should I wear my wedding ring to an interview, client demands unlimited time, and more

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

1. Should I wear my wedding ring to an interview?

I’ve been generally unhappy with my current job and have been interviewing for other roles. Most of my interviews have been virtual or over the phone. Now that I’ve made it farther along in the process, I’ve been asked to come in for an in-person interview.

My question, which I understand is a very privileged one, is what are the optics of wearing a (large, three carat) wedding ring to the interview? I’m a mid-thirties woman, married to a man for about one year now. I’m very lucky that my husband proposed with a family ring — the value of which does not necessarily reflect our income or lifestyle. When I wear the ring, people stop to comment on it often. I talk with my hands a lot, and in meetings I often find people focusing on the ring.

I’m concerned that wearing it in a job interview will subconsciously make interviewers think I have more money than I really do. Will they think I’ll ask for an outrageous salary? Will they think they don’t have to pay me as much because they think I already have enough money? In general, does wearing a wedding ring help or hurt women in the interview process?

If it were a smaller, more discreet ring, I’d tell you not to worry about it. But it sounds like a ring that draws a lot of attention, and at a job interview you want the focus on your skills and accomplishments, not your jewelry.

So … if you want to be absolutely safe, leave the ring off. This is ridiculous, but the reality is that yes, some employers will draw conclusions about your finances that you don’t want them drawing (like that you don’t need a job, or that they can lowball you on salary). And if you’re of child-bearing age, some interviewers will also make assumptions about your reproductive plans and potential need for maternity leave. This is outdated and gross and yet still happens.

The other side of this argument is that leaving the ring on will screen out employers who would make those assumptions, and that’s a good thing … but a lot of bias is unconscious and present at jobs you might otherwise want.

Read an update to this letter

2. A demanding client complains we won’t give him unlimited time

I work in a government nonprofit. We deal with information queries every day. Sometimes people need help with online stuff, like getting to the website or form. One man, Benjamin, has been very hard to deal with.

During the height of the pandemic, we helped a lot of clients navigate the web, sometimes for over an hour. Benjamin was one of them. He would come in 4-5 times a week. We knew he was suffering medical issues (stroke, partial mobility paralysis), so we thought we would help him over the hump. Helping him sucked up everyone’s time, and left us no time or energy for anything or anyone else. He is beyond demanding. We decided to start limiting our service to him, telling him we would set aside Thursday morning, a less busy time, so that we could give him the time he seemed to need.

During the pandemic, traffic was slow. We served maybe 300 people per week. Now it’s more like 300 people per day. We just can’t spend as much time with people. Benjamin still comes in and expects the same level of service as before — expects us to type things in for him, get him water, get him tissue, or glasses from the donation bin (he forgot his own at home). He is fully capable of all these things, just slower at it. (And yes, we tried to explain we’re busier now to him.)

He doesn’t show up for his appointments. When we remind him about the Thursday plan, he waves it away and says he forgot.

Part of the problem is that when he asks for help, he won’t focus on one topic, but uses us as a captive audience to tell us about his life and interactions. When we try to redirect him, he calls us rude and alleges we are not providing service to him as a disabled person. He seems to have a grudge against me in particular, saying I need a talking to about my attitude. He has complained, in front of me and to the complaint line, about our awful service to him as a disabled person.

All staff here have WTF experiences with him. Our manager is also frustrated. What can we say to him that would help manage this situation better? (We are required to serve people who enter the building, but there is no legal requirement that we must spend an hour with clients.)

Since explaining that you have significantly more people to serve now hasn’t made a difference, all you can really do is be assertive about the limits of what you can offer. So when he shows up, you could say, “We’re very busy today but can give you about 20 minutes. What do you want to make sure we cover in that time?” And when it’s close to the end of that time, you say, “We only have a few more minutes before I need to help the next person waiting.” When he’s off on a social tangent, interrupt and say, “I don’t have much time today because so many people are waiting and I want to make sure we get what you need.” If he calls that rude or says you’re not providing service to him, you could say, “I can’t ignore the other people waiting and I want to make sure we do provide the service you need, so let’s focus on XYZ in the remaining time we have.”

But also … I don’t think your measure of success here can be “Benjamin stops calling us rude and is delighted with our service,” because it sounds like the only way that could happen is if you neglected other clients. You probably need to accept that he’s likely to remain disgruntled, and just state the limits of the time and help you’re able to provide. All agencies that serve the public have Benjamins and you might just make sure that whoever oversees the complaint line knows the situation and how you’re managing it.

Read an update to this letter

3. I deliberately over-claimed a tuition reimbursement

I think I really screwed up. I’m doing tuition reimbursement for an undergrad program and HR’s policy is that they will only cover some fees. Well, after I turned in my first reimbursement request for my first class, I found out that they don’t cover a fee that accounts for just under half the cost of the class (the college I’m attending has a weird tuition breakdown so that a huge chunk of the tuition list price on their website is actually in fees, not tuition). I panicked because it was a huge dollar amount to lose (well, for me anyway). It ended up being around $600 or so per semester, which I needed for the following semester’s classes. HR had emailed me after I submitted it informing me that they didn’t cover it (their policy has a grey area and covers some fees, but not others).

So for my next class, I intentionally turned in a copy of the balance statement that didn’t list out the fees and only listed the overall balance due (yes, I realize that this is super stupid in retrospect). The company I work for paid out the entire balance — even fees — and didn’t question why it wasn’t listed out. Now that we’re coming toward the end of a fiscal year within the next couple of months, I’m worried that this will be a red flag for an audit due to the differences in dollar amounts and that this is something I could get fired for. What should I do?

I’ve considered changing companies just so I can pay it all back, but I really like the company I work for and don’t want to switch jobs. But I also can’t afford to get fired and this feels like a fireable offense. For the record, this is the first time I’ve ever done something like this and wish with every inch of my body that I could go back and fix it. But now, I feel like switching back to the broken out format of my tuition invoices would also raise red flags, so I feel like I have to continue submitting balance statements instead (my company does have a limit that I would’ve reached with or without switching formats for 2023, but it did result in receiving ~$600 more in 2022). I feel so lost right now and am not sure what the right thing to do is.

Ideally, you’d come clean! You don’t need to say, “I set out to deceive you”; you can simply frame it as an error. For example, you could say, “I have realized that I mistakenly submitted a bill last year that included fees you don’t cover, and you reimbursed me based on that total amount. You reimbursed me $1300 but it should have been $700. How should I get this fixed?”

Someone who is trying to scam their company doesn’t typically point out the discrepancy and ask to resolve it, so it’s pretty likely to look like you made an accounting error, not an ethical one. They might be annoyed by the mistake when they had just pointed out the policy the semester before, but that’s a much better outcome than someone realizing at some point that you deliberately misled them to benefit financially.

Read an update to this letter.

4. My manager reposted my LinkedIn post saying I’m looking for a second job

For the last year, I have been working extremely hard and applied to 14 internal roles for promotions. I didn’t receive any of them and they went to outside applicants. I’ve worked hard to prove my worth and tried again for the 15th time.

In my most recent meeting with my boss, she let me know that the position I will be “promoted” to would be a $1,000 raise. I stated that I am not comfortable doing a lot more work for $1,000 more. My boss responded that I already make too much and I should be happy with my pay. I make $45,000, I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I have 10+ years of experience in my role. (I have been applying for months outside of the company to other jobs. It just is a competitive market so no luck yet.)

Fast forward to today. I made a vulnerable post on LinkedIn stating I’m struggling and looking for a second job because one is not sustainable. My same boss who told me that I make too much money reposted it and stated that I’m looking for a second job! The message she posted with it was, “My fabulous (job title) is looking for a second job if anyone is looking.”

Is it weird that my manager is reposting her struggling employee’s cry for more money to live on? I find it uncomfortable and simply a bad look for them/the company but I also welcome any way I can find new leads for jobs.

It’s not inherently weird for your manager to help you find a second job, and boosting your post and praising you is a pretty light-lift way for her to do it. In a different context, if she had been more supportive, it’s something you might appreciate.

But knowing the context— that she’s paying you a low salary while telling you that you already make too much money — makes her post feel insincere and oblivious to her own role in why you need a second job.

5. We’re not supposed to discuss our contract details with colleagues

I just received my employment contract for the next year (teacher at a private school). There’s a line at the bottom that says, “Please remember, contracts are to be kept between employee and employer. Discussion about your contract details with other employees will result in disciplinary action up to and including employment termination.”

Is that illegal? I know your right to discuss wages and working conditions are protected, but I’m wondering if the wording of “contract details” gets around that? It also sets a weird tone in my opinion, but that’s a different story. I do like my school for the most part, so I’m mostly asking so that I can possibly flag this for our admin team.

Yes, that is illegal. The National Labor Relations Act says that if you’re a non-supervisory employee, it’s illegal for your employer to prohibit you from discussing your wages and working conditions with other employees. That doesn’t change just because there’s an employment contract. The reason for the law is that employees can’t effectively organize or unionize if they’re not permitted to discuss wages or uncover potential inequities.

{ 460 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #2 – Government funded non-profit with a demanding client

    How are you currently recording your services? This is going to be the key to dealing with this guy. Because make no mistake, Allison is right, but the next thing that will happen is that he’s going to complain to someone who has influence – an funder or elected public official.

    The key to dealing with that, in my experience is rock solid documentation. You want to document 3 things. 1. The amount of time you spend with him per week / month / year / since the beginning of service vs other clients. 2. Each time he misses an appointment and each appointment he is late to. 3. What happens at each appointment. The things you did for him (eg wrote him a letter, got him glasses from the donation bin because he left his at home etc.) and the things you didn’t do for him (eg walk away from another client to help him) and his behavior.

      1. MCL*

        Anyone who has worked in any sort of customer service or public service desk has encountered Benjamins. It gets to this level of documentation when service is a core part of the agency’s function (library is a good example).

        1. metadata minion*

          Haha yes libraries. This week featured a conversation between me and a department head:

          Boss: Ok, I need you to do [thing that would normally make very little sense]. Yeah, I know, it’s for Professor [REDACTED].

          Me: Ohhh, Professor [REDACTED]; just tell me what you need.

          1. Anonomatopeia*

            I feel this comment in my soul.

            It was not kind, the time one of my Professors Redacted failed to pay attention to clearly posted information and thus found himself in a public and physically embarrassing situation bleating for help, that I saw him and could have but did not go find a way to relieve the situation for him, but I’d used up all my grace that week, and hoping it would be a learning moment for him was all I could muster.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Academic library employee here: OMG all of this.

            We got rid of our fax machine specifically to force one guy to switch to email. We literally only used it for him, once in awhile, and a constant stream of junk faxes.

        2. MsM*

          And even if they don’t already have their own prior experiences to draw on, I suspect whoever ends up fielding the calls if Benjamin does take his grievances elsewhere is going to pretty quickly get a sense of what LW and colleagues have been dealing with. (Which doesn’t mean documenting still isn’t a good idea.)

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            Yeah, but complaints potentially get filtered through a lot of layers. The person who initially receives the complaint can probably recognize a Benjamin, but once it’s been through several layers of summarizing, or arrives with someone who works with the public less, or is less familiar with LW2’s org, or already has a beef with the org (I’m thinking local politics) it might start to sound legit, or be made to sound legit.

            Common sense isn’t – and this goes even further. Relying on complete unknowns to recognize bad info/an invalid complaint when they see it is not actually a safe bet.

        3. Ama*

          Yes, I was actually thinking that OP probably doesn’t need to worry about Benjamin complaining to other clients present in the office — I’ve been in plenty of government offices at the same time as a Benjamin and it’s always been very clear the Benjamin is the problem and the staff are doing what they can to both help him but also not let him clog up the line. The real worry, as Observer notes, is that he gets the ear of someone who hasn’t actually seen Benjamin in action and believes his version of events.

          1. Drago Cucina*

            Unfortunately, it can be used as a knife for someone who is looking to cut the budget. We had a Benjamin at a former public library. He was banned from the City and County offices and many private businesses. But, if he complained it was used as a reason we were horrible and should have our budget cut.

            Not logical, but then we stopped looking for logic a long time ago.

        4. Percysowner*

          Having worked a a hybrid government/nonprofit library, that was my first thought. Yes, there are Benjamins everywhere.

        5. TomatoSoup*

          I read this and immediately thought of libraries.

          There is also a weird extra pressure when you are a governmental agency, both from clients who will proclaim “I pay your salary so I’m basically your boss*!” to get what they want and internally because they don’t want to be seen as not fulfilling their mission to the public. The latter is somewhat valid but it is how I ended up having to spend huge chunks of time “helping” and walking on eggshells with a serial complainer when I was not even in a public facing role. Why? It was easier for our management than anything else.

          *I too pay taxes, so apparently self-employed. I also literally broke down the financials on that claim once and said I would gladly refund them if they had change for a penny. Just because you are a customer, client, taxpayer, etc does not give you the right to treat people poorly.

          1. Gene Parmesan*

            “Unfortunately the amount of taxes you paid into my salary was used up telling me you pay my salary, please come back next year for service when your allotment comes back around again.”

          2. pope suburban*

            I just want to say that I have done the penny-refund math too, as someone who occasionally deals with people who think they somehow own me from that fraction of a cent. I’ve even daydreamed about cutting up a penny with tin snips so I can hand them their refund. I’d never actually do it, of course, but my god, the way some people behave…

          3. Middle Aged Lady*

            OMG. Our Benjamin was a sweet little lady with an obvious phsyical disability who played it up to get ‘more’ and turned into Ursula the Sea Witch when crossed. Some people caved, too, and that made it worse on her next visit. My special hell in academic libraries was the public patron who was aware that the public computers were older and the student and faculty ones were newer. “I want one of those” they said, ad infinitum, and every time to each one you had to explain that those were paid from student tech fees and not the state budget. Yes, I know you’re a taxpayer. I am, too, but I can’t drive on some roads without paying a toll, and I can’t take up two lanes either.

      2. Chairman of the Bored*

        If you don’t have a plan for it clients like this will take up huge amounts of your time and resources.

        The term for this is being “all about the Benjamins.”

      3. The Eye of Argon*

        Every public-facing job has Benjamins, whether it’s the retail customer who demands their hand be held through every step of the shopping process, wants special discounts they’re not entitled to, wants you to special order things that just don’t exist, and threatens to get you fired when you can’t pull off whatever miracle they’re demanding (always when the place is swamped and you’re the only one on the floor); the restaurant patron who has to have their special seat and server and requires that their food be prepared just so or there’ll be hell to pay, wants substitutions that aren’t allowed, bickers over every charge on the bill, and leaves crummy tips because everything that wasn’t perfect (and nothing is perfect) is the server’s fault (typically during the lunch or dinner rush when the place is short-staffed); municipal employees get boatloads of them complaining about every fee and ordinance which were put in place just to screw them over, demanding that you call people on their behalf for stuff you have no right or obligation to get involved in, demanding to talk to the mayor/ police chief/ school board RIGHT NOW OR ELSE…

        They’re common as mud. About the only good thing they’re good for is providing good stories to tell your family later at home.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I spent ~2 years working in a customer service related role, including answering questions and concerns on the phone and by email. We had a few “special” customers who would call regularly and want extra attention – one was clearly lonely and wanted to tell us her life story every time, including why she couldn’t visit our website (because she lived in a rural area and they wouldn’t run internet out to her house and her neighbors were being jerks and so on and so forth) and what kind of cake decorating she liked (this was relevant) and give her address so we could mail pages from the catalog or website…

          yeah, these people are all over.

        2. Apple Townes*

          We had a Benjamin (maybe even this Benjamin, if LW is in NYC) as a regular customer at the independent bookstore where I used to work. In addition to lingering at the register to bloviate on whatever was on his mind while customers lined up behind him, he would put items on hold without paying for them and then get mad when we sold them to other customers (store policy was unpaid holds went back on the shelf the following business day). He would also be really condescending to booksellers who hadn’t read books he considered “classic” literature/required reading. I was friendly with him at first but eventually adopted a more clipped, businesslike tone and would say things like “thanks so much for coming in, I need to help the next person in line now. Have a great day!” He was clearly perturbed.
          At the end of the day, Benjamins aren’t entitled to the emotional labor of making them feel catered to on top of the job a worker is paid to do. I think older men in particular don’t even recognize there’s a difference – they just assume that “service” encompasses whatever they demand of the person serving them. That misconception is their problem, not mine.

          1. Sparky*

            I worked at a big name bookstore for almost 10 years. Ours was a “Virginia”. She used to come in and order 15 copies of the same paperback romance book and then meticuluously examine each one for “flaws” — like a tiny crease in the cover or if the pages didn’t perfectly line up. Then she’d buy the one she deemed perfect and we’d be stuck with the other 14 copies.

            One day she came in and the nicest employee in the store was helping her. She brought up a paperback romance and asked if we had any other copies in the back because that one wasn’t perfect because there was a tiny bend in the corner of the cover. The employee said, “Let me go check.” She took it to the back and shrink wrapped it and brought it back out and said, “I found one that hasn’t even been unwrapped yet!” And Virginia was delighted and bought it.

            After that, we made Virginia pre-pay for any bulk orders she placed. She stopped placing them.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            OMG, the “this bookstore is my personal library” hold people. We had a woman like that who would sit open to close in the art section taking reams of notes using all the expensive books, and put them on hold so no one else could buy them. Once she complained that one of “her” books was missing and that she couldn’t spend her money buying it.

            I looked at her and said “you never buy anything in here anyway.” Sorry not sorry, it was the absolute truth. She didn’t complain because she knew good and well she was burning through our goodwill as it was.

      4. Juniper*

        Honestly, this kind of documentation is quite standard in a lot of public facing fields. I made this kind of documentation in my social work days and part of it was just so I could track what happened and ensure progress and blah blah blah… part of it was because if a client ever made an accusation (eg if someone like Benjamin made a discrimination claim), you’d have documentation. Of course, documentation isn’t flawless – if you’re knowingly doing something unethical (like sleeping with a client), you’re unlikely to put that in your notes so the absence of detail in documentation doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it can certainly help in situations like this to verify you provided the service up to standard (and beyond from the sounds of it)

        1. Watry*

          This is one of the many reasons we implemented a ticket tracking system at LastJob; the documentation was easier to make and keep together. Saved my butt once, because as Observer noted, his next step was to jump five levels above my head to complain.

          Unrelated anecdote: our worst person filmed every interaction and posted it to YouTube. Made it really, really easy for us.

          1. Yoyoyo*

            Ugh, I’m in social work and was filmed and livestreamed without my knowledge or consent. It is a super icky feeling (and illegal in my state) even though I hadn’t done anything wrong in the interaction.

            1. Watry*

              It’s legal for citizens to film government workers in public areas of the building in my state, so we just had to live with it. He did finally take his attention off us and onto other departments–but he got himself banned from several buildings for attempting to film in areas with restricted information.

              1. Middle Aged Lady*

                Whenever we met up with the public librarians for training, meetings, etc. we compared notes on the problem patrons and discovered we even had the same nickname for one of them!
                Which I cannot reveal, sorry.

        2. Observer*

          Honestly, this kind of documentation is quite standard in a lot of public facing fields. I made this kind of documentation in my social work days

          Agreed. It should absolutely be standard documentation. But if it’s not – start.

          Of course it’s not going to help much if someone is falsifying records. But most of the time it’s really helpful.

      5. Zap R.*

        My experience working with non-profits and municipal governments has taught me that a vulnerable person can be both a vulnerable person and a massive, unrepentant dink. Disabilities, mental illnesses, and addictions can make people behave in crappy ways that they wouldn’t normally but sometimes a dink is a dink, you know?

        For me, the best way to cope with a Benjamin emotionally was to remind myself that if they won the lottery tomorrow, they’d behave the same way at the Michelin star restaurant or the Porsche dealership. Sometimes a person’s crappy life circumstances are incidental to the fact that they just kind of suck. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to feel guilty for being annoyed or frustrated with Benjamins. The best I could do was try to minimize the amount of time Benjamins took up so I could focus on helping the non-dinks.

        1. Wintermute*

          I think a big part of it is that government (and to a lesser extent non-profits) can’t choose their customers. I used to take escalated calls (people that asked to talk to a manager, basically) and escalated escalations (people that asked to talk to a manager’s boss ) for a cell phone company, as well as dealing with the Office of the President directives on occasion (when people mailed the corporate office or showed up at our HQ office, or complained to a regulatory agency, that office handled it).

          The office of the president and the call center directors were not hasty or overly quick to pull the trigger… but they were also not shy about “firing” a customer, especially if they were abusive or behaved badly. It was a simple economic calculation, we know how much our average revenue per user is, and we know how much each individual customer is paying us, and we know how much CSRs get paid and how much call center coaches get paid. If they’re significantly net negative, they’re gone.

          But if someone insists on sexually harassing the IRS call center workers, they can’t well stop accepting his tax returns or refuse to renew his driver’s license.

          Though frankly I even though can see potential for abuse (look at all the people that used the no-fly list for petty revenge) but I’d absolutely support a law that says if you harass or abuse government services you can be denied, even if that means no driver’s license for you, or you need to file your taxes by mail.

          1. Jaid*

            No, but the IRS call center employee can report the taxpayer to TIGTA and some very SERIOUS people will come out to the taxpayer’s residence and have a very SERIOUS discussion with said taxpayer.

      6. Samwise*

        Not really odious. In this case, Benjamin is indeed disabled and ill, possibly has other problems. That doesn’t *excuse* or *allow* his behavior, but it explains it. It means OP can feel compassion for him, while still enforcing boundaries.

        There’s always some sort of difficult customer or client or student (or parent…), because they are human beings and human beings can be difficult in many ways. Documenting the issue is always a good baseline response, as well as determining what appropriate boundaries are, being ready to enforce them, and being prepared to manage the difficult client/customer/student/etc.

        This is why agencies/colleges/offices have written out policies and procedures. And why I recently ran a mini-workshop for our staff on ending one-on-one sessions (set out limitations up front, reminder about time, scripts for what to say to end the session and lead the student out, what to do if the student refuses to leave). It sounds like the OP and their colleagues are like my coworkers: kind, compassionate, eager to help, and perhaps a bit conflict-averse.

        1. iiii*

          No, having actual problems doesn’t explain someone being a time-wasting jackass. If it did, all people with similar problems would also be time-wasting jackasses, and they’re not.

          Benjamin’s entitlement – his conviction that he deserves more and better than everyone else – explains his time-wasting jackassery, not whatever real problems he’s got.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. Benjamin is a jackass who happens to now be disabled. I can imagine how insufferable he was to bartenders when he was a young man going out, plus I’m guessing he had a lot of first dates….

            1. Molly Millions*

              I wouldn’t necessarily jump to that conclusion. A lot of people suffer personality changes as they age and their faculties decline. Disabilities, memory loss, chronic pain, hearing/vision loss can be very stressful and isolating. A lot of elderly people, as they fear they’re losing control of their body and life, react by becoming irritable and domineering over the few things they have control over.

              (Obviously this is not true for all people who have these challenges – but the brain does change as we age, which can cause behaviours that are out of character.)

        2. CowWhisperer*

          There are over 7 billion people on the planet. There are quite a few people with Ben’s same illnesses, same disability and similar problems who are not entitled jerks.

          Compassion has limits – and my compassion is with the LW who is doing a demanding job well while trying to be respectful for all her clients.

    1. Workerbee*

      In point 3, be meticulous about both the subject matter and time involved for the unpaid therapy he insists you provide.

    2. LCH*

      Are there any other services or groups you could also direct him to to spread the attention around? He sounds lonely (might be wrong) so if there were other places with more of a social aspect or whatever, maybe he would use you more for your function and less for just talking? Is this wishful?

      1. Generic Name*

        My coworker at one job dealt with a Benjamin on a weekly basis. We worked at an airport, and she was responsible for handling noise complaints. “Benjamin” would call about once a week, and at first he really annoyed her because she could t do anything about what his complaints were. She finally realized he was just lonely, so she would duly record his complaint, and then chat with him for about 30 mins. He suddenly became a lot nicer and actually ended up taking less of her time. I hope OP can find a solution that takes care of Benjamin’s issues that doesn’t involve infinite time and attention from their agency.

        1. Zephy*

          What response could people possibly be expecting who call an airport genuinely to complain about the noise (and not as a pretext for wanting a captive audience to meet their social needs, rather than, you know, making friends who want to be around them)? “Oh, I’m so sorry to have disturbed you, sir. We’ll be sure to hurl a 200-ton metal tube full of people into the air more quietly next time.” ????

          1. Quite anon*

            Stop using that runway at that time, put in a proposal to reconfigure the runways to not face that way if enough people complain, limit the size of jets that are allowed to use that runway… the possibilities are endless.

          2. MCL*

            In my city, the military has decided that our city airport (which is also a base) is the perfect place to fly F-35 fighter aircraft (previously mostly F-16s), despite locals really not enjoying the massive amount of noise that the F-35s will add to the airspace. One thing they pointed to in support of moving this program here (instead of a more rural base with much more minimal noise impacts than our literal city) was that there were minimal complaints regarding military aircraft noise at the airport, which as a local resident I wasn’t even aware I could make.

            1. 1850's Wisconsin*

              I’m wondering if you also live in my city, or if this is happening at multiple cities. I genuinely don’t understand why they’re trying to transition to F-35’s, which from my understanding are the white elephants of military aircraft: twice as expensive to operate, and (at least initially) unable to fly in the rain. They’re supposed to be multi-purpose, but it sounds like they’re less swiss army knife and more spork.

              1. MCL*

                Based on your user name, I suspect you’re right. I’m on the east side of town near the edge of the main area of impact.

              1. MCL*

                But there are F-16s and have been for years, which are also loud (as in, I have to stop talking during virtual meetings while those planes fly over my house). They based the fact that there have been minimal complaints about the F-16s as a justification for the even louder F-35s. I had NO IDEA I could lodge a complaint about the F-16s, nor did many others.

      2. Mockingjay*

        It is extremely common for lonely (esp. elderly lonely) persons to repeatedly visit or call services offices (government and NGO), simply for the human contact. I’ve seen this at public hearings to discuss replacement of outdated sewer lines (the old gent went off on a completely different topic), in customer service at dept. stores, at the DMV, and of course libraries.

        I think Alison’s advice of setting a time limit is the best response. It’s a kind but firm way to assist Benjamin without monopolizing others’ time.

    3. Victim of a past Benjamin*

      Honestly, Benjamin should be banned from the building at this point. Management should be stepping up and letting him know if he cannot abide by their rules he cannot come and bother them. This man isn’t mentally or intellectually compromised and is capable of being civil and acting decently. I am willing to bet it is the female workers being harassed and hectored by him. I have met many Benjamins in my day and they always are much harder on the women (because I suspect they are aware men would be more likely to tell them to piss off).
      Tell him to gtfo and ban him. Someone else can help him, or he can act right.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This is a government nonprofit, it’s very unlikely that’s an option and if it is, Benjamin’s behavior wouldn’t rise to the level of enacting that option. Doing so would likely seem like discrimination against a disabled and elderly patron.

        If it were a coffee shop, I’d agree with you. And I understand where you’re coming from, many of us have had a Benjamin. But it’s not realistic in this case.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        In the kind of government nonprofit the LW is describing where they’re required to serve everyone who enters the building, there are a lot of hurdles you have to jump over to ban someone. In most cases, someone who is extra demanding and accuses staff of discrimination when he doesn’t get his way is not going to meet that threshold. If he crosses over into verbal abuse, they can start the disciplinary process, but if their process is like the one in the libraries where I’ve worked, it’s probably going to take several incidents to get him banned for longer than a week, and then he’s going to come back angry because of the ban.

        1. Ash*

          Yeah, pretty much this. I work in libraries, and each branch has its own Benjamins. Only a couple have ever been banned in the ~9 years that I’ve worked here, and both of those were for cussing out the staff, and threatening violence to staff/other patrons.

          1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            I worked with some libraries once, and one of the first times we were there, we had a confrontation with a patron who “didn’t like our attitude” when my coworker politely stopped her from doing something. We learned that this was literally her first day back from a one-year library “break” for other, similar things. She was not banned, she either got another short break or one strike toward another one. (This confrontation wasn’t too bad, it was very annoying and she kept escalating, but there was no violence or too extreme of an argument.)

            But they told us that hardly anyone ever gets permanently banned, except for egregious things.

          2. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Did any of yours ever bring in a tarantula? (ok, in clear plastic box, but still…).

      3. Carol the happy elf*

        Thursday morning may not be the best option; mornings can keep going and going and…. I’d schedule him at 2 p.m. on a Friday, call to remind him about his appointment on a Thursday, remind him to bring in a sheet of paper with his one problem on it “Benjamin, that’s not what you wrote on your page. We’ll be able to fit you in Friday after next at 3:45 to 4 p.m. Next time, remember that we’re so swamped that we can only give you 15 minutes, so other people have time, too. And bring your paper ir we’ll have to keep rescheduling. We’d be wasting your time if you don’t have your item on your agenda.”
        On Friday, make him wait in line behind 3 others (“But Benjamin, EVERY client here is as important as you are!”) and record the whinage. And do set that time limit, because “There are some people who have no life, and they suck up more time than anyone else” while looking pointedly at him.

        Also, Benjamin brings to mind something I learned while working at a soup kitchen:

        “Givers HAVE TO SET LIMITS, because Takers never will.”

      4. Sun in an Empty Room*

        In my experience it would take A LOT more to get him banned from most government offices. I still have to provide service (in person in the office and on their private property) to someone who asked if a shotgun would change my answer because that wasn’t considered a credible AND imminent threat.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        They probably can’t ban him but the manager needs to have a stern talk with him about his behavior and the amount of time employees can allocate to him.

        Honestly, when we get one of these my supervisors would start handling them themselves to make it less cozy. I’m in an academic library and there are limits on how much time I can spend on any one patron, and if one starts becoming demanding my supervisor will back me up on telling them that they need to (hire a proxy researcher or whatever). OP’s manager needs to manage Benjamin better.

        I worked at a place, several jobs ago, where one of our clients was legitimately mentally ill but had a habit of calling and abusing the receptionists. Our useless bosses wouldn’t do anything about it and basically told us we had to smile and take it. I stayed less than a year. Life is too short to a) deal with that kind of treatment and b) work for someone who won’t stand up for you.

    4. Go Back to the Definition*

      Benjamin sounds lonely. He needs someone to talk to and your office provides people for him to talk to. Not sure if there is way for you to direct him to a community center of some sort where he can get more interaction, but it might help if you can.

    5. too many dogs*

      You wrote EXACTLY what I would have written, except better. Documentation will save you.

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      THIS. Because even if the entire staff moved in with Benjamin as a 24-7 assistance team, he would not be happy. Don’t bother trying for that goal–it is unachievable.

      Get everybody on the same page so one or two people aren’t intimidated or unaware and then give him more time–he’ll just lean harder on them and insist that “last time X helped me for THIRTY FIVE minutes!” or whatever. Record every appointment, late start, fetching of this or that–everything. Your job at this point is to give him the same thoughtful and efficient assistance you would anyone else, without letting his demands run roughshod over your job in general.

      (And don’t invest much in hoping he’ll nope out or find another program, at least until he gets that you are sticking to this routine. I’ve dealt with Benjamins on my job for so long, and one thing they never do? Stop calling/coming in/being a client-customer. Because until they are 86’d in a manner so plainly outlined that it cannot be misconstrued, they know you ‘have’ to put up with them and their demands.

      If I had a nickel for every “I will NEVER buy your product again” customer who turned up two days later like nothing happened I’d own my own island by now.)

    7. Cinderblock*

      We get these folks in my office (nonprofit legal clinic) occasionally. We like to call their affliction Solo Client Syndrome.

    8. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Everyone gets a Benjamin, profit, non-profit, or family. I believe they’re issued by a government office…

  2. Turanga Leela*

    One thing I really like about the advice to OP #3 is the matter-of-fact tone in the suggested script. There’s no elaborate justification or new set of lies. It just specifies the problem and asks how to fix it. When you’re embarrassed about something, it can feel hard to be that straightforward, but it’s an approach that works.

    1. Twix*

      Absolutely. If you’re trying to get out from under a foolish lie, oftentimes the best approach is to bring it to light yourself framed as taking responsibility for a mistake you’ve realized you made. It lets you set the narrative, paints you in a positive light I lo, and it’s the exact opposite of what someone trying to perpetuate the lie would do.

    2. cabbagepants*

      Absolutely. Being matter of fact gets through the awkward part of the conversation quickly and efficiently. Explanations, obfuscation, apology all just make it longer.

    3. T.N.H.*

      Also, everyone (presumably) just did their taxes. You can very easily slip in “As I was going over my financial records…” if that helps OP with an opener.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        And since this was only the second time OP had to find this invoice and it’s only something done once per semester, it’s not a leap for someone to assume that OP didn’t remember where she found the itemized invoice and found a different one. It doesn’t need to be said, but know that is what someone might assume. They won’t necessarily jump to a nefarious assumption.

    4. Candy*

      The script suggests OP say they “mistakenly” submitted a bill that included fees HR doesn’t cover, which is absolutely another lie. OP didn’t mistakenly do anything, they knowingly and intentionally submitted an incorrect reimbursement amount in order to benefit financially for credits they were previously told they could not claim.

        1. MaryB*

          So… that’s fraud. Also it is a new set of lies, which is I think what Candy is pointing out about the original comment. It wasn’t a mistake, it was intentional. Framing it as an accident is continuing to lie. That may very well be the best course of action here, but it certainly doesn’t put the LW on any sort of moral high ground.

          1. Bob-White of the Glen*

            They’re trying to fix a bad decision. This lets them correct it without getting fired, which could happen if someone is in a bad mood. Unless you and Candy are perfect (highly doubtful) you could be a little kinder to the idea that people grow and learn and OP will probably not do something like this again. We’ve all made mistakes in the heat of them moment. I am proud of OP trying to fix the mistake, and this avoids an unnecessary punishment. Which your moral high ground could cause. Get over it. And yes, trying to correct a mistake, even without admitting the full truth, is high moral ground.

            1. MaryB*

              I never claimed to be perfect. I have never committed fraud. I am aware that people learn and grow, but 1) this isn’t something that should have happened in the first place and 2) additional lying is hardly demonstrating that the LW has learned and grown from the situation. I was mostly clarifying that the comment said there were no additional lies necessary, but that’s not the case. As I said, this may very well be the best way out of the situation, but it does require more lying.

              1. HQetc*

                They are considering leaving a job they like as a way to return *even the money they were entitled* to because they feel so awful about this. They have learned and grown. Demonstrating that growth to people who don’t even know this happened feels less important than the actual growth, and returning the money to the harmed party, both of which they are already doing.

            2. Candy*

              >> Unless you and Candy are perfect (highly doubtful) you could be a little kinder to the idea that people grow and learn and OP will probably not do something like this again. We’ve all made mistakes in the heat of them moment. I am proud of OP trying to fix the mistake, and this avoids an unnecessary punishment.

              I’m not perfect but I’ve never committed fraud and being fired wouldn’t be an “unnecessary punishment” for someone who has

            3. Velawciraptor*

              MaryB and Candy,

              The first rule for commenting here is Be Kind. The judgment and self-righteousness here is neither kind nor helpful. You clearly have some big feelings about this situation, but those are better sorted out in a journal than in the place where someone is trying to make right something they did wrong.

              People need kindness and grace to learn, grow, and make amends when they’ve made a bad choice. You may not have made this specific bad choice, but I’m sure you’ve needed the sort of kindness and grace to correct some mistake of yours at some point in your lives. If you don’t want to extend the same kindness and grace to this letter writer that Alison and other commenters are, that’s your choice. But this isn’t supposed to be a place where we help ourselves feel superior by jumping up and down on someone who’s looking for help to be better.

              If you can’t be kind, please be quiet.

              1. MaryB*

                Please point out where Candy or I have been unkind. Disagreement is not unkind. Pointing out bad behavior is not unkind. Being realistic about how this may be perceived is not unkind. Suggesting that someone ought to face consequences for unethical choices is not unkind.

                Kindness is not just agreement and support no matter what.

            4. sundae funday*

              Yeah those commenters are being incredibly pedantic. And I’m actually heading in the opposite direction, which I understand there are arguments against…. I do tend to side with the employee over the employer in most circumstances, and this is one of them.

              I don’t blame the college student for what they did…. It sounds like the company is basically using a loophole (the “grey area” in question) in order to not cover the cost of the class. If it was advertised that OP would have the tuition reimbursed, then it sounds like the company was either intentionally or incidentally misleading. Either way, OP likely made decisions based on false information. I assume this was something like a “lab fee” that the university tacks on to certain classes.

              It also sounds like the company doesn’t require itemized statements when reimbursing tuition, so if OP had included the overall balance the first time, they would’ve paid it without question and OP wouldn’t even know that particular fee isn’t covered in the first place. I’d hazard a guess that other people have been reimbursed for the fee that isn’t supposed to be covered in the past as well.

              The only reason it’s an issue is OP might get caught now, so I agree with the advice to “come clean.”

              I know some might think me unethical for my viewpoint, particularly the people blasting the LW for “fraud.” You can say the LW should’ve done more research into exactly what fees were covered and what fees were not, and exactly what fees applied to each class…. but those are extremely confusing. And it’s definitely on the employer to require an itemized list if they’re being particular about which fees they cover.

              1. bigender menace*

                I completely agree with you, and I find the vindictiveness toward the LW extremely strange. All things considered, their decision was unwise, but I just don’t see it as morally reprehensible. They didn’t take $600 out of someone’s private funds, it still got used for the intended purpose, and no tangible harm was actually committed.

                I guess that last point would be where some disagree, but for me, overclaiming on an approved expense by this amount (i.e. an amount significant to the employee, but insignificant enough to the company that it got approved without raising red flags) does not register as “harm” or injustice.

          2. Lydia*

            The LW isn’t asking for moral high ground. And the mistake could very well refer to “I made a mistake (in taking advantage of the lax reviewing of these forms and now I’d like to rectify that).”

        2. Tulipmania*

          So don’t lie? OP can just say “I submitted this this way” instead of “I inadvertently submitted this this way.” It was advertent, not inadvertent.

        1. MaryB*

          They should have realized that committing fraud was a mistake in the first place. Now they need to lie further to get out of the mess. Candy was observing that the original comment says that there isn’t another set of lies, but there is. Claiming a mistake when the intent was fraud is creating another set of lies.

          1. Bee*

            The literal definition of “mistake” includes an error in judgment, which this was and which the OP acknowledges. Saying it was an accident would be a lie; saying it was a mistake is not.

          2. Nina*

            I’m thrilled for you that you’ve never made a mistake that also happened to be fraud. Never made a typo on a time card (that is a mistake that is also an accident that is also fraud), never claimed reimbursement for a ten-pack of sharpies when the company only needed one, sharpies only came in a ten-pack, and you took the rest home (that is a mistake that is not an accident that is also fraud).

            Hell, they don’t even need to lie to get out of it. “I was going over my paperwork (true) and saw that I’d apparently submitted the wrong invoice for reimbursement (true) so the company paid me $600 more than the reimbursement agreement said (true). Here’s the right invoice, can you take the difference off my next paycheck or shall I make a bank transfer directly?”

      1. Turanga Leela*

        I said there’s no new “set of lies.” Alison’s script specifically doesn’t include, “I meant to send you one document but accidentally sent another,” or “I forgot our earlier conversation,” or “I thought I gave you the correct thing but actually it turns out my assistant sent another,” or any of a million lies or excuses that would complicate the matter. There’s nothing for the OP to remember or get tripped up in. People are often tempted to include a lot of detail, but it’s almost always a mistake.

        Obviously she shouldn’t have asked for a reimbursement she wasn’t entitled to, but now she’s trying to fix it, and this is a good way to do that. The only message she needs to convey is “I did this incorrectly; how should I fix it?” The suggested script does that very well.

        1. Lydia*

          Exactly this. Saying it was incorrect is true. Saying it was a mistake is also true, if you’re willing to accept they don’t have to specify what that mistake was.

    5. MaryB*

      Lying is not a straightforward approach. It may be the best one under the circumstances in allowing the LW to minimize negative consequences, but it very much is creating a new set of lies to get out of her original attempt to commit fraud.

      1. Lydia*

        The OP is not lying. She is saying it was a mistake and not specifying what the mistake was.

    6. Buni*

      I never ‘fess up to ANY mistake – either genuine or ‘yeah, my bad’ type – without including in the same breath what I’ve already done to fix / start fixing / intend to fix it.

      I think it’s psychological, that if you just inform someone about a mistake their immediate response – rightly or wrongly – is to think ‘Oh great, they’re telling me because they expect ME to fix it’. If you can include a reassurance that this isn’t going to be the case it removes 80% of the potential vitriol.

  3. Observer*

    #3 – Tuition reimbursement

    Allison’s advice is the best you can do for yourself. It’s the route least likely to get you fired. It’s still likely that it’s going to limit your future in this company. But being able to delay a job change, and having more of an ability to do so deliberately and carefully is going to be to your benefit.

    1. Just me*

      Is it likely to limit the person’s future at the company, truly?

      This isn’t exactly the same thing, but: Early in my career, there was something I thought would limit my future not only in my company but in my whole industry and beyond: I left college without graduating.

      I spent many years feeling ashamed and keeping my head down and never asking for promotions or raises or anything because I worried that it would cause my bosses to look in my file, learn about my lack of degree and think badly of me. It really messed me up and held me back.

      Eventually there was a point where I had to be upfront about it, so I was, and … nobody cared. I’ve been promoted several times, etc. etc.; the only thing limiting my future had been my fear.

      It’s possible that this tuition situation might limit LW3’s future at their company. But I’d recommend to LW3 or anyone in a similar situation to follow the script Alison suggested, never do that kind of thing again and never look back. If it comes back to bite you, you can deal with it then. Don’t let fear cause you to limit yourself.

      1. linger*

        Very different case, unless you actively misled your company about having a degree. LW3 deliberately misfiled their tuition expenses to hide the fact that a large portion should not have been covered. This is fraud, pure and simple, and is absolutely career-limiting if discovered. LW3’s best outcome is indeed, as Alison suggests, to cast it as a filing error.

      2. takeachip*

        If I were on the receiving end of this script, I would definitely be suspicious, bc LW3 should (and did!) know that all the expenses aren’t reimbursable. It’d be pretty obvious to me that they had tried to pull a fast one and were now coming clean. Without being able to prove it, though, there isn’t much I could do about it. They’d have to be squeaky clean for a long while after that before the “eventually came clean” outweighed the “tried to pull a fast one” in my mind, and in the meantime, it would be hard to give them the benefit of the doubt about other things or entrust them with any new responsibilities, sensitive information, etc.

        1. Jackalope*

          I’m not as sure of that as you are here. It seems suspicious because you know what happened, but my experience in real life dealing with people who give me forms and documentation is that an awful lot of people don’t really understand even super basic forms and what evidence is needed for what. It was the responsibility of the person that the documentation was submitted to, to make sure that everything was in order. The fact that they accepted it as-is makes me think that it was an acceptable way to document everything.

          Now, does that mean that the OP was justified in what she did? No. But a company large enough to offer tuition reimbursement has almost certainly run into people who have submitted the wrong documentation, been overpaid, and so on. If this happened multiple times with this OP, or she acted in other ways that were unscrupulous, this would be a potential black mark. But someone coming to HR and saying upfront that they got the wrong amount of money, especially if she offers to repay it, for example, doesn’t seem like something that’s an automatic red flag for her company.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            Yeah, my assumption would simply be that they didn’t have the itemised bill or couldn’t find it and just submitted something that gave something that had the amount they paid on it. I MIGHT wonder if they noticed they’d been overpaid sooner and considered keeping it, but I doubt I’d think they deliberately claimed for the larger amount, then owned up without any suspicion falling on them and offered to pay the money back anyway.

            in my experience, mistakes are more common than fraud and certainly more common than people overclaiming deliberately and then voluntarily paying it back. Admittedly, I don’t work in accounting or any related field andI tend to live by the “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by human stupidity rule” (not that handing in the wrong document is really stupidity!) so perhaps I am being naive here and those working in the area would be more likely to realise.

          2. takeachip*

            That’s part of the dilemma for the OP–they don’t know if they’re going to be dealing with someone more inclined toward suspicion, like me, or toward someone more generous like you! There’s no risk-free move once the initial deception has been practiced. My take on this is informed by having been on the receiving end of a fair amount of questionable behavior/explanations/excuses from people over the years. I just think the “oops I made a mistake but I’ve inexplicably realized it!” cover story is too full of holes. OP was previously told what the rules were in a very detailed way that applied to their specific situation and affected them financially; that should stick in someone’s mind. After being denied reimbursement for the fees the first time, OP conveniently submitted information in a format that worked to their benefit the next time. Now, months later, OP suddenly remembers that the fees aren’t reimbursable? It just doesn’t add up to me and that’s what would put this on my radar. If OP had immediately corrected, I’d view it differently.

            1. bamcheeks*

              “When I came to do this semester’s, I was working out the difference between the fees and the tuition and suddenly realised that I complete forgot to do that last time, and submitted the whole thing. I’m so sorry– it was a busy week and I was doing it in a hurry. How do I correct that?”

              … and then going forward take it as a very stern lesson to myself that I absolutely cannot cope with doing dishonesty and be scrupulous from thereon!

            2. Allonge*

              But then, if someone is this suspicious (and for the record I don’t think you are overly-extremely suspicious), they would not have paid OP based on a non-itemized invoice in the first place.

              1. Woodswoman*

                Precisely! The person who wasn’t invested enough/conscientious enough/whatever enough to question the initial invoice (which is presumably a standard part of their job) is unlikely to drill down too far when OP comes to them to rectify the overpayment. It is FAR more likely that they’ll take it with a grain of salt, help OP fix it, and never think of it again.

              2. sundae funday*

                Absolutely, if it matters that much to the employer, they should 1, require an itemized bill in the first place and 2, double check the amounts to make sure they’re paying the same amount both semesters.

          3. Ellis Bell*

            Yeah I doubt this is the first time they’ve had someone make a mistake, or even a ‘mistake’, because there are too many holes in the system. They won’t reimburse something that’s itemised, because reasons, but they will pay for something vaguer? Guaranteed they are overpaying people all over the place, so if it’s suspicious then they need a big book of suspicion to write everyone’s names in. I would definitely be the person who submitted the wrong receipt accidentally, after being told because I actually do have that kind of poor executive function; thanks ADHD! There’s also no reason to suspect someone who flags up the mistake voluntarily.

          4. Emmy Noether*

            I agree. Lots of people are quite sloppy with paperwork. Yes, even if they should know better, even if it concerns money, even if they’ve been told a hundred times. The person processing this will probably just apply Hanlon’s razor, as intent isn’t proveable here anyway and it’s being corrected.

            1. HigherEdAdminista*

              Exactly. I think unless you already have reason to distrust a person, your first instinct isn’t going to be “this was all a plot to cheat us,” it is much more likely to be “Oh, another person who is sloppy with paperwork and doesn’t understand or read the directions,” because anyone who deals with administrative stuff knows that happens every single day, multiple times a day.

              Not to mention… this department also was sloppy with their own paperwork. They received a vague bill and allowed for the use of that and it cost the company money. The person who did this will likely be more concerned with their own error impacting them.

              1. Allonge*

                I might think this was a plot to cheat if I discover this myself.

                If someone comes to me and says ‘hey, you overpaid me’, I would look at our processes and remind them on the rules but in general the instinct is not going to be to think ‘OMG what a cheater’. If the org is made whole financially, (and OP is not managing money in their daily work unsupervised) – I am not going into the mind games on what OP was thinking at any given moment in time.

                1. AnnieB*

                  Agreed! I reckon if I were managing the finances and OP told me they’d made this mistake, I might privately wonder if it was actually a mistake, but since they were taking steps to fix it, I wouldn’t dwell. if I found it on my own, THEN I would get suspicious.

            2. Snow*

              Yeah. I’m currently sorting out a years-in-the-making paperwork tangle that boils down to “okay, when I said you needed to change X to Y everywhere, that did actually mean everywhere“. I hardly think this is malicious – the people involved don’t stand to get anything from this except angry phone calls. It’s just easier to not do it, so they don’t, until something forces it.

          5. Ophelia*

            Agreed – I recently was overpaid by my employer precisely because I filled out a form incorrectly, and realized belatedly that I was getting checks when I shouldn’t be! I reached out, asked them what to do, filled out another form, and sent them a check for the balance. In my case, it truly was an accident, but it happens frequently enough that there is a process for it, etc. (This is for a part-time adjunct role, so we come on and off payroll by semester, which I suspect is what leads to this being a not-infrequent issue).

            1. ThisisTodaysName*

              My former *Big Name You’d Recognize* AUDITING firm, had as a perk that they paid $100 a month toward your student loan. Not a huge amount of money but, it helped. I left them in July. They FINALLY stopped sending those payments the following FEBRUARY. I reached out like “Um…. you kept sending these.” I was told not to worry about it. There was an internal disconnect when someone left the firm about getting the word out to that particular department. They never asked for reimbursement. On top of that, I left a week before annual bonuses were to be paid out so I didn’t get it. In February I ALSO got a check for several thousand dollars and when I called, I was told “yeah you should’ve gotten the bonus, so we decided to pay it out.”

          6. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I might add that I’ve seen people try to pull way worse than this on expense forms and sometimes they really did just screw up (they were talked to if they tried to pull it a second time, mind you).

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          If OP frames it as a genuine slip and comes clean of her own accord ie not because someone else got wise to her trick and accused her, it could just be a mix-up. It’d be like when you say you can’t come on Thursday and that’s the one day you’re scheduled for, because the person doing the schedule just thinks “takeachip Thursday” and forgets that it was “takeachip can do any day *but* Thursday” rather than “takeachip can do Thursday”

        3. The Person from the Resume*

          Also will they be dealing with the same HR person who remembers the first correction or not? How many people are getting reimbursed?

          LW has got nothing to lose when they see their options as looking like “quit so I don’t caught” or “come clean and risk it”. But again, be straightforward that it was an error and the LW is correcting it now.

          At the very least, the LW pointing out the problem throws the benefit of the doubt in there. They can’t prove what was in the LW’s head.

          And the people who work with the LW know her character and trustworthyness based on daily interactions and aren’t necessarily likely to be influenced by this one outlier.

        4. sundae funday*

          I really disagree. There are so many people who don’t keep a close eye on their finances….

          “I was looking over my finances and I saw that you reimbursed me different amounts each semester, even though the classes cost the same. I think I made a mistake and sent you the total bill the second time instead of the itemized bill, so you reimbursed too much. How can I make sure to pay that back?”

          That’s entirely believable to me, especially with someone juggling work and college….

          1. sundae funday*

            Oh and also, it sounds like it’s on the employer to require an itemized bill…. It sounds like LW could’ve sent the overall bill the first time, and no one would’ve been the wiser that there were fees in there the employer doesn’t cover.

            (and tbh it seems like the company is looking for a loophole not to pay as much while possibly advertising tuition reimbursement…)

            1. LJ*

              Honestly, I was wondering if the HR person processing the claim was looking for a reason to just pay OP and not have to deny a big chunk of the cost.

        5. Nina*

          Eh. I’ve sent enough wrong attachments and received enough wrong attachments that I wouldn’t think twice about it.

      3. kiki*

        Yeah, especially if LW calls it out and is willing to pay it back (even in installments, if necessary), I don’t think anyone at the company will bat an eye. While LW knows they were deliberate in obfuscating the tuition/fee breakdown, the company doesn’t and whoever approved the reimbursement really should have asked for an itemized breakdown. People make mistakes while expensing stuff all the time– this is bigger than accidentally including your cocktail when your company doesn’t cover alcohol at meals, but it’s really something where mistakes happen. I think LW, if they come forward ASAP and use the script here, is really in the clear.

      4. Observer*

        Early in my career, there was something I thought would limit my future not only in my company but in my whole industry and beyond: I left college without graduating.

        There is simply no comparison here, and the fact that you try to draw a parallel here is problematic.

        I can’t tell if you are overstating the problem with not graduating college or underplaying the dishonesty of the action the OP took, but neither is good.

        I don’t think that the OP is a monster – they realize that they did the wrong thing and want to make it right! And it shouldn’t end their career. But any boss is going to legitimately look at this mistake as a problem in a way that a reasonable boss will not look at lack of college.

        1. Just me*

          The comparison is in the potential for the letter writer to get in their own head and sabotage themselves over what sounds to me — and to many other commenters here, it turns out — like not really that much of a red flag.

          Your perspective is different, and that’s valuable, because there will be bosses and HR workers and such who have the same perspective as you do. There’s always a chance that what many people see as a non-issue or a “huh, that’s a little odd,” the relevant boss will see as problematic. (From your perspective, I’m problematic too.) So it’s good for LW3 to know that’s a possibility.

          Regardless, what’s done is done. My advice applies in all situations: Be as upfront as possible without actively sabotaging yourself, correct the issue if possible, never make that kind of mistake again, commit to being honest and ethical, and put the incident behind you. Don’t wreck your own career just because you’re afraid it might already be wrecked.

    2. Well...*

      “Likely to limit your future at the company” feels like a stretch. People mess up forms all the time, even after being told how to do it right.

      Regardless of how you feel about what LW did, the reality is most people aren’t going to assume the worst, especially without solid evidence that it wasn’t a mistake.

      1. Just ask for an invoice*


        ‘I’ve just realised a claimed for the total amount and not just tuition. Please raise an invoice for $xxx for me to pay.’

        It’s before the end of the financial year. Whoever briefed LW3 on the rules might care, but no-one else well.

        In fact, as a manager, if someone pointed LW3’s conduct out to me, I really wouldn’t care.

        1. Rebecca*

          Yes, I agree. I have to re-explain so many things to so many people, even when I have set up what feels like thousands of emails, calendar invites, and instructions that someone missing information or getting details wrong just feels like par for the course now. I am often exasperated that someone didn’t check one of the 42 emails I sent with the schedule, but I almost never go beyond an eyeroll and a new explanation. This would be in annoyance territory for me, not suspicion. I’ve also worked in big enough companies that the HR or Finance person couldn’t put a face to a name until I reminded them of the problem and the paperwork – so they might not even be noticing patterns.
          This is a big enough company (or a disorganized enough one) that they didn’t notice the difference in the first and second sets of paperwork from the same person. They’ll probably roll their eyes and fix the problem.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I’ve a friend who is a university lecturer, and frequently posts on FB complaints about her students’ ignoring rules about correct formatting, word counts, etc for their assignments. And then she has to submit something to the university to get expenses paid back or to apply for promotion and it’s all, “stupid fiddly little rules WHY do I have to re-format my CV into this particular style ugh this is such a waste of time and so unnecessary!!!” I do sometimes wonder whether to point this out to her…

            1. Gracely*

              LOL, faculty are terrible about actually following rules–and the worst ones are always those who bitch the most about students not doing things right.

            2. Relentlessly Socratic*

              Hahaha. Yes. We all work with someone like that.

              Every now and then it’s me.

              I sent something off to the support staff to help me finalize a report to send out.
              Staff: Whoa, this is a hot mess…
              Me: Shoot, yeah, that was me. Send it back and I’ll fix it?
              Staff: Nah, I got it. (I could hear her laughing across state lines….)

      2. Flipperty*

        She didn’t “mess up a form,” she deliberately lied in order to steal money from her company.

        The rule on AAM is that we take LW at their word. That does not mean taking their side. I feel bad for the LW but she admits she deliberately lied in order to commit financial fraud. The word “deliberately” is even in the subject heading.

        Telling LW to cover up her original lie with a second lie feels risky. Any situation where you’re having to tell more lies to cover up an original lie is not a good situation to be in.

        Sure it’s possible they won’t notice, or they may accept the lie that the original invoice was a mistake. But LW did, factually, break the law, on purpose.

        They don’t need proof it was intentional and not accidental to fire her. This is not a court of law, many states have at will employment. They have evidence that she submitted an invoice for something she’d already been told they wouldn’t pay for. They have evidence the figure on the invoice is $600 higher than it should be, and that it was submitted after telling her they wouldn’t pay the additional $600 fee.

        1. Tio*

          You don’t have to be on their side, but if they admit the error and fix the mistake, the company will be “made whole” and are unlikely to look further into it. In the world of bad things to do, panicking and overclaiming some money and then giving it back is a fairly small blip on the moral radar for me.

          Can they fire her? Sure, but they’re unlikely to. Firing someone who made a mistake and corrected it is a fairly uncommon response, even if they think the mistake is bad paperwork and she knows the mistake was a bad judgement.

          1. Observer*

            Can they fire her? Sure, but they’re unlikely to.

            Agreed. Nor should they.

            There are some positions where it would make sense to fire over this, but it seems HIGHLY unlikely that the OP is in such a position.

            1. Bob-White of the Glen*

              I’d feel much differently if OP wasn’t trying to make it right. But they are, and morally I am okay with them doing the right thing even if they aren’t 100% completely honest that they messed up in the first place. Part of growing up is fixing mistakes and this does it. To endanger a job over making something right just seems a bit of overkill to me, and I feel there is no need for OP to destroy their livelihood over trying to right a wrong “correctly”. If the company is paid back there are no victims, and the moral outrage from some posters (who maybe believe the OP should be fired, or publicly whipped for their crime?) is a bit extreme considering the severity (or lack) of the crime. If they were not trying to return the money, but asking their odds in getting away with it, or how to get away with it, or backup in what they did was okay, I would feel very differently. But if my employee came to me and admitted to this and felt bad, yeah, I’d help them fix it without endangering their job.

              Not fixing this is worthy of job loss. Fixing it is not.

              1. Allonge*

                Yes, this is the other other thing – as an organisation, as a boss, you want to encourage people to fix things like this.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Well, if you don’t like Alison’s specific wording (although it can be argued that she did send the wrong one in error, it’s simply that it was an error of judgments, not a filing / accounting error , but if she wanted to avoid any reference to a mistake she could word it ;
          “I’ve been reviewing my finances – I found the receipt for my reimbursements and its for $1,300 which was my full fees, but should only have been $700 because the element of fees isn’t reimbursable under our policies – I get both a short and a detailed invoice and sent the wrong one in originally. I’m attaching the invoice which shows the full break down – what’s the best way to resolve this, and for me to pay back the $600 overpayment?”

          Which makes clear that she is looking to pay back the over overpayment, and that she sent the other invoice rather than blaming accounts for not picking up on it, without expressly saying that she attached the wrong one in error.

      3. Allonge*

        Also, a lot of companies don’t have time to go into long investigations for what is for them a relatively small amount (I know it’s a lot for OP and would be a lot for a lot of us but the org has a different scale). Totally depends on the setup.

        1. onetimethishappened*

          Also for most larger companies the amount OP owes is probably minimal compared to other finances they have. I would aim to guess that they will probably not care, as long as they are paid back.

          1. Just ask for an invoice*

            Exactly. The amount is trivial; it’s been paid back.

            I wouldn’t have the time or energy to investigate further, apart from wanting LW3 to not make the mistake again.

          2. Rach*

            Absolutely, $600 is very little for most companies and since it is partly their fault (accepting non-itemized documentation), they probably aren’t going to bat an eye and might not even require OP to pay it back (tho they might and she should approach them expecting to pay it back). I have been overpayed twice in the 6 years I’ve been at my very large company (through no fault of my own). The first time my manager or HR didn’t remove my shift differential when I moved back to day shift so I got an extra 15% for 6 months (a similar thing happened to a coworker)! I repeatedly mentioned to my manager that I was still getting the differential to no avail, the company did not make me pay it back.
            The 2nd time, I went on medical leave suddenly and I ended up getting my regular pay in addition to my short term disability and didn’t realize it, I thought the extra payment was my bonus (we get several a quarter, plus I was very ill). Once the company realized I was overpayed by $5k, they allowed me to set up a payment plan that came directly out of my paycheck.
            Mistakes happen, companies make mistakes, and people make mistakes. the key is to own that you made a mistake and try to make it right.

        2. Observer*

          Also, a lot of companies don’t have time to go into long investigations for what is for them a relatively small amount

          Also, the OP is paying it back. So I do not think that there is any real chance that they will get fired, or even demoted. But that’s different from not growing.

          1. Allonge*

            Of course, it’s possible it will have an impact.

            But then… how long would you keep someone from advancing for something like this? Remember, we read a post with the title ‘deliberately over-claimed’ but boss does not have that spelled out, just a ‘huh, weird’ – and only if this org is set up in a way that OP’s management learns of the whole thing at all.

            1. Observer*

              That’s a tricky question. Because I suspect that it’s not going to be a formal “we are not going to promote OP for this thing they did” as much as their boss / someone else who has input on their employment will think a little less well of them. That can be much harder to combat.

              1. Allonge*

                Can be harder to combat but would also have less of an impact.

                Unless boss is really holding on to a grudge about this (I am calling it a grudge because boss has no evidence), it’s likelier to be overwritten by good work from OP and the next person who does something that may be stupid, may be malicious.

                And frankly, if it gets too much, OP can move to another company in some time or boss could move away and then this whole thing is over.

      4. Observer*

        “Likely to limit your future at the company” feels like a stretch. People mess up forms all the time, even after being told how to do it right.

        Not a stretch at all. I’m not saying that it WILL happen. But it’s foolish to think that it’s highly unlikely. Because, sure, people mess up all the time. And it bites them quite frequently.

        he reality is most people aren’t going to assume the worst, especially without solid evidence that it wasn’t a mistake.

        Maybe, but there are a significant number of people who will. And even if you don’t assume the worst, messing up paperwork in your favor just doesn’t look good to a lot of people.

        Still, it’s the OP’s best bet. Especially if they are meticulous going forward.

        1. Lydia*

          Once is not likely to raise any red flags. More than once is more of an issue. I don’t think, in five years time, someone will look to promote the OP and another person will pop in with, “Yes, but remember that one time when they messed up a form and they came out with some money, even though they paid it back?” That is not a thing that happens in the majority of functional workplaces.

          1. Just ask for an invoice*

            In my workplace, I doubt there would even ber a record in OP’s personnel file.

            And if anyone did raise it in five years’ time, I know my response would be one of–

            (1) show me one person in this business who has never made a paperwork mistake
            (2) we employ OP as a llama groomer; let’s focus on that or
            (3) you’re talking ancient history here.

            I have dismissed staff for failing to acquit expense paperwork properly, but that involved tens of thousands of dollars and months of work to resolve (there was no fraud, just a disastrous record keeping failure).

            But what OP has done just doesn’t rise to that level.

            Just reimburse the company with as little discussion as possible. And don’t do it again.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      Eh, I don’t think it will limit their future. In a large company, the person processing this is most probably in no way connected to anyone having any say in LW’s career. It’s going to be handled in accounting, and LW’s chain of command will likely never know about it at all unless it does blow up and there’s some disciplinary action.

    4. aubrey*

      People mess up reimbursement and similar forms all the time. The company should have caught it when it was first submitted if it’s so important. OP should just say they made a mistake, they realized what should have been done and will do that going forward, and they will pay the difference. If this is was my employee, I might look a bit closer at important detail work they do for the next while to make sure this isn’t a pattern. I wouldn’t make the leap to fraud unless there were other signs of that, particularly with an employee who is embarrassed and working to make it right.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This. Having been in auditing, the company is most likely going to feel it was their process that failed and they should not have approved the invoice without more documentation. I’d be pretty surprised if it limited OP’s career.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Definitely. And for the random accounting person they are dealing with to raise a big stink about it they’re also going to have to admit that they paid out on a non-itemized invoice which they probably shouldn’t have done.

          At least 9/10 times this goes away quietly.

          1. IDIC believer*

            I would have been the random accounting person the LW came to. I would be more worried about my error in accepting the unitemized bill, how to fix it and explaining it to my manager. Expense reimbursement requirements are frequently misunderstood & incorrectly submitted by the employee. Most companies put the onus on the accounting person to ensure all ducks are in the row.

    5. Colette*

      I don’t think this is likely to be career limiting in any way, if the OP follows Alison’s advice.

      People make mistakes – financial and ethical. Owning up to them goes a long way to mitigating the impact. And this is a business, so no one is emotionallly invested the way they would be if it were their personal moeny. They’ll want it paid back so that they can cross that item off their to-do list, and they will likely never give it another thought.

    6. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Honestly so many people make clerical mistakes like this after being told five or six times and it never limits their progression. It’s so common.

      We know the backstory so we have some bias but most likely the HR person will roll their eyes and fix it and it will never come up again.

    7. T.N.H.*

      Presumably the person who handles tuition reimbursement is not OP’s manager but an HR underling. Unless they run this up the chain, no one will ever know.

    8. Michelle Smith*

      I would be very surprised if anyone cares. If LW worked for me and came to me about this, I know I wouldn’t think less of them if they used Alison’s framing. But then, I’m a person who has made mistakes before.

  4. Mari*

    Oh man – LW5, for what it’s worth, if it helps as a example to your bosses (aside from the whole “Here’s the law” thing, which, you know, should be MORE than enough), at my private school, not only does the Board lay out exactly what the “100% load” salary is, exactly what the ‘add-ons’ are (what you get for a Masters, a PhD, specialized other things) and what the yearly ‘step’ increase is, the chair of the board actually COMES to a staff meeting every year to discuss what changes to compensation the Board is making and reviews it with us so everyone knows, and hands out hardcopy of everything.

    There are disadvantages – you can’t negotiate a ‘better’ rate, for instance – but it’s absolutely open what everyone’s making – and, given about 3 minutes, I could probably tell you within 1000 bucks what every single one of my colleagues makes – and they would be totally ok with that!

    1. Salary Sacrifice...*

      I wish that was the norm here.
      My workplace is typical in that every employment contract has a clause banning discussions about one’s salary. And all perfectly legal here. Apparently, when I get promoted, my ex-manager (now co-worker) somehow magically forgets what I earn.

      1. Susannah*

        You’re not in the US, then? Because it is illegal in the United States to ban workers from discussing their salaries, etc. with co-workers. And it’s not just public employees, either.

        1. Nina*

          I am also in a country that has this – they’re allowed to put it in your contract that you can’t discuss salary, and if you sign it like that then your salary is considered as belonging to the category of ‘company confidential information’ (which you can’t share) and this is usually enforceable, but if they forget to put it in your contract, or if you get them to take it out, then your salary is considered ‘personal confidential information’ (which you can share). It also applies evenly across the board, manager or non-manager, so we don’t get weirdness like giving people fake supervisory titles to stop them discussing salary.

          It’s weird but it works.

    2. Teacher, Here*

      Also a teacher in a private school with a VERY similar contract note — I actually pulled mine up because they’re so similar I thought maybe the letter writer was a colleague of mine!

      We have set steps and add one and all of that — but it also seems like there are some folks who just magically have different numbers. Not good for morale, that’s for sure.

    3. Anon Today*

      I was in a meeting this week where a department head was instructed to order one of his employees to not discuss a pay raise that employee was getting. I pointed out that this was illegal, and the person who had given the instruction said their spouse (has or would) fire an employee on the spot for doing this. I just … headdesk.

      1. Susannah*

        It’s stunning to me that they don’t think there’s any liability on their part if they break the law….

    4. LK*

      My workplace goes one further than this. We’re unionized, and not only are salaries, progression increases, annual raises, and additional premiums laid out in our collective agreement, the employer is also required to periodically send out a seniority list, which the union circulates to all staff, that shows everyone’s salary (so we can all see we are being paid the appropriate amount for our jobs and seniority).

      1. Mari*

        I used to work in unionized schools, and yeah, that happened where I was. I was actually pleasantly surprised when I started at this school, which is NOT unionized (it probably helps that we’re quite small, relatively speaking) how absolutely open the administration is about money and salary. And, honestly, I’m not entirely sure whether it’s top down or bottom up – when I came on, I was hourly and a sub stepping into ‘oh crap, medical emergency, can you cover???’. When the cost of living increases came out, hourly folks didn’t get one, but I had multiple fulltimers offer me their letter, which includes base, add-ons, yearly top up, benefits (including tuition re-imbursement for kids in the school) – EVERYTHING. But… there’s a culture of ‘no secrets’ around wages, and it’s really cool to deal with, honestly.

  5. Louisiana Jones*

    Re: #2: for the issue with Benjamin—
    Everything Alison wrote? DO IT!
    If you’re still being pestered for more help (and surely you will be), perhaps there are local students who need service hours/points and/or other adults who might be willing and able to provide some support.
    Have these folks put in the same verbiage as AaM wrote, so they don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole. And they are able (with your permission and support) to only help with specific library needs (not playing eyeglasses detective).
    Maybe you don’t want to have any further involvement with him, but I doubt he will stop coming to the library and always asking random questions/requests.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Benjamin sounds like someone who’s lonely and old and the people at OP’s work are mostly kind and helpful with something that they do find difficult. His children have probably decided to limit their contact for whatever reason (being irascible, not trying to remember what he’s been told about how to use his laptop but probably a whole lot of other stuff).
      There’s probably not a lot that can be done apart from being very firm and keeping track of everything just in case he complains higher up.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I was working in a library when the Kindle and other ebook readers hit the market. We were suddenly swarmed with people who wanted us to teach them to use their new e-readers. We ended up creating an appointment request system and telling people we handled e-reader questions by appointment only. People would show up with their brand new e-reader still in the box, and we would schedule them for an appointment later in the week. They were very frequently not happy about that, but it was the only way we could offer e-reader help without it taking over and preventing us from doing anything else.

      One thing to keep in mind here is that you don’t want your appointment request system to show which employee the appointment is with. Frequently, the Benjamins of the world will get attached to a certain person and only want to work with that person, and we’re not in the business of setting our staff up to be stalked.

    3. Seahorse*

      Agreed! Another librarian here, and I had to learn through experience to establish and hold my boundaries with people like this.

      Rude and unreasonably demanding? I’ll still be friendly and polite, but I’m not going to chase your approval. Be mad if that’s what you really want. My record will stand up to your formal complaint just fine. (Granted, this is harder if you’ve just started a job. Stats & documentation are important for this reason.)

      Eager to suck up every moment I will give? Unfortunately, we only have 1 hour together this week, and then I have other duties and more people to help. I can’t delay the other patrons even if you’re late. All we can do is make the most of the remaining half hour and then pick up next week.

      You want something we can’t do, or want too much to fit into our allotted time? I mean, sure, if you want to waste your hour listening to me repeat, “that’s not a service we can offer” or demanding to search the lost & found instead of getting computer help, that’s your choice. But when the hour is up, that’s the end.

      Of course, I’m more generous and more lenient with new people, patrons who can respect boundaries, people frustrated in a one-off situation, etc. With someone who will cheerfully take every bit of energy you can muster and still act like a whiny jerk, policy, clear expectations, and documentation are your allies.

    4. SweetFancyPancakes*

      My first thought when reading this one was “library!”. At one of my previous libraries we had a patron who would call multiple times a day and ask the same questions over and over again, rewording them, but they still required the same answer (think, “can you tell me what books I have checked out?” then, “what are the titles that I still have out?”, then “how many items do I have checked out and what are they?”. All in the same phone call). I got good at answering the first one, then telling her that I had given her that information already, did she have another question? ad infinitum until she would finally say that no, she was finished. Then she would call back a few minutes later. But we had caller ID, so the other librarians would have me answer it again, and when she heard my name she would cut it short herself. It was a problem when she would call our centrally located customer service line, which served all the branches, and get a soft-hearted soul who didn’t know how to cut her off. They finally had a special training session just to deal with her, where they were told that they could do exactly what I had been doing. She was never rude, just extremely time consuming to deal with. She would come in in person once in a while, but told us that she had an allergy to sunshine so she could only come right at closing and it was a little easier to scoot her along at that point- basically by doing the same thing, while walking her to the door and telling her that she was welcome to talk to us again tomorrow. I feel like the key to dealing with people like this is to be nice, but set boundaries and then stick to them scrupulously- and make sure that the whole staff is on the same page, because if someone gives an inch, this kind of person will wedge themselves in and you’ll never be able to control the situation.

  6. Louisiana Jones*

    OP # 1: TBH, it makes me sad that there is still an issue with women’s rings. I get it though, I still think it’s ridiculous.
    And what will you do if you get the job? Never wear it? All of a sudden “win the lottery”?

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      There’s a lot of ways around that – “I don’t wear it in interviews cos I have a habit of fiddling with it”, etc. I would probably just mention it truthfully though and say I don’t wear it in interviews because I don’t want to give the impression I’m super rich and only want the job as a hobby — it’s actually a family heirloom.

      Is it just an issue with women(‘s rings)? I think if a man came to an interview with some equivalent item such as a valuable watch, intetviewers would have the same thoughts – minus the pregnancy part. (Alison added that but I think OP was purely thinking about the financial optics side.)

        1. Hlao-roo*

          From the answer:

          And if you’re of child-bearing age, some interviewers will also make assumptions about your reproductive plans and potential need for maternity leave. This is outdated and gross and yet still happens.

          Not a guarantee that an interviewer will jump from “women of child-bearing age + wedding ring = likely to be or become pregnant in the near future,” but it is possible.

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            It’s actually worse than that: the assumption is woman of childbearing age + wedding ring expensive enough that she’s independently wealthy or her husband is a much higher earner, so CLEARLY she will eventually leave her hobby job to have kids instead, because that’s what all women want to do with their lives. (/sarcasm)

            1. DJ Abbott*

              IME many people give in to social pressure and think that’s what they want to do with their lives, but it isn’t. All the problems that causes for individuals and society is a whole other post.
              Sadly, women of childbearing age get this pressure and assumptions everywhere they go.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I was also coming to say, tell colleagues it’s a family heirloom. I would do this whenever anyone mentions it, or even looks at it. Because a lot of people will draw conclusions but not say anything, so get the word out that it’s a family heirloom and then people won’t draw conclusions about your finances.

        1. Polaris*

          I’ve done similar. I have a decent amount of *nice* jewelry, simply because my mother in law has worked for a local jeweler for ages, and because I’m her only daughter. Nothing gaudy or ostentatious, but its been helpful (probably moreseo when I was younger than now) for me to mention in polite conversation as it fits. “Wow, that’s a ring, is that a ruby?” “Yes. My MIL has worked for a jeweler for years and tends to spoil me slightly. About that file?”

        2. JustaTech*

          I wish I could have said this when a coworker said my engagement ring was “too big” (it’s not that big, smaller than the LW’s), but as it was bought new I just said “I like it”.
          I also made a point of saying my wedding right was titanium and cost $20, because I was so irked by her being upset about my ring.
          (What did she expect me to do, return it?)

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I mean, unless the ring is A) the size of a doorknob and B) you just hit me in the head with it, it’s no business of mine how big the stone is.

            1. INFJedi*

              To be fair, the size of a marble can cause some serious damage to the head as well ;-)

              But yes, it is no ones business.

      2. T.N.H.*

        I wonder if the answer would be the same if it were a watch. Let’s say a man wears a $30K watch every day that’s a family heirloom. Should he take it off for interviews? I think it depends on the field. Sales, no. Government, yes.

        1. Lydia*

          I can’t say for sure, but I feel like often it’s not as easy to tell when a watch is really expensive. And if you see a really nice watch, you don’t generally consider it to be in the many thousands of dollars range, more the many hundreds of dollars. I would be unable to tell if someone spent $400 on a Rolex or $4,000 on a Rolex unless it had some very obvious markers, like diamonds or other stones.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yes to this. My father in law collects watches and was going on about how “everyone” would know how valuable his watch was, and that’s why he had to look out for muggers.
            “Oh, so it cost $300?” I asked, just throwing out a number (I know nothing about high-end men’s watches).
            Oh I was wrong by a whole lot and he sure was annoyed (not my intent), but while it’s a status symbol to those in the know, to the rest of the population, it’s a medium-sized analog watch.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            Yeah, agreed. It would really have to be flashy and/or perform actual Broadway dance routines for me to go “hmmmm, probably expensive.”

    2. John Smith*

      Nah. Put it on, then when the comments come, “What, this old thing? nah, had it ages. What, you didn’t notice it at interview? Well, goes to show how much everyone was interested in me!”. Or just a polite smile with “I’m very lucky, thank you. Would you like me to edit Cecil’s proposal to focus on chocolate teapots or should the emphasis be on llamas?’.

      1. Observer*

        I hope that’s intended sarcastically and you just forgot the tag. Because these suggestions sound like a caricature.

        Calling a ring that noticeable “this old thing” is going to sound as pretentious as all get out and it’s not going to come across as minimizing. The reverse in fact. As for “no one noticed in the interview”, that’s not going to make her look good either, in a different way.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          The “this old thing” comment is a polite way to get others to drop the subject that they aren’t willing to go into.

          The same goes with the second comment.

          Both are polite ways of signalling that the line of questioning about the ring is inappropriate and the subject needs to change.

          1. Observer*

            It’s only a “polite way to get someone to drop it” for most people if the thing you are referring to is not glaringly obviously NOT “this old thing”. The second comment is even worse, unless it’s delivered in a very humorous way.

            There are a lot of much better ways to politely signal that this is not a Topic. Others have given some good ones.

          2. Nina*

            You can ‘this old thing’ something that is genuinely old in a way that would not usually increase its value.
            You cannot ‘this old thing’ antiques or very well-preserved vintage.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Unfortunately the only time I’ve heard people use “oh this old thing” is when they are glad you finally noticed so they can talk about it. YMMV.

        I think the second suggestion of a polite smile, brief acknowledgement, and change of subject is the best way to go. A friend of mine has a fur coat that was left to her by a wealthy grandmother and this is the way she handles “whoa, is that a fur coat?!” reactions — it’s effective and doesn’t make the other person feel belittled for noticing.

    3. Not Australian*

      “Oh, I haven’t been wearing it for a few weeks/months, it had to be adjusted/repaired.”

    4. anna*

      She can put it back on once she has the job, less of a concern then. No one is likely to think too much about whether they did or didn’t see it in the interview, or care if they bothered to think about it which they wouldn’t.

      1. Smithy*

        Exactly – I think it’s also that dynamic about the reality of impressions made the first time you meet someone vs the 6th.

        As others have mentioned, there are a number of excuses for why not to wear it besides ‘I was afraid of intentional or unintentional bias”. But if the ring comes out week 2 or 3 on the job, then it’s more about being another new piece of information about the OP as a full person and not part of the first impression.

        I also think that this is a moment to reflect on your industry in particular. I’m in nonprofits, some people come from a lot of money or more money than most. Lots of people don’t. But wearing a ring that large or a man interviewing with a Rolex would be noticeable in ways different from interviewing at a bank.

      2. Snow Globe*

        Exactly, no one is going to remember if the LW had a ring on during the interview. Even if they wonder about why they didn’t notice it before (unlikely), they aren’t going to be sure, and they certainly aren’t going to ask if the LW wore the ring during the interview.

        1. On Fire*

          But I would advise LW1 to wear *a* ring on that finger at the interview — either a plain band, or a fashion ring — so she doesn’t have a visible line on her finger. Because *that* would start an entirely different line of speculation or inquiry: “She usually wears a ring; I can see the impression. Why isn’t she wearing it now? Divorced? Separated? Trying to hide something?”

          1. Nina*

            I wear a lot of rings. (Usually 11, it’s 9 at the moment because one is in for cleaning and one is behind the kitchen cabinet where it will stay until my partner who dropped it there fishes it out). Only one of them is thick enough to leave a visible tan line, and that’s only in summer. One other is tight enough to leave a visible indent, but you have to like, have your face three inches from my hand and know that that finger on the other hand doesn’t naturally have a slight taper at the base.

            It is way harder to identify ‘ring is missing’ on a stranger than detective fiction would like you to believe.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t wear my ring periodically; sometimes it’s at the jewellers or I’ve had a week of renovating and I keep it somewhere safe while the house is crazy and my hands are full. My sister hasn’t worn hers in a few weeks because she needs it resizing.

    6. Yvette*

      But you know what? All that aside, a ring that big and sparkly would be distracting. Just based on that I would say leave it off, and my advice would be the same if it was a huge emerald or ruby worn on the right hand.

      1. HonorBox*

        Had the same thought. If it catches the attention she’s describing, where people comment on it regularly, it probably would be likely to catch an interviewer’s attention and distract from her and what she’s saying.

      2. hbc*

        Yeah, the general rule is to not go big/bold/gaudy with your jewelry, and the only catch here is that people generally wear their wedding rings all the time, whether it “matches” the rest of the ensemble or not. So you get some leeway, but if it’s really big or otherwise attention-grabbing, it’s better to leave it off in situations where you care whether people are drawing the right conclusions.

    7. scandi*

      There’s an issue with women, tbh, no matter what we wear or don’t wear. There’s a fantastic essay called There is No Unmarked Woman by Deborah Tannen that talks about our choices for clothes, grooming, and styling and how there’s really no “neutral” choice. Do you wear a ring or not? Do you take your husband’s name or not? Have kids or not? Wear makeup and heel or not? All of them have a specific meaning. A man not wearing makeup is unmarked, not making a statement of any kind. A woman makes a statement no matter whether wear it or not (and then kind we wear is of course also a statement). And just like with this ring, we have to choose which statement to make in a specific context.

      1. bamcheeks*

        There was a shot from a few years ago of two women playing volleyball, one in a hijab and full-length suit and one in a bikini, and it was going around all over the internet with a tagline like, “one culture RESPECTS women, one culture FORCES THEM TO DRESS IN A PARTICULAR WAY”. Except that, of course, half the people sharing it thought this was the culture that Respects Women, and half the people sharing it thought that was the culture that Respects Women. To me it was a very clear, “there is nothing women can wear that won’t be stigmatised somehow”.

        1. scandi*

          I’ve seen a tweet about this picture that put it very succinctly: do you want to flaunt your wh*re parts or do you want to hide your wh*re parts. The correct response is of course to reject the false dilemma – none of our body parts are wh*re parts. We should be allowed to wear comfortable, practical clothing suitable for the activity (just like the male volleyball uniform, which does not require the players to have a bikini wax before putting it on).

          And, of course, it’s not a hopeless situation. It can and has changed. Women wearing trousers used to be controversial in the west, but thanks to women consistently wearing trousers in defiance of custom and law, it’s now a neutral choice (in the sense that trousers vs skirt is neutral although the chosen style still confers a “mark”, sigh). Women using Ms. professionally is now the neutral default rather than a feminist statement in most environments, thanks to women using it in spite of pushback. We can change it further by simply not complying. Like the Norwegian volleyball team did.

          1. Nina*

            This is not a nitpick, this is just for ease of googling for anyone who wants to check it out – the Norwegian sports team play handball, not volleyball.

            Googling ‘Norwegian handball team’ and ‘Norwegian volleyball team’ produce the same top result for me who is in New Zealand and never searches for sports, but if you search a lot of Scandinavian sporting events you may not get the right thing.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            I’ve been using “Ms.” since I was deemed “old enough” by society to use an honorific, and absolutely nobody has said a word. I had an older relative or two who would address Christmas or birthday cards with Mrs., but nothing otherwise. When you read about Steinem, Ms. Magazine and how ridiculously fraught that used to be, it’s amazing to think that it’s become totally unremarkable in much of the world so quickly.

      2. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        Thanks for that essay recommendation! I found it online this morning & thought it was excellent.

      3. Biff Chippington*

        THIS. A few years ago, interviewing in a somewhat conservative area, I thought about wearing a fake wedding ring, because at my age, not being married or divorced could cause bias. The game is rigged and stupid.

    8. KateM*

      If you get the job then it is more probable that a collague publicly admires it, at which point you can say it is an old family hairloom. Also, if you always wear the ring, after some time the people will get used to it and it will not be distracting anymore. And you didn’t wear it to interview (if someone even 1. remembers you didn’t and 2. asks) because you didn’t want to distract people – what’s weird about it?

    9. Wings*

      If she gets the job, she can were the ring or not (however she pleases) but why would anyone even care at that point what she wore (or didn’t wear) for an interview (so one random day in the past)? Absolutely no explanation needed either way.

      1. LR*

        Thank you, the whole concept of planning around someone who questions you aggressively about why you’re wearing jewelry to the office today that you weren’t wearing to your interview is really out there.

        Most people won’t register it, if they register it they’ll prob chalk it up to “I must not have noticed she had it on during the interview,” if theyre sure she didn’t have it on during the interview they won’t care or think about why, if they think about why it’s not likely to be malicious, and if someone cares you weren’t we wrong specific jewelry the day of your interview or is maliciously wondering why, that person sucks and their opinion isn’t important.

        1. KateM*

          “Why are you today wearing these big earrings that you didn’t wear to interview?” Who’s going to ask that?

    10. AlsoADHD*

      I seriously doubt anyone will ask, “oh wow why didn’t you wear the ring in the interview” if she wears it later. Even if they think it, they likely aren’t going to ask. Why would she not wear it later if she got the job? That’s a different context.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I think it would be very odd to ask somebody “why didn’t you wear your wedding ring at your interview?” There are lots of reasons from it was being adjusted to not wanting to draw attention to marital status to the fidgeting thing people mentioned to just not wearing it all the time. And that’s assuming people even notice and remember. I doubt they would. While people are likely to notice the ring and maybe remember it, I think it far less likely they’d remember the absence of it. The most likely thing for them to think is “oh, I only just noticed how big her ring is.” And that’s assuming she even works closely with those interviewing her. This may be different in the private sector but in teaching, it is usually the principal and deputy principal who interview and once you’ve gotten the job, you don’t interact with them all that much.

        1. lilsheba*

          I would never take my wedding ring off for an interview or anything else. Now it’s not an heirloom or a diamond (because I don’t care about such things) but even if it were that stays on my finger, it’s my wedding ring!!

          1. KateM*

            That’s a pretty strong claim to make. Don’t you think that if it WAS a heirloom 3-karat diamond, then you’d take it off for things, like, oh, washing your baby so as not to risk to scrape them? The very reason why my wedding ring is a plain golden band is that it would be comfortable to wear in everyday actions! And even so, once my fingers got swollen in pregnancy to the point where the ring started to strangle blood vessels, I took it off.

            1. lilsheba*

              I was thinking along the lines of what is the topic, which is whether to take it off because of how it looks. I would never take it off for that reason then! I don’t care about optics, it’s my wedding ring and I’m wearing it.

              1. KateM*

                Fair! I wouldn’t take off my wedding ring because it doesn’t go with my outfit or something like that. Although, I can’t be sure that I would wear such a huge ring at all except for special occasions.

    11. Green great dragon*

      If she wears it at the start of the job I can see someone asking about it, because my automatic response would be to wonder if she’s got married between the interview and starting work. But I’d’ve thought almost any answer would do (lots suggested here), including ‘Oh, I didn’t have it on that day’ plus subject change.

      1. Eater of Hotdish*

        Actually, I did this, and all in one day, to boot! Had a successful second interview and accepted a position in the morning, and then got married in the afternoon.

        (Tiny courthouse ceremony; two witnesses and a judge on a weekday afternoon; my new boss thought it was awesome and hilarious when I told her about it, and she gave me a sack of tomatillos from her garden as a combination wedding present/signing bonus.)

    12. DataSci*

      I really don’t think anyone will remember weeks later whether one particular interviewee wore a wedding ring to their interview. The most that’s likely to happen is “huh, I didn’t notice that earlier.”

      1. Antilles*

        In most cases, it’s several weeks between the interview and the hiring – a few days for the company to put the offer together, a couple days for you to accept, maybe a couple more days for negotiations, two weeks notice, etc. Nobody’s going to really remember that.

        1. kiki*

          Yeah, and even if they are somebody who notices and/or were trying to suss out LW’s marital status for discriminatory reasons, there’s nothing they can really do about it at this point– she’s been hired! They may ask and say they hadn’t noticed the ring in the interview, but that’s not likely and easy enough for LW to brush off.

      2. Riot Grrrl*

        Exactly. No one—no one at all—is going to try to do a “gotcha” with OP if she ends up getting the job.

      3. JustMe*

        Yes. I’m probably naïve (female in her 30s, lived and worked in more liberal parts of the Coastal US) but I think that there are plenty of interviewers who wouldn’t take too much notice if someone was wearing a wedding ring in the interview and, if they did, may not necessarily take much stock in it. It may vary depending on the sectors she’s applying for and who the interviewers are, but I think it’s becoming increasingly likely that the interviewers and managers will be women who have been in OP’s same situation.

      4. irritable vowel*

        Yeah, I’ve been on a lot of hiring committees and I can’t imagine seeing the jewelry of someone we hired once they started working and thinking, “wow, I sure would have noticed that big honking thing during the interview!”

        I do think it’s worthwhile to not wear it for the interview if it’s likely to be a distraction or introduce bias. If OP is otherwise “modestly” (in an economic sense) dressed but has the giant ring, it might not necessarily send the message that they’re wealthy, but people might not pick up on that nuance. (As an aside, I used to work with someone who was in fundraising/donor relations, and she told me that something they look for in that field is “signifiers of wealth” – expensive jewelry/clothing are obvious signifiers, but even something like having a nice manicure can be one. I would imagine that these things have a multiplying effect.)

    13. metadata minion*

      I realize my observation skills for that sort of thing are sub-par, but I would definitely not remember whether a candidate was wearing a ring at the interview. And if I did, I don’t think I would wonder at it. Interviews are weird. There are tons of reasons why someone would choose to wear or not wear jewelry at an interview, even something as meaningful as a wedding ring.

    14. Workerbee*

      She should be fine wearing it after she gets the job – the scrutiny tends to (should) go toward job performance and culture fit and things like that, in my experience.

    15. ClaireW*

      It’s not just that the ring is ‘big’ though – I have a pretty small and basic engagement and wedding ring set because I’m not a big jewellery person. I remember doing interviews while engaged and in one of them, the guy interviewing me *would not stop* staring at my ring. It was really offputting, and a great reminder that no matter what, some folks will always be trying to guess if you’re going to quit as soon as you’re married or decide to take maternity leave or whatever and will avoid hiring you for that reason. It’s incredibly unfair but we need to be aware of it and make decisions accordingly.

    16. Sloanicota*

      I actually disagreed with Alison’s advice here. If the wedding ring is very flashy and you’re worried it’s a distraction, switch to a simple band for the interview (like one of those rubber ones)- but don’t pretend you’re not married when you are, that just seems odd to me when you show up on the first day.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Eh, I don’t think it’s pretending you’re not married. I don’t wear my ring a lot of of the time but it’s not because I’m pretending not to be married — I just don’t wear jewelry in every situation. (And sure, it sounds like the LW does usually wear hers — but I disagree with the idea that taking it off is pretending anything!)

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “that just seems odd to me when you show up on the first day”

        Most interviews, marital status never comes up and I don’t know much about the employee’s personal life before they actually start working for us. It’s unlikely to even register for the interviewer.

        1. 1850's Wisconsin*

          Most interviews, marital status shouldn’t come up. It’s not a social occasion, and reasonable companies avoid the potential for discrimination based on family status.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        I definitely wouldn’t jump from “not wearing a wedding ring” to “can’t possibly be married.” Admittedly, I’m not that observant but I cannot imagine noticing that somebody was not wearing a wedding ring (I doubt I’d notice if somebody was either, but that may just be me. I could not tell you if any of my colleagues wear wedding rings – I’m sure some do – and I have been working with most of them for over five years) but it strikes me as unlikely that anybody would notice the absence of a wedding ring, assume that means the person isn’t married, remember this (out of all the people they interviewed that day) and then be surprised when they wear a wedding ring to work. Even if somebody did notice and remember, there are dozens of possible reasons, from “ring was in for repair” to “just happened not to wear it” to “interviewer forgot which person was wearing a ring and which wasn’t.”

        I would think it very odd for somebody to think, “I don’t remember that person wearing a ring when I interviewed them and they are now. Clearly, they must have been pretending they weren’t married. It couldn’t possibly that I just failed to notice the ring because I was focussed on the interview or that I’ve forgotten or that the ring needed adjustment or they just forgot to put it on or they didn’t want it distracting them.”

      4. learnedthehardway*

        Disagreeing – it’s not about “pretending”. It’s about not potentially being discriminated against.

        Although even without a ring, some people will discriminate because woman-of-childbearing-age. (Let’s hope they learn their lesson and amend their ways when someone discriminates against them for something.)

      5. KateM*

        I would think it really really weird if I noticed someone wearing with their probably polished interview outfit a rubber ring.

        1. In the spring*

          lol, I think they actually meant silicone. Silicone rings are so common now that it should not be surprising to see someone with a polished interview outfit and a silicone ring.

      6. Shopgirl*

        I’m a weightlifter and do that 3-5 times a week. I haven’t worn a ring in a year because I’m more likely to lose it taking it off and on every day. I’m not pretending to not be married.

      7. Dell*

        Lots of hobbies are unsafe to practice with a traditional ring on – lots of things that use power tools, certain sports, hobby farming, etc. Many people throughout my life have never worn their wedding ring except on special occasions and frankly I’ve never noticed unless we were talking about it in conversation. I haven’t worn mine in about six months because I have had to undergo frequent MRIs and I don’t want to take it on and off repeatedly (it’s a little tight) and no one has said a word to me about it.

        It’s also worth nothing that many cultures actually don’t practice wearing a wedding ring at all and some religions frown on it or forbid it (for example, Seventh-Day Adventists, Friends/Quakers, New Order Mennonites who otherwise dress “normally”, and some Methodists).

      8. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Just, no.

        I love jewelry, I love wearing my wedding rings, and I love hearing people’s stories about their heirloom or otherwise special jewelry. My new colleague has a beautiful, unique wedding ring — I was on her interview panel and have no idea if she wore it or not to the interview.

    17. Seashell*

      For all they know, she could have gotten engaged or married between the interview and the start date.

    18. LR*

      Why on earth would you need to justify wearing jewelry at your job that you didn’t wear at your interview? By the time you’re starting work the issues of maybe she doesn’t need the job/a competitive salary or maybe she’ll expect a really high salary are all null and void, so the ring is no longer an issue.

    19. My Name is Mudd*

      #1 could always get a “Travel Ring.” Basically a CZ ring that you don’t mind losing if you’re traveling, but still want to wear a symbolic wedding ring.

    20. Just Another Cog*

      What IS it with women’s rings, indeed. I inherited a large diamond ring from my own MIL when she died. Not a doorknob as another poster commented, but close! I have learned not to wear it anywhere where I/we will be negotiating for or buying anything. Alison’s advice is spot on! Unfortunately, a lot of people like to make up stories in their heads about other people and I can almost see them assuming my spouse and I have means when they can’t keep their eyes off my hand. Even though I inherited it (thanks, sweetest MIL in the world!) my in-laws were never wealthy, either, but the stone has been in the family for a few generations.

    21. Sandgroper*

      One thing about #1 is we don’t know a little nuance/context that might help.
      A blinking great big ring, coupled with quiet calm old style manners might indicate she comes from money.
      This might be a benefit in certain roles or companies, particularly in roles that require networking or greeting high value clients. Companies may pay at the top end of a bracket for a staff member who is quietly, obviously, from money… because those staff bring in more clients via their networks, and can manage higher value clients from the business in a way that improves the relationships.

      But this is a very nuanced thing. I’m thinking reception or concierge at a high end car dealership, or secretary/administration in a professional office, or high end retail… where quietly understated wealth will get you further than some of the technical skills.

  7. SB*

    Don’t tell them you tried to scam them, frame it as an accident…

    I accidentally scammed my employer out of about $400 worth of accommodation a couple of years ago by using the company credit card instead of my own (they are both from the same bank & look identical just the last 6 or 8 digits of the card are different). It was an honest mistake but I felt so awful & went to the accounting team about it. The CFO thanked me for my honesty (I could very easily have hidden it as one of my jobs is to book travel for the senior exec team) & there was nothing more said about it.

    Hopefully this is the outcome for you. :)

    1. Data Slicentist*

      I had a tuition reimbursement issue that plagued me with guilt. In my case, it turned out completely fine.

      For my first year of a degree partially reimbursed by my employer, they paid the school directly. I tested into a higher level of class and needed to drop it. Too much, too soon: I needed the intro level. I *thought* I had submitted the paperwork soon enough to catch the drop period. Nope….they sent the bill to my work, who paid promptly. Like $3000.

      I wasn’t looking at my student account carefully and didn’t realize until I got my tuition tax form. After worrying and putting it off, I emailed HR and set up a meeting. I was ready to figure something out and pay them back. The head of HR told me not to worry about it: they didn’t want me to reimburse that amount. They seemed confused as to why I was stressing?

      It was a lot of money to me, but a blip in their finances. Huge relief!

    2. MaryB*

      You didn’t scam the company out of anything. Your case was an actual accident. You came clean immediately. You didn’t go out and make additional intentional purposes with the company card. Had LW made a mistake and just now noticed, that would be comparable. But she submitted extra for reimbursement after being explicitly told not to. Her situation and yours are apples and oranges. You did not commit fraud or scam anyone in any conceivable way.

      1. SB*

        I wasn’t making a comparison, I was suggesting that if she left out the part where her act was deliberate they may assume it was an accident & she may have a similar outcome to mine. She knows she stuffed up. She knows this may end in termination. She doesn’t need strangers on the internet actively trying to make her feel worse.

    3. Global Cat Herder*

      I’ve done something similar, used the company card when it should have been my personal card. I was so worried about it that in my “oops, I’ve made a terrible mistake, how do I fix this” email to accounting, I included a picture of the two cards side by side to show they were nearly identical.

      The accounting guy was still laughing when he called me to tell me not to worry about it, and where to find the (completely normal and happens-so-often-it’s-documented) process to fix it.

      1. Snow*

        Yep. The company my dad works for includes a specific option for that when you’re going through your company card charges – “this was not meant to go on the company card, please invoice me for it and I’ll pay”. You can literally do it from your phone. You will get questions if it happens all the time or if you get into the multi-thousand range on a single trip, but if you needed to buy shampoo and grabbed the wrong card, no one cares.

  8. WildFlower*

    LW4: I’m sorry you’re struggling <3

    Regardless of your manager’s intention, what she’s actually done is put you in the sight-line of people who will compensate you appropriately for doing your one job. Her action feels icky because it is, but don’t worry about it; you’re looking for a new job and it will come, you’re already leaving them behind.

    As an aside, imagine not only advertising that you underpay your employees, but also
    potentially that you think it’s funny. How embarrassing.

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

      I don’t know about “funny” but I do think the manager is maybe sending a message to the OP that her social post was “seen” and OP might be on the verge of being managed out if she doesn’t “knock it off.”

      Applying to 15 internal roles in a year is a bit crazy; not getting any of them is maybe an indication that OP is just wildly applying to every open position without self-awareness, and her reputation is suffering for it — do they have such high turnover that roles on par with her skills and experience are opening up that often?

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        Yeah, the 15 applications in a year definitely struck me as off. Even if the LW were actually qualified for all those roles, when a company has passed you over 15 (!) times, they really mean no.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        We have NO idea how big this company is. I’ve worked for companies with over 50,000 employees and 14 roles opening up in a single year would be nothing.

        1. Need More Sunshine*

          It’s not that 14 roles being open in the company is strange – it’s that it’s potentially not a great look for OP to be applying for 14 different internal roles from her manager’s perspective.

  9. Lucky Meas*

    I googled to see how big a “three carat” diamond ring was, and it looks like the diamond is around half the width of the finger, around the size of a pinky fingernail.

    My experience with people with large rings is that they are very sparkly and flashy, so yes it catches the eye! It’s designed to. I can’t imagine making hiring decisions based on that, though.

    If you decide to take it off, maybe framing it as “removing my flashy ring so it doesn’t draw attention”, like you might do when traveling or in an unsafe area, will feel better than “removing my wedding ring so they aren’t prejudiced against me”. Whatever helps you feel confident and stay on your A-game in interviews.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Could she turn it around during the interview so the diamond is inside her hand, perhaps as if by accident (nervously twisting it)? Or is that too obvious?

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I was going to suggest that as well, but she said she talks with her hands a lot so I thought it would show anyway and then draw more attention to it.

        1. KateM*

          And even in current meetings, it seems. Sounds like I’d make it a habit to take the ring off when I do any kind of presentation when I want people to focus on what I say, and I’d explain it exactly the way that OP said – “in meetings I often find people focusing on the ring”.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        I bet that’d be really uncomfortable and be guaranteed to be something she would fidget with. I’ve done that with my much smaller ring before and it feels like the equivalent of wearing my shoes on the wrong feet.

    2. Smithy*

      I agree with this.

      I knew one girl in grad school who had an engagement ring where the first time I saw it, perhaps even out loud, I did say “wow”. It was in school and I couldn’t tell you if I ever had any open biases about her because of the ring specifically, but I also know that I still remember that ring and my initial reaction. And if someone were to remind of things I said or did that perhaps indicated a bias – I would not be surprised.

      That all being said, I also remember her as well as other friends with smaller engagement rings not wearing them every day. While that may bot be the OP’s practice, I think it’s common enough for some people that removing it to interview wouldn’t be interpreted as odd on its own.

      Also, if you work in an industry where rings of that size are not common, then even if there’s no bias – the likelihood of it just being distracting in the sense of “wow, I’ve never seen a diamond that large in the wild” may still not be the interview vibes the OP wants to start the interview with. Again, the process may be without bias, but it may put the OP on edge that it could be an issue.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes it’s big — I know someone with a ONE carat diamond and that’s eye catching. She wears a plain band on business trips.

      BTW I looked for measurements. these for an “ideal cut”:
      L×W×D: 9.37 × 9.37 × 5.65 mm
      0.6 grams.

      1. Cj*

        my diamond is 1/3 karat, and I really don’t think I’d want anything larger than half a karat. I can’t imagine a stone nine times as large as mine, which is what the letter writers would be at three karats.

        1. LR*

          I can’t imagine how you think telling people that you wouldn’t want/wear LW’s ring would be helpful to the letter writer or productive, but since you brought it up, a 3 carat stone is 9x heavier than a 1/3 carat stone, but would only be a little more than 2x as large on its face (assuming a round brilliant diamond with similar depth).

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yeah, also googled and that is a flashy hunk of bling. Very noticeable.

      I’m pretty sure, if I saw one in real life, my thoughts wouldn’t be “how expensive”, but “I wonder what kind of diamond-like (cheaper) rock that is?” and “how is that not annoying, it would catch on everything if I was wearing it”. But that would still be thinking about the ring and not about your job qualifications.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        I think mine is the size of a 2 carat ring (I honestly don’t remember) but it isn’t a diamond, it is a topaz. It still gets noticed, but not as much as if it were diamond.

    5. CommanderBanana*

      I tend to notice people’s jewelry because I worked in a jewelry store for several years and collect vintage jewelry.

      I really hate that this is the answer but to be honest, I’d recommend that she not wear it and wear a plain band or other ring, and if I were in her shoes I would probably choose not to wear it to an interview either, for the same reasons that I cover up my tattoos and tone down my usual makeup (nude lipstick instead of my everyday red). My aim when dressing for an interview is to avoid anything that could be distracting or invite questions.

      I do remember interviewing someone several years ago who was wearing a massive solitaire engagement ring, and I definitely noticed it and my coworker commented on it later (the interview was generally bad and the candidate had misrepresented some pretty important details on her resume, so she wasn’t getting an offer anyway).

      1. LR*

        I think avoiding distractions here is the key. I wouldn’t make any assumptions based on someone’s ring; so many of my friends have moissanite or have family rings so I just wouldn’t assume. But I am a little magpie so it would catch my eye and I would be like “ooo sparkly thing! I love that setting. Is that art deco?” Or my eye might start to follow it very subtly. I just wouldn’t risk the low level distraction esp layering on your own anxiety where you’re wondering if they’re distracted and what difference that might make…

  10. takeachip*

    LW2, you can’t reason with an unreasonable person. There’s nothing you can say or do to make him be different in the world, so you have to minimize the disruption he causes in your corner of the world. I know this sounds terrible but this is an opportunistic behavior; he does it because it works, and when it stops working, he will eventually move on and start the cycle somewhere else, and that is honestly probably the best you can hope for. If you think he needs assistance he isn’t getting you can of course refer him to the right type of resource, but my guess is that he has probably exhausted a lot of other supports.

    I’ve found that the best approach to dealing with someone like this is to set firm limits and be a broken record. “That was an extra service we provided in the past, but we no longer have the capacity./As I explained earlier, we no longer have the capacity to give you extra service.” “If you want this level of service, you will need to make an appointment/You missed your appointment, so we can’t provide that level of service.” The point of this isn’t to have him internally accept and agree with what you’re saying, it’s to make it clear to him that his previous methods of getting what he wanted don’t work anymore. You have to be willing to live with the discomfort of saying no and having him complain and you have to stand firm in your resolve to maintain these limits.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah the whole time I was reading, I was not surprised that he wasn’t keeping appointments; he gets to wander in and demand attention whenever the mood takes him! It’s a home away from home! I would probably set up the environment a little to make “pop up” appearances less rewarding. Appointment people get to sit off to the side in a comfy chair with a face to face level of attention (but have the next person ready to be called over at the end of the appointment or you’ll never get him out of the chair) whereas pop up people stand in a line with a person looking at a screen instead of them. Or whatever kind of carrot and stick arrangement which makes sense. As a teacher, I can tell you that if an attention hungry person is gunning for OP personally it’s because he senses OP cares and so wants to tap into that guilt. It’s not uncaring to draw boundaries, and you can still be kind while completely ignoring the word “rude” as if he never said it, and as if it demands no response. I would respond either with bland kindness, reiterating what I can do, or I would start getting politely cool and asking him to stand aside or to come back for his appointment if he needs more time. You’ll need to be very consistent and if you show any distress or guilt, you will reset the clock on his learning that he can’t manipulate you. Much better if the whole team pull together on this strategy for energy and consistency and if the manager steps in with pro forma wording when he’s worn out his welcome.

    2. Emma*

      Yeah, this is good advice. I have dealt with many Benjamins over the years, and you’ve just got to repeatedly interrupt them, redirect them, and if they still manage to waste the time you have available talking at you, tell them you have to help other people now but they’re welcome to come back [tomorrow/next week/for their scheduled appointment], and then physically move into a different area where you can help the next person or get on with your other work. Will they think you’re rude and not providing a good service? Probably! But you do not provide a human livejournal service, so it would be concerning if they thought you were doing a good job of that, really.

    3. Sun in an Empty Room*

      Yes, public-facing government employee here. Figuring out the variation on “That is not a service we provide.” messaging was key for me to deal with my Benjamins. It was very difficult for me to do and took me several years into my career to figure out. I will admit those types of customers are the kind who burnt me out during the pandemic to the extent that I’m now looking at moving away from external-customer facing jobs.

    4. Zap R.*

      Yeah, I guarantee there’s a Tim Horton’s or lotto counter employee somewhere who lives in abject fear of Benjamin. If Benjamin’s not harassing OP, he’s being miserable somewhere else.

    5. Totally Minnie*

      Yeah, you’ve got to be firm on the appointments. If he shows up outside his scheduled appointment time, all he gets is “let’s schedule you for an appointment.” He’s not going to be happy about that, and staff are going to be tempted to cave and offer him more than they would do for a less demanding customer in hopes of mollifying him, so it’s important that you have a staff meeting and talk about what you can and can’t offer him outside of a pre-scheduled appointment.

      1. KateM*

        Yes, please “let’s schedule you for an appointment” together with Benjamin – right now from the letter it sounds like OP’s company decided they will serve Benjamin only on a certain time without any input from himself.

        1. DJ*

          The appointments he doesn’t attend may have been made with his input. Given he’s had a stroke he may have planning difficulties but the agency has to be able to serve others and not allow others to miss out.

          1. KateM*

            I very hope they were made with his input, but as I said, the letter seems to say that the company just decided that Benjamin should come Thursday mornings because that time is less busy.

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes. When I take phone orders, it’s company policy to take the credit card number at the time of the order. We started this during the pandemic due to no contact, and it cut way, way down on forgotten orders (that is people would call to place an order, say they would pay when they came to get it/we delivered it, and then just honest to God forget they placed it. Lots of wasted product) so we kept it as a policy. Also made it so much safer for drivers not having to carry cash!

      It’s been three years and we still get people, who have ordered with us the entire time, complaining about having to pay over the phone/ having to order in store to pay with cash. But it’s policy, so we simply repeat, yes, this how we do things. If you’d like to pay at time of purchase or with cash, you need to go into the store. This is stated all over our website and everywhere else we advertise.

      It doesn’t matter what we used to do ten years ago or whatever. This is the policy. Having this clearly outlined and be meant to to fall back on without wavering is a HUGE plus when new CSRs are dealing with people who sense they’re not seasoned yet and try to push.

  11. John Smith*

    re #2, I cant help but feel that your demanding client may simply want company and attention, and they’ve certainly been getting it. In similar situations in my field, we generally make referrals to, say, social services, outreach support groups or community carers to provide support.

    1. Emma*

      This is probably true, and a referral is a good idea if there are suitable services in the area. That said, while with less aggressive Benjamins I’ll always make a point of letting them chat for a few minutes, if possible, before redirecting; this guy has been horrible to LW and their colleagues, and it’s kind of a natural social consequence that if you treat people like crap, you won’t have anyone to chat to about your day.

  12. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (fraudulent tuition reimbursement) – the difficult situation here is compounded by the fact that even if presented as a mistake in your accounting/paperwork – will they fall for it or will someone realise that this is a cover for the actual course of events. I use the word compounded because this is dishonesty on top of the original dishonest act.

    “So what do you think OP should do?” is the obvious question in response to this. That is where I’m hesitating, because any answer that isn’t “I tried to defraud you and now my conscience has caught up to me” has the risk of being found out in itself. I think ultimately the lie is really the only way forward :(

    I am actually side eyeing HR, Finance or whoever deals with reimbursement, because given the history the previous semester about some fees being included but not others, they ought to have asked for a more detailed breakdown of the top line figure being submitted for. If there is a clearly stated policy about this (even if OP didn’t know the policy – the people applying the policy ought to!) part of their process should be to check that the submission is in line with the policy.

    1. Joan*

      Yeah, I’m confused by the reactions to this. Like, if they didn’t ask for an itemized receipt and paid it all without asking questions, I’d wait for them to come to me and feign not understanding how it was approved.

      I feel like a lot if people wouldn’t look at the fine print or may not understand it, it would be up to whoever is cutting the check like you said

      “HR had emailed me after I submitted it informing me that they didn’t cover it (their policy has a grey area and covers some fees, but not others).” so why didn’t HR ask for details if they needed it? IDK I think it’s equally on them that the letter writer.

      1. Smithy*

        I was recently in a similar situation about a reimbursement for something entirely different.

        Normally when we’re reimbursed for hotels, we submit an itemized receipt to show we’re submitting charges for the room but not room service or other hotel services. I recently stayed at a hotel where their version of an itemized receipt did not pass the smell test of my first approver and asked if I could get one with more detail. I called the hotel, asked…..and they sent me back the exact same receipt.

        In general the charges appeared fine – but obviously could have included one drink from the bar or 15 minute neck massage charged to the room without making a huge difference. The first approver eventually said “let’s just send this to finance and see what happens” – and they paid in full, no questions.

        Now sure, come audit time – that receipt could be flagged as insufficient and needing more documentation. In this case, I’m not personally worried as I know that I 1) charged nothing to the room and 2) tried to get an itemized receipt when the issue was first flagged and have that email. But from an auditing perspective, it’s not that different.

      2. Observer*

        Like, if they didn’t ask for an itemized receipt and paid it all without asking questions, I’d wait for them to come to me and feign not understanding how it was approved.

        Two problems here. One is that this is simply theft. It doesn’t matter that HR / Accounting was sloppy. It’s as much theft as emptying out the cash drawer because it wasn’t locked.

        Secondly, if they do figure this out, the OP will get fired. “Feigning confusion” is not going to work.

        1. Bob-White of the Glen*

          Maybe. Or maybe they get a reprimand. Or maybe the person would believe them because lots of people have lots of confusion over company policies. Or because people make mistakes.

          Yes, if it was discovered the OP purposely tried to be over reimbursed and didn’t try to pay the company back, they would probably get fired. Or even then maybe not. But it’s hard to prove someone is lying, especially the first time, and lots of people get away with lots of stuff every day. The number of sociopaths is growing, as are the number of entitled people who talk themselves into believing they deserve XYZ and lie to get it. Hopefully they are found out, and hopefully they are fired. But I’m guessing it’s a lot less than you think. And if you think you can tell a liar, you’re probably not as good as you think. I look guilty even when totally innocent, and was punished as a child for lying a couple times when I wasn’t. I know people who were the opposite. I’m overly truthful because of it (and have a reputation as such) and fess up to all “sins.” But if you accused me, or grilled me, and decided I was lying, you’d be wrong and I’d be falsely fired. (And no, I would never put in additional reimbursement. I feel guilty taking per diem.)

          The point is OP is trying to fix this. They are not going to do it again.

          1. linger*

            Not doing it again is the key. OP3 needs to
            (i) reimburse the company (which realistically, to minimise the consequences, needs the further lie of “I’ve found this filing error, how do I fix it?”);
            (ii) listen to their conscience (rather than, as others have suggested, downplaying it); and
            (iii) never again give in to any similar temptation.
            The lesson for OP3 here can’t be “This is how to minimise consequences for doing a bad thing” (useful as that is, I’m worried that OP3’s primary motivation is fear of being caught), or “This wasn’t such a bad thing” (because it actually was exactly as bad as OP3 presents it). It has to be “I did a bad thing and I learned not to repeat it.”

    2. doreen*

      I don’t know that much of it is on the party dealing with the reimbursement- the LW says the college breaks it down strangely so that nearly half of the tuition on the website is actually fees and the college also has accounts set up so that there is one document with everything broken out and anther apparently that just says something like “Spring Semester” and lists the total for that semester. If that’s the only college they deal with , sure they should have known about the unusually high fees and different documents – but we don’t know how many different colleges the reimbursement people are dealing with.

    3. blue bear*

      I get that HR or Finance should be checking that the submission is in line with the policy, but I don’t think it’s surprising they wouldn’t have checked the receipt against what OP submitted last semester. I work for a large company and honestly the volume of reimbursement requests is too high to do things like compare new receipts to ones that were submitted months ago. Usually the check is basically confirming that a receipt was submitted and that it matches the total of the reimbursement request.

      On top of that, the reality is that unless the request is for a huge amount, it’s not really going to make much of a difference to the company either way. Amounts that the company considers material and amounts individual people consider material are usually very different.

  13. Snowbert*

    LW2, I feel your pain. Luckily I’ve always worked around colleagues and managers who were very good at modelling boundary-setting to these sorts of clients so I not only knew to do it too but I know they have my back if someone complains.

    Absolutely set it the limits of what help you can provide when he comes in, and firmly but kindly stick to them. If he becomes difficult with one person, its OK to tag a colleague/manager in. It often helps when more than one person reinforces the same boundary. Let managers know up the chain of command so that if he complains, they have context.

    I often set boundaries with new clients too, if they come in asking for things that push they limits of what we can offer, by letting them know right away what we can and can’t help with and redirecting them to other services if they need more help. If I can give more help then usual because we’re quiet, I explain then and there that it’s not typical. And in most cases, getting them to have more independence means they’re more confident navigating things the next time they come in.

  14. Megan*

    I took a slightly different take on #4 – why not sit with your boss and ask what you need to do to be considered for a promotion, and depending on the answer job hunt for a new full time job where there is growth and better salary?

    1. Similar Boat*

      Your comment makes me think you completely skipped over the first two paragraphs of Letter 4 — they’ve clearly been applying for promotions (and turned down in favor of outside hires) and asking for meetings with their boss. Also, the job market is tough – especially in the PNW right now. A lot of sectors are not hiring much – if at all – right now.

    2. AlsoADHD*

      I’d suggest hunting for a new full time job too, and don’t understand why they’re not attempting that. But I don’t think sitting down with a manager who considers them overpaid (at a really low salary for the region and experience level) and has been so dismissive will be that helpful. Sounds like she ordered the promotion but lowballed LW salary and fully intended to with no restrictions forcing it—she thinks LW is overpaid and not worth an appropriate salary even when offering the promotion.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        (I have been applying for months outside of the company to other jobs. It just is a competitive market so no luck yet.)

        I’m pretty sure they are applying to other FT jobs in addition to applying to 15 FT jobs in their own company!

    3. Juniper*

      It sounds like that’s only part of the problem. In addition to applying for promotions, it sounds like they were offered a promotion with only a $1000 raise at an already insultingly low salary for someone who’s got 10+ years experience. So I get why OP doesn’t want the promotion (more work for basically the same salary since $1000 over the course of a year is pretty insignificant vs getting a $5000+ raise). Maybe 2 jobs is way more work but the money makes it worth it??

  15. *kalypso*


    Many companies at the level of paying tuition for employees have an established method of recovering overpayments; it gets deducted from pay at a particular rate, or an invoice is issued and repayment negotiated etc. It’s also possible they’ll just count it against the limit for 2023/2024.

    NBD, better sooner than later.

  16. Dhaskoi*


    I work in disability care and I can tell you that you are never going to make Benjamin happy, and doing so is not your job.

    Benjamin has social needs that aren’t getting met elsewhere, he found that he could get them met at your office so he latched on to you, and now that he can’t he’s trying to force a return to the previous status quo.

    To be clear, he does have a right to assistance and interaction, the problem is that he’s looking for it in the wrong place. Strictly speaking trying to find out what support resources exist for him also isn’t your job, but a google search and a phone call or two might be enough to figure out where you sh0uld be directing him.

    1. GreenDoor*

      Came here to say the same. My Benjamin had never married, had no kids, was an only child….and was homebound due to morbid obesity. He’d call me up to a dozen times a day just to talk. It felt awful but I had to be firm – FIRM – and say that my time with him was up and I needed to take the next call. Since your Benjamin is in person, you will need to be firm, stand up and say, “Our twenty minutes is up. It’s been nice working with you today but we have to see the next person. I’ll walk you to the door.” You’ll need to be firm and refocus the conversation when he starts going off on his stories. It feels counter-intuitive to good public service, but with people like him, you just have to. Look at it this way – the other 299 people coming to your office today deserve their fair share of your time, too, don’t they?

  17. Zircon*

    #2 – Benjamin. I think you need to have a team action plan. He sounds needy, but you also have jobs to do. As a team, when he arrives, have one person offer to help him. When they’ve been busy for 20 minutes, one team member needs to approach and say “Excuse me, Sara, we need you in the office / at admin / to talk on the phone.” and Sara says “Excuse me Benjamin. I need to go now.” And then walk away!
    I’d also suggest that as a team, you practice doing this. One of you take the role of Benjamin and others as yourselves. Have a bit of fun doing it, but make sure you are all confident to walk away from Benjamin. Yes, he might call after you, so work together to make a script you are happy with. “Sorry, I have other work I need to do now.” “Sorry, I have to talk to others now.” Rinse and repeat – just keep saying it and walking away.

    1. TinySoprano*

      Agreed. An action plan in writing and agreed upon by everyone (not Benjamin, obviously), would also serve as a good CYA in case he complains to someone higher up (as another commenter sagely pointed out he might). It shows that you HAVE dedicated a fair amount of time to him, if say the plan indicates he gets a standard appointment worth of time from someone if they’re available.

      1. LondonLady*

        Seconding this! Takes me back to my time in public library desk duty when we had some very lonely and needy clients. If they became more than reasonably demanding we would put a management plan in place for them and brief all staff so we were all aware. The tone was warm but firm: eg “Lovely to see you Joyce – I can spend 20 minutes with you today, and of course you are welcome to stay as long as you like by yourself. Let’s get you sat down over here… so what can I help with before I get back to the desk?” Then “Well, that’s my 20 minutes up Joyce, so I’ll get back to helping the others now. Stay as long as you like, safe journey home and we’ll see you again next time.”

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          This is so very common at the public library. We have lots of practice with this so please adapt this advice for your setting.

          I’ll add in what others said earlier:
          1. Also find a way to make referrals, you cannot meet all his needs. Just drop this into your convo at what might feel like a random point, “Oh, did you know that x agency provides y service, you should check them out!” You can add that fake relative of yours loved it. Also, 211 used to provide daily phone calls for lonely seniors. Maybe check that out and if they still do, refer him.
          2. As you set boundaries, he will complain to higher ups. Track everything you do with him, at least the times he is there, how long, etc.

          I know how draining this can be. I’m sorry!

          1. gmg22*

            Great ideas. I volunteer for Meals on Wheels, and the agency that runs the program also pulls from our volunteer pool to set up calls or visits with seniors who live alone. Sometimes they send the word out looking for people who speak a particular language, etc. (Of course we shoot the breeze with our clients while delivering meals — I have one particular very chatty client who I know to save 10 extra minutes for, lol — but the calls or visits are more relaxed and a nice offering for those who are interested.)

    2. WS*

      Yes, I work in pharmacy so we quite often get people wanting assistance with everything from filling out forms to venting about their sick relative to having a chat. And there are always (often but not always older) people who get a little attention and kindness and are desperate for more, or latch onto one staff member. And sometimes get really aggressive when they don’t get what they want, though we’ve rarely had to ban anyone and it doesn’t sound like Benjamin rises to that level.

      Rehearse in advance, look out for each other, be consistent and kind but firm. Benjamin’s needs cannot all be met by you, and you cannot make him be happy about it, but you can do your job with kindness and be clear about what that job is.

      1. Zap R.*

        There’s a guy who goes to my pharmacy and he insists on paying for everything in cash and will only accept change minted before a certain date. (Something to do with the laundromat he goes to.) One pharmacist decided to indulge him *once* and now it’s a straight-up If You Give A Mouse A Cookie situation. I’ve been stuck behind this guy for ages while he personally inspects every coin.

    3. Carolyn*

      Your advice reminded me of an episode of How I Met Your Mother where they use a cute teacup pig as the person they need to deliver boundaries to and role play with the pig.

  18. Not A Manager*

    #1 – Back when large stones were more common in engagement sets, women would frequently have a second engagement band without a stone, for less dressy occasions. If you feel that your ring will send a less-professional message in general, you could get a plain wide band in the same metal as your wedding ring, and wear that set in professional contexts. Keep the big ring for “social” situations.

    1. londonedit*

      Here in the UK, the norm is for the engagement ring to be the one with the stones, and then the wedding ring is either a plain metal band or, these days, often a metal band channel-set with very small stones. It’s quite usual for people who have larger engagement rings to just wear their wedding ring on a day-to-day basis, and add the engagement ring if they’re going out or dressing up a bit more. Plenty of people do wear both all the time, but if you have a larger ring then it can make sense to leave it off and just wear the wedding band.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yes, same in the US, but for this LW the large ring is her wedding band not her engagement ring.

        1. londonedit*

          Right, I was confused by the ‘boyfriend proposed with’ the ring bit, which makes it sound like an engagement ring, but then the OP refers to it as a wedding ring, which here wouldn’t be the one you propose with, and then Not A Manager mentioned ‘a plain wide band in the same metal as your wedding ring’ which further confused me because here a plain wide band *is* a wedding ring, and an engagement ring is usually a thinner band with a solitaire/cluster/line of stones.

          1. metadata minion*

            There’s no reason someone couldn’t propose with the same ring used as a wedding ring, especially when the heirloom one is so special. Having a big fancy ring just for the proposal is such a racket.

            1. doreen*

              I don’t think anyone is talking about a big fancy ring just for the proposal. People are a little confused because this ring seems to be an engagement ring ( since it was used for the proposal and has a single large stone) but the LW calls it a wedding ring ( which is normally received at the ceremony and is either a plain band or one with multiple small stones.) Either or both can be heirlooms. It doesn’t make any difference as far as Alison’s advice goes, but if the LW is wearing only this ring with a large stone , people will assume she is engaged not married ( which may or may not make a difference as far as additional assumptions)

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, I think people are sort of gatekeeping what counts as a wedding ring here. Some people just have a single ring that covered both wedding and engagement (I do because that was my preference).

              1. Loredena*

                This. My engagement ring was a very basic small solitaire and we bought a pair of pretty matching bands for wedding rings. After the ceremony I had a jeweler carefully move the solitaire to my wedding band and that’s what I wear.

          2. Joielle*

            I had my engagement ring (center sapphire surrounded by small diamonds) and wedding band (thin band with channel set sapphires) permanently soldered together after the wedding – the jeweler said that if I intended to wear them together all the time, that was the best thing to do so they don’t spin against each other and cause damage. Plus I just find it easier to have one ring to keep track of. So… lots of variations possible.

            1. Velociraptor Attack*

              Likewise, my rings are soldered together and I refer to them as “my wedding ring” because technically, it’s one ring, but it’s an engagement ring with a diamond solitaire and a wedding band with pave diamonds.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, I was thinking the same sort of thing.

      You could even buy a cheap “interview” ring at Walmart for <$50. It shows you're married (and so thus serves as a filter for those things mentioned in the response) but isn't terribly distracting.

      1. Antilles*

        You can buy nice looking silicone wedding bands online for between $20 and $30. My wife and I each have one and we’ll often wear those rather than our actual bands – and I’ve recommended them to all my friends and pretty much everybody who’s gotten one has found it incredibly useful. It’s just so convenient to have a wedding band which still conveys the message but is replaceable enough that you don’t really have to worry about scratches or damage.

        1. Catwhisperer*

          Came here to suggest this, I think silicone bands are becoming much more common for everyday wear and no one would bat an eye if you go with that option.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        I have several secondhand / faux engagement rings and wedding band sets that I wear when I’m traveling for work.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          To clarify, I’m not married and never have been, but I’ve found that just having a band on cuts down on the amount of creepiness I encounter when I’m staffing conventions.

          1. Gracely*

            That’s exactly why I used to wear a faux engagement ring. It helped a lot, but unfortunately, it didn’t always work. Literally had a guy ask me if I was “the cheating type” when he noticed the ring.

      3. Employee No. 24601*

        This whole comment section is making me realize that people think a lot more about others’ rings than I realized!

        I’m not a big jewelry person, so I wear my ring when the mood strikes me and don’t when it doesn’t. There’s no pattern or consistency to when I wear it or with what types of outfits. It hadn’t occurred to me that people gave it much thought I guess because I don’t. (if you asked me to tell you which of my coworkers wear rings I’d be hard pressed to do so)

        Now I’m wondering if anyone I work with has an elaborate fiction in their head about my “tumultuous” relationship that makes me keep taking off my ring!

        1. Daisy-dog*

          I think it’s a “Don’t think about pink elephants” situation. Suddenly, everyone’s remembering the few instances in their professional life that they have thought about jewelry. It’s not a common thought.

          My husband and I are also not super consistent ring wearers and I highly doubt anyone notices.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, I think people are just thinking “what would I think if somebody wasn’t wearing a wedding ring?” or “what would I think if somebody I’d never previously seen wearing a wedding ring suddenly turned up with one?” or whatever and are therefore thinking about it more than they might in the actual situation. Like you don’t remember the things you didn’t notice.

        2. DataSci*

          Same! I absolutely can’t tell you which of my colleagues wear rings at all, far less how big and sparkly they are. It’s eye-opening to see how many people notice that sort of thing!

  19. nnn*

    #3: is it tax season where you are? (It currently is in Canada and the US.)

    If yes, and if you find you need some kind of narrative for why you might be just realizing this discrepancy now, you could say or hint that you were going through paperwork to do your taxes. That’s a real-life reason why millions of people are currently looking more closely at paperwork that they previously may have stuck in a file unread.

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      Excellent point! I always seem to make new discoveries when reviewing documents for taxes.

  20. MuseumChick*

    LW 2, I’m sorry you have having t deal with this. I’ve been there and its VERY frustrating. There are a couple of ways you can handle it but the two main things are 1. Exactly what Alison says, accept the you measurement of success with him is not making him happy. and 2. Document every interaction.

    In some cases I’ve seen a manager will take over all interactions with the person. If that is not possible then management needs to craft scripts for all of you to use with him. Whether that be reminding Ben you only have 20 minuets or just letting him ramble and then saying “Ok Ben, we are at the end of our allotted time. I’ll see you next Thursday morning.”

  21. Morning reader*

    On the ring question, I’m a bit confused. LW says wedding ring but mentions her husband proposed with it. So that’s an engagement ring, not a wedding ring. If it is actually a wedding ring, I suggest getting a simple band substitute (metal or otherwise) for everyday wear.

    It’s not necessary, or usual in my opinion, to continue to wear an engagement ring every day after you are married. Save it for bling-appropriate social occasions.

    I have seen some people continue to wear both wedding and engagement rings together. I believe some sets are designed to fit together to be worn that way. To me, it tends to read “I’m rich and I want to flash that in front of everyone,” and/or “look, some man picked me, I have high value on the marriage market.” Now, these are my own biases and I like to think I wouldn’t give that weight in a hiring situation. But choosing between two equal candidates, one who gave off a “I need a hobby job to keep me occupied while my wealthy husband supports me” vibe and one who didn’t… well I agree with Alison. Take it off or sub in something less flashy.

    Flashy diamond engagement rings in the workplace may be pretty but they are not a good look, in my opinion. Too much weight in the symbolism.

    1. Joielle*

      Wait, why would an engagement ring read as “some man picked me” but not a wedding ring? If you’re married, then a man has also “picked you” (although that’s an incredibly yikes way to think of it).

      In my circles, anyways, it’s incredibly common to wear an engagement ring and wedding band together after the wedding.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      As you say, these sound more like your own biases.. I can’t imagine people are paying that much attention to jewelry, or making those assumptions. Maybe I’m just your stereotypical clueless male when it comes to these things though.

      And also, I think it’s pretty common to wear both the engagement ring and wedding band (my wife does this, been married for 20+ yrs)

      1. Antilles*

        It’s incredibly common to wear both the engagement ring and wedding band. In fact, when you go in as an engaged couple to pick wedding bands, one of the first questions that the jeweler asks is if you plan on buying a wedding band that matches your engagement ring so you can wear both because it’s such a common thing.

        1. Cake or Death*

          Yeah, extremely common. Id’ even go so far as to say that’s the norm, in the US at least. My mom wears both everyday and that’s been like 30 years now.
          Personally, I only wear one ring, but that was planned from the start and my ring is a style that actually looks like 2 rings. But I picked it out, I paid half of it, and I’m the main breadwinner of the household with a rising 10+ year career….so, clearly their biases are accurate /s

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I don’t have a wedding band because my engagement ring is an odd shape and I didn’t want to overpay to have a wedding band fitted into it. 10+ years later, only 1 person asked about me only wearing my diamond ring. His daughter had just gotten engaged, so he had rings on the brain (also this was a peer not a manager). He fully understood when I explained it.

    4. bamcheeks*

      But choosing between two equal candidates, one who gave off a “I need a hobby job to keep me occupied while my wealthy husband supports me” vibe and one who didn’t…

      This would be illegal discrimination in the UK. However, if your jurisdiction doesn’t ban discrimination based on marital status, it’s just sexist and ignorant.

    5. Apparently wearing my engagement ring means I'm a bored trophy wife*

      To me, it tends to read “I’m rich and I want to flash that in front of everyone,” and/or “look, some man picked me, I have high value on the marriage market.” Now, these are my own biases and I like to think I wouldn’t give that weight in a hiring situation. But choosing between two equal candidates, one who gave off a “I need a hobby job to keep me occupied while my wealthy husband supports me” vibe and one who didn’t… well I agree with Alison. Take it off or sub in something less flashy.

      Yikes. You know it is SUPER sexist to assume all of that BS from a piece of jewelry a whole bunch of women regularly wear, right? I really hope you’re not hiring people often, because I’d be ashamed to work with someone who had such gross opinions about women.

      I’ve worn my engagement ring/wedding ring together for almost 10 years, and I’ve had a really successful career so far (and despite what I’m sure you’d assume, my husband has had nothing to do with that career!). I can’t imagine how hurt I’d be if someone saw my very normal jewelry and assumed the kind of things you’ve said here.

      FWIW, in my experience, people wearing engagement/wedding rings together is much more common than what you’re describing. It’s possible it’s a regional thing, but geez, you really need to look inward if you’re jumping to all these sexist conclusions based on something as trivial as jewelry.

    6. CommanderBanana*

      …I’m sorry, what? Are you admitting that you wouldn’t pick a candidate solely because they happen to wear both an engagement ring and a wedding ring? And that you can also magically intuit both that they are married to a man AND that they’re trying to signal their ‘high value on the marriage market’?

      I really hope you aren’t actually in charge of hiring decision, because what in the bananapants did I just read.

    7. T.N.H.*

      I truly don’t think I know a single person who stopped wearing their engagement ring after getting married. This is wildly off base and inaccurate, not to mention sexist. Also, my value in the workplace has NOTHING to do with my husband’s presumed income (in this case, it’s a family heirloom and they are not even rich). Please take some time to examine those biases.

      1. Ella Kate (UK)*

        I did!

        … because I developed extremely temperamental contact dermatitis that flared if I wore rings for more than a few hours so it was just easier to keep my rings for best, and because I do full-time caregiving for my husband and I didnt want to risk hurting him with them (or me!).

    8. Cake or Death*

      These are definitely your own biases. And wearing both your engagement ring with your wedding band after you’re married is extremely common, not just “some people”.

      “I need a hobby job to keep me occupied while my wealthy husband supports me”
      This is a really gross opinion to have and you should really spend some time examining this. Like how you assume that the ring was absolutely picked out by the man and that he was the only one that paid for it. Get with the times. I picked out my own ring and paid half for it. This is not unusual these days. You know what they say about assumptions…

    9. A Lesbian*

      Your assumption that a woman with a wedding band is married to a man is heteronormative, on top of sexist and misogynistic.

    10. Silicon Valley Girl*

      Emily Post disagrees with you about not wearing an engagement ring after a wedding – etiquette says typically the engagement ring is moved from the left hand to the right, that’s it.

      And the rest of your “biases” are incredibly rudely biased.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I wonder when that changed? I feel like the majority of women I know who have both an engagement and a wedding ring wear both on the same finger and stack them.

        I also didn’t know that you are supposed to (at least I was told you are supposed to) wear the rings with the wedding band on first and then the engagement ring, which I think is weird because wouldn’t you want the wedding band to sort of act as a guard ring for the engagement ring, which tends to be more top-heavy?

        1. Lydia*

          Most of the people I know who have a set and wear them both, do this. I was completely unaware of the custom of switching it to your right hand.

        2. RagingADHD*

          I’m An Old who reads etiquette books for fun (though not Emily Post specifically) and I have never heard of moving the engagement ring being a “typical” custom in my lifetime. It’s either worn on the left or taken off for practicality.

          The only left-to-right switch I’m familiar with as a common practice is for widows to move their wedding band and/or engagement ring to the right hand.

    11. Lydia*

      This is a whole nest of shitty, sexist biases. You shouldn’t be hiring or managing anyone. At all.

    12. LilPinkSock*

      Wow. I wear both my rings. So does my mother. So does my sister. So do many married women I know.

      It’s pretty gross to read someone proudly saying they wouldn’t hire us because we choose to wear our engagement and wedding rings.

    13. Um, What?*

      Suggestion: If you’d like to think someone else’s ring choices and marital status wouldn’t influence your hiring choices, perhaps don’t admit that you wouldn’t hire a woman simply because she’s married.

    14. NeutralJanet*

      I feel like buying an engagement ring to wear for the year or so between your engagement and wedding and then never again is much more of a braggy statement about wealth.

  22. HonorBox*

    OP1 – While I think Alison is right that some people might make assumptions about a younger married woman needing maternity leave, I think the opposite might be true too. You may run into interviewers whose unconscious bias might lead them to think that a younger married person (gender doesn’t matter here) might be more likely to stay in a job longer term. A single young person “is just looking to climb the ladder” or “has no actual attachments to keep them from moving as soon as we get them trained” or something like that. All that to say, I think you’re probably going to run into some sort of unfair assumption being made.

    That said, I’d strongly suggest getting a plain ring – just a simple band – that you could wear in situations where you’re concerned about the assumptions someone could make about you based on your wedding ring and the diamond on it. It also is nice if you want to always wear your wedding ring but your present ring is uncomfortable when you’re golfing or gardening or _____. My wife got a plain band a number of years ago and wears it instead of the ring that was exchanged on our wedding day and she’s VERY happy to have it.

    1. I have RBF*

      My wife often works with her hands, so she wears her wedding ring on a chain around her neck so she doesn’t lose it.

  23. Llama Llama*

    OP3 – FWIW my company reimbursed me for childcare. At the time, I paid my nanny cash. Well mannnnnnny months after the fact this reimbursement was audited. Apparently cash payments was an acceptable way to pay and was on the policy. So I had to pay the money back. My grandboss was copied on those communications. I didn’t get in trouble and my grandboss was frustrated for me that cash wasn’t good enough.
    My nanny was paid via Venmo was then in though….

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Oooof. I think I share your grandboss’s frustration.

        So cash no, because no tracking, but Venmo yes, because they can and do track things and report payments of over $600 to the IRS?

  24. Chairman of the Bored*

    If the tuition reimbursement policy doesn’t cover fees that are in practical terms a major component of the employee’s education costs the tuition policy perhaps needs to be adjusted.

    It seems the spirit of the program is for the employee to obtain further education at negligible cost, regardless of what any specific cost is technically called a “fee”.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yes, it’s a crummy policy but I don’t think LW can push back on it at this point!

      1. LJ*

        Sure they could… “I realized when reviewing my statements that . As it is a significant portion of the cost of the program , I was also wondering if we can consider changing the policy to cover fees like this

        It’s unlikely to persuade, but who knows, at this point maybe a higher-level decision maker will have to look at the situation, and they could be persuaded to change the policy

        1. LJ*

          I accidentally turned a bunch of text into italics… what I was trying to say was something like “I realized when reviewing my statements that {insert explanation about overplayment and the fact that they know from the first semester that it wasn’t a covered fee} {insert willingness to pay it back and adjust the claims} {then something like As it is a significant portion of the cost of the program , I was also wondering if we can consider changing the policy to cover fees like this

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Tuition reimbursement at Old Job also did not include fees, just tuition. It was a taxpayer thing (worked for a city).

      The in state online university that offered our professional degree had an itemized list that included fees so only about 70% of the degree was paid by Old Job. So, I found an online university with an itemized list that read only: Tuition, 100% of the charges. So I got my entire degree paid for by Old Job. And, comparing notes with coworkers, my education was better and more interesting. And about the same cost as the in-state degree.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        When I did tuition reimbursement at my old company they paid for everything except:
        1) Campus parking passes
        2) Shipping for textbooks

        One semester I accidentally claimed the entire cost of a book including shipping, instead of just the cost of the book itself.

        Somebody in HR actually caught that ~$5 shipping charge and declined to reimburse me, despite the fact that it was included in a complex mid-four-figure request.

        I wasn’t even mad, just impressed by the thoroughness of whatever underpaid clerk at HQ they had going through these requests with a fine-tooth comb.

    3. Epsilon Delta*

      I’m receiving tuition reimbursement and my company limits it to about $5,200 a year. That’s an IRS limit. If they reimburse more than that, the employee would start to owe taxes on the amount over the limit. My understanding is it’s quite common for companies to cap tuition reimbursement. The goal is not to pay for the employee’s education in full but to help offset the costs because the company gets some benefit from the employee’s education.

    4. Generic Name*

      This is my take. I feel like “tuition reimbursement” is shorthand for “what it costs to get a degree”. Does the language from the company policy specifically exclude fees? If not, I think OP is probably OK, but it might be a good idea to check if fees are explicitly excluded, and if they are, you can say something like, “I’m glad I checked because I realized I used the wrong receipt when I requested reimbursement”

      1. sundae funday*

        I think it probably does specifically exclude fees… but what is typically meant by “fees” is stuff like a parking fee or a service fee…. When half the money that is paid for a particular class is listed as a “fee,” that should be considered part of the tuition. I assume this is something like a “lab fee” that’s tacked on.

        It seems like the employer is using loopholes to avoid paying, which is much more unethical than the LW not giving them an itemized receipt….

    5. sundae funday*

      Totally agree! I’m kind of surprised at all these comments blasting the LW for “committing fraud” and “stealing.”

      Presumably, the employer advertises tuition reimbursement… and if half of a required class is a “fee” that the employer doesn’t cover, it’s misleading, and perhaps intentionally so. To me, it’s much more unethical to say you do tuition reimbursement but then use loopholes and “grey areas” so that you don’t have to actually, you know, reimburse the tuition. That a certain amount of money is called a “fee” doesn’t actually matter if the fee is required for a particular class.

      When I hear “tuition reimbursement doesn’t cover fees,” I think of things like parking fees and service fees… not “fees” that are half the class….

      But my opinion is pretty unpopular here, apparently!

      1. fgcommenter*

        To me, it’s much more unethical to say you do tuition reimbursement but then use loopholes and “grey areas” so that you don’t have to actually, you know, reimburse the tuition.


        But my opinion is pretty unpopular here, apparently!

        “What is right is not always popular, what is popular is not always right.”

    6. Looper*

      I’ve worked for many employers with tuition reimbursement policies and very few see “employees gain further education at negligible cost” as the point/spirit of the policy. The “spirit” is to get employees under a financially enforceable contract that makes leaving for another company unattractive. Most have stipulations that you have to continue to work for them for X number of years or you have to pay back the money they reimbursed you. Often they only cover certain degree programs or certification. I think it’s unlikely LW will be punished for pointing out the error and paying back the money, but I think it’s very unlikely that the policy would be changed to be more beneficial to employees.

  25. MuseumChick*

    LW 2, having seen this dynamic play out multiple times my advice is management needs to get more involved. People like Ben will never be happy so stop trying to make him happy. When I’ve seen this happen before either A) A manager will always deal with the person when they come in or B) Management will make scripts and give clear directive on how to deal with the person for the whole staff.

    1. El l*

      Yeah, OP needs their bosses backing – but I don’t know if it’ll matter whether the boss deals directly with Benjamin or not.

      Above all, the mentality shift that has to happen is pretty much what Alison said – (a) The complaints will never go away, (b) They have other clients, so (c) Benjamin needs a tight time limit on how much help they get every week.

      Benjamin has needs far beyond what they can help with, and he takes out everything wrong in their life on OP and their colleagues. Sounds like there’s nothing they can do about that. The best they can do is set an allotted amount of time to deal with him, and to fill that time. That’s success here.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      One thing I learned from my time in customer service is that some customers don’t come to us to be satisfied. They come to us looking for things to complain about. They don’t actually want those things fixed. In fact, if you were to change things according to their exact specifications, they’d still find reasons to complain about it. They want to complain because they can’t figure out any other way of getting time and attention from staff, so they’ve made it their go-to. On some level, you can’t make Benjamin happy because he’s at his happiest when he’s being performatively unhappy. So stop playing the game and stick to what you’re able to offer him.

  26. married now*

    I’m in my 40’s now, but when I was in my 30’s interviewing for leadership positions in a male led field, I never wore my wedding ring. I felt that if they saw I was married, they assume I’d take maternity leave and I’d lose the job to a man. Maybe it was my own paranoia, but I felt like it just gave me that edge that my experience and reputation couldn’t.

  27. Seahorse*

    #3 – Not sure if anyone else mentioned it, but that deceptive fee structure is quite common in higher ed. It’s a way for schools to technically cap their tuition for advertisement or state funding purposes, but still draw the revenue they need / want. I don’t want to derail on a discussion of tuition costs, but it’s a known issue.

    Ethics aside, I understand & sympathize with feeling ambushed by bills you can’t afford, frustrated by the false promise of a “reimbursement” that only covers half the amount, and tempted by an accounting system that’s easy to manipulate and doesn’t seem to notice the cost.

    Sort it out and make it right, though, because ethics are important. People can make foolish and impulsive decisions, especially around money, but IMO, fixing the “mistake” is important for the sake of your own integrity, plus keeping your job.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Agreed. While it is not GREAT that LW did this, I can see where they were coming from. Doesn’t make it right. But I get the iimpulse.

      It also sucks that some fees ARE in a grey area and might be covered and others definitely are not.

      So best to clean it up and go forth with a clear conscience.

    2. Wintermute*

      This is really well put and I agree entirely.

      The only thing I would add is not only is it a matter of ethics and integrity, but it could be a legal matter. It’s the kind of thing that’s extremely unlikely to be prosecuted but what they did is theft (or, depending on the state, fraud). But to prove theft/fraud they need to prove intent.

      Bringing it to their attention and paying it back is mutually exclusive with intent to defraud, and it would make it very difficult if not impossible to prosecute, when it’s already a small amount and unlikely to cause much attention. So it’s a matter of legal CYA as well as morality.

    3. Budgie Buddy*

      Yes, I think OP should come clean and take steps to pay what they owe. They’re already stressed about this and the longer the discrepancy goes undetected the more it will become a sword of Damocles hanging over OP’s head.

      I wish I could tell OP that their higher ups will appreciate them thinking better of this deception and coming forward to make it right, even if they get a penalty for the original deception. But some people take the attitude of “Well I can excuse fraud but being honest about trying to fix it is just stupid.” :/ but that’s on them, not OP.

    4. sundae funday*

      I actually think the company may be more unethical… if they advertise tuition reimbursement and then find loopholes to avoid reimbursing tuition….

      OP should still fess up to protect themselves, but I think the people blasting them for “committing fraud” and “stealing” are being a tad dramatic.

      1. Seahorse*

        That’s why I’m on board with the narrative of fixing a mistake rather than confessing to fraud. I don’t think anyone here is being totally above board, and it doesn’t seem right that the person with the least clout and fewest resources should lose their job for trying to fix a one-time lapse in judgement.
        Make it right financially, don’t do it again, and take the whole experience as an unfortunate lesson in reading the fine print.

  28. Snooks*

    #2 Benjamin Try using a kitchen timer where he can see the time count down and know that when it rings, his session is over.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I love this idea.

      Although I also suspect that Benjamin is part cat and would just swat it off the table at 18-minute mark.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I doubt this would stop his complaining, though it’s a good solution if the LW is having trouble saying Benjamin’s time is over themselves.

    3. Office Lobster DJ*

      Or set an alarm on a phone, if people have trouble getting a word in edgewise with him.

    1. Peanut Hamper*


      This takes me back to college when I had a job when I asked for a raise and the boss said the only reason he paid minimum wage was because the government made him pay me that and if he could pay me less, he would.

      Talk about a motivation-killer.

      It’s possible that LW’s pay is out of the boss’s hands (it seems to be a largish-company), but it is still a terrible thing for the boss to say.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      Yep. It reminded me of an internship I had over 20 years ago, when I asked for a raise based on obtaining an advanced degree about 5 months into the yearlong internship (common practice for this type of internship). I was told I was already being paid the higher rate, which I had no way of knowing, and the attitude was ‘how dare you ask for more.’ Ugh.

      Any time a manager makes that claim “you make too much” or try to shame you for asking for a raise, they suck. Even if the raise request is completely unreasonable, there are better ways to handle it than that.

  29. Lilo*

    I get LW4’s frustration but I don’t think the LinkedIn Post is a good idea and isn’t likely to attract the kind of employer you want.

    It’s also a risky move because it alerted your employer you’re trying to leave and a crappy employer (which yours definitely is based on their pattern of behavior) could punish you for it. so if you do make that kind of public post you have to be prepared for potential consequences. But I just don’t think it’s likely to help in a job search either.

    I’d really recommend not doing that. I get wanting to vent, but I think LinkedIn especially which is a bit known for being a cesspool of toxic articles, is a particularly bad forum for doing so.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I wouldn’t have encouraged OP to make the LinkedIn post, but I don’t think it’s terrible that they did so. A lot of people tap their networks through LinkedIn, and it’s emerging as one of the top three places jobs are posted. They were explicit it was for an additional job, and unless the boss sharing it was some kind of power play it doesn’t seem like there’s backlash there.

    2. El l*

      Yeah, can’t endorse looking for a second job on LinkedIn.

      While I’m hopeful they’re already doing it, where OP should be focusing their efforts is on finding a full-time primary job that pays them what they’re worth.

  30. DataSci*

    OP #1, I’m someone who pays very little attention to other people’s jewelry, so take this for what it’s worth. But if I noticed an unusually large stone in someone’s ring, I’d be more likely to think “that’s probably not a diamond” than “she’s probably loaded”. This may be because I know a couple people with moissonite rings who were happy to tell people what they were.

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      I would think the same thing, but I don’t know that it helps OP. Most people are going to think “diamond” first, and if they start thinking, “well, maybe it’s moissonite or cubic zirconia,” that question will simply be another distraction.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      My take is it doesn’t matter what they think — the problem is you don’t want them distracted by it and thinking anything.

      I don’t pay attention to rings, but I will notice and remember something particularly eye-catching. Being memorable in an interview is often a good thing, but an accessory THAT distinctive that might inspire questions about class / money / etc is best avoided. And easily avoided at that! Just take it off. We can’t always remove parts of us that others might find distracting ;)

  31. HugeTractsofLand*

    #3- Before you interact with HR, I would practice striking the right tone. I can tell how guilty you feel about this, but you don’t want your guilt to be the dominant tone of the interaction- some people can get so abject in their apologies that it raises flags. While your guilt is genuine, I would try to refocus on your equally sincere desire to fix the record, along the lines of “I found this stupid mistake, let’s get it fixed right away!” as opposed to “I screwed up SO badly, can I please pay you back?” That mental shift might help you feel more comfortable approaching HR if nothing else. Good luck!

    1. baby twack*

      Good call. And if you’re trying to explain away sending the full bill instead of an itemized one, you grabbed the wrong attachment. I do this enough when reconciling my company credit card that I can assure you it is quite plausible.

      1. Wintermute*

        I would hesitate to use this just because it might dip into the aforementioned “protests too much” territory. You sent what you had on hand, simple. Bringing up the fact you changed the form of bill if they don’t mention it first is just bringing more attention to your intent to defraud. If they DO mention it first it pays to have an answer ready but it should bring the least amount of attention to the issue as possible.

        1. HugeTractsofLand*

          Yeah, I think that you can make it sound like an honest mistake in a few ways other than saying you grabbed the wrong attachment, since it was your first time requesting reimbursement and maybe your first time being billed by the institution. You could keep it simple and say “I thought that the bill I submitted covered tuition, but I just realized that there were other fees bundled in there too. Based on *this* breakdown it looks like I owe you $600, can you confirm?”

  32. Erika22*

    #1 – I had a friend in a similar scenario a few years ago – the diamond on her engagement ring was huge and flashy, and she didn’t want it distracting her interviewers when she was job-hunting. However, she was also interviewing for jobs at schools in traditionally underserved districts, so it would also look really out of touch for her to be wearing a huge diamond. Since her marriage was still new at this time, she either flipped the ring upside down so the diamond was hidden in her hand, or just wore her wedding band. Now I think she just wears her wedding band (big rock doesn’t go well with having a baby at home either!)

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    In my experience, in most companies you would be fine coming clean and paying it back – as others have said there are so many errors like this that happen it’s not uncommon.

    If you want some extra security though, you have “mutually assured destruction” with whoever approved your expense without looking more closely!

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > “mutually assured destruction”

      Not really though, because the approver would probably just get a rap on the knuckles or maybe an official reprimand, but OP could (and would in many places) be fired.

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        Yes – internal controls are there in order to catch fraud, but biffing it on an immaterial control step is not in the same category (on principle, legally, or likely in company policy) as actually perpetrating the fraud.

    2. Observer*

      If you want some extra security though, you have “mutually assured destruction”

      Why and how? Keep in mind that whoever approved the incorrect payment is not likely to be the person who would decide to fire the OP. So, the person who would decide to fire the OP over this in this kind of context, where the OP is trying to make it right, is just a capable of severely penalizing the approver.

      On the other hand, if it were up to the approver, that person could just as likely try to make the OP the fall guy to protect themselves.

      Mutually assured destruction sometimes works, but not as often as in novels.

  34. ThisisTodaysName*

    Is it possible, just for the length of the interview to either turn the ring so that the stone is facing inward to your palm, if it can be done discreetly? I do this a lot, but it’s more when I’m doing something that my stone will interfere with, get caught on etc…. Or put it on your other hand, which would then look like maybe a family heirloom… Assuming that you do want to wear it at all. Just a couple ideas.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m not sure having it on the other hand would automatically scream heirloom, or make it any less distracting. And if OP talks with her hands I don’t know that palming it would be all that discreet either. Not that those aren’t good ideas, it just seems strange to work that hard when “don’t wear it for an hour” is an easy solution.

      1. ThisisTodaysName*

        Hence, “Assuming that you do want to wear it at all.” I know many women who would be horrified at the idea of removing their wedding rings for any reason. I on the other hand, wear mine maybe once a month, but if she is a “I really prefer to wear it” person…. a couple of ideas. I also talk with my hand but I realized that usually the back of my hands tend to face the other person, rarely if ever am I palms forward… it’s not a natural “move” … for me anyway.

  35. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    I had a slightly different take on the boss’ statement for LW4, re: “You already make too much.” Could she have meant, “You already make too much” in relation to the company’s pay band structure? That doesn’t mean it’s a living wage by any means, but that she may not have authority or power over shifting that. If this is the case, she could have put it a better way or explained this better, but just wanted to offer a reason why she was trying to help amplify the post in a way that isn’t disingenuous.

  36. Union Organizer*

    LW5, teachers’ unions aren’t just for public schools! And if your school is violating federal labor law on the first document they hand you each year, I imagine it’s not the only crappy thing they’re doing. What else is going on at your workplace? What issues are most staff feeling, and what happens to people who try to raise them alone? Think that over and then do some searching on a non-employer computer. The American Federation of Teachers is generally more active in organizing private schools than the National Education Association (also I know some of the AFT charter/private organizers and I know they’re good folks for this), so I suggest starting there. Also happy to chat directly :)

    1. Another Teacher*

      Not the OP, but I’m very interested in this. If I post a burner email, would you be willing to send me some info?

    2. Letter-Writer #5*

      I brought it up to HR and was blown off in the WEIRDEST way! I was honestly a bit shocked. I said it in the most straightforward – I’m sure you’d want to know this because why wouldn’t you it’s ILLEGAL but I’m sure you want to do the right thing! – kind of way, and she got so defensive, hostile, and condescending. She told me that she’s pretty sure that’s not true and that discussing pay is incredibly unprofessional. I didn’t know what to say! I was like….um, I don’t have thoughts on the professionalism (lies, I very much do), but I just wanted to let you guys know what the LAW says! She told me to go ask our finance guy because he used to work in an attorney’s office (??) and he read it and then said “Yup, this looks great to me! We definitely want this in there.” The vibe was so aggressive, and I (maybe naively) wasn’t expecting that. So I was just left and was like ok, just wanted you guys to know! So now I have to decide if I want to rock the boat anymore, and whether I should sign my contract with this line in it. I’m mostly happy with this job (no job in education is every going to be completely perfect!) but their response made me so uncomfortable. Even if I had been wrong, I thought it was a weird way to respond to an employee asking a question or bringing something up. It really speaks to the culture of the school.

  37. TomatoSoup*

    OP3 I feel you on the fees. My school has an administrative fee that is applied per credit hour. Why not just charge the higher credit hour amount and be done with it? I don’t know and don’t like it. Luckily, it is not as big as what you described. This in addition to fees charged annually or per semester for things like student activities.

    1. Lydia*

      Nothing burns me more than an administrative fee. I have to pay you a fee for the privilege of taking my money? Flames. Flames on the side of my face.

    2. Coco*

      A lot of college fees are just BS. Especially when they are “mandatory fees”. If I cannot opt out of the fees, then just add it to the sticker cost of tuition. I took an online course and was charged a “transportation fee”. The school said was supposed to support the various free student shuttles around campus. I tried to argue that as an online student, I will never utilize a shuttle. They wouldn’t budge, so I had to pay it.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        And a lot of fees are not. If you are in nursing you are using a lot more supplies, equipment, and resources, than someone in English. Should those costs be shared by all students, or by the people who actually incur them? We don’t ask everyone to pay the same amount for books.

        And colleges get less and less funding per student each year, even as they are told to educate more and more people. The state used to pay about 70% of costs (the rest paid by tuition, grants, etc.) and now pay about 35%. It is not the university’s fault that they do not have the funding they used to. Nor is it the student’s – our society should put a value on education AND getting people into the right training as not everyone can do college level work.

  38. Meep*

    #1 – Going a bit back to yesterday’s questions of nylons, unless you are interviewing a very feminine role (i.e. receptionist, secretary), it is often recommended that women dress as masculine as possible to seem more “competent”. I hate it, but that is the way of this man-made world we live in. A large wedding ring (or a wedding ring at all) has the same effect. The interviewers will only see a woman who will leave soonish to raise kids because that is all we are good for. /sarcasm

    Take it as someone who was assumed to be pregnant every time she got sick once her (female) boss found out about her S.O., ditch the ring.

    1. bigender menace*

      “It is often recommended that women dress as masculine as possible”

      I’ve never heard this advice, but I’m going to assume there’s an unspoken “without actually coming across as gender-nonconforming” in there somewhere, because I and any of my trans and butch lesbian friends would testify that being read as a really masculine woman is not exactly a free pass to avoid sexual harassment/discrimination and gain social standing — quite the opposite, if anything.

        1. Meep*

          Nope. Anything that doesn’t scream “I am feminine” should be avoided in male-dominated industries when being interviewed. I don’t make the rules. I just am forced to live in them.

      1. Meep*

        Actually no. Gender-neutral is ok. By this, I mean wearing pants and non-flattering clothing with little to no jewelry or make-up. It is pretty known in the engineering field that if you wear a skirt and a blouse to an interview all they will see is tits which will equal “baby factory” and no one wants to waste time on a woman who will leave in a year or two to have a baby.

        And again, this is just for interviews. Women (including myself) get sexually harassed all the time for wearing sweatshirts.

      2. Dell*

        And this probably depends on the industry, too. Appearing butch at the interview might be a benefit in construction but not nursing, for example. In law, a certain masculine without being GNC might be most advantageous. Etc.

  39. Keymaster of Gozer*

    With regards the ring, I am of the ‘very striking jewellery shouldn’t be worn to an interview’ opinion. I wouldn’t wear my metal gothic choker to one (it has special meaning to me) and would advise against big flashy necklaces for the same reason.

    When you’ve got the job though, wear what you like.

    I have a large emerald in my engagement ring that I wear with my wedding ring every day, but I will take it off if I need to do something with my hands because frankly it’s been known to get caught on my clothing!

    And it once grabbed hold of a nurse’s sleeve after she’d done an internal ultrasound – that was embarrassing.

  40. Seahorse*

    Today I learned that some people feel *really* strongly about other people’s wedding rings. Humans are wild. :)

    1. Lydia*

      Seriously. The OP doesn’t need to hear from every single person on what exactly they think a wedding ring means, what the etiquette is for wearing one, their giant sexist biases, or any of it.

  41. Insert Clever Name Here*

    The only time I’ve heard people use “oh this old thing” is when they are glad you finally noticed so they can talk about it. YMMV.

  42. Spicy Tuna*

    #3, it’s best to come clean and repay ASAP. Years ago, the company I worked for provided tuition reimbursement for up to two classes a semester. The program I was in required three classes a semester. The classes were about $1,800 each, IIRC (this was in 2000 – 2001).

    I had a colleague who worked in a different division of the company (and who was paid more than me, I will add here) that was in my MBA program. The company allowed employees to submit for tuition reimbursement themselves, versus having anything come directly from the university. My colleague would split the cost of three courses into two and then just report two of the three classes we were taking. I reported the correct cost of two of the courses and did not submit for reimbursement of the third class.

    We were in the same program and were submitted our reimbursement forms to the same department. My colleague was incredulous that I wasn’t doing what he did – overinflating the cost of each course. Then he realized that light bulbs would probably go off if anyone put two and two together so he started pressuring me to misrepresent the same way he was doing. Needless to say, I refused.

    Towards the end of our program, he abruptly left the company. We still had half a semester, or maybe even a full semester left. He never mentioned what happened, and even people at work seemed surprised. I think he either was fired or figured out that he was about to get fired and left on his own.

    It’s just not worth it to risk your career over what is ultimately a small amount of money in the long run.

    1. Lydia*

      The OP doesn’t need to come clean; they just need to follow Alison’s script and reimburse the money. The end. It was a one time thing, so there’s no pattern to discover. The end.

  43. Delta Delta*

    1 – I have t read all the responses so maybe others have said this. I think it partly depends on the job. You want to work with low income folks, or as a public defender or something similar? (Fwiw there are lots of women trial attorneys who don’t wear their diamonds in jury trials, but for other reasons) No, do not wear the massive diamond. It comes across as entirely out of touch with the population. Are you Lucille Bluth looking to take over a coveted Bluth Company board seat? The diamond is fine (although, stop spending so much money on whistles).

  44. not a hippo*

    LW2: Clients like Benjamin are why I quit customer service. People are so very annoying and no company in the world can pay me the amount of money it would take for me to want to deal with them again.

  45. JessicaTate*

    OP1 — I used to work with a woman who had a very big rock of an engagement ring (as well as other jewelry); in her case, because she and her husband were extremely wealthy. She was also a couple of decades older than you. But my point:

    She also had an extremely simple wedding band in her collection. She never said anything, but I noticed that she very strategically chose which jewelry she wore depending on what was going on that day. Normal day in the office with those of us who knew her: big rock, no big deal. Meeting with external partners or people in the community where she didn’t want her wealth to be in the ether: simple wedding band. It suggested to me that she was well aware that her jewelry sent a signal, and she made choices about when and where she didn’t want that signal in the mix.

    In your shoes, if you have some equivalent of a wedding band (no engagement ring), I’d probably wear that for an interview, just to keep any inferences about your financial situation off the table.

  46. cncx*

    I’m from the south where we tend to have bigger engagement rings, so depending on location and industry, my feelings would change on this. Law or accounting in the south? 3 carats is big but eh. Biglaw or insurance or accounting internationally where men are wearing pateks? It’s not gonna read money in the same way there. Even for the pregnancy stuff if you’re working with women who are old money.

    The company and the location (europe, small town, family enterprise) where I work now? 3 carats would absolutely stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t even wear my half carat family diamond to work, which is another point- in the south we tend to have a lot of family jewelry so a lot of times my first thought in most cases would be ok wow, heirloom.

    There’s a lot of American south coded stuff that reads differently in other places, like we tend to also have nicer purses than the rest of our outfits. Which is fine in some circles, but looks weird elsewhere.

  47. DJ*

    LW2 sounds like the whole team need to get together to work out a common approach. This can include intervening when someone gets caught up with him I.e. interrupting “Mary I’ll need your help in 5 minutes” then Mary says “Benjamin I’ve only got 5 mins let’s look at [insert most important issue]”. Also prioritising what he does need help in that if not helped would have dire consequences. Time limits. Wording etc. And reviewing how this is going as a team to tweak and adjust if needed.
    He may make a great person for form, web and information writers to user test on.

  48. NotARealManager*


    My weight has been fluctuating a lot the last couple years and my “official” wedding band and engagement ring don’t always fit. I’ve gotten a pretty silicone ring as a placeholder for when I need it. Maybe look into an option like that?

  49. Josie*

    I have a white gold plain “travel ring”. I use it when I travel to places I want to wear a ring but don’t want to wear anything flashy. Something like this would work for interviews

  50. Jessica Fletcher*

    Benjamin sounds rude but also lonely, with all the stories about his life. Is there a senior center or other local place that might be a better outlet for him to socialize? Maybe you could post flyers about it, or about a specific event they’re having, and give him one. Say it made you think of him and encourage him to check it out. It sounds like this has become his main source of socialization.

  51. Lemonbex*

    LW 2…Public library person here. The library I work at has a phone patron that will literally take up hours of staff time. She is disabled and will call multiple times a day with various reference questions. I made the mistake of chatting to her regularly and mentioned another library that I also work at (academic and also her alma mater). She gave my name to someone she knew and suggested they visit me at the academic library for help with registration and financial aid. I freaked out at this. No one ever showed up, but I learned not to over share with patrons. What I thought of as just chit chat, she filed away and used. Other staff have had similar experiences…patron becomes overly familiar. It was a tough lesson for me that small talk is not always small talk to the other participant. I also do not speak to her on the phone for any longer than I have to…hello, let me transfer you to reference.

  52. Former_Employee*

    I feel bad for Benjamin even though he is giving people at this agency a hard time.

    The man has had a stroke and is dealing with the aftereffects, including mobility issues due to partial paralysis.

    I can imagine that I might not be my current, generally pleasant to people helping me with something self if I had suffered such a major traumatic health event.

    Having said that, I agree with Alison that boundaries are your friend. In this case, the boundary would be a time limit. However, I think that Benjamin should retain control of the content so that he gets to decide what will be discussed/reviewed/demonstrated in the 20 minutes allotted him.

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