update: boss organizes a poker game to determine end-of-year bonuses

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

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

Remember the letter-writer whose husband’s boss organized a poker game to determine end-of-year bonuses? Here’s the update.

This is an update to the Christmas bonuses determined by poker with a promised grand prize of a used Hummer. I wanted to know if it was legal, or if my husband had any recourse. The advice was helpful, though it was disappointing that we were quite limited in what we could do. Regardless, the story that shook down is moderately fun to tell. Spoiler: my husband quit.

I sent the email while my husband was hard at work gambling, so there wasn’t much we could do then. He came home with a $25 music gift card. The boss’s number two talked him out of buying the used Hummer. Everyone let out a sigh of relief, which resulted in the boss being prickly all evening about his employees not appreciating such a great opportunity that they missed out on. My husband saw that as the nail in the coffin of many other issues, like the poor compensation, and started to job search. We thought that was the end of the Christmas Bonus Sequel.

With a new sunrise brought a new great idea. The boss decided it was so much fun that they should do it again! In a month!

At that point we began studying the comments people left on the poker post. A few commenters suggested my husband begin using his work time to study poker. It was tempting, but my husband was responsible for upcoming deadlines and couldn’t swing it without leaving the company in the lurch. (And he still needed the job, at least for the time being.)

Another group of commenters mentioned looking at whether there was disparate impact among protected groups and whether or not there were accommodations for religious people, for example. Mormons doctrinally do not believe in gambling. We know because my husband and I were in the process of leaving the Mormon church.

We were tempted to play the religion card because the boss thought my spouse was still Mormon, but the boss actually had access to check and influence the worthiness status of my husband if anything seemed off because of his leadership position. The boss was quite disapproving of people leaving, and of course, much worse religious discrimination happens where we live in Utah all the time that goes unchecked. So we aborted the mission.

My husband decided the night of gambling part three he just wasn’t going. The boss was very upset, and tried to make my husband feel bad by sending videos of matchbox races for money. The regret we must have felt!

The cherry on top: my husband had started interviewing and accepted a new job before the third gambling night. The job didn’t start for another 10 months (big 4 accounting), and my husband appropriately waited until the final two weeks of work to give his boss notice.

It. Was. Glorious.

The boss freaked out. He sent via text “name your number and we’ll pay you whatever you want.” My husband politely declined. The boss then repeatedly called and asked him if he was a bad boss and said he just felt so insecure with my husband leaving. My husband had been working max 10 hours a week the past year to finish his work, left ample documentation, and still, his boss did not know how to hire someone to file this particular simple tax form. It was a moment of sweet comeuppance.

As a side note, I am also the wife in the playroom from the surveillance post in 2020. Readers may be happy to hear that I am only a year out from graduating with a 4.0 GPA and a degree in science communication and chemistry. After that, I will begin writing and illustrating science themed children’s books. I frequently read the comments on my first update post to remind myself that internet strangers liked my writing and motherhood doesn’t have to be my entire identity. It is a source of inspiration and motivation to me, so thank you for the virtual support, Alison and co.

Cheers from a person who now occasionally enjoys an alcoholic toast! May your year be merry and full of bourbon-fueled bonuses.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    Best of good luck to you in your new career, and may both you and your spouse be free of unwarranted surveillance, illegal gambling schemes, and toxic bosses!

  2. Rosyglasses*

    What delicious come-uppance on all fronts! I hope you have a wonderful holiday and that both of you continue to find success.

      1. Marley's Ghost*

        It was already a great (and delightful to read) update… and then pow! In came another update! :D

  3. Zelda*

    “We were tempted to play the religion card because the boss thought my spouse was still Mormon, but the boss actually had access to check and influence the worthiness status of my husband if anything seemed off because of his leadership position. The boss was quite disapproving of people leaving”

    Let me get this right: You could have gotten in hot water for being “bad Mormons”… because of your husband *not* wanting to gamble? The person insisting everyone needs to gamble for his amusement is an LDS member who disapproves of people leaving the religion? WTAF? Tell me I have something mixed up here.

    1. Gresham*

      No, they would have gotten in trouble for being a bad Mormon bc they were leaving the church.

      Lots of people practice their religion in lots of ways and still consider themselves to be devout practitioners. I know Jewish people who eat ham and cheese. I know Muslims who drink. I know Catholics who use birth control (seriously, #1 broken religious rule). It’s not at all surprising to me that the boss is a Mormon who gambles but thinks Mormons leaving the church are committing a grave mistake.

      1. Zelda*

        What got me was the phrase “influence the worthiness status of my husband.” That refers to their standing *within the church*, not at work. The implication is that the boss might have reported husband to the church for “bad” behavior.

        And of course different individuals practice differently. But it would be mighty rare for someone to look down their noses at a co-religionist who is sticking to the tenets *more* closely. A person whose religion formally says “thing X is bad” who chooses to do thing X themselves anyway still comes off very strangely getting upset by people who choose *not* to do thing X, and insisting that everyone *has* to do thing X.

        1. Gresham*

          Yep, you read that right–boss can check the status of hubby within the church. OP was worried that boss will then discriminate against him *at work* for leaving the church:

          The boss was quite disapproving of people leaving, and of course, much worse religious discrimination happens where we live in Utah all the time that goes unchecked.

        2. Laughs in Exmo*

          It’s more that *access* to see his status and how knowing he wasn’t fully in would impact his career, I think. As in, if boss could see employee was not toeing the line with church stuff, he loses goodwill in the employer’s eyes. There’s very much an “insider who I can trust” aspect when it comes to church stuff. Mormons get trusted automatically by other Mormons, those outside can earn the trust. People who leave lose it and can’t get it back easily – if at all – if they leave.
          So if employer was so inclined, he could go look up husband’s status and THAT is what could harm him.

        3. The Exmo OP*

          He actually could have reported him both at church and at work. It is a weird phenomenon I’ve come across in Mormendom. Leadership especially feels very threatened if one of their followers is a “better” Mormon than them. It is interpreted as arrogance.

          It was definitely a nonsensical situation all around.

    2. UT is as odd as everywhere else*

      For everyone who really want their mind blown – you all do know that Las Vegas (AKA the gambling capital of the US) was founded by Mormons…….

      Large portions of Nevada were settled by folks looking for other business ideas and opportunities to spread the faith.

    3. Laughs in Exmo*

      Yes, you got that right! This kind of hypocrite is actually very common in Utah businesses. I’m not the OP, but I do live in Utah and I can think of *multiple* Mormon men I know who would have no issues with this kind of dissonance.
      I could very easily see it playing out like this:
      Employee says “I don’t want to gamble because I’m Mormon.” employer/bossman says fine. Employer feels good about his respect for others even if he thinks those others are overthinking it. He’s so righteous and generous to respect that stupid employee who doesn’t know how to let loose.
      Later, because of employer’s leadership role in the church, he learns (either incidentally or by looking it up) OP doesn’t attend regularly, doesn’t carry a recommend card – proving “worthiness”, doesn’t pay tithing, and/or has submitted an official resignation from the church.
      Employer is FURIOUS about the employee “lying” and “playing the religion card” to get out of what employer wanted him to do. Mormon men, especially those who get into leadership positions feel entitled to complete obedience. (and HUH, men in those leadership roles tend to be the richer/more successful men – look at the net worth of the religion’s top leaders!!)
      Employer retaliates.
      I have seen it play out among friends and families multiple times in multiple companies.

      1. The Exmo OP*

        Yup, I’m validated to see another share a similar story, but sad that it really is all too common.

  4. Joie De Vivre*

    Love the update.

    Years ago my husband had a boss who liked poker and basically required employees to play.

    There was some other shady stuff at the company, so we checked my husband’s social security wage statement. The employer hadn’t been reporting his wages or paying the taxes.

    Found out later his former boss/owner of the company went to jail – for tax issues.

    Please check your spouse’s social security wages and make sure they’ve been reported.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This actually is a good idea…..make sure all those forms got done correctly after spouse left but may have still impacted his tenure there.

      1. anon today*

        My first job (secretary for a bankruptcy lawyer) paid me under the table with no taxes/SocSec deductions, no worker’s comp, nothing. I didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t had any of the typical high school retail jobs.

  5. irene adler*

    Wonderful update!

    “name your number and we’ll pay you whatever you want.”
    So many cheeky responses to this!

    “There isn’t a figure high enough.”
    “That figure hasn’t been invented yet.”

    And, OP, this was an enjoyable read. Maybe you’ll write a grown-up book or two down the line?? Hint! Hint!

    1. The Exmo OP*

      Comments about my writing just warm my heart. Thanks!

      And yeah, stick around this blog for a year or two. Hopefully, our next update will be “Big 4 Accounting Job sucked less than expected.” I have a few things coming down the pipes once I graduate!

    2. AnonyNurse*

      While working for a county government, I accepted a bigger role in a different state’s government that was a HUGE (like close to double) salary increase. My boss, who I actually really liked, pulled me into her office with this spreadsheet open, and was tinkering with numbers, “what if I could offer this?” And I looked at her and said, “you’d have to add a digit.”

      Even with a job and boss I liked, it was a great moment. Would have been even better had I not liked them.

  6. legally_bi*

    This update makes me happy. (Though I’m totally baffled that your husband’s ex-boss was doing this gambling-for-bonuses scheme in Utah? Of all places?) I’m so glad your husband got out, and proud of you, anonymous Internet stranger, for your 4.0 and being so close to graduation! Way to go, you!

    1. UT is as odd as everywhere else*

      As someone else in UT – but who is not LDS (and never has been) – I gave up trying to track and understand all the contradictions years ago.

      I’ve been here a decade now, and honestly I also still don’t get it.

  7. Skyblue*

    I love a fun, hilarious update!
    Let me know when you publish your first novel, OP. I will be first in line to buy it!

  8. Gresham*

    From the update to the surveillance post:

    The new job is not free from issues, though. Re: the email I almost sent you with the subject line, “How to respond when your boss texts you ‘I love you’.’”


    I hope we don’t get a 3rd letter!

      1. Laney Boggs*

        Surveillance Call Center: August 2020
        Update with reference to “I love you”: Dec 2020
        Poker Game boss: Oct 2021

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yes, I think the surveillance was the first boss and ILY/gambler was the second. I hope the third job’s the charm!

      2. Gresham*

        Yes, that’s right. The gambler workplace is the same workplace with bosses who text “I love you” (same boss? not clear). “Not free from issues” is an understatement! And it only took a couple months for those issues to spur a new job search. I hope the Big 4 job is issue free!

    1. Gresham*

      Oh wow, just did the math and realized that there was just a couple months, if even, between taking a new job with some red flags and realizing that the red flags were actually an entire parade! Hope the accounting job works out. Lesson learned, OP, watch out for those flags!

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Yes, it can be – major accounting firms will hire up to a year ahead, because they have to staff up for the next financial year or tax season, and can’t do it all at once. They also need to plan for annual training, as well – esp. for tax professionals. This has to be completed before the beginning of tax season. People typically won’t leave a tax practice during the tax season – that’s a career-limiting move, if you want to progress your career in a major accounting firm in taxation. So you might get an offer in December for the following September.

    3. The Exmo OP*

      Learnedthehardway sounds like they know what they’re talking about. As for us, it was because husband was still in school. He needed to be done with his masters.

    4. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Yes, super common. Accounting firms will often scout students in the fall of their last year of college (and that may or may not include a summer or winter internship, depending on the student and firm) for a hire date the following fall. Any firm not participating in recruiting season will get second or third pick by default so they all participate.

  9. Diana*

    From one chemist to another, many congratulations! As you’ve probably seen, a lot of chemists lose their minds (in a good way!) when a chemistry children’s book is released, and buy it for every kid they know, and probably themselves as well. Especially if it features diverse characters :) so the future is rosy!

    1. The Exmo OP*

      Awe, that’s so encouraging. Thanks so much!

      Also, hard yes to more diverse characters. But curious on perspective, is it okay for white people to write a story with a BIPOC protagonist? I don’t want to be appropriative, and my conservative upbringing didn’t exactly teach me how to navigate that situation.

      1. Gresham*

        There are now people who will read your book from the perspective of the community you are including and give feedback!

        I’d also like to introduce you to Writing the Other, which is a group that holds workshops on how to write characters who are not like yourself.

        1. jasmine*


          General rule of thumb is that you can write POC characters and protags, just don’t write a book *about* being POC. Write away, get yourself sensitivity readers, and you’ll be good :)

      2. As Per Elaine*

        My (white) perspective: You’ll need to figure out exactly where you’re comfortable with this; I feel that both extremes (“I as a white person can’t write books with BIPOC characters and thus will perpetuate the all-white status quo” and “I am going to write a book intensely ABOUT this niche POC experience, incidentally trampling any #OwnVoices authors trying to write about it”) are problematic.

        Personally, I feel that it CAN be done well, and that some of the important aspects are 1) being willing to fail AND 2) being receptive to being told that you fell short and 3) working to continue doing better. And generally 4) proactively soliciting feedback from members of impacted communities, often in the form of (paid) sensitivity/authenticity readers.

        Good luck! I look forward to seeing your books one of these years.

        1. The Exmo OP*

          Thank you so much. This comment is so helpful and empowering. The surrounding comments are similarly validating. That is just the direction that I needed to be pointed!

      3. ariel*

        There are beta readers who can read your books for certain characteristics (disabled folks, people of different ethnicities or racial backgrounds, etc.) Lots about this out there! Best of luck to you and your family, OP!

      4. Julia*

        There is a great resource “Writing the Other” which has classes and a bunch of stuff about how to write outside of your experience. I strongly recommend reading their materials. The quick answer is “it depends!” The longer answer is “it depends in these specific ways.”


  10. Lady_Lessa*

    Have fun writing science for children. I still remember one of my earliest science type story books. (It is also very excellent for charades: “Danny Dunn and the anti-gravity paint”

    I’ve been a chemist for a long time and still enjoy baking soda and vinegar; plus rainbows etc.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Baking soda and vinegar is so fun. I minored in geology (never did anything career wise with it) and we always got so excited when we put hydrochloric acid on a rock and it effervesced. Just what is it with bubbles, I wonder?

      And also rainbows, yes. Beautiful and scientific!

    2. Texan In Exile*

      I was thrilled to see that at a recent basketball half time show at my college, they had students conduct some chemistry experiments.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Found it!

        “Went to the 11:15 AM basketball game today against North American University from Stafford TX. It was the annual kids day, and as you can see in the pano shot, Tudor Fieldhouse was filled with kids… noisy kids! Sometimes the noise was so loud it left my ears ringing. A very different experience in Tudor Fieldhouse. But back to “only at Rice”. At halftime, they performed a chemistry experiment for the kids. They mixed 3 clear liquids, and when they added the third liquid, H2O2, the concoction turned different colors, like blue, orange and yellow at different times. All pretty cool! I have seen many halftime shows at basketball games, but never a chemistry experiment!”

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          I puffy-heart this. Reminiscent of a couple of years back when the winner of the Miss America competition did an on-stage science experiment as her talent.

        2. MarsJenkar*

          Hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous in high concentrations, but if this were drugstore concentrations (i.e. highly diluted), it would be safe enough to try at home (with adult supervision).

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      DANNY DUNN! I remember him! There was a professor uncle, and a lazy/hungry pal, and a female science-loving compatriot. I think the jovial professor uncle had a sour academic rival, too.

  11. Alex (they/them)*

    I’m a chemist and did a lot of science education outreach in college, and honestly making kids science books sounds so wonderful!! Best of luck!!!

  12. ChemistryChick*

    Ahhh I love this so much, especially as a fellow chemist!! Congrats on your degree and I sincerely hope you’ll update when you start publishing because I would LOVE to read your book(s) to my kiddo!

  13. Purple Cat*

    Wow, I understand not leaving an account firm in “March” but I don’t understand why on earth 10 months notice would be needed??

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Hopefully OP will provide details, but what I am assuming based on what I’ve heard from other people who’ve worked in similar industries, is that all new (insert position) are onboarded and trained at a specific time of year.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        OP did update. Hubby was 10 months from finishing a Masters Degree, which as a big part of the new jobs requirements apparently.

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Most firms require that you be CPA eligible, which means at least 5 years of college classes. Dumb, I know. A lot of business schools have 1-year masters programs as a result.

  14. ZSD*

    Congratulations on your forthcoming degree and new career!

    But let me get this straight: your husband worked for one company that was recording him all the time, then escaped but landed in a company with a nutjob for a leader who had people gamble for their bonuses? What a rough sequence of jobs.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Seems like that is what happened. At first I thought it was the same company and then I read the update to the surveillance letter and realized he’d landed a new job after working at that one. Here’s hoping the third job’s the charm because, yeah, that is totally rough.

    2. Gresham*

      “a company with a nutjob for a leader who had people gamble for their bonuses”

      AND a boss who texts “I love you”! Wild. I hope they get some smoother sailing.

  15. Willie Nelson*

    You’ve got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. My last day is in 2 weeks. — OP’s Husband

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      See below for one more laudatory comment. (Nesting fail.)
      Again, thanks for the laugh. I’m chuckling while going back to my currently tedious tasks.

  16. Echo*

    “the boss actually had access to check and influence the worthiness status of my husband if anything seemed off because of his leadership position”

    Wait, am I understanding this correctly? The boss who made bonuses contingent on gambling, which is forbidden for Mormons, was himself a Mormon religious leader?

      1. President Porpoise*

        Not uncommon. The clergy are just guys “called” to the leadership position, and receive little leadership training. Major issue.

      2. UT is as odd as everywhere else*

        Welcome to Utah – where there is a new contradiction around every corner (along with another coffee shop).

  17. President Porpoise*

    I’m happy about all aspects of OP’s update – but really, the very best thing from my perspective is freeing yourself from the religion. From one exmo to another – each day, you will feel happier and happier with your decision. Best choice I EVER made. The hypocrisy in the doctrine and culture is so toxic, and you don’t even realize its full effect on you for years after you finally get out. May your days be guilt and worry free, and full of bourbon bon-bons.

  18. Jean (just Jean)*

    Thanks for the laugh!

    Also, +1 to the comments and good wishes expressed by learnedthehardway.

  19. Summer*

    Best of luck to you and your family LW! After reading this letter I went back and read the others and I heartily agree with all of the comments –
    You are an amazing writer!

  20. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

    I have dreamed of an update from the wife in the playroom! What a glorious update all around. I can’t wait to read more of your writing, OP!

  21. The Exmo OP*

    In case I can’t get to all the other comments, thank you so much everyone. Every comment was read and merits a thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Comments are closed.