updates: should I have to go to happy hours to get a promotion, the referral bonus, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! All this week and next, I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. Should I have to go to happy hours to get a promotion?

I wrote last year about social events and their role in promotions. When I initially wrote to you, I was eight months into the process of applying for a promotion. On your advice, I asked my manager if missing social hours was making it harder for me to be promoted; they assured me that it did not and that I had nothing to worry about.

I still made an effort to be more social in the department just in case. This effort was noticed, and I received a lot of positive callouts in department meetings for helping out. That plus my manager’s glowing recommendations and the job write-up clearly showing how I had outgrown my current role made me (cautiously) optimistic about my chances! Unfortunately, after a year of vague “it’s a slam dunk” lip service from upper management, I found out in December I was denied for “not producing enough.” Meanwhile, my friend who was told she would never be promoted received a promotion!

The whole situation finally made me realize that though I loved my work, I couldn’t stay. I applied for a position at a more prestigious organization in the same field that I’d previously partnered with. They were elated that I wanted to jump ship and offered me a job! My job duties will be the exact same, but with a 36% salary increase and the proper title. In my exit interview, I was thanked for “my candor about the promotion and compensation process.” I have already made several connections at my new organization and plan to spend a little more energy socializing to start off on the right foot. Thanks for the help!

2. A coworker who I referred to a job is demanding I share my referral bonus with him

I wanted to send an update to my previous letter about a co-worker getting angry because I didn’t share my referral bonus. First of all, thank you for helping ease my lingering doubts about whether I was out of line. Many readers suggested that Fergus may have confused my referral bonus with a signing bonus. That is highly unlikely; our company offers a substantial signing bonus as a standard practice. In fact, the signing bonuses were a big driver for implementing an internal referral bonus program; senior management wanted to ensure existing employees are also rewarded, though the referral bonuses are much smaller than the signing bonuses.

Things are a bit better with Fergus. His department had a big team building event a couple of weeks ago, and while there he evidently “jokingly” complained about me to a manager I used to work with. She set him straight and somehow made it clear that what he was doing was in really poor form. Fergus dropped by my desk shortly thereafter and gave an awkward, inadequate apology. (It started with “I hope I haven’t been misconstrued…”). But, it was better than nothing. I thanked him for the apology and commented that I had been very confused by his actions and I was glad we could move forward. We now can smile politely and make idle chitchat while waiting in line at the coffee bar if necessary. He has made a few overtures seeming to ask for a return to our previous friendly relationship, but I can’t bring myself to be more than coolly polite at this point. I wish him well and truly believe he can succeed in his role, but I don’t particularly care to get invested in him again. Thank you again for your response!

3. I don’t want a company baby shower (#4 at the link)

I have an update that’s a bit different from my question, but I know how anxious others are about job searching while pregnant and I would have love to have seen a good news for pregnant women story while searching.

I wrote in about my concern about having baby showers at work where employees who make much less than me may feel obligated to give a gift. It turns out the whole problem has been resolved by getting a new job!

I have been in my position for about 4 and a half years and since the pandemic my salary has either been frozen or increased by 2% each year. I don’t hate my job, but do feel I’ve outgrown it and the hour commute each way now feels impossible.

Between my long commute, exhaustion and nausea, I did not feel up to applying to jobs early in my pregnancy. By the time I felt well enough, I worried that it was too late. I started applying anyway. I updated my resume and LinkedIn profile using your tips. I decided to narrow down my search to LinkedIn easy apply for remote positions in my field and industry and got some interviews. The great thing about job searching while pregnant is that now it’s virtual!

One interview at a company I was excited about threw me off. I was prepared with some questions, but he wanted me to lead the interview entirely. He asked me no questions for an hour. Is this a new thing?

Needless to say, I then came with an arsenal of questions to every subsequent interview. For the job I got, they moved me through interviews very quickly and didn’t require any projects or presentations. Every interview was 30 minutes and me having a lot of questions really helped make them quality conversations about the role and challenges the company is facing.

I am 36 weeks pregnant and just accepted their job offer to start 4 days before my due date. I did not disclose my pregnancy until the offer and I could not have scripted a better reaction from them. I offered to start after my maternity leave and was very upfront that I understood the timing wasn’t ideal. The process from initial interview to offer was only 2 weeks, so I did figure if they couldn’t offer me leave they wouldn’t be out too much time. Turns out they wanted me on board as soon as possible. I’ll be making 70% more base, plus equity and a 401k I didn’t have at my current job. Health insurance starts day 1 and I get the same amount of maternity leave I was going to get at my old job (10 weeks, 4 of which is fully paid which is more than I was going to get). Completely remote and unlimited PTO with a culture of actually taking time off.

I hope this encourages some pregnant readers to search right now. It could all work out!

I’ve been reading your column for about 6 years and it’s helped me so much with my job search and overall professionalism. Thanks for building such an incredible community!

4. I’m still working at the job that fired me (#3 at the link)

I wrote in a few years ago about being fired from my job at OldCompany… effective three months later. Thank you and your commenters for the level-headed advice. Much of my anxiety came from my manager not giving me clear expectations for the transition period, so I explained my concerns to her about my work quality slipping, and she made it clear that she didn’t care if I spent most of my time job searching. So that’s what I did.

Even with all the advice on this site, I wasn’t able to find a job within those three months due to my company’s strict 1-year “no poaching” policy that locked me out of most of the industry. I finally took a chance and applied to a different industry, and I got a job at my dream company!

Looking back, getting fired from OldCompany is one of the best things to have happened to my career. It shook me out of my rut, and it made me learn new skills and improve my work relationships. I’ve since moved on from DreamCompany to a less-stressful position, and my new manager complimented my professionalism. I referred them to this site.

{ 156 comments… read them below }

    1. Wisteria*

      There is no such thing as poaching. There are only grown-ass adults making decisions about their careers that sometimes involve changing employers. We’re not deer, we can’t be poached.

      1. Oakwood*

        Apple, Google, Intel, & Adobe implemented a no-poaching policy between themselves.

        They got slapped down in an anti-trust lawsuit to the tune of $9 billion (google it).

        No-poaching policies are flat out illegal.

        If the LW was prevented from finding a job in his industry because of a no-poaching policy, he probably can bring suit against his employer and the other companies in the industry colluding to suppress wages via a no-poaching agreement.

        1. Rolly*

          THS. Plus as D said, even thinking “no poaching” is a thing, it’s not poaching if you’re fired. The word is for a form of stealing – as in one company stealing another employees. But your company let you go. Not poaching.

        2. Commenter*

          I could be wrong about this, it’s very far from my area of expertise, but my understanding is that those companies had a ‘secret’ policy that employees didn’t know about – they just wouldn’t hire people from those peer companies. Since OP knows about it, I wonder if OP meant more of a non-compete clause that employees agree to when starting work?
          I’m sure there are lots and lots of caveats to those (and I thought were only for pretty high-level employees?) so I have no idea about the legality of those agreements, but I think the tech issue was that the companies were doing it behind employees’ backs.

          1. Commenter*

            To be clear, not defending those policies, I just think that there are ways that employers do them legally?

            1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              *Almost* all non-competes and other forms of “no poaching” policies are either illegal or not not legally enforceable in the US. There’s a narrow band of employees who negotiate true employment contracts that can include a non-compete clause as part of a golden parachute arrangement, but that’s almost entirely executives or very senior managers.

              Companies continue to make employees sign non-competes (at least in places where the the contracts themselves are not outright illegal) essentially to scare people into following them. They know the contract isn’t enforceable, but they’re hoping the employee doesn’t.

              Now, OP4 was in a *really* weird position. The company was essentially firing them, but giving them three months notice to find a new job. It’s arguable that they needed to toe the line on the non-compete to prevent the company from finding out they were trying to break it, and moving up their termination date. Or at least they may have felt/believed that was something they needed to worry about.

              That said it seems a bit weird that the company gave them three months notice on termination (presumably to find a job), and also wanted to be a dick about a non-compete. I’d have probably taken my chances and just applied for any job I thought I could get.

              1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                Sorry to self reply, but OP explains their problem better in a lower comment. It wasn’t that he didn’t try to break the non-compete, but outside companies were aware of it, and wouldn’t interview them.

          2. Observer*

            The policy was “secret” because it was illegal.

            No, there is no way to do a “no poach” agreement *legally*.

            Even a lot of non-competes are actually not enforceable, but that’s not the issue. The OP was pretty clear that they weren’t dealing with a non-compete, and I think we can accept that they understood what they were dealing with.

          3. OP4*

            OldCompany had two different non-competes we had to sign. The first was a 2-year “don’t work for our direct competitor” agreement, which I didn’t have a problem with. If I had wanted a job with a direct competitor, I probably could have successfully challenged the non-compete and won.

            The second part was a 1-year “don’t work for any of our clients or partners” agreement, and that was the problem, particularly because I didn’t want to move. There are dozens of companies in the area that have jobs in my field, but all of them were clients or partners, and none of them was willing to risk pissing off OldCompany by even interviewing me. I got a bunch of “we’re really interested in your expertise, please reapply in a year” messages.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            They started out as being for high-level employees, such as sales directors with a big rolodex of contacts, and then were applied to just about anyone. Companies want to make it so the clause applies to the entire industry worldwide till the end of time, but it’s been ruled unreasonable in courts, which typically would scale back to applying only to the country or state, and only for a year.
            In France the employer has to pay the employee a percentage of their salary (typically 10% I believe) for the entire duration of the clause, so that does tend to calm them down a bit. I was able to disregard the clause because my employer had not specified the percentage in my contract, making the clause null and void.

        3. Phoenix Wright*

          Same with Pixar. What corporations like to call “poaching” is actually wage fixing. Screw that noise.

      2. Jora Malli*

        Exactly this. If you want to make your employees unpoachable, pay them well, treat them with respect, and make it more worth their while to stay with you than leave for somewhere else.

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      It is if there’s simmering water between you and the fire!




      Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all night.

    3. Artemesia*

      This — it is really gross to apply pressure on a ‘no poaching’ policy when they fire someone who needs to find another job.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My boss pressured me to resign too, but I just went on sick leave till he finally caved and made me redundant. It was either that or pay my salary without me having to work for it, since I got a note from the occupational health doctor saying I was no longer fit to work at the firm.

  1. Velawciraptor*

    I’m glad #4 got a great new job, but I’m annoyed on their behalf that their old company’s “no poaching” policy was applied to them when they’d been let go. Leaving alone the dissertation I could write on my feelings on such policies in general, I think it’s beyond the pale to apply them to people the company has let go (laid off, fired for performance, or anything in between). If the company doesn’t want the person, they have no business interfering with the person’s ability to get another job in the same field.

    1. si*

      Absolutely – it’s ridiculous for an employer to take the approach that ‘we don’t want you but we don’t want anyone else to have you’. I mean, what on earth?

  2. Lost academic*

    I’m mystified at a one year no poaching agreement even theoretically applying if you’re fired.

    1. CheesePlease*

      reading the original letter, they were not fired but asked to resign within 3 months, which is standard for that company (very bizarre!!) – not sure what would have happened if they refused to resign at the end of those 3 months?

      1. OP4*

        For some reason, OldCompany bent over backwards not to fire anyone. I have no idea why; they were so infamous for constructive dismissals that they’re on the hook for unemployment payments anyway. I’ve only heard about three people who were ever fired, only one of whom refused to resign after being told to do so. (I think it took the company 2-3 months after that to finally fire him.)

        I should mention that I don’t know anyone else who got a 3-month “notice” period; most people were put on a PIP and only asked to resign if they failed it. I think the three months was in lieu of severance, since I’d been working there so long, but my manager didn’t want to give me another chance. (Which in hindsight was fair, I’d picked up a lot of unprofessional behavior from working in an unprofessional environment so long.)

        1. pancakes*

          Wow, what a place. I’m sorry you and your coworkers went through all that. There may have been some esoteric language in the employee handbook or sales contracts or PIPs or whatnot that the company leaned on (maybe still leans on) for support in terms of letting people go that way.

          That does make sense about being given three months in lieu of severance.

  3. Nia*

    4. Can companies really enforce non-competes on fired/laid off employees? Non-competes are already unethical enough as it is.

    1. SweetestCin*

      I refused a job offer from a (large enough to know better company) that would NOT amend their non-compete agreement to make it non-enforceable upon layoff or firing. Ignoring the ethical (hah!) implications, I sure felt it lousy that they could either make me redundant or lay me off or come up with some reason to fire me…and keep me unemployed for a year or make me switch industries entirely.

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

      #4 I know it’s too late now, but for anyone’s future reference, if this was actually more a signed non-compete, well, check in your state laws, because those can be illegal but it doesn’t stop companies from trying to create them. In fact, the state of California and the DOJ have also gone after non-poaching agreements between companies for anti-trust and anti-competitive violations.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        One time, when I was being laid off, the company wanted me to sign paperwork saying that I was leaving voluntarily. If I did so, then I would get severance (not much since I had only been with them 1.5 years). I refused because I knew it would mess up my unemployment insurance. I lawyered up, and got away without signing and she also took care of my non-compete agreement. The severance paid for the lawyer.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          I’ve had that happen too! I was reading through the layoff paperwork they wanted me to sign (they were shocked that I wanted to read it at all) and I noticed that it had a paragraph that said if anyone asked why I was leaving, I agreed to say that I left to pursue other opportunities. I was like ummmm hell no, you’re taking away my job because you said you can’t afford my embarrassingly meager salary anymore, there’s no way I’m covering for your financial woes. I crossed out that paragraph with a note next to it that said “I do not agree to this” and then told the person I was not signing this form with that clause in it.

          To their “credit” they didn’t put up a fuss about it.

          In my memory this was supposed to just govern my response to coworkers asking why I left, not everyone, but now that it’s been so many years I can’t remember if it was specifically worded that way or if I was just young and naive. Now I’m wondering if me just wanting to retain the option to sh!t-talk the company to friends and former coworkers saved me from losing out on unemployment…

        2. The OG Sleepless*

          My first job employed several young, low wage, hourly workers. Any time the boss fired somebody, he would get them to sign one of those. It was many years before I realized smarty pants was making sure they couldn’t file for unemployment.

      2. Antilles*

        Even in places where non-competes *aren’t* explicitly illegal by law, they’re still usually unenforceable. Your right to earn a living along with the “at will employment” doctrine generally means that non-compete agreements can only hold up if-and-only-if the company is actively providing you compensation (aka “paying you to not work”) during the time of the non-compete.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Yup. I used to work for a shady-as-hell language school where the people in charge were low-grade business folks rather than educators. At one point they wanted everyone to sign a “non-compete agreement” that was utterly ludicrous – I can’t remember the details, but I think it was basically “I won’t teach at any other schools near here for 12 months and all the materials I create belong to Shady School”. Note: we were not paid extra to create materials, not provided with materials other teachers had created outside of the textbooks we used, and in fact it was also stated in the contract that we were expected to show up to work “prepared to teach”.
          When the “non-compete” clause was mentioned in a meeting, someone may have snorted loudly. It may have been me.

      3. OP4*

        I fully believe that the “don’t work for any of our clients or partners” agreement was legally unenforceable. Unfortunately, OldCompany was huge in the field (described as an “800 lb gorilla” in some news articles) so they had relationships with every company in that field in the state, litigious and surprisingly petty. No company that depended on their goodwill would even interview me; I was encouraged to reapply next year.

    3. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

      In my state. non-compete/no poaching clauses are unenforceable. It is seen as denying a person the right to work and flies in the face of at-will employment. The times I have seen them enforced were when the former employee was using Company 1’s secrets/work-product/etc. at Company 2.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This, and I also saw one enforced about not actively attempting to entice clients away after accepting a new job.

        But you can’t work in that industry, in that area for months to years – those I have seen fall apart fairly regularly. The most egregious one I saw was for a salon owner towards her hairdressers (that were renting chairs, not even a full employee at the salon). I was pleased when I heard salon owner lost, and was also made to pay court costs twelve times (once for each person who fought the non-compete in court).

    4. Warrior Princess Xena*

      There are a few industries in which hiring restrictions can occur, but they tend to be in place to prevent ethical conflicts of interest – ie, if you work in the accounting department at BigCompany, you’re not allowed to jump ship directly to BigCompany’s auditors or vice versa without a year cooldown period. In accounting at least this is an industry wide thing set by the professional association and all the firms write their ethics policies based on the professional code. But even within those it’s very hard to put yourself in a position where you are legally jobless upon quitting/firing.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Yeah, some people are high up enough that concerns about corporate secrets are legitimate. And there’s some stuff about government workers not jumping directly to lobbying firms or contracting companies that makes sense.

        Then I remember a sandwich shop that tried to enforce its non-compete clauses. So that its front line workers could not cross the street to work at a different sandwich shop. Many of those clauses are ridiculous.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          So as a spouse of a federal employee the way the rule goes is that you cannot have decision making power or hiring/contracts/bidding process/evaluate bids over a company you worked for for 12-18 months (depending on how long you were there and how senior at the company you were).

          You are also not allowed to make any decisions/contracts/bids/evaluations of any company that you knowingly own stock in, where the value of the stock exceeds $2000 USD (but I think the numbers were set to change, so I may have them wrong).

          Violating those is supposed to be a one way ticket to unemployment for cause, ineligible for rehire – but spouse hasn’t ever seen that tested.

  4. Witch*

    Not for nothing LW 4 I hope you keep in mind the “no poaching” policies are a thing companies can whine about, but can’t actually enforce. Unless you were applying to a client, or something, and that business relationship needed to be maintained.

    But in general, working for Marcus’s Teapot Warehouse doesn’t mean you can’t apply for a position at Beverly’s Teapot Emporium.

    1. Sad Desk Salad*

      In my state, I specifically strike no-poaching clauses as they can’t be enforced here. As you point out, they’re hard to enforce in general, but in California, there’s a strong policy argument against them, free trade and all that. So I just say they’re not enforceable here, and haven’t had any problem getting them stricken.

      But realistically, how would OP’s employer try to enforce this? They let OP go, said they could job hunt during their last three months, and OP went on with their job hunt, presumably applying for jobs. That’s the opposite of poaching. How frustrating that these companies agree to these clauses–which affect actual people who are not parties to those contracts–without even understanding what poaching means.

    2. Two Dog Night*

      It’s possible that Beverly’s Teapot Emporium won’t look at candidates who worked for Marcus’s recently, because they know Beverly will cause problems. The whole situation is ridiculous, but OP might have been trying their best to get hired…. and that sounds like a good industry to get out of anyway.

    3. OP4*

      Unfortunately, you hit the nail right on the head: the “no-poach” agreement applied to all the company’s clients and partners… which included every company in the field in the entire state. Given how petty OldCompany could be, no one wanted to piss them off by even interviewing me.

      I didn’t mind the 2-year “don’t work for our direct competitors” agreement, because I could see a mechanism for mounting a legal challenge to that one.

  5. Bookworm*

    Thanks for all the updates! OP1, I’ve had that experience earlier in my career (tried being more socialable and it didn’t work). I know it’s considered an “unofficial” part of the whole career thing, this is exactly what I hate about it.

    I’m sorry you also had that experience but am glad it worked out for the best.

    1. OP 1*

      Thanks! Turns out when I don’t feel “forced” to socialize I actually don’t mind it, as it’s been a breeze at my new job! I think it helps to have a good team.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. Seems to me that many employers are confusing cause and effect with mandatory socializing and mandatory “fun” teambuilding events. They don’t create team spirit where none exists, although teambuilding *can* be fun with a team where everyone gets along with everyone else at least reasonably well, and when every team member can participate in the activities and feel safe while doing it. Teambuilding events where people are expected to risk either their physical health by attempting to do things they aren’t physically capable of doing, or their mental well-being by being forced to overshare things with their coworkers, are not OK. They’ll just build resentment, not team spirit.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes. It all boils down to making sure employees are happy, mainly by paying them well, and also giving plenty of benefits and incentives to stay. Happy employees tend to cause less drama, and the result is a good atmosphere conducive to producing stellar work, and hanging out at the pub after work simply because you’ve had a good time with your colleagues and would like to do more than just work with them. Employers only see the last bit, and make it mandatory, and that’s the short cut you absolutely shouldn’t take.

  6. Avril Ludgateau*

    #4 – and people in similar positions – need to be aware that non-competes are often legally unenforceable, especially when they are overly broad (like preventing a person from working in their entire industry within a ridiculously large radius, for a year). They are especially unenforceable when you have been eliminated from your position rather than voluntarily leaving before your contracted term was up, and even more so if you have been eliminated for no wrongdoing (laid off vs. fired).

    If you ever find yourself in this position, please find a way to speak to a lawyer. I know nobody wants to think of paying for a lawyer when unemployed, but the good news is you probably won’t need to remain unemployed or “exiled” from your industry like your sleazy former employer has tried to commit you to.

    1. Avril Ludgateau*

      In fact – you’re probably safe to find a job first, and then speak to a lawyer if and only if your former employer tries to come after you. Which they most likely won’t, if they’ve had the sense to speak to their own legal team.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes, a former employer started out only trying to keep us from stealing their clients and starting our own business (which had happened before) but quickly moved to, “Actually, the non-compete means you can’t work at any other business like ours – because of the internet we could be considered competitors of any company in the world!”

      Nonsense like that is totally illegal. But even smaller nonsense, like if they’d tried to bar us from working at any similar companies in the county, would have been unenforceable.

      1. quill*

        “because of the internet we could be competitors of any company in the world” sounds a heck of a lot like “I don’t know what customers actually want from us.”

    3. Chelle*

      There are unfortunately scenarios where they are still enforceable. My company is arguably the biggest vendor in our industry and they prevent all employees from working for customers, consulting firms, or competitors in that industry (in any geographic area) for a year. As far as I know, they enforce it by locking violators out of their software and certifications, without which their work experience is useless. It’s been a thing for decades and the company has 10k+ employees; if there was going to be a successful suit about it, it would have happened already.

      1. Avril Ludgateau*

        What your employer is doing is not a practice that would be upheld in court, which is what is meant by “legally unenforceable”. They’re using underhanded, practical tactics to prevent people from working in too broad of a context and for too long of a time. I can almost guarantee if somebody sued over this company actually going this far to lock them out of an industry (to the point of invalidating their industry certifications), the company would ultimately be fined heavily for it (after what I’m positive they would make sure was a long, drawn-out, and expensive process). Just because somebody hasn’t brought suit doesn’t mean they couldn’t or that it would fail. And it’s very possible they have been sued and have settled to keep it out of the press, even. Or, more likely, they don’t actually go that far to ‘enforce’ their own non-compete. They make the threat, but they don’t go after people who leave. I mean, can you imagine the resource waste of having to keep tabs on all ex employees for a whole year? When you have a workforce of 10,000 and (giving the benefit of the doubt here) a 10% turnover rate?

        1. Chelle*

          They don’t have to keep tabs–access to their documentation online/the site where you can maintain your certifications is governed by the company, so when a former employee requests access (which is a requirement for them to do their jobs at consulting agencies or with customers), that sends up a flag. Ironically I suspect it’s the people who go work for competitors who are least likely to be “caught”.

          I don’t think it’s gone as far as a lawsuit because I know of multiple examples where exceptions have been made for specific individuals, if the customers who wanted to hire them requested permission from the C-suite at my company. Which obviously for most positions, why would you hire someone you had to do that for vs someone you didn’t…so it still has an impact. I agree that it is probably illegal, but I don’t see a practical way to get it removed company-wide outside of an act of Congress.

          1. pancakes*

            That is extra anti-competitive, and systemic. I hope this company’s practices get reviewed by antitrust enforcement one way or another.

      2. pancakes*

        Fwiw, for you and others reading, I want to point out that sometimes companies actively take steps to conceal settlements of employee litigation. I try to keep up with news about the IBM age discrimination litigation because I find it interesting, and I want to quote one article about it, which I’ll link separately:

        “Two-thirds of IBM shareholders voting on proposals at the company’s annual meeting in April supported a measure to require the company to produce a public report on the financial risks arising from its use of concealment clauses that limit what workers can say about workplace misconduct.”

      3. OP4*

        That’s exactly the problem I was facing; the no-poach agreement applied to any clients or partners, all of whom depended on their relationship with OldCompany. To find a company in my field that didn’t have a relationship with OldCompany I would have had to leave the entire region.

        Since no one wanted to touch me until the no-poach expired, I couldn’t even find a legal mechanism to challenge the agreement. I don’t think the arbitrator (yes, we were forced to sign an arbitration agreement) could order a client company to give me a job.

        1. pancakes*

          My understanding is that that type of arrangement can be a violation of the Sherman Act. I’ll link to an article or two separately, because links go to moderation.

  7. The OTHER Other.*

    #2 You are right to want to keep the coworker who demanded 1/2 your referral bonus at a distance. It’s such a weird thing to expect, and even worse, he seemed to be unable to let it go.

    If I’d been asked how I was going to pay “his half” of the referral bonus, I’d have said we can use the same way you pay ME a half the increase in your salary you’re getting at this new job. I’ll be reasonable—just for the first two years!

    1. Sherm*

      Yeah, I’d definitely keep Fergus at a distance. He may be “friendly,” but he does not seem nice. The next time he “jokingly complains,” it may be to a sympathetic ear, rather than someone putting him in his place. A polite hello as you pass each other in the hallway is fine, but limit your interactions with him.

    2. Bugalugs*

      I would have asked for my half of the signing bonus since he wouldn’t even have know if I hadn’t referred him. Bigger paycheck for me.

    3. Uranus Wars*

      Yea, my eyebrows raised when I saw he got a signing bonus…was he offering to share half of that? Of course not.

    4. Artemesia*

      She is lucky this doofus whined about it to a manager who set him straight — and yeah, I would give him a wide berth henceforth. You don’t want to depend on him professionally — he is churlish and has bad judgment.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – this Fergus has shown who he really is – good job of accepting and believing him.

        Polite distance, able to discuss work things is a perfect setting for him.

    5. Marthooh*

      “I hope I haven’t been misconstrued…” in this case means “I hope I haven’t been correctly construed.”

    6. Old Admin*

      Yes, stay from this guy. He will do more stunts like like this soon (“jokingly” complain about you, my foot).

  8. Here for the updates*

    #2 — thank you for the update! I’d wondered if he ever learned his lesson and I’m so glad a manager set him straight. I hope he feels like an ass. Enjoy your referral bonus!

  9. Nowwhat465*

    OP #2: I’m glad you updated! I was always curious about what was happening there. I’m glad your colleague set him straight, and I don’t blame you for keep a polite distance from Fergus. Hopefully this will be a lesson to him.

  10. Wisteria*


    Oh, Fergus. The information that he got a signing bonus just makes me sigh and say, “Bless his heart.” What a great response it would have been to have said of course you will split the referral bonus, here’s your paypal details, you’ll get his paypal details from when he sends you your half of his signing bonus.

  11. KRM*

    I jokingly sent original letter #2 to my friend who referred me to current job and told her she owed me half of her bonus :). She bought me lunch today, in fact! And I had forgotten and tried to pay and she yelled at me!

  12. Justme, The OG*

    LW #2 – So Fergus got a signing bonus and then wanted half of your (smaller) referral bonus?

    1. KRM*

      I think the point was that OP got a referral bonus, which they told Fergus, and he confused that with him getting a signing bonus, which he did not.

      1. KRM*

        Oh no I read that totally wrong. Never mind. Fergus is a…well, it’s not appropriate to type.

      2. Kit*

        I thought the company did give a signing bonus, since that’s their standard practice. If my reading is correct, he was definitely trying to double-dip the bonuses (and avoid taxes on the part of it he’d be getting from the LW). Scummy behavior, and the ‘just joking!’ attitude is a typical excuse for it, unfortunately.

        OP, you’re definitely better off keeping Fergus at arm’s length, and I’m glad at least one person has set him straight on this! Coolly polite is the most he deserves.

        1. OP2*

          OP2 here. This is correct. Long story short, I referred him to a job that resulted in a 6-figure base pay increase. Additionally, he received a signing bonus in the mid-upper 5 figures. I received a $1K referral bonus, which he demanded half of.

          1. Ali + Nino*

            This was ridiculous conceptually but more context just takes it from the sublime to the ridiculous. Petty-much?

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yup. Pettily egregious. There are words to describe Fergus, but given how the name is often used on this site, it fits this guy perfectly! (I’m picturing the obnoxious Ferguson from the ancient Blossom TV show…)

          2. Aww, coffee, no*

            WOW! That really takes the biscuit. I mean, Fergus wasn’t being reasonable to start with, but that he got a signing bonus and still wanted half of your referral bonus is just…. words fail me.

            For sure this is not a person you want as a friend.

          3. pancakes*

            Oh wow. This guy was aggressively trifling with you. If there were prizes given out for this sort of thing he would be a leading contender!

          4. BabyElephantWalk*

            And then he had the nerve to complain about you to coworkers? So many levels of not ok. I hope he does well at the job, but please never refer him for anything else again.

          5. Florida Fan 15*

            Good lord. I’m surprised he didn’t want you to validate his parking when he came to interview, too. Greedy SOB.

  13. JustMyImagination*

    LW2- knowing that Fergus got a signing bonus that was much higher than your referral bonus, you could have laughed at the first mention and said “sure, I’ll give you have my referral bonus when you give me half your signing bonus”.

    1. Platypus*

      Fergus is very much in the wrong here, but given how the first letter mentioned that he was severely underpaid before LW referred him for his current job, I wonder if his old workplace may have taught him some bad habits about workplace norms (though maybe I’m wildly extrapolating here). Of course, none of this excuses his actions

  14. Lemon*

    Re: #3 – Is 10 weeks of maternity leave really considered competitive in a lot of US industries? Where I live, it’s federally mandated at 14 months, with the possibility of parental leave on top.

    1. Velawciraptor*

      Many employers have no maternity leave. The only federal protection is the Family Medical Leave Act, which only applies to employers of a certain size for employees who have been employed for a year or longer and only protects the job for 12 weeks of medical leave, but does not require that the leave be paid.

      For a country where so many people like to shriek publically about “family values,” our policies and culture aren’t at all family friendly.

      1. Not a mouse*

        That’s partly because for a lot of those people, “family values” means “the woman stays home and takes care of the family.” So no need for maternity leave! Blech.

      2. OP4*

        Most people who give birth have to go on short-term disability just to get *any* pay during their recovery (usually something like 60% of their salary). And it only applies to the person who gave birth; if you adopt, use a surrogate, or are the partner of the person who gave birth, you get bupkis.

    2. beezus*

      Some places offer no paid maternity leave in the US. It’s not federally mandated. Even protected unpaid leaves sometimes only kick in once you’ve been with your employer for a certain length of time. It sucks.

    3. Jora Malli*

      Everywhere I’ve worked, the maternity leave is just FMLA. If you’re unfamiliar with the law, all it means is that your company can’t fire or demote you if you take medical leave for up to 12 weeks. It doesn’t require your employer to pay you, but it does allow your employer to require you to use up your accrued sick and vacation time while you’re away. A lot of people come back from parental leave with no paid time off left and end up scrambling when they actually need to use sick leave for themselves or the baby.

      Ten weeks paid by your employer where you don’t have to burn your existing sick leave and still have some protection when you return to work seems really great in comparison.

    4. quill*

      Yes, because having any at all is not standard. And yes, we know, corporate kleptocracy and all that.

    5. Lightning*

      My (US) employer’s policy is:

      Short-term disability for the ‘recovering from birth’ part (standard 6 weeks or 8 weeks for a C-Section) (separate leave code than sick/vacation time) at 100% pay
      4 weeks parental leave (another separate leave code than sick/vacation time) also at 100% pay
      Employees in other states can take the last couple weeks to get to the FMLA 12 weeks, but those weeks are unpaid.
      But I’m in NY, so there’s 12 weeks at 67% pay (except the first 4 of those overlap with our company’s 4 weeks and the company gets the state money for those weeks, so it’s only 8 extra weeks at 67%)

      TL/DR: I got 10 weeks at 100% and 8 weeks at 67%.

      I’m not an HR person and I’ve only ever worked here, but it’s the best policy I’ve personally seen.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yes, absolutely. At my employer, it’s 8 weeks paid for a birthing parent, plus an additional 4 weeks of paid leave that can be taken by birthing parents, non-birthing parents, or adopting parents either all at once or intermittently during the year following the birth or adoption of a child. All at 100% salary. This is considered incredibly generous by most folks I’ve encountered, though.

  15. Madeleine Matilda*

    #2 – glad Fergus was put straight. Would have been great to tell him that to be equitable you also expected half of his signing bonus. You would have come out ahead since his signing bonus was larger. :)

  16. L.H. Puttgrass*

    ‘I wasn’t able to find a job within those three months due to my company’s strict 1-year “no poaching” policy that locked me out of most of the industry.’

    This is my gob, fully smacked. “We’re laying you off, but we want you to ‘resign’ instead, and oh, by the way, we still intend to enforce the non-compete that would prevent you from getting another job in the industry.” The company was a real peach.

    1. J.B.*

      I wonder if that is worth a call to the state’s unemployment or labor office. Sounds like the company is using shady practices to avoid being charged and might need some penalties applied.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        In the original post, the LW said, “I’m still eligible for unemployment, since it’s known that’s how my company fires people.” Which is another “WTF?” for me, that apparently the company does this so often that they’re known for it, but no one has made them stop. OTOH, I guess if the unemployment office knows about it, they can just treat any “resignation” as a firing when people file for unemployment.

    2. OP4*

      Honestly, it was more of a cult than an employer, which lots of people tried to warn me about going in. There’s a reason there are so many jokes in my town about drinking their Kool Aid. Getting completely out of that field for a couple of years really helped with my deprogramming.

      I’m still proud of the work I did and I have great affection towards my former coworkers, but I would never go back to that meat-grinder.

  17. Cj*

    WTF? Fergus’ signing bonus was substantially more than the. OP’s referral bonus, are Fergus still expected the OP to give them half of their referral bonus?

  18. Mallory Janis Ian*

    Re OP 1, ” . . . I asked my manager if missing social hours was making it harder for me to be promoted; they assured me that it did not . . . ”

    I think this is one of those things where, *officially*, sociability isn’t a factor, but in every situation I’ve ever known of, unofficially, those who are seen as more sociable do have a greater advantage.

    1. Oakwood*

      Introverts are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to promotion in this regard.

      So are people who don’t drink.

      Decades ago, millions of men played golf, not because they enjoyed it, but because it was seen as a way to socialize with the boss and get promoted.

      1. JustaTech*

        Back in like 1997 a high school classmate of mine (buddy from the investment club) spent a week of summer break at “Business Camp” where she learned all kinds of business stuff (how to have a good handshake, how to give a good presentation, maybe budgeting stuff?) and one afternoon was dedicated to “business golf” where the kids were taught the rules of golf and how not to make a fool of themselves on the course (or put themselves in harm’s way). It wasn’t about playing well, it was about being just good enough to have plenty of time to schmooze the boss/client.

      2. Roseberry Hill*

        Come now, let’s not conflate terms. If you suffer from social anxiety, absolutely you’re going to be placed at a disadvantage. If you’re just introverted? Well, as an introvert who loves socializing, this wouldn’t bother me at all. In fact, I love happy hours! But if I had social anxiety (or just plain hated people) then yes. But that’s different.

        1. Sally*

          Introvert does not equal shy or antisocial. I’m a shy extrovert, which is a serious pain in my ass!

      3. lilsheba*

        That would be me, introvert, on the asd spectrum and don’t drink. I don’t want to be forced to socialize. And I think the golf bit is stupid, it’s shallow and ridiculous.

      4. RagingADHD*

        That is flatly untrue and I’m so tired of seeing this myth propagated.

        Introversion/extroversion are about the relative balance in people’s needs for company vs need for solitude. Everyone needs some of both!

        Introversion has absolutely nothing to do with people’s desire or ability to make positive social connections. Many introverts are very good at making connections and are often regarded as thoughtful, insightful people. Many of them become quite influential.

        People who are unable to connect socially are antisocial, not introverted.

        1. SMH*

          The term “antisocial” describes disregard of social norms and laws, lack of empathy, and harm toward others without remorse. What you’re describing in your last line there is in line with “avoidant” or “asocial.” I’m also tired of seeing “antisocial” used in improper ways, but I try to have some chill.

          1. Wisteria*

            Embrace the chill.

            In the clinical sense, such as in antisocial personality disorder, yes, antisocial means disregard of social norms and laws, lack of empathy, and harm toward others without remorse.

            In colloquial usage, antisocial does mean avoidant or asocial.

        2. Nancy*

          Thank you. I am so tired of people using introvert to mean “doesn’t want to socialize.” Plenty of us like socializing, at happy hours even! We like being invited to things!

          1. lilsheba*

            Umm no I don’t, I have zero desire to be social, especially if I’m forced into it.

          2. Mary*

            Who is “we”? Because I’m an introvert – not socially anxious, not ASD, not a personality disorder – and nothing about what you said describes me. This entire thread is a big “can we please not.”

            1. Polly Hedron*

              Nancy said “Plenty of us like socializing”, not “All of us like socializing”. I agree.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Introversion doesn’t mean shyness or social anxiety. Some people like socializing, some don’t. People are different.

              Please move on, all.

          3. Just Another Starving Artist*

            Amen! Needing more alone time than some =/= unwilling to socialize. You can be an introvert and an anxious shut-in, but they aren’t the same thing.

    2. Artemesia*

      So this. You cannot get a straight answer from the boss on a question like this. You might get helpful advice from a peer who had been around a goodly while and see what goes down. But the answer is always ‘yes, not socializing in a company that does regular socializing, will harm your chances of promotion.’ You may not need to join the bowling league, play on the softball team and go to all happy hours, but if you don’t do some of it, it will hurt you.

    3. OP 1*

      I’m OP #1! In this case it really wasn’t a factor. That company is a sinking ship – since I left a month ago they’ve lost four other people due to bad management. Lots of emails about “tone” and at least one person threatened with a PIP for being “too negative” (not hyperbole). Apparently being social was the last thing I should have been worrying about!

  19. Annie*

    I’m confused about #3. They’re starting her employment with a maternity leave? The employer is giving them 10 weeks paid leave before they have started working there? I’ve never heard of that before. I’ve always seen it as you have to work a certain period (a year usually) before you’d even be eligible for leave. Given that many people end up deciding not to return from maternity leave, wouldn’t this be an enormous risk and hardship to the company that wouldn’t be at all required by any laws? It’s nice that some companies are so pregnancy-friendly but I’d hate people to see this and think it’s standard. I think most companies, if they made you an offer and learned that your due date was right when you’d be starting, would simply be confused and not know what to do with that. And most would be within their policies and the law to say that you wouldn’t be eligible for any leave, so you’d kind of have to turn down the offer in most cases, right? Because you wouldn’t be available to start and you wouldn’t be eligible for any leave.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Right? Or they “let” you take the leave unpaid. Would you ask for a copy of the employee handbook (& to see all the policies) before accepting?

    2. Boom! Tetris for Jeff!*

      OP did offer to start after mat leave. I presume in that case, she would have taken the leave from the OldJob and then started NewJob after.

      I don’t think anyone would think it’s standard practice, but it’s good to see that some companies are willing to hire in this way.

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      Nitpicky detail: Four of the ten weeks are paid, not all ten. But I agree with the gist of your comment!

    4. PostalMixup*

      It’s also not completely unheard of. I started my current job 5 weeks before I went on my (13 weeks, paid) maternity leave. And the company expedited the onboarding process to make sure I started before I had the baby, just in case he came early, so I’d get those benefits. Companies that treat their employees well end up with loyal employees, and in a tight labor market, that’s valuable.

      1. PostalMixup*

        I also kind of wonder whether it makes a difference where the company is based. My company is headquartered in the EU, though it operates all over the world. There are definitely different benefits and norms for employees based in different countries, but I could imagine a company based in a country with strong parental leave requirements might be more willing to extend a generous-by-US-standards-but-paltry-by-EU-standards parental leave.

      2. alanna*

        This could happen at my company too. We have 16 weeks paid with no wait time to qualify. The closest we’ve come to OP’s situation is my boss, whose baby was born 6 weeks after he started. He ended up taking 4 weeks right away and 12 weeks a few months later when his wife went back to work (which is pretty standard for men at my company) — his choice. If he’d physically given birth, he likely would have taken longer at first, but we would have managed. In the long run, 16 weeks isn’t very much and the occasional edge case isn’t common enough for them to restrict the benefit.

        OP’s situation seems very unusual and a little risky given that it’s not always easy to predict when a baby would show up. You can’t be on leave for your first day and so the best the company could do would be to delay the start date.

        1. Felis alwayshungryis*

          This is the thing – if you have an accident and need 16 weeks off, your company will manage. With parental leave, you actually have time to plan for it and don’t have to just manage on the fly. So why should it be a problem?

          Would it be a stretch to say that if men (in the traditional patriarchal sense) gave birth, the leave policy situation would be very different..?

    5. OP 3*

      I was surprised too! I had fully planned on resuming my job search during maternity leave at that point. They would have absolutely been in their rights to tell me no leave at all. At this company, you get 4 weeks paid maternity leave from day one and 12 weeks after 6 months. I told them I needed 10 weeks total but it didn’t have to be paid and they agreed immediately. The 4 weeks paid is more than the short term disability I would have gotten in my old position.

      I wouldn’t take this as “this is the new norm!” As much as “some employers are doing things differently.”

      1. My Cabbages!*

        I’m a touch concerned that your start date is so close to the due date…did you clarify what happens if the kid comes early? It’s awesome they are so welcoming but it’s hard to picture them setting your start date for *during* your maternity leave.

    6. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I have a friend who got hired at a new job just a few weeks before she was scheduled to go on mat leave, and we’re in a country where you get at least a year if you want it. The employer was so excited at having her on board that they were basically willing to wait another year for her to “start” than to go with another candidate.

  20. Pomegranate*

    #2 Referral bonus:
    “His department had a big team building event a couple of weeks ago, and while there he evidently “jokingly” complained about me to a manager I used to work with. She set him straight and somehow made it clear that what he was doing was in really poor form. ”

    Can we get a masterclass from somebody on how to be this manager?

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I know people who can do that socially. It’s amazing to watch, especially if they set it up so that the person has to agree, or come across as foolish.

  21. Green Goose*

    “I hope I haven’t been misconstrued…”
    “No, you were accurately construed”

    I’m glad it is less awkward and at least you know who he is now. I’m betting that he shared his side of the story with people and they reacted similarly to the manager and he realized, too late, what an ass he made of himself.

    1. Petty Betty*

      Yup. We all know who he is as a person now. It’s not a good look.

      The irony would be if he found the original letter and had a real look deep in his money purse for his heart and brain.

      Unfortunately, I think he’s a Shrodinger’s D-bag and will always put money above all else and should be kept at a cordial distance.

  22. si*

    I’m STUNNED that Fergus got a signing bonus and was still after half the referral bonus as well. Good grief.

  23. Liz T*

    #3, that happened to me recently–had an amazing first-round interview that ran twice as long as it was supposed to, and then a second round interview with someone else where I was asked no questions.

    She just kept describing the job and work environment, occasionally throwing in a, “So we would need someone who’s good with that,” and I’d interject a brief assurance that I was. I foolishly took this all as a sign that I was their main candidate and they wanted me on board as fast as possible. I was even feeling nervous about accepting, since it seemed like bad hiring practices in terms of DEI!

    But then I didn’t make it to the next round of interviews. Literally no clue how they made that determination off the second round, since they didn’t ask anything. I thought of mentioning that to the person who did my first round, but I knew that would just read as defensiveness (and probably was) and I should consider it all a bullet dodged.

    But I don’t think it’s a new thing. Most people are just bad at hiring. Most people are bad at most things, I think!

  24. Critical Rolls*

    Wow, OP3! Companies, if you want loyal employees, this is how you get them — do right when you don’t have to.

  25. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW2, I am so pleased that manager shut down Fergus and made him realise he was out of line, even if the apology could have been better.

    He has made a few overtures seeming to ask for a return to our previous friendly relationship, but I can’t bring myself to be more than coolly polite at this point. I wish him well and truly believe he can succeed in his role, but I don’t particularly care to get invested in him again.

    I don’t blame you. After the sh%t he pulled, I wouldn’t want to get that close with him again, either. Fergus should take it as a lesson learned.

  26. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    re “poaching”….

    After AAM used the term often, I suggested that she stop using it because “poaching” implies that a company is doing something illegal, or unethical, or just morally wrong. An employee who seeks to improve his or her lot, and is recruited by someone else, and offered a better deal for his or her services, is not “poached” but taking advantage of a free marketplace for labor, and may God bless the 13th Amendment.

    Poaching applies to eggs, and hunters and fishermen/women who break the law. Not in the free market of employment.

    That being said – competing companies have “wink-wink” collusion agreements to not hire the other guy’s people.

    And while “NDAs” – non-disclosure agreements – are legal…. IF YOU ARE INVOLUNTARILY TERMINATED, in most places, and most situations, you cannot be stopped from making a living in your profession.

    1. OP4*

      It was the best term I could come up with for the policy. It was a non-compete that applied to companies that depend on a good relationship with OldCompany, so they wouldn’t touch me with a 10-foot-pole for a full year after I “resigned”. OldCompany was both large and petty enough to cut them off if they hired me.

      I’m sure the policy was *legally* unenforceable, but that’s not helpful when they’re willing to blackball anyone who violates it. It’s not like a judge can order someone to interview me.

      1. pancakes*

        No, that isn’t a form of relief courts order – what they can do, though, is award monetary damages, impose civil and/or criminal punishments on the employer, and issue an injunction about the employer’s behavior to stop it from continuing. In antitrust cases there are often automatic treble damages (triple) for some infractions.

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