Exactly, the school is simply making it the OP’s fault, somehow. Not cool, not cool.

    2. Anonapots*

      That part, and the part where the so many commenters told them they didn’t have the clout to push back and so the OP didn’t, even though they’re were well thought of by the school.

  24. Julia*

    Hopefully the experience of losing an excellent employee nudges the school to reconsider their policy!

  25. CouldntPickAUsername*

    “The dean of faculty said that she wished I had given the administration an ultimatum so that they could have found a compromise”

    Then the dean should have told her to do that and backed her up. Instead she was shut down and left. Don’t make your employees die on hills they shouldn’t have to. Treat them better than this.

  26. PhysicsTeacher*

    For what it’s worth, OP, I don’t think your old school would’ve revised their policy even if you came to them and said you were thinking about leaving over it.

    Talking with no action is easy. Since you’ve already told them you’re leaving, they can say “oh, I wish you had said! We would’ve fixed things to keep you!” with no obligation to actually follow through.

    1. Pomegranate*

      Exactly! It just shifts the blame for the situation from the ‘inflexible employer who didn’t listen to the needs of their employee’ to the ’employee who didn’t advocate for themselves as they should have’.

      So happy for your update OP! thanks for sending it in.

  27. IWishIHadAFancyUserName*

    Sounds to me like OP simply moved forward on their ultimatum without the confrontation once the employer made it clear they weren’t going to act on the concern. That’s the risk employers take in not addressing employee concerns. They shouldn’t be allowed to force employees into being confrontational. And, really, how long was OP expected to remain single and distanced from their partner?

  28. Bubbles*

    When I left my last toxic job my boss (and company owner) was furious I didn’t tell him that I wanted fewer hours and he could have worked something out for me to be part time. The thing was, I didn’t want part time! I just didn’t want to work 70 hours a week plus 25% on call (which is 24/7) for peanuts. Every time I brought up compensation I was told I needed to work MORE hours!
    I left for a job that paid me $15k more the first year, $36k the second year and probably $50k+ my third year for 40 hours a week, no on call. I imagine he’s still baffled about it.

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

    Keep the fond memories and life/career lessons learned. The first 3 years of teaching are the most difficult with the first being brutal. Don’t burn bridges and leave with a smile.

  30. CommanderBanana*

    You shouldn’t have to give your workplace an “ultimatum” to get them to compromise.

    1. Gray Lady*

      Conversely, if an employer has what they believe is a good reason for an inflexible policy, they shouldn’t hold out “ultimatum” as a process for getting them to change it, or give in to an ultimatum when confronted with one. Either way, the employer’s “ultimatum” talk here was inappropriate, and probably disingenuous — just a way of sounding like they would have been “reasonable” by some measure, if OP had just found the magic key to getting them to do it.

  31. Little Fox*

    If you value your employees, why would you want them to come to you with an ultimatum (which assumes another offer in hand or a willingness to leave on the spot without one) before you try to retain them? They weren’t going to do anything if you had tried it. It’s just empty talk to try to make themselves look better now. “We would have compromised” But when given the chance, they didn’t.

  32. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    Congratulations on the new job and the chance to live with your partner! I agree with those saying that it is absurd that they think you should have made an ultimatum (what ultimatum could you make? let my partner visit or I will quit without having a job lined up? are they actually saying they would have been ok with that or that you should have been willing to take that risk?). I also think it is ridiculous of them to wonder if they could get you to stay by letting your partner stay more … is a reverse on an absurd policy that lets your partner visit a few more days a month supposed to stack up to nearly twice the pay and actually getting to live with your partner? I am glad they showed they valued you in the end, but I am thinking that you made the best choice in moving on! So much luck to you!!!

  33. animaniactoo*

    1st, OP, so happy for you that this has worked out and you’re getting mega benefits from their unwillingness to be reasonable.


    The dean of faculty said that she wished I had given the administration an ultimatum so that they could have found a compromise

    I’m sorry… did you just say that you wanted me to jeopardize my job with no guarantees so that you could feel backed into a corner to do what you should have done all along? I don’t think you understand how this power structure thing works. I’m not sure what reality you’re living in but… That’s just not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!

    It would be far too much to hope that they’ll learn the lesson that placing unreasonable burdens on employees – particularly around their personal lives – will mean that those employees… and especially the strong ones that they would prefer to keep… will go look elsewhere to escape such situations.

  34. TeapotNinja*

    I am so glad you told them exactly why you’re leaving. From their responses, I don’t think they would’ve changed the rules for you enough that it would’ve made a material difference.

  35. Pomegranate*

    It looks like there was a disconnect between department chairs and dean of faculty/school head. The department chairs likely work a lot closer with OP and knew that she was a good teacher they’d like to have around for a long time. The administration just saw a young un-married employee without realizing the true value she’s bringing.

    Regardless, these basic rules of life should not depend on your political capital. Promotions, special assignments, extra flexible working arrangements – those I can see as reasonable perks available to employees with good track records and political capital. Having your partner treated as a spouse for the visitation rules at a boarding school is not of those perks.

  36. Kevin Sours*

    “The dean of faculty said that she wished I had given the administration an ultimatum so that they could have found a compromise”

    I just wanted to say “f that noise”. You brought it up, were obviously upset about, and they told that’s the way it was. They only wanted to compromise after they found out you had options. That’s horsecrap and you are better off without dealing with it.

  37. learnedthehardway*

    I worked for a company once that wouldn’t promote people UNLESS they had said they were leaving. They were very surprised when I actually left, instead of trying to leverage a promotion. I’d already decided that an organization where you had to give ultimatums to get career growth was not really my cup of tea.

  38. Sans Serif*

    What is it with employers that think that employees are supposed to issue ultimatums to get any policy changed? They actually admit that if she had threatened to quit, they would have changed their minds. Is this how you treat a valued employee? Most people can’t afford to risk losing a job by issuing an ultimatum.

  39. LivetoRead*

    I am happy for this great outcome. I have to say that I don’t think it is fair for administration to expect an employee to give an ultimatum. In many organizations, that would create a bad situation if the admin didn’t agree to your ultimatum and could lead to negative consequences.

  40. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    “The dean of faculty said that she wished I had given the administration an ultimatum so that they could have found a compromise”

    When employees give major ultimatums employers usually fire them. If they wanted to keep you they have to be proactive in keeping you happy. They are blaming you for not threatening them, thats not how things work.
    They may have some internal formula of treat people badly until they fight back but you have no way of knowing this and its an incredibly stupid strategy.

    If they want to keep good talent they have to treat employees well and not blame them for not knowing the management’s ridiculous secret playbook. So you did the right thing, you had no way to know they are that they wanted you to attack them in order to get common courtesy.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      Eh. Usually is a bit of an exaggeration. There is a right way to do it and it can be very effective. But it’s a very real possibility. Any time you say “do this or I walk” you absolutely have to be at peace with either outcome. Which means that it may very well be better to just walk because you have more control over the timing.

      1. Fashion*

        Exactly – you can’t give an ultimatum if you can’t afford one of the outcomes and most people can’t afford to leave their job with nothing else lined up. And if you have something else lined up, generally you’ve already made a commitment to go and it’s pretty bad practice to use a new job you’ve already accepted as leverage.

        LW did the smartest thing – take the jobs’ word for it that it wasn’t going to change, and apply for other jobs so there is something else lined up.

  41. frozen*

    I am so glad that you got an awesome new job, LW! I wish you and your partner the very best. And I’m so excited for you that you got such an awesome pay rise, too!

    Bosses like those at your old job never fail to baffle me, including what looks like a disconnect or miscommunication between the administration and the teaching faculty staff (who actually know what is going on).

    As for their statement that they wanted you to give them an “ultimatum” – what the what?! Why do employers (and governments!) never seem to remember the essential power imbalance between employers and employees? Utterly ridiculous.

    Having been the employee who was ill-treated and over-worked whose departure from the company brought management to a sudden, startling epiphany that what they were asking was impossible and unreasonable (not once, but twice), I can totally relate. The people who follow you in working with these people will likely have a far smoother ride, and will never know who to thank. But you have more than paid it forward, and I hope that good karma comes flooding your way!

  42. Anony-Mouse*

    Sounds like a wonderful outcome for you! I also lived & working at a boarding school for a year, but in a shared flat. My flatmate had to leave campus and visit her partner on weekends. While I was glad not to have her partner visiting the flat, I did feel bad that she had to leave just to see him. The school had similar policies as yours.

  43. Fashion*

    She wishes you gave them an ultimatum? How was that supposed to work if you didn’t have a job to go to? “Do this or I will leave (but I’m bluffing and I really hope you don’t)?” That places all the risk on you and none of them.

    You did exactly the right thing, LW. You don’t have to give jobs an ultimatum, they already knew you were unhappy about it and didn’t want to change it. It’s easy enough for them to say NOW “Oh we wish you would have given us an ultimatum” but would they have actually taken it seriously or appreciated it if they didn’t think you would follow through?

  44. RecoveringSWO*

    Congrats on the new job, OP! I know my comment is a little late but I hope that you can see this encouragement. My spouse left the boarding school world for private day school and the grass was very much greener! Not only is the pay better, but get excited to have so much more free time! No more dorm duty, less extracurricular requirements, and less time on campus in general.

  45. Kelly White*

    I seriously can’t imagine giving my employer an ultimatum at all.

    And if I were ever going to, I’d be prepared to walk (if needed).

    If they say something is non-negotiable, why would they expect me to negotiate it!

  46. bopper*

    Teacher: can I do the thing?
    Administration: No
    Teacher: okay i will find a place where i can do the thig
    Administration: Surprised Pikachu face! But you should have made us let you do the thing!
    Teacher: Byeeee

  47. Friendly Comp Manager*

    Is anyone else annoyed that they shirked their part in their failings all year, and put this back on OP because she “should have given an ultimatum?”

    Ultimatums are … tricky, and are usually lose-lose for an employee, who needs the job.

    I’m glad it worked out, but their entire perspective on this (even now) really bugs me.

  48. Ann Furthermore*

    OP, I’m glad the result was something that you were happy with.

    As someone who attended 2 boarding schools back in the Dark Ages (the 80’s), I can say that the rule about no overnight guests during the week is completely understandable, and if I were a parent considering boarding school for my kid, something I would want to know about. Based on your original letter, I’m assuming that you were a dorm parent.

    Back in my day, every dorm had 2 or 3 dorm parents who were also faculty and/or administrators. With married couples, both spouses both worked for the school in some capacity. There may have been some instances where one of them worked off campus, but in general, that’s how it was. Their apartments had direct access to the dorms — to be expected, when you’re responsible for supervising and looking after a bunch of kids. During the week, they were around quite a bit — checking to make sure we were in our rooms for study hall, making sure we were all in our rooms for lights-out, being available to help with homework or if someone needed to talk, and so on. On weekends we hardly ever saw the dorm parents at all. There were prefects (older students who got some additional privileges because they were more responsible) who would make sure everyone was back by the curfew, so the dorm parents were able to go off and do their own thing. There was a rotating on-call schedule, so one adult was always around, but it was understood that you left them alone unless it was an emergency.

    So you were living in a dorm, easily accessible to a bunch of underage girls. Having a guy stay overnight midweek isn’t a good idea. It just isn’t. Even though your boyfriend isn’t a gross, creepy pervert, and had no intention of doing anything improper, it is just a huge can of worms. What if a girl knocked on your apartment door only wearing a nightie? Or less — since it’s a girls’ dorm and the expectation is that there are no men around? What if an older girl decided she had a crush on him and tried to put the moves on him (which I’ve seen happen, and since it was the 80’s it resulted in multiple instances of students and teachers sleeping together)? And that’s just for starters. And for
    someone else’s boyfriend who *is* a gross, creepy pervert, then having easy access to a bunch of underage girls would be a dream come true.

    On the surface, it seems draconian and extreme. And the reasoning they gave you — basing it on religion and wanting you to be “present” for the students — is lame. But a boarding school is a place full of minors, and the people responsible for them need to exercise caution and due care to make sure they’re not compromising their safety and well-being.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      If they’d banned any and all overnight male visitors that might have been applicable. But it was just because they weren’t married. Or are married men immune to the stuff you stated?

Comments are closed.