employee is trying to force me to accept a loan I don’t want, a raise for covering for remote coworkers, and more

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

1. Employee is trying to force me to accept a loan I never asked for

Due to my spouse’s disability and my working full-time, we hire a cleaner for two hours every week. She’s pleasant but lacks punctuality and gossips non-stop.

During one of these gossip sessions, my spouse told her that a machine he uses for a hobby recently died and he needed to buy a new one, at a cost of around $500. This is an amount that he could save in a couple of months or we could easily afford in a few weeks if we talked about setting some money aside from both of our incomes. It’s not an issue.

Our cleaner said, “If you need help, just ask.” My spouse responded, “If I need help, I will.” The next week the cleaner arrived and pressed $500 into his hand, saying, “Just pay me back at $50 a month.”

I was absolutely stunned. We’re not poor. We’re not rich, but we’re definitely not poor. We can afford a cleaner. We could have easily afforded this machine if we made it a priority. I understood my spouse was currently saving for it.

My spouse tried to give the money back, saying it was incredibly generous but we didn’t need it. The cleaner said, “I went to the bank just for you. If you don’t want it, throw it in the bin.”

I’m absolutely stumped. This cleaner is my employee, we don’t need the money, we never asked for it, and to even use it I would have to take time off from my full-time job to take my disabled spouse to the bank to deposit it, as the machine he wants can only be purchased online. We tried giving it back and I don’t want to owe money to someone I employ. What on earth do I do now?

This is extremely odd. People don’t normally press their employers to accept large sums of money (or suggest they’ll throw it away if it’s refused!).

If you didn’t have the issue of getting to the bank, I’d suggest just including the $500 in the next check you leave her. But since you do, all you can really do is have one of you hand it back to her next week and say, “It’s kind of you to offer, but we absolutely cannot accept it.” If she balks at all, then say, “We’re not comfortable accepting money from someone we’re hiring to do work for us; it wouldn’t be ethical.” If she doesn’t seem to be taking the money when she leaves, physically put it into her hand and say, “I need you to take this with you. We can’t continue to employ you if you won’t accept that.” If she says anything more about throwing it away, then say, “That’s your call, but we need you to take it with you when you go.”

And I’d seriously consider starting fresh with someone new, considering the the other issues you’ve already had with her work.

Read an update to this letter here

2. Executive keeps using the word “opportunity” to mean “problem”

An executive in my company has started using the word “opportunity” in a really weird way. For example, instead of using the word “issue” or “problem,” he’ll send a company-wide email saying, “We are aware of the opportunities in accessing Microsoft Teams” or “We have an opportunity that requires us to take offline.” Wtf is this? Is this some sort of obnoxious new corporate-speak?

Ick, possibly. There’s been a thing for a while where some companies use “opportunity” to mean “area for improvement,” coming from “opportunity for growth” — as in, “you have an opportunity in your communications with clients; I’d like to see you build more personal relationships with the people you serve” or so forth. And that was already a bit much, but what you’re describing is more over the top and ridiculous by a mile. (Can you tell them they have an opportunity that requires you to receive a raise?)

3. Can I ask for a raise after covering for remote coworkers for over a year?

I’m an admin who’s been working on-site since March 2020. My coworkers were supposed to all return to the office at the same time, but for various reasons (medical, childcare-related, etc.) none of them returned on a full-time basis except for me. I don’t have the same role as they do as theirs are specialized, but have been covering some of the tasks in the office they used to do. I was asked at first and then over time it became expected.

It’s been over a year and I’m still covering the extra work, except it’s gotten worse. We’ve had some personnel changes and someone else is on maternity leave, so I am now covering tasks for the worker on leave and helping to train new hires, all in addition to my main duties and the ones that fell to me in the wake of everyone being remote during the pandemic.

I’ve spoken to my boss multiple times about the workload since the beginning of the year and asked to work out a plan to offload some of the responsibilities. She is sympathetic and says she is trying to find a way to lighten the workload, but she also doesn’t have a plan to bring people back or redistribute the work at this point.

Is it reasonable to ask for a raise or to negotiate some other perk as someone who has been on-site and working and covering other people’s work for more than a year? I am supportive of people working from home if that’s what they need, but most of my coworkers cannot do 100% of their jobs from home, and me continuing to take on other people’s tasks in the office is becoming almost another full-time job in addition to my own role. If there are no plans to change this, I’d like to at least be compensated for the additional work and the time I’ve spent trying to keep the department running in the office.

It’s absolutely reasonable, just like if you took on any other significant responsibilities long-term. It sounds like you have a strong case for a raise. Frame it as, “I’ve taken on significantly more responsibilities over the last year, have added about X hours to my work week every week, and have been integral in keeping the office running smoothly — for example, Y and Z. I’d like to discuss raising my salary to a level that reflects my higher level of contributions.”

Just be careful not to imply that you’ll be happy to continue the current state of affairs indefinitely in exchange for the raise, if that’s not the case.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. I don’t feel safe flying to an in-person company retreat

My company has just sent us all an email that they’ve scheduled a company-wide, in-person retreat in August with instructions about booking cross-country flights. They’re requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test before arriving.

I know there are some unvaccinated folks on staff and it will be indoors. I am vaccinated, but I’ve spent all year taking as few risks as possible to keep my very high-risk family safe. Between the rules changing as people get vaccinated and the rise of the delta variant, I don’t know what’s actually safe or smart any more. It feels impossible to keep up. But at the end of the day, it feels like an unnecessary risk.

I’ve spoken with some colleagues who are also uncomfortable, but they don’t seem eager to say anything because of the optics. I don’t know if I have any ground to stand on anymore and if I just need to suck it up and go, but what are my options here?

You have high-risk family members you’re trying to keep safe! You’re on solid ground in saying this won’t be possible for you. I’d say, “Unfortunately I’m still not able to fly or attend events like this because I have high-risk family members and our doctors have advised against it. Can we arrange for me and any others in a similar boat to call in instead?”

5. Is it a bad sign that I never met with one of my scheduled interviewers?

Last week I had what could perhaps be the final video interview for a job where HR was consistently dropping the ball with me, and something happened that makes me wonder if I’m not likely to get a job offer.

First the HR person never called me at the pre-arranged time, and more than once I emailed her before she agreed to respond. Then, on the day I was scheduled to have video calls, I didn’t even talk to everyone, because she never let me know two people weren’t available and a third I just didn’t speak to for unsaid reasons, though I did talk to another person I wasn’t scheduled with. I did have a later scheduled video call with the two people who weren’t available, but never spoke to the third person at all. The two people I did speak to ended it by saying that everyone involved with the interview process would meet up and discuss who they wished to move forward with.

Is it a bad sign that the company appeared to make no effort whatsoever to schedule a candidate to talk with everyone they were supposed to meet? Or can job offers sometimes be made without literally every person who was supposed to interview candidates being involved? For what it’s worth, I did talk to the potential manager of that role.

Nah, this happens. Sometimes on a day with multiple interviews scheduled, one of the interviewers might be out sick or ended up with a last-minute conflict, and the employer will either put someone else in their place or skip that interview, depending on how critical that person’s role in the process was. I’d be concerned if you hadn’t spoken with the hiring manager, but you did.

All that said, it can sometimes be a bad sign if you’re scheduled for a day of interviews and they cancel the ones at the very end and never reschedule those. That can happen when they realized part-way through the day that you’re not the right match for the job and figure it doesn’t make sense to continue with all the planned meetings. But it can also happen for the same reasons above, so it’s not an ironclad sign of anything.

For what it’s worth, you’re sounding a little defensive or even adversarial about some of this (“before she agreed to respond,” “make no effort whatsoever,” etc.). It’s annoying when an HR person is disorganized and it’s rude not to call at a scheduled time (although incredibly common in interview processes, unfortunately), but it sounds like your frustration with her might be coloring the way you’re seeing the whole process.

{ 541 comments… read them below }

  1. AcademiaNut*

    That first one is so bizarre that I really wouldn’t feel comfortable having that person in my home, or being in a financial relationship of any sort with them. So yeah, I think it’s time to fire them immediately, and if they have a copy of your house key, get the locks changed. If they won’t physically take the money back, I’d get legal advice, because I’d be worried they come after you claiming theft.

    It may be that they are well meaning but simply very, very odd, but it’s so far from what would be considered acceptable that it’s setting off alarm bells for me.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s really bizarre, and I confess my first thought was highly on my paranoid side (like, is that money a forgery?) whereas my second one was more akin to yours.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Oh, my first thought was wondering if there was some cultural or generational practice I’m not familiar with. Or perhaps the cleaner feels very friendly with this couple, sees it as a nice gesture and is trying to refuse the return of the money in a jokey way.

        But I agree that I would be uncomfortable and return the money!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I add the caveat that my brain is, at best, described as ‘error filled’.

          Your words have made me think though and remember my long deceased nanna who was always poor but would literally hand over everything she had to any family member who said even remotely that they didn’t have the money for something. It was just part of how she was, a lot formed from hiding in the London Underground during the Blitz.

          We who were kids around her learnt to never mention money and if she *did* force a tenner on us to basically put it back in her bag later (she’d never ever accept you handing it back). Now, with non-family/non-friends people I can’t see this working (don’t sneak stuff into people’s bags) but people here are having great suggestions!

          1. EmKay*

            My paternal grandparents were the same. They were teens/young adults during the Great Depression, and didn’t always know when the next meal would be. For my entire life, my grandmother made it her mission to stuff everyone full of food when we were at their house, and she sent us off with plates overflowing with leftovers.

            She would regularly chide my father “those kids are too skinny”. It was good natured, but there was an undercurrent of seriousness too. She wasn’t going to see her family “go hungry” if she dang well had anything to say about it!

            I miss my Nanny.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            My coworker’s mom was like this, to the point that her entire family bled her dry because she couldn’t or wouldn’t say “no”. It started out helpful and then they learned that she would give them anything if they even hinted.

            Coworker’s mom was sincere but the flip side of this is that I also know people who will give you the shirts off their backs but then either hold it against you when you decline or use it as an opportunity to show off how generous they are, and will obliquely criticize people who don’t give beyond their means or who aren’t as showy about it.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than my grandmother, who got bled dry by everyone but family. Her luck was bad enough (and honestly statistically unlikely- multiple employers?) that I’ve always wondered if there was a sign on her invisible to everyone except leeches.

            2. Wombats and Tequila*

              Yep, and those psychological extortionists call you “ungrateful” if you dare refuse their strings-laden “gifts.”

          3. DataGirl*

            my grandma was like this too. She lived close to the poverty line but refused to take money from anyone and insisted on paying for everything. It was a pride thing probably born out of living through the Great Depression. My dad would hide the money she gave him in her house or bags so she’d find it later and not be able to force it back on him.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Oh, my first thought was wondering if there was some cultural or generational practice I’m not familiar with. Or perhaps the cleaner feels very friendly with this couple, sees it as a nice gesture and is trying to refuse the return of the money in a jokey way.

          That’s how I read the employee; she feels more like a friend of the family than a subordinate and wants to help them as she would help a friend. My mother has several friends of whom she is also a customer, and a few I could see wanting to make a gesture like this.

          I’m not sure I’d cut her loose over it, but I would share the discomfort being expressed here.

          1. Pennyworth*

            The husband made a big mistake when he told the cleaner he would ask for her help if he needed it instead of making it clear he would never be able to accept money from her. He left the door open for her to assume he was just being polite when he refused her offer.

            1. BadWolf*

              His response didn’t seem that abnormal to me. Polite, acknowledges the help is out there, doesn’t commit to it. It’s only a mistake in hindsite.

              1. Littorally*

                Agreed. People seem to like casting things as “mistakes” or as “indirect” with the benefit of hindsight, after it has become clear that the other party does not speak the same cultural language. But speaking one’s own cultural language is not a mistake, even if it is a rather more indirect language — and I would not classify “if I need your help I’ll ask for it” as indirect! In fact, it’s pretty direct. Have I asked for your help? No? Then please do not give me help.

                1. Lily*

                  “speaking one’s own cultural language is not a mistake, even if it is a rather more indirect language”
                  Thank you for saying this.

                2. Littorally*

                  Thank you! It’s an idea I’ve been chewing around for a while after a few other posts on this site, and I finally found words I like for it. I’m glad it resonated with you too!

                3. Tali*

                  Yes, thank you! It’s not wrong to speak one’s own indirect language and escalate to more direct language if necessary. And I agree that that was pretty direct already!

            2. TFB*

              “If I need your help [or opinion or whatever] I’ll ask” is a fairly common way of saying “I don’t need your help.”

              He certainly needs to be clearer in the future obviously, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to say he made a big mistake when he said something very normal that most reasonable people would understand means “I didn’t ask, so I don’t need your help.”

            3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              That did jump out at me as the kind of the “Midwest polite” speak I have a way of slipping into if I’m not careful. (My home country, OTOH, is famous for its blunt conversational style, but no, I had to adopt the one of the area where I’ve lived for the past 20+ years.) Recently I had a call from a recruiter I’d been chatting on and off for a few years, and he offered to submit my resume for an open position that, based on his description, I really did not want. So I went full Midwest and told him “I’ll think about it” when I really meant to say no!! He took it as a yes. I even corrected myself a minute later and said “sorry that’s my Midwest way of saying no, what I meant to say is no.” but the damage was already done and he’s now gone and sent my resume to the employer (facepalm).

              1. quill*

                I mean, having lived in the midwest all my life, I’m not sure that’s a regional problem so much as a recruiter problem, because I have definitely had midwest-based recruiters read too much into similar statements

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  It’s likely both. My point is, while most of us can tell that “if I need help, I will ask” is a polite no, someone with no boundaries would hear it as “aww he’s too shy to say yes, poor thing, but he’s hinting at it”. Too vague for someone like LW’s cleaner, who needs it spelled out.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Interesting. To me, “if I need your help, I’ll ask for it” is actually a rude “no.”

                3. Susan Ivanova*

                  I told a recruiter “I’m not looking at the moment” (which was true, and also a soft “not interested in your company unless you’re the very last possible option”) and he replied with “I think you meant to say ‘I *am* looking’ so I’ll keep in touch”.

                  Recruiters are very hard to discourage.

              2. cosmicgorilla*

                That is definitely a recruiter problem. I’m not in the Midwest, but “I’ll think about it” is definitely not a yes. Heck, “I’ll think about it” is a time-honored way across the US to tell a kid no without telling them no.

                1. Dust Bunny*

                  Not a Midwesterner here, either, and I would not interpret “I’ll think about it” as a yes. That’s a classic polite-stalling-before-saying-no technique.

                2. PT*

                  A lot of people outside the Midwest do not read “Midwest-polite” as polite, too. In other regions of the US it comes across as pretty rude.

                3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  “Midwest polite” in print also overlaps with Sarcasm more often than anyone would prefer.

                4. Littorally*

                  Not a Midwesterner, but with lots of Midwestern-polite family; “I’ll think about it” is not a yes anywhere I know of. At most, it is a maybe, and in a lot of places, it’s a no.

                5. Lenora Rose*

                  I’ve had to be absolutely clear with people on those occasions when I said “I’ll think about it” when I *didn’t* mean an absolute no or letting them down easy, but really did want time to decide. I’ve *never* had anyone take “I’ll think about it” as an affirmation of anything.

                  If they don’t take it as a neutral or a no, then they wouldn’t take a NO for an answer either.

              3. OyHiOh*

                Upper Midwest heritage here and oh the struggle is real! I now live in a much more direct “ask culture” part of the US and it has been very good for my mental health to learn to be much more direct about my “yes,” “no,” and “I have this problem, can you help?”

            4. Money*

              She told them to dump it in the bin if they didn’t want it. Her behaviour is beyond bizarre, who tells people to throw a chunk of money into the bin.

              1. OhNo*

                What it is, in all honesty, is guilt meant to make him accept the money. I mean, “I went to the bank especially for you!” is pretty guilt-inducing all on its own. But then add to that “If you don’t want it, throw it away”? Heavy, heavy on the guilt.

                I’m really sensitive to anything that smacks of emotional manipulation, so my immediate reaction would be to give the cleaner a stern talking to about boundaries, return the money, and fire them. But depending on the relationship the LW has, that might be overkill.

                1. Money*

                  I am insanely sensitive when people push boundaries. I’ve cut people off over it. The LW posted and said when they finally insisted again they don’t want the money and the cleaner responded ‘fine, I’ll give it to another client instead’. That is not helping. I think she is using the money to encourage them to not focus on her lack of work. I really would hate it if it turned out to be a con.

                2. Momma Bear*

                  Yeah, that was really the thing that struck me. He didn’t ask for it. He doesn’t want it. Now she says to throw it away instead of paying her back? Her behavior is unstable. I would return it to her in her check for the week in part to have a paper trail (photocopy the check if you don’t have duplicates). It is easy for someone you’ve known for a long time to blur lines, but at the end of the day, this is a business relationship. If she no longer sees it that way, and respects you as her employer, then strongly consider someone else. If you don’t use anyone else, ask your spouse to put her on an info diet and focus on her work. He may not have a lot of social outlets right now, but it’s exacerbating the problems.

                3. Susan Ivanova*

                  > I would return it to her in her check for the week

                  Oh, no, don’t do that, it’s going to be a mess tax-wise.

                4. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

                  Yeah, my suspicion is that she desperately needs them to feel obligated. Maybe because that’s her emotional hang-up, maybe because she wants a hook in them to keep the job, maybe something weirder? But it smacks of favor-sharking.

                5. The Other Katie*

                  Former Child, I live in the UK and I employ a cleaner. We chat, because it’s weird not to talk to someone who’s in your house doing your chores a couple hours a week. It’s not “imposing” on her to talk briefly about what’s going on with me, any more than she’s “imposing” on me when she updates me on her kid’s school progress. You’re being weird here.

              2. JessB*

                Agreed, that’s very odd. And if they throw it out, does she still expect them to repay the money to her?!

        3. Grey*

          My first thought is they might like to have some leverage over their employer considering their work-related issues. It’s harder to fire someone when you still owe them for a large favor.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I think, with the woman being late and generally taking a “I’m doing this as a goof/favor/when I can” attitude that she has some sort of skewed Mary Poppins mentality. Like she is there to save the family, not to work as a employee.
            Don’t think it’s nefarious, just super obnoxious.
            Give her back her money and send her on her way.
            She way too up in your business.

            1. DataGirl*

              I also think it’s more likely the cleaner sees herself in a savior role. My first guess was she could be highly religious and sees it as her duty to help those less fortunate. Less kindly, she may want bragging rights at church/among her friends: “oh look at me I am so generous I gave my poor disabled employer money I can’t afford how wonderful am I”.

            2. Shanderson*

              This was absolutely my take as well. She doesn’t see this as an adult who is her employer, she sees a disabled dependent who needs her as a caretaker. It’s not uncommon even for even trained people to slip into seeing a physically disabled person as mentally incapable and not afford them the same manner and care as they would an able bodied person. (Ie, handing back change to the able bodied person beside them instead, addressing remarks to their partner as a ‘carer’ without thinking). She may not realize it, but she is denying his autonomy in a way she likely wouldn’t for a different employer.

            3. OhNo*

              Agreed, I also got that vibe. If that seems to be the case, LW, then it’s very important that your spouse returns the money and has the serious discussion with her about ethics, not you.

              If you do it, it is far to easy for someone who is already denying your spouse their autonomy to frame it as “mean LW is taking money away from their poor, disabled spouse who is already forced to depend on the charity of strangers for things they need” – and that’s the sort of framing that can lead to kicking up a big fuss.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            I wouldn’t interpret this as “leverage over one’s employer” since that would be monumentally foolish but in addition to “gossipy” it sounds like someone who has general boundary issues.

        4. Sarah H.*

          Thank you for mentioning this. There are many comments that the behavior is odd or deliberately problematic, but in some cultures, this would be normal, and her employment status wouldn’t be a factor because the types of professional boundaries we have in the US aren’t held everywhere. If this is the case, it could be helpful for them to explain to her that in the US, accepting money from an employee could be viewed as exploitative. This would help her to understand that their response is not out of disrespect.

        5. Nanani*

          I was thinking abelism – this is a disabled person therefore they need help! with everything! even things they don’t need help with!
          Refusing to listen to disabled people is incredibly common, even when said “help” causes problems.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My “I spent my 20s and started my career and my family in the country that was going through a massive economy crash and had sky-high crime rates at the time” kicked in as soon as I read that letter. I was like, “oh she is up to *something*. But what exactly?”

      3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        Keymaster of Gozer -counterfeit moolah was were my brain went too. I’d be very sure to hand her back the exact same bill. Counterfeiters can afford to be generous because they will receive real cash for nothing.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      The comment about throwing the money triggers a bit if paranoia in me: is the money real ?

      So I say give those notes back to her. On camera if the letter writer can. Make a point of saying that you never asked or accepted the loan from here. That you are returning the full amount.

      Or check the security features on the notes. If you’re prepared to contact the police if they are forgeries.

      As for replacing her, I agree fully. I wouldn’t trust her after this.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Or . . . drama and manipulation.

        My mom will take minor perceived slights and wail about how she can never get anything right and nobody likes her. One, it’s not true. Two, everyone would like her a lot better if she didn’t misinterpret things and then blow them out of proportion.

        1. Money*

          My mom controls people through money. She got a big shock when she realised I wasn’t interested.

    3. LW1*

      When we spoke about it, my spouse agreed that the cleaner sees us as friends instead of employers, and that she genuinely meant well and has somehow wildly misunderstood the situation. But the whole thing made me very uncomfortable and I too, wondered if it was part of a money laundering scheme since she was being so insistent.

      1. Good Vibes Steve*

        It’s an odd thing even for a friend to do. I’ve had friends mention “oh, I wish I could get a new couch/ coffee machine/ sewing machine” but it would never occur to me to push $500 on them to get it. Maybe contribute as a birthday present? But this it too out of the norm.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I mean I mention that things are broken or I’m needing a new one all the time without expecting people to give me it. I’m just venting, e.g. my printer broke so I was bemoaning the difficulties of getting one that met my needs. I don’t expect it as a gift.

          That said if a close friend mentions that she’s lost something or needs a new something I might send it if it’s a small thing. For example one of my friends mentioned, early during lockdown, that she’d run out of a food she really enjoys but couldn’t go to the shops for. Because she was struggling in lockdown and I wanted to cheer her up I was able to source the product online and send it to her to cheer her up but that was a £5 food product not a $500 gift.

          1. Threeve*

            And if your friend told you they couldn’t accept the gift for whatever reason, you wouldn’t have tried to force it on them!

            1. UKDancer*

              No I wouldn’t have forced it on her. I mean it was a £5 tin of luxury hot chocolate which she’d said she couldn’t get herself so I thought the odds of her accepting it when it arrived were fairly good.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, this. My SIL hated all four of her random hand-me-down can openers but felt guilty tossing them “because they still work” so I sent her the newer version of the nice one my parents have. But it was a $14 can opener with no strings attached, not $500 with the expectation she pay me back.

        2. Karo*

          I have done something similar for my best friends/people I share blood with, but it’s always for something strictly necessary like overdue bills or food. I could maybe make a case for something hobby-related if they were using it to make money but that’s a stretch.

          And again…this is for my favorite people in the world – not my boss and never my employer. I would also only insist on them taking it once in case they were declining for form’s sake, but after that you just take it back.

        3. DataGirl*

          $500 is a lot. But there have been times when I’ve been struggling and mentioned something online or to a friend- sometimes a need like ‘we can’t buy groceries this week’ or a want ‘I wish I could get this new book’ and they showed up at my door with food or a package arrived in the mail. I also had someone offer to loan me $500 for a legal matter once, with the stipulation to pay it back when I could (yes I paid it back). I had not asked this person for money, they had just seen me venting in a group chat. Some people really just want to help, and if they have the means they do so.

    4. WellRed*

      I’m surprised people are wondering if the money is fake. She’s a housekeeper not a master counterfeiter. My guess: she feels overly maternal or patronizing of the “poor disabled guy.” Though he neither wants or needs her help.

      1. Anon at the Moment*

        Exactly. And there is a whiff of classism about such comments. “She’s a housekeeper, so there is NO WAY she has $500. Clearly they are fake bills and she is pulling a scam.”

        Maybe this woman, who is clearly lonely since she talks the ear off of her employers, thought (incorrectly) that LW was her friend and not her employee and so she got together the money she thought her “friend” needed.

        This is a miscommunication, not a conspiracy.

        1. High Score!*

          It might not be a conspiracy but it stinks. Normal people don’t force loans on friends or family. If Ms Gossip is lonely and has social media, she may mention, o my poor employers needed help so I loaned them money….
          That’s not a good look for OP, especially when they’re looking for her replacement. Also we l live in a world where people are social media posts and make death threats.
          But again, forcing a loan is weird, especially trying to loan money to your employer.

          1. Save the Hellbender*

            Yeah, she sounds like a weirdo, not a mustache-twirling villain! People can be incredibly patronizing toward disabled folks, soI don’t think we need to jump to these conclusions based off the letter.

          2. Calliope*

            Calling her “Ms. Gossip” is pretty mean. There’s zero indication she’s going to try to tank their reputation somehow.

            1. Cj*

              I wonder how much is actually “gossip”. She said the cleaner was “gossiping” with her husband when he mentioned his equipment breaking down. I don’t consider that gossip, just normal conversation. It’s not like they were gossiping about another person.

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            She feels odd – like one of my now deceased relatives that would frequently force unwanted gifts with tons of “conditions” upon everyone around her. Eventually being beyond blunt (no you cannot give me any more gifts/things/money that I don’t want or need) got through to her that I really didn’t need the gifts. I would be very honest that you don’t want the money (if it hasn’t been already returned) and then let her know this is a business relationship only (and possibly replace her with a different cleaner).

        2. R*

          Thank you. All these comments about loan sharking and counterfeit bills are stranger than the original situation. Good grief people are paranoid.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’m the first person to catch a whiff of classism, but am not seeing it here.

          It’s “throw it in the bin” that did it for me. Who even talks about throwing money in the bin, outside of the Wolf of Wall Street movie?

          1. Malarkey01*

            This also might be regional/generational/cultural. My own mother and grandmother would say “you might as well take it or I’ll just throw it away” as the ultimate way to say that it was useless to decline (they would not have actually out the money or sentimental thing in the trash). It was just an expression.

            Or my husband’s South American family where you must refuse something three times before accepting. Drives me batty I have stuff to do please just accept this cup of coffee so I can move on or don’t but don’t get annoyed that I didn’t re-offer it. With things of greater value the “show” gets more dramatic with each round of refusal and offer.

          2. Cheryl Blossom*

            It’s a way of guilt tripping people into taking money or things they otherwise wouldn’t want.

        4. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Apologies if my comment was seen as classism, definitely wasn’t intended like that! (Grew up dirt poor). It was mostly the ‘just throw it in the bin then’ bit that got me – that’s….not a normal thing to do with money.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            It *is* odd. It’s the kind of thing you say about leftover food, or pants that don’t fit and can’t be returned. “If you can’t use it, I’ll just have to throw it away.” It’s not something you say about *money*. I don’t think it means she’s up to something, but it’s definitely odd.

            1. Anoni*

              It’s not that weird. It’s actually a thing people say to indicate the loan isn’t an imposition on them. The housecleaner was not literally going to throw away money; she was trying to indicate that it wasn’t that big of a deal.

              Again…y’all are trying so hard to make the housekeeper out to be a sneaky person and it’s really just not that. The situation is weird, but it’s not because of an off-hand comment made by the housekeeper, it’s because of the housekeeper trying to loan them money in the first place.

              1. Simply the best*

                The housekeeper told *OP* to throw away the money. This is not an expression, she is literally telling her if she does not want to keep the money she can throw it away.

                It would be different if the housekeeper said “if you don’t take this, *I’m* just going to throw it away.” But she didn’t. She explicitly gave that responsibility to OP so whatever OP does with it, she has taken money from the housekeeper and now owes it back to her.

                1. Yorick*

                  It’s still an expression. “I’m not taking it back so either take it or throw it away.”

        5. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          I don’t think its classism. My brain went right to counterfeit because she was so insistent on them taking the $ and refusing to take it back. I’ve actually spent time working as a hotel cleaning maid before and I’ve know several people in the house cleaning/ janitorial industry over the years. I can’t imagine any of them, or any of my other coworkers at any other job shoving $500 cash in my hand and refusing to take it back but expecting me to pay in $50 installments unasked. Also having had worked retail and also the banking industry I’ve been educated about counterfeit fraud and some of the common scams.

        6. Sarah H.*

          All of this! The fact that so many people are jumping to organized crime over an inappropriate loan says so much about how we view domestic workers. Even the so-called gossip session sounds like innocent conversation (do people generally “gossip” about broken equipment?). I feel like this person is being cast in such a negative light with very little evidence to justify it. She broke an employment norm, but maybe she just didn’t know better. Why such drastic conclusions?

      2. generic_username*

        That was my read of the situation too. It sounds like the woman chats with the husband essentially the entire time she’s there, so she probably feels like they’re friends.

        I also wonder if the husband got a little carried away while talking about the needed piece of equipment and spoke in a way that made it sound like he needed it now and they couldn’t afford it (not intentionally, but maybe not thinking about how it came off to the cleaning lady). I can see how the cleaning lady would hear this and think she could spare the money now so she should help, especially if that relationship was already not as professionally distanced as it should be.

        1. Leslie_NopeNopeNope*

          This is almost certainly the case, but why let logic get in the way of perfectly good conspiracies about money laundering and ruined reputations? It’s hilarious that people are taking the “throw it in the bin” comment so literally. She probably expected the husband to try to turn down the loan, and it was her way of insisting he take it. Theres no way she actually expected him to throw the money away. She’s definitely pushy and stepping on some boundaries, but she’s not some criminal mastermind.

          1. Simply the best*

            Because just throw it in the bin isn’t something you say about $500 cash? I don’t understand why that’s hard to understand. Whether OP keeps it or throws it away, she still accepted $500 from her house cleaner that now she needs to pay back.

            Is it money laundering? Probably not. Is it weird AF? Yep.

            1. RagingADHD*

              I have heart similar colloquilalisms plenty of times before, about all sorts of gifts unibody would ever literally throw in the trash.

              It’s an emphatic way of saying, “do what you like with it, I am not accepting it back.”

            2. Yorick*

              “Throw it in the bin” is an expression. She’s saying “I’m giving you this money. I don’t want it back. It’s yours now. Etc.”

              Yeah, if she literally threw it in the trash after he gave it back, it’d be weird AF. But that’s not what happened and she clearly didn’t expect or want him to throw it away.

              1. Despachito*

                But it is a LOAN, not a GIFT. To throw a GIFTED money in the bin is weird but at least would make a bit of sense but to do this with LOANED money (and have to repay her 50 bucks a month) is completely senseless.

            3. Leslie_NopeNopeNope*

              It’s not difficult at all to understand, and you proved my point. No one would sincerely tell someone to throw $500 in the trash. It was obviously meant to shut down his attempt to return the money. No one is arguing that this isn’t pushy and inappropriate, but there’s no way she meant it literally.

        2. Despachito*

          OK, it is possible that the cleaner lady misunderstood what the husband said – a honest mistake, with a kind attempt to help. So far, so good. But then the husband explicitly said HE DID NOT WANT THE LOAN.

          What kind of person does not respect a CLEARLY FORMULATED refusal?

          A kindness is only a kindness when the person on the receiving end perceives it as such. Otherwise, it is extremely obnoxious, and I’d personally consider it an absolute disrespect of my express wish.

          Also, what a stupid thing to say “if you don’t want it, throw it in the trash” if it is a LOAN? (It would be weird enough if it was a GIFT, but makes absolutely no sense for a LOAN, as you would still have to repay it).

          Basically, this person is saying: “I am loaning you this, under my conditions, and your opinion absolutely does not matter.” And I am not willing to have around me people who treat me this way, so I would not want her working for me anymore.

    5. BuildMeUp*

      See, I’m not seeing this as all that bizarre. Odd and overstepping a bit, yes. But to be honest, I think OP’s spouse blurred the line between professional and personal when they started sharing with the housekeeper the cost of replacing the machine. I don’t think I would ever talk about my finances with a household employee.

      The housekeeper is not the only one treating this as more than just a professional relationship. I don’t think it’s weird for her to offer the money in the first place (and am baffled by the commenters insisting something nefarious is going on), but she absolutely needs to accept the return of the money.

      1. obleighvious*

        Ah, but I can easily see some kind of conversation; say Housekeeper normally sees Spouse working with the machine while they’re there in the house. Today, Spouse is not at the machine. Housekeeper inquires why – Spouse indicates that it’s broken. Housekeeper says “why don’t you get it fixed?” Spouse says “oh, it’s expensive, $500! I’ll get it fixed in a few weeks when I’ve got the money saved up”. Housekeeper then proceeds to go down a weird path of insisting on a loan.

        1. LW1*

          For anyone checking out responses, this is basically exactly how it happened (obleighvious’s comment). There was no moaning about how he can’t afford something, he definitely doesn’t ‘need’ the machine for his health (think of it as a sewing machine), please stop speculating that he somehow asked for the money by indirectly asking for it, because he definitely did not. He explicitly told her he doesn’t need her help.

        2. Spouse of LW1*

          Yeah this was literally what happened. She saw me bagging up the components for the trash and asked.
          Once I’d said it was dead and inadvertantly, and with hindsight mistakenly, vented it was expensive and might take a few weeks to replace, she said “if you need it I can help”. I literally said that that was a very kind offer and if I absolutely needed it I would think about it ( look I’m from the north of the UK originally to me that’s a polite thanks but no thanks).

          When she came up me the following week with the cash and forced it into my hand I was beyond stunned. I said this is very generous and that I genuinely, sincerely appreciate the gesture (which is 100% true) but I just can’t accept. On my third attempt at returning the money she did take it back, but left pretty quick without finishing her tasks.

          I feel, personally, that there’s fault with both of us. I shouldn’t have said anything about the machine, and she shouldn’t have taken my refusal as personal which is what I think she did.

          But it was definitely weird AF and seriously impacted my mental health for days afterward.

          1. Ellie*

            Nah, you did nothing wrong. Its very weird to give someone you have a business relationship with $500, and its even weirder (and incredibly rude) to insist that they take it. Those lines about throwing the money away or giving it to someone else push it from rude into blatantly manipulative. You didn’t cause any of that to happen. She’s taking advantage of your easy-going nature.

    6. PinaColada*

      This is gross, but I am wondering if it has something to do with the spouse’s disability. Unfortunately it’s common for people to take a physical disability and project it onto the overall person, like “Oh that poor guy has trouble taking care of himself, let me help him out.”

    7. row row row your boat*

      This reminds me of the LW who wanted advice on how to set boundaries at dinner time with their live in nanny. Alison, I really like reading these letters because it helps me think about how to kindly treat and set professional boundaries with in-home service providers which have very little personal experience with. Thank for a good response.

      1. generic_username*

        I remember that letter. The poor nanny wasn’t able to see other people outside the house because of COVID, but the LW didn’t want her around at dinner because she wanted to talk personal family matters with her husband.

  2. Pippa K*

    Question 2 reminds me of a Yes, Prime Minister quote:

    The Prime Minister: May I remind the Secretary of State for Defence that every problem is also an opportunity?

    Sir Humphrey Appleby: I think that the Secretary of State for Defence fears that this may create some insoluble opportunities.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Throw some Malcolm Tucker in there and that’s our place. For the last time, it’s not an opportunity that two production servers collapsed during peak time when our lead tech for them was off with her sick kid.

      1. Amy*

        This has become a thing in my org. It is a literal word replacement regardless of whether or not it makes sense. Same weird technology terminology – audio issues become audio opportunities (?)

        1. river*

          As shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Well, a problem by any other name is still a problem.

          1. Bilateralrope*

            Pity putting a message saying “Executive has a communication opportunity” on the notice board could get you in trouble.

            1. AKchic*

              “There is an opportunity in the bathroom that needs immediate attention!”

              See who comes running and how it’s interpreted?

          2. Despachito*

            Oh, that reminds me of an acquaintance who trains dogs and participates in competitions abroad with them. In some countries, rules seem to be stricter than in others, and they forbid to “punish” the dogs. So the dog trainer now says that he “praises” his dogs (his “praise” being exactly the same thing as the former “punishment”).

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Once, for fun and definitely not saved on any company storage medium, I took a very that word heavy email from the boss and did a search and replace to change every instance of ‘opportunity’ to ‘bumblecrumpets’.

          Gave me a much needed laugh that day.

        3. Zephy*

          My old boss would do this, to the point where one day she came in late and explained to me that she was having “stomach opportunities.”

          1. JustaTech*

            I had a coworker who described her terrible hit-and-run by a drunk driver and subsequent long and scary recovery and brain injury as her “adventure”. But she and her husband chose that term partly because they needed a single word to describe all of it, and partly because they wanted to give the whole terrible experience less power in their lives by deliberately giving it a downplaying name, and partly because not all adventures are good or nice or end well.

            But she would never have called it an “opportunity”!

        4. Richard Hershberger*

          There is a certain sort of business person who loves using fashionable business jargon, but doesn’t actually understand it. My personal favorite example is from the last century, when “proactive” was the trendy word. My boss came back from some sort of seminar eager to share this new word, but he got it backwards. He explained to us that our problem was that we were too proactive, and needed to be more reactive. I restrained myself from laughing out loud. In the case of “opportunity,” the idea that a problem may actually be an opportunity is not ridiculous–at least not all the time. But some, whose attributes do not include a facility for abstract thought, understand “opportunity” to be a more business-jargony word for “problem.”

        5. JJ*

          Corpspeak is one of my absolute biggest pet peeves. I got feedback on a project yesterday that was so corpspeak I truly could not understand what the commenter was asking for. I once had a giant corporate client who was so bad I regularly had to black out the parts of their emails that said nothing in order to decipher what they wanted. It’s such a weird waste of everyone’s time.

        6. Some dude*

          Do you know where it comes from? It must be from some business seminar person.

          I work in nonprofits, and the field is trying to come up with more humanizing terms than “marginalized” to describe people who are pooped on by society. For a while the term to describe “marginalized” or “at-risk” youth was “opportunity youth,” which is so orwellian it seems to have fell out of favor.

      2. Kate, short for Bob*

        I’d be having fun with it – ‘I’ve got an opportunity to break my foot on the printer’ ‘I’ve got an opportunity to swing for my kid, you’ll never believe what he’s done to his new uniform’ ‘I’ve got an opportunity to wear a paper bag over my head will you look at this zit’ etc etc

        1. SpartanFan*

          Bob, we think you have a drinking opportunity. Your coworkers mentioned smelling alcohol on your breath after lunch on Tuesday

      3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        It is certainly an opportunity to rethink your stance re single points of failure.
        In auditor language, an “opportunity for improvement” is either an almost-missed requirement, a hidden suggestion, or the auditor’s pet peeve.

    2. Business Socks*

      I love the idea of angrily approaching a coworker and saying “Hey! You got an opportunity with me!?”

      “If you don’t knock that off we’re gonna have a big opportunity you and me”

      1. BadWolf*

        On my previous team, we liberally used the word “opportunity” to describe jobs we didn’t want to do and tease each other about. “I just got asked to make a big spreadsheet about our llama numbers and we know they’ll never actually use it.” “Oh BadWolf, that sounds like a great opportunity!!”

        1. Purple Cat*

          We cheerfully describe horrible projects as “wonderful learning opportunities”.
          But we know they’re problems!

    3. HelenB*

      Someone in my work group starting saying, “Well, here’s a steaming pile of opportunity.”

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      I worked somewhere that “opportunity” meant “terrible, possibly impossible, task no one else wants to do that is being dumped on someone whose manager can’t or won’t protect them from it.”

    5. CJ*

      I remember first seeing it as satire, then actually seeing it in some student advisory articles a few years ago that “students do not have problems or failures, they have opportunities and challenges.” And since then, yeah, I’ve seen articles where it’s clear someone did a Ctrl-H.

  3. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    LW1: That is messed up. The only thing i can think of is that they want to buy job security for at least 10 months. Even then this is bizarre.

    LW2: There is a Simpsons clip:
    Lisa: Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity”?
    Homer: Yes! “cris-a-tunity!”

    Lets hope your executive has not taken this literally.
    As for solutions i’m loving Alison’s raise idea!

    1. Cinnabar*

      RE: LW1 – I’m so glad someone else thought of that too! I’ve actually seen multiple people do a version of this, especially with more unorganized labour.

      They’ll plead immediate financial difficulties and take a loan from a superior/employer, paying it back from their paycheck. They may or may not actually have needed the money (and they may or may not be a good employee, I’ve seen both situations) but it all but guarantees they won’t be let go. And once they’re on the verge of paying it all back, what do you know, there’s another major emergency and they need more cash.

      I’m not saying that’s exactly what’s happening here, of course. There’s no way for us to know. I’m just throwing in another potential option into the mix.

      Still bizarre that they’re GIVING money away. There really is no end to the depths of human weirdness!

        1. Cinnabar*

          I didn’t say that’s exactly what’s happening here. I just meant that I’ve peronally seen people orchestrate financial entanglements to keep their job. While my experience was with the opposite situation, I wanted to point out it’s not out of the realm of possibility as a general case. :)

      1. Momma Bear*

        And if that is no longer probable, you need to work on that and make it really clear.

    2. CoveredInBees*

      Regarding the factoid about Chinese language, it isn’t true. I know you’re citing the Simpsons to be funny and it is.

      However, I’ve seen this repeated as fact many times or versions of it and for some reason it makes me uncomfortable beyond it not being correct. This isn’t a criticism of Talula posting it, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to say something.

      1. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

        Good to know.
        However an opportunity for a raise is something the OP should pursue :)

  4. Heidi*

    The idea in Letter 2 is that you’re supposed to view your challenges as opportunities to make things better in the long run. Like how having to convert to online teaching can allow us to develop tools we can use after we return to in person teaching. But it doesn’t mean that the words themselves are interchangeable. That’s just odd.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes, exactly. A lot of problems can ALSO be opportunities, in that we can search for solutions that provide a net benefit over the original situation.

      But you have to provide resources and structure to make use of that — just calling problems by another name isn’t going to change the situation.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      I have coached my staff to use the term “challenge” instead of “problem” in corporate-speak situations. At least it implies that there is something to overcome. “Opportunity” is not as good a substitute. JMO.

    3. TFB*

      Exactly! There are some instances where it may make sense to try to look at a problem as an opportunity, but to somehow turn that into “there’s an opportunity with our Teams access” is hilariously off-base. I know sometimes Alison advises people to try to look at things as funny so it stops feeling so annoying, and this is I think the best time for that because I honestly think it would crack me up every time he said something that absurd.

      1. LW2*

        I sent in the question, and I agree, it is hilarious in that it’s so bizarre. My team and a few other coworkers have been laughing at it quietly among ourselves. I get that problems often present opportunities to learn and improve, but the problems themselves aren’t opportunities! It’s just so weird.

    4. Quiltrrr*

      My manager defined opportunity as ‘an area in which we have never had discussion on’. But he didn’t tell me that’s what his definition was. So, when I was directed to write a recommendation ‘in an area of opportunity’, I took an area that we had some minimal discussion on, and expanded that discussion into recommendations.

      I was so completely surprised when he said I failed the assignment because I didn’t write about an area of ‘opportunity’. Just one of the ways this place I work at is so messed up.

  5. Siege*

    There’s sometimes a thing where people who are “lower” in a hierarchy can be gratified by giving the person “higher” in the hierarchy something it is in their power to give; the times I’ve seen it, it functions as a way of turning the tables on the hierarchy and making the “lower” person a benevolent giver and therefore superior to the person “higher” in the hierarchy. (Please note that this is a comment on the internet, not a dissertation on labor relations, socialism, feminism and misogyny, and the nature of interpersonal relationships, and just assume that I don’t walk through life sneering at people who do manual labor for a living or something, I’m trying to describe a real type of relationship.)

    I would absolutely return the money and find a new cleaner. It sounds like there are other issues going on here anyway, but someone who weaponizes assistance by totally ignoring boundaries around gifting/gifting money (and an informal loan is a gift – what is she going to do if you decide to fire her and skip town, call the police to enforce a loan with no contract?) is someone who’s got more going on than it seems. There’s never just one cockroach in a dirty kitchen.

    1. LW1*

      I did wonder what she thought might happen if we fired her before repaying the whole ‘loan’. She was placing a lot of trust in us. I mean, she knows where we live, obviously…

      1. Calliope*

        Is there some indication other than this that she’s an awful person who’s trying to trap you rather than someone who views money and your relationship differently than you do? Maybe there’s something that’s not in the letter but otherwise this all seems like very mean speculation.

        1. Siege*

          Why is it mean to state that someone who is being really rude and pushy about giving someone a loan they don’t want, don’t need, and haven’t asked for isn’t someone you want in your life? Generally we consider it mean to force someone to accept unneeded assistance, and threatening to throw away cash if it’s returned is definitively an attempt to do that.

          I’m very curious why you think it’s mean to say this is a boundary stomp that ends relationships but not that it’s mean to force people to be indebted to you.

          1. Calliope*

            That’s not what I said. The comment I replied to was speculating about the fact that the housekeeper knows where she lives which normally suggests she’s going to do something like threaten you or steal from you.

            And no, she didn’t “force” anyone to be indebted to her. She created an awkward, boundary crossing situation. By all means, decide you don’t want her to be your cleaner as a result. It doesn’t mean she’s drawn you into some kind of web of indebtedness. And indeed, the money was returned without an issue except more awkwardness. That’s a far cry from the criminal activities people on this thread are speculating about.

            1. Siege*

              If you reread LW1’s comment, they’re clearly stating that the cleaner knows where they live so they can’t get out of repaying her just by firing her, which they weren’t planning to do. This was in response to my statement that a loan without a contract is a gift and therefore this is a bad gift situation, not a loan per we.

              If you reread LW1’s letter, the money has not been returned because the cleaner is refusing to accept it back.

              1. Calliope*

                The repayment story was in the comments. And no, I dont think that’s what that comment was implying.

              2. Anoni*

                That doesn’t mean the LW can’t, absolutely cannot, return it. This is a situation where you cannot force someone to do something they don’t want to do. There are many ways around it.

      2. Just Another Commentator*

        It seems like you just really don’t like this person. You can just let them go if you want to. I don’t think it’s fair to act like she’s a loan shark or dangerous to you because of what seems like a well-intended if inappropriate gesture.

    2. CoffeePlease*

      Yes. This is one of the possibilities that came to mind for me. Some related but different possibilities: Maybe the cleaner truly sees everyone as equals and simply wants to and can help out financially. I know people like this. She may have a compulsion to do it. She may also have plenty of money, and it may be obvious to her that this is the case. She may use money in a short -term way, such that if she can get the cash out, she feels that she has plenty. Either way, it’s possible that this is about gifting and reciprocity, but it’s lost in some kind of cultural / generational communication problem —oops I mean opportunity!

      1. Siege*

        The missing step is that when LW says they don’t need the money, the gifter backs off. It’s the insistence on giving it, not the offer, and the assumption of a relationship where this would be appropriate (this is not your granny tucking a $20 in your purse so you can get pizza) that makes this all a real opportunity.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          I love the way this community weaves different letters together to make jokes that would make no sense out of context. That is all.

  6. HereKittyKitty*

    LW1: It’s probably ableism. If your husband has a disability that’s visible, she’s doing the whole “you’re helpless” thing and stomping over boundaries in the process. It’s gross.

      1. Calliope*

        You don’t fire someone for making a possibly but not certain problematic assumption. This is really weird.

        1. HereKittyKitty*

          No, you don’t have to fire someone for making a problematic assumption. And I would stick with that if, when the money was rejected, she took the money back and apologized and everything went back to normal. Instead, she refused to take the money back, and even got a little nasty about it and tried to guilt him into taking it by saying “I went to the bank for you” and then told him to “throw it in the bin” if he didn’t want it. That is incredibly rude and hostile.

          1. Calliope*

            I think it’s fine to fire her. If you’re not comfortable with her in your house, you’re not. But you don’t need to make up stories about how she must be ableist.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              She is being ableist. This is a really common form of ableism. There are entire threads devoted to just this particular flavor of ableism, whether it’s as extreme as crawling underneath the door of a bathroom stall to “help” or as mundane as getting hostile when unneeded and unwanted gifts are rejected by people who explicitly don’t want them because of the gifter’s perception that visibly disabled people are helpless.

              1. Despachito*

                I do not know whether it is ableist because the husband is disabled, but I definitely read it as “you are unable to decide for yourself what is best for you, and I know it better than you”, which, I assume, IS a sort of ableism.

            2. HereKittyKitty*

              I’m not making up stories. I read the letter. I am a disabled person who has experienced ableism. I know what it is. Like other isms- racism, sexism- it does not require INTENT. She may not have intended to be ableist, but she was. If someone mused that women are bad at math that would be a sexist statement, regardless if they intended it to be.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      That occurred to me, although I also have to wonder how OP’s husband is talking about expenses when he’s ‘gossiping’ with the cleaner. It’s possible he’s inadvertently conveying that they need the money more than they do.

      1. LW1*

        In no way did my spouse indicate that we were in any kind of financial difficulty. He commented that the machine he uses for his hobby is dead and he’ll be getting a new one. I understand how in a very twisted way someone could infer that he is asking for money without directly asking for it, but then we could never talk about the things we want to buy without someone thinking we’re asking them for money. From an employee! For a nonessential item! My spouse grew up poor and would never indicate that he needs something more than someone else.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I was wondering based on the letter. Obviously you know your husband’s circumstances best!

          I’m not trying to imply anything about your husband’s upbringing or view of money – I was reflecting on my own personal experience of small talk, which is that it can be easy to make an offhand comment about how expensive something is without realizing what that could imply to others. (I certainly don’t count myself as an exception to that.)

          You mentioned the cleaner knew exactly how much the item was, which to me suggests a more familiar conversation about money.

          1. WellRed*

            He also told her, if I need help, I’ll ask. To most, that’s a polite no. To someone with boundary issues it’s an…opportunity.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          I think it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t talk about things you want to buy with this specific person.

        3. Michael Valentine*

          My brother in law assumes we are in dire straits because we mentioned we couldn’t afford his luxury car. He offered to hook us up with his friend who owns a car dealership…We’d certainly be able to afford the payments! I mean, we could go out and buy a very expensive car. We just choose not to. And that didn’t translate for him.

          I had a neighbor who’d leave half a jar of pickles and a bag of sugar at my door, then tell the neighborhood she was keeping me and my kid fed. She was sweet, but her story didn’t quite line up with my reality.

          People project their own feelings and experiences onto others, and in this case, the cleaner went too far. In your case, I’d get a new cleaner, put the loan money in the final paycheck for the old cleaner, and not think of this again.

    2. LW1*

      He absolutely does have a visible disability, but we’re more than capable of looking after ourselves, and the whole incident was incredibly bizarre. I will definitely think about what you’ve said, though!

    3. Anon.*

      Ableism is a possibility that occurred to me, either as you describe or a subtler (often not incorrect) assumption that due to his disability, LW’s finances are stretched.

    4. Lunchtime caller*

      This I think is the most likely scenario, along with the possibility that she thinks the LW keeps her husband on tight purse strings and leaves him aaaaall alone in the house with nooooo one but the cleaner for company, boo hoo. The people who think LW should call the cops and wear a wire while returning the money have watched breaking bad a few too many times.

      1. HereKittyKitty*

        I have invisible disabilities, but often engage in the disabled community and man people will really jump to “A Criminal Enterprise!” before the most obvious explanation: ableism lol. I’ve heard many versions of stories like this of “well-meaning” others ignoring boundaries, insisting they’re helping, and then getting hostile when the disabled person isn’t as gracious as they like. It’s literally a whole thing!

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, this situation was giving me flashbacks to the that one thread where people were discussing things like “someone pushed my wheelchair and got hostile when I asked them not to!” This is a really common form of ableism.

          1. lunchtime caller*

            “but maybe they were trying to KIDNAP you to sell your organs! File a police report just in case!” lol

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Man, if I called the police when people physically grabbed me to take my cane from me they’d just make fun of me. Calling over this is definitely not liable to fly (though LW1 is in australia, so who knows?).

    5. quill*

      This makes far more sense to me than the other speculations about loan sharking / whatever upthread. Many more people overstep their boundaries believing that they’re in the right than overstep their boundaries with nefarious intentions.

      Regardless, you’ve gotta change the relationship with this cleaner, you can’t have someone in your home whose behavior has crossed boundaries and will probably do so again.

    6. Nanani*


      Thinking you know better than the disabled person themselves is super common. Thinking your “help” is automatically good even when it’s useless or actively harmful is super common.

      There’s no need to invent a laundering conspiracy when bog-standard ableism is right there to explain it.

      1. HereKittyKitty*

        Literally just typed up the same thing. I was balking at the criminal enterprise above. Occam’s Razor ya’ll. Find the disability hashtag on Twitter and you’ll probably see a dozen versions of a story like this.

  7. Aphrodite*

    You buttered your toast in the morning and you are sitting at the table enjoying your breakfast. Your cats enter the kitchen where the butter dish sits on the counter. That’s an opportunity.

    The president of the college resigns effective immediately. This is after the head of PR and Communications, the EVP, the VP of a division has been fired, a dean has been demoted and now “retired,” and the head of a diversity program was sent to the Facilities department to work. That is NOT an opportunity.

      1. Eliza*

        I think the idea is that it’s not an opportunity unless you can actually do something about it.

        Well, I guess the latter situation could be an opportunity to start job searching.

    1. CoffeePlease*

      I read it as this is a totally disaster! No amount of calling it an opportunity is going to make it anything less .

      1. pbnj*

        I read it as the cat has an opportunity to get a snack, or you have an opportunity to prevent the cat from having a snack. A work example would be your company having an opportunity to gain market share due to a misstep by a competitor. The 2nd is just a hot mess and you will just be fire-fighting for a while. Perhaps one day there will be an “opportunity” to improve whatever caused this disaster.

    2. Delta Delta*

      This exact opportunity happened at my house, and ended with an adorable little black cat with butter in his whiskers.

  8. PollyQ*

    LW1 — There are two words for that kind of behavior. The first is “favorsharking”, wherein someone does a favor for you that you never asked for, and then you supposedly owe them. The second that comes to mind is “bribe”. Either way, my bet is that she knows she’s on shaky ground, and is trying to pay you to continue to employ her.

    On a practical note, some ATMs now allow you to deposit cash, so you may be able to do that if nothing else works.

    1. Ellie*

      I thought of favorsharking too… she’s your employee, why would an employee give their employer unsolicited money, if not to curry favor? It feels odd to mistrust a seemingly generous gesture, but I wouldn’t trust it either. How are you going to respond now if she starts coming in late? Its not a good position to be in.

      I think you just need to insist on giving the money back, by whatever means necessary. Since you already tried and she came up with that ridiculous, “I’ll throw it away” statement, you need to insist either on ethical grounds (I cannot in good conscience accept this money, it is against my principles, etc. etc.) or find some way to slip it back to her that doesn’t give her the option of refusing. Do a direct deposit into her account, or just add it in to her wages. It sucks that it means an extra trip for you, but you have to get rid of that money.

      If it was me, I’d then leave it a month and see if there’s any more weirdness. If you’re still uncomfortable, then I’d let her go in some face-saving way. Tell her your husband really needs someone who can double as home-care, or that you need to cut back on expenses.

    2. LW1*

      Yes I did remember after I sent the letter that I could deposit cash at an ATM but I was rather a bit shocked and definitely not thinking about keeping the cash.

      1. hamsterpants*

        Ugh, cash is so awkward! And $500 is an awful lot of it. Perhaps folks have other experiences but I hate having that much around. When I sold my motorcycle for cash, the money felt like it was burning a hole in my pocket on the way to the bank. I agree with the comments from others that this person has bad boundaries and you would be completely justified in firing her.

      2. LPJ*

        I wouldn’t deposit it and then put it in her wages, that could get messy if an audit ever took place. I agree with Alison, next time you see her insist she take it back – no if’s ands, or buts, and if you have to be very firm.

    3. Naomi*

      Yes, I think that’s one of the more plausible explanations–she’s offering an unsolicited favor so that you’ll feel pressured to say yes the next time she wants a favor, or even just so you’ll feel obligated to keep employing her.

      1. BadWolf*

        I have a hobby group friend who does the light version of this. I am careful to accept help from her as a small thing turns weirdly into a big thing and then it rubs me the wrong way. I took some plants from her and she tells people that she landscaped my yard. When I offer plants (not hers) to someone else, she jumps in and tells them all about she gave me so many plants and is so glad I can pay the plants forward.

        1. Firecat*

          I wouldn’t call this favor sharking so much as lieing.

          Favor sharking would be more like, hey BadWolf remember that time I landscaped your entire yard? Yeah I need to borrow your car.

          1. Nanani*

            Its favour sharking if the shark did the lanscaping -unasked-.
            Otherwise it’s just trading favours.

            Favour-sharking is a way of sneaking past people’s boundaries while sounding “nice” to third parties.

      2. limotruck*

        I’m most familiar with it in the context of being a woman who dates cis men (ex: he buys you a drink or dinner, or helps you move a bulky item, then later on expects you to return his ‘favor’ in a sexual way. It’s the biggest reason I historically insist on splitting the check–experience has taught me to be cautious of entering into a transaction I didn’t agree to) but it does happen in other, more platonic interactions as well. It is always manipulative, even if the person doing the favorsharking isn’t consciously being malicious.

    4. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      This is one of the reasons I love Ask A Manager. I just learned a new term. Favor Sharking.

    5. V. Anon*

      Yeah I think you called it. I would put the cash in a thank you card, seal it, and the next time she comes, you return it to her and terminate the working relationship. It’s going to be messy. But you have to firmly get rid of this person because things will never go back to (not 100% satisfactory anyway) normal.

  9. Savannnah*

    LW 2 I’m part of a team that teaches how to give feedback in academic and clinical settings, and we use ‘opportunities’ as shorthand for areas that need improvement. We use the term with novice learners so they don’t get a laundry list of things they need to work on and get overwhelmed and we use it with advanced or practicing clinicians because they can become defensive if peers or supervisors are too straightforward. Mostly everyone knows it means a problem area to work on, we aren’t fooling anyone but its part of the framework we use. I don’t know how well reframing problems as opportunities works in a more corporate setting or one where management is using it unilaterally.

    1. Pennyworth*

      Please stop! It is borderline dishonest and some people do NOT understand that it means a problem area to work on. If you work in an academic adjacent area you should at the very least know how to use language properly without scaring people. This has also become an issue in school reports to parents, where teachers are instructed to use only positive language and be obscure. There are many parents who have no idea how poorly their children are doing at school because of this.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        When I massively effed up at work my boss straight out told me my behaviour was unacceptable and I had to change it. The HR bod tried to put that I had been given an ‘opportunity to learn’ in the write up and…well…first time I ever saw steam come outta my boss’ ears.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      The thing is, an opportunity is something that can be taken or left.

      Opportunities should be new avenues of growth that are available but not are not required. Opportunities can add value if you pursue them, but they don’t detract from what you currently have if you decline them.

      1. onco fonco*

        Yes! If I am messing something up and it needs fixing or there will be consequences, I don’t WANT someone to frame this to me as an opportunity, because an opportunity is not mandatory or urgent. I need a clear understanding of what’s at stake, not forced positivity to the point of obfuscation.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        This. If I don’t use Excel, but someone offers to teach me, that’s an opportunity to learn Excel. If Excel is part of my job, and I claimed to have skills when I was hired, and my boss has noticed I don’t actually have those skills, I do not have the “opportunity” to learn Excel. I have the obligation to do so.

    3. Liz*

      I’ve got a real cancer opportunity with my thyroid gland, they might have to remove it! Seriously do you not see how DEMENTED this line of reasoning is? Can you take this opportunity to stop using doublespeak and just say things are problems when they are problems?

    4. anonymous 5*

      Changing one word in an attempt to avoid others being overwhelmed is putting a band-aid on your knee for a case of appendicitis. If you want students not to be overwhelmed or practicioners not to be defensive, then you actually need to create an environment in which feedback is understood as part of the deal; and you actually need to ensure that you’re giving feedback rather than treating people judgmentally. Both of those are *significantly* more involved than simply swapping in “opportunity” every time you mean “problem.”

      There’s a reason why a course syllabus is so important; why evaluation rubrics can be so useful; and why it’s so crucial to provide some form of suitable practice (ideally with feedback that doesn’t end up affecting the “grade”) before the point(s) of formal evaluation.

      1. Anon.*

        I’m in academia also, and the frustrating obfuscatory forced positivity comes up in because students don’t want to be given straightforward negative feedback. In short, by the time they’re in college, it’s already too late, and it takes a lot of effort to try to build a culture if accepting feedback. That is a major focus for many faculty in certain disciplines. Guidance on how to give student feedback and trainings on giving peer feedback often advise against straightforward negative assessments.

        1. anonymous 5*

          I think I more or less have it easy, since I’m in the physical sciences (and I’m tenured). It’s too late for us to fix the K-12 damage, but at least I have relatively straightforward ways to help my students deal with the reality of (gasp) not always being perfect. I can’t imagine what the humanities folks have to deal with!

          1. Kal*

            My experience in the humanities as a student was much better than my partner’s in the physical sciences. The humanities had a much stronger baked in system of constant feedback and improvement, where the goal was always getting better at our command of the subject instead of passing a test (one of my classes legit burst out into laughter once when a sleepy student asked if something was on the test, because the test was so not the point that it was an absurd question to us). The idea of an objective perfect was rejected, so it was easier to focus on fixing your individual weak points without it being compared to everyone else.

            My partner’s experiences involve a whole lot of absent feedback and vagaries where grades seemed to be formed out of the aether more than based on actual performance and asking what you did wrong got weird nonsensical answers that basically boiled down to “the professor is right, no matter what”. They are now in the health sciences, and that idea is even stronger. If there is only one way to be right, then any feedback means you are a failure, so its becomes ingrained behavior to reject feedback. It doesn’t have to be that way, though (and it sounds like you’ve rejected that yourself, anonymous 5), but it often is the default in the way sciences are taught.

            In particular, medical professionals are so regularly trained to protect their ego above all else that its not surprising to me that people in Savannnah’s position try to find ways to massage those egos and hopefully get some minuscule improvement instead of being direct and getting an ego explosion. Its a rather futile effort and the students/clinicians and any future patients or such would be much better served by working to change the environment so that clear, direct feedback isn’t seen as threatening, but its hard to stop the momentum of ego.

            1. Savannah*

              Yes- If I took the vast majority of the advice I’m being giving here, I wouldn’t have a job anymore and we’d never be invited back into those spaces! The culture is slowly changing but it is a long slog and doesn’t start with direct ‘negative’ feedback.

        2. EPLawyer*

          then how are they ever going to learn to accept negative feedback if they never get it?

          Look most companies do not use silly language to make their point. There is a reason buzzwords are so ridiculed. Be straightforward. This doesn’t mean be cruwl. Feedback should be objective, not subjective. I need you to be on time for work every day, can you do that? Is a lot better than you have an opportunity to work on your punctuality.

          Companies play word games then Alison gets letters saying well I TOLD my employee to straighten up but they didn’t, now what? Turns out they said the employee had the opportunity to straighten up, not straighten up because your job is on the line.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes, I think the best person I get clear, concise feedback from would be my ballet instructor when giving corrections in class. He always makes it clear what I need to correct and why but doesn’t use too many words. I wish some of my bosses had his gift for providing clear correction without being too harsh.

            1. Momma Bear*

              I think the difference is that so many don’t know how to give productive feedback that we don’t learn how to take it in without feeling deeply criticized. The other day a file got updated in a hurry and the headers got all screwed up. The reviewer mentioned it directly but not rudely, it got fixed, and we all moved on. I did not want/need the “opportunity” to fix it. It just needed to be fixed. Maybe the better way is to collaboratively address the issue vs talking around the problem.

        3. Pennyworth*

          I still treasure one of my old high school reports – handwritten by each subject teacher, whole document on a single page. There was space beside each subject heading for the grade plus 2 lines of comment, and it said all my parents needed to know. Something like ENGLISH: A- Pennyworth is a very capable student who would do even better if she didn’t talk so much in class. SCIENCE: C+ A disappointing result which reflects Pennyworth’s apparent lack of interest and effort. Clear, concise, accurate. By the time my kids were in high school we got pages of drivel which told us less.

          1. Momma Bear*

            My child’s current school district only allows teachers to pull down canned responses on report cards. If I want real feedback, I need to go to the source.

        4. Sara without an H*

          And then…the students graduate, get jobs, suddenly get honest feedback from their managers, and write to AAM about how incredibly HARSH it was. I can think of more than one example, but I don’t have the energy to hunt for one in the archives. (It’s early. I need more coffee!)

          1. Nanani*

            Strange, the bulk of letters on this cite aren’t actually like that at all. It’s almost like adjusting to workplace norms is normal and not some shockign revelation about how young people are coddled (it’s actually their parents who don’t want to hear their precious spawn is not perfect, you do know that right)

        5. Savannnah*

          Exactly this. We are getting learners after a min 17 years of formal schooling. Cultivating a good culture of feedback and debriefing is a lot of unlearning and these learners are used to all being top of their class. Let alone clinicians who have been practicing for years or whole departments that have 50 year histories of unsafe toxic workplaces. It requires a different approach than perhaps a more straightforward manager to employee relationship and obviously there is much more to it than one simple word swap.

        6. LTL*

          Some students fail their classes but curriculums aren’t changed because students don’t want to do work. Negative feedback is likewise something you can’t simply cover up. It’s a necessity for college and beyond, no less than hard work.

        7. Nanani*

          “students don’t want to be given straightforward negative feedback.”

          Lies. Their -parents- (or at least some of them) don’t want to hear that little timmy is doing poorly. The kids get no experience with negative feedback because their school is more concerned with placating the most volatile parents than with giving them the feedback.

          Don’t blame the kids for what adults are doing for the sake of other adults

          1. Yorick*

            This isn’t a lie. College students (and graduate students) are often defensive and hostile when they receive feedback or less than perfect grades, no matter how politely it’s given. I don’t have any contact with their parents.

        8. Yorick*

          Framing things as “opportunities” just allows them to ignore the feedback. They’ll already even barely make any changes when I directly tell them it’s wrong.

      2. Savannnah*

        Agree with you! I promise this isn’t the only thing we teach (nor am I faculty or the committees who are responsible for evaluations and assessments)

    5. ecnaseener*

      Damn, if that was me I would be MORE overwhelmed by getting the same size laundry list of feedback plus the extra effort of trying to figure out which of it was important to fix right away and which was an opportunity I could choose to take or leave!

      1. Savannnah*

        Learners participate in identifying and prioritizing what they need to work on with the faculty, so there is guidance there with regards to next steps and follow up on those priorities.

    6. Greige*

      To me, that just makes the word “opportunity” sound kind of unsettling. I feel much better if someone is kind but matter-of-fact. The idea that I’ve put you in a state where you don’t trust yourself to convey it without hurting my feelings makes it seem like a much bigger deal than feedback should usually be. Then, what do you say when you do want to talk about a genuine opportunity? Because the word is going to start making people cringe.

    7. pleaset cheap rolls*

      This is a bad practice.

      Opportunities can be ignored. If the learners need to work on these problems, they are not opportunities.

      You’re abusing the word and doing a disservice to the learners. And if they start using it that way with others, people will think WTF.

    8. Esmeralda*

      “areas for development” is our lingo. No one has weaknesses any more. (OK Boomer!)

    9. It's Growing!*

      If I were the recipient of both the term “novice learner” and the term “opportunities” when one really meant “needs improvement,” I would feel both patronized and demeaned. Adults need to be addressed with adult language.

      1. PollyQ*

        Good point about “novice learner”. By the time someone’s in medical/nursing school, or perhaps even out of it, they have move than a decade’s experience being a “learner”.

    10. The Other Katie*

      As an academic I find this silly, verging on insulting. When I was a student, I would not have responded to this language – either I would have taken the criticism for what it was (disregarding your attempt at linguistic manipulation) or truly regarded it as an “opportunity”, i.e. something I could take or leave. Now as I guess a more advanced practitioner I’ve been through years of peer criticism and I am unlikely to get defensive if someone is too straightforward. (I also doubt that I would automatically interpret “opportunity” as “problem”, either.)

  10. Glory Days*

    In 1999, my high school algebra 2 teacher didn’t have quizzes, she had “opportunities.” We all couldn’t stand her.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      I had a teacher who called them “celebrations of learning” which was funny in a dorky/groan-inducing way

      1. BethDH*

        I had a teacher who did the same, and it was definitely tongue in cheek, but I later also heard from another teacher who mentioned that she used the term to remind herself that she wanted to write tests to find out what students knew and not focus the test on the hardest bits only. Basically she found it helpful to avoid writing “gotcha” tests.

    2. Rez123*

      Our department lawyer calls them delicious opportunities of professional development.

    3. Saraquill*

      I had teachers that year who gave us “quests.” They were never adventures or fun stuff, just slightly shorter tests.

      1. Naomi*

        I think that’s just a slightly misleading portmanteau of “quiz” and “test”…

    4. MissCoco*

      Uggghh, my 7th grade math teacher called every assessment of any kind an “opportunity for success” and homework was an “opportunity for practice” – I mean, can’t we at least call those practice problems?

      I was pretty anxious about math, and had very little number sense, so regardless of how hard I worked, I rarely made improvements, and by the end of the year, despite all the “opportunity” language I considered all math tests opportunities for misery, and didn’t get over that until well into college.

    5. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      I had a high school chemistry teacher who referred to quizzes as “delights” and tests as “festivals of knowledge”. She was a character.

      1. Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?*

        I’m pretty sure all chemistry teachers are characters, and I say this as a chemistry teacher. I know my people and I know my own weird :)

    6. Littorally*

      My 5th grade teacher did the same! She was sweet enough that we loved her, but her “opportunities” were a school joke.

  11. Observer*

    #5 – You are presenting a lot of assumptions as fact, although there seems to be absolutely no evidence that these things are the case.

    more than once I emailed her before she agreed to respond

    What does that even mean? Do you mean that she just decided to deliberately ghost you and consciously not respond? Why would she do that, and why would you assume that she’s doing that? I get that she didn’t respond in a timely manner, which is rude. But the idea that it was deliberate and thought out is just odd. And as Alison says adversarial.

    the company appeared to make no effort whatsoever to schedule a candidate to talk with everyone they were supposed to meet?

    Why would you say that they made no effort? In fact, the clearly seemed to be making an effort, despite the HR person apparently being disorganized and you wound up talking to all but one of the people that were in the original plan.

    1. PJS*

      “more than once I emailed her before she agreed to respond”

      I took that to mean that she said she would get back to LW by Thursday or whenever and LW is emailing to follow up on Tuesday or Wednesday. LW apparently did this more than once. If I had someone doing that to me, I’d be a little annoyed and if it was a job candidate I would definitely be reconsidering whether I wanted to hire them.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, that’s part of what I’m thinking. The HR rep was rude from what it sounds like, but the OP seems to have been oddly aggressive in their follow up.

        That’s why the OP’s thought process here is important. It really seems like it’s leading them to actions that are not in their best interests.

  12. Firecat*

    #1 Is odd but reminds of me of my parents. I grew up poor and so money was this precious thing that we were ecstatic to have enough of to share.

    The forcing it on you went pretty far with the throw away comment, but there was this whole song and dance with giving away money when we were poor too. Like here take this, what no I couldn’t, I insist I sold an extra car this week, no I really don’t need it, please take it you have been so great to my family and I can never repay you.

    When I was poor it was some noble thing I thought I was doing for people I was grateful too and now that I’m middle class I know it’s extremely awkward and annoying because you do not need that money and you know the person giving it to you does.

    1. Bananagram*

      This is also how I would interpret it. Which isn’t to say it’s not awkward, but the cleaner has some pride here that it would be a kindness to be mindful of when returning the money. She’ll be more likely to accept it if you let her save face. Separately, I really think firing her for it is unwarranted, unless the previous issues (and for me lack of punctuality and chattiness are not deal breakers in a cleaner) merited that already.

      1. Anon for this*

        I had similar thoughts to you – especially about the pride and allowing her to save face.

        I was wondering if there was some kind of cultural influence behind this behaviour. My family comes from a culture where this wouldn’t be that unusual between friends or even acquaintances, and people are expected to refuse things 3 times before they accept them (even if they want to accept) – which results in a song and dance that could explain the “if you don’t take it I’ll throw it away” line (so the recipient can finally let down their pride and just take the gift damn it).

        It’s a bit more odd from employee -> employer, but if the cleaner has poor boundaries she may be treating this like a more personal relationship. I also wonder if she is older than OP, which may contribute to a “I should help these younger people out” impulse (in my experience anyway).

        Anyway, all of this is not to say that OP shouldn’t return the money or consider firing if appropriate (especially in context of their other work quality). However, I didn’t find this exchange *quite* as weird/possibly malicious as some other commenters seem to, so I wanted to throw an opinion out there.

        1. LW1*

          There was a bunch of other things I could have added in the original letter and yes, she is a generation older than us, and I’m afraid some boundaries might have been blurred when we allowed her to get some deliveries made to our house. My spouse also helped her create a business card when she went independent, but she paid for that to keep it a business relationship. I am going to reinforce certain boundaries and try to wrestle this thing back into a business relationship, because I am very uncomfortable employing someone who thinks I am their friend.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Yes, this is a good idea. Since apparently your husband is the one mostly home when she is there he will have to do his part too. No more personal talk. Just weather, pets, sports, as boring as possible. If she gossips non stop she is most likely an oversharer. It is really hard not to overshare in response but you both have to try.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Unfortunately, I think that ship has sailed. Her behavior is so odd that I’m not sure there is a way to wrestle this back into a business relationship.

          3. Essess*

            Unfortunately, your husband HAS turned this into a friend relationship by having ‘gossip sessions’ with her. When sharing personal info constantly, that moves the recipient into a friend zone rather than just a professional boundary. Your husband also needs to work on establishing a boundary as well.

          4. Bananagram*

            LW1, I think this is eminently possible, as long as you keep your expectations low. She’s not going to change her personality, but you might be able to enforce some space and coolness, if that’s what you’re looking for. I agree with EPLaywer though that it’s got to be consistent from you and your spouse. In your place I might also be explicit about what I was doing, so it’s a bit gentler, so the message lands more as “I want to enforce more formal professional boundaries than I have previously so we all know where we stand” and less “I’m mad at you for reasons unspecified and may be considering firing you.”

            The idea is that being clear, while unpleasant for everyone at first, is most likely to end up with the end result you want, while also minimizing any potential hurt feelings. Because the last thing you want is for her to think “Oh no, my friend-employer is upset with me, I had better redouble my friendliness!”

          5. Not A Manager*

            I also think that ship has sailed. If you want to try to get back to a business relationship, though, I think you need to explicitly name that for her. This is not a lady who is going to take hints, and if you just start talking about the weather and what-not, she’s going to draw whatever odd conclusions and they might not be “my employer wants a business relationship with me.”

            I think you need to give her the money back and SAY, out loud, “We don’t need a loan, but in any event we can’t accept money from you because you are our employee.” If she “insists,” you need to say, “as your employer I am telling you that we can’t accept money from you. This is a condition of your employment.”

            Once you straighten out the “loan,” then you can kindly tell her, “I think this situation arose partly because we’ve all blurred boundaries a bit. You’re a terrific cleaner and a lovely person, but let’s be sure going forward that we maintain a professional relationship.”

            1. Caraway*

              Just want to say that I love this phrasing. I think it’s very clear while still being kind and respectful.

          6. Quantum Hall Effect*

            I am very uncomfortable employing someone who thinks I am their friend.

            That’s your boundary, which is fine. I think your spouse is likely correct that your housecleaner has a different view of the relationship, and she does not have poor boundaries. She just has different boundaries that do not constitute loan sharking, favor sharking, or money laundering (really shaking my head at that leap).

            Of the people I know who employ a housecleaner, many of them have a friendly relationship with that person. Most of those are more like work friends, but I also know someone who sees her housecleaner socially and shares a friend set with her. It is not uncommon in the working world for people to be friendly or even friends with their managers, VPs, owners of the business, or whatnot. Paying her is a boundary for you, but it is far from a universal boundary. I think you will have better success navigating the situation if you can see things from the perspective of someone who does not find it odd to be friends with the person who pays them.

            I think Alison’s advice was terrible and you are likely to rupture the relationship entirely if you follow it. My advice is to just pay her back $50/month until you purchase the new machine. Then when the machine is in your house, pay her back whatever is left all at once. In the meantime, take what you have learned about how she views your relationship to be more cautious about chit chatting with her. If you really don’t want her cleaning your house anymore, find a new housekeeper after you have paid the money back. If you let her go while you still owe money, that will always hang over you.

            1. Momma Bear*

              The whole paying her back anyway thing still leaves this problematic transaction out there. LW doesn’t want it. The employee needs to take it back and LW needs to get out of the unwanted loan. It is not helpful to play pretend that this was acceptable to LW. LW and spouse need to be firm.

              1. Who is the asshole*

                Yeah, just letting her steamroller you is not good advice! And what if it impacts the relationship if you refuse the money? That’s on the cleaner, she caused that awkwardness. It’s fine to hand it back.

        2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I had a couple of older relatives who were always trying to force money on us, even when we were well into adulthood. It was awkward, but I knew they meant well.

    2. CoffeePlease*

      I think the point of figuring out how to give it back while letting her save face is an important part of establishing workable boundaries going forward (if that is desired). The easiest way is to deposit the cash, add it to the next check, and add a simple note saying that you can’t accept but appreciate her generosity. I don’t see the need for a direct show down, unless an indirect but clear approach fails.

      1. Ann*

        This didn’t really make sense to me. If it was cash, then why would spouse need to be included in the trip to the bank? If it is a check, then throwing it in the trash just means that no transaction has taken place and there is nothing to worry about. Anyway I see the update that they eventually handed the cash back to the housekeeper, so that’s good.

        1. LW1*

          “If it was cash, then why would spouse need to be included in the trip to the bank?”

          … to deposit it into his bank account?

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            Ah, finally found the comment that I mis-nested my reply to.

            Some banks refuse to accept cash deposits from anyone other than the account-holder. Even in small sums, that clearly are not anywhere near the threshold for reporting to assist the Treasury in investigating money laundering.

            Even if the person trying to make the deposit is a family member with the same address as the account holder.

    3. Snowy Owl*

      I agree, this is almost exactly something my husband’s grandmother, who grew up poor, would have done, all the way down to the “well then throw it on the floor if you don’t want it, I’m not taking it back” part of the response.

  13. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – agreeing with others that you’re taking something personally that isn’t personal. The HR person could be disorganized, but the odds are that they are trying to wrangle interviewers who have multiple other priorities and whose schedules are constantly changing. And yes, it’s annoying that the HR person didn’t call you at the pre-arranged time, but they could have been dealing with any number of issues (I’ve had HR candidates drop interviews with me because of a labour issue, or a health and safety issue, for example).

    Don’t read into it – if it was critical for you to meet that final person, the company would have made sure it happened. Either they’ve decided they don’t need that person’s input to the decision after all (that happens), or the person feels whatever areas they were particularly interested in examining were adequately covered by the other interviewers).

  14. Amaranth*

    It crosses some boundaries that also make me uncomfortable. Having an employee offer to lend money or defer wages for a couple of months would be awkward but could come from a kind place. However, you have to wonder why she is so insistent. Its a really weird dynamic to pay her wages and a repayment plan. Also…if she is free to toss $500 then why is she cleaning? It seems like an unusual choice for personal fulfillment. It makes me look for underlying reasons — like she needs that connection or to ‘pay back’ for something. Its just offputting.

    1. YikesOnBikes*

      I mean, people with jobs also have money saved. Cleaning is not necessarily a low income job.

    2. MK*

      Eh, 500 dollars is hardly enough to retire on. And she isn’t tossing it, she is lending it to someone she perceives as needing it.

      1. Amaranth*

        Right but she said if they didn’t keep it she’d throw it out. That might be hyperbole but strikes me as really strange.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I cleaned houses in college for extra money and can attest that some families (usually in the way they talked about money and issued payment) did sometimes give the impression of being very paycheck-to-paycheck despite having nicer homes than me and paying a cleaner.

      It’s very possible she sees herself as having less immediate expenses than OP. That could be ableism, as another commenter pointed out, or it could be the way OP and/or her husband are talking about expenses (after all, she didn’t psychically intuit that they needed this new machine).

    4. LW1*

      With penalties, overtime, and night shift allowances, you can make a very good living cleaning since Australia has a decent minimum wage, and you can negotiate more as a private contractor. I make more than I pay her for her 2 hours, but I don’t work overnight or weekends, which is where the good money comes in. Even then, I wouldn’t toss out any kind of cash.

    5. Asenath*

      Low income people can be very generous, sometimes more so on a percentage-of-their-income basis than people with a higher income. I think it’s because they are poor and have a fellow-feeling for others in need. But in this case, the need doesn’t exist and I’d have to insist firmly that she accept the money back, including saying that if she wants to throw it out, that’s up to her. If it gets as far as her leaving it in OP’s place, I’d add it to her pay cheque or e-transfer, but if I paid her in cash, I’d just have to keep returning the cash until she accepted it. The insistence wouldn’t bother me that much; I’m used to situations like someone else described, in which any offer is often made two or three times, and then accepted. I wouldn’t see this as a firing offense, more as a gesture I can’t accept because she’s not a close personal friend and a mention that I need a new gadget is not a gift-giving opportunity or a request for a loan.

    6. generic_username*

      Also…if she is free to toss $500 then why is she cleaning? It seems like an unusual choice for personal fulfillment.

      Lol, that’s an interesting take…. I have $500 in my account right now, but I still need to work for a living. Cleaning homes is a viable career and you would hope that if someone does it full-time that they are able to afford to build up a savings account. Personally, I wouldn’t lend that kind of cash to anyone but my immediate family, but I also operate under the personal rule that I don’t lend money I wouldn’t give away.

  15. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    LE 4: I like Alison’s answer here. It’s way too premature for your company to plan an in-person event that they’re making people fly to. I know that some people are super anxious to do things like this. But the pandemic is not over. No need for them to push this on people who may not be as ready as they are to gather or travel. I know some people who seem to make it their mission in life to get people to do things they don’t feel comfortable doing. It’s obnoxious.

    Stand your ground. This is your health and the health of your family you’re talking about. If some people in your company want to take that risk, that is up to them. But don’t let them pressure you into taking a risk with your family’s health that you aren’t comfortable taking. They really shouldn’t be doing this right now.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, LW4, I would really love to tell you that you can relax about this now (I don’t know if I would call it overreacting). But over here in the Netherlands the number of new infections grew tenfold in the space of a week last week, after most measures were relaxed just one week before – there were suddenly clubs to go to and large events and most people are not yet fully vaccinated but went anyway.

      I really hope this does not happen anywhere else, but why take the risk?

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, indeed. Almost the same thing, although not quite to this extent, happened in Finland during the Uefa Eurocup when lost of Finnish football/soccer fans went to Copenhagen and St. Petersburg to see our team play. Out of some 3,000 fans who went, more than 400 came home with Covid, mostly the delta variant. Although the total, absolute numbers are fairly small, it’s still not good for high-risk people. The only good thing about this is that since vaccination rates have been excellent among the elderly (something like 90 percent of the 80+ population), the higher incidence rates haven’t caused an increase in hospitalizations or deaths.

        1. londonedit*

          Agree – in the UK we have a really good percentage of people who are vaccinated, so we’re not seeing the numbers of deaths that we were before, but hospitalisations are creeping up and case numbers have been rising steeply in recent weeks. The government in its wisdom have decided to open everything up on July 19th as planned, but have backtracked slightly from the previous ‘freedom day’ messaging (WTF) and are now ‘recommending’ that people ‘use common sense’ and wear face masks in crowded indoor spaces/on public transport etc. I think we’ll be saved for a few weeks by the fact that a) the weather’s meant to be nicer, so people will be socialising outdoors and b) the schools will be off for six weeks from the end of July to the beginning of September (this thing is absolutely rife in schools at the moment, it seems) but case numbers will absolutely keep rising and we could be faced with a serious situation again come the autumn. I’ve had both my jabs and while it’s great that I’m now unlikely to die or get seriously ill, I still don’t want to get Covid (and I especially don’t want to get long Covid!)

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Also had both jabs now (and goddess did my autoimmune disease hate both!) and I don’t think I’m going to be going anywhere without a mask for quite a while. I’ve already turned down an opportunity to do a large multi-team meet-up in September oop north because I simply do not know what the situation is going to be.

            Definitely don’t wanna get Covid if what my immune system did to a tiny amount of proteins is anything to go by.

            1. londonedit*

              Yeah, my birthday is later in the year and last year I had to make do at the last minute with a ‘six people in the park with a takeaway coffee’ thing, so I’m wary of making any plans in case the same happens again!

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                My birthday is later on in the year too and yeah, might end up doing what I did last year: Jackbox games over internet with friends/family.

    2. Tali*

      Absolutely agree. It is way too premature to have massive in-person company events, the pandemic is still happening and not everyone is vaccinated! I’m amazed at the risk they’re taking with their workers’ lives.

    3. Ganymede*

      Also – stand your ground in a very matter-of-fact way – assume it will be obvious to them why you can’t go, and try not to let your anxiety about the optics affect the way you address this.

      *Of course* you cannot go. If they seem non-plussed, just carry on by asking, with a neutral, practical face on, what are the arrangements being made for those who can’t go, so that you know what the set up is.

      They need to have it click that this is going to be an ongoing matter (opportunity?!) in business life.

    4. Kelle*

      I disagree. If OP and her family have been vaccinated, the risk of getting infected is very low and the risk of serious infection or death are very, very low. The current covid situation in the US is not going to change any time soon. A significant number of people are never going to get vaccinated and there will continue to be new variants that pop up.

      At some point, people are going to have to trust that the vaccine will protect them. I think it can be harmful to encourage people to continue being overly cautious at this point. The science and the scientist are telling us that not necessary if you’re vaccinated.

      1. Allonge*

        Look, if this was about ‘we return to the office so we can do the 30% of the work that we could not do in the last year and a half’, then I could agree. Even if it’s an invite to an in-person brainstorming day in the local office.

        The thing is, a fly-in corporate retreat does not sound like essential operations. I know there are plenty of companies (and people) who would like to go back to normal-ish and at least partly in-person, but let’s start with what really has to happen and not the luxury bits?

        1. Kelle*

          Based on your other comments, it looks like you’re not in the US. Here in the US, we are past the point of only doing the essentials and the covid restrictions have mostly been lifted.

          It sounds like OP is expecting the covid situation in the US to continue improving, but it really isn’t going to change much from what its like now. If now isn’t the time to start doing non-essential activities, then when? I understand that some people have more anxiety than others about resuming normal activities, but now is the time for them to start taking steps towards normalcy because this situation IS our new normal for the next several years at least.

          1. Allonge*

            If now isn’t the time to start doing non-essential activities, then when?

            I don’t know. Can it wait half a year?

            What I do know is that I would strongly prefer that for work, we start with the essentials (and going to the office could count as essential). And that I can decide what non-essentials to do in my free time.

            And I am really glad it’s going well in the US. It was going well here too, until a week ago.

            1. Liddy*

              What’s the point of waiting six months if nothing is going to change between now and then?

              1. Saltedchocolatechip*

                In six months more children will hopefully be vaccinated. We could have booster shots available and we could know whether or not the vaccine works in immunocompromised people and if not, what we can do to protect them.

                I want to be back inside with more people I care about (the office, I’m not as excited about) but I will feel much safer doing it when I know my family members and friends are protected. Until then society is asking those of us who have people at risk to either forego seeing them or decide whether every work trip or unmasked gathering places them at risk and how to manage it.

                1. Beka Cooper*

                  Thank you! My children cannot be vaccinated, and I’m not taking the chance that they’ll be one of the children who gets hit hard by covid.

              2. Allonge*

                Giving people some space to breathe? Showing that the company is aware that not everyone feels 100% safe yet and with some reason?

                But also: if this is as good as it gets and as safe as it gets for the next 10, 20, 100 years, the solution is not to go back to what it used to be before, it’s to design a new way that takes the new normal into consideration. Not having a corporate retreat you need to fly to is a good start.

                1. CoffeePlease*

                  Good point Allonge. If this is as good as it gets, now is the time to start di figuring out a new way to handle the new normal, from determining when we really have to be in the same physical space and how to accommodate those who can’t, to retrofitting our infrastructure with adequate ventilation, and so on.

                2. Tuesday*

                  Exactly – if this is how things are going to be, I don’t know why that means we just have to shrug our shoulders and go back to doing what we were doing before. Why not make some changes that could benefit people’s health, not to mention the environment (which could benefit people’s health down the road). I don’t see a reason not to cut down on things like unnecessary flights.

              3. Someone On-Line*

                Actually, there will be a difference. At some point in the future, most people will have either had the vaccine or had coronavirus. We don’t know exactly when that point will be. But right now we have a rather large population of people who have neither, so the spread of coronavirus is relatively high. Six months from now or a year from now we will have fewer people who are able to get the virus and less spread. So it will probably be safer then. We may have medical technologies or advances in treatment, or ways to increase the efficacy of the vaccine in people with immune deficiencies.

            2. fhqwhgads*

              It’s not going well in the US. Better than before certainly, but not well, but the argument is the holdouts are going to continue to hold out, so move on anyway. (I’m not agreeing with that, but it’s why everything is opening despite the variants).

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The OP has high-risk family members, which can include kids who can’t be vaccinated yet or immunocompromised people who have been warned the vaccine may be far less effective on them. Let’s take her at her word, please.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            If now isn’t the time to start doing non-essential activities, then when?

            When we’re closer to the vaccination goal. When we have a better idea of how vaccines protect against the Delta variant. When we know if boosters will be needed/available. We’re not even close to the end of this. We simply might be at the end of the beginning.

              1. Courageous cat*

                I mean, isn’t the vaccine widely available all over the country now, aside from maybe smaller rural areas? People are politically against this vaccine. Imo this is about as good as it’s ever going to get, and waiting for a time where more people are vaccinated seems pretty futile.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Hopefully it will be made available to younger children soon. And a booster might be needed. And maybe more people will realize that diseases and vaccines aren’t politically motivated. We’re definitely not at “as good as it’s ever going to get” status.

          4. Koamom*

            I completely agree. I feel like even after all this effort in vaccinating, we’ll be sitting here another year from now with some overly cautious people still not thinking anything is safe. It’s time to get back to some normalcy, and that includes in person work events. Besides, masks are still required on airplanes, the chances of a vaccinated, masked person getting a serious case of covid are very slim.

            1. AY*

              While I’m personally with you (I go into the office 3 days a week, I go out to eat, I go to the gym, I have resumed all my other “before time” activities), I do think it’s important to extend grace to others who aren’t there yet, especially when they live with kiddos who can’t be vaccinated or adults who can’t be vaccinated.

              1. ampersand*

                Thank you. I am not one of those “but think of the children!” people, but I’m getting the sense when talking to or hearing from people without kids that the kid-vaccination piece is just not even on their radar as a consideration. And I totally get it—I’d be in the same mindset if not for my unvaccinated child.

            2. Humble schoolmarm*

              Sure, some people won’t ever feel safe, but some people will feel a bit better once we see what re-starting large in person events means to transmission rates and we’re not there yet. Plus, feeling safe re-starting social life isn’t an all or nothing thing. I’ve been working in person since September, eat in restaurants, hug my family and participate in a sport. I’m looking forward to going to some outdoor theatre events over the summer, but going to partnered dance class (too close, too much hand touching), going to a bar or hopping on a plane for unnecessarily travel is still a nope for a while.

          5. Siege*

            I’m also in the US, and since we have spikes of infections and hospitalizations in 42 states as of RIGHT TODAY, it is juuuuust possible that relaxing restrictions was about economic recovery (my state has made a big deal about being open for tourism) rather than about public health and safety.

            I’m being extraordinarily sarcastic. Of course relaxing restrictions was about economic recovery rather than whether it’s safe to pretend the pandemic is over. Outbreaks of delta are including vaxxed individuals. Personally, I’m not going anywhere optional for a long time, because I don’t even want “light” COVID like I might get as a fully-vaxxed person. I have enough trouble living in my body right now.

          6. BluntBunny*

            It’s almost unheard of in my country to have a company fly you away for a retreat, we have team days but they wouldn’t really be outside the city. So this type of event seems really unnecessary and are most people in the US even going on their own personal holidays?

          7. Maybe YOU'RE not in the US?*

            What are you talking about, “past the point of only doing the essentials”?

            I’m going to try not to go on a long winded thing here, but the short version is that we have a political party actively and openly bragging as recently as this past weekend about refusing to get vaccinated, a (relatively) new variant spreading like wildfire among unvaccinated people and we’re seeing tons of breakthrough cases, we can’t vaccinate our youngest kids yet, and the people most enthusiastic to reopen seem also the least enthusiastic about even trying to respect that some people are not in safe situations to join in yet but still have to go outside for essential things. Oh yeah, and how many states do we have that aren’t even at half of the eligible population being as far as a first dose yet?

            You mention taking steps, and I would agree with that part if it were by itself. You led with claims about “the covid restrictions have mostly been lifted” though, and that makes me hope that you live somewhere where those lifted restrictions make sense. Also, since the restrictions were literally purpose-built to minimize transition, obviously we’re going to see some rise in numbers from populations at large throwing caution to the wind. With the delta variant that seems to overlap with us learning about more breakthrough cases (correlation, true, but we haven’t had enough time to disprove causation yet and even if it isn’t, the breakthrough cases in a vacuum are still worrying), that’s rightfully concerning.

            Maybe there are pockets of the US where you’re absolutely right, but there are so many more pockets where you’re just… not. That we’re talking about flying to somewhere for a trip only reduces the odds that all of the relevant regions (because now it’s plural) are safe. If you are truly of the impression that all, or even most, of the US is ready to safely reopen at 100% today (and that’s not even touching on the cross-country travel part), then I strongly urge you to check again.

        2. quill*

          Also the risks via mass transit are much, much higher than the risks of commuting back to the office – and LW is going to know more about the specific risks of their home region AND the proposed destination than the commentariat.

          As has been going on for the past year and a half around here, we’re going to have to assume that an abundance of caution causes less harm than a lack of it so we can “get back to normal,” for the assumed benefits that normality has, so if OP deems the risks too high, the risks are too high for them. Period.

      2. Lance*

        That last paragraph especially is… rather dismissive. Vaccinations or no, we’re still living in a pandemic; we’re still entitled to be worried, and cautious, and prioritize taking care of ourselves. Sure, as vaccination rates go up, it will (likely) be safer to go out again… but I don’t think it’s good to tell someone, effectively, to just get over it and go out anyway, regardless of any trepidation.

      3. UnhappyCamper*

        My company is also planning an in person retreat and I am terrified about it and want you to know that If you need permission to trust your instincts and not go, find a way to push back.
        My family has also been super cautious since my sister is a nurse. In some ways that makes reopening really anxiety inducing because the change in behavior and routine is a little more drastic. I think it’s fine to relax your cautions on your own terms, slowly, and a little at a time.
        This trip involves planes and overnights, either of which would give me a panic attack right now if I didn’t start practicing and planning for it in advance. I think the issue with this being a work thing is that it is harder to make a choice based on your own needs.
        Alison described the trauma of this past year really well and succinctly in the spring. I’d encourage you to give yourself some grace and weigh your mental health, and potential anxiety with as much weight as your family’s health in this decision.
        To be clear, if you want to go, this is pretty safe with everyone vaccinated. I am biased because I know how challenging it can feel to suddenly act ‘irresponsibly’. It’s not actually irresponsible but you’ve probably been carrying a lot of responsibility for your family this year and not continuing to do all the things can seem really wrong emotionally.

        1. BluntBunny*

          I wonder could you just use an excuse like your passport expired? Or that you don’t want to be away from your spouse.

      4. Guacamole Bob*

        When OP1 says that she has high risk family members I assume that she’s talking about someone who is immunocompromised. My father, for example, has been told by his doctor to continue behaving as if he is unvaccinated because antibody tests show that he had no response to the vaccine. And the underlying condition that causes that also dramatically increases the risk of death should he contract covid.

        The science is evolving, partly because they didn’t include people with serious immune conditions in the trials so they’re collecting real-world data in an ongoing way. It’s not all bad news – there’s something about a potential T cell response even if people don’t produce antibodies that I don’t know enough to understand. And maybe some of these patients will be helped by additional boosters, but research on that is still ongoing.

        The number of vaccinated people who have real reason not to trust the vaccine is not large in percentage terms but is not trivial either (I heard 2%, but I can’t remember where). Plus even though on the whole children aren’t high risk there are definitely individual circumstances that make some children too young to be vaccinated very vulnerable. And some people have conditions that mean they can’t be vaccinated in the first place. With more transmissible variants spreading, everyone who lives with someone vulnerable should be more careful than a general member of the vaccinated population, too – they may not get sick themselves, but they don’t want to bring it home.

        So while for many people it’s probably appropriate to start trusting the vaccine and getting back to normal, it is very much not the case for everyone.

      5. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        I completely disagree. So we should just get over it and move on even though cases are again rising and we would be risking our lives and health and/or those of our family? Because people like you are anxious to get back to normal and are pushing to make it happen faster than possible and don’t care about those who still want to be cautious? No thanks. It’s people like you that are making the return to normal activities at work more stressful than necessary.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          There was a thread on our company forum I had to shut down and delete fast by one person demanding ‘no new normal’ – essentially telling us all to ‘stop being scared and get over it, life goes on’.

          Returning to pre-pandemic ‘norms’ is still going to be a while yet (even longer if this damn thing keeps mutating in unvaccinated populations)

          1. quill*

            Nostalgia for pre-pandemic times is definitely chewing on a lot of people’s brains, globally, that anyone thinks there won’t be a marked difference between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic life.

            Some safety measures are going to become the new seatbelts of living in a society with mass global transit and therefore mass global disease transmission. We’re just not certain which ones yet, and even regionally we have not hit vaccination numbers that make sense to start isolating the disease. (My state, for example, likes to tout it’s vaccination percentage as being X percent of those eligible… but it’s just under half of residents total that have received ANY vaccination, including first dose only. You need closer to 80 or 90% for disease isolaton. )

      6. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Also, the “new normal” means taking the necessary precautions, not just going back to the way we did things before. This means traveling less, embracing Zoom or Teams as an option for meetings, more people participating in things remotely, masking when necessary, social distancing… I’m sorry if that is too inconvenient for some people, but that’s the “new normal.” Behaving as we did before the pandemic is irresponsible.

      7. generic_username*

        People under the age of 12 can’t be vaccinated yet. LW 4 mentioned that her family is high risk. You do realize that the high-risk family member could be a child, right? Or maybe an older adult who is unable to be vaccinated due to medical reasons?

        Like, I get your point that we need to start trying to return to normal, but maybe we should ease in with the normal day-to-day stuff instead of gathering everyone in the company from across the nation into one room?

      8. Keymaster of Gozer*

        When you’ve got high risk people at home, maybe ones who medically can’t get the vaccine, your worries are likely to be more toward not bringing deadly viruses to *them* rather any risk to yourself. I trust all vaccines, but we are nowhere close to herd immunity and there’s still a wide part of society refusing the vaccines (for non medical reasons) and providing an ample reservoir for new variants to occur.

        Simply put – if the percentages of people vaccinated were higher and people in my area all took this seriously I’d feel a lot better about travelling. But they’re not and I don’t.

        1. Liddy*

          The thing is, we are likely never going to get to herd immunity. The vaccine rate has stalled in the US. Pretty much everyone who wants the vaccine has had it by now. If you plan to wait until we have herd immunity, you’re going to be waiting a loooooong time. This is going to be with us for years.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’m far more optimistic. We’ll get closer to it in maybe 6 months – especially once vaccines become approved for children. Additionally, people are starting to see consequences of refusing the vaccines – like not entering into certain areas or even being fired from their jobs (saw a case of a lot of antivaxx nurses being let go).

            I’m certain that with incentives and also consequences we’ll get there.

            (And I’m saying this from a high risk person who had to wait a long time to find out if she even could be vaccinated. And an ex virologist)

      9. AllTheBirds*

        There’s about a 10% risk of getting sick even if you’ve been vaccinated.

        Do I feel confident that the vaccine will protect me? Yes, 90% confident. And I continue to wear a mask when I’m in public places. That’s my choice.

        1. Calliope*

          There’s not a 10% chance you will get sick anyway. There’s 90% less chance you will get sick than a non-vaccinated person who doesn’t have anywhere near a 100% chance of getting sick. (And you do too have more like a 99% reduced chance of getting seriously ill).

          That said of course it’s your choice. But it’s important to talk about the vaccines correctly because downplaying how well they work discourages vaccination.

      10. Nanani*

        New variants keep popping up and they are more infectious.
        Social distancing is still important. It’s not harmful to be cautious when you KNOW there will be unvaccinated people at an indoor event.

        Stop pretending the pandemic is over. It’s not over. People are dying.

      11. Massive Dynamic*

        Remember, kids 11 and under cannot be vaccinated yet and they do get sick. It will be a different story when the vaccine’s approved for them too (although most likely not babies under six months, like the current flu shots).

      12. Keymaster of Gozer*

        ‘ . I think it can be harmful to encourage people to continue being overly cautious at this point’

        The thing is, we’re not. Continuing social distancing, masks, encouraging vaccines etc isn’t being overly cautious at this stage.

        What would be harmful would be to tell people that the vaccines don’t work, or that they’re shedding dangerous particles to bystanders, or any other fear mongering flasehoods which sadly I’ve seen too many of. Or that the virus isn’t dangerous to the under 40s, etc. A denial of the actual situation may feel a lot better than caution but it’s rather more harmful in actuality.

        With regards the science: when someone is concerned about people around them who for one reason or another can’t have the vaccine and/or are high risk the science pretty much supports not taking needless risks.

      13. Tali*

        Hard to trust “the vaccine will protect [me]” when so many of us have friends or family who aren’t vaccinated still. The UK and other countries are seeing rising cases in the delta variant that experts think must come from transmission via vaccinated people.

        The rush to return to prepandemic “normal” with no precautions taken is caused by mental fatigue and economic concerns, not because that is best according to scientists and public health experts.

        It’s pretty shocking to see “get over it” messaging when almost no country has reached herd immunity, conversely many are seeing increasing cases still. Now that we’ve evacuated everyone from the burning building, we should go back in, even though the building is on fire?

  16. Cant remember my old name*

    #5. Traditionally everyone at my firm has a final interview with a member of the exec team before being hired, but I was offered the job without it because she was on a long vacation and they didn’t want to lose me as a candidate. Hiring is fluid. Sometimes there’s personal stuff going on. Sometimes there’s mission critical stuff that takes priority. I don’t think it will affect you candidacy. Good luck!

  17. jm*

    work letter writer: i’m going through something like that, on a much smaller scale. my office is closing early and everyone’s going to have lunch and play games in the park. that’s… nice and all, but i’m not ready to deal with people i’m not related to in a setting where most will be unmasked. they’re making staff who bow out use vacation time for the day and i’m irked about that, but oh well. good luck with your situation. i hope you’re able to get out of it without much trouble.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Ugh, if they made me use vacation time I’d go to the park in my own car, sit well away from everyone, and not compete in any of the games. (LOL, I’d do that anyway, but especially if the alternative was to steal my vacation leave)

  18. Barbara Eyiuche*

    #1 I wonder if the cleaner is a recent immigrant. In certain cultures, saying something broke that cost $500 and you need to replace it, is basically asking for money. I was extravagantly praising my student’s dog one day (in South Korea). He looked really uncomfortable, then turned to another student and asked them in Korean if I was expecting him to give me the dog. In rural Sichuan, carelessly mentioning that I needed or wanted (or even just liked) something often led people to think that I was asking them to give it to me.

    1. Nona*

      This was my thought too. The way gift giving works can be very different in other countries.

    2. Pennyworth*

      Absolutely could be a cultural difference. I was traveling with friends in Malaysia years ago and they were visiting old family connections. They were very embarrassed when they were presented with two large household ornaments they admired.

      1. Ganymede*

        I was warned about this in Jordan. Don’t admire individual things out loud, as tradition dictates that your hosts are obliged to gift it to you. It’s definitely an Arabic thing, possibly spread to Malaysia through Islam, although it could just be a similar local custom!

        I’m told that entrance halls to Jordanian houses are generally rather bare of ornaments as a result.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      The refusing to take back money after being asked only once is also common in some cultures – usually there is a bit of a song-and-dance since the first attempt to return money (or pay a bill, or whatever) is seen as a polite gesture rather than a sincere effort.

    4. LW1*

      While very valid points, I can confirm that the cleaner is definitely not an immigrant, and we reside in Australia where it’s absolutely not normal to not ask for money but be given it anyway.

      1. Asenath*

        In that case, I’d put it down to misplaced charity. One of my close relatives had a visible disability, including difficulty with speech, and was sometimes given money in public places, although never as much as $500. More like $5 or $10. One person said that he wanted to give to someone who really needed it – and although of course there were a lot of extra expenses associated with the disability, we knew, from meeting other patients during long periods in specialty clinics and hospitals, that there were people out there in far greater need of assistance with expenses than our relative or our family. The giver didn’t know that. In my relative’s case, it was a small amount and difficult, in the moment, to respond verbally to a stranger. Your case sounds like a cross between that scenario, and that of a relative who was wildly generous with Christmas presents in spite of always being short of money. With a non-relative, and a giver you know, you can insist on returning the money.

      2. RagingADHD*

        OP1, if you don’t want to tussle over it, ask the employee what charity she wants it donated to, because you aren’t accepting it as a loan, nor paying it back as a loan.

        Donate it in her name and have them send the “thank you” receipt to her.

        Of course, adding it to her next check with a memo is easier – but then it will wind up on her taxes.

  19. Annie J*

    I think it’s incredibly irresponsible for any company to be planning in-person events, really for the whole of this year, in the midst of a global pandemic.
    I think of the pandemic like a disaster, we wouldn’t expect normality to be kept to during a war or earthquake, so why do so many employers think that it’s okay to do so during a highly infectious disease outbreak.

    1. Mannequin*

      I’m dreading this upcoming winter. So many people want to believe it’s over already.

      1. Female Engineer*

        Our idiot (soon-to-be former) employers wanted a Christmas party last December after making such a stink about how they wanted to do Thanksgiving but it was a pandemic. :(

        (I am 99% certain she had COVID around Thanksgiving and told no one).

        The only reason I went along with it was so I could plan individual meals and make sure it was outside. Otherwise they would’ve forced us into the conference room with communal sushi. Luckily the guy had kidney stones so I had an excuse not to go. (I know but still.)

        Being told it was ok if I got COVID because I was young but if SHE got it it could knock her out was final straw tbh.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Communal sushi? Seriously? Even apart from the vast possibilities of this going oh, so badly, sushi is far from a universal taste. Or even a medical possibility, in my wife’s case. She is deathly allergic to fish: not shellfish, but fish. Personally, I love sushi when it is well done, but it often is not. “Communal” does not give me a warm fuzzy feeling about it.

        2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          It is absolutely unacceptable and unforgivable to tell someone it’s ok if they get COVID. Shame on her.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I think you actually hit at the heart of it…earthquakes happen and are quickly over. You rebuild, you move on. So for a few months we were in disaster mode, but pretty quickly our brains shifted into “ok can we go back to normal now?”

      1. Tali*

        Honestly even rebuilding after disasters like earthquakes can take years too. After the camera crews leave and the donations stop, the locals still need to rebuild things like crop fields and roads and railway lines and houses and schools, stuff that doesn’t happen in a couple months. We can’t just say “time has passed, therefore we can return to normal”… we have to actually look at whether that is possible and safe to do.

    3. Lucious*

      >> so why do so many employers think that it’s okay to do so during a highly infectious disease outbreak.

      Because they are under the belief the coronavirus pandemic is over. It is not, by far. We should all act accordingly.

      (Disclaimer: the following is strictly my opinion) Between unvaccinated populations across the globe and political resistance to the covid-19 vaccine in America , it seems a matter of time before a coronavirus variant emerges that evades all vaccines and sends us all back to quarantine.

      1. AY*

        I would be willing to bet my house that my state (Midwest) never goes back to quarantine, whatever future events may hold.

    4. Beka Cooper*

      Yeah my higher ed institution is planning a group picture with the entire freshman class AND another one for the “covid freshmen” aka returning sophomores who didn’t get to do the group picture last year. I’m just like…I get we can be back at school in person, but is it really necessary to gather thousands of people close together just yet?

  20. Princess Deviant*

    #1. That’s so out of order that even I, who struggles with setting boundaries and had to learn how to set them as an adult and am still learning now, thought WTH!
    Give her the money back, and fire her.

  21. Rupert*

    LW#1 I just want to say: please be careful. This may sound a bit far out there, but it could be possible that the cleaner is working on behalf of a loan shark. Once you have ‘accepted’ the money, they may come after you for the ‘interest’ that you implicitly agreed to by physical taking the cash. This is an unlikely scenario, however, stranger things have happened and this circumstance is very odd.

    1. LW1*

      However unlikely, it is still not impossible, and it was something that I did consider. Thank you.

    2. MsSolo (UK)*

      Mmm, loan sharking does worry me. The whole point (initially) is to be indistinguishable from someone who is well meaning and a bit vague on boundaries, but oh so generous, so it doesn’t feel official, it doesn’t feel scary, it doesn’t feel dangerous. And maybe they’ll let you pay back the first loan easily enough, so you feel comfortable accepting another, larger loan, when you need it. And they’ll offer to help you repay them, like going to be bank on your behalf, and oh, they’ll need your ID and bank card, and obviously you can trust them because they trusted you with so much money, didn’t they? And then maybe they’ll just hold on to your ID, for safe keeping. Collateral. Oh, and you know you never talked about interest, but obviously, it’s only fair.

      The thing is, at this stage, there are much higher odds this is just someone who’s well meaning but ableist. But that is what loan sharks count on – five times it’ll be a harmless individual who oversteps their boundaries, but one time it’ll be someone with a long term plan.

    3. Mental Lentil*

      Yeah, this is not how loan sharks work.

      Good lord this reminds me of all the times I was growing up and was told there were drug dealers on every corner just waiting to sell me drugs. So much fear-based imagination going on there.

  22. LW1*

    An update: before she left early without completing her duties, my spouse insisted on giving the cash back. He said, “While this is incredibly generous, we absolutely cannot accept this, so please take it back.”

    She reacted rather flippant and said, “Fine, I’ll give it to [another person we know mutually that she also cleans for].”

    Then he had a panic attack.

    We are waiting to see if things are still weird next time on whether or not we will dismiss her. If she continues to perform poorly, we will have to dismiss her regardless of this very odd incident since we have already spoken to her about lifting her performance. If she continues to agitate my spouse I will fire her.

    Some things I wanted to mention in the original letter:
    She is older than us.
    She’s not an immigrant.
    She is paid very well. She probably earns more than I, the breadwinner of the house, does due to penalties, overtime, and night shift allowances for her other clients that she can pick and choose at her leisure. However I do not pay her more than I earn per hour for the 2 hours she works for us.
    We are Australian and the minimum wage here is very good. Neither my spouse nor I are on the minimum wage and neither is she.

    Thank you for your comments.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Oooh, with the part about giving it to a different client that DEFINITELY sounds like some sort of money-laundering or counterfeiting ring!

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Both “throw it away” and “I’ll give it to someone else” sound like bluffs to me. I think she’s trying to “convince” LW & spouse to accept it by making it sound like she’s considering the money already spent.

        That does make the situation weirder. I’m inching towards parting ways and starting over with a new cleaner. Adults need to accept “no” as an answer.

        1. Homophone Hattie*

          Yes, this. It sounds exactly like the kind of hyperbole someone might use if they were trying to bluff someone into taking the money. And anyway, if she really were trying to launder money (which is quite a conclusion to leap to), what particular reason would she have to announce that she was giving it to someone else? If anything, she’d probably want to keep it quiet, no?

          1. Kelly L.*

            Agreed. I don’t think this is some elaborate scam–I think she’s just saying “Don’t give it back to me, I don’t want it” in hyperbolic terms.

        2. generic_username*

          Agree. It’s the “If you don’t take it, it’ll just be wasted” sentiment people use when trying to get you to take the last bite of something, the leftovers, etc… Also, “throw it in the bin” isn’t as extreme as it sounds since she’s the one who empties the bins, lol

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Also, “throw it in the bin” isn’t as extreme as it sounds since she’s the one who empties the bins, lol

            Nice observation; I wish I’d realized that earlier!

          2. GothicBee*

            Lmao, I thought that too! She sounds like the type of person who might be inclined to hyperbole, and it’s not like she’s bound by law to actually throw the money away if LW’s husband continued to refuse.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Really? Don’t you think that is extremely unlikely? I mean there’s just as much chance that she’s an international super spy and one of the bills has a nuclear code that must get delivered to the President.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          It’s a great example of base rate fallacy, IMO.

          The amount of pushy people who are awkward about money almost certainly is higher than the amount of money launderers who are moonlighting as cleaners….

      3. EPLawyer*

        Or just someone saying Well you don’t want it, I will give it to someone else who does.

        When you hear hoofbeats think horses, not zebras (locale specific advice)

      4. BuildMeUp*

        The number of comments insisting this woman is some sort of criminal mastermind are absolutely baffling to me. There is nothing in the letter to support this.

        1. Rupert*

          I (unfortunately) used to have to audit instances of suspected abuse and fraud on elderly and vulnerable people for a year. It was the worst job that I ever had. It was why this post stood out to me. I can tell you that the way that this cleaner has approached this is exactly how I have seen it happen in practice where an associate lends money someone that they perceive to be a vulnerable person, and then it turns ugly.

          Here is something that I learned in that job: the associate will typically come across as helpful and caring. People like this deliberately mask their intentions behind a kind and thoughtful face. And the kicker? We can’t discern the genuine people from the scummy ones, because they are experts at this and because most people don’t anticipate having this happen to them. After all, if 99.9% of people have good intentions, what is the likelihood that this is the 0.01%? Pretty low, right?

          While I don’t think that we should make assumptions or label this cleaner’s weird interactions as definitively untoward, I do think that it would be wise for the OP to consider the possibility. You just never know.

          1. Observer*

            You just never know

            True. But I think that you would have to admit that in this case, rather unlikely. So, sure, CONSIDER it. But let’s not get hyperbolic about it.

            1. Rupert*

              I said “After all, if 99.9% of people have good intentions, what is the likelihood that this is the 0.01%? Pretty low, right?” – is this not indicating that this scenario is rather unlikely?

              This also addresses the strawman argument being applied here: “But I think you would have to admit that in this case, rather unlikely”. This statement is trying to make the case that I am putting forward that I think this is likely. In fact, my entire comment is about how unlikely it is, but that it doesn’t hurt to keep in mind the 0.01% chance.

              1. Observer*

                Take it easy.

                I wasn’t trying to make a case about what you actually believe. I was simply trying to call out and highlight the fact that even though it is possible that there are all sorts of nefarious things going on here, it’s vastly more likely that it’s just garden variety weirdness. SO, for all the people who would read what you wrote – Yes, consider it, but don’t take it as a license to see “See! That’s how these types operate!”

                1. Rupert*

                  “I was simply trying to call out and highlight the fact that even though it is possible that there are all sorts of nefarious things going on here, it’s vastly more likely that it’s just garden variety weirdness.” This is already apparent in the comment, see: 99.9% vs 0.01%. What a strange place to try and plant a flag in the sand.

            2. Ellie*

              I don’t consider taking steps to protect yourself from a <1% risk to be hyperbolic. The entire insurance industry is based on it. The cleaner sounds creepy as, and nefarious individuals often preface their crimes by attempting to groom their victims, or others close by. Maybe this woman just wants her employer to owe her one so he overlooks the fact that she likes to leave early, but maybe not. Maybe she's planning on not doing her job at all. Maybe valuables start to go missing. Maybe some of her other clients are old with no family, and she sees this kind of thing as a way into their inheritance. Either way, her remarks caused him to have a panic attack, an innocent person would have been mortified by that, and would have tried to make it right. Its suspicious behaviour.

          2. BuildMeUp*

            That does sound like a difficult job! I agree that it’s a possibility, I’m just frustrated by people acting as if it’s the *only* explanation.

        2. ecnaseener*

          See my clarification below – I meant for my earlier comment to come off as more humorous than it apparently did. Certainly not trying to “insist” anything. But I disagree that there’s nothing to support it at all – she is weirdly passionate about getting rid of this cash.

          1. BuildMeUp*

            Oh, gotcha. I meant that there’s nothing that indicates that money laundering is the only – or even most likely – explanation. There are a lot of other reasons she could be insisting, and many of them seem more likely to me.

          2. Rupert*

            It’s funny to me that you have to point this out! I actually immediately read it as humor – as someone who has worked in financial fraud, neither laundering nor counterfeit would really fit the scenario – and I’ve read the outraged comments in response with increasing bewilderment.

      5. Calliope*

        What? No it doesn’t, come on! This isn’t a movie. It sounds like she’s trying to convince you she doesn’t personally need it. Weird boundaries but no evidence this is money laundering.

      6. ecnaseener*

        Okay okay, I thought the “Oooh” was enough to communicate a less-than-serious tone but apparently that didn’t come across — I do not literally mean I think this woman is definitely doing something criminal. I just meant that this makes it so much more juicy.

      7. Quantum Hall Effect*

        Wow, that is so unlikely that you are veering into fan fic rather than advice.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Bruh, read the clarifying comment right above yours. I wasn’t offering advice. Come on.

    2. Rupert*

      Glad to hear the update! Personally, I would end the cleaning contract now, although I know that your ability to do this will depend on your circumstances. It might be worth considering what the benefits are to keeping this cleaner, and whether you and your partner would ever feel comfortable with her going forward.

      1. Rupert*

        Some further thoughts. The more I think about, the more I really hope that you will terminate the employment relationship. Something is off…her ‘giving’ $500 to a potentially vulnerable person who is her employer and whom they have perceived to be in financial need; subsequently saying “Just pay me back at $50 a month”, and then saying that you could just throw it in the bin – which one is it? Many people have faced tough times due to the virus, and I’m sure that there are all kinds of shady characters looking to take advantage of the situation.

      2. Grits McGee*

        Yeah, if your husband is getting panic attacks from having to deal with this person, and you’re paying for the privilege, I think the negatives outweigh any benefits you get from a clean house.*

        *Is it even clean though, if she’s leaving early and arriving late?

        1. EPLawyer*

          Yeah the panic attack is grounds for moving on. Nothing personal but your spouse’s health comes before keeping this person employed.

        2. generic_username*

          Right? It seems like lateness is fine as long as she stays her fully allotted time (my cleaners have an arrival window of like 4 hours, lol) and the house is cleaned, but if she is leaving early and the house isn’t clean then she’s not doing her job.

    3. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Okay. Didn’t want to jump at shadows, but this update creeps me out.

      The money is either fake or she’s laundering it.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        Why do people keep saying this?! There are so many other possible explanations for her behavior. Please stop making assumptions.

          1. Calliope*

            Seriously. Y’all are coming very close to saying “better check the good jewels, the maid probably stole them.”

            1. EchoGirl*

              I don’t think that’s what people are saying though. I don’t think anyone is coming from a place of “how could the MAID have MONEY?!”/”don’t trust the help!!!”, but moreso, “What is it about this situation that’s making this woman so god-danged insistent that they MUST take the money? Is she desperate to get it out of her own hands for some reason?” Now, I do think it could just as easily be something much simpler — she likes the idea of “helping” to the exclusion of actually considering the feelings of the “beneficiaries”, or she wants something to hold over them, or any other number of mundane explanations — but I don’t think even the wildest speculating has to do with her class status, it’s about her bizarre behavior.

          2. Knitting Cat Lady*

            I’m as working class as they get.
            Where does my suspicion of counterfeit money come from?
            Cleaner was duped by some asshole and given counterfeit money herself and now she’s trying to pass on the hot potato.
            It’s not ‘how did the cleaner get that much money’ but ‘why the fuck is she trying so hard to get rid of it?!’

            1. EchoGirl*

              Exactly. It’s not that it’s suspicious for her to have or offer the money, it’s that the extent to which she’s pushing it on them even after being refused is extreme enough to start people speculating on why she might be behaving so strangely.

      2. BadWolf*

        Or she’s feeling defensive and embarrassed and doubling down on the fact that she’s a Good Person and someone In Need is getting this money!!!!11!

        1. Nanani*


          It’s ableism people. Insisting that someone with a visible disability is IN NEED of all the help that this ~generous angel~ wants to give – even when that help is unhelpful – is standard ableism.
          It’s more important to maintain self-image as a Helper of the Disabled than to listen to said disabled.

          Abelism ableism ableism.

      3. Hiring Mgr*

        It could be that the OP is the real launderer, and they are establishing this paper trail (this letter to AAM) to pin it on the cleaner. This is exactly what happens in season 2 of Ozark with Jason Bateman

        1. Siege*

          Actually, the husband isn’t real. This is a paper trail to clean the stolen counterfeit money that LW1 got in payment for a bunch of cocaine and then traded to the Yakuza in a double-cross involving pills. Also, LW1 is Pam from Archer.

      4. Mental Lentil*

        This is not how money laundering works, though.

        Good lord, the fan fiction is off-putting. Y’all need to put down your crime novels for a while.

    4. Esmeralda*

      Fire her right now. Damn, you don’t want someone around who sets off panic attacks AND doesn’t even do the work.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Exactly this! She does a lousy job. She’s causing health issues. You hired her to take some of the burden off, and instead she’s just adding to it. Fire her now.

    5. Money*

      I would not let her come back. What if she blackmails you? I would bet my bank balance she has been wandering around telling everyone she gave you the money (this is reflected in the fact that she had no problem naming another client and saying they will get the money).

      Imagine it goes like this. ‘We’re family so I thought i would give the disabled guy something he needed. They then sacked me to avoid paying it back’. Or much worse claims…..

      It doesn’t matter how many people on here are claiming it is silly to mention a con. But why take the risk in the first place?

    6. Workerbee*

      Even just one panic attack is one panic attack too many. She can be any level of weird, kind, helpful, flippant, etc.–bottom line seems to be she is not someone who is good for your family’s health. No need to second guess your feelings or decision, or wait for yet another time she’ll cause agitation.

      1. Money*

        I agree, the update about the panic attack was alarming. It is time to get rid. All of this emotional work for someone who cleans 2 hours a week!

    7. Rachel*

      I’m relieved that you’re in a different country than me, because I read your letter and thought, “…Is this about my mother-in-law?” She cleans some houses of people she knows, but just to stay busy, because she in no way needs the money. She is, let’s say, not very socially astute. She would absolutely give someone $500 that they did not need or want, just because they made an offhand comment. She wouldn’t have any nefarious purpose—she’s just Like That.
      Anyway, here’s hoping that your cleaner is as benignly clueless as my MIL, so that your husband’s directness will do the trick.

    8. Ellie*

      Wow that’s creepy… I’d move towards ending the relationship as soon as you can. Your husband doesn’t need that kind of stress, and she’s clearly got a nasty streak (as well as a lazy one).

      I still would try and smooth over the firing though, as much as you can. There’s no need to create an enemy if you can avoid it. Just keep it professional, and tell her that an old friend has just become available, or you need to change the hours, or some other ‘its not you its me’ BS to get her off your property as quick as you can while minimising the chances that she slashes your tyres on the way out.

    9. Coffee officionado*

      Lw1, it would be a kindness to warn the person she named that she intends to give them money. They need to be able to prepare a response in case they don’t want it either!

  23. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    Doesn’t the crux of this issue really depend on if LW is working more hours? Your employer can absolutely say, “We like you to do widget mailings for the people at home” even if your job description was widget database management. You should either work your same hours and discuss what to prioritize, or get paid hourly. If you don’t like the contents of your job anymore, you can job search.

    You aren’t entitled to a raise necessarily for a change in job duties. For an increase in level of responsibility or hours, then yes.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I don’t really follow your logic. We don’t know if the LW is paid hourly or salaried, but it sounds like you think if they’re hourly they should only get a change in their hourly rate if they’re working more hours?

      Even if they’re salaried…Salary rates aren’t solely based on hours worked, they’re based on how difficult the job duties are, how valuable the person in that role is to the employer, etc. If LW can argue that their work is worth more now, that’s a solid argument for a raise.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        If LW is doing more admin work (which is fairly or unfairly seen as lower level), that wouldn’t be an argument for a raise. Whether they are salaried or hourly, LW should complain if boss is expecting her to work later or nights or weekends. If she’s working the same hours (with extra admin duties) so is generally busier during the day that lasts the same length of time? I don’t see that as a slam dunk for a raise. Maybe she is bringing more value to the company and that can be an argument. But a change in job duties or priorities doesn’t automatically = I deserve more money.

        1. doreen*

          At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a point where there were only about 20 people actually working in my office of about 80. Of that 20, only 4 were in the office (as the rest did field work) . So I ended up filling in for the mail clerk. It didn’t involve any extra hours as only the most pressing tasks were done- but I earn three times what the mail clerk does. How could I have justified asking for a raise because I took on some of the mail clerk’s tasks?

          1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

            I agree. I mean, I get that it is super annoying to be mail clerk. Or to spend your days running to the post office when you previously had either more downtime at work or more interesting work. I just don’t see that it means you get more money. It might mean if this LW’s company wants to go remote forever, she should work her same hours and talk to the boss about priorities. Or look for another job. And it’s reasonable to be busy or busier during the day but not “about to have a heart attack” level of busy. So some things may not get done if she really has two workloads worth of work – that’s management’s problem. But I don’t get the automatic assumption that doing more admin for remote workers means someone should get paid more.

          2. Anonymous Esq*

            I think the crux is you already earn more than the mail clerk. The LW seems to be the lowest paid in her office, doing the most work (another full time job worth of responsibilities!), while her higher earning co-workers are offloading their work to her. They are doing less, she is doing her job plus taking on some of their responsibilities, and is still at the bottom of the totem pole. Does that truly seem right to you?

            1. doreen*

              I didn’t get that the OP was the lowest paid in the office, just that her coworker’s jobs were more specialized. ( just as the mail clerk’s job in my office is more specialized that the other clerks although they all get the same pay) In any event, I’m not saying she shouldn’t be paid more if she’s working the equivalent of an extra full-time job. The original comment said ” You aren’t entitled to a raise necessarily for a change in job duties. For an increase in level of responsibility or hours, then yes.” I was giving an example of a situation where my job duties temporarily changed ( performing some of the mail clerks task’s) but had no increase in hours nor an increase in the level of responsibility ( as would have happened if I had been filling in for my boss).

              I can’t tell what the letter writer’s situation is – she say’s it’s becoming almost another full-time job but at the same time she’s asking if it’s reasonable to ask for a raise as the person who has been on-site and covering other people’s work for more than a year. Which makes me think she’s salaried, since if she were hourly she would automatically be compensated for working additional hours. It also makes me wonder how many hours “almost another full-time job” means – if she’s working 30 extra hours a week , that in itself would be the justification for a raise.

    2. LW3*

      LW3 here. I’m an hourly worker, my coworkers are salary. In addition to taking on admin tasks of my coworkers, I’m working more hours and taking on higher level tasks.

  24. anonymous 5*

    LW2: it’s annoying, but definitely not new. My first encounter with it was in the 90s, on an athletic team. It was eyeroll-inducing even then, even in an environment where clever motivational quips and “shift your mindset” strategies aren’t quite so out-of-place.

    Not sure you’d want to burn the capital (and possibly the bridge!) to do this, but it’s tantalizing to imagine someone replying to the exec with, “Oh? What do you see this as an opportunity for, exactly?”

    1. Delta Delta*

      I encountered a little bit of this in my first job in the late 90s early 00s. But, there were some turns of phrase I really liked that made sense, like in some instances using “we” instead of “you” so directives were more clearly focused on the team, rather than on one person (this obviously doesn’t work in 1:1 situations). It wasn’t as broad as this “opportunity” business but did help me in forming some of my thinking differently.

  25. Slinky*

    OP2, this is definitely a thing. My apartment complex has done this for the whole five years I’ve lived here in some truly bizarre contexts. For example, dog owners not cleaning up after their pets was a “pet waste opportunity.” The three weeks we didn’t receive any mail and had to drive to the post office were a “mail opportunity.” These things aren’t opportunities! Stepping in dog poo is a problem, not a chance to fertilize the sidewalk.

    No advice, just commiseration.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah, I was thinking along those lines.

      “The break room is closed; somebody had an opportunity and now we need to call the cleaners and a plumber.”

  26. Agnes*

    While we’re at it, can we stop calling a software program or set of programs a “solution”? Thank you.

    1. Caboose*

      You’re gonna have to take that one up with Microsoft, unfortunately. When you write code in Visual Studio, the entire set of files is collated and represented by a single “solution” file. (Literally, the extension is .sln)

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah but that’s not really intended as an end-user term. I can’t tell if Agnes’s beef is with users calling them that or devs. If devs, they’re (probably) not misusing the term. If end-users are treating sln and app as interchangeable, that’s weird.

  27. Boof*

    Gross. And for #1, it gets extra weird if you are paying payroll taxes and then having to separate out the loan repayments with the payroll taxes. NO! Just firmly give them the cash back and question keeping them on. I guess you could give them one bill at a time per week from the wad of cash they gave you, but it’d be hyper weird if they insist on that.

    1. Boof*

      Ah I see the update, glad you guys were able to give the cash back! Dubious situation indeed.

  28. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 5, when I was in corporate recruiting I got 200+ emails a day. Even with a scheduler doing the heavy lifting, I was part of interview scheduling email chains and cross-chatter. It was easy to miss important emails, and I followed up as soon as I could with an apology for the delayed response. I agree it was rude for the HR person to not follow up, but I don’t think it was a deliberate snub against you.

    Also, it wasn’t a red flag to not meet every person on the interview roster. Schedules and priorities change. No matter how important hiring is to the team, sometimes other, more critical issues arise for someone on the panel.

    Good luck on your search.

  29. foolofgrace*

    LW3: I’m sorry I don’t have time at work to read all the comments to see if this has been suggested, but if the workload is untenable, I would suggest saying to the boss “I can no longer accomplish all of these tasks by X. Which ones can I leave undone?” and give them a list of the tasks Maybe if they see the tasks in list form, it will better hammer home the overload. I’m afraid that if you get the raise, and then some of the workload comes off your plate, you’ll have to rescind the raise. I also doubt you’ll get one anyway. If you really can’t realistically accomplish everything, there’s no shame in being firm about it. As long as you keep doing all of it, you’ll have to keep doing all of it.

    1. LW3*

      Thank you for your reply, unfortunately I’ve provided a list previously and my boss agrees on the workload, it’s just that nothing’s being done about actually taking care of it or redistributing. I’ve done my best to push off tasks to a later date and to alert my boss to when things slip, but the tasks keep coming.

  30. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Get a new cleaner. This is too weird, and too icky, and I’m sure there are other very good cleaners in your area.

    #2 – Imagine this email, “Take caution on your way out of the parking lot, everyone – a sinkhole in the driveway has created an opportunity.” People get so weirded out by using the actual words for things.

    #4 – An in-person retreat that people have to fly to feels incredibly tone-deaf right now. How has the company handled the rest of the pandemic? Think about all these pieces together and consider whether this is an opportunity (see what I did there?).

  31. I'm just here for the cats*

    LW 1 could you do a money order for the $500 and give it to her or send it in the mail (make it so she has to sign for it)? That way the cash is out of your hands, and you have proof that you gave it to her. If she doesn’t cash it that’s on her and you can prove you gave it back.

    I know you said going to the bank is hard but it might be worth the trouble.

    Also, if she is employed through some type of company I would contact the company to tell them about the boundaries.

    And this might sound bad but I would check all of your valuables, in case she is paying you back because she stole something and feels guilty.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      And this might sound bad but I would check all of your valuables, in case she is paying you back because she stole something and feels guilty.

      Seconded. Even if it has nothing to do with the $500, I’d still keep tabs on the valuables if someone’s working in your home with minimal or no supervision.

  32. Jean*

    LW2, I used to work with a manager (not my direct but in an adjacent dept) who used “opportunity” to mean “problem” – this was about 15 years ago, so it’s not new. I always just considered it an annoying linguistic quirk and internally rolled my eyes every time he said it. Try not to get too hung up on it.

  33. it's me*

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned that episode of The Office where Jim says about his and Pam’s couples therapy, “We’re supposed to call everything we don’t want to do ‘opportunities.'”

    1. Cheesehead*

      EXACTLY!!! I read that one and my first thought was “Oh, that Exec must be binging on “The Office” and apparently loved the episode about the Halperts’ couples counseling!”

      I’d heard the interchangeable problem/opportunity buzzword thing before, but hearing it parodied in The Office really showed how ridiculous it can become if it’s taken to the extreme. Sometimes a problem is just a problem.

  34. Seashells*

    OP#3- another admin here. I agree that it is reasonable for you to ask for a raise. You said that it’s almost become another full-time job, so please keep on your manager. Alison sometimes advises that you ask your boss what they would like you to prioritize when you plate is overflowing. Ex: “I can do A, B and C, but X and Y will have to wait unless Wakeen resume working on it”. I had to take that stance with my boss because what was suppose to be a one-time favor keep getting dropped on me and I could not and would not keep ding 2 jobs when I was only be paid for one.

    I know the world is still in a state of flux, but you should like you are getting overwhelmed and usually the next thing to come is burnout.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      See, I don’t really get that. I don’t think LW should work more than her normal hours. And it’s acceptable for work to be busy, even for it to be busier than normal. She shouldn’t try to achieve “heart attack levels” of busyness because her workplace is understaffed. But she’s not working two jobs – she’s working one job with different tasks from before. If she can’t accomplish all the tasks in a day, that’s management’s problem. But shifting job duties doesn’t automatically entitle her to more money – she’d have to make a business argument for why she is bringing more value, not just that her job feels more stressful. And if the increased busyness is burn out level, then she needs a new job because money alone won’t make that better.

      1. Anonymous Esq*

        She literally says she has picked up the work of another full time job, and your response is… she’s wrong? She needs to quit and find a new job? When it sounds like her supervisor even recognizes she is taking on work that is not part of her job? I do not understand what letter you read.

        1. Anonymous Esq*

          Or even worse, you think she must not have even been busy before!! And you think now she’s just complaining she has to work the full time she’s at work. I think you’re projecting a bit here cause I really don’t see you taking the letter writer at her word, and I don’t understand the leaps you took to get to “she’s lying about her new workload.”

      2. Seashells*

        It’s not “shifting” responsibilities, it’s “additional” responsibilities plus her normal work. If you do more, you get paid more.

    2. LW3*

      Seashells and Anonymous Esq, thank you for your empathy here. I’m still debating bringing up the raise, but either way I will be continuing to have discussions with my boss about how this isn’t sustainable. You’re definitely right that I’m coming close to burn out entirely, if not there already.

      Cheesesteak in Paradise, I tried to keep my letter mostly neutral and also vague for purposes of anonymity. But I work in an industry that’s been very busy throughout the pandemic, I have my own role in my organization, one which is a complete, full time role on its own and one that keeps me busy during normal times, and I can promise you that these additional tasks absolutely add up to almost another full time job. It’s not shifting duties to me, it is adding to my already long and layered list.

    3. LW3*

      Also, thank you for your point of view as an admin! I hope your boss continues to respect your stance regarding your workload.

  35. Khatul Madame*

    LW5 You wonder if you are not likely to get a job offer”, and yet you haven’t included a single word about how the interviews went? The latter is a much better indicator of whether you will be offered the position – not how many people could not make the interviews, or how disorganized the interview coordinator was.
    I agree with Alison that you sound rather entitled.

    1. Op #5*

      So to clarify, I have explained in another comment that I never was being adversarial, and the way I worded my email to Alison appears to have been misread. My interviews went well, where with the hiring manager being part of the second interview. We turned out to be fellow alumni, as that manager pointed out, and both the manager and the other peer went into depth explaining job responsibilities, and a few times expressed liking the things I talked about with my experience, etc. They independently ended the video call talking about how all interviewers would meet up and decide who to move forward with, and that hopefully HR would contact me by last week. Yes I worded that correctly, though I still see the job’s online, and I know many reasons why delays can happen throughout the process. So to reiterate, I never thought anything went wrong with the video calls, I was only wondering if the aspect of not rescheduling me to speak with one person was an automatic red flag in itself, and from seeing certain answers here, sounds like it isn’t, which is good news.

  36. Fabulous*

    #2 – It’s totally new jargon. My company has been using “opportunity” in this manner for ages. I think it’s supposed to soften the blow (per se), but it’s supposed to mean “opportunities for improvement”; the phrase has just been shortened.

    That being said, the way your executive is using the word sounds like he may misunderstand its jargon use. Instead of “We are aware of the opportunities in accessing Microsoft Teams,” he should be saying something like, ““We are aware of the issues in accessing Microsoft Teams, there are training opportunities here.”

    1. Working for the weekend*

      Agreed. I sometimes use “opportunity” as more of a tongue-in-cheek “positive” spin on a less than ideal situation. The chairperson of a volunteer committee I’m on is someone I find extra irritating (a mansplainer to the Nth degree). I have joked to my spouse that our meetings are an opportunity for me to practice patience, or an opportunity to refine my deflecting/upward management skills. The opportunity isn’t the chair, it’s my response to them.

    2. ENFP in Texas*

      The company I worked for in 1995 (Fortune 50) was using “don’t view it as a problem, view it as an opportunity” as a corporate slogan, so it’s definitely not a new thing. I still remember seeing the poster as I walked through the building.

      It actually seemed motivating at the time, but I was a lot younger and a lot less jaded then.

  37. Daisy-dog*

    #5 – It’s possible that the third interviewer looked at your resume, saw that you had a competent background and decided they didn’t need to speak with you. They might just be tangentially related to the position and just wanted to confirm that you knew how to do X.

    There really could be dozens of other reasons as well. I know that job-hunting is a very high-stress period, so it is understandable that you may be making negative assumptions. Unfortunately, even with the job market being the way it is, you are dealing with other humans that may not treat candidates the best.

  38. Female Engineer*

    #5 – My company has a reputation for being flakey. The owner already had one from not checking his emails (he is also a professor) but our Hiring Manager will literally ghost people without explanation. She has hired a total of one person in four years dispite us constantly doing interviews. Anyone who hires waa hired by someone else.

    Unfortunately, it happens and has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their professionalism.

  39. Salad Daisy*

    #1 Please don’t repay in cash. Repay with a check, and note on it “Loan Repayment” which will give you proof you repaid the loan. Otherwise you may end up on Judge Judy! Also the payroll tax issue.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      First employee would have to prove that she gave LW & spouse the loan and that there were repayment terms. Her withdrawal from her back doesn’t prove anything.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      But the cleaner couldn’t prove she’d made the loan in the first place, so I don’t think there could be a legal issue.

  40. SpicySpice*

    #2 – Corporate speak makes me laugh and/or drives me insane. When I started at my job 17 years ago, we had problems. But that’s too negative-sounding, so then they were issues. But then everyone knew issues meant problems, and it was still too negative, so then they became challenges. Like “what an exciting challenge to overcome!” Then challenges was deemed STILL too negative, so now they’re all opportunities. It’s like George Carlin’s shell shock routine.
    Sounds like your boss is just taking it all the way to the next level, he’s probably a trend setter! :-D

    1. Forrest Rhodes*

      Related to your comment about corporate-speak:
      My first job, well back in the pre-computer days, was as a typist in an administrative department at the headquarters of one of the three biggest (at the time) U.S. banks.
      On my first day I was instructed that all of the bank’s documents, internal and external, would spell the word “employee” as “employe,” ending with a single e. I did it, of course, but secretly thought it was weird—why would you intentionally spell something incorrectly?
      One day, casually, I asked my supervisor if there was a reason for that one-e policy. He told me, and he wasn’t joking, that the bank felt that eliminating that second e would save money on typewriter ribbons.
      Not making this up.

      1. SpicySpice*

        That’s amazing – thanks for sharing! We shud al adopt that rul, sav som electrons. Eficiency

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Substituting “pleb” for employee saves even more ribbon-ink…

  41. Essess*

    One question I have about the housekeeper that might influence why she insisted on giving the loan…. Did you stop having her come in during Covid? Did you continue to pay her if she wasn’t coming in? I know with my housekeeper, I asked her not to come in for several months when Covid was really bad, but I felt it was my responsibility to continue to pay her since she can’t collect unemployment for the lost wages and it was my choice not to have her work for a limited time.

    Because I paid her for so much time that she wasn’t working for me, she keeps trying to offer various favors or errands as a way to ‘repay’ me even though I keep turning those down.

  42. Retired(but not really)*

    Im not sure why so many people are so upset with the generous caregiver and are coming up with all kinds of weird about it. It has been my experience that those who have “less to give” are often the most generous if they have any possibility of being able to share what they do have. And in addition are effectively insulted if you refuse to take it. They also most likely do consider you as a friendly acquaintance if they spend time with you on a regular basis. I personally have never understood the mindset that if there is an employee/employer relationship it can’t/shouldn’t also be friendly. Maybe this is due to small town environment most of my life. It sounds like LW has not experienced this sort of thing before and therefore is confused and troubled by it. My advice as to dealing with it would be to be gracious and just pay back in only two or three payments and realize that this person has a good heart.

    1. Observer*

      For one thing, she’s not a care giver. For another, boundaries are a thing – in fact if she were a caregiver this would be even more of a problem. And when someone says no, you need to accept that. Her response was not generous. It did make it clear that this was bout her, not the OP’s spouse.

    2. generic_username*

      But it sounds like LW can’t pay it back in that few of payments. They were saving up for the item before buying it because they didn’t have $500 spare for a luxury/nonessential purchase. I don’t think the cleaner was being nefarious, but they should be able to decline the loan without it getting personal/confrontational

    3. ENFP in Texas*

      She’s not a caregiver. And even if she were, she’d still be their employee. Giving the person who pays you money that they didn’t ask for and basically forcing them to take it is a SERIOUS “lack of boundaries” issue.

    4. Nanani*

      Hi LW1s cleaner.

      It’s weird boundary crossing behaviour regardless of how well you meant, cool story though.

    5. Littorally*

      1) She’s not generous. She’s pushing a loan on them that they don’t want.
      2) She’s not a caregiver.
      3) She’s their employee, which makes the whole thing an ethical mess.
      4) She’s not a friendly acquaintance, she’s an employee. There is a power dynamic there that cannot and should not be ignored.
      5) Since when does someone forcing a loan on you have a good heart?

      They are planning to replace the machine by saving money, not by going into debt. Even aside from the employee/employer power dynamic, which is a thing all on its own, she is trying to obligate them to pay her interest they would not have to pay if they followed their own plans.

      It’s weird, invasive, and her reaction to their rebuff is passive-aggressive and manipulative.

    6. Too Tired to Be Witty*

      There is an update from LW1 upthread which may change your take on things.

  43. yala*

    #2 …just getting shades of a teacher I had that used to call tests “celebrations.”
    As someone who tends to be pretty literal, I did not appreciate the confusion.

    1. LW2*

      Hahaha, how awful! I’m a pretty literal person too, and the first time I saw it, I thought it was a typo or autocorrect problem (or should I say “autocorrect opportunity”?) Thankfully the person doing this is not my manager, so I don’t have to deal with him very often.

  44. staceyizme*

    LW1- Your spouse told your cleaner that he was in need of a replacement device related to his health concern. That’s a classic opening of Pandora’s box. If your employee interpreted this as “needs help now”, then it’s no wonder that she took action. (Is it odd? Sure. Is it inappropriate? Yes. But you lost all standing to object by discussing something personal in the context of a professional relationship.)
    You’re in a pickle of your own making (notwithstanding odd interpretations/ personality issues with your employee). The shortest way out is to wait a couple of weeks, give the money back with a very kind “thank you for thinking of us, you’re so kind to have taken an interest… as it turns out, we were able to manage and want to return this”. (Your new appliance had better be there by the time you give it back.)
    And don’t swap cleaners yet… Wait 3 months. Because you’re not going to be able to escape her drawing a direct line between cause and effect. And she won’t be wrong.
    In future, don’t disclose private info to employees. Some people in service positions have their own struggles and would have a very hard time sitting with the stress of wondering how YOU were going to provide a necessity for your family. She never should have been in that position and making it about her is only going to be reasonable after you clean up your own family’s communication policy when it comes to employees/ consultants et al.

    1. Not A Manager*

      “Your spouse told your cleaner that he was in need of a replacement device related to his health concern.”

      “Hobby” and “health concern” are not synonymous.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Yeah, maybe @ misread the letter. From the original letter:

        During one of these gossip sessions, my spouse told her that a machine he uses for a hobby recently died…

        1. quill*

          Yes, that’s fairly ordinary, or possibly even work related, small talk.

          “Oh, sorry the sewing machine is in your way, we moved it so we could try to fix it but I’m afraid it’s completely kaput” is information a cleaner may actually need to know.

    2. AllTheBirds*

      Lost all standing? Really?

      A woman is in your home daily. You make pleasant small talk as people do. She: I see you haven’t used Machine lately. He: No, it’s broken, and I’ll need to buy another.

      Clean up their “communication policies?” If cleaner “sits with the stress” then it’s her fault, not LW1’s.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I wouldn’t consider this something deeply personal to discuss. I mean one of my staff was telling me they were researching getting a new coffee machine because theirs was broken. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go to the Nespresso shop and surprise them with something. In my view appliances breaking is a fairly normal topic for small talk conversation with people you know a bit.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Wait three months?? When they’ve already spoken to her about not doing all of the work she’s being paid for and she continues to leave early without doing the work?

    4. Observer*

      And don’t swap cleaners yet… Wait 3 months. Because you’re not going to be able to escape her drawing a direct line between cause and effect. And she won’t be wrong.

      Yes she would – she’s a poor employee. But, even if she were right, what exactly is the problem? Mentioning that an item needs to be replaced does not somehow automatically obligate the OP and Spouse to accept money from the person they mentioned it to. Nor does it obligate them to accept boundary crossing behavior on the part of their employee.

      But you lost all standing to object by discussing something personal in the context of a professional relationship.

      This is one of the weirdest pieces of advice I’ve read on this site. Making a comment, even a personal comment, does NOT mean that from there on one must accept any and all discussions of said personal issue. Claiming that such a comment now obligates someone to allow the other person to unilaterally decide how to handle the problem?! That’s just bizarre. I hope you don’t actually operate like that in real life. Because it’s invasive and totally out of line.

      Your spouse told your cleaner that he was in need of a replacement device related to his health concern

      Considering that this is not what the OP wrote, I wonder why you lead with it. Not it’s really relevant, but it’s just a very odd piece of fiction. You are stretching VERY hard to justify behavior that is out of line. I really wonder why.

      Some people in service positions have their own struggles and would have a very hard time sitting with the stress of wondering how YOU were going to provide a necessity for your family.

      Even if the item were actually a necessity and the OP’s spouse had actually expressed worry about replacing it (which they had not), this would be highly unlikely reaction. A normal, typical reaction to such a confession would be some sympathy and that’s it. I can’t imagine any cleaner I’ve ever had (and I’ve been friendly with some – but never FRIENDS) getting stressed out about my finances or living situation.Why would they?

      In fact, I would say that if this is the thinking going on with the OP’s cleaner, the sooner they get rid of her, the better. Because this is so unmoored from reality and so boundary crossing that I’d want to cut ties before the person decides that they are even more tied to me / my family and starts crossing more boundaries.

    5. Mental Lentil*

      This comment is so far out in left field it’s playing in a different game in a different city.

      1. staceyizme*

        Sounds pretty fair. Looks like I waaayyy misread this one. Sorry about that! Happy to take any merited lumps. (Moving/ distracted= NO excuse. But that’s my life today. Sorry to the fellow commentators and LW1.

    6. Spouse of LW1*

      Yeah…. No, you’re completely off mark here.
      1 – The machine had nothing to do with my health.
      2 – she saw me bagging it for garbage, asked about it, and (admittedly) in frustration I vented.
      3 and arguably most importantly – Being pleasant and responsive to an employee is not something I am going to change. I don’t generally talk about anything related to our lives with our cleaner. She made an assumption, and refused a decline. If that makes me a bad employer then I’m a bad employer, BUT I will not be unpleasant to someone I’m paying to come into my house and clean.

      So definitively no, this is not a “a pickle of [our] own making.” I appreciate your input and thought, but sincerely feel that you’ve missed the mark.

      1. Despachito*

        I also absolutely do NOT see this as a “pickle of your own making”, it seems to me as a perfectly normal conversation from your side, and relevant too (as she saw you bagging it and asked about it, I see it as the most natural thing to tell her and also to vent a bit if you were frustrated. On the contrary, I’d consider it a bit weird if you refused to answer just because).

        Where the things start being a bit weird but still tolerable for me is where she offered you the loan. If she accepted your “no”, I’d think that she is a kind a generous person, albeit somewhat out of the ordinary, and she wanted to help you.

        Where the things go wildly crazy for me was when she absolutely refused to accept your NO. I’d perceive this as a sign of deep disrespect and would feel humiliated and threatened by it, and my probable reaction would be anger.

        Back again to your original comment, I think you had a perfectly normal, polite initial conversation with her, and I perfectly understand you do not want to be unpleasant to a person working for you (and, basically, to any person). But I think in this case the problem is that with this person it does not work and you’d either have to strictly impose some boundaries (which might be a bit unpleasant given her insistence), or let her steamroll over you. The logical solution for me would be to part ways with this person (because the normal pleasantness does not work with her, and I’d hate to have someone around me with whom I’d feel I had to constantly watch out for my boundaries).

  45. noahwynn*


    I liked Alison’s balanced response here. Not sure this is an either-or situation. It is totally ok for the company to plan a retreat. It is also totally fine for the LW to say “I’m not comfortable attending,” and expect the company to find a way to deal with that.

    We are still in a pandemic but we are past the “disaster” phase. Many people are vaccinated and feel comfortable traveling and interacting with others. I’m definitely in that group and have several trips planned throughout the summer and fall. You take appropriate precautions like masking on public transport, but it isn’t the same unacceptable risk we saw through most of 2020. Others have situations like high-risk family members, that make travel risker and unacceptable. We should all understand that, including employers, and make reasonable efforts to accommodate everyone.

    1. OyHiOh*

      My org’s board is planning an in-person event for early fall. They haven’t met in person in close to two years at this point. They want to meet in person but I am certain there will be a few who will decline to attend because of significant risk to self or others. Nobody has said so explicitly, but I’m planning the event for a space that can accommodate a hybrid Zoom/live set up so we can meet those who need to abstain from live attendance where they’re at.

  46. Bookworm*

    #4: Just wishing you good luck! I hope that you’re listened to and you can participate in a safe way!

  47. Spicy Tuna*

    My spouse wants to hire a cleaner and I am dead set against it for many reasons. LW#1’s scenario just added a new layer to my phobia of hiring a cleaner!

    1. Observer*

      This is NOT a good reason to not get a cleaner – this is highly untypical behavior. It’s like saying that you won’t go to the doctor because there have been doctors who abused their patients. And you won’s use an accountant because there have been accountants that have defrauded their clients.

      Both of those problems have happened. But not to the point where it’s reasonable to decide that you are never going to use a member of those professions.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I’ve never had this problem with a cleaner. My experiences have been fairly good and I must say the cleaner does a better job of cleaning the bathroom than I do.

        I think the main thing is to be clear it’s a professional relationship just like it is when you take your car for a service or go to the dentist. This isn’t your friend (although that may come later) but it’s someone providing a service. So you give them respect and courtesy and a cup of tea. You let them get on with it and thank them at the end. You give them a good review if they deserve it.

        I’m not friends with my cleaners (for one thing they come from an agency so it’s not always the same person). I’m polite and pleasant and respect the service they provide for me. My parents had the same one for 20 years and that became a friendship but that’s a plus.

        It’s not normally a problem in my experience as long as you treat it like a work situation not a friendship.

      2. Mental Lentil*

        Yes. This is like refusing to go to the beach because people have been bitten by sharks. I mean, it’s possible; anything is possible. But is it likely? Nope.

      3. Spicy Tuna*

        I have a deep aversion to hiring people to do things that I am capable of doing myself. I know it’s irrational, but it is what it is!

        1. Caboose*

          I always worry that they’d see what a mess my home is, and feel guilty about it.
          Which is, of course, the whole point! If things weren’t dirty, I wouldn’t need someone to clean them. So… sign me up for team irrational!

          1. Spicy Tuna*

            When I was a teenager, my mother received a sizeable promotion and raise at work, so she decided to use part of the extra money to pay for weekly housecleaning. However, she made my brother and me completely clean the house the day before the cleaner arrived so the cleaner wouldn’t think we were pigs!

        2. Observer*

          Which is fine, as long as it’s not putting a burden on your spouse. I was not trying to make a case that you “have” to get a cleaner. I was simply making the point that using a story like this one as an excuse it fairly ridiculous.

          1. Spicy Tuna*

            My spouse creates most of the mess and I am the person responsible for cleaning it, so the burden is totally on me. And yes, in many, many ways, I am completely ridiculous! I own my ridiculousness though!

  48. Person from the Resume*

    In risk management, an opportunity is almost the same as a risk but it has a positive outcome versus a negative one. But it’s very clear that they are not the same because the outcome of one is the opposite of the other. They cannot be used interchangeably so that guy is using it wrong and sounds stupid doing it. But since he’s high level you just need to laugh at him instead of trying to fix it.

    The traditional position is to define risk as “an uncertainty that could have an adverse effect leading to loss, harm or damage.” A risk with negative impacts is a threat, whereas “an uncertainty that could have a positive impact” is an opportunity. i.e. Cost of lumber going up is risk that your house construction may exceed cost. OTOH the cost of lumber going down is an opportunity to save on construction costs.

  49. Lizy*

    #5 for OldJob, I had a really good first interview, and they said they’d be in touch in a week or two because the CEO wanted to meet with all the candidates before offering. About a month/month and a half later, I got a call from one of them saying they wanted to offer me the job. I never did meet with the CEO.

    After working there for 5-6 years, I’m betting Interviewer #1 tried to pin CEO down, but she’s crazy busy – and her home-base wasn’t even where the headquarters of the organization is, and CEO probably ended up saying “just go with whoever you think is best”.

    It’s so, so common. People get busy.

  50. RB*

    It sounds like the guy in #2 got hold of a management book from the 90’s. That was how managers were talking for a while back then.

  51. Zoom Meeting Survivor*

    LW#3- I hope you get the raise you deserve. This past year has been hard for people required to not only go into the office, but also pick up all the slack for those at home. The response so far have been completely dismissive of the extra work taken on by those still at a physical office, but that is about what I expect from this group. It’s been a year of hearing about how easy it was to work from home with almost no acknowledgement of what had to be done to make that happen logistically. I totally get your frustration and don’t know why anyone would argue that you don’t deserve a raise for stepping up in that way. Sorry that so many people just can’t seem to find an ounce of understanding.

    1. LW3*

      Thank you so much for this, I appreciate this and that you understand where I’m coming from. I wanted to be diplomatic because I understand that people are struggling all around and nothing about this year has been easy, and the empathetic comments have really been nice to read.

  52. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    I’m not sure exactly how this extra work is being done in the situation as the LW describes it. I’m imagining LW works 8-5 normally and before the pandemic did 10 of X task at the office. Since the pandemic, the LW also had to pick up Y task so now only has time (during 8-5) to do 10 Y’s and 5 X’s. Doing 10Y + 5X is still possible working 8-5 but is busier than just doing 10 X. Management would ideally like 10 Y’s and 10 X’s done everyday.

    So what is a actually happening?

    Is the LW now staying until 7 pm every night to fit in a few more X’s? Stop doing that and reprioritize with your boss. Does LW simply like doing 10 Y’s and 5 X’s less than 10 X’s – then maybe talk to your boss and if no resolution, job hunt. Are the Y’s higher level work? Then maybe raise and bump in title.

    I don’t see how the middle scenario (same hours just different tasks and busier) means a raise is a slam dunk. And if it’s the first scenario, just stop working at 5 pm and let management figure out about the extra work.

    1. Lw3*

      I didn’t ask if a raise was a slam dunk, I asked if I could ask for a raise in a situation where I am covering my coworkers’ tasks, some of which are indeed higher level work and not something someone in my role would generally do. Some of it is admin work as well, but that doesn’t make it less work, and that work also adds up on top of the higher level work plus my very real, very busy, very full-time actual role. I’m not going to break down my workload or try to convince anyone here whether or not I “deserve” a raise, but rest assured the workload is real as are the hours I work.

      I’m not in a position to look for another job currently, which is why I asked about the raise.

  53. Op #5*

    Hi, thank you for your response and thank you to the other anonymous users. I’m the OP for #5 for reference. For clarity, I never was aggressive with my following up before I got the HR phone call, just sent an email 18 minutes after the initial scheduled time for the call, checking in if we were still on and offering to reschedule as needed. The next week, without a reply, sent a second email again just to follow up with rescheduling, got a quicker answer and a scheduled call from there. I never assumed it was done on purpose or anything, and it kind of stinks I was misinterpreted as such by some readers.

    As for talking about no effort being made to schedule me with one person, I simply was questioning if that’s a bad sign that I didn’t talk to one person period, and they talked about making a decision on who to move forward with, even when I didn’t talk to that person. That person is someone the direct manager for that role reports to, and the only others I spoke to are potential peers. However it’s good that I’m reading other commenters talking about someone above the hiring manager never talking to them, and still getting job offers.

  54. SnappinTerrapin*

    Some banks won’t let anyone but the account holder deposit cash into an account. Even in quantities that are clearly nowhere near the threshold that the Treasury requires them to report to facilitate money-laundering investigations.

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      Well, that didn’t nest where it was supposed to. Maybe I’ll find the right place and put it there.

  55. Chilly delta blues*

    #2: I wonder if their autocorrect was somehow set up to automatically change the word “problem” to “opportunity”. I could see someone doing that as a kind of mindset- reset and not realizing that it could actually cause issues in everyday writing.

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