managing an abusive manager, coworkers keep talking about my new luxury car, and more

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

1. I manage a manager who uses abusive language to employees

I have a manager who reports to me, but I recently realized he uses abusive language with his direct reports. His reports fear that if their manager knows they have reported this to me, it will create a further problem for them. I need help on how to give feedback to my manager without giving him the feeling that I came to know this from his team members.

I don’t know the details of exactly what you uncovered, but the first thing to ask yourself is whether you can keep him as a manager at all. Using abusive language toward employees is a sign that he’s an abusive manager in general, and there’s likely more going on that you don’t know about. (The fact that his employees were fearful of talking to you is another really bad sign.) If you haven’t already, I’d do some very in-depth conversations with everyone on his team, doing whatever you can to assure them they won’t face retaliation, and see what else is going on. You’re highly likely to uncover more problems.

As for addressing it with him, the most important thing is that you protect his employees from retaliation, not that you prevent him from knowing at all costs that they talked to you. If you can address this without him knowing that, you of course should — but if you can’t, you still need to address it head-on.

This isn’t just a feedback conversation, either. This isn’t a “development area” or anything like that. It’s serious, final warning territory. It’s “this must stop immediately and we will have a zero-tolerance policy on it going forward. This is extremely serious and I’m going to be managing you much more closely while we figure out if we can trust you to manage a team.” You also need to tell him that you’re going to be checking in with his employees regularly going forward, and if it comes out that he’s discouraged them from speaking with you candidly or penalized them for it in any way (even subtly), you’ll consider that an immediate firing offense. And you need to mean that, and follow through on it.

He also probably needs immediate remedial management training and much closer monitoring while you figure out if he can manage people or not. But I’d be awfully skeptical that he can. Abusive language and a climate of fear are usually just the tip of the iceberg.

2. Can I give employees feedback on the candidates they recommend?

We’re hiring for a handful of positions and many of the current team members are recommending candidates, which is amazing and a little challenging to navigate. When someone recommends their friend or former colleague for a role, naturally they can be curious about their recommendation’s status (we don’t have any incentives related to hiring, it’s just a welcome practice when someone knows a stellar candidate and refers them to our open jobs). I’m wondering what is or is not appropriate to share with employees about their referrals? If I didn’t end up wanting to hire someone, how candid can I be about my feedback? If I absolutely love the candidate, can I share that too?

That’s up to you! It can be helpful to share feedback because that can help people give you better recommendations in the future (for example, if they know you need someone stronger in X, they can refine their thinking accordingly). That said, there might be times when a particular piece of feedback feels like it would be more awkward than useful to share (“your close friend is arrogant and pushy”) or when your sense of the employee themselves is that they’d want to debate your decision. In those cases, you might just explain that the candidate pool was really competitive and others were stronger.

If you do share feedback, it’s smart to make sure people understand that it should be kept confidential, and that any feedback to candidates themselves should come from you. Otherwise there’s a risk of things getting garbling in the retelling (even if it’s just a nuance missed in a way that makes something inaccurate).

3. I’m annoyed with a company that canceled my interview but offered to talk about other positions

I recently applied for a job and received a reply saying they wished to interview me. I scheduled an interview, but before the interview date I received a generic communication saying they hired someone else and to look at future job postings as they occur.

I was annoyed since they didn’t even interview me for the job before hiring another person. In any case, I just counted the job as a loss, but then at the time we had scheduled, the hiring manager called for the interview. They left a message telling me they already hired someone for the job and to call them back to talk to them about a few other positions they have. I considered the way they did this disrespectful or at best distasteful. Is this kind of thing acceptable for a company? Maybe I was being too strict with my expectations as it concerns business manners?

This is all normal and not disrespectful or distasteful. If they found a great candidate before they’d interviewed you, there’s nothing wrong with them going ahead and hiring that person — they’re not obligated to hold off (and risk losing that person to another offer) until they’ve talked with everyone else in the interview pool.

The hiring manager offering to talk with you about other positions they have open is a good sign! Why not be open to talking with them and seeing if one of the other jobs might be a good fit for you? None of this is out of the ordinary or alarming.

4. Coworkers keeping commenting on my new luxury car

Two weeks ago I upgraded to a five-year-old used Infiniti luxury car. The brand wasn’t a factor in my purchase at all; the vehicle has the features I need and the price is eminently reasonable. Most of my coworkers drive trucks and SUVs which easily dwarf the price of my “premium” car.

The problem is you’d think I’d bought a gold-painted Bentley from how my coworkers have reacted. I’ve entertained a lot of hallway jokes and jealous side eyes in the last 14 days, so I’m curious if this is a human nature thing or if the cultural reaction I’m getting is unique to my particular workplace. Personally, I could give a hoot who drives what (fortunately my boss feels the same), but it’s clear this is not a universal perspective.

It’s pretty strange, but people are strange. Some people are especially strange about cars for some reason! I don’t think it’s entirely unique to your workplace, although there are plenty of workplaces (probably most) where no one would bat an eye. Regardless, though, I’d assume it’ll eventually become old news and you will once again be able to walk the halls without being treated like a Rockefeller.

5. Applying for a job where I don’t want to do as much travel as the job requires

I’m applying for a job that lists travel expectations as “up to 75 percent.” My dilemma is that while I worked for this office previously and truly enjoyed the work and travel, which at that point varied between 65 and 85 percent, I am at a different place in my life and am not prepared to regularly travel that often. However, I truly love the office and the work they do. I know I would love the job. My preference would be to travel around 40 percent and, on rare occasions, up to 75 percent.

Assuming I even get an interview, at what point during the process should I discuss travel expectations, both theirs and mine? I don’t want to bring it up too early and dissuade them from considering me, but I also don’t want to sign a job offer without having a discussion.

You’re talking about a sizable change in the amount of travel, so I’d bring it up before things go very far if it’s a definite deal-breaker for you. You’ve worked there previously, so you should have the standing to contact the hiring manager and ask about it directly. If for some reason that’s not possible, bring it up at the earliest contact — like in a phone screen or if, if there’s no phone screen, if they contact you to set up an in-person interview. I know you’re thinking bringing it up too early could knock you out of the running, but if your travel limitations are prohibitive for the role, it’s going to knock you out at whatever stage it comes up at (especially since they already know you and your work).

{ 423 comments… read them below }

  1. jesicka309*

    OP#3 – I think that Alison is right in that it’s pretty normal for the hiring manager to want to discuss other roles they have open. However, I think it is pretty rude to send a message saying they’d hired someone else, then still ring at the interview time as though nothing had changed!

    They should have emailed you to let you know that they’d hired someone else, but were interested in chatting about other roles, if the interview time still suited. Then at least you would have been available and prepared to talk when the interview time came around.

    1. albe*

      It can be automatic, unfortunately. the organisation I work for sends out rejection letters to all of the other candidates as soon as we select the first one, even if we’re hiring several people and know that we’ll have a second/third job available next week.

      It’s awful, because then you have to call and explain the situation and etc etc etc.

      1. yayee*

        that’s what i initially thought too with the generic communication and all. if OP wants to work for the company, it’s better to let it go and take them up for other offers anyway unless the original position is what OP is only going for

      2. Smithy*

        I’ve seen this happen in contexts outside hiring too – where the automated system lets you know immediately, even when folks want to speak with you first and explain a larger context.

        If it’s a large company that goes through a lot of hiring – or in my case, a grantmaker that receives a lot of proposals, it may be that having an opt out feature for some doesn’t exist or is a feature not entirely worked out.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, absolutely. This is normal at least in the private sector. I don’t know about the US, but at least in Finland where I am, hiring managers aren’t allowed to start interviewing before the application time has run out. It may even be possible that they aren’t allowed to look at the applications until the application time has run out. This is just part of the reason why hiring times for government jobs tend to be longer.

      I can imagine situations where it would feel insulting for the hiring manager to want to discuss other roles than the one you’ve applied for, particularly when the roles that are open are ones where the salary and responsibilities are much more entry level than the one you’ve applied for.

    3. Scrabble*

      It doesn’t sound rude. They knew OP might be free then and they rang and left a message.

      I don’t think it’s helpful to encourage OP to take this as some kind of slight when it isn’t.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Also the timing may have been partially by chance. The hiring manager likely made a mental note to re-contact LW3 after they filled the position, because even though they came into the process to late to get the job, the hiring manager found the application interesting enough to want to have at least an exploratory interview. The slot initially scheduled for the interview was possibly still free on the hiring manager’s schedule, and it would have been natural to tie up the lose end and call LW3 back.

        Sure, was it the ideal way, all things considered, to go about the communication? Possibly not. But LW3 should accept that hiring is a process no one in a large-ish organization has complete control over, and hiring managers themselves don’t necessarily have insight about the timing or content of communications that go to candidates who aren’t successful, this time around. How often do interviews start with an apology on the part of the hiring committee about *some* aspect or other they are quite aware isn’t how they’d like it to be, but that’s how things are.

        It’s about as much an insult as if the company had confusing signage at the guest parking lot with negative repercussions for a candidate.

      2. Less Bread More Taxes*

        “They knew OP might be free then”

        I mean, I guess, but it’s quite a stretch to assume the candidate left that slot open after the interview was canceled. I have a busy schedule – if the interview was scheduled during work hours, I’d be going back to my own boss and saying that my appointment was canceled and that I no longer need that time off. If it was after work hours, that means that I had to make room for it by neglecting other things I need to do, and I’d gladly refill that time with everything that has to be done after work hours. I certainly wouldn’t be just sitting on my laptop browsing the internet during that hour, and it’s strange for an interviewer to assume a candidate was going to do that when you are the one who canceled the meeting.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There’s no indication they did assume. They called, they got voicemail, they left a message. It’s not unusual for an employer to call without scheduling it in advance, and that doesn’t mean they’re assuming you’re waiting around for them.

          1. TootsNYC*

            right–they know the Letter Writer didn’t honor the appointment, and they still wanted to talk to them. That’s certainly what I would have done; I’d have assumed that they assumed the interview was off, and I wouldn’t hold it against them in the least. But I’d have still called, hoping they were available.

            My interest in a candidate is so seldom influenced by explainable or understandable glitches.
            I think the Letter Writer should have a similar attitude.

        2. JKateM*

          As a hiring manager myself if it was close to the interview time it would be because that’s when I had a free spot in my schedule. And if I had canceled the interview then I wouldn’t expect them to answer and I would just plan to leave a message.

          1. Knope Knope Knope*

            Yup! Or if I was still interested in OP and unsure if they received the cancellation email I would make the effort to still be in touch.

          2. TootsNYC*

            right–my calendar would have prevented other things from arriving, and I wouldn’t have actively canceled the appointment (I’d just figure I’d ignore it when the reminder popped up).

            So, up pops the reminder; nothing else is on my calendar; and I remember that I’d liked that person’s resume, and this is a good time to call.

            The interviewer didn’t seem upset to not find the Letter Writer to be available, so I can’t imagine that would hurt the Letter Writer’s chances.

        3. JSPA*

          I’d guess the interview popped up on the calendar, reminding them that they’d wanted to talk to OP about the other opening(s). And then, well, no time like the present, so they called.

          As OP didn’t look, OP doesn’t even know if the other openings are essentially identical, substantially the same, or unrelated. If they’re filling multiple related jobs and got a pile of qualified applicants from the first hard search, it makes sense that they’d start by recontacting the most highly qualified people from the first search to say, “check out the remaining jobs.”

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I wonder if the timing is even coincidental? That the point in a busy day where the manager squeezed in “Call OP to see if they are interested in other roles” just happened to be close to the time of the cancelled interview?

        1. londonedit*

          It could totally be coincidental. Or the manager could have had that time in their diary marked out for dealing with the current round of interviews/candidates, and called OP as part of that. I really don’t think there’s anything objectionable going on here. Companies often fill vacancies before they’ve finished interviewing, and surely it’s a good thing that they’re calling OP back to discuss potential other roles!

        2. Reba*

          Yes, I can see how that timing could sting for the OP — “hey, you guys were the ones who canceled on *me*” — but there is no reason to read it as insulting!

      4. Artemesia*

        The attitude that they are ‘owed’ an interview and taking offense at pretty routine business practice is not going to see the OP well as s/he continues to look for a job. S/he may have already blown the chance at this organization. It is a compliment not an insult when you are not the first choice but the organization is interested enough in your to explore other options. A chip on the shoulder and rigidity are not helpful in a job search which is miserable enough already.

      5. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, I thought it was odd at first but then I thought–well, they presumably had that time blocked off on their calendar for the interview so then when the interview was cancelled it became some free time… which was then a good time to make these types of calls! It doesn’t seem like they expected OP to pick up the phone and be ready to talk right then, so much as just reaching out to let them know they’d like to keep the conversation going.

    4. John Smith*

      +1. The only time it may be a concern is if they’re using bait and switch tactics (luring you with something attractive then then trying to get you to take something less desirable – something I’ve seen employment agencies try), though there’s nothing to suggest that is happening in this case.

      1. GiantPanda*

        The hiring manager didn’t say at all what other positions they wanted to talk about. Might be less desirable, completely the same or even more senior.

        1. Wintermute*

          That’s true but there’s a difference between what John Smith is talking about, I presume, and that. What he means, at least how I read it, is hiring agencies and shady companies that use nonexistent jobs to get applicants then pivot on them to a much, much less desirable job at a fraction of the pay– think “advertise for ‘marketing’ or even management and then try to offer a cold-call commissioned sales job.” or “show up for a ‘inside sales’ job and it turns out they’re an MLM.”

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, but you wouldn’t cancel those interviews. You have to get them farther in the door before switching.

      2. BeenThere*

        I’ve been through this so many times and it’s exactly where my head space jumped to when reading the letter. It’s absolutely frustrating because I’ve already made it clear there are only specific roles I’ll leave my job for and anything else is a hard no from me. I tell this to the recruiter, the hiring manager and anyone else who even looks like they have bright ideas about bait and switching me.

        Yet, every single time the other jobs on the tables are from the no list. This happens even after going to the effort of the full round of technical interviewing (multiple phone screens and full day white boarding algorithms). Usually they say we went with another candidate which is totally fine and they should end the sentence there. Instead they almost always follow with with and how would you like to interview for undesirable job X from your no list. I ask a few clarifying questions to confirm that this is indeed the a job from the no list and decline to waste my time further.

      3. jojo*

        My company has to post internally one week prior to public. Most of the time they are posting but have a hand picked person to promote this way. Then the job of the person that moved has to be filled. They are usually similar and differ in pay by 25 to 50 cents per hour. So, same candidate pool is good.

    5. M2*

      I had this happen to me once but they wanted to interview me for a role two rungs lower on when I was already at a Director level and had applied for a Managing Director role. They verbally told me I had the job so I think they assumed I gave notice so I had to take the role. Lucky for them I knew not to give notice until I had an offer and agreed on everything in writing! They wanted me to interview for a manager. I passed. After speaking with others I guess this was a tactic they used to fill positions. Ick!

    6. Leah*

      Yeah, I think the main issue is that letter- the generic nature especially, suggests the interview is cancelled. It would be much more thoughtful and effective to put out a quick personalized email or phone call explaining the position was now filled, but they’d like to still interview them and discuss some other open positions. I still like to be prepared for phone interviews and that means not in my pajamas, in the middle of a big project, about to eat, or in the supermarket. If the person thinks you’ve canceled, they will no longer plan to be ready at the scheduled time.
      I think it does demonstrate a possibly dysfunctional workplace, even if it’s a form letter automatically sent out as the hiring manager should have considered that this could confuse people and taken additional steps to work around it. That or the letter was also his idea and maybe it’s just a problem with HR/the hiring manager.

      1. Leah*

        Actually rereading it, they did make that call, but I do think it’s odd they canceled, then had to call again to try to schedule something. Maybe if it was a group interview and different team members would be involved based on the position? It still would have been better for them to call before the interview date to make sure this candidate understood what was going on.

  2. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – if the position requires 75% travel, the company means they expect high travel. If you apply, make sure that you find out about the travel expectations in the first conversation you have, and be very up front and honest about it, so that they can tell you whether or not what you have in mind will work for them and for you.

    It’s possible that the company is putting the busy season travel expectation on the job posting, and that there is lower travel through the rest of their business year, but it’s far more likely that they would have spelled this out, if the travel was high in some seasons rather than others. Advertising a position that has 75% travel is a big turnoff for most candidates, so they wouldn’t have put it there if it wasn’t a requirement of the position.

    OP#3 – don’t take it personally that the company hired someone before getting to you! It’s NOT personal. It’s a business decision. Many hiring managers want to make a decision from a slate of candidates, but not all do, and when the perfect candidate comes up early in an hiring process and there’s a chance of losing them, a hiring manager might very well decide to make an offer before meeting other candidates: no matter how amazing those other candidates are on paper, they have an amazing candidate they’ve already interviewed.

    The company had the courtesy to cancel your interview ahead of time, and the hiring manager obviously felt your experience was very interesting, or they wouldn’t have reached out. It’s in your best interests to be responsive to the hiring manager, even if it is just to make a contact for the future.

    1. Amaranth*

      I would lean towards seeing this as a compliment – OP’s application impressed them enough that they actively reached out to see if they could be recruited for another position. I’d guess the interviewer just hoped that was still a good time to catch OP on the phone.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Right? I would, too. I mean, they found someone else for this first role but they’re keeping me in the running for something else? Yeah, I’d see that as a compliment! They’re the ones putting in effort to keep me on the radar.

      2. TootsNYC*

        yes!
        If I’m rejecting someone and want to soften the blow, I might say “we’ll keep your resume on file” during that very conversation.

        But I am NOT going to initiate a conversation just to say that little platitude. Certainly not with someone I haven’t even interviewed.

        If I’ve gone to the trouble to reach out in a new conversation, that means I like their resume, even if I didn’t end up ever interviewing them for the first job. I have a lot to do–this extra effort means something.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I’ve never worked jobs that involve travel so I could be wrong, but doesn’t it matter that the posting said *up to* 75%? It seems like that could be similar to what LW is hoping for — usually less travel, and at the very busiest time you might spend 75% of [time period] traveling.

      1. pbnj*

        It may be worth asking clarifying questions to see if the what the typical amount is, and how often they’d be expected to travel 75%. It’s hard to tell when they include weasel words in a posting.

        1. Colette*

          I’d also want to know what the travel looks like. Is it 3 or 4 days a week? 3 weeks a month? Three months out of the year?

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I agree! 75% can mean so many things. I’ve had 2 jobs with that level of travel!

            One I was on the road constantly for about 3 months of the year, home on weekends. The other 9 months rarely left the office. Manageable (for me) and did it for 10 years.

            Another I averaged 21 nights a month in a hotel or our of town in some capacity. Lasted about 14 months.

        2. MassMatt*

          And this all assumes the business/hiring manager is honest and realistic about how much travel is required. It’s short-sighted, but some bad employers will say 20% travel only to then say you’re on the road half the time, if you don’t like it, leave. It’s best for both parties to be very up front about sticking points like these.

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            I once had a job that listed (IIRC) 20% travel. A few months into the job, I was chatting with a colleague and said “Oh I travel about 30% of the time”. My boss overheard and cut in to say “Well, more like 40-50%” (implying that I needed to be traveling more often).

            So yeah, however much travel is listed in the job posting, mentally double it.

      2. Helvetica*

        If she’s worked there before, as she says, then she should have a pretty good understanding of what it actually means, including where they travel (domestic/international) and for how long at a time. She even says it was 65-85% so I think there’s little reason for her to hope they would go down from it.

        1. Kes*

          Yeah, if OP worked there before and the travel was in a range around 75%, it very likely still is.
          What OP is asking would be a significant change, so it’s better to be up front and say “I’d be interested in this role but only with a lower level of travel – does it make sense for us to continue given that?” rather than going through the process only to reveal you were never willing to accept the position as advertised

        2. JSPA*

          Except, y’know, Covid experience, and a lot of people realizing that meetings can happen without travel, and that one’s head can be completely elsewhere (full day virtual meetings, full day virtual interviews, full day virtual tours) while one’s body remains at home.

          If she’s personally torquing bolts on windmills, then, no, the travel is what it is. But if she’s giving presentations or arguing contract details, then, quite possibly there’s 20% or more of them that can be done well–by the right person, who’s a known quantity–remotely.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      OP, try to picture it if you were that successful candidate, hearing back “We love you and intend to make an offer, but we need to interview for another three weeks. So maybe in four weeks?” And you have a couple of less attractive offers that aren’t going to wait a month to hear back from you.

  3. MassMatt*

    #1 I hope hope hope you address this with the gravity Alison recommends, and take the steps needed to rectify the situation. Too often terrible bosses like your manager get away with all sorts of awful behavior for YEARS because they are successful at making sure they only punch downwards. Your employees deserve better.

    It’s also worth examining your processes to make sure no one like this builds a little abusive kingdom of terror elsewhere in your organization. Drop in unexpectedly, attend meetings, talk to people’s subordinates. Maybe institute 360 reviews?

    1. random*

      Do the other things, but 360 reviews won’t get you honest feedback if those subordinates fear retaliation.

      1. John Smith*

        +1. Management in my department is terrible. As an employee subject to a manager like the one described, you will be doing your employees and yourself a massive favour by getting rid of this manager. Speaking from experience, no amount of reassurance is going to convince people that they are safe to speak up so long as this manager is there.

      2. MassMatt*

        Good point, but combined with the other action steps (including getting rid of the abusive manager) 360 reviews can keep something like this from developing elsewhere.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Drop in unexpectedly, roam the halls and the floor. That’s the way to catch this kind of crap as it happens.

    3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I’ve had to deal with managers who are abusive. I even gave two of them the benefit of the doubt. That burned me…and the people they managed. We lost outstanding employees who couldn’t work under the abuse (two later become CEOs of competitors).

      OP1, you don’t need to manage this person. You need to remove them from management roles, and if necessary, from your company.

      1. move on*

        I am going to give a different perspective on #1. As a manager I was accused of abusive management, abusing patients, being “scary”, basically running a reign of terror. The employees fabricating this nonsense were stealing from the organization and were trying to deflect attention from their activities. They were trying to remove me because I actually did my job instead of turning a blind eye to their illegal activities. As my attorney stated – look for sex, money, or drugs if people are acting like this. Since my company decided that the girl gang must be right – they let me go. I ended up receiving a huge financial settlement from their error. And they got to deal with the DEA and state regulatory agencies.

        1. EmKay*

          Surely even after having lived through such an experience, surely you realise that it is an outlier, and by that I mean WAY out there,

          1. pancakes*

            Likewise firing someone on allegations like these without doing any sort of investigation (“my company decided that the girl gang must be right”), and then paying a huge settlement as a result. There are people that run their businesses this way, yes, but it’s not standard, and if they had halfway-decent counsel they’d be strongly advised not to.

            1. DyneinWalking*

              But no-one’s talking about firing without investigations! The reason so many people talk about firing the manager is that OP is barely even considering the option! (and, in fact, perfectly willing to assume the manager will indeed retaliate…) If OP had said that they were prepared to fire the manager instantly, answers would be different and concentrate on “please make sure these allegations are right and that you go through all the proper processes”.

              But that’s not the issue here. The issue is that OP seems to seriously underestimate the potential fallout of keeping an abusive manager in their role, so people list the costs of bad management in detail.

        2. JSPA*

          If you’re the person being accused, and you know you’re innocent, then it makes sense to look for those sorts of motivations.

          But absent that inside view, abusive managers are more common than “sex and drugs rings at work.”

          If you’re medical, there’s more drug access, I suppose. But even in a medical setting, “payback from drug and sex gang” would not be a rapid first guess.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      +1 to ‘Drop in unexpectedly’ and try to do it in a way / at a time where you can hear this manager without him knowing you’re there. That takes away his chance to deny it.

    5. Artemesia*

      This was a great answer from Alison. This is an emergency not a moment for training. A person who is poor at providing feedback or too micro managey or too hands off might benefit from feedback and training. Someone who is abusive needs to be demoted or fired before he does more damage.

    6. Wine Not Whine*

      OP1 didn’t mention the size of the employer/department involved, but if it’s a small one a 360 review can be counterproductive. The one time that OldJob tried doing them, I knew exactly where every comment I received came from.
      This “manager” needs to be dealt with strongly and immediately.

    7. Still trying to adult*

      LW1, if this manager does it to their own group, they probably have a reputation with others, too. You can discretely sniff around other departments and get their impressions.

      I’m almost 40 years past a major manager at a factory, he was not in my chain of command, but he seemed to take delight in taking pot-shots at all other depts & persons. The general response was “Oh, that’s just the way he is.” And he had been there a long long time. Most everybody else had too. So it was even easier to shrug it off.

      But he was abusive enough that he did these things in front of vendors and such – airing dirty laundry, insulting others. One time I saw it I was really really embarrassed that a potential big vendor had to witness it.

      Do what you need to do to try to rehabilitate this guy (unlikely) or get him out. Once he’s gone, help his direct reports heal from the trauma.

    8. No Ragrets*

      This. And I think skip-level meetings can be better than 360 reviews, BUT in any case employees have to be able to trust that the GrandBoss will crack down on the Boss and protect the employees from retaliation. Too often, management makes noises about zero tolerance but doesn’t actually dole out consequences for abusive bosses.

      LW is already trending in the wrong direction by framing it as “feedback” and approaching the situation as if they have no power. If the only way to prevent Boss from retaliating against employees who reported abusive conduct is by LW pretending to have found out some other way, then management is dysfunctional and Boss needs to be fired.

  4. Wintermute*

    #1– This is one of the few times I think the advice doesn’t go far enough. I understand it may not be entirely within your control, but your manager has created a culture of fear on their team. Good people are going to be actively trying to leave already, the atmosphere is already poisoned. This is summary termination territory, and if your company has at all a reasonable employee handbook and decent upper management, you shouldn’t face many obstacles to doing so.

    Allowing someone like this in your company is an existential risk. “the asshole tax” is very real, there’s a high, high hidden cost to employing jerks. I call the result “the grease trap effect”: employees that have options, highly desirable skills, or exceptional performance will leave. Leaving you with the average and below-average ones that find it harder to move on. So you hire in replacements, but word gets around, people talk, you find it harder to get and keep good candidates. Now your average performers are sick of dealing with a bad boss and bad co-workers, so they start leaving. You hire more, and take whatever you can get, and good employees leave while you get stuck with a team that’s becoming more and more dysfunctional.

    Abusive language and a culture of fear on a team are not easy from a manager to come back from. People who know about it are forever going to wonder if their boss is only being reasonable because someone above him is holding him in line, and fearing that one day that won’t continue leaving them with an abusive boss who is also resentful and vengeful. There’s always going to be that fear, poisoning the environment, preventing the kind of vulnerability and honesty that makes a team learn and grow together. People withdraw, they mirror that hostility they see or they adopt defensive tactics like disengaging emotionally or avoiding confrontation. And avoiding confrontation can mean when there are problems you don’t hear about them until they’re BIG problems because no one wants to speak up and put a target on their back.

    And beyond that, there’s also a moral consideration here, people deserve a safe workplace and bullying should not be tolerated, and abusive language IS bullying. Does tolerating bullying and not putting it to right fit with your values? I would imagine it probably doesn’t. Are you okay with your workplace doing real harm to people’s mental health?

    1. Julia*

      I agree with this. I don’t ever advise this, but LW 1, you need to just fire this guy. Maybe this would be grounds for a final warning if he were using abusive language with coworkers at his level, but with direct reports? He needs to be gone yesterday.

      In the interest of some bare minimum of fairness I’d basically give him one conversation to try to credibly refute the allegations, but unless he comes out with, like, concrete proof that they’re all lying, he’s gone. You can’t have this on your team.

      1. Well...*

        In my experience with abusive language, it escalates slowly. By the time someone crossed an overt line, you’ve been dealing with months of subtle gray-area ways they have been using to signal aggression/contempt. You’re wondering why this person hates you or why you keep getting such negative reactions.

        Basically by the time you have something concrete to explain the wild situation you are in, you’re already not in an environment where you can do your best work. A lot of damage has already been done.

        1. Pickled Limes*

          This is so true. The other piece of it is that experienced abusers often know exactly where the line is and are careful about when and how they cross it. A few years ago my former coworkers and I spent months gathering evidence to report our abusive boss to HR, and for every incident we reported, there were three more that we didn’t, because while we knew exactly what Boss had meant by it, we knew an outside observer wouldn’t understand why it felt like such a big deal.

          OP, don’t just focus on the actual incidents of your employee using abusive language. That’s the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the iceberg is the atmosphere he created by walking close enough to the abuse line to cause harm without actually crossing it in a way that would be obvious to outside observers.

          1. BeenThere*

            All of this and I wish I known about this a long time ago. Bosses like this know the line, I raised something to a director that I previous had a fabulous relationship with about the new engineering manager they’d brought on and put us all under. The response was telling “that’s not enough to get him fired”, “he has done lots of good work”. The abuse at this point had affected my performance and abusive manager was still permitted to complete my performance review after I announced I was leaving. He retaliated in my review and I didn’t have anyone to back me. So yeah, direct reports are not going to say anything bad about the person that controls their career.

            1. Self Employed*

              My apartment company pretty much has a policy of letting their property managers harass tenants as long as they don’t put it in writing or do it in front of the person’s support network.

        2. Dagny*

          I concur. In a previous job from hell, the subtle garbage drove off my predecessor within weeks. By the time it got to the point wherein my co-workers were bringing it up with my grand-boss, I could not eat or sleep. “Abusive language” happened exactly five days before I was retaliated against for reporting.

          LW1 needs to understand that s/he is paid to put a stop to this. Part of why managers get a nice salary and title is that their job description includes having the judgement and spine to remove people underneath them who are abusing their subordinates.

    2. Tali*

      Agreed! OP, your biggest concern seems to be “how do I police this guy’s language without penalizing his victims”. But isn’t it strange that you giving feedback to someone you manage could cause them to retaliate against their subordinates? That is not normal! Your grand-subordinates are being bullied and afraid of speaking up about it!

      If you do not act swiftly to fire the manager and repair relationships with that team, you will damage your reputation with them as well. After all, you didn’t notice up until now, and if you do nothing when you find out–I certainly would not trust you.

      1. Lance*

        Not just that, but OP appears so concerned about this manager retaliating… when OP themself is their manager. It is very much within their power to put a stop to that — as they very much should, and keep a close eye on things, as others have said, no matter all else.

        OP, simply speaking: you are the one with the power here. It’s ultimately up to you how to use it, but you absolutely have to use it.

        1. Lilo*

          Yeah that stuck out to me too. Lw doesn’t seem to feel they have agency here. But you’re this person’s supervisor OP, so supervise. If your organization won’t let you take disciplinary action or manage your subordinates, you have bigger problems.

      2. Pickled Limes*

        “If you do not act swiftly to fire the manager and repair relationships with that team, you will damage your reputation with them as well.”

        This is correct. I mentioned my experience with an abusive boss above. I ended up leaving that job not long after making the report, because my grandboss and the people on her team didn’t do anything about the information we gave them. Abusers are bad. People who know what those abusers are doing and don’t do anything to stop them are also bad and I decided I didn’t want to work for them anymore.

        OP, do you want to be thought of as an enabler of abusers or as a protector of abuse victims? That’s the choice that’s in front of you right now.

    3. Maggie*

      Wintermute has articulated this so well. I once worked at a place where I was fearful of retaliation, and the whole place was rotten from the inside out and I truly thought it was a miracle the place was still standing. All of the other employees on my site had been there for more than 7 years, and they all acknowledged things were awful, but they were too complacent/Stockholm syndromed to leave and only my position seemed to have any turnover–and the turnover was constant. I made it only a few months before realizing I had to get out and felt lucky to quit before getting sucked in long term. I reported my boss for ethics violations on the way out, and she was investigated but eventually promoted as a way of moving her off site. Don’t be this kind of employer. Just like wintermute said, this is a fungus. It will spread.

      1. Wintermute*

        I really like the “fungus” analogy– both because it dodges the more-common but problematic ones that are common like “cancer” and because it says some deeper things about the situation.

        Much like mold, by the time you SEE it, you need major remediation, because the stuff you can’t see behind the wall is shot through. Also much like mold any attempt to clean up that doesn’t entirely excise the problem is not a resolution it’s just kicking the can down the road while it gets worse. Also much like a mold infestation it may seem like no big deal if you’re not being directly impacted, but it will eventually make the environment toxic.

    4. MJ*

      Excellent post. ( ━☞´◔‿ゝ◔`)━☞

      The well is well and truly poisoned if the OP is worried about retaliation. The fear is already at Defcon 2 and the OP is talking about trying to avoid Defcon 1. But the only way to avoid Defcon 1 is to fire the abusive manager. Stop playing.

    5. Ellie*

      I agree that the manager needs to be fired, but I wonder why you’re not considering that already? Does he have some kind of institutional knowledge that you think you can’t do without? Another option might be to move him into a position (or create one) where he doesn’t have anyone reporting to him. You can see if he does any better while still protecting his team, and showing them that abusive language will not be tolerated.

      If you can’t protect the source of the complaints, can you emphasize that you’ve had multiple complaints from multiple people? So he doesn’t just think that its one person. But you should warn him about retaliating and be watching for it anyway.

      1. Skippy*

        Employee safety has to come first, no matter how much institutional knowledge he may have.

        If I were one of those direct reports it would make me very queasy to see my abuser still working at the company, even if he did have a non-supervisory job.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes. And it’s hard to imagine one person having such incredible, irreplaceable, specialized knowledge that would justify keeping them in these circumstances. No one is so valuable as to earn the right be abusive. Even a wildly gifted surgeon can be replaced with another wildly gifted surgeon.

            1. pancakes*

              Never seen it. I did have a long, innovative, and delicate surgical procedure done by the guy who pioneered it, but even he had a partner. They’ve since split and both do it in separate practices. Presumably both are training others to as well.

        2. alienor*

          An abusive former boss of mine got promoted to move him away from our department, which he’d been overseeing for several years. I still get an automatic shudder when I see him or hear his voice, even through a computer screen, and it happens often because our department works on a lot of projects with his new one. He has a whole new set of direct reports, and I’ve noticed a suspicious amount of turnover in that area, so I’m sure he hasn’t changed.

      2. Wintermute*

        The things you’re describing are exactly why “the asshole tax” was written and is talked about. People consider the tangible cost– loss of knowledge, hiring costs, etc. etc.– but they rarely consider the very real and very serious intangible costs: the “asshole tax” you pay for employing jerks.

        The data are clear, no amount of value brought in to the company that is less than “this guy is why we all have jobs” is worth employing a bully.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        And if he does have that kind of institutional knowledge, then your workplace has a documentation and information-sharing deficit that you need to address.

        But institutional knowledge shouldn’t come at the expense of employees’ well-being.

        1. MassMatt*

          Yeah, I never bought the “he’s awful, but no one else can run the TPS reports” argument that comes up in cases of terrible employees. Even in places where someone’s production (say in sales, or law) is very measurable, a great salesperson shouldn’t be able to act like Harvey
          Weinstein. And abusive people are rarely as good as they think they are, or try to convince other people they are.

          I would REALLY like an update on this letter!

          1. Sparkles McFadden*

            Oh yes…update please…

            There really is no such thing as an indispensable employee. It’s just bad management. A good guideline is that if you are afraid of what will happen if a certain employee leaves (or if you are afraid to talk frankly to that employee, or afraid of what will happen if you get the employee mad), it’s a pretty good sign you have an issue you need to address.

            I once replaced a guy who was moving across the country and he was trying to convince his manager that he could do everything remotely. It was not the type of job where you could do that, but he was convinced they couldn’t do without him. The guy was supposed to train me (over the phone) for two weeks. On the first day, he called and said “I need to keep this job so I’m not going to train you. I’ll say I’m trying to train you and you’re not getting it. It’s nothing personal, but I want to keep working and you can’t do the job if I don’t train you, so you’ll get fired anyway.” I reported that to my new boss. She cut off his remote access immediately. We did great without him because he wasn’t great at the job and, more importantly, everyone hated him so much it was like a fog had lifted once everyone knew he was gone.

            1. Regular Human Accountant*

              Well, that was bold of him. Did he honestly not think you might mention that conversation to your new boss?!

              1. MassMatt*

                He probably thought he was so valuable and trusted that his word vs: that of a new hire would win out. It’s a good thing the manager acted promptly, that guy sounds like a real piece of work, what a crappy thing to plan to do.

        2. Lora*

          Even in the case of institutional knowledge – stick him in a closet by himself where he won’t be around other humans. Remove all his reports to someone else, until you can get this magical information down on paper and show him the door. His new job is writing stuff down and creating training programs for this special information nobody else knows, and if he balks at that, okay, the door is unlocked, he’s free to leave.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This is what I did with my problem manager – they don’t have institutional knowledge, but they have a high-level, niche expertise (maybe a dozen qualified people in the entire country, all happily employed) that will take years for someone else to cultivate. They now manage processes (at which they are exceptional) and no people.

            They were not, however, abusive. That’s a hard no, and HR would not even have asked me before terminating if someone was routinely using abusive language with their team. They’d also want to know why I didn’t know about/do something about it.

    6. Amaranth*

      Agreed. Standing by just sends the message that upper management doesn’t care about ‘regular’ workers at all. And if my boss won’t stop verbal abuse, what other behavior will they let slide because they don’t want to rock the boat, an abusive employee is productive, etc.

      I wonder if OP doesn’t have the power to fire, and really needs some guidance on how to take this up the chain.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Even if he doesn’t have the power to fire, he does have the power to stop the abusive behaviour and make sure it doesn’t continue. If the bullied employees see the higher level managers doing nothing that’s when the exodus starts and the toxic workplace Glassdoor reviews begin.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        “ I wonder if OP doesn’t have the power to fire, and really needs some guidance on how to take this up the chain.”

        This is my impression of the situation – that the OP is a manager above the situation, but that they know they can’t just fire the abusive boss on their own wherewithal, and has to take it to someone above them. That makes the thoughts about worrying about reprisals make a lot more sense as well – reprisals against the employees that reported the bad behavior to the upper managers.

      3. Observer*

        I wonder if OP doesn’t have the power to fire, and really needs some guidance on how to take this up the chain.

        The problem here is that the OP is not even CONSIDERING it. The question is not “How do I get my superiors to agree to firing? or “How do I protect staff till I go through the hoops we require in order to fire someone?” Not “How do I get him to stop this?” It’s not even “Am I over-reacting? Or is abusive language as bad as I think it is?” It’s “How do I nudge him to reconsider his behavior?”

        Not only is the OP not even considering firing, they don’t even seem to see that they need to REQUIRE this guy to stop being abusive.

    7. WoodswomanWrites*

      Hear hear. The manager gets a chance to share his story with you and beyond that, he should be gone yesterday. I’m struck here by what appears to the OP giving the manager too much power to continue the behavior, rather than taking charge and being an advocate for the targets of his bullying. No performance improvement plan can work in this situation. OP, he needs to be removed on behalf of your team’s employees. This has the added benefit of improving morale on the team when they know their concerns were taken seriously and proactively addressed.

    8. Dezzi*

      Agree 1000%. LW, think about this: if his direct reports are terrified of retaliation for speaking to you, and you’re afraid he’ll retaliate against them….do you think they’re *ever* going to trust him again, even if you can get him to behave perfectly from now on? Spoiler alert: they won’t.

      You cannot resolve this situation with anything other than firing this guy immediately of immediately moving him into a non-management role and trying (I say “trying” because you’re very likely to fail at this) ensuring he doesn’t retaliate against his former team for it.

      Speaking of his team: they are holding their breaths and watching you like hawks right now. Whether you keep any of them (at this point, keeping any of them is the best you can hope for) depends entirely on what you do in the coming days. If you do anything other than firing him or immediately removing him from having any kind of authority over other people, you’re telling them loudly and clearly that you don’t care about their safety and well-being, and anyone who has options will be out the door the instant they get an offer somewhat else.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Excellent point. OP1, this manager is your direct report. How he acts, especially once you are aware of the situation, is a reflection on YOU—both your management style and your leadership. If you don’t remove him from management, your team (and maybe your peers and supervisors) will see you as enabling this behavior.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          One other thought: OP1, did you inherit this manager or did you hire them? If the former, was this once a peer/colleague? If the latter, are you giving them so much leeway because you don’t want to admit you may have made a hiring mistake? Either way, if they are seen as part of OP1’s inner circle, then the team will assume you not only tolerate these behaviors, you may hire for them.

      2. turtleturtleturtle*

        Dezzi’s final paragraph needs to be bolded, italicized, underlined, and circled with glitter pen. 1 million percent this.

    9. A Pinch of Salt*

      Seriously…ditch this guy. I worked for two abusive bosses in a row…there’s a word for them—it’s “bully”. I suffer from imposter syndrome now, and one of my former co-workers still has nightmares of our boss 3 years after leaving.

      Other commenters have mentioned the downstream costs of losing good employees. You also lose good potential employees because I’ve been talking smack to anyone that asks since I left, highly discouraging anyone from applying, and being a reference for anyone who wants to leave. Both of former boss bullies have had openings in their cushy, well paying teams for years and face 100% turnover every couple of years.

      Plus, I threw my entire management team under the bus in my exit interview. My boss and allllll the way up the chain. If not for your employees, ditch him because someday, you will be the one answering and accountable for his behavior.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        I’d discourage the use of “throwing under the bus” in a case like yours…
        As I and many other people understand it, it means something like “designate a scapegoat to evade responsibility” (I always imagine someone staring in horror at a bus speeding towards them, then jumping out of the lane and pushing someone else into the lane as an alternative sacrifice). It has a bad connotation for all the right reasons!

        But from what you write, this wasn’t your situation at all, because a) you weren’t,/i> responsible for the issues, and b) the people you pointed out were responsible. That’s not throwing someone under the bus, that’s a legitimate attempt to redistribute responsibility correctly!

    10. Dust Bunny*

      Agreed. This isn’t a “quirky management style that isn’t working for the team”: This is abuse, and subordinates are afraid. This person needs to be disciplined, like, yesterday, and removed if they push back. This is past “how do I manage this person?” territory and into “What do I need to do to stop this, and if that doesn’t work what documentation do I need to fire this person?” territory.

      Subordinates or not, your loyalty should be to the people who *aren’t* abusing their coworkers.

      1. Observer*

        This is past “how do I manage this person?” territory and into “What do I need to do to stop this, and if that doesn’t work what documentation do I need to fire this person?” territory.

        Exactly!

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      The flip side of “Where are these companies where you can’t get fired for anything?” is that they are filled with awful employees–the non-awful ones leave.

    12. Sara without an H*

      Very well put. OP#1, you need to get this guy out of here. You sound very hesitant to actually meet your responsibilities as a manager — why? Are you new at management? Do you see it as your responsibility to “fix” people who report to you? Does your company culture make it difficult to discipline or fire poor performers? Is this manager perceived as having high value knowledge? (Many such reputations are exaggerated, btw, and fall apart on investigation.) Please do some hard thinking about why you asked Alison for tips on giving “feedback” in a situation that involves such egregious misbehavior.

      You need to consult your HR department and brief your own manager on what you’ve discovered. If your workplace culture is such that you can’t fire anybody without extensive documentation, then start documenting. Start with the incident that made you aware of the abusive language. Have a meeting with the offensive manager and document it in writing. You should have someone from HR and/or your own manager sit in on this. Going forward, you need to sit in on all team meetings and performance reviews. You should get copies of all the performance reviews your bully report has done for his own team and review them. You will probably find a lot of things that he can’t support with documentation.

      I’m going into a lot of detail on this because I’ve spent my career in places where, while it’s not impossible to fire people, you need a lot of supporting evidence. It’s helpful to have it, even if your company culture is such that you can fire at will.

      But you need to get moving on this. Your grand-reports are watching you. Get this dude out of there and you will have the most loyal team on the face of the planet. If you hesitate, make excuses, and use band-aid approaches, you’ll become another in the long line of AAM posts about “Our manager is horrible, senior leadership knows and does nothing.”

      Don’t be that senior leadership.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        OP, what Sara wrote is spot-on. If you still feel reluctant/indecisive after all the feedback you’ve received, dig through the older AAM posts on abusive managers. There are plenty of bad examples of upper management, but also some examples of good ones, and altogether the posts might give you a better insight into the trouble that bad management can cause.

        Note that the most common updates to those bad management posts are “I left and couldn’t be happier”.

        1. Kateau*

          I don’t know how large this company is. Where I work, the manager would refer this to HR for immediate investigation and take action based upon the results of that investigation. We might also put the allegedly abusive manager on immediate paid leave until that investigation is completed.

    13. PT*

      I agree, but the time I was involved in helping get rid of problem managers (twice, in one year) they both still had to go through the company’s process for termination. Warnings, writeups, coaching, prior to termination. It was the protocol for terminations. There was no way to go around it.

      My role was subject-area expertise, so what I was doing was helping the problem manager’s manager, who supervised several departments, say teapots, llamas, and porridge, identify all of the nuances of the situation; there wasn’t much I could do but say, “This is what’s wrong so you’ll need to be sure to capture all this in your documentation.” In many cases they needed first-person testimony for any of it to count.

      1. Observer*

        I agree, but the time I was involved in helping get rid of problem managers (twice, in one year) they both still had to go through the company’s process for termination. Warnings, writeups, coaching, prior to termination. It was the protocol for terminations. There was no way to go around it.

        The thing here is that the OP missed step one – the fact that this NEEDS TO STOP and it is THEIR responsibility to make it happen! If it takes time, so be it. And if that’s the issue, then what the OP should have been asking is how to navigate a situation where a manager needs to be fired but there is this road that needs to be traveled to make it happen. NOT “how convince this jerk to stop being a jerk”?

    14. Archaeopteryx*

      And you can’t think of abusive language like how it would feel for you if a peer directed it at you. Coming from someone with power over you, abusive language is abuse.

    15. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      At one job I had a really nasty verbally abusive boss. It was well known thru our department and nearby departments. (who could hear her) She had multiple complaints against her in which HR went mild. Once an entire team expressed concern concern for how she raised her voice to me in a meeting. All of this was documented to HR who didn’t even bother to respond. New big wig directors eventually came in and started a change the culture program. Verbally Abusive Boss got really nervous and had some kind of epiphany. Suddenly she started visually trying to be nicer. Greeted people in the hallway. Was almost friendly even. She still was transferred to another department anyway. That department instantly began having massive retirements and people accepting new jobs off that team. I think she probably honestly tried to change but didn’t have any manager skills (besides being unpleasant to get her way) to fall back on. I am a lowly admin but I took the company’s leadership course as it was free and meant I wasn’t at my desk 1 morning a month. It basically taught us how bad most of the old management was.

      1. J.B.*

        That’s very true. The bully manager where I worked had fear and nothing else in his toolbox.

    16. Anon for this*

      Two years ago I left a unit within my current organization that is managed by a bully. The unit has now turned over completely since I left and now I’m hearing that she’s set her sights on newer employees to bully. We continually lose fantastic employees to external organizations because of this woman, and if it wasn’t for being part of the rare pension retirement plan, I probably would leave because I have very little faith in executive management to deal with issues like this. I was literally having panic attacks and discovered the same about one of my coworkers at the time. Don’t stand for this, OP, please.

    17. JSPA*

      While I’m kind of glad we didn’t get examples…without examples (or perhaps even with them) we don’t quite know if one person’s “abusive” is another person’s “curt and clipped” or “failed attempt at humor” or “someone on the verge of burnout or having medical issues who’s not normally like this and needs an intercession and vacation.”

      If this is a pattern, the boss’s boss absolutely must act. I’d suggest sending the manager home with pay, and bringing in someone else (or taking the reins directly, for a week) to get a sense of how bad the problem is.

      Two reasons: one, the obvious, find out how bad it was. The other? Well, it’s possible for a manager to be abusive, AND for some of the people under them to be undertrained, incompetent, or crooked or abusive in their own right. If someone knows they are tough to employ, then sticking with an abusive manager is more appealing. Being around abuse can normalize abuse. And there’s that odd creature, the short-fused would-be savior, who keeps people who should be fired out of a sense of personal responsiblity, then blows up at them when they disappoint.

      For all those reasons, kicking out the named “abusive manager” doesn’t necessarily right the ship. Sometimes you need to pump the bilge, and apply the winches.

    18. LizardOfOdds*

      Came here to say this. I agree with Alison that there’s likely a lot more under the surface that OP1 hasn’t heard yet, but I’m not sure this is a situation where OP1 should try to investigate and implement a disciplinary response on their own. Ideally an HR investigator (or another third-party investigator hired by the company) can do a thorough investigation into what’s really going on here, provide findings to OP1, and then OP1 can make a determination about whether they need to terminate immediately, do a final written warning, or deal with some other team issue that was uncovered in the investigation.

  5. lyonite*

    OP #4: There definitely seem to be cars that read “luxury” to people in a way that’s entirely divorced from the sale price. My younger brother, for some reason, has an affinity for giant American sedans of the Lincoln/Cadillac variety (what can I say, I come from a long line of eccentric people), which can often be had used for less than a new hatchback. But, like you, people react to them as though he spent an entire year’s salary, because of the associations of the brand/ styling. People are weird.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      I wonder if it would be useful to tell people how much you paid for the car, just so they know their initial impression was way off.

      1. Despachito*

        Yup, you might be right, although I internally cringe about having to release information which is no one’s business to get them off my back.

        My friend once had a coworker in a fairly junior position who bought a third-hand car which is considered fancy and luxury, and it created a lot of resentment among his coworkers – the make was apparently far above the pecking order.

        I personally find things like “there are status differences in car makes and make X is OK if you are a manager but if you are a peon, it will be very much frowned upon and you will possibly face a covert retaliation” extremely stupid and petty, but it seems that at least somewhere it is A THING. Ugh.

          1. Greg*

            COMPLETELY unrelated and in no way suggesting OP is doing this. This just reminded me of a story.

            I was looking to buy a company about 10 years back and went to the warehouse to meet with the principal. I complimented the BMW in the parking lot, and he said, “That’s actually my assistant’s. I didn’t realize I paid her that much ha ha ha.”

            Well, he was correct. During due diligence we discovered she had skimmed about $3M over the course of 23 years (give or take).

            1. Chestnut Mare*

              There was a fantastic article in Texas Monthly titled “Just Desserts” about an accountant who embezzled an incredible amount of money from the DeLuxe Fruitcake Company in Corsicana.

              1. Greg*

                Just read it – the funny thing is what the guy at the end suggested, to invest it, repay it and then keep the earnings, is exactly what she did. We know the exact amount because unlike the business she kept meticulous notes. She shoveled it into investment vehicles, keeping very little by way of cash. I think she got a year or two probation, had to pay back the money with some interest, and still ended up with 7 figures in addition to her 401k.

                And when the guy found out? “But she was always so nice! Brought me a cake every year on my birthday…”

            2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

              HOW does that happen!? You hear about this kind of thing all the time, but I never understand how that works. Sure, you could skim for a month or two, before someone does the quarterly reconciliations, maybe…. Maybe you could submit some questionable *small* expenses over a long time and get away with it. But large amounts, and for years? It’s wild to me. It’s like people pay zero attention to their books.

              1. Greg*

                Fairly small family company, woman trusted by the family, no true accounting team. We found out she had been requesting petty cash for years on behalf of her bosses, the guy I bought the business from and his father. Something they did regularly so it wasn’t out of the ordinary.

                Another business I bought had a similar issue. When the drivers cashed out every day, there was a no questions asked policy if they were within $10 of their invoice total. When I let them know their collection had to be spot on and they were responsible for any shortages they were…well, unhappy.

              2. Xenia*

                I did a thesis project in this exact thing! It boils down to a couple of root causes.

                1. Small businesses don’t usually want to invest a lot into their admin because they want to grow their profit sectors. This tends to leave the financial department understaffed and/or staffed by less competent folks. CPAs are expensive.

                2. Understaffed is actually a huge problem because the majority of effective financial controls against fraud operate on the basis of separation of duties (ie, no one person had control over all the money).

                3. Small businesses in particular can act as if putting fraud controls/getting an audit is shooting their finance person in the back. “How could you possibly imply they’re thieves? They’ve been with us for years/we trust them/they’re my brother’s daughter’s friends uncle twice removed, they’re like family!”

                4. The accounting software most accessible to small businesses is designed to be easy to use. This does not always mean that it is secure. QuickBooks is particularly infamous because up until recently there was nothing like a track changes feature and the user could just delete or change transactions without anyone ever knowing. More professional software is a massive PITA to use because it’s designed to have no undo or edit features because you don’t want people to be able to edit a company’s books easily, which makes it hell on earth to learn.

              3. Xenia*

                And I hit post too early on my past comment, so here’s the last bit.

                5. Small business owners tend to be bad at actually running a business. More often than not they’ve got a decent product or concept, but they have no knowledge of finances or supply chains or how to manage or any other of the admin things required to actually run a functioning business.

                So in short: lack of experience, lack of funds, and too much trust all result in small businesses being defrauded more often and for larger median amounts than the average publicly traded company (source: ACFE’s biannual fraud report).

                1. Not Today Satan*

                  I’d also like to add in Bad Auditors. We had an office manager who misused funds. I got doctored statements and the network person told me that office manager’s computer was legitimately crashing. I had two CPAs on the board who reviewed all financials every month and I had the office manager present to answer any questions.

                  We also had a yearly audit. Which I found out after the fact basically rubber stamped what ever she presented. I raised a stink about that. I had two other accountants review the audits and they both told me that I should sue for malpractice. It didn’t happen because the board member CPAs didn’t want to harm another firm.

            3. 2horseygirls*

              Shades of Rita Crundwell and the $53.7 million she embezzled from the city of Dixon, Illinois.

              The documentary movie about the fraud, “All the Queen’s Horses”, is really well done.

              Google her name, and many really well-researched articles will come up.

              It was a similar situation – small town, grew up into the role, kept boxes of meticulous records of the embezzlement in her basement.

              1. pancakes*

                This sounded familiar and I was wondering if it was a case I read about, but it isn’t! The one I read about happened in Armstrong, Iowa, and too recently for a documentary to be made yet. The mayor, police chief, city clerk, and former city clerk were charged with embezzling money for years – “misappropriating city funds, producing fraudulent public records, [and] using a TASER on a civilian in exchange for cash and concealing embezzlement.”

              2. Lucious*

                In Rita Crumwells case, it’s worth noting a partner in the outside auditing firm appointed to review Dixon Il’s books was also Crumwell’s personal accountant.

                While no official wrongdoing was admitted, the auditing firm settled out of court with Dixon Il for tens of millions of dollars. So there was SOME oversight in play- unfortunately it was corrupted by a conflict of interest.

        1. Ama*

          I had a friend in high school who drove an old BMW. She explained to me once that her parents had found out that because BMWs were considered very safe and sturdy cars, the insurance for a 17 year old driver was much lower than it would have been for a cheaper car so they were actually saving themselves a lot of money over time even if buying the car used had still been a touch more expensive than most of the other cars in our high school parking lot. But she got a lot of snide comments about being spoiled or having rich parents.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            That’s… weird. Because (1) I’ve never heard of BMWs being considered particularly safe or sturdy, and (2) I always thought insurance costs were based on many things, but particularly the cost of likely repairs and the likelihood that the vehicle would get stolen. Which both seem higher for a BMW.

            1. Bagpuss*

              I think those things do factor in, but would imagine that the age of the vehicle, would make a big difference. If it’s value is low then it’s less likely to be stolen, and if it is stolen or gets in an accident then the insurance co. can write it off and pay out a low replacement value figure rather than spend lots of expensive repairs.

              Also, if the majority of people who have BMWs are older, more experienced drivers than the statistical likelihood of a BMW being involved in an at-fault accident may be pretty low , even if the risk of a new driver being involved in one is high!

              I assume that all of the calculations are based on the statistics.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            When I bought my Civic years ago, the other car I was considering (the frontrunner going into the test drives, actually) was a Scion tC. The Civic was the choice hands down, but I was floored by how much less the insurance on the Civic was going to be than what I had prepared for given the quote on the tC.

            1. Filosofickle*

              I was pretty set on a Scion tC years ago until I saw the insurance rates. Holy cow.

          3. The Rural Juror*

            My friends wanted to trade in their older BMW for a Volkswagon crossover when their daughter was born, but her brother convinced her to sell it to him instead of trading it in. He had two sons who are around 15/14 at the time and he wanted it for them. His reasoning was similar – it was going to cost him less in the long run!

          4. Greg*

            Cars depreciate VERY quickly as well, which is why people lease new luxury vehicles but buy used ones. You can find a decent luxury vehicle for (relatively) cheap these days.

            Pickups trucks are the new luxury vehicle. The average price of a new full sized pickup is higher than the average price of a new BMW.

          5. Despachito*

            A friend’s boyfriend bought an used BMW once. It was a luxury car, with seat covers from genuine leather, and if you sat inside, it felt like being in someone’s posh living room.

            The downside of this? Its consumption was three to four times higher than for a normal car. Then he understood why the purchase price was relatively low, and had to sell it very quickly.

          6. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            Ugh- I HATE people who automatically call someone “spoiled” just because they have nicer things than they do, or have parents with more money. That is so crass.

        2. StripesAndPolkaDots*

          The idea that managers are allowed to drive fancier cars than their reports reminds me of sumptuary laws. Only the CEO may wear gold cloth, managers may wear purple, but reports must wear undyed potato sack cloth!

          1. Despachito*

            I am laughing out loud for the potato sacks!

            But you are spot on. In Renaissance Germany, there were cases when a burgher was summoned before the town council because his daughter wore a gold-laced bonnet which was reserved for higher ranks or even nobles, and had to apologize and even pay a fine.

            One would think that we live in 21st century, after all.. but it seems that certain habits are deeply ingrained in human nature…

            1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

              I read this as “burgler”! ROTFL

              Was wondering if the burglary was considered a lesser offence than “dressing too fancy”

          2. Not A Girl Boss*

            I actually had the opposite problem at a previous job. It was considered in Extremely Poor Taste for managers to drive European (or otherwise luxury) cars, because it highlighted the wealth disparity between us and the people we managed.

            The problem? My dad is a European car mechanic and it was genuinely a huge cost burden for me to go out and buy a new American car to replace the used Audi my dad had secured at a very good price and was willing to repair for free.

            It all worked out though, because I have since worked at a few companies with a big culture of American Pride where only American-made cars are considered acceptable. Sigh.

            1. Filosofickle*

              Interesting! I worked at a manufacturing-oriented company in the midwest in the 90s and the top 3 folks there very carefully selected Audi as the “right” car. (President had an A8, VP a A6, and the third exec an A4. There was definitely a pecking order.) They decided, collectively, that Audis were the only acceptable luxury car. Nice enough to say they were successful without looking ostentatious. Fascinating.

              I drive an overpowered Audi right now, which was a hand me down from my Dad. After a lifetime of Hondas, this feels so *fancy*. It’s in conflict with my identity as someone who doesn’t spend lots of money on cars! And, in fact, I didn’t. But the good news is my last car was a 20 year old Honda and I didn’t love rolling up to client meetings in that, either. So here we are.

      2. SaintPaulGal*

        This was my thought as well. They shouldn’t have to disclose how much they spent on their vehicle—and they don’t *have* to—but that seems like the fastest way to put the gossip/odd reactions to rest. A half-dozen repetitions of “I’m loving it! And only $8,500!” and the office should collectively be on to the next point of focus.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Or even just – “It’s nice – I couldn’t believe it was so much cheaper than getting a [insert name of whatever the person commenting drives / whatever there are most of in the parking lot]”
        “I was so surprised when I realised they were so affordable – I’d planned to get [whatever vehicle] but it turned out this was cheaper and gets better gas mileage”

        You don’t need to give a figure but make the point that the car isn’t expensive.

        If you want to be playful you can even go with “Yeah, I really wanted an SUV [or whatever the person commenting drives) but they were way out of my budget – this was so much cheaper”

        I do think though that it’s part of the weirdness people have about those who spend their money in different ways – I used to have a coworker who would comment a LOT about how much she assumed I was spending on going to the theatre a lot – and yes, I do (in normal times) go to the theatre a lot and it isn’t cheap, but I chose to spend my money in that way rather than (as she chose to do) have expensive holidays every year and a new car every two years.

        1. Lacey*

          Yeah, this is the route I’d be going. You shouldn’t have to, but I’m from the mid-west and this is already very much a thing. Someone compliments your top? “Thank you! I got it on sale!” They like your bike, “It was a gift! I would never buy a bike this nice for myself!” Someone remarks at how nice and big your home is, “Oh no, it only LOOKS big because of how we decorated” well, the decorations are very nice. “Thank you, everything is from The Dollar Tree, even the furniture”

          Also yes to how people perceive different kinds of spending than how THEY spend. I had a friend making shocked remarks about a fancy anniversary dinner my husband and I had, but she’d just gotten done telling me about the designer purses she buys. To her the dinner was absurdly extravagant and to me the purses were!

          1. Secret Identity*

            “Thank you, everything is from The Dollar Tree, even the furniture”

            Ok, that cracked me up. Thanks for that.

          2. Joielle*

            LOL. Also a midwesterner and this is 100% accurate. The default response to a compliment about something you own is “Thanks! It was on sale.” We’re a frugal people.

            1. 2 Cents*

              Not from the Midwest, but the daughter/granddaughter of those with Dutch heritage and getting something “on sale” is a mark of accomplishment. My mom’s greatest shopping achievement is finding a pair of pants on sale at Dillard’s for $3.00. Mine was finding a pair for $5 at a Talbots Outlet. :)

              1. Jaid*

                I got two dresses for my Bat Mitzvah for about 5 bucks. That was in the 80’s, so maybe 20 bucks now? Ah, I miss you, Strawbridges.

              2. Autumnheart*

                I won Black Friday last year. Professional 5 Plus 5-quart KitchenAid bowl lift stand mixer. Regular price: $499.99. What I paid: $75. (BF sale price plus cashed in some credit card points.)

            2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              Yes. This is a real thing. Midwesterner here. I will brag about my thrift shop finds if you compliment my outfit. And I will point out my home furnishings like this: Garage sale, FB Market Place, Garage Sale, Thrift Store, Relative got new so we got this. It’s funny because as a kid we were taught to never ask people what they made salary wise or how much they paid for something as it was considered rude. The only loophole was bragging about bargains. Interestingly Dave Ramsey did a big triple blind survey of millionaires and while I don’t remember the exact list of top cars they drove I remember it was pretty much slightly used (1-2 years old at time of purchase) vehicles. I remember Jeep Liberty being on the list in the top 10 because my SIL drove one and I’m thinking the Ford Ranger maybe? But it was not the flashy sports cars you expected. If you got a good deal on a luxury car and it fits your needs, drive it with pride. Meet all the hallway comments with a slightly confused look. “Must be nice to afford something so expensive” Slight confused look “Actually it was pretty economical, thank you”

              1. Hamish the Accountant*

                The Millionaire Next Door by Tom Stanley has a lot of interesting data like this. Yes, turns out quite a lot of millionaires drive average American-made cars and get them used.

            3. OyHiOh*

              “Thanks! It was on sale” OR “got it at the thrift store” are absolutely my default responses (upper midwest heritage and a childhood spent in deep poverty). I’m trying to retrain my brain to say something like “I love the color/shape” as a response but it’s slow going.

            4. Aitch Arr*

              I’m a frugal New Englander and will proudly boast of my 1 cent deals at Nordstrom Rack.

          3. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

            Also from the midwest, and this is spot-on! My go-to if someone compliments my clothing or shoes is “Thank you! And I got it X% off!” (I of course always remember how big the discount was lol!)

        2. londonedit*

          People totally have very differing views about what counts as ‘extravagant’. And it’s also so true that cars can actually be ‘affordable’ in several different ways – I’ve been sort of looking at cars for the last few months, and people keep telling me I need to get a really cheap, really small car. When actually, if you look into it, if you spend just a little more money up-front, you can get a car that’s more reliable, sturdier for motorway driving, and is actually lower in tax and insurance than some of the small cars. But people don’t see that, they just see ‘OMG so-and-so bought a BMW’ or whatever.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I drive my vehicle for work and get a monthly allowance as part of my compensation. It’s not a “cheap” car, mostly because I needed an SUV to have room for the things I need to carry for work.

            Some of the comments I’ve received were about the perceived cost of the car and people’s opinions about it. a) I bought it between Christmas and New Year’s and was able to negotiate the price, b) I get paid about 1/2 of my monthly car payment to use it for work, and c) I did all research ahead of time to consider the full costs you just outlined above. It’s the first time I had EVER bought a new car off a lot (as opposed to a used one) and, in the long run, it’s been the better decision.

            Some people just need to take those opinions they form off the cuff and shove them.

          2. Not A Girl Boss*

            Yes, totally. Its a big perception problem I’m dealing now, actually. My car just turned over 100k miles and in the last 3 months has cost me $2k in emergency repairs (plus, the massive headache of surprise breakdowns and how do I get to work while its in the shop?). That kind of cost easily breaks-even with cost of a car payment.

            Yet I casually mentioned looking at new cars to a few family members, and they were appalled I was considering taking on a car payment when I just finished paying this one off, and oh my the un-economical-ness of it all!

            1. Le Sigh*

              OMG the repairs. I mentioned in my other comment that my last car was paid-off for years but slowly falling apart. It’s the regular maintenance of any car plus oh say $250 (+labor) for this weird part that only two stores carry because your car is so old, $12 for a new gas cap cause you can’t pass inspection anymore, $1,000 for a new timing belt, $800 to replace the steering cable (plus the tow truck when the steering cable fails in a parking lot 10 miles from home….). And that doesn’t even count the stuff you don’t bother with, like the radio knob you just leave broken because whatever.

              I grew up working on cars so I’m don’t mind maintaining them — but if you don’t have the ability to work on an old car yourself, and you’re relying on mechanics, old cars can get expensive really quickly!

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                So much this. Labor at a mechanic shop generally averages 3X the cost of the part. So glad I am married to a mechanic (though their certs are for general aviation aircraft). Means we can buy the older car and maintain it ourselves. But not everybody is that fortunate. And even we will trade up when the monthly parts bills average a car payment on a new to us vehicle.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  Yeah, my uncle is self-taught and has a garage full of tools. He was the reason I could keep that car for so long. All I had to do was buy the parts and help with repairs, which was a pretty fair deal, especially when I was younger and didn’t have the means to buy a newer car. But now I live hundreds of miles away and don’t have the garage or tools I’d need to do any of this — so while I can handle basic stuff in my current set up, it wouldn’t have made sense to buy a car I’d constantly be working on.

                  I also just really like being able to jump in my car for a trip and not wonder what new and exciting part will break this time. Nothing like having your headlights stop working on the interstate at night!

          3. Le Sigh*

            Right! It’s so dependent on priorities and I think people forget then when making these judgments. I drove my last car into the ground — I loved that paid-off car but it was a maintenance headache. I live in an area with good public transit, so a friend suggested I buy another cheap, old car to get from point to point — but I was not interested in the maintenance that comes with that. What I wanted, and got, was a comfy, easy to drive/park car, 1-3 years old — something easy to care for, easy to take for errands but nice for a road trip.

            Whereas my mom just bought a 2 y/o car but decided to spend a little more than me for something a bit comfier, roomier, and with less road noise. She lives in a car-dependent area and is older — so the extra funds were worth it to her. Was it a luxury? Maybe, depending on how you view it and what your circumstances are — but I think it was the right call for her life and makes financial sense.

            1. Not A Girl Boss*

              Yes, the priorities!
              Why is it ‘irresponsible’ to want a car that is significantly less likely to leave you stranded at the least opportune of times (like last month on the way to be with my mom who was unexpectedly hospitalized), or unexpectedly unable to get to work?
              Why is it ‘irresponsible’ to want a predictable monthly bill instead of surprise thousand-dollar ones, even if technically the monthly bill is a bit higher (assuming you have a thousand bucks lying around and you don’t have to stick it on a high interest credit card)?

              Sure, you can save money by taking that risk. But there’s being fiscally responsible, and then there’s just being cheap. There’s a hidden cost to a lack of reliable transportation, like appearing irresponsible at work.

              1. Le Sigh*

                It’s also whether you have the ability to work on the car yourself (or someone in your family/household who can). My whole family has, for the most part, driven older cars. My uncle is a self-taught mechanic with a two-car garage w/ a lot of good tools — so it was pretty cost-effective for him to buy less expensive, sturdy, reliable cars that he could maintain until the transmission basically fell out. He buys the cars at a great deal because most other people don’t have the ability or interest to maintain them. He was the reason I could keep my last car until it turned 17 and went to the scrap yard in the sky.

                But now I live hundreds of miles away. I don’t have a garage or tools — so I can deal with air pressure and some really basic stuff, but I’m not in a great position to do repairs. So a newer car with fewer repair issues made more sense.

          4. Cooper*

            Yeah, new cars in my state were barely less expensive than new ones when I was looking a couple years ago, and for a couple thousand extra bucks, I could get a brand new car with heated AND ventilated seats, Android Auto, backup camera, minor self-driving corrections, and a fancy pants interior. A little more expensive, but like you said, significantly better in the long run.

        3. Anonym*

          Yes! This is a great approach. I prefer older formerly-expensive cars (the current one is old enough to vote) because if you don’t mind a little more maintenance, you get a really enjoyable ride at a great price. I sometimes even get on my little soapbox to talk about how much cheaper it is to buy even 1-3 year old cars than new ones. No one gives me crap about “fancy” cars after that. My first couple of cars were straight up luxury cars that cost $2-3k. Like lyonite’s brother, I can admit to being a bit eccentric about my vehicles…

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            One of my friends loves BMWs and every few years he buys the best used one he can find. He diligently takes care of it and trades it in for the next one.

          2. the cat's ass*

            My favorite car of all time was the used Mercedes i bought from my hospital’s unit manager. I drove that thing for 16 years before it finally died. And ooooh, the side eye and comments were pretty entertaining. One of my docs commented “wow, we must be paying you too much.” (I’m a nurse). He got the long, nonverbal, unblinking stare, but everyone else got the “Thanks, i love it, it was used and on sale!”

            People ARE weird about cars.

          3. Not A Girl Boss*

            My dad is a European car mechanic. I was positively spoiled growing up with very used Audis, Volvos, and the like. Sure, the Audis all die unceremoniously at 100k miles, but you buy them for $5k or so at 50k miles, and get a solid 5 years out of them.
            There’s certainly worse investments to make (like the lease return Subaru I bought to be ‘economical’ that has been nothing but surprise breakdowns and wildly uncomfortable seats and awful road noise and class action lawsuits since the day I bought her /rant).

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        I wouldn’t tell people how much I paid for my car, but I might say “You guys know a 5-year old Infiniti costs less than a brand new Ford F-250, right?” (or whatever your coworkers are driving)

        1. A Good Egg*

          I’d be tempted to say, “I bought an Infiniti because I have infinite resources,” but my office allows jokes.

          1. NopityNope*

            Good thing you don’t work at Solomon, Dower & Grimm, unlike the poor unfortunate soul in yesterday’s post!

      5. Joielle*

        I’d just say “Thanks! It’s a few years old so I got a great deal.” But I’m from the midwest where you do not say the actual amount you paid for anything, ever.

      6. Tea and cookies*

        You don’t have to tell them the exact cost, just say do you realize my car costs less than blank what you are driving. It is an affordable choice.

        I used to get lots of comments of how I was dressing up by wearing dresses when everyone else was wear Lululemon clothes. I told them do you realize my entire outfit, everything I am wearing including shoes costs less than your Lululemon pants. And you have a Lululemon shirt and jacket on as well. Sometimes people do not realize luxury or fancy looking stuff can actually be affordable and a cheaper option.

      7. LifeBeforeCorona*

        No need to tell them how much, just say that it’s a used car and you got a great deal on it. Whenever I told someone how much I paid for my car I always got a story about how they could have gotten a much better deal, so now I just don’t tell anyone.

      8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I wouldn’t tell what you paid for the car – but I would lean into just how a deal you were able to get because it was USED. Emphasis on the fact it was used, because frequently these brands that get labeled luxury cars don’t change the external styling very often, and coworkers may think the car is new.

      9. Slipping The Leash*

        Or just say, “Yeah, I couldn’t afford your truck so I had to go with this.”

      10. Ripley Jones*

        I wouldn’t. But I’d probably laugh it off with something like “Ha ha are you kidding me? My 5 year old car was probably half what some of those trucks out there cost!”

      11. Yorick*

        If you don’t want to give out the actual price, you could say something like “I got it for a great price.” If it’s a few years older but all the models look classic so it could be new, you could say something about that. Etc.

      12. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        The thing is, it’s none of their business, though. They are being so rude. I don’t think OP should have to explain why they have the car they have.

    2. Ellie*

      Its not just luxury cars, I have a plain old family car, but my husband is a bit of an enthusiast, and has two cheap sports cars that he likes working on. On odd occasions I’ve had to take them to work and boy, do I get comments… the Ford is cheap and rattly, but you’d think it was a Rolls Royce from the way people gaze and talk about it. The Japanese sports car is a lot more polarizing, I get cut-off more, and some people hate it, but others are completely in awe, and want to talk mechanics with me. Its very strange, like you’re a member of their club. They might not get over it OP, if they’re into trucks and SUVs, its probably the type of car, not the cost.

      1. JustVisiting*

        My mother got a small ‘sports car’ that cost half as much as a SUV from the same, common brand would have. A lot of people, including plenty of people at her work, assumed it was incredibly expensive. People just have weird ideas about how much some cars cost.

      2. an infinite number of monkeys*

        My husband has a fully-functioning, inexpensive, but sporty Mazda Miata he’s been working on in his free time. There’s definitely a Secret Handshake Society!

      3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        I know what you mean. When I got a Mini Cooper, Self-Appointed Hall Monitor went on and on about my “fancy new car.” Minis are nice, but they aren’t super expensive. From the way she carried on, you’d think I had gotten a Maserati.

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      Yeah, but it may help for the LW to just respond with a slightly amused smile and something like, “you know, it’s astonishing how many people behave as if I bought something outrageously expensive – it was just a car that meets my needs, and the price was good” or “I think you overestimate what my vehicle cost – it’s in the same ballpark as an [whatever is similar in price and common: RAV4? Outback? F150?] and surely *those* are common enough” or “I sure didn’t expect to end up with one of these, but I liked both the features and the price – it was really completely within the range of what half the office drives”.

      1. Annika Hansen*

        We replaced our (bought used) Lexus with an (bought used) Ford F150. The F150 was about double the price of the Lexus. But no one bats an eye when you have a Ford pick up truck, but they are expensive once you put some features on them. (Well, expensive to us as a middle class couple.)

        1. JR*

          Used car forums often recommend Lexuses to people with a modest budget who want a reliable older sedan! It surprised me until I got used to it.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          Here recently, because of supply chain issues, it’s been harder and harder to get new F150s. You should have seen how much people were listing their used ones for in my area! It was nuts! I only know this because my boss was trying to buy a new used truck for work and he was having some difficulties with it.

          Trucks are not cheap.

        3. Le Sigh*

          This is what’s so silly about these perceptions. I come from the U.S. South, a land of souped up F-150s — and I suspect about 30% of the people who buy them actually need the towing and hauling capacity, dually tires, and weathertec trim package, but hey you do you. Truly, I don’t care what people buy — but that stuff adds up fast and if you’re spending $50,000 on a truck, it’s silly to act like that’s not a luxury purchase. But because it’s a truck people act like it’s a perfectly normal, salt-of-earth, regular joe vehicle.

    4. Claire*

      I’ve had that problem. I decided to just tell the truth. I’d say, “It’s used, X years old, and cost
      $Y thousand dollars. People started saying, “Smart! I’ll try that with my next car.”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – hubby drives a 12 year old Volvo SUV, that we bought 4 years ago. We got a killer deal on it because it had about 95,000 miles – and was going to need maintenance (you know the standard change out these parts because they wore out maintenance) in the next two years. It didn’t phase us – hubby is a fully certified mechanic and can do the work himself.

        But the reason we bought it – the towing capacity: almost 5000 Lbs (so the same or more than many small trucks that cost way more money than what we paid). We continually shock people when we pull up to camping areas towing our smallish camper with a Volvo.

    5. Sharkie*

      YES this exactly. I just bought myself a new CRV in March, and people look at me like I’m money bags cause the styling is very sporty. And its a HONDA. I think people get hung up on cars as status symbols too much

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Not only is it a Honda, but I see like six thousand four hundred and twelve CRV’s a day on the road. Aren’t they pretty much the epitome of soccer mom vehicles these days? (I am also a CRV driver, no judging – no kids, but I got mine because my household is three people – me and two 6’4″ dudes – and 110 pounds of dog; the Smart wasn’t cutting it anymore. :) )

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Lol in my area it’s Subarus (especially Foresters) because the all wheel drive is much more stable-feeling in bad, wet winter weather.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My next one (whenever that happens) will likely be a CR-V. Current car is a Forester, ten years old and still going strong (but mainly because I haven’t driven it much in the last year and a half. I had already started budgeting for my next car when the lockdown happened and my annual mileage went from something like 18K to something like zero.) Both are really common in our area, because we get a lot of snow in the winter; and our winter can very well last from November to early April. I bought the Forester when kid #1 was about to start college, with the idea being that I’d be using the car for multiple moves to and from college dorms, apartments etc for two kids in a row. Worked as planned, it really is amazing how much furniture one can fit in that car.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yup – showed up with my Forester to help a friend move, one of the guys with a truck was laughing at me – till I folded the seats flat and I had as much room as him – but mine was covered when it started to rain…

    6. MeowMixers*

      I have a PT Cruiser. The amount of really weird looks I get is funny. People are weird. I mean, I know my car looks like some kind of stormtrooper helmet but hey. People are just weird about cars.

      1. Bucky Barnes*

        I loved those and think they’re neat looking. A coworker at a previous job had flames on his.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I almost bought one of those. My dad suggested I get a black one and put coach hinges on the side, like a tiny hearse, then get the license plate CHRY*PT [our state plates have a little insignia in the middle].

        I swear I almost did it just for the license plate. Honestly, I still slightly regret that I didn’t do it.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I test drove one of them – and got a Forester instead. I needed more get up/pick up than the PT Cruiser had. Also, I didn’t like how low to the road the Cruiser felt.

      3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        “I know my car looks like some kind of stormtrooper helmet but hey.” That’s the best description I’ve heard for a PT Cruiser.

    7. Secret Identity*

      It’s definitely more about perception than price. I found a really nice, used Jaguar for about $26k. I didn’t end up buying it, but if I had I know I would have had a LOT of comments on the fact that I was driving a Jaguar. The price wouldn’t matter, really, it’s the name and the perception that goes along with it.
      Also, I would have felt vastly superior to everyone else whilst driving it.
      (that last was a joke, btw. mostly)
      :)

      1. MissB*

        My previous car was a sporty 2 door Mercedes. I bought it used – it was 3 years old and had 5,000 miles on it. I paid half the cost that the first owner did, so that was all of $25k.

        It was a lovely little car. I switched back to Volvos with my most recent car, mostly because I wanted something larger and all electric.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        We were at an outlet mall right before the pandemic and they had a Jaguar parked in the middle with an advertisement for a car dealer. We were like “ooohhh, fancy. let’s see how much this baby costs”

        Spoiler Alert: It was 5 figures less than what we paid for our not-fully loaded F-150.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I own several designer handbags . . . all purchased very secondhand for less than you’d pay for a new one at Kohl’s. (There is a specific brand that made a size and internal pocket arrangement that I particularly like, about 20 years ago, so I’ve sought those out. I loooooove trendy people who upgrade their wardrobes regularly–they leave lots of great passed-over stuff out there to be snapped up.)

      1. Anonym*

        THIS. My lovely work wardrobe (well, pre-COVID) says thank you to everyone who dumps all their barely used goodies on eBay and Poshmark.

        1. Toasty Bacon and Eggs**

          I’ve been picking up nice pieces of clothing over the years at the local Goodwill stores. Last month, I got 4 brand new pairs of work pants for less then the cost of 1 pair of pants at Kohl’s. It also helps that it was that color tag so all where 50% off.

      2. hlyssande*

        I have a lovely vintage Coach purse…that my mom acquired at a thrift store for under $10.

        And honestly? Circumstances change. Maybe someone could afford the Nice Stuff originally and then fell on hard times. It wouldn’t make sense to get rid of the paid-off Nice Car or Nice Purse or whatever just to buy something Less Nice.

    9. Kittymommy*

      My last car was a 1999 Lexus. All I ever heard was. “Ooh a Lexus”. It was weird, I mean the car is from another century!!

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’d probably be in that “Oooh, a Lexus!” group, but I was legitimately watching for a ’90’s SC300 with a 5 speed manual and/or a ES300 with the 5 speed the last time I was shopping for a new (to me) car. I’d be more envious that you actually *found* one, not as much that you had the means to purchase it.

    10. Seashells*

      I upgraded from a 2000 Honda Civic to a 2014 Nissan Altima and you would have thought I bought a Tesla or something.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        People are weird, man. I don’t know why this comment summarizes it all the best for me.

        I don’t know if I could tell you what anyone I work with drives… and we all walk out to our cars together.

    11. Dog Coordinator*

      A similar thing happened to my mom. She works in a court house, and when it came time to get a new vehicle, she got her dream car. A red Mustang convertible. Coming from an older Jeep, it was definitely an upgrade, but deserved. She parked at the way back of the parking garage for weeks because of the gosspiy people she works with who judged her like she waltzed in driving a Rolls Royce and rubbing their noses in it. They are jealous and petty people who have nothing better to do than try to bring others down. If the car is what you want, and what you need, then don’t let gossips ruin the enjoyment of your new car!

    12. Free Meerkats*

      I nearly bought a 20 year old Rolls Royce Silver Shadow back in ’96. One of the reasons I didn’t was I’m a government regulator and the optics would have been really off. They shouldn’t have been, but they would have been. I ended up buying a 1 year old Chevy sedan for twice the cost, and nobody batted an eye.

      I still have that car.

    13. Artemesia*

      My husband always drives BMWs which we have always bought used for less than half their original sale price and then we drive them forever; our current car which we both now use in retirement is 17 years old. Years ago I was driving another of his cars — then 14 year old when I was stopped by a cop for a minor traffic violation like 40 in a 35 zone. The cop began his conversation with me, even then an old lady, by saying ‘You people with fancy cars just think you can do anything you want.’

    14. MissMaple*

      Yeah, it’s super weird. My 3 year used Volvo cost less than the new Mazda 3 I bought in 2009, in current year dollars, not even taking inflation into account. But some people only see the badge.

    15. AnonaLlama*

      I bought a high-end convertible that had been someone else’s second “fun” car. It was 5 years old with 16k miles on it so I got it for about the same as you’d spend on a brand new economy car. But I have all of the luxury amenities and it’s a dream to drive. I get comments/compliments on it at least weekly.

      At first, I did the whole “oh it was used/you’d never believe how little I paid” thing but have since come around to just say “thank you, it’s so much fun to drive!” What other people think about me (my car) is none of my business.

    16. JamieG*

      I have come to realize that some people just… notice cars and their drivers. I had a manager who could tell you every make and model in the parking lot, and often who drove it. (This was one of dozens of buildings on a large campus, and our building had several largely disconnected organizations in it.) When someone showed up in a different car (how did he even know?) he would ask, “Did you say what So-and-so is driving now?” I think there are people for whom it’s just a hobby, and then they talk about it with others like it’s the weather. “Sure are getting lots of Mazdas these days…”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup. The big thing the first two months of my senior year was who did the fire-engine red Pontiac firebird in senior honors parking belong to?
        (Spoiler, it was mine – and when it got out that it was my car I was promptly declared too much of a dork to drive that sort of car.)

    17. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I agree that people are weird about other peoples’ money, and especially cars. First of all, it’s none of OP’s co-workers’ business. They are being incredibly rude and inappropriate. Second, they have no idea how much the car cost. And even if OP did have a panache for luxury cars and paid a lot for it, their co-workers have no idea whether OP had been saving for it for years, got a sudden inheritance or other windfall, prioritizes spending money on cars and less for things like housing, clothing, food, vacations, etc., or maybe their spouse makes a lot of money and their household can afford it…it could be anything. And none of it is their co-workers’ business. Are people really expected to downgrade their lifestyle and/or possessions so as to make those who are weird about anyone who has more money or more expensive things than they do more comfortable? I’m so sick of people like that.

    18. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      I drive a Lexus that I inherited from my dad a few years ago. It’s a great car and a lot nicer than anything I could buy, especially at the time I got it. (I’m temping and was in between assignments at the time.) I still feel like I have to explain that it was originally my dad’s car when people see it, even though nobody’s questioned me about why I drive it. (I am also in the Midwest so maybe that’s why!)

    19. Software Engineer*

      I once gave my manager quick ride after work to the mechanic to pick up his car. He was somehow really impressed with my old Honda, all because it had leather seats and a moonroof. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it had 140K miles and a rusty exhaust system.

    20. Self Employed*

      My “company car” is a 1999 Audi A6 Avant Quattro that I bought for $990 at an auction (and then spent 8 months getting roadworthy). It’s awesome for lugging crates of merch, canopies, and folding tables around and I can carry 4×8′ sheets of material on the roof. Luckily, Audi is not a big deal where I live, about 20 miles from the Tesla HQ…

    21. hlyssande*

      I once borrowed my BFF’s terrible rustbucket of a Mercedes (from the 80s, literally falling apart) and I got so much crap at work for it from my least favorite coworker. Like, it’s a POS my dude. Cars that originally start out fancy/luxury/whatever still degrade and break down eventually.

  6. MassMatt*

    #5 Save everyone time and be very up front about not wanting/being able to travel as much as they want, or better yet don’t apply at all. They are being clear about the position requiring a huge amount of travel, more than you want to do. Applying and proposing to do 1/2 the amount they want is not likely to go over well.

    1. lailaaaaah*

      This. There’s a big difference between applying to a job when you don’t meet all the skillset qualifications, and applying to a job knowing you only want to do ~50% of one of the main responsibilities they’re asking for. Don’t waste your own time on this one.

      1. SaintPaulGal*

        And even more so when the LW has worked in this office before and knows from firsthand experience that the real-life required travel lines up with the estimate in the posting.

        If you have an existing strong relationship with the hiring manager or someone above them, it may be worth an informal reach-out to ask if there’s wiggle room on the travel requirement. But if not, and that’s a deal breaker, I wouldn’t waste much time or thought on it.

        1. WS*

          Yes, the requirement is clear and it’s only because LW knows the people involved that it’s even worth checking, informally.

    2. Wintermute*

      Exactly. I’d treat it the way I treat any other hard attribute of the job. Wanting to do half the travel is like applying for a 20-hour-a-week job then saying you’ll only take it if it’s full-time, or a job that’s paying 12.50 an hour saying you can only take it if they’ll pay 25.

      In fact, asking to change that drastically is so out there it’s possible it’ll burn that bridge forever because you’ll look strangely out of line.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this, and also be ready to be OK with it if your reluctance to travel is a deal-breaker at their end. You’re not quite applying in bad faith here, but I feel like it’s close.

    4. Dwight Schrute*

      Yes this! It feels almost presumptuous to bother applying if you want to cut the travel in half, especially after working there and knowing how much travel is expected. I wouldn’t even bother applying

      1. rachel in nyc*

        I don’t know. I think it’s one of those situations where if LW5 is bringing something else to the table, the company may be willing to accept that 40%-50% travel is acceptable.

        It at least doesn’t hurt to ask.

    5. Free Meerkats*

      We were hiring a chemist for our water and wastewater lab that is located at the sewage treatment plant. When the end of interview “What questions do you have?” came along, one of the candidates basically said they didn’t want to do any wastewater samples because those were dirty and only wanted to do water and asked if that was possible. She didn’t move forward; if you do metals, you do metals on whatever comes in the door.

      She’s now an inside joke if someone doesn’t want to do something and that was about a decade ago.

  7. Scrabble*

    #3 You’re in danger of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Of course it can feel really disappointing if you don’t get a chance to interview for a job, but it’s not that they ‘didn’t even’ interview you. They didn’t waste your time interviewing you for a position you definitely weren’t going to get. That is perfectly respectful and courteous.

    It sounds like they’re still interested in you given they called to talk to you about other positions. Call them back. Don’t waste your shot. You’re allowed to feel hurt about not getting the job but that doesn’t mean they did something wrong.

    1. Still Sold Out*

      Re #3 – the consensus that this is fine is showing up interesting differences in work culture norms for me – in my country / industry I’m pretty sure this would be considered quite rude… But I’ve also noticed recruitment procedures mentioned on AAM that involve multiple interviews, so maybe not as much importance is placed on the initial interview if it’s not the only one?

      1. Anononon*

        Eh, I think it just sounds like a cultural difference, no matter the number of interviews. While it definitely stings, I think most people (in the US) (who aren’t in the emotional thick of it) would rather have an interview cancelled than have one for a job someone is already going to be hired for.

        1. Still Sold Out*

          Yeah, I can totally see that there’s no point going ahead if they’ve found another candidate who’s so much stronger that they know they want to hire them. I do feel like a generic form email is a little shoddy when going back on an interview offer? But maybe that’s just me… (Definitely more polite than completely ghosting someone after an in-person interview, which has happened to me twice!)

          1. CmdrShepard*

            If you are recruiting and had 20 candidates scheduled for an initial interview still but found your candidate it seems like a lot to go through a phone call or detailed email. An auto generated email at least lets you know what is going on and saves time for everyone. With a call does the person let you know you didn’t get the job on a voicemail (that seems worse to me) or do they try and play phone tag to catch you in person and let you know you didn’t get it and then you are on the spot to respond graciously.

      2. londonedit*

        I think it would sting, but I don’t think it’s necessarily rude. It would be rude to ghost someone after an actual interview, or to send a generic ‘Thank you for your application. The position has now been filled’ email after an actual interview, but I don’t think it comes across as particularly rude to cancel upcoming interviews if they’ve hired someone in the meantime. And I definitely don’t think it’s rude that the hiring manager called the OP even after they’d been rejected – that’s a good thing! Nothing wrong with someone calling to say ‘Sorry we didn’t get to interview you for the Teapot Painter job, but I’ve been looking through your CV and we’ll shortly be looking to recruit someone to print designs on teapots, is that something you’d be interested in applying for?’

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        It really is a matter of not wasting people’s time. I once canceled interviews with external candidates because an excellent internal candidate applied for the position, and the company gave priority to internal candidates.

        Getting a call to talk about other positions isn’t something insulting. The timing wasn’t great, but, as someone surmised upthread, it might have been due to the fact that that was when the hiring manager had an open calendar spot.

        I am not sure why people are so ready to take things personally.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I have a guess where the anger is coming from. The respect-disrespect divide isn’t about whether you should interview someone you have no intention of hiring vs. cancelling so as not to waste their time. What feels crappy is knowing that someone scheduled you, then made a hiring decision without giving you the respect of following through and talking to you first. I think the anger is about wanting to be considered in the process and feeling cut out of that. But, hey, people are weird and angry and I don’t always get why. I, personally, wouldn’t take this personally :)

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes: Feel hurt, deliver a strongly worded rebuttal to one of your couch cushions, mope for an hour if that’s what you need. Then put on your low-drama professional voice and call back to schedule a time to talk about these other roles.

    3. Shirley Keeldar*

      “You’re allowed to be hurt about not getting the job but that doesn’t mean they did something wrong.”

      This! It’s hard (ask me how I know) but so worth it to try to dismantle the connection between “I feel bad/hurt/disappointed” and “Somebody has done me wrong.” Still working on it, myself…. Good luck, OP, and don’t miss out on those other interviews!

    4. StudentA*

      Much agreed.

      This letter actually made me a little sad…for the hiring manager. They were trying to do a kind thing by tipping off the LW to other vacancies at the company so that the whole thing is not a complete waste of time. The HM could have easily moved on to the next applicant. It’s confounding to me that the LW wasn’t grateful for the gesture.

      It’s also confounding to me she wasn’t grateful that the company didn’t waste her time interviewing her when they found someone they liked. That is a sign of a sensible workplace! They respect candidates’ time. Once they found someone they liked, they didn’t beat around the bush and “play the field.”

    5. GraceRN*

      I agree with this comment. OP3, maybe another way to look at it is: sure, the interview process didn’t happen the way you wanted it to happen. Maybe you already decided to feel a certain way about the process, but when they called about other jobs they have, they interrupted the script you wrote for yourself. But just because the hiring manager didn’t behave the exact way you expected them to, it doesn’t mean the they were rude or disrespectful. In fact it was the opposite: it’s much more likely they respected and valued your resume, and they are trying to find ways to have you on their team. They see other opportunities that might benefit you and wanted to talk, just in case you’re interested.
      I have to wonder: what exactly would “polite” and “respectful” look like to you in this situation? If they never called you about the other jobs, would you have thought it’s more “respectful?” Maybe, but then you…. just won’t have a new job.

    6. Middle School Teacher*

      Big time. I’m a little confused, because the company said “even without interviewing you we like you so much we’re trying to make this work” and OP 3 years “get lost”.

  8. John Smith*

    #4. I’d make a quick friendly comment “Actually it only cost $10!” and move the conversation elsewhere, or show an interest in their vehicle.

    For what it’s worth, an ex manager of mine used to complain if staff had a better (i.e, more expensive) car than he did, and even tried telling one colleague to sell hers. He also had a habit of peering in to other peoples cars and reporting back on what he thought (“the inside of your car is a mess”). He wasn’t very popular!

    1. Bagpuss*

      A relative of mine apparently had the opposite problem, years ago – his boss thought his car was too old and not shiny enough. Relative said he would be happy to have a new car if boss was offering to buy it for him.
      Boss then instructed him to park in the far corner of the office car park lest visitors see and be put off by his older car…

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        Yeah I was driving a early 90’s economy car and sharing it with 3 teenage drivers. It was in decent shape but was hitting the needs a part replaced every other month stage. Then Boss didn’t like that the mechanics shuttle would get me to work a little late. (think 10 minutes tops) and kept saying how I needed to buy something new. Well maybe you should pay a living wage then.

      2. MassMatt*

        This is definitely a thing in some areas of sales where you drive to meet clients. Likewise expensive suits and so on to give the appearance of success. IME not very many people focusing on this were actually really great at sales.

      3. PeanutButter*

        These stories are just so wild to me. Is it an East coast thing? My SO was SHOCKED when he moved to the West coast for the first time and discovered the partners at the law firm where he worked drove older Subarus. Apparently It Was Known where he used to work (NJ and Florida) that you just DID NOT show up with older cars, let alone a non-luxury brand if you worked in law in those cities. My friends who have moved to the East coast have said the same thing, one had her car towed from the surgeons’ lot in the hospital despite having a valid parking pass on it because OBVIOUSLY a surgeon wouldn’t be driving an old Civic so security didn’t even check.

        1. pancakes*

          It’s not a thing in NYC because most of us are either taking the subway or train to work or, for the relative few who do drive, parking in a garage.

        2. just a random teacher*

          I got a parking ticket once while substitute teaching high school in one of the “nicer” suburban districts. They saw my beat-up 25+ year old car, and assumed it “must” belong to a student parking in the staff/visitor lot against the rules. No, the students had much nicer cars than I had, thanks. Maybe if subbing paid enough to live on, possibly even with benefits of some kind, I could drive a car younger than the students I taught, but they didn’t so I didn’t. (They did waive the ticket once I went in and showed it to them, since I was, in fact, supposed to be parking there.)

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      At one of my ex-jobs, one of the VPs drove a VW Golf while the other VPs had more expensive luxury cars. He simply chose to drive the Golf. And some of his reports drove more expensive cars. Your ex-manager needs to get a grip and realize that some people like expensive cars while others don’t mind driving something less expensive. It’s not always a reflection on how much money someone makes or has.

  9. CreepyPaper*

    OP#4, I bought a new car in March using the money I saved during lockdown as a deposit. Monthly payments are the same as my old car. I got £10k off the car because the dealership was basically begging people to buy them. Rocked up to the office in it…

    ‘We’re paying you too much.’
    ‘How can you afford that?’
    ‘Good god Creepy that car is enormous, what bank did you rob to buy it?’

    It’s only an Audi estate. It’s… nothing special. I don’t know how car registrations work in whatever country you’re in but here in the UK unless you get a vanity plate it tells you how old the car is, and mine is sat there on a ‘21’ plate in a car park full of older models. That makes it stick out and makes me fair game for comments. This has happened wherever I’ve worked. It’s a people thing, I guess! So you’re not alone. People get bored of it eventually.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Audis in particular have a ‘rep’, as I very much enjoyed taunted one of my best friends with when she got one. Another friend gets sent cars to drive as part of her work and the reactions from people differ so wildly based on make and model.

      For a lot of people cars are tied up with class/general identity so it can throw people off when the car doesn’t ‘match’ the idea of the person they have.

      1. CreepyPaper*

        Yeah I get that a lot, I’m seen as a bit of an outdoorsy sort and apparently an Audi doesn’t fit that stereotype. My response is ‘but how else do I cart myself, husband, two quite large dogs and two mountain bikes around?’ and they have no answer. Just let people drive what they drive! It’s funny how certain cars have become associated with certain sorts of people though, isn’t it?

        I would like to say though, I do use my indicators and I do not tailgate others. So definitely not your typical Audi driver in the UK!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Audis in particular have a ‘rep’

        Which I learned about from the old Top Gear gang!

        1. Heatherbelles*

          Hah. There’s an awful lot of audis and BMW’s in the city I live / work – and they def. have a reputation for a certain type of driver here, -normally one with a limited adherence to the Highway code…

          But hooray for a good deal. Last time, I went for a newer model of the one I already had, but left mum negoatiating whilst I went on test drive with Dad.

          We managed a decent discount (and the sales rep let us know how much I’d save getting it on finance, but paying back as a soon as I could – which knocked another 700 quid off the price.

          (I always buy 2nd hand, cos there’s not the depreciation in the same way)

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Dealt with the mismatch in HS. My senior year I got to borrow my dad’s old fire-engine red Pontiac Firebird (it was 13 years old at that point). I was the bassoon playing band dork with a 40lb backpack of honors/AP textbooks.

        Biggest problem I had was getting the bassoon case in and out of the car.

    2. MeowMixers*

      I would have visibly balked at the “We’re paying you too much” comment. I don’t know how I would reply, but something along the “Didn’t you learn to save money?” might have flown out of my mouth.

      1. Niffler*

        I got that exact same comment from my boss after purchasing a used Volkswagen SUV – a Volkswagen!! I went with the “visibly confused” defense that we talk about here sometimes, and it turned into a whole thing. People are weird.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      In New Zealand, the default plate tells you when the car was first registered here. Though a lot of people think it’s the assembly date.

      For example, early last year I bought a 2010 car that was freshly imported. So it has a 2020 plate.

    4. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

      My first thought was: “Is an infinti an luxury car?” but I know almost nothing about cars, so *shrug*

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        It’s Nissan’s upscale line, similar to Acura for Honda, Lexus for Toyota, Cadillac & Lincoln for GM & Ford, etc.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Infinitis are a step up – the luxury division of Nissan (similar to Lexus >> Toyota and Acura >> Honda), but they’re not luxury cars the same way, say, a Porsche is. But maybe it’s because I live near some very ritzy suburbs — most of the time a Lexus, Acura or Infiniti barely makes an impression; it’s the Bentleys and Aston-Martins that get noticed.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Yeah – just as the last recession was looming, we had to buy a vehicle to replace one that was beyond its fixability. Turned out it was less expensive to buy brand new than to get a used car. That’s when I realized the recession was definitely happening. We basically got it at the dealer cost because the dealership was closing.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Car values fluctuate wildly. Used cars are scarce now, as they were after the “cash for clunkers” stimulus.

        A used luxury car is generally a better buy than a new one, or a new SUV or pickup, for that matter. The biggest chunk of depreciation hits when it crosses the yellow line from the dealer’s lot to the street after the initial sale.

    6. JustaTech*

      People are super weird about cars. I’m trying to buy an electric car (though not any time soon with the chip shortage) and I know when I do I will get a lot of comments from some of my bosses (who are car people) and a lot of “about time!” from my peers (I have an older but not yet elderly Subaru).

      But at the same time my in laws are horrified that we’re not looking at the Porche, or at least considering the Audi.

      So I know I’ll get “about time!’ “You have a very expensive car!” “You didn’t buy an expensive enough car!”.

      People are weird.

  10. Andy*

    #1 I suspect that “uses abusive language” is already an euphemism that makes it sound better then it is. If they fear retaliation, they likely fear more then just a bad choice of words and changing language would not be enough to fix it.

    In my experience, it takes quite a lot till people go to complain to grandboss. And our grandboss is person who is super easy and safe to talk with. People still avoid complaining about managers as much as they can.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Agreed.

      I also rather wonder if the OP is also afraid of this person and that’s why the letter seems so . . . timid? But if the OP is the abuser’s manager, OP should have standing–and should have the backbone, because being responsible for stuff is part of having a higher-status job–to do something about this.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Is OP1 a first-time grandboss? That may be part of the issue. Just as there’s a transition from team member to boss, there’s also a transition when one moves up in the hierarchy. New supervisors often defer to the manager reports because they still see themselves in that role.

        OP1 needs to learn that as a grandboss, their actions (or even more, lack of actions) speak more loudly to those at the lowest levels. Rising in the hierarchy sometimes means wielding your power more decisively.

  11. Rosie*

    For #4 I’m sure Alison is right that it will blow over soon enough. In the meantime you might find it easier to weather the comments from coworkers if you choose a couple of very normal features your car has and use those as joking responses to the comments you get: “I know, it’s amazing, it has *air con*”, “The wipers have 4 settings guys, it’s pretty flash”. Could be easier to let it roll off you that way!

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      The AC comment had me cracking up, thanks for the laugh- along those lines you could say it has power windows and locks

      1. pancakes*

        Ha! I like this approach a lot more than “just tell them how much it cost” and think it would probably be more successful in getting them to move on, too.

    2. Grilledcheeser*

      I remember when variable wipers actually WERE a luxury item, so this would make me chuckle!

    3. SOUPervisor*

      I just got a new (“new”) 2-year-old car this year to replace the 20+ year old car I had been driving and you bet I told everyone how excited I was about the AC and the power locks (the old car *had* power locks, they were just broken & I hadn’t bothered fixing them, so yes, I had to put the physical key in the physical door to get in the car)

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        When hubs got his now almost 13 year old Volvo it was the first car he had ever bought with power locks. He upgraded into that from a 1995 base model Saturn S (that was manual transmission, manual steering, manual locks, manual windows). He does still miss the gas mileage the Saturn got though.

    4. Gumby*

      I do not get people like OP4’s co-workers. I am not a car person. On a good day I will recognize my own car w/o looking at the license plate.

      If you put me down in the middle of a parking lot, among the cars that I absolutely would not be able to pick out are: my mother’s (some black not-quite-SUV thing), my father’s (actually, not at all sure, he used to have a green truck but I think he replaced it), my brother’s (he recently bought something newish and electric and grey? maybe white? have only been in it once), my sister’s (black truck of some sort), my other sister’s (black SUV), my most-friendly-co-worker’s (blue, small, electric), my best friend’s (… grey?). If I could see license plates I might be able to pick out 2 of those. Oh, I do recognize my grandboss’s vehicle; it is easily the oldest car in the work parking lot and has a distinctive decal on the back and he is sometimes teased for it. Otherwise, I have neither the interest or the brain power to keep track of what cars random co-workers drive. You show up in a chauffeured Town Car (actually, I don’t know what makes something an official Town Car but meh), I might, might notice and be the tiniest bit jealous but that has more to do with not dealing with traffic than the cost of such an arrangement.

  12. June*

    Fire this manager. Abusive managers in the work place don’t change at their core. They just learn how to handle their higher ups better, while terrorizing their reports.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I wouldn’t put any work at all into trying to get this manager to be better. People who think it’s OK to treat people like this don’t change. They just find a way to fly under the radar.

      I once worked with someone like this. He was C-suite and I was a VP at the time. He was incredibly abusive and like to yell a lot. I finally complained to the CEO, who then talked to him about it. He stopped, but every time he wanted to yell, swear or insult someone, he would stop and say something to the effect of, “Oh wait, I forgot I can’t do/say that anymore because people will be upset with me! Gotta be nice!” He was such a dick. I was thrilled when they finally fired him. As to why he was there so long given the type of person he was, that’s another story in a sea of dysfunction at that place…

  13. June*

    Please don’t apply for a travel position if you don’t want to travel. It wastes everyone’s time.

  14. MeowMixers*

    LW 1 – I would just fire the person. Launch an investigation if needed to get more details. I suspect “Abusive language” is just a positive spin they put on it. I had an abusive boss that my manager would not address. It was terrible. Remember that a manager’s job is to manage people to get the best work. Being abusive does not achieve that. If people are going to work in fear, the manager is not doing their job properly and is hurting others because of it. Talk to HR if needed to help protect the employees against retaliation.

    1. Red 5*

      This is my sense as well. “Abusive language” means he’s abusive, full stop. It rarely ends at language. Anyone who is abusive can’t be an effective or useful manager, full stop. So even IF you tried to fix him, he can’t be managing anyone while you wait to see if it worked, and I don’t have a lot of faith that it will.

  15. Helvetica*

    LW#5 – I work in a high work travel field (depending on position can be up to 75%) and if you’re not willing to do it, then don’t apply. Especially since you know that the requirement is serious and unchangeable. You probably also then know how likely it is that they would move on the demand and/or whether that would mean shifting the travel needs onto your colleagues. And you say “I don’t want to bring it up too early and dissuade them from considering me, but I also don’t want to sign a job offer without having a discussion.” But that’s exactly what would happen because they have a requirement they probably can’t change and you know they can’t.

    1. Smuckahs*

      This! *Somebody* is going to have to do the work travel. If LW#5 goes “oh by the way” at the last minute, they are either going to take the LW out of the running… or shift it to someone else. I’d be furious if my work travel went up because a coworker didn’t think the job requirements should apply to them.

  16. Skippy*

    LW1: I left a job working for an abusive boss almost two years ago, and I am still recovering mentally and emotionally from the experience. It is incredibly traumatic. No one should have to go through what I went through, or what your manager’s direct reports are probably going through.

    There needs to be a zero tolerance policy for abuse of all kinds. The guy needs to go.

  17. Brooks Brothers Stan*

    LW1: Consider the human cost if you retain this manager. They created a culture of fear, are abusive to their employees (YOUR employees), and you outright fear that they will take it out on their employees.

    How do you think these employees are going to feel when after this complaint the abusive manager is kept on? Or if you send him, as Alison suggested, to management training? They won’t see the behind the scenes effort made to improve performance. They will just see that your company doesn’t care that they’re being abused, and instead rewarded this behavior.

    And there’s the distinct possibility they already think that of the company.

  18. AndersonDarling*

    #4 I have a feeling that random gossipy topics will be obsessed about as people go back into the office and try to figure out office life again. The co-workers may be poking fun at the ‘expensive’ car, or they may have forgotten how to have hallway conversations and that is the only thing that pops into their memory to talk about.
    After a year of talking about nothing but Netflix, WFH, and virtual school, it may take some time for people to learn conversation skills again.
    Either way, it will blow over. Wait until Bob wears the neon shirt his wife picked out for him, or when Pat puts fish in the microwave…the car will be old news.

  19. Jeep driver*

    LW 4, are you young? People love to make snarky comments to younger people with nice things. I’m in my 20’s and drive a newer (but not a luxury brand) SUV. I work in the auto industry and have a great employee discount.

    Thankfully my coworkers are nice (they all have the same discount) but I’ve gotten a few dumb jokes from strangers about borrowing daddy’s car

    1. pbnj*

      Not just being young, but being a woman. (not sure if you are, but it sounds like something people would say more to a woman). Borrowing daddy’s car? So gross.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I’ve heard this a lot – “Why do you need to drive such a big car? You’re such a little lady!” -_-
        I drive a very standard-sized SUV that I use to haul stuff around for work. It’s part of my job.

        1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          I had only 1 kid and drove a mini van. But it was full of nieces and nephews about half the time and garage sale finds the other half.

    2. Lucious*

      OP #4 here.

      Demo deets: I’m male, biracial & easily 10+ years younger than everyone else on my team save the intern. You may be on to something there.

      Sorry to see you’re getting “daddy’s car” jokes. As unpleasant as my experience is, its occurred to me were I female it’d be even worse. That’s a topic for another day.

      1. Rocket Woman*

        I bought a new Infiniti and everyone was like “oh so nice of you to get your Dad to buy you a car!” (He did not!) I started using the “Its so odd you’re so interested in my car line!” to great success.

        I commented below in more detail, but essentially I had paid off the car I bought in college and got a great trade in value, and haggled them down a TON. I paid less for my Infiniti than my coworkers did for their Rav4 and Wranglers.

      2. OyHiOh*

        My spouse (who was male and white, and at the time of this incident, in mid 40’s) got harrassed for two straight years because he/we drove an older model Pontiac that was a bit beat up but mechanically solid. Every person he worked with got new cars every 3 to 5 years and could not work their brains around driving an older, solid vehicle that doesn’t cost anything other than gas and insurance.

        1. Red 5*

          My spouse and I have run into that. I have relatives that change cars every few years, meanwhile we drive a car until our trusted mechanic says its not worth it anymore.

          But that’s partially how we can afford for those cars to be nicer. Better credit scores, more return on investment, etc. We just shrug and say we hate car shopping.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      I’ve also gotten this as a result of: grandparent had 3 year old luxury car but eyesight deteriorated to the point of not being able to drive. Guess who got a car for $1 as a result?

  20. Richard Hershberger*

    LW1: Apropos of nothing, I have been watching Season 16 of classic Dr. Who (fourth doctor, for those keeping score at home). The second serial, Pirate Planet (written by Douglas Adams!), has a character called the Captain. Reading about this manager under you made me think of him. It turned out (Spoiler Alert!) that he wasn’t in charge. I trust that you are better than his boss was.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        It also is an excellent example to use with people who complain about how New Who is too political. In Pirate Planet we have the good locals explicitly questioning the value of material wealth. This is even before we learn that said material wealth comes from mass murder.

  21. Silly Goose*

    Alison (or anyone else who knows),

    You mentioned “remedial management training” and I’m wondering what that looks like. Are there courses you recommend for something like that, or would that be more of a “you sit with me and I’m going to train you on how to do this” sort of thing? Or something else?

    1. A Person*

      There are courses! And some of them are aimed at first-time managers, and that’s probably what abusive boss needs (I mean, he *needs* firing). Some (large) companies have in-house training but that’s not the only resource.

    2. OyHiOh*

      Someone I know of was required, by their board of directors, to retain the services of a “personal management consultant” because of a several years long history of being a moderately dysfunctional, hightly micromanaging head of a financial institution. The person I know, who saw this play out in their workplace said the management consultant did make a difference in the boss’s behavior, but didn’t think their fundamental character and philosophy changed.

  22. Roscoe*

    #4. This is one of those weird things where people prioritize different things in different ways. I live in a city with good public transit, so I don’t have a car. But I like to travel. People make comments about how expensive my travel must be, while ignoring the fact that they have a car and constantly buy high end purses or shoes. Yet, they don’t see how the reason they can’t afford to travel like I do is because of those choices they make. This will probably die down in a month. Just let it go.

    Or, if they say something, just talk about the blue book value of their trucks compared to your car, and I bet that shuts them up

  23. Silly Goose*

    The luxury car… I grew up in a snotty suburb where there were a lot of status-obsessed folks. For about two weeks after I got my license, I got to drive the old beat-up car that had previously been my grandfather’s, then my dad’s, then my brother’s, but I could drive it to school…. Complete with a three-foot gouge in the side from my brother’s early driving.

    Knowing less than nothing about cars, I got my key out and went to go drive home the first day after I got my license. Apparently, Cadillac keys are identifiable by color… They were all so obnoxiously excited (driving their brand new cars that were theirs, not their parents or sibling’s). It was A Thing for the whole two weeks. None of them equated the beat-up thing with the key they saw.

  24. T.*

    #1, try to see the behavior 1st hand so you know what you’re dealing with and it minimizes the opportunity for retaliation. (Not a he said she said case but using your own observations corroborated by their anecdotes) Don’t forget that his abuse can trickle into situations outside the workplace for your team if you fire him so make sure you’ve covered all your bases for your team.

  25. In the corner*

    OP1, I worked for an abusive manager. We finally broke and went to grandboss. He was talked to, retrained, and went through 360 feedback. Things were better for a while, but as soon as the spotlight was off, the retaliation started. The only thing that kept me from leaving was a reorganization where I no longer worked for abusive boss. Then the entire management chain changed jobs or left (coincidence?). My current management chain is wonderful and the company overall is a good one, but it’s still hard for me to trust them after everything I went through.

  26. So not getting paid*

    #4, My workplace is like this. New cars, vacations, nice clothes…they all get examined by one group of (well compensated) employees.

    1. WFHHalloweenCat*

      Yup mine is like this too. My second year working here I was out for almost a month (largely unpaid) with a concussion and when I got back everyone kept asking me how I negotiated such a large vacation package in only my second year. Same thing happened when I came back to the office iwth a new car post pandemic. It’s only the people who make more money than me that ask, interestingly enough.

    2. Slipping The Leash*

      There’s a guy at my office (let’s call him Jackass) who gets weirdly obsessive/jealous/borderline angry when anyone else buys something nice. So each year at the holiday party a co-conspirator (Buddy) and I make sure Jackass overhears us having a totally fake conversation along the lines of:
      “Did you hear Jimmy is buying a boat?”
      “Really? I guess he was jealous when he heard about Marsha buying a Mercedes and had to one-up her.”
      Then Buddy and I sit around, enjoying our cocktails and relishing the sight of Jackass trying to find a way to get confirmation of our conversation without appearing to have been eavesdropping, while his face gets redder and redder as he gets more and more upset that someone could have made either of these purchases. Buddy and I have been doing this about every other year for a couple of decades and Jackass still hasn’t cottoned on to the fact that we’re messing with him.

  27. ATX*

    #1 reminds of me of a boss I had about 7 years ago. While he didn’t use “abusive” language in the traditional textbook sense, he was definitely manipulative and emotionally controlling. Would constantly play mind games with us, making us drop everything we’re working on at the last minute to do some hypothetical test and if we got it wrong, we’d be summoned to a conference room and lectured for an hour on how we need to follow instructions better.

    Another bizarre one of his games was us having to recite back his wife’s Ukrainian last name after he spelled it one time, quickly, then got another lecture on how we need to listen better if we got it wrong.

    He would never let you explain yourself, citing “being defensive” as the reason. You were wrong, period, and this was an opportunity to “grow.” (as he would say)

    I was 26 at the time, but had this happened now, I would have immediately gone to HR. He constantly had a flock of contract workers and analysts coming onto his team, then leaving within a few months after they figured out how manipulative he was. He stayed with the company for a long time until he left recently. Good effing riddance.

    Long story short, I doubt there’s much remediation for this abusive manager. People like that just don’t change with some coaching. Plus, I would want off his team immediately and never wanna speak or see him again. Coming to an office where there’s already fear established is v. hard to get over.

  28. Spaceball One*

    LW1, keep in mind there is a real business cost associated with under-treating a case like this where employees perceive that they are on their own against a mean, vindictive manager. (I’ve been there – have been an employee on a small team with a mean, vindictive supervisor who basically governed our work days and our pleas for help from higher up fell on deaf ears.) A bunch of frightened, angry, and/or otherwise miserable employees are NOT going to be doing their best work, because their manager has made “manage my abusive behavior” their number one goal at work. Every decision they make has to be weighed against potential repercussions – and their manager has *created* this issue.

    When I worked for an abusive supervisor, I could not ask for time off without it becoming a giant fiasco. Sick kid? Need to stop by the DMV to replace a lost license? Last shopping day before Christmas? Tough nubs. If you took the time anyway, she’d concoct something to go wrong while you were away, so she could email managers and customers to share what happened, that you weren’t there, and that she took care of it instead. If you had a question about an assignment, she’d make a big production out of how stupid you were to have such a stupid question. I finally learned to come to her and say, “I am the biggest idiot in the universe and it’s just remarkable that I am able to even put my pants on every day… but what should I do with the XYZ page?” and THEN I could just get an answer, having already copped to being a ball of stupidity and sparing her the effort.

    Look – people like this have abuse in their bones. It’s instinctive, and they don’t feel like it’s abusive. You have fewer options here than you think, because an abusive person will only stop if they are forced to stop. Any variation of “please stop,” “consider stopping,” etc, is worse than meaningless to an abuser – it’s basically a permission slip to continue. Don’t give them a choice, or they will choose what they’re used to, which is being an abusive tyrant. And honestly, even if you give them no option but to shape up or be sacked, you’re likely still prolonging the situation. This person is already showing you they cannot be trusted to manage other people.

    1. Spaceball One*

      Meant to add – in addition to the employees’ work suffering, they will also be bailing as soon as they reasonably can, taking talent and institutional knowledge with them.

      You cannot afford to slap this person’s wrist and check a box in a personnel file somewhere. Not saying you were going to… but just in case.

    2. Joielle*

      My mom recently left a job because of a boss like this. Taking even one day off required much groveling, and she would invent a crisis every single time. Any tiny mistake would result in several meetings full of yelling, and then days of pointed comments about how SOME people just DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL. And if it was actually the boss’ mistake, it was even worse because she would lash out desperately for someone else to blame.

      My mom is now the 9th person to leave her small department in two years (almost 100% turnover). All have told management that they’re leaving because of the boss. The cost of letting an abusive manager run amok is very high turnover – anyone who can get a job somewhere else, will.

      1. Spaceball One*

        Yes! EXACTLY.
        Why a company would choose to deal with the gaps in knowledge, the disruptions of resignations and restarting the hiring process, the training, etc…. rather than rein in a bad manager, has always been beyond me. This person is a drain on your organization, which means they are also a drain on your finances. If you can’t deal with it because the human cost doesn’t motivate you, then do it because the business cost does! There is just no good excuse to let a jerk run amok like this.

  29. Tired*

    LW1, Alison is totally right: this manager’s abusive language is the tip of the iceberg. Take him out of his people management role while an investigation takes place. Then either redeploy him into a role where he is not managing people, or get rid of him.

  30. Construction Safety*

    OP#4. ~5.5 years ago Maserati was running an end-of-year sale. Something like $10k off cars in stock. I said to the SO, “I could show up on-site with a $75K pickup truck & no one would bat an eye. If I showed up with a $75k Italian sports car, I would never hear the end of it.”

    1. Lucious*

      Agreed. Some of the people critiquing my choice of car drive $50k + trucks. Even used, they hold value well enough to retail for 2x what I paid for my Infiniti “luxury car”.

      Yet I’m “Mr Peanut” for buying a used car. How odd.

      1. Smithy*

        I wear a lot of vintage clothing and among the pieces I enjoy are coats from the 1950’s with fur collars. With materials like fur/cashmere being super associated with luxury, being known for having more than one of these coats has certainly come with all sorts of chatter on the items despite all of my coats costing less than $100 and many costing around $50-60.

        The reality of the vintage market is that most prices are tied to local rent prices as well as whether or not the styles happen to be in vogue at the moment. This means that a cashmere coat with a mink collar from the 50’s can easily cost less than vintage band t-shirts. Not to mention, those coats are often cheaper than midrange coats in department stores.

        I’m certainly happy to chatter at length on the topic if someone wants to – but it never escapes the reality that fur = luxury to a lot of people.

        1. Hotdog not dog*

          I have a gorgeous vintage cashmere swing coat with a mink collar that I bought for $10 at a yard sale. I’ve never worn it to work, because I’m sure it would raise eyebrows, so I have to wear a cheaper-looking but more expensive one instead.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      True. Mostly because people don’t know those pickups cost $75K. I’ll be driving with one of the people in my family who is into such things and he’ll point out a big truck – nice, new, but nothing particularly flashy – and say “that one STARTS at $80K.” It’s mind boggling.

    3. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      It doesn’t even have to be all that expensive for this to happen!

      Right out of college, I drove an older mid-grade sedan – my coworkers generally drove pickups or similar. My parents asked if I would be willing to gift my (still in college) brother the sedan, since he needed one for commuting. I did, and they covered the cost of a newer used car – a 2-year-old Civic. The comments I got for driving a ” fancy brand new” car that “mommy and daddy paid for”! (as opposed to a Ford F150 with towing hitch and 4wd.)

      For the rest of the summer I worked there, I was the stuck-up rich college grad instead of someone just trying to make rent for myself. People are weird sometimes, especially about visible signs of consumption.

      I did love that Civic though.

  31. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    The whole point of a status symbol is that other people notice it. It’s so other people realize how awesome you are that you can afford and/or acquire special things. So yeah, folks are going to notice even if OP got this one accidentally. Considering that humans have been indulging in status symbols across the globe since prehistoric time (just search “ancient ceremonial sword” sometime if you want proof), I doubt that OP’s workplace will be the place where humanity finally gets over the foible.

    Kind of a pity the vehicle wasn’t bought as a status symbol. It seems to be an effective one.

    1. pancakes*

      This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with affordability, though, because the letter writer’s coworkers drive trucks and utes that cost more than their car did. This seems to be more about the coworkers trying to constantly remind someone that they don’t conform than about noticing a status symbol. A lot of people who think they’re above even thinking about style have very rigid ideas about style.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It could be about *perceived* affordability. People just assume any Infiniti is going to be more expensive than their Chevrolet or Honda.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Exactly. A friend of a friend was giving me a lot of grief when I traded my old Audi for a new one, telling me I was being snooty about foreign cars, a domestic brand was cheaper and I wasted money for the brand, etc.

          He’d just bought a new Ford F-250 XLT. Not because he needed it for work, he just likes the look of a big honkin’ truck. I pulled up ads for both his truck and my sedan at local dealerships, and the list prices were almost the same.

          Still love the look on his face. I can be petty that way.

          1. pancakes*

            This is pretty closely aligned with what I was saying, though. Your acquaintance was making noises about cost and about not wanting to support foreign manufacturers, but when it comes down to it he didn’t know anything about cost, and just likes the look of “a big honkin’ truck,” and doesn’t seem to understand why anyone else wouldn’t want the same thing.

          2. Yomiko*

            I had some people give me grief about my Civic being a foreign car. So I looked it up, and it was built in Tennessee.

            That usually makes those comments stop pretty quickly.

        2. pancakes*

          Maybe. It seems unlikely that the coworkers driving expensive trucks don’t have any sense of how much their own vehicles cost. They may not have a handle on the cost of the letter writer’s car but they’re not entirely without a frame of reference.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I’ve often found that people who consider a brand “expensive” will automatically assume that whatever they buy, the “expensive” version of it would cost more. Sure, their new Chevy truck cost $60K, but that’s just what trucks cost these days. Can you imagine how much John’s Infiniti costs, if a truck costs $60K? It must be $70 or $80K! That kind of thinking.

            1. PeanutButter*

              Also, they might know that they cost the same or more, but have the idea that they got a better “value” because you can use trucks/SUVs for towing/camping/hunting/navigating logging roads/etc, while a luxury sedan is pretty much only for more comfort getting from place to place on paved roads. Not saying I agree, but the area I’m from it’s MUCH more socially acceptable/understandable to get a giant dually diesel that you can use to haul livestock/an RV/a boat/farm equipment than a less-expensive (perceived) luxury sedan. Despite the fact that 99% of the time you’d be using the truck to do the same daily driving that you’d use the sedan for 100% of the time.

  32. idwtpaun*

    OP1, from just what’s written here, I find it concerning that abuse of employees and their fear of retaliation was going to be met with only a stern talking to of the abusive manager. This reads like the flip side of letters AMA receives from employess that go, “I have an abusive manager, the company knows but doesn’t do anything about it, so until I find a new job I’m suck, what do I do?”

    Also, if you think you won’t know that retaliation occurred, does that mean you have no oversight over what this manager does? At the very least, it seems like you believe the employees live in such a culture of fear that they won’t report the retaliation—how is that situation acceptible in any way?

  33. Lucious*

    To OP1: adding to Alisons advice, ask yourself if you have the actionable authority to discipline this abusive manager.

    If you do not because of internal politics – ex. said abusive manager is related to the CEO and anything you do to correct the behavior will be overturned – call their directs in and explain why the abusive managers behavior isn’t likely to change . Then let the chips fall where they may. You will probably lose people, but at least everyone knows the situation and can act accordingly. Further , your professional reputation will be upheld as you did the best you reasonably could. The best outcome is this jerk is held accountable and at minimum is retrained and reassigned , but in the real world the best outcome sometimes isnt an option. Hopefully that helps.

    1. irene adler*

      Good point.
      Anyone who is abusing their reports to that degree is going to have their stories straight -to rationalize everything. The old plausible deniability will come into play. The losers here will be the employees who report to this manager.

    2. Sara without an H*

      In a case like that, you should also offer to provide references for any employees who want to leave. I guarantee, they’ll take you up on that.

    3. MassMatt*

      I think this course of action has high likelihood of having the chips fall on the LW and the bully’s abused subordinates.

  34. Sunny_Side_Up*

    #2 Please consider ending this practice in general. Countless studies have shown using peer recommendations in candidate pools to be one of the main causes of the glass ceiling (applicable to both race and gender here). Truly the best way to insure you hire diversely and fairly is not to allow for peer recommendations. I know taking peer recommendations is an intuitive practice that seems harmless…. but that’s also the reason systematic discrimination sticks around so easily. All my HR friends on here please, please, at least look into the data and consider it.

    1. mreasy*

      I agree with you on this. We have a recommendation system, but we also have recruiters who focus on securing a diverse candidate pool. It’s incumbent on HR and hiring managers to ensure they aren’t weighing a personal recommendation more highly than the candidate’s resume, interview performance, and demonstrable skills.

  35. Andrew*

    The car thing is talked about on many of the forums I’m on. Plenty people have bought sub 10k to 20k Porsches/BMWs get weird looks about owning a cheap depreciated luxury or sports car, but the guy driving the brand new SUV doesn’t get any looks. Just having the key seems to raise eyebrows no matter the condition.

    I kind of like driving my 20 year old Civic to work because no one seems to say anything about it lol, while I leave the fun cars at home :D

    1. Yomiko*

      My 12 year old Civic -is- my fun car ;)

      (It’s a beautiful bright red SI, there’s a 50/50 chance that people will either be impressed by it or thing it’s just an average sedan).

      Seriously though, shopping for that car made me realize very few people understand the economics of car buying and run mostly in emotions.

  36. RussianInTexas*

    LW4: As a person who actually notices the cars coworkers drive (cars are my hobby of a sort), this is a silly and strange behavior. Most people do not give a hoot what you drive. On the other hand, a lot of people don’t know that most mass produced luxury cars depreciates like a rock. They probably think you paid a lot more than you have.
    People make jokes: Give a lecture on the depreciation curve. Every time. With numbers. Bore them to tears.

    1. Rocket Woman*

      I love this idea! I also love cars and notice what most of my coworkers drive, but I have never commented on it except for when I was car shopping myself and asked for opinions from people on their vehicles. Even if I notice someone has a new car/nicer car whatever I would never say anything!

  37. GMan*

    As a car enthusiast, my 2 cents on LW4:

    If this is your first ever luxury vehicle, people may be assuming that it’s something you’ve wanted for a long time, or something that you’d be very proud of. I think your coworkers are being nice by complimenting your car because they think it’s something that you may have been working toward for awhile.

    Thanks,

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I think your coworkers are being nice by complimenting your car because they think it’s something that you may have been working toward for awhile.

      That’s how I wish people reacted to my car, but most don’t get past “Accord…” Some days I feel like I’m hiding a unicorn in plain sight…

      Back on topic; grey rock, LW4, and it’ll fade into the status quo before you know it.

    2. pancakes*

      This isn’t quite on point with the situation described in the letter. “I’ve entertained a lot of hallway jokes and jealous side eyes . . .” If they’re trying to compliment the letter writer they’re really, really bad at it!

  38. a clockwork lemon*

    OP4, people who tend to notice cars will notice what you’re driving no matter what, but eventually they get bored of it. I drive a bright orange car and extremely distinct (for our parking lot) car and it’s just so out of the ordinary that I got comments on it for months. Now it only comes up if for some reason I drive a different car to work, because people see that my car’s not in the lot and assume I’m out for the day.

  39. Ali*

    OP1, ten years ago I had a manager swear at me and belittle me ONCE, I promptly started a job search, and in under 2 months I was out of there and had started a new job. People can be very, very motivated to leave environments where there is abusive talk.

  40. Irish girl*

    #4… I was in a sales training once and they were talking about something but they asked who had a luxury car and everyone in the room looked at me…. I had a used Audi A3 but to that room even if it was the same price as their SUVs or truck, it was a luxury. Never mind that I was looking at a Ford Fusion that would have cost the same. They jsut saw the make and that was it.

    Now my husband has a Ford F150 that cost more new than even my loaded A3. No one thinks his truck is a luxury vehicle. A lot of people equate luxury with certain brands rather than the cost.

    1. Pikachu*

      I live in a Kentucky suburb. $75k pickup trucks are normal and they are everywhere, but nobody looks at them like “luxury” vehicles. Meanwhile I got a used Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid for $25k and I’m the snob with the expensive car.

      Go figure.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        I absolutely love my Clarity! I had to fill up the tank in prep for a 400 mile trip last week and noted that I hadn’t bought gas in almost 900 miles. And it only took 3.5 gallons to fill up.

        The dealer wanted it out of their showroom and we did a good deal on it, so after the $7500 income tax rebate, it was a $23,000 car, new. But you’re right, people seem to think it was much more expensive than it actually was.

  41. Girasol*

    LW1: If remedial management training means attending a soft skills class, it would be important to keep a very close eye on what happens afterward. Bullies get satisfaction from watching their victims cringe. Teaching a bully manager how ineffective the behavior is, how harmful it is, and how they might act differently is not very likely to give them the incentive to forego that satisfaction in the future. It seems most likely that if such training is given, the abuser will redouble his abuse as payback for having to take a stupid class, with extra attention to being sure that he isn’t caught at it. (That goes for diversity training as well. A bigot will hate being forced to attend, will take out his frustrations on the same victims that the training was meant to protect, and will use the course information to better evade facing consequences.)

  42. J.B.*

    At my previous employer there was a known abusive manager. Person after person talked to the big boss, he would shift targets for a while but never really change. He also spent his time creating drama that he could then solve, and beg forgiveness rather than ask permission was the only way to survive working for him. They promoted him of course and I’m glad every day I left.

  43. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP3, you wrote: ‘I was annoyed since they didn’t even interview me for the job before hiring another person.’ Employers are not obligated to complete all scheduled interviews if they feel they have the right person and can hire them right away. It’s not an insult to you to cancel.

    Then you said, ‘They left a message telling me they already hired someone for the job and to call them back to talk to them about a few other positions they have. I considered the way they did this disrespectful or at best distasteful. Is this kind of thing acceptable for a company?’ Yes, it’s totally acceptable for an employer to contact you about other opportunities. This is actually a compliment to you, and I hope you choose to take it that way. Would you prefer they ignore you?

    Finally, you said, ‘Maybe I was being too strict with my expectations as it concerns business manners?’ You are. Or maybe you’re looking for insult where none was intended. Whatever the reason, there was nothing unusual or insulting about the way they handled things. Good luck in your search!

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I actually just went through this over the past 6 months several times, and I think emotionally I’m closer to where LW3 is.

      The insult is that the employer didn’t even evaluate you. They hired someone who was “better,” maybe even “great.” Without evaluating me, though, how did the employer decide I wasn’t “best”? Are they actually evaluating the candidates on skill and experience, or just looking for a convenient candidate to fill the head count? Was the position ever actually open, or was this just a dog and pony show to fulfill HR requirements?

      Invariably, the “other positions” have been lower paying, lower seniority, and lower prestige. A few have had promotion paths, but most have been dead-end. I’d give the employer a polite callback and listen to what they have to offer, but mentally I’d be moving on to the next opportunity/listings before the voicemail was even over.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I have learned from Alison, that employers can indeed, find the person they are looking for without interviewing everyone. For example, a person might not have all the qualifications but the employer is willing to consider them and extends an invite for an interview. But over the course of the interviews, a person with all the qualifications does a great job at the interview and gets hired.

        Or the employer does indeed just hire to fill the head count. Its how they operate, they did not do this AT you.

        If there is some bait and switch going on, that IS rude.

        I think your plan to listen to what they have to say but mentally move on is a good one.

        1. londonedit*

          When I got my current job, two of us were hired at the same time. My new boss told us once we’d started work that they’d wanted to hire both of us straight after our interviews, but the policy was to complete the whole interview process before offering anyone the job. OK, fine, they *could* have found people who were better than the two of us, but they’d decided they wanted the two of us, our qualifications were right, we seemed like we’d both be a great fit in the job, they were more than happy to stop the process there and hire both of us. My boss said it felt like a complete waste of everyone’s time having to interview people who they could see on paper weren’t as well suited as we were, just in case one of them turned out to be surprisingly amazing. I can see how it might feel like they didn’t give you a chance, but on the other side of the coin it’s pointless for everyone involved whenever there’s a situation where the boss already has someone in mind for the job – whether that’s because of earlier interviews, or an internal candidate, or whatever.

  44. IWishIHadABetterUserName*

    OP#3, I once interviewed for a job that I really, really wanted, and got the “thanks, we’ve moved forward with another candidate” letter. I was so discouraged.
    Three months later, they called me out of the blue and offered me a newly created similar position, which I accepted. Once on board, I found out that my position was in the works during the interview phase for the previous position, and that I’d been the desired candidate for the new position, but they could say nothing to me about it because it hadn’t yet been finalized by the board at the time.
    You never know what’s going on behind the scenes.

  45. Wisteria*

    “this must stop immediately and we will have a zero-tolerance policy on it going forward. This is extremely serious and I’m going to be managing you much more closely while we figure out if we can trust you to manage a team.”

    Now that’s how you manage. Not by managing out, not by hinting and hoping they quit, but by having a direct conversation.

    1. JM in England*

      Was taught something similar on an assertiveness training course. It was along the lines of:-

      “If [behaviour] continues, [consequences] will result. This is unacceptable and must stop immediately”

  46. PookieLou*

    OP#3: My husband got his current job this way. It’s a step up in every way from the one he was initially meant to interview for. There is a very real chance something even better could be in the works if you gave it a try.

    1. vampire physicist*

      I was going to say – I got my first job in a similar manner, and while it was technically the same level as the one I’d applied for, it had a higher salary and fit my skills better. Sometimes it’s a case of something opening up unexpectedly, or a poorly phrased job description. I would go in with an open mind – it can be a good sign that you were promising enough as an applicant that they are encouraging you to look at other roles. If they didn’t like you at all they would just tell you the position was filled and leave it at that.

  47. theletter*

    OP #4: you could present the information on the car without spilling the details by talking about the great deal you got by buying during the end-of-year clearance and/or funny negotiation tactics.

    OP #5: would you be able to frame the conversation around increasing efficiency and budget costs through reducing travel needs? Are there a lot of opportunities to turn in-person meetings into zoom calls? The pandemic has taught so many people to be flexible and embrace technology, so now is a great time to re-think business strategies in ways that help the budget and embrace stability.

  48. El l*

    Re Car Culture (LW4):
    Yeah, a car is one of those items that people get strangely judgmental about. Especially in rural areas, in my experience. The only other ones that elicit comparable reactions are your clothes.

    (I’ve seen people get judgmental about your house or your vacation, but that’s less of an office thing and more of a personal-life thing)

    The reason is the same: These things are status objects. That may not be how you view this car, but that’s how our culture conditions us to treat these things. It’s dumb, but – there’s nothing you can do about this.

  49. Rocket Woman*

    OP #4 – People are ridiculous. I bought a new infiniti after starting my job and had multiple people ask me if my DAD paid for it!! (I’m a young woman, first job out of college). In reality, I paid off the car I bought in college years before and traded that in for more than expected, and haggled them down a SIGNIFIGANT amount. It ended up being much cheaper than the “reasonable” brands I was looking at (Mazda, Toyota, and Subaru) and has much nicer features and finishes.

    I’m also a Mechanical Engineer, and my love for cars is what brought me into this field so I’ve always been willing to spend a bit more on a vehicle I love. I do all the work on it myself and it drives great. Whenever people asked or teased me about it I’d say “I negotiated a great price and learned to work on cars with infiniti – which is what encouraged me to be an engineer!” People usually dropped it after that. I never said what I paid for it because that’s nobody’s business. People are weird and judgy about cars, pick a response that keeps it chipper without revealing information. I had one particular person keep badgering me for exact cost and finally said “It’s so odd that you’re so obsessed with my finances, is there something wrong with yours?” That shut him up.

  50. Jenny*

    To tell you the truth, I’m so jaded by my work history that the first question I actually asked myself when the manager was going to get promoted in the first letter.

  51. rebecca*

    #4 – It’s kind of weird that you bought a luxury car but are saying you’re annoyed that people noticed it and noticed that it’s a more expensive brand!

    Google tells me that Mazda is actually a “premium,” not luxury, brand, so maybe you can respond to people, “It’s actually not a luxury brand! haha, it’s no Mercedes.” Or say it was a good deal, even though apparently Infinitis retail between $40k-70k, a heck of a lot more than a lot of people could afford.

    Either way, a nice problem to have!

    1. Rocket Woman*

      This comment really reads the wrong way. The LW stated “The brand wasn’t a factor in my purchase at all; the vehicle has the features I need and the price is eminently reasonable.” They didn’t buy the luxury car because it was luxury. They are now asking if this attention is normal or a sign of a workplace culture they may need to monitor.

      The letter also stated it was 5 years old, meaning they probably didn’t pay $40-70k. Heck, I bought an Infiniti brand new with several packages and didn’t pay anywhere near $40k. Also not sure where you got Mazda, but the LW should not have to knock their car down a few pegs to make others feel better about their own insecurities.

      Also, feeling like you’re under a microscope is never a “nice problem to have” and is very dismissive of the LW. Telling someone its “a heck of a lot more than a lot of people could afford” is irrelevant to their question and experience. They noticed a weird office vibe about their car and asked in for advice, that’s it.

      1. Red 5*

        +1

        Admittedly it sounds like a humble brag to say that unless you’ve dealt with these kinds of comments you don’t know how obnoxious it is, but it’s really true. I can say from personal experience it’s not a nice problem to have. Saying that to someone is super weird and dismissive.

    2. disconnect*

      Why is it weird for them to be annoyed? No, it’s not a nice problem to have, it’s a situation that is causing LW grief and discomfort.

  52. C*

    LW5 – I would have a frank conversation with them and see what their expectations are for travel in the Post Covid world.

    While I think this notion of working from home forever is a tad overblown, I do see a significant reduction in some business travel. Depending on the nature of the role and the industry, the “up to 75% travel” may just be a placeholder and they anticipate that travel may be substantially reduced in the future.

    I work for a large consultancy and our default position now is that work will be done remotely and our clients are going for it. They like the cost savings, efficiencies gained in that people aren’t wasting a lot of time traveling and the reduced environmental impact. Pre Covid the default position was everyone on site.

  53. Esmeralda*

    OP #4
    Respond every time with something like this:
    Yeah I got a great deal on it! I looked at SUVs too, but the Infiniti priced out better. [pause] So, what did you pay for your Ford Valdez?

    1. MissCoco*

      Yeah my parents recently found out the “premium” models of a few popular crossovers are actually going for quite a bit less used because they aren’t as well known or popular as the standard versions from the same manufacturers, when people have felt the need to comment on their “new” 2015 Lexus, they’ve just been sharing the pleasant surprise they found while car shopping

  54. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#4….as a car lover, I can tell you that many people are just ignorant about vehicle values and they think Infiniti = luxury/expensive and Ford = Cheap, when the reality is that some of these large trucks and SUV’s cost far more than your used Infiniti, as you noted. People will definitely move on. I had a similar experience from both family and friends. Bought a used Cadillac for under $15k. People had no idea what year it was (cause they don’t keep up with cars or at least not Cadillac) & thought it was new & that I’d paid around $40 – $50k! The reality was their new Honda Civic cost more than my used Cadillac. I just told people “oh no, it’s used, and older than you might think and I got a great deal!” If they really want to know, they can look it up.

  55. Observer*

    #1 – you ask how to give feedback to my manager without giving him the feeling that I came to know this from his team members.

    My question to you is WHY? Why is your manager not allowed to know that you’ve heard from his team? Why can you not insist on appropriate behavior from the manager?

      1. Observer*

        No. The team may be afraid of retaliation. But why is the *OP* afraid? They should have the power to stop retaliation from happening, or worst case stop it in its tracks. So why is the OP instead cowering instead of laying down the law?

  56. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    OP 1: the first thing you have to start with is accepting that it is bright line unacceptable for a manager (or anyone in your company) to bully others and be verbally abusive. Too often, we act like this is somehow a “personality trait,” we have to be respectful of the bully’s way of communication, and everyone needs to compromise on accepting some of the bullying while the bully backs off somewhat as well. There’s no compromise here. The abusive manager needs to stop, and their reports absolutely do not have to be subjected to their abuse.

  57. Cars - don't want one, gotta have one*

    #4 – for a long time hubs drove a Cadillac that had been my dad’s and was 8 years old when he got it. “Ooh, a Cadillac!” Now he drives a 2006 Crossfire convertible that cost $6K and looks like a million bucks. “Ooh, sportscar!” I haul dogs and plywood and have driven a minivan for years. Whenever I get a different (new to me but not brand new) no one notices.

  58. Enkidu*

    Avoid like the plague. It’s just bait and switch in disguise. They advertise a really great sounding job, good salary, then they say that they have filled the position. Lo and behold, they have other jobs available. These jobs will be not as good, and will be lower paid. The clue here is that the interview slot was held open. Don’t go near any firm that plays these sorts of tricks.

    1. MassMatt*

      Interesting take, there are definitely companies that do this, like temp agencies, and rental agencies are famous for it. I remember a unicorn-like apartment that was advertised by one agency in my city for literally YEARS, they were too lazy to change the listing and no doubt kept getting a stream of rubes looking for the 2 bedroom on swanky street for $400/ month. But I don’t get this sense from the letter.

  59. Raida*

    #4 Personally I’d lean into the car jokes/comments and tell them either:
    “Yep I’m thinking the next one should have a platinum dash/gold gearstick/hovermode! What do you think?” and have some fun making up ridiculous features.
    or “Did you know it’s got a cappuccino machine in it?!” if they won’t mind the joke of you trying to fool people with silliness about how fancy it *could* be.

    or go the other way with the jokes:
    “Yes, that’s me – very fancy, but can only afford he 5 yr old version!”

  60. CjAz*

    Oh the car thing gets me. I bought an electric car. A used BMW i3. It was $10,000. Not a luxury car by any means but it looks fancy. Everyone at my new job thought I was a super snob. It also does not help I love to buy designer clothes for cheap. Like $4 cheap. I am a cheap person. Assumptions are weird. I worked higher end retail and learned real quick that those in the nicest clothes and cars are usually the poorest. Those in the regular clothing or even in dirt clothing will have the cash money and not haggle you. I just assume if you have a fancy car you have a lot of debt. We all have our biases. But office talk will move on to something else. As it does. No one really thinks about your car as much as you do.

    1. Red 5*

      To me it’s always been about how flashy they are with it. I’ve known people who have a lot of nice things but you only know if it’s relevant or you actually see them with the designer purse.

      But the people who are VERY in your face with their Cadillacs and designer shirts and expensive furniture and bragging about jetting off to an island on a whim… so much debt. If they’re not from a rich family, they’re drowning in debt. If they are from a rich family, their parents are probably in debt.

      Like you said, we all have our biases :)

  61. Red 5*

    OP #4 – My spouse and I both drive cars that are technically luxury cars (his more obviously so than mine). They look flashy and impressive, but they both cost barely more than an average mid sized sedan.

    I’ve pretty reliably been able to tell who I’ll get along with at work based on what their reaction is to our cars. Current job, nobody cares.

    Another job they were ridiculous about it. Straight up ridiculous. Assuming things about our finances, being resentful, making snide comments.

    But the thing is, those people were also ridiculous people and awful coworkers. That was just one of many things. So to me, a side eye at your luxury car is just a sign that they’re not good at various soft skills and to adjust accordingly. Not like in a “these people and this job suck” kind of way, just a “I’m going to be a bit more careful until I’m sure” kind of way.

  62. YoungTen*

    Op 4. I used to work at a car obsessed company. No! We didn’t sell cars but it would really irk me after a while. Like, who cares?

  63. Eric H*

    OP #1: Not to put too fine a point on it, let’s suppose for a moment that this manager’s abusive language is cross-gender, and has created a “hostile work environment”. As a manager yourself, in the US the fact that you know about it means you have a **legal obligation on behalf of your company** to correct this situation. This manager has exposed your company to legal liability, and it should be treated with that level of seriousness.

    Reference: https://www.eeoc.gov/harassment
    “If the supervisor’s harassment results in a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability only if it can prove that: 1) it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior; and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.”

  64. mairona*

    OP #4: My husband and I had almost this exact same scenario happen to us when we bought an Infiniti! It was about 8 years old when we bought it for a great price, slightly under market value, and perfectly within our budget with all the options we wanted. But because that model was still being made and it was in great condition, we got those kinds of comments. I think part of it was that we work in academia as staff, which means we’re pretty underpaid for our fields (can’t beat the benefits, though!) so there were a couple of people in better-paid positions who were all “How’d you get this swanky car? I can’t afford one of these!” It almost felt like we were being accused of either being irresponsible with money or that we had some sort of secret income or windfall.

    One thing that helped was just laughing it off with a comment like, “You say that, but would you believe this thing is 8 years old? And in such great condition, too – I can’t believe we got such a great deal on it!” The comments stopped pretty quickly the more excited about our awesome deal that we got. Turns out people get tired of that just as quickly as we got tired of the backhanded comments on our alleged “wealth” lol.

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