being an environmentalist at a fossil fuel company, boss wants us to work from his house, and more

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

1. I’m an environmentalist at a fossil fuel company

I’ve been concerned about climate change and global warming for years now. This past summer really emphasized that climate change is here and is affecting my area of the world. The problem is, I work at a company that sells fossil fuels. It’s only one business line that we do, but it is the business line that makes the most profit. I wasn’t fully aware of the scope of this when I first accepted the job years ago, but as I learned more through my employment, I became aware that it is their biggest cornerstone.

I hoped that the recent developments in my country of carbon tax and the transition to electric vehicles that management would see the writing on the wall and start to wind down production and increase efforts into other business lines. However, they seem determined to squeeze as much profit out of oil and gas while they still can.

I work in marketing, so I help with the development of campaigns that promote consumers and businesses to buy fuel. More and more, I feel sickened by some of the work that being asked of me to do. How can we continue to sell fossil fuels and pretend like the world isn’t on fire?

The culture seems to be that climate change is taboo. I rarely hear anyone talk about it, except for polite conversation about how the weather is acting strange lately. I feel like my job could be on the line if I speak out against what upper management is planning, or if I start declining to do the work that I’m morally against.

I like my coworkers and I have a great boss. I enjoy the work that I do when it’s not related to fuel. The pay and benefits are great. After a history of low-paying jobs, I’m hesitant to give this one up. I rationalized this by thinking that someone has to fill my position, it might as well have someone who cares about the environment, right? But I am just a small cog in the machine, so my power to make change is limited. I have reached out to some coworkers individually who feel similarly, so I’m not the only one who feels this way at least. Is there anything I can do, or do I have to find a new job? Help!

If you’re asking if there’s any way to convince your company its work is morally wrong or otherwise get it to change course … probably not. If you were in a different type of role, there might be opportunities to engage in harm reduction efforts, but that’s not likely to happen in marketing. If you had uncovered information that allowed you to act as a whistleblower, that could be a way to effect change but it doesn’t sound like the situation you’re in.

The crux of it, unfortunately, is that you’re working for a company whose work conflicts with your values. You’re feeling the same way some people might feel working for big tobacco or the gun lobby, and you’ve got to decide if you’re willing to do it or not. Some people are able to make peace with working at jobs that don’t align with their values and some aren’t … but it sounds like you’re probably in the second group.

2. My boss wants us all working from his house, but I’m allergic to his dogs

My company’s office closed permanently mid-pandemic, and we all worked remotely for a time. The owner decided he prefers people to work in person with him and has some people coming to his home to work there. I think he’s lonely and likes having people around. He’s alluded to the day when we’ll all come back to the “office” (now meaning his house).

However, he has dogs that I am allergic to, and my doctor said I should not be around them, even with medication. I’ve been able to do my job remotely and I’ve done well and received raises. I like my job and want to keep working at the company but not from his house!

My coworkers aren’t thrilled about working from the owner’s home, but it’s not a deal-breaker for any of them so I don’t think they will band together to push back. If he requires me to work from his home as a condition of employment, are there any principles of, say, accommodating my allergy that I could appeal with?

If your company has 15 employees or more, you’re covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and your employer would be required to accommodate you (in this case by not making you work from the owner’s home) unless it causes them “undue hardship” (which it doesn’t appear to thus far). If you have fewer employees than that (likely the case if he wants you all at his house), some states have disability laws that kick in at lower thresholds (google your state name plus “employee disability law,” without quotes).

Even without a law in play, though, with most employers you could simply explain that you have severe allergies and your doctor has told you not to spend time in homes with dogs. There’s a good chance that will be all you need to do, so start there!

3. I was left out of an appreciation initiative

This happened a year and a half ago but still kind of bothers me. I’m a teacher at a wonderful school. I’ve taught at a LOT of schools over my career, and this one is absolutely one of the best in every way. When the pandemic first hit and my state shut everything down, we pulled together in a really amazing way and our students only missed one day of instruction, which I think says a lot about both the school and us teachers! The administration wanted to thank us for our hard work, and at the end of the school year they drove around to every teacher’s house either late at night or early in the morning and left a yard sign on their front lawn. Everyone except me, anyway. They weren’t all delivered at once — every day for about a week there would be more teachers posting in our Google Chat that they woke up to a fun surprise! So every morning I woke up and went to my window, but I never got one. I do live 45 minutes away from the school, but other teachers who live 30 or 40 minutes away still got one. And (more importantly, in my opinion) I make that drive every single day for work, so is it really too far for one drop off?

I made a passing comment in our Google Chat at the time, but obviously never brought it up again because it’s such a small thing. It’s something that still kind of ticks me off though. Is that unreasonable of me? Of course I’ve let it go and am not going to do anything about it, but I’m wondering if I really had any right to be bummed about it at all, or if I should have assumed that a long commute would exclude me.

I think you were entitled to be bummed about it! I also think it was probably an unintentional oversight, not a deliberate decision to skip you, since people who lived just five minutes closer than you were included. (Also, if they had deliberately skipped you, I’d think they’d be likely to explain it to you, not just ignore you without comment.)

4. Should I tell my boss another company reached out to me?

I work at a small design firm, where I started as an intern and am now a full-fledged employee (and the longest tenured at that). My boss has been incredibly supportive through my time at her firm and we have a great relationship where I am not afraid to ask her for career advice or about general industry questions.

Today the owner of a rival firm (no bad blood, but similar size/projects) reached out to me on LinkedIn to propose a chat about my career and future, saying they had heard great things about me and there was no pressure, but they wanted to chat about my future. I have no interest in switching employers — I like our projects, the company culture, and the potential for growth at my current firm, and I get paid the high end of normal for my level (and my boss has always been very generous).

Should I tell my boss that this rival firm reached out to me to ask how to handle it? I am not interested in switching jobs but, as my mentor, would like her input on how to handle these conversations. I do want to take the meeting, if only because I have only worked at one firm and it would be helpful to network. I am not close enough with anyone else more senior at my firm to ask them. I don’t want her to worry that I am getting poached, but would appreciate her insight with 20+ years in the industry on how to handle this conversation with grace when I have no intention on leaving.

If you mention it to your boss, there’s a high chance she’ll assume the subtext is that you want her to know that you’re in-demand and she needs to do more to retain you. That’s usually the subtext when people mention this kind of thing, even if you don’t intend it to be.

This is an situation where your boss can’t really be your mentor; she has a conflict of interest because she presumably doesn’t want to lose you. (That will be true in other situations, too! Having a boss who mentors you is a great thing, but you should cultivate other mentors as well, because there will be times when it’s not in your interests to share something with your boss — or where you might need advice about her.)

As for what to do: If you want to take the meeting, go ahead and take it! You can be up-front that you’re happy where you are but interested in meeting with them and hearing them out — and if you remain uninterested in a job with them after that first meeting, you can let them know that you appreciated learning more about their work but have decided to stay where you are for right now.

5. When does a company start to need a dedicated HR person?

How many employees can a workplace have before it needs a dedicated HR person? If, say, you had a branch location of a midsize paper company with 20 people combined in the office and warehouse, would it need an HR person on-site? Would that be different if it were the same size but an independent small business?

You don’t generally need a dedicated HR person until you hit 50 employees or so (because that’s when you meet the threshold for FMLA, and that can immediately make your HR work more complicated) but a lot of companies don’t bring one on until they’re closer to 100. At fewer than 50 employees, there won’t be enough work for a dedicated HR person to do. You’ll of course need someone handling the more admin-ish pieces of HR, like payroll and benefits administration, but in small businesses that’s usually more of a clerk position than it is someone who’s doing higher-level HR work like legal compliance, policy, investigations, management coaching, etc. At that size, you can generally get by with outsourcing that more complicated stuff (like legal compliance) as needed.

Being a branch of a larger company changes the calculus, but if you’re asking about Toby on The Office, it was never clear to me why he was there.

{ 423 comments… read them below }

  1. awesome3*

    #2 – if the boss is asking everyone to work from his home it sounds like there is less that 15 people, but hopefully explaining your situation will be all it takes

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      I have to hope it’s less than 15 people just based on logistics. Though, I absolutely cannot fathom having my boss ask me to work from their home at any number of employees.

      1. ThatGirl*

        The idea of going to someone else’s house to work, especially my manager/boss, just makes me uncomfortable. I guess I could dream up a few specific circumstances I’d be cool with, but in general, if I’m working in the same space as my boss I want it to be *neutral* space, not *theirs*.

        1. awesome3*

          The letter reminded me of a job interview that I went to once that the job would have taken place in the owner’s house. This was pre-pandemic. In this case maybe it was a way to save money on office space? In OP’s case it sounds like they used to have an office, and the boss misses the benefits of that, but isn’t going to rent out new space, so here they are.

        2. DrMrsC*

          I worked out of a boss’s home office setup for a couple of years and it was… interesting, uncomfortable, boundary crossing etc… The office space itself was nice and done as an addition to the home. But it was still the home so I was seeing how my boss interacted with his spouse, kids, dog etc… and some of those interactions really negatively colored by impression of him. The bigger problem for me was that he was a work-a-holic and expected me to be as well; great for him at HIS house where he could take an hour to mow his lawn, pick up a kid from school, hit the gym, had a weekly house cleaner coming in, and extra people to help out. Not so great for me who also had to do all of those things but really couldn’t be staying in HIS home office all hours of the night just to put in face time. (which ultimately seemed more important to him than defining his expectations for deliverables). In short, it was a mess. Neutral space has a wealth of natural boundaries that most employees welcome.

          1. Alexis Rosay*

            …Wow. All really compelling reasons not to work from someone’s home.

            I’m a remote employee and I know some folks who occasionally work from each others’ houses to stave off the loneliness of WFH. I’ve been toying with the idea of inviting a coworker (not a subordinate!) to do that occasionally, but so far I haven’t really felt comfortable doing so, and this is a very good reason not to.

            1. ES*

              Maybe a good solution would be a friend who also works remotely, not a coworker? That way there are no power dynamics but you get some company?

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yes. My son and his GF both WFH, they each disappear into their office to work then meet for lunch in the kitchen, it works fine now that nobody has to work in the kitchen.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            A friend of mine in OldCity was in a similar situation long ago; she did admin work for a lawyer who worked out of her home. The boss turned out to be a horrible person. She treated my friend like crap, but thankfully, Friend found another job. For ages, whenever I drove past that house, I’d surreptitiously flip it off.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I can see a situation where the company as a whole has more than 50 people and the OP’s manager has a team of, say, 6 whom he expects to work in his house every day.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Just realized the OP specified that it’s the owner who wants people to work at his house, so unlikely that the company has more than 50 people.

    2. CateringToBoss'NeedsStinks*

      Agree and also — if your boss sounds like he really values the social connection. You may want to suggest grabbing coffee or going for a walk once a week or something like that to get regular face-time with him in a way that’s safe for you. You shouldn’t have to do this, but it might be strategic for you to demonstrate that it really is just a medical issue and not a lack of “team spirit” or whatever

    3. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      My immediate thought was turning his home office into an office where employees come to work on a regular basis is almost certainly a violation of zoning laws if this is in the US. Most residential zoning districts allow home offices without customers, clients, or employees. Feel free to throw this into the mix of your objections… “are you sure local zoning allows us all to work out of your home?” All it takes is one neighbor complaining to local code enforcement about too many cars parking on the street in front of their house.

      1. Joan Summers*

        Good point! I was thinking along similar lines, only with liability insurance. That might also be something to bring up.

    4. LittleMarshmallow*

      This sounds super weird to me given normal professional boundaries that I’m aware of now. However… in college I worked for a cleaning service that was run out of the owner’s house. The office area was a separate area of the house with its own door and clearly designated space. Typically, the cleaners just stopped there in the morning for assignments and supplies, but she had a couple of admin staff that worked in the office with her. Never once was it awkward or weird so I could see it being ok if set up well. Rarely did we go into the main house though. Unless you were assigned to clean it. Cleaning her house was a posh gig though because her house was always clean because she was pretty obsessive about cleaning. I loved getting assigned to her house. Haha. It also meant I didn’t have to go deal with snobby rich people or drive around looking for hidden driveways before the days of proper GPS… that’s right, map and written directions is all we had. Haha! I cleaned with my sister. It was a great gig for a college student… but I digress. In short, #2 is weird but I could see it working if done correctly.

    5. tamarack & fireweed*

      When I read this the situation I imagined was a larger company that made a central decision to close an office, and one particular manager / director who decided that his team should work out of his house. Because otherwise he could just decide to go back to the regular office, no?

  2. Lunita*

    Maybe Toby was there to try and keep an eye on/reign in Michael. Although if that were true, he failed miserably.

    1. James Geluso*

      I was the question-sender, and yes I was asking about whether Toby was necessary at the branch. The idea that Michael needed extra supervision doesn’t explain why the Nashua branch had Holly; I think the writers just expected every branch would have an HR person.

      1. Granger Chase*

        I wondered about that too and have a couple theories. One is that the branches might’ve operated more independently at one point instead of being overseen by a huge corporate office in NY, so they all had the personnel to function as “stand alone” companies. It also could have been to keep that small business feel that they always talked about, even though they were in actuality a publicly traded company with at least 500-1,000 employees.

        1. HB*

          Came here to say this. My husband works for a company with a lot of offices – some of which are on the smaller end of 15 to 20 employees and some of which are 100+. They’ve structured teams to overlap to keep offices from becoming siloed, and the result is you may have the HR person in the small office because that’s where you were able to hire the best person for the job.

          But the reasoning in the TV show room was probably “We need an HR person so we can make HR jokes.”

            1. JB*

              They needed a punching bag for Michael to be a douchebag to. They showed with Parks and Recreation they can have the buttmonkey employee without making them completely pathetic. Need someone to do mindless filing? None better than Jerry. He identified irregularities with a tent hire business. Plus he’s got the most stable homelife of the main cast.

          1. JustaTech*

            There are about 75 people based out of my site and for years and years we didn’t have an on-site HR person, and the HR person who was supposed to support us was really just an e-mail black hole. Like, if you had payroll issues you had to sneaky-email the HR person at another location to get it fixed (and that person was reprimanded for helping us) because “our” HR person literally never responded.

            I can’t imagine what would have happened if we’d had a serious HR problem.

            When we got new management and a local HR person she was kind of shocked how excited we were to have her – most people aren’t asking for more HR oversight.

      2. Laney Boggs*

        I mean….. they have a warehouse connected to them.

        There’s less than 50 people *in my office* as well but we have a giant distribution center connected.

        Toby’s office is in The Office but there’s warehouse employees too (even if we only saw 5 or so)

        1. Lizzy May*

          And travelling salespeople like Packer. I think if the original DM setup was like that for every branch, they might have enough employees that having HR made sense.

      3. PT*

        I worked for a company that had branches (a federated nonprofit broken into regional associations.) It was fairly common to have a central HR office at Association Headquarters and then a Designated Branch HR Liaison for each branch, to handle the day-to-day HR needs of the branch. So for example if there were new employees, this person would gather/complete the onboarding paperwork and send it to HR for processing. Or if someone was being written up for something common, like lateness or not wearing their staff uniform, they might sit in on the conversation as a witness. They might handle things like workplace injury reports, too. (The specific responsibilities varied from association to association, I worked for a few different ones over the years.)

        But if something Very Big happened, like someone was being put on a PIP as a step to termination, or something more serious happened, a dedicated rep from HQ would come down and handle that.

      4. Sacred Ground*

        My guess is that the execs decided HR had to keep someone there due to all the complaints, but that HR saw this as an opportunity to place someone who was pretty useless and annoying but they had no reason to fire. So he was exiled to Scranton.

      5. Tali*

        I thought that was part of the issue of the office, that every worker was underutilized and bored. They spend most of the day goofing off, after all.

    2. The Lexus Lawyer*

      Rein, like a horse.

      “Reign in” is wrong and makes no sense if you actually think about it

      1. Your local password resetter*

        Ah, like the ones they use for sub-Saharan horse breeds? The reins down in Africa?

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I was kind of wishing Alison, maybe on her next vacation day, could do a day of responding to workplace letters from fictional workplaces. I just finished watching Ozark S4 and came up with SOOOOOOOOOOOO many letters

      1. LimeRoos*

        I would totally submit for that! Except it’s for Tom Nook vs. Lottie in Animal Crossing… But yes please! Alison an open thread or fictional question day would be awesome! I know there was a fictional question day a few years ago that was very fun.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks about AAM when consuming media!! I was thinking sort of like update month, she could ask for letters from fictional (or historical workplaces, but that might just be because I am obsessed with the Luddites) workplaces written from the perspective of a character and then run responses here and there.

          1. LimeRoos*

            Oh definitely not! It crossed my mind when I joked that Lottie was the best boss I ever had…except she’s a fictional otter lol. I love the idea of making it like update month! Or like a Spring Break week where it’s all fictional questions or one post a day of fictional? So many options and so many strange workplaces.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          OMG, this letter could be amazing. “Dear AAM, I just interviewed for an HR position at a closely knit family firm with a global presence. The benefits look amazing, but some of the termination procedures are a little concerning…”

      2. Antilles*

        Alison actually did a morning post with questions based on fictional workplaces a few years ago, so it seems like that could happen if people sent in enough interesting media-based questions.

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I immediately thought he was clearly there because of Michael. But yeah, he failed impressively.

      1. Heidi*

        Maybe headquarters noticed that a lot of HR issues were coming from the Scranton branch. Not all of them had to do with Michael. Dwight submitted a formal complaint about Jim every week.

        1. DunderHead*

          But Corporate didn’t get these….they went in file boxes in the warehouse.
          I always took this to mean Toby never sent them to corporate, but I suppose they could just be being stored in the warehouse after he sent them along.

          1. Heidi*

            Maybe Dwight was sending them to corporate at first, which is why they sent Toby to intercept them. He’s shielding corporate from Dwight!

            1. MadameLibrarian*

              This sounds right to me. Dwight brought in more sales than anyone else at Dunder Mifflin, so it could well have been worth it to hire an HR person to corral him (and Michael as best he could).
              Angela also probably filed a million complaints, so Toby might have been a good buffer for her, too.

    5. Ann Perkins*

      I’ve always noticed the makeup of the office staff is strange in general. There were only a few people in sales, but just as many accountants. And at one point they had a full-time receptionist, full-time office manager, the branch manager, plus HR. I always try not to think about it so it doesn’t bother me.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        There is an episode where Oscar realizes there are 3 people doing a job that only 2 people need to do (accounting). He shares it with Kevin and Angela and they all just ignore it. There are little bits mixed in where they do explain that the business set-up doesn’t make sense. Which I do think is realistic to a certain degree. I’ve worked in jobs where the leadership doesn’t realize that the tasks are unevenly distributed.

        1. ThatGirl*

          There are SO many things about The Office that don’t make sense, workplace wise. But it’s also shown repeatedly that Dunder-Mifflin is a poorly run and chaotic company.

          1. fieldpoppy*

            There is apparently backstory on Kevin that he came in through some sort of nepotism connection with Dunder or Mifflin, and that he started in the warehouse. I’m not sure where I heard this and it’s sort of unnerving to me that I know this. (Maybe the Office Ladies podcast)

            1. PT*

              No it’s in the show. Michael interviewed him to work in the warehouse but “had a feeling” he’d make a better accountant so assigned him there.

            2. MeleMallory*

              I just finished an Office rewatch, and Michael says at one point that Kevin applied for a job in the warehouse but Michael hired him for accounting. I haven’t listened to the podcasts, though, so they could have explained it differently there.

      2. Twenty Points for the Copier*

        I can’t even think about their office setup anymore. My husband is rewatching the show and every time I come in, I just complain about how they never get any work done and how an office full of salespeople, customer service, and accountants would be much more efficient if remote.

      3. JB*

        It is a TV show, so it’s about entertainment over authenticity. If you looked at what people got up to in fictional workplaces there’d be rapid turnover. In one episode Kelly screws over Jim and Dwight in the customer reviews, faking bad testimonies because they didn’t attend one party she threw and costing them bonuses they earned through their work performance. The worst punishment she gets is Michael bemoaning his own hosting failures at him. I know it’s just a TV show with fictional people working for a fictional company and a lot of the comedy for fans comes from Michael acting inappropriately in a role he’s not qualified for, but it’s exactly that reason I was never able to get into the show. It’s not the kind of comedy I enjoy.

    6. awesome3*

      My understanding was that an executive at NBC thought the character of Toby was funny and wanted him around more than just checking in

  3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    OP 2, I would see if you can get your DR/Allergist to formally put what sort of conditions you need from a health standpoint in writing. For some people just hearing allergies, sorry can’t is enough. Others need it in writing. Getting all the documentation pulled together before boss starts trying to force you into the allergy exposure zone is a good start.

    1. Elenna*

      Yes – I’m a little worried that if the boss is sufficiently clueless they might be like “Oh, I’ll keep the dogs out of your area, don’t worry!” but of course there’s still dog fur everywhere.

    2. Smithy*

      From my past experience in an office where the use of scents of was triggering my allergies – I strongly recommend this. It was only when I submitted Dr/Allergist paperwork stating my diagnosis and accommodation needs that I was taken seriously.

      I’m someone who is technically allergic to cats but at the lowest level, so it creates a situation where if I want to be around one (ie visiting certain friends) I don’t make a big issue of it. I know plenty of people with allergies at levels like mine to pets who like them enough that they go through the medication and own them.

      If someone who takes the time to be educated about allergies, it’s very clear that there are simply different levels of allergic reactions and in some people those can get more severe over time/with repeat exposure. But for lots of people it can add to their personal narrative of some people using allergies as excuses for what they don’t like whereas others just tough it out. So just come with the doctors materials in advance.

      1. OP #2*

        This is really helpful. I think part of the issue is that my allergies aren’t taken seriously. Boss said I could take medicine for them. However, I have the kind that get worse with repeated exposure. Thank you for this advice! I’ll get the paperwork from my doctor.

        1. new*

          OP2, you’re not afraid of Covid exposure, all day indoors with people you have no idea what their exposure is? It would be a hard no from me for this reason, boss or no boss, my health comes first.

          1. OP #2*

            We aren’t required to be in the “office” right now because of COVID. Boss has alluded to the day when we’ll all be required to come to his home to work (post COVID).

  4. Loulou*

    OP#1, this really isn’t a decision anyone can make for you. But I do want to say that when I made a switch within my own field to a workplace that aligned more with my values, it really did matter to a degree that I hadn’t at all anticipated (my choice was really more for practical/personal reasons than anything else). My situation isn’t really analogous to yours because I never felt morally opposed to what I did before, but it really takes the edge off a lot of the frustrations and annoyances I deal with (some of which would not have existed if I’d taken a different job) when I think about how amazing and meaningful my work is. Very much just my two cents, but I hope you’ll find the move fulfilling if you do make it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Right on. A relative worked for Big Oil back in the 70s. She retired very comfortably. We thought nothing of it then, even after having gone through gas rationing.

      More and more people are looking at what they are doing and how their company impacts the world. So you may be feeling an bit of peer or social pressure that my relative never, ever saw. It’s fine to rethink things and decide to go a different direction. But there are some Goliaths out there that one person will not tackle and win. It will take a huge number of people and a lot of time.

      On these large battles, one’s health can tank because the battles are such a drain. I took on a much smaller battle at one place I worked and ended up having my life threatened. My wise friend said, “Do not allow yourself to become dead by any mechanism (illness or threats). It’s better to back off and try again later on a different day. If you become injured or worse, your message goes away. Keep yourself healthy because a better day WILL come and you will get your message across.”

    2. Former Young Lady*

      I heartily second this. I was in oil and gas accounting for seven years at the start of my career. I’d have stuck it out longer if not for a round of layoffs, because the money was good and it was familiar. But then I got RIFed.

      I moved into a field with a mission I could really be proud of, and I was amazed at how much better it felt.

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I recently moved from a business that is modeled on shafting the customer to one where we work to protect the customer (while also earning a profit) and it has been very good for my mental health. I hope OP #1 can find something else.

      1. Venus*

        I think that OP1 has some differences, as parts of the job aren’t about oil, and people need oil right now (as opposed to cigarettes which has no good use, oil is currently fundamental to transportation, heating, making plastic, etc).

        I think that it would be good for OP1 to start looking at other options, but I also agree with their comment that someone has to do the job so it doesn’t hurt the environment if they stay there.

        1. Omnivalent*

          “Someone has to do the job” – no, someone doesn’t, as we see from all the employers desperately trying to fill vacancies. And even if someone does, that’s not a a justification for choosing to be that someone.

          1. Oakenfield*

            This seems unnecessarily shaming to the OP. It doesn’t make a whit one way or the other on their company’s effect on the environment if OP goes or stays, and OP needs to eat.

          2. oh boy*

            I always think about this in light of WW2 and the choices civilians made in Germany. Could I be a filing clerk at a ‘camp’, even if I was really really hungry and had kids to feed, even if there were great bennies and professional development? No, I could not. Yeah, throwing myself under the wheels isn’t going to register as even a speed bump in the bigger picture, but I’d know.

            1. new*

              Or an overseer on a slave plantation? Or the captain of a slave ship? Unfortunately, sometimes taking a moral stance costs.

    4. Agatha Christie Fanatic*

      Many years ago, I was an information systems developer for consultants to the US Federal government. In my first job, I did consulting for the US military. When I changed jobs, I switched to a company that did consulting for the Department of Education as well as Health and Human Services. The switch allowed me to care about my work product so much more. I hadn’t realized the mental burden of working on projects that I didn’t care about or identify with until the burden disappeared. Funding Navy vessel maintenance — I just couldn’t care about. University student grants and providing health care, I could care about passionately.

    5. Elsie*

      OP1, it also sounds like you are concerned that this is the best job you could possibly find and that other jobs won’t pay well. I also struggled for a long time in low paying jobs so I get that concern. But you will never know until you try, you may end up finding another well paying job in an industry more aligned with your values. And you have a job now so you don’t need to rush – you can take your time and see what your options are and leave when you’ve found the right position and organization. Best wishes to you in figuring it all out.

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Oh yes. My work has always been mostly in fairly ethical fields. But my colleague had a huge chemicals company as a client account. One day I had to translate a file for that account, it was literally a letter explaining how to rebrand the company as a “science” company rather than a “chemicals” company because chemicals were no longer perceived as being good. It gave me a raging headache to translate it and it pains me any time I see an advert for their products with “a science company” featuring clearly as their base line.

  5. Undine*

    If the boss is using his home as an office for other people, aren’t there ultimately questions around zoning and insurance and so on? It’s one thing to work from home and it’s another thing to consistently have several people working there every day. It depends how many people it is, I suppose, but it seems as though someone would have rules that theoretically apply.

    1. JSPA*

      I had the same reaction, but that’s largely between the boss and his insurance company (unless employees want to push back together on the assumption that they would likely not be covered for a “workplace” accident). Assuming they’re doing computer work rather than light manufacturing, the others likely don’t have an interest in that sort of push back… and as far as warning the boss, OP would be in prime, “shoot the messenger” territory.

      1. John Smith*

        Ditto that. Also, what will the neighbours think with all the comings and goings? Other issues like parking? I don’t know what laws are like in the US but if you were to do this in the UK you’d be asking for a lot of trouble in so many ways.

        1. JM in England*

          In a cul-de-sac where I used to lived there was a shared house. One of the occupants tried to run a car repair business from it (which I’m sure violated the terms of the lease) and the customers parking caused absolute chaos for residents of the other houses. In the end, police and the landlord were called and the business shut down.

          1. UKDancer*

            I’d have thought it would violate the lease. My flat is leasehold and I’m not allowed to run a business from it (along with a load of other restrictions including not shaking mats out of the window). Working from home is mostly fine but using your home as a business premises is not. We get fairly regular reminders from the management company that we can’t run businesses and we’re not allowed to use the flat for things like an AirB&B.

            1. londonedit*

              Yep if they were renting then it almost certainly would have been in breach of the lease, too – I’ve always had a clause in my tenancy agreements saying I’m not allowed to run a business from the house/flat. I’ve also had the not shaking mats out of the windows one, one about not hanging flags from the balcony (try stopping people doing that when there’s a World Cup on…) and also one that specified I wasn’t allowed to leave the flat while the washing machine was running. If you own the freehold on your home then obviously you’ve got a lot more scope to do things like running a business, and plenty of people do, but when you get into the realm of employing other people or doing anything like manufacturing things or cooking, then there are all sorts of permits and health & safety stuff and extra insurance that you’ll need to have.

            2. Blue*

              I’m curious about at what point a business would violate the lease… For example, if someone periodically makes clay teapots to sell to friends and family would that be permissible? What about if they make 50 teapots a week to sell on etsy? Does it only become a problem if you have employees thus raising issues of liability for having others on the property? I’m sure it depends on the lease terms/landlord but this is very interesting to consider in the age of side hustles and more WFH than ever before.

              1. UKDancer*

                I think probably it would in practice depend how much it annoys your neighbours. My leasehold agreement is very long and has a lot of provisions about things I should and shouldn’t do. People don’t tend to follow up on whether I’m actually doing them all.

                If you were doing something that involved a lot of disruption, e.g. making pots on a commercial basis (bearing in mind flats in my block are pretty small) or involved a lot of people coming in and out and disturbing the neighbours then the management company would probably get involved and remind you that you were in breach of the lease.

                If you’re doing something small and not intrusive, e.g. doing something like freelance consulting or translating where it’s all online you’d be unlikely to get in trouble because nobody would notice.

                This is notwithstanding any other rules governing the type of business you want to run. If you want to run a cake making business you need to comply with the rules around catering which involve local authority inspections.

              2. Nanani*

                It really does come down to whether your landlord/neighbours/HOA/etc are bothered enough to care. Making a teapot to sell once in a while shouldn’t matter, but turning your basement into a factory that churns out weird smells and odd noises at all hours probably would.
                Having employees take up the parking would probably cause problems, as would letting customers clog up the elevators if you’re in a high-rise apartment.
                Installing industrial equipment on residential water/sewage lines is also a big no-no (you’re gonna break expensive things that arent yours!)

                These are just a few examples extrapolated from my own area, it will definitely vary a lot geographically.

                1. shedubba*

                  Yep, those rules generally come down to whether or not you’re annoying the neighbors. For instance, our HOA rules don’t allow residents to keep chickens. Our neighbor wanted to get some anyway, so he asked all the nearby neighbors if they minded. We all said we didn’t care. They’re right against our fence, and we can’t see them and can only barely hear them if we’re outside. So no one’s calling the HOA to complain, so no one’s making him get rid of the chickens. But if he had a huge flock and they were making tons of noise and waking the neighbors and making bad smells, someone would report him and he’d have to get rid of them.

                  Similarly, if the OP’s boss has plenty of parking for his employees on his own property and they’re not making traffic issues coming in and out, the neighbors may not care. But if there’s not enough parking, or the parking solution is unsightly, or there’s so much traffic in the neighborhood that the neighbors have trouble getting to work or home or picking up kids from school, then they’ll probably report him and it’ll solve the problem for OP. But if there’s HOA or local laws or bylaws prohibiting the boss from running the business out of his home, OP can probably report him anonymously.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Shaking mats? how scandalous of you to want that. I was once handed a 13-page document explaining what we were and were not allowed to do in the building, which I tossed thinking I’m not the kind of person to cause problems. One day I hung some clothes out the window to dry (looking out onto the back yard, not the street side), then went to see my BF and ended up staying the night at his place. I came home the next day to find a message taped to my front door explaining the various clauses of the building’s regulations that I had violated (not sure what but there was more than one). I was furious because the message taped so visibly to my front door was basically advertising that nobody was home, and it could have been there a while. There was a letterbox that they could have put the note in after all. I didn’t stay there more than a few months, it was horrendous.

          2. PT*

            Car repair is explicitly covered in a lot of zoning laws and general laws for this reason. One city I lived in banned car repair on public streets. This was not so the cops could go around bothering apartment-dwellers changing their own oil or flat tire (and I can confirm this didn’t happen, we used to repair my husband’s motorcycle in public view pretty often,) it was so that when someone opened an illegal repair shop on a city street and had six cars being worked on spread down a block, they could fine them and shut them down.

        2. Asenath*

          In my Canadian city, you require permission from the city to run a business – and when doing so in your own home, getting that permission is likely to be difficult or impossible if extra parking is required, or if more people are coming and going than would be expected for a house in an area zoned “residential”. There are also more regulations for certain classes of businesses (safety rules, for example, if chemicals are in use, health rules if you’re cooking or baking on a commercial scale, and all kinds of rules if you’re running a home-based day care). While a resident working from home on a computer, with no customers arriving and leaving, is unlikely to have problems, any number of employees arriving for work is likely to attract attention and enforcement unless this boss lives way out in the country in an unincorporated area.

        3. Anonymous in New England*

          I have seen at work, and I have seen it not work. Yes, the difference seems to be scale and type of business. We all know doctors, dentists and lawyers who work out of their homes. I have seen a three employee software company run successfully in a neighborhood home; to hire employee #4 they rented a small office because they didn’t want to lose that much of their home that long. I have seen a small magazine run out of a private home. (Being the only house on a cul-de-sac helps with parking.)
          On the other hand, I have seen an elderly farmer ticketed for parking his adorable antique farm pickup in the driveway of his house in suburbia because it had a logo on it. And I have seen a small delivery company made to leave town because they had 2 box trucks and were therefore in violation of zoning rules.

        4. The OG Sleepless*

          My neighbor had a couple of people working for him at his house for years. It wasn’t bad enough for me to call Code Enforcement or anything, but it was kind of annoying. One of them parked on the street directly across from my driveway every single day. So *every time* I pulled out of my driveway, there was a car behind me. Stuff like that.

    2. TiredEmployee*

      I’m pretty sure that setup would conflict with the terms of my mortgage, even before concerns about insurance.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      I wonder about things like workers comp, should people visiting the boss’s house have an injury of some sort.

      Personally, even though I have a fantastic manager, I would find it uncomfortable to be asked to work from their home. Years ago when I was a temp, my assignment had me based in someone’s home. When I mentioned it to my agency, they yanked me out of there immediately, telling me not to return the following day and letting me know they would speak with him directly to end the assignment.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Not to start last week’s conversation about proper desk set-ups again, but… ;)

      I just can’t get over the weirdness of this idea, tbh. It’s annoying enough working at your own dining room table– the thought of half a dozen people all awkwardly perched on someone’s sofa and the kitchen table trying to do normal office work sounds like a pitch for a sitcom.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Yeah. Unless he has multiple rooms with the right set up this is just folks hanging out at his house attempting to work.

        I too had thoughts about the legality of running his office out of his house. this has bad idea written all over it.

        I know OP you said the others seem not to mind, but put out some feelers to see if anyone is uncomfortable but thinks they are the only ones. You might find enough people for group push back.

    5. Mockingjay*

      If the boss lives in a neighborhood with an HOA, it likely forbids home businesses other than remote telework by the legal occupants. Did boss update the company business licenses for a home-based business? More importantly, I second @JSPA’s concern about insurance. What if an employee trips on the hall mat or if Fluffy nips an ankle?

      But OP 2 didn’t ask about these, so I would get a letter from doctor just in case, then simply ask as Alison suggested.

    6. I heart Paul Buchman*

      In my Australian City it is fine to run a business from home as long as it isn’t visible from the street, has fewer than two non resident employees and a few other restrictions on noise, vehicles and such. It’s a pretty common thing here. Not so different from working from home in a lot of instances. We actually do it ourselves and I doubt our neighbours have noticed. (And yes, we have the appropriate insurances, workers liability cover etc just like any other small business).

      1. bamcheeks*

        Doesn’t that mean it can’t be more than owner(s) + one employee, though? Give the OP’s reference to “some people” going to work at the boss’s house and “co-workers”, it sounds like it’s more like half a dozen people including the boss.

    7. Hockey_fan*

      I had this concern as well. The boss’s homeowners insurance likely doesn’t cover business being done there either! Also, if I were the boss’s neighbor, I’d be thoroughly annoyed. What a weird and inappropriate thing to ask your staff to do.

    8. Cat Tree*

      I’m mostly concerned about the bathroom situation! In an office, those get professionally cleaned, probably every day. But at someone’s home who knows what is going on there. It’s one thing to have an occasional party or gathering. But to have a group that is presumably larger than the house was designed for, spending 8+ hours there 5 days a week is a different story. Is the boss cleaning it every day after that?

      1. Golden*

        That was my thought too! Or if the half bath off of the kitchen (or whatever) is occupied and someone really needs to go, do they use the one you have to walk through the boss’ bedroom to get to?

        I know there’s plenty of jobs where using your employer’s bathroom is typical, but I have so many questions about this particular setup.

      2. MapleHill*

        Yes, my first thought (after, ugh, this would be horrific and I like my boss), was what about bathrooms? Is the boss cleaning these daily after multiple people are using them? But really, what a terrible awkward situation, no freakin thank you. I’d be hunting for a new job.

    9. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      This got me thinking to an old, old job I had doing data entry and filing way back between HS and college. It was a small architectural/landscape design firm run by a husband and wife out of their converted garage. There were 5 employees during their high season (Mar-Oct). It never occurred to me that this wasn’t a legit type of set up. Then again, my memory still rose-colored glasses that place because it was the first job I didn’t have to deal with the public or clean the public restroom, so maybe it was weirder than it seemed

      1. EPLawyer*

        It might well have been. If they converted the garage they were going for “office space” not just having the employees work out of the home. they probably had all the right insurance/permits/etc.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I probably should have been more clear. By “converted” I mean attached garage with folding tables/chairs next to the lawn mower, old paint cans, gas cans, and pesticides+sprayers with extension cords running to the inside of the house. We folded up the tables and chairs at night so the bosses could get their cars in the garage. The bathroom was inside the house. I can’t be 100% sure, but I am guessing no permits or insurance involved in the making of the set up. Honestly, it was a pretty decent job, despite the occupational hazards in the garage

      2. Here we go again*

        It’s common for self employed/owner operators in the trades to have a workshop in their garage or shed for storage and maintenance of their tools, park the work truck in the driveway. Then have employees meet at the work site. Technically their office or shop is at home but they only do a small amount at home.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I am betting this is how they started, but by the time I worked there, the receptionist and I were in the garage full time, so onsite.

      3. Grateful for an office*

        I’m an interior designer – a colleague of mine at school once had an internship where she worked at a desk in the boss’s bedroom (I’m in a major city so space is always at a premium but still)!

        1. fieldpoppy*

          To continue the fictional workplace theme, like on Mad Men when Don et al broke off from the original agency and ultimately formed Sterling Cooper Draper Price.

    10. Texas*

      A California tech bro came and bought the beautiful historic (residential) home next to me and turned it into an office for his employees and nothing stopped him so it might depend on the specific state/city.

      1. pancakes*

        If everyone in the immediate vicinity simply assumed there are no regulations in place and opted not to complain to the city, state, or other relevant authorities, the result would be the same: inaction. I wouldn’t assume there is nothing that could in fact stop his office arrangement merely because nothing has stopped it yet.

        1. Texas*

          I didn’t assume there were no regulations in place. I researched them and looked into if a complaint or report could be made to the relevant authorities, but based on the information I found there was no action the city would take. I’d recommend to take your own advice and don’t assume.

          1. Casper Lives*

            I don’t want to derail. But I’ve run into the same thing.
            I don’t want to derail. But I’ve got a theory that less compact living spaces means less regulations.

            When I lived further out in the suburbs, there was no regulation. It became a problem because one neighbor and his employees weren’t considerate of neighbors. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have known. Ugh they were horrible. Eventually shut down for safety reasons but I suspect they were only inspected due to complaints from neighbors!

            I’m in a suburb closer to a big city now. There are way more regulations due to space/parking being at a premium, lots more people being here, etc. AFAIK no one is running a business from home. If they are, neighbors aren’t bothered. Good enough for me!

            1. UKDancer*

              I think this is definitely true. I live in a block of flats in London with a lot of neighbours and a high density of population. It’s quite easy to annoy people as there’s a lot of them in close proximity. You’re also immediately aware of what is going on in nearby flats.

              On the other hand my cousin lives in a small town in a detached house in gardens. If she ran a business in the cellar, people are unlikely to notice. Unless she’s causing a lot of damage, noise or make it harder to park for any of the other houses, nobody would know what she was doing.

          2. Abogado Avocado*

            I live in Texas, too, so, Texas, even if your city doesn’t have zoning or you live in an unincorporated area of the county, the rules likely DO require a Certificate of Occupancy for space that is used for commercial purposes, even when the space is in a historic building. And to get a certificate of occupancy, the business must meet specific requirements, like having drawings of the space, marked exits, and life safety equipment. You should be able to check with your city or county’s permitting office if the business has a C of O. If there isn’t one and you live in an unincorporated area of a county, you report the lack of a C of O to the county fire marshal. If you live in a city, you report the lack of a C of O to the public works department or to your city council member.

      2. generic_username*

        I just finished a rewatch of Silicon Valley and immediately thought of their set up. Which also immediately made me think about how much I wouldn’t want other people working out of my home….

    11. Dust Bunny*

      Also, doesn’t it largely negate the point of working remotely? You’re around all your coworkers all day, just in a different location.

      1. Loulou*

        Right, but I don’t think the boss is having people work from his home (typing his sentence made me feel insane!!) because he thinks it’s safer than the office. The office is permanently closed and OP’s company has gone permanently remote, so will still be remote once the pandemic ends). My assumption is the boss would have people working from the office if there were an office to work from.

      2. JSPA*

        It completely negates the safety value. It does, however, save the company a bundle on rent, and might also save the boss a bundle on taxes (unless the IRS or other taxing authority pushes back) by designating significant portions of the home, as “home office.”

        OP, your boss is clearly saying to all the employees, “for me, having you work from my home is better than you working from your home; I don’t care if it’s worse for everyone else.”

        To be fair, if boss has a place that’s cushy and large, while most employees are in tiny shared rentals, people may be happy to agree! But they are still trading safety for comfort, in that case.

    12. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      It seems like all kinds of weird boundary violations could happen — people being privy to the boss’s relationship and family quarrels, employees feeling pressure to work late because the boss wants company in the evening, that one guy who wanders into the kitchen and eats all the boss’s groceries.

      1. Gamer Girl*

        Honestly, I would watch that sitcom. The Office 2.0, Pandemic Edition!

        But seriously, that would trouble me as well–it seems like a strange thing to do just because the boss is lonely.

    13. Merle Grey*

      Where I live, the zoning ordinance says in a residential area you can only have a home office if you don’t have employees (unless they are family members who live with you). This is pretty standard for the state, too. OP#2 might contact their local government to ask about similar laws, and perhaps find out how the business is licensed. The other thing I’d be concerned about is how the business is insured. If it’s icy and you slip and fall going to work, would boss’s insurance cover you if they only have home insurance?

    14. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      (TW/CW shooting)

      Back when I was married and we lived on an upper-middle-class street where everyone had larger houses, our next-door neighbor had his business’s only employee working from the basement of his house. The neighbor was in his early 70s and had his adult daughter move back in with him at one point after she received a diagnosis of a progressively debilitating medical condition. One day, the daughter’s ex-boyfriend came by the house with guns and two boxes of ammo and shot and killed our neighbor and the daughter, before turning the gun on himself. The employee was in the basement office the entire time, and was the only one present in the house at the time who survived – the ex simply did not know she was there. I cannot imagine how traumatized this event must’ve left the employee.

      All this is to say, if anyone needs another reason why working out of your boss’s house is not safe and likely to go terribly wrong in a lot of ways, here’s another one. An office has safety tools and procedures in place that this boss’s house is not going to have. If a coworker’s disgruntled ex had come to my office, he wouldn’t have made it past the front desk bef0re security got him. A coworker’s child’s disgruntled ex wouldn’t have come to coworker’s office at all. Honestly, until I started typing this comment, I hadn’t realized that there were things I liked about working in an office, but here we are!

      1. pancakes*

        Workplace shootings are not uncommon. I don’t see any particular reason to believe US workplaces are as effective at preventing them or minimizing injuries as you make them out to be. It’s far from clear that this particular workplace had security in place at the office before it was closed.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Fair point. I was thinking more of my current workplace when we were in-office. The couple of times someone was let go and there was a tiny shred of doubt that they might come back and try something, we had extra security everywhere on campus for a week each time. Cameras everywhere, you could not get into any door without a key card etc. Whereas the ex-boyfriend just drove up to the house, rang the doorbell, and had the owner open the door to him (to tell him that he couldn’t come in, but still). But you’re right that a place as small as OP’s probably did not have the same security that mine did.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            PS. May not be clear from my comment because of my less-than-perfect wording, but we had cameras everywhere and key card access at all times, and then extra security posted around campus (inside and outside) on certain occasions in addition to that.

        2. ThatGirl*

          That’s a terrible story. And I would say that most offices have more security than your average home. BUT… you’re sadly right that workplace shootings are not uncommon and I don’t think that’s really the best reason to choose an office over a home.

        3. Lorine*

          Workplace shootings are still extremely rare, statistically. Too common in the US compared to other countries, sure. But not common.

      2. Rolly*

        It’s wild that the OP’s problem with an allergy is moved to worries about getting shot since there are not security cameras and a guard out front like in some offices.

        Or is the point that the OP should talk about workplace shootings to try to not have to work in the bosses home. Or ask for security so hopefully it’ll be too expensive to implement and they can avoid the the allergens.

        1. Loulou*

          Yeah, the OP already has a good reason to not work from the boss’s house!! She does not need a considerably more farfetched one.

          It seems to happen pretty often on this site that something is not workable for a clear and obvious reason, but people will chime in with an extremely unlikely reason that the thing we can all agree is bad would be bad. I just don’t think it serves the OP at all. Like, “I can’t work from your house because I’m allergic to your dogs” is reasonable. “I can’t work from your house because I’m afraid you’ll be the victim of a statistically unlikely domestic violence incident while I’m there” is not.

      3. Persephone Mongoose*

        What on earth? The situation you describe, while absolutely terrible, is so infinitesimally unlikely that I have to wonder if this is a story where you’ve just been waiting for an opening to share. There are plenty of other, more common-sense reasons, to not work at a boss’s residence (including labor/zoning laws that may prohibit it!) — workplace shootings shouldn’t even rank. Why work in any building with other people if that’s the case?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My point was that working in someone else’s home is not safe. It opens me to whatever shit can go down in this person’s house – accidents, break-ins, and yes, domestic violence too – anytime I come in to work. I did not sign up to be part of this person’s family with all its dysfunction, while I’m trapped in their basement, guest room, or what have you. That’s an interesting assumption that I’d been waiting for an opening to share this story, but no, as scary and traumatic as it was to all us neighbors 15 years ago, I’ve forgotten about it now. Until I tried to imagine having to work out of someone’s house and was like HELL NO.

      4. RagingADHD*

        I mean, if your goal is not to get murdered, you are statistically far safer in any workplace, with or without security—or basically anywhere else on earth—than in your own home. So I guess for maximum statistical safety, the staff should work at the boss’ house and the boss should work somewhere else.

        At this point we’re verging into hypotheticals like “if you get murdered while you’re WFH, does it count as workplace violence?”

    15. L.H. Puttgrass*

      My company’s office closed permanently mid-pandemic, and we all worked remotely for a time. The owner decided he prefers people to work in person with him…

      This is the problem, IMO. The owner (1) closed the office, but (2) still wants people to come into the “office.” And the solution is not to get a new office, but to make people go to his house? Well, that’s an awfully sweet deal for him: he saves the money he’d have spent on an office and he gets to work from home! Kind of sucks for everyone else, but, hey, he’s the owner, right?

      I would nope out of that so hard.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        Sorry; that first paragraph was supposed to be block quoted. Not sure why it didn’t take.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yep. To inconvenience everyone in this situation (including, btw, the dogs), for what, to save on rent?

    16. Xl*

      The insurance part was what first came to my mind. What if the walkway to his front door is uneven because a tree root pushed up a part of it or something and someone trips and breaks their ankle while coming “to work?” I’d imagine his homeowner insurance would have an issue with that.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Would the person who broke their ankle coming into work be able to get workers’ comp if “work” is the owner’s house?

        1. Nanani*

          Depends where you are but very likely yes in a lot of places.
          You can get worker’s comp for tripping in your -own- home if you are working from home (in some places)

    17. The OG Sleepless*

      My husband started out in his field working for a guy whose business grew so fast that it went from just him working out of his house, to having a couple of people there part time, to having 10 people there all day. They were basically set up with desks all over the living room and dining room. In a very small 1960s house. The best part is that it was the early 90s, so the remote access to databases was all done through old-style wired phone lines, plus all of the desktop computers and printers were plugged into the residential power supply.

      An electrician had stopped by to do something, and the more he looked around the more horrified he looked. He shook his head and said, “I don’t even know where to start with all the violations I can see just standing here.”

      You know what genius boss said? “Oh! The REAL violations are in the basement!”

      Electrician hot-footed it downstairs, and they heard a voice come up through the floor: OH my GOD!!

      So that’s a phrase my husband and I use to mean “I haven’t even told you the worst part:” The real violations are in the basement!

  6. Language Lover*


    Any chance your sign was stolen by teenagers being silly at night? Or perhaps left at the wrong house?

    I’d be bummed too and hesitant to say anything because it could’ve been something outside of their control.

    1. ceiswyn*

      But ultimately, probably better to say something and discover that there was a mistake and get a genuine apology, rather than sit quietly feeling awful and left out!

      I’m disappointed that Alison didn’t address how to bring it up…

      1. ceiswyn*

        (I’m a person for whom the ‘left out’ feelings really just don’t go away. If I don’t find a way to say something politely at the time, then I will explode with interest over something minor at a later date)

      2. eels are better than elves*

        I’m thinking that’s because it was a year and a half ago and the window for bringing it up has closed….

        1. ceiswyn*

          Admittedly I hadn’t noticed the date, but it would still be useful to others in quite a common scenario.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I’ve got $$ on either teens or some crabby neighbor who decided that teachers were to blame for the lock-down/destroying the economy/chemtrails because they wouldn’t teach in-person. One of my friends is a nurse living in an area where those sentiments were features, not bugs, and had the signs places by his work stolen every time they were put out. At first he also thought his work forgot him, but later learned it was his neighbors. I kind of think I’d rather have my work forget me!

          2. JSPA*

            Are you over a municipal boundary? Until someone bothers to bring a free speech lawsuit, many munis will still have (and enforce) laws on display of signs.

            And if you are in a HOA, you likely will have signed away your rights, in that regard.

            1. ThatGirl*

              That’s not really relevant, though; I don’t know of any towns or HOAs who would remove a celebratory sign after just a couple of hours in the middle of the night.

          3. Aggretsuko*

            Yeah, I don’t know about bringing it up then or ever…it’s a hard thing to ask about and you don’t want to come off as Ginny GiftGrubber, complaining about not getting your prezzies. I have a very giftgrubby friend who has a lot of soap opera drama about gifts (she spends hundreds on gifts, then pouts/whines/complains/has huge drama when others haven’t done the same to her) and every time I have an issue about a gift I think “I do NOT want to act like Ginny about it.”

            On a related note, I’m still feeling bad at a friend of mine who normally gives gifts but obviously chose to not give me one this year–probably because we had some difficulties in November–and I really feel hurt about it because it is a Big Deal for them to give gifts and it probably means bad things that they didn’t want to give me one this year. But can you ask about that? Of course not. I feel like crap about it, but you can’t SAY that because it’s Ginny Giftgrub territory.

      3. Essess*

        Agreed. I would want to speak up so that if there are any future appreciations the OP isn’t left out of those too if the OP was missing from a list.

    2. MsSolo (UK)*

      I am 100% assuming there’s a very confused person on a similarly named street (or perhaps in a house OP moved out of some years ago and has no reason to think is still on file at the school) wondering why their lawn is so keen on supporting teachers it’s spontaneously sprouted a sign.

      1. OP3*

        I guess the similar street name is a possibility? I’ve only ever lived at this address at this school though, so they definitely wouldn’t have delivered it somewhere else

        1. Tierrainney*

          Street name was my thought. I live at “street name”East and we have gotten mail for the people living at same number but “street name” West. I can imagine the person in charge of delivering the signs just getting an address with “street name” and not knowing there were 2 different streets. I can also imaging the person living at the other house waking up to the sign and wondering where the heck it came from.

          1. The OG Sleepless*

            There are five houses with the same street number in my neighborhood. Anytime one of us has a package or mail go missing, we make the rounds to all of them to see where it ended up.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          The house that I lived in until I sold it last year, was on one of four streets that were all parallel to one another. At least several times a year each year, I got mail for (my house number) (name of the next street over from mine). The street names were nowhere close to being similar! I’d say anything is possible when the person delivering is not familiar with the area.

        3. Everything Bagel*

          Good ol’ Google Maps won’t take you to my house, but around the corner to my neighbor’s house. Maybe that’s a possibility.

        4. Gracely*

          I routinely get mail/deliveries for someone who lives on a completely differently named (but nearby) street with the same address number. And they’ve received our mail. (We just drop it off in their box the next day; they do the same for us). It’s happened with multiple different delivery services, so it’s not just the USPS having a sorting error.

          It’s very possible some sort of weird mix-up like that happened.

          (And thank you for teaching! I couldn’t hack it after a couple of years, and I *know* I’d have had a nervous breakdown if I’d been teaching during this pandemic. You are awesome!)

        5. Aitch Arr*

          My folks live on Oak Hill in $Townville. There’s an Oak Hill Dr. in $East_Townville and their mail always gets delivered there. It got so bad they now use a PO Box as their primary mailing address.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I regularly get mail for a butcher’s shop in Rue Pierre et Marie Curie, whereas I live at the same number but Rue Pierre SomethingElseEntirely. Read the whole line please Mr Postman!

      2. Fiona*

        In my experience, this sort of thing is often human error. Or at least I hope so! But the person affected is still going to feel hurt!

        Last year my company did a voluntary “secret pen pal”/gift exchange. If you wanted to do it, you signed up & were matched with another participant. I bought some small gifts online and then packaged them up with a note and sent them to my pen pal. And then I waited to see what I would receive from whoever got my name. And waited. The social committee extended the deadline twice and asked us to email them if any of us hadn’t received anything yet (which i did). Never got anything. I was more upset with the social committee people than the person who didn’t send anything because they knew who was matched with whom. I sort of assumed that if someone never got a gift, the social committee would send something small at least. If I were running something like this – that’s supposed to be fun! – that’s what I would have done. It was fun for me to pick out the gifts and send them, but it wasn’t fun to be left out. It was the being left out and feeling like no one on the committee cared that someone was left out that hurt, not the lack of a material gift.

        I’m realizing that I’m still angry about it. I’m not going to let it interfere with my interactions with colleagues, but if the opportunity comes up, I might say something if I happen to be talking with one of the committee members. They should make sure this doesn’t happen again to someone else. I also have some practical suggestions for making the program work better so I could make it part of that conversation. I realize the OP isn’t going to bring it up now, but my situation was just last year, and they’ve already done another gift exchange program since then.

        1. Cold Fish*

          My company recognizes people at the major anniversary dates (1 year, 5 years, etc.) with a little (and I mean little) appreciation gift starting at year 10 and every 5 years after that. Company missed both my 10 and 15 year anniversary by 2 years each (rcvd mine in year 12 and 17). These “gifts” are so small as to be almost insulting so there wasn’t any point in bringing it up at the time but there are definite hard feelings on my end, especially the 15 year one.

    3. OP3*

      I live in a rather rural area where something like that would be highly unlikely! My neighbor has had yard signs for a radio station out for like three years now lol

      1. BethDH*

        I was somewhere that did something like this some years ago as a volunteer. They had divided the drop offs of special baskets among several people who were taking different days with different parts of the list. Someone got entirely missed though when one volunteer didn’t go to one house on their list for some reason, and they had sent a message to the person doing the next day’s delivery and that person didn’t get the message. Luckily the manager figured it out because they’d only ordered one extra basket and had two, but with something like signs where they’re probably ordering a large rounded quantity like 250, they might never notice.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      I’d assume it was either left at the wrong house or missed. Possibly a similarly named street in an entirely different town if you live that far out of town. Someone typoed the next address into their GPS and it’s a few blocks over. When they were divvying up signs and addresses your address was left on the printer or not assigned to anyone or assigned to someone that accidentally skipped over it.

      You are allowed to be bummed and disappointed about it especially as you were eagerly awaiting a morning surprise that never came.

      A passing comment in a google chat was easy to overlook. I bet if after it became clear that they were done distributing signs that if you had informed someone that you had not gotten a sign they would have gotten you one.

      There’s nothing in your letter that hints at a snub. You are entitled to feel bummed, but it’s best if you can think of it as a disappointing oversight and not a deliberate snub.

      1. Cold Fish*

        “A passing comment in a google chat was easy to overlook. I bet if after it became clear that they were done distributing signs that if you had informed someone that you had not gotten a sign they would have gotten you one.”
        Truthfully, as a quiet person who often gets forgotten, if I have to point out that I was forgotten, especially twice, the whole point of the sign is moot. I wouldn’t feel appreciated or thankful, whether they give me sign or not. The whole point is to be recognized, which didn’t happen. However, I agree that it is best to assume a disappointing oversight and not a deliberate snub.

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          This is my feeling, too. I have a hard time speaking up when I’ve been overlooked. I try to remember that it probably has nothing to do with me, but more with the fact that the people tasked with running the program are overwhelmed or disorganized and I just fell through the cracks. I’m like you, Cold Fish. I am very introverted and usually want to blend in with the crowd. Being forgotten when everyone else gets accolades sure stings, though.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      This was my thought.

      A week or so before Thanksgiving, we got a gift bag of autumn decor items left on our doorstep, with a card from “your [???] pal”. We finally decided the card was “PEO”, as in the women’s organization. We’re not members of PEO and don’t know anyone in the area who is, so we assumed that the bag was left by mistake (it was hand-delivered, not mailed, but it was dark when it was dropped off so we didn’t notice that someone had come by).

      I ended up emailing the state chapter of PEO to ask if anyone in our area was doing a gift bag exchange. They asked around and, yes, the group in my area was, and one of the members had a house number that was one digit away from mine (literally a few houses up the street). Nobody was home but I left it on her step with a note explaining that there had been a mix-up and that was why her bag was late.

    6. PT*

      I was wondering this. Was the sign stolen? Did the HOA confiscate it? Are you in a community that’s gated or otherwise has restricted access and they couldn’t get in, or got shooed away by police/security once they were in? Is one of your neighbors flying a giant Don’t Tread On Me flag (or similar) that scared the people planting the sign and they left?

      1. OP3*

        All of these scenarios are incredibly unlikely given the fairly rural area I live in. No HOA or gates or anything! Definitely a lot of conservative flags around here, but I teach at a Catholic school so that’s unlikely to scare anyone off anyway lol

    7. Don't be long-suffering*

      Yes. I can see two possibilities right away. 1, he thought she was doing your sign and she thought he had done it. 2, they read the address wrong and your sign was delivered to 2130 instead of 1320. I’m sorry, and thank you, thank you, thank you.

  7. Artemesia*

    The sign thing is the kind of thing that really makes people feel unvalued and miserable. People really need to be careful that things like this are done properly.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah. This brings to mind letters of appreciation lunches that don’t accomodate dietary restrictions, or birthday rotas that miss people whose birthdays fall on holidays (or leap year??)

      A poorly executed appreciation gesture feels like it’s often worse than nothing.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        My workplace had daily raffles for either a big turkey or a ham. Except that most of the staff were single, vegetarian or didn’t eat ham. I won a ham and declined to accept it. On paper, it probably sounded good but in practice, it wasn’t well thought out.

        1. KHB*

          The one time I was lucky enough to win one of the door prizes at my workplace holiday party, it was a gift card to a steakhouse. I’m a vegetarian. (They offered to swap it for a bottle of fancy wine. I’m a teetotaler.) This was about five years ago, and I still have the gift card, because it seems a shame to throw it away, but I’ve never found a good use for it.

          1. Gracely*

            Steakhouses usually have pretty good side dishes (great baked potatoes, in my experience) and appetizers. You could possible use it for a take out/pick up order for that!

            1. KHB*

              I did think of that – but most of their sides have either bacon or lobster in them. I guess I could get a quadruple order of grilled asparagus or something, but it never seemed worth the effort.

        2. Ashley*

          My mom’s company used to give each employee a turkey every December. It was always appreciated, but once they swapped it for a grocery store gift card, it was even more appreciated! Everyone buys groceries, but not everyone eats turkey!

        3. Sporty Yoda*

          Daily ham raffles? DAILY HAM RAFFLES!? DAILY. HAM. RAFFLES.
          Please provide more details. Was this a holiday special? Did you work at a butcher shop (one of my coworkers used to work in meat sciences and wound up with a lot of bacon from otherwise healthy animals that happened to be “on experiment”)? Did you have to pay for a raffle ticket or was it provided by the company as a perk? Daily ham raffles?

          1. Daily Ham Raffles*

            i would also like more details. how many employees did this company have? what did this company do? were everyone’s fridges bursting with daily ham?

        4. Elenna*

          If you have enough freezer space (not true of everyone, I know) you can at least chop up and freeze the ham? Still doesn’t help the vegetarians, the people with religious prohibitions against ham, or, y’know, the people who just don’t like ham, though. Also, doing this *daily* is… odd.

          (I’d personally love a free ham, even though I’m single and will soon be living on my own. But I have enough sense to realize that not everyone is the same as me!)

        5. Meowquis*

          Besides the obvious, my brain went “DAILY?!” at that. I work in a company of >800 people right now and feel like daily would still be a bit much here.

        6. Olivia Oil*

          In my last workplace, my manager would gift wine bottles every year around Xmas as holiday gifts. More than half the team didn’t drink due to religious or lifestyle reasons. Knowing your team is important when it comes to this kind of stuff.

      2. Cassandra*

        My favourite one of these was the time I was dragged from my sick bed during a prolonged and serious illness, having to get myself to work in the snow, to perform an essential function that no-one else could do, and being ‘awarded’ a bottle of wine, which was presented at a meeting I was too sick to attend.
        It was well known that I am a non-drinker. The best bit was that the bottle still had a sticker on it with another employee’s name on the back, apparently left over from a previous event and obviously found at the back of a cupboard. The even nicer bit, was having at least 3 managers approach me after I did return to work and tell me how lucky I was to receive a gift, and expecting effusive and grateful thankyous. I was also required to approach the CEO to thank him in person, for this wonderful gift. Actually, I felt even more devalued and disrespected after all that, than I did driving to work in the show when I was seriously ill….

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          OMG that is sitcom material. (The gift and the demanding of the thank-yous, I mean. Not the being forced to work in the snow while being seriously ill, that one is just plain awful.)

          My work once gave me a $100 gift card for having to work unexpectedly over the most part of a weekend. It felt great! Why couldn’t your boss have done the same? Oh wait, I know, because $100 would have been an extra expense and someone else’s leftover bottle of wine was already there!

      3. Fiona*

        A poorly executed appreciation gesture feels like it’s often worse than nothing.

        Yes, this! This is what I was trying to say elsewhere in a thread about this question, but you said it perfectly!

      4. Janeric*

        At my last job, a coworker/friend resolved a compliance issue with a contractor that would have resulted in our organization being fined, and then put in a lot of long hours on the project to prevent further issues.

        Our grand boss gave her a quarter sheet of printer paper that said “thanks for all your EXTRA effort!” where the “EXTRA” was a pack of extra brand gum.

        She accepted it gracefully, hung it on the wall of her cubicle, and had a different job within a couple of months.

    2. anonymous73*

      Yes and people make mistakes. If OP had spoken up when it first happened, they could have figured out what happened and made sure not to make a similar mistake in the future. Yes it sucks to be left out of something, but unless it happens all the time, you chalk it up to human error and don’t take it personally.

      1. OP3*

        How do you say “you forgot to appreciate me” in a way that’s not super weird though?? Especially when I’d already brought it up once?

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Right. I truly cannot think of a polite/nonoffensive/nongiftgrubby way to speak up about this. I guess Alison couldn’t either.

    3. Wednesday*

      I’m not disagreeing that care needs to be taken, but if it took a week to deliver the signs then that leads me to believe that it’s a good sized school. One mistake, though disheartening for the person who was missed, is not horrible. I’m sure if OP would have said something the following week, they would have received a sincere apology and either a sign at that moment or one on their lawn by the time they got home or when they woke up the next morning!

      The school could have also put out an announcement to staff after all were delivered–something like “By now you should have received a thank you surprise. If for any reason yours was missing, please see ___ and we will make sure you have one!”

      1. OP3*

        I do wish they’d put out an announcement like that- that would’ve been awesome and made it easy for me to speak up. My school is private school so not that big though- it seems like they just delivered a few each day.

    4. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      Definitely; my company is not great about doing this kind of thing competently and making sure that everyone who should be included is. For any kind of morale boosting activity this has to be a priority; otherwise morale will be worse than when it started.

    5. urguncle*

      The department I left was having major morale issues a few months ago, largely due to severe mismanagement. They instituted a raffle for giving compliments to your coworkers: $50 for the compliment giver chosen at random and $100 for the compliment receiver chosen at random. The first person to get that $100 gift card? The director responsible for the mismanagement and poor morale. Even worse, the director didn’t immediately attempt damage control, but instead brought it up as a point of pride.
      They are no longer with the organization and the raffle was immediately shut down.

    6. Shiba Dad*

      I work for a small division of a Fortune 500 company. They have an annual Employee Appreciation Day. Our division had a Teams meeting for it (we are mostly remote employees, working at client sites). In last year’s meeting I was mentioned on a slide…with my last name spelled wrong.

      The company also sent cookies to our homes. I’m diabetic, so I shouldn’t have them. Worse than that, my wife is celiac.

    7. Wisteria*

      Right up there with zoom happy hours where people don’t make any effort to include you and ultimately don’t care if you are there or not, as with a recent LW. Inclusion really matters.

  8. Duly unappreciated*


    (Also, if they had deliberately skipped you, I’d think they’d be likely to explain it to you, not just ignore you without comment.)

    I would think the opposite.

    1. Loulou*

      I think the idea was that if they skipped OP it would be for some practical reason, like their house being too far away. So in that case, they’d explain so the people they skipped wouldn’t take it personally.

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        Their house being too far away doesn’t really wash.

        If it’s close enough for you to travel to them, it’s close enough for them to travel to you.

        1. doreen*

          It’s probably not the case here, since the LW lives only five minutes further than someone who got a yard sign – but if the LW lived an hour further away than the next person, “too far away” would be a possibility.

          1. OP3*

            I’m not sure though, because the person who lives five minutes closer than me is in a totally different direction from the school- I was thinking maybe that direction was more convenient for the admin who were delivering the signs

            1. Evelyn Carnahan*

              idk I feel like if they’re doing something to show appreciation for all the employees, they shouldn’t do so only in a way that is convenient to them. That’s not appreciation!

        2. Snow Globe*

          The point is, that if it was a deliberate skip, there is likely a practical reason that they would explain. It is highly unlikely that the OP was skipped on purpose for some reason that the administration would want to be secretive about.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      Yeah, agreed here, if the reason was something like a petty admin with a grudge (and leadership too distracted to notice the issue) I would expect avoidance.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I think avoidance would also apply if the person delivering the signs had planned to go to LW, forgot, then felt ashamed about it and didn’t want to either admit the mistake or go much later. They might be hoping no one noticed and not have considered how LW would feel.

  9. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – absolutely do NOT tell your manager about the other company’s approach to you. It’s quite likely to be taken as an indication that you considering leaving or that you’re trying to leverage a raise or promotion. Do consulting companies know their people do interviews with other firms – of course. Will they hold it against specific individuals they know are interviewing – quite possibly.

    If you want to have the meeting, emphasize to the person you will be meeting that confidentiality is very important to you. In fact, it’s a good idea to have your meeting with them outside of their offices, in a neutral location (that people at your company aren’t likely to frequent). Tell the person that you’re always interested in hearing about opportunities and to expanding your network, but portray yourself as curious and interested in meeting people, rather than excited about the opportunity.

    Treat this as a “get to know you” kind of interview – you’re hearing what their company has to offer, they’re hearing what your accomplishments are. You’re not trying to “sell” your experience. You’re deciding if you want to learn more about the organization, getting a feel for the individual and the company culture, etc. etc.

    If, after the first meeting, you find you are really interested, then you let them know you’d like to move forward and see if they feel the same. Obviously, put your best foot forward at all times, but there’s no reason to appear more than curious at this point.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      #4, I got great advice years ago at a professional development workshop to cultivate a personal, informal board of directors. This proved to be invaluable. I have a small group of people who have just been fabulous mentors for me and continue to be over the years. Some in this group are former colleagues, including a couple who were my managers. One of them has now provided me with references for three subsequent jobs over the years, and he now comes to me for guidance about my area of expertise as well.

      I have never used the metaphor of “board of directors” with any of these people, but it has helped guide me in whom to connect with. Think about the people in your world that you respect, whether you have worked with them directly or not, and seek out their guidance for how to proceed with a conversation with a firm that’s interested in you.

      1. English Rose*

        Your own personal informal board of directors. What a great idea, thanks Woodswoman Writes.

        And OP, go ahead with the competitor discussion, but as learnedthehardway writes, don’t tell your boss and keep it confidential. But this is how we build networks in our industries by having these conversations. You never know what’s round the corner and this could stand you in good stead down the road.

        1. OP #4*

          op here – thanks all (and thanks Alison!)- I did end up taking the interview late last week, did not tell my boss or anyone at my job, and was clear with the interviewer that I am not currently looking. It didnt even cross my mind that current boss would possibly take it as me trying to show how in demand I am, and that definitely isnt what I wanted to convey. The meeting went well and i’m happy to have the contact – in fact, the interviewer mentored my boss a bit when she opened her own firm a few years back. The “board of directors” idea is great – now I just need to find my own!

      2. Smithy*

        I love this idea and while I similarly don’t think of my “board of directors” that way, it’s why I often recommend networking/connecting with peers. Those relationships can form without the some of the more formal bonds of more senior colleagues or manager that can be really useful for these kinds of moments.

        Over time, some of these connections may get promoted super quick and as we move up via parallel ways – we have been able to share a lot of similar experiences. In my sector I’ve found this pretty valuable, but more than anything else it really is finding that group where there’s very little worry about split loyalty as well as an understanding of the sector. It’s the flip side of why our parents my be terrible sources of advice when they are unfamiliar with our sectors and professional norms – our current managers are often only able to put aside their function as a manager so much.

        Even if your boss is a huge champion for you to find another position (for legit reasons), it can easily feel like undue pressure to do so quickly or by a certain timeline – and that may not support your own job process that might take 3 months and might also take a lot longer if you’re holding out for a specific role or an industry with a notoriously slow hiring process.

  10. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. I have only watched the UK version of The Office, which doesn’t have an HR character, however I know of smaller companies which outsource HR, particularly payroll, to a third party contractor.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I think that some level of HR is important, even if the company is small. Aside from the paperwork, sometimes you need a “Ok, we’re going to do sensitivity training” type people to deal with issues on the team. Smaller teams can get by with outsourcing, but depending on the company/team 50 may be too big a threshold.

      At the moment our HR is at headquarters and we have several satellite offices, and if they had an HR person on-site, I would just assume that was most convenient for the person.

      1. Meep*

        I work for a small company that DEFINITELY needed HR prior to when we got it. (We now have an HR person working Monday through Thursday from 2-4 pm for us starting last week.) It really only takes one bad faith actor with enough leverage or pull.

        In our case, our VP is the problem child and no one wants to speak up because they see nothing done about her problematic behavior. They just leave… It was only after I called her obsession with my uterus out (she would ask if I was pregnant and lament about how inconvenient that was for her every time I was sick and when I had bronchitis insisted it was because I was ovulating) and that if it and a lot of her unethical behavior (let’s just say I have a 15-page list of some pretty damning things) continued that I would be contacting EEOC for sexual harassment.

        Alas, she is still here but is no longer allowed to interact with people anymore.

  11. Ellie*

    OP#1, I understand where you’re coming from. I never thought I’d work in Defence when I started out as a computer programmer – my first job was programming medical equipment. I moved into the field because there were many more job opportunities, and it was an exciting area with cutting edge technology. I love my job, and I’m not a pacifist – I believe every country has a duty to protect its citizens. But when I see pictures of refugees being picked up using the equipment I support, I feel sick. That’s not what I support, and its not the way I vote. I donate quite a bit to humanitarian organisations, as do many of my coworkers, and the company I work for does it as well. I know it doesn’t really balance out though.

    OP, does your company do any good at all? Is it at all concerned with minimizing the environmental impact of what it does? The way I get through it is by reminding myself that I’m not responsible for how the technology is used, and ultimately, I do trust my country to be on the right side of most of the conflicts it gets involved in. But its going to be hard to do that if your field has no redeeming features at all.

    Remember that you don’t have to make any quick decisions. Unless you’re actively lying to people as part of your job, you can take your time and work your way out of the field.

    1. Purt's Peas*


      “But when I see pictures of refugees being picked up using the equipment I support, I feel sick. That’s not what I support…”

      I know you didn’t ask for advice, but I want to point out to OP1 and you, your specific phrasing. You, and OP1, are literally supporting the things you feel like you don’t support; and the concrete, literal support is more important than the feeling, or even the voting.

      This moral sickness you feel is no way to live. OP1, I’d urge you to get out–either the sick dissonance you feel will intensify, or you’ll revise your moral structure to make that dissonance go away, and either option sounds pretty bad when it’s avoidable with a job search.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Yup, agreed. It feels bad because it is bad. Actions have consequences, and acting against your morals will lead to consequences that are also against your morals. I honestly don’t understand how people dissociate themselves from their ethical and moral decisions.

      2. Lyuda*

        This is a great point. It’s really hard to live in a state of cognitive dissonance. It’s probably a good idea (for everyone) to consider that if you can’t change the job… it will eventually change you.

    2. Anon today!*

      Yes, I think looking to how one’s company handles the difficult issues can help. (Though, OP’s comment about how climate change talk is taboo makes me think it may not help in this scenario.)

      I do foreclosure work, and it’s tough. However, I know that my firm works on being as ethical and compliant as possible and treating those in foreclosure with dignity and making sure that they are able to avail themselves of any home saving options.

    3. environmentalist at fossil fuel company*

      OP#1 here. Thanks for your perspective. To answer your question, they do a lot of work to minimize their environmental impact and social initiatives. Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to realize the extent of the problem. But you’re right, it doesn’t balance out.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Sadly, I would assume comms is right at the heart of that work! As Alison says, it’s *possible* if you were an engineer, or a manager, you might be able to redirect some environmental harm (although honestly, I’m skeptical, as I know many people who have thought they could change an org from within, only to realize the evil is somehow self-sustaining and now they themselves are part of it) – but in marketing or communications, your main role is make the work palatable to external folks!

        1. Little My*

          Yeah, this is a situation where how good at your job you are directly correlates to number of sales for a product you think is immoral. Unless you have a serious economic need, you should get out, because that dynamic is not good for you or your sense of identity.

          Re: Ellie, I would be really careful with your belief that your country will be on the right side of wars. That is hardly ever something you can believe, especially if you live in a former/current colonial power.

      2. Anonanon*

        I’ve been with large humanitarian organizations my whole career and having gone through their government and private donor due diligence processes of a number of places….there is a part of it that can feel very farcical. These sectors have all these guidelines in place around who they won’t accept funding from, and then with very few exceptions it feels like all of the large players will take funding from just about anyone.

        Personally, how I’ve come to terms with this is that by saying is that it’s very easy to fall into the thinking that all money if all money is “dirty” then all money is “clean” and therefore we never need to do due diligence or think about this at all. The flip side of that is to engage in the exercise and at least have the organization and organization’s leadership be aware of what we’re doing and proactively sign off.

        For me, I think that there is value in that process. That in reality not everything passes due diligence, but more so the process of being aware and making a proactive choice as opposed to a passive one is important for me and my own conscious. It may be that right now you’re doing your own “due diligence” and seeing whether the larger picture can balance itself out with your own values, needs and ambitions. It may that at the end of this, you do find a way where you are happy to stay (i.e. you make so much that you are able to donate to xyz organizations and that feels better for you than other options). Or not. But just to say that this process you’re currently going through is of value.

    4. Wisteria*

      If you don’t like Defence, perhaps you could work in Deyard.

      I work in defense as well. I was much happier when I moved from making weapons to making counter measures.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      I don’t want to quibble with your language or anything — I would have thought refugees getting picked up is a good thing, as in rendering aid? Or did you mean picked up as in detained? Either way, I’m sorry you’re experiencing this conflict.

    6. Apatosaurus*

      If you’re involved in programming the technology and you know what it’s being used for, then you *are* partly responsible for & complicit in how it’s being used.

  12. Lemon*

    A question related to Q4 as I feel the answer did not specifically address this (please let me know if it’s more appropriate for the open thread): what are your thoughts on discussing a job offer from a competitor firm with a mentor who is at the same company as I am?
    In case it would depend on the context: I was assigned this mentor through a formal mentorship programme initiated by my business division. My mentor and boss work in completely different departments and countries so it is unlikely that they know each other (my company has over 50k employees globally). I’m leaning towards thinking it’s still too risky but I would appreciate any thoughts you have. Thanks!

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I would never discuss a job offer with a mentor in your own firm in a case where the mentor relationship was formally set up by your company. The firm set this up to help you succeed in their own company. Your long-term career success is a byproduct, but not the real goal. The real goal is for you to be productive in your current job, to progress within the company, and to be retained by your employer.

      It wouldn’t be fair to the company-appointed mentor to put them in a position where they have to decide between their loyalty to the company and their relationship with you, and it wouldn’t be a good idea to rely on them not reporting back on it to your manager in an attempt to help the company retain you (if they feel strongly that you’re an asset). In fact, it may be an objective for the mentor to assess whether the company is at risk of you leaving, so that your employer can decide what to do about it ahead of time. (Hopefully that would be a positive outcome for you, but it might not be).

      If you need to discuss a job offer, talk to a mentor outside of your company, or to a former manager (eg. one of your references), or to a friend in the industry who you trust.

      1. Mimi*

        I don’t know that I would go with “never” — I can see situations where a relationship that starts out as a company-assigned mentorship has grown into something much more than that where I would consider discussing it, but even then I would be trepidatious — but in most situations I’d go with no.

      2. Anonym*

        I think it depends on the specific relationship, and you can’t make an absolute rule about it.

        I had two mentors over several years at my last job, both internal. One (very senior) flat out told me that if I want to progress more quickly, I’ll likely have to leave the company. The other, who was formally assigned, had very frank discussions with me about his own career, and I would have felt comfortable discussing an external offer with him. Of course, neither was my boss! Or in my chain of command at all, which is important for impartiality.

        As it happens, my second mentor referred my for my current job, which was internal but in a wildly different department, and gave me the seniority and pay jump I was looking for.

  13. Jess*

    I don’t want to be harsh on LW #1, but the thing is very few people who work for fossil fuel/tobacco/propaganda/weapons companies think that the way the company makes a profits aligns with their own values, and they are there for the same reasons you are – and they keep those companies afloat. “If I don’t do it someone else will” is the foundation sentiment of most social tragedies. Are you an environmentalist or not? If you take a stand you need to buy the shoes, unfortunately.

    1. TiredEmployee*

      I’m sympathetic to the potential opportunity cost involved, though. When my partner was last job-hunting (having been laid off, so there was some urgency) he could have taken a job at a nuclear weapons manufacturer paying nearly double what he’d previously made (after a lower-paid probationary period which would still be a 40% increase on his old job) with a half-hour commute. Neither of us support the concept of nuclear weapons, and it weighed on him heavily. Luckily for our collective conscience he was also offered and accepted a job at a lab researching solar energy technologies. The pay is worse than the nuclear place’s probationary period, the commute is much further, the hours are slightly longer, and there’s some tension with one of his coworkers who is definitely going through something. Maybe the nuclear place would have been just as bad to work for, but we’d be in a very different lifestyle position if he’d taken it.

      1. lunchtime caller*

        Something to consider in this calculus (though it seems like you two chose the side of ethics, here!) is the good pay at these places is NOT unconnected to the work being morally questionable. They pay well because it’s very profitable to strip the Earth of parts and take a “oh well if it all burns down” approach, and it’s very profitable to be in the weapons business and those profits come directly from harming people and the planet. And they also pass along those profits to employees because they know if they sweeten the pot, many people will quickly forget their moral issues with the work. I’m not saying I kick someone out of my social circle for working at any of those places, and of course bills have to be paid, just pointing out that it’s not at all a coincidence that these places might be the highest paying employer in the area and that exclusively seeking the highest dollar will often lead you directly to the worst moral results.

        1. TiredEmployee*

          Oh absolutely, that’s exactly why they’re paying 60%-75% more for the same job level than literally anyone else. But when you’re facing questions like “can we even afford to have kids?” there’s a lot to be said for a secure, well-paying career path. We’re still talking about sums well below the point at which increasing salary gives diminishing returns of happiness.

      2. Divergent*

        I have empathy for this: I’m currently working at roughly 65% of what I’d be making working for resource extraction companies, and my workplace is honestly more unpleasant in a lot of ways as well, from micromanagement to heteronormative ridiculousness. This choice makes a big lifestyle difference, and a big difference in my financial stress levels. It seems to be what I’ve chosen to do, but I’m still looking around for something better.

    2. TiredEmployee*

      I’m sympathetic to the potential opportunity cost involved, though. When my partner was last job-hunting (having been laid off, so there was some urgency) he could have taken a job at a nuclear weapons manufacturer paying nearly double what he’d previously made (after a lower-paid probationary period which would still be a 40% increase on his old job) with a half-hour commute. Neither of us support the concept of nuclear weapons, and it weighed on him heavily. Luckily for our collective conscience he was also offered and accepted a job at a lab researching solar energy technologies. The pay is worse than the nuclear place’s probationary period, the commute is much further, the hours are slightly longer, and there’s some tension with one of his coworkers who is definitely going through something. Maybe the nuclear place would have been just as bad to work for, but we’d be in a very different lifestyle position if he’d taken it.

        1. Daisy Gamgee*

          I think your point here was such a good one that your browser decided to emphasize it with a double post.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’m thinking the ability to quit ASAP based on moral principles is directly related to financial circumstances, local economy (LW isn’t US and not everywhere has a hot job market) and how many people she is supporting with her wages. It is easy to be righteous if you have cash in the bank and are only responsible for yourself or yourself + another adult, but not quite as easy if this company is the biggest local employer, there aren’t any other jobs locally, and you have people relying on your salary to survive. It may take some planning and some savings for the LW to make the jump and I can think of some places in the world where there may not be a better place to jump to

      1. environmentalist at fossil fuel company*

        Luckily for me I do have enough savings that would keep me afloat for a while. Some of my coworkers don’t. The company is one of the largest and best-paying employers in my area, so it might be tough for me to find a similar quality job. I am willing to take a pay cut for a job that better aligns with my morals now.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Even though you have savings, I wouldn’t quit until you have another job lined up.
          IME it always takes longer to find a job than I think it will, and that effect is even worse with the pandemic. In normal times I would have gotten a job within six months, and it’s been two years.
          At least, I think I would have gotten a job in six months…

    4. Mimi*

      I think that there can be ways to make it work with what I would consider integrity (limited other job options, recognize this as a non-ideal compromise, and devote significant outside-of-work time/energy to the causes they care about). I try not to judge other people’s choices about how to make their lives work, not without knowing a lot more about the consequences, and not when I still heat my house with oil and throw away single-use plastics and in many other ways prioritize my own comforts over my environmental footprint.

      But it is certainly a position that I would work very hard to not find myself in, if I could possibly avoid it.

    5. ecnaseener*

      Re “Are you an environmentalist or not?” I actually don’t think this type of binary thinking is useful, with the implied “If you don’t quit, you’re not.” The world is more complex than that.

      Basically, I would rather see OP channel their guilt into positive action, using their spare time/money to support orgs doing good so that they can feel like an okay environmentalist, than just give up because they’re not ready to quit their job.

    6. environmentalist at fossil fuel company*

      Good point, but there are varying degrees of environmentalist. I’ve always tried to save water, turn off my lights, taking public transit and recycling. Then I upgraded to biking to work, composting, and going vegetarian/vegan. Now I’m joining local groups and writing to politicians. Considering my role at my company is the next step I’m taking. It’s a journey.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Just wanted to say that I really respect your thoughtful comments here and your moral journey. We’re all figuring out how best to live in the world we’ve ended up in, and not everyone is willing to make the effort you’re making to examine your values and choices and work on getting them aligned.

        1. environmentalist at fossil fuel company*

          Thank you for the kind words. I give credit to my therapist who has been helping me for the past year. I’ve had to work to change lots of mistaken beliefs and negative self talk.

          1. Jess*

            Sorry if it gives anyone in the US flashbacks to highschool – I’ve heard it’s required reading sometimes there, which is a great way to drain the joy and anything from everything – but I recommend reading Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

    7. Data Bear*

      And it’s important to question the assumption that “if I don’t do it, somebody will.”

      It’s kinda like voting. Yeah, your individual vote is very unlikely to make a significant difference. But if nobody votes, it makes a huge difference. And if everybody who thinks like you votes, that also makes a big difference.

      If you quit, they’ll probably find someone to replace you. But it will cost them time and money and opportunity. And if the person who replaces you gets uncomfortable and also quits, it will cost them more. And so on and so on. The more replacements they churn through and the more it costs them to make those replacements, the more pressure it will put on them to change. One loss is unlikely to make the company change its ways, but they build up. And the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

    8. Gerry Keay*

      Agreed. Environmentalism isn’t just feeling warm and fuzzy about trees and animals. It’s a political act, and right now OP is supporting anti-environmentalism actions.

  14. ratavarg*

    To LW #1: Yes, if you weren’t doing this job, someone else would. But if you weren’t doing this job, the effort you are making for this company would be freed up and presumably directed into your next job – maybe one that would actually benefit the environment? So when making the calculation of you doing this job vs someone else doing this job, make sure to include the benefits of what you could be doing elsewhere.

    Even though you are happy with the work in general, it is clear that this is gnawing on you, but you might be underestimating how much it affects you to negotiate this dilemma on a daily basis. You might be amazed at the effect of having a job which actually aligns with your values and sense of purpose.

    1. raktajino*

      “But if you weren’t doing this job, the effort you are making for this company would be freed up and presumably directed into your next job”

      This is a really good point! Sure, someone else would be doing it, but that person wouldn’t be you.

      I think a lot of us can sympathize with trying to pay bills vs working with our values. But your job experience and skills can be used in so many other fields, you’re not limited to fossil fuel companies. You *can* find something more aligned with your values.

  15. Covid Cassandra*

    OP1 – consider that there is a good chance that all parts of the fossil fuel chain are going to be devalued in the near future, and your company will be relying on something of a stranded asset to keep going. Perhaps looking for alternatives would align better not just ethically, but in practical personal terms.

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      Yes, I get a lot of resumes from people looking to leave the fossil fuel industry because its future is not bright.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Not just a Covid issue but working in very close quarters with co-workers unless his house is large enough for everyone to have a reasonable amount of office space. Is everyone sitting around the kitchen table? Can you use the fridge or microwave? What about washroom access, breaks, or the noise level and parking? Are there family members at home along with the dogs? So many unanswered questions.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The people I’ve known who’ve run small businesses all had two or more extra bedrooms that could be converted: No beds, just office equipment. Admittedly there was only one staff toilet, but that could happen in a small office anyway.
        And I was surprised that somebody earlier posted about bathroom sanitation because we’ve had many stories here about offices where the bathrooms don’t get cleaned at all unless the employees take care of it.

      2. OP #4*

        my first thought when reading this question – what if he wants a personal day off? so many logistical issues that wouldnt flesh out.

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

      It sounds like he has only a few people over at a time right now but when everything is back to “normal” instead of renting an office space he’s going to use his house. So I don’t think that’s a problem right now, as long as they are social distancing and making.

    3. anonymous73*

      There are so many problems with this (liability was brought up earlier), but the main problem is that it’s 100% inappropriate. If the boss had set up his business in his home, with proper amenities and space that’s one thing. But to force his employees to come to his home and work remotely because he’s lonely is not okay at all. I’d rally with the others and push back. Yes OP has a legitimate reason to not work from his house, but nobody should be doing that. And to your question, yes if they are unable to work in the office due to COVID, then they shouldn’t be working from his home either, which is presumably smaller, and doesn’t get cleaned as often.

  16. Tonya*

    A reply for the person working for a fossil fuel company that is not environmentally friendly… not all fuel or chemical companies are the same. The one I work for has a huge initiative to reduce are net carbon, among other things. I hope you find the right place for you!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yes, I work for a gas and electric utility (so it kind of has to exist, because people need it for heating their houses), but also work in a LEED building that they constructed. I was doubtful about it when I interviewed, but couldn’t find complaints about it when I went looking. It’s a more ethical company than some I’ve worked for: it cares about the employees, vendors, the customers, and it seems to be trying to do as right by the environment as it can.

      1. raktajino*

        My husband is an electrical engineer and he has one major rule about job selection when looking for utility-adjacent jobs: either he’s working directly with renewables, or he’s working to directly support their renewable transition. This hasn’t substantially limited his job pool, even when he casts his net outside the American West Coast. Even the most stalwart companies are recognizing their doom on the horizon and making at least greenwashing nods towards transition.

  17. Flower necklace*

    #3 – Our school did this, too. As far as I know, everyone got one regardless of distance, including the guy whose commute is over an hour. Although one of my coworkers mentioned that his was placed across the street, so he wasn’t entirely sure if it was meant for him.

    I’m sorry you were left out. It’s a good idea in theory, but it seems like it would be problematic in practice – the apartment complex could have a gate, the GPS could get the address wrong, etc. As a teacher, I’m just as happy with free food or a t-shirt.

    1. londonedit*

      I find this so weird, but I suppose putting signs on people’s lawns isn’t a thing where I live (I guess because the housing setup is mostly different in the UK – most people don’t even have a front lawn, certainly not in cities, and I live in a block of flats where you wouldn’t be allowed to shove a sign in the communal lawn and no one can ever find my address anyway…). As you say there are plenty of ways in which this could go wrong. Surely they can think of something more practical/suitable than putting signs up on people’s lawns?

      1. Flower necklace*

        I think it’s weird, too. Mine is actually still sitting in my living room because I live in an apartment, so I don’t have a lawn (they placed it by the mailboxes at the end of the hall). I keep thinking I should throw it out, but what if someone sees it in the dumpster and says something? It has my school’s name on it. So it just sits in my living room.

      2. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I’d consider this very weird but then I’ve never lived anywhere with a front lawn. Most people I know have a back garden but not much at the front. People in my block of flats sometimes put signs up in the window (especially around election time) but these are inside rather than outside. Some people with gardens put up signs in gardens near election time supporting particular candidates but you’d have to be pretty committed to them to do that.

        I’d consider a sign to be a very strange way to try and appreciate someone. The best thing my company does to show appreciation involves giving people shopping vouchers (so vouchers you can use in a range of physical and virtual shops). I tend to go to M&S and buy my favourite foods with them. People tend to like their rewards to be to some degree financial in my experience.

        1. Teacher*

          That’s one of the deeply systemic problems with teaching…. And nursing, I hear. We don’t get financial rewards, we get a stack of post-it notes that say “teachers make a difference!” Or jeans day.

          Because who needs money when you are ‘doing it for the kids’? /s

          1. Elenna*

            And yet for some reason your landlord/grocery store/plumber won’t accept those post-it notes as payment! :P

        2. londonedit*

          I agree – maybe it’s because it’s not a thing I’ve ever seen happen, but if someone came and put a sign outside my flat saying thank you to me, my first reaction would be embarrassment and I’d take it down immediately (and then wonder what the heck I was meant to do with it). Culturally we’re not big on public displays – the most you’d see would be a flag during a football tournament or a sign at election time (but nothing huge, as you say they’re usually just small signs in a window).

          1. UKDancer*

            I would definitely take it down. I mean the last thing I want is people knowing where I live and what my name is.

            1. Cordelia*

              I’m glad fellow UK people are as baffled by this whole thing as I am! Imagine it happening here – no, I can’t either.
              I do feel for the LW, appreciation is important and it must feel very unpleasant to have been left out if it was something you wanted – I just can’t imagine wanting this particular brand of appreciation. But then I’m a UK nurse who was very much not into the clapping either.

      3. yes*

        It is bizarre and it’s absolutely a (regional?) American thing. One of the unexpected things that stuck out the most when I moved to the USA from Canada, folks loved their lawn signs even before Covid.

        1. anon for this*

          Yeah, I can’t really remember that many yard signs when I lived in NY or MA or even CA. You’d get the occasional generic sign from the party supply store around the time of a party, or a political sign around the time of elections.

          But now I live in the South and people have yard signs with pictures of their kid, the kid’s full name, the full name of their school, for everything. First day of school, Homecoming game, graduation (preschool through college, no I am not kidding.)

          It’s creepy AF personally but whatever floats your boat, I guess.

      4. anonymous73*

        I don’t think it’s weird. During a time when people couldn’t congregate, it was a way to recognize someone. We did it for the graduating HS students in 2020. We also had a parade for them at a local outdoor mall. They came in their own cars and drove through the shopping center because they couldn’t have a proper graduation. Yes things could go wrong, because people are human and make mistakes. But in these last 2 years, we’ve had to learn how to adjust and celebrate accomplishments in different ways.

        1. ceiswyn*

          That sounds very weird to me, but again that seems to be a US/UK cultural difference. In the UK we don’t ‘graduate’ high school, we just leave it, hopefully with qualifications. It’s not a big deal. Graduation with celebrations is for university students.

          1. londonedit*

            There isn’t even a parade for university students – you (in normal times) go to a graduation ceremony at some impressive building or other in the city the university is in (mine was at the Royal Festival Hall) and then that’s it. You probably go out for dinner with your parents or something. Kids at the end of secondary school have ‘proms’ far more often than they used to but they’re usually before the exam period and after that there’s no graduation, you just sit your last exam and that’s it, you’re out of there until results day.

            1. ecnaseener*

              The parade isn’t a normal thing in the US either, it was instead of a normal graduation ceremony because of COVID.

              1. Off topic and rude to OP*

                Right. A lot of people were doing drive-thru celebrations in 2020. Birthdays, graduations, my cousin even had a drive-up wedding shower.

                1. Off topic and rude to OP*

                  Sorry for the display name, I changed it for anonymity on a previous post and forgot to change it back! I definitely don’t think you’re off topic or rude, ecnaseener!

            2. ceiswyn*

              I studied for my first degree in a university town, so there were a few weeks in the summer when the entire centre of the city was constantly full of people in gowns celebrating, and there were a lot of associated traditions. Nothing official, but definitely a bit of a carnival atmosphere!
              Actual graduation was a lot more low-key by contrast. I didn’t even go.

          2. ecnaseener*

            Interesting! Must be sad for people who don’t go to university, they never get any congratulations for making it through 12 years of school.

            1. londonedit*

              I think it’s a cultural thing – school in general is a lot more low-key than in the US. You do your exams and you move on to whatever else you’re going to do – the ‘congratulations’ you get are the qualifications you end up with, which are what allow you to go on to more training or education.

            2. UKDancer*

              You get your certificates for the exams you’ve passed. Also you never have to go back there which was in my opinion a wonderful thing as I hated school. My parents had a small family party to celebrate in the garden which was pleasant and involved significant bucks fizz. I also got a lovely pair of earrings from my grandparents.

              When I was at school we had a 6th form ball (I remember my dress was pink satin). I think there was a leavers lunch for people as well.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Yes and I celebrate that with my family and friends not at school. I can see no reason why I’d want to go there and walk across a stage. I was miserable there and the day I left after my last exam I celebrated knowing I’d never need to see them again and I had escaped.

            3. ceiswyn*

              One makes it through a lot of long and hard things in life without congratulations, or feeling any need for them. School is one of those things.

              1. ecnaseener*

                Idk about you but I definitely congratulate myself and others for making it through difficult things and I think teenagers are deserving of that too ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

                1. ceiswyn*

                  Sure, but for those you just say ‘congratulations’ and do something like go out for dinner as a family, right?

  18. Writerboy*

    Re: 1. It seems to me that if you joined the company “years ago,” you should have enough experience by now to get a similar, if not better, job with a company that better aligns with your values. You don’t need to make a statement by quitting — you can just keep doing your job, spending your free time searching for somthing else, and leave on a positive note with good references when you receive another offer.

    1. UKDancer*

      That would be my approach. It’s always better not to burn bridges. I’d recommend finding a job more in line with your views and values and then leaving on good terms.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yes, that was my thought too. You seem to have got stuck in a black-and-white thinking place where the options are “continue to be well-paid by my soul-and-world-destroying company” or “keep my principles but go back to low-paid and insecure work”. The middle option is just to start exploring roles which use your current skills with employers that are more aligned to you, start a job hunt, and hand in your notice when you have something else lined up.

      It is of course possible that you are being a paid a premium to work at a company because they struggle to find employees because so many people have ethical issues working at a fossil fuel company, and that comparable work at any other company will pay less. I think that’s unlikely though– unfortunately, we’re really not a point where a significant majority of people are actively avoiding fossil fuel investment! But also, you should make that decision AFTER you’ve researched the job market and seen what’s available and how it aligns with your skills, motivations, ethics and needs.

      1. Anonym*

        Yes, and it’s highly relevant that OP works in marketing – the skills are extremely transferable/applicable across industries! She’s not, say, a hydrofracking engineer or something (I’m making an assumption on that example). I work marketing adjacent, and from my observations, people in the field move into and out of industries pretty frequently.

      2. environmentalist at fossil fuel company*

        OP#1 here. I do get stuck in black-and-white thinking often, so good call.

        1. ThatGirl*

          If you’re in marketing I guarantee your skills are transferrable to any number of companies — I’ve worked in marketing for ~12 years now and my options are pretty wide open in terms of what kind of company I could work for. The product or message doesn’t matter as much as the skill set.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Yes, keep looking. Look for remote positions too, especially if the local job market is limited. Renewable energy is developing, and there are many industries beyond the energy industry as well.

    4. environmentalist at fossil fuel company*

      OP#1 here. Good point, I will have to start job searching more vigorously. I’d love to find a job that better aligns with my values

  19. Bookworm*

    #1: I was in a similar position (not at a fossil fuel company) and I’ll tell you: get out. If it bothers you that much, I would wager you won’t be happy (although it’s understandable if you need the job). It’s highly doubtful you’ll be able to make changes that you’re in, now. But if it is something you really care about, it might be best if you found a job more aligned with your interests and values.

    There is also the alternate route of staying and being a “mole” for those types of organizations or your local media outlet, etc. too, but that isn’t what you asked and could be not worth the risk.

    #5: I don’t know the ins and outs of the HR field like others do, but I’d personally disagree with setting it at a specific number (although I do understand why that’s named). I worked at an organization that had fewer than 50 people and it was clear we needed an HR-type person to actually handle the HR issues instead of upper management. Yes, HR is really there to serve the organization and management but not having one made it confusing as to who we should go to for HR-related issues (payroll, HR-specific issues, etc.) I do understand why many smaller organizations don’t, but I’ll just say that I’ve worked in smaller organizations who could have really used an HR-type person.

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      The “mole” thing only really works if they’re committing fraud or other obviously underhanded things. There’s plenty of fossil fuel companies with aboveboard business practices.

    2. Rana*

      In my experience, smaller companies that do this right have one person who is designated as the HR person, but that person also fills other roles, and is often not as educated or trained as a regular HR person would be. When my company was small, I served as HR, office manager, and accounting. So there wasn’t a dedicated HR person, but it was clear who you should go to with any HR issues. I had access to outside counsel for any questions I didn’t know how to handle.

  20. KHB*

    Q5: My employer has only slightly more than 100 employees, and we have a team of 3-4 HR people. Are there really organizations only a little bit smaller than us that don’t have a dedicated HR person at all? I knew we were top-heavy, but this surprises me.

    We also have an “executive management team” of half a dozen people with C-level titles, and we just hired an “internal communications manager,” whose sole job seems to be explaining to us peons what the CEO is doing so the CEO doesn’t have to dirty his hands with us himself. At what point does this start to get ridiculous?

    1. A Penguin!*

      I think the ‘internal communications manager’ was the point it became ridiculous. Until recently I worked for a company about the same size as yours, which had 2 HR people (one was part time), 3 C-level titles, and the CEO had no trouble explaining himself directly to the peons. (depending on which CEO, they may not have been well-received by the peons, but they were perfectly understood)

      1. KHB*

        In fairness, it’s possible that the internal communications manager does more than what I described and I’m not seeing it. But it was clear that the CEO was uncomfortable talking to us directly in things like all-staff meetings (because he was constantly revealing that he has no idea who half the employees are or what we do), so now the ICM does it.

        1. Anonym*

          The internal communications manager may well be better at it than the CEO, which could be a value add. They may also be playing an advisory role and hopefully improving how communications occur generally within the company.

          I think I’d rather work somewhere that takes HR seriously (and internal communications, for that matter) that somewhere that doesn’t, all else being equal.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Ooh, tough call! I’ve worked at plenty of places where the level of bureaucracy is what makes the culture miserable – everything has too many steps, too many levels of approval, too many rules for things that should be obvious. You also get the “BS jobs” phenomenon, where the fifth HR assistant starts needing to create work to justify their position. I find law- adjacent fields to be heavily weighted towards risk reduction over any other priority, which is frustrating for me on the program side. A place with only one HR for 100 people would probably be my preference over a place with 50 employees and 5 HR.

          2. KHB*

            Is all else ever really equal, though? After all, money that’s spent hiring an internal communications manager or yet another HR person is necessarily money that CAN’T be spent hiring somebody else for my team, or for that matter giving me a raise. (They “couldn’t afford” to increase our salaries more than two-point-something percent this year, never mind that inflation is six-point-something percent.)

  21. Grus grus*

    To #1 – I’d like to commiserate and offer a very gentle suggestion.
    I’m a hopelessly concerned environmentalist, too, and work in the tech industry (games to be specific). Admittedly both the company that I’m in and the city I live in are places where environmental awareness is relatively high but not much is being done about things. I started by raising awareness, little by little, maybe gently pointing out things here and there that people could think about or the company could be considering to make things different, and found that more often than not people were having the same concerns as I was but not voicing them out of fear. I’m not saying that you should stay where you are, personally it’s drive me mad – but, since you are this close to a hub where some changes could lead to a lot of good, you could consider if at there’s any action at all you could take before leaving in a set timeframe. You can check the Goldman Awards candidates for inspiration, too! I wish you the absolutely best of luck – never give up! Never surrender!

    1. environmentalist at fossil fuel company*

      OP#1 here. That’s a good option to consider while I’m looking for a new job. I will check out the Goldman Awards, thanks!

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      “more often than not people were having the same concerns as I was but not voicing them out of fear”

      People often have different or multiple concerns. The environment is a big one, but it’s not the only big one. Other people might be using their energy trying to help deal with other concerns. I guess what I’m trying to say is I care about the environment, but also care about people who struggle to pay their rent. My brother strongly cares about not buying chocolate that was produced using slave labor (pretty much all the major brands). It’s not fear if I’m not speaking up – it’s fatigue. I can’t care about ALL of it all the time, because there’s only so much I can do. So I sometimes eat m&ms while I work for a gas utility, and try to do what I can do with the energy and resources I have.

  22. Poachable, Apparently*

    LW4 – the only time I’ve told my employer about an approach was when it was shady.

    Employer had been contacted by MrShady to do some work for him, and we were in talks for me specifically to be subcontracted out to Shady Inc on a part-time basis. Ultimately MrShady decided not to go ahead, for complicated tax reasons. Fair enough.

    A few weeks later, MrShady contacted me through LinkedIn to ask me to work directly for him on an hourly basis on top of my actual job. I said I was not interested but “reminded” him of the service available through my employer.

    And I told my employer. We laughed together.

    1. OP #4*

      lol – this is definitely an instance where I would tell me boss so we could laugh about it together!

  23. Sorry not sorry*

    LW 1, your good salary and benefits are not incidental to the fossil fuel money your company makes. They are its direct result. There are ways to offset the impact of profiting from fossils fuels elsewhere in your life, but the mere fact of discordant values ain’t it. Sorry if this is harsh, but it’s not better to have an “environmentalist” in your role vs a tar sands lobbyist – your guilty feelings don’t impact anything but your quality of life. Either accept that your comfortable lifestyle is the direct result of environmental harm and figure out a way to mitigate that, go work somewhere else, or revise your self-image.

  24. pancakes*

    “I hoped that the recent developments in my country of carbon tax and the transition to electric vehicles that management would see the writing on the wall and start to wind down production and increase efforts into other business lines. However, they seem determined to squeeze as much profit out of oil and gas while they still can.”

    Please do some reading on this to educate yourself rather than assuming that your employer shares both your values and your minimal, self-directed education on its own history. It is well-documented that oil and gas companies have known about the harm they do for decades. I will link to a few articles in a separate reply. In the meantime, please be aware that a 1981 Exxon memo widely circulated to management observed that the company’s long-term business plans “produce effects which will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the earth’s population).”

    1. bamcheeks*

      I didn’t read it like that– I don’t think LW was saying they thought their company was unaware of the effects of fossil fuels but would finally be seeing the light, but simply that as the wider commercial environment shifted they would see it as a poor investment choice and be shifting their business model.

      1. pancakes*

        It sounds to me like they simply don’t have a handle on whether it is or isn’t. There’s no shortage of information on this, though. Nor on the investments and long-range business plans of the companies.

      2. Shan*

        Yes, it’s pretty clear that’s exactly what the LW meant – she hoped they’d decide that, from a business perspective, it no longer made sense to focus on oil and gas.

        1. pancakes*

          Respectfully, I don’t see a practical difference. If there is a solid basis to believe that oil and gas companies are exiting the oil and gas business and shifting their investments, there will be lots and lots of financial analysis of the implications for their long-range business plans and their investors. There are numerous financial reporters and financial analysts who cover the industry. A number of them are saying that the business is troubled for various reasons and that it’s having difficulties recruiting, but I’m not seeing any indication that this is because it’s become common for oil and gas companies to drastically alter their business plans in favor of becoming stewards of the environment.

    2. BubbleTea*

      What is it with aggressive comments towards this LW? They came for advice, not to be told they’re under informed and not truly concerned about the environment unless X, Y and Z the commenter would do.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah, I think people need to do a bit more soul searching rather than taking it out on OP. Sadly, most businesses are exploitative in a variety of ways (I’m in nonprofit and I would still say this). We are all complicit. It’s good for OP to ask these questions, and I hope she ends up finding a job more in line with her values, but I wouldn’t throw any stones.

        1. Jennifer*

          +1 I think if most of us did some digging we’d find that our employers have done things that don’t align with our values. Sometimes you hold your nose and do what you have to do to keep a roof over your head until you find something better.

      2. Critical Rolls*

        Agree. I’m also a bit baffled by people who apparently think everyone who works with fossil fuels should quit. That doesn’t really align with the reality that most of the world is still heavily dependent on them and it would be fully disastrous if production and distribution stopped tomorrow. (This is not a defense of unethical industry practices or an argument against moving away from fossil fuels ASAP, btw.)

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t know of anyone who assumes that everyone who works in the industry is likely to quit en masse. That wouldn’t align with reality either. Advising one person who feels troubled by their work in the industry to consider leaving it isn’t at all the same as believing that every last person in the industry will act on that advice.

  25. anonymous73*

    #4 in a perfect world, you should be able to speak to your manager about any job opportunities that come along, or if you’re thinking about leaving because you don’t have advancement opportunities at your current company. Good managers want to help you succeed, even if that means leaving your team/department/company. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few of those managers. But we all know we don’t live in a perfect world, and we can’t usually trust our managers to not hold it against us if we explore other opportunities or want to move on.

    If you have absolutely no intention of leaving, I would reach back out and tell them that. “I appreciate the offer, but I’m very happy with my current position and am not looking to move on at the moment. If anything changes, I’d love to have a conversation about your company.” This way, you’ve politely declined their offer to chat, but haven’t burned any bridges for potential future opportunities. I don’t see the point of meeting with them at all unless there’s a tiny part of you that would consider jumping ship if you liked what they had to say.

    1. On the Market*

      I was lucky enough to have one of those bosses at one of my first jobs out of college. She knew my grad. program was preparing me for an eventual move, and she was overwhelmingly supportive of my desire to move into a different type of role in the field. She wrote numerous reference letters, took numerous reference check calls, helped mentor me to get where I wanted to be. Because she was so supportive, I ended up giving nearly 2 years’ lead time for my resignation as I performed well and simultaneously explored other options.

      I was also passed up for several promotions because she knew I wanted to leave.

      So, pros and cons.

      1. anonymous73*

        Passing you up for promotions because they knew you would ~eventually~ leave is not being supportive. You never know how long something is going to take or what changes may come about.

  26. agnes*

    Is it possible that your correct physical, address was not on file at the central office? I am surprised at how many of our 1000 employees don’t update their addresses when they move and then are upset when their W2’s don’t arrive. Even if you updated your address at the school you taught it, it still may not have gotten from there to the central office–a lot of places don’t forward that information like they should.

    At any rate, in the absence of any actual factual information about what happened, you are free to surmise any number of possible reasons. Why not surmise one that doesn’t make you feel so miserable?

  27. Enn Pee*

    LW1 – one of my best friends worked as an engineer for a large multi-national oil company. He was able to go to graduate school on their dime and get a master’s degree in environmental engineering. After that, he continued to work for their doing environmental remediation. But he used that education and expertise to get out of that company and work for our state’s environmental protection agency.
    If you feel strongly about this – you can use your skills working for another employer that shares your values. Working for an oil company can give you insights and skills that can help many someone else who shares your values.

    1. drpuma*

      I used to work in a <10 person office of a medium-size company that had onsite HR because she covered our whole region and HQ was 250 miles away. Ours was simply the location closest to her house.

      Of course, she was also the only coworker I've ever had who aggressively food-shamed my lunch choices. Still boggles my mind that she works in HR.

  28. Environmental Compliance*

    #1 – As you can probably tell by my name, I do environmental compliance work. I am in charge of my facilities’ permitting, monitoring, reporting, recordkeeping, and onsite sustainability efforts. I used to work for state-level environmental government agencies.

    I have been invited to work for BP. I turned it down for exactly the reasons you’d expect. I chose the companies I’ve worked for based on their market & their corporate environmental/sustainability standards. Where I’m at now is pushing more and more emission reduction projects, energy reduction projects, and cleaner processing. I would not have been happy working for O&G, and have self-selected out of similar positions/companies I’ve been invited to interview for. It is completely valid to choose an employer based on your environmental values! It’s no different from choosing an employer based on other values, whether that be religion, politics, etc.

  29. Purt's Peas*

    OP 1, I think that what you’re feeling is a valuable cognitive dissonance. I’d urge you to avoid solving it just by revising your self-image, or rationalizing why it’s okay to actively promote fossil fuels. It’s not actually okay. If you’re doing it because you have to, if you’re doing it because you like it, if you’re doing it because you like the money, those are reasons you can grapple with and maybe find solace in. But I think it is probably deeply disturbing, psychically, to do this work. You’re not evil for finding a job and realizing, uh oh, this company is harmful. But for your own sake–this kind of thing is poisonous to moral self-image–I think you probably need to start looking for a different gig.

    1. BubbleTea*

      This feels like a good example of how to robustly challenge LW to reflect and make choices without being rude or aggressive to LW. I wanted to applaud that, since I’ve been critical of some other comments today.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yes! I totally understand how young graduates, often with debt, being told they need to find work in an economy that sucks and is actively exploitative, when *finally* offered a job with a company that pays well, end up taking it. There are forces a lot bigger than OP at play here. I loved the suggestion above that OP use the knowledge they’ve gained of the oil industry in a future role (or volunteer position) to work for the environment.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          When I was studying engineering, I was (in theory) 100% OK with working in oil and gas or in defense. “If they pay well, I’ll work for them” was 18-year-old me’s unofficial motto. I applied to a few oil and gas companies for internships with vague ideas of scoping out how I could make the companies more environmentally friendly as an engineer, but none of those panned out. After I graduated, I ended up with a good job in a field that doesn’t conflict with my morals at all. But had a few things gone differently for me, I could have easily ended up in a similar boat to OP1 because of all the forces Sloan Kittering mentions.

          OP1, I hope you’re able to find a good path out of your current company and feel much better when your moral cognitive dissonance is resolved!

    2. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      This as well put. When you face a situation like this, the cost of deciding to rationalize it due to the good pay, or crafting yourself enough mental loopholes that you no longer feel bad, etc., is more than just caving on this one issue. It would push you toward becoming someone whose values are so flexible that they’re really more like soft preferences.

      On the other hand, doing the moral, logical thing of switching industries will not only relieve this cognitive dissonance, it will reinforce your core as someone who actually lives out their beliefs.

      1. bamcheeks*

        And if the net result is that the company has to pay higher wages to get someone more to do the work— that’s good. That’s the business becoming less financial sustainable and less attractive to investors.

    3. Tobias Funke*

      This is a good comment and the journey you describe is how I ended up taking the experience I got in a really oppressive and dehumanizing field and took it somewhere I feel more comfortable.

  30. AndersonDarling*

    #5 You may not need a dedicated HR person, but I’d recommend having set policies that outline actions to take when issues arise. And your staff should have clear instructions on who to contact if they see unethical behavior or harassment.
    I’d sit the Leadership team down and start laying out methods for staff to report major issues. Then create policies as what will happen when they come up. Otherwise, the leaders will ignore reports of harassment/stealing/fraud because it takes time and it’s easy to ignore when no one is personally responsible. So when someone reports that StickyFingers may be stealing stock, you pull the policy and follow the steps: Inform the CEO of an investigation, call the 3rd party investigators, ask IT for security tapes…
    And when someone says that ExecutiveBoss has funny business in their travel reimbursements, you do the exact same thing. Pull the policy and follow the steps. Every report is handled fairly and justly.

    1. JustaTech*

      Coming here to second this!
      Even if you don’t have enough employees to justify a full time or even part time HR person, make sure that you work with an HR professional when you set up your employee handbook about things like pay, sick time and vacation. Otherwise you could end up unintentionally breaking state or federal law about how those things are accrued or paid out. Many payroll companies (that you outsource your payroll to) will have the option of on-call HR folks who can help you figure out things like, since “exempt is X% of minimum wage, and the minimum wage changed, if Andy is going to stay exempt we need to increase their pay to $Z”.

      My in-laws (who’ve owned their small business for decades) are just now realizing things like “exempt employees must be paid for every day they work” doesn’t mean “work one hour and take the rest of the day off and not have to use vacation time”.

      For your own sanity and the safety of your business, get everything set up right the first time with an HR person. Especially if you have both exempt and non-exempt employees.

  31. CupcakeCounter*

    This happened to a friend of mine and the reason was because the person who delivered the signs put the address in incorrectly. She lived on NORTH State Road 4 and they only put in State Road 4 and it defaulted to SOUTH State Road 4 because it was a more populated area. The person who’s house it ended up at called the hospital and asked what was going on – they weren’t a nurse and don’t work for that hospital so why was there a sign in their yard.
    Friend found out about it a couple weeks later when HR sent her a request to update her address since they were informed she no longer lived at the address on file. Obviously she hadn’t moved so she asked what they were talking about and that’s when they discovered the address mix up.
    My son’s school does that as well and signs have ended up in the wrong yard a time or two. We have two boys with the same first name in our neighborhood and their signs were switched and signs being 1 yard over so human error is definitely an option to consider. And if that admin or whoever delivered the signs isn’t part of the Google Chat, there is a chance they don’t know your sign was never properly delivered to you. Its a weird thing to ask about though…”where is my sign of appreciation?”

    1. Ama*

      When my job was in office they used to regularly arrange for each department to go out to an end of year lunch. For a couple of years, I was in a uniquely structured position where I was technically the sole employee in my department and reported directly to the CEO (who served as de facto department head). Both years they screwed up my invitation to an end of year lunch — the first year, the CEO was going to be out of town much of December and at a department heads meeting it was agreed that one of the other department heads would invite me to join their team’s lunch, only everyone assumed someone else was going to do it so no one did.

      The second year was after I had been promoted and took on some more department head like duties but was still not attending department head meetings, something the CEO kept forgetting. The department heads decided on their plan for end of year lunches at a meeting the CEO wasn’t at and once again everyone forgot about me (I could be nice and say they probably assumed the CEO would take me, but to be honest during that period it was pretty obvious that most of the other department heads barely remembered I existed — the two department heads I worked with most closely had left in the fall and they hadn’t been replaced by December). That time I at least got a very apologetic email from the CEO on my last day in the office, when she finally realized I’d been left out again.

      By the following December, I had hired an admin and acquired a regular volunteer, so the CEO assigned me to plan my own department lunch. It was a weird experience though — and particularly demoralizing when it happened two years in a row, even though I knew it was mostly just miscommunication and the weird place my position sat on the org chart at the time.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think it was probably a mix-up or something. I live in an house that has been split into 2 apartments. The upstairs neighbor’s door is around back but you can’t easily see that from the street I cant remember the number of times I got stuff for their son dropped off on my doorstep, or packages misdelivered. We became friends so we would just bring it around back and laugh about it. When the teachers brought the students signs for their yard they couldn’t figure out where to put it. (they were closer, went by the fence gate.

    3. Naomi*

      Yes, check that there hasn’t just been a mix-up! My boss told me to expect a package when he sent everyone chocolates at Christmas, but I didn’t get anything. When I told him that, he followed up with the candy company and we found out that UPS had screwed up my address.

  32. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP5: A company with less than 50 people can most definitely have enough work to keep a full time HR person busy–it can be painfully obvious when the HR hire is overdue. The HR hire may be intentionally deferred for other reasons, not just lack of work. Sometimes what spurs the hire when the company is less than 50 employees is the desire to rapidly grow the company, which may require an enormous recruiting effort and improvements to the benefits to make them more competitive and enticing. I have observed that the HR staff in small companies is often short of the company’s actual staffing needs, which can make work life difficult for that first HR person. This is the case for several general support departments like HR, Finance, Legal, etc.

  33. Eldritch Office Worker*

    My <50 company has two people that basically both perform half an HR duty. Our accountant also does benefits administration and me, the "operations" person in theory, does recruiting, talent management, compliance, and policy writing. We both have other duties but I think if you took our HR duties and put them on one person it would be a complete job.

  34. Amber Rose*

    OP #1: I am sort of similar. Until I figure out what I wanna do about it, I try to focus on the good I create in the world: the people who have jobs and whose quality of life I improve by doing my job to the best of my ability. I don’t think that’ll be a long term strategy for you, I strongly recommend seeing if you can translate your skills and experience into a new job, maybe in renewable energy or something (that’s my goal anyway). But it might help ease the unhappiness in the meantime.

    OP #5: We have roughly 40 people and we hired an external HR company because we needed someone. She’s not dedicated to just us, but is a resource we can make use of when needed, which is perfect for now. I do agree that there’s not enough work at this level of staff for a full time hire.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      See I think it depends on the org. I’ve worked for some 40-people places that had CONSTANT churn of employees – constantly hiring new ones and trying to onboard at the same time others were exiting or being fired. Also, sorry but there was a very problematic senior person there (those things are uh probably related) so I’m guessing the number of complaints / lawsuits was also higher. They probably had enough work for at least one FT employee. A calmer and more stable place, presumably not.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Ah well, there’s always that! We have extremely low employee turnover, and while I have been slightly busy with new employees lately, that’s because we’re growing, not replacing.

        But then, a dysfunctional/chaotic workplace has more problems than whether they need HR. ;P

  35. new*

    How is working from another home any safer than being in the office? I wouldn’t do it because of Covid.

  36. Mary Smith*


    I work for a major oil & gas and am a big environmentalist. One of the big things I’ve noticed is how much impact internal employees can have. I think we need MORE people who care about the environment who work for these companies to push them in the right direction. For example, at my company, at every single forum with a senior leader, at least one employee question (submitted online and upvoted by a lot of employees) is around pushing them to do more in terms of the environment. I think this internal activism is a lot more effective than the external versions. I’ve also heard unoffically that one of the reasons the big oil & gas companies are becoming more environmentally friendly is that they are having a hard time recruiting talent and starting to realize that their environmental stances are one of the reasons they are having so many issues.

    So maybe it’s actually a great thing that you’re there? You may not have a lot of power on your own, but as Allison often reminds us, we have power in groups.

    1. environmentalist at fossil fuel company*

      Yes, I have noticed a gradual shift in the conversations at large meetings. That gave me hope that things were changing. But talk in meetings doesn’t seem to be translating to major business decisions. At least, not yet.

      There have been a few vacancies in my department that are being difficult to fill lately…

  37. Purple Cat*

    LW1 it really and truly depends on your own comfort level.
    I have a similar viewpoint and it’s limited what companies I’m looking at for my next role – and I’m in Finance! If I was in Marketing alignment with mission would be even more of a dealbreaker.
    But there was a column somewhat recently of the anti-capitalists working at an Investment Bank, so plenty of people are able to separate personal values from what puts $ on the table.

  38. Veryanon*

    Working at the boss’s house – there are ergonomic considerations in addition to what everyone’s mentioned about. And if anyone is injured while working at the boss’s house, does the boss have the appropriate insurance coverages in place? I’m guessing probably not. Just not a great idea all around.

  39. azvlr*

    OP#3 I’ve been left out of “minor” things like this and it really did impact my morale.
    The first was when I was student teaching. I really wanted to be included in the staff photo, but I was not invited. I would have completely understood if they only wanted actual faculty in the photo, and just saying so to me would have made me feel recognized. I like to think that I made an impact in a student’s life that year and would like to have been remembered. This was one of several incidents that led me to feeling like I didn’t exist at that school.
    The second was when my boss forgot to mention a customer recognition that was awarded when I was out recovering after an auto accident. I learned about it from a passing comment. I timidly asked my boss if I had received an award, and only received the actual piece of paper when I was leaving the company. I had to remind them again to send it.
    Easy ways to recognized my efforts that tanked my morale, because I felt like they couldn’t even bother with something so simple.
    OP, say something. Perhaps a bit more assertively than I did, but let someone know you feel hurt and give them a chance to make it right.

  40. Dwight Schrute*

    Working from my boss’s house sounds awful. I don’t want to be in what I assume must be somewhat cramped quarters if the boss has an average size home. I’d let them know you have allergies and your doctors advise against it, and if it were me I’d come up with SOME a reason why I couldn’t work at their home even if I had no dog allergies

  41. Minerva*

    LW 1 – I have been taking somewhat less salary than I could for my whole career because I want what I spend 8 hours a day to be something I support. You don’t need to immediately quit but if your job is doing something against your values, and you aren’t willing to give something up to leave, you have decided that your salary/career is more important than those values.

    That’s not necessarily absolutely wrong, but if you stay, you do need to own that you have found what you will trade for that environmentalist values (whether it is feeding your kids, or sending them to private school, or living modestly in your city, or buying a house, or….)

    We all have to live under capitalism and all, but you have some responsibility if you think your work is making the world worse. And the longer you market fossil fuels, the less appealing a candidate you will be to market something more environmentalist – your passion for wind power will be harder to sell the more of your achievements are about oil.

    1. Wisteria*

      Yeah, I have strong values of living indoors and eating regular meals. I tried to find work that was more aligned with my other values, but couldn’t. So, for now, the paycheck is enough.

      1. Minerva*

        Look, not trying to be an ass, but to me, there’s a difference between working at an amazon warehouse to eat and live indoors, and working as an Amazon logistics executive setting their goals and calling it just a job.

        I’m willing to deal with inconvenience and lesser pay for my ideals. I am not willing to let my kids go hungry for most of them. But for a lot of career decisions, it’s not starvation as the alternative, it’s 20k/year less, or a less prestigious title.

        1. Wisteria*

          I guess I also value working in my field and using the degrees and experience that I worked so hard to acquire, so working in an Amazon warehouse is not on the table for me. I’ll own that, sure.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Agreed. I value a regular paycheck, health insurance and good covid protocols over actually working in a field I enjoy that wouldn’t have any of those things.

        I really can’t speak to the ethics of #1’s job though. I hate mine and it doesn’t fit me, but I can deal with the ethics of things I don’t like in it out of practicality.

    2. Very Social*

      As someone in a slightly similar situation to LW 1: Thank you. This is a really great comment and gets me thinking. It fits with my usual worldview that everything has trade-offs and sometimes they are worth it–e.g., occasionally I find that the deliciousness of a certain food is worth the gastrointestinal discomfort it will cause ;)

  42. OP #2*

    To answer some of the questions I see:
    • It’s just a handful of people and there’s public transportation so parking isn’t an issue.
    • As noted by my coworkers who have gone to his home, there isn’t regular cleaning so I don’t even want to imagine what the bathrooms would be like with more people using them every day. Gross.
    • There are some desks but people are also working from the living and dining room.
    • I’m not privy to the details of the business about zoning and insurance. The comments about those things are valid–just above my pay grade. I’m not trying to get the business shut down–I just don’t want to work in an office that is going to make my allergies worse.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Honestly, just start with, “Sorry, I am super allergic to dogs!” If your boss is lonely, well, other people are taking care of that. Also, you prefer a desk with a monitor/mouse/giant notebook/insert desk-based object here.

    2. Colorado*

      Ugh – the bathroom! Didn’t even think of that. Being used by the family too. And working in the living room and dining room? That would be a big nope. Good luck! I’d think of an excuse anyway (not that yours is an excuse) because I couldn’t do it.

  43. Teacher (of the Math Variety)*

    To the signless teacher: Your sign may have been stolen as a prank.

    This happened to a bunch of us in my school…admin did the “put the sign up in the middle of the night” and the TikTok crew would get them before the teachers did. Apparently it was a thing? I don’t use TikTok but I was shown some videos kids made of themselves stealing the signs. (Not even kids from your school, but those in your neighborhood)

  44. Colorado*

    Ugh – the bathroom! Didn’t even think of that. Being used by the family too. And working in the living room and dining room? That would be a big nope. Good luck! I’d think of an excuse anyway (not that yours is an excuse) because I couldn’t do it.

  45. Off my usual pseud for this*

    OP #1, if you can afford to quit and find work elsewhere, you must do so. You know that your labour supports something inimical to continued human life on the planet, that your company is actively destructive to the environment and to millions of people, right now. Put your money where your mouth is, and as soon as it’s financially feasible for you, get out.

    I don’t say this without personal experience, either. I did it. I worked at a corporate law firm for about four years, and many of our clients were fossil fuel companies, mining companies, big tech, pharmaceuticals, etc. I knew this was in contravention of my values, and that my labour was contributing to making the world a worse place. So I quit last year. I didn’t tell them why, but I got out. I sleep a lot better at night. I don’t delude myself into thinking that because I quit, the firm’s struggled at all, but at least I’m no longer actively complicit in this stuff. Have the courage of your convictions, and you can do the same.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I don’t know exactly what OP#1’s company actually does, but I work for a gas utility, and my labor not only contributes to the warming of the planet, it also allows people to not freeze to death right now. In other words, it’s not a black and white situation, nor is it one with a quick and easy solution. Switching to a different heating source costs a lot of money, which many people don’t have. Most renewable energy sources still have environmental concerns as well. OP’s job also contributes to people being able to pay their rent and feed their kids (as do all jobs). And we are all still tearing the planet down in ways we aren’t thinking about, even while trying to do better in other ways. So yes, it sounds like OP is not happy in the job and should find a different one, but … most issues are not all that simple.

  46. LTL*

    To your point about finding an alternative job, I’m surprised no one has said anything about OP’s worries about giving up this job following past experience with low-paying jobs.

    OP, it sounds like you have a few years of experience at your current company. You’re likely in a better position as a job applicant than you were when you were going through a string of low-paying jobs. I’d throw out some feelers and see how it goes. If you get a bad offer, you can just turn it down.

  47. Olivia Oil*

    I strangely have mixed feelings about #1 despite working in an environmental field.

    Obviously, working, or at least striving to work, in a job that aligns with your values is ideal.

    But also…there is no ethical consumption under capitalism and all that. Most industries’ business operations are powered by oil and gas. Even environmental advocacy orgs are paid off by the wrong people. Our economic system is designed to be corrupt and exploitative, and most average workers are forced to make a trade off between proper compensation and genuine fulfillment when looking for work.

    Assuming LW 1 has options, I would definitely recommend that they look for a new job outside the oil and gas industry. But I know that, depending on which industry they switch to, this can come at a cost.

    1. Some Dude*

      I live near a big oil refinery, and people like to freak out about it and a bunch of people want them gone but most of us drive cars so we use the product the refinery sells and they are one of the few big employers around who offer decent blue collar jobs so.

      But, yeah, if you are thinking an oil company is going to be all like, wow, oil is hurting the environment so let’s move to green energy, it is highly unlikely to happen.

      And non-fossil fuel technology still uses precious metals that have to be extracted from poorer countries for batteries so.

      It definitely sounds like OP1 should be looking for a new gig that aligns more with their values, but there is no job that is absolutely morally perfect. Although I have spent my career in nonprofit organizations aligned with my values despite the fact that i could make more in an adjacent role in a for-profit field so maybe i’m all just big talk.

      1. Olivia Oil*

        These are all good points.

        I guess was coming from a place of…I don’t know what trade-offs the LW would have to make to switch jobs/careers and if the trade off is too high it’s worth remembering no industry is perfect.

        1. Some Dude*

          Totally. I respect folks getting out, also respect if folks need the paycheck and can make it work with their ethics.

  48. Formerly Prof, now Non-Prof*

    #1: I’d just like to acknowledge that you’re facing a stark moral challenge, but it’s one that many people aren’t even willing to begin considering. While I think it’s easy for people to draw strict moral lines around working for an oil industry, most labor under capitalism has inherent moral quandaries. Being willing to acknowledge the impact of your work and consider ways to change or mitigate those harms is more than most people can do.

    It sounds to me like you feel a little stuck. I don’t pretend to have solutions to any of this, but I wonder if you are familiar with the concept of moral injury?

    A simple explanation of MI is that it’s a form of trauma that arises when a person witnesses, or is party to, or fails to prevent events that contradict that person’s moral values. The concept is most often applied in military settings, because MI is a feature of the PTSD that many soldiers experience, but it’s broadly applicable for many other experiences. I offer this because I think that approaching your situation with a trauma-informed perspective may help change how it feels. Understanding how this is impacting your brain (because trauma is a neurophysiological experience!) may give you new tools for getting unstuck. If environmental protection is part of your moral code, then you may ask how you can bring your life in line with your morals (by staying and working from within to affect change, or by leaving, or by doing something else). No matter what you choose next, you’ll still likely need to do some psychological and moral healing to recover. Maybe you can bring an insider’s knowledge of the fossil fuel industry to the task of dismantling that industry — that might even make this whole experience feel worthwhile.

    1. environmentalist at fossil fuel company*

      Interesting, I will have to read more on this and consider if it applies to my situation.

  49. El l*

    #1: In a sense, you are exactly where you can do the most good. You’re also what your fossil fuel company needs – Someone pushing them cleaner from within. But as someone in a similar position, also in energy – man is that exhausting. You will have to tap out sometime. The only question is whether you stick around to (maybe) make a modest success, or give up and go.

    #4: Unless you have a specific and concrete reason to fear that you’ll risk your job by taking the meeting, meet with the rivals. Because:
    You may need them someday. Your mentor won’t be around forever.
    It is helpful to understand your competition, even if you are a “company man.”
    If you conduct yourself well, you build respect and reputation, no matter the outcome.
    And so on.

  50. Whaaa*

    LOL do local ordinances even allow for a business with employees to be operated out of a residential dwelling? Even if you’re less than 15 people, the boss expects everyone to show up and what, park on his lawn? 10 cars? 13 cars? What if someone gets injured on his property? Is his homeowners gonna cover that?

    That’s an accident waiting to happen.

  51. NorthBayTeky*

    “3. I was left out of an appreciation initiative”
    Our entire department was left out of a “Staff Appreciation Day.” I saw the signs around the building and thought it was the library branch co-located in the building, even though I saw them in other places that were actually other departments. Our boss never said anything to us about it. His boss never said anything to us about it. On the day of, apparently there was a whole “staff meeting” where this appreciation took place. Of course there was no one from IT, we were not invited. I mean, this whole thing was planned out by someone. It wasn’t a spur of the moment deal. But there was not a single person involved in the planning that thought to actually tell us it was “ALL” staff, not just the library staff.

    An administrative assistant called to ask why we weren’t there or if anyone was going to go and represent our department. I was out doing IT work, but none of my co-workers attended either.

    Talk about a demotivational event! They left an entire department out of the “Staff Appreciation Day.”

    1. Iceberg*

      Oh mannn that stinks!! I’m on our social committee at work and I make an effort to make sure the IT and facility people are included in stuff cause yeah-that stinks :(

  52. Creep factor*

    So I worked from a boss’ home at a last job. Came in once to the office part and he was looking at porn in his boxers (at 9am ). Another time he was snoring in the chair in his boxers (at 9am).
    That job didn’t last long for me.
    I will never do that sort of thing ever again.

  53. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1 as a member of Greenpeace since the 70s, I feel your pain.
    The fact that you’re well paid is precisely why people don’t all make a stand. People get great pay in companies selling ethically dubious goods like tobacco, and people working to reduce carbon emissions earn considerably less, that’s precisely how the dubious firms attract enough talent.
    So you have to choose between your lifestyle and the planet basically.

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