a bounced check from my boss’s girlfriend, one person doesn’t like team-building but everyone else loves it, and more

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

1. A bonus check from my boss’s girlfriend bounced

I used to work for an attorney, Laszlo, who is well-known for being a quirky old hippy uniquely talented at representing society’s underdogs. Laszlo was never stingy when it came to giving money to others, and regularly surprised me with little cash bonuses throughout the year, in addition to a generous year-end bonus.

For a year or two, Laszlo was dating another attorney, Nadja, who specialized in large lawsuits. She lived a few counties over, but on rare occasions I would be happy to help out with a small task relating to one of her cases. In addition to Nadja not having her own staff, these tasks were infrequent and minor enough to not cause a disruption for me, and she was always gracious and appreciative.

One day, about a week after settling a particularly large case (seven figures), Nadja surprised me with a check for $1,000 as a “thank you” for my sporadic assistance. Although I was shocked by the generosity of such a gift, Nadja insisted that I had earned it and that she wanted me to have it.

That check bounced! Not only did I not get $1,000, but it cost me $25 when my bank charged me for the returned check. I had literally no idea how to proceed. Eventually I figured that Nadja would surely be alerted by her bank or notice when reconciling her accounts, and so I waited patiently for her to reach out. She never did. A few months later, Nadja and Laszlo amicably parted ways and I never heard from her again.

While the experience left a sour taste in my mouth, I ultimately shrugged it off, as the $1,000 was a windfall I was neither expecting nor relying upon. Even the $25 fee from my bank was more than compensated for by Laszlo’s steady generosity throughout my long tenure at his office (I never mentioned anything about this to him). But every once in a while I think back to that moment, chuckle in incredulity, and wonder: WWAD? What Would Alison Do?

One option was to mention it to Laszlo — something along the lines of, “This is awkward, but the check Nadja gave me bounced. Do you think she’d want one of us to mention it to her, or should I let it go?”

It’s true that you weren’t expecting or relying on the money, but Laszlo shouldn’t want the person he asks his employee to help to give them a bounced check. Ideally once you told him, he would have mentioned it to Nadja, since it’s not cool for her to borrow his staff, promise them a bonus, and then stiff them on it — although admittedly he sounds like the kind of person who might have simply paid that amount to you directly and not raised it with her.

It also would have been fine to mention it to Nadja directly! Even though the money wasn’t something you were expecting, it still would have been okay to say, “Just a heads-up that the check you gave me was returned when I tried to deposit it.” And then it would have been up to her to decide what, if anything, to do from there.

2. One employee doesn’t like team-building but the rest of my staff loves it

My company encourages team-building, which is typically a couple of days of workshopping around a team issue with a half-day activity for team-building. These are held off-site and somewhere quite nice. Last year I took the team to another area of the country (we’re in Europe) to a fancy hotel, we did 1.5 days workshopping and 0.5 day of activities (something slightly sporty — think electric bike visit of the town) followed by an artistic activity.

One of my team members is unhappy and wants to change jobs but is struggling to find an internal transfer. She has made it clear she will no longer participate in this kind of activity as she doesn’t like me or the rest of the team. (There are other performance-based issues with this colleague, which I am dealing with, but very slowly due to legal framework where we are based.) The rest of my team really appreciate these events, and the workshop aspect usually deals with a strategic topic of interest and value for the whole team and for which I’d like everyone’s input and to develop team buy-in. I’d appreciate your advice on how to balance not excluding my colleague, while not penalizing the rest of my team. We do have smaller workshops on-site, at which she generally doesn’t contribute anything, even if asked for her opinion.

My department in general is very keen on these events, with many of the other teams actually going abroad to hold them. I think that’s excessive to be honest, but I know some of my team members are disappointed they’re not getting that kind of “treat.” Not doing them at all would be very disappointing to my team.

It sounds like the workshop portion is legitimately work-related since you’re talking through work topics and gathering input on work issues. It’s reasonable to require her to attend those (and ideally participate, too; it’s not off-base to tell her ahead of time that she needs to come prepared with thoughts on XYZ). But there’s no reason not to make the activity portion voluntary; she can skip those if she wants to. (And she shouldn’t be penalized, even subtly, for that! Lots of people wouldn’t enjoy electric bikes, for example — or it might be more physically challenging for them than they should be required to disclose. Anyone should be allowed to opt out of the non-work portion without penalty.)

3. Can I ask my interviewer how many women are on the team?

I’m a data engineer in the tech world (mainly at 100-200-person start-ups), which happens to be a very male-dominated field. I’m currently interviewing for new roles, and I’m wondering what the etiquette might be for asking if there would be other women on the team?

More often than not, I find myself interviewing with all-male interview panels, making it hard to figure out what the gender break-down is like on the full team. I’ve tried to use LinkedIn before to suss this out, but it’s not always up-to-date and I can’t always tell who’s on what team.

While the gender aspect is not the only thing I consider when accepting a job, it is a factor. Before becoming a data engineer, I was in other data roles and was often on teams that were 50+% women and non-binary people. As a queer woman, I found these environments made it easier to be myself and trust that my coworkers recognized and valued my skills and contributions. Since transitioning to data engineering, my teams of 15-20 people have had at most 1-2 other women on them. I’ve felt less comfortable and tend to hide parts of myself, which feels sad in fully remote work environments that can already be a bit isolating. While I don’t expect to find even close to 50/50, even just 25/75 would be a win.

However, I’m hesitant to ask about gender breakdowns in interviews because I don’t want them to think that I’m a) criticizing them, b) trying to make them feel bad if they hire a man instead of me, or c) likely to complain about them being misogynistic if they don’t hire me. Is there ever a good way to ask about this?

This is a really normal thing to ask about, and lots of people do it — particularly in male-dominated fields where it’s likely to be an issue. One straightforward way to say it: “As a woman in a male-dominated field, I’m always interested in knowing how many other women are on the team.”

4. Should I send an email about a job rejection when I haven’t been officially rejected yet?

I had an interview last Friday for an internal position within my company, but in a different department. I had my interview and I thought it went well. They told me they would get back to me this week to let me know their decision. No one got back to me, but I was able to see that I was not selected for the position by looking in our hiring system. I haven’t received a rejection email yet, but normally I would reply to thank them for considering me and possibly ask for feedback.

Since I haven’t received a rejection email should I take the initiative and let them know I saw I didn’t get the position and thank them, or should I just let it be and if they send an email do it then and if not just leave it alone? The department is expanding and there is a possibility that more positions could open up, so I would like to leave a good impression.

Don’t preemptively email them to say you saw you didn’t get the job before they’ve contacted you, at least not this early. You’re jumping the gun; give them a chance to contact you first. If several weeks go by with no word, you can check in — but you’d just be checking in, not saying “I saw I didn’t get it.” (In part that’s because you really don’t know so it would be premature; for all we know, their first choice could turn them down and they could come back to you, or they could be preparing to offer you a different role.)

If you’re right that they’ve rejected you and just haven’t told you yet, there’s no urgency around the email you want to send, and you’ll look better if you leave them time to announce the decision themselves.

The earliest to say anything resembling “I saw you hired someone else” is if the new person is announced or starts in the job and you still haven’t heard anything (at which point that’s reasonable to do).

5. Job-searching when you have a clawback agreement with your current employer

Last year, my boss left and for several months I was running our team without officially being promoted to her position, having my title changed to manager, or getting any support from my grandboss. Long story short, I ended up getting an offer for a job I wasn’t sure I wanted two weeks after we hired a new boss who I really really liked. I told her about the offer and she went to bat to keep me, which led to me getting a promotion, a small raise, and a large retention bonus. I had to sign a clawback that I wouldn’t leave for 18 months, which I wasn’t concerned about because the reasons I wanted to leave had all changed.

A week later, my company announced that it was being acquired and started layoffs. Fast forward a year, and I’m miserable. I still love my new boss! But the acquisition-related changes have led to a drastic shift in culture and this is no longer the place I enjoyed working. I’ve been planning to move on as soon as my clawback period is up, and I decided to start looking recently because I assumed it would take a long time to find something. I’m in a high enough position/niche specialty where there aren’t that many jobs to begin with. I thought if I started looking now, maybe I’d find something by the end of the year and could negotiate to start after the holidays (and thus after my clawback period ended).

Except I got a first round interview somewhere that seems like a great fit for me, and they’ve been extremely aggressive with their timeline. I’ve had three interviews in the last two weeks, and the recruiter just reached out to schedule what she said would be the final round for this week. What do I do? If I get an offer, will it totally burn the bridge to tell them at that point about my retention contract and ask to start in January? is it unreasonable to ask for a starting bonus to cover the clawback? Or should I just acknowledge the timing didn’t work out and bow out now?

It’s not at all uncommon in senior-level positions to ask to start a few months out, so definitely don’t assume that’s off the table. If you get an offer, explain you expected their process to take longer, you have a retention bonus of $X that you’ll need to pay back if you leave before (date), and ask what would make the most sense on their side — could you start in January? Or would they be open to including in their offer the bonus you stand to lose so that you’re not out money by coming to work for them? These are really normal things to raise and even if it turns out you can’t reach an agreement that works for everyone, you won’t look out of line for asking.

{ 247 comments… read them below }

  1. musical chairs*

    LW3, if they’re the kind of company to bristle as being asked about the gender breakdown of an engineering team, they won’t be worried about you complaining about them, they’ll dismiss the issue (and maybe your candidacy to some extent) as frivolous, as evidenced by not taking equity seriously this far. As frustrating as that would be, it’s still good information to have as an interviewee.

    Teams that are intentional about hiring women in male dominated fields are excited to tell you (a) that they’ve hit their metric or (b) what they’re doing to get there. Look for that enthusiasm just as much as you look for any specific percentage breakdown.

    Also, I would suggest you could do some digging into how many women are in leadership/senior technical positions vs. how many of the women in the team are in entry level positions, or even what the turnover rate is for women within that team or company within the last few years. Answers to these kind of questions may give you some more substantive information on the culture around gender and taking women seriously.

    Basically, go qualitative, not quantitative. This applies to any axis of marginalization, but I’m talking mainly about women here since that was the question you asked.

    1. MK*

      While I understand your point, I don’t know that there is a way to get useful answers to more complicated questions. Asking how many people on the team aren’t men is a simple question with an easy answer. Asking whether they are in leadership positions is more involved, but still easy to answer. But it’s unlikely anyone is going to the turnover rate off the top of their heads, at best you will get a vague answer, at worst an inaccurate one.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Hmm, I do think this is a “how, not what” situation. If they blink and shrug, they don’t know and they don’t care. If they frown and say they’re not sure but they’ll find out and email you, they are at least recognising the validity of the question. If they say “currently overwhelmingly male but we’re trying to address this by targeting vacancy advertising in [spaces for women in the field] / increasing our visibility at university careers fairs / working with [women in STEM charity] / expanding our DEI initiatives” then LW could have much greater confidence in the culture.

      2. musical chairs*

        I wouldn’t expect an answer to two decimal places, of course, but asking “out of the people who have voluntarily left this team in the last three or so years, would you say the plurality/majority of them are women?” is a yes or no question that most people can answer about their own team even if they have to think about it.

        I’m thinking about this from the angle of being a Black woman in a white male dominated field, too. Inclusion a topic I dig into in interviews myself, with similar importance to me as the letter writer. The pandemic (and, in the US, protests in 2020) really tested/brought to light workplace equity issues for a lot of people, so three years in, the data can be really informative and relatively easy for an interviewer to reach for.

        For me, for a hypothetical example, if nearly all the Black people on a given team were hired in or after 2020 and they’re basically all 24 years old, that can give me some insight as to what my experience may be like as someone with a decade of experience. As another example, which may or may not be applicable to the letter writer, if a LOT of women (percentage wise) don’t stay a particular company at a time where a on the whole, many women were leaving the workforce due to the effects the pandemic had on childcare, that info can give me useful insight into workplace flexibility and support for parents (of any gender) of young children.

        Not trying to harp too much on specific examples here as they can be derailing; I’m just saying that 2020-2023 can a rich text that many people can read, including your interviewer.

        Asking for one piece of data isn’t gonna get you an answer you can run with. Asking multiple metric-based questions about the downstream effects of the culture you’re looking for can be more illuminating.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Yep this. You aren’t asking a single question to tick a box, but to give you some insight into what other questions you should be asking. It’s part of a process.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            It’s also something you don’t have to rely exclusively on the interviewer to answer. I got a lot of useful information by probing about these kinds of things with a person who recently left one the of the places I was interviewing with. Someone who recently left the company has a lot less incentive to sugar coat issues. I got connected with her by a person in my network who set us up over email, but you could also do some LinkedIn searches for the company (you’re looking for employees by company and then scrolling through to see if there are people who list a different current workplace in their headline – those are the profiles you want to click through on and see how long ago they worked there).

      3. Nina*

        Yeah, as someone in a similar situation to the LW, I’m not looking for exact figures, I’m looking at their attitude.

        [sounds excited to tell me this] ‘we set a goal in x year to have gender parity by y year and we’re on track for that, currently about z% women, we’re making a point of interviewing female applicants and fast-tracking women for management roles and we have these affinity groups that consult with management, and q number of people in the C suite are women’ (bonus points for mentioning other gender minorities unprompted) – yeah, this is great, they see the issue and are actively working to fix it, I’m here for this.

        [sounds kind of sheepish] ‘uhhh we have a few other women in y and z team and we try to interview all female applicants to boost that number, but you know this is a very male dominated field’ – proceed with caution, because yes I do know that but I want to know that you know it and you see it as a problem.

        [very matter-of-fact] ‘so you’d be the only girl on a remote work site of all guys, there’s a lot of construction going on and they can be kind of rough around the edges, will you cope with that’ – I jumped for this as my first job out of college, never again.

    2. abca*

      I’m in a very large tech company. In this kind of company “number of women in leadership” is usually fine. There are quota, and people are very proud of how inclusive they are. They will celebrate international women’s day and again show how awesome they are on LinkedIn etc.
      But day to day, as a women, you’re still being mansplained. When you get a promotion, people openly tell you that that is of course because you’re a woman, and how sad it is that more competent men got passed by (no really). And if you want to move further in your career, you’re expected to agree with that, being “one of the guys”.
      I wish there was a way to figure out this kind of culture in interviews. I think retention rate is an okay metric, but it’s not something an individual hiring manager will know.

      1. Waffles*

        Agreed. I am in a senior role in finance but continue to get shut out of golf games, spectator sports, fishing, etc. Technically I am a positive statistic but my experience is not entirely positive.

      2. 1-800-BrownCow*

        My company “celebrates” International Women in Engineering Day. I’m a woman engineer. I found out we “celebrated” a week later, when I saw my company posted it in on LinkedIn…..

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s very true, and I’ve found it happen at the most unlikely of firms. There’s no real way to test for it though, short of contacting existing employees.

        (Weirdly, the best firm I’ve worked for and still do in terms of disability accomodations etc. is the very male dominated heavy engineering industry. They’re not great at sexism but there’s some improvement. I had to trade off one discrimination against another)

      4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Agreed. Women in tech leadership are likely to be the lean-in “I suffered and so should you” type and their presence won’t affect your day to day. Women on the team you’re actually working on are much more important.

        1. Quill*

          On the Science and Medicine side of STEM, women on the team are important but don’t indicate if you’ll ever be hired as more than a disposable lab tech, whereas women in leadership… also don’t mean you’ll ever be converted from contract lab tech but do tend to indicate that someone, somewhere, cares about equity. (Until it’s time for grunt work to get done.)

    3. cabbagepants*

      This is extremely hard. I’m a woman in a male-dominated field; if there is another woman in a meeting of 20 people, things are going pretty well.

      The risk of asking about qualitative is that it’s very easy to cherry-pick and/or exaggerate, basically to tell the truth but not the whole truth.

      I would say that there is no easy way to screen for this, especially if you’re asking men to speak to the experience of women/NB, which is seems like you might be doing. My gut says that the best way would be to ask to speak to a woman in a technical leadership role as part of your interview process, and then carefully listen between the lines.

    4. TrixM*

      I agree with others that getting into the weeds there might not be that productive, especially at an interview. For a personal contact at the company, sure.

      Alison’s script was pitched nicely, I thought – I’ll use it myself in future.

      One thing about IT is that once you get past the call centre level – the people who only do scripted support rather than actual troubleshooting – the number that aren’t men is pretty proportional at all levels. Basically, there are still F-A of us – still more than 90% men in any place I’ve worked in over 25 years.

      So the basic question will still give good information – if it’s 100% men working in the operational/dev/analysis teams, I personally wouldn’t work there. Around 90% men, meh, they’re not really trying, but it’s probably not outright misogynistic. Only 75% men or fewer? Maybe I’ll see it in my lifetime, but I’m not holding my breath.

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > Teams that are intentional about hiring women in male dominated fields are excited to tell you (a) that they’ve hit their metric

      That’s part of the problem though – as a “female engineer” myself, I don’t want to be hired because I contribute to them hitting their ‘metric’, but for what I can contribute in my own right. And I think asking about the gender breakdown of the team can result in one or more of the following assumptions on the other end:

      – this is a veiled threat that if we don’t take her further in the interview process she’ll sue on the grounds of discrimination
      – she’s calling us out for having put her forward when we wouldn’t if she was a man as she isn’t that strong a candidate, but we have a ‘quota’ (and this is actually true)
      – as above, but it isn’t true, but it looks like I suspect the employer of this being the case
      – we have a male dominated environment and she will struggle in it

      What does OP hope to gain from asking the question? Either they are happy to answer and there are not many (or none) women – will OP pass up the job? Are there a lot of women? Will that make OP happy? What if they shy away from answering this? Is it a dealbreaker for OP? What would OP do with the information if they said “no, you’re the only one but leadership are having an initiative to recruit more women”?

      1. Cookie Monster*

        Well, whatever their response is, she gets to include that as a factor for whether she wants to work there or not.

        If there’s not many other women, that might be a dealbreaker. Or there’s so many other positive aspects to the job she’ll take the job anyway, even if it’s not perfectly ideal.

        If they shy away from answering, that’s another piece of information – does it rub her the wrong way? Maybe it’s one more item in the negative column that tips her over into not accepting the job.

        For your last question – maybe that also rubs her the wrong way. Or again, maybe there’s enough other positive aspects – and they genuinely seem enthusiastic about increasing diversity, not resentful of having to do it – that she ends up wanting the job.

        So yeah, there’s a lot to gain from asking.

      2. 1-800-BrownCow*

        I’m also a “female engineer” and the number of times I’ve been asked if I was hired to help a company ‘hit their metric’ is aggravating. I love my field and I love when other women find it awesome that I do what I do, but I’m tired of being a ‘metric’ or a ‘statistic’. Just focus on the work I do and not question why I’m there.

      3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I’m a woman in an IT niche that’s especially male-dominated. We tend to work on small-to-medium sized teams, say 4-10 people for the particular roles I’m targeting. I accepted a long time ago that one other woman on my team is unusually good representation.

        So, I don’t ask “How many women are there on the team?” It won’t tell me much, it’ll change if that one other woman leaves, and it’s likely to get a defensive answer about how there just aren’t any women in our field (Dude, I know. But also, I’m RIGHT HERE.)

        What I do ask is something along the lines of, “Can you give me an idea of what percentage of people in technical roles at $Company are women and people of color?” (I would include nonbinary people, too, but haven’t come up with wording I like.) I’m not looking for a specific percentage — though if it’s a big company with a lot of technical people and their guess is something like 5%, that suggests that either the interviewer has no idea what they’re talking about, or this company has above-average bad DEI issues. What I am looking for:
        – If the number is particularly high, say 50%, while that’s probably not right (I categorically assume that the answer I get isn’t accurate unless the interviewer has actual statistics) it seems likely that it’s probably at least 30%, and suggests that the company values diversity and is trying.
        – If my white-dude interviewer can’t give me an answer at all, that suggests that he personally is probably not very invested in DEI issues. That doesn’t automatically make it a bad place to work, but means that I’m likely to be facing an uphill battle for anything relating to marginalized identities in the workplace.
        – If I still get the defensive answer about how it’s just so hard to find women in this field, that says that this company — or at least this interviewer — is so defensive about diversity that they’re unwilling to really look at the metrics, which I see as one of the first steps in making any kind of change. THIS I see as a red flag — if it’s not okay to ask this question, this is a workplace that is not a good fit for me.
        – As others have said, I pay attention to the qualitative aspects of the answer. Can the interviewer tell me what the company is doing to attract and retain diverse talent? Does it feel substantive to me, or just like they’re putting up a Black History Month blog post and calling it a day? Can I get a sense if the women who are there are reasonably senior, or are they QA and helpdesk and leave after a year or two?

        I’ve never removed a company from the list of places I’m willing to work based on the numbers of the answer, but I’ve definitely removed companies from the list based on HOW they answer the question. And if they remove me from consideration because asking the question means that I’m too feisty and a troublemaker? Then the question is screening effectively, even if I’m not actively aware of it.

    6. Web of Pies*

      Leadership positions, YES. Yes yes. My company is male dominated, and while they’ve done some work to hire more people who are not white dudes, the entire leadership team is…you guessed it, white dudes.

      As OP points out, this creates an environment where non-white-dude employees can’t fully be themselves. I, for instance, can’t point out the same problem a white male employee could without being scolded for ‘complaining’ and being regularly tone-policed. It is exhausting.

  2. Giant space pickle*

    @ #1 LW should probably say SOMETHING. Not just because they got stiffed and hit with a bank charge. Is there something going on with Nadja? Did the bank screw up? Did someone somehow get access and clean out that account? Or is it just good old fashioned malicious greed? Any of the first three inquiries would be made from a position of concern and hopefully understanding when discussed. If it’s the latter, your boss will probably want to know about the person he’s seeing.

    1. Thatoneoverthere*

      Agree! Its also possible that maybe Nadja made an error, wrote the check from an incorrect account, the money wasn’t in the account yet (although she should have checked). There are so many things that could have happened, its likely some kind an error.

      1. Typing All The Time*

        I had this happen to me recently for a company wire transfer. The HR rep left out a number, it bounced back and I got charged $20. I deducted it from my payment.

    2. Heather*

      LW doesn’t even work there anymore so all advice is moot, unfortunately. Alison seems to get a decent amount of “this happened years ago; what should I have done” questions, which even if they’re interesting don’t really lend themselves to anything actionable.

    3. Charming Charlie*

      I don’t understand why it’s so taboo to just…talk to the person. OP #1 really had to write in for this?

      1. Momma Bear*

        I agree, but if people just did the straightforward thing, there wouldn’t be a need for an advice column. But, yeah, I’d just mention it/ask. His relationship with her is his Awkward to handle. OP’s relationship/problem with the check is just business.

      2. Wilbur*

        So many people have been trained from birth to avoid conflict. For the last 15 years, many people have had a lot of trouble finding jobs, and been told they should feel lucky to have a job. I don’t get not chasing a $1000, but I wonder if the whole working relationship is not as easy as presented.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think it matters that the $1000 was an unexpected bonus, not an agreed upon fee for service.

          For the OP’s delay, I get that: She thought it would be awkward to bring up herself but that the bank would raise it with Nadja. Then that didn’t happen. Then we get into “If I had said something earlier that would have been okay, but raising it now after all this time (whether that’s 2 days, 2 weeks, or 2 months) is going to be awkward and the main question will be why on Earth I didn’t raise it sooner. So maybe if I wait they will notice… Okay, now it’s been even more time and REALLY awkward to raise it now…”

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            And sometimes… people just forget.

            Going along with this was an unexpected bonus: it was free money (that ended up costing $25). OP wasn’t relying on it for a car payment or mortgage. It wasn’t expected in the bank account and after a while, you not only get okay with it not being there, you forget it ever was an option. Unless and until you have an interaction that reminds you, but that is even further down the road.

        2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          Well, and told that even noting a problem is somehow conflict. Like, I agree with you, but also disagree, because speaking up about a problem is not itself creating conflict.

          You didn’t cause the problem, you’re just making someone aware of it. But somehow really conflict-avoidant folks think sharing facts is *itself* causing conflict. It’s basically reductio ad absurdum.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            In my family growing up, bringing up ANYTHING brought on World War 3. Like, massive kaboombah, they don’t handle bad anything well.

            I sure as hell don’t speak up about anything unless I have to, because speaking up DOES cause conflict. I can see why LW didn’t want to poke this with a stick since it’s a boss’s girlfriend issue.

      3. metadata minion*

        Money is weird for many, many people to talk about. Work is a situation where it really *needs* to not be weird, but the situation in the letter makes it harder since the check wasn’t a normal paycheck and so it can feel particularly awkward to say “something went wrong with the extra bonus gift you gave me”. Again, this is all something that it should be completely straightforward to talk about, but it isn’t.

      4. Sparkles McFadden*

        For many people, the right words won’t come easily, so they write in to Alison for a script. That’s pretty much why ALL advice columns exist.

        Some people are very uncomfortable asking for compensation. This is discomfort is actively encouraged by the people who don’t want to pay. Everyone has had managers who act very offended when you talk about getting a raise during your performance review, as if talking about compensation is a major faux pas. People who freelance let clients get away with paying late (or not at all) because they’re concerned that the person may badmouth them, or they’re just tired of putting in the time to argue.

      5. Irish Teacher*

        I think a lot of people feel uncomfortable telling another, especially somebody in a senior role, that they essentially did something wrong. Most decent people would feel guilty if they realised their cheque had bounced and most people don’t want to make another person feel guilty. No, in reality, it’s not the speaker who is making them feel guilty but what they did/what happened, but it still feels like criticising somebody/making them feel bad.

        And it probably is going to be awkward. The person is likely going to apologise and there’s always the possibility they were having financial problems or something and they are going to be embarrassed.

        I don’t think it’s so much that it’s “taboo” as that most people want a way of asking something like that without embarrassing the other person or sounding critical of them or making them feel bad and sometimes that isn’t possible.

      6. JB (not in Houston)*

        And I don’t understand why people keep making these kinds of comments here lately. Is it really so hard for you to understand that not everyone is like you? There are a number of reasons why someone might hesitate to bring this up or not know the right way to bring it up. That’s why we have advice columnists, because not everybody always knows the right thing to say or do in every situation.

        1. And the Skeletons Are ... Part of It*

          I kind of only half agree. The “why would you write to an advice column” questions can be a little willfully obtuse, especially with questions like this which are curiosity about a past and moot story.

          But I do think that the jist of that response is also, “why wouldn’t you gently mention it to Nadija at least once?” – that even with timidity around money issues being common, it seems unusually passive not to even try to ask about it in a non-demanding way. “I asked Nadija about it and she blew me off, what should I have done then” is the version of this question a lot of people would find more common/understandably stimying.

          With this and the OP from a week or two ago who never got paid for her work in a client’s home, I do think it’s useful to show just how far afield from usual that level of reticence around money and just asking for what you’re owed is. With that letter, it wasn’t the fact that OP had ultimately dropped the issue with her client, it was that she apparently did so after just requesting payment three times and then giving up – no late fees or letter from a lawyer, or even going to them in person to ask for it – no escalation. Which is what is driving a lot of the, “Why is this such a taboo issue in your mind?” questions.

          I do think it’s useful feedback for OPs to hear the difference between “What? Why wouldn’t you even ask?” vs. “Yeah, it’s tough but you probably should have asked.” Even if people know that they were raised with an unhealthy reticence to talk about money, hearing how much more severe their reticence is than the median is useful data to help reorient their worldview.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            It’s not unusually passive, though–advice columnists get LOTS of questions from people who don’t know how to bring up money issues or feel reluctant to do so because of how it might affect a relationship. It’s so very common.

        2. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

          This one is about money, too, and money from your boss’ SO. There are two angles to this that most people bristle at. LW ended up doing what most people would do — rationalize it, eat the small fee, and keep their mouth shut.

          Is the money worth the awkwardness? How could I have brought up ‘complaining’ about a windfall/bonus she didn’t even need to give me? Should I have asked for the 25 bucks back? — these are the questions here.

  3. HA2*

    #1 would have been a great time to use Alison’s usual preferred approach – treat it as OBVIOUSLY just an honest mistake/misunderstanding. Assume that clearly Nadja didn’t mean to give you a check that bounced, and so clearly she would want to know that it did – after all, maybe that means she’s gotten her bookkeeping wrong, or mixed up accounts, or something like that!

    It’s awkward if you let it sit for a while, but if you’d reached out to her to let her know as soon as it happened, you could take that tone and it would seem fine.

    1. MK*

      It sounds as if this was some time ago, and OP isn’t thinking of doing anything anyway. That being said, I think it’s more than likely, given what OP knows of Nadja and her interactions with her, that it was in fact a mistake/mixup of some sort.

      1. Selena81*

        Yeah, it sounds like Nadja was a pretty decent person. So it stands to reason it was some kind of honest misunderstanding and not an attempt to stiff OP.

        The whole thing sounds like ‘intern imposter syndrome’: when an intern or junior hire (especially a first-generation student) is vastly overestimating how organized and knowledgeable everyone in the company is. Surely any mistake they spot is also known to their superiors and it would be rude to point it out to them.

    2. My Cabbages!*

      Yeah, I am shy as hell, but I can’t imagine letting $1000 because I didn’t want to bring it up.

      On the other hand, maybe it would have been easier to go through Guillermo. ;)

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        (Love your username)

        I definitely can – just forgetting to bring it up and then feeling like too much time has passed and letting it go. I call it an ADHD tax – not that $1000 isn’t a significant amount of money to me but brains just don’t brain right sometimes. Anxiety and other averse-causing conditions can show up similarly, or just cultural awkwardness around money.

        1. Elsajeni*

          I also think, as someone pointed out upthread, it makes a difference that it was an unexpected gift or bonus. Like, it can still be awkward or more trouble than it’s worth to follow up on money that someone actually owes you, but at least we have social scripts for it, and if they’re really jerking you around, you may even have enforcement options beyond “ask really nicely.” Money that someone gave you, just as a generous gesture, but then it turned out they didn’t actually follow through… I can see where you would get hung up in the “how to respond to a gift” social script rather than switching over to the “hey, you owe me money” social script!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I can’t either — I would have said something the second that check hit the trampoline.

        Guillermo is a born admin and much better at handling these kinds of annoyances. Also, I know OP can’t be talking about Nadja of Antipaxos because she is NOT “gracious and appreciative,” lol.

        (I too love your username)

  4. talos*

    #3: I’m a guy in tech, and at least for me it’d be totally fine to just ask how many women are on my team, I’d answer “5 out of 13” (or whatever), and we’d move on. (if you asked more broadly, I’d probably still give you the numbers about my team and just caveat them, because I’m not up on the overall corporate numbers.) I can’t speak for everyone, but to me I wouldn’t even remember it. This is a common thing to want to know about!

    1. Adam*

      Yeah, that wouldn’t come off as weird to me either (manager in tech). That’s a totally normal thing for people to want to know (regardless of gender).

    2. JSPA*

      #3, I think you could also say, “Diversity and inclusivity are important to me; would you be able to tell me a bit about the current demographics of the team, or the backgrounds of team members?”

    3. Random Dice*

      I’m glad you’re not defensive.

      Not every man in tech is, but gosh a lot are. And even more subtly downplay the quals of every woman in tech in a way they don’t with men.

  5. Introvert girl*

    2. How sure are you everyone else loves these activities? Could you ask the team to brainstorm and fill in a questionnaire anonymously about what they’d prefer to do? A lot of people are afraid to tell they don’t want to participate in sporty activities or activities away from home for some reason. Can your employee work that time from home instead of being forced to be social? I myself am on the spectrum and although I participated in my company’s last outing, it was too much for me at some point and I needed to excuse myself to rest.

    1. Ferret*

      Can we not just take the letter writer at their word (as per the site rules) and avoid derailing on this every time team building building or social activities come up?

      Some people don’t like these, some people really do, and Alison’s advice addresses the question LW actually asked

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agreed, thank you. It’s fine to raise the question once, as has been done here, but I’m going to ask that we leave it here and not derail the whole comment section on it — because if the LW does in fact know for sure that everyone else on her team enjoys them, it’s going to be really annoying to come to a page full of dozens of comments saying they probably don’t.

    2. Stormfeather*

      Hah, I came to wonder if I was being cynical in wondering how much they love the activities. Which I was going to point out as a bonus to making sure everyone knows that non-work related part is fully voluntary and won’t be held against anyone if they don’t join – if everyone else at least seems to love the activities, some people, even if they don’t want to attend, might not want to rock the boat.

    1. Zzzzzz*

      I am honestly curious as to why the advice to #1 (as much as she doth protest that the money didn’t matter) didn’t also include the text in [ ]: “Just a heads-up that the check you gave me was returned when I tried to deposit it.” [The bank also charged me a $25 fee. How would you like to proceed so that I am made whole?] And really, the just a heads up is also a bit to casual for me for payment for work service: Start right in with: “The check you gave me for the work I performed was returned when I tried to deposit it. The bank also charged me a $25 fee. How would you like to proceed so that I am made whole?”

      1. Sloanicota*

        That would be a bit further than I’d go in the phrasing, personally. It wasn’t like OP’s paycheck bounced, which would require your script. This was an optional, unexpected gift for services OP was reasonably considering part of their job, so while I would have inquired right after the check bounced, I would have considered the gift now $975. I would not have asked for an extra $25 to cover the bounce fee.

        1. Allonge*

          I think the point of Zzzzz was more that at the very least, the $25 should be returned (and do as you will/can with the $1000).

    2. JustDesserts*

      100% this. A family member of mine was once sent checks with the incorrect routing number and was passing bad checks all over without realizing it. It took MONTHS to figure out and clear up.

      1. Thatoneoverthere*

        This happened to me with my personal checks. I wanted fun checks so I bought some off one of those companies that prints them in fun designs. Even though I double checked, I left a “0” off my routing number and didn’t know it until a few checks bounced. It was really annoying. This was 10-15 years ago. I don’t even have checks anymore, lol!

  6. My Dear Wormwood*

    I am definitely in need of more What We Do In The Shadows pseudonyms. Imagine Nandor the Relentless as a boss.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I imagine that familiars would be a rich source of AAM letters about bosses breaking promises. And I think we’ve probably already heard from a few of Colin Robinson’s previous colleagues!

              1. SpaceySteph*

                Ok someone write Taika Waititi a letter because this would be an excellent plot for next season.

        1. Antipaxos Expat*

          I routinely refer to several of my staff as “energy vampires” and after particularly difficult/draining conversations imagine them turning to a camera person with glowing blue eyes.

        2. Good Enough For Government Work*

          I’ve never written in, but God knows I’ve worked with a Colin or three

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Oh, I think we all have! It’s probably impossible to go your entire career without meeting an energy vampire.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              On days when I have to ask a lot of questions, I feel like I’m the Colin Robinson of the team.

          2. Sally Rhubarb*

            I’ve definitely worked with a Colin Robinson & got my coworkers A) into the show and B) to refer to our Colin Robinson as Colin Robinson by showing them a clip.

        3. Cafe au Lait*

          Sometimes Alison writes responses to fictional character’s job issues. Let’s petition for a What We Do in the Shadows edition!

    1. DaisyDuke*

      That was all I came here to comment – I was dying from the name references for #1! I want to know if that was OP1 or Allison. :)

    2. SpaceySteph*

      Technically What We Do In the Shadows is already about Nandor as Guillermo’s boss. And he’s TERRIBLE.

  7. Awkwardness*

    LW3, I have always asked about the team! If you do not feel comfortable about the gender breakdown, you could just ask:
    “Can you tell me something about the team and their background?”

    For me it was not always about the gender, but also about overall experience, educational background and time with the company. Quite often they will mention names or pronouns, and if this is not enough information for you, you can easily ask a follow-up question on the gender breakdown.

  8. The French Connection*

    I’m LW2 and there is indeed a vote beforehand around activities. Team member ability is taken into account, as well as preference, in the proposals I make, but I have a team full of extraverts and it’s me that’s the introvert and doesn’t really like all these activities! So I do try to be thoughtful and considerate and find things that everyone will enjoy.

    Anyway, thanks for the advice Alison. You’ve landed p much where I was. I should have maybe been more explicit that these are generally at least one or two overnighters (and she actually seems to enjoy the activities more than the work stuff). But I think I will keep the next workshop local so that if she wants to opt out of the activity she can head home. Next activity is likely to be a non sporty anyway as we now have a couple of team members with some different abilities (for those wondering if I take that into account).

    1. Stevie Budd*

      She could opt out of the activity even if it’s not local though. if you think the rest of the team wants the travel and other teams travel even more, I don’t see a reason to penalize everyone else just because one person is being a pill.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yes, this. I didn’t really see the problem here. She doesn’t want to be in this job/department, she doesn’t want to participate, she probably won’t be around much longer. It seems logical to just plan these events as if she weren’t there at all. No need to penalize the rest of the team, especially since they do really enjoy them.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, like , if the rest of them are already disappointed because they don’t get to go abroad like the other teams, making the activity local to please one unhappy team member who is looking to leave, anyway, won’t make them any happier!

          Can you make the work part hybrid so that people can join remotely if they don’t want to travel? I know it’s not the ideal option, but in this specific constellation it seems more fair than to take away everybody’s treat to accommodate this one person (who openly admits to not liking the team or the job!)

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Normally, I would say, teams change over time and one person being forced to do team building activities because everyone else loves them only leads to more people being forced as teams change but no one realizes the dynamic might have changed.

          But this is an outlier case where its not that the person doesn’t like the team activities, they don’t like the whole team and want to change jobs. Don’t change to satisfy the one disgruntled person. It just makes the rest of the team unhappy.

          What would be best is to help your teammember transition out.

          1. The French Connection*

            I’m out trying to help her transition!
            More food for thought. I’m also a bit concerned about the impact of would have on the team of leaving someone behind, but certainly hybrid is possible.

      2. That's True*

        Agreed. And that will increase resentment from the rest of the team. They’re all losing a perk because one already-disgruntled person doesn’t want to be there. My take is that LW should keep everything the same, but talk to the employee beforehand. Explain that there is an expectation of basic participation in the work-focused part of the retreat, but she can sit out team-building and other activities if she wants.

    2. Selena81*

      After ‘maybe nobody likes these activities’, my next guess would have been ‘the troublesome team-member is an introvert while everybody else are extraverts and that is why the job and the team is a bad match’.
      But if she does like the activities I suppose that isn’t the case either?

      Thanks for chiming in. Always interesting to hear some more background about a letter.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        I’m not sure this is somewhere the introvert/extrovert dichotomy necessarily applies. An introvert can really enjoy a tour or a group challenge where they can focus on the activity rather than being entertaining. Give me a planned activity with a goal over small talk any day!

        1. Just Another Londoner*

          I originally read that as “a planned activity with a goat” and to be fair, I didn’t disagree.

      2. Jolie*

        Where exactly would you ever get “nobody likes this activities?”. Apart from the mention that most team members wound prefer to travel abroad, I don’t see it (and even then the way it reads to me is that they would still strongly prefer the current activities to no activities /more scaled back activities). I’m just a bit puzzled because this is like the third comment to this effect I’m seeing, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in the OP to suggest it, it’s very out of nowhere

    3. EA*

      Could you poll the team, including her, on where to go next? Maybe if she felt like it was an exciting place she’d participate more.

      I encourage you not to cancel these trips or make them local just for this person, if the workshops are motivating for the rest of the staff. I would be bummed if I lost out on a nice trip just because the person with her foot out the door didn’t like them. It sounds like she’s not going to be motivated no matter what, but others could lose motivation if this is taken away.

    4. Momma Bear*

      As teams grow, it can be harder to make everyone happy. I would also look at the demographics of the group – are you getting more people with children or other responsibilities? I would be hard pressed to take regular overnight trips for various reasons. Regardless of group vote, I wouldn’t be able to be away overnight without finding coverage at home, and maybe she’s in the same boat. It can be hard when you’re on a team of (for example) extroverted young people without kids and you are (for example) an introvert with kids or a parent that needs extra assistance. This person also obviously wants out of this department so I’d help her do so. As far as the group being itching to travel more or always wanting to do big extroverted things, they’ve been fortunate to this point to be able to do what you currently do. Groups need to be mailable in these kinds of situations as staffing grows and changes. I’d keep an eye on this group dynamic as your staffing unfolds.

      Insofar as the on-site or local events, I’d make it clear what was required and what was not and not penalize her for not doing the extra when the information sharing is most relevant to her job.

      1. It Might Be Me*

        But she only likes the “fun” activity. It’s not penalizing her for not doing the team activity. It’s expecting her to do the work, with the team.

    5. jane's nemesis*

      How big is your team? I don’t think you should change how things have been for this ONE person. Just let her opt out since she’s trying to leave anyways. Keep treating the rest of your team the way they want to be treated.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I agree. She’s unhappy, she doesn’t want to spend time with this team, she’s declining moving forward as part of her mental detachment from the job…I’d let it go.

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          Yes, I think the thing LW really needs to get a handle on is not making this one person happy, but making sure she doesn’t make the rest of the team unhappy during the rest of her tenure with them. Someone refusing to participate in work meetings (someone who has outright said they ‘don’t like’ the team, which I entirely giving me ‘sulks in meetings’ vibes, but I appreciate that’s not in the letter) risks creating further negativity, especially if there’s a perception of rewarding bad behaviour when they already feel they’re not getting the same level of treat as other teams. Allowing the employee to opt out of the team building activities is fine – allowing anyone who wants to is fine – but they need to understand that they have to engage in the workshop portion of the events, regardless of whether they think they’ll be there to see the changes made. Make it clear that the odds of another team wanting to take them on will be much higher if they do their current job well, including working with their colleagues.

          1. The French Connection*

            Sulks in meetings, you hit the nail on the head. I’m helping her transition as fast as possible as it’s clearly a wider problem.
            I’m confident on that side of things, I was just really was having a scratch the head moment trying to square the circle on these away day things. I think I’m just over thinking it all.
            The wisdom of crowds and all that.
            Thanks all!

            1. jane's nemesis*

              I’m sorry you’re dealing with this sulky person, and hope you can help her find a better fit AWAY from you soon!

            2. Sara*

              If she’s not really contributing anyway can you just…let her use PTO for those days and not come?? I get that you don’t want that to become a pattern or default
              option but if everyone else LIKES the trips, it doesn’t seem like it would cause a spiral

            3. allathian*

              Oh dear, I hope she finds something with a better fit soon.

              Focus on mitigating the damage for now, a Debbie Downer can do a number on the team spirit.

              That said, it’s worth keeping in mind that people change. I loved company retreats when I was single in my 20s anh early 30s. When my son was a toddler and preschooler I found them much less enjoyable for me, but still doable because he has two fully committed parents and we have a great support network of willing babysitters. Now that he’s a teen, it’s even easier, and I can enjoy the retreats again.

  9. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    3. I work IT in a male dominated industry and you better believe I ask that question! I don’t base my entire decision around the answer but it’s a strong consideration.

    I do prefer to ask more about the general makeup (no not Revlon) of the place though – I’m also interested in do they have disabled people, people over 40 but that’s a lot of questions to ask. Managed to bow out of one interview early because they said their team was all guys in their 20s who like going to the gym at lunchtime.

    On the hiring side, I’ve not been asked that question often. But then I’m over 40, disabled, female and there as the boss so I think it speaks for itself. I’d love the question though! I could warn people that although yes the IT manager is a woman there is a very strong male centric view in this industry that’s not going to go away any time soon.

    It’s getting better but a long way to go yet.

    1. Darlingpants*

      How do people tend to answer those questions? I can see saying “we have a mix of PhDs and non-PhDs” or “about 60% of our team is women but the whole site is closer to 40%” but I cannot imagine saying gracefully “there’s three Black people on our team but they’re all African, not Black Americans, and I know X person is disabled and X person is queer but that’s not something you can tell by looking at a person so idk what the overall stats are…”

      1. Dinwar*

        I’ve handled it by introducing them to the onsite team, and discussing the offsite team they’d be working with. Actually meeting folks tends to answer those questions–we’re a mostly male group onsite, but with a lot of women in higher-level roles, ages from 65 to 25, of various backgrounds and ethnicities.

      2. DisneyChannelThis*

        Usually they answer by talking about their DEI Diversity Equality Inclusion programs and mention their commitment to fair hiring.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Wide range of responses! Which is fair because it’s a pretty broad question. Sometimes there’s a ‘we don’t discriminate on anything’ answer which, okay, that may be true but you’re not telling me much about what you’ve GOT.

        Some really will go into ‘we’ve got a fair mix of different nationalities, genders, a few disabled people’ and such. Which is more what I’m looking for.

        I’m basically trying to avoid a 100% white cis male 20-30s able-bodied environment again. Done it before and NEVER again.

    2. Capt. Liam Shaw*

      I think something to consider though too is, you’re in the UK with more protections. I am a male who is over 40 in the USA. If I see a bunch of young folks working somewhere, even if management is over 40, I am probably not going to feel comfortable working there.

      Just a reminder for my over 40 fellow commenters in the USA. You are a protected class at 40. Make sure you know your rights especially if there are layoffs!

    3. FeelsGrossToAsk*

      As an over 50 disabled woman in tech I would find someone asking those questions mildly offensive, like you were trying to judge by quota which is pretty crappy and not terribly helpful in any but the largest companies (I’d argue not even then). Also, I wouldn’t necessarily know everyone’s disabilities, race, religion, age, chosen gender/sexualorientation, etc. I might be able to guess on some of them, but they would be guesses. I don’t go around asking my coworkers to self identify across multiple demographics.

  10. Punk*

    LW2: These are team-building activities and she doesn’t want to be part of the team. You already know that she’s unhappy in the job – there’s no reason to force it. Hopefully she can find a transfer

    1. Selena81*

      Since the troublemaker is already on her way out it I think the most sensible thing would be to let her have this one: leave her at home with her work laptop and some handwaved instructions about doing a few backlog tasks.
      (Unless there’s serious reason to think that’ll open up a can of worms regarding other people opting out of things)

      We had a team-member who was going through his last years before retirement, made no secret about hating the company, and refused to show up for office-days as covid was winding down.
      He had chosen a task from our workload that he did kinda like, and did a good enough job of doing that task, so eventually he worked almost completely seperate from the rest of the team. And because he was almost gone nobody was interested in forcing him back into the fold.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        I think there are definitely situations where this would be the better approach. Apparently, the employee is at a point where she has made it clear to her boss that she don’t like them. That’s a lot. The best case scenario is that the employee sits there resentfully and doesn’t participate. The worst case scenario is that the employee interferes with the workshop, either by souring the mood or actively disrupting.

        As Selena81 said, unless it would open a larger can of worms with other team members, it’s worth considering letting her decline this one. I’d approach it as a one time exemption in recognition of an impending departure, to be revisited if she’s still around for the next one.

        Who knows, without this problem employee, the rest of the team might be more candid about problems they are encountering.

  11. Anax*

    LW2: I agree with Alison that anyone – not just your upset coworker – should be free to opt out of the activity portion, but it’s interesting that some team members are disappointed not to have the lavish ‘treats’ of other teams.

    I’m curious about how you balance the different interests and backgrounds of your reports – maybe everyone loves electric bikes and art and they wouldn’t change a thing, but I wonder if more diversity in activities would create more of a ‘special’ atmosphere, without traveling abroad or extending the trip.

    What comes to mind are more ‘exclusive’ activities which take some time and effort (and perhaps connections) to set up – something they probably couldn’t or wouldn’t set up on their own, even if they’ve been to this city before. Say, hiring a chef to make a fancy meal tableside, explain its cultural context and answer any questions. Or say, getting a private tour of a museum space or garden which is normally ‘open by appointment’ and therefore a bit of a pain to go to.

    I wonder if that sense of exclusivity would address the FOMO some of your reports seem to be feeling. A bike tour and art sound nice, but they sound like kind of typical tourist activities that many people would do on their own time, and if you live in a smaller country, I assume that many of your reports have been to these cities before.

    It might not help much with your unhappy coworker, but honestly, letting her isolate herself while giving her the opportunity to jump back in if she chooses feels like the most doable solution there. I don’t think she would enjoy any activity with the group – even something catered to her interests and hobbies sounds like it would be sour grapes at this point.

    Slightly tangential, and maybe something you’ve already considered!

    1. The French Connection*

      Thanks for your suggestions! This is indeed the kind of thing we typically organise but it’s a good reminder to lean into it.

      I can see some people down thread getting worked up about electric bikes (ftr it wasn’t electric bikes, it was tour on other types of electric assisted vehicles that was indeed a bit more out of the box) but your point about exclusivity is well taken. One of the other activities on that trip was a Michelin starred restaurant meal (but even some colleagues who prefer simple food found that challenging).

      Anyway, all ideas are good food for thought, thanks

      1. A. Nonymous*

        I do this same kind of planning and your approach is the right one: it’s impossible to please everyone, that goes double for the whiners, so just do the best you can to cast the widest net available.

      2. amoeba*

        “One of the other activities on that trip was a Michelin starred restaurant meal (but even some colleagues who prefer simple food found that challenging)”

        That’s such a good example for how no activity will please everybody!

      3. Van Wilder*

        Just wanted to say that, while we hear about so many team building activities here that sound nightmare-ish, this one sounds legitimately fun to me. Actual, work-focused retreat, (short and not too far away) business travel in a nice hotel, plus a short/hopefully optional fun activity sounds pretty perfect.

        I might not be able to attend every time due to my young kids, and might need to opt out of some activities, but overall sounds like an awesome perk for your team.

      4. Anax*

        Well, goodness. It sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job; I hate travel and hotels, and even I would be pretty interested in that retreat!

  12. JSPA*

    #2, if you’re based somewhere like Copenhagen or Amersterdam (where per the city’s own website, “As of 2017, 68% of traffic to and from work or school is by bike, and bikes account for 36 percent of all traffic movements”), or any place else where there are more bikes than people, and where it’s common to see people from age 3 to 90+ on bikes…please take the assumption that “many” people would be uncomfortable on e-bikes with the appropriate “advice from the USA” modification.

    Yes, in any country, there will be some people who can’t or don’t bike, as there are people who can’t or don’t walk two blocks, or can’t or don’t sit upright in comfort.

    Yes, not everyone who works for you will have spent their formative years in your country, or another country where essentially everyone learns to bicycle.

    And it is right to be aware of that, just as you’d be aware that some people might not want to be near flowers (due to bee or pollen allergies)

    But upgrading that to “common” is definitely a US point of view that sits oddly after you’ve specified that you’re based in europe.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      True – in my circles, not being able to ride a bicycle is rare enough to be notable, like not being able to swim. Hell, even not owning a bike is rare (and we’re not even in one of those cities).

      I do wonder if that would make it harder for people to speak up, though because of the astonished reactions they’re likely to get. For example, my MIL does know how to bike, but she’s uncomfortable doing it (she does it very rarely and is a bit scared of falling and of traffic as a consequence, which is understandable, and also a vicious circle). She’d probably be grateful to be easily able to opt out without getting into all that at work.

    2. amoeba*

      Haha, true, it’s definitely a very common thing here that most (not particularly sporty) people would be fine with. And while I’m in Europe, I’m not in one of the more bike-heavy countries. Also, biking in Amsterdam or a similar city is probably much safer and more relaxed that in the US!

      Also, further up in the comments, the LW does indeed specify that she takes people’s preferences and abilities into account and the activity is a joint decision, so I think that’s a moot point, anyway.

    3. Rachel*

      It seems plausible if not possible a group of people enjoys riding bikes.

      I think this is overthinking.

    4. ecnaseener*

      This is a bit of a derail given that electric bikes were an example of the *type* of activity they might do. It’s not a question about whether to pick bikes as the activity!

      1. Sloanicota*

        I’ve definitely seen it stated before on this blog that no one activity is going to please everybody, so the trick is to a) vary the type of activity, which is sounds like OP is doing, and b) make sure it’s truly optional if it’s not work-related, which is the advice given here. That doesn’t mean nobody can ever pick a group activity someone doesn’t want to do. Also, I think it is relevant that apparently other teams are doing more elaborate/fun things, which really will bum out some people too. It really sounds like this one employee openly doesn’t want to be part of the team so nothing is going to please them here.

        1. Sloanicota*

          PS – if other teams in the same department are doing more “fun” trips, I wonder if it would be possible to work with the other manager and do an combined day around an interdepartmental topic that your team can opt into if they wish (so you don’t have the plan a whole trip you and part of your team aren’t that enthusiastic about, but those who do want to go abroad have at least one opportunity to do so?). It is a small thing, but it really is a bummer if you learn that other teams are doing all-expense paid trips to someplace exciting. Some employees won’t care or it won’t work for them anyway, but for others it matters.

        2. Antilles*

          It really sounds like this one employee openly doesn’t want to be part of the team so nothing is going to please them here.
          This. The threads about biking or varying activities or etc are all completely irrelevant to OP’s situation, because the real problem is that she’s unhappy and doesn’t like OP or the team. Even if the activity itself is right up her alley, she’s not going to enjoy it because she dislikes the company she’ll be with.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yep. My response would be a little different if OP had said “my top performer hates team activities, particularly physical ones, but the rest of my team loves them – what can I do?” (although it would still generally be, “vary the team activities and make them optional if they’re not work-related”). But this employee **doesn’t want to be on the team.** Other people are missing that in their loathing for extracurriculars.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              It’s like being in a group who routinely insist that, because they do not like turkey sandwiches, everyone else must secretly loathe turkey sandwiches. Even if those other people say the turkey sandwiches are fine, even if they voluntarily take them from a buffet with different options, even if they suggest next time maybe having smoked turkey sandwiches with a mustard bar like the Alpaca Division: They’re probably just afraid to speak up about how much they hate the turkey sandwiches.

              Even when turkey sandwiches aren’t really the current OP’s problem.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Haha the commentariat here has a few reliable hang ups, and this is one – unfortunately for OP, since it’s not really relevant to their question IMO. I’m guessing the title “everyone else loves team building” is what has people rolling up their sleeves.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  It’s annoying. I don’t like team-building activities personally either, but it would be nice if LW could get answers to the questions they actually ask.

              2. Allonge*

                LOL. I was also thinking that while of course it’s hard(er) in some cases to speak up, on this board there tends to be a view of ‘no manager could possibly expect that any employee will flag that they are somewhat unhappy about having to fight a velociraptor pack as teambuilding’.

          2. Turquoisecow*

            + 10000000000

            Yes, some people dislike some activities. But this particular employee is not going to suddenly become happy with the job and the team and OP just because they picked a different activity. If everyone else on the team loves biking or art or whatever other activities they’ve picked then I think it’s fine to let the one team member who is leaving anyway opt out.

            If she was staying then absolutely “not all people like/can ride bikes” is a valid point, but in this case it doesn’t seem like OP is unaware of that issue, and it’s not actually the issue here.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, I’m often team Anti Forced Activities but I can’t imagine openly saying I don’t want to participate because I dislike everybody on my team!!! I’m not sure exactly what it means when OP says she makes it clear that is why she doesn’t want to participate but that is certainly not usual work behavior and I don’t think there is much possibility of making a person happy when they are at that point.

      2. amoeba*

        Well, this might even make it worse – people from countries where cycling is considered more of a sporty thing for sporty people might see it as an example for all kinds of non-accessible sports activities – whereas if it’s coming somebody from Amsterdam, it’s probably more meant as a placeholder for “super accessible and easy and safe and almost everybody can physically do it”!

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          So it’s the equivalent of going to the pumpkin patch? ( you can wear regular clothes, it’s not a sensory nightmare and most non disabled people can do it?)

  13. Despachito*

    OP2: “She has made it clear she will no longer participate in this kind of activity as she doesn’t like me or the rest of the team.”

    I think this is key. It seems that any effort OP could invest in making this employee to feel better would be pointless.

    I’d give this person the possibility to opt out of the entire thing and that would be it. And it seems to be the best solution just to part ways as this is clearly not working.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. Although I must say I’m rather surprised the disgruntled report is so open about her dislike for the LW!

  14. Bob*

    don’t worry about changing the staff events. the one person who doesn’t like them is trying to leave and stated point blank they don’t like brought or the entire team. I’m willing to bet they are just a terrible person and won’t be happy under any situation.

    1. Fikly*

      Wow. So because someone is unhappy, and actively trying to improve their situation in a productive manner, you’ve concluded they are a terrible person. That says a lot about who you are, and nothing about who they are.

      Not ok. Incredibly not ok.

      1. Crap Game*

        I mean, telling a boss you don’t like them or your entire team isn’t a great move. If you don’t have something constructive to say, don’t say anything. If the team member doesn’t want to do the activities, it doesn’t have to be a referendum on everyone being terrible, it can just be “no thanks.”

    2. bamcheeks*

      This isn’t really helpful! The “you don’t like the team-building activity? well, you’re just a terrible person” is exactly why people get scared of saying they aren’t comfortable and end up super resenting them. Some level of team activity is a normal part of work that you just have to suck up, but it’s OK not to like every part of work and not liking team activities is no more a reflection on your general attitude than not liking Microsoft Dynamics.

      1. A. Nonymous*

        No, but being rude and surly and making a point of not liking team activities isn’t OK either. I coordinate these kinds of things as part of my job (as the actioner, not decision makers) and these kinds of people are miserable and insufferable and make an already tricky bit of planning that much more burdensome. If you don’t like it, please, please, do it in a constructive way or keep your fking mouth shut.

        1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

          That is how I read too, terrible to work with (and be around) not some irredeemable person.

      2. Doc McCracken*

        I think it’s very important to be caring and sensitive to your reports, but this employee outright refuses to participate in work shopping issues that are part of her job. The best LW2 could do is have a conversation ahead of time and ask her for feedback to make these events better for her. If even that attempt goes nowhere, well there’s just no way to make a miserable person less miserable.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I agree. Sure, she’s probably not a horrible person in general, but she’s also probably never going to be a positive participant in anything OP does. Ideally, there could be an exit plan in place for someone who refuses to contribute even to job-related tasks and she could be allowed to skip the activity because she’s not going to be on the team much longer – it sounds like OP isn’t quite there yet.

      3. Judge Judy and Executioner*

        What if I don’t like Microsoft Dynamics because it could be one of 3 ERPs or a CRM system and none of them integrate well with each other? It probably doesn’t matter because the name will likely change again, haha.

    3. ecnaseener*

      I was with you until “terrible person” — where on earth do you get that?! But yeah, the person who doesn’t like the activities is completely fine with not getting the chance to bond with their teammates, so it’s a non-issue.

    4. A person*

      That’s pretty unfair. There are definitely situations out there where one person hates being part of a specific team for super legit reasons such as the team being very clique-ish for some reason and being unkind or exclusionary to new-comers or people that don’t share in the groups shared interests. Sometimes it is just that the outsider is a bad personality fit (which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an awful person… not everyone fits with everyone… you gotta find your people), but it’s worth examining the group dynamics to make sure that this wouldn’t happen with any new person that comes in that doesn’t fit the mold to make sure the team is actually welcoming and not just a big clique.

      With this person that ship has probably sailed, but when they leave, manager should carefully watch the dynamics of how the team interacts with the replacements. And even if it is just a case of a bad fit, remember that doesn’t necessarily make the them a bad person!

  15. Zircon*

    #5: what does your clawback agreement actually say? Is it with the company who employed you prior to the takeover? Are there any circumstances under which it would be broken by action on your employer’s part, or is it all on you? I’m not a lawyer, but it might be worthwhile getting a legal opinion. You might be able to get out of it altogether.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        IANAL by any means, but that part about the acquisition jumped out with a siren and a rotating red lamp at me as well.

        Definitely get an opinion from an employment lawyer.

    1. Jay*

      Also, how much is it FOR?
      If this is a financial hit you can take, it might just be worth it to get out of there.

      1. Antilles*

        Along these lines, has the financial hit decreased over time? Check the exact language of course, but it’s not uncommon for the required payback to decrease over time, so if OP is 15 of 18 months through the agreement (based on the mention of January), the financial hit might be much smaller than the initial bonus.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes! And, particularly if it’s small, your new job may be willing to make you whole for the loss in exchange for getting you started sooner (or might be willing to just give you a later start date to avoid the issue).

          Definitely don’t feel stuck!

    2. Sloanicota*

      I had the same thought! If you’re within months of the end of the clawback period (and it was 18 months! That’s longer than average, in my field) maybe there’s some wiggle room; I wonder if they’d consider using any leave you have left, or, I don’t know, staying on an extra month on a retainer basis, or something, to get there.

    3. umami*

      Yes, I thought that, and also, wouldn’t only a portion of the bonus be in play at this point anyway? I wouldn’t think it’s worded to collect in its entirety this close to the end (but still hoping it’s a mute point after the takeover).

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      This was my immediate thought as well. Talk to an employment lawyer, preferably one who has experience in this niche area. Clawbacks aren’t always ironclad, and the acquisition may open the door.

    5. Andrea*

      Also LW should not bring up the agreement when putting in notice should they leave before the clawback period is up. If the company doesn’t know/remember it exists, then they shouldn’t remind them. In case this doesn’t go without saying….

    6. LW 5*

      Hi! I’m LW5! An update since I wrote to Alison: I actually did get offered the job and have consulted a lawyer about the clawback. It is unfortunately still valid for the full amount, but I was able to negotiate a start date after it expires. I’m counting down until I’m out of here :)

  16. Justin*

    I asked about being the only person of color on teams when I was casually job searching and while, in NYC, no one was rude, the Intense Awkwardness from some interviewers was always a sign. My current job, the phone screen was not a person of color, but she had an answer ready and it’s a very welcoming and diverse team and organization. Ask.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I think this is a really good point– there are a few questions about how to delve deeper and find out more, but they’re all topics that people often aren’t going to be able to answer well in an interview. But how people answer DEI questions and whether they are prepared or even excited to be asked it is really key.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I try so hard to coach the white people on my hiring team about this and I’m never 100% sure how they do when I’m not in the room, but this is always my hope. We are diverse and equity oriented, we serve a lot of different communities, I genuinely hope this is how they respond but I worry some are just…awkward about their own whiteness.

    3. Cat Tree*

      From the hiring manager side, I’ve interviewed probably 50 candidates for a variety of roles over the past few years and only one person has asked about DEI (she was a WOC.) She was already the top candidate for the role, but asking about it made her an even better candidate. DEI is one of our stated company goals so that showed she was already aligned with that. (We offered her the position but she accepted an offer somewhere else.)

      Asking about DEI will be a good thing to companies that care about it.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That’s so interesting! I just finished a hiring cycle and 50-60% of candidates asked about it.

    4. Anax*

      Yep, that’s my experience with interviewing while openly trans and gender nonconforming. Most folks won’t be openly rude, but you can learn a lot from the Sudden Awkwardeness, or say, getting my pronouns wrong after being corrected.

      1. meggers*

        Glad to see this! I was coming here to mention that my husband was able to get a delayed start at a new job when he explained he would need to be at the old company on x date to get a (not small) bonus. I don’t know that they loved it, but they didn’t seem bothered by the question and it ultimately was fine.

  17. cabbagepants*

    #3 follow up questions to “number of women on the team” 1) does this count only include full-time technical roles, or are they padding the numbers with the EA and custodial staff?, and 2) how big is this team? 2/8 is much higher than 2/50.

  18. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2: A mandatory fun letter! This is the first I have seen in quite a while: the return to normalcy.

    Alison has identified the key here. The letter actually describes two distinct activities. One is work-related, and the other is the mandatory fun part. Traditionally we are told that the mandatory fun part also is work-related in some vague sense that if the team takes a bike ride together they will work better together, because reasons. Get past that nonsense and it becomes obvious that mandating “fun” activities is simply bullying. Make it optional and those who enjoy the activity will be happier not having to drag along a miserable person, and those who do not enjoy the activity will be happier not being dragged along while miserable. The only people less happy are those who enjoy bullying. This tells us everything we need to know.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Nah, it’s not bullying for the office to continue group activities that everybody else enjoys (or at least doesn’t mind) even though one person objects. Just because the objector is a minority of one, the office hasn’t created a bullying scenario.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Offering activities isn’t the bullying part. The bullying part is the “mandatory” in “mandatory fun.”

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          It’s just not bullying, man. They aren’t targetting the one co-worker for abuse. Your conception here would expand bullying to mean any situation where one person doesn’t like to do what everybody else in the group likes to do or has been mandated to do, but the group continues to do it. They’re not doing it at the other co-worker, though, or continuing to do it because the one co-worker doesn’t want to. It’s not “bullying” if the manager chooses not to accommodate the one co-worker by foregoing the activity for everybody. If it were, then it would be “bullying” every time a single dissenter wasn’t allowed to get their own way.

    2. Nancy*

      No, it’s not bullying.

      Besides, the issue is that this person doesn’t like her team so doesn’t want to do any of it, including the workshops that focus on work topics.

  19. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    I’ve worked in banking for 20+ years. When I used to deal with the returned deposited checks, it was standard to send the check back to the customer along with a letter stating they should either redeposit the item or speak to the maker of the check (depending on what the return reason was), along with a note that we charged them $x (usually something like $8-$10). If I recall correctly, a check can be redeposited once after being returned. If it comes back again, the the payee would need to go back to the maker and settle it with them.

    LW, did you redeposit the check? If not, try doing that now. I don’t know how much time has passed, though, so ask your bank before you make that deposit. You don’t want to get charged again because too much time has passed, though you, of course, would be charged if the check is no good again. (I can’t remember how long you have to negotiate a check after it’s written–I think it might be six months, or maybe a year.)

    1. Sloanicota*

      I was remembering that scandal where banks re-ordered checks to create more fees – this could easily be what happened and would be quickly resolved if so, but OP would have had to mention it shortly after it happened.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        There are regulations to control this now, so it’s highly unlikely this happened to the LW.

        1. Sloanicota*

          The letter sounded like someone was remembering a past job, so I wondered if it was possible at the time. Would it change your reflection, OP? Maybe not.

    2. Lucy P*

      Just recently had a check from an attorney bounce. The attorney wrote the check thinking that the check they had deposited in their account 3 days earlier had cleared (it hadn’t there was a long hold on the funds). We had them send us funds by an alternate method.

      Our bank did not send back the original check, just a copy of it.

      1. Arsloan*

        Checks have never seemed like a great payment system due to this kind of stuff. And now there’s whole scams around advance payments that seem to clear and then are later reversed. We’re gonna end up logging blocks of gold again, shaving off pieces to buy bread :D

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Right. Most of the time now it’s a legal copy of the check, which can still be redeposited.

    3. Ssssssssssssssssss*

      In Canada, you have six months to deposit; after that it becomes stale-dated. Or that’s been my experience.

      There are ways to still deposit the original cheque; OR you return to sender and get a new freshly-dated cheque issued.

      We had someone who forgot to deposit a cheque from two years prior. She was told to return the original to us and we re-issued the payment as it was still owed to her. (She was very thankful!)

      And a cheque issued by the federal government never gets stale-dated, I am told. But with direct deposit being so common, that would be less of an issue today, I would think.

  20. Peanut Hamper*

    FYI with regard to LW #1:

    At least in the United States, it has always been my experience that you can call the issuing bank and inquire if there are enough funds in the account to cover the amount of the check. At least this way you can avoid getting the bounced check fee on your end if the person who gave you the check turns out to be a Nadja.

    I have always done this for checks that are larger than expected.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      When I worked at a bank we would not have been allowed to answer that question. We couldn’t say anything about someone else’s account balance.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I never had it come up when depositing a check, but when people wanted to cash a check it came up a fair amount. If there weren’t enough funds to cover it, we had to say that we couldn’t cash the check but were not allowed to say why.

  21. Jessica Clubber Lang*

    I realize this is tangential to the post, but it seems outrageous to charge $25 for a bounced check – I’ve never worked in banking but what is the justification for that? Not that people should be bouncing checks left and right but most people who do it are struggling already

    1. Rachel*

      It is a way banks make money, fees have to come from somewhere.

      There are a lot of ways financial institutions are predatory but this one actually doesn’t seem so bad.

    2. Capt. Liam Shaw*

      $25.00 seems low to me. I have been out of consumer banking for a while but I have seen $35.00 and $40.00.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        A few years back I got paid with a check from what turned out to be a defunct account, and it bounced. I believe the charge (to me, from my bank) was around $7. The company (who had realized the problem, but not before many of us had deposited the checks) reissued the checks from the correct account, with the bank fees reimbursed.

        (When it came time to do my taxes that year, it turned out my count and theirs was off by $7, because they had misclassified the reimbursement. I decided the difference in tax owed on that $7 was really not worth my time to pursue. But I am still a tad salty about it.)

    3. The Other Dawn*

      The charge to the LW of $25 for depositing a check that was then returned seems really high to me. Every bank I’ve worked in has changed maybe $15 at the most, with most banks being $10 or less. The charge to the person writing the check would be in the range of $25 to $40.

      The reason these fees are charged are because the bank is charged a fee by the company performing their check processing, so the cost is passed to the customer. Obviously the bank isn’t charged what the customer is charged, but in my experience the bank is usually charged about 40% to 50% of what they charge the customer.

    4. Paperclips Please*

      Right? Why is it the employee’s fault if their employer’s check bounced?! I work at a university, and I know on payments to the university, students are charged $40 for a bounced check. I can kind of understand because the university was expecting that payment and didn’t receive it, but $40 is hefty.

    5. Peanut Hamper*

      This is fairly common. When I worked at a bank ~18 years ago, we made half our income from interest and half from fees like this. It is outrageous.

      Protip: credit unions are (generally) your friend.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        +1 on credit unions. In the alternative, go with the smallest bank you can find. I use both a regional credit union and a small local bank with about half a dozen branches. With a small bank there are not many levels between you and someone with actual authority, and a small bank has a stronger incentive to keep its customers happy. twenty or thirty years ago a large bank had the advantage of a large network of ATMs, but with the decline in use of cash this is not really a factor anymore. I honestly don’t know why anyone voluntarily uses a large bank for retail banking. Inertia, I expect.

        1. Sorrischian*

          And with more and more credit unions joining ATM-sharing networks, even if you do need cash, that advantage to large banks isn’t as substantial as it used to be.

        2. Sloanicota*

          I mean, I believe most banks very deliberately set up rather tricky online empires that would be a big pain to shift out of, so that’s probably one factor behind that inertia. Not to call out just banks here, as many companies employed a similar strategy; make it relatively easy to sign up and hard to leave.

        3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Based on my acquaintances still using large banks: It’s absolutely inertia. You have to talk to two different banks, and possibly avoid low-balance fees, and re-set-up anything that was configured to be paid through the bank or via that account/card… Some geographic areas have also gone through massive bank mergers where it feels like there aren’t any small banks left, and even if they are, who’s to say they won’t get bought out next year, and you’ll have gone to all that bother for nothing.

          If you travel a lot, one advantage of the big banks can be that you can find a branch of your bank basically anywhere. That said, I’ve never needed to actually go to my bank at any point when traveling. (And good thing, too, because I’m not sure there are any locations further than ~25 miles from my house.)

    6. Arsloan*

      Banks are not your friend, that’s for sure. Fees are a big part of their profit structure. I remember I once paid a credit card bill with $100.16 instead of $100.19 (yep, I’m dyslexic) – ended up costing me $45 for those precious three cents I tried to steal from them. I have to do all bills on autopay now or I’d have the same issue again.

    7. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      It’s a way to punish poor people for being poor and keep them that way. Bank fees are notoriously predatory. Agreed that credit unions are far superior.

  22. aubrey*

    LW3, you can and should ask! Just do it in a straightforward kind of way like Alison’s example and they should have a straightforward answer, or, preferably, some more information about the overall team makeup and the company’s approach to diversity. The one time I asked and they got weird about it, it turned out that place was full of dudebros who liked to go to strip clubs together.

  23. Dinwar*

    LW #2: It sounds like the issue isn’t so much the fact that the person doesn’t want to do team building exercises, as much as they don’t want to be part of the team. A cordial discussion about how that’s going to play out would be warranted. Something along the lines of “I understand that you’re looking to transfer out of the team, and I get that it therefore doesn’t make sense to participate in team-building activities.” The work-related portion is something the employee probably needs to attend until they’re out the door, but the rest can be skipped because it’s not going to do anyone any good.

    Would it be possible to allow the employee to use the time when everyone else is doing team-building activities to look for an internal transfer? The employee shouldn’t be punished for skipping something they’re not interested in and which isn’t going to be effective, and it may be an olive branch you can extend to them. A way to show that there’s no hard feelings, and you’re trying to help them as best you can.

    1. HonorBox*

      Your first sentence was the thought I had after reading the letter a couple of times. I think that it would be helpful to share with the employee that while the team-building activities aren’t required, it is imperative for them to fully participate in the work-related activities. Whether they like the team or not, they’re still part of the team and will be until they find a different role – either internally or externally – and it sounds like this employee doesn’t contribute even when asked for input. I don’t know that I would offer that she could use the team-building time to find an internal transfer. Rather, just saying that she’s welcome to do whatever she chooses is more helpful.

      1. The French Connection*

        Thanks both. That discussion had indeed been had but there are some behavioural difficulties that are complicating any potential transfers. Fully engaged with hr on that and happy dealing with the management part of that.
        I was just tying myself in knots over this team workshop thing when actually the answer is pretty simple – she participates hybrid if she doesn’t want to travel and we do and enjoy the activities as a team without her.

        1. Apples & Oranges*

          What does behavioral difficulties mean? Im trying to understand how that plays out in a work setting?

  24. DisneyChannelThis*

    A team with no women is a huge red flag to me. A lot of times it means they’ve driven off the one or two women they did manage to hire, and that the culture of the team might very well be sexist or juvenile about things. I think you’re fine and smart to ask about it. The way they answer will tell you a lot about their team vibes (“No but we’ve got a task force with other team for DEI and are hoping to change that” Good vs “No women generally aren’t smart/dedicated/etc enough for this role” Bad)

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Agreed, but some of this depends on the size of the team/company. A team of three men would not necessarily be a red flag for me (although it would cause me to ask some other more pertinent questions). Are they looking to increase the diversity of the team, or is this just a DEI interview so they can tick a box on a form somewhere?

      But a team of ten men? Or twenty? Hmm….that’s gonna make me wonder.

      I’d also have to look at the make-up of the company as well. Where I really want to see some diversity is in the HR department. An HR department of mostly white guys (or mostly just white people) sends up some red flags for me, as well.

      1. Random Dice*

        I so rarely meet male HR workers, and generally only in the tech side of HR, or in HR senior leadership (side-eye). I can’t even imagine a mostly-male HR team. Talk about a red flag!

  25. HonorBox*

    LW2 – Got thinking about this a little bit as I read comments from others and went back and re-read your letter. Your company sounds awesome, first of all. It sounds like they embrace their teams and enjoy providing employees an opportunity to do some fun and interesting things outside of the office. That is a workplace I know I’d enjoy. With all that in mind, while I’d support offering the employee an opportunity to opt out of the non-work activities, I think it might be helpful to have an open and honest conversation with her about her expectations. If she’s sitting and waiting for an internal transfer, it sounds like she’s going to end up on another team or in another department where the same sort of activities occur. If she’s not even willing to participate when asked directly during work activities, it sounds like that’ll continue no matter which department she’s in and she needs to be realistic about what she wants. That’s not a knock on her. She works the way she works and that’s totally fine. But she needs to evaluate whether or not she’ll be happy on a different internal team if the culture embraces these types of activities. Managers shouldn’t hold it against her if she doesn’t want to bike, or go to an art museum, or go whitewater rafting. But if she doesn’t like you or the team, will she be any happier on a different team that also embraces these activities as much as your own team does?

  26. TX_Trucker*

    #3. I work in the trucking field, which is a predominantly male industry. It’s common for female candidates to ask about the gender breakdown during interviews.

  27. Peanut Hamper*

    #3 seems especially relevant, since today is Ada Lovelace day. (Please google her! She was a pioneer of modern computer science.)

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      And for those who are graphic novel lovers, may I suggest “The Thrilling adventures of Lovelace and Babbage” by Sydney Padua

  28. Name (Required)*

    LW#1 – what I have done in the past when I have gotten a bad check is to check with their bank occasionally – like every couple of days – to see if they have the money in their account. If there is a branch where you are, got to THEIR bank and try to cash it. It won’t cost you anything if they can’t cover it and they will give it back to you and you can try again later. For one check I got, I knew roughly when they got paid, so I went to the bank on payday and cashed it. C’est voila.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      A lot of the banks around me will charge a fee for cashing a check from one of their customers if you also don’t have an account there. But it’s been a while, so I don’t know if the law around this has changed.

  29. spcepickle*

    I hire people, I am also a women in a male dominated field. I have practiced answer for when people asking me about any kind of diversity on my team, I know why and how I am building a diverse team. I would LOVE for people to ask me about it.
    While diversity (in so many different types of metrics) should be important to everyone – I think just asking the question in the interview will tell you all kinds of things about the group leadership.
    If you get a blank stare or make people uncomfortable that would not be a place I would want to work. You get a simple number break down – maybe depending the numbers. You get someone who is excited you asked the questions – that is a point in their favor.

    1. The French Connection*

      Absolutely the same.
      I have the most diverse team in my Organisation and I’m happy and proud to explain to potential hires how I’ve gone about building it, and how my organisation is working to improve diversity across the board.

  30. Menace_to_Sobriety*

    LW1: I’m a big believer in assuming things are accidents and not intentional. Did she give you the check off her personal account or her business one? She may have brain farted and not realized she didn’t write it on the account with the 7 figure settlement in it, OR the bank hadn’t released the funds yet, if she did. So I’d have probably brought it up with her along the lines of, “Did you mean to write that check from your personal account? It was returned to me and I thought you should know so your books balance,” or “I’m not sure if you intended for me to wait a few days to deposit that check, but I’m afraid it was returned to me and I thought you’d want to know.” I’d bet she’ll be a little mortified, but make it right as it sounds like they were both really nice, generous people and it was almost certainly a goof of some sort.

    1. Mmm.*

      I just want to say I appreciate finding someone else who assumes people mean well until proven wrong. We all make mistakes and have bad days.

  31. H3llifIknow*

    LW5: Also, read what you signed to see if the ENTIRE bonus is “clawed back” or if it’s prorated based on how long you stayed after receiving it. It might be worth having them withhold a chuck of your final paycheck if it’s only “some” of the money and you’re really unhappy. I left 16 months after my company paid for a “bootcamp” for me (~$4K) and they only required that I pay back a few hundred. Worth looking into, unless of course, you already know for sure they’ll WANT IT ALL… in that case, I’d ask for a signing bonus, for sure. I’ve gotten 3 of them and at 2 of the companies they said, “Huh we’ve never done that before; we’ll check into it,” and I got it! The only harm is in not asking! Good Luck!

    1. LW 5*

      Thank you!! I did end up getting the job and negotiated a start after my clawback expires. And I’ve learned a lot about clawbacks – I don’t know if I’d sign one again, especially one that wasn’t prorated (which mine was not!).

  32. Anonymous Hippopotamus*

    LW5: This advice is spot on. I was in a similar situation recently. I unexpectedly interviewed for a VP position that dropped into my lap. I made them aware that I had a huge stay bonus coming in a few months that, while I didn’t absolutely need it, it was too much to leave on the table. I also wanted to prepare my department to take over my projects after I left. The new company couldn’t match the bonus, so I ended up starting after I received it. I’m glad I did, because that job ultimately did not work out, and I didn’t burn any bridges.

    1. LW 5*

      Thank you for sharing what your experience was! I’m sorry the job didn’t work out, but this makes me feel better about where things landed (I negotiated a start after my clawback expires).

  33. Nancy*

    LW1: The best thing to have done was to tell Nadja directly that her check bounced. It could be a simple as she thought a check she deposited would clear before yours and afterwards was waiting patiently for you to cash it. Mistakes happen, but people need to know so they can fix it. No need to involve her Laszlo at all.

  34. ladygirl*

    As a woman in finance, I ALWAYS ask for the gender breakdown of my potential team, managers, and executive team. Good companies will be proud to share the breakdown, and any company who is bothered by that is not a place you want to work.

  35. Daisy-dog*

    #4 – There can be so many reasons that your hiring profile got updated to that status. That does include that you were rejected.

    I’m really sorry you’re in limbo. Job searching is so hard and there’s too much guesswork.

  36. RagingADHD*

    Of *course* you could mention it to Nadja, and indeed should have.

    “Hey Nadja, this is awkward, but actually that bonus check bounced and my bank charged me a penalty. If you can’t cover the $1,000 right now, don’t worry about it, but could you cover me for the bounced check fee? It’s $25.”

    She wasn’t generous. She was exploiting you and her relationship with Lazlo to get free work, and you wound up *paying* for the privilege of working for her!

    She had to have realized that check bounced and didn’t even try to make it up to you.

    I do not get how people survive if they can’t tell the difference between telling great aunt Susie the sweater she knit you is ugly, and telling someone you did work for that they need to pay you, or at a minimum not harm you!

    It’s not rude. It’s not greedy. It’s business. And employers who fuck with people’s money do not deserve your delicate sensibilities to shield them from the unpleasant reality that they are taking advantage of people.

  37. Mmm.*

    LW2: I’ve had to disclose medical conditions because a company thought athletic team building activities were fun. The conditions in no way affected my ability to do my job or function in normal activities that involve standing or walking for a reasonable amount of time, so I didn’t think it was their business. (I was also penalized for mentioning it, but that’s a whole other issue that I don’t think applies here.) I wonder if finding something non-athletic would change her attitude a little.

    Also, not everyone can ride a bike. Not me, of course. I’m the best bike rider. *Moonwalk away*

  38. Raida*

    2. One employee doesn’t like team-building but the rest of my staff loves it

    I think more accurately this is “One employee wants to leave and doesn’t like anyone they work with, should I let them choose to not attend workshops?”

    Framing it like that? You just manage them, and get rid of them since you’ve said they have performance issues. It’s fine if a staff member doesn’t want to do an activity – give everyone enough lead time to know what they’ll be so they can indicate something won’t be possible. But they’d still attend the 1.5days of essentially workshops even if they didn’t like their coworkers.

    Personally? I can’t ride a bike. I have attempted to learn many times but I can’t. So that I could plan to meet at the second activity and be able to plan how I’d spend my free time if the ride was a couple hours long, I’d want to know once the plan was set – so I’d guess a month or a couple weeks out from the event. If I found out about the ride at lunch after the workshops had finished, that’d be disappointing and interruptive.

  39. Cat In The Hat*

    *Doesn’t Like Team Events*
    There seems to be some information missing here.

    In what situation did the person share the: I don’t like you, the team or the job info? Or did you infer that?

    Also, why is legal involved in a routine “manage them out” scenario?

    Lastly, if you are actively seeking a way to get the person off the team and they don’t want to take part in the extra-curriculars, why make them come? It seems that it would only serve to make everyone miserable just so you can have 100% attendance.

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