I resent my employee for being richer and more qualified than me

A reader writes:

I am a first-time manager of a bakery in a small city that has gone through a lot of changes through the pandemic. Our housing and cost-of-living was so cheap that remote workers moved here and now people originally from here can’t buy a house — including me.

Six months ago my bakery hired a new employee, Jane, who is around my age. She’s a great worker, working the shifts no one wants (late nights closing and early morning openings) and because the bakery usually hires students, it’s been great working with Jane because we’re on the same life stage (married, I have a kid, she doesn’t), but I’m finding myself resenting her.

Jane is overqualified to be a cashier at a bakery, I didn’t hire her (the owner did and I wouldn’t have) but she has a masters degree, and her old job was a director in a tech company. She’s given me tips on how to manage people because this is my first time and I can’t help but wonder if she’s going to try to get my job. When I asked her, she said that she doesn’t want to manage people right now. I’ve been gritting my teeth because she’s good at her job and she said to the owner that she’s on sabbatical from her old job for a year or two and I do like her.

But we went to her house over Christmas for a party, and it’s a beautiful new build in an area in town that we could never afford, and her friends (also people who moved from the mainland to our small city) were talking about how much their bigger-city salaries stretch here. They all seem to make more than double than me and my husband combined. And I found out that Jane is on a paid sabbatical from her old job, so she’s getting paid twice for working at my bakery.

Everything has gone up because of inflation, and we went from being able to afford a house in 2019 to now, when we’re barely able to afford rent. There are a lot of people here who are struggling to make rent, and Jane is getting paid twice. I want to fire her but I have no good reason, because she’s good at her job and having someone work the early morning and late nights is hard.

How do I manage her now that I know she’s making more money than I do in a year plus her bakery wage? It’s not fair.

Oh wow, okay.

You’re way off-base here — to the point that you’ve got to rein yourself in really quickly or remove yourself from the management job. Those are your only two choices.

We all have things that we get irrational about. It’s part of being human. But as a manager, you’ve got to be committed to recognizing when that’s happening and actively work to combat it in yourself. You can’t indulge those impulses. It’s management malpractice if you let yourself — it will make you a terrible manager and a terrible employee. That’s the path you’re on right now.

Jane is good at her job, pleasant to work with, flexible with her schedule, and helpful to other employees. And you want to fire her. Read that again.

What you’re proposing would make you the villain of this story, and I’m assuming that’s not who you want to be. But if the ethics alone aren’t enough to convince you, consider your self-interest as well: How would you explain the firing to your own boss? How’s it going to look to your other employees? Hell, who’s going to cover those shifts no one else wants? It’s very likely that firing Jane would backfire on you in ways you’re not thinking about right now. If I managed you and I found out you fired an excellent employee for the reasons you’ve given here, you’d be gone within the week. Even if I just found out you were thinking about it, I’d be unlikely to keep you on because of what it says about your judgment and ability to do your job effectively.

But really, have you thought through what you wrote here? When you see it all written out like that, does it still stand up to your own scrutiny? Because I doubt, for example, that you truly think jobs should be awarded based on workers’ individual financial situations. Do you think you should lose your job if someone comes along who needs the money more?

Look, it sucks that your city is going through what it’s going through. Income inequality is a real problem, and inflation isn’t helping. People are struggling, and it’s bad. But Jane isn’t the cause of that — at most she’s a symptom of forces much larger than either of you — and you’re not the judge and jury that would get to mete out justice even if she were.

It’s okay to feel your feelings. Sometimes you might feel jealous of someone, or resentful, or upset that something doesn’t seem fair. You’re human, you’re going to have those feelings sometimes. That’s not the problem. The problem is that you’re not applying any critical thinking, or ethics, to those feelings at all — you’re just letting yourself indulge them, and when you do that in a job where you have power over other people’s lives, you can very quickly become a Terrible Human. As a manager, you have a moral and a professional obligation to recognize when you’re in danger of that happening and rein yourself in.

You asked how you can manage Jane. You manage her just like you would any other employee: You assess her on her performance and her conduct at work, and that’s it. You also remember what you were hired to do — which is to manage a bakery, not to pass judgment on the financial situations of people who work there. (If you have any doubt about that, talk to your own boss, who I’m confident will clear that up very quickly! But you don’t even need to do that, because I know you already know that at some level. You just need to remind yourself.)

{ 1,125 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. High Score!*

      Yeah, I totally get why you feel that way and it seems like Jane doesn’t realize she’s flaunting it. One thing someone told me when I was jealous of someone was that you need to look at your whole life and their whole life and then would you really trade EVERYTHING (incl family) you have for everything they have? I considered that and have never been jealous since. Whenever I see something I want that’s it if my reach, I think about if I really want it & how can I work towards getting it or if there’s something else about it that I like that’s easier for me to get. Like I moved years ago to an area with lower cost of living so I could get a house. Then I focused on my career and worked my way into jobs that made me happy.

      Reply
      1. Opal*

        What is Jane “flaunting”?
        There is a good phrase I learned here at AMA. Jane isn’t living her life AT anyone. She’s just living her life. She’s willing to step up and take unpopular shifts. It reads as if she’s sharing her knowledge without trying to take over. What a great opportunity for OP to learn and grow if she’ll take the time.

        Reply
        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          To the last point, OP, be thankful that you have an experienced employee who is actively sharing information that will make you better at your job. The fact that you see that as a sign that Jane wants your job is not rational. Why should she help you in that case? Take it for what it is: an opportunity for you to improve. Don’t reject that!

          Reply
          1. Lizzo*

            +1 to this. I worked a frontline retail job for a couple years because 1) my full-time work situation suddenly became awful, and 2) I had a successful freelance gig, and retail allowed me to continue doing that freelance work. Our manager was a nice guy but inexperienced. I had well over a decade in a traditional workplace plus prior retail experience. I was able to share my expertise with my manager to help him get better at his job, which was a benefit for everybody, and which he deeply appreciated. I definitely didn’t want his job–I wanted to clock in, do my work (which I enjoyed), and clock out, and then go do my freelance stuff (which I LOVED).

            Reply
          2. DivineMissL*

            I agree overall with Alison’s response. Except – OP says, “She’s given me tips on how to manage people because this is my first time”. I don’t know that the manager needs to be discussing HR issues with a cashier. I mean, I get that OP is inexperienced, and it sounds like a small operation, but…that struck me as inappropriate. A manager can seek advice from the owner, or another manager, but not a co-worker of the people being managed.

            Reply
            1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              It’s a slippery slope, sure – but the now-cashier seems to have management experience that could help LW and is on sabbatical, i.e. plans to return to her tech job. She’s obviously not after LE’s job. This changes the situation somewhat.

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            2. Smurfette*

              It’s quite possible that the cashier is observing workplace issues and not being told about them by the manager. For example, if someone is late, rude to a customer, or doesn’t follow food hygiene protocols, those things would probably be apparent to everyone.

              Reply
              1. Properlike*

                This is what I assumed. Also, probably not a lot of places to have conversations in a bakery. As a cashier, Jane probably overhears (and notices) a LOT.

                Reply
              2. I am Emily's failing memory*

                Yeah, I assumed it was things along the lines of, “Here’s a system that might help make it easier for you to keep track of workers’ scheduling requests,” or, “Having a cheat sheet available for the night staff to consult when you and the owner aren’t around would really help and save us needing to call one of you as much.” General “how to keep things running smoothly for the business as a whole” tips, rather than advice on managing specific employees like, “You should move Steve to another shift,” or “You should give Sylvia’s hours to Regina.”

                Reply
                1. Momma Bear*

                  This is how I read it, too. Jane is just sharing knowledge, not aiming for OP’s job or actively managing the crew.

                  Jane could be on sabbatical for a number of reasons and it may be that she does the bakery job because she burned out but wants to feel productive somewhere. Or maybe she has debts that aren’t OP’s to know about (I know people who got into serious medical debt and took a second job just to pay for that). Etc. Whatever the reason, Jane was hired and now OP needs to find a way to work with her/manage her.

                  It’s human to be jealous sometimes but to act on that envy and *fire* someone for being better off (in the ways you know of) or for having affluent friends is…really terrible. Appreciate what Jane brings to the table, not what kind of table she has a home.

                2. Lavender*

                  Yeah, there are definitely situations where it could be inappropriate, but I don’t see a problem with it as long as they’re not discussing things like other employees’ performance issues. I think it’s fine for an employee to share organizational/logistical advice with their manager, especially if the employee has some management experience.

                  That said, Jane may want to dial it back on the advice if OP is giving clear signals that it’s unwanted.

              3. Donna Roberts*

                OP should frame this help as a genuine, cost-free education that might only be gained through a master’s program or years of experience. Instead of being irritated, she should be grateful and lean in to learning. I know, easier said than done. But if OP can shift her mindset and self-talk herself into appreciation, she might take this as the huge gift that it is.

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            3. KayDee*

              I didn’t read it as discussing HR issues. It could be innocuous topics like “we end up with a lot of call outs when the schedule is posted last minute, if we publish a week more ahead of time, employees would be better able to plan their schedules.” There’s a lot of people management/leadership advice that can be traded back and forth without hitting inappropriate topics.

              Reply
              1. MigraineMonth*

                Yeah, my current manager is brand-new to managing people, and I’ve given them a couple of tips (primarily “check out AAM, it has great advice”). I would not be happy at all in a management role, so I’m certainly not angling for their job, and we don’t discuss other reports.

                Hierarchy means that they get to make the final call, not that it’s inappropriate for me to share suggestions.

                Reply
          3. RS*

            This! OP I wonder if it would help you to step back and view the circumstances of Jane’s *employment at the bakery* separately from the negativity you feel about her presence as a wealthy newcomer in your community. If you do that I think you’ll see that while Jane might be part of the change that has made real estate in your town too expensive for the locals, she’s probably *not* a threat to you in your position at the bakery, even though she’s got more management experience than you currently have.

            Here’s what I mean: from the bakery owner’s perspective, Jane is a great but only temporary solution to a labor need she has. Jane’s smart and reliable, and the owner will be glad to have her working as a cashier for as long as she’s willing to do so. But I imagine the bakery owner is well aware that Jane’s not going to stick around forever, or even for several years. It would be foolish to invest time & energy training Jane to manage the bakery – e.g. the ins and outs of supply sourcing, and all of the other non-trivial things that the role entails. That’s the reason hiring managers often pass on candidates they deem to be overqualified for the role – they assume they won’t stick around, and so they’re not worth training. The cashier role, on the other hand, is low-stakes for the owner so it’s all right if Jane doesn’t stick around forever. Consider: if Jane and her partner decide to have kids, or if she decides she needs more money or benefits than she can get at the bakery, or if she just gets bored after a while, she’ll quit. You don’t say how long you’ve been working at the bakery, but you’re a local and I imagine that in the bakery owner’s eyes you’re a better long-term bet than Jane is.

            If Jane is still around in 2-3 years (which is pretty unlikely imho) and her life circumstances have changed such that it seems like she *will* continue on indefinitely at the bakery and *would* like to have more responsibility than a cashier role, then the story might change. But by then you’ll have changed – you’ll have years of success at managing the bakery under your belt. But for now you’re the sure thing in the bakery owner’s eyes, while Jane is a a good short-term solution for the cashier role that’s otherwise hard to fill.

            Reply
        2. bamcheeks*

          I do think “talking about how much their bigger-city salaries stretch” counts as flaunting! I get how that’s a very normal conversation that wealthy people have, especially at parties, and I fully admit I have had it myself, but I also support anyone who overheard it think I was a smug rich bitch.

          Reply
                1. yala*

                  I think a good host should at least try to direct the conversation away from areas that might be uncomfortable for or exclude other guests. And talking about money at a party seems kind of gauche

                2. The Real Fran Fine*

                  @yala it’s not a reasonable expectation that a host at a party will be able to police every single conversation that takes place. People go off in small groups and chat, they move around to different areas where there isn’t always a “monitor” that can redirect, etc. Jane hasn’t done anything wrong and shouldn’t be judged based on the discussions of her friends that she wasn’t even involved in (if she were, I think OP definitely would have mentioned it).

              1. No Annual Contract*

                WHA?!? Jane is accountable for what was said at her party? I didn’t realize that as a host it was my responsibility to police conversations. I am truly shocked at some of the responses here trying to blame Jane. Wow.

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                1. Gato Blanco*

                  Seriously. Anyone asserting that party hosts should listen in on and police conversations that happen at the party is WAY out of line.

                2. Worldwalker*

                  At a Christmas party I was at last month, the host was busy with greeting people as they arrived, trying to keep the food table stocked, and redirecting lost people to the bathrooms. Monitoring all the conversations (spread over four or five rooms!) was not going to happen.

                  And it’s not the host’s job anyway. This is an adult get-together, not a kindergarten.

              2. The Prettiest Curse*

                But if you host a party, you’re not responsible for everything that people say or do at said party. Jane did not magically foresee what her friends would say and still invite them anyway so she could enjoy hurting the OP’s feelings.

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              3. StressedButOkay*

                You can’t expect Jane, or anyone else, to police what their guests are saying. (Unless of course it’s something horrible!) That’s on the guests, not Jane.

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              4. bamcheeks*

                If I invited a colleague to a party and my friends talked in a way that made them feel belittled and alienated, yes, I would consider that my social failure. It’s not about being responsible for every word said, it’s about being a hostess who invited people because I like them and I want them to have a good time.

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                1. skadhu*

                  Unfortunately people whom you liked and trusted and thought you understood for years can one day come out with something absolutely appalling with no prior indications of their thinking. Happened at a party I was at (and I was on the receiving end of the comments). That’s not on the host (and would be even less so if they’re not there to witness). I can’t imagine even thinking of blaming my host for what was said. The best a host can do in those circumstances is make sure that person isn’t invited to future parties (which they did).

                2. LoJo*

                  Let’s be realistic…LW isn’t exactly a reliable narrator of the holiday party. LW had a bias before anyone utter a single word. Plus these people who were just enjoying an holiday cocktail party are the same people sustaining this quaint little town! They’ve brought big city money into the town. They’re paying big taxes. They’re likely supporting this bakery.

                  LW needs to evaluate how “these people” are positively impacting the town. Most small towns are shriveling up. Family owned bakeries are closing up everywhere. LW needs to keep their eye on the big picture.

                3. yala*

                  “Plus these people who were just enjoying an holiday cocktail party are the same people sustaining this quaint little town! They’ve brought big city money into the town. They’re paying big taxes.”

                  Ok, so you’ve just described gentrification. They’re not “sustaining” the town if their being there prices longtime residents out.

                  I’m definitely not crazy about this “horses and sparrows” kind of mindset in this comment.

                4. bamcheeks*

                  @skadhu— sure, I am not saying that I know I’m advance that everyone of my friends will be perfect and never put their foot in it! I’m saying that if I invited someone to a party and they were alienated and excluded by my friends, I’d be embarrassed and apologetic. I wouldn’t be saying, “well, *I* didn’t say that, so I’m not sure why you’re mad at me.”

                5. Properlike*

                  It sounds like the guests were just talking, and some of what they said was inadvertently hurtful to LW but would not have been out of step for the conversation if LW hadn’t been there.

                  The way you’re characterizing this, as if other guests set out to intentionally “belittle and alienate” AND that Jane somehow led the charge, should have known, or is wrong for not apologizing after the fact… is just completely out there. Had they been talking about their ski vacations and sneering at LW when she said she couldn’t afford to go on a ski vacation, well… that would be a cartoon, but *that’s* where Jane would have to step in.

                  What’s described here is a cultural mismatch. Someone feels out of place. Happens all the time. Childless people at a kid’s birthday party, wine-drinkers at a midwestern barbecue, me at a gathering of marathon runners. I don’t assume people are belitting me personally by having conversations about diapers, non-artisanal beer, or training plans. But then, I also understand that the world is generally “unfair.”

                  Add on that LW is already hypersensitive about Jane, it doesn’t surprise me that the hypersensitivity carried over to Jane’s friends.

                6. bamcheeks*

                  I think impact is as important as intent, and I think if “don’t talk about the benefits of gentrification in front of the people suffering from it” isn’t a widely understood value, it should become one.

                7. skadhu*

                  @bamcheeks Replying here because we got too much nesting and I can’t reply to your reply to my comment….

                  And what you describe is exactly what should happen, I agree. My challenge was to the assumption that Jane would know what was said, given that we don’t know if she was present to hear it (it’s easily possible not to hear all convos at a party) and no one actually reported it to her at a later time. The OP said it was talked about by Jane’s friends, not Jane herself, so we don’t know if she heard it or was told about it.

                8. Lavender*

                  If my party guests were making another guest feel uncomfortable, I’d for sure feel bad about it and would reconsider inviting those friends to future gatherings. But I’m also not sure if there was much Jane could have done in the moment–especially if she didn’t know about the discomfort they were causing until after the fact, if at all. (And I’m not sure if there would have been a tactful way for her to approach OP about it later.)

                9. Rowerrabbit*

                  Based on how the OP is reacting, this could have been a super quick couple of sentences between a few people standing in the kitchen outside of Jane’s hearing. Or even an aside like “yeah it’s great we have the space now for a driveway when we used to have to pay for a garage.” It’s a little much to assume it was this big drawn out thing that everyone was aware of.

                10. Crazytown*

                  If this holiday party is a dinner party for 10, seated around a common table, then absolutely, Jane can call out/redirect/disagree with offending comments. If the holiday party is a cocktail party with 20 conversations occurring simultaneously, then to blame Jane for comments is wrong.

                11. Knitsocksmakesense*

                  Hearing people speak about how their salaries stretch farther is not deliberately belittling or alienating. If the guests were saying “I can’t imagine on trying to live on $100k a year” or “we are lucky this area is so poor” then that’s one thing, but commenting on how much farther your city salary stretches in a different location, not so much.

              5. Kim*

                That is a frankly bizarre stance. I mean, if underage drinking occurs then you as a host needs to step up. Overt racism? Yes. Talking about money? No.

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                1. jj*

                  That’s basically saying that classism is not worthy of attention the way racism is. I don’t agree. The OP can be wrong about some parts of this story and still also have experienced classism at this party.

                2. Irish Teacher.*

                  I don’t think classism is less serious than racism, but I also don’t think somebody talking about how much cheaper it is to live in the LW’s town than in the big city is exactly classism. It’s privileged, sure, but not the same as say talking down to the LW about her job or implying she is stupid because she doesn’t have a masters.

                  It sounds to me like they were just talking about how great it is to have a lower mortgage and while yeah, gentrification is an issue and it’s a bit tone-deaf to talk about how cheap the area is in a group where you don’t know everybody’s salary, I don’t think it really reaches the level where somebody would feel the need to intervene.

              6. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

                WTF? No, no, no. The host is not responsible for the content of all the conversations at their party.

                That’s just a ridiculous expectation. Even the nicest people can be jerks to some people’s perspectives, especially if they already have class/financial resentment like the LW does.

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              7. Zap R.*

                Idk, when I host a party, I’m floating between rooms and if I’m not, I’m in the kitchen. I think people are projecting a whole lot of stuff onto Jane here.

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                1. The Prettiest Curse*

                  As someone who plans and coordinates events for a living, even if you are hosting for 15-20 people, it’s a lot of work and you are likely to be running around for most of the event. You simply cannot listen in on every conversation. If you are aware of bad guest behaviour or a conversation that is making someone uncomfortable, you should of course tell your guests to stop or apologise if you’re made aware of it after the fact. But often hosts or coordinators simply aren’t aware of this kind of thing unless someone tells is about it.

                2. Willow Pillow*

                  I went to an hybrid conference last year, as an online attendee, and the in-between-sessions music included a song with racist and misogynist language. The org putting on said conference had no idea and did seem to take an appropriate level of accountability. I’m not sure what blaming them would accomplish.

              8. Susannah*

                Oh for heaven’s sake – she’s supposed to ask her big-city friends to refrain from saying anything about how their salaries stretch further? That’s a level of sensitivity that would make me un-invite LW, not my wealthier friends.
                And this isn’t about Jane or her friends behaving badly. It’s about LW being jealous. And look, jealousy is a very normal human thing! Just recognize it for what it is… the old green monster … so yo can deal with it.

                Reply
          1. Alucius*

            Yeah, for sure.

            I imagine that Jane probably doesn’t intend to “flaunt” anything, but just hasn’t thought about OP’s financial situation and the struggles of the long-timers in this area with exploding real estate prices and the like. It’s likely more ignorance than malice, which doesn’t make it any less grating for OP

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            1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

              Yeah. I think OP needs to not go to those parties. I haven’t decided if I think there’s potentially any room for her to say, “Actually, I had a really hard time at the last one, because your social set is the people who are pricing my social set out of housing, so thank you, but I’m going to sit this one out,” or if that’s a feeling she needs to keep to herself/her own friends and deal with herself. But her reaction is very understandable and also that’s a situation she needs to not put herself in.

              Reply
              1. StressedButOkay*

                Honestly, the easiest route would be to simply say either she’s busy or to say that, as a new manager, she’s realizing she can’t socialize like that with folks she manages.

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                1. yala*

                  Agreed. There’s nothing to really be gained by telling Jane any of that, but it would make things uncomfortable at work.

                2. Momma Bear*

                  This. Or at least doesn’t socialize in their homes. When I was working for a friend’s company, we had to separate our social and professional lives.

                3. Jules the 3rd*

                  This, though OP will need to make sure she’s consistent about this and not go to parties / socialize with the other people she manages too.

                  OP: Yeah, gentrification and rising rents are rough. Can you talk to the owner about raises for everyone, or profit sharing? You can base it on “with the increase of new people, everyone’s looking to hire, and if we don’t give good raises, we will lose our people.”

                  Several of my friends have been priced out of my area, and my family just got lucky that we were able to buy a decade ago.

              2. I am Emily's failing memory*

                Good lord, no, she should not tell the person she manages that she blames people of the employee’s ilk for her own cohort’s inability to buy houses. She’s a manager, and while she may feel like she has less social status/power than her wealthier subordinate, she does still have real power over her day to day work life at the bakery. Telling someone you manage, “I must decline your invitation because I blame you and your kind for the housing crisis,” is super hostile – what is the employee supposed to do with that information? Just make a mental note that boss resents her and there’s nothing she can do about it? When you’re a manager you can’t prioritize your own emotional catharsis over your professional obligations to your staff.

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                1. Lavender*

                  I agree with that. It’s fine for OP to decline future invitations, but I don’t think it would be a good idea to go into specifics about why in this case.

                2. MigraineMonth*

                  True. It would be a risky move if they were just coworkers or OP was the report; going into all that with one’s own report isn’t okay.

            2. MYOB*

              So what is she supposed to do, switch into different clothes because someone might be upset because her clothes look like they cost more? Send back her degree because OP doesn’t like that this specific woman is more educated than her?
              If you cannot feel good about who you are because someone else has or is doing something then you gave a bigger problem than jealousy. It isn’t someone else fault that you don’t like yourself.
              As someone who throughout my life was and is routinely told things about myself that are very much plusses make a person uncomfortable so they can’t hang out with me, this is a you problem. And it literally only affects the people with that problem- I have plenty of awesome women friends of every variety who are cool with who they are and I’ve had people who I’ve gotten to know who later are like wow I didn’t think you’d be so nice because you’re very pretty. Mmm yeah, great. And I’ll tell you honestly that crap colors my view of that person. Frankly it seems that people who don’t want to be judged for who they are do not seem to mind harshly judging and criticizing others who they think are doing better than them in some way. And the thing is it’s all optics, judging a book by its cover. So over this crap.

              Reply
              1. Erin*

                +1 to this!

                Several years ago, I hired a pediatrician to work the odd hours that I could not find staffing for at a retail store. She had recently moved to the area, and she wanted to find some friends, which is hard when you are an adult! She was fantastic. She worked all of the non-desirable shifts, and was an absolute asset when a customer fainted in the store.

                She was a wonderful and dedicated employee, just like Jane is.

                Conquer your jealousy and stop judging Jane for her successes.

                Reply
                1. MYOB*

                  Yes- OP has the opportunity to use Jane as possibly a sounding board, but certainly inspiration and if she’s like oh I don’t need that from her, then you have nothing to be jealous about.
                  Thankfully I figured out when I was much younger- and totally disadvantaged, I must say. Neither parent would even pay for my community college courses at 16. So I got a job and paid for it myself and I had to stop for Year because my mother needed the money. Then I went back and graduated- but anyway instead of being jealous I realized I can have the things that I want by making decisions for myself about what I wanted and then working on the goal. There is no magic pill.

            3. ferrina*

              Agree. I’ve been on both sides of this- really poor when I was younger, and now have a high paying corporate job.

              Jane’s not living her life AT anyone, but she is part of the societal issue that is hurting LW. The things that Jane is benefiting from (salary stretching in a small town) is hold LW back. This is where Check Your Privilege comes in. Jane + co. sound like they were happily celebrating things that work for them without recognizing when they are harming someone else- yes, it would be good if Jane were cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the issue.

              That said, this ultimately isn’t a Jane issue. It’s a societal issue. And LW would be within bounds to say “Actually, it’s interesting you should say that. There’s a flip side to that….” This needs to be said calmly and maybe a little sadly (not angrily). It’s okay to point out societal problems. Sure it’s not going to make you the life of the party, but parties shouldn’t be held at other’s expense.

              Reply
              1. Xer*

                So we cant celebrate and discuss our life experiences because some of us are in another income bracket?
                You people are quite frankly, ridiculous.

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                1. TechWorker*

                  …that’s not what was said. It’s a very standard ‘read the room’ scenario. Admittedly Jane’s friends may not know anything about the OPs financial situation, but yea, if you’re talking about money, particularly about having/spending lots of it, you do need to be aware of your audience.

                2. Nina*

                  You can, but if you don’t want to be a jerk, you try to be sensitive to the fact that some of your life experiences are things you were enormously privileged to have, and not everyone has the opportunity to have.

                  e.g. My parents were/are wealthy enough to let me live with them rent-free when I was in college, so I could use the wages from my summer and weekend jobs to cover tuition and save a little. This was one of the factors that allowed me to at one point spend multiple weeks touring a foreign country – a country where many people that actually live there can’t afford to spend multiple weeks touring around. If I’m in DC talking to a drugstore cashier about how great the [thing] is in [Santa Clara, CA] and how they haven’t really experienced [thing] until they’ve experienced it in [Santa Clara], I have to be aware that I was privileged to have that experience, the people I’m talking to may not have been, and I need to be sensitive about how I’m expressing myself because otherwise I am the jerk.

                3. Wat, no sugar?*

                  Seriously! I can’t believe anyone is placing blame on these party guests for a perfectly innocent conversation. OP should think about therapy. No matter what your status, there will always be someone who has more. I’m shocked that she even thinks her situation merits a letter to AAM!

                4. bamcheeks*

                  Oh mate, so fragile! Literally the only consequence here is “some people might think you’re an asshole”. You can survive that. Look, you already are surviving it, right here.

                5. TootsNYC*

                  this situation is actually why you aren’t supposed to discuss money at social gatherings.
                  Because it’s hard on the peopel who make less. (It can be hard on the people who make more.)

                  Money creates strata in society, but our social gatherings are supposed to be among equals.

              2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

                > this ultimately isn’t a Jane issue. It’s a societal issue.

                Yes, and Jane can’t change ‘society’ by herself but she can influence her own behaviour.

                I’m always a bit taken aback when people (not you ferrina specifically) talk about issues that are “structural” or “societal” and so on, and absolve individuals of responsibility to change anything about the way they go about their own lives, because they can’t fix it by themselves. Throwing one’s hands up and saying (metaphorically I guess) “oh well, I can’t fix any of this so I’m just going to go along with it” doesn’t seem better.

                Reply
                1. ferrina*

                  Totally agree. Society is just a collection of people, and if everyone denounces responsibility, nothing will change. It changes when a lot of individuals all decide that they want their group to change, and they do what they can to facilitate that change (generally without destroying the foundation of the group or destabilizing large institutions). The large-scale solution is complicated and, quite frankly, political, so I’m trying not to get into it here.

                  In my everyday life, I do frame things with certain terminology in context to certain events. I have my own thoughts and opinions on how to solve these issues, and I do advocate for that.

                2. bamcheeks*

                  And like, it’s accurate to say that you personally can’t change societal issues! But if that’s out of your control, so are the feelings of people impacted by that! It’s always this mentality of, “privileged people can’t help the harm that their privilege does, but less privileged people sure have a DUTY to be gracious about it and recognise the inherent well-meaning goodness of those people who are benefitting from it!”

                3. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

                  So Jane should sell her house, put on rags, and take a vow of poverty because the LW can’t afford a house in her town now?

                  Jane can’t fix society. She should not have to drag herself down because someone can’t bring themself up due to the problems with our society.

                  One of the communities that I am part of has a definite “poverty consciousness” thing, and lots of people think you can’t be a real XXX unless you are poor. It’s BS. What you do for your day job doesn’t have anything to do with how well you do at XXX. Yes, working for unethical companies tends to make your ethics a little suspect, but sometimes a job is just a job, not an ethics statement. Having money (i.e. working for more than minimum wage) is not a disqualification for excellence in XXX. But a lot of people in the community have that hangup, so I just don’t talk about my finances and the fact that I work in tech instead of as a retail clerk or a barista.

                  Yes, I know that swarms of tech workers gentrify a lot of places. I live in a mixed race neighborhood in a high tech city. I bought my house from a person of my same race, so it’s not like I’m gentrifying anything by pushing out a poorer, minority person. So it is not so clear cut.

                  When people move in to a dying town and revitalize it but also gentrify it, there is a mixed bag of results. There is more money in the town to sustain its businesses, but a number of employees suddenly are priced out of the real estate market. It’s never all good or all bad.

                  Holding Jane responsible for the ills of society is putting a hell of a burden on Jane, and one that she didn’t actually ask for. Yes, she should probably be aware of the structural problems that the move-ins are causing, but that is not a thing that you can insist on.

                4. MigraineMonth*

                  For me, recognizing when a situation is societal is an important step to understanding where to put my energy/resources/advocacy. Personal actions often fall short when trying to fix structural problems.

                  For example, after learning the structural issues that mean the majority of “recyclable” plastics can’t actually be recycled, I don’t spend my time washing out my peanut butter jars. It’s much more effective to support legislation that forces companies to switch to other types of containers.

                  Changing zoning rules and repealing NIMBY legislation is going to have a much greater effect on property prices in OP’s community than any individual person deciding not to move there from the big city for altruistic reasons.

                5. Me ... Just Me*

                  So …. the solution is for Jane and her “ilk” to make unsound financial decisions (like buying a house in a HCOL area rather than a LCOL area, where their money goes farther) for themselves in the name of “the common good”? That does not make sense to me, at all. Let’s discount entirely the work and resources that Jane put forth to get that higher salary in the first place (and a Master’s degree is WORK) in favor of maybe, somehow, positively affecting some unknown person who made different life choices and therefore doesn’t have the monetary resources, now.

                6. JustSomeone*

                  What is Jane supposed to do here, though? Live way below her means in a cheap rental apartment? Buy a cheaper house? Assuming there’s a housing shortage, either of those options displaces folks who can’t afford more. Buying a big, new house that’s in her price range leaves more affordable housing stock for others. Should she just not be allowed to move to somewhere she can afford to live comfortably? What’s the “right thing” for her to do?

                7. ScifiScientist*

                  Absolutely agreed that absolving gentrifiers of their societal impact and responsibility to fix that is not acceptable. Even if they are just living their lives they can (and should) have a responsibility to support societal solutions.

                  As someone who part-owns a house in a high COLA area, I actively support building new dense housing in my neighborhood because that is one of the solutions to high housing costs.

                  Based on the submittal we don’t know that Jane isn’t doing this. While gentrifiers don’t have to dress in sackcloth and hide their lives, they can absolutely take the time and freedom that wealth buys to work towards societal fixes for their less fortunate neighbors.
                  For instance:
                  Advocating for and supporting rent control and tenants rights in local government and elections
                  Advocating for and supporting restrictions in whole-house/apt. Airbnb proliferations, which has been shown to increase housing costs
                  Participating in community support like food pantries and community fridges
                  Advocating for changes to eviction laws and regulations that keep people in housing and don’t contribute to increased homelessness

          2. Comma Queen*

            OP writes it was Jane’s friends who said that. We can’t tell from what’s written if Jane was also saying the same thing or cringing internally. Given how frustrated OP is, it’s hard to know if OP would have even noticed the difference. When I’ve been that jealous, it’s hard to notice anything that contradicts how I think about the other person.

            Reply
            1. bamcheeks*

              I don’t think it matters whether Jane was involved, cringing internally or whatever. If I had a party and half my guests were saying awful ignorant things which were offensive to my other guests, I would take responsibility for that offence.

              Reply
              1. EPLawyer*

                Really? Now we are policing normal talk about finances? If someone says a racial slur that is one thing. but someone casually talking about how their salary goes farther is not something that the host needs to speak up about.

                I think this is more that OP is looking for signs to be offended than anything offensive was said.

                Reply
                1. bamcheeks*

                  “Normal talk about finances” is extremely context dependent! And it’s wild that you immediately talk about racism as something people are allowed to be zero-tolerance about, but not wealth inequality as if wealth inequality isn’t one of the main ways racism is enacted.

                2. bamcheeks*

                  (Also I don’t think it’s about “policing”, so much as accepting that not everyone has to think nice things about you all the time! I am always shocked by people who want both to benefit from wealth and also think it’s not fair when people resent them for that wealth. I promise you can survive people with a lot less money than you being angry about inequality!)

                3. ferrina*

                  Context is important. We’ve all met/heard about that CEO that complains about their second vacation home in the hearing of their workers who can’t even afford to buy a first home. What’s “normal talk about finances” to the CEO is wildly insensitive in that context.

                  It sounds like Jane and her friends may not be fully aware of the context. That doesn’t make them bad people, but it would be better if they were more aware of their privilege and how it affects others (i.e., the privilege of working remotely at a higher salary so they can live in a lower cost area, and how a collective choice to do that has negatively impacted the economic environment for the original inhabitants)

                4. yala*

                  It’s not “policing.” ffs, isn’t this basic debutante/Gracious Hostess 101? Y’know, trying to the conversation veering into certain subjects because it can make for a bad evening?

                  Like, if I’m with one specific group of friends, and we’ve all been friends for ages and everyone knows everyone, yeah, we’ll probably talk about anything.

                  But it a mixed group that’s trying to have a Pleasant Evening (isn’t that what cocktail parties are for?), probably best to avoid religion, money, politics…

                5. Jen*

                  I don’t think financing is normal talk! It used to be that finances and politics were the two things you didn’t talk about in polite society. Things are quite a bit more relaxed now, but it’s still important to be aware of who you’re talking to and how you’re coming off.

                6. TootsNYC*

                  etiquette has long policed “normal talk about finances.”
                  It said that in social situations, it was not normal to talk about finances.
                  And a larger party, with a diverse background of guests, it’s not cool to talk about money issues.

                  This is why. Quite apart from the management or work issues, it is hard for someone like our OP to hear others talk about how rich they are now.

                  At a party? Don’t talk about money. Among a smaller group of close friends? Have at it.

              2. Peanut*

                If you find people generally speaking about finances offensive, you’re part of the mindset that generates income inequality and keeps people financially illiterate. Facts, like cost of living comparisons, are just facts. If you’re taking it emotionally, that’s a you problem, not an offensive topic problem.

                Reply
                1. Elizabeth Naismith*

                  ^This. Income does stretch further in an area with lower cost of living. It’s why many Hollywood Stars don’t live in the LA area most of the year; they spend their downtime on their ranch, their country home, or a gated community elsewhere.
                  Or why very few people actually live in D.C. They’d rather spend an hour commuting each way, because it’s still much cheaper.
                  Or why apartments are tiny in NYC.
                  I also live in an area that had a much lower cost of living until we got flooded with Californians during the pandemic. Cost of living shot through the roof (and these insane gas and food prices aren’t helping). But as annoyed as I am by the influx of transplants, I can’t take it personally. I live in a great area. Of course people want to live here, too. And if I want more than I can afford right now, I need to improve my own skill set so I can get a job that pays better. Not whine that someone else makes more than me, or I deserve to be paid more for the same work.

                2. bamcheeks*

                  I think there’s a very big difference between financial literacy and people talking excitedly about the cost of living differential which may be causing your family and friends real hardship as a huge benefit.

                3. yala*

                  “you’re part of the mindset that generates income inequality”

                  There is a time and a place. A Christmas cocktail party isn’t really that place.

                  Facts are just facts sure, but that doesn’t mean that having an emotional reaction to a fact is unreasonable. If someone has cancer or can’t afford rent etc, those are both facts, but you wouldn’t tell someone that they shouldn’t “take it emotionally” if they were upset about it.

                4. Despachito*

                  I find finance talks often tacky and boring, and do not think that if you do not participate in this it makes you financially illiterate. If I hear another guest at a party saying he is making the double of my salary (as OP did), what can I realistically do with that information? It does not increase MY salary or make me magically involved in the world of finance.

                  It is very much a read the room situation. Financial issues are sensitive for many people, and while a situation when I am discussing the prices of houses or of a fancy holiday with a FRIEND who I KNOW is approximately at the same financial level as me, or rates with a colleague in the same industry branch is acceptable and we can both learn from this, if I discussed prices of the same fancy holiday with a friend who I know is financially struggling, or with a stranger I know nothing about, it would be insensitive.

                  It is not Jane’s fault but I think her guests did the latter. I do not think Jane should have done something, and never should she be punished at work, but I understand a bit how OP feels.

                5. Allonge*

                  If the time and place are appropriate, it’s not rude. I moved away from home and earn a lot more than anyone I grew up with, or my parents and their friends ever did. If people ask, I talk about this.

                  But going home and saying ohhh, is it not great that everything is sooo cheapo here? Yeah, I would expect to be disinvited from friend events.

                6. Bleh*

                  The concept of discussing finances as offensive was created by upper management types to generate financial illiteracy and keep wages depressed in marginalized groups. It’s important and necessary to discuss the topic with coworkers and with business professionals, but talking about how much more you can buy with your money now that you’re in a LCOL area is not the same thing politically speaking.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  I consider, “it’s so great how our money goes so much farther here!” in an area experiencing gentrification as awful, ignorant and offensive.

                2. Pippa K*

                  Bamcheeks – do you consider “I moved to a lower cost if living area so I could afford a house with a yard for my kids” to be offensive? Because it’s pretty much the same thing.

                3. bamcheeks*

                  I think it really depends. Lots of this is about awareness of the person you’re talking to. I think this stuff feels awful when it’s just a total denial of the reality that you and people you love are facing. Lots of people nodding and talking about how great it is to be able to afford childcare would still be alienating if you’ve been priced out of childcare and your family os suffering. One person saying, “Moving here has been great for us because we can afford childcare for the first time, I’m sorry you’re struggling with it, that sucks” is empathy and recognition of a shared situation.

                  I guess the contradiction I see here is the idea that it’s some kind of harm to Jane and her friends not to be thought well of, and that that can only be justified if they have done something objectively wrong. I just don’t think like that! I would centre the feelings of people who are experiencing the negative impacts of gentrification and I think they get to be mad about it regardless of whether Jane has done something objectively wrong or not.

              3. Pdxing*

                A couple points – the letter writer said *only* that Jane’s friends were talking “about how much further their big city salaries stretch here”. That could have been as innocent as “man, I’ve noticed things are less expensive here than in BLANK city”. The writer’s own insecurities are turning that into a dig, and it’s entirely on them. You have no context to blame Jane or her friends because none of us know what was said – all we know is the writer’s own headspace is impacting how she receives it, and it’s on them to deal with that, not the people around them. We’ve all been inadvertently jealous – it’s a thing that happens. It takes a reasonable mindset to realize it isn’t someone else’s fault.

                Reply
                1. arthur lester*

                  Yeah, I live in a less-expensive-part of a high cost of living area in my state, and was chatting about rent with a friend who lives in a much lower cost of living area. We have very different financial realities as people, but nobody felt the need to take anything personally.

                2. londonedit*

                  I mean, it could have been something as innocuous as ‘We’re so happy; we’d never have been able to afford to buy in Big City, but moving here means we’ve been able to buy this amazing house!’ which, yeah, counts as ‘it’s amazing how much further our money goes here’ but doesn’t count as ‘flaunting’, I don’t think. If they were saying ‘Oh my god this town is so CHEAP, we could buy half the street and still have money left over’ then yes, that’s crass, but expressing happiness that you could afford to buy somewhere nice to live when maybe you couldn’t before, without getting into specifics? I think that’s pretty normal.

              4. Worldwalker*

                Talking about how your money goes further in a lower COL place is not “awful ignorant things.” And “half my guests”? It might be a single person. And you’d take responsibility for things you didn’t know were happening because they were in another room and you’re just trying to keep the bowls of dip filled up?

                Besides, the LW is no saint. She has a job! As a manager! She has an apartment! Probably even (whispers) a car!

                At the very, very least, she should quit her job and get a minimum-wage job elsewhere. It’s not right of her to be earning so much. And that apartment is suspect, too; there are undoubtedly homeless people in her town — why does she act like she’s better than they are? How dare she talk to someone at a party about getting a new lamp — doesn’t she know there are people who can’t afford lamps? And it’s even worse if she says she got a good deal on car repairs; that’s offensive to people who can’t afford cars.

                Or, you know, she can accept that there are people who are better off than she is, just like there are people who are worse off, and you live in a world with all of them. Being jealous of the former means admitting that jealousy by the latter is justified.

                Reply
            2. WiscoKate*

              It’s really hard to tell the context. If they were just talking about cost of living being a benefit to living there – that isn’t really flaunting wealth but could seem like it to the OP. But there’s definitely a way it could be discussed as snobby and I don’t think we have enough info to determine which it is.

              I mean, I get it. It’s hard being poor, especially when you come face to face with people that very much are not. It doesn’t mean you get to fire them so you don’t have to deal with it. She invited OP to her home, which means she must be at least kind of welcoming. If Jane is pleasant to work with, it’s never bad having connections at good companies if OP is interested in different work in the future.

              Reply
            3. FurnitureontheTitanicRearranger*

              While working in NYC I made $27k a year. I could not afford to live in the city.
              I made more than my friends who worked closer to home. My money did stretch more in my hometown. I did make more than others. But I spent the difference on monthly train tickets and travel time.

              At the end of it all, it doesn’t matter if Janes guests were using $100k bills to light their Jo Malone candles — Jane is a good employee, and any envy regarding her home/salary/education from her supervisor is unfair to their working situation. If the envy prevents the supervisor from becoming friends with Jane, that is fine, as everyone gets to decide who their friends are.

              Reply
          3. Opal*

            It’s not even a “wealthy people” conversation. I live in a similar area. Many people move here because of the job market and lower cost of living. They may be entry, mid, or end career folks. It doesn’t matter which rung of the ladder they are on. They all make the same comment.

            Reply
            1. Properlike*

              It’s an “adult” conversation. It’s a running joke at most parties where people are at a certain life stage (depending on the area and industry: late 20s/early 30s.) “Guess we’re old, here we are talking about mortgage rates.”

              Discussing wealth inequality is not the same as making racist or sexist comments, either.

              If a conversation at a party makes you uncomfortable, the solution is to excuse yourself. To expect all the participants at a party to only discuss topics that YOU approve of in a way that makes YOU comfortable is the height of personal privilege/entitlement.

              Reply
              1. bamcheeks*

                There is a specific social class of people who talk about mortgage rates at parties. It is not a universal human attribute.

                Reply
              2. Vimes*

                Ok that is a rich people party. The vast majority of Americans can’t afford homes in their late 20/early 30s. If the people at the parties you go to can do that, that’s nice for them. The fact that you don’t recognize that this isn’t just “typical party conversation” is kinda troubling.

                Reply
                1. Rowerrabbit*

                  This is just untrue. Really geographically dependent. My poorer friends are more likely to talk about money than my richer friends. Money is a huge stress and driving force in our lives. Makes sense that people discuss it.

                2. Yeah, no*

                  Vast majority?
                  Hardly.
                  Maybe in your specific circle, but across the entire nation, there’s literally millions of other people in that age bracket who can.

                3. Burger Bob*

                  O_o Husband and I bought a house at age 31 two years ago, and we were late to the party compared to most of our friends. This is heavily dependent on what area you live in. In ours, it’s not at all uncommon for people in their late 20s/early 30s to be able to buy a house. And it DOES become a “typical party conversation.” People going through buying their first house like talking to other people who have recently done the same about the process and comparing experiences, same as people going through any first time experience with a big life event (see also first time parents comparing stories about their babies’ sleep schedules or what have you). I absolutely get that if you aren’t in that financial position, it can be incredibly awkward to be the odd man out and you could even feel resentful. But they aren’t talking about it AT you. No different than if you’re at a party with lots of newlyweds talking about marriage stuff and they don’t realize you just went through a bad breakup.

                4. Eirene*

                  You really can’t conceive of a party where people talk about mortgage rates in a general sense? Even, “Wow, the mortgage rates are too high for me to buy a house right now”? I have friends who bought houses and friends who rent and friends who live with their parents. We’re not rich; we’re a mix of different income levels, and we talk about that kind of stuff at parties all the time. How are you supposed to know what life is like for other people if you don’t discuss life?

            2. Lavender*

              Yeah, that was my interpretation. I grew up in an area with an extremely high cost of living, and a big part of the reason I left was *because* I’m not wealthy. There’s definitely some room for nuance–like, if you can afford to live comfortably anywhere you choose but moved to a cheaper area so you could buy a mansion, talking about that might seem tactless. But I don’t think commenting on the cost of living is rude in itself.

              (That said, I would still err on the side of not bringing it up if I were earning a living wage and my conversation partner was not.)

              Reply
          4. skadhu*

            I happen to live in a place where there’s been a lot of recent inward migration from city-dwellers who would be poor in a nearby city given its astronomically ridiculous cost of living, but are relatively well off here. And yeah, people talk about the difference. That doesn’t mean that everyone who has made that shift is actually rich, for a significant it’s that they can now survive more comfortably and perhaps afford some luxuries. I don’t know if that’s the case in OP’s example, but it’s common here. And yes, people benefit in relative terms, but it’s within a socio-political infrastructure designed to pay off for a relatively small number at the expense of most, and those kinds of discrepancies are part of the system. The ones who benefit at lower levels do have genuine benefits, but those are small compared to the benefits of the people at the apex of the system, and accusing them of being rich is a red herring that divides people and distracts attention from the actual structural problems that cause the discrepancies. Divide and conquer, as they say.

            Reply
            1. skadhu*

              (and by afford some luxuries I mean a holiday or a new computer, not an endless array of expensive designer products)

              Reply
              1. Lizzo*

                ^^This. It’s the difference between just surviving, or actually having a chance to thrive.

                And also this: “[A]ccusing them of being rich is a red herring that divides people and distracts attention from the actual structural problems that cause the discrepancies.”

                This is the real problem. OP, if you’re pissed, you’re better off channeling that anger towards political activism so that the structural problems causing these issues can be addressed by the people who are currently in charge of things.

                Reply
                1. Splendid Colors*

                  I hope it isn’t out of line to point out there is a nationwide movement to fight those structural problems. Some people are offended by the name “Poor People’s Campaign” but it’s a revival of Martin Luther King’s PPC from the 1960s. There are chapters all over the place even if your community doesn’t have local tenant unions etc. Look up Poor People’s Campaign and Rev. William Barber.

              2. KateM*

                We moved from city apartment to row house in a smaller nearby town, the main luxuries we received were 1) kids getting their own bedrooms 2) kids getting chance to play in our own little yard in fresh air as much as they wanted (asthma of one of them went into remission within a couple of years after our move).
                Very many families have moved here and built new houses – the amount of elementary school teachers in local school has TRIPLED in last 15 years.

                Reply
            2. cardigarden*

              It’s like living in or very close to a city and you can barely afford the only apartment that works within your net income and then you move 30 miles away and suddenly the same apartment is half the cost. Your money IS going to go farther and it’s not a crime, and I wouldn’t even call it gauche or disrespectful, to talk about that. That’s what I dealt with. Sure, I was still making only 40k, but I suddenly had a bit left over every month after rent, utilities, and groceries.

              Reply
            3. Tau*

              I’m in a big city and I get the impression gentrification here works via domino effect – people who would’ve bought there before can no longer afford to live in rich area X, so instead they move to well-off area Y, driving up the prices there so that people who would have lived in Y end up shifting to median-income area Z, at which point residents of Z are priced out and end up in poorer area W, and so on and so forth. Being part of this cycle can leave you feeling helpless – like, gentrification is bad but you cannot actually afford to live anywhere where you wouldn’t be participating in gentrification, so what do you do?

              Not sure that’s what’s happening with Jane and her friends, mind you, especially given the pandemic-related relocation aspect and the way OP describes her home.

              Reply
              1. Splendid Colors*

                I haven’t heard of “gentrification” meaning that people from rich areas move to middle class suburbs, etc. The only contexts where I’ve heard the term “gentrification” used are either people (or corporations) buying real estate in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in a metro area (i.e. Oakland, East San Jose, SF Bayview) OR people moving from a metro area to the boonies where the locals simply can’t compete.

                What OP is talking about is the latter.

                Imagine you live in a rural farm town with a quaint little Main Street and some residential neighborhoods, surrounded by farms. Maybe family farms, maybe industrial-scale farming with some shacks for migrant/undocumented workers. Or maybe it’s out in the desert, or in the mountains or forest.

                Pretty good chance there isn’t a major employer in the area. Just mom-n-pop local businesses, maybe some chain fast food, maybe the kind of chain restaurants you get at truck stops if you’re on a major freeway like I-5. Maybe there’s some tourism if you’re near a National Park or something. Lots of people can almost make ends meet on disability or Social Security or a small pension.

                Nobody really has a high enough income to afford high rent or expensive houses, and then BOOM! Influx of highly-paid city folk doing WFH who figure they might as well move to the country instead of paying millions of dollars on a house or condo with a bunch of unhoused people camping on the sidewalk. (This is frankly pretty understandable.)

                These newcomers with ginormous salaries snap up any houses on the market for top dollar, pay more for rent than the locals can, and now the other landlords figure they might as well cash in too. Even now that employers are starting to call people back to the office (or laying them off), those housing prices aren’t going to go back to pre-newcomer levels. Are business owners who benefit from higher retail spending (such as fancier restaurants and brew pubs instead of diners and dive bars) going to increase wages enough for their employees to compete in the housing market? And what about people on fixed incomes who don’t get a HCOL bonus because they live outside the official HCOL areas?

                They might just double up and share housing.

                They might decide to relocate somewhere that’s rural enough AND unpleasant enough not to be attracting gentrifiers.

                Reply
          5. Tamale Thief*

            Ok, a thought that I haven’t seen yet and I don’t want to read all the 500+ comments to see if it’s here:

            Who does OP think is buying the high profit margin goods at the bakery? Because it’s not the folks who are having trouble making ends meet – it’s the newcomers who have more stretch in their budget.

            It sounds heartless but also, like, don’t be all cranky about the fact that your customer base has extra $$.

            Reply
            1. MigraineMonth*

              Depending on how taxes are structured, it’s also likely that people buying homes in the area are footing the bill for significant improvements in local services, infrastructure and education.

              Reply
            1. TootsNYC*

              they’re supposed to know that there are people they don’t know personally at the party, and then follow good basic etiquette, which has long said, “don’t talk about money.”

              There are places where it’s important to, but a big party where a few of the guests are people you don’t know is not one of those places.

              That used to be basic etiquette. There are plenty of other things to talk about.

              Money creates strata. Social events are supposed to erase it. That’s why it’s rude to talk about money at social events.

              Reply
              1. L-squared*

                I think the issue comes to what people consider “talking about money”. To me saying “wow, driving out here, I saw guess is way cheaper than where I live” wouldn’t really be considered talking about money in the same way that “my stock portfolio is down this month” or “I had to pay X amount for my new Tesla” is. To me, the gas price thing is, more or less, what the people at the party were saying. Maybe you would consider discussing the difference in gas prices as “talking about money”. I don’t.

                Reply
          6. Pounce de Lion*

            OK, you win. Jane is an excellent employee who spends her free time being a haughty biddy and terrible hostess. Now what?

            Reply
          7. Anonomatopoeia*

            I mean, and they are taking those stretchy dollars and placing them in the local economy and tax base, so…

            Also, LW? For all you know (because you actual facts DO NOT know), Jane might be donating her entire bakery salary to local entities devoted to helping people make ends meet. You have no idea what she does with her money, or whether it’s for good or evil. That’s also true of the teenagers you hire — some of them might have a good allowance at home and use this pocket money for the occasional event featuring hookers and blow, with you none the wiser, you know? Or someone else who doesn’t have the particular cushion Jane has might acquire one when their grandmother leaves them her home or some other kind of windfall. Anyway, Jane’s financial history is pretty far outside the realm of your business.

            (Also? Being jealous is only hurting you — if you can find a way to not dwell here, you’ll probably be a lot happier about the whole situation)

            Reply
          8. L-squared*

            Honestly, I find that concept crazy.

            None of my friends are what I’d call rich. However, in the last few years, I’ve had a number of friends expand their families and move to the burbs (I live in a major city). They do this because what they pay for a 2BR 1 bath condo in the city gets them a lot more room (and better schools) in the burbs. I see nothing wrong with discussing this topic. Its not like its some secret that only rich people know. The fact is, I spend more on groceries, gas, and entertainment than they do. Why do we have to pretend that isn’t the case? Its not flaunting to discuss this

            Reply
          1. Valancy Trinit*

            Of all the hot takes I’ve seen on this thread, this might be the hottest.

            In the vast majority of workplaces it’s very normal.

            Reply
          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            I don’t think it’s weird in itself to invite co-workers to your home, but given Jane’s situation I think that would qualify as ‘flaunting’ as she’s clearly aware of the disparity.

            Reply
            1. Properlike*

              Such a Catch-22. Had Jane not invited her to the party, or not invited any coworkers to the party, I’m sure LW would have pointed out that Jane was “flaunting” her status by not wanting to associate with the “lower class.” (Assuming that’s LW’s idea of what Jane believes.)

              LW is looking to be offended here, and has found her scapegoat.

              Reply
              1. Lavender*

                Exactly. Or something like, “I can’t believe Jane didn’t invite us to her party, since we earn so much less than she does and can’t afford to throw nice holiday parties of our own.” This sounds like it would be a lose/lose situation for Jane.

                I mean, I live in a city with a housing shortage and was very lucky to find a bigger apartment than most of my peers have. I host gatherings because I have more space, not because I’m trying to show off. As other commenters have pointed out, Jane isn’t doing anything *at* OP, she’s just living her life.

                Reply
            2. Hiring Mgr*

              You missed the end of the party where Jane and her friends were burning $100 dollar bills in front of a group of orphans

              Reply
            3. D*

              Maybe Jane thought a functional adult would know some people have less and some people have more, and we all have to learn to cope somehow. If Jane hadn’t invited her that would be snobbery… Lol Jane needs to give all her money away and wear a burlap sack i guess, anything else is just hurtful.

              Reply
            4. Burger Bob*

              Clearly aware? How do you figure? Jane has no idea what OP’s financial situation is. She doesn’t know OP’s salary, OP’s partner’s salary if applicable, any other money OP may have from other sources, etc. Jane is not flaunting anything by inviting someone she thought was a friend to her home for a party. And frankly, it would be a little weird if Jane intentionally avoided inviting over anyone who might be poorer than herself. I don’t investigate potential guests’ finances before inviting them over, and I don’t think most people do either.

              Reply
            5. Irish Teacher.*

              Honestly, I’d be kind of offended if I thought a coworker didn’t invite me over because “my house is much bigger than hers and she might get jealous.” I would find that patronising.

              Reply
              1. L-squared*

                Right. This is bizarre to me.

                I’m an adult. I know some people make less and some people more. But deciding that I’m too poor to be able to accept that someone has a nicer home than me is incredibly offensive

                Reply
          3. Library Penguin*

            I admit, I find that weird as well – I’ve been to one (1) coworker’s home in the twenty years I’ve been working. But I don’t socialise with my colleagues outside of work, so I guess it’s just a personal preference or cultural thing?

            Reply
          4. SofiaDeo*

            In small towns, the social strata may not be as segmented as in larger ones. Plus, I have seen in small departments/businesses, it is polite to invite *everyone* but the bosses don’t show up. I know I got invited to many social events that I am sure my staff was happy I did not turn up at. As well as attended parties where even though the managers got an invite, none of them came, and I at least was glad to “let down my hair” in a way I wouldn’t have if a manager was present. For all we know, Jane invited LW just to be polite and was expecting a refusal.

            Reply
        3. Vanellope*

          From what was disclosed in the letter, it does seem like the friends could be seen as flaunting (talking about how far their city salaries stretch in a smaller town) but overall I didn’t see anything to indicate Jane herself hasn’t been sensitive to these issues. I get the LWs frustration but it seems to be more the fault of the situation than Jane herself.

          Reply
          1. Little Lady Flauntelroy*

            I’ve responded “houses are cheaper here, I could afford three bedrooms for what I sold my one bedroom house for” to several people when they’ve asked why I moved 200 miles. I certainly hope they don’t think I’m flaunting my “wealth” (I’d like to actually have wealth if I’m going to be accused of flaunting it – owning a house is really the only wealthy thing about me, we’re pretty low income).

            Reply
            1. Calpurrnia*

              Agreed! I moved 700 miles last year, and I’ve definitely said “I’m paying the same rent for a 3-bed house with a garden here as I paid for a cramped 1-bed 3rd-floor walkup apartment there” when asked “why here?” Is that somehow “flaunting wealth”?

              I mean, “so what brought you to this area?” is a super normal small-talk thing to ask people who moved recently, especially people you’re just meeting and don’t know well. There are a huge variety of reasons people move, but for *a lot* of people, the answer boils down to “money!” People don’t typically just decide to pack up their entire life into boxes and put them in a truck and move to a different region because they thought moving sounded fun! People decide to move because they can’t comfortably afford to access _(thing they value)_ where they live now so they choose a place where they can. Fill in the blank however you like!… For some people it’s groceries, rent, a house, a bigger house, a yard, a garden, a dog, a horse. Medical care, daycare, schools, college, visiting parents, visiting grandparents, caring for aging or ill family. Parking, commuting, groceries, electricity, clean water, internet, security. Coffee, avocado toast, buns from the bakery. Some of these are luxuries but lots of them aren’t. Is it really rude and horribly pro-trickle-down-economics to say “I moved because I couldn’t afford groceries in City, but here my salary goes a lot further so I can eat healthier!”?!

              This seems like a no-win situation for people just trying to make small talk at a party. All this pearl-clutching like “It’s so rude to talk about money at a party!” and getting offended because someone gave an honest answer to a super basic “getting to know you” question is just looking for a thing to be offended about. Do we expect people to lie because their life situation is different from another person’s and telling the truth might possibly offend that person? What topics are and aren’t off limits if that’s the case?

              Are people allowed to mention their children, or do they avoid the topic since somebody at the party might be childless? Can people compliment the cook on the food, or do they avoid the topic because somebody might dislike an ingredient? Can people mention something from a popular television show, or do they avoid the topic since somebody might not have cable??

              People have different lives. Nobody’s living their life AT anyone. Everyone’s making decisions based on their means and their values. It’s not offensive to factually state the reasons for those decisions. Come on, people.

              Reply
          2. Modesty Poncho*

            From the letter, I would assume that Jane’s friends assumed that anyone at the party was probably in a similar life situation. It’s a lot of assumptions and they weren’t true, but it’s not unreasonable to think that the friends of my friends probably have lives like mine?

            Reply
        4. Niyuz*

          “There is a good phrase I learned here at AMA. Jane isn’t living her life AT anyone.”

          Credit where credit is due—that’s a Captain Awkward phrase.

          Reply
        5. stunner266*

          Jane and her friends were “flaunting” how much their big city money stretches in this smaller town. People like Jane are the reason OP can no longer afford to buy a home in their town.
          I dont think OP should fire her, but I do 100% understand the resentment. I find your comment that OP should learn and grow from this to be extremely patronizing.

          Reply
          1. MigraineMonth*

            And she shouldn’t she also not invite anyone who makes less than LW, in case they feel bad because they make less than LW.

            Reply
      2. Maggie*

        She’s not flaunting it, she’s just existing. But I like your point. We don’t know what others are going through and for all we know Jane is desperately trying to scrape up the money each month for her moms nursing home. We don’t know. She’s nice and a good employee and that’s all OP really needs to focus on right now. Personally I’ve found the best way to handle jealousy is to befriend someone and maybe even try to be inspired by them, but OP may not be ready to try that yet.

        Reply
        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Yeah, I do wonder at someone who gets a 2 year paid sabbatical from their corporate job and decides to spend those 2 years working the least desirable shifts at a bakery. I took a part-time service industry job when I was an early-career office professional because my office job didn’t pay enough to support my living expenses AND service my student loan debt. I was well aware that my financial situation was by most standards much more comfortable than my (largely teenaged or recently-arrived immigrant) coworkers. But all the same, I did need that job – I wasn’t there for funsies.

          I would guess there’s a reason Jane needs that job. Maybe it’s like another commenter suggested and she’s getting on-the-job training for a business she wants to start. Maybe she’s caring for a terminally ill family member. Maybe she had a mental health crisis. Maybe a hundred other possibilities – but the least likely explanation is probably, “Jane’s greed is so insatiable that one highly-paid job is not enough.”

          Reply
          1. Burger Bob*

            I have sort of a Jane employee at work. She definitely does not need the job from a financial standpoint, and she’s massively overqualified for it in terms of educational background. But she just genuinely wants to have something that consistently gets her out of the house and gives her something to do. And she’s one of our best employees, very reliable, willing to pick up weird shifts, etc. It would be extremely weird of us to decide she doesn’t “deserve” the job because she’s already financially well-off enough.

            Reply
          2. Splendid Colors*

            Quite a few people from these high paid professions want to start businesses after retiring early from those high-stress jobs. And yes, bakeries are one of those things people dream about doing. One local bakery that folded during the pandemic was started by a couple from the local tech industry. (I hear their stuff was amazing but it was sooo far out of my budget I never got around to trying any.)

            Reply
      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        People tend to assume everyone around them is in the same situation. When people are very well off, some of the conversations may make you want to stab them with a fork, but they really don’t mean anything by it. We’re can all be inconsiderate clods in one way or another.

        Reply
        1. ferrina*

          This. Problems may sound similar, but the scope makes the difference.

          In college my friends would complain about how they didn’t have any money but would never worry about where their next meal was coming from or whether they would have a place to live. A couple of us were the ones who were constantly thinking about how to survive, and that takes a toll. Does that mean my other friends were rich? No, most of them weren’t. And yes, their problems were real. They were just on another scope.

          Likewise, it’s common to complain about one’s family. Family will always be the source of some headaches. But there’s a difference between a headache and an abusive family (I came from the latter). It doesn’t make the headache any less real or problematic, but it’s not the same scale.

          Reply
          1. Rowerrabbit*

            Also, people spend money VASTLY differently. I have plenty of friends who make so much less than me but drive the same car and wear really nice clothes. I just don’t care about that stuff and am kind of a bum with clothing. I do take really nice vacations, but I hotspotted off my phone for internet for 5 years because I didn’t want the monthly charge. I didn’t have a TV even for most of my adult life because I just didn’t want to pay for it and I wanted to save that money in other ways. Making assumptions based on what people have or do can be tricky and really wrong.

            Reply
            1. ferrina*

              Debt also makes a difference. I spent the first decade of my career paying $500/month for student loans, while my coworker’s parents paid for her college, so she was able to put that money towards a down payment on a house. So even though we had similar spending habits (I actually spent less), because she had her monthly Shelter payments going towards a mortgage, she was accumulating wealth (via equity). Meanwhile my loan debt meant that I couldn’t save for a down payment and was still paying rent. This is a well known cycle in generational wealth/poverty.

              Reply
            2. Worldwalker*

              Exactly. Someone who didn’t know I don’t have cable TV, my Honda Civic is old enough to run for Congress, and I can’t remember the last time I paid more than $25 for an article of clothing, might think I’m well-off. Whereas someone who sees me in that old beater of a car, wearing jeans from Costco and a T-shirt from a yard sale, would certainly think I’m poor. They’re both wrong. I’m middle-class, and kind of odd about what I spend my money on. That’s true for a lot of people.

              Reply
      4. yala*

        I use something similar when I think about “Oh, if only I’d done X or Y” (usually related to “if only my ADHD had been diagnosed and treated a decade and change earlier). But if I’d actually done the things I wanted to do, I wouldn’t have my cat. And I love her. I can still try to do the things I wanted to do (well, dating in your 30s sucks a lot), but there’s no other cat like my Harpo.

        Reply
        1. Worldwalker*

          I’ve often thought I should have taken a certain college scholarship instead of going where I did. But if I had, I never would have met the wonderful person I’ve been married to for almost 30 years. Life is what it is. In retrospect, I’m pretty happy with how mine worked out.

          Reply
      5. MissGirl*

        I’m getting a strong vibe of the LW who treated her employee poorly who was beautiful when the OP had serious self image issues. She would’ve never hired the employee and deep down wished she could fire her.

        She could not conceal her animosity. That ended very very badly for the LW.

        Reply
          1. Sparkles McFadden*

            Original letter
            https://www.askamanager.org/2017/02/im-jealous-of-my-attractive-employee-working-for-free-when-changing-careers-and-more.html

            Update 1
            https://www.askamanager.org/2017/05/update-im-jealous-of-my-employee-and-its-impacting-how-i-treat-her.html

            Update 2
            https://www.askamanager.org/2017/09/3-reader-updates-including-the-person-who-was-jealous-of-her-attractive-employee.html

            Update 3
            https://www.askamanager.org/2019/05/update-im-jealous-of-my-attractive-employee-and-its-impacting-how-i-treat-her.html

            Reply
              1. Boof*

                There was a bit more self awareness imho that they were being a bad manager + talking about moving the employee to a different team, not firing them.

                Reply
                1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

                  They had been and continued to cause harm to the employee and lied about it to their boss. That’s a LOT worse, though I agree that probably because that letter writer had a massive mea culpa at the outset, there was more room to be charitable.

                2. Boof*

                  I don’t remember if all that came out in the first letter – but IDK I think there would have been room to be more harsh with them too – the important thing is to make it extremely clear that jealousy is NOT an ok reason to punish someone or make their working environment uncomfortable or fire them – even probably not ok just to make them change teams (instead probably better to recuse yourself from management if you can’t keep your jealousy from impacting your working relationship)

      6. The Starsong Princess*

        Here’s my guess – Jane doesn’t want OP’s job. Instead, I think she’s gaining experience before opening her own similar business, possibly in partnership with the owner. Regardless, OP has a good employee right now who will probably move on soon. They need to control the jealousy and cultivate Jane as a future contact.

        Reply
        1. Boof*

          My bet is jane likes the low stakes of her current job while she’s decompressing from whatever she’s on sabattical from.
          Ngll as a doctor I occasionally think it would be nice to be a janitor and am projecting a bit on jane no doubt

          Reply
      7. Rainbow*

        Something happened to me once that taught me a lot about jealousy. I had in my friends circle at one point an incredible and impressive woman. She is world-renowned in a particular field, extremely intelligent, fantastic with people, caring and courageous, generous with her time, very rich largely from her own making, has built up a successful business, is also famously beautiful and even has many adoring fans. And one day, her partner told me that she was jealous of me. If I have any of the above, it’s 1% of what she has.

        Taught me a lot about where jealousy comes from. It was her (unfathomable from the outside!) insecurities coming to light.

        Reply
        1. MigraineMonth*

          This comes up whenever you compare your internal lived experience to someone else’s outer successes. If your neighbor has a new car, that might be because they put in hundreds of hours of overtime, or because the family member who bought it died.

          Don’t compare your diary to your friends’ Instagram feeds.

          Reply
      8. Jenna*

        @High Score! – so true, I’ve found this to be the anecdote to jealousy also. I also once heard, “if you want someone else’s life, you have to take it all – the good and the bad. Do you also really want their bad?” The real-life example given was of a close friend of the speaker who had built up considerable personal wealth from his successful business, he was well-educated, had a happy marriage, and had time to exercise often and stay in great shape. To most people, it looked like he had a great life that anyone would want. But his friend knew that his daughter was a homeless addict living on the streets, and despite all his efforts he couldn’t convince her to accept help. This man would routinely use his PTO/vacation days to track down his daughter in their city (which would sometimes take multiple days) to make sure she was still alive, bring her food/clothes/etc. and try to convince her to come home with him. Even though he has a great life in many respects, I’, not sure anyone would trade having more money and career success for the misery, agony and terror of not knowing if my children were healthy, safe or even alive at any given moment. Everyone has good in their lives, and everyone has pain – it’s easy to judge someone up or down when you often don’t see or know their pain.

        Reply
      9. Susannah*

        Oh, Jane isn’t “flaunting” anything other than just living her life. it’s not like she’s waving a Birken bag is LW’s face.
        I’m not clear on the resentment over getting paid “twice.” What if Jane were retied, and getting a pension or Social Security? She’s doing a job and getting paid for it (not much, I imagine). She’s made a point if being kind and welcoming and helpful.

        In all honesty.. maybe it would be easier to be jealous of her financial situation (which is normal!) if Jane were a jerk. it’s the way I felt when the super-pretty girl, head cheerleader, was also smart and nice to me in the hall. Part of me wanted her to be mean so I could say, ha! So she’s smart and popular but has a bad personality!
        Just acknowledge the jealousy for the very normal human feeling it is, then be glad Jane is making your life easier.

        Reply
        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I remember the late Elizabeth Wurtzel writing about a very beautiful woman she was in rehab with, and how she, like most extra-attractive women she had met, were in no way the stereotype of the bitchy beauty queen.

          Since they were so stunning, most people they met on a day to day basis were dazzled and gave them everything we see attractive people getting in studies–attention, jobs, money, time, attraction. This made them quite nice and easy to be around, since they had literally spent their entire lives seeing the best in people.

          Reply
      10. RR*

        Agree with the advice written here completely but wonder if it could have been written with a bit more compassion. This sounds like a frustrating situation, and I know how infuriating it can be to the on the bad side of inequality. Sometimes it makes you irrational, and a reality check can be helpful.

        I like your tip for jealousy and have one of my own to add. One thing my dad always said to me that I think about every time I get jealous is you can’t actually tell people’s financial situations from their lifestyle. Maybe Jane has a lot of debt. Maybe they don’t make as much as you think but just want to flaunt it. Maybe she has a lot of hidden bills like student loans or finances for an ill parent to manage. I hope not but you get my point. People often live beyond their means or want to appear as if they have more than they do. Count your own blessings and admit you don’t really know Jane’s situation, only what she presents, and she’s likely only presenting her best self.

        Reply
      11. Grammar Penguin*

        Flaunting by definition is a deliberate act. If one doesn’t realize it, it’s not flaunting. It’s just being.

        Reply
      12. Styx-n-String*

        I ws fired once because the manager didn’t think I needed the money. No other reason – she even said I was good at the job, but because she interpreted my situation in a certain way, she decided I didn’t need the money and let me go. She was dead wrong – I desperately needed that job and losing it negatively affected a lot in my life at that point (and even now, decades later).

        You dont know Jane’s true situation. She might be trying to save money to get out of an abusive marriage, or any number of things she’s not disclosing to new coworkers. She’s at this job for a reason. It’s nobody else’s right to decide whether she “needs the money.” If she’s a good coworker, that’s all that matters.

        Reply
    2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      For real, I had only sympathy for the LW until the second-to-last paragraph, because I thought they were going to ask “How can I rein in these feelings and treat Jane professionally as a manager?”

      A very similar thing has happened to my town, and I do have a lot of resentment for the system that has done it, and even a significant amount for the people like Jane. But I am able to redirect and interrogate that ire, as Alison states. Hating and firing Jane will not benefit you, LW, nor will it even the scales of justice or satisfy your sense of it. You will probably face consequences for it, and Jane will get another sabbatical position to occupy her time before she goes back to her regular job.

      Reply
      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I kept waiting for the part where Jane is insufferable and condescending. It never came. Jane sounds lovely.

        Reply
        1. TechWorker*

          The only bit that sounded a bit dodgy to me is giving management tips. If they’re solicited, great, but if they’re not… well it’s a nice instinct but it’s not part of her current role & there would definitely be circumstances where it could be condescending. But that doesn’t seem to be most of the OPs complaint :)

          Reply
          1. LoJo*

            But what a missed opportunity. The LW sounds young and is new to managing. It’s great to have resources. Unless it’s bad advice, it’s not dodgy.

            Reply
            1. mf*

              That’s the thing: Jane sounds like a successful woman who would be a GREAT mentor or resource. If the OP is smart, she would see this as an opportunity: learn from Jane, make Jane a part of her network, so that she could benefit in her own career (especially financially!).

              Reply
            2. Keats*

              But there’s nuance at play here. It sounds like Jane is completely tone deaf about the ways people like her are hurting this community. It is selfish. Privilege comes with responsibility, and Jane isn’t shouldering that responsibility. She sounds professionally excellent but clueless about the realities being a gentrifier.

              Her offenses aren’t fireable. But casually dropping her salary, making comments about how easily she and her friends can gobble up the local resources…. She’s not behaving ethically, either.

              The LW needs to find a way to work with her, but she really sounds ignorabr at best, classist at worst.

              Reply
              1. Happy*

                The OP never said that Jane casually dropped or salary (or even shared it, at all).

                Jane told the owner that she was on sabbatical and somehow OP later found out the sabbatical was paid. It doesn’t say how OP found out.

                Reply
          2. turquoisecow*

            And OP seemed grateful for the tips, until she went to Jane’s house and had her mindset colored by the fact that Jane has some money.

            Reply
          3. 1*

            It depends how this occured. If OP is annoyed and talking about it like “Damn it Luke is skipping out again, I wish he’d listen to me and get his act together” TO Jane then its not terrible to respond with something like “set a structure, tell him that NCNSing isn’t acceptable and then follow through” isn’t a bad thing. And Jane seems to have no idea of the jealously and inferiority complex that OP actually has.

            Reply
      2. Starbuck*

        Same here. Big resentment for all the rich people who’ve moved to the town I work in to buy their 2nd, 3rd home of 3,000 square feet that only 2 people occupy, and then fight tooth and nail against the construction of apartments or townhomes across the street so that people who actually work can maybe afford to live here and not commute from the next rural town down the highway. All while complaining about how understaffed the restaurants are, or how hard it is to find someone to paint their massive house… but I’m not bitter, lol

        So I get how LW feels, but obviously firing the ‘overqualified’ person is not the way to go. And all other negative impacts of rich people throwing their wealth around aside – I have read that it can be pretty beneficial for lower socioeconomic status to have wealthier friends. So it’s worth trying to cultivate that if you can, and who knows maybe really getting to know Jane will help LW feel less resentful. It’s helped me become less frustrated with individuals and more focused on the system (though the NIMBYs I will not forgive).

        Reply
        1. silly sally*

          I’m also going to add that looking down on “overqualified” people working positions like these ultimately does hurt lower income people! I have a lot of friends from college who were either first gen/low income and got full rides to study something, then couldn’t break into their industry of choice because they still didn’t have the necessary connections or just plain realized it wasn’t a good choice long-term so they are working service positions with MAs while they build portfolios or switch industries, or friends who had major health issues or were laid off with kids, etc who are working service positions because that’s what is feasible or necessary for them, and they’re MAs or PhDs. It’s not that any of them are taking jobs from people who need them more, they all need them, and they also all have graduate degrees.

          Reply
    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Exactly. I empathize with this a great deal because I am a class migrant surrounded by people who were born on 3rd base, and pretty much everything my spouse and I have, we earned ourselves. (I couldn’t figure out how everyone here could afford houses in their mid-20s, but it turns out this is much easier if your parents give you your down payment, and your grandparents financed you entire education.) I work with people who have second homes, take incredible vacations, and went to prestigious schools I could only dream of attending. People I supervise now will go on to bigger and better things than I do and have excellent connections.

      But 95% of them are nice, hard-working, bright people. Some of them are even cognizant of their advantage and doing their best to pay it forward via community service and mentoring. (Don’t get me wrong, that last 5% are classist, arrogant assholes, so I definitely hope they put all their money in crypto and strip mall real estate and are losing big.)

      Bottom line, I’d be the only person hurt by feeling bitter and jealous about it. My having those feelings would not in any way make the more privileged any less so, and it would only hurt my reputation to be outwardly angry or vindicate toward them.

      Also, I’m likely to be Jane some day. I wouldn’t worry about Jane gunning for OP’s job. As soon as I can get a nice job that doesn’t require working outside business hours, constantly being on call, and managing people, I’m there. Selling people delicious baked goods? Sign me up.

      Reply
      1. MigraineMonth*

        When I worked at the library circulation desk in high school, I couldn’t resist sampling all the books. I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to work in a bakery, lovely as it sounds.

        Reply
    1. Raglan*

      My read on this letter is that LW isn’t so much asking if she can fire Jane (she knows she can’t) as asking for tips on how to manage her while dealing with her own burnout and emotional struggles. Obviously resenting the people she manages is bad and flagging that is important, but I also have a lot of sympathy for the situation she’s in, probably more than is expressed in this response.

      Reply
        1. Olive*

          I’m not sure about that. When she says “I want to fire her but I have no good reason…”, it seems like the LW might be looking for the smallest of reasons to at least give Jane a reprimand or write her up.

          Reply
            1. Lydia*

              We’re also supposed to give the LWs the benefit of the doubt, and I think it’s fair the LW is hoping that firing Jane will mitigate the overall feelings of frustration she’s having, even if it won’t.

              Reply
          1. Well...*

            I guess I just don’t see how it’s more important to diagnose LW’s true desire to fire Jane than it is to give LW some constructive advice for how to manage those feelings while being a good manager to Jane… you know, the actual question LW asked

            Reply
          2. Lavender*

            I don’t know. I read it more as “I’m unhappy working with this person who is good at her job and hasn’t done anything harmful to me personally, what do I do?” Firing her appears to be an option they’d considered (even if only in passing), but it also sounds like they’re open to hearing about other solutions.

            Reply
          3. SofiaDeo*

            I disagree. Look again at the letter. LW explains all the emotions she is going through, a bit of background, subtext, as to how/where LW thinks the emotions are coming from and ends “how can I manage her”. Not “how can I find an excuse to fire her.” The statement “I want to fire her but I have no good reason” I interpret as a statement of LW’s thoughts, not her intentions. LW is *asking how to manage with all these emotions*.

            Reply
          1. alienor*

            I mean she did write in. If she weren’t trying to fight the feelings, she’d probably just find a pretext to fire her and be done with it.

            Reply
            1. Worldwalker*

              I got the feeling that she was looking for Alison to tell her that she can legally fire Jane for any reason, so she should go ahead and do so.

              Reply
        2. ferrina*

          I wonder if LW is also thinking about it as “Jane doesn’t need the money, she won’t be hurt if I fire her.” Maybe (LW doesn’t actually know that), but that’s not the point.

          LW is in pain, and Jane is a tangible representation of the societal issue that’s plaguing LW. Firing Jane will remove the immediate reminder of the issue, but it won’t actually solve anything. (and of course, will make a lot worse the LW’s management)

          Reply
      1. Well...*

        Yea… as soon as I read the “I want to fire her” bit, I internally cringed. A lot of goodwill towards LW’s situation is going to go out the window with that. Perhaps rightfully so, as that’s where her judgement seems the most off-kilter.

        I hate it though because I really root for LWs when they write in.

        Reply
        1. High Score!*

          I can understand this. She’s being honest. I moved to an area years ago so I could buy a house but now home prices are skyrocketing and rent is increasing. People can’t save to buy their own home bc rent is so high. They can’t get loans even though their mortgage would be half what they pay for rent. And then every time a house goes up for sale, a big rental company purchases it paying more than asking price and turns it into a rental property. It’s insane

          Reply
          1. High Score!*

            Note: I bought my home when prices were reasonable but young people here are struggling. Our kids needed our help and their in laws help to get into a house and that was several years ago. I doubt we’d even have enough to help today.

            Reply
          2. Starbuck*

            Word. In my small town, SFHs used to go for like, $300k max for something moderate sized built in the 70s – 90s. Now, those same houses are $500k – $600k, and I just saw listed a little studio condo (not new or luxury, and like 300 sq ft) for $250k. It’s nuts and it’s hard not to let feelings about that get the best of your judgement sometimes.

            Reply
            1. KateM*

              How about prices in other places? Because where I live, prices have gone up for ALL homes. Inflation or something like that.

              Reply
              1. Starbuck*

                It definitely varies by region, some places are worse than others – the towns that are an hour or two away and not known as tourism/recreation hubs have seen a bump like many areas have, but not as much as here. But you’re right almost everywhere in the country is getting more expensive, excepting specific cities in serious economic/structural decline.

                Reply
          3. Splendid Colors*

            Tangent here, but yes, the Wall Street investment firms buying up homes to turn them into high-priced rentals are such a huge factor in the nationwide housing crisis. (And buying up homes but letting them sit vacant until rents are higher in the area. Big deal in Oakland.)

            Reply
        2. Kyrielle*

          I think this LW still deserves some rooting-for. Yes, it’s not a charitable thought – but she’s asked how to manage in spite of that, not how to do it. She *knows* it’s not a charitable thought, she’s just stuck on it.

          Which, LW, if you can afford it, is a good use of therapy, if it is causing you misery or grief, and/or if you can’t keep it from affecting your actions (which you really have to).

          Reply
      2. Audrey Puffins*

        Yes, this. The LW knows they have to overlook the disparities and manage Jane regardless, “I want to fire her” was simply an expression of how deeply this is affecting her, not a course of action that she’s seriously considering or looking for validation in.

        Reply
        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          I’m not sure about that, only because she then listed all the reasons she couldn’t/shouldn’t fire her, and none of them was ‘and of course, my personal feelings don’t constitute a valid reason’. Almost as if she was implying she would fire her if she wasn’t excellent/unimpeachable.

          Reply
        2. L-squared*

          I feel its something she is seriously considering. She says it directly, multiple times. She wants to do it for personal reasons

          Reply
      3. Yellow*

        I agree. I highly doubt the LW really wants to fire Jane. Frustration, jealousy, an feelings of being inferior are driving this letter. I’m hoping that just getting this all out helps the LW to feel a little more in control.

        Reply
          1. L-squared*

            I guess we only take them at their word when it makes them look better. IF it makes them look worse, then we are supposed to just project our own feelings onto what they REALLY mean

            Reply
            1. Gerry Keay*

              Or maybe assuming best intent and giving LW’s benefit of the doubt is a way to keep this comment section from becoming the same sort of toxic sludge that every other internet comment section is? These rules, to my understanding, aren’t about finding the objective truth of a situation (literally unknowable from our vantage point) but instead are about creating an environment where advice is given in a constructive and kind manner.

              Reply
              1. yelena*

                You can give advice in a constructive and kind manner while taking OP at their word, which is what the rules state.

                Reply
      4. Observer*

        My read on this letter is that LW isn’t so much asking if she can fire Jane (she knows she can’t) as asking for tips on how to manage her while dealing with her own burnout and emotional struggles

        I’m not sure you are right about that. The OP notes that they would not have hired Jane in the first place.

        Reply
        1. Lydia*

          I don’t think it would have been for the same reasons, though. OP says Jane has a Master’s degree and came from a much different professional background. Based on that, there are plenty of people who wouldn’t have hired Jane to be a cashier at a bakery.

          Reply
          1. Mistress of Arts*

            Why in the world should education be a hindrance to working a frontline customer service position ? In a similar situation, I was told by my first manager in my first post-college job that ” your pre employment screening IQ scores were higher than we are comfortable with for this position, but we are going to make an exception and hire you anyway with an extended probation”…because apparently in their opinion everyone with a high IQ has a low EQ.
            There’s no correlation between higher levels of education and lower levels of customer service.

            Reply
            1. Properlike*

              I’ve also heard this a lot. But Jane clearly takes on all the jobs no one else wants and has a great attitude.

              Meanwhile, students have a reputation for not showing up on time or at all, being on their phones all the time, being rude, etc. Better not to take the risk by hiring ANY students. Or only hire the ones who are C students. (I got turned down for a job as a student because I was on the honor roll and was informed during the interview that they wouldn’t hire me because I would always be missing work to study.)

              Reply
            2. Socially Socialist*

              You said that, not me. My point was that overqualification is a thing hiring managers do pay attention to, and in this case, the LW might have given a pass to Jane for that reason. What a weird take. (IQ is also BS.)

              Reply
      5. Anonymoustoast*

        Same. I’m a little curious how we managed to get (paraphrased) “it’s okay to feel your feelings” and “I’d likely fire you if I were your boss and knew you thought this way” in the same response. Are we allowed to have “it’s not fair” INTERNAL pity-parties or is that a fireable offense now?

        OP is reaching out because they know this isn’t rational. If they thought it was rational, they would have acted on it. I don’t know if there were more specific details in the letter that Alison read but couldn’t include that are influencing this response, but this response startled me with a level of harshness I don’t usually see here.

        Reply
        1. Clobberin' Time*

          “If they thought it was rational, they would have acted on it” – no, the LW makes clear that she thinks her feelings about Jane are justified, and that she hasn’t fired Jane purely because she can’t point to any good cause for doing so. It’s not “harsh” to take the LW at her very clear word.

          Reply
        2. Berin*

          Yeah could not agree more. The impression I got was very much that “I know this isn’t right, and I need help figuring out how to get right with it.” Maybe I’m giving OP too much of the benefit of the doubt, but geez. I don’t see much actionable help in this response, just berating.

          Reply
            1. Justice*

              The actionable help is “pull yourself together”.
              This LW is letting her (justifiable or unjustifiable) feelings of unfairness color the way she treats an employee that she herself says is nice, professional, and taking undesirable shifts(!).
              If she’s so bitter about the fact that this lady happens to have a better situation than her, that’s her own problem, by definition.

              Reply
              1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

                How is “pull yourself together” valuable advice to someone who clearly is struggling to navigate these emotions? I’m not saying it’s the wrong thought, but by itself it does little to help the OP. (There are other pieces of advice Alison gives that are action-focused and of more help, but just (metaphorically) saying “Snap out of it!” doesn’t really help anyone.)

                Reply
                1. Boof*

                  IDK what other advice is there – the clear advice is “you cannot act on these feelings and probably need to find a way to reign them in more”. Allison even clearly spells out why feelings are human but can also start to cross a line where they’re probably clouding judgement and action “You’re human, you’re going to have those feelings sometimes. That’s not the problem. The problem is that you’re not applying any critical thinking, or ethics, to those feelings at all — you’re just letting yourself indulge them, and when you do that in a job where you have power over other people’s lives, you can very quickly become a Terrible Human. ” (though I personally would leave out terrible human -maybe just terrible manager)

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          There’s a difference between “man I wish I could fire this person” (scream into the void) and “if I had any justifiable cause I would definitely fire this person”, which seems to be where OP is coming from.

          I don’t know that OP really knows they’re being irrational. I think OP really thinks circumstances are building against them in an unfair and intolerable way – up to and including not being able to fire someone they absolutely want to fire.

          Reply
          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, this. I don’t think the OP has completely grasped that, yes, she can feel what she feels, but that’s not grounds for firing Jane. I think the main reason the OP hasn’t fired Jane is because the OP doesn’t have the authority to do it, not because the OP has gotten a handle on her resentment.

            Reply
          2. Velociraptor Attack*

            I think that’s fair.

            I also wonder if this is a situation where because there’s no reason, OP has this narrative in her head where OF COURSE if there were a justifiable reason she would fire them… but there’s not, so it turns into essentially an “I wish I could fire them!!” internal scream but it seems a lot harsher than that.

            Reply
          3. Me ... Just Me*

            The truth is that the OP doesn’t appear to have made the same type of sacrifices/decisions earlier in their career/life that Jane has, but is upset that Jane has outstripped her in earnings. Jane appears to have gone to college and gotten a master’s degree. That’s a whole lot of work and money. It doesn’t make her any “better” than OP but it’s difficult to understand the resentment here. Different life choices lead to different outcomes.

            Reply
            1. Observer*

              That’s truly unfair.

              You don’t know why the OP didn’t get a Masters. You don’t know that Jane made any sacrifices to get that Masters. You don’t know ANYTHING that supports your narrative. On the other hand, we DO know a lot about factors that are totally out of the realm of the OP’s choices.

              Refusing to acknowledge this and blaming the OP for everything that is out of their control is both unkind and actively unhelpful.

              Reply
              1. Shenandoah*

                We also know that the OP has a MISPLACED sense of jealously and that Jane SHOULDN’T be held responsible for it.

                Reply
                1. Observer*

                  I agree. I’ve said that multiple times. But that doesn’t make it ok to blame her for something that is not her fault.

                  What is happening in her town is not due to her making bad choices. Telling her that her choices are the problem here when that is not the case, is not going to be helpful. All it will do is make her feel worse.

              2. Me ... Just Me*

                Committing to 6+ years of higher education is a sacrifice. That’s a whole lot of work. And, it’s expensive. People like to make light of it, but pursuing a master’s degree is work.

                And, nobody is “blaming the OP for everything that is out of their control”. We don’t even know if not getting a degree was out of OPs control — she could have just decided that she didn’t want to do it. That’s very much in her control.

                I think it odd that one wants to think the very best of the OP while somehow painting Jane quite differently.

                Reply
                1. Observer*

                  That’s not what I said nor implied.

                  We don’t know that Jane sacrificed anything because we don’t know how her Masters was paid for and what her alternatives were. So, maybe she did sacrifice and maybe she didn’t. Even if she didn’t, that doesn’t make her a bad person. And it certainly is not OK for the OP to want to fire her. But it just makes no sense to make assumptions.

                  On the other hand, we DO know that the changes in housing prices in the OP’s town are most definitely NOT her fault. The gentrification that is at the core of her current struggle is a systemic issue that really CANNOT be reasonably blames on her choices, good or bad.

                2. Splendid Colors*

                  The time and labor (and possibly missing out on family/friends events) invested in a master’s degree is nothing to brush off even if a fairy godmother paid for everything.

            2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              @Observer, totally agree.

              And I’ll add, being raised in a socio-economic class that can afford college and graduate school isn’t a choice.

              Reply
        4. L-squared*

          I feel the harshness is warranted.

          The fact that it seems LW has a stellar employee, who because of petty jealousy, she wants to fire does make me question her judgment.

          Having internal feelings is one thing, considering acting on those feelings is totally different.

          Reply
          1. Totally Minnie*

            This. As a supervisor in a previous job, one of my direct reports was pretty much everything I dislike in people. If there’s a way for a person to push my buttons, she had it. And yeah, it was irritating and I ranted about her to my friends and family on a regular basis. But I never strayed into the power fantasy of “I sure wish I could fire her.”

            And part of me thinks a power fantasy is exactly where this originated for the LW. Being around this person makes her feel inadequate and disempowered and she’s trying to find a way to feel even keeled again, and her brain has latched onto “make this person go away” as the easiest solution. But that’s not a solution that’s available here. LW needs to find a way to deal with those feelings of jealousy and inadequacy.

            Reply
        5. Robin*

          Alison was not saying “feeling resentful would make me fire you”. She was saying that finding out a report was genuinely considering firing somebody over their feelings of resentment would be cause for Alison to really think about whether the role was appropriate for this person.

          And honestly, I think that is more fair than not.

          Reply
          1. Hlao-roo*

            Yes, I read it as “OK to feel your feelings” referred to feeling a little resentful of Jane, and frustrated at the broader trend of people with high-salary remote jobs moving to this city and pushing up the cost of living. The “I’d likely fire you if I were your boss and knew you thought this way” refers to thinking about firing Jane because of the resentment.

            Reply
          2. turquoisecow*

            If I’ve hired you to manage people and you want to fire someone just because they have a life that makes you jealous, I think it’s reasonable for me to wonder whether you’re suited for a management role.

            Being a good manager means putting aside your personal feelings and managing people fairly. You don’t give a raise to Bob because he’s your best friend or in your golf club or went to your college or you just like the cut of his jib, and you don’t fire Jane because she has more money and a nicer house than you. If the LW can’t get past that then maybe they shouldn’t be managing people.

            Reply
        6. WellRed*

          Internal pity parties are one thing but if it reaches the point where it’s noticed by others, that’s a problem. There have been letters here to that effect.

          Reply
        7. HomebodyHouseplant*

          Agreed, I feel a lot of sympathy for the LW. I feel like Alison’s response was very one sided. As a person who’s quality of life is actively being affected by transplants moving to an already crowded HCOL area (my state was the state with the second highest amount of transplants last year), I understand her struggle. It is difficult to not be resentful in this type of economic situation. Obviously you can’t go through life taking that out on people out of jealousy and frustration but this response really lacks kindness and actionable ways for the LW to maybe redirect that ire elsewhere.

          Reply
          1. zinzarin*

            A lot of people in this particular thread are suggesting Alison needed to give more “actionable” advice to the LW. What does that even mean? What kind of “actionable” advice would you have liked to have seen?

            I think the advice Alison gave (view this situation through a non-villain lens) is plenty actionable. I think it’s spot on. Alison commonly gives advice to manager-mentors to not soften the message. This is Alison following her own advice. LW clearly didn’t write in to hear that she was in the wrong, but explaining clearly that LW actually *is* in the wrong is a direct message, and the kindest advice that Alison can give.

            Reply
        8. I should really pick a name*

          Because the LW’s feelings are not compatible with being able to manage someone effectively. They’re feelings are so strong that it’s difficult to believe that they aren’t bleeding over their behaviour.

          An internal pity party is one things, but if the LW doesn’t address their feelings, this probably isn’t going to stay internal for long.

          The LW themself has implied that the only reason they haven’t fired the employee is that it would be impractical.

          Reply
        9. Starbuck*

          Feeling your feelings doesn’t mean you get to vocalize them to everyone, or act on them. Internal is fine – how would anyone know? That’s the point, it’s not a contradiction – LW can feel that way, but yeah if it gets to the point where she talks about feeling that way to anyone at work or lets those feelings color her actions, yes understandably she might get fired!

          Reply
        10. Observer*

          Are we allowed to have “it’s not fair” INTERNAL pity-parties or is that a fireable offense now?

          That’s not what Allison was addressing, though. Yes, the OP gets to have their internal pity party, if they won’t. But seriously thinking of firing? That’s a totally different issue.

          Reply
        11. RR*

          Agree with the advice written here completely but wonder if it could have been written with a bit more compassion. This sounds like a frustrating situation, and I know how infuriating it can be to the on the bad side of inequality. Sometimes it makes you irrational, and a reality check can be helpful.

          I like your tip for jealousy and have one of my own to add. One thing my dad always said to me that I think about every time I get jealous is you can’t actually tell people’s financial situations from their lifestyle. Maybe Jane has a lot of debt. Maybe they don’t make as much as you think but just want to flaunt it. Maybe she has a lot of hidden bills like student loans or finances for an ill parent to manage. I hope not but you get my point. People often live beyond their means or want to appear as if they have more than they do. Count your own blessings and admit you don’t really know Jane’s situation, only what she presents, and she’s likely only presenting her best self.

          Reply
      6. Clobberin' Time*

        The LW didn’t say “how do I deal with my own emotions and burnout so I can manage Jane effectively?” She complained that she can’t fire Jane, and asked how she can manage Jane when the situation is not “fair”.

        LW is several steps behind behind the self-aware gloss that you are generously putting on her letter.

        Reply
      7. Olive*

        I think some of why people are interpreting this letter in different ways is coming from the polish of the letter vs. the feelings explained in the letter.

        Even though the LW says she would like to fire Jane, the tone of the letter overall comes across as somewhat dispassionate to me – carefully written rather than oozing emotion. There’s nothing wrong with that, but often the emotion is tangible when LWs are angry or upset. This restrained sensibility adds some ambiguity to how much she’s asking for help doing self-work vs. how much she’s looking for validation in hating Jane. She never takes that final step of acknowledging that she knows her attitude is unjust toward Jane (I’d fire her BUT… and “it’s not fair”) and we letter readers are adding it in or leaving it out as we read.

        Reply
      8. MissGirl*

        I’m getting a strong vibe of the LW who treated her employee poorly who was beautiful when the OP had serious self image issues. She would’ve never hired the employee and deep down wished she could fire her.

        She could not conceal her animosity. That ended very very badly for the LW.

        Reply
    2. Eeyore is my spirit animal*

      Really? I didn’t think it was warm or helpful. I hope the LW reads the comments. There is much better stuff there.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth Naismith*

        It was far more warm and helpful than the comments in the letter merited. Alison reminded LW of what a decent, ethical manager needs to do, and called on her to behave accordingly. But she also didn’t shy away from pointing out that her thoughts at the moment are bordering on villainous, and will get her fired if she doesn’t learn to control them.
        Someone’s financial background is not up for consideration in the hiring process. And jealousy is never a good look, especially in a manager.

        Reply
      2. Courageous cat*

        I’m confused as to what’s with some people here insisting lately that everything must be warm and/or generous and/or charitable? Sometimes advice is blunt – and sometimes that’s why you write in asking for the advice.

        Reply
    3. Preach!*

      Amen! Wisdom for work and life right here: “It’s okay to feel your feelings. Sometimes you might feel jealous of someone, or resentful, or upset that something doesn’t seem fair. You’re human, you’re going to have those feelings sometimes. That’s not the problem. The problem is that you’re not applying any critical thinking, or ethics, to those feelings at all — you’re just letting yourself indulge them, and when you do that in a job where you have power over other people’s lives, you can very quickly become a Terrible Human. As a manager, you have a moral and a professional obligation to recognize when you’re in danger of that happening and rein yourself in.”

      Reply
    1. Overit*

      Smug.
      I bet she would feel smug.
      I say that because my economically depressed hometown underwent a renaissance about 15 years ago. Now “locals” who did not make a mint on the changes (and many did!) struggle to live there. I know these locals. Local business owners avoid hiring newcomers and fire tham as soon as they can. Generally, I see their smug happiness when bad stuff happens to newcomers.
      Not a good look and makes me glad I left.

      Reply
      1. Loch Lomond*

        Yeah, people who haven’t worked a lot of self-reflection into their habits can take a really long time to get those conscience pangs, if ever.

        Reply
      2. Richard Hershberger*

        What jumped out at me is that had the LW bought a house in 2019, they would be a winner. The value of the house would be rising along with the economy of the town, which in turn provides her with her job. Economic disparity is a very real problem, but keeping the local economy depressed is not the solution.

        Reply
        1. Lydia*

          Uh, no. Gentrification (which is essentially what’s happening to OP’s town) does not generally benefit the people living in the towns and neighborhoods already. Even if the OP had been able to purchase a home in 2019, it wouldn’t solve the issue of having an entire town experiencing significant disparity very suddenly. And her income would still be depressed. This is definitely not it.

          Reply
          1. Pescadero*

            “Gentrification (which is essentially what’s happening to OP’s town) does not generally benefit the people living in the towns and neighborhoods already.”

            It definitely benefits SOME of them… and why should we only consider benefit towards people already living there, while ignoring the new residents and future resident?

            I mean increasing tax bases often more services for everyone, better schools for everyone, etc.

            Reply
            1. John*

              Yeah, it seems like people are against gentrification would like people to remain where they were in the past – but in the past society was even more stratified, especially when it comes to race.

              Like if you live in a picturesque seaside village with a low cost of living, it makes sense that you’d be upset when prices go up, but what’s the alternative? Only people who were born there get to live there? Should everyone be fixed where their families lived in 1950? Because that would be a whole lot less equitable than even our current, broken system.

              Reply
              1. Splendid Colors*

                How about newcomers who buy homes in that village DON’T throw 2X the asking price at the owner to avoid having to compete with locals?

                Reply
        2. Starbuck*

          Not necessarily; you don’t “win” until you sell. Until then, it’s just gonna cost you – you’re paying higher property taxes on that increased “value” until maybe you can’t afford it anymore. It’s not really a good thing, we shouldn’t be treating housing as an investment pyramid scheme.

          Reply
          1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

            Yes- and you have to live somewhere. If you sell your higher value house, can you afford to buy another? Or pay the inflated rents in your town?

            Reply
          2. Bread Crimes*

            Yeah, my spouse and I bought a house during a market downturn, and now our area is booming… and it’s a major struggle to keep up with the increasing property taxes. Sure, on paper, our house is worth so! much! more! but that doesn’t pay the bills, and if we sell, we could never live inside that city again; we couldn’t buy something comparable with payments we could reliably make. It’s great for house-flippers and big investment companies and people who want to move out of the city. Not so much for people who just want to continue paying the mortgage and be able to afford repairs. And most of my local friends have already moved or are looking to move because they can’t afford living in the city anymore either.

            Reply
          3. Splendid Colors*

            In California, your property taxes are based on the value of the house when you bought it. This is why the state and counties are underfunded.

            Reply
        3. Not Totally Subclinical*

          My house is now worth six times what I paid for it — and my property tax has gone up accordingly. I pay more in property tax alone than I paid for PMI plus tax when I bought the house.

          It doesn’t do me any good to have a more valuable house unless I’m planning to sell it. If I want to live in the house long-term, rapidly-rising property values do me no good.

          Reply
      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        It’s starting to get that way in my town, too, as wealthy outsiders buy up all the properties as AirBnB or to charge exorbitant rents on. Local people who don’t already have homes can’t afford them, and they would not feel one bit sorry if one of the outsiders got what they viewed as any type of comeuppance.

        Reply
        1. Lizzo*

          Do you think the locals would feel differently if those properties were being purchased for the owners to live in (vs. rent out)?

          Reply
          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I don’t know. I know a lot of the properties are also being purchased as rental properties by more well-to-do locals, as well. The resentment I’ve heard expressed is that these people’s buying 2nd, 3rd, etc. homes is making it where some people can’t afford to buy their first home. The downtown used to be where many service workers lived (restaurants, etc.) and now they are priced out of being able to rent there. They used to afford to live there and rely on the walkability of the downtown; now they have to live further and transportation becomes an additional hurdle.

            Reply
            1. goddessoftransitory*

              And you can bet that the people buying up the houses/condos are the first to complain that “no one wants to work” when they can’t get reliable service. Well, no, they just don’t want a three hour commute to their restaurant job.

              Reply
          2. Eyes Kiwami*

            This definitely makes an impact. Smaller single-occupant apartments or starter homes for small families are often turned into rent-out AirBnBs. That means there are fewer of those for young single people and new families. Instead of having those young people as available workforce and tax contributors, they get some tourist dollars. But tourism is not as stable. The young families have kids that go to the schools and become part of the community; tourists create traffic and can damage historical and natural sites without precautions. There is a big difference that emerges in the community.

            Reply
      4. Morgan Proctor*

        Yep, I see this happening in my town. Lots of “locals” who are just out-of-their-mind jealous and enraged at newcomers. These “locals” are the same people who did nothing to contribute to the betterment of their community or themselves before the newcomers moved in, and refuse to do anything about it now, either. I put “locals” in scare quotes because our state has a huge population of Native people, and the people complaining are not Native, and they don’t see the irony in this at all.

        Reply
        1. High Score!*

          The city I live in was very nice and well cared for by the “locals”. Then some large companies arrived and the “gentrification” began. Now our roads are congested, there’s more rental properties than homes with some neighborhoods being eradicated in favor of tiny over priced apartments. Even though we voted for the best candidates are could they’re still all corrupt and sold out city out to large corporations that we give tax breaks to. Everyone here gets paid well above minimum wage but if you are working a service job, it’s still not enough.

          Reply
        2. arthur lester*

          Hah, nothing drives me crazier than the “but I’m a naaaative” shit from people who are Distinctly Anything But.
          My family has been in a pretty booming metro area for…pretty much as long as white people have lived here. It doesn’t mean we’re native. We’re still white.

          Reply
      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        Which would be pretty silly because it sounds like, even if Jane lost her bakery job, she’d still be living in a large, new build house on sabbatical from her big-time job, and it would have little impact on her life at all.

        It’s the definition of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face as OP would be left without reliable staffing undesirable shifts, losing a high-performing and well-liked team member, and missing out on the light mentoring that it sounds like Jane is doing for them.

        Reply
    2. Khatul Madame*

      It would make the LW feel good, gratified, vindicated, and powerful.
      However, the LW will remain in the same strained financial circumstances, may have to work more because she’s down one employee, and the loss of the bakery wage will barely register for Jane.

      Reply
      1. Be kind, rewind*

        I think you really hit on something with “powerful” here. OP probably feels like so much is out of their control, and their job is one of the places they have real power.

        Reply
    3. Well...*

      Relief. Eventually followed by guilt (though tbh it’s hard to feel that guilty, it seems like Jane will be fine).

      Reply
        1. Well...*

          I’m not saying it’s the right thing, it’s just what people think they will feel after making a problem go away. They often are hoping for relief, however misguided they may be.

          Reply
    4. I'm fabulous!*

      OP may feel a sense of winning but she’ll have to deal with filing shifts that no one wants. I also wonder if the bakery will have to pay unemployment to Jane if OP fires her.

      Reply
    5. Tiptoe*

      Wow, I was thinking something like “well, my life hasn’t improved, she is happy somewhere else, firing her was pointless.” I am probably naive.

      Reply
      1. Loch Lomond*

        People motivated by spite may be judging success by “I really stuck it to her!” rather than the “… and then my circumstances materially improved” part (which doesn’t come).

        Reply
    6. bamcheeks*

      kind of fascinated by the wide variety of responses to this question! Everyone is bringing a lot of different things to this letter.

      Reply
      1. Julia*

        Definitely. The question of how the LW would feel if they fired Jane is one they should think about deeply. In this situation how I felt would probably change many times and would depend on what happened after I did it.

        Reply
    7. Carpe Librarium*

      I wonder if LW thinks they’ll feel judicious, as now the cashier job could be offered to someone in town who “needs it more”.

      Reply
  1. ZSD*

    OP, I hope writing this was therapeutic for you! I can 100% understand why your gut reaction is to feel resentful. But I also hope that the act of writing down your thoughts, plus reading Alison’s advice, has helped you realize that you need to compartmentalize and treat this employee just like any other.

    Reply
    1. ferrina*

      +1

      I really hope the LW is able to lean on a strong support system. These are tough emotions (and a tough situation!), but LW needs to get a handle on it and be a good manager.

      It doesn’t seem like it, but there is an opportunity here. Jane is giving you management tips, but you can also share information with Jane. Tell her what it’s like to be on this single income. I deeply appreciate the people that shared their experiences and situations with me when I was in food service and blue collar work–it shaped the empathy that I have in my white collar work. I’m the colleague that says “hey, how will this impact people that don’t make corporate salaries? What about folks that can’t afford that?” Some of my peers don’t think about it (and some just have never been friends with a blue collar worker, because social bubbles are real)- I’m the one reminding them of the world outside their own experience. This is how advocates are trained.

      Reply
      1. Properlike*

        And if LW uses those tips, and shows herself to be a good manager, and runs the business well for the owner, then I predict that Jane becomes someone who would bring up LW’s name one day when she hears of a company hiring who could use her skill set.

        Write out what you would want Jane to say to a future employer of yours, and then work to embody those qualities.

        Reply
  2. Kaiko*

    It’s so easy to assign the failures of a system to individuals, but Jane isn’t the problem here – and neither are you.

    I feel for you, LW: we’re also in a small town that that has seen housing prices explode as people move here from “the city,” especially during the pandemic. I know what it’s like to see housing prices double, to see the rental market constrict, to feel less-than in a place that usually feels just right. (And really, going to city hall or your state/provincial representative with your concerns about the housing market is a much more effective channel for this feelings than firing a competent employee.)

    The only way you will feel more secure in your own finances is by putting blinders on – watch your own budgets, pay your own bills, and manage your own savings. Don’t compare to anyone else, because you can’t change anyone else’s situation. Jane is no less fabulous because she has more money, just as you are no less worthy because you have less.

    Reply
    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Yeah, the prices and wages of the locals will probably increase somewhat as a result, but with a significant lag. I did think maybe the LW could ask for a raise given the increase in COL.

      Reply
      1. WillowSunstar*

        This may depend on the company. For example, I work for a corporation and we were told this past fall that our raises would not be affected by COL, it was all performance-based. I don’t think that’s entirely fair since inflation is not something any of us have control over, and most people’s raises are not enough to maintain their previous standard of living.

        Reply
        1. Observer*

          Well, they may say that. But despite the slowing of the economy, companies do get pushed into adjusting prices to account for COL in a number of ways. And also, even with a slowing economy, good workers DO move if those adjustments don’t get made by the company they are at.

          Reply
        2. BluRae*

          Yup. Management literally said to us, “Well you wouldn’t want us to decrease everyone’s pay in the event of deflation would you???”

          Buddy, when that actually happens maybe we can cross that bridge. Moron. That response really tanked a lot of my good will towards this company.

          Reply
        3. World Weary*

          The problem I have with this statement is how rarely wages are actually tied to performance. I single handedly completed an implementation that was supposed to take a team of four. I was judged satisfactory on my review. 1% raise.

          Reply
    2. Robin*

      +1

      Advocate with local government; your feelings are a response to systemic nonsense and ultimately resolving them requires systemic change. Jane just happens to be the most obvious example of how those inequities are affecting your home.

      Reply
      1. Well...*

        Maybe burning off some energy in activism will help LW deal with their emotions toward Jane. I don’t think it’s going to concretely improve LW’s circumstances any time soon though.

        Reply
        1. Robin*

          Oh absolutely not an immediate change; I did not mean to imply that. But activism can help with resolving the current emotions. And, hopefully, in theory, etc., it can push towards a situation down the line (how far? who knows) where those feelings need not take root because the inequities that fostered them are reduced/mitigated/eliminated.

          Reply
    3. Smithy*

      Yeah….so I work in the nonprofit industry that both does and doesn’t pay. It’s hardly a case where we “all” make peanuts, but it more often than not ends up being a case where people who can afford things unpaid internships, moving to cities or countries without a job, etc. find themselves in positions to get those better and or better paid jobs at a younger age.

      OR

      When I’ve taken the lower paying job at the smaller nonprofit that does really important work, and I have a coworker or two who’s lifestyle is largely unaffected because they have family money to augment the salary. And sure, writing all this down in the abstract – it’s easy to say to not be jealous and be unaffected. But we’re people and when we’re struggling, lashing out at one or two people we know is often a lot easier than “the system”.

      So just to say, this is a really normal reaction and also one of the many reasons why it can be good to have more boundaries from coworkers than other people in our lives. Having generically positive relationships with our coworkers helps us out SO much more than having antagonistic ones with them. Especially when they’re driven by our own emotional baggage.

      Reply
    4. CTT*

      I also live in a smaller area that got a lot of “best place for remote work!” attention; I’m in BigLaw and make good money for where I live, and I can’t compete with all the people coming from big cities who are driving up prices. It sucks and it’s so difficult not to feel resentful, but it’s not the fault of just one person. Not seeing Jane every day won’t solve the problem.

      Reply
    5. Gamer Girl*

      As someone with some fancy tech money, keep in mind that people might be moving for their health, for their children, for many other reasons. In my case, we moved because we needed to find a place that can house our children plus stretch to accommodate aging parents within the next 5-10 years. We went from being able to afford to buy a bigger apartment in the city with extra bedrooms to a tripling in price since the pandemic hit in our big city, so we moved to a suburb with much lower COL instead.

      In Jane’s case, I imagine that she didn’t take a sabbatical for nothing. You can’t know what she’s dealing with, OP, but Kaiko’s advice is spot-on. Focus on what you can do for you, and vote according to representatives that are going to take on high COL and inflation issues and protect the housing market from big corporations.

      Reply
  3. Sara*

    OP I really feel for you, it sounds like you’re in a very tough financial situation and Jane has become the living embodiment for your feelings towards it. You’re letting this eat you alive, you need to find a new outlet or a way to redirect that envy and anger. Easier said than done, I know, but the alternative is letting it manifest at work in unhealthy ways. Jane is doing her best with whatever life has thrown at her, she is not the cause of your issues. And while she’s giving you small glimpses into her life, you truly don’t know what is going on with her – why she’s on sabbatical, what that pay is, her own financial situation, etc. It might be better to just remove her from your social circle and remain a professional contact.

    Reply
    1. londonedit*

      This is what I was thinking. OP is assuming they ‘know’ about Jane and that Jane is a rich blow-in from the big city swanning about in her big house taking money from her sabbatical and treating the bakery job like a bit of petty cash. In reality, OP has no idea whether Jane is on sabbatical for health reasons, whether she and her husband have saddled themselves with a giant mortgage to buy their new-build house, whether she has money because both her beloved parents died and she’d give anything to have them back, whether they’ve moved to a lower-COL area because they’re still paying back debts from 20 years ago…you just don’t know. Or in fact Jane and her husband could indeed simply be wealthy and enjoying their money and she could be doing the bakery job to stop herself getting bored. That still wouldn’t mean she doesn’t deserve the job.

      It seems like Jane is a pleasant, conscientious worker who’s willing to pick up the slack when other people aren’t – that’s what the OP needs to focus on while they’re at work. When they’re not at work, they should focus on trying to think about Jane as little as possible.

      Reply
      1. Shenandoah*

        “It seems like Jane is a pleasant, conscientious worker who’s willing to pick up the slack when other people aren’t…”

        —————-

        It really is just that straightforward.

        Reply
      2. Going Nameless This Time*

        (I’m a regular commenter who’s going anonymous this time since my financial situation is no one’s business)

        I’m a Jane, minus the transplant stuff. When I got laid off during Covid, I took it as a sign from above that I needed to be done being a stressed professional. Inherited money + a lifetime of conscientious spending has made it possible for me to not go back to professional work. I do work a “fun” part-time job for spending money though. I’d say half of the staff is in the “working three jobs to make the rent” category and the other half is in the “looking for fun and fun money” camp. I’ve been very, very careful to not say anything to put me in one camp or the other. For example, I find it very disrespectful to discuss an upcoming warm weather vacation in front of people barely making enough to eat properly – so I just say I’m taking some time off to visit “friends” (my warm weather “friends” are manatees LOL)

        In this letter, it sounds like Jane is doing the same thing – working a PT job for a little extra cash and to get out into the world with people. The only thing she might do a bit better is to be more circumspect about her personal wealth. It sounds like she might have invited the whole bakery staff to the Christmas party at her beautiful home – personally, I would not have done that.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth Naismith*

          And she probably thought it would be rude nit to invite her coworkers. In many types of work, you host a big party like that, and you invite e eryone, because leaving folks out would be rude and would definitely cause resentment. You invite your coworkers to such things. So it likely never occurred to Jane that such a thing could be seen as flaunting her wealth; it’s just what you do.

          Reply
          1. Bee*

            Right, the flip side of this is “ah, she didn’t invite her embarrassing minimum-wage coworkers from the job she has for fun because she doesn’t want her rich friends to know about them,” which I personally would be much more concerned about as an unintended message if I were hosting a party!

            Reply
            1. Courageous cat*

              Lol, right?? Oh my god imagine finding out someone didn’t invite you to a party solely because they were worried they’d feel sensitive that they’re poorer than you. *That* would be something to be pissed off about.

              Reply
        2. turquoisecow*

          If she’s never been in this situation before she might not realize that it’s uncomfortable for LW. She’s just thinking “I like old friends and LW seems nice and I’d like them to be a new friend. Let me get all my friends together!”

          My husband comes from a slightly more well off family than I do, and is in a lucrative field. Coming from the less well off background, I’m VERY cautious about how to discuss privileges and such around my family or friends, because I don’t want them to feel like I’m flaunting or bragging. But husband is pretty much around people of a similar economic background, so sometimes he will say things like “oh, get (expensive solution) to solve that problem!” and genuinely not realize that expensive solution is not going to work for the person he’s talking to.

          Jane might come from a background where she isn’t used to having to think about that, or her friends do, or they didn’t realize the LW’s financial situation if LW hasn’t discussed it with them. I can see why that would make LW uncomfortable or not want to spend time with Jane or her friends socially. Totally fine. But you can’t fire someone over that.

          Reply
          1. Bearly Containing Myself*

            Ha, I’m imagining someone saying “I’m so overwhelmed with my 3 jobs, I don’t have time to schedule the visit from the utility company” and someone like your husband replying “Just have your personal assistant handle it!”

            Reply
        3. Also nameless this time*

          Same. I got a lengthy severance pre-COVID instead of suing a former employer for egregious ADA violations. My mental health took a real beating and I couldn’t handle my industry for a while, but I still needed some structure to keep myself from melding with the couch 24/7. I took a part-time evening shift opening at the nonprofit I’d been volunteering with for years. I did all the dirty work asked of me (and endured things like mild electrocution and an ear infection as a result) and I earned my pay.

          I am not the type to talk about money (I grew up under the poverty line), and I’m way too introverted to have people from that many circles over. I was able to spend a month visiting family overseas (very HCOL area) between that part-time job and the next industry job I took, however… Which I did so that my mother would be able to spend time with her mother. It would be the last time we got to spend with Oma as she passed away less than a year later. I have a lot of privilege and I try to stay mindful of that, but I’m also multiply disabled, with enough workplace mistreatment to include CPTSD.

          Reply
      3. Mergj*

        I think this is spot on. I’ve found that when someone seems to have it all on the outside often their true situation or inner life isn’t so great. I have to wonder what caused Jane to take a year long sabbatical and what kind of position she held that would pay her to do so- in my experience that isn’t common even in hard to hire tech roles so I’m guessing she must have been in a particularly high stress position. I’m guessing that if you knew more about the circumstances leading to her sabbatical her life would seem a lot less ideal. (Her resistance to taking on management duties seems to hint that things might have been rough in her former role).

        I really feel for you- you’re right that it isn’t fair and it sounds like you’ve had the rug pulled out from under you in the way that your cost of living has increased. I think your anger toward Jane, who is just a symbol of these changes not the cause, is a good sign that you need to take a look at your own life and figure out what might need to change. A good first step might be to ask for a raise since your salary no longer goes as far. You might also start asking yourself some bigger life questions- are you happy with your job and career trajectory? If not, are there steps you could take to change it? Are there lifestyle changes you want to make that would make you happier? It sounds like buying a house is a goal but that’s financially out of reach right now- is there anything you or your partner could do to make it a little less out of reach? (Maybe a side hustle or looking at fixer uppers/ smaller places?). Maybe none of these questions will yield anything for you, but I’ve found that I sometimes focus on what other people have when I’m dissatisfied with my own circumstances and it’s a cue to re-examine my own life.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth Naismith*

          Good point. LW might love working at the bakery, but will that job provide the lifestyle they want? Obviously not. So LW needs to ask the tough question: is it more important to work at the bakery, or to improve my lifestyle?
          If the first, then LW needs to chill out, assess her own finances instead of Jane’s, and work on being the best manager of the best bakery with the best employees. That means keeping Jane, as long as possible.
          If the second, perhaps LW needs to start looking at other types of employment, and possibly taking courses to qualify for something higher paying. If those remote worker transplants can move to LW’s town, there’s nothing stopping LW from doing similar work herself. And getting paid just as much.

          Reply
          1. Properlike*

            I keep coming back to LW’s “she gets paid TWICE!” as what’s unfair. LW could also be paid twice if she got a second job. I’m guessing it won’t pay as much, and that’s the unfair part (she’s not wrong, but that’s not Jane’s fault.)

            Reply
            1. wordswords*

              I mean, being paid twice because you’re working two jobs is different than being paid twice because you’re working one job while collecting paid time off for two solid years from the other.

              Now, as others have said, we don’t actually know that that’s Jane’s situation! “Sabbatical” can cover a whole range, including something unpaid or minimally paid, and it could be due to serious physical or mental health issues that don’t interfere with her bakery work, and so on. But it seems pretty clear to me that LW’s resentment on that front is because of the assumption that Jane is getting full-time big-city money on her sabbatical and doesn’t even need the wages that are barely making ends meet for the LW.

              Reply
              1. Courageous cat*

                But like… does any of that really matter, the “why”? She qualified for the job and she does the job, she has every right to be there.

                Reply
                1. wordswords*

                  It doesn’t, I agree! Like, I do understand why it matters emotionally to OP feeling resentful when they’re staring at their bank account balance and thinking about a gentrifying city person making double pay in a nice house, but that’s absolutely not the kind of thinking that OP can afford to hang onto as a manager about a coworker, let alone one of the employees working under them. It’s emotionally understandable, but OP still needs to find ways to reframe it and disengage from it in order to treat a good, competent, willing employee fairly, regardless of how much or how little Jane might need the money (which isn’t really OP’s business, no matter how hard it feels to ignore).

          2. Stripes*

            Wait, wait, wait.
            To say, “if you don’t like what you’re earning, you need to reconsider your job and move/train into a better paying one” – I’m sorry, but that is tone deaf.
            So many people would LOVE to be able to move into a better paying field, by retraining or not, but find that it’s not possible. Usually because of financial barriers, sometimes because of health/disability or caring committments, often a mix of barriers. There just isn’t enough spare money to make a complex situation work and have everyone sheltered, clothed and fed for the time you’d spend retraining and establishing a new career.
            If you’ve not thought of this, then I am genuinely glad for you that you’ve never had to think of this, but please be aware that your advice here has a hint of “if you’re not well off, you need to take responsibility for your situation and make yourself well off!”, which is…unhelpful.

            Reply
            1. Splendid Colors*

              And LW probably doesn’t have a wide range of employers in town that pay people substantially more than “bakery manager” wages if it’s the kind of town I have in mind.

              I went to school in a small college town. The university, the hospital, and a flower-growing company were the top three employers. If the university hadn’t been there, the town would have been less than half the size. The flower company hired mainly undocumented folks. The dairy industry was an alliance of family farms. They probably wouldn’t have been big enough for a hospital without the university, and wouldn’t have had a chain grocery store. (And I’m not going to discuss the cannabis industry here.)

              I’ve driven through SO MANY tiny rural towns on my way to that university and on other trips around this end of the state. They just don’t have enough industry to have well-paid jobs.

              Reply
        2. Aggretsuko*

          I would suspect Jane might be burned out from her regular job to the point where a bakery job at the crack of dawn sounds fun to her. She might not be living the perfect life you think she is.

          Reply
      4. kiki*

        When I used to work in retail, I had a coworker whom people didn’t really understand why she had this job. She used to be a director at a major company, was “overqualified,” and people assumed she didn’t really need the money. On getting closer to her, it became clear that her finances were better than most people working at the store, but not great due to a divorce and some investments that never fully recovered after the recession in 08. She began having health issues related to stress that made holding her director job untenable. She needed some income so she wouldn’t eat too much into her savings, but she wasn’t able to find something in her former field that wouldn’t have aggravated her health issues.

        I know that doesn’t sound like Jane’s situation, but I think it’s worth noting that you never fully understand someone’s financial situation and reasons for having a job from the outside.

        Reply
    2. That girl*

      Yes, Sara, you said just what I was thinking. The only thing I would add is for OP to see if she can spend some of that energy looking at how she can improve her own situation rather than ruminating over the inequalities she is seeing. Maybe she can start researching other career options, evening classes, anything to better her own financial situation because even if she could, firing Jane would do nothing to help OP’s financial position.

      Reply
  4. rayray*

    I can understand the feeling. I’m currently at a job that I feel somewhat over-qualified and underpaid in, trying to make it better but that’s not the point I want to make here. I currently live with my parents by choice even though it’s far from ideal, but I prefer it over finding roommates right now. A couple years ago when I moved out of the apartment I shared with a friend, a 1-bedroom in the same complex was affordable and within reach but we were in the thick of the pandemic and I decided being at my parents for a few months would be good at the time. Fast forward and rent prices went way up and my pay did not. I am single and everyone else on my team is married, so have a supplemental income. I find myself feeling jealous about people who make what I do who own homes, have nicer cars, support a family, or can travel more frequently. I admit I can feel a little resentful and annoyed when they talk about things they are doing at home, like renovations or even complaining when having to take care of maintenance issues when home ownership is completely out of reach for me now.

    It’s a crappy feeling when you feel like you have so much less than. Jane just happens to be in a really fortunate and honestly, enviable place in her life. I think it might be good to try to get to know her for who she is, not for the person who has the nice house or the good career. She is her own person with her own life. I’d wager that you may not be seeing everything she is going through anyway. I know my coworkers make assumptions about me and my life situation, but they definitely don’t know the whole story. Jane probably has a whole lot more to her life than what you are seeing on the surface. Could be anything from trying to take care of family members in bad health, saving for adoption costs, paying down some debts, etc.

    Reply
    1. WellRed*

      Oh man, I feel this. Not only am I the only one unmarried, the rest all bought houses 10 years or more ago. I have roommates and am closer to retirement than many. I’d still appreciate Jane, though.

      Reply
    2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      I’m trying to have sympathy for LW, but I’ve been other people’s Jane a couple times and it _always_ sucks.

      I got a new (used) car while coworker’s car was broken? Stuck up show off
      I had an apartment with a partner while coworker lived with her parents? B*tch
      I liked my spouse and ate lunch with him while coworker was unhappy in her marriage? He must be abusive and I must have a cocaine problem.

      LW needs to take about 20 deep breaths and realize that whatever Jane does or doesn’t do, it isn’t going to make her feel better about her own financial situation. And firing her is an incredibly misguided idea in particular.

      Reply
      1. ferrina*

        I’ve been LW and Jane. Both positions suck. And honestly, for me it’s easier to be Jane than LW, because when I was in LW position, I was living paycheck to paycheck, and that is mentally exhausting to be survival mode for that long.

        This isn’t either of their faults. It’s a societal issue that’s way bigger than the two of them. Blaming one or the other isn’t going to solve anything. Firing Jane is just burying your head in the sand- it won’t make LW’s situation go away, and it will make it worse, because it will make her a worse manager.

        Reply
    3. SoreThroat*

      Just one point I’d like to make: Just because someone is married does not necessarily mean they have dual incomes that put them on Easy Street. I have been married twice and I have always been the breadwinner. Neither of my husbands ever earned even half of what I do. It sure would have been nice to have someone to shoulder the bills with, but it didn’t turn out that way.

      Reply
  5. AY*

    OP, you sound unhappy with your current salary. I recommend focusing your energy on finding ways to increase your income – new training, shifting to another sector, new position, whatever. Once you feel financially secure, it’ll bother you a lot less that others make still more than you do.

    Reply
    1. stretchy*

      This is the best advice here. “Struggling to make rent” is NOT an acceptable situation. It’s an emergency! Channel all your jealousy into improving your own financial health.

      Reply
        1. Loch Lomond*

          As opposed to what, not trying? The bootstraps thing is a retort to policy issues, not individuals’ response to their circumstances.

          If you’re struggling to make rent, the options are: take in more (side hustles, pursuing a raise, moving to a higher paid job, seeing if government aid is available,
          asking friends for help) and/or spend less (pare down budget, move to cheaper apartment, etc). Or do nothing and continue to flounder.

          The fact that OP is affected badly by unjust economic systems doesn’t mean there’s no individual reaction that will make a difference.

          Reply
          1. Well...*

            Yes, I agree, it was more the tone of this is an emergency!! As if LW just didn’t realize how serious their financial situation was. There may be things that increase LW’s odds, but they weren’t asking about that and we don’t really know the details. It can be pretty cringy when people give you advice to help your financial circumstances that you didn’t ask for. Maybe LW is doing all these things and is STILL frustrated with Jane because they don’t immediately yield results and her feelings toward Jane are an immediate problem.

            Reply
          2. Lydia*

            It’s really not. It’s the same BS response that the ignorant give marginalized people as an actual course of action. “Try harder” is not an actual path out if the system is designed to keep you in. Can the OP do some things? Sure. But unless there is a systemic change, the OP will only get so far.

            Reply
            1. ferrina*

              Yuuuup. Hard work means nothing if you don’t get lucky.

              Some of the hardest workers I’ve had the privilege to work alongside will never get paid what they are due because a whole mix of societal factors. You can be smart and hardworking and not have the degree, not be able to go to school because you don’t have the money/your brain isn’t designed for school/you need to spend your energy elsewhere (the worst is the deadend job that takes all your energy, so you don’t have enough energy to go to school, but you can’t spend less energy at your job because then you’ll be fired and you can’t afford to be without income, and that triples when you have a dependent). When the odds are stacked against you, how can you be blamed for being statistically average? Or even above average, but not exceedingly exceptional? When did “great” become “not good enough”?

              Reply
          3. Butter*

            This is absolutely not true. The “American Dream” is a lie. OP already said she has a kid. She can’t endlessly side hustle because who would watch the kid? She can’t go back to school because who would watch the kid? If you’re poor and can’t afford essentials there’s no way to pare down your budget.

            This is the reality for so many people. If you haven’t gone to college you’re stuck in jobs that don’t pay the rent. And there are only so many hours in a week.

            Reply
            1. Splendid Colors*

              And if LW lives in a small rural town, she won’t have as many options as people in a major metro area.

              Where I live, I could take all kinds of certification programs at half a dozen community colleges reachable by public transit.

              There are more opportunities for side hustles because a major metro area has more people willing to pay extra for handmade stuff, or services like tutoring. But that depends on having the skills anyway, and might require childcare. There’s a big demand for driving-related gigs: Uber, DoorDash, Amazon delivery.

              Granted, most of this would be moot because paying for childcare would cost as much as the gig would earn. Assuming you could *get* childcare at side-hustle hours.

              Reply
      1. cactus lady*

        Agreed! When my ex and I split up, my first thought was “I need to make more money”, because I did NOT make enough to live on without him. It ended up being a really good use of my energy at that point! I found a job that paid as much as we both made together – when I was hired my boss actually offered me MORE than I had asked for because they thought I was undervaluing my skills – and it didn’t solve all my problems, but it did solve the one where I was struggling to make rent. Whatever it looks like for you to feel secure in life, that’s what you should be focusing on. It’s a much better use of your energy that jealousy.

        Reply
        1. Cookie*

          Lucky you. I had that same thought and I’m still having it but many, many applications and years later I haven’t found a job that paid as much as we both made together. Mainly because the career choices I made early in our marriage – which favored his work/career at the expense of mine – have me trapped in many ways. “It worked for me” is kind of a bootstraps thing, though I’m hopeful you didn’t mean it that way.

          Reply
          1. cactus lady*

            I disagree. I think “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is too reductive. Will this person be able to make a big change? I don’t know. But they haven’t even indicated that they’ve thought about it, or connected their resentment of Jane to the fact that she personifies this person’s insecurities.

            But not doing anything at all guarantees that nothing will change, including the attitude that caused them to write in. They can do something, ANYTHING, to try to change that, like writing to their local/state/provincial representatives. Asking for a raise. Figuring out if this town is still where they want to live with all the changes (I can relate to this – my own hometown had a Vail ski resort open in it when I was thinking of moving back. Almost immediately I couldn’t afford to live there, and I still can’t. I always thought I would move back until that happened. Now I most certainly won’t). Or even just taking a different route to work than they have been. Don’t underestimate how much small changes can help.

            Reply
    2. higheredadmin*

      Adding to this – Jane and her remote-work friends might have great advice and connections on how to break into, for example, remote work fields (if that is of interest to you). Or, connections and advice – or even funding – to start your own business (also, if that is of interest to you.) Think of her as a resource of not just management advice, but perhaps advice on learning about other kinds of work.

      Reply
      1. ThrillHo-Buy Me Bonestorm*

        Thank you! This was the response I was looking for! OP really should be focusing on how to improve her circumstances and her financial situation. And she has Jane, which has been open to sharing her experiences with her, rather than being envious of her position in life.

        OP truly has no idea what is going on in Jane’s life besides what she can see on the outside. Maybe Jane is on leave due to her health.

        I say that because I’m someone with an invisible chronic illness, and if someone finds out about my illness, no one believes it, “You look so good, you can’t be sick!” People don’t realize just how sick I truly am. Oh, I’m in tech too.

        What has prevented OP from taking online classes or transitioning to another higher paying profession? OP is blaming Jane for a much larger problem (which I understand and sympathize with) but what has she done to make the situation better?

        OP definitely needs to look within and ask some hard questions. Then utilize the resources around her to make the best out of a less than ideal situation.

        Reply
      2. Ellis Bell*

        Jane is giving management training and advice for free and throwing all sorts of business connections at OP and all she wants to do is get the scissors out and cut! OP, you’re being ridiculous. She’s a burned out director taking a break; she doesn’t want to do your job any more any more than she wants to do her own right now. You’re totally going to be able to keep your job unless you tank it all by yourself with “fairness” vendettas against your employees and sabotaging yourself out of nothing more than a lack of confidence. She’s also not getting paid “twice”, her old job role will have more than milked her bone dry, so she’s earned any kind of paid break; being a director is not an hourly pay sort of gig and if it’s worth it to the company to pay her, what’s it honestly got to do with you? I completely understand the feelings of anxiety about finances and not knowing yet what’s in your future, but knowing Jane doesn’t and hasn’t negatively changed anything for you. If you need to distance yourself from her a bit emotionally, possibly not visiting her house any more, that may help you get ahold of yourself …. but honestly I think you’re missing a trick. Treat knowing her like an opportunity to pick her brains; you never know what can happen if you keep your nerve and keep an open mind.

        Reply
    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Yeah, one obvious thing to try would be picking up some tech courses and seeing if you can make a transition into a higher-paying career.

      Reply
        1. Mill Miker*

          Tech is such a mess though, and I mean that in neutral way, if that makes sense. It’s work that can be done remote, but often isn’t, and sometimes for the biggest companies in the largest cities, and sometimes for little places just scrapping by.

          If I had started in a different city, my starting salary 10 years ago could have been more than my current salary now. And right now I’m working remotely in a small city for a smaller company that’s based in a bigger city (had to move out of the even smaller city I was in because the COL there was higher there, for some reason). So I make a lot more than some of my peers, but according to glass door I’m in like the bottom 3rd for pay for my job with my experience in my geographic region.

          I make enough to pull a Jane, but a lot of the people being laid of from the big tech companies wouldn’t be able to afford the pay cut to take my job… a lot of the small-to-mid companies are still hiring like mad, because they can’t afford to pay market rate, but what they _are_ paying is still high five-figures through low 6 figures….

          The entry-level pool is also full of people trying to make the jump, so openings for entry-level jobs get swamped, but there’s a definite split in the pool between people who have the knack or have put in the work, and people who are not ready for the job. If you can clearly place yourself in that first bucket, it’s a question of how “underpaid” your willing to be on paper, and how much BS you can deal with.

          It’s a mess!

          Reply
    4. Sassy SAAS*

      Great point! It’s super common for workers to attack each other at a company because someone is being paid more. The unfairness lies with the company who is paying those unfair or very imbalanced salaries/rates, not with the employee getting that salary/rate. If a cashier is making more than a manager, that’s not the cashier’s fault, it’s the owners’ fault! OP could ask their manager for a raise, get training, look for a new position… there’s options! But Jane’s salary and her financial situation isn’t the crux of the problem here, it’s how OP is framing these things as a direct attack on them. OP, I hope you are able to either negotiate a raise or find a position that better suits your needs!!

      Reply
        1. Courageous cat*

          I mean, I think “focus on what you can exert control over” here is pretty sound advice. You can control whether you take on extra education/training/etc somewhere else, you can control if you job hunt for something similar that might pay more. You can’t exert control over someone else’s circumstances (or really shouldn’t, in the case of wanting to fire Jane for this).

          Reply
          1. a user*

            Firing Jane for this would be an asinine thing to do, yes, but OP definitely can do something. Namely lobby and protest to make the town less attractive for gentrifying newcomers, there are myriad ways to do this, and with enough support and effort a town can make the newcomers leave.

            Reply
          2. Splendid Colors*

            I would be trying to figure out what kind of art/craft thing I could make that Jane’s overpaid friends would pay me to make for them. Preferably if I could do it at home with my kids around. But, I’m a maker and I don’t have a day job managing a bakery–maybe LW doesn’t have two jobs’ worth of energy in her, I sure wouldn’t.

            Reply
    5. Samwise*

      I do not understand all the snark aimed at this comment. It is not bad advice, and there is nothing in it that’s slamming poor people. Nothing.

      (1) Refocus away from Jane (good advice) and turn it on yourself (good advice)
      (2) Unhappy with current salary. (Yes, I sense that in OP’s letter)
      (3) Can you find ways to increase your income? (advice that is offered by commenters on this blog just about every day, and with plenty of approval and band-waggoning). What is wrong with this suggestion? Seriously, what is wrong with it? If the OP can’t use the suggestion, well, fine, then OP can ignore it. But maybe OP can.

      Plenty of suggestions in the comments are rewording of Alison’s advice, suggestions that the OP may or may not be able to take, and none, so far as I can see, are putting down the OP (or the OP’s economic class group). Nobody is slamming any of those comments for being unoriginal or unusable.

      Why are y’all so eager to kick at the intentions or “ignorance” of the people posting and agreeing with this comment? Why?

      Reply
      1. ferrina*

        LW doesn’t say that they’re unhappy with their current salary- they say their once-achievable financial goal (buying a house) is now unattainable due to inflation and higher-salaried remote workers creating a housing shortage in the local market. LW could have done everything right- made a career they love, at a salary that is reasonable- and because of these circumstances outside their control, their goals are suddenly unattainable.

        The problem with “get a better job!” is that it’s language that has been used to obfuscate systemic inequities for time immemorial. It’s trying to individualize a systemic problem, and subtly blame the individual for being in an impossible position. (“well, if you just worked harder…”). There’s a long history of similar language that is used to obfuscate racial wealth gaps or other gaps based on “undesirable” qualities (I’m not saying the commenters are doing that here, but words don’t exist in a vacuum. Pretty much every marginalized group has been accused of being “lazy” when in reality financial opportunities are denied to them).

        There is nothing to indicate that LW is being paid unfairly or being taken advantage of. LW is clear that their financial situation is due to unforeseeable economic changes outside their control. LW gives no indication that they want to leave their job, and that’s not what they’re asking for. They’re asking for advice in being a manager- AY’s advice doesn’t help that.

        Reply
        1. a clockwork lemon*

          The systemic inequality at play here, to the extent that there is one at all, is the absolutely unavoidable reality that for all of human history, people have moved to new places. In this particular case, people are piling on about a woman “flaunting” her wealth for…moving into a new-construction home in what’s apparently an area that offers a desirable lifestyle to a lot of people rather than buying up what sounds like a limited supply of existing housing.

          Unless LW wants to solve their financial problems with a very long prison sentence, there is nothing they can do to alter the reality that Jane *lives in town now and has chosen to work the bad shifts at a local business.* It’s on LW to fix whatever is making them miserable, because in every workplace there will always be someone who has [nice stuff/a dumb expensive hobby/a nicer home.]

          Remember: LW manages a team of low-wage employees in a retail storefront. That means, at any given moment before Jane, LW could very well have been the richest worker in the room.

          Reply
          1. a user*

            There are absolutely legal ways to make gentrifying newcomers feel unwelcome. People all across the world are doing it when faced with this issue. There’s a lot of things between “ignore it entirely and make peace with the fact that your hometown will be ruined by locusts” and “commit crimes against them”. This argument lacks nuance.

            But in a professional capacity letting this affect her decisionmaking to such an extent is highly likely to backfire and also uncalled for. If she wanted to engage in community organizing to lobby the town government to enact measures against wealthy newcomers, that would be a more appropriate use of her anger.

            Reply
        2. Samwise*

          I’m well aware of all of this. That still doesn’t mean that OP couldn’t look for a better paying job or other ways to increase their income. If that’s what OP wants to do.

          My point is that the suggestion to take the focus off Jane and on earning more money is getting slammed in a way other kinds of comments are not — a number of commenters are not just laying out the analysis you have so clearly and cogently stated here. They’re getting nasty about it. So what’s up with that reaction?

          Reply
  6. MysteriousMise*

    Oh dear.

    This is 100% a you problem, right here. And jealousy is a poor look on anyone.

    You need to work on yourself, and deal with your envy here, because if you don’t, things are not going to go well.

    Reply
    1. MysteriousMise*

      To add: Alison’s advice is spot on, as usual. Take some time to reflect on it, and what’s about to happen in the comments.

      Good luck!

      Reply
        1. Budgie Buddy*

          Oops hit reply too soon – I think jealousy is a natural and unavoidable human emotion. We live in an unfair world where sometimes people have stuff we really want often just by luck. But Jane isn’t being rich AT op.

          Jealousy should spur us to reflect – what’s causing me to be discontent with my own life? What changes can I make? I don’t think trying to crush jealousy down is the solution because it’s kind of a warning signal that something in your own life is out of whack. But neither is blindly feeding jealousy and turning into a ball of resentment.

          Reply
          1. That girl*

            Yes Budgie Buddy,
            Those feelings can be a warning signal that there are areas of your own life that need attention.

            Reply
    2. jj*

      I hate this take. Jealousy is a natural and unhealthy reaction to living in a deeply unjust economy. Resentment is a natural and acceptable reaction to having your home gentrified. OP’s meaningful issue is they need to not let this jealousy and resentment impact how they manage an employee. It is way out of line to judge or shame them for being jealous in and of itself.

      Reply
  7. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Jane could be (already is, sounds like) a huge asset to you. She likely took this job because she was burned out and needed a break, she’s happy doing what she’s doing, AND she’s happy to share her knowledge– in a way that, based on your telling, is kind and informative. She sounds like a generous person and one who takes any job she has very seriously. She’s taking the shifts no one wants. She has no plans to advance. She is the opposite of spoiled or entitled or whatever.

    Management is not about money. There are plenty of people who take retail jobs when they don’t need the money– I’ve been one. I needed structure and routine and a job where I could do my work and then leave it behind until the next day because I had just left a very damaging work situation. I respected my managers and did my work, just like Jane is doing.

    I understand the jealousy. I would probably be jealous too. But do not let that override the fact that you actually like this woman and she is a great employee. Letting the jealousy win is the definition of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    Reply
    1. Well...*

      I mean, I think what Jane is collectively participating in is not entirely ethical. I wouldn’t say her arrival (and the en-mass arrival of wealthy people like her) is really overall a good thing. I definitely don’t think we have enough information here to judge whether Jane is spoiled or entitled. She could be either or both, and she’s definitely operating at a higher level of privilege. IMO that gives her a higher ethical responsibility to address inequality around her and be a good neighbor/friend/community member in the area she’s actively gentrifying. If she’s just doing a good job at any job, that’s not enough to say she’s not a part of the problem.

      Reply
      1. Clobberin' Time*

        Nothing in the OP’s letter suggests that Jane is “spoiled or entitled” – kind of the opposite, as she takes shifts other people don’t want. Why are you writing fanfic about how Jane is secretly awful?

        Reply
        1. KatCardigans*

          How is saying “I definitely don’t think we have enough information here to judge whether Jane is spoiled or entitled” writing fanfic about how Jane is secretly awful?

          Reply
            1. Well...*

              Of course. I was responding to an initial claim that Jane is the opposite of entitled and spoiled, so I didn’t explicitly say “neither.” But I said there’s not enough info to judge, then presented two possible alternatives. Jeez people are really up in arms for Jane…

              Reply
      2. Roland*

        +1. OP can’t take it out on her, but Jane is part of a pattern currently causing harm in OP’s city. Doesn’t mean she’s wrong for her individual choices, but we don’t need to pretend that’s not true.

        Reply
      3. A*

        Thank you for saying this. Yes, we are not individually responsible for the movements of society, but we are individually responsible for our own actions. Obviously, this can’t impact the way the OP manages this person, but you also don’t have to act like it’s some precious gift for rich people to deign to work in a bakery.

        Reply
        1. Well...*

          Yup. This was exactly the tone I didn’t like in the original comment, and what I was pushing back on. I’m not sure other commenters really see that though as I’ve seemed to open a can of worms…

          Reply
      4. L-squared*

        Oh please. Now we are reaching. Jane has done nothing wrong, except move into a place that she was able to move to.

        She has no ethical responsibility to take on the burden of a jealous manager.

        You say she could be either spoiled or entitled, or both. But why not neither. Just because someone has a good job and has money, doesnt’ make them spoiled or entitled. Even operating at a higher level of privilege doesn’t mean these things are true.

        Reply
        1. Well...*

          I think you’re misreading my comment. I said we can’t judge one way or the other. I didn’t rule out the possibility of neither. I didn’t explicitly highlight nighter because I was responding to OP saying that Jane was the opposite of entitled or spoiled (which we just don’t have any evidence of).

          Reply
          1. Rhiannon*

            “I definitely don’t think we have enough information here to judge whether Jane is spoiled or entitled. She could be either or both.”

            Sorry, where is “neither” here?

            Reply
        2. Anonymously Yours*

          I agree with this.

          Also, words like rich and wealthy are being thrown around. Having a comfortable income doesn’t necessarily equate to being “wealthy.”

          My SO and I started with little education and no money from family. We worked hard without special privileges to get what we have. Immense ups and downs in employment, many tenuous situations overcome. Decades later, we’re comfortable (and we don’t take any of it for granted).

          We changed our trajectory by deciding to work towards our goals. Easy? Hell no. But worth it. Only YOU can change your life, OP.

          Reply
          1. lilsocialist*

            I am truly, truly, hoping to say this with kindness, but— no special privileges? None? Not white? Cisgendered? Able-bodied? Neurotypical? Straight?

            “We changed our trajectory by deciding to work toward our goals” is really ignoring a lot of factors that effect people outside of your personal experience, and are systemic and deeply rooted in our culture. I think that statement alone can attest to the likely many privileges you’ve been afforded— not through fault of your own, I really don’t want to make this personal— and may in fact be taking for granted.

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth Naismith*

              Given the sheer number of things you listed, it’s highly unlikely Anonymously Yours doesn’t fall into at least one category.
              But even if someone does fall into one (or more) of those categories, that just makes this advice all the more important. No one is going to hand you an easy life. No matter your circumstances, the only way to improve your life is by what you choose to do. Luck doesn’t play nearly as big a role as you seem to want it to.

              Reply
              1. Snorks*

                “Only YOU can change your life” implies that “you alone can change your life,” in other words, that if your life doesn’t change, it’s because you’re not trying hard enough. And for people with privilege, that’s usually true. But for people who face massive systemic obstacles based on who they are, and not what they’ve done, it’s untrue and patronizing to say the least.

                Gumption is great, but give me generational wealth any day.

                Reply
              2. Starbuck*

                “No one is going to hand you an easy life. No matter your circumstances, the only way to improve your life is by what you choose to do.”

                But that’s the point, this literally isn’t true! People *do* get handed easy lives, it does happen that their circumstances improve through no effort of their own. Your argument that luck doesn’t play a role – the luck of your birth absolutely has a huge affect on the course of your life. Let’s not pretend it isn’t so. The result of that isn’t ‘therefore, do nothing’ of course people should still *try* to improve their lives, but come on, let’s be real. What you’re saying just isn’t true.

                Reply
                1. Me ... Just Me*

                  A finite, tiny percentage of folks get handed easy lives. It is in no way the norm. And one person’s “easy life” is another’s very challenging life.

                  I grew up poor (dumpster diving for food as a kid poor) whose sister died in childhood. Neither of my parents are college educated. My dad is an ex-felon. Both of my parents grew up in terrible households (my dad was beaten by his dad and my mom’s parents were alcoholics). I’m a woman. Short and chubby. I’ve got a couple of chronic autoimmune diseases. I’m partially deaf. Broke my back in two place in an auto accident a decade ago. I deal with debilitating pain daily. I could go on about the various tragedies and setbacks that I’ve faced.

                  I’m also white. Intelligent. My parents are still together. I have a supportive family. I’ve worked hard to educate myself and have a Master’s degree (and $80k student loans). I own a home. Married. I make good money. I have relatively nice things.

                  So, what am I? — privileged? downtrodden and hopelessly marginalized? What?? I think of myself as being both normal and extremely lucky. Another person might look at all the bad things that have happened to me and think my life is horribly tragic. Others might see the apparent wealth and think my life’s been easy.

                  Most peoples’ lives are a mishmash and even the most privileged have things going on that others know nothing about.

                  Let’s take Jane, for example. Privileged, yes. But, doesn’t it make you wonder how bad things (what happened to Jane that she left her high tech job to work odd hours at a local bakery??) are for Jane? Is she picking up hours at a low paying job because she needs money and her mental health is such that she cannot deal with high stress? — my money is on that explanation rather than she’s super rich, mentally well and simply likes getting up before dawn to peddle baked goods. Maybe she was the victim of a crime in that big city and so moved to the small town to feel safe? Who knows? We definitely don’t.

            2. Starbuck*

              I was thinking the same. It’s a nice idea, just work hard and of course you’ll be rewarded – but pretending that privilege (or obstacles from the lack thereof) don’t come into play, well, that’s just not a helpful perspective that other people can take as actionable advice.

              Reply
      5. Oxford Comma*

        As you say, we don’t know enough about Jane to judge. Jane is a good employee. That’s where it should end. Whether Jane does activism in her spare time or nothing at all isn’t the issue.

        Reply
        1. Well...*

          LW is struggling to manage their feelings about their economic circumstances and large-scale changes to their city while being responsible to their role as a manager. Just saying “Jane is a good employee!!” doesn’t help LW with that, like at all.

          If Jane was participating in that activism, or even just aware of its existence and not ignorant to what she’s doing to the people around her, I bet that interpersonal relationship would be easier to navigate. Walking around oblivious to the harm you’re causing in your personal life and then expecting a fire wall between your work and personal life without any consequences is…. unrealistic. Work simply does not happen in a vacuum to society, and some of these problems are very complicated and can’t be so cleanly separated.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth Naismith*

            It’s not on Jane to manage LW’s feelings. Quite the opposite, really. LW is the manager, and Jane is just an employee. Jane is not responsible for LW in any way. Nothing outside of her behavior at work matters; and it sounds as if Jane’s work is exemplary. Whether she spends her money and free time helping underprivileged youth or vacationing in the Maldives has no impact on her being a good employee.
            LW, on the other hand, is the manager. She actually is responsible for keeping her employees content (at least as regards work). Wanting to fire someone because they have a better living situation than you do is inappropriate at best.

            Reply
        1. bamcheeks*

          Genuinely, “don’t have a party where you invite local people and your rich friends talk about how far their money stretches”.

          like, there is absolutely an element of gentrification where we’re all smaller than the system and making choices for ourselves and it sucks that those choices impact other people’s economic reality but there’s a limit to what you can do about it. But that kind of ignorance of the fact that your good fortune being at other people’s expense is something you CAN do something about.

          Reply
          1. Chairman of the Bored*

            Are you saying that Jane should not have invited local people to her party, or told her or told her other guests ahead of time not to talk about the cost of living variation between different cities?

            It doesn’t sound like she did anything wrong here.

            Reply
          2. anon for this*

            I don’t know that “don’t let your rich and poor friends mingle” is exactly right. I’m someone who by switching fields tripled my paycheck recently (left public education for corporate, sigh). Still figuring a lot out. But am I supposed to have separate Christmas parties for the old friends & the new? Separate ppl by class? What do I do with the friend who works at a nonprofit for peanuts but comes from a rich family — slot them into the rich friend party or the poor friend party?

            I’d rather spend my money locally, invest in the community, try to lift all boats, and stick to one party. Sure that means some folks will need to be more sensitive with how they talk about money at parties (and it would be on me to tell them so).

            Reply
            1. Corey*

              Not only that, but as someone who has almost tripled his salary in the past few years, I didn’t get it done by segregating myself from those who are best positioned to lift me up.

              Reply
            2. bamcheeks*

              I guess I think, by all means let your rich friends with good manners mingle with your poor friends! But maybe not the ones who lack sensitivity and are going to spoil the party for you poor friends?

              I find it fascinating that a lot of the comments here seem to assume that wealthy people couldn’t *possibly* be sensitive to how they come across talking about money and CoL in front of the community they’ve all impacted, and that that’s something we just have to work around rather than something that you can actually be decent and discreet about.

              Reply
              1. Hen in a Windstorm*

                I think the idea that one needs to be discreet about money is part of the problem. It continues the idea that money is a taboo topic. Why can’t we all be open about how much we make, how much things cost and how to get more of all the good stuff?

                It’s entirely possible, by the way, that the people at the party were not being insensitive or rude or whatever. The OP has a lot of feelings about money and Jane’s friends that might mean literally any talk about the COL in the town would upset her. I’d also note that there have been studies that show “wealth” does not have a numerical definition. “Wealthy” just means “wealthier than me” to people at every level of society.

                There’s only so much any one person can do to pre-soothe someone else’s feelings. (Adding, this is a lot of guess-culture BS that implies I know exactly what everyone else will think about any one thing I say and then somehow navigating precisely so nobody is offended). At some point, adults have to manage their own emotions.

                Reply
                1. bamcheeks*

                  Because we have an economy very deliberately set up so that most of “the good stuff” goes to the people who already have it, and hearing people who have lots more money than you talk about having lots of money very rarely gives you actionable advice that you can convert into more money yourself.

                2. SofiaDeo*

                  Being open about money, and logically discussing is, is nice in theory. But emotions aren’t always logical. Triggers and emotions just “are”. I was really surprised and upset with myself when someone who graduated a year ahead of me, brought up emotions of jealousy when talking about their life. I would be graduating into a well paid profession of my own, in the upcoming year. Yet the jealousy that arose drove m crazy, I hated it, and I removed myself from that person’s life. Instead of being excited/anticipating that I, too, would soon be able to have a job and no longer be a struggling student, I got hit with totally unexpected feelings of insanely intense jealousy. Look at all the comments about how Jane’s friends discussing how their salaries stretch. We don’t really know if they were being factual, grateful, or boastful. But at least some people find money talk triggering, and it’s tough to know ahead of time what our triggers might be.

          3. Well...*

            I think it’s really funny how people on this thread are getting confused by like… basic etiquette. It reminds me of reactions to the advice: “don’t creep on girls at parties” resulting in a bunch of, “But what am I supposed to do? Segregate my parties by gender?? Never talk to women? Talk all the time? Socializing is impossible!!”

            Reply
            1. Chairman of the Bored*

              What is the basic etiquette here?

              Jane invited a mixed group of people to a party, over the course of that party some people who *weren’t* Jane discussed geographic variations in cost of living. It is unclear whether she was even in the room for this conversation; it doesn’t seem like she participated in it.

              I am not in the habit of actively policing the conversation topics of other adults at a large gathering to make sure nobody brings up personal finance. I doubt that many people are.

              What specifically should Jane have done differently?

              Reply
              1. bamcheeks*

                I think her wealthy friends were rude, and I think she should be embarrassed. I get that a lot of people here think that talking about how great it is to move to a lower CoL area in front of people who are seeing housing prices move right out of their reach is an inevitable thing that wealthy people just cannot possibly not do, but I just think it’s very easy to not do that and to have a bit of decency.

                Reply
                1. Hen in a Windstorm*

                  This is such a ridiculous thing to say. You were not at that party. You’ve gone too far into the fantasy realm.

                2. Properlike*

                  How do you know the people engaging in the conversation were actually wealthy? Plenty of people are dirt-poor and taking on debt to affect a “wealthy” lifestyle. Plenty of people appear to be poor but have millions in the bank. I discussed mortgage rates and investing back before I had any money to do either. And when I finally saved up enough to buy a car, I told everyone how I negotiated the price because I’m female and I wanted other women to know how not to get gouged.

                  This is the “gotcha” culture that I made a comment about last week — the habit of ascribing ill intent to someone relaying an anecdote because they didn’t list all the ways they *didn’t* do the thing you’re worried about, so therefore, they probably did it and should be lectured.

                  This is not how Good Humans are supposed to communicate with each other. Is this what you do at parties, bamcheeks?

                3. Well...*

                  We’ve gone too deep in nesting but @Hen in Windstorm, we HAVE to make these kinds of fantasy assumptions in order to entertain Chairman of the Bored’s demands to specify proper etiquette in this specific situation.

                  It’s just a bad faith argument at this point. You know how to not be rude to people at parties with conversations around class, etc. Demanding an exact rule book for how to socialize and lacking one, refusing to engage in any sensitive wrt to class and privilege is deliberately trying to derail the conversation from anything productive.

                4. bamcheeks*

                  @Properlike— it doesn’t have to involve ill intent! Sometimes people are rude and offensive because they’re clueless, and the people they offend are not obliged to care more about their good intent than the actual offensive thing they said.

                  Sometimes, I have been rude and offensive because I was clueless, and I offended people. I feel bad about it and I think those people are entitled to be offended! Having a care for other people does not cause me undue hardship.

                5. Chairman of the Bored*

                  Jane’s *party guests* may have taken the COL conversation beyond the bounds of etiquette.

                  I genuinely don’t see what Jane herself did wrong, or what other thing she should have done besides “have different friends”.

              2. L-squared*

                Right. And to be fair, I don’t know that I find that topic itself even all that bad.

                I live in a city, and I have friends who have recently moved to the suburbs. It is definitely a topic of conversation that comes up about how different the cost of living is. I

                Reply
        1. Lavender*

          Yeah, I think that’s what it comes down to. She very well might be contributing to a wider problem in the community, but it’s not really her manager’s place to take that into account during workplace interactions.

          Reply
      6. Chairman of the Bored*

        I’m unclear about what unethical thing Jane is doing.

        People have the right to move to whatever city they wish and to establish a home when they get there.

        Reply
        1. Well...*

          Of course people have a right to do that, people the right to do many things that are not ethical. I have the right to never speak to my parents again and refuse to help them later in life despite their good parenting, but that doesn’t make it ethical.

          To your point, if you’re engaging in gentrification, the way to do it ethically is to be actively involved with projects to ensure housing is affordable and fair; renter’s rights are being strengthened, upheld, and respected; low-income housing is readily available. It means ensuring affordable grocery stores remain open in your neighborhood and pushing back on policing homelessness/poverty. That way you undo some of the harm that you caused when you moved there. Just “bringing your skills” to managing a baker that was presumably doing fine before you showed up doesn’t cut it.

          Reply
          1. JB*

            You seem to be placing a lot of responsibility on people who are probably just looking for a nice place to live. It’s not their job to attend to the economic health and fairness of the entire community.

            Reply
            1. lilsocialist*

              Whose job is it then?

              Seriously, if we are in a situation right now where economic and social inequality is rampant, and our leadership is not only declining to do anything about it but actively exacerbating it— who, on an individual community level, should be leading the fight for a more just world? I mean, I would argue the Janes among us have the most access and ability to do so, on an individual level.

              Reply
              1. Chairman of the Bored*

                Even though Janes among us may have that access and ability, they are under no obligation to use it in the way their manager prefers.

                Jane should not face negative consequences at work for declining to “lead the fight” for policies that will benefit her boss off the job.

                Reply
              2. ThursdaysGeek*

                How do you know that Jane wasn’t moving to a cheaper location partly because she was priced out of her original location by richer people from elsewhere moving to it?

                Reply
                1. Lavender*

                  Yeah, moving to less expensive area to save money isn’t something that fabulously wealthy people tend to do. They might buy rental properties or vacation homes elsewhere, but the reason why big cities are so expensive is because they are usually the most desirable places to live.

              3. Pescadero*

                “Whose job is it then? ”

                The folks elected by the electorate to be responsible for directing law/taxation/policy in the way the electorate wants.

                Reply
                1. turquoisecow*

                  Yes. Isn’t this what we have governments for? Unless Jane has political influence, she’s not going to change the culture on her own.

              4. cardigarden*

                But does this particular Jane have the spoons to lead community efforts to combat economic inequality in this town? Really all we know about her is that she’s on sabbatical and currently wants to occupy her time working in a bakery. Having financial privilege (actual or perceived) doesn’t necessarily mean you have the capacity to dismantle systems of oppression on the scale that it sounds like you’re asking for.

                Reply
                1. Properlike*

                  Does it count if she gives her money to save endangered species? Or donates her time to a food bank? Or was once poor herself? Does she tutor kids at a below-market rate? Use coupons at the grocery store?

                  Do you all hold yourselves to these standards too?

                  Y’all have really warped standards of what constitutes “rich” which also seem to include a lot of flouncing and mustache-twirling.

              5. Splendid Colors*

                Yes, this.

                I *do* participate in local advocacy for affordable housing, and one of the problems we face is community opposition. It would help so, SO much if more homeowners who don’t oppose a project would spend a few hours every couple of months to make public comment that they welcome the project.

                But the homeowners who care enough to go to a meeting in person, or even just wait their turn on Zoom for remote participation, are almost always the ones who want everyone to know that “we paid a lot of money to live in this neighborhood far far away from people who make less money than we do.” Or the ones who believe the HOA’s disinformation that the affordable housing is for sex offenders even though it’s down the block from a school. Yes, there are people who are so strongly opposed to affordable housing that they will make up complete lies about why their neighbors should stop a well-designed project targeted at people like bakery managers, teachers, and retail staff.

                Then the Councilmembers often say “my constituents have made their feelings known” and vote against the project.

                The people who actually qualify to live in this housing typically don’t call in or show up because they’re working two jobs, have kids underfoot, or just don’t know it’s happening. When organizers and advocates call in, we get called shills and the Council often gets mad we showed up.

                What we need the most is for homeowners in the affected neighborhoods to call in or show up in support of affordable housing (and tenant rights issues). That is something Jane and her friends could be doing to solve this issue.

                The Bay Area has a group called “TechEquity” that tries to recruit people in their fields to fight income inequality, racism, labor law violations, etc. So this kind of advocacy is possible!

                Reply
            2. bamcheeks*

              Well, ok, if it’s not their job to do that, it’s also not the community’s job to welcome them with open arms and always think lovely sweet positive things about them!

              Since literally everyone agrees that LW should not under any circumstances treat Jane in any detrimental way in the workplace, that’s literally the only consequence we’re discussing here: people not unanimously thinking they are good people. That’s literally the very worst thing that could happen.

              Good lord, rich people are fragile.

              Reply
              1. Hen in a Windstorm*

                What on earth?! Anyone who disagrees with you is apparently both “rich” and “fragile”. It’s impossible to just have another perspective? You’ve got some issues to unpack.

                Reply
                1. Well...*

                  Nope, it’s just that these particular replies are conveying a ton of fragility. It’s not that any disagreement indicates that… it’s just this particular discourse in this particular thread.

                2. bamcheeks*

                  Nah, I’m not saying people here are rich and fragile. I’m saying that there’s a cultural tendency (extremely well-nurtured across our media and other institutions) to empathise with the wealthy and present them as full complicated humans who need to be respected and protected from bad feelings, and deny that same complicated news to poorer people.

                  So when there’s a conflict between the needs of the wealthy and the less wealthy, there’s a knee jerk tendency to say, “you don’t understand! They probably didn’t have a choice! That’s a perfectly normal conversation! They couldn’t have known they were going to upset someone!”

                  All of which may well be true! But it’s all focussed on the feelings of the wealthier person. There isn’t a drive to give the poorer person the same level of complicatedness. They’ve got it set their feelings aside and understand that the wealthier person didn’t MEAN harm, that they’re a good person really.

                  And the wealthy person gets to not only keep their wealth— which was never threatened anyway!— but also their image of themselves as a good person. Someone who, sure, may have caused harm, but did so inadvertently because of structures bigger themselves! And the poorer person remains harmed,

                  That’s what I mean by “fragile”. Not being able to live with the idea that your lifestyle or your ignorance or anything about yoh might cause harm to others, and needing other people to acknowledge and affirm your inherent goodness. And we have a shitton of propaganda and media and god knows actual court systems bolstering that all the time.

                3. Modesty Poncho*

                  @Bamcheeks for what it’s worth, I didn’t agree with you at first but you’ve explained yourself really well and I get where you’re coming from now. Thank you for your perspective.

              2. ADidgeridooForYou*

                I think people are just saying it’s more complicated than that. I feel like a lot of these comments are missing some nuance. There’s a middle ground between rich and poor, and people participate in gentrification to mixed degrees. I’m sure a good chunk of these people saying that Jane is the problem have contributed to gentrification in some way. I don’t know Jane or her salary, so I can’t comment on her specific situation, but often times people who relocate are just trying to survive, as well. They’re not completely innocent, but they’re not completely guilty, either.

                Reply
                1. bamcheeks*

                  I don’t really think that matters. Like, I agree it’s all relative, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for LW to think ill of Jane if she’s only on $80k but becomes acceptable if she’s on $800k. Her cohort has brought a big enough income differential to LW’s home town that it’s having an impact on the local economy. I think you start with the impact on the people with least wealth and how they feel about it. It’s not about the inherent goodness or badness or worthiness of jane’s cohort, but the impact on the people who are priced out at whatever band that happens to be.

          2. Phoenix*

            Wow. There’s nothing “unethical” about moving from a place where you’re struggling to afford the life you want to live to a place where you can comfortably afford that life. Jane is absolutely not under some kind of moral obligation to stay in a high COL city and struggle so that OP’s COL doesn’t increase and OP can comfortably afford the life she wants without moving. Not to mention that Jane’s individual move has virtually no actual impact on the city’s COL. I’m sorry OP is struggling, that sucks and it’s not her fault. But it’s not Jane’s fault either.

            Reply
            1. Snorks*

              There’s nothing unethical about moving to a place with a lower COL, but it’s not ethical to pretend that it had no negative impacts on the community, either.

              Reply
              1. Lavender*

                I think it depends. Is she spending her money at local businesses? Is this the only property that she owns? Does she even own her house, or is she renting? Does she plan to move closer to her other workplace once her sabbatical is over? These things are all factors.

                Speaking as someone who grew up in an area that has since become extremely gentrified, the biggest issue by far was people buying investment properties that they didn’t intend to live in. It meant that the people who owned homes there generally weren’t contributing to the local economy, which hurt local businesses and drove up the cost of living.

                Reply
          3. ThursdaysGeek*

            And you (and the OP) have no idea what Jane is doing when she’s not at work, how she is helping (or not helping) problems that she’s seeing around her.

            Reply
          4. Julia K.*

            “The way to do it ethically is to be actively involved with projects to ensure housing is affordable and fair; renter’s rights are being strengthened, upheld, and respected; low-income housing is readily available.”

            Jane is doing exactly this by buying a higher-income new build, instead of competing for a prior rental or lower-income home.

            Moving to areas that permit new buildings has a much better impact than moving to areas that do not permit new buildings.

            Reply
            1. Julia K.*

              And sure, it would be good of Jane to advocate politically too; but we don’t know whether she’s doing that or not. From what we do know about her actions on the gentrification front, they seem quite ethical.

              Reply
          5. skadhu*

            So… moving from place A where you are poor to place B where you are nicely comfortable is unethical? Better to stay in a disadvantaged position where it’s impossible to leverage your privilege to improve things?

            I actually agree that it’s important for people with relative privilege to use it. We know Jane is offering some aspects of that at work by taking undesirable shifts and offering tips. We don’t know if she’s also doing it at a more macro scale, or if not, whether there are good reasons that forced a sabbatical and prevent her. We know she is at least partly oblivious to her relative privilege and why it might matter because she invited everyone over; we don’t know if she was even aware of the discussion of relative finances here.

            Jane might be 90% obnoxious privilege and 10% community-minded nice person — or the reverse. Awful lot of moral judgements being made about Jane in areas in which we have very little info.

            Reply
            1. Mill Miker*

              I swear, a good chunk of the (for lack of a better term) “erosion of the middle class” (or at least part of the reason the ultra-wealthy can get away with it) is this tendency to put anyone slightly-better-off into “out-of-touch, ultra-wealthy” bucket.

              If the goal is to have everyone living comfortably, without having people who are so rich they can just buy the laws they want, then the people who are already in that bucket, while not necessarily “part of the solution” are definitely part of the “solved”.

              And while I’d never try to argue that absolves anyone of any responsibility for anything, I just can’t see how existing in that state is inherently unethical.

              Reply
              1. Lavender*

                Yeah, that’s the thing. The goal is for everyone to have their basic needs met with some money left over to save or spend however they choose. The issue isn’t that some people have those things, it’s that far too many people don’t.

                Reply
          6. RussianInTexas*

            How exactly can a person ensure a grocery store stays open? Does a person have an ethical obligation to shop in a grocery store that does not fulfil their needs?
            I live in a middle priced neighborhood, surrounded by a higher price neighborhood on one side, and a poorer neighborhood on the other side. Yes, we bought the house in this neighborhood because it was more affordable (10 years ago), then the more expensive neighborhood, and with much lower crime rate than the poorer neighborhood (and also not being The City proper).
            The poorer neighborhood has a Hispanic supermarket. I rarely patronize it because produce is worse and more expensive than HEB 5 miles away, and selection overall is worse, even though it’s less than a mile away.
            Do you propose I shop in a worse store so it stays open? Because I am not doing it.

            Reply
            1. Snorks*

              Why not go there when you can? Speaking from experience, you’ll find a much better selection of dried chiles and a wider variety of cuts of meat. Do what you can to contribute to local businesses.

              Reply
              1. RussianInTexas*

                I go there when I need specific items I want – chilis, ceviche by lb, frozen burritos. They do not have wider variety of meats I would eat vs my regular store. Nor it is cheaper. The parking lot is a trashed disaster.
                It’s also a “local” business as much as any supermarket chain. It’s not a large chain, but it is a chain.
                I can’t do my regular grocery shopping there, and that’s what matters to me.

                Reply
      7. bighairnoheart*

        I want to challenge this a bit, because while I understand where you’re coming from, and this viewpoint is almost certainly where OP’s frustration is coming from, it’s not going to be helpful for OP to focus on this when it comes to managing her employee. We can have a high-level conversation about the harms of gentrification and the responsibilities of individuals who contribute to it, but OP has to learn to manage this person fairly (or leave), and continuing to focus on this aspect of the situation isn’t going to help them do that. If anything, I worry it’s going to make it worse. A good manager needs to be able to depersonalize things when it comes to managing their employees. (Which is to say, I don’t disagree with you, I just don’t think it’s a particularly useful framework for the letter writer to engage in.)

        Reply
        1. Well...*

          Yea fair enough. The original comment rubbed me the wrong way because it painted Jane as a bit of a savior, which I think isn’t really correct. But agreed this framing doesn’t necessarily help LW.

          Reply
          1. bighairnoheart*

            No worries, I get it and thank you for responding. This letter actually highlights one of the many reasons I never want to manage other people–I don’t know if I could do what OP needs to do without letting my feelings get in the way. Definitely wishing OP luck though.

            Reply
      8. January*

        You said this perfectly: “IMO that gives her a higher ethical responsibility to address inequality around her and be a good neighbor/friend/community member in the area she’s actively gentrifying.”

        People in communities have a duty to one another. Gentrification is a well-recognized and well-researched problem. Jane is being blithe and/or obtuse if she doesn’t recognize she’s part of the problem for this town.

        I so rarely disagree with Alison! I really feel for OP. OP needed actionable advice on how to mitigate gentrification. However, I really don’t think this was the platform for that.

        Reply
        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          I said this just down below, and I don’t know Jane’s exact salary, but it’s not always that easy. I used to live in Washington, DC (the third-highest city for cost of living), and even with our pretty good salaries, my husband and I literally could not afford anything more than a 700-square-foot 1-bedroom apartment. One half of our salaries went to rent. My friend who lives in San Francisco pays $5k/month with her roommate for a 2 bedroom. This inflation and late-stage capitalism has hit small towns the hardest, but it’s hit cities pretty rough, as well. Everyone is struggling, and though some like OP are struggling more than others, it’s not entirely fair to say that people like Jane are just being entitled or “part of the problem” – they’re byproducts of the problem.

          Reply
        2. Maisonneuve*

          OP didn’t ask for advice on mitigating gentrification. She asked asked how to tolerate managing an employee she resents.

          Reply
        3. Widget Spinner*

          This is a workplace advice blog. OP wrote in about a workplace issue. Alison answered that issue.

          If OP needs advice on mitigating gentrification, they need to get that from a more suitable source, and you need to stop complaining that they got an answer to the question they actually asked instead of the one you have magically intuited they really needed.

          Reply
      9. ADidgeridooForYou*

        I can’t speak to Jane’s situation since I don’t know her, but as someone who used to live in one of the top 3 cities for COL, I can say that sometimes it’s a little more complicated than that. Lots of cities are getting so expensive that even those who make high salaries are getting priced out. My friend in San Francisco pays $5k/month with her roommate for a 2-bedroom apartment in an area that’s not even popular to live in. She makes just under six figures and still has to be incredibly frugal to make rent. I can’t necessarily condone the act of moving to a comparatively LCOL town to escape it since it does price out the locals and adds to the problem, but not everyone who’s doing this is an entitled rich person just looking to buy a mansion. Most people are just victims of capitalism run amok, albeit some (like OP) are more victims than others.

        Reply
      10. Ellis Bell*

        I think this would only be relevant if it were Jane writing in, or if Jane’s living decisions had anything to do with the OP. None of this stuff is any of the OP’s business! If OP were a landlord or estate agent who refused to let out of towners move in; fine! If OP wanted to consider Jane Not A Friend, or to not invite her to local social stuff, also fine. But as Jane’s manager she can’t make this a big deal between the two of them, and she certainly can’t fire her for her moving to town! So yes, all Jane needs to do (as far as OP is concerned) is a good job.

        Reply
      11. bikelover*

        Maybe Jane is doing that- maybe she volunteers at a food bank or a homeless shelter- the LW doesn’t mention it one way or the other.

        Actually, maybe the LW should start volunteering at a homeless shelter. Nothing like feeling that you are being a part of the solution for helping you get over your negative emotions. Maybe she could organize a community outreach that the whole bakery could take part in. Then she could write in and tell us how this helped her attitude towards Jane, improved the living standards in her city and maybe, just maybe got her out of her own jealous mindset

        Reply
      12. Lavender*

        I don’t think moving to an area with a lower cost of living is unethical in itself, as long as you’re actually, you know, living there. It would be an issue if Jane were buying property to turn into an Airbnb or to use as a vacation home or investment property—that would reduce the total number of homes that people can actually live in and would lead to housing shortages. But it sounds like she’s not doing that, which means she’s contributing to the local economy just like any other resident.

        Reply
    2. Anonymouse Reads*

      Yes this – I could be Jane soon. I have had to take sabbatical already in the last two years because of burnout and if my family could afford it I would be working at a bookstore or small spa as a receptionist because I need the break and I would be really good at it. Going from a director to front desk would look weird I’m sure to many people but I would take it in a heartbeat if I could. This could be a wonderful opportunity to have a kind mentor and someone who you know you’re not going to have to micromanage or worry that they’re causing drama at work.

      Reply
      1. A fellow former legal aid lawyer*

        I have a coworker who left a stressful job as a lawyer to take a pay cut and become an administrative assistant because she was burned out and needed a 9-5 where she can leave work at work.

        Reply
    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yep. I took a retail job because I was out of work, depressed, and getting divorced. It was good to get out of the house, have something physical to do, and be worn out enough at the end of the day that I couldn’t dwell on my other issues.

      Reply
  8. Canadian Jimmy*

    I’m in a situation like the employee, somewhat. I’m in a small office at a non-profit, with just one other full-time employee who is the boss. I received a “living inheritance” recently of 6 figures, and let that slip to my co-worker. We’re both divorced in the last few years, and I’m happily remarried to a spouse with a good income. My co-worker/boss is trying to make ends meet, and she doesn’t make that much more than me. (I’m a better value to the employer than her, frankly, but that’s a another column!) But, the financial thing comes up sometimes, and it’s a sideways slight from her about how I’ve got things cushy.

    If you’re the better-off employee… take my advice: shut up about your situation, no matter how benign the conversation might seem. Things always have a way of coming home to roost.

    Reply
    1. L-squared*

      It doesn’t even sound like Jane is bragging or anything though. From what I can gather, Jane’s worst sin was, gasp, inviting her to a Christmas party at her house. Which, I’ll add, OP could have ignored since she seemed to already have an issue with her.

      Reply
    2. Former Gremlin Herder*

      Yeah, this is good advice. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of financial support from my family that made it easier for me to teach on a shitty salary, and I had to learn the hard way it just makes things weird and there’s not a lot you can do to mitigate it. That being said, OP needs to find a way to be okay with this.

      Reply
    3. Anon for this*

      I have also received a living inheritance, and it came with a warning to keep my mouth shut about it, especially at work, which I have followed. It has made for some interesting lunchtime conversations because people don’t know I’m one of the “rich people” they’re talking about. Incidentally, those conversations confirmed the decision not to say anything.

      Reply
        1. Boof*

          Usually it’s giving someone their intended inheritance while you’re still alive (instead of after death via a will) because you’re pretty sure you won’t need it, and/or want to enjoy seeing them get it, ended up saving more money than expected, etc etc

          Reply
  9. The Cosmic Avenger*

    This feels a lot like “why should they get $15/hour to flip burgers when I get paid that to work my ass off at [other job]?” It’s not that people who get less than you don’t deserve to get more than you, it’s that you’re BOTH underpaid, and BOTH deserve a living wage. And if you can get the same pay for a much less demanding and stressful job, that could exert upward pressure on the pay for your segment of the job market as people choose those “easier” jobs for the same pay.

    So, this differs because Jane obviously makes a living wage, but it’s still not her the OP should be frustrated with, it’s her employer, her industry, and her local job market.

    Reply
        1. Properlike*

          And this is also the argument used against collective bargaining. “How dare they unionize when I have to work ridiculous hours for little pay!” Confusing equity with equality.

          Reply
      1. yelena*

        Let’s please stop assuming that Jane is lucky to be in the position she is in. You have no idea what it took for her to get where she is in life. Pleae love to skip over the fact that these highly paid professionals have usually sacrificed loads, taken out loans, gotten educations, and much more that have gotten them to where they are.

        Reply
          1. RussianInTexas*