wedding invite from employee’s daughter, coworker is being a jerk about our new boss, and more

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

1. Wedding invitation from my boyfriend’s employee’s daughter

I just need to know if this is as weird as I think it is. Today we got a save-the-date in the mail at home for my boyfriend’s employee’s daughter. My boyfriend has met her once, I’ve never met her, and they live out of state. It’s odd that we would be invited to their wedding, no?

Yes and no. There are different philosophies about weddings — some people only want guests there who are personally important to them, and some see it as an occasion for people from their parents’ lives too, including business contacts, and other people fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. And a lot of people see the invitation itself as a gesture of warmth while not expecting you to actually attend, especially if the wedding is out-of-state. (Some people argue that those types of invitations are mostly a gift grab, and while I’m sure they sometimes are, I don’t think that’s the case 100% of the time.)

Your boyfriend should feel free to RSVP no once the actual invite arrives and send a nice card and something off the registry if he wants, and you’re good.

Read an update to this letter here

2. My coworker is being a jerk about our new boss

My much-loved manager retired and my coworker has been really weird and negative about her replacement. The new manager has barely started and doesn’t even have her work laptop yet. We’ve “met” her once in a conference call (the whole team is remote) and she’s sent us a pretty run of the mill introduction email.

My coworker sent me a message, irritated that the new boss hasn’t sent us our report templates for the new month yet (it’s the second day of the month; our old boss regularly took 3-4 days to get them to everybody). Then she said she didn’t know whether to refer to the new boss as her first name or as Dr. Lastname. I said she introduced herself as Dr. Lastname. For the rest of the conversation, my coworker complained about a variety of issues that the new boss could not possibly have any hand in and referred to everyone as “Dr.” even though they go by their first names and do not have doctorates. I can only interpret this as passive-aggressive. I didn’t know what to do and thought calling her out might just encourage a rant, so I didn’t react.

I think our new boss is a black woman. My coworker is a middle-aged white woman. I want no part in my coworker’s negativity (especially if it’s racist/sexist), but I have no idea what to say or do. My coworker is always insistent that things be handled how she thinks best, even when company culture or competing priorities dictate otherwise. She also knows that I’m much younger than she is. What’s the most professional way to handle this?

How about, “You know, there’s a well-documented problem with people refusing to use earned titles for women and people of color, particularly Black women. I’m sure you don’t mean this to be about her race or gender, but you’re really likely to come across that way if you keep saying things like that.”

Alternately, you can always go with some combination of: “Wow, I really disagree” / “I have no complaints about her, and I’m not the right audience for this” / “You’ve been sounding awfully hostile toward her — could you stop around me?”

3. Former CEO asking for (unpaid) help on a personal project

So, I’ll be the first to admit that I probably shouldn’t have let this situation escalate to this point, but here we are. I worked as a data analyst for a biotech startup for six years, but recently quit to go back to school.

Shortly after I had started working there, the CEO (let’s call her Amy) asked me if I would be willing to do some data analysis on a personal project of hers — pro bono. She phrased it as a favor that I was totally free to refuse, and obviously I was aware that this was exploitation, but since I had just gone through a period of unemployment and I was really counting on the steady income from this job to get out of that tough financial spot, I was afraid of retaliation, possibly even being fired if I said no (she’s definitely that kind of person). So, I accepted, even though I thought (and still think) the premise of the project is heavily flawed and doesn’t have a leg to stand on, scientifically.

I kept getting pulled in to do data work for Amy’s project periodically over my tenure at the company, even during a time when I tried to back out because I was working until 10 pm most nights doing the job Amy actually paid me for, so I didn’t really have time to do anything on the side. I asked my boss if she might intervene on my behalf, but my boss was also afraid of retaliation from Amy, so that was a bust.

Now that I’ve left the company, Amy is still emailing me to work on her project, and no matter how diplomatically I’ve tried to say that I don’t have time to work on this and that she needs to find someone else, she keeps insisting that I have to be the one to do it. (I’ve said something like, “I’m really busy with NewCompany/school projects right now, so I don’t have the time to devote to this project, but if you find another data scientist to take over, I’d be happy to help get them up to speed.”) I don’t want to burn bridges with my old company, since many of my other former colleagues and I are still on good terms, but at this point I wouldn’t work on her project even if she did start paying me. She’s just not taking no for an answer, and I don’t know what to do now.

You’re softening the message too much — which wouldn’t be a problem if you were dealing with a rational person who will accept the “no” and not continue to push. But she’s shown that’s not the case, so the next time she emails you, wait a week to respond and then reply with, “My schedule means I will be permanently off the project, but best of luck with it!” Also, don’t keep offering to get someone else up to speed on it — there’s too much chance that she’ll use that to rope you back in for more than you want. Just say no and stop your involvement completely.

If she keeps emailing after that, you really can just ignore it. I understand your worry about burning bridges with your old company, but she’s not your reference from that job — your direct manager there is. If you’re worried about that anyway, you can keep sending breezy “sorry, I can’t do it” messages until she finally gives up. But she’s being obnoxiously pushy, you no longer work for her, and it is Not Normal to keep pushing a non-employee to do work they’ve already turned down multiple times. You can just say no and let the final one stand; if you stop responding after that, she’ll get the point eventually.

4. How can I ethically bill by the hour when I’ve gotten much faster over time?

I’d like some advice about how to bill for my time as a freelancer now that I am much faster than I was when I started out. I have one primary and several additional regular clients: let’s say I do quality assurance for completed teapots. I charge an hourly rate that is quite high for my field, but I have specialized knowledge/degrees and have saved clients money by catching costly errors a number of times.

When I started out, I realized that I could QA about 5 teapots an hour, so I began billing by hours on paper, but by teapots in fact; if I got a batch of 10 teapots, I’d bill for 2 hours, and it almost always worked out correctly. I can’t actually bill by teapot because the range of time it takes to review each one varies a lot and can’t be predicted before I have it in my hands (and I learned QUICKLY that client labor estimates were pretty unreliable). I started telling clients my rates were “$X per hour, which generally equates to review of 5 teapots.”

Over the years, as I have gotten more experience and become familiar with clients’ processes and procedures, I’ve gotten quite a bit faster and more accurate—now I can review 10-15 teapots per hour, and do a better job. I increased my rates several years ago to account for this, but am still billing for the same number of hours/items.

My problem is this: is it unethical to bill clients for the time it USED to take to complete the tasks? Sometimes, projects have such compressed timelines that the only way I would be completing them at the billed rate would be if I never slept or ate (e.g., a 48-hour-billed project that’s needed with a 2-day turnaround, but which I actually complete in 18 hours).

To be clear, this is just an issue of my conscience: I’ve never received any negative feedback about billing. I don’t want to make less money by charging less than what the client anticipates paying based on their estimate of the teapot number, but it still feels shady to charge using hours when I’m in reality finishing much more quickly. I also suspect that if I changed my hourly rate to reflect my actual speed, the client would balk at the number even if the eventual total was the same. Is there a way to thread this needle, or should I just continue billing as usual?

Have you considered moving to a per-project fee rather than a per-hour fee? I’m not generally a fan of per-hour fees for freelance work for exactly this reason: as you get better and faster at what you do (which is a benefit to the client), a per-hour rate would have you losing money when in fact you should be better compensated as your expertise grows.

I know you said you can’t bill per teapot since there’s so much variation among them, but your current system essentially bills a flat rate per every five teapots — so could you change to stating it that way instead?

5. Is my new job about to take all my work away?

I have been working for the past eight months as a financial analyst. This is my first time working in a corporate environment, and the first position I’ve held in almost a decade. I left my old position in a different field despite moving up the ranks because the job was too toxic. Spent the eight years as a full-time parent and part-time student. I graduated just in time for my job hunt to be squashed by the pandemic. Getting back into the workforce has been so important to me and I was thrilled to be hired by one of my top choice companies.

I was hired by my group specifically for a set of analytics skills I acquired at school, which most others in my group don’t have. My boss is truly awesome. My grandboss is a bit high-strung but also a good person. They’re happy with my work and I like my coworkers. The problem is that after I started, both my boss and grandboss have told me separately things along the lines of “don’t mean to scare you, but Bob’s group is trying to take over XYZ tasks from our group.” XYZ are exactly what I was hired to do. The tasks that would remain are neither in my skillset, nor in my interest.

A few months later, grandboss had a mini-meltdown because some of her priorities were not being completed where she made it sound like our entire group was going to lose their jobs because other groups are encroaching on our roles. And a few weeks after that, my boss announced she’s leaving for a completely new role elsewhere in the org after over a decade in her current role.

Is this ship sinking? And if so, what sorts of conversations should I be having with my boss and grandboss about it ? During my job hunt I had applied for a few roles in Bob’s group but never got called back. Is that an option for me now? How do I approach that topic either with my boss or with Bob? Should I just update my resume and start looking again? I don’t want to be pushed out, but it seems odd to be looking again with less than a year of experience, especially after a career gap of 10 years.

Yes, talk to your boss (if she’s still there) and grandboss about it! They’re introduced the topic, after all; it’s perfectly reasonable to follow up on it (although it would also be reasonable even if they hadn’t). Say something like, “You’ve both mentioned a few times that Bob’s group is trying to take over XYZ. How likely is that to happen, and what would it mean for my role if it did?” In that conversation, you can also say, “Since I came on specifically to do XYZ, I’m obviously pretty concerned about this.” Whether or not to raise the idea of moving to Bob’s group if the work moves will depend on what you hear in this conversation and your sense of the internal politics between the two teams. But there’s no reason not to open the conversation; it’s a very normal thing for you to need to discuss.

{ 456 comments… read them below }

  1. I miss Sami*

    OP 1: I slightly disagree with Alison here. RSVP no with your well wishes and congratulations in a nice card. And skip the gift. This seems absolutely like a gift grab.

    1. PollyQ*

      Eh, it’s not that uncommon for parents of the bride & groom to ask people they’re close to, even if there’s not much of a relationship with the child. I do agree that there’s no need to send a gift when you’re not attending a wedding.

      1. Pam Adams*

        Even better, your boyfriend has the connection to the bride- have him respond, and send a gift or not.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        If nothing else, I think people are happier if they view it as “Aw, Young Muffin is passing a life milestone, and her parents are proud and telling everyone they know. I shall send a card.”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Second this. I’ve received what seemed to be gift-grabby invites from extended family. This does not seem to be one of them to me.

          1. Pandemic Wedding Planner*


            I’m getting married this summer. My parents are going crazy insisting that they need to invite everyone under the sun. This is unlikely a gift grab, as weddings are expensive. Ex: 100$ gift vs 200$ to feed a stranger? No deal! Cut them some slack, and stay at home!

            There are good chances that the couple to be wed have no desire to have you there there, but lost the invitation fight.

            Say no when you get an RSVP. No need for a gift or a card, the couple doesn’t know you guys. Then have a drink for the couple who probably have to deal with more awfulness that is pandemic wedding planning.

      3. anonymous73*

        No it’s not uncommon, but there’s no indication in the letter that boyfriend has a close relationship with his boss.

        1. anonymous73*

          Just realized I read that backwards. The boyfriend is the boss which makes it even weirder.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Back when a wedding was often completely paid for & hosted by the bride’s family, it was very common for the couples’ parents’ bosses to be invited, as the parents were the hosts. In fact, I remember my mother going to weddings of her coworkers’ kids even when she didn’t really know the kids.

            1. kathy*

              I remember going to a wedding of some friends where the groom confessed he didn’t even know about half of the guests. Bride’s family had paid for the wedding and bride’s father had invited a lot of business contacts. I don’t love the idea, but agree with Charlotte and other posters – this is just “done” in certain circles and is more of an invitation to share the family’s celebration.
              Having said all of that, I think you’re definitely free to not attend.

              1. alienor*

                This happened at my wedding. My in-laws were/are from another country where wedding etiquette dictates that you invite pretty much everyone, so out of 250 people in attendance I probably knew…50 of them? It felt a little awkward, but the ILs were paying for it, so I figured they could invite who they wanted. A lot of the guests had also made the 16-hour trip from the home country to be there, which is something I would not do for anyone but my own child, but again, their culture, their choice.

            2. anonymous73*

              I know this, but it’s 2021 and things have changed. People don’t stay with companies for 20 years like they did back in the day, so there may not be as close of a relationship between boss and employees. And with people getting married later in life, mom and dad aren’t always paying for everything. Doing something just because “it’s the way things have always been done” isn’t a good reason.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                A lot of people are still strongly tied to what the rules of etiquette were when they were growing up, and they see those rules as being permanent and forever rather than something that worked for that time period but isn’t necessary now. I don’t see any reason to lay out judgment for the wedding family in this scenario, because it doesn’t really matter why they sent OP’s boyfriend the invitation. He can just RSVP no and send them a nice card and be done with it.

                1. pancakes*

                  Surely this is regional. I live in a city of 8+ million people and wouldn’t say that a lot of them stick to the wedding etiquette they learned as children. Certainly some portion of them will, but either way, deciding how to respond to an invitation or what to think when receiving it is necessarily going to involve judgment of some kind. Whether attendance is truly expected, for example.

                2. Observer*

                  Yeah. The level of judgement here is weird.

                  This is done, STILL, in many circles. That doesn’t create any actual obligation on anyone, aside from responding if you actually get an invitation. So the huffiness really doesn’t make sense.

                3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  @pancakes, yes, OP’s boyfriend is going to make a judgment call about whether or not to attend the wedding/send a gift. But that’s not the judgment I’m talking about. I was specifically referring to the commenters who are passing judgment on the intentions of the people who sent the invitation, when that’s really not necessary for OP and their boyfriend to make their decision.

                4. doreen*

                  It’s not necessarily that people see the rules of etiquette as permanent and forever – some people are still in the situations anonymous73 mentioned. People may not stay at the same employer for 20 years as often as they used to , but both my husband and I have. Mom and Dad may not pay for everything as often as they used to – but more than one of my husband’s coworkers asked how much our daughter’s wedding was costing us. ( and expressed envy when he said “nothing”)

              2. Sandi*

                OP isn’t looking for the best reason, or whether or not to invite employees to his wedding. OP is looking for reasons why this could potentially happen, and tradition is a prevalent reason.

                Maybe OP and employee have worked together for 20 years, and they may have a close relationship. Maybe mom and dad are paying for everything for this wedding. Your negativity about this specific situation is a bit odd.

                Some people don’t want to get married because they think it’s a tool of the patriarchy, yet they attend weddings of their friends. The nice thing about current culture is that we have many more options that we used to have.

              3. Wisteria*

                If the employee in question were to write in and ask, “Should I invite my boss to my offspring’s wedding? In my circle, the parents of the couple invite people they know from the community, including people from work, but I don’t know how common that is anymore,” then, “doing something just because ‘it’s the way things have always been done’ isn’t a good reason,” would be a perfectly viable response. However, that response doesn’t really address the question of, “is it weird that my boyfriend received an invitation to his employee’s offspring’s wedding?” To you and to OP, I guess it is. But is it so hard to allow for the possibility that it is perfectly in keeping with social norms for the employee in question?

            3. PennylaneTX*

              Growing up, I went to at least half a dozen weddings of my dad’s coworker’s kids. My dad’s company was very tight-knit (“like a family”–we all know how well things turn out at those companies) and he had around 60 coworkers and ALL*. WOULD. BE. INVITED. PLUS SPOUSES AND CHILDREN. Now as an adult, I can only imagine the bride and groom were like “who are all these people?” All this to say, I don’t find this invitation odd, it’s more of an invitation from the mom/employee. RSVP no, send a card (I don’t think a gift would be out of bounds but don’t think it’s required. I like to find something on a registry that I like or get use of because it feels more personal).

              *I say “all”, perhaps it was only a certain level and up, but I know that at least 10-20 of my dad’s coworkers would be at these weddings with their families. This is how you end up attending 50+weddings by the time you’re in your 30s.

              1. PT*

                My parents had to invite tables full of my grandfather’s coworkers and her parents’ friends to her wedding, and then was Very Displeased when I put my foot down over doing the same at mine. (We paid for it ourselves and it was not very big, I was not having a party that was half random I didn’t know.) “But you’re supposed to invite your parents’ friends and coworkers!”

                The number of people who wanted to bring random strangers to my wedding was shocking, honestly. Like it was a casual backyard barbecue and not a formal event costing me half a day’s wages per head.

                1. Rainy*

                  My parents weren’t like this, but my husband’s were, and it was a nightmare during wedding planning. I paid for our wedding myself–I saved and saved for our <50 person wedding, and if my MIL had had her way it would have been more than twice the size and my husband and I would have known basically zero of them.

                  At one point, my MIL called my husband and *wailed* down the phone at him because he didn't want to invite every random friend of hers that she met a decade after he moved out of their house.

                2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Yeah, if the parents want to invite people you don’t even know, they should be paying. If you’re paying for your own wedding, they don’t get to add dozens of names to your guest list.

            4. Drama Llama's Mama*

              Yep. My mom’s then-boss was invited to and came to my wedding. She’d worked for him for about 8 years, we’d met, he’d invited her to personal holiday parties and whatnot. They weren’t close friends, but professionally friendly. It’s not totally weird.

            5. JMR*

              Yes, that’s how I read it as well. Who knows what the couples’ true intentions were, but my parents fully expected to be inviting several dozen friends and colleagues to my wedding, most of whom I had no relationship with myself. They viewed it as their milestone to celebrate as much as mine, and they wanted to celebrate it with their friends as much as I wanted to celebrate it with my friends. That’s how it Was Done. We had to negotiate hard to get the wedding down to a manageable number of guests, and I don’t think my grandmother has ever forgiven me for refusing to allow her to invite her entire bridge club. I think this may just be a case of different families having different philosophies towards weddings rather than a gift grab. But there’s still no reason for OP and her partner to attend if they don’t want to.

            6. tamarack & fireweed*

              That’s the aspect that also stood out to me. The father of the bride sees himself as a / one of the host/s and thinks that politeness requires to invite his boss.

              The boss (LW’s bf) should send a card and decline the invite. Maybe a token gift if he feels like it or thinks that his employee would appreciate it.

          2. awesome3*

            I also had it backward, but I think the boyfriend being the boss makes it less weird. At the very worst it’s their attempt to get a stand mixer (presuming boss makes more than dad), but it could also be anything from the dad wanting to share the good news with his boss, or an etiquette thing, or an inter-family dispute (well if the groom’s/other bride’s parents get to bring their landlord and his cousin, I’m bringing my boss and his girlfriend!)

          3. fhqwhgads*

            I don’t think it’s super weird. Admittedly not exactly the same thing, but for my bat mitzvah there were a whole bunch of Parents’ Work People on the list. It was presented to me as The Done Thing – that basically we’d look super rude if we didn’t invite those people. It wasn’t intended as a gift grab. It was assumed by the adults planning the event that these other adults would feel snubbed without an invite. I don’t actually know if they would’ve felt snubbed, but it was taken as a very serious thing. There was even some discussion of certain important business contacts of the grandparents needing an invite. Coming from that background experience, without any other info, I’d take the boyfriend’s invite to have originated from a similar custom. They felt they needed to invite the boss.

      4. Lacey*

        Yeah, but that’s someone close the the parents. My mom insisted on inviting her two BFFs even though I’d only met them twice. But they were there for her. But that’s different than someone you work with.

        1. BJP*

          I invited my Mom’s BFF to my wedding. She flew across the country to attend. I’d maybe met her 2-3 times in my life? But they go on vacations together now that my Dad has passed and I thought Mom would appreciate having her there. The friend really tore it up on the dance floor!

      5. pancakes*

        We don’t know that they are close. The letter just says this is an employee’s daughter.

      6. MsClaw*

        Yeah, I feel like part of this is a disconnect between generation/regional/socioeconomic views on weddings.

        If your expectation is that a wedding is about the couple and is ‘their day’ then inviting the mother-of-the-bride’s boss seems weird. If your expectation is that a wedding is a family and/or community event likely hosted by the parents of the bride and/or groom then it might be odd *not* to invite your boss to your child’s wedding.

        So I would advise not reading too much in to it. Go or don’t go, as you are inclined. Buy them a toaster or don’t; it’s up to you. Or really, up to the boyfriend as he’s the one who’s got a relationship with the employee.

        1. Anon always*

          This is spot on. My dad wanted to invite his boss to my wedding, so they were invited. They RSVP’d no and sent a nice note, and that was that. OP, don’t read much at all into the invite.

      7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I’ve been to several weddings when my partner’s employees have got married. We also went to the birthday party of one of my partner’s employees’ children last summer. I go along as his +1 but I really find it strange. Then again I think it’s a sign of a great relationship between employer and employee. Of all the bosses I have had, there’s only one that I would ever have invited to something like a wedding.
        There was one boss who invited us to her kids’ christening, they had all three christened at the same time. That was early on, before they got totally pissed off with the fact that I refused to do overtime for nothing.

        1. Jackalope*

          That’s… pretty judgmental towards the couple in the letter. Many people have expressed why the OP and BF may have been invited. There are so many reasons relating to tradition, culture, notions of hospitality, etc. that the OP & BF could have received this invite. That being said, if some of the parents’ coworkers did decide to bring a gift, why should the couple be embarrassed? It would be rude for the couple to stamp their feet and throw a tantrum at someone who did NOT bring a gift, but why should they feel awkward at someone who comes also choosing the bring a present? It’s a normal and polite thing to do, even if not bringing a present for someone they barely know would also be polite.

        2. tamarack & fireweed*

          Nah. If someone who can afford it, and who was only invited for society’s convention’s sake, picks out a cookbook from the gift registry or sends a fruit basket, that’s no reason to feel embarrassed. Even if the boss feels like playing Lord Bountiful and picks out something of moderate value, just appreciate it.

          (When my wife and I got married – same-sex marriage not long after it became federally recognized in the US – we were completely ignoring wedding conventions. We had asked two local friends to be witnesses, and then my MIL wanted to come, that was supposed to be it! We were very surprised that about a dozen semi-local friends wanted to come, too, so we solved THAT by making a reservation in a tapas restaurant that would accommodate everyone’s food preferences and took everyone to dinner there. Then a wedding gift arrived in via Fed-Ex from my wife’s 90 year old nth cousin m-times removed (someone I had never heard off and my wife hadn’t seen in 50+ years). A bread machine! We were charmed, sent the nicest thank-you note we could muster. And still use the thing even though said cousin has now passed away.)

    2. Llama face!*

      I’m not going to say it’s necessarily intended as a gift grab but sending a gift is really not necessary in any etiquette rules I’m familiar with when you have no direct relationship with the couple. Maaaybe if it was the actual employee who was getting married, but even then I wouldn’t consider it an expectation but a particularly generous gesture.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I read a column by a “wedding etiquette expert” who said that any time someone invites you to their wedding, you MUST send a gift. I wish I’d seen that before I got married, because she definitely would have received an invite.

        1. doreen*

          I saw that one too – and I can only imagine that she thought it went without saying that what she meant was that you should give your niece/a close friend a gift even if you can’t make the wedding ( which is what the rest of the “experts” say) and didn’t contemplate how far out some people send the invitations.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I don’t remember that context, so there’s probably more than one person giving the same advice!

            1. doreen*

              Sorry, I wasn’t clear – that one “expert” didn’t give that context while all the others do.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      Not necessarily a gift grab, but the LW is under no obligation to buy a wedding gift for someone they’ve never met. Just send back the RSVP in a timely fashion, and you’ve good.

    4. Jackalope*

      I know this is often thought to be the case, but I’m going to push back. Often (especially if you’re getting married when young) your parents have a lot of control over how a wedding goes, including the invite list. Some couples may be going for a gift grab, but that’s never been something I’ve seen when talking to the people I know. Just send a negative RSVP and if you’d like, a congratulatory card, and that’s fine. I doubt they’ll notice.

      1. Ezri Dax*

        Seconding this. Hard. My father, who I love dearly, went a bit bonkers when I got married. He invited his WHOLE COMPANY without even telling me. We had a big venue and were nowhere near capacity, so I didn’t notice until it was really too late to nix it. I’d met two of his employees, maybe, and I was mortified. It most definitely wasn’t a gift grab, just an overenthusiastic parent.

        1. Mockingjay*

          My mother tried to invite my brother’s ex-girlfriend and her new husband to my wedding, because she didn’t like my brother’s wife. I quite firmly refused.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Woah. My mom definitely drove me nuts a few times during wedding planning, but uh, yeah she didn’t try that one.

        2. Picard*

          Ezri Dax, glad mine wasnt the only one who did this! lol I was the first in my family generation to get married and my dad woke up like 2 months before the wedding and doubled the guest list to include all his business cronies (hey, his party whatever) I thought it was funny and never in a million years did I think about gifts (and Im horrified now to think that people might have thought it was a gift grab!!)

          1. Picard*

            and for the record, MOST of them DID come (even from overseas) and most of them DID give us very generous gifts so… shrug…

          2. Student*

            Sometimes it’s still a gift grab… by the parents on behalf of their children. That is absolutely the kind of thing my mother would do, and a big part of the reason she was not allowed anywhere near my wedding plans.

              1. Emotional Support Care’n*

                Oh, so you’ve met my mother and grandmother! Because that is exactly how they are/were about weddings, baby showers, and any other event where gifts could be exchanged.

        3. Quiet Liberal*

          This happened at my old company! The owner invited all 200+ of his employees to his daughter’s wedding. The ski resort venue was a half-day’s drive from the closest office, so people would likely have to get a room, on their own dime, to attend. The bride grew up in her mother’s house states away, so no one really knew her. Not many employees attended and owner let everyone know he was hurt for a long time afterwards.

          1. learnedthehardway*

            Flipping this on its head – the employee may have invited their manager to the kid’s wedding because they’re worried that it would be rude / awkward to NOT do so.

        4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Ezri Dax,
          Glad to know that I wasn’t the only person that happened to – only it was my mom inviting all my dad’s coworkers. Fortunately Dad and I caught it in time to kibosh some of the invites (we kept some of them who were people my parents had outside of work relationships with). In the end it all worked out – and everybody had a lot of fun.

        5. alienor*

          Does it even work out to invite someone to a wedding as a gift grab? I guess it would if they just sent a gift/money and didn’t attend, but if they RSVP yes, then the hypothetical mercenary couple will have to pay for an extra chair, another meal, etc, which isn’t cheap. Seems like they might as well just keep that money and buy a toaster instead of paying to get someone else to buy it for them.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I think the idea is that you invite people who won’t come. That’s why invitations to people who live far away are often considered gift grabs.

            1. BubbleTea*

              I invited people to my wedding knowing they wouldn’t come (too elderly, unwell, pregnant, far away, or combination of the above). But we didn’t have a registry and most people took us at our word when we said we didn’t need gifts.

            2. Jaybee*

              I’m pretty sure not inviting someone just because they live far away would be considered extremely rude in most families.

          2. Worldwalker*

            When you invite someone from another state who you’ve met once/never and have no relationship with, you don’t expect them to actually come — just send a gift.

            1. Jackalope*

              I’ve never heard that before. I could have had to decide to invite distant family (my dad’s cousins that he grew up with that I barely knew) because of my dad wanting them there, but the only thing I would have expected was that they send back the RSVP so we’d know if they were coming or not.

              But I was looking for this comment to respond to and I found some of your other comments. You appear pretty devoted to the idea that the only possible reason to invite someone you don’t know to your wedding is for “a gift grab”. I’d encourage you to think about it differently. Most people have other motivations for this (frequently, as has been mentioned many times in this thread, the motivation is because the parents of the couple want their people to come), and judging people harshly for a wedding invite is a pretty unkind take. Go to the wedding or don’t, bring s gift or don’t, but don’t ascribe greedy motivations to someone when all you know is that they sent out a wedding invitation.

        6. Emotional Support Care’n*

          For my 3rd marriage, my (now ex) MIL decided she didn’t like what we planned, nor our guest list and “surprised” us by booking a chalet and inviting her entire side of the family. Same day as our already planned wedding. Over 50 cousins alone, not including spouses, kids, aunts/uncles, etc. NONE had been invited because my ex hadn’t actually spoken to any of them in a decade, and the ones I did know I knew in a professional capacity and couldn’t associate with in a personal one. It was the first time my ex had stood up to his mother (yeah, red flag but he IS an ex for multiple reasons, and she is tied for first) and told her to enjoy her party, he’d miss her at our wedding. When she whined about having to uninvite everyone he told her that was a her problem since she invited everyone all by herself.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Agree. I’ve never been a bride, but I can see my father pulling the most random eighth cousins, colleagues from 25 years ago, and people he once sat next to on a plane out of his hat. “You remember Electra and Forrest, you met them when you were six! I told them about the wedding and they can’t wait to come!” People also sometimes interpret polite interest from others as desire for an invitation, or assume that they have to invite their boss to big events.

        It’s more than fine for BF to RSVP no and send a nice card.

        Semi-related: I was reading about how some couple that met through the Bachelor TV show franchise got married, and some other former Bachelor/ette contestant hinted to the groom that she was expecting an invitation. The groom was like, “Sure! Of course!” … and then a few weeks later the bride was like, “…um, but I’ve only met her once!” Awkward! Moral: until the guest list is set, the response to all invitation inquiries needs to be, “Well, we’re still working out the details.”

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I agree this seems to me to be a break from how it used to be and how it is now. My parents still mention attending weddings for kids of what I would describe as passing acquaintances. They barely know the bride or groom and aren’t that close to the parents, but the invite clearly came from the parents. It’s very possible the employee insisted that he must invite his boss to his kid’s wedding.

        Also either where I’m from or the socioeconomic class I’m from, weddings were a church wedding and a reception in a hall with a buffet style food. There were no seating charts (a staple of the wedding planning movie genre) and no sit down meals paid for by the plate. So you had to know generally how much food to have on the buffet but you didn’t need an exact count for the caterer to ensure everyone was served.

        After college I attended a wedding, went to the reception for a while, and tried say my goodbyes and was convinced not to because the meal hadn’t been served yet. I had no idea that a plated meal was coming.

        1. Not your typical admin*

          This! I also think it has to do with smaller town versus larger city culture. My wedding was exactly like you described. In a church with a light buffet reception. My parent’s coworkers came, and it wasn’t odd at all for them to go to the weddings of their coworkers children. In fact it would have been considered rude to not invite them.

      4. Environmental Compliance*

        I have absolutely known people who have flat out said that they’re inviting people for their gifting. But it’s way, way, WAY more likely that Parents are paying for a good chunk of the wedding and inviting everyone and the kitchen sink to the wedding because they are very excited.

        Either way….. just send a negative RSVP if you don’t want to go and a nice congrats card. Whether or not it’s a Gift Grab or Overexcited Parents is a little moot.

      5. Generic Name*

        Yup. I got married when I was 21 (don’t do what I did, kids. It’s way too young!), and my mom planned the whole wedding and basically set the whole guest list. She invited people she wanted to celebrate with. I did know everyone there, but there were some I probably wouldn’t have invited if I were solely in charge. If the bride and groom are on the younger side, then parents likely had a large influence over the guest list. (And my mom’s boss was at the wedding…..)

      6. Zoey*

        This is absolutely how it reads to me: I’d bet money the parents are paying and have added a whole bunch of randos to the guest list the couple doesn’t know and doesn’t care about. FWIW, my parents once went to the wedding of the daughter of a business colleague they had met once when she was 8 (and I feel confident it wasn’t a gift grab since it was a VERY expensive wedding).

      7. ThatGirl*

        Mostly my wedding went exactly the way my husband and I wanted it to, but if there’s one thing we could have done a little different, it’s talk to our parents about guest list additions ahead of time. My mom invited my dad’s cousin to a shower without me realizing it — we had not invited her/her husband to the wedding; it just didn’t cross my mind because weren’t close, and it made things very awkward. And my MIL insisted we should invite one of my husband’s cousins even though I’d never met the guy and my husband actively disliked him.

        But we also had a small wedding we were paying for ourselves. A friend of mine had a huge wedding her parents paid for and they definitely invited a lot of friends of both her and her husband’s parents.

      8. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Hard agree here. My parents paid for my wedding, and coworkers from both my parents’ jobs were invited — it wasn’t a big deal for my dad’s coworkers, as these were people who had known me since I was a child and I had even interned in their office. I had never met my mom’s coworkers, though, and I really pushed back on her about inviting them. Ultimately she was paying for the wedding, so she paid for the caterer to add another table.

        If you don’t want to go, RSVP “no.” A card and/or gift is kind and generous, but never required (even if you RSVP “yes”!).

    5. CatCat*

      I agree that a RSVPing no and sending a nice card is sufficient, but wouldn’t leap to a “gift grab” conclusion.

      As I learned when planning my own wedding, expectations about who should be invited really vary.

      1. Sue*

        I don’t really understand the issue of giving a gift here. His employee invited them to their child’s wedding. He is their boss, they wanted him included either as a goodwill gesture or to avoid hurt feelings. Either way, it feels cheap to me to avoid giving a gift under these circumstances. The bride and and groom probably won’t notice/care but you can be sure the employee/parent will and it will seem ungracious to skip a gift. As the boss, he can presumably afford to give something and the goodwill it will generate with the employee is well worth it, in my opinion.

        1. PollyQ*

          I strongly disagree. My way of thinking is that you simply do not owe someone a gift just because they invited you to something. If the employee has that expectation, now’s an excellent time to unlearn it. And a boss shouldn’t have to pay money out of his own pocket to keep an employee’s morale up.

          1. Corporate Lawyer*

            I believe it’s Miss Manners who says, “An invitation is not an invoice.” No gift is necessary here.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              That’s one of my favorite Miss Manners quotes and I use it surprisingly often.

            2. tamarack & fireweed*

              I agree with that. However, the other way around, considering how *I* would want to feel about my relationship to team members that report to me… if I was invited to one of my report’s child’s wedding, I would send a small gift. At least if it is convenient for me to do (click-click on a registry/Amazon wish list or similar.) To signal to my report that I understand that this is a momentous event in their life.

              This doesn’t engage anyone else! It doesn’t create an obligation. I wouldn’t judge anyone who just sends a card, or declines the invite – that’s fine.

        2. MK*

          I don’t think it’s fair to presume the boyfriend can easily afford a gift, just because he is the boss. And skipping a gift for a person you don’t know isn’t ungracious.

          For me, it would depend on how well I know the parent. If I have been working with someone for 10 years, I would think it natural to be invited to their child’s wedding, I would absolutely sent a gift, and maybe even go to the ceremony*. If it’s a new coworker, I would send congratulations and maybe an inexpensive gift, but I don’t think a gift would be necessary for what is at best a polite gesture and at worst a gift grab.

          *I assume the custom of inviting parents’ coworkers to weddings is a relic from a time when people stayed at the same company all their careers and had developed longstanding social relationships with bosses and colleagues.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I think it belongs to the “inviting the boss to dinner” times. I *guess* some people still do it, but I never have in over 3 decades of work.

          2. Zelda*

            “I assume the custom of inviting parents’ coworkers to weddings is a relic from a time when people stayed at the same company all their careers and had developed longstanding social relationships with bosses and colleagues.”

            In a way, it’s the other way around– the idea that a wedding is Our Day, All About Just the Two of Us, is largely a Western idea of less than a century. For lots of time & space, weddings have been primarily about the parents, the family alliances, and community ties all around. Heck, there are places in the world where there isn’t a custom of religious authorities officiating a wedding; how you know that person A is married to person B is because there was a frickin’ huge party with everyone their families or towns has ever known invited.

            The tension comes in when parents assume it is their party that they are throwing for their friends, while the bride & groom assume that it is *their* party for *their* friends, or various other combinations of conflicting assumptions. a) Best to assume good faith wherever you can, b) a gift is never required except when attending (not declining) a shower, which is explicitly a gift-giving event.

        3. Bagpuss*

          I strongly disagree.

          It’s not remotely ungracious to not give aa gift in these circumstances – OP’s partner doesn’t know the couple, and there isn’t any obligation to give a gift – it might be a gracious thing to do if he did know the person getting married but wasn’t able to go to the wedding, but it would be gracious because it was going over ad above what would be expected.

          I can’t think it’s very likely that the parent would know or care whether a gift was given, but if they did notice it would be wildly unprofessional of them to allow it to affect their working relationship with OPs partner.

          I have to be honest, it wouldn’t cross my mind to give, or expect anyone to give, a gift under these circumstances

        4. I should really pick a name*

          Why does it feel cheap to not give a gift to someone that you barely know?
          Being able to afford it does not create an obligation.

        5. Falling Diphthong*

          See, this is why some people view it as a gift grab. If OP’s spouse has not given gifts to all previous children of employees who marry, one of them sending a save the date does not obligate him here.

          The same goes for those who receive wedding invites from cousins they met once a decade ago, and a parent they shared an airplane ride with 6 months ago. They’re not bills, and shouldn’t be treated as such. (The people who intend them as bills deserve to have that squashed. The people who intend them as announcements of great parental excitement and joy don’t deserve to have people growling about gift grabs.)

          1. Bagpuss*

            Good point – and if he didn’t give gifts to previous employees kids then doe he want to set a precedent, or alternatively set up a situation where it looks like played favourites, now?

            1. OP1*

              This is the first time we’ve been invited, I was also wondering if it sets expectations going forward to send gifts to any employee’s child who is getting married?

              1. Ann Perkins*

                I doubt it, since the couple getting married is highly unlikely to even know the children of other employees, nor would they compare notes about it. I don’t think you’re obligated to give a gift in this scenario and it’s fine whether you do or don’t.

              2. Cheshire Cat*

                If the boss has multiple employees with adult offspring, and is invited to many of those weddings, the employees may very well compare notes, though.

        6. anonymous73*

          Nope. If I’m not attending the wedding of someone I barely know, I’m not sending a gift. It’s not ungracious. And unless the BF and employee are close, the invitation is weird.

        7. Observer*

          but you can be sure the employee/parent will and it will seem ungracious to skip a gift. As the boss, he can presumably afford to give something

          Two highly unfounded assumptions. We have no idea what the OP’s BF does, but you can be someone’s boss making barely enough to make ends meet. Also, you have no idea what obligations the “boss” has. So, that presumption is totally unrealistic.

          As for the parent noticing and being offended, all I can say is “Seriously?!” Not getting a card or acknowledgement would be hurtful. But no gift? That makes no sense. If the invitation was actually a good will gesture, rather than a gift grab, why would a reasonable person get bent out of shape?

        8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’m cheap and proud of it. In my book it is perfectly okay to not give a gift to people I don’t know, whose wedding I am not going to. If that makes them call me cheap, I’ll wear that like a badge of honor.

          During the year when I got divorced, moved out of my ex’s house, and unexpectedly had to buy my own, I received several invitations from extended family. First a baby shower invite. I sent my regrets and a gift. Then a baby christening invite from the same person. I sent my regrets, but no gift. Then the baby’s first birthday party. Yes there was a registry link. I did not respond at all. I was supporting two children of my own and money was tight. Guess what happened next, I stopped getting invites from these people. A massive win in my book. They were distant relatives that I wasn’t close with, but, back when I was married, my then-husband and I would attend their events and my husband, ever the generous soul, would bring them literal handfuls of cash in an envelope as a gift. Which I suppose led them to assume that, as a divorced mother of two, I would continue to throw gobs of cash at them – but I couldn’t.

          As the boss, he can presumably afford to give something

          Why are we making assumptions about this person’s assets and disposable income? Just because he has someone working under him, does not make him Elon Musk all of a sudden.

    6. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree. And there’s no need to include any reason for not attending. And it should definitely be the boyfriend, who has an employer-employee relationship with the bride’s parent, who sends the RSVP, rather than the LW. I hate to be heteronormative, but I suspect that the LW is a woman, and it’s way past time for women to ask/let their menfolk handle the social communications with their side of the family and their own connections.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I actually give some points for determining the names and addresses of the people you intend to invite, and using those.

        (Those people are of course allowed to say no.)

      2. anonymous73*

        WOW, you’re making a lot of unnecessary assumptions here. Most wedding RSVPs already come with a self addressed envelope, and all you have to do is check a box and mail it. Yes, the BF needs to make the decision with OP’s input, and handle any questions that come his way from the employee, but if OP checks the box and puts it in the mailbox, she’s not handling something for the menfolk that he should do himself.

        1. Wisteria*

          “if OP checks the box and puts it in the mailbox, she’s not handling something for the menfolk that he should do himself.”

          Yes, she (hypothetical) literally is.

    7. Cambridge Comma*

      OP needs to apply, or find out if she doesn’t know, what the culture in her area around this is. Where I am, you don’t send a gift if you don’t go unless you are very close but other countries and regions have different norms.

      1. Jasmine Tea*

        This could be a cultural thing. I went to a wedding of good friends in Taiwan where they were twelve tables of guests, 10 per table. Two tables were the friends of the bride and groom. 10 tables were friends of the parents. Just rsvp no, and “Best Wishes”

        1. Kit*

          Definitely cultural elements here – my husband’s uncle invited his (Chinese and Taiwanese) business partners to both his kids’ weddings, and they showed up en masse both times! They were more fun than some of the blood relations, too…

          So yeah, OP, it might be a cultural disconnect, but a polite congratulations and RSVP no is almost certainly sufficient even so.

    8. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Fair enough. I’ll add an “if he wants” caveat to the gift part. I think it’s a nice gesture to make considering his employee’s presumably responsible for inviting him, but it’s certainly not necessary.

      1. MissM*

        I’d also suggest that he indicate that they will not be attending prior to invitations being sent as they’re rather pricey and/or labor intensive (as someone who has helped tie tiny bows with tweezers for 250 people before)

          1. Cmdrshpard*

            While that is true, if the boss/bf knows they won’t be going for sure, if they respond no right away it can allow the couple/parents to invite someone from the B list in the initial round of invites.

            1. Julia*

              OTOH, it’s just kind of awkward to track down someone you’ve got only a tenuous connection to in order to let them know you won’t be attending their wedding. I mean, what do you do, call? Email? It’s much easier to use the system they’ve set up to convey that info once the invitation arrives – just check the No box and drop it in the post.

        1. Metadata minion*

          I am not responsible for someone else deciding they need expensive or hand-tied invitations. Responding promptly is always polite, but it is entirely possible to not have everything at your wedding be absurdly elaborate.

        2. Observer*

          I’d also suggest that he indicate that they will not be attending prior to invitations being sent as they’re rather pricey and/or labor intensive (as someone who has helped tie tiny bows with tweezers for 250 people before)

          Nope. It’s not on the recipient of a save the date notice to worry about how much work the invitation is going to take. Especially since tying tiny bows with tweezers is not a typical task for most invitations. STANDARD invitations (assuming that it hasn’t gone digital) are a card of some sort in an envelope. Now there is a LOT of variation here, but even the fancier ones aren’t a lot more work. Making sure that the family has one less envelope to address and stuff is really not that big of a deal. Especially, since a “save he date” is not an invitation and you would be surprised how many people get uptight when people respond to the save the date just as they would respond to an actual invitation.

          1. LJ*

            Are there situations where you’d expect to send save the dates to people who then don’t get an actual invite? Or do you just mean the ritual of receiving an official invitation first before declining

            1. Observer*

              We don’t do “save the date” emails. But I’ve heard more than one story of someone getting a “save the date” and then no getting an invitation – and not because the invitation got lost in the mail.

            2. Zelda*

              Sending a STD and then no invitation would be a major misstep. Some people have probably had to do it this year because suddenly their weddings were a tenth the size they thought, but absent a global catastrophe, you don’t rub people’s noses in not getting invited. STD are supposed to be for the few close friends & family who you’d be really bummed to have miss it because they couldn’t get the time off work; it’s to give them plenty of notice so they can get affordable airfare/vacation/dogsitters/whatever because you really really want them to attend.

              1. Observer*

                STD are supposed to be for the few close friends & family who you’d be really bummed to have miss it because they couldn’t get the time off work; it’s to give them plenty of notice so they can get affordable airfare/vacation/dogsitters/whatever because you really really want them to attend.

                Well, it’s kind of hard to say that this is how the LW’s STD is being used. Because I can’t imagine that the employee is THAT invested in BF being at the wedding. And it’s also reasonable for the employee to assume that Boss can get the time.

                You are right that this is how STD *should* be used. But, if you are sending STD’s to everyone on your invitation list, that doesn’t really fly unless you are have a truly small wedding.

              2. New Jack Karyn*

                Okay, I know the term of art is now STI (for sexually transmitted infection), but I am an old, and had a double-take when I saw STD in this context.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          If anyone in my life picked super fussy invites like that and expected me to do anything involving tweezers to prep them, they’re insane. There are so many options for invites now that, if a couple chooses an expensive or labor-intensive format, that’s on them, not a guest for not declining a save the date, in this case, of someone they have met once. (Thermography has been around for decades and creates a nice raised lettering without the expense of engraving.) Expecting guests to assume the cost – time or money – of what a couple chooses for their wedding is a pet peeve of mine.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yeah I agree, that sounds like Bridezilla level of entitlement to expect people to help out with that kind of task.

        4. Rusty Shackelford*

          Telling someone you won’t be attending an event that you haven’t actually been invited to yet is kind of pushy.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I wouldn’t say it’s pushy in any way, just very forward-looking.
            STD emails are just a way of making sure people keep that date clear on their schedule so people don’t go “oh but we’ll be in Corsica” when they get the invite. Less pressure on those sending the invites out early.
            From what I have seen, it’s a practice that’s bled over from conferences, where obviously they want people to cough up the money to attend. You can often get special early-bird rates if you respond to the STD.

    9. londonedit*

      Where I come from you usually only give/bring a gift if you actually attend the wedding (unless it’s a situation like it’s your godson’s wedding and you can’t go because of some extremely important prior engagement/illness/whatever). There’s no way people would expect a gift from those who had RSVPd no, unless as I say they were close family members who would have attended if they could. They certainly wouldn’t expect their mother’s boss to send a gift! It’s also quite uncommon in my experience for people to invite anyone from work to their wedding – usually it’s family and friends only. In the UK you’ll likely have guests for the whole day (ceremony, drinks, wedding meal, evening do) and then a second tier of guests who join for the evening do only, and I’ve been included in the latter group by a couple of people I’ve worked with who I’ve also become friends with outside of work, but I’d never expect to be invited to a colleague’s wedding.

      1. MK*

        I doubt it can be said that it’s not uncommon to invite people from work to your wedding, unless it’s a very small wedding or you are very new at your job or have very formal relationships with your coworkers. I agree it isn’t an expectation, nor should it be.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I’ve been invited to a coworkers wedding – I think it’s something which is quite variable. I’m like you in tat I wouldn’t expect to be invited and wouldn’t want to invite coworkers to my (hypothetical and unlikely) wedding, but I don’t think it is hugely uncommon.

        The coworker who invited me wasn’t someone I saw as a friend, but we were in a fairly small office and she invited all of us.

        I think the pattern of having a larger gathering is also very variable – thinking of the last few weddings I’ve been to I’d say they were about equally split between ‘everyone is invited to everything’ and ‘ more people are invited to the evening party’ – I think it varies a lot depending on the size of the wedding, the venue, and the budget (most recent wedding was larger for the reception but this was solely and explicitly because the registry office had a tight limit for Covid related reasons – and the invitations came with a caveat that if the limits changed then there might be a ‘we love you but you can’t now attend the ceremony’ moment! )

        I’d agree that it’s not generally expected that you send a gift if you are not attending the wedding, unless perhaps you are very close to one or both of the couple, but can’t go.

        1. Long Time Reader*

          We got married on the young side, and my FIL FELT very strongly about inviting his bosses. They were close, but we’d never met them. Luckily my moms boss was a nightmare so we used that as why we couldn’t invite the other boss (along with the “our wedding should be people we actually know”). We both invited our own bosses and some coworkers though!

          1. Bagpuss*

            With the one I was invited to I suspect it was a case that she’d been telling us all about the wedding planning(in WAY more detail than *anyone& needed to know) for months , and there were only about 6 of us in the branch office so she probably felt she ought to invite us. Mind you, we stopped working for the same company in 1999 and she continued to send me Christmas cards for years after that, even though I never reciprocated because she never included her address and I didn’t know where she lived or worked. (I think she must have got my first change of address from a mutual friend, as I certainly didn’t give it to her!)
            For all I know she’s still sending cards to the house I sold 8 years ago… So clearly her views about who you invite to stuff and how/who you keep in touch with were significantly different to mine!

    10. VivaLasVegas*

      Two decades ago, I had a very small (~30 people including wedding party) wedding. In Vegas. My dad insisted on two invites for ‘business contacts.’ Whatever, sure, work it out with the boss (my mom).
      I never met his bosses (they skipped the ceremony) but the video does show them coming into the reception and delivering basically all of the pots and pans on my registry. Their luck was apparently running hot and they felt guilty for choosing the tables over the ceremony. They hit it big.
      Everyone in my family gave a check or sent gifts directly to the house, so the huge pile of All-Clad was pretty funny.
      I wrote a nice thank you note. Never met them, but it sounds like they had a nice time. I did.

      1. Threeve*

        I love that you were (inadvertently) gambling as well–bet two invites on randos, maybe you’ll win big (in kitchenware).

    11. Richard Hershberger*

      This is a holdover from the days when a wedding was a financial and/or political transaction between the parents. The father of the bride invited whom he saw fit, and why not? It was his party. Inviting business connections was totally routine. Whether or not his daughter knew them was simply beside the point. We still see a lot of questions about this to advice columns, but typically from the bride’s perspective, trying to avoid random guests she doesn’t know and/or get in the people she actually cares about. The mere fact that today’s question is asked is a good sign, that the Bad Old Days are sufficient faded from memory that this vestige seems weird.

      1. PostalMixup*

        Yep, when I got married a decade ago my mothers informed me that, traditionally, a third of the guest list went to the bride’s parents, a third to the groom’s parents, and a third to the couple. I thought that was absurd, but I guess that’s just generational differences for ya.

        1. Joielle*

          I’ve heard that too but my question is – who has to use their share on the family members being invited out of obligation? Lol

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            When we got married, there were nearly 100 grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins/cousin’s children on my husband’s side – one of his parents has 12 siblings. And his mother wanted to invite tons of their friends and neighbors as well. We paid for the wedding ourselves, and our venue maxed out at 120, and we had to explain that we actually wanted to invite some of our own friends as well as my (much smaller) family.

      2. IndustriousLabRat*

        What a great reminder of the historical background that puts this all into perspective! I suppose we should expect no less ;)

      3. Also a Lawyer*

        This. Remember the Mad Men episode where they were all invited to Roger’s daughter’s wedding? It was as much a Sterling Cooper social event as it was for the couple.

      4. Charlotte Lucas*

        Actually, the mother of the bride was in charge of planning & invitations. But she invited the business contacts, because she would also know them socially. Household/domestic/social stuff like that was considered the woman’s sphere.

      5. Jackalope*

        Yeah, I got married at 40 and we paid for most of the wedding (although my dad* graciously paid for the location and food which was the largest single expense [the location had catering included and it was a package deal]). I was already planning to invite most of the people my dad would have wanted me to anyway, but I did ask him if there was anyone not on the list that he insisted I invite and let him add a few people. I didn’t know them that well but it was important to him and made him happy, so it was worth it to me. I don’t even remember if they gave us a gift or not.

        *My mom was deceased already that’s why it was just my dad.

      6. Julia*

        My parents did this for my sister’s wedding, and I kinda disagree with the connotation of your comment that this is such a terrible thing to do. My parents are South Asian and in our culture the parents take a much more active role in dating and marriage than they do in the west. (I have mixed feelings about THAT part of it, but don’t get me started.) We also have a very close family bond and our parents are there to help us in all sorts of life situations. I happen to think that kind of family intimacy, which westerners frown on because you’re not being “independent” enough, is a great way to live. Independence is overrated. We all have one life and we may as well widen the circle of people we can depend on. If your parents want to invite their own circle and make it about them as well as about you, I say let them. They raised you and it’s a blissful day for them as well. (Of course my own parents are lovely people and I am happy to extend them this courtesy. If your parents are jerks or abusive it’s a different story.)

        1. Crackerjack*

          Amen. I’m not from the same culture, just a working class western culture and a very close family. Independence is overrated when instead you can have interdependence.

      7. California Dreamin’*

        When I got married (early 90s) my parents paid for the whole wedding with what I’d call a medium-large invite list. We had about 150 at the wedding, and probably four tables of 10 were friends/coworkers of my parents, some of whom I’d known all my life, some I knew of as close contacts of mom or dad but didn’t know myself. This seems normal to me… as a now middle-aged adult, I can totally imagine going to the wedding of a child of a friend of mine even if I don’t know the bride/groom well.
        We also did the thing that was fashionable at pre-smartphone weddings where you put a disposable camera at each table and the guests all take pictures of each other throughout the reception. I have a little photo album of all those pictures, so I actually have a photographic record of everyone who was there, including the parents’ friends I don’t recognize. (And as life goes, also many friends of ours at the time that we’re no longer in touch with… oh, wow, was Brad from college at our wedding??)

    12. OP1*

      Thanks for answering my question Alison! I should add that my dream wedding includes eloping and minimal guests so the concept of inviting people you don’t know seems very odd to me, especially with how expensive weddings can be! My boyfriend has no problem sending a card/gift, but the wedding invite is part of a pattern of odd (?) invites from the employee who definitely thinks they’re just being very nice and inclusive! They did invite us to Christmas dinner this year which we declined to attend.

      1. Purple Cat*

        Oh this comment adds SO much more context!
        You got invited to Christmas dinner?!? Somebody who does that would ABSOLUTELY invite you to their daughter’s wedding.
        Odd duck, but decline without giving it a second thought.

        1. OP1*

          Yes I thought the Christmas dinner invite was SUPER odd. When my boyfriend told me I said “you said no right??”

          1. Renata Ricotta*

            Some people have a strong “more the merrier” outlook, and love having big groups and connecting people from different parts of their social circle. In my experience those people are typically extroverts who also love hosting, which is very sweet but definitely Too Much for other folks with different socializing preferences.

      2. Generic Name*

        My first wedding (over 20 years ago) was a big church affair with a lot of guests that were my parents’ friends. Second wedding was a planned elopement, no guests. 10/10 highly recommend. :)

    13. Lady Danbury*

      Completely agree! A lot of people don’t invite their own bosses to their wedding, let alone their parents’ bosses.

    14. AnonToday*

      I invited a few of my dad’s coworkers and +1s to my wedding (which we canceled due to the pandemic). I’d never met them, but they lived in the city the wedding was set to take place in and my dad had reached out to them to see if they had any opinions/experiences with some of the venues we were looking at, which they kindly provided.

      I didn’t put the registry info and included a handwritten note in their invites asking them to please not bring gifts (my dad loves his work and I think I said something like getting to meet people important in that part of his life was a gift in and of itself). They RSVP’d yes iirc, but I hope they never felt like it was a gift grab!

    15. Mike*

      I don’t know if it’s absolutely certain to be a gift grab, but I also don’t think it matters. You want to go? Go. You don’t? Dont. Send a gift, or decline. I think the parties are sufficiently unfamiliar that there’s no stakes here no matter what happens.

      (I would send regrets and no gift, personally.)

    16. Meep*

      I feel like I am missing something here. I thought save-the-dates didn’t necessarily mean you would be invited to the wedding in the first place. I know it is counterproductive to the name, but it could just mean “this is an important day for me”. But what do I know? I eloped.

      1. Irish girl*

        its bad manners to send someone a save the date and then not an invitation. People might make travel plans ahead of time, say 6 months, but invitations dont go out until say 3 months before the date. Unless there are truly extraordinary reasons not to invite someone on the save the date list to the wedding, they should be getting an invite. My BIL just set save the dates for their wedding in December of this year that I need to take time off for and book a hotel and if they didnt sent invitations to people on the save the date list, there would be big issues.

      2. TheseOldWings*

        No no, you should never send save the dates to anyone you don’t intend to invite to the wedding. The purpose of the save the date is to let people know as far in advance as possible to reserve that date for attending the wedding. It would be rude to send them and then decide you just don’t want to invite a portion of those people to the actual wedding, especially since they may have made arrangements to attend.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Ooh, definitely not!! Usually, sending a save-the-date means very literally “block this day off on your calendar and don’t make other plans because we hope you will be at our wedding.” So if someone gets one, then doesn’t get an invitation it will look very much like you planned to invite them and then changed your mind which would result in some hurt feelings!

        (Though I think, as with many things, these pandemic times are a bit of an exception as many people planned for big weddings then had to scale them back to much smaller events. So in those cases probably a lot of people received save-the-dates that ended up needing to get cut and hopefully people are more understanding of that right now.)

        I’m not sure if you are thinking of wedding announcements people might send out after they get married to people who were not invited, though I’m not sure how much people still bother with those.

    17. Worldwalker*

      100% agree. A person you’ve never met, and your boyfriend has met once, who lives in another state, doesn’t want you to come to their wedding; they just want you to send them something from their registry.

      Totally and completely a gift grab.

    18. Bumblebee*

      I got married at 30ish, we paid for it ourselves, and I still invited my father’s office colleagues. This was for several reasons: they’d watched me grow up, they were a close-knit office for 30 or so years until they all retired, and I wanted my parents to have someone to talk to at the wedding. I think they all got us a little something, but I would not have cared either way. They are delightful people!

    19. Poppyseeds*

      She did not say to send a gift she said: “Your boyfriend should feel free to RSVP no once the actual invite arrives and send a nice card and something off the registry if he wants, and you’re good.” The “if he wants” makes it optional which means he can choose to or not and not feel bad about that choice.

    20. Dr Sarah*

      While I’d also skip the gift, I think it’s worth skipping the judgement too; maybe it’s a gift grab, or maybe the parents just wanted a super-big everyone-we-have-any-connection-with-is-invited party for this milestone. Not the OP’s business to judge (or ours!).

      1. OP1*

        Oh we don’t care if it’s a gift grab, and will
        Likely send one! I just thought it was odd to get a STD in the mail for someone we don’t know for a wedding that would require traveling. It could just be because my ideal wedding is an elopement and the thought of having strangers at my wedding is my nightmare!

    21. Wintermute*

      I don’t think this is a gift grab I think it’s a cultural difference.

      In some cultures weddings are as big a deal for the parents as they are for the bride and groom, and are a large social occasion which can be an important time to forge social or business connections.

    22. Moose*

      Not necessarily. If the parents are hosting/paying, they often have more control over the guests list–the employee could have thought it would be kind/expected to invite their boss if they’re hosting, even if the boss doesn’t know their child. Still feel free to RSVP no, but I don’t think we need to assume greedy intentions.

  2. freddy*

    OP4: If you must continue to bill on a time & materials basis (e.g. it is the industry standard), this is a perfect illustration of why consultant rates go up over time: you get better at your job, so the value of an hour of your time increases for your clients.

    1. Bayta Darrell*

      Exactly. I saw a thing on the internet that summed this point up perfectly. “It may take me 10 minutes to do the job, but I spent 20 years learning how to do the job that quickly. You’re paying for the years, not the minutes.”

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          Yes, and I will disagree with Alison on charging by project, because scope creep is a thing. You are either spending all sorts of extra time explaining, and re-explaining, and explaining again why this request is out of scope and will be charged extra, no you can’t do just one little thing (because it will become 20 little things in no time at all)… Or you will be doing all kinds of extra work for free. It never seems to matter how clearly the scope is spelled out in the contract. The arguments will be constant, which is another form of unpaid labor.

          I find your current system as described confusing, anyway, and that’s likely the case for your clients too. You charge by the hour, but…. not by the hour? Simplify, and charge an hourly rate that reflects your current speed and level of expertise. Of course it’s more than it was when you started, you are faster and more experienced now. And that is a lot easier to explain/understand than charging 48 hours for 18 hours of work.

    2. Allison K*

      The first teapots I made took 25 hours. After 8 years of increasing my skill and speed, they take 12 hours and I charge twice as much. The client gets a better teapot faster. I bill by the teapot component, so it’s functionally a per-project rate but the client knows how the rate was computed. For myself, I track my hours to make sure the per-project rate hits the hourly I’m aiming for, and when I work faster I get a “raise.” I haven’t had any complaints and I’m turning away work.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      My experience from back when I worked insurance defense was that there was a fictive element to billables from both sides. In theory it was a straightforward matter of time spent doing a task, but the insurance company receiving the invoice had their own schedule for how long that task should take, and that was what they would actually pay. So the system was de facto per-task while performatively per-hour, with some dancing by both sides to maximize their interests, and wasted time all around. It was very silly. What I personally took away from it is that I swore off ever working a job with billables. This is one of several advantages to working plaintiff’s side.

      1. OP4*

        “A fictive element to billables from both sides.” Thank you! You have perfectly articulated what I was straining to do in my original letter. I’m personally averse to anything but transparency but I think fiction is the industry standard here.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          To address the ethical aspect, when it is a game both parties to the transaction are playing, it is ridiculous but not unethical.

            1. A Fraudster, I Guess*

              Yes, I was very disappointed that Allison didn’t touch on the ethics at all, because she usually comes down HARD on timecard fraud (generally recommending termination in my memory).

              I am in the same situation as OP, however my rates are controlled by a third party, so all I *can* do to be paid for my expertise is to “work 15 hours a day,” which feels gross and bad and I really dislike doing it, but also I only have control over my billed hours, not the rate.

              I try to comfort myself remembering the client Will. Not. Change. The. Rate. But they will extend the number of hours I can use…getting us to the same number anyway?? What are the ethics? Ugh.

              1. BlueChimera*

                That’s because timecard fraud is FRAUD. It’s a deliberately deceptive act. This isn’t about deliberate deception — this is about how to bill a reasonable & transparent rate without spending twice as long figuring out the bill as doing the actual project. Ethically, as long as the client knows that they are paying $X to get Y results, it doesn’t matter how much time it took you to produce Y results (and anyone who acts like it DOES matter is being unreasonable). As long as their real goal is to have/use Y — and not, like, to control your life for the pleasure of doing so — your actual time spent is irrelevant.

                If you’re forced to bill hourly (due to a third party or industry convention or whatever), you should consider that hourly rate to being a billing fiction & that you are in the clear as long as the client knows that they are getting Y results for $X paid. As long as both parties have equal knowledge in that regard, you have been honest. The rest is mere technicality.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                I have clients who will not change their rate, and I end up billing for more time because yes, after 25 years of this, I’m a whole lot faster.
                For newer clients, I raised my hourly rate to reflect the fact that I work faster than the average teapot painter, they never give me work that has to be billed by the hour. I suppose that’s a win for me, because I prefer the painting work that’s always billed per teapot, rather than the QA work billed by the hour.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              But in a client-freelancer relationship, the freelancer is free to set their rates unless they’re in heavily regulated sectors (such as healthcare in France where professionals have to take into account the amount that can be refunded by health insurance when setting their prices). Unlike in employer-employee situations, the client has no right to monitor the freelancer in any way – the freelancer does not have to agree to tracking software to show how much time they are spending on the work.
              As a freelancer I admit to sometimes billing more time than I actually spent, because, as for OP, my client won’t agree to a higher rate but is prepared to pay for more time.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                If I didn’t do this, I’d be sent all sorts of stuff to proofread because I’d work out cheaper than a noob. With my 25 years’ experience, I believe I’m entitled to better pay than noobs.

                Also, for most noobs, the only way they can break into the industry is to be competitive on pricing. If I give a low estimate, they have to give an even lower one to have any chance of getting work. This brings rates down in general. As it is, there are noobs who don’t even make an equivalent of minimum wage.

                BTW I’m talking about professionals who have had to learn two or three foreign languages to top-fluency level (i.e. with at least reading comprehension level on a par with well-educated native speakers), and mostly have at least a master’s degree in translation plus work experience in the industry they are specialised in. They should be earning at least one and a half times the minimum wage according to the French Ministry of Labour.

        2. ThatGirl*

          With a lot of skilled labor (I’m thinking things like auto repair, HVAC work, plumbing) there’s a minimum billable number of hours per task, even if it doesn’t actually take that long. Like, every mechanic I’ve ever been to says, for instance, brakes are a minimum of 3 hours at $90/hr (I am totally making these numbers up). So even if it only takes them 90 minutes to do the brakes, I’m still gonna pay for 3 hours, because presumably, their expertise means they can get it done faster.

          I think the same principle can be applied here, even if you don’t spell it out — it is a bit of fiction, but also, it’s what your expertise is worth.

          1. Anonym*

            I’m not sure that’s even fiction! If there’s a fixed base rate (that covers most projects) with an additional per-hour cost for anything that goes over, that’s a perfectly honest pricing schedule. Not sure if it covers all of OP’s needs, but I would be very comfortable with it as a customer.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              It is a fiction in that the invoice will list hours, not the flat rate price plus any additional hours needed. But yes, there are handbooks out there for how long various tasks nominally take.

              1. Wintermute*

                That system is as much for the consumer’s protection as anything, that time expectation is a “reasonable worker at a reasonable workplace” expectation– if a shop wants to get by without buying all the specialty tools to make things faster, they can do so but they’re going to give up profit opportunity by taking longer for those tasks, likewise if they want to take things outside their area of expertise.

                Without that protection it creates an awful incentive– you can actually make MORE money on labor by trying to save money elsewhere, taking longer to do jobs or taking jobs you’re not intimately familiar with and require frequent consulting of documentation and manuals. Sure eventually word would get around that you took longer but that doesn’t help the people socked with a big bill and no real recourse in the meantime, nor does it do much if you’re not grossly abusing customers just nickle-and-diming them

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  I don’t object to the system, so much as I am bemused by it. In practice, for anything more than an oil change I take the car into the shop then go about my business. At some point later in the day I get a phone call and we discuss what work they recommend and how much it will cost, and I authorize work based on my own judgment, honed by years of listening to Car Talk. When the work is done I go back to the shop, pay for the work, and get my key back. From my perspective, this is a set cost for the work done. The detail that the invoice lists labor by the hour is irrelevant. The cost is going to be what we discussed beforehand. The invoice will not come back lower because the bolts came off easily, nor will it come back higher because the bolts were stubborn. If something truly unexpected comes up and it will take significantly longer that estimated, I would expect a phone call beforehand. Anything else would be reason not to return to that shop. But honestly, I don’t recall the last time I received that call. The price is the price.

              2. doreen*

                It’s not always fiction- none of my mechanics ever listed hours on the invoice/estimate for book rate jobs – they just listed the total price for labor. The only time I ever remember hours being listed was to diagnose an electrical problem – which in my understanding isn’t and can’t be a book rate.

          2. Martha*

            Yes, this is how my husband bills. $100/hour, 3 hour minimum. In his case it’s because travel and set up takes a minimum of 2 hours. Even if he is only touching your *equipment* for 15 minutes, he had to pay his crew for 2.25 hours. Plus bidding/invoicing. The 3 hr jobs are not the money makers.

        3. That Guy*

          It doesn’t have to be fictive. You can write your contract to state that you bill for a minimum number of hours regardless of how long it takes, and then hourly for additional hours if needed. Every time I call a plumber/electrician/repair person to my house they bill this way (minimum charge of one hour of work + additional hours if needed to complete the repair).

        4. Attractive Nuisance*

          In my industry I’ve been taught to think of hours as a unit of measurement of work, not necessarily a literal measure of time spent working. It’s like a metaphor or a type of currency.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        In my experience, insurance defense is an extreme outlier in the billable dance. Insurance companies are bean counters by nature, and the bill auditors have to scrape enough off your bill to justify their existence. This is not something that I saw with most other practices. There were certainly write-offs, especially if time descriptions don’t convey the value of the time to the client, but insurance defense is so insane that I wondered why we bothered with their work at all. It is the definition of high-volume/low-margin.

        I would not be sad if the billable hour model died and flat-fee or success-fee arrangements became more common. One of the reasons I no longer work in legal are that the billing models disincentivized efficiency. That is changing since clients are no longer up for blowing their legal budget because a matter manager couldn’t scope properly or stay on budget, but slowly.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      This. And there is also a learning curve on situation specific things. A friend does gardens. The first time she does a garden it takes nearly 4 times as long as it should because she needs to tidy it up and find/familiarize herself with what is there. Subsequent visits take much less time.

      Components of labor rates:
      Annual increases. People will accept a small annual increase more readily than say a huge jump every five years.

      Minimum charge: A good number of professions use a minimum charge. I can’t think of anyone who would come to fix something at my house for less than $200. This is in part because of their costs which include gas and insurance among many other things. It doesn’t matter what they do it’s still a baseline of $200.
      Wisely some people adjust their thinking to, ” I have to charge X just to show up. But I can look around and see if there is some quick thing I can fix so the customer does not have another problem next week or next month.”

      Special customers or situations. Some people give breaks to returning customers, or to customers who do a high volume of business. You can always back DOWN on your pricing and as an added bonus it makes you look good. But it is very difficult to bump the price up. I decide to get work done on my heat system here. I bought a new furnace and that was some bucks. After they finished the furnace, I asked about the oil tank. The legs were splayed and it looked like the tank would fall over in the future. There was no way to figure out how old it was. If it fell over this would involve the DEC and all kinds of stuff. I decided to replace the tank. My oil company gave me a surprise “thank you” present by knocking 1/3 off the price of the tank because (their words) “You have done a lot of business with us this year.” Yeah, I was wowed. I did not even ask for a discount in pricing.

      Turn down certain types of work. I have a friend who will point blank say, “You can hire a neighborhood kid to help you do x. My labor rate is way too high and it’s not fair to you to pay so much for something a person could do for much less cost.” This one can be difficult because many people have a strong desire to just jump in and help, then they think about the money part later. Decisions based on emotions sometimes do not work out well. It’s better just to say, “someone else could do this for you much cheaper”. This friend has also developed a list of people who are willing to take on the smaller tasks, so he can make referrals and even do introductions.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I like Alison’s suggestion of billing by the project, if feasible–if you know doing the project to a certain level means reviewing 80 teapots, then set the rate based on that estimate and tell them to send you 80 teapots.

      For well-run companies, the calculus is something like:
      “We need to check this batch, which will cost $2000. OP can do it in a week and to a high level. This other person can do it in 3 weeks to a lower level. So we’ll go with OP if possible.” Not “…. So we’ll tell OP to drop her rates to 1/3.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Even better suggestion downthread, where you have a baseline price as above and then “Up to X hours, if more than X hours then $Y/hr.” If roughly 9 out of 10 projects are predictable and then that tenth batch has complicated, time-consuming problems.

        1. Mrs Nesbitt*

          Totally agree with this. That’s the risk with a project fee – that the scope can change wildly on you. But if OP can quantify the work in the original proposal AND add the ‘if more than x hours’ clause, then s/he is covered either way.

    6. OP4*

      Thank you for your answer! For additional context, I review documentation, and have a range of single-spaced pages per hour, but there is a huge difference between 5 pages of clean narrative text describing a device and 5 pages of quickly cobbled-together technical boilerplate with narrow margins and a tiny font. I’ve considered page charges and per-word charges but both get complicated very quickly, and frequently there is an inverse relationship between how quickly I am asked to complete a review and how well it is written.

      I probably do need to raise my rates in the not-too-distant future; I appreciate your factual argument with which to counter imposter syndrome!

      1. Generic Name*

        This is so familiar. Especially the type of client that wants quick turnarounds. In my industry, it’s not unusual to have standard turnaround rates, and then rush turnaround rates. Clients who really do need a quick turnaround basically never balk at the often very high rush rates. The clients who are just disorganized/impatient usually decide that they can wait when given the rush rate.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        As a freelancer, I really feel you on how as the clarity of the instruction goes down the deadline goes up.

      3. tamarack & fireweed*

        What might work, too, is a staggered range of per-page charges. The client who gives you clean text that takes you no time at all? minimum_$/page. The client who sends you a mess that takes three times as long? Twice as much (and calculated so that you get a good hourly rate out of all of them.)

        You can invoice at “43 pages in service_category B1” or whatever, understanding that you may already do different things (light editing, heavy editing, rewriting, copy editing, editing for idiomatic English, research on technical terms…)

        1. BlueChimera*

          That’s a good idea — I hope OP sees this. Having a lower-tier per-page price & a higher-tier one is perfectly reasonable. You could even have 3 tiers if there’s “easy,” “hard,” and “kinda in-between.”

          And as other folks have said, it’s also reasonable to set a minimum fee. “$X per project or $Y/page, whichever is higher” for example.

          But if everyone else in the industry is using hourly rates & that’s what the client is used to seeing, I also don’t see a problem with saying “$X/hour (roughly $X/5 pages),” either, regardless of whether the time spent is really an hour or not. That’s just translating a per-page rate into something that the client is comfortable with. As long as they know what they’re actually getting (5 pages), it doesn’t matter at all if the quantity of time spent actually adds up to an hour or not.

    7. Generic Name*

      If you absolutely cannot charge on a per unit/lump sum basis, you need to increase your hourly rates. The consulting company I work for raises rates 3.5% every year. You said you’ve only increased your rates once in several years, which is below industry standard. It sounds like you’re at the point in your career where you don’t have to take every job to survive.

    8. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing, with the caveat that not all clients are open to the idea that your rates will go up above a cost-of-living increase. ie. you might get a minimal increase in an hourly rate, but they might also decide to use someone less expensive per hour if you insist on a big increase, despite the fact that you’re faster and better at the work.

      Sometimes, it’s best to go to a project fee basis (IF you can accurately estimate the time it will take to do the project). In other situations, you’re better off to track your time and bill for what is fair to both parties, even if that means you over-estimate your time. (Sometimes, it turns out that you have to under-estimate your time, too, if you realize that a project took far longer than would be reasonable for you to bill.)

  3. Heidi*

    I’m not convinced that OP’s boyfriend needs to buy his employee’s daughter who he met once a wedding gift. It would be very nice of him, of course, but he shouldn’t feel bad about not doing it. Definitely RSVP, though. It’s important to know how many people will be there.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats*

      “Your boyfriend should feel free to RSVP no once the actual invite arrives and send a nice card and something off the registry if he wants, and you’re good.”

      Alison says IF HE WANTS. Shes not saying he has to go and buy a gift.

      1. Lirael*

        Alison added that caveat after reading the comments. Pretty sure this comment is from before the caveat was added

        1. Heidi*

          Thanks. There was definitely no “if he wants” proviso when I entered this comment. There seems to have been quite a few “no gift necessary” comments around that time.

  4. awesome3*

    #1 I definitely disagree with Alison about getting them a gift. At most tell your boss you’re happy for his growing family or something of that nature. Some parents, especially parents of the bride, see the wedding as their big day, even if they aren’t narcissistic and usually have sound judgment.

    1. awesome3*

      I’ll add that if you did attend, you’d be in the clear getting one of the gifts under 20 dollars on the registry. Most couples have a cheese grater or a bath mat, the dads employees are the guests those lower items are definitely meant for

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think it should, in the sense that your own finances should come into figuring out what to spend on a wedding gift. Also your closeness to the couple.

          If you’re not that close, but choose to attend in the spirit of “Celebrating the opportunity to gather again and I swore I’d say yes to everything this year” then, if you are financially comfortable, don’t get the cheapest thing you can think of. Just in the spirit of open-heartedness to people going to the effort to entertain you. (I have given people a cheese grater as a gift. But not a wedding gift.) However, it’s fine for the bride’s dear great-aunt on a tight budget to attend and give a cheese grater.

        2. Martha*

          Just for me personally, I would see it as a gift to my employee for a milestone occasion and gift accordingly. Even if it’s technically going to his kids – $100 cash in a card is a nice thing to do and will generate more than that in goodwill among my labor force. Cash extras to good employees (within budget) have always had good returns IME. And actually – cash to BAD employees has worked out in my favor, too. My good employees feel outraged on my behalf!

    2. anone*

      It’s the other way around–her boyfriend is the boss of the employee whose daughter is getting married.

      (I still don’t think the gift isn’t strictly necessary, but the situation does read different if it’s a boss giving a gift to an employee’s family member than the other way around.)

  5. PollyQ*

    #2 — Another option might be to directly ask, “Why are you being so negative about someone you’ve had hardly any experience with?” It’s possible they’ll have something rational to say in reply, or maybe it’ll jolt them into realizing how much kvetching they’ve been doing. Regardless, you could wind things up with, “Well, she’s going to be our boss, so I’m going to keep a positive mindset.”

    1. Bill*

      I wonder if they are being so negative due to them having wanted the position after the prior manager retired or them having supported another candidate who didn’t get the job. It’s seems extremely odd that anyone would have this reaction to a new boss — usually people take the opposite approach. Maybe the prior manager was forced to retire by higher ups and this person was so devoted to them that they are bitter about it. I feel like there’s something else at play here because this is extremely odd behavior. It’s been such a short period of time that it’s hard to believe they could have done something to cause this.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This was exactly where my brain went – they either thought they’d get the promotion or they had picked and were backing somebody other than the new manager. Hopefully the negativity passes – but in the mean time politely non-committal statements and disengaging from gripe fest conversations are your best bet.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        My immediate thought was that she had applied for the job and been rejected. I once worked with a woman in a similar situation, and when the new manager started, Coworker barged into her office on day one and said “I applied for your job and didn’t get it, explain to me why you’re better than I am.”

        Whether or not this is the case, I agree with the LW that there’s probably some racial bias at play here whether the coworker is conscious of it or not, and I like PollyQ’s scripts here. I think they’d be easy to say and could help to disrupt the string of complaints coming from the coworker.

        1. Clorinda*

          I really hope that the answer was “For one thing, I know how to behave like an adult human.”

        2. INFJedi*

          Coworker barged into her office on day one and said “I applied for your job and didn’t get it, explain to me why you’re better than I am.”

          Oh, wow. How did that conversation go?!
          To be a fly on that wall…

        3. Observer*

          Coworker barged into her office on day one and said “I applied for your job and didn’t get it, explain to me why you’re better than I am.”

          I think that in the moment I would be too stunned to answer. But in my imagination, my answer would be “Well, for one thing I know better that to do what you just did.” And then look into managing her out. In fact, I think I would probably do that in real life, too.

          1. Wisteria*

            And then look into managing her out.

            That would just demonstrate that you actually aren’t better than she is.

            1. Dr Sarah*

              Why? Wouldn’t be a revenge thing, just the recognition that someone who behaves like that actually *is* someone about whom you’d have some concerns in the workplace.

            2. Observer*

              That would just demonstrate that you actually aren’t better than she is.


              To me NOT managing this person out would be an act of managerial malfeasance in most cases. Because this behavior indicates someone with poor impulse control, poor boundaries, poor understand of how the workplace, and / or total lack of professional norms. I would also know for certain that this person is never going to be cooperative, and may even be untrustworthy. Why would I want that kind of person in my group?

            3. Wintermute*

              I am not sure I agree there, firing or managing-out is not about punishment or enforcement, it’s about relationship management. Someone like that coming in like a wrecking ball, unless they simmer down very very quickly, is not going to be able to maintain a working relationship with someone they disrespect.

        4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          WOW, that’s nervy and entitled.

          Would be interested to know how long the employee lasted with that attitude.

        5. ENFP in Texas*

          “I applied for your job and didn’t get it, explain to me why you’re better than I am.”

          “Because you’re the sort of person who would barge into someone’s office and say this…”

        6. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

          Ordinarily I’d assume racial bias as well, but there’s something a little weird to me about this letter – LW said they THINK the new boss is a black woman, not that they know for sure, so presumably the coworker doesn’t know for sure either. I’m not sure what LW is basing this assumption on, but unless it’s something incredibly obvious, assuming racial bias on the part of the coworker requires assuming that they’ve reached the same conclusion LW did. I’d be curious to know why LW thinks their boss is a black woman, and why they’re assuming that their coworker must also think that.

          1. JustSomeone*

            My read, which admittedly could be wrong, was that the new boss is visibly non-white and woman-presenting but the LW isn’t entirely certain how she identifies.

            1. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

              Given that the LW says the whole team is remote and they’ve only met the boss over a conference call, I’m assuming they’ve never actually seen the boss, which is why this raised a couple flags for me. Could be they googled the boss and are 99% sure they’ve found the right person, but I really wish they’d explained what they meant by that, because it would make things a lot easier.

          2. pancakes*

            The letter says “We’ve ‘met’ her once in a conference call (the whole team is remote) . . .”

            1. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

              Yeah, that’s my point, you can’t see someone’s face over a conference call. I don’t want to assume that LW has decided that the boss is a black woman based on her name or voice, both of which would be problematic in their own right, but I’m having a hard time figuring out what else they could be basing this on.

              1. pancakes*

                The letter writer isn’t the only person in this scenario. Their coworker who is treating the new boss weirdly is also in it. A coworker who is inclined to be a little (or a lot) racist is also going to be someone who probably isn’t super scrupulous about not forming impressions of someone’s racial background based on their voice and name.

                1. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

                  That’s why I wanted to know what the cause for the assumption was ! And LW says the assumption is based on the fact that they looked her up, which answers the question, and we can now proceed knowing that the coworker either definitely knows she’s black (if she also looked her up) or likely has no idea (if she didn’t).

          3. LW #2*

            I think that our new boss could be Black based on looking her up online and hearing her voice. I don’t know for sure that she is Black, and I realize that’s not something you can actually tell just from hearing someone, but I included it because my coworker’s response is so aggressive and sudden that racism really seems like a plausible explanation. There are no other Black people in our office.

      3. pancakes*

        I’m not sure why you’d think it’s odd that someone would be biased against a black woman. It is extremely, extremely common, even in scenarios where the black woman is neither a boss or a Dr.!

        Having wanted the position oneself isn’t a good reason to act like a jerk, either. I don’t think that’s uncommon either, but being fairly common doesn’t make it reasonable. Feeling bitter isn’t a free pass to act bitter.

        1. TIRED*

          yep! i don’t like how many of the comments are people saying “don’t assume bad coworker is racist / biased” and then they precede to assume the coworker is actually A or B or C. the obvious answer is the correct answer here. my money is on this: coworker is biased against the new Black woman boss.

      4. LW #2*

        I think your first guess might be right. Our old manager wasn’t forced to retire or anything, but I know this coworker has previously tried to apply for a management position 2 levels up just so she could change a relatively minor policy so everyone would have to do things her way. She’s so completely unqualified for management that they wouldn’t even let her apply.

    2. Lance*

      I’m hard pressed to come up with any rational (or well, probably more accurately, reasonable) gripes toward a manager who’s just starting and hasn’t really even had a chance to get their feet on the ground, but I would be curious about the co-worker’s response all the same; odds are it will be rather telling.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It’s a pretty well known thing that people (collectively) can resist changes in leadership. And this bears true with any form of leadership. Our church changed denominations (for reasons that were explained) and predictably people got upset and left the church. Of the people who left very few actually understood why the change took place.
        Later, our church had a change in pastors. There are stats that actually show attrition rates when a new pastor comes in. It’s to be expected that people leave without even knowing the new pastor.
        On a smaller scale a change in boss can set the world on fire in some people’s minds. They just melt down.

        What comes to mind is that annoying parental advice of “watch out who you hang out with and who you are seen standing next to”. ( So annoying…) But there’s value to this advice in OP’s setting. I love the suggestion here of announcing a plan to keep a positive mind set. I think this is a great route to go for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Negative Nancy will have to go somewhere else to find empathy. It won’t hurt you, OP, if Nancy toddles off to find someone else.

        1. OftenOblivious*

          Some church organizations specifically do an interim pastor between an old and new pastor, just to help people mentally transition and lessen on “new is bad” freakout.

        2. Orange You Glad*

          Yea that’s what I was thinking. My company has been acquired by different parent organizations over the years and every time there is a change there is a certain contingent of employees that freak out and complain about every little change. Some changes can be good, some can be bad, but it’s hard to stay positive when everyone around you is complaining nonstop.
          This person in the letter sounds a little more hostile than most but it sounds like she may be set in her ways and is panicking now that things are changing.

        3. Artemesia*

          Good advice. The OP should be careful to not be seen as this woman’s friend because when it hits the fan as it is likely to do, she doesn’t want to get splashed. It is easy to lump employees who hang together together and she doesn’t want to be seen as negative and racist. I’d shut this down and put plenty of space between me and this other employee. It is really common to attribute negative behavior of one visible person to the group she hands with.

        4. Bumblebee*

          I replaced someone once who was the nicest human possible (and to boot she just got promoted and moved literally down the hall) and my team was incredibly resistant to me. It took us years to work past that, for them to get used to my managerial style, for me to adapt to their needs, for me to grow up a little, for them to grow up a little, etc. We worked in a context where no one got fired unless they outright stole money. I wish I’d had a person amongst that team who was determined to be positive!

        5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          That was where my mind first went; without further evidence, I think it’s a leap to say it’s personal against this new woman’s gender or race. This sounds like a coworker who isn’t dealing with change in a healthy manner. It would be a red flag to me if I was in a space that routinely went by first names, and a new leader came in expecting to be called Dr. — no matter what their ethnicity or gender. But that aside, I think the best thing for the OP to do is acknowledge that change can be frightening and stressful especially at mid to late career; it’s much easier for younger people to find new jobs or start fresh with a new culture — don’t try to go all toxic positivity on the coworker; it’ll make it worse.

          1. Observer*

            But that aside, I think the best thing for the OP to do is acknowledge that change can be frightening and stressful especially at mid to late career; it’s much easier for younger people to find new jobs or start fresh with a new culture

            Please do NOT do this. DO NOT bring age into the conversation. Skip the generalizations. And along with skipping the toxic positivity, skip the toxic validation. It’s not the OP’s place to figure out the motivations here, much less offer reassurances to the CW. They SHOULD try to shut it down. And while I probably wouldn’t point out the racist overtones first thing, I would have no hesitation in pointing it out if it continued after some more basic pushback. Because at a certain point it doesn’t really matter if the intention is racist or it’s just someone not dealing well with change. It’s still part of a racist pattern, and the needs to be called out if it doesn’t stop.

            It would be a red flag to me if I was in a space that routinely went by first names, and a new leader came in expecting to be called Dr.

            Red flag for WHAT, though? And even if there was something specific and realistic that the coworker was worried about, this kind of griping and disrespect is NOT a reasonable way to handle it.

            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              The OP brought up the age of her coworker first — so I’m allowed to respond to that. It’s well-documented that people over the age of 40 have a harder time finding new employment — since discrimination is one of the topics at hand, age discrimination applies. You can disagree, but your attack is out of proportion and inappropriate.

              Red flag for someone who wants to be called Dr. in a culture where everyone is on a first-name basis: of course it’s a red flag of someone who doesn’t fit the current culture of an office and will cause morale issues. That type of rigid hierarchy is demoralizing for groups that have operated in a more equal structure. I work in a university — those faculty who insist on being “Dr.” outside of student interactions are always a problem to work with; Always. They don’t acknowledge or respect the expertise of those without a Dr. title, and they often interfere with things that are outside of their narrow band of expertise. I’ve never had that same issue with someone who treats support staff and non-academic professionals as their equals — by using first names. I suppose they could treat them as equals by using Ms/Mr but that’s pretty strange by today’s standards.

              1. Observer*

                The OP brought up the age of her coworker first — so I’m allowed to respond to that

                You’re “allowed to respond to anything you want (within Alison’s rules.) It’s still a terrible idea for the OP to actually focus on their coworker’s age.

                of course it’s a red flag of someone who doesn’t fit the current culture of an office and will cause morale issues.

                Maybe they are not a culture fit. They “will” cause morale issues? That’s more of a red flag about the office than about the person.

                That type of rigid hierarchy is demoralizing for groups that have operated in a more equal structure

                Going by “doctor” or whatever someone’s title is, does not necessarily indicate “rigid hierarchy”. And plenty of places where first names are used have quite rigid hierarchies, just differently expressed.

                Your individual experience in a university where the only people who treat everyone with respect uses first names for everyone including themselves is hardly universal.

                Furthermore, given the timeline involved it’s not even clear that the new boss is “insisting” on anything. They are new, they used their title and they have not (as of the time of this letter) responded at all about what they expect to be called. Which is to say that it’s really a leap to draw any conclusions.

                And in any case, the response of the coworker is still wildly out of line. I’ll repeat myself: Acting like a toddler, being rude and disrespectful, and making up things to complain about are not appropriate ways to respond even to ACTUAL identified problems, much less “red flags” – even genuine red flags.

              2. New Jack Karyn*

                I thought OP mentioned her age to give context to why she might be hesitant to address this directly with her coworker–CW might be 30 years older than her.

                1. Observer*

                  Yeah. I don’t think that the OP was focusing on the Coworker’s age. And I think that they are right not to make that part of the discussion.

            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              I’m sure Alison approved the link because it’s valid and not spam/phishing, but it’s odd and off-putting to drop a link into a reply without any context.

              1. Quack Quack No*

                You’ve already provided plenty of context by stating that it would be a red flag for someone to insist on their title of Dr. I’ve provided a link to a paper about one of the reasons someone might do so that would not be mere self-aggrandizement.

                So, do you intend to continue to dismiss the information provided as “offputting” or will you include it in your determinations of what is a red flag and what respect a given person deserves?

          2. LW #2*

            I really don’t want to bring up anyone’s age. Most people I work with are within a decade of retirement age and I’m within a decade of graduating college. Pointing out that she’s later in her career is likely to backfire on me, especially since we are at the same level.

          3. Wintermute*

            That is also my take on this, entirely.

            People who are not medical doctors who insist on using their honorific are almost always pompous boors and usually try to lord their marginally higher status over you. I am not intending to denigrate their accomplishment, I get it, a PhD is a tremendous amount of work and in theory to earn one means you’ve advanced the knowledge of humanity in a concrete way. That is worthy of pride and respect.

            But from the age of 15 when my biology teacher insisted on us calling him “doctor” this perception has been reinforced by literally everyone I’ve met who has mandated their honorific. I freely admit I might be an outlier, but it’s a pattern that is so specific, frequently reinforced and infrequently proven wrong I stand by the fact it’s a valid initial judgement absent other information. Conversely I know a small number of extremely qualified people, with multiple doctorates, and they would never dream of forcing people to call them “doctor” or “professor”, they let their work and academic reputation speak for them.

            Honorifics are bestowed culturally, not earned academically. As a culture we typically reserve “doctor” for medical doctors.

            That said, I wouldn’t disrespect someone by refusing to comply, I would just internally roll my eyes and file them in the “pompous ass” category until proven otherwise.

            1. Observer*

              Here is the thing. So far we have no indication that anyone is “forcing” anyone to use the title, or “insisting” on it. All that the new manager has done is introduce herself as Dr. Lastname. So there is a lot of judgement based on something that’s not even happening here.

              It’s also worth keeping in mind that while the others all go by first names, they also don’t have the degree either. So it’s not quite the same as if a bunch of other PhD were going by their first name and New Boss is asking to be called Dr. New Boss.

            2. fueled by coffee*

              But also like… honorifics ARE earned academically. If your biology teacher has a PhD, shouldn’t he be called Dr. LastName? Regardless of your personal feelings about restricting the title “Dr” to MDs, our society acknowledges that a PhD (and dental degree, and EdD, and so on) also confers the title “Dr.”

              A non-academically related example: Upon getting married, I would expect people to switch from calling me Miss LastName to calling me Mrs. LastName, and it would be extremely bizarre for people to claim I was being a “pompous boor” by requesting to be called by the title that society has agreed married women can call themselves. Just like it would be bizarre if I said, “Actually, please call me Ms. LastName,” and others continued to insist that I must be called Mrs. because “honorifics are bestowed culturally” and they felt that “Ms.” wasn’t culturally appropriate for whatever reason.

            3. Zelda*

              “As a culture we typically reserve “doctor” for medical doctors.”

              …in *social* situations that’s absolutely true. But in professional situations, it’s not automatically inappropriate for people to use their professional titles. It’s going to depend on the culture of the individual office and the relative status of the people in the conversation, but it’s not just a blanket “PhD’s don’t.”

    3. Sandi*

      Yes, I wouldn’t lead with the PhD part as that doesn’t address the overall problem. I work with PhDs and it is those who tend to be more out of touch who insist on being addressed differently because of their degree and it often feels odd within our company culture. I don’t complain about it, and I avoid it because it is easy to talk with someone without saying their name. OP’s boss is new and may not know the culture, so it wouldn’t bother me in that context yet.

      The bigger issue is the negativity. I would make a comment about missing the previous boss and wanting to give this new boss a chance. Alison’s wording about negativity and hostility are all good options.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        Eh, I agree that the new boss might change her mind upon realizing that this company’s culture is on a first name basis, but there is a long history of women and people of color (and especially women OF color) deliberately not being referred to by their correct titles or being seen as entitled or snobby for insisting on having their correct titles used.

        This is an overreaction on the part of the coworker to something that’s not that big of a deal (referring to someone as “Dr. Smith” vs. “Jane” when you’ve never met them yet and only interacted via email). The coworker being fixated on the title issue is absolutely part of the problem.

        1. Sandi*

          Agreed that it’s a problem, and I very much agree and have experience with WOC deliberately not being referred to by their correct titles, but I wouldn’t lead with it. I would start with the negativity, and only mention the title later if it continues to be a problem.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          This is reminding me of the backlash over the opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal where the guy was condescendingly going on about how Dr. Jill Biden shouldn’t use her academic title and should “settle for” the “greater” thing of being First Lady. And then he insisted it was supposed to be funny. It’s even worse for women of color, and I can’t speak to that reality – this was just an example that came to mind.

    4. L in DC then TX*

      Not a humorous situation at all, but the first thing that popped in my head was the episode of the Office where Robert California asked “Why is Jim treating the magician poorly?” That could become “why are you treating Dr X poorly?”

    5. learnedthehardway*

      I think it also makes sense to mention to the colleague that having the old, beloved manager retire is a major blow and that perhaps her negativity to the incoming manager really stems from her disappointment and fear of change. Because a lot of it probably does.

      Major change like this involves a grieving process – people go through all of the same steps, from denial, anger, bargaining, etc. etc. – whether the change is a death, a new manager, or a new computer system. There’s an entire profession called “change management” that deals with employees’ (in)ability to accommodate major change.

      The colleague may need to have this pointed out to her, and it would make sense for someone to also point out that displacing her anger about the situation onto the new manager is really only going to hurt herself, in the end. It doesn’t make sense to bite the hand that is going to feed you / pay your salary.

      A mix of empathy – “We’re all upset and sad that Bob retired and that we have major changes to deal with” – and a dose of reality – “but we need to not take that out on the new manager, and we do need to support her while she transitions into the role – for our sake as well as hers.” – is needed.

      In fact, I’d go with a change management approach first, and would only address possible sexism/racism if it becomes blatant. At this point, it’s a guess as to whether sexism/racism is a factor, and I think it is far more likely that the employee is simply handling a major change badly.

      1. Observer*

        becomes blatant. At this point, it’s a guess as to whether sexism/racism is a factor, and I think it is far more likely that the employee is simply handling a major change badly.

        I agree. But it’s worth noting that even if the OP is pretty sure that there is a racial / gendered component here, the change management approach is probably a better starting point. Because it is more likely to work. And, if it doesn’t work, it’s easier to call out the other issues. Not so much with the CW, but anyone else who might need to be looped in.

  6. Chili pepper Attitude*

    My husband is from another country where English is not the first language. After we started dating, I was horrified to see on his desk several wedding invitations he had not rsvp’ed to. When I commented on this, he said, “you mean risvip? I don’t have to risvip if I’m not going.”

    OP, do RSVP but you only have to say no! No need to give an excuse. And I think it would be nice to send a small gift from the registry if it is in your budget, but you do not have to!

    1. Future Cat Lady*

      RSVPing has gone from stating whether you would attend to stating that you will attend. A lot of people will not reply if they know they’re not attending. That’s just been my experience with tracking RSVPs for department events. Like you, I follow the letters of RSVP quite literally.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think work / department events are a bit different rom social ones, though.

        I think that a lot of people are very bad at responding, although in my limited experience I think using ‘RSVP’ is part of the problem – if you say ‘Please let me/us know whether or not your will be attending, by [date]’ you get a better response although there are always [people who don’t respond, and about half of them will be people who assume they only need to reply if they are coming, and about half will be people who assume that they only need to respond if they are not coming…

        1. Julia*

          Interesting observation that using the term “RSVP” reduces the number of responses! Never knew that was a thing.

        2. Artemesia*

          In any event where it is important to know who is coming, you have to follow up with those who didn’t respond — and you need to remind those who did.

      2. doreen*

        I think part of the issue with people not replying if they are not attending is those work-related “invitations” that aren’t really invitations. The ones that announce training , or that some organization is having their annual meeting and so on – that give an RSVP date when what they should actually call it a registration deadline or something similar.

      3. Asenath*

        It used to drive me crazy when I had to organize work events. The number of people who simply didn’t respond to RSVPs surprised me – and I couldn’t guarantee they weren’t coming, because when I followed up, it turned out that a lot of them were, and some were bringing a guest (or on one memorable occasion, several guests). Getting some kind of fairly accurate estimate of numbers for the caterer was a nightmare.

        But I would not feel obliged to attend the wedding of someone I had met once or not at all, much less give a wedding present, not unless the parents of the bride or groom were extremely close relatives or friends. And that case, I’d have met either the bride or the groom more than once.

      4. Boof*

        Given a lot of events have headcounts, I’d say RSVPing a negative is ideal – I get why some won’t but I think people should try to do it.

      5. ecnaseener*

        I think a good rule of thumb is if they printed you a little RSVP card with checkboxes for “will attend” and “will not attend,” you need to send that card! Let them send invites to any B-list guests ASAP.

      6. Old Cynic*

        My mom worked at a place 30 years ago that was VERY social. Everyone was included for any type of life event. And that crowd assumed everyone was going to go — always, and they usually did — so was a “regrets only” type of RSVP.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      RSVP: “Refreshments Served Very Promptly.” Or so I learned many years ago reading Freddie the Pig books.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Not sure how it’s relevant that English isn’t his first language when we’re talking about a French acronym lol!

  7. Eliza*

    OP4: The way I see it, if the hours you bill don’t reflect the hours you worked, you’re not actually billing an hourly rate. I also do QA work and I understand the difficulties in knowing how much work a particular project will be, but you clearly have *some* mental metric for what you think is a fair price, and I’d encourage you to figure out what that is and be as transparent about it as possible.

    1. Clorinda*

      The risk is that by switching from an hourly to a piecework rate, OP4 could end up with all the difficult, time-consuming teapots and end up making less per hour. Since there is such a variety in teapots, maybe OP4 can have a sliding scale based on project complexity.
      Tier 1: plain teapots, $X each
      Tier 2: teapots with stripes, $X2 each
      Tier 3: gilded teapots, $X4 each.

  8. Prefer my pets*

    I hire a fair number of contractors and the most common billing method I’m running into these days is “X per service, up to Y hours”. If the service normally takes 4 hours, but the project turns out to be more complicated then we start paying a rate for each hour over the maximum allowed under the “each” price. Seems to be a good compromise for us where 90% of projects are very predictable but 10% end up super ugly time sucks.

    1. Bagpuss*


      We do some work on a fixed fee basis – we set out what the fixed fee covers and what is not included, and make clear that the not-included stuff will be billed at the normal hourly rate but we do also have a provision that we can bill hourly if it turns out to be unusually demanding / complex – (for us, that point is if the time recorded goes over double the fixed fee, but we tell you if that is likely to happen.) or where the parameters change so the job is much bigger than originally anticipated.

  9. Lyngend (Canada)*

    #4, I like the idea of billing per project. If you aren’t comfortable doing this for all clients consider keeping your hourly rate (adjusted up as a previous commentor suggests) for new clients, then changing it to per project/x number of teapots based on previous contracts with them.

    1. AJoftheInternet*

      This is typically how I do it also. The first work I do for a client is hourly, and then I casually say, “So it looks like we work great together, so I can offer you a regular package.” I make sure to really spell out all the advantages of working with me that freelancers often overlook, like being flexible with my time, or being really responsive, or making myself available for calls (with the special clients. Normal clients do not get to call or text me.).

      OP, make sure to consider all your soft skills when you set and put forth your prices! If you’re feeling unsure about a price, talking about those will really help put you at ease.

    2. Sloanicote*

      I appreciated this letter, as I’m in a similar boat as a freelancer. I would very much prefer to bill a fair flat rate over an hourly rate, but I find that most clients want to pay hourly (perhaps so they feel more in control). Every time I get pushback. Their estimates of the hours involved are often very flawed or, as OP states, they want things back-to-back in a way that limits my ability to ethically capture the hours without it getting weird. I have not quite figured out how to fix this honestly.

      1. Oakenfield*

        Just charge the number of hours that gets you the flat rate amount.
        We often talked people into the value pricing/flat fee by showing how it averages their hourly rates over the last year and explaining that this means they have a set budget and most surprises in billing will be mitigated.

  10. turquoisecow*

    Op2: I’ve found that gentle pushing back on super negative coworkers has usually made them quickly see that I’m not the audience for their negativity. Something innocent like “oh, maybe she did X because of Y,” or “I’m sure she’s busy and will get the reports to us soon,” or “I haven’t had any problems with her,” and after a few times they backed off of the strongest complaints since I wasn’t giving them the feedback they wanted.

    I wonder if your coworker was super attached to the old boss for some reason, or maybe they just don’t like change. If that’s the case, they may get used to new boss soon and stop complaining as much. Either way, you shouldn’t have to listen to it if you don’t want to.

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I was wondering too about attachment to old boss and if coworker is someone who reacts strongly to changes in the workplace. Changes really stresses some people out to the extent that they will do and say all sorts of weirdly inappropriate things that they wouldn’t usually.

      That in mind, I’d personally start with a more gentle approach like one of these suggestions, or with one of Alison’s alternative suggestions if her tone starts getting particularly nasty. I wouldn’t jump straight to suggesting it’s about race or gender unless you get a reasonable indication that might be at play. If it’s change-related stress all she’s going to hear in that is an accusation, which will only escalate the situation when all you want is for her to calm the drama llama farm.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        I second this. I’ve seen similar reactions to a new person where age/gender/race were not factors. Sometimes, people show instant dislike of another, based on stress or apprehension of change, or on something else not easily recognizable (or rational). IMO, start calmly until you’re assessed the situation further.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. Hold back on the race/gender issues until you actually know that is a factor. Once you mention it, you can feel pretty certain that it will shut things down (or SHOULD!). It’s good that you see that as a possibility and are prepared to address it if it comes to light.

      3. turquoisecow*

        Yeah I wouldn’t discount race or gender playing a role here, but my first thought was that it was just somebody reacting to the changing boss situation and they might have had a similar reaction if New Boss was a middle-aged white guy, just with slightly different complaints.

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – some people freak out over change, and it can manifest in some really weird ways.

        I’d do your best to stay well clear of all the negativity and complaint fests. If it’s just change, hopefully they settle back down to their prior normal. If it’s just that you never realized they are the person who isn’t “happy” without something to complain about, well now you know that and can steer clear of them when they start complaining. I’d aim for politely non-agreeing and I’m working on cultivating a more positive outlook approaches.

  11. Isabel Archer*

    For OP#3: For what it’s worth (which I realize is nothing at this point), “pro bono” was a lousy and exploitative way for her to describe this unpaid work to you. Pro bono doesn’t mean “for free.” It means “for the public good,” and usually refers to professional legal services voluntarily provided at no cost to the client because the client can’t afford them (think charities, non-profits, etc.). Hope this gives you a little helpful push toward firmly telling her no.

    1. ResuMAYDAY*

      In reading this, the phrasing bothered me so much but I wasn’t sure why. Thank you for the reminder of what pro bono means! Wouldn’t it be lovely if the OP could 1) end the manipulative relationship and 2) let the former boss know she’s been incorrectly using that term this entire time, all in the same note?

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      You are absolutely right, but given that this is a research project, however half-baked, I foresee the response that this is indeed for the public good by increasing the body of human knowledge.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I was thinking “gratis”. Which kind of makes me giggle because OP is no longer beholden to her for a job, she does not need to be grateful. Former boss has very little leverage here anymore.

    4. Delta Delta*

      Yep. Pro bono has been shortened from “pro bono publico,” which clearly contemplates the public. Not “pro bono boss’s side hustle.”

  12. Storm in a teacup*

    Op1: I don’t see this as a gift grab necessarily but it did make me wonder about the employee’s cultural background. For example indian weddings are often huge affairs and absolutely a parent’s boss would be invited to one of the functions, esp if said parent is paying.
    Of course you don’t have to attend and as Alison suggested you can send an RSVP and nice note accordingly. I don’t necessarily think you need to send a gift from the registry but if your boyfriend’s employee is long-standing and he feels it’s a nice gesture then sure.

    1. Sz*

      I was about to say exactly that. Im Pakistani, so we have an almost identical culture to India. My wedding guest list was easily 400+.

      If this is indeed the case, gift giving is generally not expected. It’s nice if its given, but it isn’t considered a faux pas if there’s no gift. It is hard wired into us that you dont go empty handed to see someone though, so people do bring in a bouquet or a nice card…but the host wouldn’t be offended if you didn’t do that. Those with a little bit of money give envelopes with some cash (generally a token sum), but again, it’s optional. The presence of the guest is considered an honour enough.

    2. Anon100*

      I’m overseas Chinese, but we have similar practices too. Large weddings are common, and inviting your parent’s boss is part of etiquette (it’s more about the parents showing off wealth and status than the couple themselves contrary to Western ideas), even if the invited guest doesn’t attend. It’s fine for OP1’s boyfriend to not attend, esp if he’s not from the same culture.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Talk to five different people, and you’ll get five different sets of wedding expectations, even if they have similar cultural background.

    4. OP1*

      Ha! It’s actually the other way around, employee and people being married are white
      and my partner is Indian!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I wonder if in that case they were aware of the customs in your partner’s culture and were afraid of offering an unintentional insult?

    5. BethDH*

      I went to an Atlanta society wedding once. The bride confided to me that she recognized less than a quarter of the people there (her husband knew even fewer). Most attendees were the friends or coworkers of their parents. My mother’s wedding was similar, though smaller. Some of this, at least in that area, went back to the idea that you invited your “community,” and that was often members of your church and neighborhood and not just your independently chosen social group.
      In a different part of the country, I went to lots of weddings at the church I grew up in where the invitation was issued to the whole congregation, and the reception was cake and punch, maybe sandwiches if they were fancy, in the church basement and everyone was done by 1 pm.

      1. kt*

        Yep, when I got married we published an invite in our cultural society newsletter and invited one whole church congregation (I’m white & Protestant in the Midwest).

      2. anon lawyer*

        Haha, I’m from Atlanta and my (first) wedding was exactly as described in your last paragraph. We literally just pinned the invitation to the church bulletin board and everyone came. That was 100% the custom in my church community. It was also customary for specific members of the congregation to make particular dishes for the reception (one lady had a famous punch, another made great cucumber sandwiches, etc.). We did have a separate dinner that evening for out of town guests and collected RSVPs for that, but the actual ceremony was always an all-invited and all-hands event.

  13. Scotlibrarian*

    For LW 2, I have a new boss after a beloved old one left. Your co-worker is not being normal. Before our boss started, i asked colleagues if any of them had met new boss before. I said once to a colleague, I hope new boss is okay. I’m autistic and really dislike change, but I’m also a professional. Once new boss started, I gave them time to settle in, fully supported them to make changes, never complained about them … because I know how I’d feel in a new position, I know what professional norms are, and everyone deserves the chance to settle into a new post as easily as possible. This totally looks like a race (and possibly age) based issue and I would second Alison’s script to push back on this

    1. Observer*

      You could be right that it’s race / gender based. And even if it really isn’t, it’s still a bad look. And I think it’s reasonable to call that out.

      But it really IS possible for the real issue to be that this CW just doesn’t handle change well. I remember when a beloved coworker retire. Their replacement was the same demographic (gender / ethnicity / race). But some people did have a hard time with the new person who was “Not OldEmployee”. Fortunately, my coworkers are by and large reasonable people, so this reaction was muted and people did get over it in a reasonable amount of time.

      Don’t get me wrong. What this Coworker is doing is NOT ok, and not normal either I think. But if someone is not reasonable and somewhat self aware, I can easily see this kind of thing happening.

      You are sensible, professional and good person who actually thinks about how you would feel in a similar situation. Unfortunately, not everyone is like that.

  14. Batgirl*

    OP3, you don’t want to be on good terms with this person! She’s too much of an obvious nightmare to worry about and even if she badmouthed you at every opportunity, no one is going to listen to a well known vampire. If it still feels rude to block her or ignore her emails, prepare her for the possibility with (undeserved) politeness: “As you know I’ve been too busy lately to continue doing any favors, and as my workload is about to actually increase I doubt I can even keep up with non business correspondence in the near future. I definitely won’t be able to help, but good luck.” I would say would non business, because, you know, free, then I would block her like any other kind of spam.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Is she well known as a vampire though? All the letter tells us is that her own employees are scared of her, she could be perfectly pleasant to other business contacts. (And biotech startups are so common, I have to imagine no one could keep track of which CEOs are jerks.)

      1. Batgirl*

        I was responding to OP’s concern that they want to remain on good terms with former colleagues.

  15. Karen*

    OP2: Any chance your co-worker applied for the manager job and this is sour grapes? Might account for the attitude.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I wondered the same above. Or if she knew she wouldn’t qualify, had a relationship with someone else in the applicant pool and was strongly backing that other candidate.

    2. pancakes*

      It would explain the attitude, I suppose, but it wouldn’t account for why she’s not the least bit self-conscious about wearing her attitude on her sleeve to her own detriment, no.

      1. Observer*

        True. But that doesn’t make this less likely. Because whatever her reason for this behavior, a reasonable person should be aware how bad it looks. So, self-awareness is clearly not one of her strengths.

        1. LW #2*

          Another element to the behavior is that it was happening in a Skype chat between the two of us. It’s not like anyone could overhear and I don’t have any power over her.

          1. pancakes*

            Ah, got it. I would want to say something too because I wouldn’t want her to think I’m a good audience for that.

    3. LW #2*

      It is completely possible. She wanted to apply to replace our boss’s boss a few months after she started because she didn’t like the procedure we used to deal with a small work issue. She’s an individual contributor and has no management qualifications whatsoever, so I’m sure if she did apply, it didn’t go well for her.

      1. Wisteria*

        It’s possible that the reason she is so suddenly aggressive is that she wanted the position, and the way her acting out is manifesting follows a racist and gendered pattern., bc that’s what happens when you are part of a racist and sexist society.

        1. pancakes*

          We all live in a racist and sexist society, though. It’s not as if we’re all compelled to act out in racist and gendered ways whenever we’re disappointed because society. Racism doesn’t just fall out of the sky like rain.

          1. Observer*

            That’s true. But when unreasonable people are disappointed when their totally unrealistic expectations are dashed, they tend to react poorly and without giving real thought to what they are doing and the effects on others.

            And, what the OP describes is definitely an unreasonable person being disappointed that her wildly unrealistic expectations are not being met. There could be other things as well, such as overt racism, but it doesn’t HAVE to be the case here.

            It still needs to stop. And the racist / gendered pattern here should be called out if she doesn’t stop. No matter what the reason for the behavior is.

  16. Aunty Fox*

    OP4 there is nothing unethical in continuing to bill. If they are effectively paying a higher rate per teapot, they are paying for your increased experience and skill (I know you said you adjusted for this a few years ago, but plenty of companies increase costs by at least retail price index annually, google the freddo rate of inflation if you want to see outrageous increases in a fun wway).
    If you feel icky about it then obvs the advice given is excellent, but if no one is complaining, you are earning a decent living for doing your hard work, and you aren’t jacking your rates up every six months then honestly I think you can clear your conscience on this. I have worked with a lot of freelancers and I would never expect them to effectively reduce my costs even as they half the time my projects take through standard templates and familiarity with my habits.

    1. MK*

      Eh, if the OP is sending an invoice stating “10 pots completed in 2 hours, at X per hour you owe me Z”, when in fact she only worked for 1 hour, that’s problematic, even if the client is getting their money’s worth. And it could take her reputation if they even found out.

    2. Boof*

      I’d say it is iffy to bill per hour for a certain number of hours when actually working far fewer hours. Best to either adjust the time / rates to reflect the actual time the work takes, or some of the other suggestions of making it per project, or per project “up to a certain amount of time” etc are better.

    3. doreen*

      I’ve heard enough people complain about mechanics using a flat or book rate ( the book says installing a water pump takes 3 hours of labor ) rather than the actual time involved * to know that if the OP billed for 48 hours on a project with a 2 day turnaround there would be plenty of customers who would have an issue with it since she obviously didn’t work 48 hours within 2 days. Of course, the OP has to use some estimate of the time it will take to set rates – prices for services always do. But that doesn’t mean she has to bill by the hour – since she’s not billing her actual hours now , she’s effectively billing per teapot as it is. (Billing 2 hours for 10 teapots is the same as billing 12 minutes per teapot)

      *And that’s with the mechanics quoting a fixed price for the labor – the estimate isn’t “Labor: 3 hours at $75 per hour”, it’s “Labor: $225”. I can’t even imagine what would happen if the estimate and bill said “Labor: 3 hours at $75 per hour” and the customer found out it only took two hours.

    4. Scion*

      It’s definitely unethical to bill for 2 hours if you only worked for 1. That sounds like the definition of fraud.

    1. Forrest Rhodes*

      My dad used to have a sign on the wall of his business:
      “You can have it fast,
      You can have it good,
      You can have it cheap.
      Pick two.”
      Made his customers laugh, but they understood it.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Now I want to know if they literally could! Like, a customer could say, “I want a rush job, low budget, but it’s okay if there’s a few smudges,” or “I need this done quickly and with high quality, and I’ll pay extra for you to throw extra staff at it.”

        1. Forrest Rhodes*

          LOL. I’m sure there were some who tried! But knowing my dad, I’m sure his response would be just to smile, nod, and say, “Nope, that’s three. Pick two.” Anybody who got too chesty about it would politely be shown the door.
          I do remember Dad telling me, “There are some people in this world that life is just too short to deal with.” (That’s still one of my favorite preposition-ended sentences; I always thought about stitching it on a sampler.)

  17. Not Australian*

    Re: the wedding dilemma – if you’re not attending but are still uncertain whether or not to send a gift, a good fallback option would be to send flowers. Yes, they’ll probably have plenty already – but at the same time (a) it’s a nice gesture (b) it’s relatively cheap and almost impossible to get wrong and (c) it might come in very handy to fill a last-minute gap in their planning (i.e., “we’ve forgotten to get anything for the organist/bride’s aunt/emergency bridesmaid” etc.). Flowers always generate goodwill unless the recipient is severely allergic, and are more welcome than three toasters or five coffee-makers.

    1. Bill*

      Send flowers to a wedding or do you mean send flowers to their home? Sending them to a wedding seems odd to me, but I admit I’m not up on proper etiquette. If you mean sending them to their home, I’m assuming you mean after the wedding, unless they already live together which is a likely possibility these days. I guess I would think if you spent, let’s say $50 on flowers, they’d probably rather have a gift card for that amount instead. No hate or anything, I’m just trying to understand as this feels odd to me. Maybe it’s a cultural thing with me being from the deep south (US).

    2. Ellie*

      Oh, please, no flowers! Not for a wedding, no no no. Either send a registry gift, or don’t send a gift. Do not go off-list like this, it causes so much additional hassle and it isn’t thoughtful or kind to dump that on people who are already having to co-ordinate a massive number of things. Flowers for weddings are usually carefully planned and organised way in advance, and yours will not fit the colours/theme, will require them to find vases and water and a location, and all of that will be an obligation not a gift. Don’t do it!

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I can’t imagine the suggestion is to send, like, a floral arrangement intended for use in the actual wedding itself that would need to fit the colour scheme. That would be bizarre. The allergies point stands but sending a normal bouquet of flowers by Interflora or something to the couple’s home in the weeks/days prior to the wedding really doesn’t seem controversial to me so I’m surprised it’s generating such outrage!

        1. ceiswyn*

          But why send flowers instead of an actual gift from their registry? A decent bunch wouldn’t be any cheaper than a small item they actually wanted!

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Sure, that’s a great option too! I’m not trying to say flowers are the greatest gift in the world or anything, I‘m just surprised at how unheard-of the idea seems to be for a lot of these responses! And assuming the idea is to send a table centrepiece or something just seems like a very odd interpretation of the suggestion.

            1. Hi*

              Well the original commenter said “ (c) it might come in very handy to fill a last-minute gap in their planning (i.e., “we’ve forgotten to get anything for the organist/bride’s aunt/emergency bridesmaid” etc.)” so that’s where the whole “use it for the wedding” idea comes from.

            2. ceiswyn*

              The suggestion was literally “it might come in very handy to fill a last-minute gap in their planning (i.e., “we’ve forgotten to get anything for the organist/bride’s aunt/emergency bridesmaid” etc.).”

              I don’t think it’s odd to interpret the suggestion that the couple could use the flowers in their wedding somehow as… being a suggestion that the couple could use the flowers in their wedding somehow.

            3. Artemesia*

              Flowers are the thing I hate to get at a dinner party because then with all the last minute things I have to do, I have to fuss with dealing with the flowers. Weddings have floral choices — flowers are a fuss at the last minute. And the young couple may be leaving for a honeymoon immediately so flowers at home are no treat. And flowers are expensive. You could easily buy something they really want from their registry for the 50 to 100$ it will cost to send flowers.

        2. Observer*

          The allergies point stands but sending a normal bouquet of flowers by Interflora or something to the couple’s home in the weeks/days prior to the wedding really doesn’t seem controversial to me so I’m surprised it’s generating such outrage!

          Not outrage, but just total bafflement and recognition that’s actually not a good idea in the least bit. It’s not just about going off registry. But flowers generally require some sort of action, which is not something most people really want to deal with in the week before the wedding, without really providing enjoyment in this kind of context.

          Also, where are you sending the flowers? If you happen to know that the couple is already living together at an address you know, and that they are not moving, you can obviously send the flowers there. But otherwise? Furthermore, unless you know the couple’s taste and what their home looks like, you really have no idea if any given floral arrangement makes any sense whatsoever.

          If you know a couple well, go off registry if you want. If just want to get them something for the sake of the gesture, stick to the registry.

        3. Soon to be married*

          The original commenter said “ (c) it might come in very handy to fill a last-minute gap in their planning (i.e., “we’ve forgotten to get anything for the organist/bride’s aunt/emergency bridesmaid” etc.)” so…yeah; the suggestion was right there in the comment….

    3. Tisme*

      Speaking as someone who is mildly allergic to flowers, I would especially not want the symptoms, sneezing, runny nose, teary eyes etc., on my wedding day.
      Stick to the registry or nothing, please.

    4. ceiswyn*

      What are the bride and groom going to do with a bunch of random flowers? Who’s going to receive them and find something to put them in to keep them fresh? Where are you sending these to – the couple’s house (which they won’t be at for most of the day, and may not be returning to after) or the venue (meaning someone also needs to take the flowers away from it after the event is over)? Don’t you realise how tacky it would be for the bride and groom to regift a gift sent to them, and also how impractical and visible that would probably be?

      I… appreciate that plants are usually a safe gift, but I really don’t think you’ve thought this one through.

      1. MK*

        I have known people to send gifts to a new couple after the wedding (in which case they aren’t really wedding gifts, I suppose). Once I completely forgot about a distant cousin’s wedding (no RSPV was required) until the week after. I send a small gift to their house with a “congratulations on getting married, sorry I couldn’t be there” card. But yeah, sending flowers on the day is impractical.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          The classic Emily Post-approved rule was to send a wedding gift up to three months after the wedding. A dissenting opinion gave up to a year. It is normal nowadays to have the gift by the wedding itself, but tradition fully supports sending it afterwards.

      2. AnonAnon*

        Yup. Nothing says “You’re on my C-List as an unvalued afterthought” and tacky than getting regifted unwanted flowers as an emergency bridesmaid.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I think sending flowers as a wedding gift would be a really bad idea.
      If they like flowers, then they are likely to have loads already – and if they haven’t, there’s a good reason for that.

      And sending a perishable gift if rarely if ever going to be a good plan for a wedding, unless it’s been specifically requested, or you know them well enough to know that it will work.

      They may not even open gifts for several days after the wedding (longer, if they go away for a honeymoon straight after) – and there’s all the hassle of where and when do you send them.

      If you want to give a gift then something of the register is the best bet (particularly for people you don’t know well) or a gift card (perhaps to the place they have their registry, since you know they shop there / like that store’s products)

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I agree that a gift card would be appropriate* in this situation. Not overly personal, easy to send (tuck it in a nice card), generally useful. If there is no registry, or they’re registered at a place that doesn’t have any stores in your area, I’ve discovered gift cards to one of the big box home improvement stores go over well.

        *Not required! As I told my brother when he was invited to his ex’s wedding, “You are only required to send a prompt RSVP so they can give an accurate number to their venue. You may send a nice card and/or a gift if you want to.” (Another case where a gift card was an appropriate recommendation.)

        1. Delta Delta*

          Caveat to the gift card – make sure it’s to a place that is generally available or in the couple’s area (this is easy to find out! ask the employee. or google places in their area). I received gift cards as wedding gifts to stores that are not in my area. They turned out to be difficult to use, which clearly was not the givers’ intents.

    6. Soon to be married*

      As someone who is getting married in four months, hard NOPE to flowers. We don’t want flowers at our wedding AT ALL (our families think we’re weird for not having flowers at the church ceremony or the rehearsal but it’s our wedding). Even it we were having them at the wedding, it’s so easy to mess up…different quantities, wrong colors, wrong flowers, etc…so NO FLOWERS

    7. Observer*

      (b) it’s relatively cheap and almost impossible to get wrong

      Flowers are not cheap at all. At least anything that’s a bit nicer than the stuff you can get on a street corner. As for getting it wrong – you simply have to be kidding. Forget about allergies. Unless you know someone’s taste, the chances of getting it right are fairly low, actually. There is just too much variety.

      Flowers always generate goodwill unless the recipient is severely allergic

      Not at all. You send someone a “gift” that is not even theoretically useful but does create work for someone? That may not make someone mad, but it doesn’t engender good will.

      If your recipient gets wind of the idea that your thought was that they must have forgotten something and this will take care of it, you actually might wind up provoking more than an eye roll. At best, it’s an incredibly odd assumption to make.

      I’ll repeat – if you really want to get a gift, don’t want to think about what you should get and don’t want to spend a lot, get something off the registry or get a gift card to the store that the registry is on. Done. No muss, no fuss. And that WILL engender good will.

    8. DataSci*

      No no no no no. I’d be hard pressed to think of a WORSE wedding gift than flowers! The couple is likely to travel for a honeymoon after the wedding, so they wouldn’t be around to enjoy flowers anyway, and most flower arrangements (other than plain roses which are weird for a non-romantic situation) have lilies which can kill cats. At least they can return an extra toaster.

  18. LifeBeforeCorona*

    No.2 Your co-worker is being a passive-aggressive jerk. Pointedly calling everyone else “Dr.” and not the person who rightfully owns the title is both sexist and petty. I hate the word micro-aggression but that’s what your co-worker is doing. She is deliberately downplaying the professional accomplishments of your new manager. If you are comfortable, please call her out on any instance of this behaviour.

    1. banoffee pie*

      It’s rude to the new boss of course, and could also end up offending all the other employees who aren’t doctors, who are now being used in this bizarre passive-aggressive way to make a point. It looks like the micro-aggressor hasn’t even thought of that.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I’m not really sure about the word “micro-aggression” for this– I would think of a micro-aggression as a mostly-inadvertant, unconscious wielding of privilege in a way that adds up to marginalisation and exclusion cumulatively. Calling other people without PhDs “Dr” is straight up, targeted aggression.

      1. OhGee*

        It’s actually defined as not always unintentional. Microaggressions can be subtle, and I’d argue that racism coming through via a sarcastic devaluing of someone’s PhD counts, because many people might not connect it with racism.

        1. bamcheeks*

          hm. ok — I guess the question is whether you think “subtle” refers to the act itself, or the connection between the act and racism. Cos this is very much not a subtle act, but I can see the argument that the racism might be deniable.

          1. OhGee*

            That’s usually how I see it. I don’t think it’s subtle, but (especially after having facilitated a series of conversations about anti-Black racism in my workplace this past year) I’ve realized many spectators wouldn’t see the racism at all.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, it seems like “forgetting” to use a title you’ve been asked to use could be called a microagression. Actively using that title for everyone as a mean joke is definitely not “micro.”

        2. pancakes*

          I’ll link to short write-up of the history of the phrase in a separate reply, but yes, that’s correct. The first known use of the phrase was in a 1970 academic journal:

          “Between the first and second, I should insert those forms of microaggression such as squabbling, mocking irony, didactic arrogance, authoritative presumption, and so on.”

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        My understanding of “micro-aggression” is to provide for aggressions that are below the threshold of a, well, macro-aggression. Consider the commonplace claim that “I never use the N-word, so I can’t be racist.” The rhetorical here ploy is to set the standard at an overt and explicit aggression, giving a pass to anything that doesn’t meet that standard. The concept of the micro-aggression is a response, pointing out that an action can fall short of standing on the street corner shouting the N-word, and still be an aggression. The intent of the aggressor doesn’t enter in.

        1. bamcheeks*

          yes, I think the question here is whether the “micro-” part refers to the act itself, or to the discriminatory/marginalising effect of the act. Taking the piss out of someone by calling people who do not have PhDs “Dr” is straight-up aggressive– it’s an actively hostile act. I guess the question is whether it counts as a “micro-” aggression because it’s not obviously based on race, even if the impact is to marginalise and humiliate a Black woman.

        2. LifeBeforeCorona*

          That’s my problem with the term “micro-aggression. I’m a WOC and recently went for some medical tests. The technician called me “girlfriend” through the entire procedure. “OK, girlfriend, I need you to stay really still while the machine is operating.” It bothered me because the next patient was a woman, older than me and I wondered if she addressed her in the same way.

    3. Momma Bear*

      IMO even if OP is not entirely comfortable, someone needs to call this coworker out and stating simply but firmly that they think it’s wrong/don’t agree is a step in that direction. Many times horrible people keep being horrible because they think you are the right audience if you don’t say otherwise. Make coworker understand you’re not that audience.

      1. LW #2*

        I am open to calling her out, just trying to figure out the best way to do it. One wrinkle is that we don’t actually know for sure if our manager is Black. I’m going off her voice and the fact that it would explain my coworker’s unwarranted aggression (which she hasn’t shown toward anyone else we work with, even really difficult white people).

  19. Parallel Lines*

    I am confused about this sentence from OP4: ” I’ve gotten quite a bit faster and more accurate […] I increased my rates several years ago to account for this, but am still billing for the same number of hours/items.” Is she saying that she increased her hourly rate because she is faster, but then she is still billing as if she were as slow as before? Or the increase in the rates was just due to improved accuracy?

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I’m a bit confused by the way the question is phrased. It kind of sounds like she is *not* currently charging by the hour, but rather by “expected hours for 5 teapots even though I could actually do 10 teapots in that time.” I’m not really clear on what she is saying is currently happening versus what she thinks the alternative might be.

    2. OP4*

      Hi! To clarify, I raised my rates to indicate that I was working faster and getting more done, e.g., more pages per hour. But I’ve continued to get faster since then, and over time the amount of labor it takes to complete tasks has diverged further. It does feel super icky to send a bill for more hours than I spent working–I’m glad I wrote to Alison, because there is some great advice here!

  20. ResuMAYDAY*

    OP#3: This is a situation where Bartleby the Scrivener’s response is perfectly appropriate!

  21. Shiba Dad*

    OP2 – Based on what you have said about the new boss’s gender and race, it is possible that your coworker sees the new boss as someone that doesn’t “know her place”. Your coworker may not be aware that she is doing this.

    1. LW #2*

      Thinking the new boss doesn’t “know her place” based on her race/gender seems so much worse than her just being weirdly negative about a new boss.

      1. Observer*

        It IS so much worse. Which is why I wouldn’t raise the racism issue to start with. You don’t know that it’s the case, the behavior needs to stop regardless, and it’s a serious enough accusation that if it’s wrong you could do some damage.

    2. Bootsy*

      “I think our new boss is a black woman.”
      OP doesn’t know if this woman is a POC or not, yet she is jumping to racism – as are a lot of responders – without knowing the facts. Not right. The coworker does sound passive aggressive but assuming she’s racist as well is so unfair.

  22. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    #2 is a good opportunity to return to an AMA classic: “What an odd thing to say.”

    It’s the perfect, one-size-fits-all response for so many situations and scenarios.

  23. Nuke*

    OP 2- Oooh, this gave me flashbacks. I’ve had a couple supervisor changes at my company (been here 4? years now) since there’s so many opportunities for people to move up and around. The last time I had a supervisor change in my old position, one of my coworkers actually got up and stormed out of the room when she learned who our new supervisor was, because she had “heard things”. Turns out these “things” were that this new supervisor didn’t let people get away with not doing their jobs or being extremely rude, both of which she was guilty of! She had a constant negative, nasty attitude, would aggressively not take part in team activities (which is fine usually, but she’d also make comments about how Stupid whatever we were doing was, when we were clearly enjoying each others’ company), and once even started shouting at the supervisor, saying “No, [Supervisor], I WON’T lower my voice, and I sure as hell hope [Manager] hears my bitching TOO!”

    It was incredibly awkward to deal with, and I opted just not to talk to her about it ever and I ignored her as much as possible. She eventually got fired for never completing her work on time (which of course she blamed on everyone else, when we have a work culture that works VERY hard to help people if they’re ever struggling), but it took too long. I wish you luck in dealing with your coworker (mine was also a middle-aged white lady, and our supervisor was a younger white lady), but sometimes some people are just Like That, Forever.

  24. Fernie*

    I am a White woman with a Ph.D., and I have also had the experience of someone calling everyone in the room “Doctor”.

    I don’t work in the field that my Doctorate is in, so I haven’t made a big deal about it, but reading OP2’s story, I’m realizing what a jerk move it is.

    1. Lady Danbury*

      FYI, you may not realize that capitalizing the w in white is problematic and can be seen as a microagression. For further context, Columbia Journalism Review has a great article entitled Why we capitalize ‘Black’ (and not ‘white’).

    2. Artemesia*

      Most women with doctorates have had the experience of people using the title with men but not women. I remember at the start of my career being introduced with 3 colleagues — it was Dr. Smith, Dr. Jones and Mrs. Artemesia. I was the only one of the three who had a doctorate in a professional context where most people did. (Smith and Jones were newbies like me and were ABDs– no real problem if they had been accorded the title so long as I was also)

  25. Chairman of the Bored*

    For #4, I suggest LW investigate something like the flat-rate “book pricing” that mechanics use to quote labor.

    They charge a fixed amount based on the type of job and vehicle, based on how long it would take the average wrench to do the work. If the book says it’s 4 hours of labor to replace an alternator the customer pays for 4 hours regardless of whether the tech actually takes 1 hour or 8.

    These numbers are typically set a bit high to account for unexpected problems and variation. LW may want to set an “average time per teapot” that an average inspector would take, and then charge for that time regardless of how long it actually takes her.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree the LW needs to change things.

      I’m personally bothered by the lying of her billing methodology and would be extremely upset to find out that a business overcharged me by saying it took more hours than it actually did. I’m not an argumentative person in real life, but righteous indignation may lead me to demand she refund the overcharge and only charge me for the hours she actually took on my work, and I’d give negative reviews to her company explaining exactly how she overcharges people if that were an option.

      Her methodology has her billing on a per item (actually per 5 items) basis when she says that she’s determined 5 items = hour of work = $/hour rate. All she needs to do change billing to say 5 items (there’s a 5 item minimum) = $ (former hourly rate).

      1. OP4*

        Hi there! Believe me, I understand how you feel. I too would be horrified by a vendor who just billed willy-nilly based on their gut feeling of how much something should cost after the fact!

        For context, I review highly technical documentation, and I provide a firm quote based on pages per hour before I start projects to my clients, so the price isn’t a surprise at all. They know what they’re paying for the service; it’s just that the way I currently define the fee structure no longer reflects the reality of what I do. I may just move to an $X/X pages model with my trusted clients since I know they won’t abuse the policy with tiny fonts or ridiculous margins and then just provide a LOT of guidance about format and expectations with new clients.

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          The analogy of the auto mechanic is useful. It is sufficiently transparent that no reasonable customer will feel misled.

          The model you present is also reasonable.

  26. ecnaseener*

    For #4, I’m curious: are there potential legal issues with billing more hours than you spent? Clients aren’t complaining, but when you do your taxes could you get in trouble for billing 48 hours in a 36 hour period?

    1. Sloanicote*

      Interesting. Legally I doubt it; if OP has a real business and gets an audit I think that would be where the problem would pop up?

      1. Shrug*

        Who exactly is going to audit the methods someone uses to calculate the fees they charge? When you own a business you get to charge whatever you want. If the client thinks you’re overcharging, they can dispute the invoice or refuse to pay. If you have a contract outlining the hourly rate of pay and those aren’t the rates you’re using, there are legal implications to that. But there’s no external standard that I’m aware of that limits what a contractor can charge for their work.

        1. pancakes*

          Right, if the business is going to be audited, the audit will begin with its own record-keeping. For most businesses there isn’t some sort of centralized third party with records of its own to check the business’s records against.

          1. ecnaseener*

            That’s why I gave the example of billing for more hours than physically exist in between receiving the work and delivering it — no need for centralized records, just “hey that’s impossible, it must be falsified!”

      2. Alex*

        It is a real business, even if it’s freelance! She’s not doing it as a hobby, it’s what pays the bills. I suspect you meant a big business, but this is a sore spot for me.

        1. Sloanicote*

          But do most single person freelancers get an annual audit? That was what I was thinking of. I say this as a freelancer who is not an LLC and does not get an audit, while every nonprofit I’ve worked for has one annually, and they might catch something like an impossible time sheet.

    2. OP4*

      Hi! Fortunately, this hasn’t been an issue for me since I generally provide a firm quote before beginning work. So it’s not really that I am billing for more time than it takes, it’s that the units I’m using for my fee structure aren’t realistic any more–e.g., the client knows a given project will be $1500, the invoice just lists 30 hours instead of the 20 it actually took.

      1. Betty (the other betty)*

        Easy peasy: start by leaving the hourly rate and hours off your invoices. The invoice would say: Project A, by quote, $1500.

        Then on subsequent projects, just stop giving the hours in your quote. For example:

        Project scope: Proofread and line edit 100 pages of Paper A.

        Assumptions: I am assuming that these are typical pages, double spaced, 12 pt times new roman font, with no more than 2 scientific equations per page. More dense or complex pages may incur an additional charge: I’ll let you know when I have a chance to review the paper.

        Price quote: $1500

        Sometimes you’ll be way over on your estimate and make a big profit on top of your own hourly pay. Occasionally you might be under and end up working a bit more than the price reflects. Keep tracking your hours even if you aren’t billing “by the hour” so you have the data to make better price quotes going forward.

  27. I edit everything*

    OP #4:

    I’m also a freelancer. I think in part the problem here is that you should have been adjusting rates and hours as you went along. As you got faster, your times on your invoices should have come down, and once your improved speed and quality were established, you could raise your rates appropriately, without being a shock to your clients.

    I’m an editor, and I charge by the word, but I will adjust my per-word rate based on a sample edit. Harder edits get a higher rate. The client whose books I could edit with my eyes closed gets a lower rate. Others charge by the hour, but I prefer the certainty of the per-word rate. And yet others charge by the project.

    No matter what you do, you’ll need to be upfront with your clients. It makes me, as a fellow freelancer, very uncomfortable to hear that you’re charging for more hours than you spent on the project. A transitional shift to per-teapot or per-project rate could be the smoothest way to get you out of this tricky situation. If it doesn’t work for you, go back to hourly, but update your rates and estimate of teapots per hour.

    1. Sloanicote*

      Ideally yes, but it does get to a point where the hourly rate starts to look a little eyebrow raising, at least in my sector. Under $100 an hour is fine but that would pretty much be the ceiling for the companies I’m freelancing for (nonprofits).

      1. I edit everything*

        Sure, there’s an upper limit, no doubt. But getting faster and better means more time for more clients, so you’re still getting a practical pay raise, if you can fill in the extra time. I think a shift to a per-project or per-teapot rate (averaged out or based on complexity) is the way to go, if a high hourly rate will give clients a heart attack.

        1. Sloanicote*

          Hehe yeah, cuz I don’t want to take on more work or more clients. I want to take on fewer that pay more!

  28. anonymous73*

    #1 – people get so wrapped up in what people “should” or “shouldn’t” do, especially when it comes to weddings. If you don’t want to go, don’t go. Unless your BF has a close relationship with this employee, the invitation is a bit odd. And you are under no obligation to go. If the employee is upset by this, that’s on them. You can’t control someone else’s feelings, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to attend something that you don’t want to attend. You also don’t have to send a gift if you don’t attend.
    #2 – your colleague isn’t even giving the new manager a chance. Be direct. When she complains, say something like “Manager has only been here a short time and you’re not even giving her a chance. I need you to stop the negativity about Manager.” If she continues, “I asked you to stop complaining about Manager. I’m hanging up now.” Being direct is not rude or unprofessional.
    #3 – send one last “no” email and then stop responding. Someone like her will not let up if you keep the lines of communication open.

  29. Safely Retired*

    #2: “You’ve barely had time to hear her say Hello. I think we need to wait and see before we draw conclusions.”

  30. Other Sherri*

    For LW4 – FYI that this is a standard practice in the auto mechanic world (not sure if everyone uses it, but it’s at least ver common). If a brake job is supposed to take three hours, you get billed for thee hours whether the mechanic takes two hours or four. The mechanic also gets paid for three hours, regardless of time actually spent.

    The mechanic ends up being paid the greater of elapsed time or ‘billed time’. So, if you have a new mechanic that works slower than what can be billed, they still get paid for actual hours worked. A more experienced mechanic can work 40 hours and get paid for 50 or more.

    Try thinking like an auto mechanic and bill away!!!

    1. Sloanicote*

      I think that’s fine but you’d have to be expressing this up front, not making this private calculation behind the scenes. In addition, like OP I’ve encountered numerous jobs where there’s not enough turnaround time for me to bill the hours to get the amount I was expecting. You can’t just say it was 40 hours if you actually spent 20 and then did another billed hourly job or if you sent them the product 20 hours after the request came in.

      1. I edit everything*

        If you have a minimum for a job, then you’re not billing hourly. You’re billing by project. Someone above suggested a project rate, up to X hours, and then an hourly rate would kick in if it takes longer than expected. That seems like a reasonable approach to me. I suck at tracking my time (another reason I bill per word), so it’s not a good solution for me, but I’m sure others could use it effectively.
        And if I have something with a short turnaround time, there’s a rush fee that gets added on. Another option.

        1. Sloanicote*

          I have used the rush fee and can confirm it works! I just have trouble walking my clients over the hours-to-flat-rate hump, even though it’s for the exact same amount of money and the exact same deliverables.

  31. OP1*

    I posted this as a reply further up but thought I’d add it here for others to see as well:

    Thanks for answering my question Alison! I should add that my dream wedding includes eloping and minimal guests so the concept of inviting people you don’t know seems very odd to me, especially with how expensive weddings can be! My boyfriend has no problem sending a card/gift, but the wedding invite is part of a pattern of odd (?) invites from the employee who definitely thinks they’re just being very nice and inclusive! They did invite us to Christmas dinner this year which we declined to attend.

    1. Sloanicote*

      I’ve seen this have cultural differences too. A large family of my acquaintance are immigrants from a location where I think families hosting large gatherings of looser social connections is more common and understood not to be a gift grab. As long as they are not offended if you politely decline I think it’s okay. If there’s friction your boyfriend might have to say he keeps a bright line between worklife and homelife or something.

  32. kt*

    OP 5: Can you make some discreet connections with folks on the other team? It may not be to your advantage to go only through your boss and grandboss. Is there a chance to talk informally with the folks doing the work on the other team?

    Also, can those above you who remain at the company advocate for/advertise your skills? People higher up need to know about your skills. What can you do to be seen as an expert in this, independent of your bosses/managers?

    Crossing my fingers for you. I know as someone a few levels up in the hierarchy now that I would be sad if I found that I accidentally fired someone with expertise because I didn’t know about it.

    1. WorkLady*

      OP 5, I second this. Definitely reach out directly to the team who may absorb your skills.
      Also, FWIW, at my (very large well-known global company) the norm here would be that you will be transferred to Bob’s team, not that they will hire someone new to do what you’ve been doing and let you go (that wouldn’t make any sense). But this would rely in part on them being aware that you exist and have the skills! So don’t hesitate to talk about it. This isn’t a hit at you, this is normal shuffling/reorganizing that happens constantly. Get out in front of it and make sure people know you’re willing to move around and put your unique skills to work.

      1. OP5*

        Thanks for the support. I doubt I would be fired. What I’m worried about is that the specific types of assignments / roles will be assigned to the other team. There is definitely lots of restructuring going on, and our team is actively hiring. The problem is that the roles that they are actively hiring for have next to nothing to do with my training, skills, or interests. Imagine a job switch from pricing/marketing teapots to decorating decorating them.

        That being said, my grandboss has mentioned to me that she wanted to talk about how this transition will play out. We havent had a chance to actually schedule the conversation yet so we will see what comes of it. Part of my anxiety is due to the toxicity of my previous company (started fresh out of school so I didn’t know better and lasted 10 years before escaping). I don’t know how to handle a normal environment.

  33. Erin*

    For the Teapot QC: if you do switch to a per-project charge, make sure that the proposed fee for the project is consistent, and the equivalent of your hourly rate.

    I can see where a company would wonder why your per-project rates are all over the place if they previously paid you per hour, and those rates were a predictable & consistent amount. I can also see this creating a situation where the customer might accidentally get some work done for free. Maybe build a clause into your new project proposal that accounts for overtime?

    Also, when you come up with your pricing structure, remember that your customers have not pushed back on price increases over the years. You are a trusted source of high quality work. Please feel comfortable charging what you are worth!

  34. Spearmint*

    LW2 – Is it possible there’s a more generous interpretation here? Your coworker is being obnoxious, but perhaps she’s just missing your former boss and needs time to get used to the change in leadership. I don’t really get racist/sexist vibes from what is written. New bosses of all identities often face skepticism from employees, especially if they’re replacing a long tenured and beloved boss.

    As for the “Dr.” comments, again it sounds like she’s not handling it great, but on the other hand it is also pretty irritating when people with PhDs insist on being called “Dr.” outside of very formal contexts, and maybe this was her attempt to playfully rib the boss a little?

    1. fueled by coffee*

      I agree that it’s irritating for someone to insist on being called Title LastName in an otherwise first name only workplace, but… PhDs ARE “Dr.”s.

      Note that the coworker also isn’t calling the other employees “Mr.” or “Ms.” LastName — it’s specifically Dr., because the issue for her isn’t the “Title + LastName” format, it’s that the new boss wants to be referred to by her title, which is Dr.

    2. Nanani*

      “The new boss is a black woman” + the reality that people often balk at using titles for women of colour is plenty.
      Playfully ribbing a new boss is not what’s happening here.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        But there’s no evidence of that. OP says “I THINK the new boss is a Black woman”. I think jumping to racism is a stretch when there’s no evidence of that.

        1. Wisteria*

          The evidence for racism is that the coworker does not want to call a black woman with a PhD by her rightfully earned title, while calling other people who do not have PhDs by that title. That is racism. She doesn’t need to spewing racial epithets or quoting The Bell Curve at the same time for there to be racism.

      2. TIRED*

        BINGO!! Everyone writing paragraphs to convince us that OP’s bad coworker is just a jerk but not at all racist – just wow.

    3. pancakes*

      Even in your own framework this is snarky skepticism rather than playfulness. You’re suggesting that the coworker is behaving this way because they’re anxious about their new boss and/or resentful about having a new boss, and/or resentful about the fact that some people with PhDs want to be called doctor, not because they inexplicably think it’s hilarious to call everyone but PhDs doctor.

    4. Shrug*

      Uh no I think it’s probably fine for people to be referred to by their earned titles. You worked for it, you get to use it. It might be out of step with the formality of the office if you’re Dr. Kingston and everyone else on the management team is Joe or Francine, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with people called Dr. when everyone else is Ms. or Mr.

      We can debate the utility of “forced respect” and leveraging formality to manipulate power structures, but it’s not a simple or straightforward issue.

    5. Observer*

      s it possible there’s a more generous interpretation here? Your coworker is being obnoxious, but perhaps she’s just missing your former boss and needs time to get used to the change in leadership

      The problem here is that it doesn’t really matter all that much WHY she’s doing this. Being rude and making up problems is not excused by “missing” someone or “needing time to get used to” whatever. At least not in a supposedly competent adult. And if the behavior reads as racist, even if it is not intended that way, that just adds another layer to the problem. Not that you have to accuse the CW of being racist. But if more generic pushback doesn’t work, it’s reasonable to point out the problem, while allowing for the possibility that the person doesn’t mean it that way.

      and maybe this was her attempt to playfully rib the boss a little?

      Unlikely enough that it needs to stop and it should be called out. Maybe the new boss is being inappropriate here, or not reading the culture correctly. But getting “irritated” and acting like a rude child in response is a far worse problem.

    6. LW #2*

      She can’t be playfully ribbing our manager if she’s referring to everyone else as “Dr.” in conversations that don’t include our manager.

  35. She of Many Hats*

    LW 2: Often “I never expected that kind of statement from you” will point out how something isn’t acceptable and still encourage them try to live up to the shining image you just projected onto them. If it keeps up “gee, that was an unkind/disrespectful/unprofessional thing to say” can stop them in their tracks.

  36. Nanani*

    #4 – Alison’s advice is spot on.
    You can change your fee structure to per-project or per-teapot, or raise the base rate per hour to reflect your growth.
    While there are tasks and lines of works where per-hour makes sense, a LOT of work does not work well with this model for exactly the reason you ran into: As your expertise level, and knowledge of a particular client’s needs, and comfort with your tools, and so on grow, you can do more work in one hour. It makes no sense to make -less- money because you got more work done per unit of pay (hours), so change the unit of pay.

    If it’s tricky to bring up the change to existing clients, you can start by billing new clients per-teapot isntead of per hour and then bring existing clients into this model over time (“As of X date I’ll be switching all my clients to this new fee structure.”)

    Good luck!

    1. OP4*

      Thank you! I really like this idea. My primary client is one that I trust to not take advantage of a per-page structure with teensy fonts and compressed spacing, so I will pilot it on them–and I love your suggested language!

  37. Quality Girl*

    #1 I’m from the Midwest where this is not at all unusual. My mom went to her boss’s kids’ weddings and he came to mine. My MIL’s boss came to mine, etc. They were paying for the food and bar and they wanted a big party. *shrug*

  38. Zach*

    For #2- the coworker is definitely behaving inappropriately, but I agree that it is extremely bizarre to introduce yourself to your employees as “Dr. [lastname]” in the same way that it would be bizarre to introduce yourself as Mr./Mrs [lastname]. It sounds like you think all of your employees are children.

    But, like I said, that is not the lone issue here and your coworker is being really crappy.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think, as Alison pointed out, that is often more common among people who have historically and systemically had their titles ignored or undervalued. I do agree though that in that position I would not be totally sure what she wanted me to call her–but that can be cleared up by simply asking “Do you prefer that I call you Dr. Smith or Jane?”

      (Also with a big caveat of if this is in like a hospital or something where I think calling your boss Dr. Smith would probably be more common and I wouldn’t even bother asking but just address her that way. If this is just like an office job though I would ask.)

      1. Zach*

        Hah I didn’t even think of this potentially being a medical-related job. That would make it much less weird to me.

        I get the historical context of titles for certain groups of people being undervalued and I absolutely think those titles should be respected, but making people you see every day refer to you by a title still comes off (to me) as extremely condescending outside of a medical setting. That said, I’ve pretty much only worked at places where if you called someone by anything other than their first name (even the CEO), it would be seen as extremely out-of-touch with the culture, so that could be part of why it seems that way to me.

        Regardless, given the other items included here that coworker is absolutely still being a racist/sexist baby.

        1. JustaTech*

          I agree that it would be weird for the head librarian to insist on being called Dr So-and-so. (Yes, you can get a PhD in Library science.)
          But the thing is that the OP and the OP’s coworker have only had one virtual meeting with their new manager, so it’s not clear to me that the manager *is* asking to be called “Dr” or if that was a one-off in the introductory meeting.
          (There are also, sadly, workplaces where one might be obligated to use one’s degree as a shield to avoid being treated as a very junior staff member.)

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          We looked at corporate cultures in my MBA programs, and it varies a lot by workplace. In the ‘formal’ workplaces, it’s pretty normal to say ‘Dr. Lastname’. In the less formal ones, no one blinked at any of the options, ‘Dr. Lastname’, ‘Dr. Firstname’ or just ‘Firstname’.

          The ‘formal’ workplaces that I remember discussing were two >40 yo Fortune 100 IT companies and a university. The less formal ones were small / medium businesses and a couple of other Fortune companies. Cisco was almost all first names, but IBM would use the introduction name no matter how formal it was and no one thought it weird, though that may vary across different divisions. My friend who worked at Watson said they used ‘Dr’ as a joke a lot, since everyone had one.

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          I think it’s possible that the new boss led with Dr. Jones, but may change once she’s had some time in their office culture. In addition to the microaggression aspect, it might simply be going for overly-formal out of nerves. It’s easier to lighten up than it is to tighten up.

    2. Observer*

      but I agree that it is extremely bizarre to introduce yourself to your employees as “Dr. [lastname]” in the same way that it would be bizarre to introduce yourself as Mr./Mrs [lastname].

      Wow. In a lot of workplaces this is absolutely the norm. Just because you have never encountered it doesn’t make it bizarre or wrong.

    3. JustaTech*

      Depending on the field you work in I think it completely makes sense to introduce someone with a doctorate as Dr So-and-So.
      For example, my boss has a PhD. I have never called him Dr Boss, I call him by his first name. But when we are meeting with outside vendors who need to know the relative expertise of the people they are talking to he will introduce himself as Dr Boss (“please call me FirstName”). If he was speaking at a conference he would be Dr Boss.

      Dr is an earned title that describes something about a person’s education, experience and expertise. In that way it is not at all like “Mr”.

      Now, if the title is totally irrelevant, then I could see not choosing to use it. (I have a coworker with a JD, which is totally unrelated to his work, so even if it had a form of social address he wouldn’t use it.)

    4. LW #2*

      Most of the interactions we have as a team are in writing (email, IM, ticketing systems), if that changes the tone at all. It did not feel weird to me when she introduced herself as Dr.

    5. Wisteria*

      Mr./Mrs. are not earned titles, though. That is a false equivalency. Believing that someone who uses the title that was conferred on them thinks the people around them are children is a choice that you are making. You could choose to see it as using the title that was conferred on them bc they earned it.

  39. MCMonkeyBean*

    If your boss is still around but leaving, I think that’s the ideal time to have a completely candid conversation with her! She’s not got much reason now to sugar coat potential layoffs or major restructuring or anything else that might be coming down the pipeline–if she were staying she wouldn’t want to scare you into leaving for a new company yourself but now it doesn’t affect her if you decide to look for a new job!

    So if I were you I’d ask for a meeting with your departing boss and lay all your cards on the table. Ask if she thinks your job is likely to be eliminated or even your department. Ask if she knows whether Bob’s team has any openings so that maybe you could continue doing the work you were hired for but just on a different time. In my opinion, there is no reason for the two of you not to be totally honest with each other right now.

    And if she’s not still around, maybe you could reach out and ask for a cup of coffee or something to pick her brain. It sounds like you guys have had a good working relationship so if she thinks the ship is sinking I’m sure she would want to help you out.

  40. MoductPanager*

    For the letter writer asking about billing per hour when her work has gotten faster, I’ve spent years hiring vendors (many of whom are freelancers or owners of 2-3 person small businesses – things like writers, editors, designers, etc) and the framework I got my company to adopt which felt fairest to both us and the freelancer was this: we always draft the agreement such that we agree to pay X$ for Y Hours (or the completion of the project). If the freelancer exceeds Y hours, (s)he will not proceed without written confirmation that we understand we’re rolling into hourly territory, and will then pay at the pre-established hourly rate (often with a new “not to exceed Y additional hours, unless agreed upon in writing”).

    This way, we’re both covered: I have a agreed to a fee for the project that we’re both comfortable with and we both reasonably believe will encompass all work needed. If the freelancer gets done faster, great, but the work was worth X$ to me, so she’s paid X$. If the project INCREASES in scope, however, she’s not stuck doing extra work as part of the negotiated project. To Alison’s initial point, it might make sense for your agreements to be more “per batch of teapots” than “per hour” – but either way, one of the benefits to an hourly schedule contract for the freelancer is the ability to keep scope-creep in check, and this “not to exceed unless explicitly agreed” framework has helped us do that fairly for both parties!

  41. Jules the 3rd*

    OP2, if you choose to push on the name issue (and I think you should, because even if it’s not based on race, it will appear to be based on race to your new boss), you should probably flip Alison’s script and put the “of course YOU don’t want to seem racist” first. I’d try:

    “I’m sure you don’t mean this to be about her race, but you’re really likely to come across that way if you keep making a big deal about using her title, including the whole calling other people ‘Dr’. There’s a well-documented problem with people refusing to use earned titles for women and people of color, particularly Black women. ”

    Using it in the order Alison’s script does means there’s a good chance she’ll interrupt you with defensiveness before you get to the “I’m sure you don’t mean it that way” part, and the conversation will derail into “are you calling me racist.”

    1. LW #2*

      It might get derailed into “why are you bringing race into this”, because we haven’t met our boss in person and so don’t know her race for sure.

      1. Wisteria*

        Right now, I would not use the scripts about gender and race. I would stick to calling her out for not using a title that was conferred, and I would do so starting with mild call outs and escalating. So I would start with, “Well, that is her title, so I don’t have a problem with using it.” and move into, “why is it such a problem to use the title that she earned?” or, “You are so oddly fixated on not using her title. What gives with that?” and start bringing up the way people refuse to use titles with women and Black people once you have confirmed her race.

        Good luck.

  42. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

    OP4- When I was a freelance editor, I priced based on wordcount, but I had tiers for light, moderate, and heavy editing that was based on time spent. An approach like this might be useful- Your rates are X per 5 teapots with the understanding that if 5 teapots winds up taking you a significantly higher than average rate of time, it gets bumped up to a higher category. This way, you can charge at a rate for five teapots without worrying that it didn’t take you as long with an hourly rate, without undercutting yourself if you have something that takes longer.

    With editing this was also helpful because sometimes parts of the writing were developed at different levels, so I wouldn’t have to charge the highest rate for the whole thing.

    Also, having some sort of rush fee structure can help, because, like your question implies, when you have 18 hours of work in 48 hours, it impacts your ability to do other things, and so they really are buying the whole 48 hours of your time.

    1. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

      In practical terms, it would work like this: Client sends you 5 sets of 5 teapots to review. 4 of the sets can be reviewed at your standard rate, but the fifth, for whatever reason, requires a full hour to review. In that case, you would charge for 4 Standard teapot reviews and 1 Developmental (or whatever term works best) teapot review at the higher rate.

  43. That White Girl*

    The wedding invitation issue could be explained by cultural differences. I grew up on the U.S. – Mexico border and it is customary and polite for Mexican-American families to include coworkers, extended family, and plus-ones in just about every special occasion. The entire staff of a restaurant I worked at was invited to a coworker’s child’s first birthday. I attended my mom’s coworker’s son’s fiance’s bridal shower (along with her male fiance and 100 other guests). I attended my boyfriend’s cousin’s baby shower as his guest (with again, 100 guests, of every gender) and it turned out she was someone I went to high school with. You get the idea. When my mom first experienced this, she attended a bridal shower alone, as she expected a typical white-person gathering of a few women. Instead it was a large backyard party. The host said, “Where’s your husband?? Where’s your kids?? You should have brought them!” So it all really depends — sometimes what we think is “weird” is totally normal, and it’s important to look at things from a cultural lens.

  44. CatPerson*

    “Your boyfriend should feel free to RSVP no once the actual invite arrives and send a nice card and something off the registry if he wants, and you’re good.”

    Possibly she wanted something nice off the registry more than she wanted your boyfriend to attend the wedding?

  45. OP#3*

    Thanks so much for answering my question, Alison! You (and the folks in the comments) are absolutely right that I need to just make a more unassailable “no” reply. I think part of it that I didn’t consider before, as well, is that I’m from the south, where being that direct is seen as incredibly rude, whereas my former ceo is a new yorker, so there’s a communication gap on top of her being used to getting her way.

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