my employee wasn’t respectful enough after the company messed up her paycheck

A reader writes:

I’m not comfortable with one of my new staff members and how overconfident she is. Her work is great and she needed very little training but she’s got very big britches.

“Jane” has only been with us for two months. Just today she asked for a meeting with me and our payroll manager. It turns out payroll made an error entering her direct deposit information that resulted in Jane not getting paid, not once but two times.

Our company requires potential candidates to complete sample assignments during the interview process and we pay them an hourly contractor rate. It turns out she didn’t get paid for her assignment period, or for the next full pay cycle. The payroll employee apologized directly to Jane in an email, because it was their error in entering her information and not following up/fixing it that resulted in Jane not getting paid. Jane was able to show emails back and forth where she checked in with the payroll employee and asked if it was fixed, which they confirmed it was. Today was payday and Jane didn’t get paid. She checked with the employee again and they acknowledged that they “thought” it was fixed. It’s upsetting for Jane, I understand, but I think she was out of line about the whole thing. People make mistakes.

Neither payroll nor I knew anything about it until today. We both apologized and assured her the issue would be handled. After that, she looked at me and the payroll manager and said, “I appreciate your apology, but I need you both to understand that this can’t happen again. This has put me under financial strain and I can’t continue to work for COMPANY if this isn’t corrected today.”

The payroll manager was heavily in agreement, but I was speechless that she’d speak to management like that.

Payroll handled the whole thing and cut her a check with the okay from HR. Jane had referenced that not being paid put her in financial hardship and unable to pay bills, so HR allowed the use of the employee hardship fund and gave her $500 in gift cards so she can get groceries and gas and catch up on bills. I’m just kind of floored that she’s getting gift cards after speaking to her superiors like that. I’m also uncomfortable because why is our company responsible for her fiscal irresponsibility? Her personal finances or debts are not the company’s responsibility. I just don’t think it’s the company’s responsibility to give her more than what she’s earned (the extra $500 from the employee emergency relief fund) to fix things for her if she overspent or didn’t prioritize her bills or save smartly. We also don’t know if she is actually experiencing a financial hardship or just claiming she was.

HR allowed her paid time to go to the bank today and deposit her check. I told our HR person that while it’s not okay Jane didn’t get paid, the way she approached it was uncalled for. HR told me, “She’s right, it can’t happen again and it shouldn’t have happened at all.”

I’m getting tired of the respect gap I’m seeing with younger staff. I think Jane would be better suited in a different department. I’m not comfortable having her on my team since it’s obvious she doesn’t understand she’s entry-level and not in charge. Should I wait a while before suggesting she transfer to a different department?

I’m going to say this bluntly: you are very, very wrong about this situation, both as a manager and as a human.

Your company didn’t pay Jane money they owed her in the timeframe in which they were legally obligated to pay it. They did this twice.

Your company messed up, and their mistake impacted someone’s income. That’s a very big deal.

The payroll department handled this exactly as they should: they apologized, cut her a check immediately, and helped repair the damage their mistake had caused. Jane shouldn’t have to suffer for their error, and their remedies were appropriate and warranted.

Your objection to this because the company shouldn’t be responsible for Jane’s finances is nonsensical. Your company is responsible for paying the wages they’ve agreed to pay in the timeline they’ve agreed to pay them in. They didn’t meet that obligation, and so they fixed it. That’s not about them being responsible for Jane’s debts; it’s about them being responsible for adhering to a legal wage agreement and treating an employee well after failing at a basic responsibility and causing that person hardship.

Suggesting that someone who needs the paycheck they earned to be delivered to them on time “didn’t prioritize her bills or save smartly” is wildly out of touch with the reality of many people’s finances in this country and how many people live paycheck to paycheck (particularly someone entry-level who just started a job two months ago and may have been unemployed before that). But frankly, even if Jane didn’t save smartly, it’s irrelevant; your company’s mistake is what caused the problem, and it’s what’s at issue here.

Your speculation that Jane might be lying about her financial situation is bizarre and reflects poorly on you. It’s irrelevant and you don’t seem to have any reason for wondering that other than an apparent desire to cast Jane in a bad light.

You’re absolutely right that there’s a respect gap in this situation — but it’s from you toward your employees, not from Jane toward her employer.

There’s nothing disrespectful about Jane advocating for herself and explaining that she’d be unable to stay in the job if the payroll mistakes weren’t corrected. She gets to make that choice for herself, it’s not an unreasonable one, and it’s not disrespectful for her to spell it out. In fact, I’d argue it’s actively respectful since respect requires clear, polite, direct communication and she gave you that.

When you say Jane doesn’t seem to understand she’s entry-level and not in charge … Jane is very much in charge of where she’s willing to work and what she will and won’t tolerate. Every employee is, regardless of how junior or senior they might be.

Corporate power structures require deference in things like decision-making on a project, but not the sort of obeisance in all things that you seem to be looking for.

Somewhere along the way, you picked up a very warped idea of what employees owe their employers, but you don’t seem to have thought much about what employers owe their employees. You urgently need to do some rethinking and recalibration if you’re going to continue managing people.

{ 2,125 comments… read them below }

  1. Littorally*

    Man, I hope Alison’s going to have a tight rein on the comments on this one — ‘be kind’ is hard when someone’s this high on their own farts.

        1. Not a robot*

          Are kidding me? Leadership at this company has to be toxic af. If I missed three pay checks in a row and it wasn’t immediately fixed I’d sue the company. You’re lucky she just had a meeting.

          1. Rric*

            Probably why they offered her the gift cards. They know they’d be on the hook for more money if she made a wage complaint with the state.

          2. ThatGuy*

            She’d be very well within her rights to not have that meeting and just sue immediately. She didnt get paid twice, went through the correct channels to get it fixed, doublechecked and was assured it was fixed, and then did not get paid AGAIN.

            Its hard to not constitute malice at that point and the company is lucky with the outcome.

          1. farn*

            I’ve heard of several companies being unable to make payroll several times, with checks either not delivered / direct deposits not occurring, or paychecks bouncing. They sounded very similar. They resulted in employees who were much less forgiving, and well within their rights.

          2. Josie*

            This sort of situation is unbelievably common. You don’t have to be competent to run a business, just have access to the right resources. The world is full of terrible bosses.

          3. arizhel*

            This happened to me at my company when they switched over to a new payroll system. They pulled a list of direct deposit accounts months in advance of the change (a mistake, for obvious reasons), and in the meantime, I had closed that old account and moved my direct deposit to a new one. For six weeks, my direct deposits went to an account that had been closed for months and I had to fight tooth and nail to get checks issued to me in a timely manner. I went through my supervisor, his manager, and finally just started going directly to payroll because I was tired of the runaround. The manager got peeved that I went over his head, and I told him that the problem obviously isn’t getting fixed when I go through him, so I decided to go straight to the source. Three pay periods of having to wait several extra days for my check (we get paid on Fridays, and as per the usual Payroll isn’t in on weekends) messed up my finances pretty bad for awhile.

            1. Dennis Young*

              If I was the managers boss, he/she would only have ONE more meeting with HR: the one where I immediately fired him/her.

          1. Daniel*

            I’m assuming in the US, but no, had the initial compalint been EEO related then yes, but simply a payroll error isn’t unless the reason Jane didn’t get paid was based on “Age, Sex, Gender, Race, Religion, Country of Origin or Genetic Background” its not EEO related.

            Retaliation as a separate complaint is only illegal had the employee taken part in a eeo related case/ activity. ,

            1. Splendid Colors*

              If Jane had made an outside complaint to the local agency handling wage theft, then that would also qualify to protect her from retaliation. Luckily for OP’s company, Jane didn’t make a wage theft claim because Payroll was at least going through the motions of fixing the problem.

              If Payroll agreed with Jane that she was handling their error properly, but OP made punitive management decisions regarding Jane, that wouldn’t stop Jane’s manager from deciding OP is being a bad manager even if Jane doesn’t have legal protection.

            2. Pellucid Ear*

              The law of what constitutes unlawful retaliation varies with state law. As a general principle, retaliation is unlawful if it violates public policy. Often, but not always, the public policy is codified into a statute. For example, if employer retaliates against employee for filing a worker’s compensation claim, there is typically a state statute forbidding it and providing employee a civil claim against employer.

              However, some retaliation claims arise in circumstances that violate public policy but aren’t specified in a statute. Let’s imagine employer is doing something illegal. Employee discovers this and reports the illegality to law enforcement (which includes gov’t agencies that enforce the law). Employer then terminates employee. That’s retaliatory termination in violation of public policy. Courts recognize such claims, even in the absence of a statute forbidding employer from doing such things.

      1. The Spitz Gang*

        Jane sounds like someone who gets things done—which means she’ll probably have her boss’s job shortly.

        1. beebot*

          Jane sounds like someone who gets things done — which means she’ll be trapped in her job for years, with M. Letter Writer blocking her every attempt to move iinside the company for years. Mazel tov!

          1. Jolie*

            Nah, she’s good the “If you’re crap to me, I’ll walk” attitude, so if OP tries that she’ll be soon working in an entirely different, better job soon”.

          1. Rob*

            This company seemed to go out of their way to fix things with this employee and they all seemed to wholeheartedly agree with the employee too which pissed the manager off to the point of making this post. One bad apple can spoil things but I don’t think that’s the case here. It just seems like it’s that single individual that is the problem not the company itself. Given enough time she will probably end up with her bosses job anyhow.

            1. The Otterman*

              Wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. Manager just got his “britches” in a bunch after a “lowly” underling was assertive with him and HR.

              Even HR took no offense, likely due to her having the upper hand and could have sued them for a lot more. They also realize she was being more than reasonable in her demands and didn’t want to go the legal route. That’s a good employee and idiot ~~couldn’t ~~ wouldn’t see it.

            2. overconfident_engineer*

              I agree to a point, but a bad direct supervisor/manager can completely ruin an entire company for a person. I’ve experiences many times the “boss” versus the “leader” — absolutely terrible person to work under, but an amazing company… and I couldn’t be asked to deal with that leader. I made sure to let the company know, during my exit interview, exactly why I was leaving though — and the great company I had worked for shifted that particular manager out of their position into a literal, but without direct reports, position shortly after.

              Funny because he thought he would be the President of the company eventually.

              1. overconfident_engineer*

                Sorry, I couldn’t be asked to deal with that “boss”* — a boss being the barking order type, the leader being the lead-by-example type that is amazing to work for.

            3. Britney*

              The fact that the manager is so sure of themselves in this is alarming, because it m and they’ve likely enforced that kind of obeisance for years without anyone successfully speaking up before. This is the kind of toxic leadership the company needs to cut, and if they’ve been allowed to maintain their dominion long enough to normalize it then it tells me that the company is not paying attention. If anything happened to the manager at all, it would be a shift into a role without direct reports– likely a promotion– which further encourages that behavior among other members of leadership. One bad apple is an early red flag for the tree, and storing it with the rest allows spoilage to spread.

            4. TardyTardis*

              Is this the same guy who wanted to hunt down an employee who quit over not getting to go to her own graduation?

    1. AGD*

      I began sympathizing with Jane in the third paragraph and by the end thought she’d handled it remarkably well.

              1. too many too soon*

                Another form of ‘uppity’, which iirc refers to black people not acting how white people think they should.

                1. Yvette*

                  You mean “knowing their place”? Yet another hateful expression. I have to wonder if there is anything other about the circumstances other than “she’s entry-level and not in charge”.

                2. Brooklyn*

                  After reading that line, I immediately thought that Jane is a black woman. It reeks of “stay in your place” vibes which oftentimes is still very much how black women are treated in Corporate America (and beyond).

                3. banoffee pie*

                  I thought uppity was a bit of a no-go word due to racist connotations. I wouldn’t say it and I’m not even American. Is it not as bad as I think, or worse?

                4. Observer*

                  @Banofee pie, it’s as bad as you think. That’s what people are trying to call out here. The OP’s language and attitude about “Jane” reeks of the kind of attitude encapsulated in the word.

                5. FrenchCusser*

                  One of my coworkers made a remark lamenting that ‘it used to be a compliment to say that someone knew their place’ and I ripped into her but good.

                  At work.

                  In front of witnesses.

                  I am not ashamed.

                6. Gumby*

                  I have no idea whether Jane is a BIPOC or not; she certainly could be and LW is wildly off base either way. But I definitely heard “so-and-so is too big for her britches” when I lived in the South and it was almost always directed at white children, mostly girls. Or one not-well-liked adult who had just said something legitimately kind of insulting and snooty; I don’t think I was supposed to hear that comment though. Something like, “Well isn’t that one a little big for her britches…” said under the breath.

                  (Of course, the town I lived in had a very small Black community and was not at all well-integrated which was another problem entirely, and one of the reasons my family moved to California when I was a pre-teen.)

                7. Super Anon*

                  As a Southerner (born and raised – never lived anywhere else and has about and equal mix of races), that has nothing to do with race. At all. It’s directed at anyone who doesn’t know their place in society, white or black or anything else. Don’t try to throw in race baiting where it’s not required. Seriously, this world is effed up enough without that.

                8. Observer*

                  @Super Anon “doesn’t know their place in society”? For real?!

                  That’s pretty messed up no matter who it’s addressed to. But let’s get real. Who is the most likely to have that thrown at them?

                9. Fed-o*

                  Another Southerner here and, yes, it is often used in a racial context but also sometimes in a gender context (and often–both!). I’ve never heard a white straight man referred to as uppity.

                  It’s gross.

                10. Ettakit*

                  Southerner here. While Jane could be BIPOC, “too big for their britches” is most commonly used towards children rather than having a race-based tone. This manager is infantilizing Jane definitely when they say that.

                11. Joe Alabama*

                  100% team Jane here, but I’m a southener and I say somebody is getting “big for their britches” and “uppity” and never has it been in reference to somebody being black. The first time I heard somebody refer to somebody being “big for their britches,” it was in reference to a male, white NFL commentator.

                12. Doomsday*

                  Yup! “Too big for their britches” told me all I needed to know about the Mgrs real problems with the employee.

                13. KFabe*

                  While I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this was influenced by Jane being BIPOC or even just female I’ve found that when someone is lost this far between their own butt cheeks that they’re usually pretty awful to work for no matter who you are, it just tends to manifest in different ways. Sometimes the same ego and myopia that causes them to be bigoted can also cause them to act particularly threatened and insecure when someone like themselves around, so everyone suffers, just in different ways.

                  For example, one of my first and worst jobs after high school was working at a restaurant where the owner liked to creepily hover around and show unwanted favoritism to the waitresses while making it pretty clear that us men doing the back-of-house work should never even be seen, much less heard. I think I would have been even less comfortable working there as a woman but it was definitely bad times all around.

                14. Sara*

                  As a white millennial female, I understand where people are seeing racism and other prejudices in this letter. I’m certainly not going to try and defend the guy or pretend that racism and prejudices against older people don’t exist in the workplace. At the same time, I’ve had this exact language directed at me. “Uppity” and it was “too big for my britches” in the South, and comments about not “understanding my place” in the North.

                15. a southern linguist y'all*

                  @Super Anon

                  Linguist and Southerner here. The etymology of the word “uppity” does indeed begin with white Southerners talking about Black Southerners. It’s an outdated term rooted in racism.

                  Please catch up with the times. I pray for the time when the inherent classism of “know your place” dies in a fire.

              2. Rebecca*

                This manager is a piece of work. Why is she even making a direct comment to HR? The one who is a little “big in the britches” is the manager herself. Wow. It wasn’t any of her business, it really is between the employer and the employee missing her paycheck, no one else.

          1. Koalafied*

            Same. That was the first flag, and I was disagreeing with LW’s take throughout the letter, but when I got to the part where they describe this whole situation as “her fiscal irresponsibility” I’ll admit some choice words not suitable for the comments section left my mouth about what this person could do and how far they could do it…

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Wasn’t the company being fiscally irresponsible by, you know, not paying someone? (I think HR handled everything perfectly.)

              1. Elenna*

                Yes! I really appreciated that HR pushed back and was like “no, actually Jane handled this fine”.

              2. Stina*

                Hopefully, HR also painfully and clearly explained the issue with the LW’s Snobby & Discriminatory Attitude to him (my own assumption) and applied equally effective reparative measures to it.

                1. AKchic*

                  I read the LW as an older woman. Very WASP wannabe, if you catch my drift. Very old school of a sort, and has not kept up with the norms.

              3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

                That was my thought exactly! The company deprived Jane of TWO paychecks and the OP is whining that JANE is financially irresponsible?! Hmm…seems to me that I once read something to the effect of “Why is it that you can see a speck of dust in your neighbor’s eye but you couldn’t see a plank of wood in your own?”

                Also, side note to “French Cusser” (since I don’t see a “Reply” option to their apt note about “keeping one’s place” being a compliment): Well, at one time, it WAS a compliment to say that so-and-so kept their place – but that time was well over a hundred years ago! Frankly, anyone who NOW thinks it’s a great thing to say would be far happier in the distant past (and the rest of us would happier with that person in the distant past, too! ;)

                1. Sue ELLEKER*

                  “The rich man in his castle,
                  The poor man at his gate,
                  God made them, high or lowly,
                  And ordered their estate.”

                2. Sorcia Lawson*

                  I was almost waiting to hear how LW wondered why Jane’s husband didn’t already have things taken care of – in the most awful sexist way.

                3. Rob*

                  Yep I saw her as an older woman too yet more often than not I see these people referred to as men. I just don’t see this particular one being a man though I could be wrong. It just seems like an older woman with insecurities.

              4. Nancy*

                I agree with you 1000%! Re: The big for her britches comment. It was incredibly ageist and inappropriate.

              5. DriverZero*

                Precisely what I thought! How dare that manager accuse Jane of not handling her debts properly, when that company had a debt to Jane that they handle improperly, TWICE!!

            2. Camolita*

              I’ll admit some choice words not suitable for the comments section left my mouth about what this person could do and how far they could do it…

              Same here, Koalafied. I’m seriously appalled at… the entire letter. Yikes!

            3. MissBaudelaire*

              Yeah, I was trying to see where the disrespect to LW came in. I looked high and low and couldn’t find it.

              I literally snorted when I got to ‘her fiscal irresponsibility’. Um, no, it’s the company’s irresponsibility that she didn’t get paid.

              1. Talenyn*

                Honestly, including her in that meeting at all was showing respect to LW bc she really didn’t have to. It could have been just Jane and HR.

            4. Lady Meyneth*

              I was already side eyeing OP when I read the title. By “fiscal irresposibility” I was already wondering if this was the return of Graduation Boss…

              1. Chaordic One*

                Yes, we haven’t seen a letter from a boss who was so “out-of-touch” in some time and it does remind me of the boss who wouldn’t give her star employee time off to attend the her own graduation.

                1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

                  Did anyone else wonder if the OP is a trust-fund baby? The way they refer to Jane’s statement about the TWO missed paychecks made me seriously wonder if OP has never had to worry about money in their life! OP seems unable to comprehend that not being paid for a month (!) puts almost all employees – especially entry-level ones! – in a very shaky financial bind. What’s worse, they seem to assume that anyone who IS in a financial bind is there due to extravagant spending habits and scatterbrained irresponsibility. That might hold true for born-rich people who outspend even THEIR (totally UNearned) wealth, but not for anyone else. The OP’s attitude throughout this letter is so out of touch with reality that I really question their ability to manage anyone who isn’t exactly like them.

                  Note to OP’s company: You have two employees of note. One is a young woman who advocates appropriately for herself and has the backbone to speak up when it’s necessary. The other is a “manager” with a spoiled-rotten attitude. Keep the first, fire the second and your company will be all the better for it!

                2. Kal*

                  @Marzipan I think its may actually be worse than that. LW said that Jane has worked there for 2 months now, and hasn’t been paid for even the assignments from the interview process. So that makes it sound like Jane hasn’t been paid for at least two months of work, not just one! Two months without any income (especially when you’re working and that money should be coming in) would be a serious strain on nearly anyone who doesn’t come from a wealthy family.

              2. Betty Broderick-Allen*

                Yeah, I was wondering if self-righteous pizza-skipper (“my coworkers won’t cut expenses”) got a promotion to manager at some company out there.

            5. Worldwalker*

              Yeah … if I had to pick an example of “fiscal irresponsibility” between an employee depending on their paycheck to pay their bills, and a company not paying them on time/at all, I sure as hades would *not* pick the employee.

              Maybe the LW has thousands of dollars in the bank and can afford to miss a few paychecks without issues, but that’s not the case for most of us. Especially a lower-level employee and new hire, who for both of those reasons is probably already stretched financially, with low pay and possibly extended unemployment, or at best lower pay.

              1. Candi*

                One of the reasons I picked computer stuff, later narrowing it down to IT, for my Bachelor’s is the paycheck. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck, had state help, was on WIC, done the food stamp thing, etc., etc., and I am sick of it. In my area, IT of any level pays really well.

                I am so on Jane’s side, and side-eyeing OP so hard.

              2. Anon for this*

                I’m job hunting because I’m being walked all over, constantly, in my current job. I have plenty of money saved, enough that I could go months without drawing a paycheck if I had to, but my response to this scenario at a new workplace would be exactly the same simply because this situation implies a complete lack of respect for the employee. Whether she’s actually living paycheck to paycheck doesn’t make a difference.

            6. Koworker*

              If my manager told me that I needed to be more “fiscally responsible” so that I would be prepared when my company randomly decided not to pay me, I would definitely be looking for a new job. That would be a giant red flag that my company is planning to not pay me what I’m owed when I’m owed it.

            7. Missus H*

              Years back, when I was training on payroll, the very first thing I was told was “don’t f*** with anyone’s paycheck”. I took that to heart. It doesn’t matter if you have a million dollars in the bank, or 10. That paycheck is theirs and they expect it to be in their bank account when they wake up Friday morning.

              1. Mysteresc*

                Years ago I was observing an exercise on Compensation with a group of executives. The first thing the facilitator did was have everyone stand up and put their wallets on the table. Then he had everyone reach forward and take the wallet of the person in front of them. The discomfort level in the room shot through the roof.

                The facilitator’s message: the wallet is the most sensitive part of the human body. When you fiddle with it, your people will expect it to hurt.

          2. mars*

            the minute an employer fails to give a check to an employee, the employee should be allowed to burn the employer’s house down, you want free labor like they had in antebellum atlanta? you should be treated the same.

            1. Greg*

              This. At my first job out of college, one of our competitors had some major problems with payroll, and one of their employees ended up coming to my company. I was talking with her about it once, and she was telling me how it’s a trap, because once they miss the first paycheck, you have a strong incentive to stick around and not lose out on the money you’re owed, but if they have continued problems you dig yourself deeper and deeper into a hole. I resolved at that moment that I would never tolerate any employer that missed a paycheck, and would push back very hard if it ever happened. Fortunately I have never been placed in that position.

              All of which is to say that I am very sympathetic to Jane’s reaction. She needed to demonstrate that she took this very seriously, and I admire her willingness to stand up for herself despite being so new to the workforce.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Well hold up–you don’t have to stick around to not lose out on money you’re owed! Even if you leave a company they would still owe you that money!

                1. Greg*

                  Well, her point was that she figured if she stuck around she’d have a better chance of getting paid. But in retrospect, yes, I’m sure she realized it was a mistake to stay as long as she did. I should also add that this was in a developing country where she wouldn’t have had the same access to the legal system as one might expect in the US. In fact, given that we expats were generally paid in cash and didn’t have work permits, I’m not sure she would have been able to sue even if she had wanted to navigate the legal system.

                2. Litterae*

                  Well, sure—but being owed money isn’t the same thing as being PAID money. The litigation necessary to get, say, $2000 in back pay from a bankrupt or shady company is very often not worth it.

                3. Barbara Eyiuche*

                  This could be a problem in some countries. I didn’t get paid at a job in South Korea, but I kept working there because my work visa was tied to my place of employment. I also thought that maybe I would get paid when things improved, as the boss promised. I have to advise that in South Korea, if the boss is late with pay, with some sob story, it is a test. If you pit up with it once, they will get worse and worse. Twenty years ago, there was no point complaining to the labor board – things might be better now.

                4. Princesss Sparklepony*

                  Sunk costs. You want to get what owed to you. The idea being that it’s just a glitch that gets worked out and you then the pay rolls in on schedule. Which is fine if that is what it is. Sometimes honest mistakes happen. But if it’s not a honest mistake… then you got decisions to make. How much in the hole are you willing to go for this company? When do you cut the cord and realize that small claims is your only option (or Judge Judy!)

              2. Lisa*

                I once worked for a company that was struggling and paychecks were delayed weeks. It was horribly illegal but they were counting on a lot of friends-and-family working there that no one would sue or report them. I’d been there less than six months and I called BS, and pointed out that an employee who leaves must be paid in full immediately to comply with labor laws. They finally coughed up all my back pay and I lived on it while I found a new job.

                The people who stuck around longer got shafted when they company more or less went under. I later found I was the only person who ever got their full back pay.

              3. Meh*

                Jane was spot-on.

                The attitude, and very probably the behavior, of the LW is appalling. The fact that LW is considering suggesting a transfer for Jane for asserting herself and demanding that the problem be fixed, not ‘I thought it was fixed,’ suggests that LW should not be in management at all.

                When an employee has been hired by a company to work for a given salary or rate, and the company abrogates that agreement, it is entirely reasonable for the employee to tell the company that if the situation is not resolved immediately, the employee will seek other employment that is actually gainful.

                I also read this as Jane very possibly being BIPOC – the LW’s tone reads as ‘this should consider herself *lucky* to have a job, she won’t find another as easily, and she should be grateful and patient and suck up our mistakes.’ I ran into that a lot working in a few very specific regions of the country where the people seem to feel entitled to free labor, and it led to contract terms such that late fees were assessed very, very fast.

            2. Catgirl*

              This happened at my old workplace, they fixed it and apologized and nobody called me uppity. And it WAS serious, I was a student and had $9 in my bank account.

              1. JKateM*

                There have been a few errors here and there at my company but our bookkeeper always fixes them as soon as she learns of the mistake. And as the HR person in a small business I’m usually the one people come to about this; I always take those as serious and urgent as does the bookkeeper. We know people need their money and they EARNED it. This manager is just. . . Badly in need of training in a few areas, but first of all empathy.

            3. cacwgrl*

              I will admit I once made this mistake and very nearly caused an employee to miss a paycheck. I was being cross trained to run payroll and missed one person when I transmitted the file. Luckily (for me and employee), the actual payroll person caught it the day before actual payday and was able to immediately remedy the situation as best we could. On the spot, a manual check was cut and copy paystub generated and I personally delivered it to FedEx to ensure 1000 overnight delivery to employee, who was across the country. The stars lined up for me that day and nothing happened in transit and employee received their funds on time, since pay day is actually noon for the company. I am forever grateful at how understanding and forgiving that employee was and that I was not fired for that mistake. The guilt I felt was massive and from that point on, I was extremely careful. I understand the pay check to pay check life and would have been in a terrible position had I been the one who missed out on money. Anyway, the whole reason I relived the horror is to say, it is entirely possible that it’s an honest mistake once, and its entirely possible that a good employer will move mountains to take care of their person, which it sounds like OP’s payroll and HR did as well.

              1. FrenchCusser*

                I work at a small community college, and yes, we sometimes make mistakes and someone doesn’t get a check when they’re supposed to, but when reported, we run a manual check IMMEDIATELY and apologize for the error.

                I just can’t get behind someone who thinks, ‘Well, we didn’t pay you, but it’s your fault for needing money’.

          3. Allornone*

            I tried to withhold my judgement, but the sucker escaped at the headline. By the time I got to “big britches,” my judgement was on the loose, doing its judgy-judgiest to judge everything worth judging. He judged all over OP’s yard. It was a mess.

            1. Empress Matilda*

              Same. I do my best to give LW’s – and everyone – the benefit of the doubt. But I started giving side-eye at “my employee wasn’t respectful enough,” and was in full-on judgement mode by the time we got to “big britches.” Yikes, OP.

          4. Sleeping Late Every Day*

            I’ve never sworn so much AT a letter writer before this. I was shocked at how many times I could say “Fv<k you!" in a variety of tones, one for each sentence, started with the britches comment. I do believe I have to go swear some more just thinking about this turd purveyor.

            1. Meh*

              The company needs to review this manager; the manager, by their own lights, has already made manifest her opinions to others in authority. If others in authority share the LW’s opinions, Jane should bail; if not, the manager should be demoted or fired. There’s no middle ground.

              1. Fayman*

                Imagine a manager like that handling any part of your company. The lack of basic sense implied here can be a huge liability.

                If anyone is too big for their britches, its LW here. She doesn’t know her place or understand her role very well if this is how she sees people reporting to her.

        1. INFJedi*

          I’m not a native English speaker/writer, can someone explain me wat “big britches” are? I do get from the LW’s “tone” that it isn’t something nice, but I have no clue to what it might refer.

          Thanks in advance!

          1. chocolate lover*

            INFJedi – it basically suggests that the person thinks they are more important or special than they actually are. Often used to indicate a person seems unrealistic.

            1. Stina*

              And almost always applied to sassy children or adults who are historically marginalized like Black Americans or Women when they step outside of their historically assigned roles. Sometimes applied to poor whites as well but less often.

                1. Jessie*

                  Says who, based on what evidence? Believing that there’s not even a chance of such implications takes a willful effort to refuse to read between the lines, the kind of willful effort usually usually made by people who are on the privileged side of such interactions and therefore don’t want to admit that such things still happen with much regularity.

            2. Justme*

              Britches is slang for pants. So you’ve put on pants that are way too big for you. You are thinking much too highly of yourself.

              1. Shannon*

                I’m a historical costuming nerd. Britches were male underwear before boxers or briefs were a thing. They were very wide and worn by wrapping it around yourself and then tying them on with strings. Each leg was big enough to fit both your legs in, basically.

                So the comment is sort of a historical version of “pull up your big girl panties” and since britches were so huge, and there’s no way to grow out of them…

          2. Ange*

            The phrase is “too big for (his/her/their) britches” basically meaning acting like you’re more important than you really are.

          3. kittymommy*

            Basically it’s being full of yourself or looking at one’s self as more important than they are. Inflated ego.

            1. A Former Freelancer*

              A Reader, one wonders if you are a business that has customers or clients. What has happened here is equivalent to a restaurant diner attempting to “dine-and-dash,” with a promise to “get you next time,” and then pulling that same stunt a week later. It is the equivalent of a customer trying to walk out of a store — twice — with a product with a vague promise to “pay you later.” It is the equivalent of a client accepting your products or services and then ignoring your invoices. Oh, I’m sorry — does that sound a lot like attempted theft? Because that’s what we call it when someone avails themself of a product or service without paying for it at the customary time, in the customary fashion. In this case, the product/service was Jane’s time & labor. It sounds like she comported herself with more than the level of restraint I would expect her to show a shoplifter, or a two-time delinquent client who was ignoring the bills. What is your company’s policy for handling delinquent clients or customers? Why would you expect any greater level of deference or respect?

          4. kathyglo*

            People use the phrase too big for one’s britches, or too big for one’s boots. Conceited, self-important, as in Ever since he won that tournament he’s gotten too big for his britches, or There’s no talking to Jill anymore—she’s just too big for her boots. This metaphoric idiom alludes to becoming so “swollen” with conceit that one’s pants or boots no longer fit. [Late 1800s]

          5. OtterB*

            I have heard the phrase as someone being “too big for their britches” meaning they think too highly of themselves. I’m not sure where it originally came from.

          6. Merci Dee*

            In some English-speaking parts of the world, “britches” is another word for trousers. So the phrase “too big for your britches” brings with it the idea that someone is acting like they’ve outgrown their “station” in life, or what other people believe their station in life should be. Like the person has become so inflated with their own ego that they can’t even fit into their own trousers anymore.

            1. Sharpie*

              I believe the older spelling, and the one more commonly seen in the UK, would be ‘breeches’.

              (Which is also where the phrase ‘breech birth’ comes from, to describe a baby born legs first.)

              1. Carol the happy elf*

                We have a comment in my family; “He was born breech”, or “She came in acting all breech-y”.
                A lot of breech births are actually BUTT first.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  Kind of? I mean, the bum is usually what’s facing, but to actually get a breech birth out without a caesarian, you apparently need to get a hold of a leg. (Which I know from the maternal side, not the medical side… my firstborn was a natural breech. Apparently she was very cooperative with offering her legs at the first tries, but the doctor who’d been there forever and seen everything stayed past the shift change to talk the relatively new doctor through it, because younger doc had literally never done a non-Caesarian breech.)

                2. Alex*

                  Yep, can confirm – my son was a breech birth (nightmare situation) and before I’d even started pushing the doctor’s first words were “Welp, he’s definitely a boy”.

                  The fact he was born butt first is absolutely his favourite thing about himself – funnily enough it’s not mine!

                  (Also can’t reply to Lenora below but feet first is called footling breech and my understanding is that it’s way more dangerous than a “full breech” baby)

                3. fhqwhgads*

                  If they’re butt first that’s call “frank breech”, assuming the butt is coming out first because they’re folded in half, rather than just backwards.

                4. Lenora Rose*

                  Alex: My understanding is if the legs are first they often get folded in a way that makes them jam up and not go through the canal (Think of the second leg lying crosswise and with the knee the wrong way around to bend…), while with bum first, if they can manoeuvre a leg, they can get it where they need it.

            2. Chilipepper attitude*

              That is how I understand it, britches are pants.
              It originally referred to breeches as far as I know.

            3. turquoisecow*

              It’s often used to refer to children, I think. A kid who’s too big for their britches thinks that they’re ready for grown-up pants (kids wore short pants and grown-ups wore long pants) or thinking like they’re older/smarter/better than they are.

            1. Candi*

              Can I point out that OP is saying this about Jane standing up for her legal rights?

              This does not reflect well on OP at all.

              1. Observer*

                Well, the OP clearly doesn’t understand the obligation that the employer has here. The idea that only people who “are in charge” get to expect that their pay is handled correctly and timely is … NOT managerial.

              2. Quill*

                OP has got some serious disconnect about how much, legally, the ball is in her company’s court to get Jane paid on time. (If this was tennis practice she’d be pelted with the ball chucker…)

          7. Blushingflower*

            Usually the expression is that someone is “too big for their britches”, a way of saying that someone is conceited or full of themselves. “Britches” is another way of saying “breeches” or trousers. I tended to hear it as something said to/about kids, so I often think of it as someone who thinks they’re grown-up but is still wearing kids’ clothes, but I don’t think that’s the actual origin. It basically just means that someone’s ego has gotten so big they can’t fit their clothes (like getting a big head).
            So in this case the LW is referencing that saying and basically saying that Jane is conceited or thinks too highly of herself.

          8. Butterfly Counter*

            I’ve always heard it as “Too big for their britches,” (britches are an old way of saying “pants”) or that they’re acting out of line for their level. I always heard it in the context of children, so it was always “they’re acting older than they are.” But in this case, I take it to mean that they’re acting too much like a boss or manager for being in an entry-level position.

          9. Rachael*

            It means that her ego has gotten so big that she can’t fit in her pants (britches) anymore

            – Origin: Too big for your britches is a term of ridicule, used as far back as the 16th century. It is indicative of people who feel that other people, things and projects are below them… as in feeling so important, prideful and swelled-up that their britches/clothing may well burst off their bodies.

          10. JB*

            What a lot of people are missing in the definitions below is that it’s infantilizing. It’s something you say about children.

            Britches are an item of clothing (pants) – which children outgrow quickly. If a child gets bossy, you joke that they must be getting ‘too big for their britches’, i.e. they think or are acting as if they’re older/bigger than they actually are.

            It’s really not something you can passably say about another adult or even a young adult, except maybe in very limited situations, like talking about a younger intern? It’s extremely rude.

            1. KittyCardigans*

              Yeah, I might say this (ruefully) about myself or (jokingly) about a close friend or sibling. I could see myself using it in reference to children, but even by the time they’re high school-aged it can be a little too much. I’d never use it in relation to a work peer unless we were explicitly joking about egos or something.

              I have definitely used this phrase in reference to my cat, usually when he acts overly confident and then fails spectacularly.

            2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

              I think this is important too. It’s not just the basic meaning, where you are saying someone is acting above their station and needs to know their place. There is also the implied meaning: that the person being described is a snotty child.

              There is a history in the US, especially the Southern US, of using infantilizing language toward adult people of color. So depending on the context, this could be anywhere from unbelievably shitty to “In the Heat of the Night” shitty.

            3. turquoisecow*

              Yeah, it’s incredibly infantilizing. (As is the rest of the letter.) OP clearly doesn’t think Jane deserves to be treated with the respect of a fellow adult.

              1. Candi*

                I caught that with the “but she’s entry-level! She’s obviously irresponsible with finances if she’s out of money after her paycheck was missed twice!”

                Entry-level =/= child or juvenile, and a good portion of the population would be screwed over if two checks in a row weren’t paid out.

                1. Midwestern Scientist*

                  In America 54% of all people and closer to 70% of millennials (25-40 year olds so presumably just about anyone “entry level”) live paycheck to paycheck. As in they do not make enough money to save much if any after paying their living expenses. This LW is so wildly out of touch I can’t even

            4. Observer*

              What a lot of people are missing in the definitions below is that it’s infantilizing. It’s something you say about children.

              That caught my eye, too. Even if Jane’s behavior has been inappropriate (which it was NOT), the OP needs to treat her and think about her as an ADULT! She’s not a child.

              It’s especially galling in that she’s ALSO complaining that Jane hasn’t managed her money well. (Which is outrageous all on its own.)

          11. Clisby*

            I’m a native English speaker and have never heard the term exactly like that. I’ve heard “XYZ is getting too big for her britches” – meaning a person has an exaggerated idea of their own importance. But in that case, the “britches” aren’t big – the person’s idea of their importance is big.

          12. Federal Worker Drone*

            You got plenty of good answers, but in this case, the LW thinks tge employee failed to apologize sufficiently for needing her paycheck and bothering people over it.

            Thus demonstrating that SOMEONE in this letter IS too big for her britches, but most of us think it’s not the employee

            1. Candi*

              I got the impression OP also thought that Jane was making far too big a deal over not getting paid.

              “This can’t happen again” is, under the circumstances, perfectly acceptable language, and the implication Jane will find new employment, file a DOL complaint, or both is perfectly understandable and acceptable. Reasonable hiring managers will find “they kept messing up my paycheck” as a perfectly good reason to leave a company after a month or two.

              Of course, in my opinion a reasonable manager would have written in on how to make this up to Jane.

              1. Observer*

                Of course, in my opinion a reasonable manager would have written in on how to make this up to Jane.

                Yup. This reminds me of the boss who wrote in about how to give a bad reference to someone who quit after being pinched twice, rather than asking how to make sure that no one ever gets pinched in the office again or how to apologize to the victim.

                1. Candi*

                  …I missed that one.

                  I would ask “are you kidding?”, but between AAM and NAW, I’m pretty beyond that point.

                2. Candi*

                  Thank you dawbs!

                  My junior high banned the pinching at around the same time a couple of the worst bullies got outright expelled -don’t know if correlation equals causation.

                  My kids’ elementary school considered pinching a form of bullying, the middle school called it bullying and harassment, and the high school… pretended it didn’t happen. (They didn’t have the best record. On a lot of things.)

              2. Don P.*

                I wonder who this person is who knows AAM well enough to send this in, but not well enough to predict the reaction of Alison and every single commenter.

                1. Dave H*

                  I’m wondering if they related it to a friend and when they wouldn’t listen to the friend telling them they were in the wrong, the friend suggested this site and the LW wasn’t familiar enough to know what they would get… But the friend was.

          13. paxfelis*

            The explanation I’ve seen for it more or less unfolds into “you’re acting like a toddler trying to wear Daddy’s britches and being bossy because that’s what you think Daddy does.”

            Basically, you’re trying to assume or use authority beyond what you deserve to a ridiculous degree, you’re doing it badly and to an enraging degree, and you should be spanked and put down for a nap.

          14. AKchic*

            So, “britches” is a slang term for “breeches” or “short pants”. It used to be that small children (boys) would start acting too grown up/in charge and the “adult” would say they are acting “too big” as if they’d outgrown the need to wear such an item and were ready for “adult trousers”, but really they were just sassing and acting in a manner the adult deemed inappropriate.
            In the south (US), as “britches” became the more common term, it also became more common to use as a colloquialism against all children, women, anyone of lower standing, people of the global majority (read: non-white) as an insult.

          15. Anonymeece*

            I heard it a lot in the South – usually directed at me when I was a little girl.

            It essentially means that you’re taking on power that you don’t/shouldn’t have (according to the person saying it), or too confident in yourself. It’s inherently patronizing, so I wouldn’t ever recommend using it in a work setting, but to give a work example: say you had someone get put in charge of a project, and then they decided that meant they were your supervisor and started giving you orders and bossing you around. That person would be “too big for their britches”.

            As others have commented, it’s usually a race and/or gender thing, so I did a hard side-eye when I read that line and was proven right as I read on. The reason it was said to me so often as a little girl was because I stood up for myself, urgh.

          16. Nikki*

            Saying that someone is too big for their britches means that someone is acting conceited or full of themself. (This person was definitely not conceited for expecting her paycheck on time, but apparently that’s what the OP thinks of her)

        2. Paris Geller*

          Yeah, at that phrase I knew this was going to be a comment section that laid into the LW (for a good reason).
          I hope the OP realizes that Jane is not the one with an attitude problem here.

        3. Lacey*

          Same. I knew the moment “big britches” was used that this person was going to be wrong. I was still floored at HOW wrong they were.

        4. clearlyMillennial*

          makes me think the LW is the same age as my great aunt who still thinks leaving a $1 tip on a full meal is acceptable. it’s so embarrassing.

          1. a tester, not a developer*

            Same – I picture him thinking that Jane should either be living with her parents or her husband. In either case she shouldn’t *need* money. She’ll probably just spend it on soda pop and getting her hair permanent waved.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              And the thing is, even if she did, it is NONE OF HER EMPLOYER’S BUSINESS. Their part of the agreement is to pay her the agreed amount at the agreed time; not their job to judge how she spends it!

        5. Becca*

          For me it was a combo of that and the second paragraph. By the time I got to the fact that the letter stemmed from Jane not getting paid properly I looked back up at “big britches,” thought, hmmm, then looked at the title which I hadn’t read properly and thought, ahhh, yeah, Jane is probably fine.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            That did catch my eye. OP couldn’t even insult Jane correctly. But sure, Jane’s the one who is full of herself.

        6. DJ Abbott*

          Haven’t heard it since childhood. My father used to say I was “ too big for my britches“.
          When I saw it I thought this person never grew up to adult expressions.
          My father grew up in Texas and South Dakota and is not BIPOC.

        7. GrooveBat*

          It’s not even accurate. The correct phrase is, “Too big for her britches,” so when OP says Jane has “big britches” it’s actually the opposite of what OP means.

        8. RubberDuck*

          Wasn’t even used correctly! The full phrase is “too big for your britches” implying that having big britches is, in fact, fine…

          And it bothers me so much more when people are both snooty and also Wrong.

      1. Wanderland*

        When I saw big britches, I envisioned someone from Bridgerton wearing a smokers jacket puffing with a pipe.

      2. Sandangel*

        I kept waiting for the big Unacceptable Behavior Moment, and instead I got…a young professional standing up for herself after a difficult time.

        1. Aerin*

          Honestly the way that Jane handled it, firmly and professionally, is exactly the way I think Alison would advise her to handle it had she been the one writing in.

      3. Athena*

        So many contridictions here.
        First op admits that it’s the company’s fault then proceeded to backtrack when the company used company resources to fix a issue they caused.
        Then op complains about how Jane stood up for herself to a manager as “disrespecting superiors” and in the same breath talks back to HR and Payroll as if they were out of line to fix a issue they caused.
        Sounds like op needs to go back to entry level and get a reminder of what the other side of the high horse taste like

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yeah, I may have to sit this one out because, hot damn, talk about failing at the basics of being an employer. If a new employee, especially are really, really good one like Jane (e.g. “Her work is great and she needed very little training” – this is a freaking unicorn entry-level employee) who reported to me hadn’t been paid I would have been bending over backwards for them to help fix the situation. I’d have been mortified about how it made the company look. Missing payments to an employee is absolutely the biggest failure an employer can make. Jane handled it splendidly. Payroll handled it splendidly. HR handled it splendidly. The LW did not.

      1. Fran Fine*

        THIS. OP’s reaction is deplorable. The HR rep was absolutely right that Jane’s tone and statement about how this shouldn’t have happened a second time was on point and wasn’t disrespectful. They messed up AGAIN after claiming to have fixed the problem the first time, and that’s unacceptable.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          At an old job our paychecks were a day late once when we transitioned to a new payroll system thanks to something technical going catawompus. The biggest boss sent out an apology email, anyone who wanted could go and get a paper check, and everyone was given $50 in grocery gift cards as an apology. It was considered that big a deal because it is a big F-ing deal.

          1. RJ*

            This happened to us once but it was an error on the bank’s side. Same thing: the CEO sent out a company wide apology, offered to cut cheques for anyone who requested it, and went to bat to get the bank to cover any NSF fees caused by the issue.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Happened where I worked once, too. Since we had an office in a state where there were very specific legal requirements about payroll, they were kind of obligated…

              1. Candi*

                It’s the apologies and the added help that really make it for some of these stories. FLSA, DOL, and state law says they have to make sure their employees get paid; it’s going the extra mile that says the corporation understands it’s a big deal, not just something they need to legally comply with.

                1. Mongrel*

                  It’s true of so many things in life, people are going to get things wrong at some point, that’s a given.
                  It’s what they do afterwards that’s the test of character.

            2. Worldwalker*

              Back in the early 90s, my employer did direct deposit by sending physical tapes to the payroll company. One month the tape got lost in the mail. They massively apologized, in writing, to everyone affected, and arranged with our banks to supply temporary funds because they recognized that we needed our paychecks.

                1. Susan Ivanova*

                  Reel-to-reel computer tapes, probably. My first high school job was to come in on Friday night and swap tapes for a couple of hours for the weekly backup.

          2. Remedial Chaos Theory*

            Even at my Awful Old Job, when Awful Old Boss realized direct deposits weren’t going to go in on time one week, due to a conjunction of holiday and switching payroll systems, he immediately sent out an apology, arranged for paper checks for anyone who didn’t want to wait, and bought us lunch as an additional mea culpa. Trust when I say he was not a “buy lunch on his dime” kind of guy, but even he understood it was a big deal when it came to getting people paid on time.

            1. JKFecke*

              Having worked at a company that was regularly late with payroll, nothing is a bigger red flag than a company that doesn’t treat payroll as their highest priority. The people who work for you are doing so because you pay them money. If you aren’t good about paying them money, why would you expect them to work hard for you? Why would you expect them to work for you at all?

              1. Candi*

                The love of the job! The mission! The bigger picture!

                Yeah, no. I’ve seen all of those on comments here, and they can all go hang. Hand over that physical/digital check, thanks.

                1. Keelhaulrose*

                  I LOVE my job but if they fucked up my pay this badly I would walk. I have mouths to feed and lights I have to keep on, not to mention the gas it’s costing me to get to work, if you can’t pay on time I’m gonna find someone who can. I am in a VERY in demand field right now, I could quit at 9 and be hired by 5.

                2. Recruited Recruiter*

                  I am in the same situation as you currently. I still have people trying to recruit me because they “heard that I was looking” (4 months ago).

            2. leefe*

              These stories sound bizarre to me. When I was still working here in Aus. if public holidays interfered with normal payroll, the employer was obligated to pay early. Even our Social Security (welfare) system does that, and there are few things government likes less than giving money to people who actually need it.

          3. Mr. Shark*

            Yeah, at very old-job, I didn’t get my direct deposit. I was living paycheck to paycheck, so checks bounced since it wasn’t deposited.
            My employer worked closely with the bank, so quickly fixed the situation by depositing my check, and go all of my overdraft fees rescinded so I could get back on track.
            That was the least they could do.
            LW1 is being completely unreasonable, and obviously doesn’t understand how stressful financially this can be for someone just starting out or who may not have had any income for months before getting this new job.

            1. Just Jane*

              First job out of college and I had little money. I confirmed with Personnel (yes, way back times!) when I would be paid. The first bi-weekly check would be deposited to my new checking account at their bank on Friday of my first week. At orientation on Monday of that week, they announced that they were switching over to a new payroll system that day and the first payday for us would be Friday of the next week, That left me with no money for food and just enough to pay for my train fare to get to work; I had no way to get to my meager savings since my bank was in the city where I lived and had no evening hours. That and my miserable roommates made it one of the worst times in my life.

          4. bookworm*

            Yep, a similar thing happened at a former (government!) job of mine where we had a delay over a weekend, and the entire staff was ready to mutiny after an initial mealy-mouthed apology from leadership without a real effort to address the hardship for folks. Middle managers started taking things into their own hands to make sure entry level staff were OK, and also I think reamed out the leadership team in private for not doing more.

          5. turquoisecow*

            I worked for a retailer and transferred from working in the store to working in the corporate office. First pay period ended and the person who handled payroll for our department came over to confirm that I’d gotten my direct deposit. I hadn’t. She got on the phone with the people who were responsible, who erroneously still had me in as getting paid by the stores and hadn’t fixed the system. She came back to me with an apology, got them to cut me a paper check, and promised it wouldn’t happen again (it didn’t.)

            THAT is how payroll issues should be handled. Not by the boss griping about how employees should budget better on zero income.

          6. Kyrielle*

            We had a temp accidentally assign some spot bonuses (given to a fairly large group on completion of a major project) as pay because they messed the system up. A $200 bonus is nice, a $200 paycheck is…not.

            The payroll hit bank accounts on Friday, we had an apology email on Friday (someone spotted the deposit fast somewhere!), and they said they couldn’t get it out Friday but would get it out Monday and cover any fees/etc., just let them know. I feel like that is the absolute bare minimum for that kind of screwup.

            It is not bad budgeting to plan on spending your pay, shortly after you get it, to meet your bills!

          7. GrooveBat*

            My employer effed up payroll a couple of times. Once, they underpaid a number of my team members on their bonuses. Everyone got an immediate direct deposit correcting the error and a personal apology from me.

            The other time, they neglected to put through a raise that I’d been given and, due to the various deductions etc. that also hit my paycheck, I didn’t notice the discrepancy for like…two years. I forget how I finally uncovered it, but when I pointed it out our CFO paid the entire back amount due in a single direct deposit with a sincere, heartfelt apology. No one lectured me about how lucky I was that they were paying me what I was owed.

          8. Agile Phalanges*

            Yep, same. Except in our case it was the payroll person’s fault. The company fell over themselves fixing it, and of course those of us with direct deposit were going to have to wait another day after they caught the mistake for the file to go through, so they offered to pay any late fees (on mortgages, etc.–we were paid semi-monthly and I believe the errant payment was the one at the end of the month, right before most people’s mortgages, and possibly other bills of course, were due) that resulted, and didn’t question whether it was REALLY due to the payroll error or because you were just irresponsible–any screen shots showing late fees with a date around then were honored. It’s the least they can do. I don’t think the payroll person was fired over this particular incident, but not long after due to a pile-up of multiple incidents.

          9. JKateM*

            When our bookkeeper was working part time they once accidently put the wrong date on the checks (we didn’t have direct deposit at the time). They came in immediately when notified and rewrote all the checks and then made sure everyone was able to get it by the end of the day. Payroll mistakes are not the employees’ fault regardless of their financial status or responsibility.

        2. ArtsyGirl*

          The OP is completely out of touch. He claims that the payroll department didn’t know about the situation before the sit down, but Jane has been trying to rectify this with payroll so obviously they did. He claims that she should not speak to managers in this way which really rubs me the wrong way because it sounds like he is suggesting that Jane should respect her “betters” despite the fact that they screwed up repeatedly putting her in a tough spot. She isn’t doing the job out of goodwill, this is her career and needs to come with payment for her work. Since the OP didn’t mention what the pay schedule is but said Jane has been at the job for two months, that likely means they are paid monthly. There are tons of people (especially in entry level positions) who cannot easily pay all their bills for two months without a paycheck. This whole thing smacks of classism and agesim and possibly misogyny.

          1. Miss Muffet*

            And i didn’t read her response to this as particularly rude. It’s not like she went in slamming the tables and calling names. She is factually escalating a thing that is indeed a BFD and telling them she can’t work for them until she gets paid is not hugely disrespectful or anything. It’s a natural consequence to their actions.

            1. ArtsyGirl*

              Absolutely Miss Muffet. Jane was the model of professionalism. She tried to resolve an issue and when it wasn’t she escalated it to her manager and the payroll manager. She clearly laid out the situation, furnished emails, and told them point blank that this was seriously impacting her ability to pay bills. Honestly she was far more poised and calm than I would be in her situation. The payroll employee and the OP are the rude people here. The payroll employee because it sounds like she just shrugged her shoulders when she screwed up a second time and the OP for thinking it was unreasonable for Jane to require them to pay her salary.

            2. turquoisecow*

              Agreed. “If you don’t pay me I’m not going to keep working here,” is not disrespectful in the slightest. It’s very reasonable! It is standing up for herself, though, which OP seems to have a problem with.

            3. The Starsong Princess*

              Yes and how respect did they really deserve as “management”? It’s not like they were actually paying her.

            4. Elenna*

              This. She stated that if she’s not being paid, then she’s not going to work. That’s just a factual statement. The whole point of being employed is trading work for money. If the company isn’t holding up their end of the deal, deliberate or not, then she shouldn’t hold up hers, that’s literally how deals work.

            5. laowai_gaijin*

              Seriously, Alison couldn’t have scripted her response any better. She did exactly what she should’ve done in that situation, and I am deeply impressed.

            6. Mockingjay*

              As I read the letter, there were three,/i> distinct pay problems: the contractor pay for the writing sample, then two paychecks.

              Three incidents of nonpayment is a BIG DEAL. Jane handled it in a very professional, direct, but nonconfrontational manner: calling a meeting with the appropriate people, laying out the facts, and making it clear that this mistake cannot be repeated without consequence.

              I applaud Jane.

          2. Worldwalker*

            And probably a few other sorts of -isms as well, if we knew more about the situation.

            There are a *lot* of people who would be hurting financially if they missed two paychecks. Maybe the OP isn’t one of them, but I’d bet most of the people they manage are. And not just entry-level new hires.

            I’ve had a stressful day already and now I want to scream at this person.

            1. ArtsyGirl*

              It absolutely could be a woman writing in (someone further down mentioned how “bigger than their britches” tends to used by women). I read it as a man because of the connotations of a woman calmly advocating for herself being seen as rude and not knowing her place felt very gendered. Of course, women can also be misogynists too.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, I said in my comment below that if a new job screwed up not one but TWO paychecks right off the bat, I would seriously be side-eyeing them and wondering what the hell kind of company I’d agreed to work for.

          1. Kat in VA*

            Not to mention that for a lot of us, two paychecks is literally an entire month’s salary!

            Blessed are those who are so fortunate that just shrugging off an entire month’s worth of pay is no big deal…

        4. fueled by coffee*

          Yeah, this happened to us once (new computer system that got thrown off by a leap year, I think?) – direct deposits were supposed to come in at midnight on March 1st; it took 12 hours for them to fix the issue. We got a company-wide apology, an offer for for letters explaining the situation printed on company letterhead to give our landlords in case anyone was late on rent, and any late fees for overdue rent or overdraft fees to our banks. It was a huge deal.

          I’m relatively stable financially and holy moly not getting my paycheck on time would put me in serious cutting corners mode. I have some money in savings, but that’s meant for emergencies, not “work hasn’t paid me — twice.”

          1. Candi*

            When was this? It’s a fairly simple method (programming segment) to handle leap years -even I can write it in Java, and I’m not good at programming. It’s been around for at least a decade, so I’m thinking older system, or someone effed up the programming.

      2. Coder von Frankenstein*

        I’m going to disagree with part of that: Payroll did not handle it splendidly, because payroll was in charge of making sure it didn’t happen in the first place, and it happened not once but *twice*.

        It’s good they recognized their error, but recognizing error is only the first step. There should have been alarm bells going off the first time it happened, and an investigation to figure out how it happened, and changes to prevent that error from recurring, and somebody double- and triple-checking to see that it didn’t happen again.

        1. OhNo*

          I can only hope that the payroll person in the meeting with Jane is going to be going back to the other payroll employee she’d been in contact with for further training. Obviously we don’t know the whole story here, but based on their (appropriate!) reaction to being called out, I have high hopes that they’re following up appropriately.

          OP, though? …. Not so much.

          1. Observer*

            Yes. It’s quite possible that the Payroll head will take appropriate action. OP? Not unless someone whacks them with a clue by four.

        2. Red5*

          This! The company should have cut a paper check the very first time it happened. The fact that they let it ride until it happened again is unacceptable. HR bending over backwards to make it right by giving her the extra funds from the hardship fund as well as Payroll immediately cutting her a paper check were the exact right things to do. This woman would have been within her rights to notify the state labor board that she wasn’t being paid timely in accordance with the law. Instead, she was kind enough to continue handling this internally, and her boss is MAD about it?! Yikes.

          1. Lea*

            The first time! Absolutely. Payroll employee who messed up probably didn’t want to admit it up to their bosses and Jane acted because actions were necessary.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I’d say payroll handled it poorly, but was at least appropriately apologetic. Jane and HR handled it perfectly.

      3. Momma Bear*

        Agreed 1000%. Wow. How OP can give Payroll so much grace and offer zero to Jane is…astonishing. Jane handled this way better than a lot of people would. Jane had every right to make it clear what her limits are. Not being paid twice is a big deal.

        I think Jane should transfer because OP doesn’t have respect for her or value her work. Jane needs a better boss and staying in this department under OP would be more of a punishment than moving. But it also sounds like that would be OP shooting themselves in the foot because Jane is otherwise a good employee.

        HR told me, “She’s right, it can’t happen again and it shouldn’t have happened at all.” – OP, please listen to HR. They are right.

        1. Observer*

          Wow. How OP can give Payroll so much grace and offer zero to Jane is…astonishing.

          That would be bad enough. But the OP is doing worse than not offering grace to Jane. They are actually criticizing behavior that doesn’t NEED grace – what the OP describes is perfectly appropriate and acceptable.

      4. Pork Rind*

        >If a new employee, especially are really, really good one like Jane (e.g. “Her work is great and she needed very little training” – this is a freaking unicorn entry-level employee) who reported to me hadn’t been paid I would have been bending over backwards for them to help fix the situation

        If I were her manager, I would have offered to give Jane a damned piggy-back ride to the bank if I thought it would make her feel better about my company.

        1. OhNo*

          Right? Shoot, I’d have been offering her a couple hours of PTO to drive to the bank in the middle of the work day, if she wanted to, or even offering to drive her myself if she wanted. The fact that she was still handling this internally was a huge concession on her part, and deserves to be recognized as such. The company should be bending over backwards to not only make it right, but to say thank you for not reporting them to the local labor board and getting them slapped with fines or legal complications.

      5. Lego Leia*

        Honestly, it sounds like the company needs to look into why this happened *3* times in a row to the same employee, and come up with a plan to make sure that this doesn’t happen in the future. Like the deposit of a dollar, just to see if it goes through.

      6. Gothic Bee*

        I had an old boss who didn’t process my hours correctly one time and she was worried I wasn’t going to get paid on time and she literally started crying when explaining what happened (it ended up that I did get paid on time). The tears were a massive overreaction, but frankly, I think I’d prefer crying to going in the opposite direction like this LW.

        Like, is this employee supposed to subsist on air until the company deigns to pay her? Of course she’s in a financial hardship. Living paycheck to paycheck is incredibly common, especially in entry-level jobs in the US, and even if you’re good with saving, moving to a new job can be a rough financial transition on its own, even if the new job pays well. Plus, she doesn’t have any experience with how the company handles these kinds of problems, so of course she feels like she has to put her foot down because she needs to be paid!! And she wasn’t even rude, she just made it clear this couldn’t happen again, which is more than fair.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Especially considering that rent costs are very high in most of the U.S., and I think the eviction moratorium that had been imposed last year has ended. Also, considering the rising cost of food in general, not even talking about other stuff.

        2. Remedial Chaos Theory*

          Agreed wholeheartedly, but want to add: even if Jane is not living paycheck to paycheck, there could have been any number of reasons she needed that money exactly when she was supposed to have it. Frankly, “payday is Day XYZ” is enough of a reason to expect to be paid on Day XYZ!

        3. LizM*

          I don’t even live paycheck to paycheck and missing a check would cause major issues. Most of my bills that auto-debit from my bank account on payday, if the check isn’t in there, I’m going to get hit with overdraft fees even if I have savings in another account to cover it, since it can take up to a couple days (more if it’s a weekend) to transfer funds.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            If that ever happens, try calling your bank and explain what happened and ask them to reverse the fees. My bank will do that if it doesn’t happen too often.

          2. Aerin*

            Same, we’re pretty stable but I’ll sometimes schedule a bill to come out after one more paycheck just in case. If that paycheck isn’t there when it’s supposed to be, that’s not a failure of planning on my part.

      7. Meg*

        THIS. I have been in a similar situation, only HR and management’s roles were reversed. Payroll was extremely lackadaisical about the fact that I hadn’t been paid in two pay periods (one month), HR had promised to fix it after the first pay period, but nothing happened, and made the same promise right before the second, so when I didn’t get paid then I explained it all to my manager and the fact that I could not afford to work there under these conditions and he walked over to payroll and got it sorted by the end of the day and I had a big fat direct deposit in my account that very afternoon. Letter Writer is a terrible manager and shouldn’t have a position managing other human beings.

        1. Junior B*

          I had the same thing happen to me. I moved across the country for a new job for a large regional bank. Didn’t get my first biweekly paycheck; payroll explained it was an error in not having my info in the payroll system at the time payroll was calculated. But then I didn’t get paid at the next payroll date. Payroll “apologized” and said they were sure to get it right the next time- ie 2 more weeks (6 in total) without getting paid. I told my manager, and I asked him if I should come to work the next day. He told his boss- I’m not sure what happened, but I got a check overnighted to me the next day… No one complained about me taking this very seriously!

      8. MissBaudelaire*

        Precisely. If one of my team wasn’t getting paid right, I would be sorting out that situation real big real quick.

        My team isn’t there out of the kindness of their hearts, and their paychecks aren’t a door prize I give them. It is money earned.

        1. SeluciaMD*

          Some people need this on a great big sign over their desks. And/or potentially cross-stitched on a sampler or a pillow so that it stares them in the face EVERY DAY.

      9. wittyrepartee*

        Jane is sitting there sweating it out and trying to figure out if she just signed up for a company that’s never going to pay her.

      10. The OTHER Other*

        I was appalled by the LW in so many ways, but do think they were right about one thing: Jane WOULD be better off on another team. Probably true of the rest of the OP’s reports as well.

      11. Candi*

        I’m gonna tell a story about a nice manager, to offset the bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

        I was working for a small business when I dumped my abusive, controlling ex. I needed money fast for a credit check so me and my then very small kids could move in with a friend.

        I asked the owner, my boss, if I could take out a loan against my upcoming paycheck.

        She cut me my entire paycheck, three days early. Then she told me that if showed up, to tell him he was trespassing and call the police.

      12. DoggoMom*

        They really are fortunate that Jane handled it the way she did. Many people would assume two missed paychecks that the company can’t make payroll and jump ship.

      13. jy3*

        Absolutely. Even if Jane had been the worst employee on the planet, the company signed a contract and failed to uphold their obligations, which put her at risk of defaulting on her own. Telling the department responsible that they made a mistake and can they please fix it is appropriate. After they continued to NOT PAY HER FOR WORK, it would have been appropriate to go as high as necessary and say things like “wage theft”, “federal non-compliance”, and “lawsuit” if that had been what it took.

        Yes, LW, people make mistakes. The correct response to being harmed by a mistake is to tell whoever made it. The correct response to harming someone by mistake is to set it right and apologize. That she is entry-level has no bearing on this.

    3. The Gnome*

      I am stealing “high on their own farts” for personal use.

      Just thought I’d do you the courtesy of telling you first. :)

    4. Just Another HR Pro*

      I agree – all I am going to say is this: This is precisely why I never want to go any higher up in any company. You tend to forget what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck, and really rely on your paycheck to survive. Even a day late can really hurt someone – so the blasé attitude blaming her? I have seen this so many times.

      In all fairness – not all managers are like this, and not all people who are junior live paycheck to paycheck, and no all people who make more than junior wages are comfortable financially.

      1. More anon today*

        Right? I fill in for our payroll clerk sometimes and I’m always terrified I’ll screw it up and someone won’t get paid. The only thing letting me sleep at night is knowing that we have an established method for giving pay advances in cash and our managers would absolutely understand and do one if someone couldn’t wait until next week for an error to be fixed.

      2. Allornone*

        THIS. I was Covidly-unemployed for a long time, and also experienced some unexpected health issues (not-Covid) that resulted in high hospital bills (yay u.s. health system!). I lost my apartment, my car, pretty much everything, and resorted to staying with my dad and fortunately very supportive stepmother. I’m employed now, in the best job I’ve ever had, saving for a car and a new place, and just now allowing myself the luxury of buying shampoo without having to ask someone. Before this all, I had been very responsible with money. But life happens. I didn’t ask for a global pandemic to cause my lay off and make getting a new job that much harder; I didn’t ask for a series of health issues to nearly bankrupt me. All I can do is save now, work hard, and move forward. My bosses know nothing about my financial situation (except that I take the bus for now), because well, they shouldn’t. I work; they pay me for that work. It’s simple enough.

        1. RJ*

          I am so sorry all of that happened, Allornone. I am happy to hear you found the best job you’ve ever had!

          1. Allornone*

            Thank you. I admit it’s been a tough year, but I’m very happy to be coming out the other side. Looking forward to the future!

        2. OhNo*

          This is exactly why this letter has me so mad. The OP has NO IDEA what Jane’s financial or life situation is outside of work. For them to call her “irresponsible” because she ran into issues after not being paid twice? That’s a fudging MONTH with no pay. Exactly how long is she supposed to be working for free before she’s allowed to experience hardship, I wonder?

          1. Remedial Chaos Theory*

            Sounds like it actually happened THREE times, which is utterly ridiculous (assignment period, first full pay cycle, and “today”). Jane has been more than patient working a month without pay; at what point would OP have been fine with her experiencing hardship enough, or was she just magically supposed to have budgeted to work without being paid indefinitely?

          2. GammaGirl1908*

            AND THEN the sniffing that she should have saved smartly. She’s entry level. This is possibly her first job out of college or close to it. She’s a brand new employee (so maybe had a gap before starting). Where was she supposed to get the money to save? Most of us get that from, y’know, our PAYCHECKS. Which she hasn’t gotten. Because your company screwed up.

            LW apparently thinks Jane should just magically have other money from some nebulous source, and is mystified at people who need to get paid to have the money they’re supposed to be saving.

            Just, facepalm.

            1. Sandangel*

              Well Obviously she should have rich parents/spouse/sibling/patron to cover any such costs. /s

              Seriously, I was expecting a tantrum. OP should be cultivating Jane into a great employee, not tearing her down like this.

            2. Ally McBeal*

              Also, was this letter written during the 80s/90s boom? Somehow this guy missed the fact that the Great Recession in 2008 was not all that long ago, and we’ve had a global pandemic recently too. Sounds like one of those people who think the stock market IS the economy.

          3. laowai_gaijin*

            Yes, how dare she base her personal budget on the assumption that she’ll be paid for her job!

      3. Koalafied*

        Yes, I was well into my 30s before I wasn’t routinely seeing my bank account balance drop below $50 in the days leading up to payday, or routinely having ACH drafts processed 1 day after payday, because I didn’t have enough in my account to cover the charge until payday. I just didn’t earn enough to save much, and I chose to prioritize my pre-tax retirement account over having more than a couple hundred bucks at a time in cash savings because 1) my employer matched my contributions and 2) I understood the power of compound interest and that deferred taxes on retirement contributions have the most benefit the younger you are. When emergencies arose, there was always a 0% credit card deal around that I was able to pay off before it came due.

        Others may have made different choices in that situation, but I would not appreciate if someone tried to come along and just look solely at my bank account balances and act like me not having much cash savings/buffer was obviously the result of me just faffing around like the metaphorical grasshopper frittering away his days without a care in the world while winter looms, as opposed to me having carefully weighed my options and decided saving for retirement and carefully leveraging my excellent credit rating to get me through rough spots was the smartest option I had for the salary I was earning.

      4. ThatGirl*

        We are financially stable – we have 6 mos of our joint salary in savings, could survive on it for a year if we had to, and keep a cushion in checking for unexpected things. And yet. I definitely would panic if I was working and missed two paychecks.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Right? I mean, I could do it if I had to, but I would absolutely be telling the payroll people it can’t happen again.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        I work with a lot of people who grew up upper middle class and have NO idea what it’s like not to be financially secure or even comfortable. I am higher up in an organization now, but I was raised in a lower middle-class home where a lot of things the people I work with take for granted were not thinkable, much less a given.

        I have to remind people of this all the time – no, you cannot ask the staff to float $100s on their credit card, even though they are paid back within a week or so; remember when you pick lunch places that, unless you are treating, you need to pick somewhere affordable for everyone; no, not everyone has a car in DC to run over to the client, they’re going to need to cab/rideshare over and charge the company; hey, maybe we can talk about something at the company lunch besides your luxury vacations and second homes.

        When I was first starting out, I was broke and thought I was lucky just not to be in debt. I am excellent with my finances but I had an entry-level job in a HCOL area and could not have gone a month or more without pay — the only people I know who could do that were being subsidized by their parents, which was not an option for me. OP’s comments are so gross that I’m appalled their company lets them manage people.

      6. Jackyw*

        This does not have to be true. I’m a senior manager and everything I do with regards to my employees is with the understanding that almost all of them probably live pay check to pay check. It’s also why I fight tooth and nail to get all of them raises every raise cycle (6 months) and to make sure I expense everything I humanly can to the company (transport, food, drinks, gym, electronics, school etc etc ). If you can actively put in effort to keep in mind what it used to be like, you can make a difference in your employees lives.

    5. Darsynia*

      Yep. My first instinct is ‘Jane needs a better boss.’

      If I force myself to be gentle, I’d alter that to say that it makes me cringe when someone thinks a direct speaker (especially a woman) is out of line for being direct, particularly when the situation warrants it. This was the best response Jane could have had. She didn’t pitch a fit, she didn’t quietly go bankrupt to save face, she simply pointed out that as a new employee, her desire to continue with the company is as directly affected as her finances when she’s not paid on time.

      I’m fully on Jane (and Alison’s) side here.

      1. Fran Fine*

        it makes me cringe when someone thinks a direct speaker (especially a woman) is out of line for being direct, particularly when the situation warrants it.

        Yup. Nothing Jane said was disrespectful; in fact, her response was incredibly restrained given the fact that this was the second pay period where she wasn’t paid on time. I would have been less polite, lol.

        1. GS*

          Right?? I’m so impressed by how calm Jane stayed and how well she handled it. A total model of professionalism.

      2. Clisby*

        +100. I was fully prepared to hear that Jane had gone postal, started throwing things, and was cussing out the payroll manager. Instead … she politely but firmly said this better not happen again. Good for her.

        1. generic_username*

          Same! OP seems offended that Jane was clear and direct about her rights and the employer’s obligations. WILD

        2. Misslucy21*

          I was also expecting that Jane had thrown a hissy cow and got violent about it from the way the letter started, so I was very taken aback when her actual reaction was described. Good Lord, manager person, that’s not a “respect gap”. Unless we’re talking about the gap between your respect for her.

        3. doreen*

          When I read the headline, I was expecting to find that Jane was one of those people who can’t tolerate anyone making a mistake ( and thinks they don’t make any themselves) and was unsatisfied with the company’s reasonable efforts to fix it. Instead, it happened multiple times, and the OP thinks she’s disrespectful for expecting to be paid.

    6. kittymommy*

      Hoo boy are you right. There is A LOT that could be said but to be calm, this LW is amazingly in the wrong here. While it would be great if everyone had the even the capability to have an emergency fund, it most certainly not the responsibility of the employee to cover the (on-going) errors of the employer, intended or not.

      LW, your company needs to get it’s crap together and YOU need to take it upon yourself that this is corrected from now on.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I went out of town once on a Friday that also happened to be payday. I had had some unexpected expenses leading up to that and needed to make sure my payroll went through (small company, owner’s wife handled payroll, she was prone to mistakes). She was very huffy when I called to tell her mine didn’t go through and I needed her to go the bank a few blocks away from the office and deposit the check directly into my account since I was traveling.

        1) I was out of town for a friggin funeral, 2) this was probably the third time this “mistake” had happened over the course of a few months, and 3) I highly suspected they were having trouble making payroll and thought I was the one who could wait since I seemed more “financially responsible” than others. I was the only one who this ever happened to and it was especially odd since we were on direct deposit and my bank account didn’t change.

        I agree with you that it is ABSOLUTELY the company’s responsibility to make it right when things like that happen – without delay! Yes, mistakes happen, but don’t mess with people’s money and then act flippant or put out about it. Geez!

      2. Uranus Wars*

        I mean, my emergency fund is a little more than a missed paycheck…but if my paycheck doesn’t go in I am SOL with NSF fees because the accounts aren’t able to be set up for auto-transfer. On purpose.

    7. AnonInCanada*

      You just gave me the LOL I so desperately needed after reading that smug boss’s letter. Really, what high horse did he ride on before he got in front of his computer to write that?

    8. INFJedi*

      Yes… I don’t understand LW’s opinion at all.

      Jane is young, and apparently a great asset (LW’s own words!! Her work is great and she needed very little training) , according to LW Jane is supposed to have already saved quite some money to help her when she hasn’t received her salary for not one but two months? Even though she is rather young and at the start of her career? I mean, to me Jane kept her cool and was rather polite in her interactions with management and the payment employee. I’m not sure how I would have handled that in Jane’s position… i doubt it would have been as polite as Jane…

      Yeah… I don’t have anything nice to say to OP, so I’m trying not to say anything at all… because: WOW!!! My jaw is on the floor.

      1. Caliente*

        I mean even if Jane had NONE of those factors – she’s mature, she’s married, she’s got savings – she STILL needs to be paid ON TIME and would likely be pissed if she wasn’t. I know I would.

    9. UK girl*

      This is an interesting one. The employer is a good one because they give Jane compensation and did their best to put their mess up right. I think that Jane handled the situation very well calling for a meeting and being clear about the position. The manager involved needs to seriously check their attitude, when managing people you need to also look out for them, she failed in her duty towards Jane. Jane deserves a better manager.

      1. Jasper*

        Not that good an employer, because they gave her significantly less compensation than the department of labor might have gotten her.

        1. Candi*

          They made her whole and apologized. DOL would have taken longer and she might not have gotten more then the absolute minimum she was owed. And that depends on if the DOL in her state gives a faff.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        But like… the paycheck is the bootstraps. You can’t bootstrap yourself into the heavens if they took away the laces!

        1. Kella*

          This was my thought. I don’t understand how you can call someone financially irresponsible for using the money *you owe her* in her budget.

          1. Kat in VA*

            I mean, gosh, doesn’t everyone have six months of living expenses saved up in the bank for situations just like this? -my dad, probably

      2. Worldwalker*

        And remember that the original meaning of “lift yourself by your own bootstraps” was something that was *impossible* to do. It’s only recently that people of one political stripe have *expected* people to do the literally impossible.

        1. Lily of the Meadow*

          No, conservatives do NOT think one should be able to lift oneself up by one’s bootstraps, and you are showing your bias by saying so. Just because you disagree with either political party does not excuse making snap judgements like that.

          1. GovernmentEmployee*

            Obviously not all conservatives think that way but to be fair the ONLY people I have ever heard say that expression were staunch conservatives.

          2. Broadway Duchess*

            It’s absolutely not a snap judgement. It’s based off of a long time of watching, listening, and absorbing. Do all conservatives think that way? No. Do many of them? Yes.

            And Worldwalker’s point was how the meaning was corrupted from “impossible” to something wholly opposite of that.

    10. Public Sector Manager*

      OP’s letter makes me mental. In a lot of states in the U.S., failure to make payroll on time is treble damages. Why? Because getting paid on time for your labor is a HUGE issue! I think Jane, as a new employee, handled this splendidly. Accounting needs some remedial training on what it means to fix a problem, but at least they acknowledged that getting paid on time is a HUGE issue! The OP is living in the 1920’s. OP, your response is so tone deaf that you need training on the basic ins and outs of what it means to be a manager. If I was your boss and read this, best case scenario is you’d be on a PIP.

      OP, you need to check yourself.

      1. Candi*

        Yeah. The company didn’t give Jane the hardship stuff just to be nice -they also do not want her going to the DOL. That would cause the company some merry havoc if the DOL in their state gives half a rat’s tail about the situation. (The DOL in my state would be very unhappy. Granny Weatherwax level very unhappy.)

        1. SykesFive*

          This was my thought as well. The company likely had some potential legal exposure here. Besides an enforcement action by some state agency, there could also have been the risk of the employee herself suing. It’s not uncommon for wage theft to carry treble damages, court costs, attorneys’ fees, and possibly even statutory penalties, plus antiretaliation rules. So imagine having to fork over the equivalent of a year’s salary plus walk on eggshells around Jane because any adverse action could be characterized by her as retaliation.

    11. Nayo*

      Letters like these are why I love the word “Yikes.” It conveys so many emotions in one syllable!

    12. Yikesyikesyikes*

      I’m counting three times not paid…first paycheck, contract work during interview process, and now second paycheck.

    13. bellalye*

      Tangentially related: when the Roman Emperor Claudius died, he apparently did so with a such monstrous fart that some poet (I think it was Martial?) immortalized his death with the phrase “he farted out his soul”.

      1. Bibliothecarial*

        The pumpkinification of Claudius! I haven’t thought about that since Latin class. It’s technically called the Apocolocyntosis of Claudius and was written by Seneca. That’s how I learned vulgar Latin ;)

    14. VGar*

      Thank you for your thoughtful and important reply to this person! Companies and organizations run on the contributions of the Janes of the world. Bravo Jane!

    15. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen 1400 comments accumulate over a 5-hour time span in the several years that I’ve been following this blog. Really hope OP learned something today!

    16. ITisnotEZ*

      Yeah, one thing I’ve learned, having been on both sides of the conversation at one time or another, is you do not, EVER, f*** with an employees paycheck. That is the fastest way, bar none, to lose an employee.

    17. fixen2vixen*

      Last paragraph sums it up beautifully.

      Somewhere along the way, you picked up a very warped idea of what employees owe their employers, but you don’t seem to have thought much about what employers owe their employees. You urgently need to do some rethinking and recalibration if you’re going to continue managing people.

    18. Danny k*

      This employer doesn’t even deserve employees if they even believe one percent of what they wrote in this article

    19. Ricama*

      I think I can manage to be kind. I learned something from this article, I learned how to dress someone down respectfully and politely. Allison has of course done a wonderful job I just wanted to add a little something.

      LW says he doesn’t think she managed her money well, I will counter with: his company did not manage her money well. I really feel the need to point out that not getting paid on time is a huge red flag to a new employee, there is no way to tell if it’s from an honest mistake that should never happen in the first place or if it’s an indication that the company is in the process of failing and they’ll find themselves with no job or last paycheck 6 months down the road.

    20. Grace*

      That’s extremely unprofessional of management! If anything the person doing payroll should get fired! Also, superiors??? You’re so full of yourself! How about get off your high horse and treat people as equals!

    21. Database Developer Dude*

      I, for one, hope Alison’s -not- going to have a tight rein on the comments, but will completely understand if she does, because if she lets this one go, just because it’s egregious and an immediate candidate for worst boss of the year (decade? century?) then that’ll make it harder for her to have a tight rein on the next one.

      But this…..this letter takes all the cakes….. If the LW gets vitriol, they deserve every single bit of it. As a black man who’s been in the corporate world (federal contracting as software and database engineer) for 20 years, I so feel Jane’s situation.

  2. Emi*

    You guys are super lucky she didn’t file with the Labor Department, which might have resulted in things like treble damages, depending on the state.

    1. zuzu*

      Absolutely! OP, *this* is why HR fell all over itself to cut her a check and give her $500 in emergency funds — they were trying to keep the company from having to pay her 3x the withheld pay!

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Yup. It’s a legal requirement to get paid promptly, and screwing it up TWICE is just asking for trouble. This is one of the few slam-dunk easy complaints to make about an employer to one’s state Department of Labor.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Legal requirement.
          Ethical requirement.
          Religious requirement.
          It’s pretty hard to find any kind of requirement that it isn’t.

        2. Amy*

          It does make me wonder exactly how the payroll employee screwed up because I know at my job if our direct deposit doesn’t go through a check is automatically cut. Since I’m not in payroll I don’t know how automated that process is but it seems to be pretty standard at most places I’ve worke

          1. Bex*

            Interesting, that is not at all automated at the company where I work in payroll. We automatically get a notification if a direct deposit bounces back (generally on the Monday after a Friday check date) but everything after that (or before, if they employee already reported the issue) is done manually, from correcting the account info. to cutting a check if that’s the employee’s preference (often they prefer to wait and be reimbursed on the next week’s check, rather than having to deal with picking up and depositing a check).

          2. Sarah*

            When this same issue happened to me a paycheck was cut. It was just left in a To Be Delivered mailbox in the payroll department which was located in an entirely different city and that no one knew that it was there. Big company incompetence.

          3. lailaaaaah*

            It wasn’t automated at my old employer, but if an employee wasn’t paid we would have manually sent them an emergency deposit as soon as we were notified + marked their next payslip as high priority for payroll checking processes. If we’d fucked up and not paid someone twice, the consequences would have been Bad.

      2. thisgirlhere*

        She also may have incurred late fees or interest that the company absolutely should be paying for

      3. Daniel G*

        Wish I had known about this.

        I worked for a top tier university as a research assistant. They strung me along delaying my pay for over a month.

        It got to the point that I wrote a very tense email to HR and felt called out by the department because they where doing me “ a favor” since I was not a student in their university with an endowment that might rival the GDP of some countries.

        Little did they know but I had absolutely no other source of income (actually they should have known this detail which is why the professor was advocating for me to work on his project). I felt forced to eat food that had gone well past its expiration date and got severely ill. Still worked while with the stomach flu and not getting paid.

        Literally had to make $40 stretch for like 3 weeks this being my first job and my family living 1000 miles away.

        This story hit very close.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          Ooh, I had a similar experience in college. My university was big enough that there was already a grad student with the same first name, middle initial, and last name there when I arrived on campus, so my pay got stuck in the system for a couple weeks. I was low-income and on work-study, and had to follow up with them constantly to get things moving while subsisting on Easy Mac.

        2. Finner*

          I had a similar experience in grad school. I got a research fellowship my second year (yay!) so I was going from being paid as a Teaching Assistant to the fellowship (which paid once per month). Well, the university grant admin screwed up the first fellowship paycheck. When I went to talk with them, she told me I’d just get paid double next month. I asked her how I was supposed to pay my bills and she actually said “What bills do you have?” Um, ALL OF THEM. ALL OF THE BILLS. PLUS FOOD, GAS, ETC. I was so pissed. My advisor lent me money. At the time I felt so embarrassed to borrow money from her, but now I realize I should not have felt bad at all.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yes, Jane was INCREDIBLY gracious in this situation. Much more professional than I think I would have been after not getting paid for that long.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        Yeah, no kidding!

        Two pay periods in my job = a month with no pay. I would absolutely not be able to pay rent after missing a month of pay, and my savings would be utterly depleted meaning that I would be unable to weather any financial hardship or emergencies for months to come even after they started paying me again. I would have been in absolute hysterics and raging, I suspect Jane is both very controlled AND a savvy saver who is careful with budgeting if she handled all this with such grace.

        1. Koalafied*

          Yep, and there’s also that lag when you start a new job where you work for 2 weeks Monday-Friday and then get paid for those 2 weeks on the third Friday, so the first paycheck actually takes 3 weeks.

        2. CCed*

          Worse…LW mentions she’s been there for 2 months!!
          When the financial advisors usually say 3-6 months, the fact that Jane has managed to weather that long (plus however long she was unemployed beforehand) shows she is amazingly fiscally responsible.

          1. Your Local Password Resetter*

            I completely forgot about that!
            At best the company missed like a quarter of all it’s payroll dates. At worst they missed literally every single one. That is astonishingly bad.

      2. PolarVortex*

        Same thoughts I had. I would’ve been kind for the first week after the first missed paycheck. Then I would’ve started raising hell and speaking about the legal responsibilities of the company.

        1. EPlawyer*

          Especially after they said it was fixed and it wasn’t. So not only did they not pay Jane but they lied about the problem.

          Sadly we will never get an update because the LW didn’t hear what they wanted to hear from Alison.

          1. JB*

            I mean, ‘lied’ is a strong term. It sounds like the payroll employee genuinely thought they had fixed it. And when it turned out they hadn’t, head of payroll (I assume? Since LW says this person wasn’t aware of what was happening, they must not have been the same employee that Jane was corresponding with) made things right immediately.

            Honestly, the only person behaving out of turn here is LW, which makes it even more bizarre.

            And you never know – people have been upset by Alison’s reality checks before but have still come back with updates. Like that whole saga with the LW who bullied one of her reports off her team.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I have a few other thoughts about the reading that the head of payroll wasn’t informed about a serious legal infraction that the payroll employee clearly didn’t know how to properly address (a check should have been cut long before this) but that’s a different letter.

            2. Avocado's Number*

              That one sounds like interesting reading. Can you link to it? I remember the one who wouldn’t let the employee have her birthday off, that was a fun one.

              1. Candi*

                There’s also:

                “I’m jealous of my attractive employee, working for free when changing careers, and more”, #1. That OP reacted badly at first, but got better update by update, especially by the second one.

          2. RealPerson01*

            >So not only did they not pay Jane but they lied about the problem.

            I don’t think we have the information to know this. It very well could have been a mistake that lead to more mistakes, and that the employee working on fixing the issue truly thought it was solved, but was incorrect.

            That doesn’t make it acceptable, but I don’t see any reason to think the payroll or HR employee was acting in bad faith through this ordeal, they seemed to be the ones trying to actually solve the issues, especially since they went and got the approval for a cheque to be cut, and using the employee relief fund to help out the new employee after their screwup.

            1. MeleMallory*

              Yes, especially if they use an outside payroll service. We have a dedicated Payroll Specialist at my office, but she sends all the information to an outside payroll service who actually dispense the checks/direct deposits. It’s possible the Payroll employee sent the correct information (or what she thought was the correct information) to the outside service and *they* didn’t fix it.

              If it’s all done in-house, it could have just been a typo, or payroll entered the information but forgot to press save, or it was done after a deadline. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with payroll.

    3. Rayray*

      Definitely. She handled this super well by having a meeting with her manager and payroll. She was firm because it is a very big deal to not get paid for her work on time. She even tried handling it just with payroll but had to escalate it when they dropped the ball.

      She absolutely would have been within her rights to file with the labor board but she went to her company first which actually was incredibly respectful and definitely the right thing to do.

      1. Krabby*

        Not even mentioning that this is her first pay, so she has seen no track record other than them failing to fix the issue (while saying it was fixed), and no way of knowing if late payments are par for the course with this company. Either way, she deserves immediate recourse, but she also had no reason to give her employer the benefit of the doubt.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          Especially the first few, and ESPECIALLY if you’re new to the area.

          No excuse for not getting it right, out of the gate. Absolutely no excuse for not getting it right after the first total screwed up payday, and a SECOND payday?

          This is the time for everyone in the chain to fall on their own swords.

          Did HR/Payroll give her letters of apology to mail or email to ALL of her creditors and her bank, plus one to each of the major credit reporting companies??
          Because this rock in the pond has more ripples than OP can comprehend, and Jane is going to feel the effects for months!

      1. Candi*

        In my state, each missed check (including the independent/contractor assignment) would have been a separate charge and a separate set of fines, if the DOL wasn’t feeling generous. They love clear-cut cases like this.

        Worst place I ever worked, violated OSHA and other laws and regs all over the place, still didn’t cross the DOL.

    4. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      I hope she does. This is straight-up wage theft.

      Also I hope she is on the alert for retaliation from OP. (OP: do not retaliate. That is also illegal.) Good news is, Jane seems to have a good understanding of her rights and responsibilities and boundaries and I hope she continues to!

      And yes, people make mistakes, but this isn’t the company newsletter going out with “the boob club will be reading Thinking Fast and Slow”, this is payroll. If one person can make a mistake that screws up someone’s income for two pay cycles, your system is a problem and needs to be fixed immediately.

      1. M2*

        They should get rid of the person in payroll who keeps making this mistake. Mistakes happen, but if the same person made the same mistake 3X time for a major PiP or let them go!

        1. Fran Fine*

          Yeah, that person clearly doesn’t know what they’re doing. They either need to be retrained or moved to another department because payroll isn’t for them. That’s entirely too important a function for this many mistakes. Then you have to wonder, is this person even processing withholdings correctly? Will the employee be on the hook for taxes not paid or lose out on benefits because the payroll employee doesn’t know what they’re doing? I’d be very concerned if I were the HR rep.

          1. Properlike*

            This happened to me when I started a new job. The HR person did not have attention to detail and misspelled my name putting it in the system — the system that generated all my logins, etc. I reported for a full day of (unpaid) training and couldn’t access any of the systems! Finally figured it out, HR person did not exercise any urgency. Then she used the wrong name when and birthdate when she sent in my information to the state retirement system, and that became a rigamarole. I forgot what the third thing was, but the HR manager was very anti-humans. Finally I had to introduce myself to the VP for HR (gotta love academia) who quickly got it sorted.

            This HR department did a ton of illegal crap that the employee union had to fight, but that’s a whole other story. The HR dept at the LW’s company is *amazing*, but I have the sense that the one person whose mistakes caused this may not have very good judgment if everyone else was completely unaware of it until it reached a critical phase.

          2. Observer*

            I’d be very concerned if I were the HR rep.

            I’d also be concerned that the OP didn’t make sure that their employee’s information was properly entered into the system. That’s part of basic in boarding. Just like making sure your people have their building access, computer / equipment, log ins, etc.

            1. HQB*

              I manage nearly 2 dozen people, on a few different teams. I have nothing to do with any of those things, and my company is set up so that none of it is remotely under my purview. What I can do is escalate issues like this if they are brought to me. We have plenty to fault OP for, there is no need to expand the scope to things they may not have anything to do with. :)

              1. Observer*

                Well, that’s just the thing. The manager may not be the one entering people in the various systems, but it’s part of their job to make sure that it does get done. And it’s almost unheard of for a manager to not at least basically sign off on people’s timesheets / timecards. If that’s not standard practice at the OP’s company, then they have some pretty big governance problems.

                1. StlBlues*

                  I disagree. I’ve managed many people. I have never once had to approve timecards. I have also never once been involved in an employee’s payroll.

                  Would I help if there was a problem? YES! I’d escalate to everyone and make tons of noise to get it fixed. But I have ZERO official role to play in any of the set up.

                  I’m with HQB. There are many many things to blame the OP for, but trying to tack this on without more information is unhelpful.

              2. Candi*

                I find it telling that Jane didn’t loop in OP until that meeting with payroll and HR. I wonder what she was observing or hearing from other people in the department that she didn’t at least give OP a “FYI, this is happening”. From reading AAM, it seems slightly odd -most people here would tell their managers “just so you know, payroll’s screwed up my pay. I’m working with them on it.”

            2. Elsajeni*

              I don’t know, that’s getting into stuff that I wouldn’t expect the manager to be able to check, let alone correct — like, if the issue was a typo in her bank account number or something, not only do I not expect my manager to catch that, I don’t want my manager to know my banking information or have access to where HR/payroll/whoever has entered it in the payroll system. Making sure that stuff is set up, or that you know where to send your employee to get it set up on their first day, sure — but making sure that it’s set up correctly and no one has, like, entered the wrong date of birth or made a spelling error, I think is beyond what you can reasonably expect of the manager.

              1. Observer*

                It doesn’t sound like a simple typo in the direct deposit information or anything like that. Although I suppose it’s possible that the Payroll person was just flat out knowingly lying about fixing the problem. But in that case, it should be clear to the OP that this is totally NOT just a matter of “people make mistakes.”

                Then again, it’s possible that the OP’s dislike of Jane and her really weird attitude about pay is skewing her point of view, so I won’t say that it’s not possible. Either way, something that competent HR should be worried about.

        2. lailaaaaah*

          Exactly this. I’d also be taking a hard look at company payroll processes, because clearly *something* must have gone majorly wrong for this to happen twice in a row.

      2. RosyGlasses*

        And wage theft is now criminal in California under Grand Theft – so huge whammy if they are in Cali.

    5. Snarkus Aurelius*

      That’s precisely why HR is bending over backwards here for Jane.

      Management is clearly aware of the legal consequences here!

    6. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

      Yeah, I am a lawyer, and this was my first thought, too. The company MAJORLY screwed up, and they’re paying a small fee ($500 emergency fund) so that they might try to avoid paying her salary twice over.

    7. Tib*

      Yes, plus it seems payroll didn’t write her a make-up check after the first catch. I’ve done payroll and if we/I made a mistake underpaying someone, we cut a check to fix it that day. It did not and cannot wait until the next pay period. The law says you must be paid within x days of the end of a pay period. Entering a check cut out of the paycheck run can be a pain but it’s significantly less pain than causing the company trouble with both the Labor Department and other employees. I had to squash enough rumors of no pay on pay day as it was.

      1. Lifelong student*

        I was looking to see if anyone had said this. There is no reason an emergency check could not have been cut immediately after the direct deposit failed. Actually, the fact that that did not happen makes me question the professionalism of the whole company!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Just two: the payroll minion, and our LW.
          HR and the head of payroll are doing fine.

          1. Observer*

            I wonder, though. Because the incompetence of the payroll person is pretty bad. So I wonder about training, supervision and processes here.

        2. rl09*

          “There is no reason an emergency check could not have been cut immediately after the direct deposit failed.”

          There’s no *good* reason. But the actual reason is most likely that cutting an emergency check like that usually requires the signatures of upper management (at one company I worked at, the check had to be signed by the CFO), so whoever made the mistake would have had to (1) own up to it immediately, and (2) escalate their own mistake to the C-level at their company. (Which, of course, would have been the right thing to do.)

          I feel like the fact that the manager of payroll didn’t know about it until now is very telling. Someone on that team made a mistake, and instead of alerting their boss they tried to correct it quietly on their own, hoping no one else would find out.

          1. Candi*

            Since payroll manager knows about it now, I suspect someone’s on a PIP. If they didn’t just get booted for the whole not handling important legal stuff properly, and not escalating when the first mistake happened.

            (It’s payroll. I expect management to be looped in at the first foul-up, as a CYA move if nothing else.)

            1. Lexi Lynn*

              I wonder if the OP is on a PIP. I would expect the head of payroll or HR to mention that one of their managers was considering retaliation. I’d be terrified that the OP would try to influence their direct reports to not complain about errors and put the company in more legal jeopardy.

              1. Candi*

                I think it’s payroll audit time in OP’s department. I think it’s reasonable to wonder how many of OP’s reports have problems they’ve been discouraged from reporting because it’s “questioning management”.

      2. Aitch Arr*

        I used to run payroll and what Tib says is spot on.

        When I messed up the couple of times I did (e.g., paying commission as the whole payment for the pay period instead of in addition to the base salary; ah, ADP when we sent the file via modem!), as soon as I figured it out, I was at my VP’s door with a check request form to cut the employee a live check that day to either be handed to them or sent via FedEx.

        I also emailed and called the employee and apologized; letting them know a live check was on its way and if they incurred any overdraft fees to expense them.

    8. David*

      Plus, depending on the state, she might have been able to come after the payroll agent personally for damages + fees. (Or go with the defense of “careless & inadvertent non-payment”, which this might well be, but opens up an another can of risk)

      1. Governmint Condition*

        In my state, you have actually have to sue your immediate supervisor. They are primarily responsible to make sure you are paid. Even if the payroll department screwed up. Even if the courier with the paychecks got stuck in a blizzard. Or, in my case, even if the government shuts down and your employees still have to work because they are essential, but they can’t cut the checks until the shutdown ends.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            “I don’t know what young people are coming to these days! In my era, we were expected to accept wage theft from our companies whenever they felt like it, and would never THINK of suing our superiors!!”

            Which I mean, is probably true, at least if LW is old enough. But there are reasons we have better workers’ protection laws now.

            1. Carol the truly pissed off elf*

              We were so grateful to have a job that we dug our own coal out of the mountain for heating!
              We brought our own goose to pluck quills to write with, and we made our own paper.
              So Jane should kiss our- feet- in gratitude.

              1. Candi*

                “We were so grateful to have a job that we dug our own coal out of the mountain for heating!”

                Which the company then charged the workers chunks of company scrip for. Reminds me of the song:

                Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
                I owe my soul to the company store.

                1. Governmint Condition*

                  This reminds me of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch, in which four men each tried to top the others’ hardship stories with their own. It culminates with one man saying they actually had to pay the mill owner for permission to work there, and work for 29 hours a day!
                  (It’s better if you just search for the video online.)

                2. Candi*

                  It seems to be the level of deference they expect. Even Titus Salt, who treated his workers halfway decently, did it to incur loyalty and have the pick of the best workers.

        1. Observer*

          In my state, you have actually have to sue your immediate supervisor.

          Maybe for things that are only a problem on a state level. But Federal law does not require you to sue your supervisor. The ultimate responsibility is on the employer and that’s who you / the Feds go after.

    9. Bilateralrope*

      Yeah. She cut the company a lot of slack here. I’ve done the same when my employer messed up my pay because they have always corrected it reasonably quickly after I informed them of the error.

      Had she heard any of the attitude in this letter, I’d expect that slack to vanish.

    10. BaalLikeBocce*

      At an old job, I switched from contract to full time and in the transition I stopped earning annual leave. I alerted Payroll and they fixed it for the fourth pay period but I was missing the 18 hours from those initial three pay periods. Not quite as serious as not getting paid, but I still wanted my hours! (both to take and to get paid out when I left) After *a year* of both me and my department admin emailing HR and Payroll asking them to do a leave audit and give me my missing leave, I mentioned the problem offhand to a coworker who turned out to be the VP of the Union. One email from her and the problem was not only resolved within the next pay period, but they discovered that they’d been calculating my accrual rate incorrectly and I was actually owed *81* hours of leave. Not DoL, but even just the perception of Union interest in the issue was effective. OP’s Payroll department sounds amazing and definitely something that should be commended and appreciated.

  3. H.H.*

    Wow… good for Jane for sticking up for herself!! I can’t even imagine the stress I would be under if I missed multiple paychecks without any info about when they’d come in.

    1. Office Lobster DJ*

      Agreed. Good for Jane!

      As for the rest, it’s so out of touch that it’s a good thing I’m wearing a mask, or flies could have flown in my open mouth.

      1. kittymommy*

        I will say the one thing the LW said that I agree with is yes, Jane would be better off in another department. The utter lack of understanding or empathy from her current manager is mind-boggling.

        1. Frally*

          Good point! Jane should move to another department with a different manager- I would not want to work for a manager who had these views. And good for Jane for sticking up for herself! OP, you are utterly, completely in the wrong. Please don’t treat Jane badly because of this.

        2. JB*

          I’d argue that Jane is fine where she is, but both she and the company would do better with a more competent manager leading this department.

          I mean, if this is how LW reacts to something as serious as a payroll mistake, what does their day-to-day management style look like?

        3. Captain America*

          Imagine not being completely mortified that your new employee has not received pay after a month or so of starting, and taking it further by suggesting the employee is being rude by wanting to receive her pay. Yikes. Like her “superiors” are actually superior to her in real life.

    2. JustaTech*

      Seriously. This happened to another student worker in my lab one summer and he was too embarrassed to say anything until he ran out of food. Our professor was horrified and spent the rest of the day hunting down the finance people and buying the poor kid some groceries.

      If I was risking being behind on rent or utilities there’s no way I would have been as composed and professional as Jane. Good on her!

        1. Blackcat*

          Unfortunately, it is *really* common for this to happen to graduate students.
          Really, really common.
          It puts many in financial hardships.
          I think it’s the decentralized nature of payroll at large universities where many graduate student roles have different structures of pay (untaxed fellowship, stipend, normal W2 payroll, etc). But my department always warns graduate students that they may not get paid the first pay-cycle when their role changes and to please, please, notify the department administrator ASAP if that happens. The department does what it can, but the payroll folks don’t always keep up.

          1. KHB*

            Oh, I know. When I was in grad school, there were plenty of payroll snafus where our paychecks would get lost or delayed. Fortunately, they were always transparent about what was happening and worked quickly to make it right, and my adviser told us that she would gladly give us an interest-free loan out of her own pocket if we ever needed one. I was lucky.

            1. AnonEmu*

              Lucky! Us TAs once all had to wait more than 2 weeks for our (monthly) paycheck and when we marched en masse to the door of the person who could fix it, we got a lecture about “fiscal responsibility” and “we should all be more frugal, and have roommates to save money”, etc. Which we were already doing! (Except me, but I have a health issue that at the time made finding roommates tricky and I’d just gotten out of a situation where a bad roommate had been making my health issues worse). And this was in Bay Area CA, and it was widely known you had to live in town to get campus jobs bc people who lived even one town over got lower priority bc “what if you’re late bc traffic”, and that meant paying the insane rents bc NIMBYs concerned about traffic also voted down new apartment buildings (but were fine with more McMansions). I remember being SO MORTIFIED I had to call my landlady and explain the situation and ask if I could get an extension just that once, which she agreed to, but it was an absolutely mortifying experience.

          2. kt*

            One reason I left my university is that they kept dropping *health care* for grad students and postdocs. It made me afraid that there was another layer of financial mismanagement approaching the criminal, frankly.

      1. KRM*

        Every year my grad student department would fail to remember that I was a part of their department even though I worked for a PI in a different department. So I would not get my once a month paycheck in May. Luckily I 1-had a very close friend in the administration who ALWAYS caught the error and made them cut me a check a week late and 2-had a mom who could help cover my rent for a week (because let’s be honest, as a grad student, I didn’t have extra $$ for that). And it prevented me from having to deal with notoriously stupid bursar’s office (fellow grad student didn’t get a check, got the 80% advance from the bursar, got no check, and then they tried to take the 80% advance out of the NEXT check. Lather, rinse, repeat for 3 months). It was awful and you better believe that I would not have been as composed as Jane had I needed to fight for this myself instead of having my admin friend catch it, get it fixed ASAP, and then give me the heads up at least 3 days in advance.

      2. Worldwalker*

        I need more caffeine. My mind presented me with the image of the professor hunting down the finance people *for* groceries. Hot roast accountant!

      3. Kella*

        I just wonder how long Jane’s boss expected her to just… go along with not being paid? How much free work would have been the “respectful” amount to offer as leeway for their mistake(s)?

      4. JustaTech*

        To clarify, this student was an undergrad, so his “rent” (dorm costs) were covered, and I assume he was still on his parent’s health insurance (an assumption but not unreasonable).

    3. Sharkie*

      My old company once missed payroll (small company, it was the first paycheck of the year so there was the weirdness of having time off for the holidays and the payroll person was out sick) causing me to miss a rent payment. Not only did HR cut me a check, they contacted my landlord directly ( with my permission) so that the company was charged for all the late fees.

      I haven’t seen a manager so illogical since the Leap Day letter.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Not only did HR cut me a check, they contacted my landlord directly ( with my permission) so that the company was charged for all the late fees.

        This is awesome and exactly what companies need to do when they make a mistake of this magnitude.

          1. Koalafied*

            Posting links will hide the comment until Alison gets a chance to review and approve, so I’ll post in the next comment for future readers’ ease but if you search “is it rude to shush someone” it’ll be letter #3 in that post. Essentially the company had an employee perk where you got your birthday off as a bonus PTO day and the manager was using Pirates of Penzance rules.

            So many parts of it were enraging. First there was the fact that when other employees’ birthdays fell on weekends, they got to take the following Monday in lieu – so the LW weren’t even being rigid about it having to be the exact date of your birthday, she just was willing to die on the hill that people born on Leap Day don’t have birthdays and that this somehow mattered when it came to benefits entitlement.

            Then came the update some time later where the LW doubled-down and reasserted their belief that their interpretation was correct and Alison and the entire comments section were simply wrong.

      2. A Poster Has No Name*

        My company had some kind of payroll issue once, many years ago and we didn’t get paid (big company, not sure if it was everyone or just certain departments, but it wasn’t just me). They cut us checks by Monday and paid any overdrafts or fees anyone had incurred for the paychecks not arriving on time.

      3. Fabulous*

        OMG I forgot about the Leap Day letter! I still can’t believe that manager dug in their heals in their update either – so bizarre!

      4. RJ*

        “I haven’t seen a manager so illogical since the Leap Day letter.”

        This was my exact thought, along with “I wonder if OP will write an update and double down”.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        Oh my gosh, that was really good of them.

        OldExJob had a couple of payroll snafus one time. I think they changed companies, and there were some glitches, but they cut checks for those pay periods. Bosswife liked to pass out pay stubs herself and she wrote “LIVE CHECK” on the outside of the envelopes, too.

        It was inconvenient to have to go to the bank—there wasn’t time to go at lunch so I couldn’t do it until after my skating lesson on Saturday, and that was cutting it close since the bank closed at noon. At least we didn’t have to deal with not getting paid at all!

      6. jy3*


        When you make a mistake that harms someone, you apologize and fix it. When someone makes a mistake that harms you, you tell them, and then if they ignore you, you find someone who can make them fix it. Literal kindergarteners are expected to have a better grasp of how this should have been handled than LW does.

    4. MissGirl*

      This isn’t even all about not being able to pay immediate bills. I have a six-month emergency fund so if I lost a paycheck I’d survive fine but I would still be adamant about being paid on time. I would also be very, very concerned if I asked for it to be fixed, told it was, and still wasn’t paid. I would wonder about my job security and if I should start job hunting immediately.

      The big reason I work and everyone else works is for a paycheck. Take that away and we’re not happy. I’m very glad HR and the company handled this appropriately and hope the OP learns from this.

    5. Antennapedia*

      Based on time worked and the math, it sounds like Jane had not been paid by the organization IN THE ENTIRE TIME SHE HAD WORKED THERE. Which… that’s huge. I’d also be polite but firm in explaining that I would not be working for free.

    6. Linds Gee*

      I had this happen to me and my colleague CONSISTENTLY in the first 2 years we were at our job. I got better at handling it and advocating for myself, but I wish I’d had the confidence of this employee. She sounds like a badass who knows her worth. Our HR made similar comments to OP, more or less “Oh it’s only $300, it’s not that much so we’ll just add it to your next paycheck” . Like no, $300 is not an insignificant amount of money and nobody gets to decide that for you. I insisted I be cut a check that afternoon and they eventually did.

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        “Our HR made similar comments to OP, more or less ‘Oh it’s only $300, it’s not that much so we’ll just add it to your next paycheck.'”

        My reply to that would be “Okay, HR, if $300 isn’t that much, then you give me my $300 right now, and when I get my next check I’ll give it back.”

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        “Oh it’s only $300, it’s not that much…”


        In the US, there was a 2021 study that suggested something like 40% of people can’t afford an unexpected $1,000 bill. $300 is a lot of money for many of us, especially when we budgeted for it.


    7. lcsa99*

      Absolutely. I’ve been where Jane was. My first job after moving across the country to the big city, I basically had to beg for my check every pay period. If I wanted it ON pay day and not the day (or week later, if it landed on a Friday) I had to stay after work off the clock to wait for the big boss to get around to signing the checks. I had no clue how bad or illegal any of that was then.

      This woman is in an entry level position and was able to speak up for herself confidently and with a cool head. LW has no idea how professional and competent her employee really is.

  4. Girl Alex PR*

    I am flabbergasted that anyone could think this way. I am much further along in my career and make good money, but two months without a paycheck would still put me in a tight spot. OP, you need a lesson in leadership… and empathy.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’d actually in all seriousness recommend that OP sit down and seriously think how they’d cope if they had a situation of not being paid for longer than their savings/borrowing can hold out.

        Because it’s a situation that can happen to anyone. Try to think how you’d cope with no money in the bank, bills due, rent/mortgage falling behind and no hope of acquiring the money. It’s not pleasant, I’ve been there and there are no magic bootstraps to pull yourself up with.

        1. KHB*

          It’s not, necessarily, a situation that can happen to anyone. Some people really do have enough resources they can draw on (either in their own bank accounts, or from helpful family members, etc.) that they’re pretty much immune from almost anything life can throw at them (at least financially speaking). The way OP talks about Jane’s supposed “irresponsibility” makes me think that she might be one such person.

          And if she is, your exercise, unfortunately, might backfire, because it would just reinforce her thinking that she’s one of the good, responsible ones, whereas everyone else’s problems are all their own faults.

          1. Candi*

            Totally, 100% spitballing here -but I’ve heard “should budget better” talk like OP’s from people who believe in prosperity gospel, about people for whom the concept of a budget involves hoping you have more than a dollar in change left the day before payday.

            I have a whole rant on stupid the concept is and how it misapplies cause and effect, but now’s neither the time or place.

          2. Worldwalker*

            A spouse with a good job is a common one. But even that can come to a sudden and unexpected end when the spouse becomes ill, loses the job, divorces them, etc.

          1. Your Local Password Resetter*

            While their boss lectures them on how incompetent they are and refuses to help.

    1. Presea*

      The common fiscal wisdom that I’ve seen is to have 3-6 months of emergency savings, depending on factors like what your personal expenses actually are, how quickly you think you could get another job if you lost your current one, and if you have any dependents. So even if Jane is at the right intersection of fiscal responsibility and privilege to have a 3 month emergency savings (neither of which are her employers business) – two months without a paycheck is still a massive hardship that completely justifies her needing to jump ship if it continues for a third month!

      1. Presea*

        Oh, and also – I have a 3 month emergency savings myself. If I lost my income, I would definitely be letting whatever bills I could go as long as I could to try to make it stretch as long as possible. Because prioritizing how you use a limited amount of money /is/ a form of financial responsibility in the right circumstances.

        (And none of this is to say that Jane is obligated to be a certain amount of financially responsible! She’s not. I’m just trying to illustrate that nothing in this letter suggests even a little that she /isn’t/ a reasonably financially responsible person)

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Thing is Jane didn’t lose her income. She was working for pay and thus should not be obligated to tap her savings. That is for emergencies, not for covering employer incompetence.

          1. Presea*

            I consider not being paid for any reason a form of losing income for the purposes of having an emergency fund, which is also why I said ‘lost income’ instead of ‘lost job’. I absolutely agree with your overall point that she shouldn’t be obligated to tap her savings, but the company still put her in the exact same financial situation she would have been if she was fired or laid off – a worse one, actually, specifically *because* she had the reasonable expectation to be paid – and tapping into her emergency savings/whatever emergency net she has is exactly what she had to do.

          2. AnonInCanada*

            Bingo! Why is the company’s ineptness in getting Jane her legally required pay into her hands on time her problem? And this OP is an ass for even vaguely suggesting Jane should be on top of her finances. Like I said in another thread: what high horse did this ass step off before writing Alison?

        2. Just Another Zebra*

          Before the pandemic, our household income was $100k (ish). Then my husband lost his job (catering manager at a hotel), and my hours got cut. We had very healthy savings. We were OK. Then our roof had to be replaced. Again, we had healthy savings and family who was able to assist us. We were OK… but much less so. Then our cars needed servicing. Another “thing”, and we would have decidedly NOT been OK. My husband eventually got a new job nine months later. If his new employer didn’t pay him for two months, it would have been a disaster. OP’s assessment that Jane is “fiscally irresponsible” stinks of privilege. I do hope OP reads these comments and takes what is being said to heart.

          1. LizM*

            Exactly. When I started my first job out of college, I had to pay to move myself cross-country. Some of it came from savings from my part time job I had during school, some came from wedding gifts (we got married 2 weeks before we moved), some came from a loan from my parents, and some got put on a credit card.

            My car got hit in the parking lot of my new apartment 1 day before my first paycheck, and the person who hit me didn’t leave a note. It did enough damage that I couldn’t safely drive it. Had my paycheck not come through, and had I not lived somewhere where public transportation was an (albeit non-ideal) option, I’m not sure what I would have done at that point.

          2. Kella*

            I have heard of similarly wealthy people losing their job due to health issues and they spend ALL their savings within a few years because of medical bills. It really can happen to anyone.

            1. BelleMorte*

              For sure, I had a friend who had a great job in the mid-six figures, ample retirement and emergency fund savings, a house etc. Her husband announced at the start of month 1 he fell in love with someone else and is filing for divorce and expected alimony from her as she was the breadwinner and he was the stay at home dad, Month 2 she was laid off from her job due to the company being sold and everything downsized, two weeks later while doing a routine check with whatever was left of her health care before it was cut, she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.

              By the end of the year, she had no job (no one is going to hire someone actively fighting cancer), her retirement savings were halved with her ex, her house was sold and halved, she needed to pay child support as it was based on her pre-firing income due to the filing date (she later contested and changed it), she was dealing with legal fees, and she had literal millions in medical bills that she couldn’t get health coverage for as all the companies argued it was pre-existing. She went from a net worth of several million dollars to -several million dollars in the span of a year. It was insane.

              1. Candi*

                That he “expected alimony” when he’s running off with someone else rubs me really, really the wrong way. The point of alimony was to support someone when they needed it -often due to patriarchal rules restricting when and how (respectable) women could get jobs and whether they should still be the primary child raiser. (Almost always yes.)

                That he’s demanding alimony while intending to be with someone else, possibly moving in with them? It’s grating. Plus I don’t see anything in that text that makes him less employable than a woman who’s taken an equal length of time out to raise kids -with embedded societal biases, it’ll probably be easier for him to return to the work world.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It’s also perfectly reasonable to use up your buffer when you’re job hunting. If Jane had been working for LW for a year, say, then you’d know she had income right up until the mistake. But we have no idea how long Jane had been waiting for that paycheck.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Or even moving, if that might have been something she had to do for this job. My SO and I pretty well drained the cushion I had made while working as a temp while he had been finishing school and looking for a job full time when we had to move across the country. Right up until his first (very nice) paycheck cleared, I was biting my nails watching our savings account.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Agreed. My experience of being jobless from 2018-2020 (lots of medical stuff went seriously wrong and pandemic made it worse) meant that I now have no safety net. At all.

          Any spare money left over from my current salary is going to paying back to debts I incurred during that time (and my credit rating is in the toilet)

          1. TiffIf*

            I know that position all too well. For a number of years I was trying to work and go to school and pay my medical bills (this was pre-ACA and so I couldn’t get health insurance for my pre-existing conditions); I racked up a ton of credit card debt. I moved a few years ago and was throwing out old paperwork and came across a bunch of overdue billing notices (the bills had long sense been paid I just found the old paperwork) and just seeing them, even knowing I am in a much healthier position financially, it just brought back all the old anxiety.

            Objectively, I have now built up a good safety net–but always in the back of my mind is that looming horrible anxiety.

            I hope your situation continues to improve. I know its so hard sometimes.

      3. Sandi*

        That was my first thought too. How is Jane supposed to have at least 3 months (her first paycheck would be after 3 months, assuming they don’t mess it up again) when entry level positions are targeted to people who have just started to work and haven’t had an income to save? I have been lucky and could easily go a few months without pay if I were laid off, but I was living on the edge at first!

        1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

          “entry level positions are targeted to people who have just started to work”

          One would find that hard to believe given the minimum qualifications required for some entry level jobs.

          (Sorry for the sidetrack.)

          1. Candi*

            I blame part of that on employers getting spoiled for choice during the Recession, and then they never dropped the habit.

            Covid’s kicked the pendulum in the other direction with a vengeance.

      4. Oxford Comma*

        I have a 6 month emergency fund, but 2 months without pay would put me at hardship too.

        Plus the little fact that Jane worked for TWO MONTHS without being compensated.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            It looks like it’s monthly pay periods because the Jane has been working there 2 months and hasn’t been paid.

            1. bookworm*

              Monthly pay periods are already stressful from an employee budgeting standpoint at a new job, and not getting paid for two months is absolutely atrocious (any amount of missed pay is, but TWO MONTHS!?!). Even making a comfortable salary and some savings it stressed me out to see my bank account dwindle over the month, knowing rent was due before my next paycheck would get deposited.

              1. LC*

                Seriously. This is a perfect example of how awful monthly pay schedules can be. Even if everything goes as planned, it just doesn’t sit well with me that people are expected to work a full month before they’re paid. And like you said, it is a nightmare for employees to budget. I don’t even like biweekly or twice monthly, but even that is way better than monthly.

        1. LC*

          Omg it took me until literally right now to realize that they didn’t just miss paying Jane for the contract/assignment time, but her entire. damn. paycheck. I was 10000% on Jane’s side already, even when I thought it was maybe “just” a couple hundred dollars. But her entire paycheck. Twice. No pay at all for over two months. I just….

          OP is absolutely right that someone in this situation is disrespectful and overconfident and out of line, with an approach that’s completely uncalled for. I am also speechless at how this person handled this. I would also be uncomfortable having this person on my team. I just think that OP is the only confused about who this person is though. (Hint, it’s not Jane.)

          On another note – Go Jane! Holy cow, I am so impressed at how she handled this. Gracious but firm, direct and honest. Advocating for herself to get what is morally and legally owed to her. Going to Payroll directly at first, then escalating appropriately.

          I think if I were in that situation, even if I took the same steps, which I hope I would, I probably would have been a lot more sheepish and apologetic (“I’m sorry for the trouble, I don’t mean to bother, but I didn’t get paid again, it’s totally fine! But can I get paid soon? No worries if it takes more time!” etc etc etc), which I am not proud of.

          I’m actually thrilled OP wrote in and shared this story of how incredibly Jane dealt with this shitty situation. This is genuinely an inspiring story to me. That sound you hear, Jane? That’s just me over here loudly applauding you.

          1. Presea*

            I’m sure you know this LC, but for the sake of OP’s perspective and the perspective of anyone who might agree with OP – there is no “just” about a couple hundred dollars to the majority of US workers.

      5. Darsynia*

        While this is true, the pandemic has at this point likely wiped out most people’s savings in that regard. Particularly people who have needed to seek new jobs, like Jane.

      6. Magenta Sky*

        Even if Jane has enough money in the bank to retire on, screwing up a paycheck is illegal, and a *big* deal. Blowing it off as “not being respectful” is a bigger deal.

        1. Willis*

          This! It doesn’t matter if Jane’s a millionaire or not, the company has to pay her and she has every reason to advocate strongly for herself when they don’t. She’s not running a charity where the OP’s company gets to mooch off her savings. It would be fiscally irresponsible NOT to advocate for herself, her paycheck, and whatever other funding may be available to right to the wrong of 3 pay errors (which likely is more than $500 if she made a legal claim rather than accepting some gift card).

      7. Xena*

        I would be furious if I had to dip into my emergency savings, not because of an actual emergency, but of paperwork errors. Twice.

        I hope Jane does decide to file a complaint with Labor.

      8. learnedthehardway*

        And – if Jane is a junior employee, had an income issue at all in the past year or two (which a lot of people have had with COVID), etc. etc. – she may very well not have had an opportunity to put together that 3-6 months of savings!

        And in any case, that 3-6 mo of savings is supposed to be an emergency fund – NOT a “my employer has screwed up my payroll” fund.

      9. NotThatLucinda*

        It’s definitely common wisdom to have three months of savings, but as others have pointed out, it’s really no business of her employer whether Jane does or not.

        And I should say, it’s extremely common not to have three months of living expenses saved, especially among those in entry level jobs. Even for people from financially secure backgrounds, it’s really common not to have that buffer. I’m in my first job out of grad school – and I skipped a rung, it’s not entry level, it pays well, and I’m relatively frugal, but I don’t have those savings.

        1. Midwestern Scientist*

          And even if you do, there may be a fee/loss of interest for pulling money out of those savings. My grandparents bought me savings bonds for Christmas/birthday as a kid which now account for most of my savings (I keep about one month in the bank but the rest as those bonds). I would lose out on quite a bit of future money if I had to cash those to cover for someone else’s mistake

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Agreed. At those wages, it’s very very hard to save anything, or even if you manage to put something in your bucket each paycheck, it takes AGES to build up that kind of cushion. One thing breaks, and it’s gone–*POOF*–and you have to start all over again.

          I can’t even with how many times I’ve had to start over.

      10. Worldwalker*

        Plus we don’t know how long it’s been *before* this job. Jane might have burned through that 3-6 months of emergency savings when her former company closed down due to the pandemic. It’s not impossible that she had a year’s worth saved and has had a year out of work.

      11. Darren*

        I have probably two years worth of expenses saved up, so I probably wouldn’t call it a hardship but I’d still be quite peeved that I’ve worked for two months and haven’t been paid. I’d be wondering if the company was intended on ever paying me, and like Jane on insisting that it be made right “today” or I wouldn’t be working again until it was (and in that case would be notifying the appropriate regulator to make sure I got paid plus that appropriate fines and penalties were levied).

        The buffer isn’t there to absorb a company not paying me what it’s owed, it’s there to deal with things like sudden unemployment (like having to look for a job that will actually pay me).

        I would have been tempted (but don’t know if I would have done it) to ask that the head of payroll that person that screwed up my pay twice get an appropriate talking to on the seriousness of getting these things right rather than merely thinking they are fixed. Which sounds like further than Jane actually went.

    2. MistOrMister*

      This was so weird to me. Why does OP think Jane is fiscally irresponsible…for not being able to pay her bills when she didn’t get paid?? Granted, even if Jane WAS fiscally irresponsible, she still would have every right to insist on being paid on time every single time. But what rock is OP living under to not realize that so, so many people don’t have enough cushion to be able to not get paid month after month and still pay their bills? My goodness!

      I have to wonder if OP just doesn’t actually really like Jane and this is coloring their perception. Regardless, if I was Jane I would hope OP would put me up for a transfer because no way would I want to work under someone who showed so little empathy over this sort of problem and blamed me for speaking up about it. Makes me wonder what kind of manager OP is over all….I would kind of assume not a very good one if you dont kowtow to them constantly. Wow.

      1. Pants*

        That part – the condescension regarding bill priorities – flat out offended me. I do not offend easily or often. I just….

        I’m trying to temper what I’d really like to say to and about OP but it’s really, really difficult.

        1. AnonInCanada*

          I could think of a lot of things to say to and about the OP.

          But I’d sound like Sam Kinison, Lenny Bruce and George Carlin (RIP to all three) all on stage at once doing a stand-up act that involves reciting their version of The Aristocrats.

      2. Mirily*

        Because OP is quite a bit older than Jane and has several decades of income to pad out her net worth so can’t identify with anything else.

        I’ve run into this a few times: bosses who are just unaware of how little entry-level (or mid-level even) actually is nowadays. At one point I had to literally tell a manager (while she was essentially saying we should all just be thankful to be getting such nice paychecks) that my salary didn’t cover all my bills. She was stunned — particularly because I was known for being FRUGAL. She used to wonder why my nails weren’t always done or my hair perfect. But if your entry into the workforce was during the 70s or 80s (or 90s), you didn’t have any student loan debt, you married early and had dual incomes coming in for the bulk of your life … I think it’s just hard for them to readjust to the world as is now. Which is … maybe why it’s time to not be managing people …

        1. Observer*

          Because OP is quite a bit older than Jane and has several decades of income to pad out her net worth so can’t identify with anything else.

          That’s pretty ageist. You don’t know how old either Jane or the OP are. There are also plenty of older people who ARE living paycheck to paycheck, or who don’t have tons of savings. And lots of people who don’t live paycheck to paycheck who totally understand how not getting paid for two months, especially going into a new job could create a major hardship.

          Which is a long way of saying that this has nothing to do with the OP’s age. It does have to to with that kind of person they are…

          1. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

            I agree that it has more to do with the kind of person LW is than with LW’s age, but in Mirily’s defense, the LW closes the letter with a complaint about the “respect gap” with “younger staff” (ie, Jane). It’s clear that the LW is from an older age group. Mirily isn’t saying that older people don’t also struggle to pay bills, they’re just saying — based on the info given by the LW — that the LW has more work experience and are obviously detached from what it’s like to be a young entry-level employee.

            1. MarsJenkar*

              Not just Jane, potentially. The comment was delivered shortly after the line about the HR rep telling OP that Jane’s reaction was appropriate for the situation. This suggests that the OP may be older than even the HR rep, who has presumably been a part of the company for significantly longer than Jane.

          2. Em*

            Actually, LW basically says “kids these days are disrespectful”, indicating that they are likely at least 15 years older than Jane. So, while we don’t know exactly how old either of them are, we do know that there is a significant enough age difference that LW sees Jane’s actions as “young people have no respect for their elders”

            1. Observer*

              True. But that still doesn’t explain her attitude. There are plenty of people who are older and are not jerks, and plenty of younger people who have similar ridiculous attitudes about “respect” and deference to authority.

        2. Ms Afleet Alex*

          I had to explain to a well-off small business owner that I couldn’t continue in his industry because it paid too little and I needed to save for retirement. He said I was too young to worry about retirement. I was in my late 20s/early 30s at the time.

          1. MarsJenkar*

            My response to that would have been, “If I can’t start saving for retirement now, I’ll never be able *to* retire!”

        3. Blackcat*

          As a second year graduate student, I and a bunch of my labmates all went to a long conference that was $$$$. University policy was that we had to front the money for travel and then get reimbursed. Everyone was able to put airfare on their credit cards (which was lucky), but a bunch of people couldn’t pay for the hotel on top of that. And the university generally took 6-10 weeks to cut reimbursement checks, that you could *only* file for *after* the travel.

          Having had a professional job prior to grad school, I had both the credit limit and the ability to immediately pay for the hotel rooms for the lab group (3 rooms for 6 people for 7 nights adds up!). I got approval from the department admin that I could get reimbursed for rooms for other people. My advisor was SHOCKED while I filed for this FOUR THOUSAND DOLLAR reimbursement. I explained I had paid for a bunch of people because I was the only one who could afford it. He genuinely had no idea of the financial hardship of fronting those sorts of costs for young graduate students. He was just really clueless that asking us all to stay in the conference hotel meant that if I hadn’t paid, my labmates would have been choosing between going to the conference and eating or their rent.

          After that, he started paying for student travel on his credit card and getting reimbursed.

          1. fueled by coffee*

            The whole practice of making grad students operate on a reimbursement system for conference travel (and for us, research participant payments) is absurd.

            1. Candi*

              There’s discussions on this site on the practice of paying to do stuff for work and then work reimburses the person. Alison’s nicest comment on it calls it an interest-free loan to your work, and she’s very clear that unless the worker takes the option to be reimbursed, the company should be the one fronting all costs. (Some people like fronting costs due to goodies they get for using their credit cards.)

              A university forcing an interest-free loan on grad students is even more heinous in my eyes. If they want their degrees, they have a choice of going along with it and playing havoc with their finances., or losing out on the networking and career-boosting opportunities. Scylla and Charybdis decisions have no place in education or the work world.

          2. Rock Prof*

            I’ve taken undergraduates to conferences before, and I was given so much hassle that I paid for their rooms on my university card instead of them paying for it themselves and getting reimbursed. I think in one instance, things got bounced back to me so many times, i just ended up paying out of pocket.

        4. Janet*

          Not quite. I graduated with student loan debt in 1982, so did plenty of others. However, we had a subsidized interest rate and 10 years to pay it off. A few years later, that subsidized rate went away, so college students were paying a much higher rate.
          And the salaries now haven’t gone up as fast as the cost of living.

          I am continually amazed at other people my age who are totally clueless about the reality facing our new employees.

          1. Gumby*

            I’m not saying it’s not harder now than it was then, but anyone looking at college costs should still try for a subsidized loan! Subsidized student loans still exist, but you have to qualify to receive them, based on financial need, and the amounts that you can borrow are limited. (I wasn’t aware of subsidized interest rates on private loans, as opposed to the federal loans, when I was in school so maybe I missed out on that.)

            Also, check a school’s financial aid policies. Several schools have amazingly generous financial aid. My alma mater changed their policies about 5 years after I graduated such that, had I still been a student, I would have attended entirely tuition-free.

            1. Kate 2*

              I have a subsidized loan. I have a roommate and the loan payment is almost as much as my rent! Subsidized loans don’t really help much. It’s better than a private loan, but not that much better!

      3. KateM*

        And how was Jane supposed to know that she will not be paid? If you plan your finances you do take into account your paychecks, won’t you?

        1. Observer*

          Not according to the OP – According to the OP, junior employees don’t get to expect that they will get paud on time because they are “not in charge”.

        2. LRL*

          “I’m also uncomfortable because why is our company responsible for her fiscal irresponsibility? … I just don’t think it’s the company’s responsibility… to fix things for her if she overspent or didn’t prioritize her bills or save smartly.”

          In what universe is it fiscally irresponsible to assume you’ll be paid when planning out your spending?

            1. Worldwalker*


              Budgeting around your paycheck: fiscally responsible.
              Not paying said paycheck: fiscally irresponsible.

      4. Czhorat*

        If Jane didn’t need the income to pay her bills she probably wouldn’t be working there.

        There are few jobs that one does simply for the love of it; almost none of those involve working for a company with a payroll department. Jane is there for the check. So is OP. That’s what work is FOR

      5. Stop whining*

        There’s no “if,” Not a good manager if you don’t kowtow to them” = not a good manager period.

    3. KHB*

      And even if you DID have enough emergency savings to weather two months without a paycheck, that doesn’t in any way lessen your employer’s obligation to pay you in full and on time.

    4. hmmmmmmmmm*

      Yeah, especially since they sound like…the first paychecks, based on the mention of paying for interview work. The transition to a new job is always financially precarious, and going 2 full months without a paycheck would make anyone question why they hell they’re coming in to work if they’re not getting paid. In the context of a new job, Jane is right to bring up her expectation that she be paid on time in the future. This issue is her only experience re: the job and getting paid, so she probably has understandable concerns about the company’s stability and consistency, if they can work her for 2 full months without paying her, period, and her boss doesn’t see it as a serious issue.

    5. Pants*

      Remember the woman who owned the Red Flag Factory a while back? This reminds me of that letter.

      I feel like Jane should get a copy of this letter so that she can request a department transfer herself. Obviously, it would be better for Jane.

      This is just… whoa.

          1. Observer*

            I remember that one! Yes, red flags galore! At least the OP figured it out after everything blew up on her.

      1. MelonHelen*

        I didn’t know we were hereafter referring it to the Red Flag Factory, but I do know which letter you’re talking about. Very fitting.

        1. Gracely*

          I didn’t know we were calling it that either, but I instantly knew *exactly* which one they were talking about, so…

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          I was wondering if there was an actual company called the Red Flag Factory.
          It sounds kind of cool, if you ignore all the implications.

          1. Pants*

            I must credit Maria Bamford. If she didn’t say this exactly, she at least said something close enough that I just started calling that rollercoaster the Red Flag Factory. :-)

    6. President Porpoise*

      As a general rule, showing a bit more compassion for those around you never hurts. OP, please, sit down and think about what it was like for you when you were just starting out. Think about how you could have behaved then to improve your situation, and what you would have liked to see in your management. See if you can do some of those things for your team. They will be happier – and perform better – if you treat them well.

      1. Julia*

        I’ll bet LW’s response would be “when I was entry-level, I would never have dreamed of talking to one of my superiors this way! I knew my place.” That’s the problem with rigid hierarchy – people at the top think it’s fair because they had to pay their dues when they were at the bottom, so the unfair system becomes self-perpetuating.

        1. tangerineRose*

          And yet what should have the LW done in this case? Most of us can’t keep working for free. I have some savings now, but when I started out, I had college debts, a car payment, and debts incurred from living expenses. Also, the LW probably doesn’t know what Jane’s obligations are. What if she has parents, siblings, or dependents she needs to help?

    7. Single Noun*

      Exactly- and tbh, I have well over a year’s worth of emergency fund, and I still would quit over this. I like my job but I’m hardly going to do it for free.

      1. Meg*

        Right? When I was in this situation the words I used were something along the lines of “I enjoy working here, but if I’m not getting paid it’s not work, it’s a hobby, and I don’t need another one of those, I need a paycheck.”

    8. QuinleyThorne*

      I’ve had the misfortune of having a few managers in my past who thought like this, the whole “your generation is just entitled!” And it’s always meant to be dismissive of employee’s concerns, but is egregiously so in this specific instance. Like, yes, Jane is entitled, entitled to her paycheck. That’s kind of the foundation of this arrangement. Jane works, and you pay her, and do so on time. And your employer hasn’t held up their end of the bargain not once, but twice.

      More generally though, I’m amazed that anyone even remotely familiar with this column would send in a letter like this to begin with.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Yes, people talk about someone “acting entitled” as a character flaw… but it’s only wrong when you’re acting that way about something to which you are not actually entitled. A sense of entitlement would be bad if it were about something like, say, getting a corner desk or using the company car for personal errands.

        It is completely legitimate to act entitled about being paid on time because legally (and morally) she IS entitled to that!

        1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          This is an incredibly important point.

          People do in fact have rights and entitlements, and there’s nothing wrong at all with insisting on them.

  5. ChemistryChick*

    Ooooof, OP. Please take Alison’s advice to heart. Jane was absolutely in the right here and she handled it as she should have.

    1. BethRA*

      I will go further and say Jane was actually merciful. Your company is lucky Jane didn’t file a wage complaint – because if I’m reading correctly, Jane didn’t get paid for a month or more.

    2. What's in a name?*

      I hope we get an update from OP about how they had a realization over this and will be so much better.

      1. Nowwhat465*

        I am hoping from an update from Jane, letting us know she has switched departments after figuring out how her supervisor REALLY feels about her.

        1. RealPerson01*

          Could you imagine if you were a reader of this site and just happened on this article and realized it was about you? jeez, I don’t think i would even know how to react. I certainly wouldn’t be motivated to show up to work…

          I think I would just send my boss, their boss, and HR the link in one email with a ” This you?”

        2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

          “I am hoping from an update from Jane”

          Jane didn’t write the letter. Her supervisor, the one who felt Jane was in the wrong for expecting to be paid on time, did. And the way everybody’s been coming down on the supervisor (and deservedly so), I doubt we’ll get any kind of an update.

          Of course, it’s always possible that Jane will realize that we’re all talking about her (assuming she reads AAM) and share with us her side of the story.

          1. Aerin*

            Jane’s response was so good, especially for an entry-level employee, that I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if she were a regular AAM reader. (Not gonna lie, I’m this deep in the comments hoping there’s been an update.)

      2. TrackingCookieMonster*

        There’s 3 likely scenarios for the update:

        1) We hear nothing, because OP couldn’t handle the slice of humble pie. (The disappointing Sopranos ending)
        2) The update where OP reads the response and comments, realizes they were in the wrong, and makes effort to be better (The warm and fuzzy ending)
        3) The update where OP didn’t follow the advice and/or didn’t read it until after they doubled-down and escalated their wrongness to the detriment of themselves and possibly the company as well (The schadenfreude ending)

        1. AnonInCanada*

          You mean like that letter writer who doubled down on why Leap Year employee didn’t deserve her birthday off and the gift card when February 29th wasn’t on the calendar that year?

          Actually, I hope this OP writes back defending their smugness. Then we can all really let ’em have it!

            1. Gingerblue*

              Possibly the most orthagonal-to-reality letter I’ve ever seen here. Not the worst, just the most wtf.

    3. TrackingCookieMonster*

      I will agree with the letter writer on one thing: Jane absolutely would be better suited in a different department.

      Just not for the reasons they think.

    1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      This line made me laugh so hard! But seriously, there’s so much out-of-touchness that you can’t confine it to just Tuesday ….

    2. I'm that guy*

      I wonder if the OP has ever read AAM because if he did he would have never written this letter. (And while the OP could be a woman it just sounds like it was written by an out of touch middle-aged man from the 20th century)

          1. Snitches get Britches*

            I did too, and I think it was the britches comment. That’s a phrase I’ve only ever heard from my dear departed grandmother and my sainted but thankfully not departed mother. Am I off assuming it’s a gendered kind of saying? Entirely possible but that’s how I read it.

            1. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

              LOL on your username. And yes! I use this phrase all the time, and it’s common where I am (the Southeastern US). I think I’ve only ever heard it used by other women, now that you mention it.

              1. COHikerGirl*

                My dad also used to say this! For this letter, I pictured a woman, though (I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a woman say this…it’s not a common phrase in my non-Southern state). It kind of read, to me, as the older woman who had to say nothing because that was the culture back when she was hired trying to put that onto the current generation.

            2. gemliza*

              Not defending the OP at all, but I’m from the Appalachian mountains in NC where breeches is commonly used instead of “pants”. Its a colloquialism left over from the brits that’s never died out there.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Whereas in the UK we’d say “too big for [her] boots” rather than britches.

            3. Ace in the Hole*

              It’s regional. The phrase is much more common in certain parts of the US. I (30 years old) have used it myself, although never about a coworker in a situation like this!

              I also think LW is using it wrong… the implication is someone who’s full of themself, overconfident, and thinks they’re more important than they are. For example someone going on a power trip acting like they have authority because they’ve been put in charge of coffee runs for the book club. Or a little kid bossing their younger siblings around about things that are really Mom and Dad’s place to say.

              1. Freelance Everything*

                Well that’s exactly what LW thinks of Jane in this situation so he’s using it right.
                He’s just wrong about Jane.

        1. Jo March*

          I’ve never heard a man use too big for one’s britches. That was always the older women in my family, so I immediately pictured a little old lady.

        2. Urban Fervor*

          I’ve found that I *always* assume the letter writer is female. I realized that I subconsciously think that only women write in for advice in general. It’s my good ol’ internalized misogyny at work.

      1. WomEngineer*

        I also thought this was a male narrator when they described the coworker as bossy when it seems like she’s just advocating for herself. I wonder if they’d feel the same if a male coworker did this.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          It’s true that women are more likely to be described as “bossy” when standing up for themselves while a man would get more favorable adjectives, but this is true whether the describer is a man or a woman.

          That said I also pictured a woman, but that may be because it’s how we usually do on AAM.

      2. Ata*

        I had this same thought about whether OP had ever read AAM! It doesn’t seem like they would be interested in Allison’s opinion or like they had any idea how Allison advises.

        1. lol*

          Based on the last sentence, seems like LW was hoping for semi-legal advice? A person above mentioned that Jane was possibly BIPOC, and if so it makes sense that LW doesn’t want to be accused of discrimination (but notable that no skin color was mentioned at all, since that’s how some racists operate).

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        It’s one of those that makes you think “This is fake, right? Jane wrote this herself and she’s going to leave a copy on her manager’s desk, right? Because people just don’t own themselves like this.” And yet they do.

          1. Bazinga*

            There’s nothing to say that hasn’t been said. I want to post the “flames on the side of my face” gif.
            Did the OP ever comment? I can’t imagine they would have, but you never know.

        1. Stormfly*

          Yes, this is probably the letter I’ve seen here that appears most likely to be fake to me. The LW seems un-self-aware to a cartoonish level. And the way that a female junior employee’s justified directness is regarded as being over-confident seems tailored to getting a reaction out of Alison.

          Of course, it’s possible it’s not. Truth can be stranger than fiction. There was another one sent in by a legal secretary about her bosses that I thought sounded over the top and fake, but there were a ton of comments talking about how they’d had similar experiences in that industry.

          1. SeluciaMD*

            This seems entirely too plausible to me. I’ve definitely worked for bosses who thought that we lowly employees should be “grateful” for our jobs like they were so much largesse and that there were exactly ZERO instances where standing up for ourselves with anyone higher up the food chain was warranted or remotely acceptable.

        2. Starbuck*

          Oh, they absolutely do! I’m first thinking of Brian Wansink, who accidentally/unknowingly admitted to blatant scientific research fraud in his very own blog post. I just listed to a whole podcast episode about it, and it’s WILD. He basically bragged about it!

            1. Starbuck*

              Yes, I’ve been going through all the episodes lately and oh boy, what a trip! I am learning a lot too. I even went back and read the archived blog post that the researcher wrote, and all the comments and his replies… it’s a trainwreck

              1. i will do it anon*

                He’s not leaving Maintenance Phase, just You’re Wrong About :) and that podcast is continuing too with guest hosts! As far as I know Maintenance Phase is continuing with Michael and Aubrey

        3. Lizy*

          Nah… honestly, it reminded me of my mom. Which, to be clear, my mother is very generous and helpful just… very out-of-touch. I wouldn’t expect my mom to be THIS out-of-touch, but it honestly would not surprise me at all if she landed more on “yeah Jane shouldn’t have threatened the company like that!”

        4. Stopgap*

          I think the over-the-topness makes it more likely to be real. Someone writing a fake letter would have enough sense to find the “too big for her britches” and such too excessive for their fake character. A real person who thought like this wouldn’t see that, because there’s no limit to how non-self-aware people can be.

      4. Koalafied*

        I read it as likely being a man too, mostly because the letter opened by describing the problem as “an employee who is overconfident” and I thought the story that followed would be about an employee’s inflated assessment of her own skills that was leading her to make errors or rub her coworkers or clients the wrong way. Instead, Jane was too confident that she deserved to be paid for her work. I feel like most women who had the same sort of problem with Jane’s attitude would call her “disrespectful,” but would be less likely to use “overconfident,” which is a term very frequently applied by men to women who don’t show deference.

      5. Colormebad*

        Yup. I was wondering about the age/gender/and race dynamics at play here. It just read so much to me like the stereotyping black women face about being disrespectful and bossy. Ugh all around.

        1. OhNo*

          I was wondering something similar. The talk about a “respect gap” just… really rubbed me the wrong way, and made me think there might be some other dynamics at play here, aside from just age and work experience.

        2. generic_username*

          Yeah, I pictured OP as a 50+ year old white woman and Jane as a 20-something WOC. Just the dog whistles about being “too big for her britches” and the “respect gap”, and the immediate jump to this being about Jane’s fiscal responsibility/poor spending habits.

    3. Professional Homosexual*

      Can “Out Of Touch Tuesday?” be a real thing, pretty please? My favorite letters are the ones where the OP is wildly delusional and Alison (kindly) slaps them back into reality.

  6. Katie Porter's Whiteboard.*

    LW lost me at “she’s got very big britches.” It’s terrible because managers like these are the reason many people are afraid to stand up for themselves. Thank goodness HR knew the company was in the wrong.

    1. kittycatcorn*

      EXACTLY! As soon as I saw that, I knew what would follow would be wildly over-wrought and breathtakingly of touch. I was not disappointed.

    2. LizB*

      Seriously, thank goodness for HR. OP, your HR department is the only department responding to Jane’s extremely valid and properly-expressed concerns responsibly here. Payroll was way too laissez-faire about correcting their error after that first missed check, and you are wildly off-base in your whole perspective.

      1. not a doctor*

        It’s a little wild to say “thank goodness for HR” when all they really did was fulfill their legal and ethical responsibility to Jane. I mean, given the alternative OP has shown us (and their extremely negligent payroll department), yes, thank goodness for HR in this instance, but… man, is that a low bar or what?

        1. LizB*

          Very true, but I guess I don’t know if I’ve ever had an HR department who would have given someone $500 in gift cards to help make them whole like this.

          1. Rodrigo*

            As someone pointed out above, they’re probably doing that so that Jane doesn’t file a complaint with the Department of Labor, which would be far, far more expensive (treble damages) to the company.

            1. Siege*

              So what? It’s still the right thing to do, and they could probably get away with it if she did file a complaint, given how high the dollar value of wage theft needs to be for a state DOL to pursue it. And it wasn’t theft in the sense that she NEVER got the money, either. They would totally have gotten away with it if it went to the DoL. Good for them for doing the work to make things THEY screwed up right.

              1. Candi*

                Depends on the DOL. Some states, they’d consider it settled. Other states…? Well, my state would be like “you didn’t give her the full amount of damages, did you“? (2x-3x pay and maybe some more.) Since the business did try to make it right, they’d probably get off with paying out the remainder of the 2x-3x and a warning.

        2. Observer*

          Thank goodness that they are basically competent. How many insane HR departments have we read about just on this site?

          It also sounds like the head of Payroll does get it. Hopefully there will be some significant consequences for the negligent payroll person, and some examination of how such a mistake could be allowed to go on for so long.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’m a fat lady – I got *huge* britches! :p

      (And the temperament of an old battle axe)

              1. Pants*

                Of course. I’m an EA. I’ve always said Don’t piss off IT, reception, or admins. Rule 1. We can make your life utter hell. I think that counts.

                1. Candi*

                  As I’m learning in my IT class, IT could make a single “typo” and make life difficult, and you’d never be able to prove it wasn’t an accident.

        1. Selina Luna*

          I only wear pants occasionally (leggings and skirts or dresses most of the time), but I’m available for anything that requires someone with experience teaching teenagers.

      1. HereKittyKitty*

        If you’ve ever heard both “big for your britches” and “battle axe” you might be from the south XD

    4. Heidi*

      I also think that this is not the right way to use this phrase. If you’re “too big for your britches,” it means that your ego is larger than your capabilities. But if the britches are big, they can hold the bigger ego without a problem, right?

      In any case, the OP should not be blaming Jane for saying that she can’t work without pay. She also seems to be going one step further on the out-of-touch highway by blaming Jane for needing the money, which is why most people are employed. If anyone was fiscally irresponsible in this scenario, it was payroll. I’m also detecting a bit of resentment over how good Jane is at her job and wanting to take her down a peg (since we’re going with old-timey sayings). Not nice.

      HR actually handled this pretty well, which is a silver lining, I guess.

      1. Catty Wampus*

        In my family we would say someone has big britches if they were thinking about trying something overly ambitious. Like when a 16 year old cousin just started a minimum wage job and was talking about how many promotions and raises they were going to get and how they would be able to buy a brand new, high dollar sports car by the end of the summer. They had “big britches” (ambitions well above where they could reasonably expect to be in life) that they were planning on being able to fill quickly and we were saying we didn’t think they’d be able to fit those britches like they thought they could or in the time frame they thought they could.
        But to be fair I really only ever heard it called that in my family, so may have just been an “us” thing.

        1. Heidi*

          Thank you for this. It doesn’t seem like it’s just your family if the OP is using it that way also.

          It’s hilarious to me that there are two such phrases that involve britches. As if the seat of ambition is in one’s pants.

          1. Rebecca L Latham*

            If OP is using it that way makes me wonder if they are a little intimidated by Jane, worried she has ambitions to move up the ladder (possibly into OP’s job or one above them).

    5. BRR*

      The lw lost me when they described the situation and jane’s professional response. I don’t think it’s a dramatic response to say that the lw shouldn’t be managing others.

    6. Pants*

      I’m running a panel at work today about great managers and crap managers with a guest speaker who has written books about the subject. (One has a fantastic title I’d love to share but it would make it too easy to google.) I wish I could volun-tell OP to attend.

      1. Pants*

        Speaker just said a good manager has:



    7. Just an autistic redhead*

      I mean, I thought we were going to then read about how Jane asserted that she should be the payroll manager or that she knew the system better than the existing employee or department… But then that wasn’t what had happened, so from my perspective I didn’t see where OP was getting the impression that Jane was overconfident. I could understand the reaction if (alternate reality) Jane had requested advance (future) pay and the company had not done it and then she said she couldn’t have it happen again, assuming she had been paid normally (i.e. in a legally compliant manner). I can only imagine Jane’s fear and uncertainty and huge effort to remain that professional after an incredibly vital ball was not just dropped, but fell into a rabbit hole like that. Not having your (actual received) money line up with your financial obligations is incredibly scary.

    8. Jack Bruce*

      Yes! This reminds me of something my old boss would have said! One of the first red flags I had from her was when she described my report as “needing to put on her big girl panties.” It was all downhill from there.

    9. First time listener, long time caller*

      Until the payroll employee who failed to pay Jane EVEN AFTER AN EMAIL EXCHANGE CORRECTING EVERYTHING gets on a PIP or fired, the company is not handling this correctly. This is gross incompetence (at best) at a core job function in a critical job.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Sadly, I agree. That payroll employee is astoundingly incompetent. Their manager should have been looped in from the very beginning and a live check should have been cut the very first time this happened.

  7. Ana Gram*

    I think Jane handled this beautifully and her response was exactly what I imagine AAM telling her to do if she wrote in.

      1. Anonym*

        I think it’s worth noting that Jane’s approach was extremely respectful in that she informed them that they were at risk of losing her over the situation. I would want to know any time a strong employee was considering quitting over a solvable issue!

        1. Jenny D*

          I *have* quit over a similar issue. Like Jane, I got overdraft charges because I didn’t get my full pay. Unlike the company in this story, my employer didn’t fix it until I’d asked several times, and they didn’t pay for my extra bank charges due to their negligence.

          At the time, I was employed by a temp agency, and the client was very happy with me. I called a few other big agencies in the area and ended up getting employed by one of them, taking the contract with me. During the following 4-5 months, about 75 % of the temps followed me to the new agency…

    1. ecnaseener*

      I thought the same thing! Ballsy move by LW, complaining about a damn-near perfect script that’s probably exactly what Alison would’ve recommended. Maybe LW hasn’t read the site.

    2. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

      Agreed. I am hoping Jane reads AAM and will recognize this letter. If so…”Hey, Jane!! Stay in your power!!”

  8. Canucklehead*

    I can empathize with Jane and I am glad for her that payroll saw how serious this was. My own situation (for anyone who isn’t Canadian search Phoenix pay system failure) took more than a year to get fixed and me and so many of my colleagues suffered and are still affected.

    Your answer here was spot on Alison. I know the rules here so all I will say is that this person needs to do a serious rethink.

      1. Captain of the No Fun Department*

        It was the Canadian federal government, one of the largest employers in the country. Working for the federal government are typically pretty well paid kushy jobs with an awesome pension plan. It would be rare that someone would quit over this.

        1. Observer*

          I know that it was the government. But “this” was not some minor snafu. People not getting paid for months (which was not rare with that whole mess) is a REALLY big deal even for a “cushy” job.

    1. Portmanteau*

      My sympathies to you, fellow Phoenix-friend!

      I was not paid for two paycheques (which is actually not as bad as some), and when I finally got to talk to a real payroll person to request emergency funds, they said, “Well, you’re getting paid next cycle. Do you still need emergency funding?”. Well, yes, yes indeed I still needed it, especially since I was only getting into the system to get paid and they weren’t going to include my missing pay!

      1. Candi*

        “they weren’t going to include my missing pay!”

        …I’m pretty sure Canada has laws about that.

        1. Sleepy unicorn*

          It was the Canadian Federal government itself that wasn’t paying it’s employees due to the Phoenix system failure. It was bad.

    2. Shergak*

      Ah, good old phoenix. A system that created so many ashes, and devastation. I still have issues they have yet to resolve.

    3. Lenora Rose*

      I could NOT believe that they let it just keep going… and going… my sister-in-law AND brother-in-law are civil servants and she was one of the lucky ones who got it straightened out relatively fast. (I seem to recall he had more issues but not the details). And thankfully they had savings, but you shouldn’t need to have savings because your pay gets that messed up. Especially if you work for the freaking government.

      1. Vancouver*

        A good friend of mine was managing a local department in one of the bigger federal agencies when Phoenix launched. It was about three managers under her and each had about ten staff when the ramped up for the summer (lots of student workers). Pretty much the only thing she did from April to November was sort out payroll issues for 30 people. Her staff were able to get paid every pay period thanks to her persistence, but she said it was the wrong amount about half the time… I know there were many departments who’s managers had less time or were less successful, and many people had to sort it out themselves. It was/still is insane.

    4. Ramm*

      I mean, for what I can see, you know nothing about leadership and understanding other people problems, problems caused by the company you attend… if you see her attitude rude is maybe because no one wants to work for free and they have the right to inquire about it!

    1. 3DogNight*

      I agree with this so hard! I’m coming in late, but man am I glad that guy is not my boss! (I’m assuming man, could be wrong). What a nightmare!
      I would LOVE to work with Jane. That kind of direct communication is very hard to come by, and it makes work so easy.

    2. Anonymouse*

      I know, right?

      Like OP if your company skipped your next 3 pay cheques and you suddenly had trouble paying things (mortgage / rent, car or other loan repayments, utilities, food, fuel etc)

      Would it be because you’re bad at saving? Have spent too much? Or would it be because your income has failed to come in as expected?

  9. hiptobesquared*

    So this is the one you referenced in the tweet yesterday. YIKES.

    LW also lost me at the word “britches.”

    1. Old Cynic*

      I saw the tweet yesterday, too, and just couldn’t wait to read this post. I was not disappointed!!

      1. SeluciaMD*

        Same here. And it was just as infuriating as Alison said it would be. What is wrong with people?!?

    2. CM*

      Yes, calling people “uppity” or “too big for their britches” is a very clear signal that you think they need to be put in their place. And if you think people have a place that they need to be put in, instead of legitimately having their own wants and needs as human beings, that’s a problem.

      1. Observer*

        You know, this makes me wonder at whether Jane is Black and the OP is White? Because “uppity” seems to be a word that gets applied to Black people who are “over-reaching” (ie just being ambitious or assertive in ways we applaud in white males).

        1. Zillah*

          Fwiw, I don’t think the OP used the word “uppity,” but I also wonder about possible racial dynamics here based on the overall tone.

          1. Observer*

            No, they didn’t but it’s VERY much the vibe of the letter. They use a derogatory comment used for children, they reference Jane’s “superiors”, and complain that she doesn’t “understand” that she’s “not in charge”.

            That’s why so many people pulled up the word. It fits how the OP is talking.

        2. cassielfsw*

          If that is the case, it would also make it *extra* shitty that LW apparently expects Jane to be OK with being made to work for free. Y’know, I think there might be another word for that… It’s on the top of my tongue…

    3. Heidi*

      This letter might become AAM lore, like liver boss, Leap Day birthday employee, and cheap-ass rolls. It will be the big britches boss.

      1. Nom*

        i wasn’t aware of cheap ass rolls thank you for sharing. Leap day birthday will always be my favorite.

        1. Heidi*

          My pleasure. Cheap-ass rolls seems to be less well-known than some of the other famous posts, but it’s such a gem.

    4. HereKittyKitty*

      “britches” was a word my grandma always used for “pants” when I was young. “Big for britches” is something I heard occasionally growing up from my parents who are now in their 60s. Definitely an older southern thing (interested in other regions that say it too!) but reading it definitely made me feel like I time traveled this morning XD

  10. Que Syrah Syrah*

    Oh my goodness, the entire time reading this I kept saying to myself “….oh no, OP is about to be served a truth bomb that he/she is NOT AT ALL EXPECTING.” I was CRINGING.

    Perfect response. OP, there’s a lot of entitlement and poor behavior here, but as Alison said, it’s from you, not you report. Please learn from this and rethink your stance/ideology, or you’re going to lose good people.

    1. Rayray*

      These are some of my favorites to read, when managers are just SO sure they’re right and that their subordinate is disrespectful and horrible but then they get put in their place.

      Still, nothing will ever beat the manager that refused to give the employee a day off for her graduation ceremony and they were so sure they were right.

      1. LKW*

        That recently made the rounds again on Reddit under the Anti-work subreddit… four years on and people are still (rightly) outraged.

        1. Van Wilder*

          Yeah that was a good one. But at least the employee quit.

          The one who wouldn’t give the leap day birthday person a day off still makes me the most angry.

          1. A Wall*

            I wonder about the leap day birthday weirdo all the time. Like, with the power of hindsight, do they have any new thoughts now that it’s been years, or did they dig in so hard on this that they will never emerge?

      2. Coder von Frankenstein*

        I still dream that one day the graduating employee will run across that letter on AAM and write in about it.

      3. Observer*

        Actually, the manager wouldn’t give her *2 HOURS* – and it was 2 hours of *reduced mandatory overtime*

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Still hoping Alison adds a category for these… “truth bombs” or “this is not going to be the answer you expect.”

  11. Busyness of Ferrets*

    OP, you need to stop seeing her an an issue and start realizing you’ve got a fire-cracker on your team with confidence.

    That’s a good thing.

    Be respectful to her. She advocates for herself and there’s not a thing wrong with that.

    1. President Porpoise*

      A different viewpoint…

      Perhaps Jane should be transferred to a different department. I worry that OP will double down on this, frankly, bananacakes superiority complex thing she’s got going. I don’t want Jane’s self confidence and personal advocacy to be crushed, or for her to face potentially long term unreasonable resentment and the million tiny ways that can make her long term work life miserable.

      1. El l*

        Honestly, I’m deeply impressed with Jane. She communicated clearly, honestly, and with full regard for the stakes. For an entry level employee, that’s fantastic. I think she’s got great things ahead of her.

        It’s better for everyone that this manager has nothing to do with Jane. OP doesn’t deserve someone of Jane’s caliber.

        1. Rodrigo*

          OP should be transferred to unemployment benefits, especially if she’s hinking about retaliation or complaining about Jane not filing a very justified legal complaint. She’s not only a poor manager –at this point and with this attitude, she might be turning into a legal liability.

      2. Observer*

        I worry that OP will double down on this, frankly, bananacakes superiority complex thing she’s got going.

        Unfortunately, you are making a good point here.

      3. Elenna*

        I’d suggest that rather than transferring Jane (possibly to a job that she enjoys less/is less good at), they should instead transfer OP to the department of People Who Should Never Manage Anyone, Ever. Maybe even to the department of People Who No Longer Work At This Company. Get Jane a decent manager, please!

      4. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        Different and likely correct. The last time I told my Managers I was going to advocate for myself and stood up for my strengths, I was shot down and they doubled down on their negative opinions of me because they couldn’t handle a strong lower position employee being assertive, they wrongly interpreted it as aggressive and overconfident so that they could keep me shuttled into their narrow old fashioned viewpoint of what a peon should be and act like.

    2. JustaTech*

      Exactly! Jane did everything right here. She took the initiative to get the payroll thing fixed promptly, then looped in her boss when it wasn’t getting fixed, was polite but firm about the company’s responsibilities regarding pay.

      That’s exactly the kind of person I’d want on my team: someone who stands their ground on what is right in a calm, respectful and factual way. Why would you want a total pushover on your team, unless you like pushing people around?

      1. Threeve*

        That’s where my thoughts went too. Her work is great and she’s easy to train, but it’s almost as if that makes her insufficient bootlicking even more offensive.

    3. Jamboree*

      Yes! OP’s actual question was, “She’s great and needed very little training but how fast can I get her off my team?”

  12. Legal Rugby*

    Holy… OP – you are making an entry level mistake – respect doesn’t mean bowing before the person with authority and never saying anything that upsets them. More than that, Jane doesn’t even come across as aggressive or angry in your own comments. Why do you assume that someone else asking for pay for work they did somehow reflects badly on them?

    1. Pierre*

      Missing paycheck twice is actually the lack of respect here. Being paid is not a privilege, it’s the reason we work.

      Employment is a trade. you give them my time & skills, in return they give you money.

      1. Yellow Rose*

        Exactly this! As a former payroll professional my screen saver was a scrolling text that read “Payroll is Why People Come to Work!”

        The company handled this very appropriately with the immediate check and an emergency allowance.

        Thank goodness OP isn’t in charge of payroll at that company.

    2. Generic Name*

      Exactly. I’m agog at this letter, and by the end my mouth was hanging open in shock. I’m a person who really appreciates traditional manners. Using “sir” and “ma’am”, men opening doors for women, children addressing adults with the titles Mr/Mrs/Ms/Mx, handwritten thank-you notes, etc. Call me old-fashioned. But respect and manners does not equate to groveling to your boss/employer. Your employee was very respectful, and HR handled everything correctly. You did not. Workers today (young and old) are Fed. Up. Back in the day when a boss might demand that type of groveling folks could expect to get a job out of college that they stayed in for 30 years. They could support a whole goddamn family on one person’s (okay, a man’s) income. They got good health insurance, and they could expect a pension upon retirement in 30 years. So yeah, maybe an entry-level person in that environment should have been very solicitous of their superiors. But now nobody’s job is secure, health insurance is unaffordable, employers no longer have pensions, raises are often nonexistent, and many folks cannot make ends meet with one full-time job (if they are lucky to find full time work, lots of folks cobble together 2 or 3 part time jobs). Plus, jobs these days are plentiful. There is nothing stopping your employee from going elsewhere. Are you actually expecting her to kiss your boot while she works for free?

      1. Le Sigh*

        Eh, I take your point but I still say entry-level didn’t need to be overly solicitous back in the day, even with everything you describe. Polite and professional, sure, but decent wages and benefits doesn’t mean people aren’t suddenly equals who lose their right to advocate for themselves and must be eternally grateful for fair compensation for their labor. In fact, they still did for many reasons, because that structure often came sexual harassment/racism/sexism/bigotry with far fewer options for recourse, among other issues — so there was plenty to push back on.

        But I do think your larger point is right — it is much harder to make ends meet and survive in this job market and it is wild of OP to think she should show fealty in this situation. In fact, the Janes of the workforce are pushing back and advocating for a reason, and good for them.

    3. LC*

      More than that, Jane doesn’t even come across as aggressive or angry in your own comments.

      This is an excellent point. It’s very common for people (even people not nearly so out of touch as OP) to paint themselves in the best light possible when telling a story like this. If Jane comes off this well in OP’s own version of events, I wonder how Jane or the payroll manager would tell it.

    4. Van Wilder*

      I’m getting tired of the respect gap I’m seeing with younger staff.

      LW, I think you laid out your problem in one sentence here. This doesn’t seem to be about Jane but more about your general frustration with what you perceive as a shift in workplace norms. Try not to take it out on Jane just for needing to be paid for her work.

      1. Yes!*

        I hate that LW made that comment! I’m a boomer and would be absolutely mortified if something like this happened to one of my employees — of any age. It sounds like Jane was completely professional in this situation.

    5. Ali*

      …respect doesn’t mean bowing before the person with authority and never saying anything that upsets them.

      Louder for everyone at my workplace, please. *sigh*

      1. Lexi Lynn*

        I don’t think that the OP realizes that this wasn’t a discussion between unequal people. This was a discussion between equals about an agreement. Jane agreed to work for money and you agreed to pay her for that work. The OP doesn’t have authority over that agreement.

    6. Anonymous Hippo*

      The idea that saying “if I’m not paid I won’t work here” being disrespectful is CRAZY. Honestly, it’s crazy it even had to be said. I wish there was a way Jane could see this, because I’d be job searching ASAP if this is how my boss felt about this.

  13. Stackson*

    I kept waiting to see where Jane had been disrespectful, and then I realized that she hadn’t. But OP, you are being incredibly disrespectful towards her. Respect flows both ways, and it has nothing to do with what rank someone holds in an organization or how old they are.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I thought the same thing. When I read the title I thought, Oh an employee blew up at the payroll person because of an error. But no. She is not wrong

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Exactly. It’s not like she stood up on top of the conference room table and showered the payroll person with insults. I mean…she probably wanted to…

    2. ..Kat..*

      I wonder if some of the OP feeling ‘disrespected’ is because Jane is female and women are not supposed to be direct.

    1. Perfectly Particular*

      Oh that sounds so harsh – to nominate a letter writer for the bad boss award!

      But also… wouldn’t you think that the LW would be a regular reader if they were writing to Allison? I feel like they should have had some idea where she would stand on this issue.

      1. Alldogsarepuppies*

        I believe, in fact, Alison has a rule against nominating letter writers because then these people that really need to hear the truth, won’t write in.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! I also think a lot of LWs aren’t regular readers of the site — they’re googling for info on how to solve a problem, come across AAM, and send in a question.

          1. Lizy*

            How many LWs do you think ask others, on average? Do you think/feel that LWs find one site to write into, or choose many to get a wide variety of opinions?

            For me, I’d just write to AAM, but I’m the type that once I find something I like, I won’t deviate and everyone else just doesn’t know what they’re talking about HA!

  14. Goodbye Toby*

    Oh Lord. Just. Yes to everything Alison said.
    At old job, they missed 2 pays and I had just graduated so money was already tight. I brought it up the first time, not fixed, then again the second time. They said, can you just wait until the next pay period? I said, no I cannot go 6 weeks with no pay, can you? They paid me but they were clearly miffed about having to cut a check off schedule. Run Jane, run.

    1. NeonFireworks*

      Same with me. First job out of school, great offer from a major player in a competitive industry, didn’t get paid for 2 months, would have had to quit if it had happened again. Also didn’t have health insurance for a while either. Good times.

      1. Goodbye Toby*

        Did we work for the same place?! I was told not to take health insurance because it made me too expensive and looked like I was a difficult employee. Tf.

        1. Raine*

          Sounds like the kind of b.s. a lot of toxic workplaces try to feed to new/young/inexperienced employees.

          I’ve had one boss ask me if it was okay if they didn’t sign my timesheet that week, and I was temping, so I said, “No, if you don’t sign this, not only will I not be here next week, but I’ll tell my agency you refused to sign it so I can’t get paid and they’ll call you to ask you why.” Learned a hell of lot about standing up for myself, temping for five years.

    2. Pants*

      Jane also likely has student loans she needs to pay as well.

      The average American would not be able to come up with $400 to $1,000+ in an emergency.

      1. Candi*

        Especially with lockdown, covid, etc., pretty much flattening even hefty savings.

        Hopefully Jane is just out of school and was still in the six month grace period. (I don’t plan to start paying until that period is over or I have my first check in my bank account.)

    3. Just a Thought*

      I had an internship in University (for a Government department no less), where payroll made a data entry mistake and had my tax withholding at the highest level, instead of the lowest. In other words, Poof, there goes over half my paycheck. Payroll’s response was that I would get the money back as a tax refund so it did not really matter.
      They were a little miffed when I insisted that the matter be corrected immediately, and the fix be back dated because I could not afford to wait 10 months for my money (and the University would not wait that long for the tuition).

      1. Generic Name*

        “Why don’t you pay me out of your own pocked now, and I’ll pay you back when I get my refund. NBD, right?”

      2. Candi*

        I thought the “you’ll get it in your next check 7-30 days from now” comments were bad. That’s dismissive to another level.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      The day after a direct deposit doesn’t hit, someone should be cutting a manual check. That is outrageous!!

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        A few jobs back, my direct deposit was messed up once. The employer was in another State, but my bank had a branch in that city.

        Before the day was out, a senior manager delivered cash to their local branch of my bank.

        The company suffered from a lot of dysfunction, but they at least demonstrated a modicum of common sense and decency in that particular situation.

      2. Selina Luna*

        I would still be pissed. I don’t have a physical version of my bank where I live, so I’m dependent on either mobile deposits or ATM deposits, and a manual check rather than a direct deposit would still mean at least 2 (and up to 5) additional days of waiting for a deposit to clear for me…

  15. Metadata minion*

    Wow, from the title I’d assume she’d yelled or sworn or something, which would be a reaction that I could sympathize with while still thinking it wasn’t ok to talk to Payroll that way. But no, it sounds like she stood up for herself admirably calmly and professionally.

    1. Littorally*


      And — WTF at those payroll people!! Like, everyone’s human, mistakes get made, but they’ve repeatedly messed up a specific person’s pay, and given the power structures in place here, I’d be willing to bet Jane isn’t the first person who’s gotten stiffed on those contractor payments, just the first one to stand up for herself over it.

      1. Jill of All Trades*

        I used to work adjacent to payroll and managed a number of related calculations. I’ve been chewed out over mistakes less severe than this one.
        Payroll requires an intense attention to detail and extremely prompt resolution of problems whenever possible. Mistakes happen. This one was easily fixable and was not fixed right away.
        Good for Jane for calling it out.

        1. Lime green Pacer*

          Many years ago, I was a new payroll minion. I made less serious mistakes, and was absolutely mortified, and did not hesitate to go to my manager to get them fixed ASAP.

        2. Observer*

          Mistakes happen. This one was easily fixable and was not fixed right away.

          THIS. The first mistake. OK. But back and forth, “confirming” that the problem was fixed and then “Oops, I thought it was fixed”? That’s just jaw droppingly lackadaisical. If I were going to be expressing “discomfort” over any employee’s behavior, THAT is who I would be going after.

      2. BRR*

        Even in places I’ve worked where people in charge of payroll were idiots the one universal rule was don’t mess with peoples paychecks. Any mistakes in payroll were taken very seriously.

        1. More anon today*

          OldBoss was on the disaster planning team. He told me the order of priority in disaster recovery:
          1) Make sure people are physically safe;
          2) Make sure physical plant (buildings, etc.) is as safe as you can make it, e.g. not actually on fire;
          3) Restore that which is needed to process payroll.

          1. AVP*

            When Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, my company was using an outside payroll operator who required physical timecards which we would either messenger up to them at the end of the week or *maybe* email over and they would print them out onsite. Both our office and theirs were in the “no power” zone and I had *many* calls to their California office explaining that even if they had no access to their office, they still needed to process payroll!

            People were rightly freaking out about paying their rent which was due that week. They were like, we just don’t have access to the paperwork, sorry! Omg. Finally I convinced someone in CA to re-run the payroll from the week before and promised to sort out any OT inconsistencies when we were back in offices, but I couldn’t believe how long it took and how low a priority it was for them.

          2. Observer*

            Yes. The one and only time I have ever been given basically carte blanche to spend what I needed to was post Sandy to get our payroll processing back up and running. Everything else required SOME level of discussion (although I was given a pretty free hand).

      3. NerdyKris*

        That sounds like only one person in payroll was making the mistake, the payroll manager was immediately apologetic and understanding that this was unacceptable.

        1. Coder von Frankenstein*

          I mean… yes, but who trained that person? Who checks their work? What procedures are in place to ensure that one person’s mistakes do not leave another person without their paycheck (and the company on the hook for substantial damages)?

          It’s good that the payroll manager understands how significant this was, but it should never have gotten this far. Nowhere near this far. And that *is* the manager’s responsibility.

          1. NerdyKris*

            I was replying to yet another comment that didn’t seem to understand all the players in this story. Nobody is checking everyone’s work all the time, that would be absurd. The process would be to escalate it to their boss, and the employee did, and the manager immediately took responsibility and fixed it that day. I would also assume, given their reaction, that the employee in question was talked to and will be watched more closely.

            Where do you think the process failed? You can’t guarantee no employee will ever make a mistake or act irresponsibly.

            1. Coder von Frankenstein*

              Of course you can’t guarantee that no one will make mistakes. But you certainly can plan for it. When you’re dealing with critically important things, like people’s paychecks, you don’t just wait for stuff to go wrong and hope to clean it up after the fact–you take measures ahead of time to prevent it.

              Speaking as a software developer, the point where somebody gets entered into the payroll system is an obvious high risk for human error. It is also a relatively rare event–you don’t have onboardings every day or even every week. So it’s a no-brainer to put checks in place to ensure it’s done properly. Ideally, this would be an automated check where you can’t even set somebody up in the rest of the company’s IT systems unless they were set up in payroll. Failing that, requiring a review and signoff, say by the hiring manager, would at least mitigate the risk.

              That’s off the top of my head. I don’t work in payroll, so it’s possible they solve this problem a different way… but they *do* solve it at most places. I’ve never once had an employer miss a paycheck, no matter how dysfunctional they were in other ways, and I’m damn sure it wasn’t because no one in the payroll department ever screwed up.

        2. Observer*

          Yes. But something is still badly off.

          There are a number of issues here. For one thing, I’m trying to figure out how the OP could not have realized that their employee was not in the payroll system. So that says that something is off with the process here. Typically, supervisors need to sign off on their employees times sheets in some fashion, and those time sheets should be tied to the payroll system. So, that’s one issue that I’d be looking at.

          Secondly, the payroll person was epicaly careless here. Is this the first time this person has messed up this badly? Is this person new? (In which case someone should probably have been doing closer supervision.)

          Also, why is the policy not that the company cuts a paycheck manually the FIRST time someone’s paycheck gets missed? That would have also forced the issue as well and insured that there would not be a second time. Or is this the policy and the payroll person has either not been trained in the basics or is just soooo bad that you have to wonder how they are still employed?

          So, I’m seeing a number of possible areas where the company’s management needs to give a good hard look at what’s going on here.

          1. Recruited Recruiter*

            At a prior job, I was payroll adjacent, and my manager was also the payroll person’s manager. My manager did a payroll review, after which no changes were supposed to be made. The top things that my manager checked were: new employees, all timesheets approved by managers, and were all changes made that were supposed to have been. (400 employees) Payroll person started making changes after her review, and we had multiple people with severe pay issues, including one person severely overpaid that had to be paid back.
            Procedures and excessive access can cause huge problems.

              1. Fran Fine*

                Yeah, the procedures in this case were crystal clear, it’s just the new hire ignored them, lol.

                1. Candi*

                  There’s nothing about the payroll person who screwed up being a new hire. And they did screw up the minute they didn’t escalate to get Jane a check the first time.

                  It’s likely Jane followed proper escalation procedures within the company; she’d been there long enough to look them up. We can’t take OP’s word for what correct escalation is -she made her views abundantly clear on the idea of peons putting their foot down with their betters. And if Jane went around OP in this? I think it’s easy to say why.

          2. Cj*

            My first paycheck didn’t get direct deposited because I bank in a town quite far away from where I work, and their routing number was never entered in the payroll system. So even though the payroll person entered it correctly in my file, it didn’t go through. (Seems like a dumb way to program something, but whatever).

            I let them know, and they said they could cut me a check that day. They were able to get it direct deposited on Monday (payday was Friday), and I was fine with that, but at least they handled it well when I brought to their attention.

          3. Candi*

            My guess is the payroll person Jane originally dealt with would have had to go through channels to get a make-up check authorized, which would have been a “bother” and also documented the PP’s error. (More than it already was.) So they fixed it for whatever value of fixed, and made soothing noises at Jane.

            The cynical part of my brain popped up with that maybe they didn’t expect someone from OP’s Dept to stick up for themselves. /Snark

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Yup. I was expecting someone who just wouldn’t let it go even after the mistake was fixed. No, it was someone who wouldn’t let it go until the mistake was fixed. This is an entirely different matter.

      1. Recruited Recruiter*

        This is what I was expecting as well. I once had an employee throw a fit over a rounding discrepancy of $0.01, who then wouldn’t let it go because I wouldn’t cut her a (at a cost of $0.80 ish) payroll check for that $0.01. Instead, I handed her a penny.

    3. BRR*

      I was also expecting from the title Jane maybe did something unprofessional and the answer would be more nuanced. This is so black and white of what is right and wrong though.

  16. Dust Bunny*

    Also: Respect is earned, not commanded. If your payroll department screws up a paycheck and a manager doesn’t jump in to support the wronged employee, neither of them has earned the respect the LW seems to think she’s owed just because she, what, got hired longer ago?

    1. zuzu*

      Jane’s ONLY experience with this company is that she works without being paid. Why shouldn’t she speak up and say she can’t work there any longer unless this is fixed? Why sink more time in if that’s the norm?

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      In my experience a lot of people mean ‘this person didn’t acknowledge that I am a superior human being’ when they say ‘didn’t show enough respect’.

      1. Brisvegan*

        I read somewhere that people operate with two meanings of respect:
        1. inferiors (for whatever value of inferior they assign) must show deference to superiors. or
        2. people treat other people with basic decency.

        The problem with OP’s attitude is that some people expect type 1 to be shown to them and won’t show type 2 to anyone who doesn’t show deference.

        (I read it in the context of bigots or arrogant people twisting “I will show them respect when they show me respect” to mean, the bigot/arrogant person might treat the other person with basic decency if they are sufficiently deferential to the bigot/arrogant person. It’s an excuse for treating perceived “inferiors” badly.)

    3. TooTiredToThink*

      I remember one year when I didn’t receive my paycheck right before Christmas. Thankfully I had gotten my end-of-year bonus (which was about the same amount of money) so I was ok, but you know what happened? My manager went to a senior VP and the VP *marched* down to HR and demanded them overnight a new check to me. *That’s* what a manager should do the second they find out that their employee didn’t get paid.

    4. SnappinTerrapin*

      It’s not even like she had been paid to show any respect to the arrogant entities who think they are buying her loyalty, obedience and humble subservience.

  17. Mat*

    Well now I need surgery to reattach my jaw which dropped until it fell completely off. I think I know one person who would be able to continue to pay all their bills without being paid properly not once but twice.

    Whatever the employee spends their salary on and however they manage their money is 100% not the employer’s business. Their only business is to make sure their employees are paid on time.


    1. Jasper*

      I know plenty of those people, and am one of them, to the point where I used to be a little bit too cavalier about submitting my timesheets — more than once they ended up being way too late for that week’s pay run. But that’s *my* fault and responsibility, and I wouldn’t blame payroll for that, but them screwing it up after I did it right is not the same thing at all: *they*’re literally getting paid — assuming they don’t screw up their own payroll — to do that stuff right.

      1. LizM*

        I’m just going to jump in and say that our payroll bends over backwards to get people paid on time, even when it’s the employee’s fault because they didn’t get their hours in on time. I have a friend in payroll who will check her email at 9:00 the night that payroll is due to make sure that anything submitted late still gets in (technically the cut off is noon for the automated system but she can manually input until later in the evening).

    2. Elenna*

      I wouldn’t be able to pay them from my own savings, but I’d be able to borrow from my parents if needed. Even then, though, a) I’ve got the common sense to know that not everyone has that option and b) I’d still be raising hell to get my paycheck so that I could, y’know, pay them back. Not to mention that even if I was filthy rich and had billions saved, I’d still want my paycheck eventually because that’s literally the reason I go to work.

    1. CM*

      Except that HR handled it appropriately: apologized, offered Jane some compensation, made sure it got fixed right away, and emphasized to her manager that Jane was in the right and the company was wrong. Which is also a smart way to keep the company out of legal trouble because wage theft is a gigantic liability.

      1. Pants*

        Eh, not quite quickly. It should have been remedied after the first mistake. Jane should have been cut a check right then.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          as soon as HR knew they appologized and gave her a check and the extra. I think the whole problem is on the one person in payroll who said it was fixed and it wasn’t, only to say they thought it was fixed. Why did they go to whoever and offer to write a check the first time Jane talked with them. And why didn’t they bring the issue up with their management so they could confirm the issue was fixed.

          If anyone is in the wrong (besides op) its the payroll clerk.

          1. Coder von Frankenstein*

            If the company has set up their system so that an employee can go unpaid, for multiple cycles, because one single clerk is bad at their job… that is a bigger issue than that one clerk.

            People make mistakes. That is part of employing people. When it’s important to get something right, you put in checks so that you aren’t depending on one person to be perfect all the time.

    2. NerdyKris*

      It sounds like only one person was acting like that, literally every other manager in the story was bending over backwards to apologize.

    3. Kazu*

      Based on my experience, it’s all too true. All my past horror work stories have happened with small employers. As awful as big corporations are, it’s much more comfortable on staff financially.

    4. Observer*

      Unlikely – most small employers don’t have HR, a payroll person AND “Head of Payroll” who is a different person.

        1. Candi*

          I get the feel of either:

          A business that is still sort of small in comparison to a corporation, but has grown large enough to need all the positions involved and makes enough money to have such a fund. Say, 500-1000 employees?


          A smaller branch of a corporation, again at less than 1000 workers.

          Both are large enough for the resources mentioned, and small enough that there’s not a whole lot of local bureaucracy to wade through to get things fixed.

    5. Sarah*

      I had this same thing happen to me when I worked for a Fortune 100 company with 85,000 employees. Incompetence happens in all sizes.

  18. Exme*

    “I’m not comfortable having her on my team”

    I’m also not comfortable having her on your team. Or anyone.

    1. Legal Rugby*

      This. If Jane was aware of OPs objections, she’s probably looking elsewhere, now that she knows that her manager is more concerned with appearances than employees.

    2. Office Lobster DJ*

      Yeah, I think that’s one thing we can all agree on: Jane would be happier reporting to someone else.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*


      LW, I’m not trying to be rude or mean, but I’m truly concerned about your ability to lead a team and provide them with the respect and support they deserve. Your complete lack of compassion here is a big, big red flag and I think you need to talk to someone about why you reacted this way to Jane’s incredibly reasonable and professional behavior.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Not only compassion, but awareness of employment law. Someone who thinks Jane should have just rolled with it is likely to think Jane should just roll with a lot of things.

        1. La Triviata*

          I wonder how patient OP would have been with a client who didn’t pay their bills … for two months. I assume the company could weather a brief lapse in payment, but would they?

          Many years ago, when I was young and living pretty much paycheck to paycheck, my bank suddenly started putting a hold on my paychecks (payroll was handled out of the company’s central financial office, which was in a different city). I bounced checks not realizing what had happened … it was bad.

          1. Heffalump*

            Some years ago, before the pub trivia scene fell victim to COVID, my team used La Triviata as a team name. Great minds think alike!

          2. Your Local Password Resetter*

            And clients not paying their bills is way less serious than missing payroll.
            Companies usually dont rely on a single bill being paid on the exact date it’s promised.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      Jane might well not feel comfortable being on OP’s team herself after that and I wouldn’t blame her!

      Seriously, OP is assuming “fiscal irresponsibility” on Jane’s part when a) I don’t see how she could know or justifiably assume that, b) even if she was that’s not any of OP’s business and c) the original error was through no fault on Jane’s part in the first place. Sorry OP, I’m Team Jane here.

    5. VivaL*

      Was coming to comment this! I HOPE the OP gives Jane up – Jane deserves so much better.

      Frankly, based on the attitude in this letter, Jane won’t be there very long anyway. So the OP doesn’t have to worry.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Definitely. If OP is half this condescending in real life, Jane is going to be job hunting again pretty quickly.

        Also, to Jane – hi! I think you’re awesome, and I would totally hire you!

    6. Jamboree*

      Yes! OP’s actual question was, “She’s great and needed very little training but how fast can I get her off my team?”

    7. Sara without an H*

      This. OP, if you reported to me, this whole episode would give me serious doubts about your ability to manage people. Did it not occur to you that YOU should have been the one hounding Payroll until they acknowledged and corrected their error? If anybody had shorted any of my team, they would have heard from me loudly and often.

      Your insistence on deference at all costs will eventually leave you with a team of mediocre “yes creatures.” Hope the results are worth it to you.

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      I was just coming here to say this – Jane needs a new boss stat, and OP should not be managing people with their current attitude.

      Our payroll, who is usually wonderful, screwed up my folks’ checks twice in a row (I guess at least they got paid something v. Jane who got stiffed entirely?), and you’d better believe they got the delta amount, an apology, an explanation of how it would never happen again, and a gift card for their troubles. You do not mess with people’s pay – that’s the entire reason they show up every day.

  19. Elle Woods*

    I’m gobsmacked anyone could think the employee has an attitude for insisting on being paid on time for the work she has completed. HR was dead on: it shouldn’t have happened at all. Good for Jane for sticking up for herself and making sure she got is rightfully hers.

    1. Gobsmacked*

      I wonder if OP is white and Jane isn’t. There is a common dynamic where “attitude” is perceived where there is none. Racism might also explain OP’s bizarre expectations of deference and “respect” from Jane.

      1. Aspiring Great Manager*

        THIS! I immediately wondered if Jane was perhaps a black woman, indigenous woman or another marginalised group that is supposed to “stay in their lane” and simply be grateful to have a job and that others “don’t look at them as black (or whatever)”. UGH

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          In this day and age, sadly, there is a better than 90% chance of Jane’s being black.

  20. Rayray*

    This was about Jane’s money. She is asking her labor to you for money so she can pay her bills and eat. She had to be firm because this kind of mistake is a huge deal. She probably feels screwed over, it’s a new company for her and this was a very bad impression.

  21. Rikerousness*

    I had a very similar situation with an online job I was working until quite recently, where I was contractually due to be paid on the 15th of every month. I didn’t get paid in August and spent the next couple of weeks dancing around with my employer, going to see my bank, waiting while they investigated, and finally had to tell them essentially what Jane told them up here. To their credit, they paid me immediately and were receptive. When I failed to get paid on time AGAIN in September, they once again suggested that i might wait but were entirely receptive when i said i couldn’t. I no longer work there and the pay snafus were a factor, but I appreciated that they didn’t accuse me of being ~disrespectful~ for pointing out that I needed the money I was due right away.

    My husband lost his job during the pandemic and was unemployed for eighteen months – I only took the job (it was my third concurrent job) to help keep a roof over our head. As of this morning actually, he is once again employed in his field and making more money with better (read: any) benefits! If this lady had been my manager, she’d have had me out on the street. To take this stance at any point is frankly inhuman, and to take it DURING THE PANDEMIC is callous on a scale I can’t conceive of. Unbelievable.

    1. SeluciaMD*

      Exactly! This is just bad on every level but it’s freaking EGREGIOUS during a pandemic that has seen even some otherwise very financially stable people fall into very hard times. I’m just baffled by her attitude.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        Exactly. Accusing Jane of being “too big for her britches”for the serious crime of wanting to get paid on time for the work she’s done is bad enough, but saying she must be financially irresponsible- during a pandemic- and blaming her for being concerned about the financial hardship the company caused is so far out of line that the line just fled and requested sanctuary in SanityLand.

        1. Candi*

          “that the line just fled and requested sanctuary in SanityLand.”

          I’m in the lobby of the building my next class is in, and the snort I gave at that got a funny look from the janitor.

  22. Jay Gobbo*

    Bravo, Alison… I would have LOST IT. Idk how you can reply so calmly to these people!!

    Also can we talk about this part?? ‘HR told me, “She’s right, it can’t happen again and it shouldn’t have happened at all.”’

    The letter writer actually put these words in their letter and STILL DOESN’T GET IT jfc. So at this point they’re not respecting their employee *or* their HR department. Y I K E S

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        Exactly. PR and HR are the experts here, OP should be taking note of what they did and following suit.

    1. Batty Twerp*

      We dont necessarily know how long this was sitting in Alison’s inbox waiting for her calm to come down to reasonable levels to enable her to write such a kind reply!

    2. Robyn*

      I always imagine Alison sitting at her computer, writing what she *really* wants to say in a Word doc and then deleting that and writing calmly.

  23. KateM*

    “I can’t keep working for your company if your company doesn’t pay me for my work” is… what now?

    1. Rayray*

      Apparently entitled and rude. And people like OP wonder why people are quitting their jobs in droves and refusing to work for places that treat them like this.

      It’s stuff like this why people are so fed up with the corporate world. Managers on power trips thinking employees need to be submissive minions and that their well-being doesn’t matter – only the company does.

      Seriously would love to see how this person would feel if it happened to them.

    2. DG*

      How dare these young whippersnappers not respond with gratitude when their wages are withheld! Kids these days!

        1. NotAnotherManager!*


          Someone doesn’t pay my team on time and correctly, I would be livid and investigating on their behalf. Missing a month’s worth of pay is beyond unacceptable. I think everyone but OP handled this situation appropriately.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      Totally reasonable. There is an agreed upon business transaction wherein Jane supplies Company with labor (which according to OP was happening quite well with little training or oversight) and in return Company supplies Jane with income.
      I imagine that if Jane weren’t holding up her end of the bargain Company would certainly call her out on it and ask for more training or put her on a PIP, so Jane had every right to remind Company of the parameters of their agreement.

    4. Your Local Password Resetter*

      Basic business logic? A normal consequence for the company’s disastrous failures? Very levelheaded and reasonable?

      I dream of having Jane’s levels of composure and professionalism.

  24. Person from the Resume*

    OMG, LW. Sorry, but I could tell you were in the wrong by the title and first paragraph.

    My finances can handle a few missed paychecks and I’d still be irate after the incompetence of a payroll employee caused me to miss 3 paychecks. This is a huge deal. That payroll employee needs to be disciplined. You HR person was correct that this is a huge problem to be corrected immediately and making it right includes the time of to deposit the paycheck right away since money should have been automatically deposited a month ago, two weeks, and today.

    Also that first paragraph sounds like it was written by my deceased grandparent, “very big britches.” Almost like the LW was trying to be over the top old fashioned, fist shaking, not on my lawn type.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Yup. I could handle a few missed paychecks, but then again I am not working for entry-level pay. Back when I was, this would have been a different matter.

    2. Observer*

      The title is so ridiculous that I’m wondering if this was actually what they wrote or Allison’s title based on the OP’s ridicuslous description of Jane’s “disrespect”.

  25. MuseumChick*

    OP, Alison is absolutely right. If I was not paid TWICE and had tried multiple times to have the situation fixed I would have responded much more strongly than Jane did. It sounds like she was straightforward and professional. You say, “I’m just kind of floored that she’s getting gift cards after speaking to her superiors like that. I’m also uncomfortable because why is our company responsible for her fiscal irresponsibility?” She didn’t get gift cards as a reward but as an apology for a very real wrong done to her by the company. This also isn’t her being fiscally irresponsible. This is the company *causing* her very real harm.

    May I ask, are you in a situation where two weeks without pay wouldn’t affect you? If so you are very lucky.

    1. PhysicsTech*

      Was it two weeks, or two months? I know it’s unusual but I am paid monthly, and if I went two months without being paid even with my good savings I’d absolutely have to move some money around and maybe think long and hard about how much I could spend on some medical treatments i have coming up.

        1. PhysicsTech*

          Oh no problem, I’m not even sure if that info was in the letter, but I’m so glad people are reacting as if it’s dire (because it is!) if it was 1 month vs 2.

      1. Moira Rose*

        This is what I keep wondering about. When I worked in a shop, I was paid weekly. For government (Executive Branch), semiweekly. But a friend in the Legislative Branch gets a paycheck monthly. How bad this was really depends on the frequency of the paycheck! (It’s always going to be *bad* but two weeks is so much less horrifying than two months.)

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      “Oh, it’s FINE, take your time! I’m sure you’ll fix it when you have a moment. Thank you for paying attention to l’il ol’ me!” THAT’S what the LW seems to expect.

      Aaaaannd…NO. That’s (the first part) what I say to the front desk at my building when they’re out of dog treats. That’s low priority. Not getting paid for over a month?!?! Ugh. Seriously, this manager is either a coward or out of touch. Or both, perhaps.

    3. JustaTech*

      A thing that confuses me is also the idea that payroll is Jane’s “superior”? Or did the OP mean HR? Or just to talk like that in front of the OP?

      Does the OP think of all entry-level employees like sorority pledges? For goodness’ sake.