my company wants remote employees to take a pay cut, free tuition for employees’ kids, and more

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

1. My company wants remote employees to take a pay cut

At a recent managers meeting for my company, we discussed our mandatory return to office, which will start early next year. It was mentioned that people who are working remotely from places not near one of our offices would have to take a pay cut if they wanted to keep their jobs and stay remote. This includes anyone who moved during the pandemic to care for a family member. Is it legal to cut someone’s pay under these circumstances?

Yes. It’s legal to pay remote workers differently than on-site workers, or workers in state X differently from workers in state Y. The exception would be if doing that had a disparate impact on a protected class, like race or gender — so if, for example, all of the people who were staying remote happened to be women (who are more likely to get saddled with caretaking responsibilities and may have moved for that reason), that could be a legal concern for your company. But otherwise, it’s legal.

Whether it’s wise management is a different question. Are they planning to justify the pay cuts by arguing that remote employees are contributing less than on-site ones? If they can’t back that up with some evidence, they’re likely to have some seriously pissed off and demoralized staff (for a while anyway, until people leave). Maybe your company is fine with that; maybe they’d like those people to leave over time so they can hire local ones. But it should be part of their thinking.

2. What to wear to a work holiday party

What do you wear to a work holiday party? I recently began working remotely for a small law firm. Law firms are usually known for their conservative dress, of course, but my remote position means I’m often working in a T-shirt and sweatpants. This holiday party/dinner (not in the office, but at a local restaurant, on the nicer side but without a dress code) will be my first time meeting several of my colleagues face-to-face.

Do I need to break out the suit I only ever wore to job interviews? Can I get away with business casual wear? Do I need to worry about things like making sure my winter coat is professional enough or changing from boots that trudged through slush on the way there to suitably professional shoes?

Business casual might be a little too on the casual end of things for a law firm. Typically you’d wear something a little fancier and more festive than what people wear at the office (but not, like, ball gown level of formality — more like cocktail attire). But it also depends on the restaurant — if it’s a really nice restaurant, fancier dress is more likely than if it’s someplace casual.

The best thing to do is to ask a coworker who’s been there longer what people normally wear to the dinner.

You shouldn’t need to worry about your coat (and you may end up checking it anyway). Whether you need to change your boots for dressier shoes once you arrive depends on the outfit, but if you’re going to be trudging through snow, a lot of people (particularly women) will probably do that.

3. Giving free tuition to employees whose kids attend our school

A question you recently answered about employees who are able to access different benefits made me wonder about something going on at my work. I’m in HR at a private school, and one of the biggest benefits that employees utilize is tuition remission. Of course, not everyone has kids, and some who do choose not to send them to our school for a variety of reasons. Recently, some employees who fall into those categories have brought up to me that they see this as a disparity, as they’re essentially missing out on about $17,000 per year. While I understand what they’re saying, I also don’t know if there’s anything extra we could do to compensate for not being able to utilize that benefit. We wouldn’t, for example, give extra money or perks to someone who chooses not to use our health insurance. What are your thoughts and could you think of a different, more equitable solution?

You’re also not going to give extra money to someone who doesn’t use the subsidized gym memberships or doesn’t max out their 401K match. That’s how some benefits work; not everyone will use every perk. Tuition is obviously a much bigger perk than a gym membership, but really, what you’re saying is that you won’t charge employees who use the service you sell. Your service happens to be school. Not everyone will be able to or will want to use it; that’s the nature of it. It’s unreasonable for someone to expect that they’d receive $17,000 in a different benefit.

4. Am I obligated to keep helping my low-performing teammate?

My coworker and I joined our team about a year ago and received identical training. I am in my late 20’s; my coworker, Mel, is in her early/mid-20s with an MBA. I am the lead on the project and Mel supports me. I am senior to her, but she is not my direct report. We work remotely.

Mel is lazy, slow, unreliable, and sloppy. Any task that is given to her needs to be followed up on and checked as it is often riddled with errors. We work in a field where attention to detail is crucial.

I avoid giving her additional work because I do not have the bandwidth to wait for her to reply (if she does), follow up, and then review the work and/or re-do portions. These are not personal edits, but rather objective corrections. For example, Mel will inform stakeholders that a renewal is needed on an annual basis, but our policy specifies that it is quarterly.

The work she does deliver takes forever. For our current project that is bordering on completion, Mel has only contributed 6%. My concerns have been shared with my manager. I am not aware of any updates.

I don’t know if Mel is just incompetent, or if she is an early talent who needs mentoring. Based on the questions she asks me after calls (SHE leads), I wonder if she was even paying attention. It would be one thing if she were engaged and showing critical thinking. I’m not motivated to help someone with the skills of a bowl of cheerios, who is contributing less than 10%. Plus, I am exhausted from doing all the work to meet our project goals.

I am struggling with what to do next. I have already carved out a small portion of the project for her to own. I am copied on her emails (this will stop once the misinformation minimizes) and I am always available to jump on a call. We are not that far apart in age, so I don’t really want to take on a “mentor” relationship. Work is just work to me and I just want her to do her own portion independently so I can go home at the end of the day.

Am I obligated to try harder to help her, or should I keep my distance, document her mistakes, and hope she will be let go at some point? (Granted, this is a joint project, so I can’t completely wash my hands). I’m not even sure what this “help” would look like.

It sounds like you’re helping plenty. You don’t need to handhold her any further.

Go back to your manager, say that Mel is doing less than 10% of the work on your joint projects, you’re spending significant time checking and fixing mistakes in her work, and you’re exhausted from having to do so much more than your share of joint assignments, and ask what to do. I know you’ve already shared your concerns, but it needs to be more than information-sharing at this point; it needs to be framed as as a clear request for help: “This is unsustainable for me. How can we change this?”

5. I’m being shut out of the hiring for my employee

My direct report is retiring next month. She gave two months notice to give me plenty of time to hire and train a replacement. We are a small team and nobody within the organization knows our jobs or how we complete our work. We’ve worked together for almost 10 years.

I notified our HR director to request her help in finding a replacement. I learned today that my boss, the HR director, and my boss’s boss have been meeting with the headhunter and discussing applicants without looping me in. I am very disappointed and upset given that literally none of these people understand the details of what’s involved with this role. They understand what’s in the job description but not what’s involved in getting the work done.

I don’t know how to proceed. Should I just let them make the decision and step away from having any input given their behavior? They obviously have no respect for me or my feedback regarding the new person.

Speak up! Yes, they should be involving you, or at least keeping you in the loop about what’s going on, and it’s not great that they’re not … but you’re also jumping to the most negative conclusion without talking to them first. Talk to your boss and explain that you’d like to be involved in the hiring since you will be managing this person and know the work and the needs of the role intimately.

{ 500 comments… read them below }

  1. CarlDean*

    #1 this really bothers me. Employers always say – we don’t base your pay on your expenses, yes, there’s inflation, yes, your rent went up, blah blah, but that doesn’t mean you should get more money. Then, turn right around, and say – oh, wait, your expenses went down, you don’t have commuting expenses, so now we get to pay your less.

    1. MK*

      It’s not clear that that’s their rationale. It sounds more like they are trying to get rid of remote workers.

      1. CarlDean*

        True, there is no indication of their motivation/justification. (The part about wanting remote workers to leave is a hypothetical from Alison’s response, not from the LW.)
        But, my sense is this is an attempt to take advantage of situation for employer gain, and the only justification I’ve heard presented is that remote workers save on commuting costs, time, etc. (I think I’m getting that from a prior AAM letter?)
        If they wanted to run off remote workers, why hint? They could just say – you have to come in as condition of employment starting X date, or you are terminated.
        The reason to cut pay is a hope that workers will somehow think it’s fair (“well, I do save on costs or I do have more time or I do get a non monetary benefit so it’s fair”), stay for less pay, and the company will continue to get the same output for less and get to stick more money back into company’s pocket.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I agree. Welcome to corporate America, where they take advantage any way they can. Employees, customers, no matter who it is they will take advantage.
          Don’t try to find excuses for them, y’all. This is what corporations do. They’d have us working for free if they could.

          1. MF*

            THIS. I recently learned that my company (a Fortune 100 company) is soon announcing that hybrid workers need to come back onsite. They’re doing it because they’re hoping it will cause some people to resign (that way they don’t have to lay people off).

            They take advantage any way they can. Anything for more $$$.

            1. perstreperous*

              My employer has never had voluntary redundancies because they result in the wrong people leaving. That policy sounds like peak “the wrong people leaving”.

              1. Fishsticks*

                Sounds to me like they’re hopeful they can get out of the bad publicity that comes with layoffs by having ‘voluntary’ quitting instead.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Because they don’t want to have to do a mass hiring if they just make it a condition of employment to be in the office. they are hoping with a pay cut that it will be gradual. Some will quit right away, some will stick it out believing they can live on less pay, then gradually drop off as they realize they can’t.

          They are trying to lessen the impact of a bunch of people leaving at once and all the hassle of hiring while ALSO saving on payroll. I do not think it will work out the way they think it will.

        3. J!*

          Since the LW says “one of our offices” I’m wondering whether they already have a compensation scale depending on the market people are working in. I think if that’s the case there’s a reasonable argument to be made about the being paid for the market you’re actually living and working in. (NYC salaries go much farther in the midwest, for example, whether or not you have a daily commute.) But if there isn’t and they just want to pay remote workers less, that’s so crappy.

          1. Drago Cucina*

            This came up for the federal employees at old job. They were given base pay and then a COLA based on where we’re located (same with my new job). Some people moved to HCOL areas and wanted the higher COLA. No. That’s not the area they were hired to work. Others moved to LCOL areas.

            When the LCOL move folks received permission to be remote (vs. telework) employees, their COLA was adjusted to the new area. No HCOL remote requests were granted. Because that would mean adjusting that COLA up. They could telework with the understanding that if needed they had to be onsite.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              So, the workers got screwed either way. COL got adjusted down based on where you lived only if it went down. It did not get adjusted up based on where you lived.

            2. Ness*

              Was this a while ago? I’m pretty sure the policy now is that all federal remote employees get the “rest of US” (no locality pay) rate, regardless of where they live.

              1. Fed Too*

                The official OPM policy is that you must report in to your duty station 2 days per pay period or your duty station is adjusted and you receive that areas pay scale.

                So if your a DC worker that went report and still comes into HQ 2 days a PP you keep DC scale. If you moved to Florida and aren’t coming in twice, your duty station gets changed to your FL town (usually home address) and you receive that pay scale.

                Agencies may be sporadic making the changeover but that is the law and policy on pay scales.

        4. Lauren*

          Yeah, why wait months. Unless they are trying to stagger the losses a bit, which may be what is going on.

      2. Green great dragon*

        They could also be thinking that now they’re open to remote workers, they can find them for less than the office-based pay levels they’re currently paying.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Yet they already save a significant amount of money on remote workers — they don’t need office space, at least not every day.

          1. Mongrel*

            They probably won’t recoup much from that yet though, especially if it’s a leased building.
            Rent still has to be paid, electricity usage is down and heating\air-con may be an all or nothing thing or affected by cold spaces above or below.

            It’s what the businesses do when their leases are up that’ll be interesting.

            1. drinking Mello Yello*

              As an example of a company doing the transition to mostly remote Better: The company I work for went almost fully remote in March 2020 (barring an essential skeleton crew in office) and since then, they’ve straight up closed a few offices and opted not to renew the lease on a few floors in one building they lease in. All of this is because for 99% of the employees, our work is all on a computer and can be done remotely and the company’s saving a crap ton of money on not having to pay rent. And they’ve hired a bunch of new employees and expanded over the past few years. I also fully admit that I’m lucky that my company isn’t run by a bunch of dingleberries.

              1. Mongrel*

                Ours did something similar, they’d had a “come in if you want” policy that hardly anyone was using so used a break clause in our lease and move to a suite in a managed, hub-style building.
                They’re also looking to do that for our other offices when an appropriate time occurs.

          2. Wintermute*

            That’s a bit of a red herring, many companies, mine included are finding remote workers don’t actually save you much money because they come with other costs– IT infrastructure foremost of all, as well as the people to support it and having things that used to be low-priority “fix it when you can no big deal” like VPN concentrators now being “must have 24/7/365 support” items.

            The net result is probably neutral, especially if you can’t close offices because you still have physical functions or need a place for customers to go and interact with you and/or a place to receive and mail large numbers of items (both apply to my workplace)

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              You mean all of the network gear that they don’t have to wire up in-office as they shoehorn more people into a smaller space? They’ve already had the VPN demand for the last 2.5 years, so it’s not “new”. They don’t have the callouts to fix broken wiring and gear in the office. Plus they can grow the company without having to increase their real estate spend.

              1. Observer*

                Ongoing maintenance of the VPN can be quite expensive, especially if you are doing anything sensitive.

                Also, doing remote support for certain types of problems can be a bear. On top of which you wind up with the issue of figuring out what’s on your end and what’s on the user’s end – especially connection or speed issues.

                I’m the one involved in insuring our IT infrastructure handles remote work well. And I can tell you that I’ve had to fight for it because there are some really significant expenses involved.

                It got easier after Sandy, when it became clear that having this kind of infrastructure helps with resiliency, and yet easier with the way Covid shutdowns were handled in NYS. But, yes, there are costs.

          3. Observer*

            Yet they already save a significant amount of money on remote workers — they don’t need office space, at least not every day.

            That’s not a given. For one thing, space is not the only cost factor. For another, depending on the set up, companies don’t necessarily save that much on space. It’s very, very situation specific.

        2. Snow Globe*

          That is possible. If the company is in a large city, and they are open to hiring remote workers far from the office, even in other states, they likely could hire people for less. It’s not surprising if the “market rate” for fully remote workers is lower than the market rate for workers required to be in the office.

          However, cutting pay is pretty much never going to be a good idea. That is going to lead to resentment, turnover, and probably bad-mouthing the company. Lowering the starting salaries of people coming in would be a slower, but more reasonable way to get there.

      3. MassMatt*

        Possibly, but I think it’s more that employers regard WFH as a perk, and so figure that at least some employees would be willing to give up some pay to do it.

        I do hate the idea. It would be different if they offered a premium to new hires to work in the office; cutting someone’s pay in the absence of some truly terrible financial emergency for the employer is terrible.

        1. Lydia*

          Or the company could just step up and say, “Our policy is to be in-person” instead of being shady and shitty about it and “disincentivizing” it.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. Be honest about being micromanaging and controlling, instead of cheese paring the remote people.

            Also, some of your people may need to stay remote due to caregiving or being at-risk for Covid, which hasn’t gone away. It’s not fair to suddenly decide that they are worth less.

            Yes, I know a lot of companies who base your pay on where you live, and others who want to pay midwest wages to people living in the SF Bay area. There’s no good answer.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          I just about never think it’s the right move to cut someone’s pay unless they have actively changed WHAT they are working on, not where they are doing it. The “right” way to create a pay disparity (if there is such a thing at all) is to give in office people a bonus, not slash pay anywhere.

          And I know most upper management with long term planning deficiencies thinks employee pay is something they should always minimize in every way (though they usually don’t do what one former boss of my husband’s did and say aloud “If I could get you to work for you for free, I would” in the middle of an employee pep talk), but they really need to remember the costs of onboarding and training, of the work slowdown caused by new people doing tasks, and the actual ability to hire new people at the stated job rates – especially if the new hires have any way of knowing there’s a pay disparity.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Haha yes, they might be in for a rude surprise when they try to hire people at their lower rate. :D

    2. rh*

      My expenses have gone up substantially since working remotely. True, I don’t have the commute time or gasoline. I do, however, pay to heat the house all day. I use way more toilet paper than ever before. I had to get better Internet and a much more comfortable chair to sit in. For me, working at home is more expensive.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I used to commute by bike, so those costs were negligible. While I don’t think my costs have actually gone up (more electricity, but spend less on food,…), they haven’t gone down either.

        Interestingly, I noticed that the tax write-off for home office days is higher than my commute write-off. So the state doesn’t seem to think I save money by staying home.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I should have added *I’m not in the US* as a caveat. Both are deductible for employees where I am. Worked out to, I believe, like 10€ per day for the commute and 13€ per day home office for me.

        1. anne of mean gables*

          I feel this so acutely. My company is currently working on a hybrid model, which I’m pretty sure will change to mostly-remote over the next year or two. I bought a house in Fall 2019 – we did not account for both adults in the home to be partially or entirely WFH. So now we have a desk set up in our bedroom, which I hate, and the house we thought would last us forever will be too small if our family planning goes as hoped. I do love the flexibility of WFH but realistically it’s going to cost me an unplanned $100-200k (in renovations or moving to a bigger house).

            1. anne of mean gables*

              I mean, sure, that’s of course an option (though, it’s kind of not given my particulars). My point is that employees are shouldering the burden of establishing an adequate at-home office – and it’s not just buying printer paper or a good chair. This comes in the context of there being pros and cons to hybrid, in-office and from-home work, but it’s one that is often not factored in to the discussion to the extent that it unexpectedly impacted people’s lives.

              1. Violet Fox*

                Honestly it really surprised me that it has barely been talked about, but I live in a very high cost of living area where getting two extra rooms is way more then $100-200k.

                Then again I think the cost of things like chairs, etc should be talked about too since this is an expense usually put on the employee and good quality office chairs that you can comfortably sit on all day are expensive too.

    3. JM60*

      And it often costs the employer less too (even aside from compensation), since they don’t need to rent as much office space.

      1. MK*

        But unless the company moves, they aren’t actually saving much, if anything. The companies who really do save are ones who have permanently switched to a remote-only or at least part-remote model, and have adjusted their workspace accordingly. A company who merely offers remote as an option don’t change their location, not to mention that there might be locked in a lease.

        1. JM60*

          Plenty of companies had their office lease (or one of their office leases) expire in the nearly 3 years since the pandemic began. My employer thankfully had their lease on the HQ office expire since then.

          Even those who still have all of their offices could save money by not having to get another office if their headcount is growing.

        2. MassMatt*

          It will be really interesting to see what the long term effects of WFH etc are on office rents. And the businesses such as restaurants serving lunch around offices.

          1. Rosemary*

            In NYC it has had a big impact on the businesses (restaurants etc) in office building dense areas like Midtown. As well as rents.

          2. lilsheba*

            I think a great way to alter that is to covert office space into affordable housing, and the restaurants can join the food delivery crowd, win win.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              They don’t even always need to do food delivery if people live walking distance, though having the option helps as this whole Pandemic happens.

    4. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I broadly agree with you, but standarizing your pay based on area of living is very, very common.

      If companies didn’t do that and paid all employees the same it can have weird knock-on effects. For example, they might not be able to attract valuable applicants who live in big metro areas, because their salary isn’t competitive in those areas. On the other hand, the company would likely have difficulty justifying paying the highest-level salaries across the board, especially if they’re not based in a large city.

      I do think that there are lots of issues companies need to work out in terms of supporting remote workers, but I think asking for an NYC-paycheck if you live in the sticks is going to be hard to justify…especially if the company is a smaller one.

      1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        EDIT: I realise I misread this question and assumed that the pay adjustment was being done based on COL in everyone’s respective area. If they’re just cutting remote salaries the same across the board, then it’s probably meant to disincentivize remote work, as Alison said.

    5. southernfried*

      It bothers me too. The discussion at my workplace is that remote work is a benefit–one that a lot of employees seem to value very highly–and therefore there must be some way to monetize it.

      Our employees who can’t work remote see it as a valuable benefit too–one they don’t get–and so there is discussion about equity. I think leadership is missing the mark on this one. A better option would be to give employees who can’t work remote additional paid time off (sick leave or personal days) rather than take away something from remote workers.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Exactly. I don’t think you can improve “fairness” by making some people’s lives worse. It might give some petty satisfaction to the kind of people who complain about their colleagues’ perk, but it doesn’t even improve their own situation, while tanking the morale of people who just lost something through no fault of their own.

    6. doreen*

      I’m not saying that it’s a good idea for this company to cut pay for remote workers (because I don’t think there’s enough information for me to decide ) but companies pay based in part on the cost of living all the time. They don’t give a raise based on whether your individual rent went up, so that you get a raise but Jane doesn’t because her rent stayed the same – but employers do pay more for employees based in NYC than they pay employees based in Rochester. Across the board raises of a certain percentage that everyone gets regardless of merit are often ( maybe always) meant to account for inflation. Now, not every employer has multiple locations and not every employer gives cost-of -living raises but some do.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        But we don’t know where the remote employees are living, and they aren’t cutting pay just for people in areas with lower costs of living. They are cutting across the board.

        1. doreen*

          Right – we don’t know where they are living which is why I’m not saying it’s a good idea – just that it’s very common for employers to pay in part based on the overall cost of living.

      2. MassMatt*

        My prior employer opened an office and call center in Maine for precisely this reason–lower payroll costs, as well as lower rent. Also, there were fewer competing employers in the area so people tended to stay longer.

    7. L-squared*

      As the person on the other side of it (having to go in when a lot of my company is remote), I don’t see it that way.

      First off, you have to look at the ACTUAL value of what you are being paid. I live in Chicago, not the most expensive city in the country by any means, but not cheap either. I think in actual dollars, if I’m doing the same work as someone in South Dakota, yeah I should get more money because it costs me signaficantly more to live. I’d also be totally fine if you paid someone in San Francisco more than me for the same reason.

      Also, I’m fine with people who are forced to go in making more since they have more crap to deal with. They have to commute. They have to dress nicer (even a relaxed dress code is more than people often wear at home). They often are scrutinzed more since they are visible. Now, I don’t know that it means everyone else’s salary needs to be cut, but I would also have no problem with their being additional “in person pay” to account for that.

      1. Jackalope*

        I think one of the big problems here is that they are planning to cut pay rather than, say, increase the pay for those still working in-person. It’s pretty much NEVER going to go over well if you decide to cut someone’s pay, especially if they are still doing the same job and contributing the same amount.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah that’s where I land. You can give incentive pay to stay in the office, or increase salary in recognition of the fact that being in the office requires you to be in commuting distance which may be more expensive especially in high COL areas, but cutting pay to stay remote only works if it’s a strategy to get rid of remote workers and it’s gonna be a big morale hit across the board. Even if it’s not your salary, working somewhere that cuts salaries can cause low level anxiety about your own future.

          1. Malarkey01*

            I think this is a big your mileage may vary here. We had a lot of people who moved out of some of the most expensive pay areas to smaller/cheaper areas (think places where people were paying $4k/month for a one bedroom apartment to places where a $2k/month mortgage is getting you a newly built 4 bedroom mini-mansion.) Several people said they were going to game it as long as possible but knew it wouldn’t last… when the decision was made that you could either come back in OR change to the local pay scale 100% of my 400 person division chose to stay remote (I was one of them). It’s still very well compensated but we were making C-Suite/CEO money in our local markets and that clearly isn’t the local market cost for labor.

            1. Jackalope*

              It’s different if the company already has a COL pay band, though, which is what it sounds like in your area. I’m that situation you know what the consequence will be and you can decide based on that, as opposed to a random salary cut just because you’ve moved and the company doesn’t like it.

        2. L-squared*

          Yeah, I can see that, it probably won’t go over well. But at the same time, I really don’t have a problem with a company implementing COL salary bands. If you moved to a low COL area (especially if it wasn’t discussed first), I get it. I’m not sure the best way to handle that though.

          1. Olive*

            The comparison isn’t just between COL areas, but also between the current company and other potential jobs with remote work (or even work that’s high value despite being in a low COL location).

            I agreed to a 6% paycut to move from a high COL city to a low COL area.

            It only took me a few months before I found a position with a $25k salary increase. I probably wouldn’t have started looking if it weren’t for the paycut.

      2. Pool Lounger*

        So give incentives to office workers. Why take something away when you could give something? People who work remote aren’t stealing anything from people who are in the office. It’s the higher-ups who should be working to make workers as happy as possible. Taking money from remote workers is just pitting worker against worker for the gain of the bosses.

    8. That'sNotMyName*

      Similar to how they want your entire life to revolve around your employer and pretending like people don’t do their jobs “for the money”…until the employer decides they don’t need you and then straight out the door you go!

    9. AnonInCanada*

      Agreed. Funny how this only works the way it benefits the employer, doesn’t it?

      It’s one of the reasons why there was a big stink between the Ontario government and the union representing teacher’s aides, school support staff etc. The province was low-balling wage increases, the union said “screw you,” the government used devious legislation forcing their contract on them (including using a Constitutional work-around that was built into it to get all the provinces to sign it back in 1982), the union walked out anyway… it was a mess. But apparently they finally got a tentative deal done. Yesterday. This has been going on for months but the sparks really started flying earlier this month.

    10. yellow haired female*

      I think it’s fair to pay them less if and ONLY IF they can back it up with proof that in-person workers cover more duties than remote workers.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        And even in that situation, cutting salaries is going to hurt morale. Giving the in-person workers a pay bump would be the way to do that if they don’t want their remote workers to quit.

    11. tangerineRose*

      I think they’re just uncomfortable managing remote employees and don’t feel they can trust people if they can’t see them working.

  2. Alexis Carrington Colby*

    OP#4, I’m sorry you are having to deal with this. Alison has some good advice, but unfortunately I have a very pessimistic view on it. People like Mel exist in 99% of companies, and they use weaponized incompetence to get people to do their jobs for them, while upper management doesn’t care and enables their ineptitude.

    I’ve been where you are, and even after using a similar script as Alison, and my boss STILL put it back on me. What if you just stopped helping her?

    1. CarlDean*

      The problem is that it’s a joint project, so it probably reflects poorly on both of them when it fails. Unless there is a way to carve out distinct roles that management would see as distinct responsibilities (Sue is in charge of llama training and John is in charge of llama grooming – so when the well behaved llamas looks unkempt, it’s clear who is a fault).

      I’ve had this issue before too, and bad managers don’t care, don’t want to deal with it, etc., as long as work is getting done. In my experience, bad managers only see it as a problem when someone leaves and it is then their problem.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        I see what you’re saying, but could OP#4 devise a delegation plan at the start of the project and present that to management? I.e. “I will assign Mel tasks A, B, C and I’ll take D, E and F,” and at certain times throughout the project she can send progress reports. “Tasks D, E, and F are x% complete, and tasks A, B and C are [significantly less than x]%. I delegated the tasks so each of us will take on 50% of the project. Yet she is falling far behind. Do we need to delegate a third person to this project? My plate is full and I can’t fall behind in my own work to compensate for the lack of work Mel is putting in. Please advise how to proceed.”

        And if management still turns a blind eye or forces OP to pick up Mel’s slack? Then perhaps it’s time to dust of the resume? Once OP finds a new job, let’s see how (mis)management handles it when Mel is left with 100% of the tasks? I’ll grab the popcorn.

      2. ferrina*

        Distinct roles is the way to go. Clearly divide the roles, get Mel to sign off on it in an email (so you have documentation), then merrily go about your way. Let Mel’s part fail. If that means that your part is delayed, well, that’s what happens when Mel doesn’t do her job. It’s an organizational issue, not a personal one.

        If your manager sucks, that’s a different issue. A highly avoidant manager will refuse to manage Mel and instead lean on the reasonable person, i.e., you. There is no winning with a terrible manager- best bet is to set boundaries and search elsewhere.

    2. Sandgroper*

      I really like Alison’s response. It’s time to manage this upwards – if the managers don’t know how incompetent Mel is, then Mel gets a free ride, at the OP’s expense. If the managers won’t do anything about it after that then yes, some of your comment is fair, but you have to give management a heads up and chance!

      OP4 I would start documenting and minuting who is doing what, and what is needed to achieve that. Email notes after telephone conversations “Hi Mel, just confirming, as discussed on the phone you’ll do parts 1-5 by Thursday, and I’ll do 6-10. We are meeting again Thursday 3pm to put it together” and then when she fails to deliver you have ‘evidence’. Invite your manager to the Thursday meeting even to have a “meeting check in” and let her know. She might get it all done and not look incompetent… Great! The end goal here is to either get her working of her own accord, or get attention on her lack of work. So if this gets her working you are winning right?

      When she makes errors and you need to fix them… stop. Send it back to her saying “Hi Mel, you were doing 1-5, and I’ve had 1,3 and 4 returned for incomplete data. Can you get on top of that please for Thursday?” And stop saving her butt. If she’s giving incorrect information to stakeholders or customers just send her something that says “Hi Mel, I need you to go back to stakeholders and confirm with them the current policy is quarterly. Please let me know when this is done.” It’s exhausting, but now you have a paper trail.

      When she rings with twenty questions ask her to put them in email, and then answer them back in email. That way information is accurate. Explain you are doing this because there seems to be a problem with remembering information so you want it to be clear.

      And ask your manager to sit in more. Loop your manager in on emails more. Start upward managing your manager to manager her.

      1. Goldie*

        As you manage up, you have to manage your anger with Mel. I’m a manager and often co-worker’s impatience with a struggling staff person’s issues makes it harder for me to get to the root of the issue. If the co-worked seems like they are out to get the other one, it’s hard to know what is actually happening.

        1. EPLawyer*

          It doesn’t seem like a lot of anger just frustration and exhaustion. Plus, the OP can document with tangible things what is going on. Mel said this when its really X. I had to spend Y number of hours correcting a document because it has these errors, which are pretty basic information that can be easily found.

          1. Observer*

            You re right – but that’s kind of the point. The OP needs to not present with anger, and preferably not with overt frustration. Stick to the stuff they can document and the concrete impacts.

            I OP comes across as factual and concrete (eg “Mel repeatedly provides work that is factually incorrect, which means that the Johnson project is going to be delayed to allow me to get all the corrections in, and I’ve had to work x hours overtime to get the Jeffries project done in time for the same reason.”) then a decent boss is going to take that very seriously. But if they come across as “I’m ready to tear my hair out with Mel.” That’s going to come across very differently. And it is going to make it less likely that the boss will take it seriously (especially if the OP is a woman). Even if they do take it seriously, the boss is going to have to figure out how much is legitimate and how much is “BEC”.

        2. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

          I just want to gently point out that if Coworker A has reached the stage of impatience with struggling Coworker B, that might be because all of her previous complaints/issues/raising awareness of fell on deaf ears.

          That’s not always the case, I realize, but I see that a lot in the people in my organization. By the time it rises to the level that directors are aware of it, people are at BEC stage because all their previous complaints and documentation was ignored by middle-level management.

        3. Clobberin’ Time*

          If this is happening “often”, maybe there should be better and more proactive oversight, instead of penalizing employees who are so frustrated with the situation that they can’t report it in as laid back a manner as you prefer.

        4. MurpMaureep*

          This is really good advice and something I wish more staff took to heart.

          While it’s very frustrating working with someone who isn’t pulling their weight and/or actively messing up, it’s also hard for management to take action if all we hear is the frustration and anger. Not saying that’s the case with OP, but generally speaking when raising issues with your boss, having clear and objective documentation of what’s been missed helps so much. Not just “they are bad” or a “B**** Eating Crackers” situation.

          And I know this is hard, but remaining even and professional when interacting with the problem coworker makes it easier for managers to manage their performance. Under performers really love to derail coaching conversations with “well Herbert just doesn’t like me” or “Imogene is always rude when we work together”.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I like weaponized in competence, too. “Hello, we are ready for battle as we are all weaponized in competence.” :-)

          1. ferrina*

            rofl! I’ve met a couple people like that- they had a project to do, they were ready to do it, and it Would. Get. Done. And if you tried to stand in their way, they had the plans, data and infrastructure already ready to take you down. Weaponized competence!

    3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Same story. Last year our manager told us that the bad co-worker would have to stand on their own. A year later and nothing has changed except that we stopped correcting their mistakes. When it finally affects the managers directly, then they might take action.

    4. WillowSunstar*

      I agree. I had a coworker like this for 3 years. The boss wouldn’t get rid of him and I had to find another job, because I was spending over half my time fixing his mistakes. The guy was also from another country and supposedly had a college degree, which was required, but it was a red flag when he told me it was actually a 2-year degree but someone told him it was considered a 4-year degree here. Also, he told me he was allowed to write papers instead of take tests to pass a class, and he got a D in a required class. Uh, no. There’s a reason bachelor’s degrees are more expensive than associate’s degrees, generally.

  3. Gina Linetti*

    This is for LW number 4. I’m not sure when the problems with Mel started. However, if they recently became worse, be aware that there is a national shortage of Adderall right now. Many of us with ADHD are suddenly struggling after years of good work, and I’m scared by how few managers seem to know any this.

    1. Observer*

      If that’s what is going on, Mel needs to talk to her manager AND figure out some way to ameliorate the problems. Because what is being described is just not sustainable for the OP.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreeing that using your immediate coworker as a long term crutch is not sustainable. If this is the problem then Mel needs to go to their Dr and manager and figure out other things they can do during this shortage.

        But it sounds as if this has been a far longer problem than just the medication supply issue has been a problem.

    2. BuildMeUp*

      The commenting rules ask us not to armchair diagnose people. And even if you were right, how does it change the advice to the OP?

      1. Not Always Right*

        I don’t believe this was an armchair diagnosis. I believe Gina was simply stating a fact of an Adderall shortage, and that managers should be aware of that and take it into consideration if they are faced with behavior changes in their team/support members

        1. Observer*

          OK, but what is a manager supposed to do is such a case. ESPECIALLY if the person in question has not even spoken to their manager about how to deal with it?

          And Gina was actually speculating that that’s the issue here, even though she does not use those words.

        2. Six*

          An adderall shortage like any drug shortage is very much the responsibility of the person taking the drug though. (I had trouble getting my atenolol a few years ago which is for blood pressure and such a common, generic drug that its cash price is like 3 cents per pill). It is very much not the responsibility of LW to be like “oh my incompetent coworker maybe ran out of ADHD meds? Guess she’s off the hook for everything then!”

    3. Ellis Bell*

      It’s almost certainly some reason that has nothing to do with OP and is for Mel and Mel’s manager to hash out. The important thing is for OP to stand firm that this is unsustainable, that OP is at the end of their rope already, that no improvement has been seen at all. Once OP’s competence stops veiling the issues with Mel; then whatever Mel needs (whether it’s medical attention or whether it’s simply to leave a job they will not succeed in) will be more visible to her manager since conversations will start to happen. OP may need to let some stuff drop right on to the floor and keep repeating the message: “I can’t do x, because as you know I don’t have help, so I would have to delay y to get it done” or “Mel has done 10 per cent of A, and I needed to redo her work on B so I need to spend the rest of the day on C”.

      1. ferrina*

        Precisely. Same as with any other health issue that affects work- Mel needs to get some reasonable accommodations in place (changing assignments, flexible schedule, etc.). Having a coworker do your job isn’t a reasonable accommodation.

    4. Marvel*

      Ehhh. Not having my adderall might mean a few more mistakes, some spaciness, and slower completion times, sure. But someone else doing 94% of the work? That is decided NOT an unmedicated ADHD problem.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Yeah. It’s just as easy (and probably more plausible) to speculate that due to Mel’s age and MBA that she was one of those early career types that went straight through to grad school from undergrad and didn’t really work anywhere full time in between. Therefore, she’s wildly unprepared for what that actually entails and OP is now unfortunately dealing with the fallout of having a coworker who is over-credentialed and inexperienced.

        1. Fives*

          Is this a thing? Are you considered “one of those early career types” and it’s considered a negative if you go to grad school right after undergrad? I graduated undergrad in Dec (20 years ago), worked retail for 6 months (because I couldn’t start grad school in January) and then went straight to grad school. I haven’t had any issues like Mel.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            You worked, I think that’s different. What I see sometimes is people who go straight to grad school and have zero real experience when they enter the workforce and think their MBA/other degree prepared them better than it did.

            I worked for a couple years before college and then did a combo program to get my MBA in five years and worked the whole time – having work experience, even retail, makes a huge difference. You understand the application of the concepts, expectations of working on a team, the importance of accurate communication. It seems like Mel is missing some of those fundamentals. I think it would be an issue at any stage in their career to make some of the mistakes listed in the letter.

            1. Yoyoyo*

              I’ve seen this too in the field of social work. I always encourage people to work for at least a year in the field before going for their MSW – 1, to develop their skills and 2, to make sure they understand what they’re getting into. I’ve supervised people who went straight through to grad school without working and there is a big difference in their skills.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                “to make sure they understand what they’re getting into”

                That’s the big one. Social work especially, whole different ball game, but I get the impression from the letter Mel was not prepared for the expectations of her role.

              2. The Real Fran Fine*

                I’ve seen it in a lot of different fields and industries (e.g., law, insurance, communications), and most of the higher level people I’ve worked with over the years have always said they try to tell new grads to work first for a couple of years before doing an advanced degree for the same reasons you pointed out. You don’t really know how you’re going to feel about something, or even if you have the aptitude for it, until you’re actually doing the thing for an extended period of time.

            2. Fives*

              I had worked retail since I was 16, so I think it’s more likely that that would have played a part. I don’t think the 6 months between undergrad and grad made that much difference.

          2. ecnaseener*

            Idk if it’s widely considered a negative and I wouldn’t automatically hold it against a job candidate, but I look at my peers who went straight to grad school with no full-time work, and I think how glad I am that that’s not me.

            I think there’s much to be gained from leaving the academia nest if you’ve been in school your entire life, your entire adolescence to date was spent in school and by your early 20s most people are probably better served by getting out of that environment for a bit.
            (Not talking about you specifically since you had those 6 months, and I’m sure it’s not universal anyway.)

          3. KN*

            This is a thing for MBAs specifically, not other graduate programs. In MBA classes it’s common for students to reference their own working experience when contributing in class, and having experience is typically thought to enrich what you’re able to get out of the material. Obviously this varies by class–if you’re taking macroeconomics or statistical programming, it might not matter if you’ve ever worked in an office environment before, but if you’re taking a case-based class on how companies make complex judgement decisions, it’s helpful to have some context for what that kind of decision might look like in real life.

            I went to my MBA program after 3 years working and was on the low end of experience. There *are* some students who join MBA programs directly out of undergrad, or after only a year of experience, and maybe some of them do fine… but yes, I would say in that case many of your classmates and professors will consider your lack of experience a negative. I know my business school tried admitting students straight out of college at one point, and they shut the program down quickly because it wasn’t working out well in most cases.

            Anyhow, going back to my first point: all of this is an MBA thing, not a graduate school thing. Different grad programs have very different norms for experience.

          4. Captain Swan*

            It’s specific to MBA programs really. Most MBA programs want you to have worked before pursuing the MBA, otherwise you have no practical experience to draw from to really benefit from the degree.

            I did an MS in engineering directly after my BS, but when I went back and got my MBA I had 15 years of experience. In fact my MBA program required a dean’s permission to be accepted if you didn’t have at least 4 years or work experience.

        2. OP - LW #4*

          I am LW#4. It is likely her first full time engagement, despite being more formally educated than I am. Which to my point, does that mean that they are trained and mentored as an early talent and given more lee-way…

          1. RC Rascal*

            Is this a job Mel would have been hired for without the MBA degree? Getting into jobs where they are over faced is an issue facing MBAs who get the degree immediately after undergrad.

            This is exactly the reason my Top 20 MBA program stopped accepting applicants straight from undergraduate programs. Too much unhappiness on the other side from both employees & employers.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            We have two levels of employee for a similar job – let’s say entry level and mid-level. If people have and MBA and no experience, they tend to apply for mid-level. But we hire them into the entry level, if they’ll take it, and tell them we’ll consider them for faster progression to the next level if they can pick things up quickly. Work experience is way more important that formal education when it comes to actually doing a job. Not to knock an MBA, I have one too and it definitely helps, but it’s not the same as training and mentoring.

            1. The Real Fran Fine*

              This. This is what smart companies do. To answer your question, OP, about whether or not your company hired her in at the same level as you knowing she had very little practical experience and are now giving her leeway as an early career professional despite her MBA – it’s possible. Obviously, that’s not working out for you and if this is in fact what’s happening, it won’t work out for her long-term career progression either.

          3. lime*

            I also wonder if her program focused a lot on group projects. I just wrapped up a professionally focused master’s program (not MBA) where 90% of the work was group projects. My experience was that students with less real-world work experience tended towards social loafing and contributed very little to the work. They required a lot of micromanagement from the more experienced students just to get anything out of them. Or, the more experienced students just ended up doing all of the work to save themselves the headache. So I wonder if maybe she got through her degree letting others do the work for her and now has unrealistic expectations for how actual on-the-job collaboration works.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think that that is something which it is am anagers responsibility to ‘know’ – it’s surely something which the affected employee would need to riase if they need to ask for a ccommodationsor additional help. I’d go so far as to say it would be a fiarly majpr overstep for a manager to make assumptions about an employees medical status and treatment.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        It seems too like it’s a lot to expect them to know, that there is a shortage of the drug, that it is used to treat ADHD, that some of their employees have ADHD (which seems obvious, but a lot of people know very little about ADHD and think it is something only children have) and how not having access to adderall might affect them employee. I would say it’s a minority of people who know what drugs are used for ADHD, let alone how easily available those drugs are or what impact not taking them could have.

        1. Observer*

          And keep in mind that a LOT of people with ADD don’t use Adderal. Not everyone uses medication and not everyone who uses medication uses this particular medication.

          Which is to say that it would be a huge – and frankly presumptuous – jump for a manager to conclude that their employee is having issues because they have ADD that’s being treated with Adderal.

      2. ferrina*

        Yep. Especially as a lot of people don’t know what ADHD looks like to begin with. Add to that that most ADHD folks won’t disclose in the workplace because there’s still a stigma around it; most of us mask and manage symptoms and don’t make our diagnosis public. So you’ve got masked/managed employees with a condition that most people don’t know about….yeah, most managers won’t and shouldn’t assume that their employee’s behavior struggles have to do with a medication shortage.

    6. inko*

      If managers aren’t personally dealing with ADHD they’re probably not aware – a good one should respond well when it’s brought to their attention, though! But that’s not something LW4 can do anything whatsoever about.

      1. Observer*

        Even people dealing with ADD might not register this. The percentage of people diagnosed with ADD who take Adderall is significant, but not close to the majority. It’s not even the majority of people who currently take medication.

        Of course a good boss will work with someone who has this issue and brings it to them to work on some coping strategies. But that is TOTALLY out of the OP’s purview, and it’s not reasonable or realistic for @Gina to imply that it’s something the OP needs to proactively consider.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Also a great point. I don’t take medication for my ADHD at this stage, but people know I have it. I wouldn’t want to be lumped in with the speculation that ADHD = unmedicated and frantic right now. It’s definitely happening but it’s not ubiquitous and not an employer’s place to decide.

    7. I should really pick a name*

      It’s not a manager’s job to predict what issues an employee is currently experiencing.
      It’s their job to explain what behaviours need to change and leave room for the employee to explain any factors causing the behaviours (and request accommodations) if they so choose.

      Basically, the manager should not go into the situation with the mindset “this employee is a bad person”, but they also should not go in asking things like “are you suffering from X or Y”.
      The approach should be “this behaviour is causing an issue, what can be done to correct it, and is there anything I can do to help make that happen”.

      (and in this case, the LW isn’t even the employee’s manager, so it’s really just a case of telling their own manager about the challenges their facing with this other employee).

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Nod. Most managers are well ..not clued into the majority of issues (even extremely common ones) but still OPs best bet is to well…ask a manager

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        No, they’re not. The comment either breaks this site’s commenting rules, or comes close to it, and people are rightfully saying that. Further, it is irrelevant to the answer. There could be dozens of legitimate health reasons as to Mel’s work, but none of them would matter.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        No, they’re addressing the issue with which the OP wrote in.

        One, we’re asked not to armchair diagnose. Two, Mel should not have to disclose to the OP if she has ADHD. But whatever is going on, ADHD or not, is causing big problems for the OP and that needs to be addressed even if Mel’s concerns are legitimate and sympathetic. But Mel has to be the one to start that ball rolling and right now, she’s not, and it’s not OK to just let your coworkers do/finish your work for you even if you have understandable reasons for needing help.

      3. ecnaseener*

        It’s not hostile to say that people with ADHD (hi, I am one!) need to be responsible for managing our own symptoms at work and asking for specific help if we need it. If we’re only doing 10% of our work that’s beyond a reasonable accommodation for ADHD.

        We’re not children and we’re not incompetent, we don’t need (most of us very much don’t WANT) coworkers to be wondering if we’re off our meds and if so what they can do about that.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes thank you. This site goes straight to ADHD a lot, and while I love the awareness it tends to veer towards “people with ADHD are incapable of meeting expectations or managing their own symptoms” and that’s really not cool. Please don’t infantilize us.

        2. ferrina*

          +1 from another ADHD person. Well said.

          ADHD symptom management can be really tricky for most of us, even without factoring in a medication shortage. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t responsible for our own lives. We just have different barriers and strengths in that regard, and we need different strategies. Finding the strategy is a maze of trial and error, but that doesn’t mean that we’re helpless dolts until we’re magically managed! I may struggle with repetition, but I am amazing at problem solving. I suck at consistency, but when there is a work emergency (or any emergency), I’m amazing because my brain was already going a mile-a-minute and thinking about 6 different things, and now the world just caught up to me.

          Honestly, I’m more likely to be the person picking up the slack, because the extra work feeds my ADHD stimulation needs. And on the days when I’m struggling, that’s my struggle. Not that I don’t appreciate support, but there’s a difference between support and routinely handing off my work to my coworkers.

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And even if the severity of the employee’s ADHD rises to needing an accommodation under ADA, that still limits it to reasonable levels – and I sincerely doubt having your coworker do the majority of your role in addition to their own would pass the reasonable test.

      5. inko*

        I don’t see that, honestly. It’s terrible that people can’t reliably access the medication they need to function, and I get the fear of visibly struggling. I do. I am medicated for something that otherwise effs up my functioning too. But it’s not realistic to think that managers, even ones who are aware of an employee’s condition, are going to be monitoring things like this and understand the impact it might have without being told.

        A good manager should always keep in mind that anyone’s poor performance MIGHT be due to a health issue or other personal circumstance. They should make it as safe and easy as possible to disclose a need for accommodation. They can’t go around assuming that a given employee is off their meds, and they can’t let that employee drop 90% of their work on colleagues indefinitely without some sort of plan.

        1. inko*

          (And LW is not even the manager in this case, so this whole side-thread is really not actionable advice for them!)

      6. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I have ADHD and I don’t think any of these comments are hostile. All people seem to be saying is A) we don’t know if Mel even has ADHD, B) if she does and she’s being impacted by the shortage, it’s her responsibility to let her managers know and come up with an accommodation that will work until she gets meds again, it’s not her manager or coworkers’ responsibility to guess it and make pre-emotive accommodations, and C) it doesn’t actually change what OP is able to do so it doesn’t have an impact on the advice.

      7. Observer*

        The responses to this comment are pretty hostile to people with ADHD.

        Not at all. To the extent that there is any hostility – which I’m not really seeing, tbs – it’s at the notion that the OP (and managers in general) need to proactively assume that untreated ADD is the issue and therefore the behavior needs to be accommodated without any real discussion. That’s not what @Gina explicitly says but that is the clear implication.

      8. Roland*

        If anyone is “hostile” it’s to the implication that OP as a coworker meeds to somehow change their next step (tell manager this is not sustainable) because there’s a technically-nonzero chance Mel has ADHD and is takes a particular drug for it that is under shortage. No one has explained yet how, exactly, OP should change their behavior due to this supposition, so it’s a derail that’s against the site rules. “Your comment is unhelpful and that’s between Mel and her boss” is not a statement on people with ADHD. If anything here is harmimg ADHD folks it’s the assumption that “this person is underperforming, maybe they have ADHD”.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Wait, you would *want* a manager to

      a) know what prescriptions you might be taking,
      b) track your medications, and
      c) speculate about whether you were “off your meds” based on changes in your performance?

      That would really be a nightmare.

      An employee’s medical info is none of the manager’s business. And even if they were aware of a shortage (which has been all over the news) they should pretend like they aren’t unless the employee brings it up themselves.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        +1. I am on a lot of meds, I talk about it sometimes because I like to destigmatize but I definitely don’t want anyone speculating about my medical situation. If they have questions I’ll answer them, if I have needs I’ll voice them. Beyond that it’s personal.

    9. OP - LW #4*

      Hi Gina, I am LW #4. Performance has been unsteady for the full year. Not aware of any medical diagnosis.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        A year is a long time. I give six months grace with new hires, but you’re into “this isn’t working out” territory.

    10. The Other Dawn*

      How would “most managers” know there’s an Adderall shortage unless they themselves (or a friend or family member have ADHD, or an employee has ADHD AND has disclosed both the diagnosis and the med shortage?

      1. The Other Dawn*

        If it’s in the news and they’re following it, then they’d know of a shortage, but unless they know an employee has ADHD and the employee has said they’re affected by this shortage, a manager isn’t going to tie poor performance to a national med shortgage.

    11. EUXlead007*

      How would you expect a manager to be up to speed on this shortage? There are shortages on everything right now and most of us hold on to info that impacts us directly. I haven’t heard about this shortage so appreciate the awareness but you shouldn’t expect a manager to connect this dot.

    12. Lyra Silvertongue*

      Okay but you cannot just assume someone’s health needs in the workplace if they haven’t brought them to you. That is problematic at best.

    13. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Why would I know about a drug shortage that doesn’t affect me or anyone I know? My husband has ADD, but takes ritalin, so I didn’t know about this shortage either.

      If you specifically have a problem, you specifically should talk to your own manager about it. What is there to be “scared” about? It sounds more like you don’t want to have to speak up, but you want them to somehow intuit the problem.

  4. ENFP in Texas*

    #1 – since remote employees don’t incur real estate costs, it really sucks that the company would want to cut their pay. Remote workers are already “saving the company money”.

    1. Allonge*

      Maybe – but this particular company seems to want to incentivise on-site work, so that is less relevant now.

      And for the costs – a company who needs X people to function and is primarily on-site cannot really allow itself to look for offices that have less than X space solely based on* ‘Suzanne & Mario moved to [state]’. Suzanne could win the lottery next week and resign, and then where will her replacement sit?

      *Obviously they can do this if e.g. they do WFH part-time and hot-desk but that is a systemic thing.

    2. Sandgroper*

      Not necessarily. A few days ago / last week? There was a question about moving interstate and overseas and a lot of discussion about the impact on payroll and tax environments. If people are living in different tax jurisdictions or under different employment condition laws then the costs for companies can really jump.

      1. LabTechNoMore*

        Sure it can be significant, but when compare this to the cost of rent, utilities, facilities of the physical officespace.

        1. linger*

          In one case cited in that thread, a single worker in NY would incur an extra tax/admin cost of $3M — orders of magnitude larger than the worker’s total salary. So, not just significant, but an absolute deal breaker for the company.

          1. JM60*

            But the employer in #1 wouldn’t be incurring that overhead by allowing existing employees to remain remote. If they already have at least 1 employee working in New York, they’re already facing that overhead.

            Letting employees remain remote (without pay cuts) is a separate issue from letting employees work fom a jurisdiction that you don’t already have a nexus.

            1. linger*

              The relevant part of the current letter is that some employees moved to other more distant locations while working from home, potentially creating nexus in new regions that the company would not have previously had to cover. But true, the OP doesn’t tell us (and possibly doesn’t know) whether that actually occurred in this case. And agreed, the correct response from the company shouldn’t be to reduce pay of all remote workers.

            2. Sandgroper*

              It’s not simply a matter of there being a person in NY and thus there’s already a pay office option though. Different job roles have different conditions of employment, and there’s sometimes arrangements that are temporary in nature (even if they run a year or 18mths) that have specific legal concessions. A person there on assignment for a year, set up in a mid term accommodation, is different to a person who moved their permanently.

              Sometimes the ‘nexus’ can simply be down to payroll amount, head count, number of hours worked, size of office space, number of work locations (ie the one person working from home becomes two, suddenly you have ‘two registered places of business’).

              It’s possible it’s as simple as you say, but it’s also entirely possible it’s not.

              *note: I am not American, but similar issues can exist in Australia

        2. southernfried*

          For most workplaces, these are fixed costs and don’t really change. The utilities are on whether there are 10 employees or 100 employees in the building. Unless the company downsizes its physical plant, rent doesn’t change. (and many companies own their facilities).

          The math/math argument isn’t a winning one. The larger picture is that salaries are set based on the skills, aptitudes, and training needed to do the job, and those don’t change whether you do the job in the corporate office or in your spare bedroom.

          Companies are focusing on the wrong side of the equity equation. Deal with the equity issues by giving onsite workers some additional time off. That’s the big thing I hear at my job–that a remote worker doesn’t have to take time off to wait for the plumber or to wait for a delivery, but an onsite worker has to. If you give onsite workers some extra paid time off for these types of errands, that would be a better solution.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            The utilities thing isn’t quite true. A building with motion activated lights doesn’t light areas with no one in them. Unless the remote employee has a physical computer under their desk, plus a monitor that’s on, the power draw for their workstation isn’t there. HVAC air changes plus heating and cooling are often controlled according to demand, and zone control can let them shut down unused areas.

            Plus with fewer workers in office there is less cleaning required, less TP used, less break room mess.

            The fact is that places who disincentive remote work are putting some nebulous theory about “collaboration” to the test at a definite cost. Because the remote people won’t come back to an office, they’ll quit and go work for a competitor.

            Also, with long Covid people who used to commute, but ended up with long Covid, now don’t have the energy to. If you demand they come in to an office they have tolet you fire them.

            1. Sandgroper*

              There’s minimum costs for running a floor.

              Rent. Security lighting. Security guards and swipe cards. Office furniture layout costs. Rubbish and cleaning and plant hire. Toilet cleaning. This doesn’t dramatically change if a few less people are there or not. While you can take the whole cost of operating an office and divide it by the number of staff and come up with a “cost per head” it’s not actually reflective, because if you take one staff member away virtually NONE of those costs would evaporate. A little less toilet paper and one less computer running isn’t making dramatic changes to budget, and not even reducing the cleaning, security, carpet maintenance and lighting costs for a space. Less break room mess doesn’t equate to dramatically freed up cleaning time, unless the number of people on the floor halves (and no professional workplace should have more than a 15minute cleaner / day in there tops – and that includes floors, benches, tables and fridges – are we not adults? Can we not wash our cups?! Why pay a cleaner to wash cups?!!).

              You might be able to (if you have a LOT of staff working remotely – 20% or 40%) reduce occupancy across areas, and once the lease on a premises is finished hand it back to a landlord, but while the lease exists the costs exist. And then you have the cost of moving staff closer to each other, at a time when everyone wants to spread out. New rules in many places in the world have changed how densely you can pack staff in now too, so accommodation costs have actually gone up.

      2. JM60*

        The employees in #1 are already remote, so existing employees staying remote wouldn’t incure all the overhead of establishing a nexus in a new stare.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Which raises an interesting question — what does it take for a company to close/end a nexus?
          (It’s admittedly a sidetrack here, just my curiosity.)

          1. cosmicgorilla*

            Wonder if Allison could have someone guest-post about the process necessary and range of costs. Could be interesting.

        2. Observer*

          Yes, but it could be an extensive ongoing cost.

          I don’t think that the company is handling things well, but we simply don’t have enough information to know what the actual net cost is for the company.

          1. JM60*

            It wouldn’t be an ongoing cost if they limited the states they allowed remote employees to live to states where they would have a nexus in regardless. If the company is located in California for instance, it wouldn’t cost them anything to say, “You can keep working remotely, but one of the conditions is that you do so from California (or another state on the approved list that they would have a nexus to regardless).”

            The issue of “Should we force people to come into the office” is different from, “Which states would we allow people to work remotely from (if we allow remote work).”

            1. Observer*

              The point is that from what the OP says, even with their added comments, it’s not clear what the net cost overall is (with the exception of staff retention, which Boss seems oblivious to.)

              1. JM60*

                What alias is the OP posting under?

                Suggestion: Perhaps it would be a good idea to make a rule standardize what alias someone uses in the comments if they wish to reveal that they’re the OP. Perhaps OP1/OP2/etc or LW1/LW2/etc. It would be nice so that people could search for their comments before reading all ~300 comments.

        3. Pinto*

          No, but it does continue it. Insurance premiums, tax and reporting obligations are ongoing costs that the employer may no longer be willing or able to absorb.

          1. Rain's Small Hands*

            I also suspect, but don’t know, that in 2020 and 2021 a lot of states were “overlooking” that you had employees working in their state – and they themselves are now just starting to catch up on “wait – Sally files taxes in Alabama as a resident and says she works for ACME….we don’t see any state filings for ACME here?????” Companies may now be seeing letters from state tax authorities for events that happened two years ago and just now waking up to an employee that has moved states and what that means.

            (I love getting notices from Revenue – they are always so timely. Three years ago you mistyped a SSN and now we need you to correct it and refile.)

    3. Mockingjay*

      I’m speculating here, but from my own experience I think cost savings is hiding the real issue: this company doesn’t want to manage remote employees. Cutting salary is a way to “encourage” people to come into the office. (It’s a terrible way.) Managing a remote team does take more effort and a high degree of trust between manager and employees. Not all companies have that.

      I’m part of a 90% remote team. We have an excellent supervisor and Grandboss, but we have to continually demonstrate our effectiveness and responsiveness to customer requests, ensure on-time deliverables, and prove our whereabouts (the dreaded Teams monitoring for “presence”). The key for us is that Grandboss spent nearly 3 years putting together a solid team; we all mesh very well and can work as a unit or independently, depending on the contract needs. Also our managers spend a lot more time coordinating tasks and compiling metrics to show our effectiveness.

      I’d say the paycut is indicative of how OP1’s company thinks of its employees: they hire to fit the role, but aren’t invested in long-term retention strategies and view employees in the office as an easy way to reduce management workload. Individually, these factors probably aren’t deal breakers; collectively it’s a Hmmm, do I really want to work here? The answer is up to OP1.

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      The expression “you can’t reason someone out of an opinion they didn’t reason themself into” comes to mind here. The employer isn’t trying to rationally solve a problem. They already know the outcome they want (people working in person) and they don’t particularly care if it’s the most efficient or cost effective way to run their business. It’s what they want. They think cutting remote salaries will get people to either come back to the office or quit their jobs, and either way they get what they want. This isn’t a situation where staff can use logic and reason to convince the bosses, because the decision wasn’t made with logic and reason in the first place.

      1. Allonge*

        “they don’t particularly care if it’s the most efficient or cost effective way to run their business”

        We don’t actually know this. Also, there are considersations other than ‘cost-effective regarding rent and utilities’ for a business.

        But totally agree that it’s not something you can reason management out of, and it’s a waste of energy to try beyond a certain point.

    5. Observer*

      since remote employees don’t incur real estate costs, it really sucks that the company would want to cut their pay. Remote workers are already “saving the company money”.

      I think that comments like this are EXTREMELY unhelpful to the OP. We really don’t know why the company is doing this. And we don’t actually know whether the whole WFH thing is actually saving money for the company, even IF (and it’s not even a certainty) they are saving money on real estate.

    6. Pinto*

      Depending on the company that could be a fallacy. Especially if their new remote location is in a state the company otherwise does not do business. They could in fact cost much moreover than an in office employee.

  5. Sandgroper*

    OP2, without knowing your gender, I’ll make a couple of suggestions. It sounds like you’ll be in snow yes?
    Feminine dress:
    A nice mid length coat, over tights, low heels (or sensible shoes if it’s snowy) and a dress in a plain simple design and colour. Stick to dark colours and simple luxe fabrics (avoid lace for example)

    A nice mid to long coat, well fitted trousers and a tucked in blouse without ‘bling’ or ‘glitter’, with some light jewellery (earrings, bangles, maybe a necklace – pick two of these, not all three) Avoid bright colours except maybe in your jewellery.

    A long skirt, blouse, long length coat, smart well polished long boots and tights, and go for a more put together ‘boho’ intentional look. Natural colours.

    For a masculine dress: fitted tailored trousers, button down shirt in a neutral pale colour (not white unless the trousers are black), and quality shoes/low heeled polished ‘business’ boots (RM Williams ‘riding boot’ or similar), with a good coat and sports blazer. (Wear a check, striped or plain shirt in blue, pink or paisley fun that’s tailored to your body. Make sure it fits well. Avoid black, maroon and navy in the shirt unless you are going for a very modern particularly sharp look.). Wear a belt, it’s a subtle thing but shows you are comfortable in formal wear. Socks are dark. Skip the tie unless you are wearing a blazer. Skip the tie if you are in a sports jacket and have unbuttoned your collar and rolled your sleeves.

    You might swing chinos, and a polo shirt, if the event is somewhere that does casual, but I really think it’s time to brush off a suit (trousers at least) if you are a male.

    Enjoy meeting your colleagues!

    1. Goldie*

      Tights and heals?!?!? Avoid lace and bling? This sounds like fashion advice from the 80’s.

      My advise, yes you are expected to dress up more than a tshirt and sweats. Wear your interview clothes or something similar. Or don’t because people Don care that much anymore.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        People don’t care any more? That’s in every industry, including law? In every location? It’s a big world for such bold statements. Oh and sandgroper was simply specifying “low heels or sensible shoes” for the snow as opposed to high heels. Tights are, amusingly enough, still on sale in this century and they don’t have to be nylons with the seam; a lot are indistinguishable from leggings now and are made in fabrics which make a validly warm option in cold weather.

      2. Roland*

        Are tights passé or something? Feel free to go bare-legged in the cold or wear leggings under your nice dress because everyone should do what they’re comfortable with, but tights are super normal when you’re dressing up with no pants in cold weather. In general this comment was providing some basic safe outfits, not telling you readers how to trend on insta.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I’m wearing tights right now as I write (and I’m at home today). What else am I going to wear under skirts and dresses when it’s cold?

          I wear mostly dark opaque tights, not the transparent thin ones that don’t keep warm, look old fashioned, and snag if I so much as look at them sharply. The opaque ones are a bit more casual, but should be fine for anything short of formalwear.

          If one cannot solve the tights conundrum (too casual or too passé), the only option in winter is trousers (possibly with unseen tights underneath).

        2. BubbleTea*

          I wear tights every single day unless it’s 25°c outside. (SnagTights are AMAZING if anyone wants comfortable, good quality tights in a huge range of colours and sizes). They’re suitable for all kinds of situations. I don’t know why anyone would consider them passe!

            1. UKgreen*

              +2 for Snag. The ONLY black 80 deniers I’ve found that don’t a) bobble, b) ladder or c) turn a slightly dingy grey in the wash.

              (Plus the bright colours they sell are AWESOME)

              1. JustaTech*

                +3 for Snag. They’re quite durable and if you do manage to put a finger through them (don’t put on tights when you’re mad), they’re also sturdy enough to mend and keep wearing – they’ve even got an instructional video on how to do it!

          1. Caaan Do!*

            I’d not heard of Snag before and I’m so glad I read this comment thread! Bright colours, plus sizes and skirts with pockets? Yes please!

          2. Not my usual name*

            Currently wearing Snag footless tights in Passionfruit, and they are definitely not old fashioned.

            I think though there’s a cultural difference in legwear between the UK and US though? Tights here are increasingly a fashion thing, with Snag, Better, Popsy and the like.

          3. Yoyoyo*

            I got a pair of snag tight shorts for under a dress this summer and it was one of the best purchases I’ve made! Attended a formal outdoor wedding in 95 degree heat and those babies saved me from sweat and chafed thighs. And I love the inclusive sizing!

          4. Delta Delta*

            I’ve wondered about Snag. I’m a big fan of tights in the winter, and if theirs are good I’d definitely give them a try.

        3. Joielle*

          Yeah, tights are super super normal in cold climates! Personally, I’d wear a pencil skirt with black tights and black booties with wedge heel, and a festive sweater. Or could do a plain sweater and cute scarf.

        4. yellow haired female*

          I wear tights all the time! I actually find cozy fleece-lined tights and a skirt to be more comfortable than pants. I just ordered some that have skin-toned fleece beneath a sheer tight that I hope will work for me when they come in, but I also love opaque tights.

          I didn’t know people considered tights to be so “1980s!” They’re definitely a winter staple in my life.

      3. Amy*

        I went to a party on Friday in the NYC area in tights and heels. It was a completely normal winter party look. I’m not going bare-legged this time of year as temps go below freezing.

      4. Gray Lady*

        How is “avoid lace and bling” specifically 80s?

        Lace means more than a prairie dress with a big lace collar — when I hear “avoid lace” in the context of a Christmas party, I assume the meaning is to avoid one of those little lace dresses which could be overly fancy. Bling is just showy jewelry, so I assume it means “tone down the jewelry.”

        1. Smithy*

          I would also say that “bling” might be in reference to sequin cocktail dresses. A few years ago that might sound far more 80’s/90’s in style advice, but I think after COVID, I’m seeing a lot of brands/stores that I don’t normally associate as being “bling” having complete sequin shorter dresses in their partywear offerings. Anthropologie and Cos in particular immediately come to mind as places I wouldn’t associate with that style but have them this year.

          Now they’re on trend and no one would show up at their office party looking like Vanna White circa 1992 – but for an office where you’ve never been to the holiday party and only worked remote. I’d be hesitant in recommending any of those dresses until you were more familiar with the overall style. But then I’ve also worked at offices, where wearing this to the office party with dark tights would be cute and fun but not wild. (

          1. Sandgroper*

            Bling was in reference to dressing like a disco ball. Or that you are a show girl from the Moulin Rouge.

            If you can be mistaken for a disco ball you need to do a CoCo Chanel and take something off!

            (All over sequin tops, liquid latex metallic clothing, silver leather and anything from a Victoria’s Secret catalogue?)

            Wearing a few accent pieces of jewellery? Fine.

      5. learnedthehardway*

        I think the advice is specific to conservative law firm offices – and for that reason, probably correct.

      6. Oxford Comma*

        The LW is at a law firm. They are a lot more conservative fashion wise than most other industries. They’re going to care there.

        Also, it’s like 21F here. What else do I wear with my skirt? Most people in this area wear tights in the winter.

      7. Mid*

        I’m in my mid-20s and work in the legal industry. I don’t think this advice is outdated or anything. It’s solid advice for when you’re in a conservative field, and don’t know what the dress code will be like. This is a time when you probably don’t want to stand out. Once you’ve been to a holiday party for this company and know how people dress, you can be more adventurous. But if this is your first time meeting people in person, and it’s for a party, this is a good guide. It’s a guideline to dress business party neutral. Wearing something that won’t stand out and won’t look out of place no matter what the party vibe is.

        Also tights are great, it’s winter for North America.

      8. JustaTech*

        I feel like this is a conversation we’ve had here before, where “tights” means different things in different parts of the world.

        In the US “tights” are opaque and thick (not quite socks, but not sheer), and often in colors that are not intended to mimic skin tones, where “nylons” or “hose” or “pantyhose” are very thin, sheer, and often (but not always) intended to mimic skin tones.

        You’re right that nylons/hose were standard office wear in the 80’s and early 90’s (I remember the display of L’eggs at the grocery store).
        Tights are more about keeping warm, and used to be worn mostly by children, but have become a normal part of adult clothing as well.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          Absolutely positively normal in colder climates during winter months if you wear a skirt. No one is running around bare legged in January in Chicago. Granted, pants are what is mostly worn by women now, but if you want to wear a dress in Winter, you pull out the tights.

    2. Laure001*

      Wonderful advice, Sandgroper. And I agree that rightly or, wrongly, lace and bling just instantly take the outfit one step down the social class ladder. A beautiful black fitted top, classy. A beautiful black fitted top with lace… Instantly a little more trashy. It’s wrong, it’s an absurd, mysoginistic code, but here we are.

      Unless you’re totally owning the lace and the bling and wearing a ton of it and then you go in punk / steampunk territory and suddenly it’s awesome. :)

      1. MK*

        I am baffled by these comments about lace. Where I live, lace isn’t common for professional wear because it is considered a bit formal/fancy, more like what you would wear to a wedding than a workplace social event. Also, a bit matronly? It’s the most popular MOB/G choice, I think.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I thnk it depends hugely on the type of lace and the outfit – a good quality lacy collar, for instnace, can make a dress look more dressy and formal and wouldn’t look trashy at all. On the other hand, something that has lace over a sheer fabric or has lace sleeves over a sleeveless opaque bodice, for instance, might present rather differently. (also depends on the quality of the lace!)

            1. Bagpuss*

              I said *might* present differently, not would. It’s hugely dependent on the specifc garment and on the quality of the lace

              ( I think Kate Middleton’s dress would definitely be over the top for an offie party, though! )

              1. Kim*

                I know it was a typo but I would LOVE nothing more than to refer to office parties as ‘offie party’ from now on <3

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              If you struggle to figure out what looks business appropriate and also festive and also serious and also dressy but also not too dressy, “avoid lace, avoid bling” is sound advice. If you’re excellent at gauging the intersection of fashion and your office, you can wear a lace dress. But those people don’t tend to write/look for advice on what to wear, because they are already confident that they nailed it.

              I like the summary of adding more and more lace until suddenly you turn a corner into steam punk.

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                ….does that mean I should tone it down and wear fewer than 5 brass gears to the office party? And my more understated goggles?

                1. All Het Up About It*

                  The more ornate goggles are fine as long as you are also wearing your top hat.

                  Go with the understated if you have chosen one of your gear fascinators with veil.

            3. T*

              Not in context. But wearing it to a dinner with colleagues, yes, that would read as trashy. Women’s fashion is very context-dependent.

            4. Sandgroper*

              Wedding dresses are an exception. Lace is expected. Royal weddings it’s a given.

              But wearing a lace cocktail dress which has cut outs and deep cleavage covered by lace, or a medieval style flowing lace dress with Morticia sleeves… or wearing cheap black polyester lace shift dress (lined of course!, but still blatently cheap, where the lace pattern isn’t pieced properly at the seams and the shine on the polyester is real, and you probably shouldn’t wear it near open flames…)… all are high risk choices for a first time at work appearance.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I agree with you. Feminine dress not only has a casual – formal axis, but also a business – private axis. While one can wear the same suit to a wedding and a courtroom (different accessories probably), one cannot* wear the same dress. That’s why lace reads weirdly in a business context unless it is very subtle. It’s coded private, not business. Getting the distinction wrong is probably what some read as lower class. Though I do think a work party is a place where those distinctions can be relaxed. No full on sexy bling, but a sequin detail will read as festive and be fine.

          *cannot is a strong word. And one can probably wear a business dress to a wedding just fine, while wearing a cocktail dress to court will be frowned upon. Most of this stuff is about performing sexuality. Women are expected to be more covered and demure in business contexts, and more sexy in private fancy settings. It’s all bullshit obviously, but this is a post about playing the fashion game, not upending the patriarchy (though if you want to upend the patriarchy with lace and bling, I fully support that).

          1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

            This is the unexpected feminist fashion content I didn’t even know I needed on a Monday morning. Also very glad for the tights suggestions, as it’s been below freezing for a week here and I was actually just wondering what to wear to my husband’s work party, too! (Thankfully we are driving but after two years of pandemic, I have no fancy outfits left and need to rebuild).

          2. BethDH*

            +1. You can absolutely break these patterns but it does all of us a service to know what they are. The people who get accidentally caught by this are often ones who are already hurt in the workplace by not having access to the “everyone knows” rules.
            And yeah, I see lace and sequins at very fancy workplace events, but only the kind where you’d wear cocktail attire. A small amount of “bling” can work in this context but you have to be able to judge that really finely or you’ll stand out.

          3. Irish Teacher*

            I get the impression there an element of classism as well as misogyny, but yeah, I agree with BethDH that not knowing the rules gets people who are often already disadvantaged, further disadvantaged.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Yes, definitely also classism! The more secure one is in one’s class and gender presentation, the more one can afford to break the rules (very rich people are just eccentric, never dressed wrong). And make no mistake, there are secret class signifier fashion rules for men too (how many buttons are buttoned, what’s the length of the trouser hem, what tie to wear…). The above is just one way it plays out for women.

              1. Smithy*

                The classism part here is so real. When talking about lace or sequins, the issue of “quality” aka how expensive matters so much.

                First, it literally aligns with what is and is not currently in style. Even if you’re shopping at Macy’s or Banana Republic vs more expensive designers – being able to buy those designs when they’re first in style or just on the pages of “just seen on” means not having to wait for sales. And for basics that’s not so much of an issue – but for sequins/lace it really is.

                Then after the whole issue of whether big vs small sequins or the style/color of lace is addressed – then you have the dynamic of quality. Sequins at risk of falling off or where they have fallen off leaving noticeable holes – how the lace is made and applied, etc etc etc. All of this is just far more complicated than whether a man should wear a dark colored double breasted suit provided it fits well.

              2. yellow haired female*

                Yes, the classism is so real. I honestly really like how the internet is making these “rules” accessible to a wider audience.

                I follow an “etiquette expert” (Myka Meier) on Instagram, and she often posts about how to behave in a formal dining setting. She often has comments blasting her, like “ugh, who cares, just eat how you want!”

                But the point she always makes is–yes, eat how you want at home and at a casual restaurant, but if you find yourself in a formal setting, knowing (and having practiced) these “rules” can help you not stick out.

                Granted, you aren’t going to fool anyone into thinking you were born into the 1% most likely, because all they have to do is ask who your dad is, lol. But still, you can at least try to blend in and not draw attention to yourself.

                1. Emmy Noether*

                  The worst part of it is the most telling signifier of class is not knowing this or that rule, but seeming effortless and comfortable about the whole thing. If you concentrate too hard about which spoon to use, or fidget with your tie all the time, that’s a clear tell also.

                  My parents spent literal years teaching me how to hold a fork juuuuust so. It is now automatic for me. (However, I am unmasked when I cannot hold a conversation about golf or tennis to save my life. My parents had more education than actual money).

                2. Sandgroper*

                  Trust me… the people of each class can tell where you fit.

                  OP4 is going to a semi formal, work event, in a conservative industry where I assume people earn Good Money.

                  They can tell if you fit or not by how you dress. What kind of lace you have tells something, how much of it is, and where it is. If you are writing to an international advice column about what to wear then you are probably not really confident in the lace decision… Lace can do some very weird/explicit things to the ‘class’, ‘sexy’ and ‘maturity’ levels of outfits, so lace can be wonderful, but is a bit of a minefield if you aren’t sure what room you are walking into.

                  I originally suggested simple, straight forward clothes, that if they fit well and are made out of simple fabrics can be hard to tell exactly how much they cost and won’t raise eyebrows. They are hard to ‘get wrong’ and will quietly slip in to the background of the crowd (which is what the OP seemed to want).

                  Bling? I meant sequinned tops. Beaded gowns. Anything attacked with a Bedazzler. If it looks like it has glued on rhinestones it’s probably not suitable for a conservative industry Christmas do, at least not one you are trying to quietly slip in and meet people for the first time. Of course there’s exceptions to this rule! Some people have amazing ability to ROCK this look and do it loud and proud, they don’t give a damn about whether they are noticed… but the OP asked how to fit in, not stand out, so I gave them that. A lot of people might think it’s ok to wear something sequinned or with liquid metallic on it etc – it can be! – but you have to be able to really carry it the first time you walk into a room, and I don’t get the impression the OP is that sort of person/ality.

                  Back to class? When you know how different groups communicate non verbally – everything from the way they say different words to how they dress, walk and greet each other. The way they solve conflicts and how they make small talk. Then you can fit in with them. The OP is nervous about meeting their colleagues in real life for the first time, and wants to make a good impression. Understanding a little more about their social class and habits means they can feel more confident as they approach them in small talk. It sounds like the OP is aware of the impact of getting this wrong. A person from a high net worth social class wandering into a labourers lunch room is going to be derided and heckled (possibly) as much as a low class person walking into a wealthy restaurant might be (although the wealthy aren’t likely to vocally heckle, they’ll sigh, move away, ostracise, ignore and ask for other people to be removed by the wait staff/management very discreetly/quietly).

                  Yes it’s really obvious. I can tell a hand beaded blouse vs a mass produced Chinese sweat factory one at 10 metres. Easily. So can others in the room. No one should care, but it sounds like the OP does, so simple and discreet is the wealthy class way. If all else fails dress like Catherine Middleton (Princess of Wales) as an indicator of how to wear low cost “high street” – it’s all nicely cut, not flashing skin, simple/elegant and in either simple colours or pretty non demanding prints.

          4. yellow haired female*

            Okay, now I want to start a fashion blog with the byline “upending the patriarchy with lace and bling.”

        3. Gray Lady*

          When I see lace in this context, I’m not thinking matronly, I’m thinking little sheer (but lined) lace dress that someone might wear to a fancy party. But since OP doesn’t know the level of fancy here, it would be too much even if it were stylish and holiday party-appropriate in another setting.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Conversely I’d say that if it’s an evening do (rather than lunchtime), then lace and bling is exactly what you need to make it cocktail wear rather than businesswear.

      3. Purple Cat*

        What in the world? Lace is trashy?!? I just got a lovely little black dress – with lace for a CPA firm holiday party.

        1. That'sNotMyName*

          Agreed. Giving fashion advice in a few generalized sentences without pictures isn’t going to be helpful. Especially if we don’t know anything about OP, where they live, what kind of restaurant they’re going too…

          The “bling” part was very confusing. As in, no jewelry at all? Or avoid a dress made of sequins? Winter parties are generally the time when people break out a little extra sparkle. The description above reads as rather funereal to me, but the person who wrote it might have been picturing something very different.

          I’m writing this as a former attorney and cater waiter, who has attended a variety of holiday parties for sartorially conservative professions.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          You’re fine. I have an LBD with lace that will get me by in the most straight lace (lol) environments possible. It’s truly as formal and demure as you can possibly get, shaped like a shift dress with the lace (and a satin strip at the waist) the perfectly teensy nod to the idea of evening wear. I bought it knowing what I was doing, and it sounds like you bought yours with confidence too. Plus your celebration is a “party”! Totally the time for good quality lace if it’s an actual party. However if someone seems really not confident, are possibly not even dressing for the evening, might still be shopping in stores coded “very young person having fun before getting a career”, then lace is probably a good thing to swerve, as it is likely to be more netty, more patterned, and have cold shoulder details and be cropped etc. Same deal with blingy tops.

      4. Polly Hedron*

        Unless you’re totally owning the lace and the bling and wearing a ton of it and then you go in punk / steampunk territory and suddenly it’s awesome

        not awesome in a law firm {:(

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          It would have been at the law firm I used to work for. Not all firms are white shoe firms anymore.

    3. Bagpuss*

      OP’, I would suggest something a bit smarter than office wear – maybe a dress with tights and nice shoes, simialr to what you might wear to the office of you were likely to be meeting clients, but then dress it up a little with a statement piece of jewellery or a wrap – if you look for images of office-to-evening wear it might be useful.

      I thonk a dress often looks a bit more ‘dressy’ for a social event than a suit but it does depend on what you have in your wardrobe.

      Alternatively, black pants with a smart blouse and again, maybe jewellery to dress it up a little compared to what you might wear in the office .

      I don’t think you need worry about your coat as you will presumably be taking it off once you are at the restaurant – boots I think depends on the tyle andthe rest of your outfit – if you are taking about clumpy, lined waterproof boots I would bring shoes to change into,but if they are decent lether (or leather effect) boots that would be fine in an office setting then I think they are lso fine for a meal out

      1. Bagpuss*

        Also – when is the meal happening? If it is at a time when some people may be coming direct from the office then that helpd narrow down the likely dress code as those people are unlikely to chnge except maybe to add/chenage any jewellery and makeup.

    4. bamcheeks*

      I realise this is just going to make life even more complicated, but there’s quite a big difference between what I’d think of as appropriate womenswear for a holiday party depending on whether it’s a lunchtime meal and people are expecting to go back to work afterwards (even just for an hour or two) versus an evening or late-lunch-into-evening do. If’it’s a formal environment, then businesswear is probably going to look too businessy for an evening dinner, and cocktail dress is going to be excessively fancy for lunchtime. Lots of working environments won’t care, but law– particularly the higher-paid kinds of law– is often one of the ones which does.

      LW, if it’s a formal environment where those kind of distinctions matter and it might influence how your colleagues see you, then it is usually 100% OK to ask!

    5. Future silver banker*

      Second this. I am in strategy consulting and transitioning to investment banking. Both being relatively conservative still. A work party for most firms in the City is generally less of a “party” than a work engagement that happens to be in a social setting. Understated outfits and jewelry are very much still de rigueur. Boring, I know.
      My most daring look has been a black jumpsuit. It was non-shiny silk, with a tuxedo top, sleeveless, no cleavage, and full length bottom. Caveat: it is a pain when you have to go to the loo…

      1. That'sNotMyName*

        This has always been my reservation about even bothering to try on jumpsuits, let alone find ones with the right proportions for my body. I can picture myself being out somewhere with a long line for the ladies and frantically stripping down in a narrow stall and hoping I won’t fall over and the jumpsuit doesn’t fall behind me into the toilet. The latter is why I stopped wearing overalls even though it was the height of cool at the time.
        All that said, that sounds like an amazing outfit.

    6. EPLawyer*

      The best advice is JUST ASK someone. Most people are quite nice and willing to explain something like this. I remember when I went to my first local bar conference. I wasn’t sure what the dress code was since it was 1) lawyers, but 2) not court. So I asked another female attorney (I am cis female) what the dress code was. I didn’t know her real well but she was part of the same bar section and seemed approachable. She was. She responded politely that suits were still expected.

      1. BostonANONian*

        Agreed – asking a coworker will definitely be the most helpful!
        I started recently at a firm that had done “casual summer” and decided to keep the casual dress code when I arrived. One of my coworkers let me know before my first day, and it was a big help.
        A suit (for feminine dress, anyway) would feel a little formal to me for our holiday party. My plan right now is black trousers and a festive red sleeveless, tie-neck blouse, with block heeled booties and minimal jewelry. Knowing the venue is helpful (ours is going to be a little more fun/glitzy than you might expect), but knowing the office vibe is even better.

    7. to varying degrees*

      I actually think that a holiday party is one occasion where you can go a little more blingy. Sequined top with a dark skirt or trouser pants; low key dress with a showy statement necklace; fancier chandelier earrings or hair comb/jewelry, are all perfect for an after hours holiday party.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        It just depends so much on your actual office, which is why LW should just ask someone. I’ve worked places where everyone just wore their regular office wear to the party and places where women changed into cocktail dresses.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          With a law firm, it can also depend on rank within the firm. A partner can lean a little bit more into the bling if they want. Junior associate? Probably safest to go with standard office wear.

        2. Captain Swan*

          This exactly. I actually am dealing with a similar situation now. Office holiday party is in a couple of weeks. It’s a evening cocktail/dinner thing and this will be my first one with this company. But I have met most everyone in person so I am not asking about dress code.
          The gentlemen will likely be wearing suits with festive ties (we are a pretty conservative bunch). None of my pre COVID cocktail wear still fits, so I went shopping. I will be wearing a red knee length dress with red sequins, black tights and black boots. Festive but equivalent to the guys attire.

    8. Lulu*

      I’m responding as the daughter of a lawyer at a white shoe firm. My information might be decades old, but law firms tend not to be trendy so I think it’s still up to date. If it’s a daytime do, then it’s probably still suiting. If it’s evening/cocktail party, it might be cocktail dress. The thing with law, though, is that cocktail does not mean blingy/showy/fancy. When in doubt, chic over trendy, elegant over fancy. LBD is probably the best way to go regardless of the time of day. You can add an attractive silk scarf, suiting jacket, necklace (pearls, amber, etc.), depending on the details. Heels are fine, but flats are too if they’re dress-up flats (like heels without the heel). I’ll second/third/fourth the call to just ask a coworker, especially since you’re remote. I doubt anyone would second guess you for simply asking for pointers on the dress code.

  6. voyager1*

    LW1: I can see cutting the pay from a management POV. Working from home is a perk now, not about safety from COVID. I don’t think cutting pay is a good idea personally, but employees getting more pay for coming into the office makes more sense if a company values in person workers.

    1. Sandgroper*

      Yes, this is what I think is wise. Perk/incentivise in office work. Performance everyone to same agreed standards in quality/professionalism/production regardless of location. Hold remote workers to an agreement about their availability (and childcare arrangements where necessary).

        1. Sandgroper*

          I didn’t suggest cutting pay! It’s incredibly hard to cut an employees pay, without giving them something more valuable in return. I’m a fan of rewarding/giving more to others – positive reinforcement!

    2. Starbuck*

      No, working from home is absolutely still about safety from COVID. Come on. It’s not only about that, but it’s flat out wrong to pretend that’s not a factor for lots of people.

        1. Marvel*

          Not if you or someone you live with is immunocompromised or high risk, and your company requires neither vaccinations nor masks regardless of community case count.

          Do you seriously not realize that situation exists for many, many people?

          1. Goldie*

            I do but many many people have managed these risks with social distancing and masking for a long time.

            1. Irish Teacher*

              Well, there are still people dying from covid or developing long covid so one could debate how well we, as a global community, are managing the risk. If all workplaces were well-ventilated and all required masks in busy areas and all were ensuring social distancing by limiting the number of people in each office/workspace, then I might agree with you, but…that isn’t the reality in a lot of places.

              If the workplace is not managing the risk (and obviously, I don’t know about the LW’s workplace), then they can’t really complain about people needing to work from home. If the workplace does require masking in public areas, has improved its ventilation, has those monitors that tell when the ventilation is poor and evacuates when they turn red and restricts the number of people in busy places, then I guess they have a better argument.

              1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

                Mostly jobs are shocked about short staffing and wondering why people who have such sore throats they can’t talk are unproductive.

                And that’s for ‘ healthy ‘ people. High risk people are like

            2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              There has recently been an increase in babies under 6 months old being hospitalized for covid. You’re being pretty cavalier. I caught covid while vaccinated, masked and distanced.

              1. Smurfette*

                I got Covid 3 times, while working from home. If I’d been forced to go to the office, I’m sure it would have been more. Two of those times, I got it from my husband – who was working in the office.

            3. Curmudgeon in California*

              They are still more likely to be infected working in-office with people who take a casual attitude about it. Even an N95 is less protective when others don’t mask also.

            4. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

              Social distancing (for COVID) is a myth; COVID is airborne. What you’re describing in this comment and your others is almost certainly ‘luck’*

              *it might also be ignorance, in that many cases of COVID are still asymptomatic or presumed to be ‘just a cold’, allergies etc. As well, a recent study on the performance of rapid tests with Omicron variants showed that only 75% of positive cases are caught on rapid tests done by the general public (that is, of people who are positive with COVID on a better test (PCR), 25% of them will get a falsely negative rapid test result).

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Those ways mostly involve sitting alone in a room in the office in front of your virtual meeting instead of sitting in front of the virtual meeting at home. Unless there is equipment at the office (like a lab) that is needed, there’s really not much upside to doing that.

          If one is face-to-face with people, even masked, it is not fully safe.

          And I say that as someone who no longer isolates, becausere there are upsides to seeing people that are worth the risk to me. But I have no illusions about the risk.

        3. Samwise*

          OMG, really??

          Sure, if I go to the office and encounter no one on my walk from the car to my office, OR if everyone I encounter is wearing a mask. (Spoiler: almost nobody is wearing a mask).

          Sure, if everyone at work stays home when they are sick, gets tested for covid, retests for covid and doesn’t return to work til they are not sick any more (Spoiler: almost no one is self testing, work sites that offered testing aren’t, and coworkers and clients come to work sick)

          Sure, if enough people get their covid booster (and flu shot). (Spoiler: Yeah, you see where this is going).

          Working on site is NOT safe, and is especially not safe for people who are immunocompromised or have health conditions that make respiratory illnesses especially dangerous.

          Please. Stop saying it’s not about safety. It IS about safety for a significant number of people.

          1. The Original K.*

            Yep. My employer takes no COVID precautions. I went in for an in-person meeting a couple of weeks ago and I was the only one masked. I have an immunocompromised family member, which my boss knows. My boss has had COVID twice and still doesn’t take extra precautions. WFH is absolutely my preference (I don’t intend to go into an office every day ever again), for a lot of reasons INCLUDING COVID safety, because it’s clear that my employer doesn’t prioritize that.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. I still mask at the grocery store and get most of my groceries delivered. My entire household is over 60, most have comorbidities (overweight, smoker, diabetic, history of pneumonia, etc.) I can’t go into some stupid open plan with unmasked people for 8 hours a day.

            My spouse and I did a craft fair this weekend. We both wore N95 masks, even though it was outdoors, and only taking down our masks to eat/drink when we didn’t have customers near us.

        4. Not This Again*

          Goldie, lots of people have caught covid at work too. I have comorbidities so it will never be safe enough for me, not when vaccines aren’t mandated and I know nothing about the ventilation system. You may feel safe in an office, I don’t.

      1. doreen*

        For some people it’s about safety but for lots of people , it absolutely isn’t. I know way too many people who complained about having to go back to the office who go out every weekend, take flights to crowded vacation destinations etc. My guess is that it’s not about safety for most people, but of course there’s no way to know.

        1. Goldie*

          My husband and I have worked in person nearly the whole time save a few weeks for him and several months I had kids to work and watch. So have all of our coworkers and almost everyone I know.
          I’m unaware of anyone who got covid a work.

          My husband works in one room with 12 people in a desk hotel if situation and on a manufacturing floor. He has never gotten it.

          Most of my coworkers had it and didn’t spread it at the office (often connected to travel).
          I got it on a plane when I forgot to bring a mask and took a risk.

          I’m glad some people have options, not everyone does but there are ways to really mitigate the risks.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            The flip side is that I work in a building with 16 employees, and 9 of them have got covid at work. This was two separate waves, and each time someone got covid from a customer and other employees got covid from the sick coworker. The only reason I haven’t had it yet is because I’ve been engaging in extreme hermitism (eating in my car instead of in the break room, skipping out on a lot of in office socializing, etc) which has had some extremely negative impacts on my mental health and my ability to connect as a member of my work team.

            It’s great that your workplace was able to figure out how to keep people from catching covid in the office. Not every workplace is like yours, though, and a lot of us are still in real danger on a daily basis.

          2. Not This Again*

            Mitigation is not elimination. When return to the office as mandated, reported Covid cases skyrocketed (notices were sent out telling the floor the infected person worked on). The news has been full of reports about the perfect storm of covid, flu, and rsv this winter. Some hospitals are already reaching capacity. Just because you haven’t had a diagnosed case of covid does not mean you are not a carrier.

            Please stop with the covid minimization. Everyone, please get vaxxed and boosted. Think abut the community, not just yourself.

          3. Eyes Kiwami*

            You are very lucky. I know of many other situations where people worked in person and got covid at work. And some cases where the only people who didn’t get it were the ones who worked remotely/stayed home from an event. So remote work absolutely still helps prevent the spread of covid.

        2. Not This Again*

          You don’t know, that’s right. And people can prefer to work at home for non-covid reasons, so what? Some people do it as a medical accommodation, such as myself, which predated Covid. Your perspective and experience are not universal.

      2. rayay*

        There are so many other benefits to having more people work remotely. Less traffic, less pollution, less spreading of common cold and flu viruses, saving time every day – I’d personally get back 45 minutes of my life that I spend commuting, less money spent on gas, and so much more. I just can’t believe that so many companies are still trying to make people work full-time in office when there’s hardly any benefit to that. I can understand wanting people in once in a while for certain meetings or job duties, but if the job can be done from home, why not?

        1. Allonge*

          Presumably they find benefits to having people work from the office. I know, you hate it, a lot of people here do – does not mean there is no sense in doing it.

          1. Not This Again*

            No question the air was cleaner during covid year one. Less driving really impacts the environment. And those “benefits” are often theoretical, including wanting to help the businesses in the area that served office workers. No sense if the work doesn’t require it.

    3. CarlDean*

      It’s one thing to pay in person more to incentivize return – like a bonus. It’s another to cut pay of remote, and expect them to do the same job but now for less.

      1. Scarlet2*

        This. I wouldn’t mind incentivizing on-site work with extra pay, but it’s seriously crappy to ask people to do the same job for a lower salary, especially in these days of inflation and cost of living rises. A pay cut can be totally unsustainable for a lot of people.

      2. Mangled Metaphor*

        Similar result approached from two different directions.
        (One does cost the company more though – but there should always be a budget for bonuses and raises as long as the company is doing well. The only reason to justify a pay cut is if the company is doing so poorly costs have to be cut to keep everyone’s jobs and that’s a serious edge case)

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I disagree that cutting some people’s pay is going to have the same result as giving bonuses to others. I think the Great Resignation has slowed a bit, but this is the kind of thing that will absolutely cause people to quit. And the people most likely to find new jobs are the best employees. Penny wise, pound foolish.

    4. Spooncake*

      I mean, I’m sure remote work IS a perk for many people, and if it’s widespread in LW1’s company then that may well be the case. But please bear in mind that it isn’t ALWAYS a perk- for some of us, in-person office work is a disability accommodation and always will be, pandemic or not.

      1. Spooncake*

        Ugh, sorry- in-person office work *is impossible and remote work is a disability accommodation*- clearly my brain is moving faster than my fingers this morning. Hence the need for accommodations I suppose!

        1. Sylvan*

          Lol. I was about to chime in, like, “Yeah, me too!!” But actually, we’re opposites. I work in the office because it’s better for my physical and mental health.

          I hope companies can see flexibility as a tool to make their employees happier and more productive, not as a perk.

          1. Spooncake*

            Well we do agree on that bit, at least! If having that flexibility means more of us can choose to work where we’re happiest and most productive, it works out better for everyone, including the employers.

    5. Liisa*

      Um, in what world is it NOT about safety from covid? Despite what so many people seem to want to believe, the pandemic isn’t over, covid is still around, and pretending otherwise won’t make it go away. WFH isn’t a “perk” for people who are disabled or high risk (or live with people who are), it’s an accessibility issue.

      1. Observer*

        Based on what the OP describes, safety is apparently not the primary driver. Note that they mention all the people who moved out of the area for family reasons. That may have been a knock on effect of Covid, but it’s not about keeping safe.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          To me, “family reasons” includes taking care of elders who’ve survived a bout of Covid but have major Long Covid complications, or kids who keep getting it from school.

    6. bamcheeks*

      I don’t know that I’d agree it’s a “perk”. I feel like a perk is usually something that costs the organisation something, as well as providing a positive to the employee, and remote working is usually cost-neutral or a net moneysaver for the employer.

      Classifying it as a perk always makes it sound like the employer has a weirdly antagonistic view of their relationship with the employee– “well, employees like it, so it must be bad for us SOMEHOW even if we can’t exactly figure out how.”

      1. Ann Ominous*

        “well, employees like it, so it must be bad for us SOMEHOW even if we can’t exactly figure out how.”

        You just described my old workplace in words that never occurred to me but are so beautiful and validating to read. Thank you.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          In this case, it feels more like “the employees value it, therefore it must have a monetary value we are entitled to recoup.”

    7. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, those aren’t the only two options. Work from home in many cases is better for society anyway, for a whole load of reasons. Less congestion, traffic and housing, less pollution, leading to better air quality, improvements to both rural and urban areas, as people can move to more rural areas, decreasing crowding in the cities and increasing the population in more rural areas, thereby benefiting their businesses. It can also mean less costs for a business, though this depends on the exact circumstances.

      Even without covid, I would say there are reasons why it can be beneficial. Not for all jobs, obviously, but in some cases.

      1. Darlingpants*

        Except widespread WFH decimated restaurants in business districts who lived off office workers lunch orders.

        I’m not saying WFH is bad, but change is disruptive and there are people who lose, even if the goal is worthy or beneficial.

          1. Observer*

            Not whataboutinsm at all.

            WFH has some really big upsides for a lot of people, but there are some really significant down sides. If you look at the number of smaller businesses that had to close down over the course of the pandemic, I hope you would realize that this is a real cost.

            Is it better for society as whole in the long run? Could be. But it really is crucial to understand the real cost that even beneficial disruption has. This is true for all changes.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              The small restaurants are probably not viable in the long run. If we took no precautions they would still be struggling because of so many people dying or becoming disabled by long covid.

              Covid has been a “disruption triggering” event. The travel and hospitality industries got disrupted. So for that matter did the medical industry. It’s never going to be the same again, and expecting to force people (at a risk to their lives) to make it so just isn’t going to work.

              1. Observer*

                I’m not suggesting that we force anyone to do anything to keep these businesses going (and it’s not small businesses). But it’s simply not true that they were never viable. More importantly, it’s simply important to realize that when there is a significant shift, for whatever reason, it DOES have real costs even when the net effect for society is positive. That’s not “whataboutism”. Dismissing the people who are getting hurt because someone doesn’t think they “count” is a recipe for trouble.

                1. Eyes Kiwami*

                  Restaurants in business districts closing is sad for those restaurants, but it is not a counterpoint to the benefits of working from home.

                  Restaurants can open closer to where people live… It’s not like restaurants can’t function anymore. In fact I would say restaurants are struggling more because they can’t hire anyone, because wages are low and treatment of workers is poor, and many of the labor pool are sick or dead from Covid.

    8. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      For some people, work from home is a “perk” only if you think that being able to work without wearing an N95 mask is a perk, and being able to eat lunch indoors is a perk, and being able to have a cup of tea or coffee at your desk is a perk.

    9. Curmudgeon in California*

      Working from home is a perk now, not about safety from COVID.

      Ummm… no.

      Covid is not over. Covid is not gone. Covid is still hospitalizing and killing people.

      Lots of people have long Covid. Sensible people are still wearing masks in crowds. Immune compromised, at-risk and caregivers for other medically fragile people still need to avoid exposure.

      I had to turn down “hybrid” roles because one of my roommates is immune compromised and others are high risk (comorbidities and over 60). For me it’s not a “perk”, it’s the only way I can keep my household safe. I really don’t want to attend funerals.

  7. Sandgroper*

    OP5 speak up! But be prepared for when they say “we are doing this without you for a reason” – ask them why!

    Are you on a PIP or being counselled? Is there a reason they don’t have you in the loop? I don’t want to cause worry, but if this is the case then it’d be a bit tone deaf to demand to be a part of the hiring decision possibly.

    If you are in the clear on that front, then it’s very odd they’ve left you out. A simple “Hi Jane, I hear you’ve got some great resumes in, can I become involved please? I know the Job Description is confirmed up to date, but there’s some nuances and balance in skills will be needed and a good team fit. When should I block time aside in my calendar for interviews?” Is probably a low key way to show you expect to be involved.

    1. Ann Ominous*

      I like this approach. You act like of course you will be involved, because of course that’s what managers do. And if they weren’t looking at you that way, this might create that.

      I also second the question about whether you’re on a PIP and if that’s why they’re looking at you differently. Your quick jump to outrage and perceived lack of respect, without having raised the issue to them at all, made me wonder if this was the first time there had been some negative interaction between them and you.

      Granted, it’s just one data point and the plural of anecdote is not data; but it’s worth checking out.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      It may be that the higher-ups have a pre-existing relationship with the search firm, but the Hiring Manager should definitely be involved in the candidate resume review, interviews, and hiring decision.

      I would be concerned about why I was not involved in the process, in the OP’s shoes.

    3. ferrina*

      Yeah, speak up as much as possible and keep pushing to be involved. I’ve been in LW’s situation, where I was cut out of interviews from the person that I was supposed to manage. My boss got it in their head that they were the best at choosing employees (even though they didn’t know what our day-to-day work looked like- I guess they were a “great judge of character”). I was the last interview step, and ended up interviewing a bunch of people that wouldn’t do well. It was a giant waste of time.

      I never found a solution, but I hope that they start working you in!

  8. Observer*

    #1 – Pay cut for at home workers.

    What they want to do stinks and it’s probably bad management. But why would you think it’s illegal? The only way I could see it being a legal problem, other than the disparate impact that Alison mentions, is if there was some official assurance in writing that remote work would not be cut off. Then you might be looking at a breach of contract type issue. But I’d be willing to be that no such assurance exists.

    1. StellaBella*

      This is a good point. Where I work as of 1 Jan this year we have an official 50% work at home policy on our HR intranet and signed off by ten leads for those working at home some days. I will keep this in mind if the upper management starts wanting to reverse this next year. They could scrap the policy officially tho I imagine.

      1. Roland*

        I think there’s a very high chance it says something like “policy subject to change”. Companies have lots of experience with things like this.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further” — Darth Vader, HR manager

  9. I&I*

    OP3: Those employees are being ridiculous. If the choice was between schooling and cash, I suspect your employees whose kids are getting the schooling would find them somewhere cheaper.

    The choice is ‘Use it or don’t.’ And this should be a pretty familiar situation to anyone who works in education. If someone with no children of their own wanted the benefit extended to a nibling or godchild they might make a case, but this isn’t that.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      100%. Everyone doesn’t use every benefit, and the company / school is under no obligation to make sure that everyone is treated 100% exactly the same. If the benefit is available to you if you want to use it, then that’s all they need to do.

      I could make a long list of the benefits I don’t need because I am single and do not have children. No one owes me anything because of it. (On the flip side, my restaurant leftovers are always still there when I go to the refrigerator, so there’s a long list of the benefits I have because I am single and don’t have children, heh.)

      1. ABCYaBYE*

        Yep. This is a great example of equitable vs. equal. Everyone can access the benefit if they are in position to do so. But it doesn’t need to be that everyone gets the same amount of money, whether they use the benefit or not. There’s access to it if someone wants / needs it.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > I could make a long list of the benefits I don’t need because I am single and do not have children.

        I’m in the same position. I appreciate that not everyone uses every benefit, but it does seem to me that most of the benefits and perks are geared towards families though.

        1. inko*

          Well, in this case the employer is a school, so that’s going to be a big part of what they have to offer.

        2. I&I*

          Well, yeah: people with families to support tend to have more expenses and more pressure on their time*. If an employer doesn’t provide some counterbalances, they’re more likely to decide that the job just isn’t compatible with their responsibilities and look elsewhere. At least if they’re in a position to do so, which is the least replaceable kind of employee.

          Benefits for families are an offset for the enormous extra challenges that come with being a working parent. Believe me, the parents aren’t lying around eating grapes with all those benefits; odds are they’re still more tired than you! The benefits are mostly to make it possible for them to keep going at all. And in cases like this one, the main beneficiary is the child, which is going to be in everyone’s interests once those kids grow up and we’re old and feeble.

          *This also applies to carers/caregivers, and employers ought to do a sight more than they do there. But that’s another conversation.

      3. Van Wilder*

        Not to mention that while the benefit to the employee is $17k, the cost to the school is lower than that. I don’t know enough about education to say how much lower. But the incremental cost of adding a few students to an already funded and functioning school? I’m thinking we’re basically talking about the cost of school supplies and dodgeballs.

        1. DEJ*

          This. I used to work in higher education and we had undergraduate student employees in our office who got free tuition as part of their work study job. At one point we wanted to use those resources to get either post-graduate interns or graduate assistants for the office instead of undergraduate students. We found out we couldn’t do that because the ‘free tuition’ wasn’t actual money as much as it was a ‘voucher’ for our department for undergraduate tuition.

    2. Madhatter360*

      This benefit also has a flip side that most other benefits don’t. It actively discourages employees from job seeking. If leaving your job means you suddenly have to pay $17k a year or switch your kid’s school before graduation (not to mention if you have multiple kids) it’s much more motivating to stay.

      1. Madhatter360*

        To clarify: yes benefits are partially intended to get people to stay but compared to the other benefit examples provided this one really locks people in compared to 401k matching or free gym membership. It’s more like when a company pays the employee’s tuition for an MBA but they have to commit to work for some number of years after.

      2. Carlie*

        Another benefit unique to this one is that it also benefits the employer – it contributes to enrollment numbers for the school and, if they get any per-student state or federal support, adds more to their overall budget. It is also an advertising point to note how many employees send their children there.
        Frankly, it’s a also bit insulting to the school for employees to say that where they work isn’t good enough for their kid, so give them more money to send them somewhere else.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I wouldn’t go straight to thinking it’s insulting that employees don’t use the school. Many private schools, while excellent, won’t meet all needs of a diverse student body. The school my family is affiliated with doesn’t support special education needs and is very academically rigorous. A sister school has an amazing arts program but their STEM leaves a lot to be desired. Our schools have an exchange to try an provide more benefits for faculty to use education stipends but we’re not the norm.
          There’s nothing insulting in faculty deciding the school isn’t a good fit for their particular child.

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I don’t think this is insulting, different kids have different needs. My local public schools are supposedly excellent but they did not work well for 2 of our 3 kids.

          1. ferrina*


            Not every school is the right fit for every kid. Similar to how not every employer is the right fit for every worker. A good school can still be a bad fit.

          2. Clisby*

            It’s not just different needs – often private schools don’t go K-12. A teacher at a school with free tuition might get the break only for elementary, only for middle, only for high school.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          My husband is a private school teacher, and honestly the schools that are insulted if a faculty child doesn’t attend are the ones you want to avoid. An education setting that boasts “this is the only way for anyone who cares about children to educate them” is hosting a red flag convention.

          At my husband’s current private school, the Head of School has two children — one attends the private school, one attends public school. There are a few faculty members that ALL of their children have attended public school or other private schools. Of the five private schools he’s taught at, this one is by far the healthiest and most robust.

        4. Smurfette*

          Schools are not a “one size fits all” deal. If they were, all kids would be happy and thriving at whichever school they attended – hardly the case!

          One of my kids goes to a religious school with 1000 students, school uniforms, and a sports programme. The other one goes to a secular school with 50 kids, all of whom have some combination of anxiety / ADHD / learning difficulty (no uniforms, no sports programme). They would both be absolutely miserable at the other’s school.

        5. Irish Teacher.*

          I think a lot of teachers prefer not to send their kids to the school they work in because of issues with favouritism, etc. It’s not usually about the school not being good enough.

          It can also be awkward for kids to be “the teacher’s kid”.

        6. JustaTech*

          When I was a kid I went to an all-girls school, so obviously half the children of faculty wouldn’t have been eligible to use the tuition benefit. (The school solved this by having a trade with our brother school across the street, they would honor our tuition discount for the sons of our teachers, and we would honor their tuition discount for the daughters of their teachers.)

      3. Shiba Dad*

        On the flip side, this benefit can attract job seekers that have kids that are or near college age.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Exactly this.

          My mother got a job at the local private university when I was 17 and it covered my tuition for all 4 years. It was a win-win, especially since the annual salary was actually a pretty big pay cut for my mother. But the university was able to get a wonderful (over)qualified employee who did not feel exploited by the low pay since the benefit had so much value. I got a quality education without having to take out student loans.

          These programs could definitely help attract very experienced employees who will work for just above entry level wages.

        2. Eff Walsingham*

          This sort of situation is exactly what I came to add. My dad was apparently some kind of OG IT unicorn (programmer / systems analyst) that X University would never have been able to afford otherwise. But I was getting to that age, and the school offered free tuition for employees’ kids or a big discount at certain nearby institutions if preferred.

          So my dad took a big pay cut. He stayed there until retirement after that, because he got comfortable, and the department grew under him, effectively making him a VP without the bother of applying for promotion. The other benefits were very nice as well. Although he complained hugely about the institutional bureaucracy and staffing issues, he was very fond of the servers. I still remember their names.

      4. Anon4This*

        This is extremely true, luckily I like my job very much but I get a 50% discount on my child’s (very expensive) daycare and things would have to get pretty bad to get me to leave. It’s the equivalent of about an extra $20K in salary.

      5. Jane*

        It’s essentially an employee discount. When I worked in a shop I could in theory have been saving 20% on my holiday shopping if I’d done it all there. But the company doesn’t have to compensate me because I decided not to.

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah, I thought of when I worked as a barista and could get all the free coffee. It wasn’t the same as cash- honestly I’d happily give it up if I could get the dollar equivalent of the coffee. But it was a nice boost. And the cost to the company of my free drinks was wildly different than the cash value- it was effectively the ingredients cost + overhead, since I was making the drink on my down time. No labor costs, marketing or R&D needed on my behalf.

          1. JustaTech*

            When I worked at a chocolate shop as a teen we were encouraged to sample everything (so we could tell customers what it tasted like), and we were given the stuff that was going bad at the end of the night (the chocolate dipped fruit).
            You’d think they would have risked being eaten out of business, but the truth is that after a week or two the only thing that anyone there wanted to eat was salt. I’m a sugar fiend and all I wanted at the end of a shift was pretzels and water.

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        For sure, I imagine a number of employees may even have specifically sought out a job there specifically to get their kid into the school they may not have otherwise been able to afford.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I work in pharma and one of our perks is free prescription medication that our company makes. It would be difficult to use $17,000 worth but it could still be a couple of thousand. This isn’t unfair to employees who don’t use our company’s products.

      And some people might say that the difference is that medications aren’t optional, but I went through optional fertility treatments and got $3,000 worth of drugs for free. Plus after the kid is here, caring for them isn’t optional. One of our big products is pediatric vaccines, which were also free to me. Or some of our products in general have versions from other companies and I choose to use ours.

    4. Wintermute*

      Not only that, but value is not cost. If they have unused capacity the “cost” is very low, far lower than the out-the-door cost of tuition, which presumably includes a profit margin. Even if they are non-profit and even if that is the “wholesale cost” it’s still not costing the company that much to deliver the service.

      Yes they’re getting something of significant value, but the cost to the business is probably pretty marginal. No different as any other employee sales program whether it’s food or consumer electronics.

      1. I&I*

        Indeed, if it’s not a boarding school, there’s a fair chance that the cost to the school is very low. Perhaps they have totally fixed class sizes and turn away a paying pupil to make room for a teacher’s, but they might well take in the same number of paying pupils as usual and just squeeze in the odd extra kid. Which costs nothing in terms of staff salary, electricity bills, or really anything except food and supplies. In terms of the school’s regular expenses, that’s a bare fraction.

        (I mean, maybe the staff without children think it’d be fair to get free lunches or something, but if you grudge a kid regular meals then I’m not sure I sympathise.)

        1. boberta*

          At boarding schools, the cost isn’t going to be much bigger anyways–most such schools provide housing for faculty as a perk of employment, and will provide accordingly larger housing for families with kids regardless of whether those kids go to school. Faculty kids who are enrolled in the school are enrolled as day students, not as boarders, at pretty much every boarding school I’ve every heard of, and would be living in the house already provided to the faculty member–there’d be no additional cost to the school there.

    5. Rara Avis*

      I work at a very expensive school that offers a very generous tuition benefit. Schools have got to be among the most mission-driven of non-profits, so if you work at a school you kind of need to buy in to the mission of educating other people’s children. Tuition remission is basically financial aid for employee children. However, I could see justified bitterness if you wanted your child at your school but they didn’t get in.

      (When my father started teaching at a university in the 70’s, they had an amazing benefit — they paid the equivalent of half their tuition to any college faculty kids attended. So my brother and I had half our tuition covered at my father’s employer’s biggest rival. I guess it got too expensive because they don’t offer that benefit any more.)

    6. yellow haired female*

      Yes, I was thinking that maybe people without kids could be able to use it for nieces and nephews or grandkids or even friends’ kids… but that doesn’t seem to be the issue.

      I don’t have kids, and there can be cases where work load and holiday shifts fall disproportionately on the childfree…. But complaining about wanting an extra $17,000 because you don’t have kids who can use the free tuition feels disingenuous. You work at a school… what do you expect?

    7. Moho With a Grudge*

      I really disagree and I disagree with Alison on this as well. No, I don’t think the childless employees deserve some comparable financial perq, but it’s not true that the employer can’t offer something to make it more fair.

      I will never forget the retail job I had where all the car driving employees received $100 worth for free parking each month, but I, the lone bicycle commuter got nothing. The company was actually paying for their parking, too, from a third party — so I was *saving* them $100/month. I could for sure have used an $100 at the time even if it was in store credit.

      1. ADidgeridooForYou*

        But the thing is that the parents with kids at the school or the car driving employees aren’t gaining money – they’re pretty much breaking even. Even without the benefit, they would have to pay those amounts for tuition or parking, whereas you wouldn’t. It’s not like people who choose to send their kids to school get free tuition plus an additional $17k to renovate their kitchen or something; they’re essentially at the same place you are. We could certainly all use an extra $100 – heck, I’m sure even the parents and car drivers would say that – but the purpose of the benefits isn’t just to give employees extra spending money. Plus, as a bike rider and person without kids, you have perks that they don’t get – no wear and tear on your vehicle, no having to pay for your car to be repaired if it breaks down, no affiliated costs of raising children.

      2. Skytext*

        Yeah, benefits just don’t work that way. That benefit was available to you if you got a car. Just like paid parental leave—not everyone gets to use it because they don’t have/adopt a baby that year. Not everyone gets to use Bereavement leave because they don’t have anybody die. Not everyone gets to use FMLA leave because they don’t get a serious illness. But these things are still available to them should they find themselves in that situation.

        The childless employee may end up adopting or marrying someone with children. But if they don’t think they’ll use the benefit, their option is to go find a job with benefits they WILL use.

        1. Moho With a Grudge*

          I think you and Digeridoo above missed the fact that I was saving the company $100 a month. They had it budgeted for me. But they wouldn’t give it to me.

          Just as in my current position I’m not part of the company’s health plan… but I negotiated to receive the cost that is spent on the other employees’ who are part of it as part of my salary package.

    8. Loafs*

      So people without kids are complaining that they are missing out on $17,000 in benefits, but are forgetting how much it actually costs to raise a child? And the whole lifetime commitment?

      I don’t have kids and never will, and am gladly “missing out” on tuition benefit. My benefit is that I don’t have to raise a kid!

  10. Wintermute*

    I think that mentioning disparate impact in the answer for 1 is a little misleading. The courts have ruled that substantial differences in pay **for like work** are illegal. But remote work and work in an office are not like work.
    The company has a bevvy of immediate defenses, that they need to pay a premium to reward on-site work in this economy and they cannot do that if they don’t cut remote worker’s pay, that they feel they get more value out of in-office workers and choose to compensate that, that they incur additional costs because of remote work and are passing those costs along (having to maintain more IT infrastructure, additional IT helpdesk staffing, shipping costs for equipment, etc), they might also be able to argue that people on-site have more incidental duties like handling walk-in traffic or shipments and deliveries, answering desk phones and so on. There’s just so many defenses. If you’re going to try to say this is illegal you’d have to argue that inarguably legal things like third shift premiums, payments for voluntary on-call, and extra pay for people willing to work weekend shifts are also illegal, and I don’t see that happening.

    I think the possibility is so small it would be a non-starter. Disparate impact requires some fairly stark differences that are not otherwise explainable by legitimate business factors like tenure, working conditions, job duties and so on. In this case the difference in job duties and working conditions is immediate and obvious.

    If the pay cut is big enough then in some states it might qualify as constructive discharge, but that also usually takes a pretty big cut (the logic being that cutting someone’s pay massively is, in effect, firing them from their job and trying to re-hire them at half the pay).

    Ultimately though I think the best arguments are going to be prudential, not legal. companies that have gone this route see good employees who have options leave to work remote at another company that’s happy to allow them, they see employees less willing to work extra shifts or volunteer for additional duties because of the burden of their commute, they experience trouble hiring (my own work is going through that right now, it took 6 months to fill positions that shouldn’t take nearly that long because they insist on part-time in-office) and may have to raise pay to get people willing to take the job.

    If they absolutely have to have onsite staff, and some companies do for physical reasons (walk-in customers, they have physical hardware or products that have to be handled or maintained) punishing the people they have is liable to make them simply leave rather than decide to keep the job under a pay cut or having to commute, and then they’re back to the same problem of how to attract people willing to take an unfavorable job.

    1. cosmicgorilla*

      I’m curious as to why you say that remote work and office work are not like work. For some jobs, maybe they aren’t. For my job, literally the only difference for me is the time I spend commuting. There are no walk-in customers, no package deliveries that I would ever be called on to handle. Because fortunately, my company DOES allow remote, my coworkers are in other states, so I wouldn’t even see them in my local office. I have the exact same work tasks, no matter the physical location.

      1. TechWorker*

        It’s not illegal to pay people more to work in an undesirable location, or one with a higher cost of living though. If you wouldn’t want to switch to in person then it’s clearly not exactly the same…

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I think this misuses the phrase “like work”. I learned it to t mean the tasks are the same–and it implies nothing about location.

          One made up example so someone can correct me. If I’m missing something: someone whose job is to answer incoming phone calls and emails and write schedules may be eligible for remote work. It stops being “like work” with someone doing the job on site when the job descriptions include tasks that cannot be done offsite, such as distributing packages, stocking supplies, etc.

          1. TechWorker*

            I agree it generally implies nothing about the location; except it is absolutely already legal (and common) for companies to pay differently in different areas based on COL for exactly the same job. I struggle to see how that wouldn’t then apply to in person vs remote.

          2. Not my usual name*

            Things may be different in the US to the UK – they often are – but in the UK, it’s equal pay for work of *equal value* – the jobs do not have to be the same.

            For example, one supermarket chain here paid (mainly male) warehouse operatives more than it paid (mainly female) store staff. The women have won their argument that the work is of equal value to the organisation, and so pay will be adjusted, and back pay made.

      2. LilPinkSock*

        Same. Maybe it’s part of this idea that WFH-ers aren’t working as much as us in-office people? I’ve seen that claim floating around here before.

        1. yellow haired female*

          I work a hybrid schedule. As far as my actual job goes, I get the same amount of work done whether I’m at work or at home. However… sometimes, when I’m in the office, I’m called on to help someone else with something, or to talk to a client on the phone, or end up having to take a wrongly-delivered package to a different floor, etc. These are all teeny tiny things, but they do add up to in-person workers doing slightly more work.

          All jobs are different, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of in-person workers are doing more than remote workers. However, it seems that the best thing for morale would be to “reward” in-person employees with an in-person bonus rather than giving those working from home a pay cut….

      3. Observer*

        I’m curious as to why you say that remote work and office work are not like work.

        Because even without the packages and walk in traffic etc. there is a significant difference in infrastructure. And a significant difference in how certain incidental issues play out, including how you manage etc.

        1. Wintermute*

          this, exactly, there’s different expectations about drop-in meetings and handling incidental tasks as well as availability to collaborate short-notice.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Yup. People don’t see what needs to be done to keep them supported at home. We in-person staff have the same needs — the same families — kids and elders alike — that need looking after, the same stresses from commuting, the same risk of exposure to covid etc — and many of us are propping up the privileged minority of people who can WFH. This isn’t like workers vs capitalism; it’s one subset of privileged vs another with the actual backbone of infrastructure workers being soundly ignored.

      The chickens are really coming home to roost right now in terms not just of supporting WFH workers but for the logistics of us in-person workers. We’re struggling with increasingly out of touch people who just don’t understand what sort of work goes into providing the office services they need to be at home, and as reception working for a separate organisation from the ones who are based in our building, it’s hard to get people to remember we’re not admin staff, and to sort out the issues with infrastructure caused by a clusterfudge of idiocy across several providers. In-person workers are out of sight, out of mind and not getting the recognition we actually deserve, and the whole thing is becoming a two-class system.

      I do think it should be in-person workers getting benefits that compensate for our issues and the costs of commuting etc rather than WFH people getting a pay cut, but we’ve been ignored for three years now and so I’m actually rather jealous of companies whose management is in touch with the needs of in-person staff…cos ours sure isn’t.

      The point for me is, if you want support for WFH people, make noises on behalf of us who carry you on our backs. Once that actually starts — not just in the insipid ‘join with us against management’ way but in a way that gets WFH people to acknowledge their privilege and remember they’re supported by a lot of us in-person staff — that’s when we’ll maybe start to care.

      Until then, I’m not really inclined to get upset that management is trying to redress the balance, even in this rather ham-fisted way. People have got to opt out for three years, but at some point they need to recognise our issues and move forward with them as well as asking us for our support for their issues.

      1. Colette*

        I’ve heard this before, but assuming you are not handling tasks someone who is working from home would normally handle, the only impact of people working from home has on you is to make your environment safer (because they’re not bringing in whatever viruses they have been exposed to).

        For many of us, 100% of our job can be done from home. There is no mail, no interactions with the public, and nothing that has to be done from the office. Yes, there are people who have to be in the office to support us (e.g. hardware IT support has to be in in case someone has a computer problem), but they’d have to be in the office if we were there as well. All us going in does is increase the number of exposures these people have to COVID (and flu, and every other virus going around).

        I sympathize with those who had to (and have to) work in-person during the pandemic, and agree that their work should be recognized. But the way to do that is not to force people who don’t have any in-person work to do back to the office.

      2. Leandra*

        This. Long before Covid, at ExEmployer the professionals were allowed to work a flexible schedule. Quickly enough most of them unilaterally decided even then that meant never coming into the office for any reason.

        Covid hardened that mindset, and extended it to more people who didn’t have a WFH option before. I didn’t share that attitude, and happily now I don’t have to deal with those people any more. And they’ve lost my skill set and work ethic.

      3. yellow haired female*

        Yes, I work a hybrid schedule. As far as my actual tasks go, I work the same amount from home or in-office. But when I’m in the office, I end up helping others with tasks, talking to clients on the phone occasionally, helping out with day-to-day running of the office, helping carry mis-delivered packages to other offices–even though it’s not in my job description.

        I guess some people really do jobs where they only do their job description. I guess it depends on the size of the company you work for–I work for a smaller business, so it’s one of those things where you sometimes just have to help out with other stuff.

        I think there should be some kind of bonus for people who work in-office, though, rather than giving others a pay cut.

        1. Wintermute*

          giving a bonus rather than a pay cut presumes that they have the budget to just up labor expenses a chunk across the board, that’s not the reality for most companies.

      4. Curmudgeon in California*

        How is wanting to avoid a deadly disease make one a member of a “privileged minority”?? You have a really skewed idea of “privilege”. I guess it’s a privilege to not be coughed on by people who don’t GAF anymore about other people.

        I guess your answer comes across extremely hostile to people who *gasp* dare not to be lemmings driving in to the office and swapping germs.

        As far as those whose jobs require in person work: If they are tipped jobs, I make sure to give a decent tip. If I need to go interact with them I wear a mask so that I don’t get myself sick and don’t risk spreading anything I may have to them. I advocate for at least hybrid unless none of their work can be done at a desk. In person workers, IMO, should have a larger sick leave and/or PTO bank because of their increased exposure. Anything that involves actually moving stuff around or dealing with customers/patients/clients should get in-person hazard pay, IMO. None of these things is insipid platitudes like ‘join with us against management’.

        1. Observer*

          It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that a LOT of people going in to work in person are NOT “lemmings”. Rather this is what they need to do (or keep) their jobs.

          Most of the people you call “lemmings” are the ones who enabled YOU to stay at home and not be exposed. So, yes, if you can keep yourself safe by not going in to your office you ARE privileged. Not everyone has that safety.

        2. Wintermute*

          I think the point is there’s a lot of jobs that have to be done by people in person to make it possible for you to work from home. It isn’t all customer contact roles either, there’s a lot of infrastructure that’s required to make work from home possible, and people have to maintain and service that infrastructure.

  11. Goldie*

    LW 5- I’m thinking your bosses want to change things up. This part sounds to me like you were a bit of a closed group. “We are a small team and nobody within the organization knows our jobs or how we complete our work. We’ve worked together for almost 10 years.” Maybe the management was ok to let you two do it because it worked well enough, but now that a change is happening, they want a new approach or want more control over how the work is done.

    1. TheLinguistManager*

      Even if that’s the case, they should be doing it in conjunction with the leader of the group, not freezing them out. De-siloing the team would be a coaching issue (if it’s a problem with the manager) or an alignment issue (if it’s a change in company strategy or culture), and either way needs to be communicated to the manager so they can make the required changes to how their team operates.

      Not to mention that trying to make that kind of change by hiring a new person to go in like a mole instead of just… talking to the manager of the team and telling them what they need to change is a ridiculous way to try to effect change.

      My guess is that the group of people doing the hiring are very used to working with each other to hire and think they have what they need. Personally, as a manager, not being in charge of the hiring process for someone I will be managing would be a Big Deal for me, but I’ve worked at other companies where this has happened.

      Regardless, LW, speak up and see what happens. You’ll learn something either way.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, I thought that the new person might be a peer to OP rather than their direct report. Seems likely they’ll be reporting to the ‘grandboss’.

    3. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Maybe so, but I don’t see how that’s an argument for shutting her out. Total lack of communication leads to an information vacuum, which is filled with negative assumptions. It’s typical of poor management. I mean, the solution for siloing is not more siloing.

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

      Changing things up is exactly what I thought. I wouldn’t be surprised if the job description they are hiring for isn’t exactly what the OP thinks it is. If OP is anywhere near retirement age (~5 years) herself, since her report just retired, they might be thinking in terms of hiring the next manager-in-waiting, or have a plan to pivot the small niche department in a different direction. I wonder if the OP could quietly look for the job posting to verify.

  12. Bagpuss*

    #3 I agree with Alison that this isn’t a cas where it’s responsble for them to expect extra money for not using a perk , however, I wonder whether it may make it slightly more palatable top point out that it’s not really$17,000 – the cost ot the school is presumably much less than that to have the extra students there.

    1. doreen*

      My kids went to a private school that was pretty transparent about costs and tuition and so forth and there was a number of students per class ( I think 15 ) which was a break even point- the tuition covered the teacher’s salary, benefits and a portion of the other schoolwide expenses (principal, custodian, heat, etc). That meant that the 16th kid in that class cost the school nothing additional. Of course , at some point you couldn’t add another kid. You’d either turn people away or open a second class for that grade.

    2. That Coworker's Coworker*

      Doesn’t this discriminate against a protected class though? Older workers typically aren’t going to have school-aged children, so essentially younger employees are more highly compensated in this scenario than all older workers can be.

      1. SoloKid*

        No. Base compensation is different than access to benefits. I wouldn’t ask for more pay just because I won’t use something like pet insurance or a gym membership.

      2. doreen*

        Depends on how much older you are talking about – there are plenty of people in their 40s and 50s with school aged children and even some older than that ( if I have a kid even at 30, that kid will graduate high school when I am about 47. )

      3. IsbenTakesTea*

        I think the crux of the matter is whether a perk is considered “compensation” or not. I have no idea what the legal definition is, but I imagine that if it’s not taxed, it’s not seen as compensation: for example, you don’t pay income tax on a free meal from the company, but you do if you receive an equivalent-value restaurant gift card.

      4. yellow haired female*

        Hmm, I don’t think so. You could also say that, on average, older people use health insurance more, despite paying the same premiums as younger people.

      5. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        It’s not targeted at older vs younger so it’s not discrimination. If an older person adopted a grandchild, they could access the benefit.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > it’s not really$17,000 – the cost ot the school is presumably much less than that to have the extra students there

      Aren’t there generally a fixed number of places though? So their opportunity cost is the difference between $17k and whatever the real cost is.

  13. Lilo*

    For anyone who thinks “remote workers don’t work as hard”, I’m currently remotely training someone who is a very hard worker, one of my top trainees. Because of family obligations we never would have gotten her had we forced her to move to where our office is located. Win win all around.

    You can often draw from a much better talent pool when you allow remote work.

    1. UKgreen*

      Hard agree. Since the company I work for moved to a remote/hybrid model we have had LOTS more applicants for roles and they’ve been FAR better quality! Recruiting for my last vacancy was so difficult because I had such an incredible pool of talent to choose from – and the vast majority of them would not have applied had it been 100% office as they wouldn’t have been able to afford to relocate to the city my company is based in as housing is too costly for most entry-level staff.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        +1000. My company is always hiring and having such a huge talent pool is amazing! We would never have this if we weren’t 100% remote

    2. #1OP*

      I totally agree. My previous company went fully remote and is able to hire from anywhere. My current company has very little in the way of remote positions – usually just sales jobs – and it is hurting our options with recruiting.

      1. Observer*

        That’s a MUCH better argument than the legal one.

        Point out to your management that you’re already having a hard time recruiting. Do they REALLY want to make it harder – and to lose a bunch of good people over this?

        Because good people still have options. They may not quite en masse, but they WILL be looking elsewhere.

    3. MF*

      Relocating for a job has always been a very tough sell. A lot of people *can’t* or really don’t want to move, even if they get a great job offer. With inflation, interest rates, and the real estate market these days, relocation is even more unattainable.

      Remote work enables employers to bypass that huge hurdle. Frankly, it’s just the smartest option when hiring for a lot of roles.

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That’s my experience, too (albeit as the remote employee), but just like with the torches & pitchforks, the singular of “data” is not “anecdote.”

  14. inko*

    For #3 – I think the crux is that, like Alison said, this is the service that particular employer provides. It’s not as if an employer outside the field of education randomly decided to send all their employee’s kids to a local private school but provided no equivalent benefit for non-parents. It’s free access to the company’s product, basically, and not everyone is going to want what they’re selling. (It’s not going to cost the school anywhere near that full $17K to teach an employee’s child, either – it’s not like handing the same amount over in cash.)

    I used to work in a place where employees occasionally had the chance to get low-cost Botox or lip fillers. I never went for it because I don’t want those things.

    1. SpEd Teacher*

      Also, it’s a benefit for the school to be able to say that so many teachers’ kids go there. It means the people most familiar with the product think it’s good and want to use it. A big endorsement. I wouldn’t want to send my kids to a school where none of the teachers wanted their kids there…

      Also if you have kids your cost to educate them with this perk is $0. If you don’t have kids the cost to educate them is also $0. The perk doesn’t make it more expensive to non parents.

      1. Allonge*

        I would imagine it also inpires the parents to be more… open-minded towards the student population in generatl. Instead of ‘these rich brats, my kids have to go to a crappy public school’, it’s ‘our kids’.

  15. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW3 – unlike other benefits, giving free or discounted tuition for children of employees also provides a direct benefit to the employer.

    If staff enrol their children in the school they are directly endorsing the school’s methods and results. It’s a kind of marketing. Further, a school might consider that a child of an employee is more likely to be well behaved, well supported at home, etc. They might also believe that it makes the employee less likely to leave.

    I was a teacher’s child and I … have feelings about it. But it’s not an altruistic offering.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      At work, one of our marketing assistants changed jobs to a nearby university just for that benefit.

    2. inko*

      I’ll say it would sure as hell work on me as a retention strategy – leaving would be very hard if it meant uprooting my kid to a whole new school (unless they were actually miserable there).

      1. inko*

        (And for this reason I would feel weird about using the benefit as a parent, but equally weird about not giving my kids the opportunity if the school was good. I think there are some fundamental issues with tying family stuff to work stuff that closely, even outside of the sheer scale of the benefit that by its nature only some employees can make use of. Oof.)

    3. Purple Cat*

      In my latest job hunt I was considering colleges since my son will soon be attending and the tuition benefit would have been awesome! I expected the base salaries to be lower than because of this potentially incredibly expensive benefit. On the other hand, schools don’t want to lose all of their employees when the children age out of the system, so salaries still have to be somewhat competitive.

    4. MF*

      I had a similar benefit when I worked at a university–tuition remission allowed me to get 2 masters degrees at almost no cost. You better believe that benefit helped me retain me as an employee!

    5. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yeah, this is such a normal perk in education- most of the Uni’s I’ve worked for offered it and I know most private schools offer it. It’s just such a common perk and it is 100% a retention thing. I know people who would have left their jobs, but were waiting for their spouse or child to graduate.

    6. LW3*

      You’re definitely right that this provides a direct benefit to the school. Without getting into too many specifics, our school teaches a specific curriculum from a foreign country and we need a certain percentage of the school’s population to be speakers of the language of that country. So, children of employees massively helps with these numbers.

  16. Gnome*

    #3 – I only disagree slightly with Alison on this. I’ll illustrate with an example. My company has very good health insurance. However, if you do not use it because you have other coverage, they give you a small amount each paycheck. Nothing close to what they would pay for their portion of the insurance, but I think it’s maybe $50. This is because there are folks who are on their spouse’s insurance and, for lots of folks new to the workforce, they are still on their parents’ insurance. So, the “total compensation” is a bit off for them. This helps the company be competitive for those people and not have them in a different salary bracket that throws things off in the event they switch on to company insurance.

    So, it’s a question of whether the tuition causes flight risk or other loss to the school. I’m guessing that there are reasons why folks with kids choose other schools – whether it’s age (maybe your school doesn’t offer pre-kindergarten), special need, or otherwise. The school might be wise to offer some nominal assistance to folks who choose other schools, but it’s not required.

    1. Nikki*

      If the school were giving money to people who send their kids to a different school, they’re basically paying employees extra to send their kids to a competitor. That would make no sense!

      1. Ann Ominous*

        Exactly. And they are not actually paying $17,000 to the employee because the school doesn’t cost them $17,000. So it would be more difficult to quantify an equivalent direct cost for the employees who didn’t have children or whose kids were in school elsewhere.

      2. TechWorker*

        Agree. But they could choose to (I’m not saying they should!) provide vastly subsidised school places vs ‘totally free’. If parents had to pay $200/year or something (and give everyone a bit of a pay rise with the money..), it would still be a huge benefit but maybe make the non parents feel slightly better. Or not :)

        1. Antilles*

          I don’t think that’s an answer.

          Staff with children would interpret it as “this raise is getting eaten up by them changing the tuition policy” like you’re playing a shell game by simultaneously providing a raise in one hand but coincidentally taking it right back with the other.

          Meanwhile, would it really mollify non-parents that they’re now ‘only’ missing out on $16,800 per year and not the full $17,000? I doubt that anybody who had an issue with the “pay disparity” due to tuition reimbursement will suddenly be thrilled because you fixed ~1.1% of the discrepancy.

        2. LilPinkSock*

          Yikes. I’m not a parent, and it absolutely would not make me feel any better knowing that my colleagues lost a great perk that impacted their children’s education.

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          That’s like saying a place that has free parking should instead charge people who drive to work a small fee to park there in an effort to make those who take public transportation feel better.

      3. Faculty Brat*

        It might not make sense, but it’s absolutely the way the tuition benefit my dad’s job offered work: they would pay toward my education at any school, capped at the amount that their own tuition was set at. I doubt they’re unique in this.

      4. JustaTech*

        Unless there was a very good reason for it. When I was a kid I went to an all-girls school, so my school did an exchange with our brother school to make sure that all the kids of the teachers at both schools had the opportunity to go to one of the two schools with the tuition discount.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Personally I think that’s a logical way of behaving, pay employees a fraction of health care costs to encourage them to use another plan that they are eligible to be on. In practice, I’ve seen that in 1 of 6 employers my husband & I have worked for.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      A) I’d feel pretty sketched out about a school that for some reason paid its employees to send their kids somewhere else. It would make me wonder what those employees know that I don’t.

      B) Education subsidies only work for parents of school age kids. The child-free would be more likely to find it an additional slap in the face.

      C) Since the value of the benefit is so high, any money is either going to be pathetically nominal, or unreasonably high. Charging parents $200 for the $17000 they’ve been getting free: pathetic. Giving non-parents $200 when their coworkers get $17000 of free product: pathetic. Suddenly charging parents 5K for instead of tutition: they’ll be about as happy as the remote workers in #1. Giving non-parents 5K: costs the school a lot more than the benefit+all that money comes from somewhere

    4. Gnome*

      I’m seeing lots of good reasons why the idea of nominal assistance to folks who choose other schools wouldn’t necessarily be a good idea.

      I’m not sure I agree with all of them – if it’s nominal, they would really need another good reason to go elsewhere – like having a special needs child or a family that wants a religious program that is different from that of the school the parent works at – so most families won’t really take them up on it anyway and it’s not really giving money to competitors, since the schools are likely not in competition (I’ve seen this with parents who work at a Christian school but send their kids to Jewish schools and vice versa).

      That said, some of them ARE really good points. All of which is to say that my original comment, “it might be wise” the operative word is “might” in that really depends on what the employer wants, what the talent pool looks like, etc.

      Just like it makes sense for my employer, which hires a decent number of younger folks who are still on their parents insurance, to offer some token funding in lieu of insurance doesn’t mean it makes sense for other companies.

      We can argue until the cows come home, but for some employers, it might be a worthwhile benefit to offer in a tight talent pool… and it might not be (even in a really tight talent pool).

      1. LW3*

        I agree that there are great points made here. To clarify two things – the tuition remission is NOT full (the benefit covers most of it, but not all). Also, you hit the nail on the head that there is a specific curriculum offered at this school that is truly not a fit for every family/child. It comes from a foreign country and a specific foreign language is heavily emphasized. Not to mention if a child needed more support for special needs as well, then that might also be better met at another school. For this reason, we are so different from other private schools in the area that it’s not much of a competition, just vastly different offerings.

        I think your final point, that it depends on the talent pool, is the most important. Right now most (not all, but most) of our employees come from backgrounds where our specific curriculum is highly desirable to them. If that starts to shift though, then the higher ups might have to rethink the policy.

  17. LittleMarshmallow*

    I wear an “ugly Christmas sweater dress” that looks like a gingerbread house and has pom poms on it for our annual Christmas party… buuuut we get extra raffle tickets for dressing festively so it’s not frowned upon by us. I work in R&D so our dress varies drastically depending on your role. I typically wear “rugged work clothes” for my daily lab/plant activities, but will dress more nicely if I have to go to one of the office buildings for the day.

    If your place is more conservative and you don’t get extra points for dressing like an elf, then I’d go with whatever you would wear for a nice dinner out with family or friends. Maybe not jeans, but not necessarily business formal unless the restaurant requires it.

  18. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

    Social media is your friend here. People frequently post pictures of holiday parties if they’re big enough to-do’s–scroll through your colleague’s pages/your company WorkPlace until you find photos from last year.

  19. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    LW#2 – I’d dress for the restaurant, since that’s what they’ve chosen, and the setting you’ll be in. Then I’d sharpen the outfit up a tad, and possibly nod toward the holidays.

    Feminine – neutral suit or dress (black? gray? something that looks great on you?), understated blouse, lovely silk scarf or an accessory like a classy rhinestone snowman or something (they exist … if you keep an eye out). Shoes that won’t murder you on the way through the parking lot or commute. (If you’re swapping from boots, do it in the car if you can. You don’t want to discover the only place to change out in the restaurant is by the hostess stand in a pool of someone else’s slush.)

    Masculine – actual slacks (not chinos), white shirt, jacket/blazer, gently festive tie. Shined shoes.

    Attitude and poise can dress both outfits up or down as required.

  20. OP #2*

    Second OP here. I sent the question in a week or two ago, and since then I did ask someone I work with their advice on what to wear. Their advice was business casual or even more casual than that (they mentioned wearing jeans and a nice shirt!), so I think I’ll go with something on the nicer end of business casual and not sweat it in the meantime. I do appreciate the advice, however!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      So interesting! Just goes to show — you can’t guess how someone else’s office is going to do things.

    2. OP #2*

      Also, in response to some of the discussion above:
      I’m not huge on lace or bling, and while I like the steampunk look I wouldn’t break it out for a company party, so that’s a non-issue, lol!
      The party in question is a dinner party after office hours.
      I’m nonbinary, so getting information about both “male” and “female” dress in such situations is helpful to me, as well as to anyone else in a similar situation reading these comments.
      And while I can definitely see the potential for classism in knowing/not knowing the norms, that’s not the issue for me, as I was raised upper-middle-class and my father is actually an attorney himself! For me it’s more about being fairly new to the working world and figuring out the balance between “work” norms and “party” norms.

      1. InstaSleuth*

        My go-to move is to check out the social media channels of the location, but when I started a new job in the pandemic, I peeked at the social channels of my company and coworkers to see what they wore to the previous party.

  21. Esprit de l'escalier*

    #4, useless team member, takes me back to a team project in grad school. My teammate was like Mel and I ended up doing probably 90% of the work. I remember thinking at the time that while these team projects were framed as practice for real-life work, the difference was that in an actual job such a slacker wouldn’t last long, whereas I was stuck with my Mel for that class.

    Apparently I was wrong about that….

    1. yetelmen*

      The biggest disappointment of my adult life was finding out group work in school *does* actually prepare you for the real world.

  22. Esprit de l'escalier*

    #3, free tuition- I’ve never heard of a school providing extra compensation to employees who aren’t using this particular perk, which is a common one for private schools and colleges. I wonder if any do.

  23. Ari*

    Re: #1. I work for a very large corporation, and my particular business unit is scattered across the country. All of our meetings have been via conference calls for the entire ten years I’ve been here. I’ve never met a single supervisor, peer, or direct report in person. Most of us go to a local office a couple of days a week now, which is silly to me because no one in my building is in my business unit. I go to tick a box and there is no value add in my being there. Each job title has a salary range and offers are made based on location. Raises after that are based on performance.

    From my perspective, all this talk of decreasing pay simply because someone works at home is ridiculous. People are paid to do a job. That job should have a standard base pay (preferably with a range for those who live in higher cost areas). If employees are productive working from home, why should they take a pay cut? If they’re a high performer and have their pay cut simply because of where their butt is sitting to do the work, but a low performer in the office keeps their pay simply because of where their butt is sitting to do the work…how is that fair to anyone? If they want to pay more for people to be in an office, that’s one thing. I’m still not sure it’s the right answer because if I knew Bill was making more money just because he went into the office more often, I would be angry. And I sure as heck wouldn’t be going above and beyond because the company clearly doesn’t value the work I do and the contribution I bring to the team.
    The resentment from people who can’t WFH is perhaps understandable, but I can’t imagine wanting fellow coworkers to suffer simply because they get to do something I don’t. P

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Apparently there are quite a few “bucket crabs” who resent the remote folks who’s jobs can be remote, but since theirs can’t they want to force everyone back into the office to share their misery. Painting it as a “perk” instead of just a different location for working is very telling.

      I would do the same job if I was in-person, except my performance would suffer because I would also be doing all the stuff I had to do to reduce my covid exposure, and I’d still be anxious about it. Plus, if I was in an open plan office my productivity would go down.

      1. Don't Forget to Mute The Zoom*

        So you do see working from home as a perk? People keep saying how working from home isn’t a perk and then in the next breath, ranting that they are not going to give up this perk. Which is it?

  24. Six for the Truth*

    OP #5, as someone who has seen both sides of the hiring process in 2022, especially if this is an on-site/non-remote role and it’s only been a month or so, the HR manager and headhunter may be coming up empty.

    It is entirely possible that as soon as the recruiter is able to present a strong candidate, that candidate will be scheduled for an interview with you, but the number of people whose resumes or phone screens are very bad fits may be significant.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      This makes some sense. Especially for an extremely niche role like the OP described. The manager may also be thinking they’re “helping” the OP by taking this off their plate. Still, better communication could have prevented some of the anxiety the OP is feeling now about being cut out of the process.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Good point, they might just be doing the boring initial screening part with every intention of passing plausible candidates to LW

    3. JustaTech*

      Yes, the last few times we’ve hired for our team (before and during COVID), HR and the head hunters/recruiters have worked at it for a while before the group lead was offered any of the resumes.
      (The second time this worked out fine, the first time the HR group we had at the time didn’t care and we ended up having to hire someone through a temp agency who *had* applied directly, HR just hadn’t bothered to process any of the applications. That temp agency ended up being a huge PITA and costing the company a bunch of money.)

  25. Lady_Lessa*


    That happened to me several times at a previous employer. Except the person they were looking for was a lab tech, whom I was going to supervise and work together in a locked suite.

    1. JustaTech*

      Oh heck no. When I worked in a clean lab even the temps were interviewed by the actual hands-on staff since we would be trapped together for 8+ hours and needed to keep interpersonal conflict to a minimum.
      (There’s nothing like realizing you can’t leave the room after you’ve shoved your foot in your mouth to really teach the importance of “think *then* speak”.)

  26. ABCYaBYE*

    OP3 – As Alison and others said, there are benefits that companies provide that people don’t utilize. A realistic, though exaggerated, example: Should my wife get to take 12 weeks paid leave because others are having babies and she’s not? Should she get additional pay because she’s not going to take those 12 weeks at any point? No. We are not having more children, but that doesn’t mean she’s entitled to that benefit just because others are using it. It is great that the benefits exist for all of the people in her workplace, but not all benefits are for everyone.

    In the LW’s situation, if someone has school-aged children and they’re choosing to send them to that school tuition-free, that’s amazing. But those who don’t have kids are not incurring any cost whatsoever to not use the benefit. It isn’t costing them anything to leave that on the table.

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      It’s a bit like complaining about a coworker getting a subsidized MBA when you yourself aren’t going to school. If you want the benefit, do the thing!

    2. inko*

      Yeah – or like me, a UK resident, complaining that the employees in our US office get health insurance as part of their package. I don’t get equivalent free money because I don’t incur that specific cost in the first place!

  27. Confused Remote Worker*

    On #1, I see several posts here and elsewhere about companies paying remote workers less. Can someone explain to me why? I’m serious, I don’t understand the management rational. My company went in the opposite direction and our hybrid-remote workers who share a work station all got a huge pay raise unrelated to performance. The owners managed this by moving our office (leased building) from a building with individual offices to a building with tiny cubicalville. This cut the rental expense more than in half. The downside for remote workers is that the only “supply” we give remote workers is a laptop. Remote workers are on their own for furniture, monitors, pens, and other supplies.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I think the rationale is a combination of A) just because they can – there are enough people willing to take the pay cut rather than take an in-person job – and B) a belief that remote workers provide less value. Maybe it’s true in some cases, there are parts of the job done better in person or can only be done in person, maybe they have to hire additional on-site staff to take the on-site work that would otherwise be spread around X many remote workers. But in plenty of cases I’m sure there’s no real truth in it, just old-fashioned ideas about “if your manager can’t see that you’re working, are you really working?”

    2. bamcheeks*

      I can’t see a rationale for paying remote workers less than they were paid before they went remote. There may however be a case for paying them less than people doing similar work in the office, if the office-based roles are critical but harder to recruit to because more people want remote working.

    3. urguncle*

      Usually companies are tied to leases for terms of 5 or 10 years, so unless they’ve lucked out (my company has), and they’ve either recently greatly expanded so that they would be saving a ton of money by being remote OR they’ve managed to not have to renew a huge lease, going remote hasn’t really saved companies a ton of money.
      Of course, a lot of the management rationale is that they want to monitor their employees more.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        If half the office went remoter but they have a long term lease they may not save money initially on the lease, but can spread the in-office people out more to decrease covid exposure. Also, if they are half of the workstation gear that is actually a cost savings.

        At my remote job I’m paying the electricity for my laptop and monitor, not my company. That’s not zero.

        In a growing company remote workers are an advantage in that they don’t have to increase their real estate spend or boost their infrastructure too much to hire more employees.

    4. JustaTech*

      The only rational I’ve heard that made any sense was that some companies pay folks *more* if they live in high cost of living locations (the Bay Area, NYC, London, those kinds of places), and if an employee who had been getting that differential moved to a lower cost of living location (Decatur) of their own volition, then that employee would lose the “extra” pay that was covering the fact that everything is more expensive.
      In that case it was *specifically* explained as “losing a benefit” rather than “cutting pay”, because equivalent staff at the lower cost of living locations were already getting the base pay, and it was only people in some places who were getting a benefit.

      (I’ve also seen a fascinating pay hiccup when someone who was working in Vancouver BC moved to Seattle, but their employer kept the numeric value of their pay the same, except now was paying them in US dollars, where before they’d been paid in Canadian dollars and their salary was set to be the same as what everyone else was getting in US dollars.)

      But if a company didn’t already have that benefit in place, then it’s a weird move to cut people’s pay just because they’re living in Minneapolis rather than Chicago (for example).

      1. Confused Remote Worker*

        In office staff did NOT get a huge pay increase. There was some resentment, but not as much as you may think. Remote workers in this company have a “generic” skill set like customer service and accounting. I can work almost anywhere with my financial skills. But being an Office Llama Trainer requires a very special skill set and their pay has always reflected that and continues to be very good.

  28. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP4: oh goddess, the old ‘useless lazy coworker’ scenario. I’ve had it happen twice to me and BEEN the person once. In all 3 cases it resulted in extra work for others and a ton of resentment.

    (When it was me, I was suffering from a lot of mental stuff but – and this is important – I didn’t say anything. I deluded myself that I was working just fine thank you and everyone else was just so NASTY to me that I saw no point in going above and beyond. I was wrong. So very very wrong, my mental stuff is still a problem but I do my absolute darned best to not let it mess up my work anymore)

    The common trait in all 3 situations was that they were only tackled when someone stopped covering for the lack of work and complained to management about how much of an unfair load it was doing the job of two for the same pay as someone who could barely turn the PC on without blowing it up.

  29. #1OP*

    I am the writer of letter #1. The biggest issue is that our CEO is very insistent about coming back to the office. I think if it was up to them, we’d be back already for 5 days a week. They are very hostile if anyone asks any questions about RTO or remote work during our all hands meetings.

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I’ve been working remote for over 10 years at various jobs and it never made any difference, except that I am more productive when I can work from home. My commute is 3 to 4 hours a day, involving trains and subways. It is expensive and time-consuming. When I work from home, I start early (7 – 7:30 AM) and I work late (6:30 or later). When I commute, I am working from 9ish to 5ish and that’s it. The rest of the time is commuting and while I might respond to chats or emails from my phone, I am not logged in and working.

    I will dutifully head back to the office 3 days a week when we start this in January, but I – like many of my co-workers – are not happy about it.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Ugh, sounds like your CEO is the type who values butts in seats as opposed to actual work results (perhaps combined with some reactionary politics?). Sorry you’re in that position!

    2. Observer*

      Ugh. I see why you went the legal argument route. Unfortunately for you, that’s not going to fly.

      Maybe it’s time to look elsewhere. You do have options.

      1. #1OP*

        I do, but I really like my job and I love my team. I am going to hang in there for a while and see how things play out. There may be push back on this as we get underway. I’ve also wondered – who will be taking attendance?

        1. Observer*

          How do you guys manage time? Do you have a security / access system that requires a badge / PIN to get in? Do emails indicate where your emails are originating?

          Also, if your Boss is in the office, he’ll see what’s going on.

  30. Jukebox Hero*

    RE: #3. I’m childfree, and have no problems with the tuition benefit. For all the reasons already stated and because I know some of my benefits and expenses cost me less than it does for employees with children. For example, insurance deductions at my employee are less for employee-only than they are for employee+ family members. I haven’t seen this mentioned yet, but the childfree (or those with children no longer of school age) don’t pay the exorbitant costs of raising a child, and that balances out the tuition-free education benefit, at least in my mind.

    1. urguncle*

      Right, any people who are not able to use the tuition benefit are welcome to, I don’t know, have children for the sole purpose of getting a tuition benefit, I guess?

    2. Parenthesis Dude*

      I have kids, and don’t understand this in the slightest. Why should you be paid less than me because I have kids and you don’t?

      My insurance premiums are higher than yours because they’re covering more people. Isn’t that fair?

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        No one is being paid less, though. One person just is able to take advantage of a perk and someone else isn’t (or chooses not to).

  31. Critical Rolls*

    The tuition thing reminds me of the recent letter about the employee(s) with must-be-in-person work complaining about the other staff being able to WFH. At the risk of being uncharitable, it feels like a toddler who thinks someone else’s slice of cake is better, and decides the solution is to throw them both on the floor. There are so many genuine inequities in the world of work, I don’t have much patience for people whose idea of fairness requires others to lose what they themselves cannot use.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      At the risk of being uncharitable, it feels like a toddler who thinks someone else’s slice of cake is better, and decides the solution is to throw them both on the floor.

      Oooh, that’s a great metaphor for it.

  32. Kotow*

    I’m an “attorney who owns a small firm” (mostly family law and estate planning) and this time of year the Bar Association starts having a ton of parties that various committees/sections sponsor. I also always have a dinner right before Christmas with my team at a restaurant. Most people dress similarly as follows:

    1. Black suit (navy and dark grey happen as well)
    2. Dress with a blazer
    3. Black separates with a shimmering top (you do see sequins but it tends to be older women wearing it. It would still be in the range of what people wear though as long as there’s a blazer over it).
    4. An obvious cocktail dress (not very common around this area).

    For footwear, boots are fine if they’re black (so the tan Uggs would be something you don’t see).

    In general, attorneys wear blazers with their outfits, which is why cocktail dresses in general aren’t as common. Non-attorneys tend to not wear the blazers and instead wear nice dresses. Colors tend to be black, red, green, gold, or silver.

    Personally, my default is #3, followed by #2. It tends to strike the right balance between business and fancy for me. I usually wear heels even if it’s snowing because on me it just looks better.

    1. OP #2*

      I’m a paralegal, and as it happens, the firm I work for also deals with family law. #3 isn’t too far from what I’m planning on wearing, so it’s good to hear that’s a reasonable option!

  33. Elm*

    Re #3: What are the school’s professional development benefits? I spent easily $2k or more on PD each year as a teacher, and that’s WITH the “help” my school gave us. (My private school gave us literally nothing, and the public maxed ar $500 per year.) If you don’t have a generous PD benefit, get one. It’ll apply to everyone, but parents probably won’t have the ability to take a solid week to travel cross country to attend a niche conference, so your employees may be appeased.

    1. LW3*

      Yes! This was something that my office tossed around as an idea amongst ourselves. We already have PD support available, but mostly to teaching faculty and not as much to admin, so we could extend a bit more to faculty and offer to admin as well.

      1. Strict Extension*

        Not 100% on topic, but I’m coming to this late, and figured you’d be more likely to see a reply:

        I work at a school as well, and up until this school year, our tuition benefit was unlimited for employees and their children (we teach all ages). This year, in order to make things more inclusive, we eliminated any reference to the relationship between the employee and the direct beneficiary but put a cap on usage. Everyone now gets a set of benefits to use on themselves, and a set to use on anyone else they like. For some people, this means they continue to register their biological children. Others are enrolling nieces and nephews, some are taking adult classes with their partners or their parents, some are offering the ones they aren’t using to other staff members who have maxed out their own benefits. Personally, I’m keeping an eye out for the first friend with a kid who expresses interest and could use the financial help. So far, the cap per person has balanced out the increased availability.

        In your scenario, I imagine this looking like everyone getting a certain number of children they can sponsor regardless of their relationship. This might mean that any employees with a lot of kids might not have all of them attend for free, but it does make the benefit more inclusive of employees with different definitions of family and broadens the pool of students in a way that may be more diverse, depending on the makeup and mindset of your staff.

  34. Anne Wentworth*

    LW3, do you also extend that tuition benefit to the employees themselves, for their personal development and continuing education? That seems like an obvious way to make the tuition benefit feel more accessible and other colleges do it.

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      Are we sure this is college? I read it more as either private school, PK – 12. That wouldn’t be something the employees themselves would need.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        I mean, some days I’d love to go back to 2nd grade – recess, snacks, color a picture of Ben Franklin…

  35. no one reads this far*

    LW 4: definitely bring up your concerns about Mel’s poor performance with your manager.

    FWIW, we let someone go last week for similar performance issues and as soon as the news was made official, people were coming out of the woodwork expressing relief because they had to pick up this person’s slack. It just further justified why we had to let that person go.

  36. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: Invest in a nice, conservative, cocktail length black dress or nicely tailored black pants suit. It will help you so much to have a uniform you can pull out for the rare events like this. Definitely dress nicely for this party.

  37. Leah*

    My company discussed the possibility of paying remote workers less because those in the office have had to pick up their slack with things such as: grabbing copy/print jobs off the printers, doing mailings/FedEx shipments, loading their office printers with paper, etc. I didn’t understand at first, but that does make some sense. If you opt not to come in, you cannot ask anyone to take up tasks that are yours.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      But again – why would you pay anyone less instead of just paying the in-house team slightly more for the occasional inconvenience?

        1. Leah*

          The same amount of work is being done on behalf of the company—just in an uneven way. Why should the company start paying out more money, for the same amount of work that’s always been done? If in-office employees should get more for doing more, perhaps that money should come from…the remote workers’ pay (who can absolutely come in at any time in f they wish; they still have offices) who are shirking part of their responsibilities off onto others?

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      See, the way I’d handle it is to give the in-office people a hazard pay bonus or a commuter supplement (or both).

      But I wouldn’t cut anyone’s pay. Not when we have a high level of inflation worldwide.

  38. Delta Delta*

    #3 – While the tuition remission is a nice perk, it’s also likely taxable to the employee. So it’s not as if they’re getting it 100% for free. I once interviewed at a university that has low-ish pay, but offered free degrees. I considered taking a position so that I could get an MBA for the cost of the tax on the tuition, but I ultimately decided that wasn’t necessarily best for me.

    1. JustaTech*

      Excellent point about the tax!
      My husband’s company used to offer all kinds of perks, some regularly (laundry and dry cleaning) some random one-offs (a credit to Rent the Runway for use by employee or plus one for the Holiday party), but you had to pay the tax on anything you used.
      Dry cleaning twice a year wasn’t a big deal, but there were a few folks who were kind of shocked about the cost of the “free” laundry.

  39. InstaSleuth*

    Re: Holiday Party: before the holiday party at my current company, I checked out the company Instagram (and co-workers on Instagram) to see what they wore to the last holiday party. It gave me a good idea of what people typically wear! Large social gatherings can be stressful for me, so taking the guesswork out of what to wear by sneaking a peak at social posts from the last holiday party made for a slightly less stressful experience.

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