play-fighting at work, love letters on a shared drive, and more

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

1. Employees’ banter turned into play-fighting

I have a fairly established team who all get along very well. Two members of my team, Pam and Angela, are particularly close. They chat outside of work, enjoy sharing projects, and always speak well of each other. With their good relationship comes a fair amount of teasing. Nothing over the line, and always taken in good humor.

We have an in-office meeting once a month, and during the latest one an incident happened that I don’t know what to do about.

It was a great meeting, very informal, we had pizza and shared lots of great ideas. Pam and Angela were having a bit of banter, during which Angela slapped Pam on the shoulder. It sounded hard — it echoed through the room! Pam laughed and seemed to find it amusing, and Angela looked a bit embarrassed at how carried away she’d got. It very much felt like the kind of play-fight that might break out between siblings.

We moved on, and nothing else has been said. I don’t know how to handle this now. Should I pick it up with Angela? It’s sounds very patronizing to tell a grown woman not to hit her friends, and she already seemed embarrassed about it. On the other hand, it was a ridiculous thing to do in work and while I like to keep our meetings causal, it’s still work. What do I do, if anything?!

I think you could do nothing at this point if you choose to — they have a jokey relationship, Pam didn’t seem bothered, and Angela looked embarrassed. It’s unlikely that you have an “Angela think it’s okay to slap her coworkers” problem on your hands.

That said, you certainly have standing to address it if you want to. You could say to Angela, “I know you have a jokey relationship with Pam, but you can’t slap anyone at work, even in jest.” And you could say to Pam, “I know you have a jokey relationship with Angela, but it wasn’t okay that she slapped you yesterday. I wanted to check in with you and make sure you’re okay and there’s not more going on.”

2. I found love letters on a shared drive

I’m an admin in a large corporation. We are planning a big migration of our shared drive to a new software provider, and ahead of the migration, I was tasked with organizing the digital files of one of my superiors. One of the many challenges in organizing his section of the shared drive was that he had many personal files mixed in with his professional files, such as a letter to his landscaper and an invoice for a new mattress.

Then I found a pair of love letters. They had been given names that disguised them as documents pertaining to a real professional matter. At first I thought they were wildly inappropriate correspondence with a business associate, but I’ve never heard of the woman to whom the letters are addressed. The letters just seem to be declarations of love to his sweetheart.

I’m at a total loss to what I should do here. The letters are very intimate, but not sexually explicit outside of a reference to “nights spent together.” I can tell my superior wouldn’t have wanted me to see them, but they’re in a section of the shared drive that I didn’t not require any special permission to access. Anyone could have found them at any time. I obviously can’t put these letters with the other documents pertaining to the real professional matter. Should I just delete them? Should I tell my manager what I’ve found? I’m mortified and so lost!

Make a folder called “personal” and put all the personal stuff in there, mattress invoice and love letters alike. Then put it out of your mind and never think about it again. No need to mention it to him specifically, beyond perhaps “I put all the personal stuff in its own folder so you can move it off the shared drive.”

To be clear, if he were the one writing in, I’d tell him not to keep love letters on a shared drive — or on a work computer, period. And I’d definitely tell him not to give them names that sound like they’re work-related, holy crap. But he’s not the one writing in.

3. Should I help out a new person at my old job?

I recently left a position I had been in for five years for a similar one at a new employer. It was not an easy choice and though I am in a better spot now than I was a year ago, my first choice would have been to stay with my old job closer to home in a city where my husband and I have friends. The higher-ups there made it impossible when my immediate supervisor resigned and they asked me to take an interim position without any kind of timeline and without offering me more pay for the extra responsibilities. I have moved on, but still feel a lot of leftover resentment about how I was treated and the resulting burn-out.

My old employer is now having a lot of trouble filling their open position. I have heard from my former supervisor that they’ve asked her if she has any interest in returning to her former role and she turned them down. I have been contacted by a new person in a new management position who wants to talk about their “challenges.” I’m torn because this new person didn’t mistreat me and I would like things to be better for the next person in that role. I have a long history with this employer, having worked for them before I went to grad school in addition to working for them recently. Careers are long and while I wouldn’t move back to work for them again right now, they are the best choice closest to home. On the other hand, the other people in management had a chance to do an exit interview or have this convo before I left that they let slip by. Or they could have just promoted me and paid me more and we all could have avoided the trouble.

I could quote them a consultant fee, but I work in academia and I’m not sure that’s common practice. I’m in librarianship, where the expectation is to offer support to librarians at other institutions without being paid, but this isn’t exactly the same since it’s coming from management. If it were coming from my old bosses, I’d say no. If it were coming from a newly hired librarian, I’d say yes. Since it’s coming from neither, I’m conflicted. What would you advise?

It’s 100% up to you! One question to ask yourself, though: do you have reason to think that talking to this person will truly change anything for the next person? When the problems are really entrenched, most often it won’t.

But it really just comes down to whether you feel like doing it or not. If you don’t, it’s perfectly fine to say, “I’m booked solid right now. I’m sorry I can’t help!” If you feel more comfortable softening it, feel free to add, “I’ll reach out if that changes.” (That doesn’t obligate you to get back in touch later.)

4. My client is holding up half my fee because she’s too busy to schedule a meeting

I’m a freelancer who works on niche projects for clients I know well, so while I’ve learned over the years to be very explicit about timelines and payments, my contracts tend to reflect the casual and flexible nature of these long-term working relationships. Recently, I had a new client whose company I work for in a different capacity ask me to complete a survey project for her. I drew up a contract where I would invoice half my fee upon submitting the survey, and the second half of the fee once we met to discuss the results (this follow-up meeting was included in the scope of work). I set a date for when the work and all meetings would be completed.

Though my work was submitted on time, the meeting kept getting pushed back and never scheduled, as the company owner was very busy. It was a small project, so half my fee is not a huge amount of money, but if I had known the meeting would not happen for months I never would have structured the fee payment that way. The truth is that the bulk of the work had already happened, and this was just a small way to acknowledge that they would see the work before finishing the payment. They were very pleased with work, and it is annoying to have half my fee held up because we can’t schedule a meeting. After months, I emailed the company head and explained that since we were well past the date outlined in the agreement, I was going to complete the invoice, but I know that we still have that meeting on the books and I’ll be happy to meet whenever they want to schedule. I thought this would give them some scheduling breathing room, since I could be paid but then meet whenever this survey project cycled back into priority. I still work for another part of the company, so everyone speaks with me regularly — it’s not like I’m going to vanish. The company head responded saying, essentially, thanks for the gentle nudge and yes let’s set up that meeting asap, and seemed a little taken aback that I wanted to invoice before completing the duties I had said I would complete (i.e., the meeting). I was worried I had not clearly explained my logic, and so replied that I would be happy to hold off invoicing if we could meet soon, but that the fee structure presumed a timeline roughly within the one we had set in the scope of work, and that I wouldn’t have structured it that way if I had known we would not meet until much later. She replied vaguely, insisting she knows this is important and will get to that meeting soon, she promised. So I thought I was emailing with a very specific request and now I’m back in limbo.

I know, lesson learned, that I should not have split the invoice this way, since it did not reflect the input of work. But do I have any recourse now? I need to keep a good working relationship with this company, and I don’t want to come off as petty. I think I’ve pushed as hard as I can with this last email, and they definitely bristled at my suggestion to get paid now but commit to holding that meeting whenever it makes sense for them.

Given all the factors here — the way the contract was written, the need to keep a good relationship with them, the fact that it’s a small amount of money and you’re working with them on other projects — I’d set it aside for one month. But then, if the meeting still hasn’t been scheduled at that point, just send the invoice over with a note saying, “Attached is my invoice for the remainder due on the X project.” Leave the meeting in their court, but make it clear you need to be paid.

If you think you need to be more delicate about it, you could instead wait the month and then say, “Since it’s been X months since the work was submitted, I do need to close out payment. I don’t want to push you on the meeting if it’s tough to schedule right now, but I’ll plan to submit the invoice by ___ (date about two weeks away) either way.” And then … submit the invoice by the date you name in that message. But really, the first option should be fine unless these people require very careful handling.

Also, is your normal contact there someone different than the owner who bristled? If so, you might talk to that person and ask about the best way to navigate it. They might even be able to submit the invoice for you and get it handled without involving the owner at all, depending on how stuff works there.

5. My company gives free lunch to one location but not another

I am located in Florida. My previous company A had a cafeteria and charged employees $3 for lunch if we decided to eat there.

A few years ago, company B bought company A. Company B has a few locations our county and they get free lunches in their cafeterias. This is mentioned on their job postings. This is a very large company based in the U.S. When company B took over, employees spoke about us now getting free lunches like their other nearby locations. However, the $3 charge didn’t change. The cafeteria manager let it slip that company B saw the profit the lunches were making and decided to keep the $3 charge. This meant that we paid $15 more per week than the other locations if we decided to eat in the cafeteria (most employees did). Is this legal?

It is indeed legal. It might not be fair or good for morale, but it’s legal. Employers are allowed to treat different employees differently as long as it’s not based on a characteristic that’s specifically protected by law (such as race, sex, religion, age if over 40, or disability). They can legally say “we’re going to have a different policy for employees at location X” as long as there’s not what the law calls “disparate impact” on one of those protected classes (like if employees at your location were disproportionately a different race from the other locations).

{ 215 comments… read them below }

  1. Educator*

    LW3–It is a little painful when a former employer that you resent pops back up in a way that demands your attention and emotional energy. I think the thing to remember is that this is all on your terms now, not theirs. They have no power over you anymore. As an alternative to saying that you cannot help at all, you have the power set the terms of engagement yourself–say, a fifteen minute phone call where you have to go at the end of that time, or a few bullet points in an email. If there is a way to give this new person some information as a show of goodwill without getting dragged into the bitterness of it all over again, that could be a good compromise.

    1. Allison*

      Original Letter Writer #3 here.

      Thanks for this! I think that is the way I will go. I can boil down what I’d say in a short email, so why not?

      But thanks for validating that I’m not overthinking.

      1. Jayne the Librarian*

        Oh, gah, academic librarian here as well. The brainwashing of helping each other is strong in the profession. However, I believe while it is useful between colleagues, it is exploitation when it is admin asking for favors.

        Unless they are going to compensate you for your time and your emotional pain of thinking about their toxicity, you can blithely say that you are busy (working for the place that pays you) and wish them well (but not really). It sounds unlikely that the person reaching out to you will still be there by the time you consider moving back to that library. Admin won’t learn any lessons unless it costs them.

      2. chriseay*

        I’ve just been in a similar situation, and am indeed a librarian. I’ve moved from one institution in my city to another (higher paying, more prestigious) one. One of my previous co-workers reached out a few weeks after I’d started at the new job mentioning that they’d been having trouble finding a replacement and that they’d been shoulder tapped to apply for the role. I took a bit of time to write an email about the role and how I handled the work, and offered to answer any questions if I had time. That’s been the extent of my involvement and I’m happy I was able to share my expertise, but wouldn’t do any more than I’ve already done.

        I think your idea of doing only a short email is the way to go!

  2. Stitch*

    For LW3, you have no obligation to tire yourself out for an old employer. You have a new job, which is itself usually a more stressful/tiring time, if you don’t want to add on additional work, of course you have no obligation to do so. Especially if it affects your ability to put your best foot forward at your new job.

    1. Cedrus Libani*

      I don’t think #3 is obliged to fix things for her old employer, but it might be a kindness to briefly meet up with the new person and tell them what’s up. A phone call, or a coffee next time she’s back in the city, is not a huge ask.

      I’ve done it myself, once. My side of the story is that my boss wanted me to suspend the laws of physics on his behalf – his side is that I would’ve been fired for incompetence had I not left, which is also true, if only because I didn’t make this universe and the laws of physics are decided well above my pay grade. I couldn’t save my replacement, who met the same fate. But her replacement found my name on some files left about, and I’m not that hard to find, so she contacted me to confirm what she already suspected. I obliged. Haven’t heard from her again, but careers are long and worlds are small. We’ll see. Even if it doesn’t pay off for me directly, I did the right thing, and it cost me about 20 minutes.

      1. ferrina*

        A key here is that the new person called to confirm what she already suspected.

        I would be careful about how I communicate with the new person. If the workplace is truly toxic or chaotic, even good people will reach for any lifeline (including “It wasn’t my fault, it was the person here before me!”).

        Do this in a phone call, and don’t tell them any sort of political/bad news that they haven’t already guessed. (You really don’t want to mention that Cindy is mercurial, then hear later that they are friends with Cindy and told her everything you said)

        1. Allison*

          Hi everyone!

          Thanks for chiming in! Careers are long! The first time I left this employer I didn’t think much about the possibility I could end up back there, but I did.

          It’s nice to hear that others have navigated this situation before and that I’m not reading too much into the ask. I thought I had found a forever job there, but it didn’t work out. I know I don’t owe them anything, but I am also not opposed to helping.

          Needing more than a 20 minute call is a good point. I can’t solve everything, but I can at least tell them they’re recruiting from a small pool of talent who have lots of options.

          1. Anne of Green Gables*

            And since you specifically noted that you were in librarianship, the library world is small. It’s amazing how many library connections pop back up later. (I once oversaw a library volunteer who was considering getting their MLIS. Roughly 10 years later, they became my Director at an entirely different library system.)

    2. TimM*

      I’d also add that, for the most part, don’t talk yourself into the mindset of “I’m not doing it for Employer, I’m doing it for New Person”. That just lets Employer know how to manipulate you into doing their work for them.

      1. Allison*

        LW 3 here — it occurred to me while writing that part of the letter that the ask coming from the new person is probably somewhat strategic. My last supervisors probably know I wouldn’t respond well to them reaching out.

  3. Cmdrshpard*

    I think depending on the kind of “slap” on the shoulder I think a talk might be making s mountain out of a mole hill.

    I’m imagining a backhanded slap on the shoulder/arm someone saying “Oh you stop that” It was meant to be a tap and maybe it sounded worse than it was.

    Or a more of a clap/pat on the shoulder sort of when someone says good job.

    Sometimes the shape of the hand when it makes contact can make it would harder/louder than it was.

    I think both being otherwise good employees and have a warm prior relationship should let this issue ( I hesitate to even call it that) slide.

    Is there a chance pam laughed to hide their discomfort it is possible.

    I once had a “play issue” with two coworkers, one coworker had a favorite mug that they brought it, but would sometimes leave it around the office or dirty in the sink. We would occasionally “steal it” wash it and then use it in front of the coworker it belonged to while complimenting the mug. The coworker would pretend to be upset.

    We had a new boss who observed this, and they said something and got myself and other co-worker similar mugs, and said “This way you don’t have to fight over x mug.”

    All three of out got worried and were “oh crap did boss really think we were upset/fighting over the mug?”

    1. MK*

      Well, that would be the obvious thing to think. Not that working professionals have a recurring comedy stick that they go through once in a while. Sorry for the snark but this sort of thing is annoying for the captive audience.

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        Calling it a comedy stick is more than what it was, I would say it was more of an inside joke between coworkers, that was usually in direct one/one conversations between both parties in in the joke. Not to say its was never heard by others, but if it was it was in an you can sometimes overhear what other people are saying in a small office. I don’t think this is really any different than hearing coworkers talk about the game last night, or XYZ show, that might be slightly annoying if you are not part/familiar with the subject.

        In larger group settings, it might have been an occasional stray comment like “that is a really nice mug you have there you like it?” While waiting for the meeting to start.

        Maybe our defenitions are different but I wouldn’t consider anyone a captive audience, we were not taking up even a minute of meetings while going through the “stick.”

        In my situation no one complianed or had a problem with it, at the time it was just the 3 of us in on it and the boss.

        I get that managers sometimes have to act on issues they see even if no one has complianed, but I think that should be for things that are a much bigger issue. Like someone yelling/cursing at a coworker.

        Smaller/minor things that are more in the realm of interpersonal issues or even minor work issues should be left for coworkers to deal with among themselves unless someone makes a complaint. Like someone commiserating with another coworker that bob chews gum super loud. They might really like Bob but be annoyed by it and want to vent/complain, but they would not want a supervisor to intervene or make an issue about it.

        In light of some other info posted by OP I do see why they want to say something about this as part of a larger pattern by said employee. This was just the slap that broke the camel’s back or shoulder, but if OP does bring it up it definitely need to be the larger issue with this being a part of it, but not just this single incident being the only issue.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I don’t mean to sound nitpicky, but I was confused by “comedy stick” until I realized you meant “schtick” – so I’m just clarifying that for other people.

        (a schtick is a routine/performance/gimmick; it’s a yiddish word.)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My previous phone insisted on auto-IN-correcting it, drove me nuts.
          (I’m a New Yorker with a Jewish stepgramma and a love for words with precise meanings…Yiddish rocks.)

          1. Myrin*

            MK isn’t a native English speaker and could easily think they’re pronounced (and spelled) the same way.

            1. ThatGirl*

              Yeah I can totally understand how someone might think that was how it was spelled! I am not trying to be a grammar cop! Just making note for anyone who was confused :)

          2. MK*

            Sorry for that! I have only ever heard the word spoken, never noticed it written down, so I didn’t know the spelling.

        2. Petty Betty*

          The “Comedy Stick” is the metaphorical stick a young person beats you with when they learn a new joke/phrase and just won’t stop. See: kindergartener learns knock-knock jokes, or 4 year old hears “deez nuts” from teenage brother as examples.

      3. Blue*

        Honestly, imo this seems like the kind of extremely benign and charming joke between coworkers that can make the whole office feel a little warmer/more humane.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I think it’s the potential optics on this one that make it more of a problem than the specific people. Physical contact at work beyond handshakes is already a soft boundary for a lot of people – anything more than that would have to be specifically related to a work task (I know this is not true for everyone and that it’s less true for close colleagues). Violent physical contact is a hard boundary unless you happen to be employed by WWE or something similar. Much like inappropriate jokes, I would want to head this off as early and as fast as possible before it turns into an actual problem. Is that probably more cautious than necessary? Potentially. But I’d rather err on the side of having a quick, non-punitive discussion about maybe not going that far again than discovering that a coworker felt they couldn’t safely report actual physical harassment because it seemed to be allowed in the workplace.

    3. Lyonite*

      I seem to remember from my long-lost theater days that there’s a way to position your hand so a fake slap sounds dramatic—I wonder if that happened accidentally here? Regardless, you could mention to the slapper that they need to tone down the joshing, if only for the sake of other people’s comfort, but if she really was mortified it’s probably not necessary.

      1. OP1*

        I’d agree that the slap sounded worse than it was, and it didn’t concern me in that I think anyone is okay with slapping. It was just a joke that ended up with Angela getting a little too excited!

        I suppose the reason I want to address it is that it did feel like she was taking our relaxed work environment too far. I also have had to speak to Angela a few times already about thinking before she acts/speaks, and again this is indicative of this problem. She is not always very self aware and her lack of good judgement is holding her back in my view.

        1. Tuesday Adams*

          Sounds like there is a bigger issue you really need to be addressing. Why did you write in about the slap, rather than the ongoing issues with Angela? Examining that impulse may help you figure out why you aren’t dealing with this effectively.

        2. MK*

          I think the problem when dealing with such low-stakes issues is that it is tempting to dismiss each particular incident as insignificant, but taken together the behaviour is problematic, or the lines get blurred till the employee crosses them without meaning to.

          1. Smithy*

            I agree with this, and particularly in the context of an office where some norms are more casual. I think that can be a casualness at work regarding behavior, dress, work from home online protocol etc. – that for some people whether it’s because they’re newer to the workplace or just struggle with soft boundaries – that casual doesn’t mean no boundaries or guardrails.

            And I think there can be a lot of anxiety around how to enforce that – like a very casual dress code where sweatpants are ok, and tights with Carebears as part of an outfit are ok – but a loose pajama pant with Carebears on it would be seen as obvious sleepwear and therefore not within the spirit of the dress code. And not so bad to send someone home or formally reprimand them, but also to not want to see it as a consistent trend and questions their ability to interpret that industry’s definition of a casual dress code.

        3. bamcheeks*

          I think this is exactly it– if it was clearly a one-off and you could see on their face that they knew they’d stepped over a line and were scarlet with embarrassment, it would make sense to let it go. But if you think it’s a “hey, I’ve pushed the line a little further and no consequences! let’s see what happens next!” then that’s how you’ve got to address it.

          If you have fewer concerns about Pam overall, I think I would check in with her and make sure she’s OK (sure, you know she is, but this is a light pink flag that messing around with Angela is not the best thing for her own reputation.)

          1. OP1*

            I did decide to pick up with Angela as part of our standard one on one meeting.

            There was a pattern of someone who had got a little bit too comfortable overstepping boundaries, and as someone who was pushing to be a senior within our team, she needed a gentle reminder on optics.

            As expected, she was mortified and had done a lot of self-reflection. The tone of the conversation was not too admonish, but to take some time to think about how she wishes to be perceived by her colleagues, and what is appropriate as a senior staff member.

            I’m glad we talked about it to clear the air, and it was part of a bigger discussion as to her progression. We’ve drawn a line under it, and I will speak to Pam as well about her part in letting the situation escalate.

            Thanks all for your thoughts and observations.

        4. Dust Bunny*

          I think the fact that Angela seemed embarrassed suggests that this will be self-limiting and you don’t need to address it.

        5. WellRed*

          Ah ha! And here we are with the actual problem! I think the behavior should be gently addressed. I’m all for friendly camaraderie at work but these two sound annoying.

          1. OP1*

            You’re right- I think their little ‘comedy routine’ was starting to take up a little too much time in our day! With this new escalation, I think it’s right to call a time out on this and find new ways to have fun!

        6. Empress Matilda*

          Oh, that is useful context! When I first read the letter it sounded like nothing to worry about – a playful touch that was a bit harder than intended, but no harm done and it doesn’t sound like it’s part of a pattern. I was all prepared to tell you not to worry about it.

          But this does put a different spin on things, if it’s part of a broader problem with Angela. In that case you should definitely have the bigger picture conversation with her, including the part about “we do not slap our coworkers, even as a joke.” Good luck!

    4. Dinwar*

      “I think depending on the kind of “slap” on the shoulder I think a talk might be making s mountain out of a mole hill.”

      That’s my take on it as well. Some groups are far more physical in communication than others, after all. And the fact that the slapper was shocked with how loud it was is relevant–it seems to indicate this was more a clap on the shoulder than a slap. It can happen, especially if the person is wearing something like a leather jacket (something stiff, which makes the sound echo). And as you say, the shape of the hand upon striking can make it louder. Plus, the lungs act as an echo chamber in some cases. Had a buddy in college who trained for WWF wrestling and that was one of the things he taught us: how to make a gentle slap seem much worse than it was.

      As long as the two of them are fine and everyone else moved on, there’s no need to bring it up. The slapper knows that she went a little too far, the slapee doesn’t seem to have noticed, and social pressure (or, more accurately, the perception of social pressure) will do your work for you.

      If this were a man doing this to a woman, I’d worry about optics. Two women or two men doing it to each other, both clearly okay with it? It’s just the way they are and I doubt anyone would think twice about it. A woman hitting a man, even in a joking way, is more complicated, but given our culture it’s probably fine. I’d have no problem with it personally, but I’m notorious for not being overly concerned about blows and have spent a lot of time in groups where a fairly hard strike was considered a polite chastisement or, in some cases, a compliment. My calibration is off.

    5. L-squared*

      I agree here. I feel its one of those things where if its known that they have this kind of relationship, then just let it be. Bringing attention to it just seems like overkill. If they were having play slap fights all day in the office, I could see that being an issue, but it sounds like this was a one off.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree–maybe it was much worse than it sounds, but I’m having trouble imagining a slap on the shoulder as coming across as anything other than playful.

  4. nnn*

    The interesting thing about the love letters is they probably would have attracted *less* scrutiny if they had been labelled, like, “Jessica letter” or something. The fact that they’re named in a way that suggests a work document is likely what made OP look closely at the contents in the first place.

    Actually, making them look like a personal business document might have attracted even less scrutiny. “Insurance renewal 2021” or something would probably elicit “Oops, a dull personal document got saved on the shared drive” and get it filed along with other personal documents.

    (I mean, don’t save your love letters on the shared drive anyway, but if you’re going to, a non-business-related name will likely give you greater privacy.)

    1. ClearedCookiesOops*

      I don’t understand the mindset of saving anything personal on a work drive, or any a work-owned machine. You’re effectively giving up ownership of anything saved on a device that is managed and backed-up by someone other than yourself, both in the sense that it can be deleted and that it can be saved for all eternity and viewed by any number of people you don’t know.

      1. Antilles*

        That’s all true, but it’s also INCREDIBLY common.
        I’ve had to do tasks similar to OP’s at every single job I’ve worked (e.g., sorting through a colleague’s files after he leaves) and I’d estimate the percentage of people who had some personal stuff saved on their desktop/C:/shared drive is at least 90%.
        My explanation is a mix of ease of access, simple laziness, and apathy.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Because you’re on that laptop/system for 8 hours and your personal matters need to be taken care of during those same business hours. It’s convenience. I try to keep my personal info off the corporate laptop, but honestly, I have a handful of personal items myself. I’ll eventually drag them into my Google drive and delete them off my laptop (yes, I know nothing is ever truly deleted).

        Now, love letters – those are waaaay off base. It’s one thing to download your paystub or save a screenshot of the online order (until the receipt shows up in the email). The other – just no.

        1. dawbs*

          Or your google drives just mush.
          I have 3 email accounts through , gmails of my own and 1 gmail for my kid’s school. (that’s 6 gmails, not counting email accounts in general)

          If I’m in a rush and create a new google doc (esp on my phone. which, yes, basically has to have all of these logins), there is at least a 50% chance I’m in the wrong google account. And then I have to try to switch it to the other ones–which is fine if it’s work to work, but less fine if I try to give the “things to remember to pack for vacation” from my work accts to my personal, because google is afraid I”m transferring trade secrets and won’t let me.

          I should know better and if it’s something potentially problematic, I’m careful (like the pros/cons of my job list!). But when I leave, there’s a chance there’s a google.doc list of everything to pack to take a toddler to Chicago in the drive for the retail arm.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I know it’s bad practice but I honestly barely touch my personal computer and it’s so much easier a lot of the time to keep things on the computer I’m on all the time.

          I don’t keep them on the shared drive though and certainly wouldn’t label them in a way that looks like work, that is so weird and I don’t understand their goal with that!

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I imagine it’s the same impulse that makes people label their porn stash “2018 Tax Forms”. They’re aiming for security-by-being-boring, but it backfires if, as in this case, someone is specifically looking for the boring documents.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, it’s actually very hard not to save dribs and drabs of personal stuff on your work system if you’re on it 8+ hours a day, and since it’s during business hours all your personal notes about stuff you have to do specifically during business hours end up there.

          Ordinarily I would save that stuff off to a USB drive, but my current employer has locked down it’s laptops so you can’t mount a USB drive or even an SD card in write mode.

      3. L-squared*

        Theoretically, I get that. In reality, its a bit harder. For example, I don’t own a personal computer or lap top. I do everything on my work computer that I need. I’m not going to buy a new one just for that. However, on occasion, I will need certain things, like when I do taxes. So yeah, my tax return ends up being saved, at least for a while, on my work computer. I typically back up any personal stuff on my google drive, and delete it, but sometimes, I forget. I think many people have kind of gotten like that.

        1. snarkfox*

          Exactly. My personal laptop is about to conk out, and it seems really wasteful to buy a new one when I have a work laptop that works just fine.

      4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Eh, personal comes in kinds. Every place I’ve worked where I had a consistent computer I had a “personal” folder on it for a few kinds of things. I generally have a collection of mp3s so that I can listen to music without needing to be streaming from somewhere, a few photos of myself or my dog that I’ve wanted to send to work contacts, my collection of pictures that I like to use for desktop backgrounds, and other stuff of that nature.

        The key thing is that (a) these aren’t my only copies of these things and (b) they are things that I don’t mind if other people at work find. It’s similar to having a photo of your family on your work desk. Sure, it’s personal, but it’s not private.

        Love letters that you, presumably, sent but kept copies of seems a little different, although keeping copies of (non-explicit) ones you received to look at every now and then as a pick-me-up doesn’t seem totally unreasonable. I’m sure that some people have spouses who occasionally include notes in their packed lunches, and saving those in a desk drawer to re-read later wouldn’t be wildly out-of-bounds in most offices, either.

      5. Mitford*

        I once worked at a place where a computer was reimaged after an employee was fired, taking with it the novel that the employee had been working on. She threatened to sue for the loss of her intellectual property but we never heard anything about it beyond her threats.

        1. Cei*

          Wow, I feel for that employee in spite of the ‘threatening to sue’ thing, but why would you not have a backup of a novel you’re working on.

      6. Marna Nightingale*

        I blame a lot of it on the fact that Word and TextEdit, and actually most programs you can use to write or produce content, all save new work, unless you manually redirect things, to the place you last saved something.

        If you generally find files by opening the program and going to “open recent”, you can fail to notice that you’ve misfiled something for a LONG time, very easily.

        So if you take five minutes at work to write the grocery list and hit “save” absentmindedly, it can easily land in “invoices, past due” or whatever you were doing before that.

        I do regular trawls of my work and volunteer folders to make that I haven’t saved anything pertaining to one of them in a folder belonging to the other, and to check that my personal life hasn’t snuck into either.

        I usually find at least one misfiled thing.

      7. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        A tip that might come in handy: Many employees in my org travel a lot for work, and carry a work laptop. Not carrying a second computer makes sense, and we are explicitly allowed to use our work computers for personal documents within reason and while maintaining confidentiality. Our laptops have a separate folder (something like C:\personal) for non-work files; this is created by IT and explicitly excluded from the company back-up system.
        For even better isolation, I use an SD card (like for a phone/digital camera) for absolutely all personal stuff, with “Bitlocker to go” enabled so it’s encrypted. This way I can just pull it out should my laptop go for repair or replacement, and I can plug it into my personal computer while at home. I also use a separate email for all non-work communication; on the work computer via webmail, not adding the personal account to Outlook.

    2. Laure001*

      Honestly, I think the story is kind of sweet. We have so many stories with men (generally men) hiding porn, and this one is hiding love letters! Good for him. :)

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Also assuming this isn’t documentation of an affair, which we’ve also seen lots of personal assistants need to turn a blind eye to.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        True, given that they were not explicit or to someone at the office, it’s kind of cute to imagine him sitting at the office typing up the love letters. Very odd choice though to save them on the shared drive and name them something that looks like work lol

    3. YA Author*

      In my first job, one of my team members stored personal files on our shared team drive. She had lots of sensitive documents there, including letters to creditors and one declaring bankruptcy. We each had PCs with hard drives, so I have no idea why she stored her documents on the team’s shared work drive. But at least the documents were very clearly labeled, I guess.

  5. Water Dragon*

    I like the response to LW4. I’d like to get into some side gigs, and I always read these payment tales of woe from contractors. Time and again, the best solution to nonpayment is prevention, prevention, prevention. A Solid contract with clear payment terms is the vaccine for the nonpaying client virus. Even then, though, it isn’t always a 100% efficacy rate.

    I think OP tried their best with the contract, but there’s *always* some tweak a difficult client will try to weasel around. It seems like there’s always something to be learned about managing client behavior and expectations with every experience. Good luck, OP. I hope you get paid on time and keep the client relationship smooth.

    1. Mongrel*

      Yeah, if OP4 still wants the final sign-off meeting a simple clause that adds a time limit to the contract should do.
      “After presentation of final invoice payment is due within one month or after a final confirmation meeting, whichever is sooner”

      1. CharlieBrown*

        This is kind of the wording I was thinking of. Due dates are just that: dates. There has to be a final cutoff somewhere, not a vague “after this meeting”.

        But LW says “lesson learned” so I suspect they will have this wording going forward. :)

      2. Antilles*

        I’ll go a step further: The final sign-off meeting shouldn’t even BE a requirement for 50% of your invoice.
        Just submit your final invoice upon delivery of the final report. Ideally, you’d even include your expected time for the final sign-off meeting that hasn’t happened, but if you can’t do that at least submit everything except those last few hours so if the meeting never happens, it’s not a huge hit.

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          Absolutely this – because that means that your final 50% is dependent on someone else’s schedule. I would think it’s not unreasonable to say final invoice is presented with the final report, then a “free” (read: already paid-for) follow-up consultation can happen afterwards within a reasonable amount of time.

        2. Cait*

          Or even just change the contract to say the second payment is due upon meeting to review the results or within 30 days of submitting the results, whichever comes first.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Or, “After delivery of the work product, the final bill will be due a) after the sign-off meeting, or b) after one month.” That way they can’t avoid the bill by avoiding the meeting, which is what it seems like these folks are doing.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      What I’ve done is include some sort of NTE language on final billing. Something like, on the quote and contract:

      Payment terms: 30% due with contract, 50% due within 30 days of completion of deliverable XYX, 20% balance due within 30 days of wrap up meeting, NTE 60 days from completion of deliverable XYZ.
      And then invoice them for the final payment with my 1st or 2nd reminder to schedule the meeting, with an actual final due date shown 60 days from the date I delivered XYZ.

      Most places won’t need that hard cut off, but giving it can trigger the process to get paid. (Especially if you cc it to the person/ department that handles that). Ie an AP person might not process an invoice with a vague to be scheduled date but “due in 60 days” allows them to enter and process it, get it in their payables system without waiting for a meeting confirmation. The release of the payment might still require approval, but that’s a lower bar once it’s already teed up to be paid.

      And it also gives you legal standing and a hard agreed in writing due date if you run into That Client (because really “schedule and have final meeting” is out of your control if your client won’t schedule it, and it’s better to always anchor payments to things you can control whenever possible)

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Meant to say all that is to avoid this happening again.

        For this client I’d just be matter of fact about following up on the payment, with a mention the meeting can happen later at their convenience .

        And don’t schedule any additional work from them until they’ve paid it (may also be worth running a quick credit check on them to see if they are dragging out payments to everyone, to inform whether you want to right the small amount off as a lost cause sooner rather that later)

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Argh! I meant to write it out too, I try to never use an acronym without defining it.
          Thanks for clarifying it for others, too.

    3. ferrina*

      It’s pretty common for survey contracts to be paid out on results delivery (i.e., report), not on final meeting. Usually I see results presentation included as an optional feature (though the contractor is very proactive in getting the meeting scheduled). It’s not uncommon for clients to not want a meeting (too busy, already understand results and don’t want to have an unnecessary meeting, etc.)

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Perhaps at this time, OP can send a scheduled time WITH the invoice to be paid after that date?

    5. Somehow_I_Manage*

      It’s a great letter because it shares valuable lessons on what to do in hindsight when scoping work.

      The biggest “mistake” is choosing not to align payment with the volume of work. If I really needed to give the client some security that they can trust my work, instead of holding funds in reserve at the end, I’d add an earlier milestone (at an outline level, 10%) for them to see the direction of the work and provide feedback. That would also afford me some leverage if they stiffed me on the first payment! It would also allow me to renegotiate scope and fee if they had a different vision.

      Then upon delivery of the final report I’d scope/invoice 95% payment, with a timeline on holding a meeting or any comments. If the window closes, I’d invoice 100% and close the book.

      But let’s be real. If this is a small <$5,000 job- keep it simple. Just do the work and invoice upon delivery. There are diminishing returns on over-managing a small job.

      1. Somehow_I_Manage*

        I did want to include my thoughts on how to resolve this current situation.

        LW4: Simply email:

        Per our scope, I would like to offer my availability for a review meeting following my final submission X days ago. I am available the following dates and times: X, Y, Z. Please let me know which date works for you and I will set up the call. Should you not wish to arrange a meeting within the next two weeks, I will assume there are no further comments and will submit a final invoice.

        Thank you,

    6. OP 4*

      thanks for the thoughts! OP #4 here. The trouble is that the client is outwardly excited about this project, and I think really does see this final meeting as a significant step in the process, and bristled at the idea that I’d invoice since she sees it as invoicing for work not yet done. Which is why just submitting an invoice without her buy-in feels a bit brash. It is sort of a pet project for her which unfortunately is always ‘important’ but not ‘urgent’. I definitely erred in the language set up, and I’ll try a version of the suggestion here…and see how it goes!

  6. Wintermute*

    #3– This is a prime situation where I think it’s important to weigh what you’re going to get out of it. But don’t discount out-of-hand that it might be good for you mentally, either, or good for your reputation. It’s probably not going to make-or-break your reputation but a chance to appear competent and knowledgeable to someone who is relying on you can be a great opportunity if it won’t be too much investment.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      OP3 – Are you sure they aren’t going to ask you to come back as an employee (maybe with a side order of guilt trip) – that’s the possibility I’d be prepared for if you take this meeting. I wouldn’t say it’s a “dollars to donuts” level of certainty from me but I think once you accept this meeting an offer may be prepared…

    2. bamcheeks*

      I think the thing that makes stuff like this hard is when there’s a conflict between what you feel you SHOULD do— whether that’s framed in terms of a kindness, or thinking about your reputation, or goodwill, or setting good boundaries, or whatever— and what you WANT to do. It’s not even a conflict between “putting myself first va putting others first”, because things like your reputation is a self-first thing. It’s just feeling that you *ought* to do x and that making it hard to figure out what you want to do and feel entitled to it.

      LW, it’s really ok to work out what you *want* to do — whatever will be the least stress, thought and hassle for you — and then just do it. If that means deleting the email, that’s ok. If that means responding with a polite no, that’s ok. If it’s a short meeting with a hard deadline, that’s ok.

      The other person isn’t hanging on the other end of an email in desperation whilst you agonise over this: they probably just sent the email as one of a list of things on a longer list of “figure stuff out”, along with “talk to Z in Finance”, “look at files in the shared drive”. Once they’ve ticked off “email ex-post holder”, it’s out of their mind. If you get track in touch, bonus, if not, ah well, they tried.

      So the priority here is just figuring out what will let your head put it to rest as quickly as possible. Delete? Quick response saying sorry you’re too busy? Very short controlled meeting? Any of these is fine, but none of them are what you *ought* to do— it’s just what will switch it to the “done and dusted” part of your brain and let you move on.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I think Alison’s question about whether having this meeting is likely to cause anything to change is an important one. OP is in librarianship, and a lot of librarians I know have had similar problems at their jobs in the last few years. About a year ago, I left a job where I felt unsupported, overworked, and burned out. A few months before I left, I asked for a meeting with a higher up that I thought I had a good relationship with and I told her how I was feeling and what I needed to be able to continue working there. She didn’t take any of it seriously, so I found a different job. I know at least one other person expressed similar concerns in an exit interview, but my friends who still work there tell me it’s getting worse rather than better.

      OP, when you’re doing your mental calculus about whether or not you want to have this conversation with your old workplace, think about how you’d feel if you expended all that mental and emotional energy and dug up the wounds you’re trying to heal, only to hear from a colleague a year from now that nothing is changed. Would you feel like it was all for nothing, or would you feel like at least you did your best to try and help?

      1. Allison*

        Hello fellow ‘brarian.

        Yes, I had a similar meeting with my then supervisor when I got the other job offers and said, “I will stay here if you promote me and pay me more.” The answer was, “you’d be encouraged to apply for the permanent position when its advertised but first we need you to convince the new Dean to keep the budget line.” About a week before my last day they sent someone down with a tape measure to make new faculty offices out of our footprint. Now two positions have collapsed into one.

        You’re totally right that having the convo will probably have little effect.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, especially since it sounds like OP wants to keep that door open in case they want to move back there in the future. In that case I think the main thing to consider is: do you have things you can tell them that you think they will find helpful, or is it all just kind of complaints that might put you in a bit of a “shoot the messenger” position and they just get defensive.

      If you think you have anything helpful to offer, then given what you have laid out about possibly wanting to work there in the future, I think I would choose to help them out.

  7. Dark Macadamia*

    Aw, I like #2. If you were in a rom-com you’d end up in elaborately awkward situations trying to hide that you’d seen the letters… only to discover they were written about YOU!

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Hahaha true. Perhaps it could turn out to be referring to a night when they had to work late to meet a deadline

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Isn’t he one of LW’s superiors? There are a lot of them, but rom-coms with boss/employee relationships squick me.

      (Yes, I did hate “Love Actually”, why do you ask?)

  8. Waving not Drowning*

    LW2 – we had a similar situation at work – peers though, not manager, both hard copies, and personal files relating to a legal battle they were having regarding their defense of an allegation of fraud and bullying – not related to our workplace, but at a volunteer organisation. The reason we’d discovered them was because she’d left abruptly (no reason given, she was there – and then she wasnt), so needed to clear out their desk. The electronic files weren’t found until quite some time later. Some were benign, others were to do with loan applications (lots of personal information), and the aforementioned legal case. None of the file titles gave an indication as to what was contained.

    I let a higher up know, and then walked away from it. I gave the hard copies of the paperwork on her desk to our Manager, and left it for him to make the judgement call as to whether to notify ex-employee. Not sure if they deleted the personal information or not.

    Its made me VERY conscious of storing personal documents on work computers! Only thing I store on my work laptop now is my recipe folder.

    1. V.Anon*

      Similar situation here: a VP was fired (for a major ethical breach) and I had to dig through his electronic and paper files to retrieve anything related to his projects and parcel them out to the people covering while we hired. Turned up all his mortgage information–and a ton of steamy emails between him and the admin he was having an affair with. It was slightly less embarrassing than it could have been because she quit in solidarity when he was fired, so I didn’t have to interact with her anymore either, but YEESH. Don’t put your business on the company server, pdf it, and file it away for your coworkers to find!

      1. JustaTech*

        One time I was cleaning out a lab (so a physical space) and we found a many-years-former coworker’s banking information (like a year’s worth of statements) in a binder on the shelf, as well as their kid’s baptism certificate.

        The second one seemed important (apparently they can be used in citizenship applications?) so someone found their mailing address and sent it all back.

        But, like, why was it at work in the first place? I could see brining it in to scan, but I’d take it straight home again, not leave in the lab!

    2. Lea*

      A friend of mine had to scramble to find some paperwork in her boss’ desk while he was away at a conference. Along with the project files, she found a folder with 8×10 printed nudes photos of the boss and his wife. On the bright side…it WAS his wife. She said she’d never be able to unsee that…

  9. GythaOgden*

    OP5 — at least you still have a canteen. I trained as an accountant although I never actually practiced, and that makes it hard to unsee things like cost centres, budgeting etc and the cost of providing a subsidised meals service. The canteen must cost a lot to run, and having been in your position it mightily sucks, but I can also see the flip side.

    Our team changed hands last year — the building is now run by the owners directly rather than us being employed by the occupying organisations — and they took away the water coolers. It’s legal (we have access to drinking water in the tap, which is the minimum health and safety requirements and the hot water urns still work) but as a result we have to buy our own bottled water, because the tap water is rubbish. I have a coffee first thing but not usually while I’m at work, so I got hosed, but my colleague who doesn’t drink water isn’t bothered.

    In our case, the tenants have complained (because they can’t get decent water for meetings etc) and they probably have more authority on the matter than we do, since they pay the (public sector) landlord rent. But in all cases, from the day I started working here, we’ve had to bring our own tea, coffee, milk and other food and soft drinks, and use outside caterers for meetings, and so a $3 subsidised meal would be a step up from us. I bring my own food (usually sandwiches) from home and occasionally get a bought sandwich, but we’re located in a residential area with few shops around (just a gastropub at the nearby roundabout), so thinking about lunch is a daily task.

    Don’t bite the hand that feeds you! It can all be taken away in an instant, and the company may feel that the $3 price helps towards their expenses in running the building — and we in facilities are really, really important but rarely acknowledged by others. They’re probably not making a huge profit on a $3 meal — maybe even a loss depending on the quality of the food and the wages they need to pay the staff who prepare the food, maintain the canteen and clean up. With food prices being squeezed because of the war elsewhere affecting supplies of e.g. grain and sunflower oil, it’s highly likely that to even things out again they’ll charge their other sites rather than revoke your charge.

    This is not to say it doesn’t really really suck, but it’s totally legal and given what’s going on in the rest of the world, probably a better business decision right now than instantly making everything free.

    1. H2*

      I’d be shocked if they’re making a profit right now on $3 meals. I work at a university and our faculty pricing at the caf is ~$7 and I’m almost certain they’re not making much if any profit right now.

      I totally get that it seems like a bummer, but it could be that this canteen is set up differently from the others. Maybe they have contracts with a different service or different offerings, or whatever. It could be that they need to continue to charge in order to keep things the same or avoid laying people off. I worked in a place with a canteen and they switched over to Aramark or something similar. Food was cheaper to purchase but they didn’t have a salad bar or as many fresh offerings and some employees were let go (because now the employees were hired by the third party).

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Having worked in a company with multiple locations (& where some were originally separate businesses taken over by ours), I think what this is really about is fairness & feeling like their office is fully part of the company. If you don’t get a widely advertised perk, it feels crummy. (Even though I agree that $3/lunch is amazingly low.)

        Just for morale alone the company should provide the same perk to all.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes to the fairness. At two of our sites (mine and another) the coffee/tea/non-dairy creamer are free. At the third site the coffee is a quarter.
          Is $0.25 a lot? Of course not. But it still means that if you want/need a cup of coffee you need money. But it’s really about a lot more than that. First, that location works the night shift (need coffee) and they’re very far away from anywhere to get food, so if you don’t bring it yourself and you don’t have cash, you’re stuck. But second (and much more important), the charging for coffee started explicitly as a punishment, because management at the time thought that people were stealing the coffee (k-cups).

          Was anyone ever actually caught stealing coffee (ie, taking whole boxes of pods home)? Not that I ever heard. But even if they were, there are better ways to address it than changing the entire coffee system and charging people. And I know this, because we also get subsidized soda (again, a quarter) and at the third site they made a rule “no buying sodas at work and selling them on the beach for a dollar during your lunch break”. New rule to address an issue, but they didn’t take away the sodas, or start charging a dollar for them!

          Even if we all know life isn’t fair, that doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t at least try to treat employees fairly.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        The way I’d look at it is: The OP is still getting a perk (because a $3 lunch is quite a decent perk!), but other locations are getting a better perk. That’s a shame, but who knows, maybe the company has long-term contracts with different lunch providers and can’t get out of them. I agree with those who have said that if the company is “making a profit” on $3 lunches, it surely isn’t a very big one. My workplace subsidizes lunches in our cafeteria, and the average meal is still $8-$10. I’m honestly astonished that the OP’s company sees any profit at all.
        My guess would be that rather than everybody getting free lunches, a more likely outcome is that eventually everybody gets $3 lunches.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I do have some sympathy because it sucks to feel like you are missing out on benefits that other employees get (when I was in office I was pretty upset that other locations had gyms and ours didn’t).

        But at the same time, $3 for lunch is already likely heavily subsidized and sounds pretty awesome to me. Like the price doesn’t change no matter what you order? We had a work cafeteria and I appreciated the convenience but it was definitely a place where you overpaid for the convenience.

    2. ferrina*

      Agree. $3 meals is an incredibly good deal, especially if the food is decent. When I got into the office, the best I can hope for is $10.

      Also agree with H2 – I’d be shocked if they were actually making a noticeable profit on that. More likely the cost of the meals is going to help defray the cost of providing them.

      1. Sharks Are Cool*

        Yeah—personally I’m incredibly jealous of the $3 lunch. Obv. free would be even better, but $3 is probably less than I spend per portion to bring my own meals from home, on average. Not to mention the time-savings of not having to worry about packing a lunch!!

        1. Bee*

          Hah, yeah, I spend $10+ a week to buy lunch at the office ONCE, and then probably another $15 to pack lunch the other four days, not to mention what a pain it is to plan that every week. I might still do that to make sure I was getting healthy food that I liked, but still – jealous. Though I also get why the OP is annoyed that everyone at the other locations gets it for free – $3 a day adds up to $750 a year, which isn’t life-changing but is a nice long weekend away.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yeah, definitely. Tell me about it! (Or in my case a second PS5…) There’s so much active absurdity at work it feels like I’m in a Samuel Beckett play.

            Any kind of perk being rescinded is frustrating and sucky. We’ve had even job-necessary tools taken away: not just the water cooler, but printer (we’re supposed to be ‘paperless’, but the maintenance guys with whom we work closely need forms printed and have to cadge off other orgs in the building), desktop Office apps, etc, and the IT guy installing the landlord’s baaaad virtual Windows machine looked at me blankly when I asked him where the switchboard software was installed. Not even the maintenance guys got roofracks until one, in a great example of malicious compliance, turned up at a site to do work at height without a ladder.

            They claim they can’t afford the necessary MS licenses yet are sending us halfway across the country for lavish in-person mental health awareness training. (That would be very useful — if my own MH wasn’t taking a considerable hit!)

            This, and a Stepford Boss blinded by corporate idiocy and too afraid to advocate for us is why I’m polishing my CV in earnest. It’s just a matter of time until the head honcho decides it’s healthier for us to have standing desks or wear chimpanzee suits or something like that.

            1. JustaTech*

              Oh the printer!
              In my building the vast majority of people who are regularly on site are on my floor. We’re also the people who are most likely to need to print things out (the facilities folks and the lab scientists).
              Just last week facilities had their printer taken away, so they moved the only other printer on the floor down towards (but not in) their space. This is fair, as now the printer is equally inconvenient for everyone, but we all asked why the printer company (we rent the printers) took facilities’ printer and not one of the ones belonging to the floor of people who are never on-site? It’s not like they ever printed anything anyway. (That was much of the problem when we renovated the building, the people in charge were from the non-paper group and so there was basically no paper storage for the lab folks, who by law must keep tons of paper documents.)

  10. Lyngend (Canada)*

    Ouch. The slapping reminds me of a manager and assistant manager. They’d spank and hit each other at work. In general bad managers for a host of other reasons (like not thinking employees deserve minimum wage.).
    Once the assistant manager was made manager power went to her head, and she was eventually fired for hitting (I heard spanking) her employees and wage theft from employees. (she had the mindset that if it took you longer than your shift to get your work done that was on you, not the job for having unreasonable expectations. And in that field, it’s 1000% unreasonable expectation)

    1. CostAlltheThings*

      We recently had 2 employees fired because their play fighting escalated to including fake jabs with a pocket knife and one accidently stabbed the other

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I thought that playfully *spanking* each other was the least professional thing I would read on this thread. Playfully stabbing each other really takes it to another level!

  11. NeonFireworks*

    We had a case of play fighting that it turned out was more complicated than it looked – it was always initiated by the same one of the two people, started getting both more public and more reckless, and apparently became a way for the instigator to take out their frustrations in a way that seemed funny and innocuous. In other words, pseudo abuse slowly began to lose the “pseudo.” We interviewed the very embarrassed target and fired the instigator, who acted as if they’d had no idea. It was uncomfortable all around.

      1. Observer*

        Would it matter?

        Even if it were not actually abusive, it would be inappropriate enough that you can expect a functional adult to not do this in the workplace.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I am so confused by this. “Any reasonable person wouldn’t do it, so what is the point of asking the person who *is* doing it to stop”???????

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I think Observer is saying that the behavior was so out of line that it was reasonable to fire them immediately, rather than trying to coach the instigator to be less abusive.

      2. NeonFireworks*

        The target said they did, and a manager took the instigator aside for a private meeting that I’m guessing was asking them to stop, but things didn’t change.

    1. Anon for this comment*

      content warning: Partner abuse

      I know of a case where a karate teacher at a dojo would, when teaching a technique, select his wife as a demonstration partner. When he met his mistress (also a student), his demonstrations became less “instructional”/”pseudo” and much more real. Wife didn’t understand how she had gotten so clumsy or why she always had bruises until husband revealed his intention to divorce, and she realized he’d been beating her up in front of his mistress, in full view of other teachers and students, for months. It was extraordinarily difficult to prove in any sort of follow-up action to punish him, because of course he, too acted as if he had no idea, it was an environment where “play fighting” was required, and there was high tolerance for joking about people being allowed to hit their partners in class. As far as I know, he was never punished by that school.
      So I can totally believe your instigator acted as if they had no idea that their abuse was observed and were mystified that the managers to put an end to that.
      (And, for the curious: yes, that was a good divorce and she has thrived, though he caught the car with his mistress…so karma won.)

      1. Blue*

        Oh god this is…..horrifying. Sounds like the whole school culture that tolerates “jokes” about physical violence is significantly to blame.

        1. PsychNurse*

          I think they mean, like “the dog that caught the car.” Got more than he bargained for, in other words.

  12. Irish Teacher*

    When I worked retail, the deputy manager and another employee had the sort of relationship where they would push and hit each other jokingly every so often. At one point, when it seemed to be getting a little over the top, the manager said, half-jokingly, to be careful or they’d knock something over. I’m pretty sure he wanted them to knock it off but he said it in a casual way, like you might say to a friend on a night out who was mucking around and nearly knocked over a glass, so it wasn’t like he was making a huge deal of it. They laughed and stopped what they were doing.

    So long as there’s nothing like Neonfireworks describes going on (and given the reaction, I don’t think that sounds like the case), I think a comment at the time would be enough. And honestly, it sounds like Angela realised herself she shouldn’t have done it anyway. My reaction to students who do this kind of thing (VERY common with teenage boys) is something like “hey, be careful. We don’t want anybody getting hurt.” Obviously, you wouldn’t speak to adults like they were 14 year olds, but a throwaway comment that indicates “enough” can work. Not much help now, I guess.

    1. Greige*

      “Obviously, you wouldn’t speak to adults like they were 14 year olds”
      In this case I’d be tempted, but it’d be more like they were 5-year-olds. “Please keep your hands to yourself.” Half-jokingly, but also a little irritated.

      1. ferrina*

        My career has spanned working with people of all ages, and it is soooo much easier to speak to kids. Kids expect and appreciate directness, and are quicker to forget something that made them mad (as long as the next few things are neutral or positive)- adults are more likely to want emotional hand-holding and are more likely to hold a grudge. Early professionals are also more likely to take feedback than mid- to late-career professionals (who are more likely to be very sure that the way they’ve been doing it for years is just fine). Exceptions abound, of course, but that is the general trend.

  13. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    The client is refusing to schedule the meeting specifically to avoid paying OP.

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      Eh, possible but not definite.

      As someone who’s been a freelancer for many years, I can testify that many clients just genuinely DO NOT THINK about getting freelancers paid. They aren’t deliberately trying to stiff us; it’s just way, way down on their list of priorities. Once they get what they need (the work the freelancer has delivered) they’re no longer invested. Because the payment will happen “someday” they don’t particularly care that it’s not happening now.

      I’m not defending it; it’s maddening and unfair and a crappy way to treat people. It just doesn’t mean that they’re not ever going to pay.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah. Combine this with feeling ambivalent to a meeting. Now that the client has the report, the meeting is going to be much, much lower priority.
        This is ridiculously common in survey work (which the OP said was the nature of the project)

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      This is my take, but I’ve done freelancing for sh!tty companies, like the one that paid Net 90 no matter how big or small you were.

  14. TimeTravlR*

    Back in the old days, I used to get packages of documents and such for editing via mail. One time, an employee sent me the packet and inadvertently included some very personal correspondence between he and his ex. It didn’t take me long to figure out the correspondence was not part of the package, so I just bundled it up and mailed it back and never mentioned it. He thanked me for returning the documents but we never discussed it.

  15. Observer*

    #1 -Play slap

    I think you’ve gotten good feedback in addition to Alison’s excellent advice. I would add two things.

    Firstly, if it happens again then you absolutely need to talk to Angela. For one thing, it’s unfair to others and creates an impression around expectations of behavior which could be unfortunate.

    For another, a one time slip up is one thing but a pattern of behavior is another. Once it’s a second time, you are highly likely to be looking at a pattern. And at that point, you need to stop it. Don’t worry about being patronizing. Sure, it sounds like the kind of thing you tell a child or immature adolescent. But someone who slaps their friend / coworker at work is acting like an immature adolescent, and is not leaving you much choice.

    This second issue is especially important based on your comment about Angela’s overall behavior. This is someone who seems to have a hard time “getting” workplace norms and boundaries. I think you will be doing everyone a favor by being extremely explicit and clear about this stuff.

    I think that some of the guidelines for how to address these issues with people on the Autism spectrum can be useful here. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that she is on the spectrum and I don’t think it would matter anyway. But it’s a pretty good model for explicit social instruction for anyone who needs it, for whatever reason. (And it’s much more common for people to need it than is often realized.)

    1. Dust Bunny*

      “This is someone who seems to have a hard time “getting” workplace norms and boundaries.”

      I didn’t get that from the letter, though. It sounds like give-and-take between Pam and Angela that got momentarily out-of-hand, and then stopped. Either there isn’t really a boundary issue or they both have boundary issues and maybe the banter in general needs to be dialed down. Nothing in this said that there was a pattern of slapping/other physical contact, just a heightened level of interaction.

      I think Angela embarrassed herself a bit and probably won’t do it again.

  16. Don’t Pay Me Less Because of Body Parts*

    While reading #3 I just knew it was academia even before the last paragraph. Partially because this isn’t uncommon, but also partially because…. Well, academia is weird and often sucks in those specific ways.

    I spend a decade in higher ed and definitely responded when asked to “consult” my replacement and I’ve also been “consulted” by the one I replaced. It’s honestly a little weird sometimes, but my nature is often to blow everything up and do it anew in a new role.

    As far as how to respond, I’d give them an hour for free. That lets you answer real basic things and uncover if they’re looking for something more in-depth. You can either set it up yourself for an hour or ask them now what they’re looking for from you, time and expertise-wise. Then I’d let them know you’ll consult more for a fee. This is not common in higher ed, you’re correct, but it certainly should be. They can decide if your expertise is worth it – honestly, I doubt they will take you up on it unless you have a specific hard skill like running a software or process that nobody else knows. Higher ed is more likely to save themselves a buck than save themselves an hour.

    1. Make sure this doesn’t eat into your time and energy for your new role.
    2. Charge more for the consultation than your former hourly rate (remember taxes and no benefits). This way you get to “stick it to them”…politely.

    1. MsM*

      Funny, because until they got to that detail, I thought they could’ve been talking about my old workplace, which was not academia. And yeah, OP, if you decide to follow up, I would not hesitate to charge whatever will make dealing with them at whatever level you feel you can handle worth it once you’ve taken taxes into account, whether that’s standard practice in your field or not. If no amount will satisfy that criteria, then wish them luck and carry on with your life. They’re in this mess for a reason, and it’s not because you didn’t do all you reasonably could while it was still your concern.

    2. No fun name yet*

      And I’d recommend following the guidance given to #4 LW about how to phrase the “hour free and x$$ per hour after that” in a contract.

  17. o_gal*

    LW5 – Everyone should just stop eating in the cafeteria (as long as that is feasible.) There will be no profit if no one eats there. Ideally then you all as a group can push back to mgmt that you should be getting the same perks as the other locations. In the real world, though, you all will have to decide how much you are willing to put up with. It might be that being able to get on-site food fairly cheaply is worth sticking with.

    1. Llama Llama*

      The thing is that $3 is a reasonable and probably subsidized cost for lunch. iIf they don’t buy food there, them I am going to guess that a lot of them will buy more expensive food elsewhere.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I admit I don’t know food prices in Florida*, but where I am, cafeteria prices of the equivalent of 3$ would mean they are still subsidized. At my old employer, the very cheapest meals cost around that or a bit more, and that cafeteria was subsidized 50%. This makes me doubt that they are turning a true profit, probably just less of a loss than the other locations**. With less demand/volume, prices would probably have to go up, not down, because of economy of scale. So that strategy would likely backfire.

      *Quick google for cost of living Florida makes me think it can’t be much cheaper there.

      ** I know we are supposed to take the letter writers at their word, but this is pretty much a rumor they are reporting. I’m saying they shouldn’t believe it themselves!

      1. Sorrischian*

        Yeah, the cafeteria meals at my workplace range from 6 to 10 dollars and I feel like we’re getting a pretty good deal! It’s totally valid for LW to feel weird about the fact that their location has to pay for lunch where others don’t, but the actual cost of the lunch is not the issue

        1. LPUK*

          My last work’s canteen was Fabulous – the chef that ran it used to work in a very prestigious restaurant but didn’t want to do the hours and stress any more so was happy to move to a works canteen and be finished by 4pm. I still remember her white choclate and raspberry scones, the salad bar was full of genuinely interesting salads and a choice of 3 hot meals a day

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Prices would go up or the company would just decide to close the cafeteria all together.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        At my last university employer, in 2019 lunches in the subsidized cafeteria still cost $8. This was in California in a high-cost metropolitan area, so not surprising.

        One previous employer did the free lunch thing. I liked it, but my food intolerances didn’t (soybean oil is in just about everything.)

    3. KateM*

      Right. Let’s all buy $15 fast food instead of eating for $3 in our cafeteria, so that the employer will see it’s not profitable and shut it down and leave us with buying $15 fast food forever. That surely will show the employer!

      1. Sarah*

        Or they could just start, y’know, bringing a packed lunch. It rubs me the wrong way that an employer is trying to make profit from the employees while at work.

        1. Observer*

          Except that what people are pointing out is that the company is probably not making any money on the staff.

          1. JustaTech*

            My spouse’s company does free lunch (keeps folks on-site). A few years ago I had to do the week-long SNAP challenge for school (feed your family on a SNAP budget, it sucked and wasn’t as educational as the professor expected).
            As part of it I was asked to estimate the value of my spouse’s meals, which probably would have taken the whole budget (the food is very good and plentiful) so I just made up something ($5? $8?).
            So he’s talking about it at lunch with his coworkers, and how I’d seriously underestimated the value of the lunch and one coworker says “Lunch would cost more than $5?” “We’re having *rabbit*. Yes, this would cost more than $5 to buy or make.”

            $3 a head maybe pays the dishwasher, but it wouldn’t cover anything else!

        2. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Except a packed lunch would still likely be more expensive than $3 or it would take a decent amount of prep time. While I fully get OP’s frustration, and I would be annoyed too, I’d be very impressed if the company was making a profit.

        1. KateM*

          Sure, but you can bring packed lunch also when there *is* a cafeteria, and even if you usually bring a packed lunch or eat fast food, you’d still have this option as well. Here it is lobbied to make sure there is no cafeteria anymore.

    4. Jessica Fletcher (RIP)*

      I don’t know what’s wrong with all these people who don’t want OP5 to get free lunch like all the other company’s locations because $3 is less than they pay for lunch. I bet they don’t want other people to get student loan forgiveness either, if they paid theirs already.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Nobody actively doesn’t want OP to get free lunch. But they need to consider the possibility that pushing back too much might result in losing a really good benefit that they don’t seem to realize they are already getting. It seems extremely unlikely that the $3 meals are not already being subsidized, and while free would be better, if they risk losing what they have then they will probably end up spending *more* on lunch in the future, not less.

        It’s just offering realistic advice.

      2. Critical Rolls*

        That’s a pretty uncharitable take on people saying, correctly, that making a fuss about this is at least as likely to result in a *worse* outcome (no more subsidized lunches) as it is a *better* outcome (free lunch). Folks talking about the dollar amount are pointing out that it is VERY unlikely to be generating a profit, and is likely actually subsidized — and they are basing this on the amounts they pay in other situations.

      3. KateM*

        Speaking about my answer in particular, it was to point out that if you want to lobby for getting free lunch in your employer’s cafeteria, scheming with others to make sure that this cafeteria gets no traffic at all sounds pretty much the worst way to go about it.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Same. Asking directly and openly to get the same treatment *may* work. Everyone requesting to transfer to another location may work. Boycotting a perk in hopes of getting a better perk will pretty much never work. Boycots have to hurt the boycotted party, not just the boycotters, to work.

  18. Caroline+Bowman*

    OP4 / it’s definitely to avoid paying you that the meeting isn’t happening. There actually is no other reasonable explanation because if that were not the case, as in, they were legitimately having to back-burner the work and / or other urgent stuff happened, after your first email, they’d have gone ”oh crap, so sorry, yes please invoice!” and that would have been that.

    But that’s not what happened, is it?


    Give it a certain time – say a month, as Alison has suggested, and then invoice them. Lay out the dates of all correspondence and include something about ”longstanding relationship” and ”good faith”, then say that if there is something important to discuss, perhaps a Zoom or IRL meeting could be arranged within the next week, otherwise the usual payment terms apply. Note how often you have tried to arrange a meeting!

    They are behaving very badly and should feel mortified about this.

    1. Somehow_I_Manage*

      I probably wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it’s specifically to avoid payment. LW4 suggests the amount of money is small as is the scope of work. I think the more likely possibility is that this report and it’s outcome are not a high priority for the client right now, and the client simply has not made time to review the report and assess if anything is needed.

      They’re still behaving badly. But at least in this instance it doesn’t suggest that they’re intentionally trying to steal from LW4.

      1. LPUK*

        Yes I think its probably this one! Client time is very different from consultant time as I frequently have to remind myself when I work into the evenings to complete something they told me is urgent… and then wait two weeks or more for any feedback on it…. Though in this case they do pay me upfront ( more to secure the budget internally rather than out of any kindness to me though)

  19. Seacow*

    LW3–Regardless of being in academia, it is still YOUR TIME. There is nothing wrong with stating you’ll assist at your old organisation for a fee (should you actually want to assist them).
    I’ve recently had this happen as well, in education, and stated my contract fee. They chose not to accept my offer in being paid and we parted ways. You said that you left with hard feelings so why even consider working for them again for free?

    1. WellRed*

      I could see that happening! I feel for the OP but I can barely get lunch for $15 a day (and have to pick it up). I’d love a cafeteria.

  20. Yoga Pants*

    #5 I calling BS on the company really saying they are making money off of charging all employees at that location $3 for lunch. Maybe someone told the OP this but its $3 for lunch, they are not making money on this. They are likely loosing the same amount that they loose at the other branches and agreed to keep it as is and not mess with contracts and finding a new cafeteria. The most likely option (that I have seen in take overs/buyouts) is that someone in charge at your company/when the contract was signed really likes the lunches and wanted to keep them the way they are for everyone there.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      To be fair, the company didn’t say it, the cafeteria manager “let it slip”. So it’s gossip at best, false at worst.

      But I still don’t understand how calling BS on this helps LW.

      1. Observer*

        It helps because the OP will make a better decision, one way or another if they know what the actual facts are.

        1. H2*

          Yes, and it reframes it from “we’re being taken advantage of to turn a profit” to “our company is still paying for this, just less” or “our company is breaking even on this so the convenience is a perk.”

          I posted above something similar but also agree that it very likely could have something to do with the details of how the food is provided. Contracts, etc with employees and with food companies. It’s possible that the company has a national contract with a company for very cheap service but if they switch at this location they would have to totally revamp.

        1. xl*

          Yes, the optics are that people who work at OP’s location are essentially paying out of their own pockets to subsidize free lunch for the employees at the company’s other locations.

          That’s bad for morale and it would certainly upset me.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I think this swings too far in the other direction–paying a small amount for a subsidized lunch that your company is likely losing money on at your location is not in any way you subsidizing the free meals at other locations…

            1. xl*

              I was speaking in regard to the optics of the situation, not necessarily what is happening.

              Earlier in the thread it was being discussed that the company was likely not actually profiting off what they were charging, as OP had been told, but rather that the company liked the fact that the $3 they were being charged was attractive to the company because it subsidized whatever they were paying. I agree that that’s probably the case.

              Whether or not the money the company collects from the employees at OP’s location is directly used for the purpose of subsidizing the other locations isn’t material (and I agree that it’s highly unlikely it isn’t, because that isn’t enough money to do that). However, with everything else being equal, it can easily create an “us versus them” mentality between locations when one place gets something for free while the other has to pay for it, hence the optics of the situation.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I think it helps because thinking their employer is turning a profit through this will get people all indignant and understanding that that’s very likely not true may allow for calmer consideration. If it is in fact equitable all factors considered, complaining about unfair treatment won’t have nice results.

        1. CharlieBrown*

          If somebody is making profit off a lunch that costs me three dollars, I don’t really want to eat that lunch. I say this as someone who has worked in a lot of restaurants.

          And knowing companies the way I know companies, chances are that complaining about will just mean that all employees at all locations will end up paying $5 or more for lunch.

          Again, all OP was wondering about was whether this was legal.

    2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I wonder how long ago the cafeteria manager let slip that they were making a profit at $3/lunch.

      But even given inflation, I suspect they weren’t taking all the expenses into account, and maybe only thinking about the price of the ingredients, ignoring what they’re paying the people who cook and serve the meals. I’m pretty sure that “the company is profiting at $3/meal” ignores other costs that a free-standing restaurant would have, like utilities, rent, and janitorial services.

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        This might be nit picking, but I wonder if
        1-Cafeteria manager actually said “profit” or maybe said “making money” there is a difference or
        2- Cafeteria manager maybe did say “profit” but used the wrong word and/or did not understand the difference between making money and actually turning a profit. $3 times 40 meals you made $120, but the cost of those meals was $6-$10, so the cost is $6*40=$240 or $10*40=$400, there is no profit it is actually a loss of $120-$280 that is covered by the company.

        Do the unequal perks suck of course, but OP and coworkers should make sure they are clear on the facts.

        1. SarahKay*

          Ohh, I can definitely see your second point being true.
          Years ago when I worked retail I had a store manager say to me “Sales for vanity, profit for sanity”, which has always really stuck with me.
          Too often people just look at the sales figures, rather than paying attention to the profit – I had a relative tell me that obviously white goods were the most profitable items, since you only had to sell one to make hundreds of pounds. He flatly refused to believe me when I said that actually the profit on white goods was poor since there’s not much of a markup, and that the perfumery counters (at least back then, don’t know about now) gave the best profit.

  21. EvilQueenRegina*

    We had something along those lines with personal documents on a shared drive in my last job. The employee in question “Tamara” had actually transferred internally to another team, but for whatever reason her access to our team’s shared drive had never been ended and she was saving lots of personal stuff to a file named “Downloads” in our drive. They were found by chance while rescuing something that was dragged and dropped into that folder by accident – the file contained applications for game shows and dating shows, including one for her ex who was planning to go on a game show with her (I doubt the ex, who was in IT, knew she had saved it there), her pay slips, lots of job application forms, something to do with a flight confirmation for her mother, and some random things that I can’t remember now. Our then-manager had her access to that drive revoked and said to us that if Tamara reached out to any of us to get copies of those documents, to refer this on to her. I don’t know what was ever said to Tamara.

  22. Hotel & Retail Refugee*

    LW5 – when I worked in hotels in FL it was common that each location had it’s own policies around stuff like employee meals even between properties with the same ownership and management company. Franchised locations were a totally different thing. But some offered something else instead of free cafeteria like free dry cleaning or free tee times at the property golf courses. Your other location may be missing a perk that your office enjoys and they decided a free meal is the best to compensate for it. Or they just have nicer management. The place I worked that charged for lunch renovated a former laundry area into a very nice lounge with seating and TV’s and wifi and the food was made fresh. The next property I worked had free meals but the cafeteria was a dingy windowless room in a sub basement and the food was brought down from the kitchens and plopped into a buffet cart. Despite being a much higher tier luxury property.

  23. Doreen*

    OP #5 – is there some difference between the locations with free lunch and those without? I ask because there have been a couple of situations where employees at some locations received a benefit that others didn’t. In one case, those who worked in office locations where the rent included parking (suburban/rural) were able to park for free while those in city locations who chose to drive had to find and pay for parking on their own. In the other, those who worked in institutions (where food was being provided for the clients) where the security procedures made it impossible to leave on a lunch break were provided with free meals while those who worked in offices outside of any institution were not.

  24. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#3 — Fellow librarian here. I’m a little unclear about what/how much you’re being asked to do: I have been contacted by a new person in a new management position who wants to talk about their “challenges.”

    Is this new person asking for a substantive consultation about how your old department was run? Or is the newbie looking for confirmation that her new administrators are, indeed, barmy, and the organization toxic?

    If it’s the first, I’d be willing to give them an hour — maybe over lunch, but nothing beyond that. If it’s the second, try to avoid giving in to the temptation to vent. You don’t know who this new person will share the information with, and librarians have notoriously long memories.

    But based on your description, your old employer probably has systemic issues that can’t be fixed quickly. If I were in your position, I’d probably just give them a cheerful, “Oh, gee, I’m sorry, but I’m swamped right now. Best of luck to you and please say hi to [insert name of a colleague] for me.”

    Good luck!

  25. Lesley McCullough*

    I have a friend who does historical research and she was researching a commercial aeroplane that is no longer flying but is placed near our local aeroport as an attraction. In the file on the plane being decommissioned, which reached back into the mid-1970s, she found, tacked down in the middle of the file, one page of a love letter written on yellow paper which proclaimed that the writer “would always love you” and dreamed of the days they walked together. It ended up stating “In the immortal words of Nana Mouskouri” ( we had to look her up) then quoted:
    I never dare to reach for the moon
    I never thought I’d know heaven so soon
    I couldn’t hope to say how I feel
    The joy in my heart no words can reveal

    Although the writer probably left our town years ago, we like to think that he – and we believe its a he because of who worked on the plane – is still walking around thinking romantic thoughts.

  26. Jessica Fletcher (RIP)*

    #5, if so many are upset about it, take action! Band together and stop buying lunch until they give you free lunch! Heck, depending on your specific situation, call the media, form a picket line outside at lunch. You are effectively getting paid less than employees at every other location, because they get a free benefit that you don’t. No more!

    I’m in a Friday mood.

    1. KayDeeAye*

      You really think the media would hear “We have to pay $3 for our lunches!” and think “worker exploitation”? ‘Cause I don’t.

      Look, free lunch is a great perk, and it’s a shame the OP isn’t getting it. But a $3 lunch is a pretty decent perk, too – just not as good as a free lunch – and the OP needs to remember that.

      My guess is that eventually what will happen is that rather than everybody getting free lunches, everybody will get $3 lunches.

    2. sascha*

      why would the company mind that nobody is buying lunch? that’s not disruptive to business operations or anything. they’d probably close the canteen if nobody uses it.

  27. timberland*

    “be more vulnerable at work”

    I just shuddered almost out of my skin.

    What is wrong with people that they think anyone would want to do this?

  28. H3llifIknow*

    I worked at a retail job while going through college, and I had a co-worker, a woman, who whenever she laughed about a joke would hit me in the arm. HARD. Like I had bruises. No matter how many times I said “DO NOT HIT ME” she continued to do so. I eventually quit for a better job, but it made so angry that even when she did it in front of management, including when I was pregnant, nobody said anything to her. They found it a charming “quirk” I think.

  29. LPUK*

    LW1. On a related topic, I had two guys in one of my teams who were very close friends and spent a lot of meeting time in pretty aggressive ‘banter’ with each other – saying some pretty rude things to each other in a group session. I felt that I had to take them aside and ask them to knock off this behaviour in a group setting as it might give some of the newer team members who were not privy to their personal history the feeling that this behaviour might be turned on them if they spoke up about anything. It had never occurred to them and though they did scoff at it a little, they did also stop doing it.

    I felt on more solid ground though as I had inherited this very blokey sales team with a reputation for poor behaviour ( they made the male marketing intern who came to give them a presentation cry… and then joked about about it later).

    Which is to say you should probably watch for the impact that this play fighting behaviour has on other people – do they understand the context or is it contributing to a less comfortable environment?

  30. Ann Lister’s Wife*

    OP4, can you re structure your contract in the future so that the product is delivered at the final meeting? That will ensure the meeting happens, that you are paid, and they aren’t getting the product for free.

  31. JB*

    LW#2 My guess would be the person – for whatever reason – brought those files to the office to print hard copies and gave them business-type file names so it wouldn’t be a red flag in the log file of printed documents. I’d bet he doesn’t realize he forgot to delete them, so making a general statement about “personal files” may not ring a bell.

  32. Dawn*

    LW3 – If it were me, I’d just give them the bare facts. Like reply to their email, “Hi Jane, the challenge there was that the company wanted me to take on more responsibility without an increase in pay or title. I’m sorry I can’t help you beyond that and I wish you the best of luck.”

    But that’s maybe a bit more blunt than you’d like to be, I can get nasty.

  33. Raida*

    “This meant that we paid $15 more per week than the other locations if we decided to eat in the cafeteria”

    That’s the key here LW – IF WE DECIDED to eat in the cafeteria.

    You are not required to eat there, you did not mention not being allowed to eat there with your own food from home, you did not mention a dearth of fridges to store lunch from home, or that there’s a lunchtime so short that getting to and from another location for food would exceed the time for the entire break.

    They can pick the prices, they did, you can decide not to eat there if you don’t agree with the pricing.

    But you’re all not going to go elsewhere, are you – because it gives you the most free time on your breaks by being so close, it’s a good price, etc.

    I know that it feels ‘unfair’ that you guys pay – but realistically and rationally you were all happy with the setup until you saw someone else got it cheaper. Go back to being happy, or apply for a job in another location. Because right now you’re saying to the internet: I get something most of you don’t get, is it illegal for it to be so good but not as good as those other people get?

    1. Dawn*

      They also don’t know what the quality of the free food is. $3 is still quite generous considering the cost of a restaurant meal nowadays.

  34. Quickbeam*

    Re: #5…..I just retired from a large National company that allowed wide variations at different sites re: free lunch, amenities, dress code etc. My unit was the most penny pinching, the most rigid about time off and the most conservative on dress. It took a couple years of employee dissatisfaction surveys for the company president to address the discrepancies. We ended up pretty even across the board.

    I’d suggest you utilize any call for employee feedback to address the inequities. It may all be legal but often the head office really doesn’t know about such dissatisfying things like this.

  35. Could we just work when we are at work*

    LW1. I grew up in a home with real fighting – verbal and physical. Being around this “play fighting” would put me in a state of fight or flight at work. I would prefer to feel safe at my workplace.

    I think “play fighting” does not belong in the workplace. If you want to play fight, take up MMA.

Comments are closed.