I got Covid on a work trip, our “competitive” pay is well below market, and more

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

1. I got Covid on a work trip

My job (federal government) recently held a mandatory work conference in Florida. They encouraged us to bring our families so I flew cross country with my husband and young son to attend this week-long conference. While there, we were informed that several attendees got Covid — and then the emails kept coming. If you were in this group, you were exposed or on that bus or in this room or ate lunch at this time — basically a superspreader event. Inevitably, after two years of protecting my son, my whole family got Covid and were symptomatic.

When I returned to work after I was cleared, I was informed my timesheet was done and when I checked, they just used regular sick time. I’m new so that week of sick time basically wiped out all my sick time (did I mention I have a toddler who is a Petri dish of illness?) and it will probably be another six months before I build up a reserve again. I was a little annoyed at what I thought was a mistake — it was a work trip where they admitted to exposing us, after all. So I went to HR and they confirmed that it’s regular sick time even though I contracted Covid on a work trip. I’m loath to rock the boat since I’m new but I will admit to being annoyed. Is there any recourse? Besides turning down future travel by explaining to my boss that I just don’t have the sick time if I get sick again, which has already come up once.

This is a terrible policy. You can’t always tell for sure where you contracted an illness, but when your workplace alerts you that they sent you to a superspreader event as part of your job, they really should bend over backwards to mitigate the hit to your sick leave. And even aside from that, they should be concerned about the hit to your sick leave; this is the kind of policy that encourages people not to quarantine and take precautions to keep other people safe. They’re disincentivizing responsible behavior.

That said, since it’s the government, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to get them to budge; in that context, policy tends to be policy. But how to handle travel in the future when you don’t have sick time available if you get sick again is a good question to pose to your boss.

2. We’re told our “competitive” pay is well below market

I work at a national nonprofit and we use a pay band system that centers around the idea of a midpoint metric within the band. So your salary is 65% of the midpoint.

This is the most transparency I’ve ever seen with pay, which on one hand, great! Except they explicitly say that the midpoint is the external market rate … and that you should be working TOWARDS the midpoint and that makes us competitive.

I hadn’t thought much about it, but a number of my friends at totally different nonprofits have mentioned that they are just getting this same midpoint system and they are upset about it. Because, surely this is just places bragging that we are being paid below market rate? And that somehow that’s a good and competitive thing?

Am I missing something where even though it says market rate, we aren’t all being paid below market rate? What’s the logic here? For what it’s worth, I’m convinced that at least one other nonprofit is using the same consultants as my org to create these metrics.

Yeah, this makes no sense. “We’re paying you 65% of the market rate and you can work toward getting up to market” is indeed the same as “we are underpaying you by 35%” (assuming you’re not on the low end of experience and skill for your job, and assuming they’re not building in a 35% nonprofit vs. for-profit penalty or something like that). It would be interesting to lay it out that way and ask for clarification.

3. Company miscounted vacation time — and now my friend has almost none

My friend/coworker recently checked in with HR on how much vacation time he has to help with his annual time off planning, and in the process the company found out that they had accidentally double-counted six months of vacation time from two years ago. So, while he thought he had X hours of vacation time, based on the information he had been receiving from the company, technically he had been in the negative. They corrected the error, and now he has a total of two hours of vacation saved up for this year. This throws a major kink in his plans for 2022, which he had made based on the information he received previously. Is this the right way for the company to handle this? It kind of feels like he’s being penalized by being unable to take a vacation this year for their accounting error — or having to take the time unpaid (which is an option). What do you think?

Additional context: our company is pretty chintzy with vacation time — two weeks/year until five years of service or promotion to project manager (then you get three weeks). Also, it might be worth mentioning that while I’ve had zero problems with our company on this kind of thing, they also a couple of years ago overpaid his bonus and had to take money back. So this is not the first time. I think in general our company is managed well and well-intentioned, but our HR is only one person for almost 100 employees.

If the error were brand new, it would be reasonable to correct it. But incorrect info that’s been in place for two years, caused by their mistake, and which he’s been relying on to make vacation plans for the year? They should own that error and write the time off as their loss. Even offering to split it with him (so if he thought he had 80 hours, now he has 40) would be a better move, and probably much better received by him, than what they’re doing now.

He could try escalating this to his boss, pointing out that it’s in no one’s interest for him to have all his vacation time wiped out and not to be able to get a break from work to recharge. If he has nonrefundable reservations or other evidence of hardship caused by their error, he should present that too. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to get it changed, but a good manager would go to bat for him.

4. Do I risk retaliation for organizing my coworkers around reproductive rights?

I’ve always been a quiet person who follows the rules, gets good reviews, and maintains positive work relationships with colleagues at all levels. Suddenly, I find myself so enraged over the leaked draft and pending overturn of Roe v Wade that I can no longer remain quiet. I work at a nonprofit and our mission is not directly related to these issues, but there’s a strong case that we could do some good in this space — if only our internal decision-makers weren’t treating it like kryptonite. I also think our medical insurance should explicitly cover employees in affected states.

So I’ve been speaking up in meetings, posting, emailing, and encouraging my colleagues to get involved and push for change. And they have! We’ve definitely gotten the attention of the highest levels of leadership, and it’s getting real. Terrifyingly real. I didn’t set out to create a movement, but it seems like I did. This is a personal and deeply-felt issue all around, and I don’t know who in upper management may be staunchly against us. I always try to remain professional in my tone but some of my colleagues are sharing thoughts that, although I agree in principle, come across as inflammatory and hostile. I’m afraid I’ve led my colleagues into a fight that could have real consequences if their bosses or higher-ups want to shut this down or retaliate.

I know from reading your work all these years that anti-discrimination laws and terms like “hostile workplace” are often misapplied, but what I’m trying to figure out is whether our speech and/or collective action around this specific issue is protected in any way? It seems like some of the sex, gender, or pregnancy language may extend to abortion and reproductive health rights, but it may not. And if (ugh, when) the court ruling does become official, would that change the answer? I feel responsible for encouraging my friends and coworkers to join me in this. It’s worth it to me, but if this work causes a backlash, I’d never want to put anyone else’s job at risk.

I don’t think anti-discrimination laws will give you much protection here, although it’s possible they could, depending on how you framed an argument; you’d need an employment lawyer to tell you for sure.

But what does protect you is the law around organizing with your coworkers! The same laws that protect unionizing also protect less formal organizing around wages and working conditions. You have a legally protected right to talk with coworkers and organize collectively around things like health care access. That doesn’t mean your employer won’t retaliate anyway (look at all the union-busting that happens), but it’s worth familiarizing yourself with your rights under the National Labor Relations Act, which is the law in play here. (One important caveat: That protection only applies to non-supervisory employees.)

5. My terrible yet charismatic former classmate is interested in my boss’s job

My wonderful boss has announced that she is leaving her role, and her job has been posted internally and externally. I am not currently at a point in my career where I would be eligible for her job.

A classmate from my PhD program reached out to me about the position, asking for a referral (it is not evident from the posting that this is my boss’s job, just the level of seniority and the department). My former classmate is not qualified for this position. She has never worked in my industry, nor has she worked at the level of the role. However, she did hold an academic admin-type role that was titled in a way where it might look like she had experience at that level to someone not familiar with the academic context or what the role really entailed. (If this is confusing, think psychology PhD program, UX research industry, and classmate ran the campus writing center and the title had “director” in it, but does not rise to the level of being a research director. Those aren’t the actual details, but they’re a good analogy).

I don’t want to refer this person. She’s petty and needlessly competitive and is the type of person who pushes other people down to build herself up. But even if I tell her I can’t refer her, I worry that she’ll still be able to spin her resume to seem like she’s qualified. She’s also incredibly charismatic, like to the point that if she gets the interview, she as good as has the job. Can I talk to my boss (who has visibility into her replacement) about this person? How can I ensure I don’t wind up working for her?

Yep! You can say to your boss, “Jane Warbleworth asked me to refer her for your position. I told her I couldn’t, but I wanted to mention my reasons to you in case she does apply. My concerns with her candidacy are ___, and I can give more info on any of that if looks like she might advance in our process.”

A good boss wants to hear from good employees about their first-hand experience with candidates; if she trusts your judgment and integrity, your feedback is likely to carry a lot of weight. That doesn’t mean they definitely won’t interview her, but if you share your concerns, at a minimum they’ll know what areas they should probe into more than they otherwise might have.

{ 421 comments… read them below }

  1. Lingret*

    OP 4 — Thank you for the difficult work you’re doing. Reproductive rights affects everyone and those rights are essential. Rock on!@

    1. repro OP*

      Thanks, Lingret! I wish I wasn’t such a naive newbie when it comes to speaking up, but, here I am – and I can use all the help I can get :)

      1. fieldpoppy*

        I am an old who was involved in the fight for reproductive rights in Canada in the 80s — I’m cheering you on from here.

      2. Cmdr Shepard*

        IANAL so take it for what it is worth, and someone correct me if I am wrong.

        My understanding Alison is right that trying to organize with coworkers to get reproductive rights as a benefit/part of health insurance would be covered/protected activity.

        But from my understanding of the letter you also want your workplace to change/adjust their mission to directly deal/advocate for reproductive rights? That aspect I don’t think (but am not sure) would be considered a protected activity under the NLRA. That is not advocating for your working conditions/pay for the work you do in a NLRA legal sense. That I think you could get fired for if you don’t accept the decision of upper management to get involved.

      3. Coach*

        I’m at PayPal and we’ve got a big repro-rights movement happening right now too. Making demands of leadership, etc. I was nervous to participate at first and then I was like, hey, if I go down for fighting for human rights, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay. You just have to decide if you’re in a position of privilege (have political/professional capital to spend on it, have a plan B if you end up out of work, etc.) – if you don’t, and you can’t risk your livelihood, then you can show up for the people on the front lines and support them in ways that don’t put you at risk. Not every battle is meant to be fought in the same way by every warrior – there are different ways to support movements and you just have to choose the one that’s right for you :)

        1. repro OP*

          Thanks for sharing this, it’s good to hear that similar actions are popping up at other companies too! And your framing of the situation is really helpful – I do think I have some privilege and capital inside my organization, and I’m willing to spend it there because moving the needle even just a tiny bit internally could lead to a larger impact externally than I could possibly achieve as an individual.

          1. HealthYes*

            I really hope those who are pro-life at your org are not feeling uncomfortable with this movement. So much is preached here about making everyone comfortable (as long as you are a certain pol party, demographic, etc.) that the other side of the coin may be hurt.

            1. Eyes Kiwami*

              If someone doesn’t want to have an abortion, then they don’t need to have one. Other people having options for reproductive healthcare does not affect one’s own personal choice.

              If someone doesn’t want OTHER people to have abortions, to the extent that they want to limit other people’s access to reproductive healthcare, then they are going to be uncomfortable. So that’s inevitable, and in fact desirable, as the goal here is to work against the “pro-life” movement.

            2. Coach*

              I don’t cater to pro-life people’s feelings. Their right to NOT have an abortion and my right to have a safe and legal one are both under the “pro-choice” umbrella.

            3. Brin*

              That’s like saying “I hope the good-ol-boys aren’t uncomfortable our company hires female managers” or to reference a recent letter, “we should let Karen deadname her coworker because she’s uncomfortable with trans-rights.”

              When other people’s comfort really means keeping the status quo or limiting other people’s rights, then their “comfort” isn’t an appropriate concern.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Agreed! RBG was right that we should not have relied on Roe & agitated to get reproductive rights guaranteed in federal law.

      1. Barry*

        The problem is that such a law would be even easier to overturn.
        The end result is that given a fanatical 6 member majority, any law or precedent can be overturned.

        1. Schmendrick the Magician*

          Yep. The ERA is the only thing that would work. The reasoning included in the leaked draft makes it clear that no law would stand up to the originalist test that Alito applies and apparently four other justices affirm.

    3. Schmendrick the Magician*

      Coming to say this! I’ve worked in repro for fifteen years and many times it’s felt pretty lonely because tangential fields that need it have been pretty silent, so it’s great to know people are showing up.

      1. repro OP*

        A great recent article from Stanford Social Innovation Review (ssir dot org) called “Abortion Should No Longer Be a Dirty Word for the Nonprofit Sector” talked about this, how it affects all nonprofits and not just those with directly related missions. I hope others keep showing up, and that it becomes a less lonely space for you – thank you for the work you’ve done and continue to do.

    4. Academic Fibro Warrioe*

      Yes, thank you for making good trouble!

      I would argue as a non profit, reproductive rights are definitely within the realm of your work because reproductive justice encompasses all the things that are necessary to being able to exercise one’s reproductive autonomy. A really great read on this is Ross and Solinger’s reproductive justice, an introduction. A really great summary of this and how it applies in practice (and what not having it looks like) is Kimberly Harper’s recent book, Only White Women Get Pregnant. Plus, she does a fabulous job of covering the centuries of work African-American women have been doing on this front, as well as really excellent suggestions for how to make real change in the reproductive industry writ large.

      They are both academic works so you can skip over the academic scholarship positioning that occurs (though I do encourage reading about how we’ve created a certain kind of ethos around motherhood that pits white and black women as binary opposites). But otherwise they are both pretty accessible in terms of language, definitely a plain language style.

      I bet SisterSong Collective would have some fabulous resources, too!

      1. Cmdr Shepard*

        I don’t know that being a non profit automatically = reproductive justice being germane to the mission. If the non-profit mission is providing glasses to kids that can’t afford them, reproductive rights are not directly tied to the mission, I can understand upper management not wanting to tackle the issue. Yes you can make the argument that a lack of safe and accessible abortions will impact women in lower socio-economic status and likely lead to more kids that lack glasses. But at the end of the day not all (most?)non-profits are not trying to solve all the societal issues that we have, they focus on a specific/discreet mission area.

        1. Academic Fibro Warrior*

          Cmdr Shepard, I understand what you mean, but if one doesn’t have to worry about paying for glasses to use your example than this is one of a number of things that affect reproductive autonomy and choices. In other words, economic justice in all regards allow reproductive choice, which is why it is called reproductive justice rather than rights. Reproductive rights is focused on a narrow (and important!) aspect of a much broader issue. Reproductive justice is about ensuring *all the things* that impact my reproductive choices. Glasses for those who can’t afford it is one.

          RJ, to paraphrase from Ross and Solinger, has 3 primary principles: the right not to have a child, the right to have a child, and the right to parent children in a safe and healthy environment.

          Not being able to read the chalkboard in the classroom clearly limits the potential of education, which limits one’s economic potential. So that non profit is not exclusively focused on reproductive rights, no. But their services align with the third principle of RJ. Addressing eyesight limitations makes one’s environment one bit healthier.

          Framing it this way may help the OP bring the organizing work they are doing within the framework of what their NP’s mission is in a way that allows the leadership to embrace that work, or at least provide ways that shut down intolerance. Cause now ya got the work to bolster your credibility!

          Also forgive my name type. Bad autocorrect!

          Repro OP, you’re most welcome! Wishing you all the best in this work and solidarity.

          1. Cmdr Shepard*

            I get what you are saying, I don’t disagree that reproductive justice impacted by a ton of different issues. But a non-profit having a mission that happens to tangentially help with reproductive justice issues by eliminating some barriers, is different from a non-profit wanting to change their mission to directly advocate/address reproductive justice.

            Yes several issues, food insecurity, housing etc… have an impact on reproductive justice, but (maybe this is an agree to disagree pov) just because a non-profit has an impact on reproductive justice does not mean they have to have a direct hand/stance on reproductive justice issues.

            The hypothetical glasses org can take a direct stand for reproductive justice/rights (“ej/r”) and potentially alienate x% of supporters/donors, maybe they make it up with new donor who are inspired by the new stance or maybe they don’t. Or the org can keep taking money from anti-ej/r donors and use that money to keep lowering barriers to ej/r.

            I am not saying a non-profit should avoid taking a direct ej/r stand, but also don’t think it is unreasonable to not want to do that, in order to directly keep focusing on their very narrow mission.

      2. repro OP*

        AFW thank you for these resources! These books sound amazing, I’m adding them to my list right now, and going to look up SisterSong Collective as well. Really appreciate your expertise and encouragement!

  2. Jess*

    RE: COVID on a work trip. File a workers’ compensation claim. I work for a WC insurer and we routinely get COVID claims, accept them, and pay temporary disability benefits for lost time. May not get your sick time back but you may get the lost wages as a replacement. At least in the state I am in workers who are traveling for work are basically covered workers for comp purposes 24 hours per day.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      What lost wage? She was charged sick leave so it was paid time off. She just is stuck with no more sick leave for the next time she gets sick which is likely not to be under conditions that would allow for WC.

      1. Double A*

        I think the implication is that the pay she would get from WC would cover future sick time she would need to take unpaid.

        1. MK*

          I think Person meant she wouldn’t be getting anything, because she didn’t lose any income.

          1. Anastatia Beaverhousen*

            Workman’s comp will pay a portion of her salary and she can use sick time to cover the rest. She wouldn’t burn through all of her sick time.

            1. TLC*

              Traditionally WC would cover the time off taken for being sick *instead* of using sick leave.

      2. StealthAnon*

        WC doesn’t generally require people to use sick time first, so OP would likely have a claim here…although not all states are covering COVID claims, at least so far.

      3. Haven't Figured Out a Name Yet*

        Under the federal worker’s comp program, you can “buy back” the leave you took once the claim is approved. The HR office will have information on how to file the claim and what documentation you will need.

        1. DragoCucina*

          I wish I could star this comment. It applies to the LW because of the specific federal work rules involved. She isn’t out the sick leave, but can buy it back. Basically replenishing her sick leave.

      4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I think they just meant that she should do this if she gets sick again and has to take unpaid time off for it.

        1. Rose*

          I don’t think so, because the next time she gets sick it likely won’t fall under workers comp (e.g., she needs sick leave to take care of her toddler, or she catches the flu)

    2. Hookt Awn Fonicks*

      Before giving up, OP 1 could confirm the policy was interpreted correctly. Mistakes are not uncommon, particularly around things covid-related. There is discretion in many federal agencies to grant admin leave in various circumstances, some specifically related to covid.

      1. Fedtoo*

        I agree with this. My agency isn’t doing any travel yet but the possibility of granting admin leave did come up for other circumstances.

        For anyone wondering where these policy choices are coming from, we’ve been told ‘the GOV has to follow CDC guidance’. So if you’re fully vaccinated/boosted it’s “safe” to go about as if COVID doesn’t exist.

      2. Long-time Fed*

        The policy is correct. There was special COVID leave earlier in the pandemic, but no longer. Now Feds use sick leave when they have COVID, or if out of sick leave, they can use annual leave.

        1. Grits McGee*

          Thanks for clarifying- I remembered there being specific COVID-related leave, but wasn’t sure if it was one of the protections that expired in 2021.

          Most federal agencies have a leave donation program. OP might not fit the criteria (most recipients seem to have long-term medical issues/are using FMLA), but it’s worth checking to see if she can get on the list.

          Also, I’m curious what federal agencies are encouraging family travel right now- my agency still hasn’t approved regular business travel, let alone conference attendance.

          1. Hookt Awn Fonicks*

            Under these circumstances, the OP’s unit might consider granting at least some admin leave. Generally, there’s flexibility to issue at least a few hours. With accrual of four hours sick leave per pay period, even slicing off an hour or two can help.

            Also, some agencies have a degree of autonomy in their leave policies.

            Also, as I tell my staff, you can use annual leave for medical things if you’d rather bank the sick time (e.g., towards raising your FERS annuity at retirement).

      3. also a fed*

        OP 1 needs to look up the FAQs on the Safer Federal Workforce task force website. The guidance for official travel (where they did contract COVID) changed recently. OP might be able to get retroactive changes based on the new guidance. OMB is always telling us to lean on that website. In my own agency, we’re seeing that HR isn’t up-to-date on all the changing guidelines. Especially when it comes to official travel.

        Also all federal agencies are supposed to have a core set of COVID policies that outline how each agency handles COVID issues. OP needs to find their agency’s policies and make sure that what actually happened to their leave is what’s outlined in the policy. If the agency doesn’t have these policies, go up to the parent agency or department.

        1. Mianaai*

          Strongly agree that OP should double-check their agency’s Covid leave policies. In my agency, we have to use sick leave if we got Covid outside of work, but you can at least take *some* admin leave if you were exposed at work and contracted it. I’m not sure to what degree you need to “prove” that the exposure was from work, but it seems like the OP might have decent luck with that considering the circumstances.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Good idea.

      The workers’ comp program for federal employees does cover wages lost due to Covid contracted at the workplace and has “simplified” procedures for applying. Basically, you need to (1) have been diagnosed with Covid (note: a home test doesn’t count), and (2) have “carried out duties that required contact with patients, members of the public, or co-workers” within 21 days of the diagnosis.

      But you have to apply within 30 days of the date on which you were exposed—so LW1 may already be past the deadline, depending on when the conference was.

        1. Another Fed*

          I came here to post this and I’m glad to see several other Feds are already on it. LW, you should be filing a worker’s comp claim ASAP.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      It’s a good idea for feds to get familiar with the different kinds of leave. There is some lack of flexibility (i.e. one agency can’t just decide not to charge sick leave for covid), but there are other ways to deal with it, such as getting a time off bonus. She should also make sure that she gets her comp time for any extra hours spent in the conference or travelling. Agencies can also advance sick leave under some circumstances, so if LW is stuck in the short term with a toddler illness, she should ask for that.

  3. anon e mouse*

    Letter #2 is amazing, not in a good way. The absolute least you should be doing unless you literally can’t afford more is a structure that would put the median candidate at the market midpoint for each position (which shouldn’t put the bottom anywhere near 35% lower! It takes a very long time in most organizations to rack up 35% worth of raises!)

    Also, fun fact, the methodologies of a lot of salary studies, even those done by professional firms, are… unimpressive. To put it mildly. If you ever find yourself in the position to commission one, try to get them to tell you the “N”. Many won’t, and if they do, you probably won’t like the answer unless your titles are incredibly common and you have lots of peers.

    1. JSPA*

      I’m going to push back gently. Nonprofits indeed should not imply that “doing good things” is payment in karma, or that working for peanuts is in effect like making a donation (except, of course, without the tax benefits). However, it’s very lake wobegon for everyone to expect to be at or above average in the pay scale. That’s not mathematically possible.

      Nonprofits are pretty bimodally, underpaid hell holes and mildly underpaid yet excellent places to work.

      If your nonprofit is marked by good work-life balance, flexible time off, warm collegiality, good training, healthy boundaries, respect, excellent medical benefits, flexibility on travel, advancement, leadership opportunities, etc, then shooting for “within one standard deviation of the midpoint” is not necessarily a raw deal at all.

      If it sucks on many of the above criteria, then sure, they better pay you median or above, because there’s no reason not to be in the corporate world, at that point.

      1. Rolly*

        ” underpaid hell holes and mildly underpaid yet excellent places to work”

        I think it’s a continuum, not bimodal, but among the better one’s the karmic benefit is aligned with a mild pay hit. Which makes sense.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I mean, the other way to look at it is that places where you’re not Doing Good or even actively Doing Bad (like the recent letter about working for an oil company) have to pay a premium because people aren’t getting that take-home sense of satisfaction.

      2. ecnaseener*

        anon e mouse didn’t say everyone should expect to be at or above average, they very clearly said the MEDIAN person should be at average.

      3. Antilles*

        I get your point and think it’s a good point overall, but 35% less money is a huge difference. You said “one standard deviation of the midpoint”, but I’m reading it as the 35% not being “standard deviations” but just raw monetary difference (e.g., $65k versus $100k) – in which case, it’s likely to be far more than one standard deviation. Let’s put some numbers to illustrate:
        Let’s make the numbers easy and say the industry average for a Teapot Design Lead is a round $100,000. That average comes because companies offer $85k, $90k, $95k, $100k, $105k, $110k, and $115k. So the mathematical average is $100k, with a standard deviation of $10k. Effectively, it’s not that there’s an unlimited range of salaries from “nothing” to “endless money”, there’s just a bunch of similar salary bands in the same range.
        So if OP’s place is offering 35% less money ($65,000), they’re over three standard deviations below the norm – their salary band is way outside the range of what everyone else is offering.

      4. Koalafied*

        Yeah, my org uses a similar system, except the total pay band is +/- 20% of the market median. And as you say, the market median means 50% of people out there make less than the median and 50% make more.

        I do disagree with my nonprofit’s policy of limiting the initial hiring range to -20% to -5% below median. They want to have room for up to several years of annual merit increases before the employee hits the salary cap for their role, but I don’t think that’s a good enough reason – if we’re able to attract a really incredible candidate who is better than the average person in their field, we should be able to offer them better pay than the average pay in their field.

        Of course, with everyone starting below median and typical merit raises being in the 3-4% range for most strong performers, that means we do have most of our employees below median – you pretty much can’t get above median until you’ve been here for at least a few, if not several, years. But that’s what I consider the nonprofit compensation penalty, and I think it’s reasonable enough – they’re essentially saying, look, we can’t match the salaries that people at the top of your field will get working for private businesses, but we’ll at least guarantee that your salary is never going to be less than the the low end of the private sector range.

      5. The OTHER Other.*

        Except in this particular Lake Wobegon, all the children are *below* average. How is this any less mathematically impossible than the reverse? AND, the employer considers is a “feature”.

      1. NoviceManagerGuy*

        Either the letter writer or the employer is grievously misunderstanding the point of salary midpoints.

        The reason I think it might be the letter writer is – unless everybody in the same role has precisely the same salary, not everybody is at 65%. Since you’re “working” toward the midpoint, surely raises must exist? If so, this reads like somebody who got a promotion to a new role but the salary didn’t get put at the midpoint (though 65% is really low) but they are expected to get raises that get them there.

        1. bamcheeks*

          It makes sense if it’s, “we automatically appoint people on X% of the market midpoint, and over the course of 2-5 years in post we expect you to get up to the market midpoint, faster or slower depending on performance, but we don’t pay above the market midpoint. If you want to get paid above the market midpoint, you’re going to have to look outside the non-profit sector, sorrynotsorry.”

          That would be transparent, reasonably ethical and (I think) mathematically plausible. It would mean that the pay was always pegged to the market rate, the same across the board, but that they weren’t trying to lead the market in salary, which is a reasonable decision for a non-profit to take.

          My only caveat here is that 35% below midpoint seems like a LOT– that means you’ve got to get a 55% salary increase to get up to the midpoint of market, and vice versa that you’re taking a paycut of over a third if you’re joining the company from the midpoint. It would make more sense to me if it was 10-15% or something, with the expectation of 3-6% increases over 3-5 years to take you to the midpoint.

          1. NoviceManagerGuy*

            I agree with all of this. It’s not nearly as ridiculous as a straightforward reading of the letter implies (after all if you’re brand new to a role, you shouldn’t expect to get paid the midpoint for the role right away!), but the organization definitely seems like it’s underpaying people.

      2. Myrin*

        Probably my not being a native English speaker contributed to this but yeah, I totally didn’t understand what’s going on there.

    2. Nonprofit worker*

      I’ve never been a fan of the whole “it’s not about the money, it’s about the mission” mindset when the topic of pay comes up in nonprofits.

      1. Former nonprofit worker*

        Same. That said, when salary ranges are being reviewed, the industry must come into play when making the determination of the bands. When I was job searching, I quoted much different salary requirements to a potential employer in high tech vs. nonprofits.

        In my former organization, the goal was to have people at the midpoint in the salary band so that there was room for growth in salary within the band’s constraints. So for me, who was over-qualified for the role when hired, I was paid at about 95% of the range, which meant almost no raise for the first two years I was there until I was promoted out of that band.

    3. The Starsong Princess*

      We use the midpoint system but you are supposed to hire around 90% of midpoint, not 65%. If an internal hire isn’t at 90%, you need a plan to get them there within two years. With our bonus system, they will be making close to midpoint. But the big problem right now is that the market rate, especially for some positions, is increasing fast and we can’t hire at our old ranges.

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think “35% below the midpoint” is a very clear way of saying “get out get out get out.”

    5. Springtime*

      I would suggest that the first thing OP#2 is double-check that they understand how the range is being employed. Usually when an employer says, “65% of midpoint,” it’s 65% from the bottom of the range, not from $0. As an example, if the range is $80K-$120K, that puts the midpoint at $1ooK. Allison and some of the commenters seem to be assuming that 65% of midpoint would be $65K, but the normal interpretation would be $93K ($80K + 65% of $20K, which is the difference between the bottom of the range and the midpoint).

      If the employer is also totally misunderstanding this, then that’s a big problem. A smaller problem, but one still worth pursuing, is how much experience the employer is assuming is needed to get to the midpoint. Hiring below midpoint for hires with no experience makes a lot of sense. Hiring everyone below midpoint regardless of experience doesn’t. Neither does hiring well below midpoint when it’s a job that can be fully mastered quickly.

    6. BeckyinDuluth*

      I work at a large University system that just instituted this kind of pay band thing. The bands are larger than they “should” be because there was no money associated with this – it was just a market study and then getting people into the right job classifications so we can see where we are at, so lots of folks were/are well below the actual market rate, even with years of experience. If your department has the money to give you a raise (or can find it through attrition or something) they can do that, but central University funding is not giving more money to units for this. And the University said essentially the same thing: we shouldn’t have anyone/very many people above the 1 (midpoint) mark. That’s only if you have lots of experience. Most people should be closer to the 70/75% mark. But if the range is messed up because of low salaries, then the 70/75% mark is going to be messed up too. And that doesn’t address at all the idea that you will likely lose top performers to jobs that will pay them more than mid-range (unless you have great management, which…..isn’t super-common).

      I’m happy they did the study because at least there’s data to look at now that makes some sense, and I am fortunate to be in a department that had some openings we decided not to fill, so I was able to get a raise to get my compensation closer to where it should be. AND I recognize that the University, like many non-profits, doesn’t have endless money to give raises to everyone. But still: it sucks for a lot of people.

  4. Person from the Resume*

    I agree with Alison’s answer … that you got screwed but there’s nothing to do. I trust that your HR office hasn’t messed up interpreting the policy and being the federal government they can’t make an exception for you. It’s not fair to ask your boss / perfectly understandable for you boss to circumvent the leave policy which could get you both in trouble.

    The only “excuse” in all this is federal sick carries over year after year and is generous for long term employees so employees that have been federal employees for a long time may possibly have lots of sick leave. That isn’t a good reason for the policy. And it doesn’t help you. I’m sorry.

    TL;DR: I think you’re stuck with the decision.

    1. Janet Pinkerton*

      Plus, at least in my agency, you can go into the negative on sick leave and earn it back over time.

      1. LitS*

        This. You can request advanced sick leave, and there’s really no reason to be denied. I can’t remember if it’s 104 hours available or more, but it’s what I had to do before parental leave was available to feds, and I got hired while pregnant so had no sick leave at all.

        Also, most agencies have a leave donation program you can apply for if you really get into a pickle and use all your sick leave and vacation leave for something long term. Basically, you should be covered.

  5. Chris*

    “She’s also incredibly charismatic, like to the point that if she gets the interview, she as good as has the job.” This is such a wild thing to say.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Long term exposure to such people can overcome the effects of the charisma eventually. But they may have had experience in watching it work for them with people who don’t know them.

        1. many bells down*

          Yeah my former spouse is like that. He is a master at convincing you that anything he wants is reasonable, and making you feel like the unreasonable person if you refuse. He’s charmed his way into at LEAST 3 jobs that I know he’s not qualified for.

          It definitely does not work on me anymore though.

          1. Hamster Manager*

            I had a roommate like this…they never did anything for anyone, definitely never apologized, and were extremely mediocre at their job, and yet somehow, everyone who knew them would gush about how amazing they are in all ways, and how anything bad they did wasn’t their fault.

            They even managed to have multiple screaming matches with their ex *at work* and have people stay on their side (and keep their job).

          2. Hamster Manager*

            Sorry, “like this” in the super-charming way, didn’t mean to liken their bad qualities with your husband. :)

        2. MEH Squared*

          Yes, this. I grew up with a charismatic, narcissistic father who used it to get whatever he wanted from women. As a result, I can pick out a bullshit charmer from a mile away, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I can convince others that the charm is false.

        3. Minimal Pear*

          I’m a relatively benign version of this–I can be very charming in small doses, like in an interview, but it does NOT last.

        4. quill*

          Also if you were a classmate for a number of years, you probably saw the charisma work on professors and advisors as a cadre of other disillusioned classmates built up…

          Or if you have prior exposure to someone charismatic but unqualified you may have partial immunity already.

      2. Alternative Person*

        Eh, I don’t know. I’ve worked with a few people people who have a certain amount of charisma on the surface which hides a lot of their problems/limitations. Having worked in the trenches, so to speak, I can spot them pretty well and proverbially no-sell it, but the higher ups who have been fairly long removed from the trenches/never had to deal with that type of person before/rely on charisma themselves often get swept up in it or relate to them which means less charismatic, solid, unshowy folks get stuck with the short end.

        I currently have a slightly junior co-worker who kind of bamboozled management with his energy and ‘good talk’ for the best part of a year. I spotted it pretty much out of the gate and tried raising it with management after a few months once the pattern became clear, but got shot down (not even as a direct complaint, more that I was concerned he was taking on too much work). It wasn’t until he really crossed the line with me and another co-worker (along with some other stuff that I wasn’t a party to) that the scales (somewhat) fell from management’s eyes.

      3. Other Alice*

        I had a former manager who was like that. He had a superficial knowledge of a wide variety of topics and he was a charmer. It took me a year to figure out he was actually incredibly incompetent at his job. It doesn’t surprise me that LW is worried this person would get the job.

      4. Chilipepper Attitude*

        The LW would very much be affected by the charisma of this person gets the job!

      5. Charlotte Lucas*

        I worked with someone like this. Some people still think she’s great, but plenty of people were pretty happy when she eventually got fired.

        She was ridiculously charming when you met her but a nightmare to work for.

    1. Language Lover*

      I agree that it’s wild that it’s certain but I’m guessing the lw has seen this colleague present and win people over before.

      It might also be the case that the people doing the actual hiring might not completely understand the needs of the role or department and won’t be able to catch the nuances in an interview that signal when a candidate actually doesn’t know what they’re talking about. And the lw is worried interview skills and charisma will play a bigger factor.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, because the charmer will be adept at deflecting, pointing to “the bigger picture” where they can pontificate in a way that sounds terribly smart or edgy or like they’ve been reflecting on the matter at length, when in fact they just read a chapter or two of a brilliant book on the subject.

    2. Seal*

      This happens far more often than one would think. Our new director came off as so funny, and charming during their interview that the search committee completely ignored the fact that they aren’t even remotely qualified for the job. Now we’re stuck with an incompetent director and an increasing number of open positions as staff members are leaving in disgust. Trust me, no one’s laughing now.

      1. pancakes*

        That isn’t just a problem of someone being too charismatic, though – it’s problematic for a hiring committee to be as unfocused and easily snowed as that. They aren’t competent at their jobs either.

        1. Seal*

          Bingo – that’s exactly what happened here. And yet the search committee members have been tying themselves in knots justifying their decision as it’s become increasingly apparent they hired the wrong person.

    3. Allonge*

      It depends on the hiring setup, but I have seenit happen even in very structured, multiple-check systems. So while it may be a bit more of OP’s fear talking than anything else, it definitely happens.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        +1 I have been burned by such people in the past. That’s one reason why I am prudent, prosaic, pedantic, and persistently picky with procedures. When I hear, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”, my antennae begin to protrude…

        1. Totally For Sure*

          “When I hear, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”, my antennae begin to protrude…”

          Can you elaborate?

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I first ran across that phrase in a Vorkosigan novel, and loved it. It perfectly summarizes Miles’s relationship with his commanding officers.

            But when not at a safe fictional remove of entertainment and high stakes gambles that pay off every time (because it’s fiction), I realized that I really didn’t want to interact with someone who thought this way about me. Don’t borrow my car without asking. Don’t, in general, do the thing I should sign off on and assume I will be fine with it. It’s manipulative a.f., and if someone used the phrase to pre-explain their own actions I would start backing away, trying to make sure their boldness wasn’t going to ensnare anything that mattered to me.

            1. After 33 years ...*

              Don’t, in general, do the thing I am required administratively to sign off on and assume that I (or someone) will have to ultimately approve it, even though it contravenes policy / regulations and gives you an undue advantage over everyone else, because you have backed me (us) into a corner. Those I have to known to use this generally have no intention of asking for either forgiveness or permission.

            2. quill*

              It’s a good trait in the protagonist of a space opera (In terms of creating the plot, not in terms of making things better necessarily…) A terrible thing in everyday life.

            3. JustaTech*

              Exactly! Miles is entertaining as heck to read about, but I wouldn’t want to work for him even when no one was shooting at us (which is most of the time) and I wouldn’t want him working for *me* because it would be endlessly stressful knowing that, while it would work out in the end, the middle would be incredibly messy.

              I’d really rather just do it the right way than have to go beg forgiveness.

              1. quill*

                Between Miles and Ivan and Cordelia, Gregor ought to banish every one of his relatives to their respective spheres of influence just to keep his own sanity.

            4. tamarack and fireweed*

              This is an excellent example for the fallacy that consists in confusing an insight with a rule. The insight – that sometimes, under particular circumstances, we should be taking the risk to do the right thing even without the realistic chance to get prior approval – is a good one. Make a rule out of it, and you become an insufferable colleague and unmanageable employee.

            5. Ariaflame*

              And even then for Miles some of the consequences of his actions did catch up with him.

      2. Smithy*

        It may also relate to the OP’s understanding of the hiring process – like this candidate has the exact kind of charisma and can BS the relevant talking points that would work for a selection committee.

        And if you add to this any challenges around the talent pool…. I’m on a team that’s largely West Coast based in a smaller market with a talent pool that’s largely East Coast based. When we were hiring a VP, it certainly created that anxiety around East Coast candidates bringing weightier resumes but also knowing that if they weren’t open to moving to the team’s central office it would making leading the larger team tough. And that West Coast talent wouldn’t be as likely to have the “oohs and ahhs” on their resume.

        So while it may be the OP’s anxiety talking, it may be based in some reality.

    4. Tinkerbell*

      Some people are just like this. My mother-in-law constantly gets freebies, upgrades, VIP access to places she shouldn’t be, etc. by “jokingly” asking for it (if they say no it’s just joking around, but if they say yes she’s all for it). She’s ridiculously charismatic and customer service people love her and do tend to give her stuff – even things they probably shouldn’t. It drives me nuts because I would hate hate HATE to be the CSR who gets put on the spot. She’s always nice and polite and funny and engaging, so I guess I can see the thought process behind “sure, why not make this nice old lady happy!”, but – back to the topic at hand – I could EASILY see my MIL getting a job she wasn’t qualified for just because she schmoozed well at the interview. And I could see myself as the OP, knowing the charisma wasn’t sustainable but everyone else would only find that out too late :-\

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        I think I worked with your mother-in-law! My co-worker could talk herself into (or out of) ANYTHING, and always had an entourage of people waiting to do her work for her.

    5. Kella*

      I’ve known people like this. My ex once talked his way through airport security when he *didn’t have his passport with him*.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Given that there wasn’t really all that much security at airports before that… I’m going to guess it was. The general performance of the TSA in security audit suggests it very easily could have been as well.

    6. Caroline Bowman*

      It might be… true?

      OP has obviously had longer experience of this person and knows how they work. It’s not ”wild” if it is extremely likely. There are people with tons of charisma and who can talk such a good game in the fairly short term, that they tend to get offered jobs more often than not. It’s a reasonable worry.

      1. Paris Geller*

        +1.
        This reminded me that I read that there was a letter on here from the other side of the coin– a person wrote in that they were charismatic and when interviewing, they were often getting offered jobs that were at a much higher level than the one they were interviewing for and that were beyond their experience/capability. I went looking for it and it’s from 2020: https://www.askamanager.org/2020/10/im-too-good-at-interviewing-and-get-offered-jobs-i-cant-do.html, so it definitely happens.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I’m reading Bone Deep right now, & Pamela Hupp managed to convince the police that Russ Faria killed his wife, despite all the evidence pointing to her.

        So, yeah, some people are weirdly good at convincing/manipulating others.

    7. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Why don’t you believe the OP on this (it’s in the rules to believe them). Is it because you have not met anyone with this level of charisma so it’s not believable to you? How is that comment helpful to the OP?

      Maybe when she talks to the boss about her concerns, your point is that the claim of charisma sounds too strong and to tone that part down? I’d disagree I guess. OP should bring it up and listing it as one of her concerns, not as her only concer, seems just fine to me.

      1. Loulou*

        What? It’s not in the rules to always believe OP. I think if we disagree we should say why and not just “that’s wild” but I think it’s fair to question the assumption that someone is so charismatic that they get every job they interview for automatically.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Have you read the rules?

          Letter-writers are experts on their own situations. When a letter-writer reports a situation is giving them bad vibes, particularly in regard to safety, harassment, or discrimination, believe that person. Don’t search for ways to explain away the behavior or pressure them to ignore their instincts because you personally haven’t had the same experiences.

          Yeah, that doesn’t mean that everything an LW says is true. But it does mean that if an LW says that someone is incredibly charismatic and gets every job that they apply for, we’re supposed to believe them. And “well, maybe they’re not that charismatic!” isn’t helpful, either. The LW didn’t ask if we agreed that this person we don’t know is going to get the job. They asked what to do about someone who is incredibly charismatic but would be a horrible boss asking for a reference. Maybe we could focus on that question?

        2. Cringing 24/7*

          I believe Chilipepper is referring to the rule that states, ” Letter-writers are experts on their own situations. When a letter-writer reports a situation is giving them bad vibes, particularly in regard to safety, harassment, or discrimination, believe that person. Don’t search for ways to explain away the behavior or pressure them to ignore their instincts because you personally haven’t had the same experiences.”

          Giving the benefit of the doubt to the OP, they know they this person. If they assume that this person will likely get a job once they interview for it – if OP is basing this off of experience – they’ve likely seen this person talk their way into situations they had no business being in, and who are we to say otherwise? Plus, what would it help to argue against it?

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            … and even if an omniscient scientist could stick a virtual thermometer into the situation and determine that No! The LW is wrong! The person’s conditional probability of landing the job provided she gets an interview is only 42.5% +- 5%, which lis less than 50%! …. even then, it’s a perfectly fine mild hyperbole. The other person is charismatic and tends to be successful at getting what she wants – we all know people like that. And the OP is credibly describing a completely realistic worry.

      2. BethDH*

        Yes, I think worth thinking about how to portray it in talking to boss or other interviewers. Even if it’s true, people like to think that they’re “good judges of character” who won’t be taken in by charisma.
        They could mention that the person presents and networks well but torpedoes long-term relationships (in other words, describe the effects of the charisma, not the behavior). There are probably better ways to say it, but just encouraging them to dig into the actual skills and experience more.

    8. Anon for this*

      I wouldn’t describe myself as charismatic, but I can talk about difficult technical concepts at a FAR higher level than I am actually capable of executing them. Before I switched to a job that uses this skill and doesn’t require me to execute, I definitely talked myself into jobs that I didn’t have the skills for. So I can see how this could happen, and happen predictably.

      1. Loulou*

        It also sounds like these people are pretty junior/young, so every job they interview for might not be that many jobs.

    9. Laure001*

      Oh, I totally believe it. On some writing jobs I have a cowriter who is wonderful in meetings. If he opens his mouth we get the job. He’s also a very very bad writer.

      1. pancakes*

        Why aren’t the people doing the hiring asking for writing samples if writing skills are an important part of the job?

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        This is like my friend’s colleague. She’s always out partying and then is too hungover to work properly, but she had a beer with a VIP in their field and he offered their start-up an office to work in, and all sorts of stuff that would help their endeavour, just on the strength of a beer and a chat.

    10. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Oh, no, this can happen. I call it “charm.” These kinds of people work their magic and charm and voila, doors open, issues are waived and people feel blessed to be in their presence.

      It worked really well for a younger woman colleague a couple of jobs back. The younger engineers could not get enough of her. Her older manager fell over himself fulfilling her whims at work. But those of us who were hard at work (and not turned on by her) were quickly unimpressed and spotted the gaps in her work skills. Years later, her former manager gave a reference for her that was overheard by another colleague and his effusiveness made her gag.

      1. Not the other one*

        I had a similar experience. Except Miss Charisma wasn’t charismatic to anyone except ‘upward management’. We all knew her measure, but we couldn’t break their view of her. (She also was SLEEPING with one of them! That also got her very very far sadly.)

        She stole our work, she would take high profile projects then hand them back two days before delivery incomplete (but with slide packs done that made it look like she’d done a lot, but none of the hard heavy lifting was done “Here’s the evidence of what’s been progressed, I’m too busy to finish with all this other work you have “asked me to do” so can they just finish it out?”), she was snide and rude to us, but sweet and professional to the senior management. She micromanaged everyone else (because she knew how to cheat and manipulate she assumed we all were), and she put herself forward for everything that would give her credit, and threw other people under the bus whenever there was a chance. It was a NIGHTMARE to strip the costume away from. Pure narcissism. It happens. The last I heard of her she had moved sideways into various local government departments, working in similar roles, but never lasting long enough any where to get long service leave. Diabolical woman.

        1. LinkedInLearning*

          Hi misogyny, didn’t expect to see you here on a supposedly feminist workplace blog.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Being feminist doesn’t mean never criticising any women. Anything Not the other one said could have been levelled at a charismatic man (although of course there are fewer women in upper management to sleep with).

          2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            Where the eff are you getting this misogyny accusation from? “Not the other one” didn’t say “I’ll bet she was sleeping with upper management to get ahead!” which could be construed as a misogynistic statement. They said she WAS sleeping with upper management, as in, a confirmed known thing at the workplace, that was also one of many related problematic character traits she displayed. Everything else they said about her is in line with toxic charismatic schemers regardless of gender.

            1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

              Also, just so we’re clear, I’m not ignoring the fact that men can manipulate and sleep with someone to get what they want. But that’s not the issue we’re talking about here.

        2. Anonymath*

          I had one of those at my last position. For the record, we are both female.

          Charmed her way through the interviews (every male involved in the hiring process on the committee loved her except one, who knew enough of the subject matter that he could tell she didn’t have the background for the position from her presentation but mysteriously changed his mind into liking her once they were alone for an hour on the drive to the airport). The two women on the committee (who were both the only experts on the subject matter the person was being hired for) did not believe she was qualified based on her presentation. The candidate’s supervisor even called a member of the search committee (they had interacted on a previous search) to tell us not to hire her, with examples of racist behaviors. Candidate was hired over the objections of the content experts and proceeded to make the program, department, and school hell. Always kissing up and kicking down, slowly but surely rising to administrative power. Many of the same behaviors described by Not The Other One above, including sexual harassment of subordinates and sleeping with multiple folks in her chain of command.

          Many folks (male and female) under her left for other positions as have I. It’s not always misogyny, sometimes its just power and narcissism and sociopathy. But boy can they be charming when they want something you can give them.

      2. pancakes*

        The problem here doesn’t seem to be that your colleague was charismatic. If her managers weren’t easily distracted horndogs, her charisma would’ve just made work a little more lively.

        1. Jora Malli*

          My abusive former boss was FULL of charisma and charm for people higher up the food chain than herself. This was a cishet woman reporting to an administration entirely composed of cishet women, so there wasn’t any element of flirting or pining that I’m aware of. She just knew how to present herself to her advantage when it mattered. She got A LOT of promotions and committee chair positions and public schmoozing opportunities because she convinced our director she was wonderful. When the staff she’d been abusing for years came forward to start reporting her, the higher ups were shocked because she had only even shown them her charismatic side.

          1. pancakes*

            That’s a terrible situation too, but it seems different than what Sssssssssss is describing. They aren’t talking about a pattern of abusive behavior being concealed. I wasn’t trying to make a general, all-purpose comment on every type of charismatic coworker. I think there are categorical differences between someone presenting themselves to their best advantage and someone concealing abusive behavior.

            1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

              My charmer ex-worker was not abusive. But knew how to be charming so that others would do the heavier lifting as needed to cover her gaps of knowledge, often under the guise of “I’m new,” “Or let’s do this as a team!” or “That’s no longer on my list of responsibilities.”

              She’d make you feel lucky that she shone her light on you, and call you sweetie, honey, dispense compliments like candy and “Oh, So and So!” and chuckle.

              And I’m sure in the beginning, she did make the office where she started more lively. But ppl were billable by the hour including her and after a while, the charm starts to grate and ppl wanted her to pull her weight.

    11. anonymous73*

      I’m not sure how to interpret your comment, but if you’re saying OP is exaggerating or can’t possibly know this, you’re wrong. I’ve witnessed more than one person get excellent job after excellent job based primarily on bullshit and charm.

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m reminded of the person watching an acquaintance applying for a role in her org ask for a salary massively above what was offered, which the company gave her, and then realized they needed to bump the job title up to allow for that salary. It was this bizarre encapsulation of “If you ask for more money, they might give you all of that, plus a big promotion to justify it” and it actually worked out great for the person who asked.

      Eventually inability to do the job reared its head, but that took quite a while.

    13. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      “She’s also incredibly charismatic, like to the point that if she gets the interview, she as good as has the job.” This is such a wild thing to say.

      Not only do people like the person LW is talking about exist, they’re far more common than you think. And more importantly, they thrive on making others think people like them are not “real.” If they revealed their true awful natures right off the bat, no one would fall for their toxic BS, so they function by making you think they’re just the greatest. If you think this is a wild outlier behavior, I can guarantee at some point, you’ve been taken in by someone with more charisma or narcissism than actual qualifications or human goodness, and you weren’t even aware of it.

      –Someone who was raised by, and so has dealt with far too many, narcissists

      1. I'm Tired*

        I’m curious, how can interviewers distinguish between manipulative charismatic folks and genuinely just nice people?

        1. quill*

          For me it’s the air raid sirens going off in my head when I meet their eyes. Anyone else got a trick that doesn’t require you to have had run-ins with the incredibly selfish?

        2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

          Much of my toxic-person radar is developed through decades of being around toxic people, so it’s pretty much a sixth sense by now for me, and is hard to explain. Basically, if someone reminds me at all of my mother, sister, or two previous ex-best friends (all of whom are professionally diagnosed narcissists), I know not to touch them with a hundred-foot pole, and that feeling has proven correct nearly 100% of the time (as for the rest…well, maybe I just haven’t caught them at it yet. It takes a while, sometimes years, for them to show their true hand.) Unfortunately, most people do NOT know my family or ex-friends, so…that’s not exactly helpful, haha. But if you HAVE met an awful person, it’ll actually serve you well to avoid anyone who shares traits with them that make you uncomfortable, or who remind you of them in terms of personality traits. Noticing similarities, especially ones that have you feeling uneasy, doesn’t automatically mean you’re projecting traits from one person onto another: your brain is trying to tell you something. Listen to it.

          On a broader and maybe more helpful track, be wary of people who are extremely confident in their abilities and knowledge, who always seem to have a solution or story involving themselves ready to go (or can turn a conversation back to themselves, sometimes very subtly), and who are just so friendly and helpful and knowledgeable about everything that you feel they must be a magical unicorn. And, sure, unicorns exist, but the thing about unicorns is that they’re extremely rare. It’s more likely you’ve got someone on your hands who is just really good at passing themself off as a unicorn. Sometimes they are technically good at the job, but it’ll come at the expense of everyone around them and the employer, since these people ultimately only care about themselves and won’t have any loyalty the moment something shinier comes along.

          Unfortunately, it’s harder to tell unicorns from con artists in interviews since an interview is all about selling yourself. So you really have to go by what your instincts are telling you. Which is a lot harder if you don’t already know how to recognize these types, but can be learned! Usually through hard experience, sad to say. Oh, and also, don’t immediately put off warnings others give you about these people, though of course you should always consider the validity of the source. (And if you don’t fully trust the source, make sure it’s not because you were poisoned against them by the very person they’re warning you about.)

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I think you’ve described it well. Yes, anyone who reminds me of my mother or ex-SIL. If you feel like you’re being gently bullied, it’s probably true. If you realise that you can’t explain what they told you properly, it’s because there was a missing link in their logic that they glossed over, but in such a way you didn’t realise it. If everyone gushes over them, but you can’t quite put your finger on why, you think it through and you realise that their compliments are given graciously and generously, but there’s not actually any real compliment in there, it’s all subjective fluff and charm and no hard data.

            A good example is if you look at a politician’s speech. They’ll make references to things, for example “family values”, which can mean very different things to very different people. To some, it’ll mean being faithful to and providing for their wife, to others, it’ll mean promoting maternity leave for working mothers. People tend to fill in what they want and get excited, but if you analyse what the pol actually said, they never committed to a single policy or measure.

            1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

              Thank you! You’ve also brought up some really good other points about how to dissect these people’s words and actions to get past the fluff. If they seem too perfect, too good to be true, too conveniently tailored to whatever you’re looking for at that time, that’s almost definitely the case. My willful narcissist ex-BFF is “somehow” a genius on whatever topic you bring up, and he’ll make you feel like you’ve been blessed to have him show up in your life and share his great wisdom with you, but he’ll throw you to the curb as soon as he sees a better opportunity. (Worse, he’s very likely to convince you that you deserved his betrayal, that you’re the actual problem. I got away from him when I finally couldn’t deny that was his pattern anymore. But it took me six years of suffering and letting myself be told I was broken and awful, but he loved me anyway, wasn’t I just so lucky to have him?)

              1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

                To clarify: in what I’ve said earlier, I specify “willful narcissist” because while all narcissists cause harm to themselves and others, not all are consciously aggressive about it, or even actively aware of it. That doesn’t mean you should give them a pass on harmful behavior, though.

        3. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

          Quill said downthread, “Got me immune to the charming-but-selfish and charming-but-lazy really quick” and that’s a really good way to describe these people, so I’m adding it here!

        4. tamarack and fireweed*

          By internally stepping back from the warm-and-fuzzy glow that the interview generated when looking at the application file as a whole, and *especially* not forming a positive assessment of their personality just on the strength of one’s own interaction, without talking to former co-workers / managers.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Fascinating child development thing: The researchers were trying to figure out why they had marked certain kids as high in emotional intelligence while their teachers marked them low; turned out that the teachers viewed manipulation as a negative, while the researchers awarded you high marks for your ability to manipulate others into carrying out your will.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Number of children teachers had known > number of children researchers had known….

          1. Princess Xena*

            To be fair, if you classify emotional intelligence as ‘ability to reliably read other people and know what makes them tick’ rather than empathy, the researchers aren’t completely wrong.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Exactly. Being good at reading people doesn’t mean you only use that skill to help or comfort people.

        2. mlem*

          I took a new-senior-role training (after being a senior for over a decade; we were trying to fill by training record with anything new). The training included a section on emotional intelligence, and we were asked to nominate famous people who displayed it. Elon Musk was proposed by one of my fellow trainees … and accepted by the trainers. Tweener-edgelord-wannabe ELON MUSK. But if you interpret “emotional intelligence” as “having the ability to manipulate people until you get your way” ….

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s the inverse of the person who would be good at the mechanics of the job but is incredibly awkward at interviews and can’t convey that. Awkward Annie gets written off and Charming Cher offered the job. Someone who knows both well can see that Annie would do great in this role and be immune to Cher’s charm–but for someone just meeting both, Cher is the one who seems to really have things together and be someone you could trust to take this off your hands.

    15. Don't Want To Be Identified For This One*

      Have you met my project lead? He’s a snake oil salesman and spinner of tales. He runs the government program I support (I’m a contractor) – we design, test, and install an electronic widget to a military service. In six years we have not fielded a single system. Yet he gets millions of dollars each year for…nothing. He always has a ‘reasonable’ explanation as to why we are stuck – and it’s always somebody else’s or another agency’s fault. [Did I mention that three other military services have already fielded this exact same widget, which runs just fine for them?] His entire team has been replaced twice; I am the lone original member remaining. [Each time I request a transfer, my company gives me a raise because NO ONE else will work with this guy. I’d find another job except I’m ticking down to retirement.]

      These charismatic people do exist and at the level OP describes. They do a LOT of damage, to programs, to teams, and individual contributors, often by simple association. [Note: as a government program, my project is reviewed quarterly by the powers that be. Project Lead is still here.]

    16. Purple Cat*

      There are so many companies that don’t do reference checks (or don’t do them well) so they are more susceptible to being fooled by a jazzy interviewer. I’m reminded of a time when my co-worker and I were “interviewing” our future boss. It was a courtesy, but my feedback was “they seemed nice”. Little did I know that that “niceness” would translate into a complete inability to make any decision without having 500 million conversations with everybody they could think of – and even the it’d be a bad decision.

      1. pancakes*

        No one involved in hiring this guy knew that niceness is only one part of someone’s ability to do the job? So many of these stories about manipulative charismatic people seem to be stories about low and/or fuzzy standards being easy to exploit.

        1. Jora Malli*

          I mean, a lot of companies are not good at hiring and almost anybody can make themselves seem normal and/or appealing for 45 minutes during an interview, so sometimes that’s a recipe for hiring exactly the wrong person for the job.

          I’ve been involved in hiring for 6 years and I have received exactly one hour-long training on how to hire well. If we as a society trained our managers better this would be less of a problem.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes. It seems to me this is what the people talking about charismatic but disastrous hires are mostly talking about. I think they’re focusing on the wrong people! I know that finding a new job someplace with higher standards is easier said than done, but if that’s where the problem is, that’s where the solution needs to be as well.

            1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

              No, we’re not “focusing on the wrong people.” We’re focusing on the ones relevant to the LW’s question. Poor management is also a problem, just like harmfully charismatic people are, but it’s not what the LW was asking about. It’s okay to say, “you might have a management problem as well,” but that doesn’t mean the harmful person who schmoozes their way into things they shouldn’t have isn’t also a problem.

    17. a heather*

      I have been on the side of working with the person who could talk themselves into a job but was thoroughly incompetent working that job…it is not fun. This person talked a good game to management, but was not particularly kind to the people who actually did the work. They could see through the facade.

    18. MsClaw*

      Have you genuinely never met anyone like this? Because I have and it’s astonishing (and gross) to watch them in action. To the point where I have felt actual physical discomfort watching a person just charm a room full of people when I knew what was lurking under that veneer. I’ve known so many of these people in my life that I am now automatically suspicious of anyone who comes off as at all smooth.

      1. quill*

        I’ve met at least two who were probably at the far end of the scale, if the scale went from “going to be a bad coworker” to “someone is going to need a restraining order.”

        Got me immune to the charming-but-selfish and charming-but-lazy really quick.

      2. JustaTech*

        I’m lucky to have never personally met anyone like this, but after I watched (in close succession) the Fyre Festival documentary (on Netflix) and the Wild Wild Country documentary (also Netflix) about the cult in Oregon, it’s super clear to me that there are dangerously charming individuals out there who will manipulate people to any and all ends.

        It’s easy to saw “beware charming people”, but the trick is that they are charming, so it’s very hard to be aware of them and the tricks they’re pulling.

    19. just another bureaucrat*

      In addition to what others have said, the OP would likely also know if the people hiring would be swayed by someone charismatic. I know at my org I could tell you who someone incredibly charismatic would be able to get past and who they’d struggle on.

    20. gmg22*

      How do you think con artists can do what they do? Incredible charisma upfront, manipulate like crazy behind the scenes. That’s exactly what the LW is describing here.

      1. I'm Tired*

        Con is short for confidence. Before the con artist takes their mark, they get the mark to have confidence in them. So yeah,there are workplace con artists.

    21. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I know we like to believe that the most important attributes for getting a job are usually experience level, intelligence, and wisdom—but sometimes high charisma can override all of that. And if you don’t think there are people who rolled a natural 18 on their Charisma scores…well, you have had a different life than I have.

      #DNDLifeLessons

    22. emmelemm*

      You’ve never met someone who could literally talk their way into anything? I guess I think you’re lucky then.

  6. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – Do tell your manager about your concerns. If your manager isn’t going to be around for the whole process of finding her replacement, tell your grandboss and the HR person managing the search.

    You don’t have to tell the candidate that you can’t refer them or won’t refer them. All you have to do is to point out that this person is NOT qualified and would be a terrible employee. The problem will take care of itself.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I’m wrestling with this. It seems like if OP does not say no about being a reference, the person will list her as a reference, but it will be a bad reference. I think honesty is better??

      Maybe say, “I can tell them I know you but don’t list me as a reference, I really cannot speak to your work the way a reference should.”

      But that is still not honest as, “I can tell them I know you” implies I’ll say good things.

      If I were the OP I would avoid telling the person that they are not right for the role in some way bc that will give them the info to know just what to schmooze about!

      I think answering the person is not easy!

      1. Snuck*

        I’d say the OP should say something to their boss, regardless of if they be a reference. Sure… go to the applicant and say “I’m not sure you want me as your reference, I remember your role at Uni being vastly different to this one, and I cannot find a way to confirm the knowledge and skills you’d require here for this role.”

        But they should also go to their employer and say “This person here? They say they’ve done this and that, but I don’t think they understand fully the depth of skills and knowledge we need. In the past in their “Admin Director” role they were responsible for ordering stationary for the department, but the title itself was limited to a $5,000 annual spend and there was no staff management, and no understanding of research in a university context”. And then leave it to the employer to ask probing questions and get to the bottom of the skills. Be explicit about what the roles are for the applicant in the past, the sorts of limits and tasks they had, and what is missing for the future management role. Feel free to toss in “The culture here is very relaxed and forgiving, with a calm slow approach to solving problems and a focus on team work. When I worked with the applicant in the past her style was more rushed, with a strong personality and she regularly worked in isolation from the rest of the team by her own choice, this made it hard to progress projects. On some occasions there was considerable confusion about who was responsible to deliver work, and who should get the credit for it. Given we’re an academic research institution and this is a research specific management role I thought you should know about this. She’s very very personable, likeable and friendly, fun on the surface, so these sorts of things are easy to forget when you first meet her.”

        If I had an employee with this sort of information and they didnt’ share it with me? I’d wonder why on earth not! This if this is a research director style role then cultural fit is more important than anything. If I then agree to take on the applicant and hire them I know what to look for going forward, and I would REALLY appreciate the heads up before I interview them, so I can tailor the interview to uncover some truth about all this for myself.

    2. Purple Cat*

      So I read this as a “referral” which would have to be noted WHEN the candidate applies for the position. This would be the person that gets the referral bonus (if they exist in this organization).
      But either way – as either a referral or a reference, the LW absolutely has to give a definitely yes or no answer to the candidate. You can’t just leave that question hanging up in the air.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        Well, you shouldn’t leave the asker hanging… if you like and respect them and want to refer, OR if there is no risk to you if you don’t. In this case, if the LW5 refuses to refer and the person still gets her boss’ job, the consequences to LW will be dire.
        So I would recommend that LW ghost the former director on the request to refer. Pretend she never received it. If there is follow-up, act busy and forgetful.
        DO tell your manager about this aspiring replacement, but also realize that she may fail to pass this information along to her superiors and decision-makers in this hiring action; or, they may forget the warnings. Unfortunately, the risk that this person will still be hired is fairly high.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. OP#5, I’ve been in your position and trust me, your manager definitely wants to know what you know.

      One caveat: When you describe this person, be careful to keep your remarks strictly professional. Stick to why her professional qualifications would make her a weak match for this position. Instead of “incredibly charismatic,” you might say: “She’s very charming and likable, but her lack of experience with X and Y could be a problem here.”

      1. KRM*

        I have done this. My old job was hiring for chemists to work in the lab and a former colleague contacted me to “help him apply” for the job. But I knew for a fact that his lab habits were sloppy, his workspace was always a disaster, and he caused the one legitimate fire drill in the building by carelessly disposing things into the trash (we got evacuated and couldn’t come back into the building for 3 hours because the chemical burning caused an air quality issue). Absolutely not someone you want working in the lab. I weaseled a little with him and said that we weren’t really hiring for his level (not entirely wrong, although I think he may have been considered) and told the hiring manager that he was a lab disaster and should not be in the running for the position. So OP, I feel your issue, and think what Sara says is exactly right. Focus on qualifications and the job description, and lay out why you know she’s not qualified/not a good match. Good HR gives weight to your concerns when you have worked with the person before.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        I second the principle, but I think you can be more explicit / less hedged than that as long as you talk your experiences. I wouldn’t say “X is a disaster to work with” (subjective judgement), but I would say “X had a large numbers of safety violations in the lab” or “in my previous experience I found her unresponsive” or “he had conflicts with the majority of the team members” or “their lack of experience with X/Y has been a problem and is likely to become one again” or “her past experience with X has made people assume she would be good at Y, but in practice this has not been our experience”.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          (I’m in the situation that I have been thinking of what to say if I ever get to give feedback on a particular previous supervisor. My current one and I agree that they are a nightmare to work with with a bad track record, though able to attract funding quite successfully. What I would say is to suggest looking at the turnover in their group, and specifically their mentoring record.)

  7. Person from the Resume*

    This doesn’t really help LW3, but I’m suspicious of the circumstances. Your friend didn’t notice they got double vacation for 6 months when benefits are chintzy? Your friend knew how much vacation they thought they had now, but decided to double check with HR anyway?

    OTOH I agree it sucks to suddenly find yourself with 2 hours for the rest of the year! I don’t know if there’s a way to do it better like maybe spread the pay back out somehow, but that seems difficult and something the software systems may not accommodate easily.

    1. Double A*

      The LW isn’t the person who wrote this. I definitely was surprised when I checked my sick/vacation time this year and saw that I had any because I was on maternity leave earlier this year and thought I used it all. It didn’t occur to me to check if it was a mistake. Although I would not also double check before I took time off; I just assume the number is correct. (I did mention it to a coworker and she said there had been some company wide error in the other direction so we got time added back, but I didn’t follow up on the details).

    2. T*

      This was my thought, he isn’t getting screwed because he actually used the vacation time already.

    3. Genie*

      One explanation: my old job didn’t allow OT and PTO in the same work week, so for example if I worked late a few times one week but also was off sick one day I’d end up with no OT but only lose, say, 5.5 hours of PTO instead of 8. It was easy to lose track of the exact hourly counts and just have to check in periodically.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I spent a year or so at a previous job with two different vacation balances showing on my paystubs and in our time off system. I was very aware of it and talked with HR and knew which number was right, but if I had only been looking at one or the other, I might well have assumed the number there was actually correct, whether it was or not.

    4. Alternative Person*

      My work’s HR system is a nightmare and this kind of problem doesn’t surprise me. The classification system for holiday vs bank holiday vs sick days is very fickle and it doesn’t register days properly for people who work non-traditional work-weeks. Doesn’t help that our scheduling admins seems to do everything but scheduling so they could swear the amount you have on the system is correct, but it’ll come back to bite you at the end of the year because they didn’t click the right option seven months ago and suddenly you’re in the negative despite your best efforts.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I worked somewhere that literally told people to use spreadsheets to track their own vacation, because the tracking system was so terrible.

        Where I work now, entering info can be a pain, but nobody ever complains about the system’s accuracy.

        1. MicroManagered*

          This is just a smart practice no matter where you work. People think their vacation balance and things happen by magic, but it’s a computer calculation and it *can* go wrong.

        2. Gumby*

          My work system is generally quite reliable on vacation / sick time / etc. but I *still* have a spreadsheet to track it. Of course, I could have an error in my spreadsheet but noticing a discrepancy at least means I look into it so I can be confident in whichever ends up being correct.

          Systems have errors occasionally. This is also why we balance checkbooks (well, not so much checks these days). Banks? Mostly get it right. But I still verify my bank statements. Even though I have not once found an error in 20+ years.

    5. Tinkerbell*

      This gets more complicated if the company has a use-it-or-lose-it policy, lumps sick leave and vacation into PTO, etc. – basically, if the amount of vacation time the friend thought he had affected how he used it. It’s technically true that he probably used his vacation already – but I think most people would be more inclined to be free with their vacation time when they think they have enough to spare!

    6. MK*

      I think it depends on how much PTO he got anf how he used it? I mean, if he has 2 weeks, so 10 working days or 80 hours, I can easily see how he might have not noticed that he was using more, especially if some of it was taken for appointments, an hour here and a half day there.

    7. Order of the Banana*

      This is actually pretty common where I work. We are unionized and sometimes certain types of movements trigger a vacation recalculation, but our team is so busy and there’s a few steps of approval required that it can take months for the recalc to be pushed through in the system. So even though employees are notified of a possible vacation change when they move positions, they can forget about it because we take so long to get it done and then it’s a terrible mess if they’ve used more than they’re allotted.

    8. Turingtested*

      I had the same reaction but there are so many different ways to handle PTO accurate that it’s possible he just didn’t understand combined with a dash of wishful thinking.

    9. Colette*

      When you work somewhere where vacation carries over, it’s easy to just … not pay that much attention and rely on the system to do its job. I know I took vacation last year; I don’t know exactly how many days I took. Because I work a compressed schedule (i.e. do 10 days of work in 9 days), it’s non-trivial to figure out exactly how much time off I use when I take vacation, so if something wasn’t counted right, I wouldn’t notice.

      When I worked a regular schedule in a place where vacation was use-it-or-lose-it, I paid a lot more attention.

      1. Lance*

        ‘When you work somewhere where vacation carries over, it’s easy to just … not pay that much attention and rely on the system to do its job.’

        Basically this. I don’t pay much, if any, attention to my vacation accrual; it only matters to me when I intend to use it, at which point I’ll tend to trust what HR/the program handling it says. I’m not likely to think so much about it to consider that the number might be wrong.

      2. Goverment Employee Anon for this*

        This exactly. I just found myself in a similar position. I got told my hours over the maximum, which I must use before a certain point in the year. Given that I took 1 day off in 6 months, it seemed accurate to me (especially when some other accounting was in place). Shortly after this, I received notice that they apparently didn’t process a couple of my time cards last year, and those cards were for crucial periods that had time off on them.

        It doesn’t amount to as big a loss as the person in the letter, but it is still quite annoying to lose time and how unrepentant HR was about it, even though it was entirely their error and should have been caught long ago.

    10. anonymous73*

      I keep track of my vacation time on my own spreadsheet and check it with the system regularly but not everyone does this. If he was basing it solely on what their system said he had, it’s completely possible.

    11. Shiba Dad*

      I’ve had experience with payroll folks that were too incompetent to properly track vacation and sick time. During that time I had only 2 weeks vacation and a week of sick time. We were acquired by a larger company and they implemented an accrual system. I think a few of us tracked it because we didn’t really like the new system. Some of us regularly pointed out that the available time listed on our paystubs was wrong, even when they showed more time than we should have had. Management didn’t want to hear it.

      One coworker suffered an injury while dining at a restaurant (story for another time) that resulted in him using a lot of time off. Payroll showed he had time so he used it and his manager approved it. When the payroll folks finally double checked things, it showed he was well into the negative. He couldn’t take any more paid time off until he he accrued enough time to do so.

      1. MicroManagered*

        If your company is large enough to have “payroll folks,” I assure you they are not tallying each employee’s sick and vacation time by hand and are not personally responsible for errors. It’s a system calculation that’s pretty much on autopilot until something gets out of sync.

        1. Shiba Dad*

          These folks did more than payroll, so “folks responsible for payroll” may have been a better way to put it. Anyway, they were responsible for calculating it for our group of 20ish employees for a few/several months after the parent company acquired us. This was many years ago and I do not remember all the details or the exact reason.

          Eventually our company was integrated into whatever system they were using for their other companies and things were “pretty much on autopilot” after that.

    12. Snuck*

      A lot of this sounds like the issues that flow from working shifts or irregular hours? Or taking one day here, one day there, but not actually taking a holiday?

      Don’t most people work a fairly standard work pattern, and remember when they took time off? Particularly in the last few years when there’s been oh… I don’t know… a pandemic and reduced ability to travel for chunks of time? When people have probably used PTO for other things than going away?

      My gut instinct is that the employee hasn’t kept track of his time, regularly takes small amounts off, and might have suspected he was out of time but wants to try to gain some more for his holiday if he can?

      1. Antilles*

        Don’t most people work a fairly standard work pattern, and remember when they took time off?
        Yes, but that can actually be misleading if your company only requires the use of PTO to hit 40 hours.
        I plan on taking, say, Thursday and Friday off for a trip. Then that week rolls around and I work a bunch of extra hours early in the week just so I can clear decks ahead of time rather than coming back to a mountain of paperwork. So when I go to submit my timesheet, wait, I worked 12 hours on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, 11 on Wednesday, and then half an hour Thursday morning doing a quick email check before leaving…so the net impact is that my “two days vacation” end up only being 6.5 hours of PTO.
        So in MY head, I’m mentally thinking of the days I wasn’t in the office as “two days” BUT for PTO purposes, it’s actually not even a full day in terms of PTO. Rinse and repeat a few variations of this over the course of the year, then by the end of the year, my mental memory of “how much I took off” ends up several days different than the official count.

        1. Snuck*

          But this is where a time sheet should reflect your hours worked.

          And your payroll system should be accruing leave based on how many hours you worked (not how many ‘days’ you showed up on a calendar). This way part days, part time hours etc are all accurately reflected in your annual leave allowance. People who work regular set hours but occasionally work extra hours will then earn ( a miniscule amount if it’s just a few hours, but some nonetheless) annual leave.

          At least that’s how it works in Australia, and many, many other places in the world. Payroll records how many hours you worked (at a rate of 2.9 hours for a 38hr week, or pro rata for more/less hours) and you get that in your ‘bank’ of accrued leave.

          If you work 100hours in a week then you get 2.5 times that amount of leave accrued. However annual leave does not accrue on overtime (in Australia at least), so if you do 12 hours in one day you’ll get whatever your award industry says (usually a standard days is 8 or 10 hours) and then the extra hours are paid at a higher rate, but no leave is recorded for them.

          If you work your 38/40yrs in three days, to take the two following off, you either should arrange a flexitime arrangement with your management, or record the full amount of time off and let the payroll system record it accurately.

          1. Antilles*

            Interesting, because that’s not at all how it works in the US.
            Here, you get a set number of official PTO days per year. Generally speaking, this is based on the number of years you’ve worked at the company – if you’ve been there less than 5 years, you get 10 days of PTO, 5-9 years you get 15 days, etc. This can vary a little bit (e.g., you can negotiate for more days if you want to), but it’ll still be a set number of X days.
            Then the PTO for those X days accumulates at a set rate every week. Let’s pretend I get 13 days of PTO as part of my compensation package. There are 52 weeks per year, so effectively every single week, I get 0.25 days (2 hours) of PTO added to my PTO bank. That rate is exactly the same no matter whether I work 40 hours or 100 hours in that week; either way, it’s 2.0 hours added to my PTO bank.

      2. Esmeralda*

        You assume he’s trying to cheat? How about, he doesn’t keep track of the time, he assumes what he sees in the system is correct, and got caught short.

        We now have a leave system that makes it easy to see how much time we have remaining, how much we’ve used, which requests are pending, what categories the leave falls into… Within the last few years. Before that? It was a nightmare. I always kept track on a calendar and had a list of leave totals — after a problem when I was on FMLA and had to get HR to correct an error. It was not easy to figure out what had happened, and I wasn’t paying that much attention because I was caring for a very sick child. Before that, I just assumed my employer (large R-1 state university) was keeping track correctly.

        And you know, the…oh, pandemic…itself is a reason to not have kept track, not realize there was an error. People have been *distracted*.

        There’s no reason to assume this guy is cheating.

      3. Anon all day*

        I mean, I don’t keep track of my vacation time, and I don’t know the exact amounts I’ve used so far, without looking into my company’s tracking system. We’re allowed to carry over two weeks each year, and I’ve always had enough to do so, so I’m generally not worried about making sure I have enough.

    13. Purple Cat*

      It’s pretty lousy that the firm is backtracking on an error from 2 years ago. Even financially speaking – it is a completely different fiscal year. That vacation time has been accrued and paid.
      And many times HR is as clueless as the employees. I tried to point out that one of my employees accrual balance was absolutely too high and incorrect. HR told me the accrual didn’t matter only the time taken (which is patently wrong). Since it was “sick time” that we don’t pay out when an employee leaves I just dropped it.

    14. Decidedly Me*

      This also struck me as odd. I don’t have accrued vacation time and can still tell you how much time I’ve taken each year. I remember my vacations, my appts that require time off, etc.

      That being said, I think the company should just eat this – it was from several years ago and it’s a crappy thing to do. We once overpaid someone for a few months (long story) and we’re fully in the right to recapture that, but chose to just fix it moving forward. Reason being – we should have caught the issue sooner.

      1. Antilles*

        I agree that they should eat it.
        If it was in the same year, I could see an argument for it, but if it’s a couple years old? That seems firmly in the spot where you should just eat it – in the same way that if he’d left the company, you’d just shrug it off as “welp, too late now”.
        At the absolute minimum, they should talk to him and try to come up with a negotiation plan of some kind where you’re not dumping your entire mistake on him – maybe you split the difference, maybe you agree that you’ll get “repaid” over the next couple years rather than all at once, maybe you informally agree that the ‘official’ number is the revised 2 hours but he can unofficially take a few days under the guise of “manager discretion”. But at least something rather than just saying nope, all on you.

    15. mskyle*

      This happened to me, many years ago (although I had more generous benefits).

      In my case I think it was that they undercounted the PTO I took rather than over-accumulated my vacation. They undercounted me for multiple vacations over the course of years and as a result of their undercounting I took extra days here and there that I *never* would have taken if I hadn’t thought I had loads of extra vacation until there was some kind of payroll system switch and I was notified that I was 20 hours in the hole (and I had thought I still had a week of PTO banked!). I was not the only person in my department who was in this situation, so who knows how many people were affected organization-wide.

      Payroll said I would not be able to take vacation until I had made up the deficit. I appealed to my boss and my grandboss; no dice. I asked what would happen if I left the job before I made up the deficit, and they said that they would call it even. That was the last straw for me – that weekend I applied to about a dozen jobs and I still had less than zero hours of vacation time when I left that job a few months later!

    16. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

      I agree. I thought everybody kept a spreadsheet of vacation time – otherwise, how do you know you what you have left? This seems off to me.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        By looking in whatever software the company uses for tracking? I don’t track separately (I do check occasionally if it’s plausible, but can’t exclude forgetting a random day off). I think a lot of people that have convenient systems don’t bother tracking on the side.

    17. Katie*

      There is lots of legitimate reasons why someone might not realize that they are being overpaid. They trust their organization has a smart enough payroll system to calculate and pay them what they said they were supposed to pay them.

      Having worked in payroll, I can attest that is garbage. Don’t trust it! Check your paystubs for accuracy!

      My opinion is that unless it is fairly recent (like within the month) and obvious (oops we paid you twice! Oops we paid you 50k an hour instead of it being your salary) organizations should eat it. My opinion counts for nothing though.

  8. fellow fed*

    LW 1 i am also a federal employee (US) and we have discreet Covid leave available to cover Covid related illness for ourselves and member of our families (same as would be covered for regular sick leave). I thought it was across all agencies from what I had read but I could be wrong.

    1. independent agency fed*

      What was being offered government-wide has expired, so if your agency is still offering something, that’s not universal.

      Also, I would caution you to NOT work something out informal about not writing down sick time the next time with your manager. Even if your manager agreed (unlikely, they don’t generally open themselves up for policy violations like that), that could be construed as timesheet fraud, and I know if I even suggested it to my management, they’d be wondering about my judgment which can be used to withhold my ability to telework. Also, timesheet fraud can technically be prosecuted as a federal theft crime. Not likely for something as limited in this circumstance, but it is absolutely a fireable offense.

      1. Just a name*

        Also, if a federal agency encouraged family members to go on the trip, that was a major no go from an ethics point at the agency I worked at. Especially after the GSA Las Vegas debacle. Maybe it was only senior managers who were warned about the appearance of impropriety and the mis-use of Government funds.

        1. I'm Tired*

          My agency blacklisted Las Vegas after this. Des Moines for the win!

          Acting like Covid is done is just stupid.

    2. JSPA*

      normally I would not nit pick, per the site rules, but both “discreet” and “discrete” work here, so clarification requested…

      I’m guessing it’s the “-ete” (a separate pool of leave) not the “-eet” (it exists, but you have to ask quietly about it, and they’ll quietly approve) because it’s the feds, not a company.

      Feds take a dim view of, “between you and me I’ll approve it” agreements.

      1. Bored Fed*

        I certainly agree that failing to record leave taken is a Really Bad Thing. On the other hand, the agency may permit the use of Administrative Leave, recorded as such, and with the reason (here, Covid in connection with an in person gathering) documented.

    3. ZSD*

      I work for the federal government, and my agency also has a separate Covid sick time policy, such that you can take admin time specifically for recovering from Covid, caring for a relative with Covid, staying home with your kid when their daycare is closed, etc. So if OP #1’s specific agency doesn’t have this anymore, they could try mentioning to their Human Capital Office that some agencies are still allowing this special leave time.

      1. Prefer my pets*

        My agency is also providing admin leave for covid likely contacted through work activities, and so is the other federal agency co-located in a our building. It’s now coded under regular admin leave not the special time codes previously in place, but it is still definitely being provided (a few people contacted it about a week ago at an interagency safety class in the building…oh the irony. Very glad I fought hard to keep my 100% telework status!)

  9. Not playing your game anymore*

    OP1, I’d definitely talk with your supervisor and/or HR about your situation. Check to see if there’s any possibility of WFH if you have to quarantine again, and see what else they might have to offer such as paid FMLA should your child be ill. My (state) government employer has suddenly discovered all sorts of flexibility that never existed before. But you’ve got to ask for it. They don’t go out of their way or make it easy.

    1. independent agency fed*

      Actually, as long as your manager is well versed, or willing to call the right HR person either at the regional or national office, I’ve found federal managers to be helpful in figuring this stuff out to your best benefit. Yes, sometimes they’re super busy and have to be pushed, especially because our short-term and long-term disability options are different, but usually, that’s where running it up to experts to consider possibilities is super helpful. My management will absolutely stay within policy, but they’ll do their best to give us options.

    2. Long time Fed*

      WFH Is a great suggestion. At my fed agency we are still working mostly telework and a couple of days per week in the office. What I’ve shared with the people I supervise is that if they feel unwell for any reason they should stay home. I also say that I will leave it up to them to decide if they feel well enough and want to telework or if they would prefer to use their sick leave.

  10. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    #1: There’s a special place in hell reserved for anyone who pressures people travel or attend an in-person event with a lot of people while the pandemic is still not over. Shame on them. We’re all tired of the pandemic but the truth is, it’s not over. It’s irresponsible and immature to force or pressure anyone to attend an event against their will. In- person events are a little too important to some people. Zoom and Teams are just fine right now. The people who think it’s virtuous to want to meet in-person need to get over themselves. They are part of the reason the pandemic is dragging on because they pressure people like OP # 1 to travel or attend events where they catch COVID after carefully protecting themselves from it.

    1. Yellow*

      Eh – LW brought her husband and young son with her on this trip. I struggle to see this as a forced to travel situation. Sounds like the family took advantage to travel together.

      It’s also not practical to say that nobody should be forced to travel. Covid isn’t over. But it’s also not new. At some point, workplaces do need to be able to say travel is part of this job and if you cannot travel you cannot do the job. For people unwilling or unable to travel, they may need to find a new role that suits their requirements. That’s not specific to the LW but just employees in general. This event may not have been critical, but there’s a lot of travel that is essential to the role – and covid hasn’t changed that.

      1. Cohort 1*

        While it is true that some travel is necessary for some employees, it is still incumbent on the employer to pick and choose where and when employees are sent. Florida is a well known hotbed of COVID where preventative measures are not well tolerated. It’s not surprising that this work event turned into a super spreader. Safety-wise, the employer might as well have sent the employees into an area with an active wildfire. Suggesting that people who don’t want to take that risk just need to find different jobs is disingenuous.

        1. Allonge*

          I think if OP or their husband felt this was them being sent into a wildfire then they would not have taken their child. People have different levels of tolerance for risk and that’s ok too.

          1. Rolly*

            THIS.

            “special place in hell reserved for anyone who pressures people travel ”

            The OP took a child, who by definition could not consent, so I guess that place needs extra room.

        2. Maggie*

          The comparison between an active wildfire and a conference is fairly disingenuous too. There are covid spreading events everywhere and not just Florida. I mean I do think the company should cover her with extra leave though.

      2. Amy*

        Yeah, I have a work trip to Florida next month. It’s a risk I’m willing to take at this point but I’m definitely not bringing my kids. They’ll be too much time spent in windowless conference rooms with possibly churning with Covid not enough benefit to the kids since I’ll be busy a lot of the time.

        A trip where the logistics might have made sense pre-Covid (saving on one flight and the room) don’t make sense to me right now.

      3. bamcheeks*

        That really depends on the age of the young son. The child might not be old enough that it’s practical for the mother to go away for several nights.

        1. Perfectly Particular*

          What a weird & sexist thing to say… Nursing/working moms find ways to make sure their babies are fed even if they have to travel for a few days.

            1. 50 years of ears*

              Then they forfeit the right to bitch about how the work event gave COVID to their whole family. LW isn’t a single mom by their own statements. It doesn’t sound like the job itself required employees’ family members to tag along. It sucks that they all caught symptomatic COVID but the righteous indignation and pearl clutching is a bit much. Maybe next time don’t bring the whole household to a super spreader event?

          1. Janet Pinkerton*

            But it can be true! If the baby isn’t taking a bottle because they’re exclusively breastfed, or the mother hasn’t tried to pump, or hates pumping, and there’s no formula to be bought, then it becomes more practical to just bring the baby and the spouse to care for the baby during the day. Even if the baby takes a bottle well, and they have formula, the mother has to pump so that she doesn’t lose supply, and that may be highly undesirable or impractical. It’s not sexist to acknowledge that this may be reality for this mom or many moms. It would be the reality for me if I had work travel now.

            Now, I don’t think this letter was actually about bringing a baby. I think the LW brought their child to enjoy the trip to a vacation-type destination.

            1. Allonge*

              OP talks about having protected their son for two years from COVID. Let’s say this includes the entire pregnancy and a couple more months to get pregnant before that, which is probably the most extreme interpretation. The child is still at least a year old, and while he may still well nurse, it’s unlikely that that is his entire food supply.

              So I don’t think this was the main consideration either.

              1. bamcheeks*

                This seems like an outsized and surprisingly angry reaction to a question about whether it’s a good idea for an employee to lose thier entire sick leave allowance to a single bout of illness that they caught through travelling for work.

                1. Allonge*

                  I am not sure where my comment seems angry, but I apologise if it does. For the record, I am from Europe and just the idea of having a limited number of sick leave days makes me angry, let alone the situation OP is in, so…

                2. bamcheeks*

                  This reply appeared in totally the wrong place! I was responding to “50 years of ears” at June 13, 2022 at 8:34 am. Sorry about that!

          2. Amy*

            It is complicated right now with nursing children due to formula shortages. I doubt I’d be willing to travel for work right now if I were still breastfeeding. Messing with the supply is higher risk.

            But I also doubt this parent is nursing since it would likely have been mentioned.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              The LW mentioned protecting the son from COVID for 2 years, so I’m thinking nursing might not have been a factor any more. In hindsight it probably would have been better for the LW to travel alone and quarantine upon return so the family didn’t get it, but hindsight isn’t so useful now.

        2. MJ*

          Mom did comment they’d protected child for two years, so it’s less likely that nursing is still a consideration here.

          I think it’s more likely that the OP accepted the workplace’s assessment of the risk without doing her own independent assessment. It’s my observation that most people don’t have the bandwidth (or expertise?) to stay on top of all the information they would need to makes those assessments. Instead they tend to take the positions of those in authority. Even those who had been doing a lot of their own risk assessment are burned out and it’s easier to just accept the view that something that your company wants you to do is going to be safe. It’s also exhausting and isolating to always be one of the only people pushing back against things that everyone else thinks is fine.

          I don’t think it’s reasonable to blame OP for ending up in this situation.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I wasn’t actually thinking of nursing– me and my partner went out a few weeks ago leaving grandparents to put my 7yo and 4yo to bed, and my 4yo simply screamed for two hours, tried to climb out the window after us, and then eventually fell asleep on her sister (who then ended up staying up until we got home at eleven because she didn’t want to wake the screamathon.) This time last year she’d do the same thing if I went out and my partner tried to put her to bed, or if she woke up after I’d gone out and there was only my partner to there.

            Part of the whole thing about there being a global pandemic and various levels of lockdown for half her life is that she is just totally unused to being put to bed by anyone except me, because it’s not like I could go anywhere!

            1. Perfectly Particular*

              I hadn’t considered the pandemic aspect of it – my kids are way too old to have been affected in that way, but my dog sure is clingy after having me home basically his whole life! I can see where that would make it much harder to leave as compared to when I had littles. I’m in my 40’s, and it’s easy to forget how different things are now with work/life flexibility than they were 5 or 15 years ago. and that it likely is possible to turn down a trip without having significant career repercussions. Even now though, I don’t think most dads would skip a work trip, or bring the family along, because they don’t feel comfortable leaving their child in the care of the child’s mother.

            2. doreen*

              I can understand why you might not want to leave your kids for a few days in that situation – but it’s also not exactly ” The child might not be old enough that it’s practical for the mother to go away for several nights” in that it’s not really related to age and it’s much more related to your particular circumstances. I mean , if your child was used to be being put to bed by your partner (perhaps because you worked nights or you took turns) , there most likely wouldn’t be bedtime screaming because you weren’t there.

              1. bamcheeks*

                I mean, this might be wildly irrelevant to LW’s situation, I don’t know! I was responding to a comment which assumed travelling as a family was an optional jolly. I don’t think it’s a safe assumption that a parent of a very young child can go away for a week-long conference and that the other parent is interchangeable– and the pandemic has made that even less likely for lots of families than during NormalTimeTM.

            3. Calliope*

              Ok but the kid’s dad isn’t a non-parental caregiver. Let’s not perpetuate that stereotype?

          2. Allonge*

            Or maybe OP understands that there is no such thing as no risk, had enough of 2+ years of pandemic with a tiny human to take care of and slightly regrets their choice to go with the whole family now. Totally normal and understandable, and I am not blaming them in any way for this.

            The point is, there was nothing in the question about this. OP understands that what is done is done, blaming the company for it will not make the family un-sick, and had a question on the ‘administrative’ follow-up, not on how to fix the world one conference at a time. All of which makes them sound like a totally reasonable person.

            1. Loulou*

              Right — the letter wasn’t about how the OP got COVID on a work trip and is upset about that. The letter was about how OP got COVID on a work trip and now will no longer have any sick leave left for the year because of that.

          3. pancakes*

            “It’s my observation that most people don’t have the bandwidth (or expertise?) to stay on top of all the information they would need to makes those assessments.”

            I’ve seen a number of people who seem to take that a step further, and resent the idea that they should have to stay on top of it at all vs. just trust official messaging.

      4. JSPA*

        As a counter-argument: if the family doesn’t come along, OP gets it first, then infects the family, and it takes longer to pass through the family. (People don’t by default mask and isolate at home, and the incubation period of the newer variants is generally too short to find out and start masking.)

        From where I sit, that’s why it’s bogglingly stupid to have required in person conferences, especially bringing people into states that strongly discourage reasonable precautions, then sending them back infected to states that have done their level best to stem infections.

        It’s almost like someone has decided that it’s time for everyone to get it, on the (mistaken) presumption that this will then curb further problematic circulation of Covid (given the re-infection rates, that’s…not so.)

    2. Allonge*

      I don’t know if this is helpful to OP. They made some choices (at least taking the job and bringing the family along) and in any case their complaint has to do with the limited sick time offered and that there is no acknowledgement of the relationship between the conference and getting sick, which does suck, and which OP should absolutely address with their boss at least on the level of what happens at the next event.

      I don’t think that major conferences that required cross-country travel from multiple locations ever came with a guarantee of not getting some (sometimes serious) crud though, and adding a small child to the mix makes it even more of a risk, unfortunately.

      1. Rolly*

        “I don’t know if this is helpful to OP. ”

        The OP mentioned bringing the family. They could have raised the sick leave issue w/o bringing it up and it would still be outrageous.

        Mentioning the whole family makes it fair to point out that the spouse and child getting sick is, to an extent, on the OP (and the spouse who helped make that decision).

      2. toolittletoolate*

        At this point, Covid is so endemic and contagious that it would be impossible to know where someone got it. Yes, there was a known Covid positive person at the event, but there are unknown Covid positive people at your children’s schools, at the grocery store, at the restaurant, at the doctor’s office, at the playground, at church. I’ve heard some stats that as many as 20% of people e might be covid carriers. Lots of asymptomatic people out there. Masks and vaccines aren’t foolproof.

        I do not know of a single workplace in our area that is still providing employer paid covid leave–our Chamber of Commerce and our own company have surveyed hundreds of businesses on this very question. The federal requirement to do so ended in 2021, and it’s now handled the same way as flu, pneumonia, or any other illness you might get. Even our local hospital isn’t providing paid covid leave for its employees, and they are far more likely to be exposed on the job than the rest of us.

        One can debate whether this is good policy, but the OP’s employer has a lot of company.

      3. Snuck*

        I think the whole “take their family” thing is a bit of a red herring. The real issue is the lack of COVID sick leave after a work event gave her sick leave. Her company should be compensating her for time lost as a result of their event, or at least being flexible to future need, particularly as it sounds a large number of staff have been impacted. (Although if it was just one there should be support too, but being so many means that there’s more optics and pressure to move visibly and well.)

        (And the OP felt pressured to take her family, and appears to be new in the job/may not have enough cookie points to push back strongly… we don’t know what the company/org / conference was, so maybe we just leave that whole thing alone? She’s clearly feeling kinda crappy now as it is!)

        1. Loulou*

          The letter does not say that OP felt pressured to bring their family. They said they were “encouraged”.

          1. Phony Genius*

            Decision about having an in-person conference aside, why in $&#@! are they encouraging them to bring their families to this type of event right now?

            1. Loulou*

              Because that’s a perk that a lot of people value — if you have to travel for work, it’s nice to tack on a family vacation. There have been so many letters on this site about exactly that.

              1. pancakes*

                It doesn’t seem like much of a perk during a pandemic. That’s like saying it’s a perk to eat yourself sick at a buffet. If there are letters saying it’s a perk to bring your family regardless of context, whether there are deadly viruses circulating or what, those letters aren’t worth relying on for support.

            2. HigherEdAdminista*

              Part of me thinks I sound crazy for saying this, but with the way decisions are being made right now… I sort of feel like there is a push to normalize infection that the government at every level is on board with. They encourage people to take precautions verbally (in some cases), but they have made it impossible to avoid maskless exposure to others even when cases are extremely high.

              So a government agency doing something so out of the ordinary as to specifically encourage employees to bring their family on a trip to an event they insisted hosting in person… and having everyone get sick… well, the next time around it makes it easier for them for force more work travel. “You got COVID the last time remember, so you probably won’t get it again… and anyway, you recovered!” And they get closer to the “it’s 2019 again” picture they seem to want to achieve because people become resigned to being repeatedly infected.

              It might be too cynical to think this. It might be too out there. But honestly, the last two plus years have completely decimated my faith that there are many in leadership who wouldn’t cause people harm (either consciously or as an unintended consequence) to meet their own ends.

              1. pancakes*

                I don’t think it is out of the ordinary for people to encourage one another to think of themselves as invulnerable to Covid. A lot of people have been acting like that the whole time! I don’t understand why people who are seemingly on the fence aren’t seeing the numerous problems with that approach, but it is what it is.

            3. Allonge*

              Because this was not advertised – for obvious reasons – as a super spreader event.

              It was a conference in Florida, presumably at a desirable location, a year after adults and a lot of kids could be vaccinated. For a lot of people this is as safe as we are going to get in the next decade or so and they prefer to go back to ‘normal’ and that is all there is. That’s cynical, sorry.

  11. Allonge*

    LW3 – if HR is so understaffed, that one person will not be able to handle exceptions even if they made a mistake in the first place. Your friend should talk to his boss and try something there.

  12. Lizzianna*

    LW1, it’s not ideal, but if you need it, your agency may have the authority to grant advanced sick leave if you need more before having rebuilt your leave bank.

    I’d be really careful working something informal out. Even if approved by your supervisor, you are still personally responsible for certifying your timesheet as correct. Permission from your supervisor may be considered a mitigating factor, but it could still be considered timesheet fraud if the wrong person gets word of it.

    It really stinks, but the flexibilities we got from OPM and Congress have mostly expired. You could possibly explore a workers comp claim, but at least in my agency, I don’t think there is another leave category your supervisor could authorize.

    1. Ubergaladababa*

      Yes, this. It’s very easy to go negative (sometimes very negative) with federal sick leave. That’s not ideal, obviously, but it’s a lot better than not being able to take leave when you/your kid are sick.

    2. Nook Nook*

      Agreed. Glad to see Alison edited out that informal arrangement suggestion, as that could lead to a much larger headache for LW1.

  13. Madame Arcati*

    I may be very dim this morning (I had to google “UX” from one letter and what chintzy means to USAians from one comment!) but can some explain what happened in letter #3? I thought at first that the company had accidentally given him twice as much leave as he was entitled to over a six month period – but the answer and comments seem to imply that PTO has been lost or taken away, not that he accidentally took too much in the past? And besides, wouldn’t you notice if your allowance rose by 100%? Especially if it’s a small amount – jumping from say five days in 6 months to ten days; that’s a whole extra week! Then again if he has had PTO actually taken off him can’t they just give it back? I am lost!

    1. Cranky lady*

      I read it as that over the course of 6 months, the employer credited a person with 10 days of vacation leave instead of 5 days (made up numbers for clarity). That incorrect total then appeared in timekeeping systems and payroll stubs perhaps. Now, when the person asked HR to look into it for confirmation, HR realized the mistake and took back the extra 5 days. So instead of having 5.25 days on their paystub, it now lists the “correct” .25 days.

      I had the opposite of this issue happen last year. Turns out that HR had forgotten to manually implement a policy that was an exception to the standard calculations for leave. A bunch of us weren’t getting credited with enough leave and HR only caught it when doing calculations related to changing the policy. Meant a whole bunch of people out the last couple of weeks of the year to not lose leave.

    2. Testerbert*

      As I read it:

      Two years ago, someone made a mistake on the LWs PTO accrual, and gave them twice as much PTO as they should have for the period. This was seemingly not noticed by the LW, potentially due to oddities about how the company handles PTO.
      Fast forward to the current day, and the mistake has been spotted. The HR team, or whoever is responsible for this sort of thing, ‘fixed’ the error by deducting the ‘extra’ PTO from their current PTO balance, leaving them with squat for the current year. While this is technically correct from an accounting standpoint, it is objectively terrible from a people management perspective; the LW is effectively being punished with little-to-no PTO now because of a past error made by someone else.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        But IS it technically correct from an accounting standpoint? I am SO not an accountant, but I still know that there’s things like “closing out the books at the end of the year”.

    3. AMH*

      I mean, truthfully I would not. I know it’s not something to be proud of but besides a quick glance at the total I don’t really look at my paystubs every week or think about how my PTO accrues. Foolishly, for sure, since accounting errors do happen.

    4. Loulou*

      I’ve never heard “chintzy” used in this way and I’m American, fwiw! Don’t feel dim.

    5. tamarack and fireweed*

      There are so many ways how time can accrue, world-wide in modern employment environments… One is that there are pretty complicated rates that change depending on how long you worked there. For example:

      5.23 hours per pay period during the first 2 years of employment
      5.54 hours per pay period during years 3 through 4
      6.153 hours per pay period during years 5 through 6
      6.46 hours per pay period during years 6 through 10

      (If a year is 26 pay periods, you can calculate how many days this amounts to…)

      If somehow the employee was erroneously classified with a higher length of employment than is correct, for example because they took a break that doesn’t count, or were part-time (and this is pro-rated), or they started as an intern or student employee (and this doesn’t count), then this can happen in a way that’s really hard for the employee to notice.

  14. Ellen Ripley*

    I work for a hospital system and as of June 1, our Covid leave option has expired. If we get Covid and can’t work, whether it was from a workplace exposure or not, we have to use our own PTO for the sick days. So it doesn’t surprise me that the federal government has already done the same.

  15. CookieWookiee*

    OP 1: There is a specific code for Covid leave that Federal employees are granted (I forget for how many days) that does not come out of your SL bank. Your timekeeper should be aware of this. If they are not, contact OPM directly. This should be rectified ASAP.

  16. toolittletoolate*

    I think “market rate” means something different in this context–what it means is not the current “hire in” salary that other companies/organizations in the same area are offering for this job. “Market rate” represents what someone who has attained “competency’ in the role would make, which typically takes several years of performing the job duties. The terminology is outdated—it’s aligned more with the notion of “apprentice” “journeyman” and “masters” that comes from trade unions. “Market rate” is for someone that is at the level of journeyman or slightly higher.

    The whole “salary study” thing is slightly ridiculous anyway–most organizations don’t do them frequently enough to be very helpful, and many of them aren’t particularly rigorous. They benchmark you to “like” organizations, and don’t do enough to account for the fact that your nonprofit is competing for the same workers that local, private companies are also recruiting. A worker is not choosing between non-profit A and non-profit B. It is between non-profit A, non-profit B , AND many private companies in the same area.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      You’re not really competing with private companies when you’re hiring non-profit employees. You’re a completely different sector with a different structure, qualification requirements, and goals. People applying to and hiring for non-profit jobs know that.

      There isn’t a single non-profit employee who isn’t well aware “I could triple my salary by going corporate”, I assure you.

      1. toolittletoolate*

        Yes, and people move into and out of non-profit work all the time. There is a lot of crossover, at least in the market we are in. And there are many of the 3rd wave? (4th wave?) companies in our area which combine a bit of both.

  17. Long-time Fed*

    OP 1 – early in the pandemic, the Fed did have a special category of COVID leave for those who got sick. Now that vaccines are widely available as are treatments for COVID, the Fed has stopped special COVID leave and those who need time off due to COVID use their earned leave just as we would if we caught the flu or some other illness.

    I see some comments are suggesting that this is a Workmen’s Comp issue. I don’t think you could apply and successfully receive Workmen’s Comp any more than you would if you receive WC if you caught the flu at work and used up a significant amount of leave.

    1. Long-time Fed*

      * any more than you would receive WC if you caught the flu at work and used up a significant amount of leave.

    2. doreen*

      That’s going to depend on the state and probably the field – I know it’s possible to get WC in New York for COVID (and in fact, in my former job, i would have been covered by WC if I got tuberculosis)
      ” Individuals who work in an environment where exposure risks are significantly higher are more likely to have compensable COVID-19 claims. Some employees are working closely with the public in locations where COVID-19 exposure is documented. This includes health care workers, first responders, transportation workers, corrections officers, and food service workers. Some workers may also have work-related claims if they directly interact with the public while working, such as retail workers.”

  18. Be kind, rewind*

    #3: Am I understanding this correctly that this person is essentially getting no vacation time this year because they “over-used” in previous years? That’s awful, if that’s the case, and a quick path to burnout.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      It sounds like they used almost as much as they had properly accrued. The issue is that, due to an error, it looked like they had a lot of hours available to use this year, when in fact they had two hours available. Because they started formulating plans based on incorrect information, realizing they don’t have enough PTO for those plans is a heavy disappointment. Similarly, they probably used more PTO in the past than they would have if the information they had available had been correct. If this person is facing burnout, that’s an indictment of the amount of leave the employer offers, relative to the position, as well as their handling of the error.

  19. Long-time Fed*

    OP1 – For those unfamiliar with federal leave policy, it is set by the Office of Personnel Management. Employees earn four hours of sick leave per pay period for a total of 13 days per year which can be carried over year to year. As a long time Fed I have over 1000 hours of sick leave banked. Federal employees also earn annual leave which can be used for any purpose including in lieu of sick leave. Employees in their first three years of federal service earn four hours of annual leave per pay period (13 days), from years 4 to 14 Feds earn six hours per pay period (19 days), and once you have 15 years of federal service you earn an eight hours per pay period (26 days).

    Feds are also eligible for FMLA and most agencies have a leave bank and/or donated leave option for people who may have a catastrophic illness that uses up all of their leave in all categories.

  20. Kate in Scotland*

    With regard to letter 3, I’m seeing some questions above about how you wouldn’t notice the incorrect leave allowance. I think it’s worth remembering that 2 years ago was 2020 and a lot of companies changed their leave structure or recording of leave was disrupted. For example, we had additional covid leave and the usual rules on carrying over leave were changed substantially.

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      I think there’s also a distinction between knowing how much PTO you have/have used *for the year* and knowing how much you’ve accrued at any given point in time. Most people can easily keep track of the former but be completely lost on the latter.

      1. anonymous73*

        It’s not that difficult. You should know how much you accrue each pay period and you should know how much you use, especially when you’re only getting 2 weeks per year of vacation. And claiming ignorance is just an excuse for not taking responsibility for your time (my husband has an employee that is constantly running out of time because he doesn’t keep proper track of it). If he was new-ish 2 years ago when the mistake was made, I can see how this happened. Or if he had checked in with HR on more than one occasion to see how much time he had and they just now noticed the error, that’s on them. Otherwise if it’s just a matter of him relying on others to track his vacation and not double checking (more than once every 2 years), that’s on him.

        1. mlem*

          Eh, I think that’s one of those things you don’t think to track separately until you’ve been burned (or know someone who’s been burned). When we’re given tools to do a thing (such as track our balances or accruals), it’s not awful to trust that they’ll work. And it’s very easy to miss if the problem is, say, the company crediting you 6.57 hours per month instead of 5.67 hours per month because someone mistyped something.

          (I’ve tracked my time for something like 15 years, because I was on “untracked” vacation time for a lot of that, and “untracked” had a different definition depending on work group. For my group, it was actually a specific annual balance; for other groups, it was “don’t take more than your boss” or similarly terrible metrics. Now that I’ve been put back in a tracked system, I can confirm that our monthly reconciliation report is frequently wrong and I have to correct it … but I don’t get mad at younger colleagues who think the time-tracking system *can accurately track time*. )

        2. Critical Rolls*

          HR has a responsibility to correctly track and report this. Employees can also do it, because they’re concerned about errors, or for planning purposes, or whatever reason, but they are not *obligated* or *responsible* for doing so. You’re accusing the employee of dodging responsibility for not doing HR’s job.

          1. anonymous73*

            If I only got 2 weeks of vacation, you better believe I would be tracking it like a hawk and noting any inconsistencies outside of what I was told. Humans, and systems (because data is provided by humans) make mistakes. And I never said it was definitely and without a doubt the employee’s responsibility. We need more details.

  21. also a fed*

    OP #1, I am one of my agency’s COVID POCs, handling mostly the policy side and basically, the guidelines are changing all the time. HR may not be fully aware of all the changing guidelines for COVID. OMB is constantly telling us that we need to look at the Safer Federal Workforce task force website for updated guidance. I know for a fact that the rules about official travel have changed a lot in the last couple of weeks — including the eligibility for weather and safety leave instead of regular sick time or COVID leave. I encourage you to check out the FAQs on the Safer Federal Workforce website to see what applies to you. You might be able to get retroactive benefits based on those changes.

    Additionally, your agency must have a COVID-19 Coordination Team. This is a requirement from one of the Biden Administration’s executive orders. Find out who is on this team and contact them about your situation, not HR. What we are finding at my agency is that HR is completely unaware of all the changes re COVID guidance and guidelines. The COVID-19 Coordination Team and the Safer Federal Workforce FAQs are more up-to-date.

    Finally, each agency is required to have a COVID Workplace Safety Plan, a COVID testing plan, and a COVID exposure plan. Look for yours. There may be additional details in them that might help bolster your case for sick leave. If your agency does not have this, look at your parent agency/department. They should have these documents. Barring that, there is an email address on the Safer Federal Workforce website. It is actively monitored so any valid concerns will get a response — it might take some time, but you should hear from someone with guidance.

    (A lot of agencies are getting their hands slapped over their COVID procedures, standards, and protocols. There is a biweekly government-wide conference call for all the agency COVID POCs and the first half of it is mostly OMB reading everyone the riot act over inappropriate application of the guidance. So you are not alone in your frustration with how your agency is handling things.)

      1. Sangamo Girl*

        Thanks! I’ve worked for the federal government but that TLA (three-letter acronym) wasn’t ringing any bells. All I was getting was person of color and I knew that wasn’t it.

  22. BTDT*

    OP5 – if it helps, I’m a UX researcher at a tech company and the chances of us hiring a research director without significant industry experience is zero. Clarifying what her director role really was would be all it took at my company. (A former intern of ours told everyone they “worked for” a very flashy org when really they were just in a student competition the flashy org sponsored. People still talk about that resume spin job.)

  23. Hestia*

    For OP4 – I realize that the cat is out of the bag on this at your office, but for others who may want to follow suit, may I urge some discretion when discussing this sensitive topic around others? I myself am unable to have children and wanted them desperately. I was also informed by my mother, from whom I am estranged, that she wanted to abort me, but my Dad persuaded her not to. In other words, this is a triggering topic that would be likely to make me cry in the workplace. And I don’t want to cry at work or discuss or explain myself to co-workers.

    I do NOT want to start a debate on abortion here. I simply ask for sensitivity when approaching others about this topic.

    1. repro OP*

      I’m sorry to hear about your difficult experiences, Hestia, and that this topic is triggering for you. I absolutely do want to be as sensitive as possible to anyone (in my office AND in this commenting section) who feels similarly. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Definitely. I worked with 3 women who were involuntarily sterilized in the 1970s and these kind of discussions hit different when you had your choices stolen from you. Personally in the workplace I’d focus on pushing for equal access to health care across the employer. It is something the employer directly controls and, no matter anyone’s backstory, all employees having access to the same services is something people can get on board with.

  24. Hiring Mgr*

    On #5 just a note that if your boss is leaving, as great as they are they may not be that invested in all the details of their replacement… More likely depending on when they leave they may not really be involved in the process at all.

  25. Krista J*

    The federal worker needs to put in an Ecomp claim within 30 days of their positive test and they will get their leave back.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      One nit: according to the OWCP web site, the claim would have to be filed within 30 days of the date of the event, not the positive test. That’s because the filing deadline is tied to the date of the injury (which in this case would be the date of exposure).

  26. AnonyMouse*

    LW 4
    Legally, can you? Yes. Realistically, should you? No. The workplace is not the place for politics. You’re wagering your daily meal ticket on whether or not a majority of your coworkers and all of your supervisors agree with you. It’s not a smart bet. Ending up underpaid or unemployed would limit your ability to organize much more than just organizing with non-coworkers would. You have to think about how you can be the widest influence for good long-term, not just in the here and now.

      1. Wendy*

        I feel the same way too.

        You have to consider whether or not this is a sustainable long term solution for you.

        Your doing this has long term affects.

        Do you want to deal with those long term affects?

        I do not.

      1. Calliope*

        Nah, they’re a non-profit with what sounds like a related mission. Employees can advocate for what the org can do. And they can also advocate for health care policies at their org. Whether that makes someone uncomfortable is irrelevant. You’re free to advocate for what you believe too in that context.

        1. Calliope*

          And “abortion up until you give birth” is not a thing, come on. That’s propaganda that you shouldn’t by into.

          1. HigherEdAdminista*

            Seconding this.

            If you are making a snide comment about families who have had a late-term abortion, Blue Glass, you should try reading the stories of people who went through it. Then you might realize that you are making a swipe at people who are heartbroken and traumatized because their much wanted child is dying or has a condition incompatible with surviving after birth.

    1. Parenthesis Dude*

      It’s worse than that. You’re wagering your daily meal ticket on whether or not your supervisors think that this is a wise course of action. Your supervisors may agree you with personally, but think that this is poor judgement on your part and that you’re bringing up an issue that could potentially cause issues down the line. If this does cause issues and tensions in upper management, then you very well may be blamed even by managers that agree.

      For example, in one of my jobs, there was an argument about abortion. Turns out that one of the key employees was extremely pro-life and felt that they were personally attacked in the argument. This employee ended up leaving a few days later, which caused significant grief to the CEO. The CEO was pro-choice, but was far more interested in keeping his employee than discussing abortion, and was not happy about losing this employee due to this argument. I don’t believe that there were direct consequences, but I’m sure there were indirect. If the employee had said, “it’s them or me”, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a few employees were fired to keep the key one.

      This is especially the case if other people use inflamed language to make their point. Now that you’ve brought this up, you own their behavior.

      1. repro OP*

        I see your point, although I’ve been trying very carefully not to offend anyone in this conversation, and I hope no one feels attacked. In fact I would WANT to discuss this with my pro-life colleagues, to hear their side of things (calmly, openly, professionally). It’s not them or me, and it’s not personal, these are all business decisions: If we live in a banned state, will the employer provide medical benefits to cover abortion plus travel? If we as an organization can possibly contribute something to this work on a national level, in a way that is consistent with the work we already do now, should we? All of these decisions are wayyyyy above my pay grade, but as a member of the organization, I want the decision-makers to know how much this matters.

        And I’m not sure that I agree with your last sentence about owning the behavior of others – I didn’t create the situation we find ourselves in (the SCOTUS ruling), and this is definitely not the very first time the issue has come up at my office, it’s just the first time during my tenure here.

        1. pancakes*

          You don’t have to call anti-abortion advocates “pro-life.” Those of who’ve had abortions and/or favor keeping them legal aren’t anti-life.

          1. repro OP*

            That is very true. Do you recommend using “anti-abortion” or “anti-choice” instead, or something else? I am speaking and/or referring to my own colleagues, mostly people I’m friendly with, so I want to remain respectful, straightforward, and professional. Thanks!

    2. Critical Rolls*

      It sounds like the workplace is very adjacent to these politics. Also, keeping “unpleasant politics” away from various spheres — the workplace! parties! the dinner table! — is a very old method of shrinking the spaces where conversations and organization can occur until they disappear. Not to say that’s your aim here, but outcome can be different from intent.

      1. bamcheeks*

        yes– where there is opportunity to make tangible and material change –such as ensuring there is adequate healthcare coverage for all your employees, or recognising how an issue might affect your service users– is exactly the place to have these discussions IMO.

    3. repro OP*

      AnonyMouse, thanks for your perspective. I don’t think this is politics, though – it’s healthcare, which for those of us who are FT employees in the US, is controlled by our employers. I also mentioned that my organization could do some good work in this space (nonprofit), so that’s not politics, it’s arguably relevant to the actual work we’re doing. I see your point about long-term effects, and I guess in my position I’m hoping that my ability to influence the organization I work for might be greater than what I could do as an individual outside of work.

  27. Dust Bunny*

    “Yeah, we’re competitive! Competing to see who can pay the lowest! Yuk yuk yuk!”

  28. Purple Cat*

    I’m so confused on LW2.
    The company is “transparent” about only paying 65% of the midpoint and is claiming that’s competitive? Like “yay” for not being the bottom of the barrel? I agree that not every firm can be a market leader, but to celebrate being so far below the midpoint is mind-boggling to me.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      We’re doing active restructuring right now to get salaries to midpoint because it feels like the bare minimum to stay competitive…BRAGGING about being below market rate does just boggle.

    2. Willis*

      They could actually be well below the bottom of the barrel. If they’d found the market range for Position X was $45-65K, the midpoint would be $55K and the 65% salary would be $36K, considerably worse than the lower end of their range. The only time their salaries are even going to be within the market range is when its so big as to be almost meaningless. Something like $35-$75K for a midpoint of $55K, and even bigger once you start talking about higher salaries.

      I wonder if the org is actually talking about percentiles, which would make a lot more sense. The 65th percentile would be a somewhat above average salary; hell, even a 35th percentile salary working toward the 50th would likely be better than just 65% of the midpoint. There’s no tie between doing the calculation that way and anything going on in the real world so I don’t know why anyone would come up with that system (or pay a consultant to, much less), unless they just felt like being really explicit about how sucky their pay is. The OP should find out more about the methodology, if possible.

      1. HR Red Pro*

        Willis, this is what I was thinking too- they are saying the 65th percentile, not 65% of market rate. (Heck, they might not even be saying “percentile,” because plenty of HR folks don’t understand percentiles, but that still might be what they mean.) When compensation experts do salary studies, they VERY often report the results in terms of percentiles. It’s VERY common (and a perfectly valid strategy) to aim for the 50th percentile. If your company is averaging paying people at the 65th percentile, that’s quite good- and actually would be quite competitive. The 50th percentile would still be considered competitive (in that they are aiming to match the market rate for salaries), so if they use the 65th percentile, they are aiming to go higher than the market rate. (I’ve been doing compensation – and other HR work – for 20 years.)

  29. EvilQueenRegina*

    Something along the lines of #3 happened to my former coworker (Anya) – she worked part time (9-3.30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and joined the team around April (the leave year at my employer runs from January to December). At the time, we used to have handwritten leave cards that someone in the team would make up and give to everyone for the new year, and the person who did them for that team (Dawn) made a mistake with Anya’s and gave her two days she wasn’t entitled to. The mistake was picked up in December when Dawn was making up 2009’s leave cards; by that time, Anya had already taken the days.

    Buffy, our then-manager, offered Anya the choice of either having two days docked from her pay or coming in on two of her non working days to make up for it. She was all set to do the extra days when Willow, our other coworker, pointed out that she could add another two hours onto a few of her planned working days instead and make it up that way.

    1. Oakwood*

      Or the company could have said: it was our mistake, it’s in the past, let’s move on.

      If she’s a salaried employee, would the company have any problem expecting her to work longer hours (at no additional pay) to meet a deadline? I doubt it.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        That would have been what a lot of reasonable employers would have said, however ex-manager was pretty keen she would make it up in some way even though it wasn’t her error!

        1. Oakwood*

          After all the late evenings and weekends I’ve put in “to help the company” get through an emergency or meet a deadline, it would have killed my morale to have my employer tell me I’d have to pay some extra vacation days I inadvertently took a couple of years ago.

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    The key to letter 2 is the consultants being hired by these nonprofits. Someone came up with the “midpoint of the salary band” formulation, with the idea that you would think “Wow, 65%, I’m 15 points above the midpoint!!!” rather than “I’m making just over half the median salary.”

    The person who came up with the concept may be good or bad at math, but they are betting at everyone affected being unable to question their math. (Which people bad at math are more likely to believe.)

    Its ancestor is “When you look at our salary, you also need to count in all the benefits for their cash value. Then compare that to other companies, looking only at their salary.”

    1. Purple Cat*

      But they’re not at 65% vs a midpoint (of 50%). They are 65% OF the midpoint. Unless the LW misspoke.
      My interpretation. Midpoint is 100k. LW is at 65k and should be happy about that. Which minimal raises of 2% that many companies give and it’s too early for me to do the math for how many years it would take to reach the current midpoint (which would also be increasing).

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes and I don’t think LW misspoke, because “the goal is to get to the midpoint” is the whole premise.

        1. linger*

          But what is missing from OP’s description is this: if as OP2 states, the midpoint of the company’s salary band for a position is the external median, that also means you don’t just get from 65% to the midpoint of 100%, you can go beyond it and eventually top out at 135% of the external median. And meanwhile, the midpoint is presumably revised as the external median changes.
          This approach to setting bands is not necessarily bad, but there are several devils in the detail:
          (i) it very much depends on how fast workers can progress through the band: how long does it take to get to the midpoint, and how does this compare with the average time spent in one position? If annual raises are low and/or turnover is high, the nett effect may well be that most employees spend most of their time below the external median. But we really don’t have enough information to know that. (Assuming employees may spend a 20-year career in one band, a raise of 3.5% of the scale each year would make sense; but if everyone actually leaves before 10 years, everyone is actually being paid below the median.)
          (ii) to a much lesser extent, it also depends how often the midpoint is revised: a significant lag would build in some degree of systematic undercompensation (e.g. by about 10-20% if revisions are made every 2-5 years).

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            The approach to setting bands isn’t bad but even so maxing out at 135% of the midpoint after x amount of time is average, not competitive.

            1. linger*

              It could be a design feature rather than a bug, if the 135% maximum for each band rewards long-term commitment to one role, rather than continued skill development that would lead to higher salaries elsewhere. Likely most employees would eventually change position/role enough to move up into a higher salary band instead.

  31. Jane*

    My vaccinated daughter also contracted Covid on a recent work trip to Florida. She was not charged a single sick day and her new employer was extremely accommodating. This was her first business trip for a brand new job.

    1. a good mouse*

      My job is making me move to Florida, and I’m concerned. It sounds like the entire state is one big super-spreader event at all times.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Good luck! The family members I have who moved there for work or family reasons moved away as soon as they could. I’ve known some people who liked it, but it was not for my family (either side).

      2. pancakes*

        I’d want hazard pay for that. I wouldn’t ask for it because there’s no way it would be high enough to justify that move for me.

      3. Nancy*

        It’s not. The vast majority of the country has no restrictions and the virus is everywhere now. FL is not some special case.

  32. MrsJameson*

    To OP 1 – I also work for the federal government. My agency has a policy that extends through the end of calendar year 2022 that states:

    “Employees with dependent care needs and low annual leave balances (i.e., 104 hours or below of accrued annual leave) may request up to 20 hours of administrative leave per pay period, not to exceed 50 hours total in the calendar year, as necessary to address dependent care needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic such as:

    • School or daycare closures.
    • School or daycare partial class closures.
    • Quarantining when children in school or daycare test positive or are exposed to those who test positive.
    • Caring for a family member with a mental or physical disability of any age if the place of care for such family member is closed or the direct care provider is unavailable.”

    As a parent with a low leave balance, this policy helped me out immensely last month when the whole family had Covid and daycare was shut down. OP1 should look into whether a similar policy is in place at their department/agency, in case they need to use it. I do not know if this is policy is extended across the entire federal government. While the policy is really only intended for Covid and not regular preschool sickness, it is still helpful/important to be aware of whether or not their is something in place at their department/agency..

    1. Overeducated*

      Unfortunately, it is not. Other agencies “sunset” it earlier. It was a really great benefit though.

  33. Aspiring Great Manager*

    OP 2 – It sounds like there may be more context information needed and it may be about where your salaries are located within the range of people in your area/country get paid for same work.

    I have an example that may help. Where I work, wages are paid at a particular point in the pay range for the positions. My very large organisation’s HR hires an international company that does a study of how much people working in the same type of work (let’s say admin. assistants for example) earn in that country and city, they end up with a range that say the lowest paid admin assistant in that country and city earns $10,000 and the highest paid earns $25,000, and as with most things each extreme are outliers. The salaries are spread out in a bell curve and they find that at the mid-point, people are earning $20,000, which means that an admin assistant earning $20,000 would earn more than 50% of all other admin assistants in that area. In this example, 65% would be $22,000, which means that an admin assistant earning $22,000 earns more than 65% of people in their area.

    I am not sure if this is the system for your organisation, but just wanted to share how that percentage expression is used in some situations in regards to salary. I am not adding judgement here of whether it is good or not, that is for another comment!, but just trying to explain how it might be working.

    Best thing is to ask for clear explanation of the methodology, it might not in fact be that you are getting paid 65% of a normal salary, but rather than you are getting paid more than 65% percent of all people doing the same type of job in your area. It may still not be enough depending on your cost of living, inflation, etc, but it is important to understand well what is happening so you can regroup and determine how to address the concerns.

    All the best to you nad your colleagues!

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Whether or not this is how LW’s company is doing it, this is helpful potential context. It definitely sounds like the LW would benefit from getting more info about the methodology.

  34. RagingADHD*

    LW5 I can’t imagine how the hiring committee could possibly be so fooled by a similar sounding title and “charisma” to believe that someone has highly technical experience for a senior role when they have no clue about the industry at all.

    Is the hiring manager(s) a complete moron? Because the LW seems to be working on that premise.

    Certainly it’s a normal thing to do to warn off the hiring manager if a known terrible fit comes across your desk. But I think the LW’s own experiences with Jane have colored their perception of the way others will see her. They aren’t all young, impressionable grad students now.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Sometimes hiring is just really weird. I’ve been on a lot of hiring panels and usually we’re all generally aligned on our opinions of candidates. But recently there was one candidate where half thought he was by far the best, and half thought he was by far the worst. Go figure. (We decided as a group not to make an offer.) I was one that thought he was terrible but I won’t pat myself on the back for seeing through his nonsense. A few years ago there was a candidate that was my top choice and I was very surprised that everyone else thought very poorly of him.

      1. I'm Tired*

        This is the problem with subjectivity in hiring. It’s impossible to be the best and worst candidate at the same time unless someone on the hiring committee does not understand the position being hired for. Ridiculous.

        1. Cat Tree*

          I disagree. This was two cases out of dozens of candidates through the years. No process is perfect but our hiring process generally works out well.

    2. Generic Name*

      My former boss hired a guy who was very charming and good looking for a senior level technical role but was actually more junior level proficient at. She ended up firing him. Later I found out she didn’t bother to call his references, so yeah, hiring him was rather moronic.

      1. pancakes*

        That’s kind of what RagingADHD is getting at, no? The problem there wasn’t just that your workplace had a charming candidate, but that your boss didn’t take the basic step of checking references. A charismatic but unqualified candidate is only going to get hired at a workplace that doesn’t care much about qualifications.

    3. irene adler*

      We hired someone who charmed all but one of the interview panel.

      All of upper management was taken with her. She “made nice” to a bunch of older men who insisted we hire her. We did. Mistake.

      The one who was not in favor of hiring her was the R&D guy. And his issue was her resume was so packed with stuff that he thought her goal was med school. And folks like that are often not a pleasure to work with. He was wrong about the med school but he right about not hiring her.

      She turned out to be a total nightmare (whom I had to manage-an eventually fire).
      She had no interest in actually doing the job. Or reliably showing up for work. And bullied co-workers too.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      I can easily imagine it, unfortunately. All it would take is a hiring committee that is far enough removed from the details of the job to be won over by vague comments that sound about right (from the 30,000 ft view) delivered with blinding charm.

    5. Khatul Madame*

      You’d be surprised.
      One factor in being fooled with charisma is that people in senior management often get there through success in sales (requiring, you guessed it, charisma moreso than veracity and technical skills). People usually like others who share key personality traits – ergo, charisma wins with flashy crowd.

  35. Esmeralda*

    OP #4, I’m unclear on what your speech entails — are you talking about how overturning Roe v Wade will affect the work of your office? sounds like you are discussing insurance benefits, but that that is not all.

    Or are you discussing it more generally?

    And before anyone starts flaming at me, my stance on abortion rights is the same as the OP’s. Maybe even left-er. I think that making the organization think about and plan for the effects of overturning Roe is good work.

    Here’s the thing. If it pertains to the job and to employees’ work and benefits, go for it. If it’s organizing that does not relate to the job, I am very leery about it. I do not want to be proselytized at work for *any* political position. Not ones I agree with, not ones I disagree with. Now, I’m comfortable telling that to people directly — but not everyone is. Not everyone is in a position to disagree — they may worry about losing their job, or being ostracized, or losing out on a promotion, or not being able to get their work done because someone holds it against them.

    1. repro OP*

      Your last paragraph is dead on exactly how I feel right now, and that’s why I’ve never before in my life spoken up at work about anything controversial! I’m also an incredibly private person. But yes I think the overturn of Roe v Wade does pertain to our work – it’s just a matter of whether the decision-makers want to move toward it or move away from it. So yes I’m trying to make a business-related argument for why we should move toward it, and I’m talking with colleagues to tap their expertise and figure out whether we have broad support internally. And based on Alison’s response, it sounds like the healthcare benefits-related stuff is safe to organize around, whereas we’re on shakier ground with discussing and trying to influence the business decisions.

  36. just another bureaucrat*

    I read number 2 differently. Not that 100% of people get paid 100,000 and people at this company can get up to 65,000. But that in the bell curve of how people get paid, the company sits at slightly to the right of the peak. I’d want to know where you started if you’re doing a band. If you started at 50% and the band was 50-65%, it’s not that horrific.

    It would be like 1 person is getting paid 700,000 for this job, one person gets 12,000 for this job, most people get about 80,000 or so. You can get somewhere from ??? to 95,000.

    Is it perfect? No, but if this is what it is it isn’t nearly as appalling as you’re describing it. Unless you think everyone must get 700,000 in which case it’s not even the same conversation.

  37. a good mouse*

    I’m really worried about the situation with OP1 happening to me, because I’m now being required to travel for work and my company has a combined vacation/sick pay PTO pool. So if I get sick (especially ON A WORK TRIP) I could end up having no vacation time for a year. That doesn’t seem fair.

  38. Tech writer by day*

    LW1, you gloss over getting home from your conference after knowing you were exposed or perhaps even becoming symptomatic. Did you request accommodation in place to quarantine? Or did our government send everyone onto planes knowing they were endangering everyone on those planes?

    1. Em*

      My agency requires all employees to quarantine for 5 days minimum if we’re vaccinated. If the employee had reported the positive test before they left, they would not have been allowed to travel on official govt business. It sounds like people tested positive when they got home and that activated the contact reporting tree.

  39. BeeKay*

    OP2: it sounds like they are being paid 65% of the midpoint of the salary range, which would be below market rate, yes? In which case this might be a reasonable negotiation tactic: “So you’re saying if I quit here and go to a similar company, I’ll get a 35% raise? Bug-bye!”

    1. linger*

      Per OP2, the company’s salary band is pegged so that the mid-point = the median (for exactly the same job type? nationally or regionally?) The salary band range is then set as 65%-135% of that median.
      Hence employees starting into a band at 65% of the median wage, which seems low, but note the standard of comparison is a starting employee, not an average employee in the market.
      It matters how fast employees can progress through the band, and exactly what the median is based on, and how often the median is recalculated, but this general approach does not automatically lead to unfair compensation.

  40. Former HR/Payroll*

    On #3, speaking as a former payroll person — I’m sorry about your friend’s predicament, but they also have a responsibility to track their leave (as well as pay, overtime, etc). If the company paid them their salary twice for one pay period by mistake, the employee would have a legal obligation to pay back the extra check. Same principle applies for leave. No time and attendance/payroll system/staff is perfect (and some are less perfect than others)— It’s a good practice to keep an eye on your paystubs, leave balances, etc.

    1. just another bureaucrat*

      Isn’t that actually payroll’s job. Like my job is to answer phone calls. Or write purchase requests. Or make sure computers get updated. Not monitor that payroll is not screwing up? I get that they do and I track it but because i think they are bad at their jobs, not because it’s my job? Why is it not payroll’s job to have systems in place to validate these things that aren’t you’re on your own good luck?

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        Yeah, exactly. I worked at a place where payroll made quite a few errors, but in most cases the company ended up either splitting the difference with the employee, or in cases where enough time had passed, just letting the employee keep the overpayment or extra leave–because they recognized that payroll was ultimately at fault. (Overpayment was of a few extra hours here and there on a variable schedule, not something as obvious as a doubled paycheck.)

  41. Bored Fed*

    If OP4 is working with other employees to advocate for benefits for employees (eg, help to obtain an out of state abortion I’d the employee lives in a state that prohibits abortion), that would be protected under the NLRA as “concerted activity” to “improve their terms and conditions of employment or otherwise improve their lot as employees.”

    By contrast, seeking to direct the activities of the employees’ non-profit employer towards protecting the reproductive freedom of members of the broader community would not be protected under NLRA.

    1. repro OP*

      Got it, that makes sense. Yeah, I’m trying to do both. So in terms of the second, I should probably be more careful… particularly when it comes to getting others involved. Thank you for helping to clarify this!

      1. Smithy*

        I just want to give you my experience from my former nonprofit’s fallout around DEI conversations following George Floyd’s murder. Our organization’s mission didn’t directly address issues of racism and racial equity, but those issues certainly impacted staffing and as an international organization HQed in the US were unavoidable.

        The grassroots rise of DEI conversation and action from junior/mid-senior staff and the actions being taken by senior leadership initially found a way to work together. However, as those conversations diverged and did become more antagonistic, you saw more language around this “workstream being a distraction from the organization’s mission”. Whether it meant neglecting the mission or simply adding more work and thus leading to greater staff burnout – more and more talk became about the organization’s “north star”.

        As such those combined meetings between senior leadership and the grassroots organizers became more antagonistic and led to members of both the SLT and grassroots leaders being pushed out/made to feel they had to leave. I had already left the organization by this point, so where people had to leave due to being hostile/inappropriate vs being pushed out for DEI organizing…..from what I feel I know, I believe it was a mix with more people being pushed out. But institutionally the org ultimately recovered by not entirely giving up on the DEI efforts (however one may have felt about the quality of the effort), but also that larger chorus of focusing on the organization’s overarching mission.

        This was a very large international organization and while there was a significant group heavily engaged – the org was large enough that these grassroots voices weren’t going to lead to meaningful change to the mission or strategy around DEI. And when the conversations did start to become perceived as antagonistic, efforts could be made to fracture the group. Some of the most vocal initial grassroots supports still happily work there because they do genuinely believe in the historical mission and found enough peace in the final result.

        It may be that the size of your nonprofit and the size of this group of organizers is such where making that change to the mission/strategy/programming is possible. It may be that you’re HQ based, and while this group is big for HQ – it’s not significant enough organization wide and there are diminishing opportunities longer term. You know your org better than we do – but just wanted to give this taste of what happened in one place around DEI conversations.

        1. repro OP*

          This is really interesting. I sincerely hope the work I’m doing internally doesn’t turn antagonistic in the way you’ve described. I still believe that it doesn’t have to be that way, but maybe that’s just a lack of experience on my part (I hope not). I switched from a corporate job to a nonprofit because doing work that makes a difference really matters to me. Now, I’m wondering whether an organization full of people who all feel strongly and who want to push for change could be a double-edged sword… point us all in the same direction and we’ll change the world, but if we move in different directions at once, it could get messy fast.

          1. Smithy*

            Mission based organizations can definitely cut both ways, but I hope its helpful to remember that on some level everyone working there is aligned with the organization’s “core” mission.

            Now lots of organizations have missions that are kind of vague where you can often make a case that the inclusion of another social, academic or advocacy issue obviously fits. But as you mention, making the case that the core mission needs to be expanded to include one more thing can very often open an expanding solar system of how much and how big that one more thing is. And when those conversations are a more open forum and democratic as opposed to top-down (which is how most larger nonprofit organizations are structured and operate – top down decisions with structured channels for bottom up feedback and input), the processes are often newer and the muscles for best practices weaker.

            And in those forums….that’s when institutional processes can break down and overall commitment and enthusiasm for the process can wane. So someone who starts off very committed and interested, suddenly realizes they kind of just want to go back to their more traditional core mission job. That while they do also really care about reproductive rights or DEI, they also really care about their original job and mission. It’s in this space where those different directions are the most problematic because there may no longer be a core achievement to rally around.

            With this in mind, while you have all this energy and support – my #1 recommendation is to keep in mind a Great Win and a Good Win. Because this level of engagement may stick with you for months, but as those levels of commitment falter – you want to have something to give to let people drop out without “quitting”.

            At the end of the day, people at nonprofits are also there just to have a job. And they very often invest a lot emotionally and are willing to invest more during certain periods….but when they invest too much for too long….they often don’t provide their best work. And that drop off can very often be in their soft skills. Like communication.

  42. Distractinator*

    For #5 about referring a classmate to your boss’s position. I’d reply with the cheerful “so great to hear from you, didn’t know you were looking for a job” and then basically tell her she’s not qualified “It probably wasn’t clear in the job posting, this is for the senior research director, they’re really looking for somebody with industry experience who’s already done XYZ and has a history at places like A or B.” If desired you can add a semi-catty comment like “because I’ve been in the industry [super-relevant qualifications] I thought about applying but [we’re just too recent out of school]” or “if they end up promoting from within there’ll probably be a new posting at the less senior level soon”. And close with how you’d be happy to tell the hiring manager you know her “if you’re still interested in applying”.

    And yes, tell the hiring manager you know her anyway just in case.

  43. A statistician*

    A caveat on #2 – If the pay band is very wide or has impact by niche areas toward the top end, it could be entirely reasonable. For instance, in the DC area there are some jobs that require a security clearance and folks with those are in a more select market and can skew the pay bands for certain job titles, so you really have two bands that are reported together in most cases.

    Similarly, if you look at certain technical areas, you might have say Analyst positions but more senior people are specialists within that, and harder to come by, so all the Llama Analysts reported together give one band, but there is really a band for generalists and another for specialists… And these are often not broken out due to small sample size issues for the specialists. In these sorts of cases, it can be entirely reasonable that your market rate IS on the lower end of the greater pay band. Again, these are specific cases, but useful to keep in mind.

  44. Hiring Mgr*

    Not sure how long it’s been since #5 and the classmate have been in school together, but is it possible that they DO have some of that experience now? If it’s been years, OP may not be aware of all that they’ve done..

    Either way of course you’re under no obligation to refer her. Do you even need to respond? Sounds like you’re not close and don’t really like her so…

    Also, there are plenty of charming/charismatic people who are also really good at their jobs.. so it’s not like charisma automatically equals bad

    1. OP 5*

      She doesn’t have the experience. I have worked in this industry since graduating and don’t have the experience and she hasn’t even worked in this industry or one that would be parallel. But she has a held a job with a title that, if you’re not familiar with how academic institutions work, looks like she’s worked at the director level and can technically claim supervision experience, though it is just of very part time student workers doing one particular thing, not full time employees’ performance and career development.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Given that lack of experience, could she really charm her way into a role at your company? If so, your boss or boss’s boss or whoever is conducting a pretty shoddy interview process.

        I know people can be charismatic but you might be underselling your managers a bit!

        1. I'm Tired*

          Charming people are given opportunities every day that less charming folks are denied. Charming people can be trained, but you can’t train someone to be likeable, etc. Charm, affiliation, all kinds of factors play into hiring that have little to do with experience or qualifications. I’m a minority and know this first hand. So, I don’t think OP is underselling her managers at all.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            Yeah i hear you on that in general of course, but in this case if they’re hiring the classmate under the assumption that they’ll train her, knowing she has no experience then what difference does the experience make in the first place?

      2. I'm Tired*

        OP5, given what you describe, this person should not even be granted an interview. Explain just what you have said here to your current manager.

        Gotta love slippery job title that are easily misunderstood and exaggerated.

  45. TiredAmoeba*

    LW1. The Fed allows for advance sick time. Depending on your agency, you all might be able to argue that this be covered under Admin leave or Safety Leave, since so many people were affected.

  46. Parenthesis Dude*

    The question I’d have about #2 is which employees receive 65% of the midpoint.

    For example, suppose I get a promotion from Llama Groomer II to III. I’m not as good as the standard Llama Groomer III, so it makes sense that I wouldn’t be at the midpoint. Starting me at 65% of the midpoint would be reasonable, presuming that there are COL raises as well as performance raises. At the three year mark, I might be at the midpoint, which would be fair.

    But if I’m hired as a Llama Groomer III, then I’d expect to make the midpoint. If you were that far below, I’d probably go elsewhere.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      IMO, not if you’re marketing yourself as competitive.

      In a competitive company, experience Llama Groomer III should be expecting to make well above the midpoint. That should be what you’re working towards. Working towards the midpoint is perhaps acceptable/expected depending on what other factors are in play (career advancement, benefits, what have you) but that would not be a competitive salary, since once you reach that goal 50% of people with your job will still be making more than you.

      1. Parenthesis Dude*

        Fair point. I agree with you that if I’m hired originally as a Llama Groomer III, that I should be paid based on my qualifications. If I’m experienced, perhaps I should be above the midpoint and if not perhaps below. I used the term ‘midpoint’ to mean that I didn’t think I should start at 65% of the midpoint even if I was experienced at this level. That wasn’t clear on my part.

    2. Pescadero*

      It would take 3 years of 15%+ raises every year to get from 65% of midpoint to midpoint.

      Average raises in most industries have largely run around 3% per year.

      At 3% per year it would take 15 years to get from 65% of midpoint to midpoint.

      1. Parenthesis Dude*

        Fair point that 65% is awfully low. I was thinking more about the principal of the matter and less about the mathematics.

    3. Purple Cat*

      to get from 65% of the midpoint, TO the midpoint in 3 years requires 25% salary increases every year. That would be exceptionally rare.

  47. Critical Rolls*

    LW4. Should people be careful about the language they use, and not be deliberately inflammatory? Yep. Should your activities have clear, actionable goals? Yep. Is this risky? Yep! But listen, somebody somewhere has to take some risks if we don’t want this tide to take us out to sea. People have tried to silence activists throughout history by saying “this isn’t the right time/place.” But there never is for making people uncomfortable about their passivity or complicity. So you have to do the math for yourself about what there is to be gained and what the costs might be. I wish you all the best in this.

    1. repro OP*

      Thank you so much! I love everything you wrote here and I really appreciate your support!

  48. Cat Lady*

    Op #2: Your letter made me laugh as I am imagining my last nonprofit job used the same consulting firm to make “radically transparent” salaries that were absolutely not transparent and also well below market rate. For ours, they prided themselves on being really transparent with their salary range but then put almost everyone at the bottom of the range and refused to tell use how a person could move up in the range. So many meetings with every staff member asking the same questions- “how was the range calculated and how do we move up if you don’t give raises”. Anyway, long story short- we unionized. It didn’t solve every issue but I did get a 10k raise and we finally had collective power to make them answer those questions. Good luck!

  49. Leandra*

    Re OP 1: Covid is definitely not over. Someone I know just caught a terrible case of it.

    Re OP 5: Some people who are that charismatic, are called politicians. I once saw the late Senator Edward Kennedy in person. He spoke for only five minutes, and afterwards I felt like I had to slap myself out of my mesmerized state.

  50. I'm just here for the cats*

    #3 Please have your friend talk to their boss, and maybe talk to someone higher up in HR too. If nothing else maybe the boss can help with something. When I started in my job I was first told x amount of.time off. But really it was less because I worked only during the academic year and they system was not/ couldn’t be set to give my the correct amount of time until half way through the year. I even had my original benefits documents that shows I was supposed to get 3 more days than they told me.
    I was lucky my bos wassuper nice, went to bat for me but HR wouldn’t budge. We did some re arranging of stuff and I had “work from home special project” to work on during the Christmas break so that I got paid.

  51. StrawberryShortcakeFan*

    OP4 I wonder if you’re also lobbying your employer for things like generous parental leave policies, on-site daycare or childcare reimbursement, lactation rooms, etc?

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I mean, she might be, but I don’t see how that’s relevant. You’re not required to take on every issue with your workplace and lobby about it.

      My workplace currently has the server room as the designated lactation space, has the gender-neutral bathroom signed with silhouettes of a man and a woman rather than something more inclusive, and also isn’t requiring masks in shared workspaces. All three of those things suck, none of them are remotely ok, and I’m allowed to spend my time advocating about whichever of the three either upsets me the most or I think I can actually get traction on rather than splitting my time equally among them just because they’re all problems.

    2. Parakeet*

      Those are all wonderful things, but IMO it’s okay if the OP focuses on one thing at a time, especially in a moment where that issue is especially salient. Organizers don’t need to address every issue at once for their organizing to be worthwhile – and from a practical perspective, don’t have the capacity to do so. So insistence that they do for consistency’s sake is a way to discourage people from organizing, in effect but also often in intent.

    3. Cmdr Shepard*

      Why does it matter? It is not on OP to do both. If OP wants to lobby for X it is not wrong for them to do so even if they don’t lobby for Y.

    4. repro OP*

      Well I’m completely new to this so I’ve never actually lobbied for anything before, but, if any of those services were at risk or suddenly being denied at my workplace, I would absolutely support any and all efforts to protect them!

  52. I'm Tired*

    Isn’t “charisma” exactly what interviewers are looking for when assessing soft skills, likeability, and ability to get along with others? Isn’t this why very well qualified but less affable people get passed over on the regular? If bad hiring decisions were not so common, this site would not be necessary. I personally dislike interviews because even with standard questions they are inherently subjective and may miss the mark entirely. It’s amazing how few organizations know what they really need in the people they hire for successful performance in any given role.

    We’re in election season here, and it is rife with the problem of selecting charismatic but unqualified people. Yet, uncharismatic folks don’t have a chance. Remember Richard Nixon? He lost to John F.Kennedy primarily because of how he came across as a cold fish on television in 1960.

    OP, talk to your current manager for sure. This person’s charisma isn’t the problem (charismatic people can be very competent too), but the other things you mention are. Good luck.

    1. quill*

      I mean, it probably wasn’t JUST because he came off as a cold fish… Having to make a speech about how you aren’t a crook does not inspire confidence.

      1. Cmdr Shepard*

        Maybe I am being pedantic, but the debate cold fish/charisma issue was in 1960, the I am not a crook line came later after he was in office in 1973.

        1. quill*

          Fair, it’s much easier in hindsight to go “he was obviously a crook” and not look up the order of events.

  53. Ollyolly*

    For LW2, I would be 110% sure you’re interpreting the midpoint bands correctly before trying to advocate for change. Just because they say the midpoint/100% salary is the external market rate, doesn’t mean that’s true. For example, it could be that the midpoint is the external market rate for someone at a senior level or with lots of experience. What I would do in your situation is to do some research on typical salary ranges for your job in the area you work in. Alison has previous articles on how to do so. If, after research, you are truly at 65% of the typical salary for your job, then I would use that as justification to ask for a raise to at least 90% of the typical range. I would also start looking for other jobs. However, if you find that the midpoint is not accurate or is reflective of higher level employees, then you can feel more comfortable with the policy. Good luck!

    1. RG*

      Just echoing that you should be really, really sure you’re interpreting it correctly. I’ve done pay scales for non-profits, and it’s normal to peg a band midpoint to a certain *percentile* of the market (i.e., the 50th percentile is the median of the market and so the 65th percentile would be 15% ahead of the median). I’ve definitely heard that shortened to “65% of market” when people actually meant they’re slightly ahead of market, because people mix up percentiles and percents all the time.

      Another important flag is that these pay bands are usually based on the role, not the person, so when someone says “the market is X” they are talking about the market for all jobs with a similar job description (if they did the analysis well) or a similar title (if it’s done poorly). The market rate for an individual person’s experience in that role might not be the market for the job itself (some people have more experience/have grown in roles/this company requires more hours and pays for it/this company is offsetting bad benefits, all of which impacts these surveys).

      1. Gnome*

        Yes, this is exactly true. Also, for lots of jobs, a Llama Analyst II at one company isn’t comparable to a Llama Analyst II at another, so you get things like Junior Llama Analyst, Llama Analyst, and Senior Llama Analysts in pay bands, which might contain Llama Analyst interns through a given company’s “level 6.” Also, the specific duties may vary. Like, are you leading projects at one company at a “level 3” and another at a “level 4” or are there additional duties, etc.

        I recently saw a pay band that was (for one job title and one geographical location) 73k – 185k. The reality is, there is a LOT of variation in that particular title and specialization, etc. If you need an experienced Llama Analyst with a specialization in Llama hooves who also has a certificate in Llama grooming… you might find your pool so limited that you need to offer a higher salary.

  54. Nick*

    LW#1 – I am a federal government manager. Just to let you know, these policies are literally set by congress. Not by your bosses, or your bosses bosses, or anyone in the organization. Unions help, as a bargaining agreement trumps congress in this respect thanks to Title V U.S.C. so anything the union can negotiate will apply. The COVID bills that were passed did allow for leave taking that did not affect an employees regular annual and sick leave accounts, but those policies have long since expired according to law. Please don’t take out your frustrations on your management, they literally cannot lawfully provide you any other sort of leave.

    That said, I think there is a loop hole. I have not had an employee in this situation so I have yet to try it out. But I know for a fact my organization has been told that if someone contracts COVID from work it is classified as an OSHA reportable mishap. To me, that would also mean it is subject to worker’s compensation protections. You are allowed to claim up to 45 calendar days of admin leave at full pay if you file a claim and have all the medical bills paid by the government. I don’t know if any has gone down this path, and the federal workers comp process is a giant pain and just awful. Still, if it is that important to you then you might look into it.

  55. I'm Tired*

    Any overly-complicated compensation scheme is likely underpaying people. That’s why MLMs have comp plans you need to be a rocket scientist to understand, to mask the fact that you aren’t going to make any money.

    Bless those of you that can afford to work for values at the cost of making a living wage. OP, you’re underpaid.

  56. I'm Tired*

    It’s interesting that cult leaders are all very charismatic and manipulative. But their victims love them. I like polite people who have some interest in me, but when folks come on too strong trying to make me like them, I’m skeptical.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I wonder if there have been studies about those who fall into cults. Like, they’ve done some on people who go in for conspiracy theories (‘intelligence’ isn’t much of a factor or even ‘gullible’–it’s wanting to feel part of a group with insider knowledge). Do cult members have some commonalities? I could take some guesses, but they’d only be guesses.

  57. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW1, I don’t have any advice but I’m appalled that your employer is refusing to compensate you for contracting CV19 thanks to the superspreader work event that they made mandatory and pressured you into bringing your young family as well. And I would definitely ask your boss what you’re supposed to do now that all your sick leave has been used up because of your employer’s actions.

  58. Academic Fibro Warrior*

    I agree with that! We’re not really disagreeing I think. I’m an academic so I tend to think of my work in this area under the realm of RJ in a big-umbrella theoretical way to frame my own research. And what I’m doing is research on how we got here in terms of reproductive healthcare and support, nothing to do with abortion at all right now. Is my program RJ-oriented or putting that in their goals? No, but it aligns with their goals on social justice AND it fits into academic goals at large and it is a ‘hot topic’ now for publishing….so it ends up being a win all around. No mission rewriting needed TBH.

    But the framing might be helpful in getting people on board internally and it does connect the people who do and don’t want to have children with those who are interested in making things better, one mission or focus at a time, in potentially useful ways that may mitigate the toxicity of being on either side politically (affordable housing, policing, food insecurity, and the like are all necessary for the ideal of choosing to have a family in ways that are entirely the individual’s choices).

    Totally reasonable not to shift mission messaging or work to achieve some kind of positive change! The OP knows the situation best and I truly just wanted to help with ways to think about the mission of RJ generally and how interconnected it all is. One person or one mission can’t change the world for better or worse, but a lot of people working to make those changes one at a time does have a measurable impact and eventually the changes become the new norm, allowing us to go further. Thanks for engaging with me!

Comments are closed.