my manager talks about religion daily, my boss makes a huge profit on my work, and more

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

1. My boss talks about religion every day

I am currently one month into my new job and am so far excited about the possibilities of the position. The work seems like a good fit. It’s also fully remote and more money than I’ve ever made by a long shot. My boss is in the same town, so I (in theory) have that nearby support while the rest of the company is on the west coast.

The problem, though, is that my boss is bulldozing my boundaries. I am not religious but respect those who are, but she is extremely religious (though she said it’s spiritual when I brought up not being religious as a way to stop the conversation) and seems to have taken it upon herself to try to tell me the good news of her religion. Every day she brings this up and talks about how amazing it is for her and how it could benefit me.

She is also constantly asking me very personal questions and on the days we’ve worked in person she hugs me, strokes my shoulder, and rubs my arm. I dread our collaboration days and have had to up the dose on my anxiety medication.

I know I need to say something to her or HR, but I am so uncomfortable and so new and she is very well liked and helping to get our company to a new level of maturity. She’s also a close friends with a past boss I consider a mentor, who helped me get this position. This is also my third job in two years and I want to be able to establish longer experience and show stability, and don’t want to have to leave and I know this is also making me more hesitant to speak up. I’d appreciate any insight you could give on this situation!

Please speak up! It doesn’t have to be a big confrontation; it can just be, “I’m not comfortable talking about religion or spirituality at work, and would rather not continue to have these conversations. Thank you for respecting that.”

If that doesn’t stop it, then please do talk to HR. Your company has a legal obligation to prevent your boss from what she’s doing — legally it’s harassment on the basis of religion — and if they’re at all a decent company, they’d want to know it’s happening. You could frame it as, “I’ve asked Jane to stop talking to me about religion but she won’t stop, and I’d like to do my work free of religious pressure.”

And for the touching: “I’m not a big toucher — I like to have personal space!” (Some people find this easier to say if they say it in a self-deprecating way, with a tone of “this is just my weird thing.” It’s not weird and you shouldn’t have to downplay it, but if that makes it easier for you to say, go with what works.) You might have to say it a few times before the message sinks in. Feel free, too, to physically distance yourself from her. And sometimes having a more pronounced physical reaction when she strokes/rubs you (ick) — like jerking away or flinching — can help reinforce a “stop it” message.

As for being worried about speaking up because she’s well liked: Asking not to be touched and not to be proselytized at are both profoundly reasonable requests! If your past boss/mentor is a remotely reasonable person, she’d be horrified to hear about the religious harassment, not hold it against you for wanting it to stop. The same goes for anyone at your company who hears about it too.

Read an update to this letter

2. My boss makes a huge profit on my work

In December of last year, I was approached by a woman who told me she had a very busy writing business and needed a second writer to come on board to help with her overflow work. I agreed to work with her at a good rate per word. Things went really well and I soon found myself writing quite a decent amount and earning a good salary as a result.

About a month or so ago, my boss asked me something about helping her to rewrite her website for the business, which made me realize that I had never seen her site. I then went to Google her and found a Fiverr account instead. Now I don’t mind Fiverr, but what surprised me was the rates I saw that my boss was asking for the work I was delivering. She earns at least double what what I earned on the projects I did, just for sending me briefs, proofreading my work and sending it to the client.

She obviously pays in 20% commission to Fiverr for using their platform, but even taking that into account she is making a huge profit on my writing, which is generally sent off to clients with minimal edits (in most cases completely unedited).

Am I right to be surprised by this? Or is this just business? For some reason I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being taken advantage of. I should also say that I have no desire to start a Fiverr profile of my own. My boss has Pro status and obviously worked hard to get there. I don’t want to be client-facing at all and am happy to continue working in my current capacity. I guess I’m just a little shocked that my boss is earning more than double what I get for each piece of writing I submit. Please tell me: am I being suckered here?

It’s really normal for a business to charge clients more than what they pay employees for doing that work; the difference goes to overhead expenses (like marketing, billing, tech, admin support, etc.) plus profit to make running the business worthwhile. But if your boss is just getting jobs on Fiverr and farming them out to you, she probably doesn’t have a ton of overhead.

If you felt your pay rate was fair before you found out where her business comes from, I’m hard pressed to say you’re being taken advantage of. And if you’re not interested in setting up your own Fiverr account and doing the work to get the visibility yourself that she has there, then this arrangement seems pretty reasonable.

But I can see why you feel weird about it, too. I think ultimately you’ll have to decide if you’re happy with the work you’re doing and the pay you’re getting, regardless of the profit she’s making on it. Alternately, though, now that you have this info, you could try asking for a higher rate of pay (factoring in that she’ll still need to make some kind of profit on your work in order for it to make sense for her to farm it out to you).

3. How much should I tell employees about my disability?

I work a full-time remote job and have a physical disability that often affects how and when I work. HR is aware of my condition, and I’ve informed my direct managers, but none of my coworkers know unless I tell them outright (and unless we’re especially close, I usually don’t).
I will likely be taking on a managerial role of my own in the near future.

Generally speaking, I’d assume that managerial etiquette involves telling your direct reports less and not more about your personal life—at least where it’s not immediately appropriate or relevant. But my disability does affect how I work: I often block off large chunks of my calendar for doctors’ appointments, get sick more often and more severely than your average person, and occasionally have to leave a meeting unexpectedly due to spontaneous flare-ups of pain.

Most significantly, I’m in a different time zone than most of the company, which means most coworkers are several hours of ahead of me—and rather than waking up early to attend early meetings, which would deprive me of sleep that I already struggle to get and desperately need, I’ve asked people for their patience in scheduling meetings at later times. I’m not the only employee in my time zone, but most others have will bend their schedules in a way that my health won’t allow. If I ever manage employees in a time zone significantly ahead of my own, this means they may not be able to reach me for the first several hours of their work day.

As a manager, should I disclose this information to my direct reports so they don’t assume I’m flaky or unreachable? Or is it none of their business what hours I work or when I can and can’t hold meetings? I’m not shy about or ashamed of having a disability, but I don’t want this to become a situation where it could be used against me by upper management or my own direct reports.

Disclose the parts that will be relevant to them, but you don’t need to get into specifics. It’s enough to say, “I have a medical condition that makes me pretty consistently unreachable before (time), and I might occasionally have to leave a meeting unexpectedly due to spontaneous flare-ups. I’ve been able to manage my work around it well, but I wanted you to have that context up-front.”

You shouldn’t take a “it’s none of their business when I do and don’t work or when I’m available” because if they don’t have the sort of context I suggested above, they’re likely to end up frustrated or annoyed at what could otherwise look like inflexibility. But for most people, that context will make your scheduling needs perfectly reasonable.

4. How do I stop adopting my coworkers’ demeanor?

I have had some work before but am new to the professional environment.

I have a tendency to subconsciously adopt my coworkers’ attitude about work while they’re around. Which isn’t the best if they’re burned out or having a rough time/bad day, and it’s not the best when I copy the ones who are always having Such A Fun Time at work. How do I conduct myself at work and how do I avoid subconsciously copying other people? I do like my job.

(BTW, I know this isn’t anyone’s fault but mine! I’m not pinning this on my coworkers.)

It sounds like you’ve got to be more deliberate in thinking through who you want to be at work. Can you spend some time reflecting on what image you want to project at work and what that does and doesn’t mean for how you’ll operate? Can you walk through past scenarios where you weren’t pleased with how you conducted yourself and think about what you wish you’d done differently and what that would have looked like?

But also, often this stems from not being confident about what your behavior should look like. So it can help to find colleagues who you admire and pay attention to what they do and don’t do in some of these same situations, and consciously model yourself on them for a while. Sometimes that can feel like acting, but if you practice it enough, eventually it’ll feel more natural.

Also, this may help, as well as the comments on this.

5. My new boss didn’t tell me she lives in another state

I recently started a new job that’s still mostly remote for now, although I’m expected to go into the office occasionally, with the frequency of on-site work ramping up over time. The interviewing and hiring process was all done remotely. I didn’t find out until my first week of work that my direct supervisor recently relocated to another state (before I applied for the job), so I will essentially never see her in person. That feels … weird to me, and it also makes me feel weird that this was never mentioned by her or by the HR person who was my other point of contact during the hiring process.

While on one hand, I guess it means that my boss will probably be more hands-off, which I prefer, on the other hand I don’t love that all of our face-to-face communication is going to be on Zoom, even when I’m on-site. I’m not sure it would have been a deal-breaker in terms of accepting the position, but it’s definitely a piece of info I would have liked to have had in making my decision. And it sort of makes me feel like I’m starting this job with a trust issue, to be honest. Am I off-base here?

You’re certainly entitled to be disappointed to learn she’s full-time remote, but I don’t think it should should make your distrust her or your new company. Yes, it would have been better for someone to mention it! But it sounds like a lot of their staff are still fully remote (if not all of them), so it might have felt unremarkable enough that no one involved in the process thought about it as a thing they should specifically flag for you. And of course, you could start any new job with a boss who’s on-site, only to have that person go remote shortly thereafter.

I’d look at it as a disappointment but not as as something they deliberately withheld or misled you about.

{ 398 comments… read them below }

  1. Beth*

    LW1: With unwanted touch, I find it’s sometimes useful to have a physical reaction when it happens. That could look like a flinch or small jump (as if you’re startled and thrown off by it), it could look like taking a small step back or leaning away to increase your personal space zone, it could be as simple as letting your discomfort show on your face. This should be in addition to telling your manager that you don’t like being touched, of course! But I find body language is often useful as an immediate reminder in the moment when unwanted contact is happening.

    Allowing yourself to show your discomfort also has the benefit of reducing your mental load around this. You shouldn’t have to put even the tiniest bit of energy into acting like this behavior is okay! If your manager doesn’t like seeing how much discomfort she’s causing, then she can stop touching you. (She should stop the moment you ask, of course, but she sounds like the kind of person who might ‘forget’ if allowed to do so.)

    1. lyonite*

      When I’ve been in a situation with unwanted (but not extreme) touching and I didn’t want to make a scene, I have been able to gently remove the person’s arm from my shoulders while stepping away, without saying anything, and continue the conversation. If they aren’t unreasonable, they should get the message. (And yes, I know we should be able to make as much of a “scene” as we like when it comes to who touches our bodies, but it isn’t always practical and sometimes you do what you can.)

    2. allathian*

      Everyone who gets subjected to this kind of violation of personal space has my sympathy. It’s awful. In a normal office job, there’s no reason for people to touch each other, ever, except possibly to shake hands, and thanks to the pandemic it’s becoming more acceptable to skip even that, at least in some places.

      Sure, some people are more comfortable with touching than others, but then you need to go with the boundaries of the person who doesn’t like to be touched. A former manager had the habit of touching her reports on the shoulder when she looked at our screens. She stopped doing that to me when I started to lean away from her until I was in danger of falling off my chair, and rubbing my shoulder where she’d touched me. Now I wish I’d said something, but eventually she asked me “you don’t like me touching you, do you?” and I said that it’s nothing personal, I don’t like being touched in general, and that I wished she’d respect my personal space. She sometimes forgot, but she did pull her hand back quicker, all it took was a frown from me to remind her.

      1. Jackalope*

        I 100% agree that the manager needs to stop and that people shouldn’t be touched at work (or anywhere else) if they don’t want to be. But could we please stop with the “No touching at work ever, it’s always a horrible thing”? We spend a lot of time at work and sometimes get close to them and those of us who like physical affection do sometimes want to do things like hugging our coworkers. I’m fine with social rules saying you need to ask first. I have coworkers that aren’t physically affectionate and I give them lots of space (even pre-COVID). But let those of us who find it meaningful and welcome give each other physical affection.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          Consent is really important — well, in any experience where one person touches another, but especially in a work environment.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Agreed. There are very very very few times I would ever want to be touched at work. I think it is reasonable to assume most people want to keep personal space from coworkers, especially in these plague times. OP should be direct and not worry about her reaction. We too often worry about what it will look like vs what it feels like.

              And what would we be saying if this was a male boss touching a young female coworker? We would be all over that, so why ask OP to soften her discomfort because it’s another woman?

              OP should clearly state to Boss that she doesn’t like x and y. Then if it happens again, talk to HR. Likeable doesn’t mean professional. You should not dread working with her so much you need to medicate yourself.

        2. KimberlyR*

          I am a very affectionate person but I don’t want to be touched at work, in general. While some people might want it, I feel like most people wouldn’t for various reasons and the assumption should be hands-off unless stated otherwise, rather than hands-on unless stated otherwise. This is a business environment, not a personal environment, and I really think different rules apply.

        3. Ann Nonymous*

          However, there will arise a different sort of affinity between the colleagues who do hug and touch than that between them and the don’t-want-to-be-touched colleagues (of which I’m one). I strongly feel that those who DO like hugs should really refrain from them at work, pretty much no matter the circumstances (with allowances for special situations, of course).

    3. LKW*

      You can also gently hold your hand up in a “stop” position and say “Please don’t.” and if she persists you can try “I know your intention is to comfort, but for me, you are causing discomfort. I prefer to not be touched at work.” You’ve acknowledged her intent, but stated the result.

      While you don’t have to make these two points, this is pretty much the definition of harassment – it doesn’t matter if there was no malicious intent, the interaction is unwanted and it has to stop.

      1. GlitsyGus*

        I think this is a great script. Especially because you are trying to stop behavior that you appeared to allow before (even though you didn’t actually consent before). This is kind about the fact you are saying no now, but still makes your boundary very clear.

    4. High Score!*

      This column has really opened my eyes to the variance in comfort levels with regards to touching. While I prefer a completely hands off environment, I’ve worked with huggers who love everyone and I just found it eye rolly but acceptable as long as they didn’t hug without consent. I’ve never been shy about being vocal about touch I didn’t like and the only push back I’ve gotten has been from men who “didn’t mean anything by it” and were forced to suffer consequences.
      But, yeah, HR needs to know. Corporate America is moving toward a hands off environment and it’s a good thing. Last place I worked didn’t even allow hand shakes except for sales if the customer extended hand first.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        There are people I’ll let within the last few feet of me and people I won’t. Start out with a “Please don’t touch me.” If it continues use the physical/visible cues offered above with a “I don’t like being touched” “Do not touch me”. I was born into a very huggy extended family. For the most part I am fine with it. But I remember once during the teen years I didn’t want a hug from some auntie or another who made a big deal of insisting on it. I physically ducked out of reach a few times when she tried and she surprised hugged me out of a blind spot later. And got shoved flat by my automatic reaction. That was the end of the enforced hugging. A cousin on a different branch of the family tree really taught her kids consent early on. When you youngest was 3 some relative demanded a hug or a kiss (don’t remember which) and the 3 year old very clearly told this relative no. Whole room heard it. Relative tried to force the 3 year old who promptly slapped her full in the face. Que mom of 3 year old saying “He said no” while making dead eye contact with the ticked off relative. That kid is now a family legend in consent.

        1. LKW*

          I always gave my nieces and nephews the right to say “no” to a hug. With my littlest nephew I started the teeny tiny hug. It’s a tiny, soft pinch on the arm. I’ve shown many a kid in the years since, most seem to like it because “teeny-tiny” is funny and cute and it still gives them control. They can still say no to the teeny tiny hug. Or they can give you a teeny tiny hug, without getting a hug in return.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I like to do Air Five with kids. You make the motions of giving a high five, but your hands don’t have to touch. If a kid wants a normal high five or a hug, that’s fine by me, but we also have the option for a fun greeting or goodbye where no touching is required.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              It didn’t sound like an actual pinch despite the use of that word in the description, but a soft closing of the fingers meant to imitate a hug in small.

    5. Ray Garraty*

      I like this. I would go one further and have a similar reaction to the mention of religion, such as screaming as loud as you can. Think Linda Blair in the Exorcist.
      Not a fan of religion in general, and definitely not in the captive setting of a work environment.

      1. FrenchCusser*

        That letter made me cringe, and I actually am religious.

        But I don’t push mine on anyone, and I don’t want others to push theirs on me.

        And the touching! Yikes. I nearly barfed just from reading that.

      2. lilsheba*

        I really can’t stand those religious types that insist on pushing their religion on me. That is an instant dislike and I don’t want them around me. That is beyond rude!!! As for the touching oh hell no. NONONONO. I would protest all of that.

  2. Cj*

    I feel for #5. I hate remote work, and would be quite upset if I found out after the fact that my boss lived in a different state.

    I used to have a boss in a different town, but still saw him at various meetings at least twice a month. One of those monthly meetings was a two day meeting in yet another town with an overnight stay where we also got too socialize, so I got to know him well. But that’s doesn’t sound like how it will be for the OP.

    1. LW #5*

      I love remote work and prefer it, but given that this is a hybrid position (and everyone else in the group is local and hybrid), I would have liked to have known that she had a different arrangement.

    2. Sleet Feet*

      I got a surprise remote boss. She was a terrible communicator in other ways to. Honestly I’d be looking out for other signs she’s problematic and then consider jumping ship if you see them.

      Other problematic examples:
      Gives a deadline the gets mad it wasn’t done sooner.
      Have to rework her work multiple times since she doesn’t clearly state what it is.
      Is dismissive if you discuss challenges to reporting remotely.
      Emails you about something minor someone on site said (I kid you not once my shoes broke on the way to work so I put on tennis shoes. Before I got out of my first meeting to reach out to her I had a snarky email from her – why aren’t you following the dress code!!!!????)

      1. RagingADHD*

        None of those examples have anything to do with the boss being remote. That’s just a jerk boss, and they’d be just as much of a jerk in person.

        1. Sleet Feet*

          Yeah. That’s why I specified surprise remote boss. As in failed to adequately communicate prior to me starting that they were remote and never onsite.

          I’ve had remote bosses who are wonderful.

      2. Observer*

        Not a single thing on your list has anything to do with remote vs local management. Read the archives here if you doubt this.

        1. quill*

          Remote work could exacerbate your issues in contacting an already shitty manager, but it’s not going to cause problems on it’s own.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Agreed. My boss on paper at one job was back at Corporate. I never met him. In fact, the only time we even spoke was when he was trying to get me not to resign. A good boss is a good boss. A bad boss is a bad boss. OP just now knows the limit of in-person interaction and should pivot accordingly. If it’s a trust issue, OP should think about why they feel that way. How does it make the boss not trustworthy because *OP* had a particular expectation?

            I have had many jobs where there was someone (often several someones) not local. It’s become very commonplace, in both corporate and federal workforces. I can see being a little surprised, but I can’t quite grasp why OP thinks this is problematic.

        2. Sleet Feet*

          That’s why I specified surprise remote. As in a remote boss who failed to inform me they would be remote before I started. That’s a failure in communication which could be indicitave of a greater problem or it could be a one time mistake.

          That’s why I also said look out for other indications they are poor communicators and gave examples of what that looked like in my case.

      3. Super Duper*

        There’s absolutely no indication that LW’s boss is problematic, though. And all your examples are just…a bad boss. She could have done all those same things onsite. It takes work and intention to be a good remote manager, but it certainly can be done, and there’s absolutely no reason for LW to be panicking about needing to jump ship from a new job that they like and want to stay in.

        1. Sleet Feet*

          Did I tell OP to jump ship right now? Or did I say having a remote boss fail to tell you they are remote is a communication breakdown and look out for signs they are a bad communicator in general?

    3. Lynn*

      Maybe! But so far all we know is that boss lives in another state and everyone is fully remote anyway right now. I wonder if when they do start coming back to the office, boss will come in like once a month; I think LW could definitely ask what that is going to look like.

    4. Moths*

      I feel for them as well. If I was interviewing for a position that seemed to be remote temporarily and that would be transitioning back to the office, I probably wouldn’t think to ask if my manager was doing the same, but would just assume they were. And then would be a bit upset to find out that wasn’t true. I know that some people can be great managers remotely, but I find I can connect better when I’m able to meet at least occasionally in person — which is probably more about me than about the manager! I can understand feeling a little bit of trust issues going into things. While it was probably an unintentional oversight, I feel like a manager being 100% remote when none of the other employees are is important enough to mention somewhere during the interview process and would feel a wonder a bit if any other critical details had been left out of the interview. Again, I realize it’s probably not the case, I can just definitely empathize with OP #5. Hopefully, this was the only surprise and things will be smooth sailing from here out!

  3. Former HR Staffer*

    as for the touchy feely religious boss, i would tell her that i prefer to focus on work at work and god on my personal time and not shortchange your devotion to either by mixing the two.

    as for the touchy feely bit, i’d remind her there’s still a pandemic going on, so in being EXTRA careful, you would prefer to observe the 6ft of social distance suggestion the CDC has outlined.

    1. Nona*

      I got the impression that OP wasn’t religious so wouldn’t be focusing on a god at all. Atheists and agnostics shouldn’t have to pretend to be religious in order to have their beliefs respected and not be bothered at work.

      1. RabidChild*


        I once worked for a fundamentalist Christian who, when I told him I was atheist, would constantly ask me what he considered zingers: “Guess you won’t be taking Christmas off, eh?” that kind of thing. He was also British, so polite to a fault. Finally I said, “You wouldn’t disrespect a person’s religion if they were Jewish or Methodist, would you? How is my choice not to be believe in something any different?” That finally shut it down.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              In some ways the Fake Polite Rudeness feels EXTRA rude. He wanted to say a rude thing but he didn’t want to fully own it because then people would call him on it or think badly of him, so he hid the rude thing in a comment he thought would pass through most people’s politeness filters. I do not like it.

          1. RabidChild*

            No disagreement from me. He was the kind of person that was mortified to be called out for rudeness, so when I did he was contrite.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, he was a rude jerk.

            There’s a guy who patronizes my workplace (mercifully very rarely) who is the master of aristocratically-phrased insults. We’re still allowed to hang up on him when he pulls that, no matter how mild his tone, because he’s still an a-hole.

    2. Wendy*

      As much as I hate to say it, this can be extremely cultural/regional. I grew up in Wisconsin where MAYBE you find out what church someone attends after you’ve been coworkers for a decade. I then moved to Alabama where “can I help you find a church?” is a totally legit offer for a first conversation with a new acquaintance in town and where at one job, my boss – who was the mayor – sincerely told me I should pray about whether this job (as a public librarian) was right for me or not. I’m only nominally Christian, so needless to say this was a BIG EYE-OPENER for me :-D

      In a reasonable world, LW1, you should be able to tell HR you don’t want to talk about religion at work and that would be it. They’d fall all over themselves apologizing, have a stern talk with your boss who would have simply not realized how she was coming on so strong, and everyone would coexist happily ever after. That’s likely true for a lot of places, but my little corner of the deep south ain’t necessarily one of them :-\ Here you’re more likely to get a blank look from HR because seriously, how could you not want to hear The Good News? Evangelizing is simply the neighborly thing to do, and she does it because she cares about you!

      In the off chance you live somewhere like I do, LW1, you may need to prepare yourself with a pre-written list of what behaviors you expect to stop and what you want your boss to be doing instead. “Don’t preach at me” may be seen as too overly broad, because from some points of view, “being a moral person” and “being a member of X religion” are synonymous and what you consider preaching is seen as equivalent to being kind. Instead, be specific: I’m not comfortable with conversations like X, where my boss said XYZ, or like Y, where she asked me ABC. I respect her right to talk about church events just like any other personal detail but I don’t want her asking me about my own. That kind of thing.

      Best of luck – this is one of those things where you absolutely SHOULD be able to enjoy a religion-free workplace, and hopefully it will be an easy fix. But if it’s not, being prepared helps a lot :-D

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The difference you saw in Alabama was the baseline assumption that everyone has a church. In most of the country, offering to help a new acquaintance find a church would be a prelude to proselytizing. In this case, it is a genuine attempt to be helpful, akin to helping you find a good auto mechanic. The other difference is an assumption that the churches we are talking about are independent or quasi-independent entities that vary wildly, without it being easy to tell from the outside who is who. I belong to a tradition with a stronger denominational organization. Back when I moved around, finding a church began with looking in the phone for churches in my denomination, then making the rounds, starting with the closest. Nowadays the internet would serve the function of the phone book, but the process is otherwise the same. Finding a church is a straightforward process. But without that denominational identity, it would be far trickier.

        1. tess*

          When my family and I moved to the Deep South about 10 years ago, and it was discovered that we didn’t go to church, we became curiosities at best, pariahs at worst. It was lonely for a while, until we met other people of the same no-church habits. Of course, alienating people because they don’t go to church isn’t exactly practicing the golden rule, so the hypocrisy was robust, to say the least. Moving there was like going to another planet in many ways.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Reason #347 I will never live in the small town where my spouse grew up. His folks keep offering to leave us their house so we can “move to the country when we retire”. Thank you, but no effin’ way. The one Catholic church in their community has been vandalized multiple times due to “not wanting paganism in the community”, so I’d imagine announcing my atheism would set me up for a lifetime of being bless-you-hearted over and told I’m going to burn in the afterlife.

            He told me they used to have missionaries come to the PUBLIC SCHOOLS to preach, which sounds like a totally ACLU-able offence to me… to which he responded that one would only complain if one wanted to be ostracized and gossiped about and the same to happen to one’s children.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I grew up in a small town in our one Catholic church surrounded by Southern Baptists and a few Methodists. The crap I heard at school every day, sheesh:

              – I’m going to hell because I’m not saved
              – My baptism didn’t count because I wasn’t dunked
              – It was my fault we had to eat fish and not pizza on Fridays at school during Lent (we had pizza on Wednesdays)
              – Praying to saints was bad because YOU MUST PRAY TO GOD
              – Worshiping statues is idolatry and also bad (they were decorative, calm down)

              Someone actually tried to burn down my childhood church a few years ago, but it was actually a cover-up for a burglary. Obviously that wasn’t my first thought when I initially heard about it. The church survived and was extensively remodeled.

              I would not want to live there again. I can only imagine what would happen if anyone found out I practice Buddhism now.

              1. Frustration Nation*

                I grew up Jewish in a small town in central Florida, so I can sympathize. Our synagogue used to get bomb threats weekly, and people started trying to convert me when I was around 7-8 years old, and only stopped when I moved away after college. I never really found anything that would get the proselytizing to stop entirely, but telling them they were being antisemitic or prejudiced sometimes worked. Telling them how their behavior made me feel didn’t work. Telling them how their behavior was offensive or rude sometimes did. I had to make it about them for them to hear me. (And most Southerners do not want to be called rude – it’s a thing.)

              2. PhyllisB*

                Elizabeth, I had the exact opposite experience. I went to a Catholic boarding school for a couple of years, and we were Southern Baptists. I didn’t get any animosity, but the girls all felt sorry for me because I was going to “burn in Hell” because I wasn’t Catholic. Thanks goodness I had sensible family members who basically told me to disregard and not to get into religious debates. I followed their advice and ended up making some good friends while I was there.

          2. James*

            My experience was very different. I’ve had a few people invite me to their church, but after that no one’s cared. We’re certainly not pariahs. And honestly, I had more people trying to convert me in California than in the South.

            Mostly where I am you just deal with the fact that Christianity is part of the culture. People assume you’re Christian, even public events open with a prayer, and the like. It’s annoying, but a minor cost. At least I’m allowed to bring the kids out in public. I was more of a pariah in CA when I had my son with me (a baby at that point)–everyone treated it as if I’d placed some tremendous burden on them by daring to bring him out of the house. In Alabama kids are just sort of expected; they’re part of life.

          3. Filosofickle*

            I met woman who had relo’d to Texas who told me her trick for finding other non-churgoing families was to go to McDonald’s playland on Sunday mornings during services. I found that quite charming, families rolling up to MickeyD’s like some sort of underground club.

        2. PT*

          The process of “finding a church” is discriminatory to people whose religion assigns your church based on where you live (parishes, wards, etc.) Or someone who belongs to a religion that’s such a minority in the area, that there’s only one of their houses of worship for miles and thus there is no choice to be made.

      2. Sandi*

        An atheist coworker of mine moved south to a town where they heard the line “Can I help you find a church?” from almost everyone, and they quickly learned that the answer is “No, I found one, thank you for offering” as that shut down any further religious talk and no one ever asked more details so they didn’t know that the guy didn’t go to church at all. It’s a bit like moving to a place where everyone has kids and asks if your kids have a school yet, so if you respond No then they assume that you have kids and want to know more about schools. It is much easier to say Yes, even if it is The Church of Sleeping in on Sundays.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Atheist in Texas: Second this. Just tell them you have one. They don’t need to know it’s the Church of Sleeping In and Listening to Car Talk.

          1. BeenThere*

            Another Atheist who spent half a decade in Texas: It look a little time to realize Sunday mornings were a great way to get some shopping done, get a good table for brunch and head home once the flocks of people arrived and complained about the queues everywhere.

            Don’t get me started on the default assumption of everyone goes to church, I never got used to hearing “what’s your church?” I taught my brain to think of it like the Sydney, Australia equivalent of “which school did you attend?”

            TLDR; My church is the getting s*** done on Sundays

        2. OhNo*

          Have to say, even in my northern home state, I’ve found this to be the easiest and least confrontational method of deflecting proselytizing. Most varieties of Christianity that I’ve come across place their emphasis on converting the nonbeliever, rather than swaying folks from other denominations to swap churches.

          The closest equivalent I can compare it to is men who will argue for hours if you just say, “I’m not interested”, but will accept “Sorry, I already have a boyfriend” immediately. If your soul is already spoken for, that’s seen as an acceptable reason to refuse.

      3. Cold Fish*

        I’m fine with a religious comment or even discussion (I find all religious history quite fascinating), however nothing gets my hackles up quicker than proselytizing or being preached at. The difference in my mind is the former is a personal reflection of who you are and the latter an attempt to shame or change who I am. It’s a fine line and easy to cross. As a result, I tend to lean to the no religious talk in the workplace philosophy. But I’ve never lived in a very religious town either, so I’m not 100% sure on how I would react. Some of these comments make me think it would not be pretty.

        I also have a very big personal bubble. I’m not sure what it is I do but most people pick up on and respect that bubble fairly quickly. I think it is a combination of not hiding my discomfort well and my tendency of starting to back/lean away whenever someone gets within 2-3 feet ;)

      4. Wendee*

        You poor thing. All of that obnoxious evangelism is what is keeping the South down, not lead poisoning, not factories closing. There’s no way for a culture to develop and grow when religion is so widespread.

        1. bookartist*

          Wendy said absolutely nothing about religious belief holding the South “down.” She related her experiences as someone who moved there. Going by all the info in her post, you could easily imagine those conversations happening in a wealthy OR poor area.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I always used to say I just prefer a much larger personal space bubble, and now the CDC agrees with me. As long as you are polite but firm and professional about it, reasonable people will accept that some people just don’t like being touched.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        Yeah. Touchy feely was bad enough before the pandemic. Now there may be work place social distance rules to help enforce the No Touchy!

    4. Observer*

      i would tell her that i prefer to focus on work at work and god on my personal time and not shortchange your devotion to either by mixing the two.


      The OP doesn’t need to pretend to be religious to get their boss to back off. Yes, we live in a Christian country, especially culturally. But seriously, we do NOT *require* people to be religious. If the company is at all sane “I don’t want to talk about religion at work” should be enough and “I don’t want to deal with religious pressure at work” should be a red flag about the manager.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        And I say no for another reason. As a christian, my focus is on God all the time, so that argument would likely not be effective at all. She would argue that it isn’t shortchanging devotion by bringing it into the workplace. In other words, that particular argument would not be effective at all. Observer’s wording is much better.

      2. Wendee*

        We do NOT live in a Christian country, no matter how much the “Christians” want to believe or act like we do.

        1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

          Thank you, Wendee. I believe religion is private and personal and it needs to stay that way.

          1. banoffee pie*

            I’ve always found it funny that the US doesn’t have an official religion but seems to be far more religious than the UK. Even though the Church of England is the established church in England, most people don’t attend. I think the Presbyterian church is the established church in Scotland, if anyone is interested :)

            1. Rainy*

              There’s a fantastic line in Good Omens about that–when Mr Young doesn’t attend church, the only church he doesn’t attend is the good old C of E (or some such).

    5. Lady_Lessa*

      The touching would bother me, I like hugging and shaking hands, but a hand on the arm is not appropriate. I would first ask her not to, and then consider talking to HR.

    6. Little My*

      I think the pandemic is ABSOLUTELY the way to get her to stop touching you! “I’m still not hugging people” or “I’m still trying to stay social distanced” is such a common thing to say right now.

      1. banoffee pie*

        The pandemic is a good excuse at the moment. Before the pandemic I was one of those people that lots of people (men and women) kept touching on the arm, putting their arm round etc. But since the pandemic, it has all magically stopped. Even people who don’t ‘believe in’ or ‘care about’ the pandemic realise that other people might be annoyed about physical contact at a time like this.

  4. Cj*

    If somebody touched me like that, I don’t think I could have avoided jumping back, slapping them, and yelling WTF all at once.

    1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      Lol, please don’t slap people and swear at them at work! But seriously, showing a strong (but not that strong) reaction can help show that that amount of touching is inappropriate at work.

        1. Loulou*

          Lol, it is, but if you SLAP SOMEONE at work you have quickly turned it into a “two wrongs don’t make a right” situation. I know nobody commenting here would ever do or say any of the things they claim to in situations like this but just in case anyone reading this would…stick Alison’s advice!

          1. tess*

            Depends. “…she hugs me, strokes my shoulder, and rubs my arm” sounds a bit sexual. Just because uninvited touching occurs at work doesn’t mean the defense should be any less than if it occurred outside of work. “Two wrongs don’t make a right” has nothing to do with it.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              This. Some people have a strong, automatic response to being touched and if someone gets slapped for touching someone at work I’m not considering that “two wrongs”, I’m considering that one wrong and the natural consequence.

              1. Lorine*

                This comes up every time a letter mentions a touchy coworker, and it’s just not helpful.

                The manager would 100% say “I touched the new person on the shoulder and she slapped me”. LW would be out the door within the hour. The LW told us the boss is well-liked, and she’s new, and she wants to keep this job. Slapping, screaming and over the top verbal barbs are not going to get the outcome LW wants.

                1. Texas*

                  Cj’s post said they don’t think they could have avoided the reaction, not that they’re advising the LW slap their boss. Reading comprehension, y’all!

                2. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  Thank you Texas. For the record I also said strong, AUTOMATIC response. These are often reflexes. Not conscious choices.

                3. Risha*

                  Exactly. The OP does not have the political capital yet to be able to behave in the office in what would be a completely reasonable way at a bar or coffee shop. She needs her response to be above reproach to potentially unreasonable people (she hasn’t worked there long enough to know whether her boss and HR are reasonable or not).

                4. Loulou*

                  Right. If someone genuinely had an automatic trauma response to being touched and *accidentally* slapped their boss when they touched their shoulder, then that person would certainly be in need of AAM’s advice to resolve the situation once it happened. It is certainly not helpful to suggest that someone should do this on purpose on the basis that the commenter writing the suggestion could possibly have done it by accident. (And if that’s not what the people commenting this are trying to suggest, then it’s just a personal anecdote and not a helpful comment for the LW)

              2. Smithy*

                Provided the hugs aren’t coming from behind – the boss is opening her arms and the LW is (begrudgingly and unhappily) consenting to the hug. Thus far the LW has never declined a hug and received any retaliation. Clearly the LW feels a power dynamic where pushing back against this will be awkward, but to place this entirely in the realm of being spontaneous and without notice isn’t legitimate.

                And while touches of the arm/shoulder can be made as overtures of a friendly, romantic, or sexual nature – there are enough accidental reasons when it may happen where if your automatic response is to slap someone under any touching circumstance…..I have a hard time seeing that not end up as at least HR conversations. And if you have enough wherewithal to identify someone accidentally tripping into you as not warranting a slap, then there should also be enough to tell a coworker you don’t like being touched the first time they touch your elbow or pat your back.

                1. Smithy*

                  The dynamic of a manager and a direct report on its own is a power differential that likely feels like coercive to many. Particularly earlier in your career. And as I wrote below, in addition to fight or flight, freeze is an incredibly common response to stressful situations – and if that is how the LW has been reacting in those moments, it is no more or less valid in processing what to do next.

                  But digging in on the stance of slapping or hitting in most workplaces in lieu of using your words in response to actions like face to face hugging, arm and/or shoulder touching is simply not professional advice I find helpful. This isn’t to condone what the manager is doing, but the LW is already being put in an adversarial situation where she doesn’t have the capital or seniority the manager does. If this is a more classic office environment, I really don’t see how adding physical violence is helpful.

              3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

                PTSD here. If you surprise me you could end up with an automatic hand reaction before I process who it is.

              4. OhNo*

                Have to agree, here. My automatic reaction to being grabbed/hugged/otherwise seized unexpectedly is to start throwing elbows. It’s a reaction born of trauma, and not something I enjoy talking about, but I do my best to warn others not to touch me so no one triggers it by accident. If some unfortunate soul gets clipped because they grabbed me… well, I’ll apologize profusely once the panic response wears off, but it will still lead to a discussion about why we don’t touch people without their consent.

                1. Loulou*

                  I think OP would have mentioned this if it were the case for them, so presumably they are not doing any of these things and shouldn’t start, though! That’s what I don’t get about this discussion that ensues every time the topic comes up here.

                2. OhNo*

                  Because, Loulou, the discussions in the comments are often only half for the benefit of the specific letter writer in question. The other half of the point is to discuss work protocol surrounding these situations in general. This site often ends up being a resource for people who didn’t write in as much as those that did, so this conversation might help someone in the future.

                  There’s definitely a benefit to saying “this conversation doesn’t seem to apply to the question, so let’s get back on track”. But there is also a benefit to these sidetracks, sometimes.

            2. r*

              Yeah I had a boss who liked to grab people from behind??? I did instinctively elbow him & yell. (Un?)fortunately he thought it was funny, so I still had a job but was not exempt from the weirdness except to the extent that I didn’t turn my back to him.

      1. High Score!*

        As someone who does not hold back on expressing dissatisfaction with someone touching me… I have punched guys for grabbing my ass at work hard enough that they had to recover before calling me a birch lol.
        But the writer’s manager seems to be one of those people who enjoys being in constant physical contact with others. Usually all it takes to get those types to quit is telling them and saying ICK a couple of times.
        Still, reporting her to HR is a good idea so she can get some training in acceptable office conduct.

    2. Smithy*

      While that’s certainly the response some people have to physical touch, I think it’s important to flag for both the LW and many others that a frozen response to unwanted touch is really common. Especially should the LW be a woman.

      The depressing parts of these situations is that while what the LW’s boss is doing is wrong, the LW will have to continue doing work in the effort to get this to stop. And slapping the boss would only put the LW into more conflict, because while its reasonable to not want to be touched at work – arm touching/back patting (particularly if its viewed as being between two cis gendered women) – will not be coded as inevitably inappropriate without it being verbalized. So the LW has to do the work of pushing back against their boss in a polite and professional fashion beyond their traditional comfort zone before then going to HR. And that’s a huge amount of emotional labor.

    3. Lorine*

      Except the LW has explicitly stated that she wants to keep this job, so she should follow Alison’s advice, not slap someone while doing a Wilhelm scream.

    4. Oakenfield*

      Maybe get a handle on that. You don’t want to appear out of control and unhinged at work. You need to be able to conduct yourself with restraint.

      1. La Triviata*

        I was reminded – late – of a video from several years ago. One of the famous models was out, walking along with some friends/co-workers and photographers, etc., all around. A man – a stranger – came up behind her and grabbed her. Wrapped his arms around her, pinning HER arms and lifting her off her feet. She reacted, elbowed him, struggled free.

        The reaction? a lot of people thought she was in the wrong. One comment was something along the lines of “not model behavior”.

  5. MK*

    Look, OP2, all employers are profiting off their workers’ labor, it’s in the nature of employment. But if you read your letter, you go from”all she does is a bit proofreading” to “she does all these other stuff that I am not willing to do”. Whether the extra work your boss does in running her business justifies the profit she makes from your work is debatable, but at the end of the day, unless you are willing to go freelance, this is the setup you will have to live with. And it’s highly unlikely that you will find an employer willing to limit, or even disclose, how much profit they make off your work.

    1. Willis*

      I agree. I also wonder if the OP’s boss is paying her as a contractor or as an employee. I’d assume the former and that OP is only getting paid for what she writes, but she also mentions a salary in which case maybe the OP’s boss is also covering taxes and possibly some benefits, which would be more reason to justify the higher rate on Fiverr. Either way, I agree with the advice – ask for a higher rate if you feel its warranted and competitive with the market for your work. But someone is always going to be charging more for your work to cover overhead (and profit, assuming you’re working for a for-profit) if you don’t want to be the one doing marketing, business management, client contact, etc.

    2. AJoftheInternet*

      Entirely agreed. If she’s got Pro status, that’s heaps of experience and all the marketing she’s doing. Yes, she’s not doing much with YOUR work, but she’s doing the work of FINDING the clients to get the money from. That’s actually a huge nightmare. Plus she’s contracting, billing them, dealing with late payments and ghost clients. You ALWAYS get paid, and she doesn’t always, and has to eat her losses. If you don’t want to go freelance and were happy, I’d tally up all the things she’s doing that you don’t have to, and enjoy your relative security and lack of headache.

      1. Yes!*

        Running a business, especially on a site like Fiverr, can be a huge hassle with many problems including, as you noted, clients who don’t pay.

      2. Adam*

        Yeah, all the freelancers I know put nearly as much effort into finding, maintaining, managing, and billing clients as the actual work they’re being paid to do. It’s a huge amount of overhead.

        1. RJ*

          This. I quit freelancing a few years back because I got burned out from the constant “hustling” for work. If I could just put my head down and do the work for fair compensation, that would be my sweet spot.

      3. Lacey*

        Yes. I tried to do Fiverr for a bit when I was unemployed and it was a nightmare. I knew a couple of people who were successful on there, but it would have been a ton of work to get to that place, especially now (they started earlier in) She’s benefiting of the OP, but the OP is also benefitting off of her.

      4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        You ALWAYS get paid, and she doesn’t always, and has to eat her losses.

        That’s a huge perk of being an employee over being the boss that most employees don’t realize until it’s gone.

      5. Smithy*

        The “finding” is no easy feat at all.

        It reminds of the gap between people hearing that their vintage or antique items are valued at $X amount but somehow they’re only able to get $X- amount when they take their items to an auction house/antique store or try to sell the items themselves. The auction house/antique store has had to do a ton of work to build a customer base willing to spend $X amount for those items and those are for-profit businesses. When a private individual goes to sell an item, they are far less likely to have access to that customer base to begin with – and then even if they do, the confidence that buyers will have in them will be lower as they don’t necessarily have that reputation. That often limits the interested buyers to those with more expertise looking to resell, and therefore offering prices where they hope to make a profit later.

      6. IAgree!*

        Yes! AJoftheInternet nailed it. Speaking from personal experience as a small business owner, (in a simliar line of work) I agree 100% with your assessment of all the risks and work that goes into generating business, getting paid, and keeping the business going.

    3. bee*

      Yeah, this is mostly just what having a job is, it just feels weird because you can see it in raw numbers.

      I can empathize with OP2 though! I write shopping posts for a big website, and I can see from the sales/views info and their commission percentage that they’re often making many thousands of dollars from articles they pay me a couple hundred bucks for. People (read: my dad) sometimes push the “well why don’t you do it yourself and make all that money??” angle, but I don’t have the infrastructure/knowledge/millions of social media followers to make that an actual possibility. At the end of the day, I’m very happy with what they pay me for the work and that’s way more valuable than any hypothetical money that I could be getting if I did a lot of work that I do not want to (and really can’t!) do myself.

    4. Barbara Eyiuche*

      Yes, keep in mind that if you were on Fiverr yourself, you probably wouldn’t get as much work. Still, I would ask for a raise – it could be that she is taking too much of a cut.

      1. LW# 2*

        LW #2 here – hi everyone!

        Thanks so much for all the input. I’ve considered Alison’s reply and all your responses. Just wanted to make clear that I am not unhappy with my job, as stated before – I don’t want to do what my boss is doing (even though I could) and am happy to work as her wingwoman instead. As many of you have pointed out, there are benefits to the position that I’m in (read: never having to talk to clients). There are also drawbacks: I only earn when I’m writing, so if I get sick or take a vacation I don’t get paid, plus I average a 10 hour workday every day. I never expected for my boss not to make a profit off my work (duh, that’s business), I was just surprised by how much profit it turned out to be.

        All things considered, I’ve decided I am going to ask for a raise in the new year. I did the actual math and figured out that after my boss pays her Fiverr commission and pays me my cut, she is still earning $4 for every $1 that I make. There are practically no overheads – we work remotely, its just the two of us, she pays me directly (so no payroll people to pay) and we use free software to organize briefs. In the 10 months that we’ve worked together she’s tried to onboard 5 new writers with no success, so I feel confident that I’ve not only proved that I can keep up with her standards but that I am an asset to her business.

        Thanks again for the input and wish me luck!

        1. Boof*

          That does sound like a bit much; you could do research on business norms for writers but i tend to think 40-50% going to the content creator is more normal (this is more based on selling books than writing gigs though). Justification for a raise could also be that you want to make enough to cover a reasonable number of vacations, etc.

          1. Pennilyn Lot*

            Haha, I wish. Writing is a racket. When I did commercial content writing as a contractor, the place that I worked for charged their clients like 3 grand per article, and I got $60.

        2. Snow Globe*

          I just want to add that the difference between what she is paid by the client and what she pays you is not all *profit*. What she is actually making is just a fraction of that. As Alison said, there are overhead expenses that go into that, probably far more expenses that you would expect.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I have to have this conversation all the time with people. I work in an industry that bills people’s time. When people see their $200 rate and know they only get paid $25/hour, they start doing the math and get offended that we aren’t paying them more. I get the actual profitability reports, and the basic $200 x hours worked does not account for expenses (rent, payroll taxes, benefits, office supplies, the free beverages in the coffee room, the overhead departments like accounting and marketing, etc.) nor does it reflect what was actually charged to customers after write-offs, write-downs, and discounts.

            Generally, people are a loss for the first 6 months, breakeven for the next 6, and might start turning a nominal profit about the time they get their annual raise. Junior people are considered a success if they break even; senior people are where the real money is, and they are very well compensated for their expertise and time.

        3. Person from the Resume*

          I would suggest instead of saying “little overhead” you think about the overhead of finding the jobs, billing the clients, chasing down client payments when they don’t pay, and risk of nonpayment. And maybe finding jobs is easy for her because of her longstanding reputation and reliability, but won’t be easy for someone who is an unknown.

          Not that you don’t ask for a raise, but your boss is doing overhead you don’t want to do. And taking risk of flaky clients not paying so you don’t want. But do readjust your thinking. Your boss is doing work you do not want to do and providing some overhead you don’t have. She deserves to make some money for that.

          1. EPLawyer*

            There is also overhead in running the business. Taxes, business fees, licenses, insurance (maybe on this), etc. So it’s not just the costs associated with having a Fiverr site

            1. BigTenProfessor*

              Nobody has mentioned insurance yet….most freelancer content creators I know carry E&O insurance.

        4. Old13oy*

          Not sure what country you’re in but in the US for every $1 she makes she might be paying $0.30 or $0.40 in taxes. Using your math, if she earns $4 and you earn $1, she’s paying $1.20 – $1.60 in taxes. So it’s more like for every $4 she takes in she’s already sending $2.20 – $2.60 out the door, leaving her $1.40 – $1.60 of money for her time to do the back-of-house work for managing your output (plus all the time she’s spending to do the business development and manage her reputation).

          I’m aware of this because I’m a baby business owner working with contract labor, I just did my taxes, and it’s pretty brutal math. Not saying you shouldn’t ask for a raise, but you also shouldn’t be surprised if she’s resistant to it and says the math doesn’t work for her rates.

          1. twocents*

            This. Tbh, the idea that Boss has basically no overhead or expenses and it’s all just profit for no work on her end sounds more like LW doesn’t actually understand all the work and expense involved in running a business.

            By all means, ask for a raise, but don’t go in thinking “you make 400% more than I do” because that’s almost certainly inaccurate.

          2. comityoferrors*

            That’s true for every $1 OP makes too, though. If OP is making $1 minus $0.30 taxes, netting $0.70 after taxes, and Boss is making $1.40 after taxes + Fiverr charges + paying OP…Boss is still making twice as much as OP is. That may be fair based on how much work it takes to get that reputation and handle their client load — none of us realistically know that except OP. But “consider your boss’s taxes” is a weird take IMO.

            1. twocents*

              Except old13oy didn’t say “consider the boss’s taxes” but rather gave an example of ONE type of expense LW has already forgotten about in trying to figure out her boss’s profit margin.

              1. not a tax man*

                In comparing pay between owner and employee, listing costs that the owner bears that the employee does NOT bear makes sense. However, taxes on income hit both sides equally.

                (of course there are outlier situations based on business structure, but in general, everybody pays income taxes.)

        5. Anne Elliot*

          I would flag as a major concern the fact that you appear to have decided to ask for a raise based on the amount of money you think SHE is making and not whether or not you deserve more money for the work YOU are doing. Were I your boss, I would be deeply aggravated by a conversation premised on “I’ve decided you make too much money compared to what you pay me, so you need to pay me more.” At most, you have determined that it likely that she can AFFORD to pay you more, but that is not at all relevant to whether or not you are being properly paid for the work you are doing.

          So by all means ask for a raise, but you would be wise to structure that conversation around why your product and time are worth more than you are currently receiving, and leave out of the conversation entirely any mention of what she does with the product (and how much money she makes from it) once it has left your hands.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Yeah–OP now has a track record of success, when it seems that it’s tough for her boss to keep writers going. OP’s the only one out of five or six who have stuck around, so that scarcity might drive up her value to her employer.

          2. Koala*

            Well, I would argue that LW is asking for a raise because they discovered that their boss does believe their work is worth more, so it makes sense that LW would ask.

            1. Le Sigh*

              I’m not sure that is what LW discovered, though. They discovered that the boss is charging twice the rate, but it’s not clear to me that it’s pure profit after the 20% fee to the Fivver. I suspect the boss is doing more work than OP realizes (sourcing and screening clients, assessing projects, managing backend operations, eating stiffed fees, etc.), which accounts for at least a chunk of those dollars.

        6. Koala*

          What happened to those five new writers? Like they got all the way to she was ready to hire them on and something happened?

        7. RagingADHD*

          If you are working 10 hour days, I guarantee she’s working more.

          She doesn’t get paid when she doesn’t work — and if she weren’t working, you wouldn’t get paid either.

          It’s a shame that this relationship feels like you’re in competition with her or adversarial, when it sounded like you were already making a better than market rate. Perhaps this is about something besides the money.

          If you get a raise, your employer will raise her rates also. Is that going to upset you? Is it going to turn into some kind of arms race?

          If your goal isn’t about making a fair rate (which you said you already have) but about trying to control how much profit your employer makes, I don’t see how this arrangement can continue long term.

          1. LW# 2*

            Hi RagingADHD, thanks so much for your comment. I’m not sure if you’re aware but your tone is coming across as a little confrontational. I wrote this letter because I am new to this kind of work, obviously inexperienced and seeking advice. Granted, this is a comments section, so anything goes, but I just don’t think its necessary to make things personal by implying that I am in some sort of battle of the wills with my boss or that this is about “more than money”. I’m just out here trying to make a living and make sure I don’t get taken for a ride.

            Obviously the details of my working situation were not fully disclosed in my letter to Alison or my reply further up and now I feel that is skewing the narrative to one where people seem to assume that I don’t think my boss deserves to make an income (even a large one) off my work. She works hard and I wish her all the success in the world.

            I’m based in SA, where we use the word salary for everything – wages, commission, contract work. I can see how this is confusing, but in reality I literally get paid for what I write IF it gets accepted by client. So I am also “eating losses”, as you put it. If a client backs out of a project, my boss does not pay me out of her own pocket. I also earn in Rands, which makes the conversion to $ a bit unclear. The amount p/w that I shared with Alison was interpreted by her as a fair/good rate. In reality I earn a third of the recommended rate in my country per word. This is something I agreed to do because I was desperate for work and knew that I could push myself to make the good income I described through sheer quantity of writing (hence the 1o hour workdays). From the sheer volume of work that my boss pulls in, I kind of assumed that she had to be offering lower rates than our competitors as well. Obviously working this way is not something everybody is keen to do and that is probably also the reason why the five writers I mentioned before didn’t stick around (to answer someone else’s question, they were all onboarded and handed in a few projects before resigning).

            I enjoy the work and I get along very well with my boss. I don’t want to leave because I feel I am contributing to her business and helping her to build something bigger, which will also benefit me in the long run. At the same time I just want to be compensated fairly for the parts I am contributing, which I can see from the numbers are clearly benefitting my boss (again, I am aware that this is the nature of business). Yes, there are overheads, but they cannot be compared to the overheads of an office that has a building, pays electricity and internet, provides coffee, has an admin team etc. Hence, my question.

            A lot of people have given me constructive food for though and for that I am grateful. I’ll consider my wording carefully going forward. I know its tough to give an answer based on limited information – believe me, I did try to be as thorough as possible while respecting Alison’s time – but at the same time I think a little benefit of the doubt can go a helluva long way on the internet.

            1. RagingADHD*

              Well, I’m not sure how you intend people to interpret “I agreed to work with her at a good rate per word. Things went really well and I soon found myself writing quite a decent amount and earning a good salary as a result.”

              My post was not a personal attack in any way, but an observation that *based on the letter,* your objections to the arrangement did not make sense.

              If Alison altered your letter to mean the exact opposite of what you said, then you should take it up with her.

        8. Observer*

          You’re still not taking in the full cost to her, though.

          For instance, client management is something that takes up her time that she’s not billing for. And although Fivvr handles certain aspects of it, it doesn’t handle everything, It can’t. Same for time dealing with people who are making inquiries (including the ones that don’t pan out.) This is a set of issues that you have now way to have any transparency with.

          By the way, the fact that she tried to onboard 5 other people and it didn’t work out is another set of time costs – and it shows that there is more to managing this that just throwing pieces of work at people. Of course, it also indicates that your work is good enough that it may very well be worth her while to pay you more, since your work probably costs her less than the work of some other people, once you factor in these other types of costs.

          I have not gone through every single cost. I’m just trying to make the point that it’s actually highly unlikely that she’s actually netting 4x what she’s paying you. If she were, she wouldn’t need to do any writing herself.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            I’m inclined to think that having five out of five new hires drop out would be an indicator that something is wrong with the job as offered. Like, maybe the pay she’s offering them and paying LW, the only one she’s been able to hire, really is below market.

        9. learnedthehardway*

          I replied below, but am replying here too – if you’re getting 25% of what your client charges their clients, you’re probably doing pretty well. I’d be careful about how much you ask for in addition. Keep in mind that they likely have other freelancers that they could employ – you have to figure out what your market value is, not just what your clients can charge.

        10. GlitsyGus*

          I think this is a good plan! You have shown your worth and asking for a raise at this point is appropriate. I would not ring up her fees when you ask, though. The value of your work deserves the increase, what she charges is very secondary.

          For the record, it didn’t sound to me like you were complaining, just that you were not sure what the norms were in this situation. For reference, almost every company I have worked for that makes a thing or provides a service, a 100-150% markup over the final production cost is pretty normal. I know writing isn’t exactly the same, and you can’t always get the 150% if the market won’t bear it, but that kind of profit margin isn’t unheard of at all. A company exists for profit, and as long as you are being fairly compensated for your piece, there is nothing wrong with that.

    5. Bethany*

      OP2 to give you some context, I am a consultant and I make about 30% of the hourly rate my company charges for me.

      The remaining 70% covers all the things an office provides, equipment, support staff, admin, marketing, advertising, insurance, billing, etc.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        +1 to this. I’ve worked for a few consulting companies where I knew my hourly billing rate, and I don’t think I ever made as much as 50% of what I was getting billed at.

        1. Your local password resetter*

          True, but OP works for a one-person company with no support staff, facilities, or other things a bigger company would provide. Its just her and her boss sitting at home with their own equipment.
          So a more equal cut seems fair to me.

          1. Mental Lentil*

            Nope. Boss is out there getting the clients. That’s a huge amount of overhead because it’s a time sink.

              1. Mental Lentil*

                But she’s going to get paid for that writing.

                Looking for new clients is a hit or miss situation. You win some, and you lose a lot.

                Try a job in sales sometime if you need confirmation of this.

          2. Sleepless KJ*

            Nope. Not at all. She’s a contracted employee. Boss has overhead whether it’s tangible to the OP or not and boss has pre and post project work in addition to what OP has done.

          3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            The OP says after the non-Boss’s-time overhead she’s aware of, she’s making 20% of the profits from the work. If she were making 30% of the profits, that would be a 50% raise, and still relatively less than what Bethany is making, assuming I read that correctly and Bethany is making about 30% of the pre-overhead net amount her company brings in. I agree with everyone that the OP’s case for a raise shouldn’t be “it’s not fair you’re making so much from my work”, but depending on what she knows of her boss, an allusion to how much her work brings in now that she’s a known quantity might not be completely out of place. It does heavily depend on her relationship with the boss though.

      2. Autumn*

        Years ago I was cleaning houses, I charged $7.50 an hour, cash. When I looked at taking things above board I calculated that with SE tax, regular and state sales tax(this is subject to sales tax in my state) I would have to charge $15 an hour to capture the $7.50 I wanted in my pocket. At the time the market wouldn’t bear $15 an hour (nobody would hire me) I always remember that calculation when thinking about how much people charge me for services. It makes the prices feel fair.

    6. Bethany*

      OP2 to give you some context, I am a consultant and I make about 30% of the hourly rate my company charges for me.

      The remaining 70% covers all the things an office provides, equipment, support staff, admin, marketing, advertising, insurance, billing, etc.

    7. Bethany*

      OP2 to give you some context, I am a consultant and I make about 30% of the hourly rate my company charges for me.

      The remaining 70% covers all the things an office provides, equipment, support staff, admin, marketing, advertising, insurance, billing, etc.

    8. T2*

      I have both owned my own business and worked for someone else. In my line of work, I provide all of the day to day technical and practical services of the job. And I run the team that delivers on executables for clients.

      But owning your own business is Really three jobs in one. 1.) you have to find new work. 2.) you have to deliver on the current work. 3.) you have to get paid for yesterday’s work

      I have found that I am great at #2 and do not care for a number 1 and 3. So my boss, the owner of the company, enables me and my team to do the work, and he takes care of the rest.

      So, Op has three choices, 1 understand that their boss/organization needs to make money and provides vital services that enable them to do the job. or 2. Hang out their own shingle and replace the boss. Or 3 attempt to renegotiate terms. But understand that if the Boss can replace you with a cheaper alternative, they might just do that.

      Pick one and go with it

    9. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Wait until LW#2 hears what my boss bills the clients for my time, versus what I take home.

    10. Richard Hershberger*

      A great truth for a vast array of occupations is that there are two functions: getting the work, and doing the work. Another great truth is that in many occupations, getting the work is the rarer skill. This is very much the case in law. Someone who brings in work is far more valuable to the firm than someone who merely does the work, however well. Indeed, someone who brings in work can be utterly incompetent as a lawyer. The firm will farm out that work to the drones who are good at that part. In the meantime, the incompetent lawyer but good rainmaker will be made partner. You don’t want to lose someone like that!

      In the instant case, the boss’s cut is for bringing in the work, plus dealing with all the administrative stuff. If this is not the LW’s forte, then this is a reasonable arrangement. At least in principle. The specific numbers may or may not be reasonable. But understand what the boss is doing to earn their cut.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        When I was considering being a freelancer, I was advised the following: whatever time and money you spend creating the product, plan to spend at least that much time and money promoting yourself and your product. It means that your rate for the work you do has to cover the 50% of your time that you spend on just getting clients. That did not sound good to me, so I did not become a freelancer.

        It sounds like there is a steady stream of work and money available for OP. That is the true gift of not being the boss–not to worry about either of those things. For those running a small business, that anxiety never goes away, certainly not when you clock out for the day.

      2. Littorally*

        Yup. This is how finance is too. The people who build the relationships and bring money into the firm make big bucks, even if a lot of them couldn’t explain the difference between dividends and interest if their lives depended on it. I sit in the back room and monitor what they do and make sure we’re following all the industry regs, and I don’t make but a fraction of their money…. but frankly, I’m just as happy to not have my compensation or performance metrics based on winning clients. That is hard work, and precarious!

    11. Ally McBeal*

      I’ve heard a metric from a couple of different sources that an employee who is billable should get paid 1/3 of what they bring in: 1/3 for the employee, 1/3 for the overhead, and 1/3 profit for the business owner.

      That opened my eyes to the fact that as a seasonal tax preparer, they were underpaying me, as I was being paid 1/5 of what they billed my time to clients. And I was nearly 100% billable with no benefits! I definitely didn’t mind that they made a huge profit – I set my own hours and could work as much as I wanted without having the hustle of getting clients. But that made me realize that there are guidelines, and I was underpaid. I don’t work there anymore.

      1. emmelemm*

        Yeah, my partner who is a lawyer said that’s the general rule: whatever his hourly rate is, it should go 1/3 to him, 1/3 to overhead (including the salaries of people who support him, legal secretaries etc.) and 1/3 to profit of the firm.

    12. WindmillArms*

      I’m a freelance writer as well, and my most hated job is hunting down projects and clients. I’ve opted to be in the “freelancer pool” for a few bigger companies instead. I know they are taking a bigger chunk of the profit than I might get on my own, but they also do the hunting work for me. That’s not nothing!

      Ask for a raise if you think you are bringing your boss a lot of value (which it sounds like you are!), but using her rates as a basis for that raise is a weaker argument than just stating your value. Also, if you’re able to under the terms of your agreement with her, why not do some of the hunting on your own for additional clients? Whenever I do this, I either find some decent additional work or I remember why I’ve opted out of that part of the job!

    13. quill*

      It sounds like she does proofreading, client contacting, marketing, and administration of the Fiverr account, as well as doing whatever writing she doesn’t farm out for OP. So the fact that she’s making somewhat under double what OP makes is all going to be a matter of scale, especially if she’s running the account full time and this is a “side hustle” for OP.

      Without knowing the exact numbers it’s hard to really judge whether this is a problem. If she’s paying, say, SFWA rates of $0.08 per word, and charges $200 for a 500 word writeup, giving OP a payout of $50 for two to three hours work, but it takes her a little less than a full day per job to do proofreading, marketing, and admin… it seems pretty proportional. More importantly if she’s doing this full time being paid more per commission than the amount of time it takes to do the work is how you cover overhead and keep a living wage going for the times when you don’t have commission.

      1. Willis*

        Yes, especially if these are relatively small jobs, then marketing, client contact, and other administrative tasks can take up an even larger share of time relative to actually doing the writing.

    14. Public Sector Manager*

      Exactly! It’s exceptionally common for people to charge at least double for their costs to provide goods and services. If you’re selling jeans at retail, you just can’t cover the wholesale cost of the jeans, you have to cover all your business expenses plus some profit to make it work. Same premise here.

      Let’s say the boss is getting paid $120 for every $40 the LW makes (so triple the amount). LW said that right off the bat, Fiverr is charging a 20% commission. That’s $24 right there. Plus, boss is absorbing all the risk of getting stiffed by a client, let’s say a conservative 5% loss on that collectively, which is $6. The boss also has costs for marketing, obtaining new business, web services for their website not linked to Fiverr, credit card processing costs (which just about every business absorbs and is between 2.5% and 4% of the transaction amount), any benefits provided to the LW, if the LW is a W-2 employee there are payroll taxes on LW’s behalf, etc.. At the end of the day, the boss is making a profit, but that profit is still less than what the LW is making on the project.

      I agree with everyone else that the boss’s alleged profit is not a basis to ask for a raise, because LW, you’re not considering all the costs for someone to run a business. However, the market rate for LW’s labor is a basis. If the LW is getting paid less than the market, then absolutely ask for a raise. If LW is making above-market rates, then asking for a raise seems out of touch.

    15. A Feast of Fools*

      Yep. I co-own a small home-service business. Employees drive company vans and work independently at customer’s houses.

      We eventually had to fire one guy, who was otherwise a decent worker, because he kept causing a scene when collecting payment at the end of the job. Customers were calling us to let us know that he was bad-mouthing us for “skimming” too much off the work he did, even after we patiently tried to explain everything that goes into owning and running a business beyond the actual billable labor (government filings, various insurance costs, advertising, materials, vehicle purchase and maintenance, bookkeeping, computers, software, phones, etc.)

      Plus — hello — we’d like to get paid for taking all the risks, not just cover our business expenditures and have no money left over to pay ourselves a salary.

    16. LittleRedPen*

      Hard agree with all of this.

      Fiverr has been my main source of income since 2018, and there is a TON of work that goes into it besides the actual work I’m paid to do. While a good amount of my clients just find me in search and place an order without contacting me first, I also get multiple messages a day that I already know aren’t going to result in a sale. But I still have to respond quickly (within an hour if I want to keep my stats up) and politely, answer their questions, weed out scammers, insist that NO I cannot write your college admissions essay for you (I mainly proofread/edit college app materials and consult), and often have people get weirdly rude and abusive. The client-facing part is a HUGE timesuck.

      I do it because it has worked very well for me – I became a Top Seller within a year – and I live outside the US, in a country with a lower cost of living. I don’t farm out my work ever, but if I might consider paying someone a little to help with the administrative end during the busy season.

    17. Truesaer*

      A 2x markup is very reasonable, especially if the writing isn’t more than say 40 hours per project. The time spent selling a few hours of work can actually be very substantial (especially with many inquiries not leading to a deal).

      As an example, a 3x markup on junior resources is standard in the consulting industry, with more experienced resources being lower margin (due to higher compensation).

  6. Stitching Away*

    LW5: If many of the jobs are fully remote, including yours, and this is something important, why didn’t you ask?

    1. SarahKay*

      I suspect this is one of those situations where there are assumptions of normality on both sides, such that neither OP nor hiring manager thought to say anything:
      Hiring manager is really used to teams being split over locations and managers being remote, so has forgotten this isn’t the norm in many companies.
      OP is used to having their manager in the same building as them, so it never occurs to them to ask if that will be the case.

      There’s no bad faith on either side, just different assumptions.

      1. Loulou*

        Exactly. It would never occur to me to ask! I’m not used to anyone, especially the boss, working in a different state.

        1. Truesaer*

          And meanwhile I work for a large company with our team of 20 dispersed through half a dozen states and three countries…in 6 years I only met my manager once when he happened to be in my hometown to visit a client.

          This is all so dependent on industry, role, and company size that there could easily be just a difference in expectations. I’d also point out to the OP that your manager today could leave the company or the organization could change tomorrow. Nothing is guaranteed to stay the same….I’d suggest giving remote a try. If OP likes a lot of contact with their manager they can express that and set up a regular cadence of 1:1 calls or daily status updates. But interestingly they mention they like a hands off boss. In that case, the key is to make sure you and the boss are on the same page with expectations and then go about your business blissfully free of hassles!

    2. hamburke*

      I think the letter said that they are currently remote moving towards a return to the office, not a fully remote forever position.

    3. LW #5*

      I think that’s an assumption Alison made, not anything I put in the letter – everyone else in my group is local and spends some time in the office. My boss is the only one who is now 100% remote and will never, ever be in the office. So, it’s noteworthy enough to have been mentioned, and not something that I would have assumed.

      1. Observer*

        No, what you write really leads that way. You say that the work is still mostly remote, and that the hiring process was all remote. Given that reality, it’s totally reasonable to ask about the specifics of how this is going to change and who is and is not remote. And it actually makes the fact of a remote boss not all that noteworthy. ESPECIALLY since if you’ve been paying attention there has been a move towards more people going full remote, even when most of the rest of the team is in the office part of the time – or even all of the time

        I don’t think it’s a big deal that you didn’t ask about it. But it’s a bit over the top to act as though someone kept important secrets from you. If this was important to you, you could have asked.

        1. Super Duper*

          That’s a little harsh! If most everyone is hybrid, and LW was told that full-time remote was not an option, it’s reasonable to assume that the boss was being held to the same standards. Why would LW think to ask? The boss is the outlier here, and could have easily mentioned that proactively. Really, that would have been a good move on the part of the boss, because they could weed out candidates who didn’t want that type of arrangement. There shouldn’t be any major surprises on day 1 of a job — as the party holding the relevant knowledge, the employer messed up more than LW did here. As Alison said, not a major betrayal or a reason to quit, but I understand the LW’s frustration.

        2. Willis*

          Eh, I think what the OP wrote is pretty clear and actually went back to read it when Allison and commenters were assuming its essentially a remote job. The OP said it’s mostly remote now but with occasional office time that is going to ramp up over time. That sounds to me like they’re currently working from home to limit covid risk (like lots of places are) not like its an all-the-time, fully remote team. So OP probably figured the interviews were remote cause of covid, not because the boss was in another state, which is totally reasonable.

          I don’t think it’s a huge deception, but I can understand being a bit disappointed. And if I was the boss, I think I would let potential new hires know I would be remote even once the office is back in person. I’d consider it something people would probably like to know about the environment they’d be working in.

  7. June*

    Charging double is completely acceptable. She has to pay all costs regarding her business and she has to edit the final project. You were happy before you found out. Her making a 10 or 20 percent profit margin isn’t worth it. Especially because she is doing some of the actual editing, which seems very played down in your letter.

    1. John Smith*

      There’s an intermediary who sometimes asks us to do work for them for their clients. I found out that the intermediary charges the client a whopping 10 times what we charge the intermediary whose role is minimal. We could do the work directly for the client, but aren’t allowed to approach them. They’re paying the overinflated costs, but I bet they wouldn’t be happy if they found out how little they could be paying!

      But that’s the nature of business. OP, you are essentially a subcontractor and can’t expect to earn as much as the person hiring you, it wouldn’t make sense. Is there anything stopping you from setting up on your own?

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Dunno about John, but our deal with our clients doesn’t let us undercut them.

          I’ve no idea what kind of markup our clients charge, but the whole arrangement means I don’t have to deal with the general public at all, so I’m pretty happy about it. If OP also never has to talk to an upset client, boss is totally earning her share.

        2. John Smith*

          It’s a contractual issue. We may be doing the work, but were not allowed to approach the principal party, and for good reason. Another organisation did this and was sued. They also lost all business from that contractor.

      1. Yes!*

        I worked for a small firm where an employee who lived out of a suitcase for a month to travel to reote communities working on a project for a client was paid 1/10th of the fee the client paid to the firm’s owner. (This isn’t the exact amounts but, for illustration purposes, imagine she was paid $5,000 while the firm’s owner was paid $50,000.) When she tried to submit a bill for dry cleaning clothes she wore for the month the owner refused to reimburse her. That was a reflection of the entire workplace.

    2. Finch*

      Ye I wanted to drop by and say this. Making 30% (before expenses) isn’t a huge amount (50% to the writer and 20% to Fiverr). It actually means the boss is making less than the writer on these while taking on the responsibility of running the business (there will be work in this no matter what kind of business it is, even on a site like Fiverr).

      1. Nervous Rex*

        I had a Fiverr account and lasted around 18 months before I just could not take dealing with the clients and Fiverr itself any more. For me that was by far the hardest part; the writing itself was fun.

        1. Laney Boggs*

          I’m so glad I’m seeing this now! I was looking into how to break into freelance proofreading, and the site suggested Fiverr. I don’t think so now….

    3. AcademiaNut*

      Yes, that actually seems pretty reasonable to me. The employer maintains the Fiverr account, handles clients, keeps an eye on the quality of the outgoing work, edits/proofreads as necessary, collects payments and does all the other stuff the OP doesn’t want to do, and has gone through the effort of building a reputation and client base that let her charge well for work.

      If the OP were being paid peanuts to do all the work, that would be one thing, but the OP is, by her own admission, being paid quite a good amount per word, is making decent money off it, and just has to do the writing part of the job. That sounds like a pretty good setup to me. It’s totally up to the OP whether she wants to keep doing it or not, but I don’t see it as being a big injustice.

    4. allathian*

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all. The business owner carries most of the risks, the employee only has to show up and do the assigned work. The LW admits that they wouldn’t want to do the marketing and customer acquisition stuff. There’s also the bookkeeping, invoicing, etc. that the owner of a small business is more likely to do themselves rather than outsourcing it.

    5. Non non*

      Also, the writing is the “fun” part of all the work involved! My spouse and I used to run seminars and were constantly flooded by applications from people who wanted to be seminar presenters for our little two-person company. There was no way we were going to do all the hard work of administration, marketing, registering people, handling all the seminar logistics, etc. so someone else could do the most enjoyable part of our job!

      1. Cold Fish*

        OMG that is so funny. I’m the exact opposite of you! I would so rather do the administration/logistics than be a presenter! Presenting, dealing with questions/people, having to be “on”… yikes! Now the marketing I understand… I would not do well in a marketing or sell position :)

    6. Caroline Bowman*

      But making $4 to the OP making $1 feels… like a lot.

      If it was around $2.50-$3, that would be plenty, but totally reasonable.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I saw OP’s comment but I’m not exactly sold that she’s actually making $4 to every $1. That’s after the Fivver 20% commission, but presumably the boss also has to handle a lot of other expenses and work that comes with freelance — paying taxes and business bills, finding the clients (and a lot of the time spent finding clients doesn’t pan out), assessing and screening client requests, eating any stiff client bills, etc. OP could be right that the boss isn’t doing much beyond editing, but I have several friends in freelance writing and I think there’s probably a lot more the boss is doing than OP realizes. Those costs have to be covered somehow and this is usually how people do it.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, based on my read, boss is making closer to $2 or $3 for every dollar that OP makes, once all the fees (and presumably taxes?) are taken care of.

          Which is hardly the “boss makes a dollar, I make a nickel” scale I expected from the summary. The hours are probably not excellent to turn an actual profit, but that seems to be more of the nature of accepting writing commissions by word when some of them come with way more research than others instead of something the boss has control over.

    7. Your local password resetter*

      I think it depends on the division.
      50% for the OP is probably too much when you include business overhead, but OP mentioned above that they only get 20%. Upping that to 30-40% seems pretty reasonable, especially since she works 10 hour days with no vaction

  8. Billinda*

    LW2 hits close to home…and I’m on the other side of it.
    I’m a business owner who has been working mostly solo for the first several years since starting my company.
    A year ago, I hired my right hand woman to take a lot of the load off my shoulders. I was drowning in work. We basically split the “grunt work” which is sometimes very time and energy intensive. She is amazing and over the last year has gone above and beyond and taken on even more duties of her own initiative.
    In addition to the grunt work, I also run all of the marketing, website, sales, most of the customer facing tasks (she has started to take a bit off my plate in that area as well), as well as growing additional branches of the business. Even with her help, I find myself overloaded and have a lot of sleepless nights trying to catch up.
    She is paid in a similar way as the LW, on a “per item” basis.
    After she’d been working for me for about six months, it became clear that she was doing more than we’d initially agreed upon, and she rightfully asked for about a 30% raise. I knew she deserved it, and actually offered her a 40% raise, as she’s now become basically indispensable to me.
    But the thing is…for every item she produces, I still make 3-4x in net profit over what she is paid.
    She knows (roughly) how much I make and always has, and has never made a fuss about it. But sometimes I do feel a bit guilty.
    What can’t be overestimated though, is that I built this business from the skin of my teeth. I was lucky to start it at an absolutely golden moment, and grew a very large social media following, which has been a huge part of my company’s success and is almost impossible to replicate at this point. As well as a website that does very well in google searches, which also would be extremely difficult to replicate.
    She could start her own identical business and never match what I do. And she’s fully aware, she mentions it often.
    I have gone out of my way to mentor her in areas of the business that will benefit her over time, and even helped her start the beginnings of her own company that will integrate very well into my business and earn her more money going forward. Without my mentorship, she’d never be in the position she’s currently in. And she’s still paid quite well for the work she does!
    LW is also aware that she likely couldn’t replicate her bosses business, and I think Alison’s advice is really the only way to deal with this that makes sense.
    Sometimes it’s harder when it’s a small business, to see the disparity in what the owner makes, vs the regular employees. Especially when it’s a high net profit business.
    But when you consider that the head of every large corporation makes significantly more than the workers who produce the product, I guess it’s just not as in your face, and therefore easier to stomach.

    1. M2*

      But that’s the problem in my opinion with many US companies- their CEOs make significantly more than their average employee. Look at Chipotle! Their CEO made something like $36 million dollars?!!! He didn’t build the company and he could still make a lot of money and his salary and benefits given to employees.

      I think there’s a big difference between small business and large conglomerates and I understand on some level as my family owned a small business. They also provided a living wage, healthcare, and then retirement and vacation/ sick leave for everyone. Did it cut into their profits? Heck yes (and they offered health and sick/ vacation leave from their very inception), but it was the right thing to do.

      I look at another person I know who owns a small business and doesn’t offer health insurance but owns two large homes, travels, etc and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I won’t support their business because they didn’t support their team as their company grew.

      1. Xantar*

        There’s quite a difference between a CEO making four or even ten times more than a line worker vs a CEO making 136 times more than a line worker.

        1. introverted af*

          This. It still doesn’t feel good when it’s as personal in a small business, but the disparity probably isn’t even in the same category.

          1. quill*

            Yes. Large business owners earn logarhythmically more than their workers, it’s a different and far more corrupting scale.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        It’s all of this for me.

        If you’re raking in the cash and your employees don’t make a living wage, you have a problem. If you cannot afford to pay your employees a living wage, I don’t call that a successful business. I don’t think anyone believes that the CEOs or whoever shouldn’t make money. Of course they should!

        I just don’t know if it should be that the powers that be should have multiple houses and cars and their employees can’t pay rent and rely on food stamps.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I am not a “be your own boss” sort of person. I know people who love the idea of that but I am definitely not one of them. I don’t want the headaches, the stress of having to drum up new business, trying to balance expanding vs. having more work you can handle without more staff, the stress of finding a reliable person etc. I would much prefer to just do the work and have the boss deal with all of that. I might earn much more as the boss but it wouldn’t be worth it to me.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        I always figured what I earned in the monetary sense, I would pay for in a less tangible sense with my health, my mental health, time with my family, all that.

  9. turquoisecow*

    OP3, for what it’s worth, my husband is on the east coast and his current boss is on the west coast. The company has offices and workers all over the globe, but the headquarters is in California so a lot of meetings Husband has to participate in take place later in (our east coast) day rather than earlier. This works out well for him because a) he doesn’t want to wake up super early anyway and b) he has some time to himself in the mornings to prepare for meetings and such. His job doesn’t really require a lot of hand-holding from the boss, so if your employees require more supervision or prefer to work earlier but need you to assign work, I could see this being more difficult. But time differences might end up being helpful to you and your employees.

    1. WindmillArms*

      Very true! I do work occasionally for a client whose timezone is five hours ahead of me. It’s perfect! They work almost their full day, then we have an hour or two of crossover where they can fill me in, hand over the day’s work, and I keep it rolling to hand back at the end of my day. Between us, we can almost double the length of the “workday” going into a project. For our product (which can be handed off and carried on with), it’s a huge advantage!

      1. A Feast of Fools*

        I have a junior co-worker in India and we just wrapped a project where we were paired up. Once we got our rhythm going, our part of the project produced far more work than the other [all U.S.-based] paired-up teams.

        I woke up a little bit early and he stayed a little bit late so that we could get 2-3 good working hours in together, and then I’d crank out a bunch of stuff for the next 5-6 hours, leave him with clear instructions on where to pick up / what to do next, then have our 2-3 hours together after he’d put in *his* 5-6 hours.

        The time zone difference was like magic, as far as I was concerned. I’d end my workday with a bunch of unfinished stuff, then wake up the next morning and — tada! — it was all completed. :-)

  10. Chidi-Janet & The Tarantula Squids*

    LW1 You say you’re worried because your mentor helped get you the job. This could be an opportunity to lean into that! Approach your mentor in the same way you might raise an interpersonal problem with a manager. “I’m encountering this issue with Boss, and I’m planning to handle it this way, but first I would like your counsel since you know Boss quite well. Do you think this approach will be effective, or would another method be more suitable?”
    If I were your mentor, I’d be interested to know that someone I recommended (in this case by encouraging someone to work with them) was behaving unprofessionally.

    1. Religion Redacted*

      I would definitely want to know if I’d accidentally guided a mentee into a situation like this; it’s my reputation on the line as well. If your mentor knows your boss socially, they might be unaware your boss brings her religion into the workplace.

      1. Religion Redacted*

        And the same goes for the touching problems. Your mentor may know her friend as the huggy type but would never dream she’d do that in a professional environment.

    2. CoveredInBees*

      This is where I’d go first. Just as LW feels some measure of responsibility towards their mentor, any good mentor/friend/etc would feel some measure of responsibility towards them. If I referred someone to work with a friend of mine, I would want to know. Depending on the details, I might even discretely raise the issue with them. Granted my last employer trained companies on competently handling religion in the workplace, so I’d have an easier time of doing that without seeming weird.

    3. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      This was my first thought too. Normally going outside the company would be odd but given your mentor’s relationship with your boss it could a good first step.

    4. Observer*

      This is a very good idea. If the mentor was a good boss, then they will understand why Current Boss is out of line.

  11. Religion Redacted*

    LW1: I am so sorry you’re dealing with this. I hope the situation improves after you try Alison’s suggestions. Just one addition: People who have a bad sense of boundaries, as your boss clearly does, and who perceive themselves as warm & friendly, might take offense at the boundaries you want to set and lash out. Don’t get discouraged if she retaliates and do reach out to HR and your mentor for support! (If, as Alison pointed out, they’re the decent types. Oh how I hope your HR and mentor are the decent types.) Fingers crossed for an update saying you were able to return your meds to normal!

    God save us from those misguided folks who believe that God commands them to harass the people they work with and that that makes it ok.

  12. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    #3, the only thing I’d add to Alison’s excellent script is letting your reports know who to call/what to do if an emergency comes up during the morning hours when you’re not available yet, if this is the kind of situation that could arise in your work.

    1. LW#3*

      This is a great addition that I hadn’t even thought of in my original question—thank you so much!

      1. calonkat*

        I was just typing this out! Having a “break glass in case of emergency” person to contact when you aren’t available (who would ideally also be able to contact you if it was a true emergency that you could help with) is just good planning. And have plans for how people let you know they had to leave work before you got there, etc. Just having (written) plans and procedures is the best way forward, even if you are working the same hours but with vacations!

      2. biobotb*

        Supporting your team to make sure they can get their work done well and in a timely fashion is such a key part of being a manager. Have you done much thinking about how you’ll accomplish that? The fact that you hadn’t even considered that you’ll need a backup person when you’re unreachable honestly makes it seem like you may need to consider that topic more deeply.

        1. LW#3*

          Talk of promoting me into a managerial rule is still in a very preliminary stage (I already have significantly higher responsibilities than my role should expect, minus the people part), so these are the kinds of things I need to consider ahead of time. I really appreciate it!

    2. Littorally*

      Yeah, this is important! My work schedule and my boss’ don’t perfectly line up, and I’m always just a little edgy during the time I’m flying solo; if something comes up where I’m gonna need his input, it just has to get backburnered unless it is a true screaming emergency.

  13. Allonge*

    LW3, I think this also totally depends on the kind of work you do and how closely your team works together any given day. In my current workplace, having a manager just not available for the first, say, third of our working day would never work out as we work with daily small tasks that require near-immediate action and decisions from a lot of people every day. In my previous job it would only have been an issue because we were very meeting-heavy, especially for managers. The job before that – you would have been loved as a manager / supervisor for the afternoon shift.

    In all of this though, it would have been really important that you communicate what is and is not possible. We have part-time staff working mornings only, we have people who prefer to start early and just a general need to know when your boss is (not) reachable. The details of why do not matter that much – ‘medical condition’ is a perfectly ok explanation – but it would be really weird if a manager would just expect people to figure out when they are and are not available.

    So in this sense your question of Or is it none of their business what hours I work or when I can and can’t hold meetings? is a bit concerning to me – I find it difficult to imagine a scenario where this is not their business.

    1. Zelda*

      I have had bosses who just disappear, and it is Not Cool. Don’t see them for a few days running, while all kinds of things that need their attention build up, and I have no idea if they’re working at another location for a week, on sick leave for a few days, on vacation for a month…? Then they just turn up again at random like nothing happened and we weren’t just abandoned to the wolves (that none of us part-timers are allowed to wave flaming logs at). Argh.

      Are you *accountable* to your reports for how many or which hours you work, or why? No. Do they need to *know* which hours you work and what to do if something pressing comes up during a time you are not available? BIG YES.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Same! I had a boss once who just disappeared on a two-week vacation without telling anyone. We only found out when we got his automatic reply.

        My boyfriend’s boss disappeared for days at a time last year and then just stopped showing up for a whole week. The team had to go ask their manager’s manager what they should do for things that needed a manager’s approval (going above your manager is VERY against the culture there) and they were informed that she was on maternity leave and wouldn’t be coming back for 8 months! They had no idea.

        Going on maternity appointments and leave and taking vacations is totally fine of course, but they are a very big problem and will create a lot of resentment when you don’t communicate. I expect my manager to be generally available. If I know that my manager is never available at a certain time or a certain period of the month, I want to know and I also want to know who my manager would like me to go to when they aren’t available.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          What kind of wackadoodle workplace doesn’t tell people their boss won’t be back for EIGHT MONTHS?

          1. Zelda*

            A place that is a) very hierarchical, and b) crap at communications. ‘I don’t answer to you peons! Just keep your head down and do your work! MYOB!’

            I’ve had all kinds of situations where a policy comes rolling down from above, and we adjust what we do to cope as well as possible. Then years later a newer supervisor asks why in heck we’re doing that inconvenient thing, and THAT’s when we find out that the person who instituted the policy hasn’t been with the company for years; in fact the position has turned over twice since then; there is no such policy that Current Supervisor ever heard of; and no one bothered to mention it to the peons. Thanks for all the professional respect, there, guys.

    2. Airy*

      It is their business what hours and when, since that affects how they do their work, it just isn’t their business exactly why. I think that’s the distinction that matters.

    3. Beth*

      Agreed. It’s none of their business WHY exactly LW3 works the hours they work–they don’t need to share medical details by any means. But their team needs to know WHAT those hours are. That would be important even for a regular old team member, much less a manager.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Heh, true. Forgot about yesterday when I had to send an email to the staff with ‘look I know I’m going to be on leave from Tuesday but I’m not going to be in today either. Didn’t plan this, I’m sorry’

      Do communicate to your staff as to your availability and any short term changes. You don’t have to give a reason. I’m certainly not elaborating more to them about yesterday because I don’t want to.

    5. LW#3*

      These are all great points; thank you for raising them!

      I phrased my question a bit poorly in the “none of their business” bit, so perhaps I should try again—and for context here, these are heavily asynchronous roles, so beyond pre-scheduled meetings and the occasional ad hoc Zoom, I’d expect my employees to be setting their own working hours with the same level of flexibility.

      It might’ve been more accurate to say “none of their business *beyond previously-defined hours where I promised to be available*”—(which is an important distinction, right?)—but that I might occasionally spend four hours working during normal hours and then be working furiously between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM, which I hope I wouldn’t need to justify to anyone.

      But ultimately, the “why” is really what’s at stake here. And I don’t want to grossly overshare to anyone I manage, but it’s really important to me that I’d be a reliable, transparent manager—without compromising my crummy health!—so I really, really appreciate this kind of feedback.

      (And I appreciate the horror stories people have shared below, too. Those are mistakes I do *not* want to repeat!)

      1. Zelda*

        Having those core hours defined when your team can generally rely on your being responsive is a big deal, as is communicating as quickly as possible if those core hours have to flex at some point because Life Happens. Those two things will go a long way to building trust. If you want to allude to the reason for your particular arrangement being a medical condition, you certainly can, and it may dispose folks favorably. But you assuredly don’t need to say any more than that.

      2. Allonge*

        Hi, thanks for responding. What I did not add above and should have is that it’s of course great that you ask the question rather than assuming any given answer!

        And yes, sharing the why – in detail – is really a separate thing from sharing the ‘what’ (when you can be reached / scheduled for meetings / expect to be working) and ‘how’ (including how to reach you if the sky were falling down). I would argue that it’s also a bit different from justifying yourself, which you certainly do not need to do for this.

        Still, if I understand correctly, at least part of the why would be ‘timezones, right?’ which is a no-brainer explanation, but also something the team needs to know.

        1. LW#3*

          Yep, time zones are a major factor. I’m not the only person at the company who’s out of chronological alignment (and that number is growing even more), but a lot of the earliest time-shifted employees had to brute force it—waking up obscenely early or working way too late so that the other ten attendees didn’t have to bend over backwards. In my time zone, waking up early would be the requirement, which I can’t reliably do without sacrificing my health and my productivity in a major way.

          I guess where I might’ve tripped on my own feet is this: as it currently stands, I’ve been polite but vague (and firm) when asking people to accomodate my schedule. As in, “This would be X time for me, which is too early; can we move it to Y?”, and it’s never been an issue, but I’ve also rarely mentioned the *why*, which is that my health is poor. It doesn’t feel like something I’d share to a few dozen people.

          Now, that being said… thanks to these helpful responses, I’m realizing there’s a pretty big difference between “random people from random departments don’t need to know my life story” and “the three people I manage deserve a basic explanation for my behavior.”

          So I should probably just tell them my general situation and thank them for their patience with the time zone trickery, huh?

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I think if others are waking up early and adjusting their schedules to accommodate people in other time zones and you’re the only one who isn’t, it would probably go a long way to say something like your health makes it difficult to take meetings that early. Maybe that’s clunky wording, but I just mean saying a little more than it’s “too early” for you might head off people thinking you simply don’t want to get up early rather you can’t be up that early.

            1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              I think the best advice I’ve heard on this was to be very focused and colloquial. So “Unfortunately I can’t do O dark thirty meetings, they mess me up,” rather than, “I cannot do early meetings because of a medical condition.”

              1. Less Bread More Taxes*

                I think you have to say more than that if you don’t want to build resentment. When I wake up early, I pass out and/or throw up. It’s something I’ve struggled with since high school. So if I have to get myself out of bed and to a meeting at 5am while feeling like absolute crap and someone else just says “oh yeah, can’t do that, meetings at 5 mess me up”, I’m going to think (a) they clearly have no idea that I am regularly making the exact same sacrifice and/or (b) why they’re getting special treatment while I’m not.

                To be clear, this is a medical condition that LW3 has and we all have to respect that. I am not saying it’s at all the same as what I experience. But if they choose words that make it seem like they just don’t feel like waking up early, then people are going to have a problem with that.

                1. socks*

                  Passing out and/or throwing up sounds like a great reason to be unavailable for 5 am meetings to me. Maybe your work culture isn’t one where you can push back, but that’s an issue with the culture, not an issue with people who don’t attend meetings at times that make them ill.

                2. ....*

                  It definitely sounds like you have a medical condition that means you cannot attend early things if you are passing out and throwing up. They’d only be getting special treatment if you had specifically asked for the same accommodation snd didn’t get it. It sounds like you need to speak to your boss and team if you haven’t. You don’t need to throw up for meetings

          2. Colette*

            I also think that it’s good to set general guidelines (i.e. “I can’t make any meetings earlier than 11 your time”) rather than replying to each one (“This would be 5 AM for me, which is too early”).

            And you can do it in a general way when you first meet them as their manager. “I’m not available before X time, so please ensure that any meetings you need me at happen between X and Y.”

            I’m really torn about whether you should mention health issues at all – and I guess I’d only do it if you will need to suddenly leave or take time off without notice more than, say, a day every month or two. But I think there is value in letting people know so that they don’t make up their own reasons as to why you’re gone.

            1. Observer*

              ’m really torn about whether you should mention health issues at all

              Given that it does affect others negatively, AND the general expectation is that people power through to some extent, not saying ANYTHING is just a bad move. At best, it’s just not going to land well. At worst it can come off as cavalier and disrespectful.

              No one needs details, but it’s important for people to realize that is NOT just OP being speshul or thinking that they are the supervisor so everyone needs to work around them. The kind of language you propose, without any further context really feeds in to that narrative.

              1. biobotb*

                Yeah, I think the OP needs to communicate enough context so their reports don’t feel like they’re being inflexible/unreachable/unhelpful arbitrarily. If they understand there’s a real need for this that goes way beyond, “Eh, I don’t feel like it,” that will go a long way toward building trust and also developing a system that works for everyone.

              2. Colette*

                When I’ve worked for companies with people in multilple locations, it’s been really, really normal for most meetings to happen when everyone is “at work”. Now obviously that’s not always possible (if someone is in Japan, someone is in England, and someone is in California, for example), but I get the impression that we’re talking more about the OP being on Pacific time and her team being in Eastern, so it should be possible to accommodate without a big effort.

                1. Guacamole Bob*

                  Yeah, but if OP is on Pacific time the assumption is probably that she’s willing to start her work day at 8 a.m., or 9 at the latest. If she can’t do meetings before 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern, people may get a little impatient if she doesn’t provide any sort of explanation.

          3. Allonge*

            Yes, general situation, including time zones, is all ‘everyone’ need. I think that generally speaking, nobody wants to be asking their boss/coworker to attend a meeting at 5am if this can be avoided, so the general pushback on one-off meetings due to time zone differences is perfectly fine.

            As someone reporting to you, the additional info I would need (well, appreciate) is that there is absolutely no flexibility on this, due to medical reasons, so I don’t even try. From what you write, there are not a billion meetings per day for you, so again, totally reasonable and doable.

            If relevant, some kind of emergency contact protocol could also be useful, just for the ‘house is burning down’ situations.

          4. Nancy*

            All you have to give are the hours you are available: “I am available 9-5 Eastern time,” “I am available 11-6 pacific time, except Thurs when I am available 2-7” or whatever. Most people really don’t care why you someone isn’t available.

            1. Observer*

              Most people really don’t care why you someone isn’t available.

              Yes and no. Most reasonable people don’t want the details. And they generally don’t care about a single instance. But if someone is consistently not available – especially if has a negative impact, people are likely to be resentful and less likely to make an effort to be flexible unless they understand why this is happening. Again, not the details. But enough to understand that this really is something that the OP *needs* to be doing. And absent context, there is no real way for people to really get that. Just saying “I can’t do meeting until X:00” doesn’t relay that. Explaining that it’s “for medical reasons” is something that most reasonable people will understand.

      3. Legalchef*

        Depending on your field, you also should be figuring out with your own manager who will provide coverage for your team while you are unavailable. For instance, I supervise a team of attorneys who, in non pandemic times, would often be in court for a few hours in the morning at least 2x/week. A large part of my job involves either being there to supervise in person or being heavily available by phone. It wouldn’t be ok from a supervision perspective (and could lead to malpractice!) to just leave them with no coverage.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I have to be honest, without knowing specifically what “several” means as far as how many hours the time difference is, I would think this could be a genuine issue for management. I know on my team there was a woman who was very high-up and decided she wanted to go part-time after her second baby and she was a fabulous employee so they worked with her to make that happen–but because she would be unavailable for so much of her direct reports’ workday she was moved to an individual contributor role. Obviously that’s not the same situation but the end result of availability is essentially the same question.

          If you’re just talking like two hours this would probably not matter and I agree with Alison’s answer. But if your work day is shifted from your reports by like 4 or 5 hours meaning they can’t get in contact with you for at least half the day that honestly seems a bit unfair to them. I don’t mean to be dismissive of the medical issues, but at the end of the day this seems to be almost less about that than about differing time zones and unless everyone needs very little supervision and rarely has any questions then that seems like a bigger deal to me than how most people here seem to feel. Maybe I rely on my manager more than other commenters here but I don’t feel I could do my current job as effectively if she was out of pocket for a significant portion of my workday every day.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Sorry, just want to add to be very clear–I certainly don’t think having medical issues should preclude management! I think flexibility is so important and being able to deal with sick days and doctor’s appointments and sudden flare-ups is something any good company/team should be able to handle. It’s really just the time zone piece that makes me hesitate as being unavailable for a number of hours every day I think maybe could swing kind of too far in the opposite direction as far as inflexibility for a lot of teams. I’m sure something like that is different in different fields, but in mine I feel like we would lose so much time from having to wait for an answer on something that only the manager can approve.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            I had similar thoughts, just because being unavailable for long periods of time would not work for the specific type of managerial role I have. Not knowing OP’s industry or company, I can’t say if this would be a problem or not, just that in an industry where high availability was expected, this could be an issue. We do have people in management with medical accommodations in place – I know this only because I’m friends with them outside of work – but their accommodations don’t include being regularly inaccessible for hours during the standard business day.

            At minimum, the team needs to know when their manager is/is not accessible, what they can/cannot do or authorize without management approval, and who they can go to in case of an emergency when their manager is not accessible.

      4. Guacamole Bob*

        I may be in the minority, but I’d also say that *if you want to and it would make your life easier* it’s fine to share a high-level version of the “why.” If you’ve got a complex set of interacting medical conditions it may not work, but “I have multiple sclerosis” or “I’m in treatment for cancer” or whatever would be fine to share, if you follow it up with “and here’s what that means for my availability at work.” Sometimes having the context of what type of disability you have may make it easier for your employees to respond appropriately.

        “I’m going in for a CAT scan because my nephrologist is worried about XYZ and I’m trying a new medication for the side effects of the primary medication and my insurance is jerking me around about the replacement device for ….” is not okay to share at work. It’s too big a burden to put on your employees because it’s asking for emotional labor in the form of supportive responses and navigating whether to ask you follow up questions to show caring or whether to give you privacy. But if sharing the top-line info is better for you, I think you shouldn’t try to actively conceal it. And you can share some but not all of your diagnoses/conditions if that’s better for you, or to share “I have a joint condition that impacts my mobility” instead of the specific name of the condition.

        But if you don’t want to, you definitely shouldn’t feel any pressure to. Alison’s wording is great! It’s just that it’s not the only way to handle it, necessarily.

        Caveat: my disability disclosure recently is almost all about my kid, where “he has type 1 diabetes” is a pretty straightforward thing to share and answers a lot of question. Plus his teachers need to know in order to care for him properly, and he doesn’t feel especially private about it. So that may be coloring my view a bit.

      5. Observer*

        It might’ve been more accurate to say “none of their business *beyond previously-defined hours where I promised to be available*”—(which is an important distinction, right?)

        Not just “important” but core.

        I think another takeaway here is the importance of clear communications. People can’t read your mind. What you MEANT was totally reasonable. What you SAID was not. Your life, and that of the people who report to you, is going to be MUCH easier if you consistently make sure that what you say and what you mean are more closely synchronized. Because people CANNOT read your minds. What’s more – you do NOT want them trying to do that. It never goes well.

  14. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP3: question I’ve wrestled with most of my managerial life! Glad you asked it.

    I’ve got a lot of things wrong with me, some physical, some mental, and some can impact work. Like, I can’t work past 6pm, I have a lot of medical appointments, I can’t walk without sticks…

    I’m pretty open about the physical stuff, what it means I can and cannot do, that yeah I have to take meds for them.

    The mental stuff? Not so much. There’s far too much of a risk of my staff becoming scared of me.

    1. LW#3*

      Thank you so much for sharing your perspective! (I’ve only got one stick right now and not two, but I certainly feel you on that one.)

      And that sounds like a really good approach to take. Even though the mental stuff pretty much always comes with the physical stuff, it’s definitely trickier (read: not usually a great idea) to broach that in the workplace. I can share what is useful and prudent to know, but not much more than that!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        (Confession: I sometimes pretend the sticks are lightsabers)

        Totally hear you on the things being joined. Nothing like being in pain to make the mind go ‘oh ffs I’m out’.

        My staff know that I’ve got mobility issues, pain issues, and they can flare without notice but I will always communicate to them ASAP if I’m going to be unavailable at short notice. For appointments and medication schedules it’s just a recurring ‘Keymaster is late on day X and can’t work beyond 6pm for medical issues’.

        The mental stuff flaring up I…generally lie and say it’s a problem relating to my physical pain.

        1. LW#3*

          Hahahaha, very relatable about using the physical stuff as a cover for the mental stuff—it’s kinda convenient, right? And it only feels fair that if you’ve been saddled with a bunch of medical nonsense, you should get to use that every now and then as a more-acceptable explanation for your absence. “I’m in too much pain to sit up right now” versus “my brain is full of rabid badgers today so I can’t make words good.”

          The scheduling stuff is a great idea, especially for recurring appointments. That way nobody is surprised and expectations are set ahead of time. And should an employee ever have similar needs of their own, you’ve already got a system in place!

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            It does help, I think, create an atmosphere where my staff feel more able to ask for time off/late arrivals/going offline for a while for their own medical issues.

            Will say, however, I’m always paranoid (although schizophrenia doesn’t help) that ‘am I taking too much time off? Is it a burden on the staff to have to deal with me being unavailable every week before 9am on e.g. Wednesday because I have to get my meds? Bet they wish they had an able-bodied manager’ etc.etc. So, I can’t really say I’ve got it down to a fine art myself yet!

            1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

              Fwiw, a phrase I remember seeing around a lot at one point was along the lines of “everyone will be disabled in some way, sooner or later”. I think the more of us who can model good ways to handle our disabilities, the better.

  15. No Sleep For The Wicked*

    LW1 – I may be reading too much into this, but the combination of overly intimate touching, personal questions, and religious proselytisation is giving me “love bombing” vibes.

    1. Sylvan*


      I live in the Bible Belt and I’ve always worked with a lot of people who would be happy to proselytize… Even they don’t act like this. I don’t know if this person is necessarily “love bombing,” but her behavior’s very weird.

    2. Nea*

      You’re not the only one.

      I’ve been the focus of love bombing too and it always makes me bilious. Thanks for the stance that I have zero friends and am absolutely desperate for any attention from any random person! Seriously – thank you for the warning of what you really think of me. It gives me a very clear view of how to think of you.

  16. Nervous Rex*

    LW3: A few years ago I had a manager let me know that she had a medical situation that would sometimes require her to leave a meeting abruptly or reschedule last minute. She never told me any more than that, but it was so helpful to have that context so I knew she wasn’t being dismissive of me or my time.

    1. LW#3*

      That’s a super helpful anecdote, thank you! Your former manager sounds like exactly the kind of manager I’d strive to be. I’ll have to follow her lead when it comes to honest (but professional) communication.

      1. Insomniac*

        I would love an update on the outcome when you get into your role and have decided how to address this!

  17. Batgirl*

    “Every day she brings this up and talks about how amazing it is for her and how it could benefit me.”
    Ah, I used to know someone who did this and if you’d called her on it it would have been: “What? I’m just talking about my own wonderful inner life loudly in your hearing!” So patronizing. I’ve had some luck with: “My religious beliefs are private and I don’t really discuss them at work”.
    This is interpreted as a deeply personal relationship with Christianity, but what it really means is most people don’t really get or understand paganism! It still works if what you mean is “My (lack of) religious beliefs are private”.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      ‘Oh but you must try my diet it’s going to help you!’
      ‘Oh you must try going vegan!’
      ‘You must try yoga/kale/essential oils!’
      ‘Oh but you must try religion X it’ll make you happier!’

      Grrrr. Look, people, if you’ve found something that works for you that’s great, I’m genuinely happy for any relief people can find from this harsh world.

      But don’t ever try shoving it down other people’s throats. You’ve no idea what someone else is living with.

      1. Insomniac*

        As a vegetarian, I got “oh but you must try eating meat – you’re not getting enough protein/nutrients/etc” lol but yes – agree! I just like to point that out because as much as people feel vegans and vegetarians push ideas on them, it’s also the same in reverse but very rarely vocalized!

        Other things I can think of being pushed on me at work:
        – Giving up carbs or dairy
        – Giving up coffee
        – Aerial yoga
        – Certain music and podcasts
        – Motivational books
        – Not having any more pets
        – Trying different shoes

        Just let people be themselves!

        1. Insomniac*

          ** I wanted to make sure I was clear that discussing religion is way worse than lifestyle suggestions. I just worked in a toxic workplace years ago where I was treated like everyone’s daughter due to my age and experience difference in comparison to my coworkers, so lifestyle suggestions because commandments in a sense. But yes – a boss (or anyone) pushing religion on someone is horrific and a whole issue in itself.

        2. AnonADHD*

          The current lifestyle ‘suggestion’ I’m getting from my hyper-organized coworkers is to get my ADHD daughter a dog. “She’ll learn responsibility” they insist. No, it’ll be MY dog, just like the fishtank was, because I’m not letting critters suffer. When I get a dog, it’ll be because *I’m* ready to care for one!

            1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              As someone who worked a decade in early childhood education and is still the person neighborhood kids cater too….I always tell kids if you want a pet you start by keeping your room picked up and your chores down for a least a month and then start talking about how responsible you are to your grown ups before even hinting at asking for a pet. And if you can’t do those things you aren’t going to be responsible for a pet. Neighborhood girl fell in love with my new kitten this June. Got the above lecture. Every time I saw her and her sister I’d ask if they’ve been helping out around the house and if their room was clean. Must have really stepped up their game because a few weeks back she got a kitty.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Wow, yeah, that’s a *terrible* idea. For most kids, really, because having a pet only teaches responsibility if the kid is ready to learn that responsibility.

        3. quill*

          Worst Boss once spent two and a half hours at a hot pot restaurant lecturing us about how we should all have a sus vide machine because it was the only way to cook perfect steaks.

          It would have been way less funny if 1) I hadn’t had a crab to smash 2) any mention of religion had come up at all.

        4. lysine*

          As a former vegetarian I agree. I never told anyone to be a vegetarian, but I did get perfect strangers coming up to me to comment on the lack of meat on my plate…

    2. Bagpuss*

      Or “My personal beliefs are private and I don’t discuss them at work” if you feel uncomfortable explicitly referring to religious beliefs when you are not religious .
      I suspect that someone like the manager who is so overtly religious is still likely to interpret it as meaning religious beliefs, but you don’t have to to say they are if you don’t want to.

      1. Observer*

        Or “My personal beliefs are private and I don’t discuss them at work” if you feel uncomfortable explicitly referring to religious beliefs when you are not religious .

        Well, not being religious as an adult IS a religious belief. I’m not being snarky. It’s important to acknowledge that as an adult, OP’s lack of religion is not because they don’t know that religion exist but because the believe something about religion – that it’s not true, it’s not relevant to them, or whatever.

        And it’s important to respect their right to no discuss any of that at work.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      The problem with chronic proselytizers is that their religion often teaches that sharing the “good news” with others is a tenet of the faith. It’s selfish to keep the path to salvation to yourself, and you’re god’s emissary in the world, whether at work, at church, in the grocery store, whatever.

      (I’ve got a Jehovah’s Witness, a Mormon, and a Missionary Baptist in my immediate family, and that’s a lot of disparate “good news” coming my way.)

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Ha! So true.

          I did manage to become their back channel to complain about one another/express concerns for the others’ souls. Apparently, being atheist is better than picking the wrong brand of religion? I don’t know. I smile and nod a lot.

      1. Oakenfield*

        That’s no excuse. In fact, it makes it worse. Someone that backwards and into the bible has no business being in a workplace if they’re truly following its tenets.

  18. rudster*

    Isn’t the selling point of Fiverr that it’s incredibly cheap? I’m a freelance translator, and from what I have seen of the translation rates offered on the site, it usually isn’t (remotely) enough to make even one person’s effort worthwhile, let alone two, even less with 100% profit for the middleman and “a good rate” for the one doing the actual work. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily nefarious about it, but I do wonder if OP is underselling herself.

    1. BatManDan*

      Fiverr has entry-point work, but there is relatively sophisticated stuff out there, too. I’m currently negotiating (as a buyer, not a seller) for a project worth several hundred, and I’ve got a project that I want someone to complete that is still up on the site, that I’m willing to pay $300 for. So, it runs the range.

    2. Web of Pies*

      I can’t stand Fiverr, it’s a race to the bottom for rates which undermines the prices for everyone else, and in my few interactions with the site I have not gotten adequate work in return and have had to have it redone (because as you said, it’s not worth your time so as a creator you want to put as little time into it as possible).

      I agree that OP is probably underselling themselves. I know they don’t want to do the client admin work, but it’s not bad once you get some experience in it, and honestly removing a middleman and being able to get direction and feedback directly from a client makes eeeeeverything easier. Maybe try dipping your toe into client interfacing (maybe by doing projects for friends or family?) and see if you can learn to tolerate it, because you’ll be able to charge what your boss is and cut her out.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Fiverr is set up to do micro-gigs for cheap. Sometimes you really only need a small thing done -a basic logo, or a 100-word bio – and so you can find someone quickly.

      There are also a lot of people building a portfolio and learning how to freelance at steep discounts.

      For more comprehensive services and more experienced professionals, the rates go up accordingly.

  19. Kate, short for Bob*

    OP 4 sounds related to a minor problem I had of picking up the accent of people I worked closely with. What cured me was a year on an international site, where English was the daily language but in anything from Orkney to Johannesburg with a stops at Vancouver and Hong Kong on the way. I even caught myself mimicking the sentence structure of a francophone before I had a stern word with myself.

    I’m not sure what your equivalent would be for that drenching horror of realisation, so maybe instead you have to give yourself a minor pep talk every morning before you go in, taking yourself you’re a competent X and you particularly enjoy solving Y and doing Z – and just do that till it sticks?

    1. bamcheeks*

      I still remember myself working down in sarf Landan at a fair once doing student recruitment, and a lad asked me whether I had any courses on theatre, and I just heard myself saying, “Fee-a-a Studies! Yeah!” *cringe*

      1. londonedit*

        I once referred to the area I was living in as ‘Rovver-ive’ before realising that I sounded like a total idiot.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Let’s see, from my time working in central London I ended up with a very interesting Estuary accent. Time working in Llandudno? A…sort of Welsh. Birmingham nearly broke my vocal cords. My native accent is ‘West Country’.

          It is very hard work to stop picking up on the vocal patterns around me. And oh the cringe. So much cringe. Turns out someone who’s native to the fields of the shires really really shouldn’t try to copy a Glaswegian way of talking.

          Have to go talk to myself a few times to recalibrate my voice back to default system settings.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes, I think it is a natural thing (presumably we evolved to fo it as a way of fitting in) I spent a good bit of my childhood in Somerset and have friends and acquaintances who have pretty broad accents. I definitely slip into it if I am around them.

            1. londonedit*

              I can do an excellent Somerset accent (and can tell the difference between the accent in different parts of the county) but I’ve never had one myself. 18 years in the westcountry and 21 in London and my accent is still resolutely vaguely posh Southern English.

    2. Grits McGee*

      I know for me, what helped was being able to recognize what was happening in the moment. I had a coworker who would get me riled up about things that normally wouldn’t bother me, but once I realized what was happening it was pretty easy to understand why I was getting upset and to calm myself down.

      For LW4, there are some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to stop negative thought spirals that might be helpful for getting yourself out of a coworker-induced funk. A quick google search found a bunch of resources, so it would be a low-stakes investment to try it out.

    3. The Smiling Pug*

      When I visited Edinburgh for the Fringe festival, it was all I could do not to mimic the voices around me, and I’m from Texas. ‘Twas an interesting mash-up…

      1. Lemons*

        It’s also just something that people seem to do, in general, without any qualifiers other than having a positive impression of the person you’re talking to. It’s a commonly-observed phenomenon.
        It gets mentioned as evidence for all kinds of ‘specialness’ (you’re extra intuitive, an ’empath’ etc) or difference, but it’s such a grab-bag I wouldn’t draw any strong conclusions. It’s more likely to be a feature of verbal communication rather than the individual.

        1. Kit*

          Yep, I mirror like maddddddd. At my old job where I was taking calls from our customers all over the country, my cubicle neighbors could sometimes tell who I was talking to by the accent and speech patterns I’d slip into – it’s a terrible habit I fall into if I’m not paying attention, but in the context of working inside sales for a company that did business everywhere in the US, it’s also a trait that can appeal to customers. (Which is part of why I am, years later, still finding it hard to break the habit again.)

    4. rnr*

      Yeah, this question really hit home for me. I’ve noticed over the years that I will sometimes do the accent thing as well and have had to stop myself from it. I also tend to mirror other’s behavior, and it can be hard to stop. When I was younger I had a job in manufacturing and almost everyone else in the department was male, and the jokes could be over the line at times. I just tried to feed it right back or laugh to feel like “one of the guys” and I cringe about it now.

      OP 4, if you have a day or an interaction where you notice this, I would take some time after work to think through the situation, and how you would like to have acted. If you do this a few times. you’ll start to think about it in the moment, and it might help to get you acting more like yourself, or at least your “work self.”

  20. Insomniac*

    I feel for #1 especially because it sucks to have multiple complaints as a new person! It makes me feel like “omgosh, is this a Me problem?” It clearly isn’t in this case, but I understand the hesitation and I just wish them luck. There are a bunch of great suggestions from AG and commenters alike.

  21. Insomniac*

    LW3: I have a program manager who appears to have a medics issue that takes her out of the office often, and for 1/2 day – 2 days at a time. She hasn’t disclosed any information to anyone – it seems like vacation time. However, over time some of us have figured it out. We are more understanding because we believe it to be the case, but there is still some resentment that we had to figure it out and were never given the heads up, especially since it would help with planning our communications with her. No one, however, has speculated about what the medical issue could be. We’re just a little salty that she knew this would be a trend and left us to figure out and navigate her schedule without any heads up. I hope this helps.

    1. LW#3*

      That does help a lot, thank you! And I’m sorry you’ve dealt with a situation where resentment boiled over like that. It’s exactly the kind of thing I want to avoid.

      I can’t offer much advice to you and I certainly can’t justify her behavior here (because no two ways about it, it’s unfair for you to be left hanging like that), and it sounds like you’re already sympathetic to her plight in a very reasonable and professional way—so I’d bet you already know this, but she might be really struggling with the stigma and embarrassment of Being Sick on top of the logistical and medical issues themselves. She definitely needs to approach you about this and not vice versa, but if/when she finally does I know she’ll be appreciative that you’ve been understanding in the meantime… maybe even more understanding than she could reasonably expect you to be!

      1. Insomniac*

        Thank you – that’s such a nice comment. I wish I could give her this feedback but we are all remotely working since the pandemic and I’m not close with her. I actually admire her a lot but when I was promoted to project manager, I was really apprehensive because of how distant she was when I wasn’t a PM. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback and modeling behavior from her. But I’m sympathetic to those who are in the same position I was in before I got more time with her. We also had a very toxic project manager before her, and I know she is in the middle of finding her own processes and relationships now that he has left. From how you wrote about this, I can tell you will exceed at your new role. And for what it is worth, I, like many others, have worked with and under people with various types of disabilities and illnesses (one of our directors had to go to cancer treatment every afternoon for 6 weeks) and no one has ever thought they were “weaker” or dropping the ball because of it. Obviously, you don’t need to disclose what is happening!! But the context of “this is a medical appointment” really does garner a lot of understanding and allows everything to run more smoothly. And time zones are a huge factor where I work (clinical research oversight) as we have people across the United States and my line manager is in Africa. One of the people supporting my task order is 2 hours behind and she has told me she knows most of us run on EST and she is willing to get up for any meetings. However, because I know this, I have not scheduled any that have been earlier than 9 AM for her because I know I have that flexibility. When we have no other choice, I’ll sometimes have a 7 AM meeting that includes a statistician who is on the West coast, but everyone is very happy to try and not make this a regular thing. It’s really nice in the remote work age that people are so flexible and understanding. I know it feels different as the person who needs to set the guidelines, but, as a person who has to adopt to those types of guidelines, I can promise I’ve never hear anyone complain when the constraints are clear from the beginning! Good luck in your future managerial role –
        I have very good feelings about your success!

  22. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    LW #5: My boss isn’t located in my state and we communicate just fine. We utilize Teams for calls and messaging. We have regularly scheduled one-on-one update calls and also communicate in between those. We are very productive and get along great. I think the in-person thing is overrated. While it is great to meet in-person at some point or from time to time (when we’re not on the midst of a pandemic), technology enables us to video conference and communicate on the fly so that we don’t need people to be in the same room or building as us at all times. Give it a chance and I’ll bet you and your new boss will work well together.

  23. Testerbert*

    LW5: I’d be asking the question “Why do I have to be physically present on site if my manager isn’t going to be there as well?”. Setting aside any practical elements of the job which requires being there in person, if the job can be supervised from a computer in another location, it stands to reason that the job can likewise be done remotely as well.

    It doesn’t bode well for how the organisation will handle your on-boarding either. Not having your line manager/supervisor around means you have to ask someone else for all those ‘small’ questions around office practices (where’s the supply cabinet, rules around the kitchen etc), and can leave you unable to do something if you run into some IT issues and have no idea who to ask.

    1. SarahKay*

      My manager works in a different country and this is reasonably common in my company, which is a big multi-national. As a result, we have processes to on-board people who are working remotely from their manager, which includes having a ‘buddy’ from the new hire’s physical office assigned to them for the first three months. The purpose of the buddy is to cover precisely those things you’ve outlined above – kitchen, office supplies, IT, an uncomfortable office chair, etc.
      Also, while my job can be done remotely from my site (as Covid has proved), it’s actually much easier to do when I’m based on site, and physically integrated into its day-to-day processes. Now, this is my job (and it suits me as I prefer to be on site), and may not apply to LW5, but a remote manager is not always an indicator of a job that can be done remotely.

    2. LW #5*

      It’s a partly customer-facing role, so there is an expectation that I will need to be on-site for part of the time, once it is considered safer to do so. So I’m not sure if she will actually want me to be MORE physically present (eventually) than I might otherwise have to, since she’s not able to be. That part is definitely something I would have liked the opportunity to talk about during the interview process.

      1. twocents*

        Why don’t you ask now? “How much on site work do you see this role becoming as things open up?” I don’t know why where she works affects you in that regard.

    3. Observer*

      Setting aside any practical elements of the job which requires being there in person, if the job can be supervised from a computer in another location, it stands to reason that the job can likewise be done remotely as well

      That is not necessarily true. A supervisor is not necessarily doing the same tasks as the person they are supervising.

  24. Insomniac*

    LW5: My direct manager is in a completely different country. I work in the US and she works in Africa. Because she knows this creates some limitations, I’ve actually found her to be MORE reachable than my previous managers who worked on location because she feels (I assume from our discussions) that extra bit of accountability. Of course I can’t predict your situation, but remote work is becoming more common so 1) don’t be surprised to find yourself in this situation again and 2) hopefully you will have the same experience that I have!

  25. Pay people for their work*

    Managing a business is work, and it’s work that I have found in my career as both a manager and an individual contributor gets dismissed as less important than the work that produces work product. If your boss is paying herself for that work – finding clients, organizing the pieces of work to be doled out, managing payroll and remittances for her one employee, cost forecasting and managing the budget for her business, editing and reviewing your work, and so on – in addition to what she pays herself for the actual piecework she does, all that tells you is that you work for someone who values paying people for the work they do. Which I think is a good thing.

    You are happy with your pay and work conditions. It seems like the only thing you’re unhappy with is that your boss is also being paid? This is a non-problem.

  26. Jennifer Juniper*

    LW1: You have a pandemic as a reason to avoid unwanted touch as well. She’s violating social distance protocol as well as sexually and religiously harassing you. Ew.

    1. BookishMiss*

      Yes. This was my absolute first thought. My spouse and i, after a year and a half of doing everything right, came down with covid and… it’s not fun, even as “mild” breakthrough cases.

      LW1, every time your boss is close enough to touch you, she’s violating CDC distancing guidelines. Is there a way to leverage the CDC guidelines to eliminate your in- person collaboration sessions and then figure out how to address the touching when you’ve had a little distance from it?

  27. sswj*

    LW1 – My instinctual reaction to those sorts of situations is to not respond except with a pause, and then change the subject to what we were talking about, or something totally different (depending on the situation).

    Me: I’ve been under a bit of stress because X is making Y more challenging.
    Them: Put it all in the Lord’s hands! You’ll never have to worry! I never have to!
    (crickets 1, crickets 2, crickets 3)
    Me: Now, I know I told you that I had a great conversation with the new Cat Curation client, but I did I tell you about Harriet’s idea to enhance Feline Fandom?

    Basically make it utterly unrewarding. Don’t open the door to potential (in her mind) conversion, don’t let her get into her proselytizing stride.

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      I’d be more direct (obviously only if it’s true) ”I’m an atheist, I’d prefer not to discuss religious things at all, thanks for understanding”, with a smile.

      That’s obviously because I am an atheist.

      Alternatively ”I really don’t like discussing religion, it’s just one of those things. Thanks for understanding”.

      1. Oakenfield*

        Sounds like OP lives in the South, and that’s a great way to get fired. It’s a different time and “culture” down there.

      2. lysine*

        I live in a “liberal” city and even I wouldn’t out myself as an atheist to a new boss I knew was a proselyting christian. For a couple reasons, it’s none of their business, it invites conversation or commentary on my beliefs which I’m not interested in debating at work, and unless I know them well I’m opening myself up to potential discrimination. The cons of doing this greatly outweigh the pros.

        1. lysine*

          I live in a “liberal” city and even I wouldn’t out myself as an atheist to a new boss I knew was a proselytizing christian. For a couple reasons, it’s none of their business, it invites conversation or commentary on my beliefs which I’m not interested in debating at work, and unless I know them well I’m opening myself up to potential discrimination. The cons of doing this greatly outweigh the pros.

    2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      Also if she digs at your for personal information “Why do you need to know that?” is a great reply especially with a confused look.

  28. Batgirl*

    I’m struggling to accurately picture the touching going on in OP1’s situation, because while I’ve met office huggers before, arm stroking and rubbing? What?! No. I am not phased by Personal Questions (TM), because you just keep being bland until they give up on ever getting anything good out of you. If they ask: “Do you want kids?”, I just say “I don’t know, really” + repetitions of “meh”, and Personal Questions like “How do you get on with your family?” is also met with shrugging and: “Oh I don’t know. OK”. Hugging can these days be blamed on Covid: “Oh let’s not hug, I am still being really careful, thanks!” As for the stroking and rubbing (?!), you can try saying: “Oh can I ask you not to, I am really ticklish and I get all staticky” or whatever would make it weird for her to continue and still pretend to be nice. Yelping is really good with the garden variety McCreep who will not stop until everyone is looking at you and asking if you are OK, but this type of Sugar Queen, who is just so interested in you and such a nice person will sometimes just stop if you frame it as “can I ask you to…” or “I prefer it when..”.

    1. Need New Specs, Clearly*

      I initially read that as, “if they ask ‘Do you have kids?’, answer ‘I don’t know, really’” … and was in admiration of what a ballsy move that would be ! Such a clear message about your unwillingness to answer personal questions in the workplace!

  29. Sz*

    My two cents as a freelancer, also a writer. OP2, this is exactly how businesses operate. It’s part of the deal that the business, or the individual getting the work, is keeping a cut before outsourcing it. The clients work with the business and the writer is usually never allowed to solicit the company’s clients on his/her own during his/her tenure. I hate to admit this, but in my broke student days – and when I didn’t know better – I have even worked with academic writing companies, and there the names of the clients were masked, and writers were never allowed to let the customer know their name. We only went by our IDs.

    And, yes it may seem to you that she’s profiting off your work after “only” making slight changes to it. But, as someone who has had a go at Fiver and failed miserably, I can also tell you that it’s a LOT of effort to market yourself there and find work. I failed there precisely because I was unable to make that effort. That is what she is charging for. Unless she is misleading her clients by giving them the impression that she is the one doing the work or she is violating Fiver’s terms and services in some way, what she is doing isn’t really

  30. Roscoe*

    I must admit, I found #2 funny. I’m in sales, and I sell cloud based software. So aside from the support costs, anything I sell is basically pure profit for my company. So to be mad that my boss/company make a lot more per sale than I do just would never enter my mind. Its business. As Alison said, if you were happy with your rate before, nothing has really changed.

    #5. I feel like you should’ve asked about this if it was very important to you. You weren’t misled. You made incorrect assumptions. Don’t try to make it seem like they did something wrong. You can feel however you like about not working there, but its a lesson for next time, if there are important things like this, ask. My last job before Covid my manager wasn’t in my same office, and it was fine. Hell, I’d argue that because he wasn’t there all the time, we actually got along better.

  31. 867-5309*

    OP2, It’s no different than a marketing or ad agency. My billable rate to clients was $275 an hour but my pay from them was nowhere near that.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Or a law firm, where my hourly rate could be around $450/hour and I’m obviously not taking that amount of money home.

  32. Beth*

    LW2: Try breaking it down this way: you get 50%.

    Fiverr gets 20%.

    What is your boss doing for her 30%? She’s doing all the work of marketing, administration, client service, workflow management, and she’s also actually getting the clients and the commissions so that you don’t have to put in any time to make sure you still have work coming in. She’s combining the roles of agent, marketer, editor, administrator, and manager.

    Would you prefer to get your own clients, market yourself, manage your workflow, and do all the rest of the administrative shoveling? It will take up at least 50% of your time, during which you will not be writing. Do you want to take over her part of your job? That set of tasks may not play to your strengths. Will you be happier working twice as hard for (maybe) twice as much, when half that work probably isn’t the work you want to do?

    Moreover, you don’t have the years of work she’s put in to building her business. You will have to expect to take a pay cut if you want to start over on your own.

    If you’re working steadily and making a good income, your boss is earning her percentage.

    1. sofar*

      Also, LW, as an editor myself: Distilling what a client wants into a clear brief, editing work and getting it into the right format for the client takes more time than many writers realize. I’ve worked with a lot of freelancers over the years, and even the great ones send in work with typos, or formatting issues I have to alter. Even if the work is perfect (it never is), I still have to proof it very carefully before sending it onward.

      1. biobotb*

        Yeah, even if the boss is sending the OP’s work out without edits, she still had to take the time to read through it and decide it didn’t need edits. I doubt she’s sending it out sight unseen, since some pieces are edited.

    2. Mayflower*

      One thing you did not mention: de-risking. When I see a freelancer (I hire on Upwork and Fiverr) with a high hourly rate and no history… I roll my eyes and move on. The reality is, if you don’t have a track record (ideally a couple years of high ratings) you are more likely to ghost me than to finish my project.

  33. MissDisplaced*

    #2 Yes it’s fairly normal for your employer to make a profit on your work. My company makes a huge profit on our field staff, for example. We pay them $15-$18 per hour, but charge a customer $120 an hour for the service. If you’re freelance, you probably feel this even more keenly. I mean you could ask to be paid slightly more knowing this, or your other option is to build up this business for yourself, which takes time.

  34. ecnaseener*

    I can’t tell from the wording of #5 whether you were specifically told the manager will never come to the office, or you were just told that she moved out of state. If the latter, it may be worth asking your manager what her plans are. (Even if the distance is too far to commute, maybe she has plans to travel in state for a couple weeks at a time or whatever.)

  35. Writer*

    Op2, I think you are looking at it from a different angle than subcontracted writers look at it. If your rate is based on word count, per piece, or per project, she is not your boss. That implies a traditional employer/employee relationship, which this isn’t, especially because this indicates you are being paid as a contractor. You can absolutely renegotiate the rate you charge and use her pricing as parameters for figuring out what that would be. If it is 25%, then figure out what 30% would be and propose that.

    I have several different concurrent arrangements similar to yours and pay rates offered are all over the map, based on lots of small business owners reaching out to me. For those that pay their subs a percentage of the sale, 30% to 35% to the sub is pretty fair. If I see that their customer prices are on the low end or if I know their prices are around the industry mid-range but they only offer their writers 25%, then I thank them and tell them I am not interested.

  36. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #4 – that ability you have is a double-edge sword.

    On the one hand, you’ll probably be very quick at picking up company culture. But as you’ve also seen, you might inadvertently start mirroring undesirable behavior.

    1. LW4*

      Sure is. I find that in my life outside of work too.

      Interesting that you’ve noted it as an ability – I feel good knowing that if I can mitigate the negative aspects of this it may actually wind up being a good thing in the long run! In some ways, at least.

  37. Kate*

    For OP3: I work in a workplace that, while being all about diversity and accommodation on the surface, really values macho bravado and “fitting in” more than anything else.

    Pre-pandemic, that meant I was terrified of disclosing my own health condition (autoimmune) for fear that I would be seen as weak, flaky, or unreliable.

    Well, the pandemic blew that out of the water. I couldn’t hide it anymore— frankly, for my own safety and my own reputation.

    A funny thing started happening once I started doing that. Once I had started speaking up, other people felt more comfortable speaking up too.

    It was really eye-opening, and I have since built it in to my on-boarding of new employees. I schedule a one on one with them in their first couple of weeks, and send them a list of questions to think about in the meeting invite: what kind of projects do you enjoy working on, what kind of projects do you hate working on, are there any areas you want to develop in the coming year, we have core hours of X— what’s your preferred working schedule, and “is there anything I should know about you *as your manager* — preferred pronouns, family responsibilities, etc.” As we go through the list and discuss expectations, etc. I mention that I have a health condition myself, it impacts my schedule in X and Y ways, etc.

    Feedback so far (six employees on-boarded since I started doing this, feedback was unprompted) has been that a) people really appreciate getting the questions ahead of time, it gives them time to think through what and how much they are comfortable disclosing at that time, b) giving specific examples in the email signals that I notice this stuff and it is an acceptable topic, and c) by mentioning my situation in the conversation like it’s a normal, done thing, people feel more comfortable disclosing “oh hey, actually, I do need the last Friday of every month off for a blood draw” without feeling like they are going to be shamed for it.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      This is fantastic advice! I don’t have plans to onboard anybody for a while yet, but I will definitely keep it in mind when I do.

      Also this

      A funny thing started happening once I started doing that. Once I had started speaking up, other people felt more comfortable speaking up too.

      was hugely helpful to me in another area of my life. Not related to work, but when I had a family member involved in an organization that ends with *Anonymous – once I realized it was my story too and I could (and should) talk about it, it turned out nearly everyone had a similar story, and people were coming out of the woodwork to help me.

      Not that anyone is required to disclose anything they don’t want to, of course! But if you feel safe, often times it can be really helpful to yourself and others.

  38. Salad Daisy*

    #5 Before the pandemic but after after the merger, my wonderful boss left and I got a new boss who thankfully was located 700 miles away. I think I met them twice, and was very glad I did not have to have more regular personal interactions with them. This may be a blessing in disguise!

    1. LW #5*

      Ha – you may be right! So far, I like her very much, but there is certainly something to be said for keeping your boss at arm’s length…

  39. EPLawyer*

    #1 — definitely talk to your mentor as others have suggested. But HR needs to know too. Even if she stops with you, she might just do it with the next person. IF she was brought on to bring the company to the next level, part of that moving up involves making sure the office is professional and does not become a toxic cesspool lawsuit waiting to happen. You know what triggers a lawsuit — forcing religion down people’s throats and unwanted touching.

  40. Leah K*

    LW3 – you mentioned that you are flexing your core work hours because your medical condition makes it difficult for you to operate at full capacity early in the morning, so you may be asking your direct reports to push meetings to a later times than they normally would. Have you ever had anyone push back on that request? And if so, did you just accept it at face value or did you prod further to find out why exactly the hours wouldn’t work for them? Is it their childcare obligations? Are they trying to beat hellish commute by leaving at a certain time? Do they have an evening run scheduled with their friends? Or have they been up since 4:30 am working and their brain is shutting down? Would you feel different about their request not to have late meetings based on the reason behind it? Would you feel entitled to even know the reason? Is it truly enough for you to know WHAT and WHEN, but not WHY? Or at least some general idea of WHY?

  41. Alex*

    My boss is about 8.000 miles away from me (but in the same timezone), and the grandboss is another 4.000 miles in another direction..

    I might be biased but this is pretty normal in international companies, so no-one even talks about this arrangement, as my next boss could be on another continent entirely, that is just how big organizations work…

  42. Sleet Feet*

    #1 I have had good luck with the “I’m weird and like my space” approach.

    Most recently I was paying for my groceries and a guy was standing about an inch behind me. I smiled, turned around to face him and said cheerfully – “I have this weird thing about personal space. Would you mind stepping back a few feet.”

    He was surprised but backed up without complaint, no muttering, no scoffing. It’s a script that works on the field.

  43. C in the Hood*

    OP5 – for my entire 30+ year career, I’ve had some sort of mixture of having to work with off-site people to get my job done (and yes, this was way before Zoom). The key to make it work is communication. Let your boss know what you’re up to. Ask lots of questions, but be willing to research your answers first. Be prompt & reliable in your responses. This will develop great working relationships and a good reputation.

  44. Empress Matilda*

    #5, I’ve had a bunch of jobs where my boss was based in either another building or another city. And this was all pre-Covid, so we basically made it work on the phone and in-person visits when we could. I don’t necessarily love it – but I don’t love remote work in general, I definitely prefer to have my colleagues in the same building if possible!

    But honestly, it’s not too bad. Especially now that we’ve made the technology and cultural shifts to make remote work easy, and especially since your new workplace seems to have a culture of remote work already. I’d be disappointed too – definitely that should have been disclosed in the interview process – but on its own it wouldn’t be a red flag for me. Try to make sure you get 1-1s with her at least weekly, and you should be fine.

    Also, make a note that this is a question you should always ask in future interviews! Good luck in the new job, I hope it’s great.

    1. doreen*

      For about 15 years, my boss was located either in another city or another building – and it was fine. In fact , the 5 years where my boss was 150 miles away and fantastically busy ( so that I saw him maybe twice a year and spoke to him maybe once a month) were the best years I’ve had. Some of it was just because in general , he was the best boss I’ve had – but part of was also because the low-contact meant I had to be permitted to operate more independently than I was able to before or since.

  45. anonymous73*

    #1 – unless you work for a religious organization, religion should not be a subject discussed at work. I am a private person when it comes to spirituality, and I don’t want to discuss it with my boss, especially someone I barely know. And I also don’t want someone who’s essentially an acquaintance touching me all the time. I know it’s awkward, but boss is the one making it awkward. I would speak up one more time, and if it doesn’t stop (or she starts treating your poorly because you spoke up), then go to HR.

  46. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    #4, would it help to think of your work personality as a role that you play as an actor? After you decide what kind of person you want to be at work, do some visualization of a character who looks a lot like you but acts and speaks like this person you want to be. Spend some time playing out scenarios in your head — how would Ideal Work Person handle a small, frustrating problem like a broken copier? How would they cope with a disaffected, grumpy colleague? How would they react to criticism of their work? Etc. etc.

    As you’re doing this, choose one small object that symbolizes IWP’s presence in your life, and bring that item into your workspace. Maybe it’s a piece of jewelry that you wear or a little decoration on your desk. When you feel yourself slipping into your colleagues’ attitudes or other patterns you don’t want to replicate, return to that object and focus for a moment on the person you want to be.

    1. LW4*

      This is fantastic. I’ve been told the ‘think as though you’re an actor’ thing before (for different issues) but you going in depth has helped me understand specifically what I should be doing when incorporating that strategy. :)

      Also, love your username.

  47. Mockingdragon*

    I don’t ever want to hear the word “stroke” in a work context outside of an Olympic rowing team.

    All I can think of is the letter with the volunteer who was creepy-touching the kids on a sports team… and THAT one turned out as crazy as it seemed.

    1. quill*

      You may stroke the canine and feline coworkers with their permission.

      You may not stroke the human coworkers.

  48. ???*

    LW1- I would be very careful about going to HR. Your boss is well liked, highly respected and good friends with your mentor. And you’re the new person. While you absolutely shouldn’t have to be harassed at work, I think you have a risk as being seen as the overly sensitive employee who gets upset when someone wishes them ‘Merry Christmas. And your boss won’t see herself as a harasser but as someone who is being punished for merely living her religion. I think going to HR could burn a lot of bridges.

    You also haven’t been there long, maybe you’re boss doesn’t know what else to talk about when she’s around you. Can you try to get her to talk about something else? Family, hobbies, why she chose her career, how she maintains work life balance, advice for the profession. Maybe if you found something else to talk about she would stop harassing you so much.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I think changing the subject might work, but I absolutely do encourage OP to go to HR. What they’re being subjected to isn’t on at all.

      Touching me? Trying to ram your religion down my throat? Oh heck no. It’s not really a case of ‘being the one offended at merry Christmas’ (wherever that comparison came from) it’s being known as the one who really doesn’t like to be touched and tried to convert to a religion. That’s not actually a bad thing.

      1. Observer*

        It’s not really a case of ‘being the one offended at merry Christmas’ (wherever that comparison came from)

        The only time I see that kind of comparison is the people who get offended when some poor clerk says “happy holiday”, blather about “the war on Cristmas” or make a fuss about how Christians are PERSECUTED if they can’t plaster their symbols all over shared / public spaces.

        @??? I would ask you if you really think that HR is being unreasonable or is you REAL problem that YOU think that the OP is being too precious.

      2. ???*

        You’re right it isn’t a case of lw1 being overly sensitive. But the boss Is very unlikely to admit/ realize she’s harassing LW1. She’s going to claim LW1 is being mean/sensitive. Unless the LW1 Has witnesses, I think it’s a bad idea to risk their reputation, to try to save the company from liability.

        1. Oakenfield*

          I agree. OP needs to get a different job if possible, this is a systemic problem in that workplace. Pushback will not be taken well, because the boss is not well.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      But this is a huge potential liability for the company. Any halfway decent HR department would absolutely want to know about it. OP should directly ask her to stop first and if it doesn’t, then HR is the next step.

      I would also touch base with the mentor, as others have suggested.

      1. Oakenfield*

        Agreed, but also OP should be job searching. I’ve lived in the South, I guarantee her job will be on the line once she starts pushing back. So OP should be aware of that and plan, and document. Lawsuits take time to cash out if at all.

    3. Observer*

      It’s just SOOO unhelpful when we advise people to swallow serious problems because MAYBE pushing back won’t go well, because in dysfunctional organizations that’s how it goes.

      Unless OP knows their org to be dysfunctional, the fact that they are new and the boss is well liked is NOT a good reason not to speak up. A competent and functional HR will absolutely NOT see the OP as “too sensitive” if they explain what is going on the way they do here.

      1. Oakenfield*

        True. But an un-well boss can get around things and OP can lose her job anyway. OP should make the choice with eyes open to how things actually work, not how they’re supposed to work, because I guarantee this workplace is dysfunctional.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I think OP has the worrying about worst case scenarios bit down pat. It’s rather counterintuitive to advise someone who’s being harassed that ‘things could go bad if you report this’ because I guarantee you they know.

          This comes up often, like when a woman is being harassed by a man at work and the paranoid brain devils don’t need feeding – they’re quite capable of generating the ‘I should keep quiet to save my job’ bit all on their own.

          1. Oakenfield*

            Yes, I completely agree with you regarding pushing back and that the danger is deeply gendered. I was seeing so many comments that seemed to be ignoring or glossing over that reality that I wanted to chime in. You have a good point. I suppose I’m jaded and just don’t want other people to make the mistake of thinking the rulemakers are on your side.

    4. James*

      “And your boss won’t see herself as a harasser but as someone who is being punished for merely living her religion.”

      That’s inevitable. Someone so out of touch they think it’s okay to do what this boss is doing is going to presume that the behavior is okay when they do it. No one does something because they think they’re wrong; we all think we did the right thing, at least in the moment. That’s not the issue. The issue is that this IS NOT okay. It’s harassment, obviously immoral, and likely illegal.

      “And you’re the new person.”

      That’s not a bad thing here. The company I work for actively encourages us to bring new people onto established teams because new people can detect things we’ve gone blind to. If everyone is used to the boss talking religion they may not notice it–it’s just part of working there, like the bad coffee and that one chair with the squeaky wheel in the break room. And if it’s gotten worse over time (which tends to happen when there’s no pushback against bad behavior) it’s likely gradual enough that no one thought to make an issue of it. To a new person, though, it’s a huge, glaring issue that needs to be addressed.

      That’s not fan-fictioning. I just inserted “talks too much about religion” into my company’s standard model for complacency. It’s a thing that happens all the time. And it sometimes really does take a new person to see it.

      To tell someone, in essence, “Sit down, shut up, suck it up, you’re the newbie” is, by itself, a serious managerial issue that should be immediately addressed. Yeah, sometimes the newbie is wrong. Often they are. But frequently they have insights that more entrenched people simply don’t.

      “You also haven’t been there long, maybe you’re boss doesn’t know what else to talk about when she’s around you.”

      This is victim blaming. Due to the nature of my career I meet new people all the time. I have no idea what the religious views of 2/3 of my staff are, and I am positive they don’t know mine. There are so many other options for casual chit-chat. Kids, vacations, the new office plants, the construction down the street, shoes (not gendered here–it’s a really common topic among men in my line of work), places to eat….

      And let’s be clear here: We’re not talking the occasional “My church is doing a thing, you should come!” That’s a thing that happens rational people realize it’s something said with positive intention. No, we’re talking about harassment due to the employee’s religious beliefs. That’s not something you do because you suck at small talk.

      I’m all for assuming positive intent, but there comes a point where it’s irrelevant. Even if the boss is somehow unable to come up with any topic at all other than “Join my religion”, the behavior has crossed into harassment.

  49. Observer*

    Or is it none of their business what hours I work or when I can and can’t hold meetings?

    Wow. That’s a REALLY bad attitude for a boss to take. Your schedule most definitely IS their business. Not in that they need to know your medical history, of course. But your schedule DOES affect them in significant ways, and brushing that off is a very bad idea both from a human standpoint and from your ability to manage people.

    I realize that you haven’t actually said this to anyone. But please knock that idea totally out of consideration.

    Tell them what your schedule is going to look like relative to theirs (eg not able to be available till x:00) and GENERAL context (eg “Medical condition that’s pretty well controlled as long as I stick to a fairly strict schedule.) And also provide some SOP for situations where people actually would need your input at a time when you would normally not be available.

    1. LW#3*

      You’re right, and I phrased my original letter quite poorly. But I’m grateful for all of your responses; these are mistakes I’d rather make now and correct ahead of time than make as an actual manager!

  50. Observer*

    #5 – you say that “And it sort of makes me feel like I’m starting this job with a trust issue, to be honest.

    I’d ask WHY? I agree with Alison that it would have been better if it had been mentioned. But what about this information is SO vital that it’s a breach of trust to not mention it?

  51. RagingADHD*

    LW2, temp agencies bill the client company double what they pay the temp.

    When law firms bill for support services, they bill at least double the admin or paralegal’s wage.

    This is normal. Doing business on Fiverr doesn’t have as much physical overhead as a brick and mortar office, but there are still taxes, marketing, and all the “backend” work of running a business that you stated you don’t want to do. The business owner deserves to get paid for doing that work.

    The business owner isn’t taking anything away from you by making a profit. If they charged less, they’d pay you less. If they paid you more, they’d charge more.

  52. Observer*

    #1 I was a little surprised at “and don’t want to have to leave and I know this is also making me more hesitant to speak up.

    Why would you expect to have to leave a job over speaking up about extremely inappropriate behavior at work? If this a reasonable workplace, the fact that someone is well liked would not in any way over-ride the recognition that your boss simply cannot proselytize to you.

    If this is just anxiety talking, then you need to recognize that. Because you should be able to push back, and you should NOT be defensive or overly apologetic when you do, and a high level of anxiety tends to lead to that kind of thing.

    Alison has given you some good scripts. You are not asking that she never mentions that she went to church or the like. You are simply asking that she stop telling you what YOU should do and asking you invasive questions. Very reasonable and something that any reasonable company should support 100%

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Agreed. This isn’t a ‘stop getting offended by tiny little things and get over it’ moment, but I can see how OP might worry that this may not be worth speaking up about for fear of being told to, I dunno, ‘toughen up’ or some such.

      Anxiety mind devils lie to you. A lot. They like to say ‘oh if you say no it’s all going to end badly’ and boy do they have loud voices. The trick is to remember that they lie. How often has their worst case scenario imaginings come true? It’s not often!

      I can’t see any company coming back with ‘no, your boss can grab you and spout religion at you all day’. You’re going to be fine in speaking up. :)

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        “I can’t see any company coming back with ‘no, your boss can grab you and spout religion at you all day’. You’re going to be fine in speaking up. :)” You always sum things up perfectly Keymaster of Gozer.

    2. Oakenfield*

      SHOULD be able to push back. But this is the real world, and OP should also be aware that when your boss is unwell, things can go south quickly. None of this sounds documented. OP may have trouble proving any of this. I believe any pushback will be at OP’s expense. OP should make the decision with all possible outcomes in mind.

  53. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – I know what you mean, and sometimes it can really feel like you are being short changed on projects that you do as a “sub-contractor”. I have my own business – sometimes that means I own the client relationship, but often I am working with a consulting firm that is managing the entire project.

    Keep in mind that the firm employing you to do the delivery work is doing a LOT of work themselves, and you don’t see all of it. They are doing the business development and/or own the client relationship. For every 10 engagements that they pitch, they probably win about 1-2 of them. Every time I think to myself that I should be making a much bigger piece of the pie, I remember how HARD it is to do business development – you have to be disciplined about it, constantly be prospecting to find new clients, and you have to be able to deal with a high work load and constant rejection. If the firm has a long-standing client relationship, then that means they have built that up over time and have not only initially won the business, but are constantly “farming” and building their relationships in the business.

    Also consider that the firm you’re working for has to not only win the work, but manage the delivery as well – even if you’re doing the legwork, your contact has to manage you, review your work, do client meetings on the project, manage all the billing, etc. etc. etc. It takes a lot of time and effort.

    Hopefully this will put in perspective for you why you are only getting what feels like a small piece of the pie. If you want a much bigger piece, you’ll need to develop your own direct client relationships with companies that want your work. (Be careful not to step on your current clients’ toes while you do this.)

  54. Lady_Lessa*


    I’d talk to your mentor about both issues, since both are bothersome. At best, religion is briefly mentioned, as in plans, etc. The arm rubbing is almost grooming behavior.

  55. CM*

    OP#2 I’m going to take the minority position here and say ABSOLUTELY ask for more money. Here’s why:
    1. **When you were first hired at your current rate, you hadn’t yet proved your reliability and the quality of your work. Now you have and that should be worth a lot to your boss.
    2. It’s been nearly a year since you started. It’s a reasonable amount of time to ask for a pay raise.
    3. If you don’t ask, you are potentially leaving money on the table.

    I would not approach it as, “I know you’re making a huge profit off my work!” Instead, I’d go with reasons #1 and 2 above but go ahead and ask for a large pay raise — “We’ve been working together for close to a year now, and I think I’ve shown my value by providing high-quality work on deadline. I’d like to ask for a 20% increase to $___.” (or whatever you think is market value for your work, plus a little more to leave room for negotiation)

    1. RagingADHD*

      Sure, if LW2 just wants a higher rate there’s no reason not to ask. And I think anyone here would agree.

      The problem is that LW seems to think they should be receiving *more than half the gross revenue* on their work product, even though they are not an owner, bear no risk, and are not materially contributing to running the business. They are so far from having an ownership stake that they don’t even understand the business model, the expenses, or the work that the owner actually does.

      That’s the issue that’s drawing pushback. LW doesn’t actually understand their value to the business in order to justify an increase, because they don’t understand how that value works.

  56. r*

    LW 2, I think your biggest concern is your portfolio and references. Is your boss upfront that she is farming this work out & will she be a reference to you for other clients (assuming you are freelancing)? The money thing is frustrating but that’s business. I do think you should protect yourself by taking on additional clients, though, if the Fiverr account presents all work product as hers.

  57. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I feel like part of OP#4’s question could be rephrased as, how do I have collegial relationships with coworkers without mirroring them. It can be easier to connect when you mimic others. If this rephrasing makes sense, it might help to recognize that’s whats happening. I can fall into agreeing that someone is not handling things they way they should or so and so is GREAT! when I don’t actually agree.
    Food for thought.

    1. LW4*

      Precisely that! I struggle with that in general (mirroring people to get on well with them, that is) but it’s less of a problem in a social context.

      And it’s something that comes very naturally to me as I’ve done it basically forever, so I have to work to override that programming and figure out how to connect to people without all that.

      The numerous selves we portray! :)

  58. free from freelance*

    LW2, I’ve been in the same situation as your contact. I seconded an overflow of freelance writing work to a contact and took a cut. In my case I felt it was justified because I’d made a significant investment of time into their setup and training, I was still putting in hours of proofing (even though most of the work was fine and didn’t need editing, I still needed to check that was the case) I was the liaison to a client with no organisational skills or boundaries, I kept all the financial and business records, created and maintained the file management system, and I did the tax reporting. Of course, part of the “cut” i took was because it was my reputation that had earned the business, but that was honestly such a tiny part. It’s the same as working for an agency. My agency bills me out at three times my hourly freelance rate, and pays me about 70% of my freelance rate, but I don’t have to do any goddamn mother**cking admin, the work is regular, and I have professional development opportunities.

  59. raida7*

    #2 Clarity here:
    “I guess I’m just a little shocked that my boss is earning more than double what I get for each piece of writing I submit.”
    The business is earning double, from which you are paid 50%, Fiverr is paid 20%, and the rest goes into a business account for paying all the bills, insurance, website, advertising, and then the boss pays themself (or doesn’t) from the money left over, after keeping accounts at reasonable levels for running costs in case of low income months.

    Now if she were offering you her services to manage all communications and advertising and everything for you, as a writer, what would you consider a good rate for her to charge those services out at? I feel that a commission-based setup is common, and 20%-30% wouldn’t be out of the question.
    So if it helps, you could think of it that way – your work gets charged out at a higher rate than you’d manage alone, you don’t do any admin, and this lady does it for 30% commission.

  60. employment lawyah*

    2. My boss makes a huge profit on my work

    You seem to be confusing the biggest possible gross profit (what she charges) with actual net profit.

    Obviously, being on salary is huge. You get paid even during slow times, and you get paid even if you make an error, or anything else.

    Other things that reduce net profit and which “everyone knows” include the obvious ones like employee space, employer taxes, office space, subscriptions, advertising, internet, insurance, and equipment.

    But new employees often forget the biggest one, which is the “cost of generating business.” SOMEONE has to spend time getting business and making sure people hire your firm and not someone else. It’s hard to make business continue to flow–especially with internet based services for which you are very much not the only game in town. If you think it’s easy to start from scratch, this is difficult.

    For example, I have a law degree and some other graduate school; I am an incredibly fast reader and a fast, accurate writer. I can read and write more accurately, more rapidly, and with more clarity than the vast majority of people I know, including almost all of the lawyers I know. But although I would happily run a “research and writing” firm, and would deliver excellent value, I can’t START one. It would take a lot of money to get people to hire me. So if I wanted to work in that field, I’d have to get paid much less than my “value,” and work for someone else who had a business.

    Meeting clients, convincing them to hire you; dealing with them when they need urgent work; handling them when they are (or have) a problem; etc. Those things are hard and cost a LOT of money to outsource. And they’re hard skills to find–this is why top salespeople get paid so much.

    And folks also forget many of the other things which happen behind the scene and also cost money, such as:
    -She may not bill all your time, even if you get paid for it
    -She may have to give discounts below advertised price, which don’t affect your pay
    -She may not collect even if she bills someone (scams, bankruptcy, etc.)
    -She may get paid in a method (Paypal, credit cards) which takes a %age off the top.

    Getting HALF the income is actually very high in many fields–especially if you’re on salary! In a typical law firm, for example, it’s common for people to get paid a quarter to a third of their “billable” rate: Someone who is billed at $150/hour (nominally $300,000/year, if they work full time) is often paid $75k. Even a high level associate who is billed at $400/hour (nominally $800,000/year) is rarely going to make more than $250k.

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