what advice is important but you’ll never hear it from an employer?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m not sure what you would call this request, but I guess it’s to crowdsource what an employer might call “subversive” advice for early-career employees: the things they need to know to benefit them but that employers would prefer they didn’t know. I’m thinking of the things a union might tell new employees that the employer wishes they didn’t know, like that we have a legal right to talk about wages or about HR protecting the company rather than the individual employee.

I’m nearly 25 years into my career and recently met with an early-career employee (who does not report to me) to show her how to use a specific system related to our benefits. Because PTO is one of our benefits, I let her know that:
Because of the state we work in, our employer is required to pay out unused PTO when we leave. I felt that was important for her to know because online advice often tells employees to use up PTO before putting in notice so they don’t “lose” it.
She would be smart to always use her floating holidays (which don’t roll over year to year and don’t get paid out when you quit) before her PTO (which does get paid out and some of which can roll over). She hadn’t heard that either and was almost out of PTO but still had floating holidays remaining.

These examples are things HR doesn’t say because they can cost the company more when the employee leaves.

What other advice like this do you (or readers) wish their early-career selves knew when they walked in the door that their employer would never tell them?

This is a great question. Readers, what’s your advice that most people will never hear “officially” from their companies but which will benefit them to know?

{ 1,054 comments… read them below }

  1. Oriana*

    If you are compensated in stock, it’s very wise to sell that stock upon receipt. Your personal risks are already overweighted to the well-being of the company. People starting today have never heard of Enron, or how putting company stock in your 401k can cause you to lose EVERYTHING if the company goes under.

    1. Today's OP*

      That’s a good one I never would have thought of. The “lift yourself by your bootstraps” folks have stories where janitors retire as millionaires through gifted company stock, too, so it’s important to be sure people know the risk rather than the fairy tale.

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        I’m one of those who would qualify this advice by saying, If you receive stock options, see a trusted financial advisor for advice, and educate yourself on the outlook for the company and industry if you don’t intend to sell right away. And get current advice whenever a new “batch” vests.

        I turned mine into a down payment. It was a good time period for real estate. We sold the condo recently and are happy with how we did money-wise.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          How do you find a financial advisor? I looked for a one in 2021, and all I could find were investment bankers who wouldn’t even talk to me unless I had tens of thousands in assets. One of the ones I looked at required a quarter million in assets.
          As far as I can, tell, a financial adviser you could pay a few hundred dollars for an hour or two of their time does not exist.

            1. Brooklyn*

              This is great advice, I’ll add to say that it’s critical to only hire advisors that are fee-only – what that specifically means is that their only source of income is a fixed fee either per meeting or per month/year/whatever. The two nasty things specifically to avoid:
              1. Anyone who is charging you a percentage of your wealth/portfolio – they’re leeches who will quietly sap you of way more than is reasonable. The difference between a 5% return and a 5.5% return with a 1% fee is tens of thousands over the life of a 401k.
              2. Anyone who makes money primarily by selling you a fund/ETF/whatever. They’re sales people who pretend that they have your best interests at heart, but, legally, they are allowed to lie to you and give you bad advice to get you to sign.

          1. raktajino*

            If you have a credit union, they may have advisors you can meet with for free, at least initially. Of course they might still nudge you to things that make them or the credit union money, so caveat emptor. But I’ve had good experiences.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I’d add to this that if your company gives you the option to buy stock, in most cases you probably shouldn’t. There are usually better ways to invest your money that dumping it back where you work.

      1. Croissandwich*

        If you get to buy the company stock at a discount, you absolutely SHOULD do so (and sell immediately, lock in the gain, and diversify).

        1. Hannah Lee*

          And do not, ever, buy that stock on margin. Unless you have cash money in some account somewhere that you can use to pay the margin call if for some reason the stock tanks.

          I know people who worked at the same very high flying tech company I did, at a time when real estate values were high in our area, who had a mentality of “you’re a fool if you don’t take advantage of other people’s money (aka loans, buying stocks on margin) to fund your life style; as long as your month to month cash flow is fine, you’re golden”.

          After 9-11 our company’s stock price plummeted, and real estate started faltering as the recession was barreling through, those people found themselves facing hefty margin calls on the company stock options they’d exercised, and limited access to cash to pay because they’d over-spent, bought more house than they could safely afford and had a lot of savings in stocks, which were all losing their value. They wound up having to sell their homes, for less than the paid for them, just to pay for stock that wasn’t worth that much anymore. (oh, and even more fun, our employer did a deep round of layoffs and some of them lost their jobs on top of that. )

          And PS, also do not fill your 401(k) with your company’s stock either.

          1. Croissandwich*

            I don’t think that’s what I and others are suggesting. I’m not talking about options.

            If your employer offers and employee stock purchase program, you can buy the stock at a discounted price, immediately sell when you get the shares, and get a nearly risk-free return.

            1. SansSerif*

              Wouldn’t that be considered short-term gains that would be taxed higher than if you held on to them for a while?

              1. TechWorker*

                Also might depend how the tax is worked out, the way the scheme works at my company (which is US owned but I am being taxed in UK so might be different) is you get taxed on the value of the discount you got at purchase (regardless of whether you sell immediately or not). If you keep the shared & make a profit later, that is taxed on the difference between purchase price & sale price.

                (I always sell immediately but there have been times when people made a big enough profit on their shares – because there’s a ‘lookback’ that means if share price soars in the time window you might be buying at like a 50% discount – that the tax has been a huge chunk of their paycheck & caused cash flow problems. HR now send out a warning if this is likely to be the case based on share price…)

            2. Hannah Lee*

              Whether it’s just at a discount through a employee purchase plan or less than street price because of options, I agree with you that buying and selling can be a great thing.

              But I have seen some people do the first thing (buying at a discount) but not the second (selling it immediately), by doing the buying on margin. And that got them into trouble.

                1. JSPA*

                  You can put money you need to live on, from your payroll, into ESPP, and cover clothes and groceries and rent with a credit card that you’re not paying off. Strictly, you are not buying on margin, but effectively, you really are doing exactly that, in terms of how it will affect your solvency, if the stock tanks.

            3. JSPA*

              Hannah Lee’s comment is a “yes and yet” not a “no, don’t do what Croissandwich says.” Yes, buy at discount, but only if the money is really available, and you’re not borrowing to do it (which includes borrowing elsewhere to cover the shortfall from what’s going out of your paycheck to do so).”

              People who are brand new to the concept can also be short on cash, and perhaps already living on borrowed cash, which blurs the lines.

              In addition, buying on margin is seeing a resurgence (to the point that even retirement funds are getting into that particular–IMO–risky fool’s game, to the point that I’m having to move my funds out of one set of socially conscious funds because their last re-org in very specific language, gave them the right to do so).

              Hannah Lee’s reminder that stocks are among the LAST thing to buy with borrowed cash (even short-term, given the combination of moment-by-moment risk and the bite of short term capital gains taxes) is a valuable caveat to your general rule.

              Another caveat is to consider your tax bracket, the level of the discount, the relevant short term capital gains, and also whether they are actually options with vesting required (or other functional restriction on selling quickly) though that’s more commonly something you see for executive level stock options, not employee purchase programs (google ESOP vs ESPP for more).

          2. ThatGirl*

            Our company 401(k) match is in company stock. Now, the company is old and pretty diversified and I’m not worried about it going under altogether, but I was wary about that. Our financial advisor says it’s fine though because I have an otherwise diversified portfolio.

            But when my RSUs vest next year I am definitely selling those.

        2. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

          That is effectively being compensated by stock. You should still sell said stock immediately.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            Why? There’s no way a blanket “sell company stock immediately” makes sense. If I and many others had done that we would be much worse off now. I’m not talking about risky startup equity but solid companies (though both are potentially valuable)

            Better to talk to a financial planner/accountant about the specifics

            1. BubbleTea*

              The issue is that you’re way more highly exposed to the risks in that one company when your income comes from them too. Diversifying your stocks means if the company fails, you won’t have lost your investments as well as your salary.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                Yes but diversifying overall and whether you should hold on to company stock or not are two different topics.

                My only point is that it’s bad advice in my opinion to always immediately sell your company stock

            2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

              No, this is considered bad advice in investing. You are already “invested” in your company by working there and getting your paycheck there. Tying up even more of your earnings in company stock puts you more at risk if something goes wrong.

              “Solid companies” go under all the time. But also, what if the company is fine, and the economy is bad? Now your company stock is down. Maybe you then get laid off because of the bad economy and your company stock is worth less too so you can’t sell it to pay bills.

              A good planner would absolutely tell you to diversify away from where you work.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                My planner is excellent, and she says the 1% I put in for the ESPP is well worth it. It’s all subjective based on your own financial situation, but it can be a decent way to invest some money for yourself.

                1. TechWorker*

                  Yes, I agree, if your ESPP strategy is ‘sell immediately’, which mine is, it is guaranteed free money. The only time I guess it would be problematic is if the stock absolutely tanked within one day (Eg you didn’t have the opportunity to sell close to the price it was purchased). That is a non zero risk but the amounts I have in the ESPP acc at one time mean I’m not hugely worried about it, it’s evened out by the guaranteed ~17%+ return otherwise.

            3. GrooveBat*

              Yeah, I feel like if you’re getting into the realm of “being compensated with stock” a financial advisor would be a really good investment.

          2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

            They literally said to do that. You’re not disagreeing.

            “and sell immediately, lock in the gain, and diversify” <-this means sell the company stock to buy *other stock* to diversify your portfolio.

            1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

              You are correct, I am not disagreeing!

              I would say it’s worth the “free” 15% (that’s typical of these plans) even if you need to turn around and spend the proceeds once you get it (as opposed to buying other stocks). It can be equivalent to a 90% or higher annualized interest rate, depending on the details of your plan

          3. Loose Socks*

            My husband receives stock twice a year. He’s kept all his stock over the years, and it has grown exponentially. He is about to quit and, had he sold his stock as soon as he got it, he would have gotten single to double digit values on a lot of it from early on. Now it’s worth in the multiple hundreds each range, totaling over $15,000. So I think this advice is heavily dependent on the business itself.

            1. BitterGravity*

              It’s about the risk. Sometimes it pays off, but it is already the source of your (husbands) income, if the company has trouble, then you’ll be at a bigger risk of layoffs while the value of it drops. If it does well, your (husbands) job is probably more secure.

              Another way to think of it, would you/your husband have bought the stock if they gave you the cash equivalent instead?

            2. Clem fandango*

              I owned about 25 shares of stock in my employer. I didn’t sell it a year after purchase, because my company was very successful. Then it failed abruptly. In the long run 25 shares wasn’t a lot, but I still wish I had taken the advice here to sell (relatively) early and diversify.

            3. LucasLucasLucas*

              If he’d sold the shares and bought an equivalent value in index funds each time, then the odds are good that he’d be sitting on a larger sum. Plus he wouldn’t have been exposed to concentration risk in the same way.

          4. I Have RBF*

            No. Do not sell immediately unless you think the company is headed down the tubes within the next year. Hold them long enough to get into long term capital gains. That way you actually keep more of the money.

            1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

              There is a risk to this. Beyond just that the stock will go down in a way that is correlated with your employment. If you have to sell the stock (e.g. because you just lost your job) at a loss while it’s still a disqualifying disposition, you will face punishing tax consequences. So if you do decide to hold on for 2 years, make sure you are prepared to hold on no matter what.

          5. JSPA*

            That depends; especially if there’s more than one income in your family, having one job plus part of your portfolio sunk in a single company isn’t necessarily overexposure.

            Furthermore, if you happen to have money you can afford to lose, it’s not somehow evil or wrong to have it in your company’s stock. (After all, it’s also not “wrong” in some absolute sense to spend it on traveling the world, to give it to charity, or to blow it in Vegas.) Most companies are not Enron, just as most trading firms are not Alameda Research; you’re not automatically feeding some malign beast, if you invest in your employer.

            The more nuanced version of the “sell fast” advice is: consider your level of exposure in complete context. Many people, having done this, go with selling a set percentage and holding a set percentage.

        3. LemonDrops*

          *HR is there for the company, not for the employees, so when approaching them for problems/complaints/issues try to phrase them in terms of company impact.

          *FMLA only guarantees your job is there when you’re on it, not pay or exemption from termination when you are off it.

          *a job consists of pay + benefits + perks. Weigh them all when deciding whether to accept or not (and perks can be removed quite easily)

      2. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        I would strongly disagree on this one.

        Most times when companies give you the option to buy stock it is at a pretty significant discount. Typically either a fixed rate (option) or 15% lower than the lower of beginning or end of period prices.

        My advice would be to buy as much as they will let you and sell it immediately. Either way you end up paying short term gains on the discount. Once you get through the painful first purchase period, you can use the proceeds from the sale to float the deductions from your paycheck.

      3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        I think you should consult a personal fiduciary to determine if it’s in your best interest to use the option…but on that same thought, a young worker probably needs to know that a stock option is not the same as an actual stock. When a company gives stock options, they are gifting an “agreement” until the option is exercised. Don’t count it as real benefits until real money is in your account.

        1. Noelle*

          Strongly agree! It’s also worth noting that for a lot of companies, those stock options vest over a pretty long time period, or you aren’t eligible for stock until you’ve been there for a certain period of time, etc. For example, I took a job with stock options. You had to work there for a full year before you were eligible, then they were allocated based on the calendar year, but not paid out until April. They also vested over a 4-year period. That means that I had to work there for a minimum of 16 months to get the award, and I didn’t get any real money until I’d been there 28 months (where I got 25% of my yearly award because it was vested over 4 years). At my next job I got a lot less stock but a much higher base salary, which for me was a much better arrangement because I started seeing the benefit right away in my paycheck.

          1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

            Yes! Not only do they take time to vest, but if you leave the company before they vest, you might either lose those options altogether, or are required to exercise the option immediately. This isn’t always a losing deal — but you should really have an outside financial advisor to help you make a decision.

      4. Katie*

        I am going to disagree as well. As others have said, the company is offering the stock at a discount so you make 15% automatically and if the stock did go down during the stock option time then it will not negatively impact you.

      5. MN Engineer*

        It depends. At my company, we get a 15% discount on the purchase and we can sell it immediately for no penalty. It’s essentially free money.

        1. JSPA*

          Depends on your income and filing status. Short term capital gains are (mostly, with some arcane asterisks) taxed essentially as income.

          There’s an argument to be made–though not here (!) in that it tends to draw on politically-inflected philosophies–that all capital gains should be taxed as income. But they’re not. For the sake of this site, that’s an immutable fact.

          Given the above facts:

          for many people, buying at a discount and selling fast is free money; for others, it works out to being a distraction where they jump though some hoops to break barely more than even (if that).

          If you can figure out whether you should be doing regular or Roth IRA’s, you can probably also decide what you should be doing about employee stock discount purchasing. If not? Maybe find someone who can work through it with you, rather than using an absolute rule from the internet.

      6. Reluctant Mezzo*

        There is a one exception to that rule. If there are a lot of layoffs, someone who will need a $50,000 check upon their exit is likely to be kept on. (2010 was quite educational in that regard).

    3. Super Duper Anon*

      THIS. To be fair, I don’t trust the stock market in general, after doing a stock trading assignment in a high school economics class that showed me just how much of a gamble it was. I sell my restricted stock each time it vests. All of my longer investments are guaranteed income in some way or another. Yes, I will make less money overall than if I took more risks, but I have seen so many articles of people reaching retirement age and the stock market tanks and suddenly they are out a lot of money and have to work longer.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        You might want to do research now that you’re an adult and not playing a game in school, because you got the wrong lesson. Investing in the entire stock market (SP500) and leaving it alone is safer and long term provides better returns than individual stocks or bonds alone. And nobody should ever day trade (which is what that game was).

        You have already chosen to have to work longer because your investments don’t return as much, so you’re not any better off than your imaginary people from the headlines.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I have always heard the investment advice to decrease the risk of your investments as you get closer to relying on them (to buy a house, finance college or pay for retirement). One way to do so is to shift money from the stock market (even index funds) to the bond market. The logic is that way there is time to recover from losses before you really need the money.

          On the other hand, if you lose a significant amount of your principle in the first 10 years of investing (e.g. invest 100k and end up with only 90k after a stock market downturn), you lose all the benefits of compound interest from that money. It’s not bad to seek out low-risk investments, and they are easier to plan around.

          1. Green great dragon*

            Decreasing risk as you get closer to using it is common advice, but only really makes sense if there’s some minimum value you need to be above like a mortgage to pay off, or if you really dwell on losses to an unusual degree. Otherwise you’re giving up a high likelihood of gaining $x to avoid a very small risk of losing $x. (Source: did financial modelling for a pensions company.)

      2. not nice, don't care*

        I worked at a floor brokerage on Black Monday of 1987, as lower level staff. Seeing the brokers weeping and tearing their hair, literally not figuratively, as they lost everything along with their clients was incredibly educational. Never bet the rent money.

        1. Selina Luna*

          I was so young in 1987, I don’t remember Black Monday at all. I’ve always had the *feeling* that stocks were effectively the same as sports betting, and I’m deeply annoyed that 2 of my retirement accounts are in stocks and one of them lost $67 last year. And I don’t get to choose the stocks, so the chances they’re with companies I consider unethical are basically 100%.

          1. Formerly in the business*

            Stocks definitely are not the same as sports betting!

            On average, over the long term, listed companies make profits and pay out dividends and/or go up in value. The problem for the investor is that that’s just the average, some go down, some go up, and it all fluctuates at lot over time. That’s why (low cost) mutual funds are so good: you can even out the company risk but still need to live with the market risk.

            Investing heavily in a single company is never a good idea, as you get all the company risk (and still the market risk). Investing heavily in a company where you get your salary from is an even worse idea, as that company doing badly will reflect badly both on your salary and your investments. There’s no benefit to taking on that unnecessary risk (except possibly if you get the shares cheaper, but as explained above, it’s better to then get rid of them and buy something that’s less risky instead).

            Sports betting is a less-than-zero-sum game, as you are just hoping you are better at guessing than lots of other people (with the commissioner taking their cut). There’s no link to any productivity, as opposed to with shares in companies.

        2. I Have RBF*

          This.

          The stock market is gambling. Stock grants are essentially poker chips, not actual money.

          Now, if you immediately sell off your RSUs and ESPP shares, you get a known, obvious return, less short term capital gains taxes. If you wait a year or so, unless something radical happens, the stock will likely be a similar price, but now you only have to pay long term capital gains.

          Unless you are so close to the edge that you need to sell stock to pay for groceries, you should treat stocks as a slightly more substantial “recognition” award. That is to say, not real money, just tokens.

          Once you do that, you are much freer to leave it sit for a year, and then maybe diversify it.

          1. Formerly in the business*

            The stock market is not gambling (as explained above). Stocks, on average, and over long timespans, generate profits.

            What *is* gambling, is investing in only one or a handful of stocks.

            (Claiming that investing is gambling is actually a very disempowering statement, as it leads to people not learning about and benefiting from investing. That’s how employers like their employees to stay: completely dependent on their paychecks.)

          2. JSPA*

            You have an obvious return in a currency that is essentially guaranteed to depreciate over time, though. Or if you’re in (say) real estate, you can discover you’re sitting pretty on a PFAS spill, or downwind from the new cracker plant, or in what’s now part of Tornado Alley; or just that upkeep costs more in some economies than others.

            Getting your money out of stocks and into currency is reasonable choice, if you’re talking about the rent money, or your 6 month or even 1 year emergency fund. But if you’re looking 3, 5 or 10 years out, all choices have either some level of guaranteed loss (akin to entropy), some level of variable risk, or both.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              There’s always some risk, though it can be minimized. Even the money in my government-guaranteed bank account is only secure as long as the government and currency don’t collapse.

    4. Beth*

      YES YES YES. Even (or especially) if you’re in the company for the long haul, your economic future is already relying on that company: any actual stock you have should be sold so you can diversify.

      Another key item: usually, when stock options or grants vest and you actually receive the stock, it’s included as part of your compensation — which means that payroll has handled the tax withholding and related issues, and the cost basis of the stock you know own is the same as if you had just bought it that day.

      This means that if you sell it right away, you will (usually) not owe capital gains on the money from the sale. This won’t last, since the stock price will continue to change!

      Sell promptly and use the proceeds for a more diversified portfolio.

    5. Essentially Cheesy*

      I would have a very hard time also investing in an ESOP as retirement planning. I have seen locally way too many cases of the company cleaning out the funds and employees being left with no retirement after working for 20, 30, 40+ years at the same place.

    6. Bruce*

      I’ve followed that plan since I got burned in the early 80s, though now that I’ve been at the same place a long time I do look back at those early stock options a little wistfully. But like you said, having your job AND your savings both depend on the company is very risky. The worst stories I remember were when married couples worked for the same company and they both had a lot of stock…

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Do you have an example of a different situation? I think blanket-statement advice will be pretty common in this post…

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          Yes, there have been several situations where I didn’t sell stock immediately and later was able to cash out for much higher returns – these are from both startups and established companies.

          I’m sure some blanket statement advice is great, but not this one (imo).

          1. BitterGravity*

            The way to look at it is if you had the cash instead, would you have purchased the stocks with it?

            There are *some* circumstances where it can make sense (the stocks aren’t generally purchasable, there’s a holding period which moves you towards it being long term capital gains anyway). But your income is dependent on this company not crashing and burning. If they lose half their stock value, they may be laying you off anyway.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              I don’t think putting everything on red is equivalent to owning your own company stock.

              I’m actually surprised this concept is getting pushback. I’m not saying ONLY have this and your job as your only source of income, just that you don’t always need to immediately sell it

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Yep. There are lots and lots of ways to invest your money. Buying company stock can be a great part of a financial plan, especially if you get a discount. It shouldn’t be a controversial concept.

              2. Spiders Everywhere*

                My point is that anecdotes aren’t much use in a situation that’s so luck-based. Having a bit of company stock is one thing, but investing heavily in your own company is extra risky since if something happens to your company you’re out your job and your savings at the same time.

                1. Hiring Mgr*

                  Agree on the first part – I only gave anecdotes b/c I was asked.

                  My only objection to the original post is that it doesn’t apply in every circumstance. Of course putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good strategy but I don’t think anyone’s advised that.

                2. ccsquared*

                  This isn’t about anecdotes, it’s about variables in a personal situation that affect what is or isn’t a good strategy.

                  Someone who has a job and no other savings or investments probably shouldn’t hold everything in their company stock. But someone who is on track with a diversified retirement plan might choose to prioritize something other than “avoid loss” when making a judgement on this.

                  I also don’t think “luck” is a useful way to characterize investing, nor are gambling analogies all that helpful. There are risks and unknowns in investing for sure, but it’s not a completely random environment where the odds are always in favor of the house.

      2. gmg22*

        Agreed — what I’d say is that company stock purchases, especially if offered at a discount, can be a really good investment. The bad idea is when you hold ONLY that stock (or any one particular stock).

        1. Bookmark*

          the premise of this question is around advice to people just starting out in a career. I guess some people in their first job out of college may have diversified stock portfolios… but probably not all that many. If you’re just starting to build your career/investment portfolio, in most cases it’s going to be better to sell and diversify.

    7. There You Are*

      Can you expand on “lose EVERYTHING”?

      I have a handful of shares of two of my old employers in my TOD accounts. If the companies go under (not likely) will I lose my entire 401k, even the thousands of dollars invested in domestic and foreign stock, as well as bonds?

    8. Hillary*

      One caveat – if buying it at a discount or getting a match I hold it until it converts to long-term capital gains. In risk/reward terms it’s relatively unlikely that the value will drop more than the tax cost. Actual stock grants (not options or RSUs) are pretty rare below director-level at publicly traded companies.

      If stock is part of your comp plan it’s worth paying attention to it. Does the market understand the company and what it’s worth? I used to work at a company that was substantially undervalued for a couple years because the market hadn’t figured out it’s a cash cow. It was trading at $18-$22 when the fundamentals said it should be $35, not long after that one analyst put it at $45. I sold most of mine at $38.

    9. Martin*

      Yes.
      A coworker invested 100% of her 401k in company stock. It had performed quite well. Until it didn’t.

      Company was circling the drain and falsifying the books. Once exposed the stock price bottomed out. Coworker lost over $250k. And she wasn’t the only one. The group sued but I don’t know the outcome.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        And this is why the best financial advice is “Always diversify”. Along with “take the fullest advantage that you can of any company 401(K) match, preferably up to whatever their limit is”.
        Along those lines, remember that 401(K) contributions are a real and valuable part of your compensation! When I changed jobs I took a salary cut, but the benefits made it so that I was taking home the same amount of cash the first year, and actually got more in my 401(K). This year it’s more due to a raise and also the company has a defined contribution retirement plan, which is basically a free 7% of my salary. Benefits like this often have a vesting period, but it’s not onerous (ours is 3 years). Be sure you know and understand all the options available to you!

      2. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        I have a co-worker who had exactly this situation happening to her, to the point where I’m wondering if it’s the same company. In her case there is a class-action lawsuit, but in her words “I’ll be dead before it’s settled, but maybe my kids will inherit it.”

    10. not nice, don't care*

      Having stock options as a perk means nothing if your company goes under or lays off half the staff due to poor planning/spending. Cash monay please.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Regardless of when you choose to sell, save clear record of your initial purchase price in YOUR files. Do not rely solely on the bank’s records. It is not common but screw-ups do happen even there and it can be very expensive if you can’t prove you bought at $x when you have just sold at $x/2.

    12. Frustrated Fundraiser*

      Exactly. My dad worked as an engineer for over 40 years at Northern Natural Gas, which eventually became Enron. Fortunately he had already retired when it crashed so his pension was safe, but he had 40 years worth of stock— his retirement nest egg— that was just gone. It was devastating.

    13. goddessoftransitory*

      Especially because selling stock is complicated if you’ve never done it, with tax implications. It’s not something you can do to cover immediate expenses.

      1. TechWorker*

        ….is it? If a company is giving you stock don’t they usually also set you up with a broker? Ours are taxed at source (for RSUs) and via payroll (for ESPP discount) so whilst there’s like a couple of days to get the money there’s not actually anything complicated I need to do. (If I sell immediately).

      1. LucasLucasLucas*

        Everything your employer gives you that isn’t cold hard cash is an effort to avoid giving you more cold hard cash.

        That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some things in particular are a win/win (if you’re in the US, your employer can probably get a better price on a thousand healthcare plans than you can on one, for example.)

        But all of it is a replacement for cold hard cash, and you should never, ever forget it. Well-funded social nights out? Half days on the Friday before a long weekend? Prestige (which carries a surprising degree of value for a lot of people, in a lot of different fields)? All of it is cheaper for your employer than just paying you more to keep you.

        I used to work for an employer who provided a top-of-the-line laptop, unlimited free barista coffee, nights out at least once a month, and the prestige that came with being a major consulting firm. I upped sticks and shifted to a smaller and scrapper firm, where my laptop is functional, we have no actual office, I make my own coffee at home, there’s one night out a year, and most people have never heard of my employer.

        What kind of raise did I get in return for forgoing all those little perks? Twenty thousand euro. Twenty thousand euro a year was the price of that prestigious name on my LinkedIn and my fancy laptop and my free coffee.

        Cold, hard cash.

    14. Truthy*

      I had the opposite experience though, everyone sold theirs at $40 share. We held onto ours, and it now sells in the high $300s. Maybe keep a percentage, if you believe in the company?

    15. Part time lab tech*

      I would expand this to say, never put all your eggs in one financial basket, particularly if you have dependents or in any situation where losing that basket would be hard to recover from.
      My husband’s family had their house, job and share’s in the successful factory where his Dad was a manager and his Grandad had retired from. One of the partners died and son who inherited stole as much as he could and kicked my husband’s family out.
      In fairness, before this, his family had done well out this system.
      The lack of other savings meant they went from comfortably middle class to his parents and grandparents skipping meals with 6 people and a business in a two bedroom flat.

    16. TeapotNinja*

      This is not good advice. The right answer is “it depends”, and there’s a spectrum.

      At extreme ends of that spectrum:

      If you’re working at a company that’s experiencing triple-digit year on year growth and the company executives are buying Ferraris, keep the stock. This is how secretaries at Microsoft became millionaires.

      If you’re working at a company whose having trouble making payroll, is laying off people and C-level executives are quitting, sell it asap.

      But, yes, you should always diversify. Employees owning company stock are always the last ones allowed to sell it when things start going bad. You don’t want to have all of your retirement savings in your own company’s stock.

  2. nm*

    That pushing back against workplace issues as a group is more effective than trying to go it alone. I feel like this is one of those things that everyone has heard in some form, but often doesn’t occur to you when you’re actually in a bad situation.

    1. Today's OP*

      Yes! I didn’t truly understand this until I was in a union, and even then I was dumbfounded by how effective the group push was.

    2. AnonForThisOne*

      YES. And, additionally, especially for folks new to the workforce– you can’t fix everything. There will be issues at any company and some of them will really, really rankle you. You can’t change them all, and if you try your reputation and career will absolutely suffer negative repercussions.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ This. And the other side of that is that you can’t fight other people’s battles for them.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Yup. I’ve gently pushed another department in my office to go as a group to insist they get the same number of WFH days as everyone else (we’re supposed to get 2 per week, but their manager will only let them use 1), but they’ve been hesitant. I’d love for them to get to use ALL of that perk, but I can’t fight that battle for them. All I can do is encourage without being pushy.

        2. Fluffy*

          And, as Alison has said many times, you can’t (shouldn’t) care more about the health of the company than the owners do.

      2. Uncontrolled Controller*

        Yes, this! As Allison often notes you need standing, and need to use capital to effectuate change.

        This comment made me think about the interns who created a petition to try to change the dress code (letter from 2016), and were all fired as a result.

      3. Anon for this too*

        Yes. I joined a startup and thought I could influence the culture. I have suffered serious repercussions. Culture remains the same.

    3. Yeah...*

      Agreed.

      I was far too old when I finally understood what it means when it is said

      “They don’t want you to organize.”

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes. It usually comes down to “what’s easier?”

      With one person it’s easier for the company to ignore or minimize the problem. When it’s a group it becomes a “thing” and therefore easier and less painful to deal with the problem instead.

    5. Nina*

      Oh heck yah. My first ‘real’ job out of college was in a company where people just… quietly disappeared if they said the word ‘union’ too loudly in any of the buildings in head office. In my little satellite office doing the actually dangerous part of the job, after one too many close calls caused by exhaustion after the fifth (or sixth, or ninth) twelve-hour day in a row, we got together once afternoon and agreed, ‘right, we’re tools down on the dangerous task at 6 pm every day, or if the temperature goes above 35, no matter what’. We didn’t necessarily tell the manager we were doing that, but we did it and it worked and none of us disappeared.

  3. Hex*

    So simple but: your employer doesnt always have your best interests at heart! If you feel like you’re being undervalued/underpaid/etc, don’t always take your employers word on what you’re ‘worth’. I was offered a 3k raise and told that I would never get paid anything like that anywhere else. Switched jobs two months later and bumped up a ladder to the tune of a 30k (!!!) increase! But if I’d listened to my employer (that I wasn’t ‘ready’ for a director role, that my background meant I’d struggle to get something high paying, that 3k was a great amount and I should be happy) I wouldn’t be where I am today!

    1. Wilbur*

      I had a boss that I liked, was easy to work with, and I thought was developing me. When I was converted to full time from being a contractor, she told me she had been keeping my salary low so she could give me a big raise if she was able to convert me.

      1. ferrina*

        Another lesson from this (and one I learned the hard way):
        Just because a boss seems nice and gives you “stretch” opportunities doesn’t mean they actually value you. I’ve worked for plenty of people who are happy to under-pay, under-acknowledge, under-train and over-utilize competent people. I’ve had bosses who thought “training” was telling me to Google something, then immediately asked me take over something that was 2 levels above my pay grade. Many of these people seemed perfectly nice, but they were doing me a grave disservice.

        1. Wilbur*

          “Just because a boss seems nice and gives you “stretch” opportunities doesn’t mean they actually value you. ”

          Oof that hits hard. To be fair, I think she was oblivious about how it came out. She didn’t have a lot of capital in the company and wasn’t seen as valuable, so it’s likely she couldn’t make anything happen even if she wanted to. It was an offsite team, so visibility to people outside of my boss was low.

    2. t-vex*

      I agree that the company needs to put themselves first so HR is there for them, not the employee. But the flip side that many young people don’t necessarily get, especially if they are coming from retail or a blue-collar background, is that doesn’t mean the boss is the enemy. I see a lot of Us vs Them mentality but things go so much smoother when you act like a team.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          That’s not entirely true, though, at least not at functional workplaces. It’s in everyone’s interest that the business do well. You and your boss might have different priorities but good employers know that you don’t actually save money by underpaying, etc.

        2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          You are literally a team with your coworkers accomplishing the tasks of your unit/department/whatever. I also don’t have the exact same interests as my coworkers Ed and Susan, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t a team.

          Basically, black and white thinking hurts you from both sides.

      1. Tom*

        Yeah, you have to be able to judge how Us vs Them your company/boss/etc are. Most places are somewhere in the middle between “lie, cheat, and steal from the employees” and “we’ll bring the company to the brink of bankruptcy to take care of our employees”. And you will probably encounter different attitudes between different managers, even in the same chain of command.

        There’s no universal truth for this one, and anyone painting every company/boss with the same brush is probably very naive or very cynical.

    3. pally*

      Yes to this x 1000!!!!

      Even if the employer makes decisions that serve to benefit you, those decisions were not made because they had your best interests at heart. It does make it okay to receive and enjoy such benefits. However, don’t think that the employer will ‘go to the wall’ for you. One still must look out for their best interests.

    4. TeenieBopper*

      I’d go so far as to say your employer never has your best interest at heart. The only time they take actions that would benefit you, the only reason they are doing that is because it benefits them more than any other option.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I think this very much depends on how far you want to take “your best interests”. Is it in your best interest to get paid as much as possible, get the most generous benefits, etc.? OF course. Is it always realistic to expect that of the job you currently hold? No.

        I’m an office assistant at a nonprofit: I am not going to get rich. It’s not because my employer is cheating me–it’s because we don’t have that kind of budget (for anyone, executive director included) and it’s not that kind of job. But I’m free to change my skills and leave for something that pays better and has more flexibility.

        So if your expectation is that your best interests must include high pay, tons of leave, WFH, etc. . . . my job wouldn’t be for you, but it would also be completely unfair to characterize that as my employer not caring about my best interests–it’s just not a job where they can offer all that (we have coverage needs and the work I do cannot leave the institution).

        1. TeenieBopper*

          Nah, it’s not about overall compensation. There are trade offs with different forms of compensation. Gain more cash, lose flexibility or whatever the trade off is (though there are companies that are going to nickel and dime you across the compensation board- shit pay, no flexibility, zero work from home, trash health insurance, no retirement match, two weeks PTO, etc and those companies should be named and shamed and burned to the ground).

          But even in a good faith situation, company makes no altruistic acts. They pay more because they want better employees. If they could save ten bucks a year, they would fire you. If you died on the job, their second phone call would be to your family to offer condoelences; their first would be to a recruiter to find your replacement.

          1. Frank Doyle*

            Wow, that’s dark! I imagine that *some* companies are like that, but definitely not all of them. Companies are made up of people, and not all people are evil. Most people would not fire someone for “ten bucks a year.”

            1. Oreo lover*

              I think it is realistic, not dark. I saw several employers have policies during COVID that meant employees got very sick, and they did it knowingly to save money. Literally they did not care if people lived or died. After that, I don’t trust employers.

    5. Bast*

      Congrats on your amazing pay bump!!

      I’ve heard variations of the “you don’t appreciate how good you have it here” and “you’ll never find better” speeches and oddly, they are always at the MOST TOXIC positions where you most certainly WILL find better. I wonder if employers realize what a big red flag those two sentences are, and if not… how DON’T they?

    6. kiki*

      I’d also add that sometimes your boss may genuinely mean well but *they* are out of the loop on industry norms. I had a manager who I think genuinely thought she was paying very well for the role– she had worked her way up and been paid much less. Then she started hearing that her employees were getting offers for 40% more than what they were making. She started putting her own feelers out and realized SHE was also wildly underpaid.

    7. MigraineMonth*

      In the same vein, you can’t always rely on your employer to advance your career. I stayed with my first employer much too long; they didn’t help me advance my career and actually blocked me from learning transferrable skills. Always keep an eye on what skills you would need to get a different job in your field.

      Also, beware the golden handcuffs. Great pay isn’t so great if you have an overly-restrictive non-compete agreement or your company has a habit of blacklisting former employees.

    8. Chinookwind*

      I have learned something similar – no one will care as much about your pay and benefits as you will. Which is why you ALWAYS double check EVERY pay stub to ensure there were no errors.

      Innocent mistakes do happen and are so much easier to fix when caught early. Dh’s pay cheque was once zeroed due to a misunderstanding by a bilingual pay clerk (who didn’t realize that “2nd” didn’t mean the same as “2” in English and though DH was over-reimbursed, so he kindly corrected the non-error, leaving DH with a $0 pay cheque). Because the mistake was caught within the day, he was able to get a new pay cheque cut and a letter from his employer to give to the bank to release the entire amount upon deposit (as they usually only release the first $500 if any cheque deposit). I couldn’t imagine the headaches that would have happened if the mistake had only been discovered after the rent payment bounced.

  4. Flames on the Side of My Face*

    You don’t need a “good reason” to justify using your PTO! Use it to sit at home bingewatching tv! Go on a day-date on a Wednesday! Sleep! Whatever!

    1. My cat is in charge*

      And equally, that you don’t owe your employer an explanation for sick days. It is, and should be, normal to say that you are taking a sick day without needing to provide justification or details. (And sick can include mental health as well as physical illness!)

      1. MourningStar*

        Gently, this isn’t accurate everywhere. Some companies, and some countries, have rules (or laws) requiring doctor’s notes for the use of sick leave. Often, this can be worked around by taking personal time for days off that would be a “mental health day” in which you are just taking space from work.
        To pre-empt critique, mental health IS the same as physical health, but unless your doctor has written you a note out (which, good! if they have), that won’t count as a valid ‘sick’ day in these situations. So – personal time can substitute in.

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          Some countries have dictators – how is that relevant? This isn’t about accuracy. This is about telling early career people what’s right and wrong. It’s wrong for an employer to insist on a doctor’s note instead of being able to say “I’m taking a PTO day.” The fact that some employers are jerks about it doesn’t change that it’s wrong.

          1. Me...Just Me*

            But…. it’s not about “what’s right or wrong” it’s about giving tips about how to effectively navigate the work place. And, no, it’s not objectively wrong for jobs to have different expectations around personal leave use – so very naïve to believe so, I think. And, it won’t be doing new employees any favors to set them up with wrong expectations.

          2. MourningStar*

            Respectfully, how is this helpful to people who live and work in places with these requirements? Refusing to engage with these requirements won’t get these people their sick days approved. Ideals are fine but we have to engage with reality.
            I don’t know that I would consider France or Germany or Canada (depending on time used and at the employer’s discretion) dictatorships – though that might depend on your politics.

            1. Kelley*

              Yeah, I’d say the more accurate early career advice here is “know your location’s legal requirements around sick leave” since the law can vary so much from place to place.

              When I first moved to NYC, I was working 3 part time jobs, cobbling together hours to make it work. At 2 out of 3 jobs I got a notice about NYC Sick Leave policy and how I accrued sick hours at the rate the city law required to use under specific circumstances. Job 3 (the biggest company out of them all, and the one I had the most hours at so thus the one where I’d be theoretically accruing the most leave) didn’t have any sick or PTO policy for PT Staff. It was only because I was working the other jobs that I knew at all to ask about the sick leave policy, and my inquiry got the policy added (as it was legally required) for all PT employees there.

          3. Nina*

            I’m in New Zealand, where we generally have pretty great worker protections.

            The law says that if you take a sick day that results in being away from work for more than two days (so yes, if you are sick on Monday after the weekend this kicks in), your employer can require you to produce a doctor’s note at your expense. It also says that your employer can require you to produce a doctor’s note for any sick leave, but if you’ve been less than three days away from work it’s at the employer’s expense. Most employers don’t bother, but they absolutely can.

            Telling early career people that the employer is wrong and bad for doing this is just going to get them into fights they cannot win, and make them lose any capital they might have had, because now they look out-of-touch.

          4. Just Me*

            Only this is about providing tips that are practical. And if an employee is at a company that requires a doctor’s note, they can’t very well respond by saying “I don’t owe you an explanation for my sick days.” A better tip would be for them to get clear on their company’s policy about this when they start!

        2. Frank Bookman*

          That’s definitely true, but if you’re in one of those situations it should be made clear up front that doctor’s notes are needed for any sick time. As in, a policy discussed during onboarding. If they don’t mention sick time during onboarding, please ask how it works.

          I’d think in the majority of situations (corporate settings especially) where they DON’T make it clear up front, My Cat is In Charge’s advice applies.

        3. Annie Paris*

          Usually a note is needed after 3 days and not before, no diagnosis is necessary and that is not your employers business anyway. (US only) I definitely encourage employees to read their handbook particularly when it comes down to any benefits questions.

        4. Yorick*

          Unless you already know for sure this won’t work in your company, you should start out by just letting them know that you’re taking a sick day. Then you can provide more info/documentation if needed.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Yes there is no legal standing to say that you won’t provide a doctors note. If it is company policy, especially if its in the handbook, they can require a doctors note.\

        The only thing that might stop this is if you have accommodations which state you have recurring issues. Especially if it might be difficult or dangerous for you to try to leave for the doctors (Mobility issues that flare up, migraines with fainting spells, etc). Then I believe if its on file the don’t have to ask you for a doctor’s note if the reason you gave was related to your disability.

        1. Huh?*

          It depends. In some jurisdictions, it’s actually illegal for an employer to require a doctor’s note. Speak to what you know, don’t generalize. Not everywhere is a US state.

      3. MM*

        Ditto on this! You don’t owe your employer to justify or provide an explanation for sick days. A manager does not need to know the details of what’s going on in your personal life (in fact, I don’t prefer my boss to know) b/c somehow, I feel it may be held against a person if they ask or if confronted by HR.

        TMI is not your friend and make sure if you have social, lock that stuff down. Your boss does not need to know you’ve partied in the night or have done sometime wildly inappropriate that could suddenly bounce back onto you.

        Also – when applying/hiring/interviewing. You bet your future colleagues and managers are gonna social-media hunt your profile to death. We’ll also ask people in our networks that may know you and maybe not care about your references.

      4. Ellis Bell*

        So, I live in a country (the UK) where you can have as much sick leave as you need, but you do need to give details of why you’re ill, and get a sick note if it’s longer than 7 days. There’s also a return to work interview were they’ll ask you about your symptoms and illness and whether you’re fit for work etc. I do still sort of cosign your advice though (with the caveat that you need to know your workplace’s/region’s rules). When I was younger I’d get into too many details instead of just giving the outline, because on some level I thought you had to convince them you were “sick enough”. Now I choose the most appropriate from a selection of vague categories like fever/bug/flu and just tack on “I’m too unwell to work”.

    2. Today's OP*

      And that you don’t need to include your justification when you have a “good” reason. I find myself explaining why I’m taking PTO, and I try to delete that from my email so that early-career colleagues don’t see my modeling the idea that it needs to be some sort of company-approved reason.

    3. oranges*

      This site does a great job of reminding people that a.) you don’t need a reason to use PTO, and b.) you’re never obligated to give your work details of your plans. “Medical thing”, “family thing”, “personal thing” is always good enough.

      1. Common Sense Not Common*

        Agreed. I just say. I have an important appointment or I say I’m not feeling well (sick days). My company has a policy of you are out for more than three consecutive work days you need a doctors note. But my doctor just writes “was out for a medical issue”.

        So work gets the doctor note but doesn’t get any particulars. I can get in board with that. Until company rewrites policy and says doctor notes need specific diagnosis, company is SOL.

      2. Lucy P*

        Got to figure our how to change our office culture of oversharing and over-asking. From the lady who felt they needed a doctor’s note for every absence, to the guys who need to detail their specific stomach ailment symptoms to the upper level manager who wants to know what you’ve tried so far to cure your sickness so that they can recommend something else.

    4. Excel Jedi*

      Can confirm. Used 2 hours for a day-date yesterday (a Wednesday) and it was the best decision of my week.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

        Yes! My husband and I often do mid-week days off to get brunch/lunch, maybe take the dog somewhere, peruse HomeGoods (after a few mimosas, this might not be the best idea) or just binge something. It’s so much more relaxing than doing that stuff on the weekend.

    5. Bast*

      Absolutely! One of my best “vacations” was 3 days spent NOT going anywhere or doing anything. I’ve never known free time like that, and it was worth the PTO 100% (even though my PTO was not very generous).

      1. Tired and Confused*

        Another great sentence to avoid getting dragged into overtime territory is “I have a hard stop at X” and then go. I see more and more people using it in virtual meetings and nobody ever got any pushbacks. If you get continuously pushback for wanting to finish on time that’s red flag

      2. Lizzie*

        I have very generous PTO and I generally take at least 2 weeks per year where its just “me” time. I do stuff around the house I can’t get to normally, explore stores I never seem to have time to otherwise, etc.

    6. ferrina*

      And if your boss asks you to be “available just in case” or “handle just a few things”, the answer is no. It’s fine if you want to do those things and tell your boss, but if your boss is asking you to work, it’s not actually PTO. You are “unavailable”, even if that just means “I can’t be bothered to unglue my eyes from the TV”

    7. the cat ears*

      and DO NOT answer your work emails/messages when you are at home binge watching TV! You don’t need to be “doing something” to have a reason to unplug.

      1. Flames on the Side of My Face*

        I have so many colleagues who add the phrase “… but I will be reachable by email” to their OOO emails, and it makes me want to scream. This should not be normalized!

    8. Just Another Zebra*

      It took me a long time to unlearn my mom’s advice of only using PTO when you “absolutely definitely have to”. Two years ago, I had more left over than I was allowed to carry into the next year. While I’m gratefully to be able to keep a small bank of PTO, I try to take one day a month(ish) to just recharge. It’s been so amazing to just take a day to do nothing.

      1. Common Sense Not Common*

        Yes. I take one day a month and get a pedicure and a massage. Go out to lunch alone and then do some activity I enjoy.

        Privately I think if it as my mental health day.

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          Every month needs a 3-day weekend. If one doesn’t happen naturally in the calendar, well, that’s a good use of PTO.

          (Insofar as calendars are “natural.” :P )

      2. Lucy P*

        I’m curious (and my apologies if this comes off as intrusive)…how many hours a week do people work and then need to take off one day a month?

        Most people in my office rarely work more than 40 hours a week and are always in the office except for sick days (which get reserved for being really sick) and week long vacations.

        My average workweek (including after hours text messages and phone calls) is 41-42 hours. It’s been over 6 weeks since I’ve used PTO and my inner self is screaming for a day off.

        I have years of bad work habits that need to be retrained and am trying to understand how the rest of the world operates.

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          40, in the US. My job is how I fund the things I want to do and evenings and weekends don’t really cut it for enough time to do the things I want to do. (And I am single and childfree. I don’t know how folks with families manage.)

        2. Yorick*

          People will differ. Some people will prefer to save up their PTO for a long trip, and others will prefer to take off a day once a month or so.

          If you’re really wanting a day off, it’s ok to take one!

        3. allathian*

          I work for the government in Finland, and while my official workweek is 36 hours 15 minutes, or 7 hours 15 minutes per day, with a mandatory unpaid lunch break of at least 30 minutes, depending on workload my workweek can be anything between 30 and 50+ hours.

          I tend to get antsy if I have to work 5 days a week for more than 2 months straight, this period’s shorter if I’ve had more than one workweek of 45+ hours.

          But as I say, I’m not in the US and the expectations on time off are very different. I’m being specific because you asked, but it’s a lot easier to take a random day or two off when you get 38 days like I do after 15 years’ tenure (only weekdays count as days off, even on consecutive weeks) *and* between 7 and 10 federal holidays (the number of holidays varies because we don’t get the following Monday off if a holiday that always falls on the same date, like Christmas Day, is on the weekend). It’s mandatory to take at least two consecutive weeks off at some point in the year (for government employees, it’s specified in our collective agreement), most take 3-5 consecutive weeks in the summer.

          I can take up to 5 days off without a doctor’s note, although managers can request a note if they suspect their employees of slacking off.

          I have flexible working hours, which are tracked to ensure that nobody’s being overworked or slacking off, although the former seems more common than the latter. If you have working hours banked, you can work shorter days, in fact we’re expected to do so when it’s less busy. Only full days off are taken from our vacation allotment.

          Generally it’s possible to transfer about a week of vacation days to the following year, but my employer at least requires employees to take their vacation time, and working while on vacation is severely frowned on. In extreme cases, an employee can be locked out of company systems to ensure that the 2-week requirement is met.

          The long vacations typically mean that everyone is cross-trained to at least some degree, and that no big decisions are made and projects don’t typically advance much between mid-June and mid-August, and between Christmas and 12th Night when a significant proportion of employees are on vacation.

          Reading this blog has really made me realize how very privileged I am in comparison to employees in the US.

    9. Molly Coddler*

      So very much this. You don’t need to wait until you are not feeling well. Sick of work is technically sick. Use PTO.

      1. Miss Cranky Pants*

        There are times when I might have a vision problem and can’t go to work that day.

        I had a problem seeing myself at work. :)

  5. formerlibrarian*

    To get your own lawyer.

    In the event of any legal issue involving the company AND you, your company’s lawyer is not YOUR lawyer, and cannot put your interests ahead of the organization’s.

    1. dozed and contused*

      Early-career person here with a follow-up question: what does it mean to “get a lawyer”? Like, in a very basic sense, how do you go about doing this? I’m afraid to simply call a promising lawyer and ask a question for fear of an answer followed by “ok that’ll be $[large number].”

      1. ThatGirl*

        Employment lawyers, especially, tend to offer free consultations and frequently only take a case if they see it as winnable, and therefore are paid by a cut of the settlement and not you directly.

        (My BFF is an employment lawyer.)

        Calling a lawyer to find one in the first place is basically always free, if there is a charge they will tell you.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        There’s a recent post titled “how do you find a lawyer for workplace issues?” from September 28, 2023 that has a few good places to start and some good discussion in the comments about what the process looks like. Link to that post in a reply to this comment.

      3. Delta Delta*

        Lawyer here! Just google what you want and call some lawyers who pop up. If they can’t help you, they often will refer you to someone who can. And if you have questions about fees, ask up front. We like to get paid for our work, of course, but we also will be up front about fees. Some lawyers will consult for 1/2 hour or so for free and that’ll help give both you and they a sense about whether you need to work with them further going forward.

        Also, if the lawyer doesn’t charge you and you find their advice valuable, it is okay to give them something in return, like a good google review or something (or to insist on paying them for their time; that’s ideal, of course, but I’m talking about other situations). My husband is also a lawyer and he helped someone along these lines. That client sent him a gift box of one of his favorite foods. He didn’t expect it, and he several years later he talks about how sweet it was that they did that.

      4. Spiders Everywhere*

        When you’re looking for lawyer your state’s bar association is a good place to start, and I’d avoid hiring anyone who has a billboard or you’re related to

      5. BubbleTea*

        You can’t be charged until a contract has been agreed, so they can’t charge you for a phone call in which you explain your situation and ask if they can help. Many offer a free 15-30 minute chat to check that they can act for you.

      6. IAAL (but probably not in your state)*

        Often lawyers bill by the hour, but if you just have one question, you can look for legal clinics (e.g. at a library or nonprofit). You may spend several hours waiting, but they’re free and staffed by volunteers. If you have a more involved question/need research or representation, you’d need to find someone willing to assist you. Typically that would mean an initial free discussion and then an agreement about what you’d pay. You can look for a lawyer through your state bar – I’m sure there are other resources. They should behave professionally and earn your trust – if not, look elsewhere.

      7. noname4*

        You can stsrt with your local Legal Aid office.
        Or call the state bar association for your location. Google can provide website/phone info.

      8. Nina*

        Find a law firm in the phone book, call the number, say something along the lines of “I need to get advice on [issue], how much time would you expect to need for that and what are your rates?”, and if you can’t afford that, call the next law firm in the phone book.

        In my experience they’ll usually tell you that the first brief (up to half an hour where I am) consultation is free and after that their rates are $X/hr, or if you need to sue someone they might work on contingency.

        If you’re in a jurisdiction with a Citizens Advice Bureau, it might be an idea to call there first; they’re not lawyers, but the volunteers usually have a pretty good grounding in common legal issues and if nothing else, they’ll have a good rolodex of recommended lawyers.

        1. leeapeea*

          What is this “phone book” you speak of? lol… If, like me, you don’t get a phone book because you only have a cell phone, this advice also applies to an internet search for local lawyers or using the local bar association list.

      9. Yorick*

        I’ve only ever hired an immigration lawyer but they charged $200 for the consultation and then that was discounted from the fee for the work we hired them to do.

    2. Just Me*

      Except in the situations where you and the company have the same interests and the company is providing a lawyer for you. Save the $25 grand on personal counsel for that deposition.

  6. Laura Gersten*

    HR is not your friend, they are there to advocate for your employer.
    If a sensitive issue arises, you will have more success if you give feedback as a group.
    Give info on a “need to know” basis – you don’t need to give reasons why you are using PTO for example.
    Though usually one does not go over immediate boss’ head, if they are unable/unwilling to advocate for your then you may have to go to the next level.

    1. Gerry Kaey*

      yeah, took me a while to figure out “human resources” means “humans as resources” not “resources for humans”

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            My parent company refers to itself as a “human capital resource management firm” and I’m like…that is one half-step away from just calling yourself human traffickers. Hideous.

      1. Today's OP*

        My first real job had an amazing human resources rep who 100% went to bat for employees, not the company. I’m not sure how she kept her job. But it definitely screwed up my understanding of what HR really is. HUGE adjustment at the next company when I found out they didn’t have my best interests at heart.

      2. ENFP in Texas*

        I worked in the department when it was “Employee Relations”, and when they switched to “Human Resources” it drove home that humans were really viewed no differently than forklifts or conveyor belts – as resources to be managed, not people to be related to.

        1. Molly Coddler*

          i have never literally spit out my coffee until right now. thank you for providing this moment.

      3. N.E.R.D.S. Reader*

        I remember I first came across the term “Human Resources” as a kid in a book about super-spies where it was being referenced as a department of a James Bond-style evil organization, and I thought it was a joke about how there could be nonhuman members of the organization, like mutant animals or something – because “Human Resources” is such a strange and alien sounding term.

    2. Kyrielle*

      “HR is not your friend, they are there to advocate for your employer.”

      And the corollary, which is: this means competent HR can be and often ARE useful when your employer’s best interests march with yours (eg, someone is illegally discriminating – competent HR will want that to stop, if not because it’s horrible for you, at least because they’d rather deal with it than face a lawsuit/EEOC complaint!) and can be useful when they’re not opposed (when I was having an issue getting our health insurance at the time to say whether or not they *would* cover something, our HR escalated it with them and got me confirmation they would – but HR would also have been done if they’d confirmed they wouldn’t, I suspect – which is fine – I just wanted to know before I authorized the service whether I’d be paying 10% or 100% of a several-thousand dollar bill, if I did!).

      I won’t count on even good HR to put my interests over the company’s, because that’s not what they’re there for, and they probably also want to stay employed. But they can be quite helpful when it’s not against the company’s interests, and they *should* be when it’s *in* the company’s interests.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          “HR embodies your company’s values”

          As HR, I could not agree more.

          HR does not run the company and rarely has final decision power. What they are able, willing, and likely to do is a reflection of the what the people owning or running the company deem to be correct. If you work in a place with bad HR, there are likely deeper issues.

      1. sacados*

        Yes it’s important to remember that. “Looking out for the company’s interests” can (and often does!) also mean things like “make sure the company is not doing shady shit that could get them sued or drive away good employees.”
        Good HR at a good company will recognize that.

    3. Van Wilder*

      Yes! I used to think that HR’s job was, in part, to stick up for me if my manager was being unfair! Big NOPE.

      The only time HR is on your side is if you’re complaining about someone exposing the company to legal liability. Or requesting to use your legally protected benefits (e.g., FMLA, ADA accommodations…) And then, only if your HR is actually good.

      And my director unfairly questioning my sick days did not open my company to legal liability, unfortunately :(

      1. I Need Coffee*

        Then you had a bad HR team. HR’s job is to protect the company but part of protecting the company is retaining good employees. Good HR holds bad managers accountable for their actions.

    4. birch*

      And in this vein, HR doesn’t always know the answer to your question even if it should be in their wheelhouse, especially if you’re in a less common situation. Unfortunately people really need to find information themselves and advocate for themselves.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Point! A less common situation *or* a less common *state*. If you are in a multi-state company and headquarters isn’t your state, they may not know things about it. They SHOULD, but they may not. I’m in Oregon and had to point out the Oregon Family Leave Act to our out-of-state HR, because it was more generous than FMLA when I was having children. HR should track these things, but that doesn’t mean they do, or that they haven’t missed one. They had no problem complying with it – they just had to be told it existed first.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Similarly, I was the first person to return to work after maternity leave still breastfeeding. They had to go away and find out what to do.

        2. birch*

          Yeah I was being hired from a different country as a third-country national. All sorts of HR related mess from how much I was legally supposed to be paid as a skilled migrant worker to how I was supposed to be paid before I was able to open a local bank account. Luckily I had a partner who knew financial laws and could tell them that since it was within the SEPA they were legally required to pay into my existing EU account, because they were arguing they couldn’t pay me until I got the local account opened, which I couldn’t do until I got a local apartment, which I couldn’t do until I could afford the deposit after being paid. It’s a common situation and yet somehow it really confuses HR. I’m always jealous of people working in big companies who help them with immigration and logistical issues of moving. I didn’t even get a moving stipend.

    5. Loose Socks*

      I work in HR, and I want to clarify that HR are there to prevent the employer from breaking the law. Unfortunately, lot of businesses skew towards hiring people that will favor the company, but not all HR put the company first. I can attest that I personally have stepped in and attempted to stop the higher ups from doing something that, while legal, was not in the employee’s best interest. In my view, HR is supposed to work similar to a union, in that they make sure the employees rights are protected, their pay is protects, and that they are represented as people to upper management.

      1. Anoning because legal issues*

        As someone who dealt with HR actively breaking the law, and helping the company break the law….HR will one, only prevent an employer breaking the law if they believe something is illegal and two, only do so if they think they cannot get away with it.

        If what was supposed to happen was reality the majority of the time, the world would be a much better place. If things being illegal prevented them from happening, jails would be empty, too.

      2. I AM a Lawyer*

        Agreed. “HR only protects the company” is extremely reductive. Further, we only ever hear about bad HR because stories about good HR aren’t interesting.

      3. Eldritch Office Worker*

        And all of this works in the best interest of the company, long term. You get sued less, you retain better employees, you garner a favorable reputation – all very important things.

        Whether or not you’re at a company that recognizes that and is willing to invest in those things is where the dice get rolled.

    6. Oryx*

      True, but being friendly with HR in a “keep your enemy close” kind of way can pay dividends down the road. They may not be your “friend” but don’t treat them like the opposition.

    7. Just Me*

      In a similar vein, your insurance agent is an agent for the insurance company, not an agent for you.

  7. girlie_pop*

    Something I see a lot of younger people in my life (and some at the places I’ve worked) doing is approaching relationships with people at work the same way they approach them with people in their social circle, hobby groups, etc., and I think that is a misstep.

    I don’t always agree with the “Nobody at work is your friend” crowd, but I do think that, in general, most relationships at work should be treated differently. Whether you like it or not, oversharing, treating everyone like they can be trusted with every piece of information, and assuming everyone has your best interest at heart can get you into some crappy situations. I’ve had people I trusted share things that could have caused huge problems for me or had coworkers share really personal stuff that I didn’t want shared with anyone else even when I asked them not to, and it sucks to learn the lesson that way.

    In general, I treat most of my coworkers like they’re my mom’s friend. I have very friendly and warm relationships with them, we know the broad strokes of each other’s lives, and we can even have jokey and fun conversations. But I don’t tell them about deeply personal or challenging things, I don’t share things that I wouldn’t want to be shared with anyone else, and I’m overall more thoughtful about the way I talk about things.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I think this is great advice. Having no work friends is a good recipe to not be happy at work, but they’re a different kind of friends.

    2. Anonymouse*

      Don’t tie your identity or self worth to your job/title/company. All of these can disappear and most likely it’s “just business”. It’s ok to work for money

      1. MassMatt*

        This is a really difficult and often unexpected issue for people that retire. If you have long thought of yourself as “a doctor” or “a teacher” you need to rethink about yourself when you’re no longer seeing patients or teaching. It can be a difficult adjustment for people that had been very career-driven. The transition to retirement can be surprisingly stressful for many people.

      2. gmg22*

        Would STRONGLY second this advice for any early-career person in a nonprofit job — true, people aren’t going that direction for the money, but the question of identity/self-worth still holds and I am, at mid-career, experiencing that in a major way. “The mission” can take over your whole life if you don’t take care to not let it do so, and that can have rapidly diminishing returns. Boundaries are good!

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Seconding this. There are people at work with whom I am particularly friendly, and I have friends that I met at work who then stayed friends after we were no longer coworkers, but in general the level of familiarity, intimacy, and preference you’d use in social groups is not appropriate for the workplace.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Totally agree. And it’s ok to have boundaries and tell people NO when they push for info. I have a pushy coworker who once said, “We spend 40 hours a week together, we should get to know stuff about each other.” NOPE! You get what I’m willing to share, and then you need to stop pushing for more.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I have a younger friend who is struggling with this–she keeps feeling betrayed because coworkers keep “going back” on things that are more social. But they’re not really–they’re following through on decisions made by their respective supervisors, and she’s kind of out of line to have expected them to have acted otherwise.

    4. Isben Takes Tea*

      Wholeheartedly agree with this. It’s not that you can’t make any friends at work, but friendship is not the default; “professional friendliness” is the standard goal.

      I love your analogy to “my mom’s friend”!

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        This is an important point.

        I would emphasize the default option for someone just starting out in the workplace. As you gain experience you also develop you antennae for who is trustworthy and who is not, though even then you need to be careful.

    5. roann*

      My mom gave me a great piece of advice when I first started working. It was about my relationship with my boss, not necessarily my coworkers at large, but she told me, “You can be friendly but you shouldn’t be familiar.” That’s steered me pretty well over the decades.

    6. Fail manager*

      Excellent advice!!!
      You are there to do a job. It not that people want you to be human at some level, but broad strokes knowledge of each others lives.

    7. Trippedamean*

      Very much agree with this. I would add that working with someone you were already friends with will change the relationship whether you want it to or not so you need to be very careful about it, especially if one of you is supervising the other.

      1. Whomst*

        Working with someone in a new capacity will always change the relationship, whether you want it to or not, but sometimes this can work in your favor.

        When I turned 21, one of my former boy scout leaders reached out and asked if I had a job yet, and if not would I like to work at the scout camp he was running? (We hadn’t been particularly close or anything, just a typical youth/scout leader relationship, not sure why he reached out, probably he was just asking all the former scouts he had contact info that were old enough for the job.) It just so happened that I would love a summer job that I did not have to interview for. This was a great transition from the distance adults tend to keep from teenagers to “we’re both adults”. We kept hanging out after the job was over (turns out in addition to a love of the outdoors, we both love D&D) and now I count him as a pretty close friend.

    8. birch*

      Yep, this. There’s a huge difference between “work friends” and “friends I met at work.” IMO there’s a massive benefit to keeping those two populations separate and doing the “actual friend” stuff outside of work time.

    9. Green Goose*

      This is great advice. I’d say from 22-29 I definitely looked at coworkers to be friends, and when I was in a young profession with a lot turnover that was fine. But after I moved into my career role, it was more challenging. What finally changed my trajectory was when my last work best friend left a company and I was completely crestfallen. So much of my day was about our work friendship and I felt a bit depressed when she left. And, even though we had lunch together every day, went out for drinks, and talked about our lives endlessly, once she left I never saw her again.

      I am an extroverted, people oriented person so I still have friends at work and a friendly relationship with most people I work with, but I understand that they are not my actual friends. And that’s okay.

      1. Smithy*

        I do think that transition from early jobs to career and the dynamic with “work friends” is that so often they can live in that middle ground between our friends and our professional network. And the balance required of keeping both in a healthy perspective may require not being bothered by reasonable hurt on the “friendship” side of things.

        In my early jobs, I didn’t really have the chance to make any friends – so once I did I was already far more cautious. One of those first work friends, despite how close we were when we worked together, it was a sharp drop off in communication when we stopped working together. Whenever she’d be job hunting she’d pop up more regularly, she was also always willing to be a reference for me and whenever we’d have the chance to hang out – it was like we’d never been apart. Very warm, very friendly, if a little professionally transactional.

        As a personal friend, those periods of quiet – completely reasonable to find them hurtful. As a friendly member of my professional network – she’s completely trustworthy, a well connected contact, very kind, and wonderful to be around. With more professional experience, I’m happy to call her a friend and not stress the distinction. But when I was younger, I do get why I found those different approaches to relationships confusing.

    10. Ally McBeal*

      Related: Don’t friend your coworkers on personal social media accounts – at least not right away. LinkedIn is fine, but wait at least a few months to connect on FB/IG/Twitter.

      I personally have a rule that I won’t connect on FB (or Twitter, when I still had it) until after I’ve left that workplace, and even then the bar is pretty high – we have to be hanging out with some regularity. I care less about Instagram and will friend/follow coworkers while I’m still at a job, but I also don’t mass-follow all of my coworkers.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I personally have a rule that I won’t connect on FB (or Twitter, when I still had it) until after I’ve left that workplace…

        This is really good advice. I won’t even connect on LinkedIn until I’ve been there a few months.

        Since most of my social media is pseudononymous, I have very little under my wallet name to connect with anyway.

      2. bishbah*

        One time a coworker was leaving her role (for a cross-country move) and on her very last day, I finally friended her on Facebook. This is when I learned our mutual friends included a beloved teacher of mine and a high-school classmate. They turned out to be her in-laws! She talked about her husband all the time, but he was going then by his initials and their surname was very common. Three years and I never made the connection!

    11. debbietrash*

      +1 on this.

      On that note: say less, or pause/think before sharing, when talking about social/personal things. Just this week I had to give a new and young coworker some gentle coaching when they started talking about being drunk at a party this weekend. It’s fine to talk about going out, seeing friends, etc., etc. But when you start getting into details like “I was so drunk/high/etc.” or similar personal details, that can reflect poorly on you.

    12. Kacihall*

      I’ve had a strict policy of no Facebook connections with people I currently work with since it was just for college students. It’s been a good policy, along with ‘don’t complain about work on work channels’. A couple people recently got fired for ‘bullying’ at my job recently; what they were actually doing was complaining about the supervisor, who constantly bullied people. The company uses the chat records to get their unemployment denied. One of them was my closest friend at work, but thanks to my personal policies, I didn’t get dragged into it – because I never got on Facebook at work, or sent chats over slack. any complaints were reasonably private on text messages, usually outside of work hours.

    13. Firecat*

      Counterpoint, some of my closest local friends are excoworkers. Fostering friendly working relationships led to some very satisfying and wonderful friendships that I’m glad I didn’t miss out on.

      The reality is that you tend to have a lot in common with your coworkers which makes it a little easier to become friends as adults. There aren’t a lot of opportunities to make adult friends, especially for introverts, so don’t shut a door because you are afraid of an unlikely worst case scenario.

    14. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      On the flip side, something a coworker did come right out and tell me at my first office job: “Part of your job is to make your coworkers like you.” It was literally true in that company, because of how much of our annual reviews were from coworkers, but I’ve come to decide that it’s true of most roles that work with people, or that need things from other people — your job will almost certainly be significantly easier if those people like you.

    15. Hot Flash Gordon*

      I couldn’t agree more. While we want to believe the best of everyone, you should be careful with work friends. One day you’re best buds, then one day you’re not (for whatever reason), and now there’s someone at work who knows exactly how much you hate Zelda in accounting and how drunk you got one night at happy hour and called in sick the next day, etc.

    16. Alternative Person*

      This. I work in a foreign country with other expats and the work friends are your social friends struggle is real.

      And that’s not to say I haven’t made friends with anyone. But I’ve definitely been more cautious than some, for good and for bad*.

      *Some people see it as a personal affront and/or failing on my part that I’m not a part of work-social circles but that’s life sometimes.

      1. Random Dice*

        Yes! I’ve had several organizational handbooks that prohibited starting salary information with coworkers.

        That is illegal.

        I tell my direct reports that it’s in the handbook, but that it’s illegal, and how much money I make.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      There are a few important caveats to the National Labor Relations Act protections around discussing salaries/wages. I think the most important one is that it applies only to non-supervisory employees.

      There are more caveats in the “my company wants to stop me from discussing my salary with coworkers” post from May 5, 2016. Link to that post in a reply to this comment.

      1. Kate*

        Oh wow, I didn’t realize this applied only to non-supervisory employees. Does that mean tenure-track faculty are not protected (since we’re defined as supervisory under Yeshiva?)

        1. Anonymoose*

          Yeshiva seems to be some religious thing which would be irrelevant – the criteria is whether you supervise/manage other employees or not

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        Does it mean that supervisory-level employees can’t talk with folks under them about salary, but can talk to someone on the same level? Or can’t at all?

        It just seems problematic and makes it harder for typically underpaid groups to discover if the cishet white dude who is also a manager is getting paid more than you or not

        1. Adam*

          Supervisory employees are just not covered by the NLRA for the most part. It doesn’t mean they are or aren’t allowed to talk about salary, just that they don’t have a statutory right to do so, no matter who they’re talking to.

    2. Antilles*

      I’ll go a step further from “legal” and say that you really should be discussing salaries with co-workers, friends at other companies, reliable recruiters, and others.
      Is your salary competitive within the company? Is it competitive within the industry? Has there been a sizable market adjustment for your role while you just got your annual 3% raise?
      You won’t know unless you’re having those conversations.

    3. Former Retail Lifer*

      With the exception of my current company, every single company I’ve worked for in my nearly 30 year job history had a written policy expressly prohibiting discussing wages. I did not learn that this was illegal until about five years ago.

      1. wilma flintstone*

        My non-profit boss has told me after every raise that ‘salaries are confidential.’ Except that you can find them all online, so, you know, not so much!

    4. Statler von Waldorf*

      This is true in America. American laws are not universal.

      As of November 1st 2023, BC became the only province in Canada that has laws that protect workers for discussing their salaries. I have personally seen people in Alberta fired for cause for doing it, and those firings were held up as legal by Employment Standards.

    5. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I have no idea how to start this conversation though.

      Like, how do just ask someone “hey, how much do you make?”

      I know it is important to make sure folks are being paid equitably! But it feels like such a weird conversation to start

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I think you can acknowledge the context. “I’ve been reading about equity and inclusion, and how important it is to discuss salaries, and I wanted to share that my salary is $X and I got a bonus of $Y this year.”

        You might then ask if they’re comfortable sharing theirs, or you can leave it there. Another thing I’ve seen is circulating a shared spreadsheet where people can add their information (and do statistics on the range).

      1. Jasmine Tea*

        I would say, “ I’ve read online that when some coworkers shared information about their salaries, they found out that they were being underpaid. Then they were able to get raises. I make x$. If you feel comfortable sharing, please do. If you don’t feel comfortable, no problem.

  8. Morgan Proctor*

    “Section 7 of the NLRA guarantees you have the right to organize a union to negotiate with your employer over your terms and conditions of employment. This includes your right to distribute union literature, wear union buttons and t-shirts, solicit coworkers to sign union authorization cards, and discuss the union with coworkers.

    Section 8 of the NLRA states that supervisors and managers cannot spy on you (or make it appear that they are doing so), question you, threaten you or bribe you regarding your union activity or the union activities of your co-workers. You can’t be fired, disciplined, demoted, or penalized in any way for engaging in these activities.

    Your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms. Also, restrictions on your efforts to communicate with co-workers cannot be discriminatory. For example, your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about the union during working time if it permits you to talk about other non-work-related matters during working time.”

    1. Jopestus*

      For reasons why to form an union, check Amazons anti-union videos.

      They are perfect on showing why unions are needed at times.

  9. Massive Dynamic*

    If you go on maternity/paternity and do not wish to return to your job, your company may force you to pay them back any medical benefits they paid for you + family during your leave time. Find out how long you need to “come back” for in order to avoid that… at one of the places I worked at, it was just one day.

    1. Today's OP*

      When I came back after maternity leave, my entire first check disappeared to paying the health insurance premiums I’d missed when I didn’t have paychecks coming in due to the leave. What a HUGE disappointment.

      I love this topic as one for early-career things: Most US employers aren’t providing decent maternity benefits, so how do you leverage insurance and timing to not basically end up homeless after giving birth.

      1. Fed Anon*

        Yep! In the US Federal Government, that period of time is 12 weeks, beginning after the last day you use paid parental leave (even if you’ve returned to work prior to that!) and not counting holidays or paid leave time. It’s pretty stringent…but better than not being paid, I think.

        I’m not sure what the insurance situation is if you go on FMLA and don’t request paid leave, though.

        1. K*

          My employer does not provide paid maternity or paternity leave so I had to use FMLA + sick/vacation days to cover my leave. Because I was in paid standing, I did not have to cover my insurance premiums. If I were using FMLA (which only really protects your job) + no vacation/sick leave, I would have been responsible for paying the premiums.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Wow!

        Where I work, if someone is coming back from leave and has missed their payroll deductions for their portion of insurance premiums, we always work out a repayment schedule with them so it doesn’t hit all at once. Taking it out of your very first paycheck on return is mean.

      3. beezus*

        Oof that is rough. I always would give people going on extended leave the option to send the company a check monthly or spread it out when they came back unless they wanted a lump deduction.

      4. Pajamas on Bananas*

        “I love this topic as one for early-career things: Most US employers aren’t providing decent maternity benefits, so how do you leverage insurance and timing to not basically end up homeless after giving birth.”

        1. U.S. specific: Have children/ first child before age 26. Make sure you list your insurance as your primary, and your parent’s insurance as your secondary. Primary will cover both you and baby, secondary will only cover you. I’ll add that if you are under 26, and you can get pregnant, you should enroll in your employer’s health plan even if you are on your parents’ plan.

        2. U.S. specific: Know how your company counts the fixed 12 month period for FMLA, for family planning purposes. Really, you want this info in general.

        3. If you have loan servicers who extend your next due date when you make an extra payment, aim to have three additional months paid by 36 weeks gestation. I did this for my car and student loan, then my husband “only” had to worry about rent, utilities, and groceries.

        4. If your employer has temporary disability that covers pregnancy, and you are of child bearing age, enroll. This will usually cover 6-8 weeks at a percentage of your income.

        5. Use some of your paid time off during FMLA. A) You’ll want the small income. B) The paycheck means your benefits will get paid, and you won’t owe when you return.

        1. Pdweasel*

          Before age 26…jeezy petes, I was still in medical school in a horrible little town with zero romantic prospects, not knowing where I’d end up for residency or if I’d even have insurance coverage after graduation but before starting as an intern, broke as a joke with $150k of student loans to my name (that doubled when the interest capitalized upon graduating)…it’s so wild to me how the ways that one can cleverly work the broken system are just…not even reality for a good chunk of the population in this country. Not judging, but dang!

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Seriously, I can’t even imagine. I hadn’t even met my husband when I was 26, and having a baby before you are 30 is fairly uncommon where I live. Most of the 26-year-olds I encounter are still early career (out of undergrad and maybe graduate or professional school), and I can’t imagine how they’d afford DC childcare.

      5. Just Me*

        many employers will make you pay that while you’re on leave. Your employer is relatively nice.

      6. Starbuck*

        That is WILD, I would have assumed they could only take out enough that you would still be above minimum wage for the hours you worked that pay period. Horrible.

    2. chewingle*

      And if your employer has parental leave, find out how much if it is actually taken out of your sick leave. At my company, I had 2 misunderstandings about parental leave (and so did a few people, it turns out HR says things in confusing ways to make it sound better than it is):

      1. I could have sworn they told us we got 12 weeks. My husband sat through the call with me where they explained it all and he also said he thought the same thing (and we had written it in our notes about the call). But it turned out to be 9 weeks. Don’t take what they *say* at face value. Look up the actual documentation.

      2. The first week was not part of my FMLA. It was taken from my sick leave. Good thing my due date was at the beginning of the year when I hadn’t use any sick time. If you’re set to acquire a child (birth, adoption, whatever) closer to the end of the year, ask about how much of your sick leave needs to be saved for parental leave.

  10. Lab Boss*

    Always assume that any benefit or deal or negotiation is tentative unless it’s in writing. they may not be “lying” to you, but the raise they intended to give you 6 months from now might not be convenient with the time comes.

    Remember that any benefit the company gives you is something they’ve decided is a good investment- from your paycheck to your benefits to donuts in the break room. They may try to act like it’s done from the goodness of their hearts, but that’s because they want you to feel grateful/indebted to them. this doesn’t mean your boss hates you, just that your total compensation is strategic.

    if you’re in a position to negotiate, make sure you consider your actual baseline salary. many companies will consider your “total compensation” to include things like bonuses and incentives that aren’t guaranteed- you might find yourself making less than you thought. always keep the guaranteed salary number in mind.

    Regularly update your resume. You might be happy at your job but you never know when you’ll want or need to look for something new (or apply for a promotion, or an industry group, etc.). it’s much easier to add accomplishments as they happen instead of trying to remember all you’ve done over the last several years.

    1. Today's OP*

      I *know* these, and I still get tripped up by them. I literally said, “Yes!” to each of these, and then was like, “Then, why am I not remembering this every day?” Good list!

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Was thinking that your second point is both absolutely true and also very cynical. But actually I don’t think it’s cynical at all, it’s just true. And an excellent point. Those free lunches and dinners your company provides? Really just because they don’t want you taking the time to go out and get your own, and the dinners especially because they want you to work long hours.

      That said, my old org used to provide lunches whenever we had an all-staff meeting because the owner thought the meetings/trainings were really important and didn’t want us to have to worry about feeding ourselves in the middle of them. She wasn’t trying to get us to forego a lunch break, she genuinely cared about us liking her. (Which sounds cynical but really isn’t; she was a great person to work for.)

      1. Lab Boss*

        I didn’t intend it to be cynical (well, maybe a little). If the company makes me feel like they did me a favor, I work harder. If I can make my management feel grateful for something I did, I’m more likely to get something I want. I think it’s easy to see that relationship as adversarial, but I think if it as transactional, and that’s ok as long as you remember it.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yes, I agree. And I hadn’t necessarily thought it out as completely as you described it but I like it and will probably start seeing more things this way.

    3. ferrina*

      To point 1- even things in writing aren’t always followed through on. Sometimes that’s because they never intended to do it in the first place, sometimes it’s because the situation genuinely changed. Nothing is guaranteed unless it’s happening now (and even then, it’s not done until it’s done). Sometimes this is fine, but future-faking happens in business all the time.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Very true, and it’s a scale. A one on one verbal agreement is worth less than one with witnesses, which is worth less than a plan in writing, which is worth less than a formal agreement acknowledged by all stakeholders, which is worth less than a contract.

        I guess the finer point of my advice would be, “be aware of how much weight future plans carry and how much risk there is that they won’t come through.”

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Ooh, all of this plus it’s really helpful to keep in mind the Sheelzebub principle (named after the Captain Awkward commenter who first described it): If everything six months in the future is still exactly as it is now and nothing has changed at all, do you still want to be in this relationship (job)? How about a year? Five years? Then act now as how you would in that future time period, because it’s possible that the thing you want to change won’t and you’ll have to act that way anyway when the time comes.

    4. Yes And*

      “Remember that any benefit the company gives you is something they’ve decided is a good investment- from your paycheck to your benefits to donuts in the break room.”

      Some bosses need to be reminded of that too! Many years ago, I was advocating to my (toxic) boss for maintaining our low-level health coverage instead of rolling back to absolute-rock-bottom health coverage. She said to me, “We don’t need to offer health care at all. We only do it to be nice.” I replied, “No, we do it to be competitive with larger companies for the best staff.” She looked at me like I had two heads.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        My organization’s WFH policy is absolutely market-determined. They kept talking about bringing us back to the office, but they realized their main competitive advantage in hiring (since starting salary is pretty low) is being fully remote.

    5. Hannah Lee*

      “Always assume that any benefit or deal or negotiation is tentative unless it’s in writing. they may not be “lying” to you, but the raise they intended to give you 6 months from now might not be convenient with the time comes.”

      This is very wise advice.

      I’ll also add, while hitching your wagon to a star, a high flying manager or mentor who can increase your profile and opportunities, make sure you’re not putting in a ton of your effort moving their career along, forgoing your own opportunities, putting your own interests aside because they are promising you great things … someday. Get it in writing. And change jobs if they hem, haw or reneg or try to find wiggle room on the things they promised in writing or otherwise. (a delay of weeks isn’t a red flag, but if you’re strung along for months, polish up that resume)

      And always look at every opportunity, upcoming project, or job move (if you’re thinking of following the high flier) through a fresh lens of what’s good for you, what helps you meet your own goals, build your own career and what other opportunities you might be overlooking while being loyal or being their ‘go-to’ person they can always count on. Bounce your options off someone you trust who has your best interests in mind.

      I know way too many (almost all women) who are capable of being high flyers on their own who spent years, or even decades as the go-to person for someone, on the promise of “someday” promotions, raises, stock grants or other variations of “a big piece of the pie”. Meanwhile, on paper their job title, official responsibilities, paycheck and benefits/perks were at support staff level.* Sure the occasional surprise 3 (or low 4) figure bonus or gift card or raise or bottle of wine or ‘I love yous’ like yesterday’s LW gets as a sign of appreciation were nice, but if the high flyer is moving from a low 6 figures compensation package to millions, and increased status, professional influence, those gestures aren’t as meaningful as they might seem. One is still convinced, after 20 years, following the same manager from company to company that one day he really will make good on his promises of “stay pay” and equity grant she’s still waiting on. Don’t be her.

    6. The Last Man Whom I Could Ever Marry*

      This:
      “many companies will consider your ‘total compensation’ to include things like bonuses and incentives that aren’t guaranteed”

      My past two companies offered lower base salaries than the competition but had higher “total compensation” when you factored in bonuses, stock, free gym memberships, etc. At both organizations (large, legitimate, relatively stable companies you’ve definitely heard of) , when times got tough, they cut those “discretionary” bonuses and benefits. People were left earning less than they expected. In negotiations, recruiters often push the idea of the total package to make up for a less competitive salary, but it’s worth it to negotiate for the higher base salary. It’s far more likely a company will cut the “discretionary” perks than actually lower salaries.

      It’s also important to remember that stock is not directly proportional to how well the company is doing. Your company can do everything right, and profits can go up, and stock can still go down due to market forces entirely out of your control. I’ve seen stock drop to 1/10 of its price due to things like the war in Ukraine, Gaza, new US/China trade restrictions, etc.

    7. Ada Lovelace's Bestie*

      Also write down whatever you’re promised or agree to so that you don’t second-guess yourself later on!

      Ideally you should also always *write down* what you plan on asking for prior to negotiations or being asked salary expectations.

      Earlier this year I forgot to do this before negotiating some freelancing work. I got the numbers crossed in my head and accidentally agreed to a rate I used to offer but was no longer comfortable with.

    8. CRM*

      That first point is also extremely important when you are job searching. NEVER take life-altering action (like quitting your current job or signing an apartment lease in another city) on a verbal offer alone. You do not have the job until you have copy in-hand of a contract signed by both you and the employer. A signed document indicates that the company is serious and committed, even if the contract is at-will.

      Even if the people you interviewed with are reaching out to congratulate you, even if the hiring manager starts sending you materials to prep for your first day, even if it’s “just contingent on a background check” that you are certain will not be an issue – you still need to wait. I know that it’s unlikely for things to go wrong at that stage, but I’ve seen it happen before.

      A good way to frame this when a potential employer asks about the earliest you can start: “2 weeks from the day I receive a copy of a signed contract” (swap 2 weeks with however many weeks you would need in order to provide notice, move if necessary, and set yourself up for success).

      1. Nina*

        I understand some parts of the US do not do signed contracts (which is bananapants to me, a resident of a country where we take ‘if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen’ extremely seriously), so if the company ‘doesn’t do signed contracts’, what do you do then? Just not take the job?

        1. CRM*

          Actually, the majority of employers in the US do use employment contracts. You may be thinking of the fact that many US employers include terms for at-will termination in their contracts, which means they can fire an employee at any time and an employee can leave at any time. However, the contract still represents a commitment on the employer’s part (who has a business/organizational need for hiring this person) and for the employee (who will receive compensation as stated in the contract in turn for fulfilling that need). I’m sure there are employers out there that might fire an employee before they start, but that’s certainly not the norm unless the company is fraudulent.

          This is why Allison advises job seekers against quitting a job shortly after signing an offer unless there is a good reason. It can harm your reputation to break that commitment, even if it’s totally legal.

        2. Liane*

          *I think* Alison has suggested covering it in an email to HR or hiring manager. Include salary or hourly wage, relocation assistance, & anything you negotiated or that they promised you (extra vacation/PTO, Y% remote, salary bump or new title after X amount of time, etc.)
          Even though it’s not the kind of job contract common in other countries, it does give you some leverage if, for example, your boss/HR “forgets” or you get a new boss who doesn’t know or “approve” of the arrangement you negotiated.

    9. Daria Grace*

      Keep a folder of employment related documentation AT HOME. Things like offer letters, contracts, position descriptions, performance reviews, pay slips, anything you might want to refer to in the future to verify what you did, when and for how much. You might need these things for future job applications or tax purposes. Don’t have your only copy be at work as you may not have access if you loose your job suddenly.

      I’m days away from finishing at a job and am scrambling round finding this kind of stuff from many years ago to make sure the dates I tell prospective employers I started via a temp agency and then later moved to directly employed will match what they find if they background check.

  11. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    HR works for the company, not the employee. Also, there is zero requirement that they keep any discussions confidential.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      On top of that, HR is not the Ultimate Boss of the managers. HR is there to make sure the employees, including (usually) bosses, don’t do anything that will jeopardize the company in a legal sense; but no place I’ve worked does HR tell the boss what to do or have the authority to just overrule a manager, especially on matters that don’t involve legal liability to the company. Now some places have better HR departments that include employee satisfaction as a metric to company success — a happy employee isn’t likely to sue or quit — but that’s not a default function of HR.

      1. ferrina*

        HR is not the Ultimate Boss of the managers

        Truth. HR is more often than not at the mercy of the other higher-ups (at least at the places I’ve worked). HR is often more about admin than about efficiency, and very rarely (or never) does HR do managerial training or set expectations for team leadership

    2. Choggy*

      I know this so well, my former cubicle neighbor was friends with the VP of HR, and the VP shared a lot of information about other employees, which was really unprofessional. Of course my cubicle neighbor would then share the information with me, and others. Anything they shared with me, stopped with me.

    3. Me...Just Me*

      Yes. HR reps are not priests, bartenders or your lawyer. Assume anything that you tell them will be channeled to management. It’s actually part of their job to do this and they’d be derelict in their duties if they didn’t “move” on information shared with them.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        And sometimes they’re required by law to move on information, particularly if you tell them about illegal behaviour (sexual harassment, for example, or safety/compliance issues. And once they need to move, the person who made the complaint needs to be protected from retaliation, but they don’t get to control the investigation, and anonymity may not be possible.

      2. RM*

        ugh, communication to management only is the best case scenario. A lot of HR are just straight up gossips to their work friends (in all departments) with personal information that’s shared with them.

  12. UFO sighting*

    Your company may have more flexibility around working schedules than you realize. Early on I would use PTO for a doctor’s appointment or a quick errand, but at some point I heard coworkers talking about how they would be staying late or starting early on one day to make up for time on another day. Obviously this only applies to exempt workers and you have to know your workplace norms, but a half hour here and there can add up and deplete your PTO bank, so it’s worth finding out if there’s some wiggle room.

    1. Lab Boss*

      This is something you should discuss directly with your boss. My company has never officially allowed this kind of flexibility, but all of my bosses have (and I do too now that I manage).

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Right, your supervisor should set you up for success in that aspect. I’m exempt, but we are billable to clients and track how much time we spend on each project. If I want to work at 7pm at home to help make up for an appointment, that’s totally fine, but I need to be keeping up with my billing to projects. We’re flexible, but we can’t be all willy-nilly. That’s defined in the first week for new hires so they know they don’t have to be glued to their chairs or take too much PTO.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Besides that you should discuss this with your boss this does not necessarily apply to exempt workers. I’ve been able to shift my start and end time for certain things like vet appointments where i’ve had to drop the cat off or car appointments where they do not open until 8 and I have to drop the car off and walk/catch a ride to work. It really depends on your role and the company.

    2. The Taking of Official Notice*

      If you’re non-exempt, you *might* be able to do this as well. It depends on your company and your role. All staff at my workplace are non-exempt—we just shift our start/end/lunch times to accommodate appointments.

      1. Pajamas on Bananas*

        Yes, one of my previous jobs allowed us to take lunch at the beginning or end of the day once per pay period. Technically in the time system it showed as approved worked through lunch. This allowed us one paid hour per pay period outside of PTO.

    3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      It doesn’t only apply to exempt and check the laws in your states. In many states it is illegal to deduct PTO from an exempt employee if they worked some or most of the day. When I was exempt I never deducted sick for a doctors appt. I just went.

      As a currently non-exempt worker I have a little less flexibility, but not entirely not flexible. A lot of that has to do with your manager.

      1. Kaysong*

        For exempt employees: It’s not illegal to deduct PTO for absences of any length (full day, half day, or 15 minutes). Whether you should do that or not is another question.

        It is illegal to dock your pay if you worked any part of a day. You can dock pay for absences of a full day if no PTO is available to cover that time.

    4. Ace in the Hole*

      This doesn’t only apply to exempt workers – plenty of non-exempt jobs are fine with that kind of schedule flexibility. As long as it’s not a coverage based position something like working a half hour late once in a while so you can take a long lunch is not usually an issue. Just be careful to sound out what’s normal for your workplace before assuming anything.

    5. Zephy*

      +1 this is not just for exempt employees, +1 check local laws. I am non-exempt hourly and I can do this kind of thing. My boss appreciates a heads up when it’s a planned tweak to my normal working hours, but otherwise as long as my timesheet shows 80 hours over 14 days at the end of the pay period, no one is particularly concerned about my exact clock-in/out times. A coworker, for instance, shortened his Friday to leave early for a weekend trip, had the following Monday off, and then made up the hours the following Saturday. It was all within the same pay period so he didn’t need to burn any PTO for it.

    6. AnotherOne*

      yeah, no one at my office ever discussed sick time. maybe it was reviewed at the new hire orientation, but i only stayed for part of it because i was initially a temp employee.

      i was probably full-time for 6 months b4 someone explained our sick time policy to me. everyone just assumed i knew it.

    7. Random Bystander*

      This can apply to non-exempt workers, also. It is not uncommon for people at my workplace who are not-exempt to put in a PTO request “will come in xx amount of time/leave xx amount of time early” and add “will make up time”. It has to be in the same week (since making up time next week would throw someone into OT), but a lot of people do that for pretty much anything up to a half day, and save PTO for full days off.

      If there is that kind of flexibility (which usually is dependent on one’s direct supervisor), it’s certainly worth mentioning whether exempt or non-exempt.

    8. Anon for This*

      I’m non-exempt, and I’m able to do this because my schedule is flexible and my job isn’t coverage-based. I’m expected to do my eight hours a day between 7am and 7pm, but I decide when, and if I decide to take a longer lunch to accomodate an errand I can do that.

    9. Dragonfly7*

      Yes, this! We have a “personal necessities” code for our time clock software that a manager can put in to flex time if all you need is to come in 1-2 hours late and stay late on another day to make it up. It just requires communicating in advance.

  13. Em*

    Hard to overstate how much HR’s ultimate job is to protect the company, not individual employees. Ideally, HR reps undertand that providing required (and above required) protections and accomodations for employees will ultimately benefit the company, but too many are happy to throw employees under the bus for the “good” of the company (usually the good of upper management). Think carefully about your backup plan before reporting issues to HR if they don’t react in your interest, and if you’re raising issues where the company has a legal duty, document everything on your own in files you personally have access to (i.e. not just your work email).

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      Although I have read stories about HR protecting one specific executive to the detriment of the company.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, they will 100% protect horrible executive-level individuals, at the expense of the company.

  14. anonymouse*

    Specific to my company but probably others:
    Check your company’s rules on medical appointments.
    Turns out, our handbook states you don’t have to use either sick or vacation time for a medical appointment. Up to four hours for an appointment in a day. But people hadn’t realized and were using vacation/sick time.
    So read the handbook and see what “unwritten rules” are written.
    Also on medical, if you leave work sick, do you have to take a sick day, or do you get the credit for a full day? That is NOT in our handbook, but it’s a rule.

    1. Robert in SF*

      Somewhat related to this:

      Check your handbook, with HR/payroll, and the State’s labor laws around reporting PTO time, in regards to working on a PTO day and them deducting full day/half day/hours.

      My company had a rule (NOT in the handbook but implemented by Payroll and communicated by word of mouth) that exempt (salaried) employees would not have any PTO deducted if they reported any time worked in a day.

      So if you scheduled a vacation day, but called in to a meeting, or worked on a few things while on vacation day at the hotel, etc., you could report that time and Payroll would adjust your PTO back up the full 8 hours (no deduction from your bank).

      Now they just switched to 1/2 day deductions. So if you report *any* time up to 4 hours, they only deduct 4 hours of PTO. Anything over 4 hours would have no deduction. And they still didn’t put it in writing, but just revealed that in the Q&A section when I asked about it at the new time-reporting tool training.

    2. Been There*

      I’ll add in general: read your company rule book and intranet. I almost missed out on hundreds of dollars because I didn’t realise a specific benefit was offered that I qualified for.

    3. Minerva*

      Yes! My company has a rule that if you leave the workplace ill you don’t have to put in for PTO. I had forced myself to work at least 4 hrs (since I was already there) then put in a half day more than once before I knew that.

    4. Ace in the Hole*

      Read your company’s policy handbook thoroughly in general!

      For example, we have rules that if an employee comes in to work on a day off they will get paid for at least two hours. So if your boss calls you in but then you get there and they don’t need you after all? Two hours pay.

    5. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Not only check your employee handbook thoroughly when you are hired, but check it yearly. They aren’t usually required to let you know that a policy in place when you were hired has changed, or new policies have been implemented. Sometimes companies will allow a policy or benefit to stay in effect for employees with a certain number of years, but not always.

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        Worth noting that this can apply to changes that hurt you as well. They might remove or alter benefits, or even introduce fun new ways to be fired. They don’t necessarily have to tell you of them (there may be fair treatment requirements, and those may apply… but you won’t find out until after you’re fired).

        We’re currently arguing about a new contract where a lot of the problematic areas are in the “company handbook”. Company is willing tio modify the handbook but will not remove the “we can change the handbook at any time for any reason and not tell you”. So any agreement we negotiate to change the handbook is completely worthless. But they don’t want to put the fixes into the contract…

  15. Optimus*

    Don’t feel like you need to give and give and give of your time. If the job is not high ranking, and doesn’t come with high ranking pay, you do not have to make it easy for them to surprise you with after hours work. You are allowed to have plans and a life outside of work. Some extra now and then at crunch time, sure, especially if there’s flexibility most of the time. But routinely skipping parts of your life because they just don’t want to hire more people? No. Repeat after me: “Gosh, unfortunately, I’m unavailable.”

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      This! Do not make it easy for them to not hire additional people. If someone leaves and they expect you to pick up all the slack, the question you should be asking is “so who will be doing my original job?”

      1. Been There Done That*

        yes! This! every job I left for the past 20 years, they replaced me with at least 2 and sometimes 3 people. But I know I did it to myself. That is one of the many reasons I am retired – I was TIRED and BURNED OUT.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, this! And also if the parts of your life your job is making you skip is just “bingeing Netflix” or “washing your socks,” that’s equally as valid as things people might deem more important. What you do with your non-work time to recharge is important regardless of how other people see it.

    3. Echo*

      Yes yes yes! Although I *do* tell this to all the people I supervise. I also tell them that if they put in more time than 40 hrs/week they actually make my job *harder* because then I don’t know how long anything actually takes.

      1. Gumby*

        Preach.

        We had people who would “just work on it during the weekend so it doesn’t affect the project budget” (aaaarrrggghhh). Which is how we came to the conclusion that it only took 20 hours to build a widget. Which we then priced to allow for that 20 hours. Then were confused and concerned when we were losing money on them. It turns out? It takes 40 hours for an experienced builder to make a widget and the person who designed and made them at the start did not report all of his hours worked.

        Which is how “report the exact number of hours you work on a project, every day, even weekends” was emphasized even more. Because people had definitely been told this but somehow it fell by the wayside. (Everyone is salaried but we report hours for billing purposes, etc.)

    4. Trippedamean*

      Yes. The reward for doing extra work all the time is usually having it expected of you and taken for granted.

      I would add to be very careful of what you agree to do, and what skills and talents you share, that are outside of your job description, for the same reason.

    5. Llama Wrangler*

      This will vary based on role and company I’m sure, but a related thing I had to learn myself early in my career is that the bar for success can be “what I can get done in a reasonable work week,” and that barring urgent deadlines working harder often just means you get more work to do.

      I would often stay late to work on projects to hit a high bar, or to try to get ahead of my work for the next few days, and then instead of being more relaxed someone would just put more work on my plate.

    6. vulturestalker*

      I would add to this: you don’t need to volunteer reasons you’re unavailable. Just “I have other commitments” or “I’m not available after x time” will suffice.

    7. Just Me*

      This is great work/life balance advice, but REALLY not realistic in some industries/companies. But I think it’s good advice to remind people that some jobs require this and some don’t, and they need to get a feel for their particular job’s culture and expectations.

  16. consultingqueen*

    Make sure to research maternity leave on your own! Had a situation where an employee took HR’s advice as fact and only received 8 week maternity. Another employee that researched on her own and came to HR with a plan for a combo of disability/family leave, partial PTO etc. was able to be off 16 weeks with payments.

    1. Peon*

      Yes! I commented farther down that I lost out on a week of PTO I could have taken if I’d understood better when it rolled over, and I had to use up a week from the new year of PTO to keep my original return date, which meant I had less time to use when baby inevitably got sick at daycare.

    2. Green Goose*

      THIS! I was given inaccurate information during both of my maternity leaves, and one of my coworkers was called DURING her maternity leave and told that they had made a mistake when calculating her time and that she would need to return four weeks earlier than they had originally told her. When she tried to push back they threatened to fire her.

    3. JustaTech*

      Yup, I was just talking to my HR rep because people keep asking *me* how maternity leave works and in that conversation he was like “oh, no, you should have gotten short term disability” when our short term disability insurer was like “nope, you’re getting maternity leave, you get nothing from us”!
      I had gotten the time covered by the state (I think a thing only in my state) but I was like, uh, that was 6 weeks of paid leave I didn’t get, now what? And the HR rep sort of shrugged it off with a “that was a different STD company, too late now”.

      And now it’s been almost a year so it’s probably too late and I’m too tired.

  17. Anonymouse*

    Don’t tie your identity or self worth to your job/title/company. All of these can disappear and most likely it’s “just business”. It’s ok to work for money

    1. Arcade Kitten 3000*

      Best advice I got as a junior employee. Senior level person told me to remember that a job does not identify me and I have used that to get through rough times when I had to take less than stellar jobs to make ends meet.

    2. H.Regalis*

      Seconding this. Do not hitch your sense of self to your job. That can cause you to put up with a lot of garbage you never would otherwise.

  18. Amber Rose*

    Fellow Canadians: a working lunch is work. You’re entitled to your break on top of that. :)

    I have two of these next week and you better believe I’m chilling out for an hour after.

    1. alf*

      This is variable by province. In Ontario, employers are required to give you a minimum 30 minute unpaid break for every five hours that you work.

      1. Amber Rose*

        The hour part is variable (and in my case, not provincial but a company rule), but the working lunch part is not. If you’re entitled to 30 minutes and you get pulled into a work meeting, even if food is provided, that’s work, not your break.

    2. Choggy*

      Another *former* manager told a non-salaried employee they would need to take their lunch *during* training for their job. The employee spoke up and said no, she was entitled to her lunch hour, and she was correct!

    3. debbietrash*

      I believe hourly employees are entitled to a 15 minute break after 4 hours worked (having flashbacks to my days of retail and getting the lunchbreak coverage 4 hour shift).

    4. Eff Walsingham*

      In the two provinces where I’ve worked, we were entitled to 2 paid breaks of 15 minutes each, plus a lunch break of at least 30 minutes, unpaid, in an 8 hour workday. So, 7.5 paid hours for 7 hours of actual expected work.

      Of course, I started working full-time back in the nineties, so this may not still be true. But employment law is by province, so employees should always check the government website to make sure their employer is doing it right.

  19. Bitsy*

    In my opinion, and in the opinion of the staff of my opthomolgist’s office, vision insurance is almost never worth it. At least the one that’s offered here no longer pays out at all if you are diagnosed with anything at all, even something as minor as floaters. It will pay a discount for glasses or contacts, but all of your office visits go over to your medical insurance. The staff member said that the doctor’s office doesn’t even offer vision insurance to their own staff, it’s so worthless.

    1. Magpie*

      This really depends on how much of the premium your company covers. My company offers vision insurance for $2/pay period and I get $150 or $200 off contacts or glasses each year (don’t remember the exact amount but it’s in that ballpark), so I would be leaving money on the table if I didn’t take them up on that. It’s true that it doesn’t cover much beyond the contacts/glasses discount and the yearly exam but I still think it’s worth it in my case.

      1. Ann Onymous*

        Agree it depends on the exact plan you have, how much of the premiums your employer pays, and what eye care you need. For what it saves me on glasses, my plan pays for itself several times over but if I was just using it to cover eye exams, it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

      2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Yeah, the vision insurance is definitely worth it for me, just for covering my contacts alone, regardless of who covers the yearly vision checkup. But if you don’t have glasses/contacts, it probably isn’t worth it.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Same. I would end up paying roughly the same either way, but I come out slightly ahead by keeping the insurance because of some of the other preventive stuff it covers.

        2. Dek*

          Yeah, my Rx is pretty strong, so getting any glasses that don’t have half-inch-thick lenses is always pretty pricey. I won’t say it’s always worth it, but it’s worth checking the numbers closely.

      3. Lizzie*

        My vision plan is excellent; my entire exam is covered, and I get a hefty discount on my glasses. Which, because I am very nearsighted and have some other issues, can be upwards of 1K. with my insurance, it’s about half that. And I can’t do online or go somewhere cheap because my prescription is tricky and I’m not comfortable doing that. I don’t pay anything for it ether.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yeah, our vision plan is a great deal for four people who all have glasses. I couldn’t even get everyone into the budget optometrist for an annual exam for what we pay in premiums. Before my kids and spouse needed glasses, I just had myself on my vision plan and, by every calculation I’ve done, have come out ahead of what I’ve paid.

        Dental, on the other hand, don’t get me started. My spouse had complex dental issues last year, and we ended up paying a lot out of pocket. It’s not that expensive, but it also has very low limits when you end up needing an emergency root canal or any sort of reconstructive work.

      5. RagingADHD*

        Yup, My vision plan at my new job is $5/ paycheck for the whole family. We all need eye exams and correction. Two of us need progressive lenses.

        It’s totally worth it.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      This! It’s only (kind of) worth it to people with simple prescriptions who are OK getting glasses from local discount eyeglass places. If you have serious vision problems, it isn’t worth it.

      Dental coverage is absolutely worth it, though.

      And if your company offers an FSA or HSA, that can be a nice way to put money aside pre-tax for medical and/or childcare. (But crunch your numbers and be willing to do a little bit of extra paperwork sometimes. Ours has a charge card system, so I rarely have to submit claims, which is nice compared to older setups.)

      1. Calpurrnia*

        It is worth noting, though, that dental insurance works totally differently than medical insurance. Specifically, it has a maximum amount *they’ll* pay in a year, after which you’re 100% on your own. Medical insurance (in my experience, at least) has an “out of pocket maximum” which is the maximum amount *you’ll* pay in a year, after which insurance covers 100% of your costs. The OOP max is intended to protect you against some catastrophic situation; if you were to suddenly need a very expensive amount of medical care, you won’t have to pay that out of pocket. If you suddenly needed some very expensive amount of dental care, they’ll take a bit off the top for you but you’re still on the hook for most of it. Think of dental insurance as a discount plan, basically, rather than actual insurance.

      2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        Be aware that dental insurance, for some things, may insist that it’s a medical problem they don’t cover, and medical insurance will insist if it’s in the mouth, it’s a dental problem, and both think that having teeth is a cosmetic thing and not necessary. So similar to optometric insurance, even dental insurance isn’t always that worth it for major issues.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          “That’s not a *medical* issue, you just can’t eat or see” is the weirdest part of our already bizarre health care system.

      3. Enough*

        Dental insurance is not worth it if you have to pay the whole premium. My daughter turned down hers as the annual cost far exceeded 2 cleanings. And since she shouldn’t need a filling every year that was just a waste.

      4. Not Totally Subclinical*

        Depends on your dentist. If your dentist gives a discount for cash payments and your teeth are generally in good shape, you may be better off self-paying and building up savings in case you suddenly need a crown.

        I started using dental insurance because with kids it comes in a little cheaper than self-pay once the premiums and co-pays are added up, but it’s not by a lot.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      I refer to vision insurance as “vision discount coverage”

      It’s about $10 a month for me and my dependent – we both wear glasses contacts. While it’s not a lot, we do get more money back on glasses/contacts than I pay into it.

      If you don’t wear glasses or contacts the plan I have is absolutely not worth it.

      I don’t think we can blanket say it is/is not worth it – I think what we should advise people is to carefully weigh how much it costs vs how much benefit you get paid out and your families needs.

      1. Old and Don’t Care*

        And for me, getting my contacts through LensCrafters was cheaper than using the discounted price from the optometrist in the vision plan’s network.

        So it depends on a lot of things and is hard to figure out in advance. But it’s not a permanent decision and generally not life changing money.

    4. irritable vowel*

      I think that really depends on the plans, both health and vision, and what you need. My otherwise excellent health plan only covers an eye exam every 2 years. So, by having both, I can get an eye exam every year, which I need to stay in contact lenses, and I can use the discounts offered by the vision plan to either get a discount on that year’s contacts or an updated glasses prescription.

    5. WorkingGirl*

      I’ve always been an independent contractor so I’ve got my own health insurance thru the marketplace and vision insurance thru VSP. I’ve paid around $12-15 per month for the past five or six years (I’ve lived in 3 states in that time), it covers $150 per year on contacts or glasses and covers a good portion of my eye exam. I think it saves me a LITTLE money though admittedly not much; I just find that it’s easier to budget $12-15 every month than forking out a bigger chunk when I need my eye exam and contacts.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I’ve had VSP for years, and the only year we didn’t come out ahead was 2020. Costco takes VSP!

    6. Jackers*

      It absolutely saves me money and is worth it. My premium is $60/year and saves me hundreds on contacts/glasses.

      This can not be a blanket statement.

    7. Lisa Simpson*

      My insurance has a hole. My health insurance does not cover ANY eye things, because that’s what the eye insurance does.

      The eye insurance only covers visits to big box store optometrists, for eyeglass/contacts screenings and fittings.

      God forbid your eye gets injured, or you develop a cataract, something that requires an MD, you’re on your own.

    8. Snow Globe*

      Vision insurance can be worth it, depending on premiums vs. benefits. The big takeaway is that medical issues with your eyes fall under medical insurance, not vision insurance. Vision insurance generally just covers eye exams (for corrective lenses), frames, lenses, contacts, that kind of thing. I see an ophthalmologist regularly for dry eye, and that’s all on medical insurance.

    9. Come On Eileen*

      As someone who works for a vision care company, I should point out that vision insurance premiums are SMALL and the value you get is quite high. In addition to what’s been pointed out below, in terms of a low or no-copay for an eye exam and generally $150-$200 allowance toward eyewear, any eye doctor worth his salt is going to do a lot more than just check your vision. Eye doctors can see signs of disease in your eyes and regularly diagnose medical conditions based on that. Trust me, it’s not a racket.

    10. Just Me*

      My vision insurance covers my regular vision office appointments and some amount for lenses and frames. My health insurance does not have vision coverage, except for certain medical purposes. I do also get a medical eye exam, which is paid for by my health insurance.

    11. Modesty Poncho*

      Not job-related but for those like me with heavy glasses, I seriously recommend online shops like Zenni Optical. I wear a -6 and I can get my compressed lenses with glare reduction for $150. Last time I went to a Lenscrafter they were $400. So vision insurance or not you don’t have to pay corporate prices for glasses!

  20. RCB*

    Care less. Do not stress yourself out so much over work, care a lot less. It took me so long to realize this and I hate being that person, but unfortunately it’s necessary and true, you need to just care less. I worked at a place for 10 years and had the most amazing relationship with the boss and the place just couldn’t run without me, but the second the boss got screwed by something he turned on me and it was all downhill from there, there is absolutely zero loyalty at work and you should always know that. Never put their well-being over your own, always care less.

    1. girlie_pop*

      This is such good advice. At my last job, my boss basically had no life outside of work (even though she had three kids and a husband!), because everything was a five-alarm fire for her. She worked nights and weekends constantly, and I remember her answering Teams messages while she was on PTO for her son’s wedding!

      In reality, nothing we worked on was even close to that important.

    2. Dramatic Squirrel*

      Heartily agree with this. Put your own wellbeing first…always. I have run myself into the ground for jobs and bosses over the years but I finally figured it out in my 50s. I do a great job. I give my best but not more than that. Take your weekends, take your vacations, don’t work 14 hour days. If the company decides it doesn’t need you anymore you will be gone in a heartbeat. If they think they can get you to do 3 people’s jobs for one salary they will.

      Value yourself. Rest, recuperate, feed your soul.

    3. butterfly mask*

      Early in my career I was working for a dot com and working all the hours I could. Then one night when I was still there I realized I’m not a doctor. I’m not currently conducting brain surgery and nobody is going to die on the table if this doesn’t get done tonight. Completely changed my mind-set and I now tell my staff the same thing. We are not brain surgeons in the middle of surgery. Nobody is going to die if this work doesn’t get done tonight. (Except during our busy season, but I think my attitude on this helps them be fine with our two month busy period where we are working longer hours)

    4. KToo*

      Absolutely this. I hadn’t realized it – being as I was the only person doing my job on my team and everyone else made me feel invaluable, so I was always going above and beyond. Then I was emergency hospitalized for a week with no contact with work. Somehow my team just got stuff done. Nothing collapsed, no one died, we didn’t lose any accounts or business. In the years since unless it’s a *very* special case, 5pm comes and my computer is off and I walk away. I don’t give my cell number to contact me when I’m an vacation. I don’t have Teams or Outlook on my phone. I’m paid to do my job in the hours set, and if it can’t be done in those hours it will wait to the next day.

    5. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes! I remember my old workaholic boss saying to a client once, “I hate it when life interferes with work.” It was humorous but also I remember thinking immediately, “That’s funny, because I hate it when work interferes with life.” He never expected me to be a workaholic, which was lucky because I definitely am not one.

      As many others often comment on here, make sure you don’t care more about your company than your boss/the company cares. If the company refuses to make a change that you know will be beneficial, let it go.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      100% – it took me 18 years to realize i get paid the same whether im proverbially killing myself for work or if im doing my 40 and calling it a day. this isnt an excuse to slack off – its simply perspective for all the times i get frustrated because im running into a wall or tasked something i think is stupid.

      your employer doesn’t care about you – don’t care more about your employer than they care about you.

    7. HotTake :)*

      I saw this in the comments on an old post here, wish I could remember the commenter to give credit because it hit me so hard:

      Don’t light yourself on fire to keep them warm.

      ^^^
      To extend the metaphor: I’ve had jobs where I periodically lit myself on fire and the bosses appreciated it, gave me first rate burn care, and we worked together to avoid it happening again. But I’ve had other jobs *expect* me to constantly burn for their benefit and it took me way longer than it should have to see the difference. Learn from my mistakes, young workers.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Don’t light yourself on fire to keep them warm.

        This reminds me of our org’s new campaign to keep the fire burning and how our CEO keeps saying that if we need to light ourselves on fire to keep things going, then we will. I always chuckle because I am definitely in HotTake’s camp on this and not my CEO’s. And I don’t think he really means it, he’s always telling people to be sure to take care of themselves and reminding us to take our PTO, but it’s a weird thing for him to keep saying.

        1. HotTake :)*

          I’ve found that what matters most is what the boss actually does. I had one boss who told us to take PTO, put ourselves first, etc., but if she wanted something done, she 100% expected everyone to stay and do it, and she would routinely stop people who were on their way out to have impromptu project meetings. (Our work was absolutely not urgent or time sensitive; 99% of deadlines were arbitrary.) She also worked constantly and unfortunately “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t really work when there’s a boss/employee power dynamic.

          It is funny that your CEO is simultaneously saying to do both, though!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Edna St.Vincent Millay was NOT talking about her job when she wrote “First Fig”

        My candle burns at both ends;
        It will not last the night;
        But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
        It gives a lovely light!

    8. ecnaseener*

      Yep. Especially if you’ve always been a high achiever in school etc and accustomed to doing everything at 100% effort, you need to take a step back and really think about how much effort it makes sense to put in. It may be smart to put in enough effort to make yourself valuable and build up capital – but that amount of effort is probably not 100%. And once you have that good reputation, the amount of effort necessary to keep it goes down.

      1. Trippedamean*

        I’m one of those. Work has been ridiculously busy lately, with travel and very important meetings all piled up. I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to get to everything and asked my boss to move one of the big meetings so I could get it all done but she refused. I didn’t get something done, of course, and was scolded for it. But it also means that now my boss has to acknowledge that I have too much on my plate right now, and she’s subsequently canceled two upcoming trips that I might have had to go on so that I can catch up a bit. I really had to swallow my pride and acknowledge to myself that it might be okay sometimes if I CAN’T do everything.

      1. Makare*

        This has been my husband’s motto as he’s been working hard to get his master’s thesis finally finished and turned in (today, hurray!!!): Cs get degrees. (I know he’ll be getting a very good grade, but it was a good reminder for him that it didn’t actually have to be perfect, it just had to get done)

    9. Optimus*

      I love this. This is so, so, so good. If you’re a conscientious person with a good work ethic, who really wants to be useful and productive and do a good job, these are all terrific things and I would never say they’re not – but they do sort of steer a person very easily into territory where management or colleagues can easily manipulate that. And they will not like it when you draw boundaries! They will often crank up the pressure and blaming. Let them. If you are working your buns off and still “failing” or falling short, it’s not you. It’s the expectations. It feels terrible to let some things drop, but it’s okay to let some things drop if you’re placed in a position where you have to sacrifice your health, sanity, or off-work time to keep them from dropping. If you won the lottery and quit the next day, they would figure it out; let ’em figure it out while you’re there!

    10. Buffy*

      Hard agree. I’ve had coworkers ask me how I’m so “zen” and the honest truth is just that I’ve decided not to care that much about work. In particular, my rule is that I cannot care about something more than the person who is in charge of it – that has led me into so much stress and angst in my career, and it’s so much better to just let it go.

      1. Zweisatz*

        Yeah. It was really funny when I was SO close to burn out and decided whatever happened at work didn’t matter, just to get some energy back.

        Half a year later at review time everybody commended how calm I kept no matter which topic. No need to disclose the reason was me being DONE.

    11. RehabilitatedJournalist*

      For most of my career, I worked in an industry that expected us to be available 24/7 and frequently put in unpaid overtime. Now, I’m in a new field, working for an amazing boss who regularly reminds anyone who tries to stay past 5 p.m. that “We’re not curing cancer here.” I love this mantra, and it’s helped me majorly reset my work-life balance.

    12. MigraineMonth*

      Also, if your CEO ever says they don’t think that “work-life balance” is important but you should work towards “work-life integration”, RUN!

    13. DameB*

      This. I’m known as the cheerful, flexible positive one at my office. TBH, I just am tired of caring so when they change the goal posts or do something stupid, I just shrug and say “Okay!” b/c honestly, if they want to do that, I don’t care. I get paid whether you’re making me do this the smart way or the dumb way.

    14. Kelsi*

      I had a boss who taught me this lesson in a good way.

      I used to be a lot more sensitive than I am now. This boss, K, had been a print editor and designer for more years than I had been alive at that point, plus she had a very no-nonsense sort of personality. She wasn’t unkind, in fact she was very warm, but she could be abrupt and wasn’t really much for softening messages. The first time she critiqued my work (before she became my boss, when our two departments were working together on something) I left the meeting afterwards and cried–and my boss at that time told me she had done the same thing the first time K critiqued her work.

      But when I worked under K, I really did learn to stop caring so much, and I think it was a great thing for my work. I still want to produce good work, but when you work under someone who is going to mark up your work no matter what–you realize that everything you work on cannot be your masterpiece. Giving 80% instead of 110% still ended with a great product, but it left me less stressed and burnt out, and with more capacity for more fun and interesting projects. Caring less also made me better at taking feedback–because when I was less personally invested, it was easier not to get defensive.

      And, of course, caring less got rid of a lot of guilt around things like taking PTO, not staying late unless there was a good reason, and so on.

    15. TeapotNinja*

      I tell all young co-workers to never be loyal to a company. The company will not be loyal to you, if things go sour. They will get rid of you no matter how much loyalty do you think you’ve earned.

      Be loyal to people, but only if they’ve earned that loyalty. That will pay off on the long run in new opportunities, mentoring relationships and solid friendships.

  21. Butterfly Counter*

    In teaching in academia, especially if it’s the first time you’ve taught a class, you don’t have to have every lecture and assignment figured out before the semester begins. In fact, it’s way better to be able to be flexible. Just know ahead of time what chapters you can jettison or what readings you can add to help shrink or expand what each individual class needs.

    I’m over 10 years in, and I consider my syllabus schedule a working outline rather than something set in stone. But once the week starts, I firm everything up and let the students know my expectations from them and set hard deadlines a week in advance.

    The flexibility keeps instructors from piling work on themselves in the weeks before the semester starts, plus I find the classes seem to appreciate the more organic learning that changes based on their interests and discussions.

    Also, if you are teaching faculty, if you don’t need the money and you do need the mental health, don’t push yourself to teach summer school.

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      This! Though if you’re not going to teach summers, be proactive and create a summer savings account that autodrafts a percentage from the months you do get paid, so you’re not scrambling for $$ those months. Some universities/colleges will do this for you by automatically splitting your pay over 12 months (the way k-12 schools do for teachers), but a lot of them won’t, so you have to set that kind of thing up yourself.

    2. Scientist12*

      I’m in my first semester teaching at a university. Wish I had this advice, thank you! Very helpful.

      1. BecauseHigherEd*

        If your institution has a Center for Teaching Excellence or something like that, I highly recommend utilizing it. Also, follow up with them to say whether their tips/advice worked for you–our CTE operates under the assumption that “if we haven’t heard anything, it must be working,” so give them feedback so they know how to improve their resources!

    3. deesse877*

      I endorse, but caution that some institutions won’t put that level of trust in you. I’m required to submit a complete semester schedule ahead of time.

      The broader point that you will go easier on yourself if you’re flexible about curricula also holds for instructional modes. Mix it up! The instructor-centered classroom can be really depleting.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        Yes, it can depend.

        I’m asked to give my syllabus at the beginning of the semester and it lists the main expectations (X number of exams, assignments and quizzes, and so on) and the general schedule, but allow me some range and discretion. They definitely don’t follow up beyond student evals and general assessments.

        But I also know instructors who are given a book and told that the class needs to know it all.

    4. birch*

      Also teaching in academia and I disagree with this. Agree at least to the point of being flexible and not needing every detail polished, but in my experience some teachers take this advice to the extreme and don’t even have an outline of assignments and deadlines when the course starts. It’s really disrespectful to students to set deadlines only a week in advance–that little prep time would be irritating to many busy professionals and students should be treated like professionals. (You said “hard deadlines” so maybe you’re giving a rough schedule at the beginning of the course?) Our university actually technically requires teachers to give students access to course materials and schedules at the beginning of the course. That’s obviously not possible for every single bit of material, especially if there is some flexibility needed, but IMO the default should be to prepare as much as possible as far in advance as possible. At the very least, students need an accurate picture of the workload of the course when it starts, so they can arrange their schedules.

      The advice I would actually give is to ask colleagues to share their teaching materials. I’ve been trying to make more of a culture of sharing in my university which leans far to the end of extreme autonomy to the point where it doesn’t even occur to people to share their teaching materials even when they’re teaching the same course. Most are actually happy to share when asked since creating teaching materials is so much work.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        I think this is maybe discipline specific? I’m in a social science field where I agree with you that students need to know major deadlines in advance. But as a college student I remember taking, e.g., language classes where it was expected that we would have small homework assignments a few nights a week but the exact details could be left up to the last minute, and small-stakes assessments like quizzes could be shifted depending on how much material we had covered. So I could see this being somewhat discipline-dependent, with things like languages or freshman composition classes allowing for more wiggle-room in scheduling.

        Yes to getting materials from others. Also, when I feel overwhelmed with course prep, I sometimes make some handouts (for more math-y classes) or prepare discussion questions rather than lecture slides. It involves less out-of-class prep on my end (just finding practice problems in a textbook or coming up with discussion prompts) and the students seem to like hands-on practice. I still do a lot of traditional lecturing, but breaking it up with some interactive work helps me feel like I don’t constantly need polished slide decks.

        Also, if a class is going to involve spending some class time reviewing for exams or working on projects, I like to try to schedule those for weeks when I know I’m going to be busy (like if I have a conference or family is visiting from out of town, etc.). I don’t have to prep much, so it helps me feel less overwhelmed.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        I definitely agree with sharing teaching materials! I’m lucky that my coworkers are free and generous with that!

        My class does have an outline. Like: There are two exams; we cover roughly a chapter a week; there are in-class quizzes and assignments; there is a paper, etc.; and when those things are generally due. I’m talking more about the specific content of each class and assignment.

        For example, we had great discussions about chapter 2, so I created a new assignment based on student’s interest that pushed chapter 3 into a later week, which means the midterm covers chapters 1-4 rather than 1-5 (or I push the exam to a week later). This means I don’t have to do a later assignment and we can fit chapter 5 on the final or that I don’t include chapter 10, which just covers speculation on the future of the subject. Or whatever.

      3. Former prof*

        I 100% agree with Birch. Not only is it disrespectful to the students (especially as they have increasingly punishing course loads these days), it may actually be against the terms of your employment. This is a tip for adjuncts especially: check your institution’s rules about what can be changed mid-term and when. During my PhD I TA’d for someone who was hellbent on making the midterm exam a week earlier (!!) than scheduled until I showed him the university rules which forbid that. He could have been fired from the course.

    5. My Cabbages!*

      My teaching tip from painful experience:

      Your slides are fine.

      Don’t spend hours trying to make the perfect lecture deck, where all information is clear and lovely. An MS Paint diagram is just as good as a “perfectly formatted for publication” one.

      A class is not a formal presentation, and you don’t have to impress anyone. If your slides have enough on them that you can explain the point you want to make, they’re perfect.

      (also, your textbook might already have some you can crib from!)

      1. AFac*

        And you can always improve them next year. Developing and teaching a class is iterative, not a one-time-only event.

      2. Alternative Person*

        This. I see so many over done slide decks when something simpler would have done the job just as well.

        I’d also add, don’t be afraid to be boring sometimes. So much teaching is pushing towards ever fancier methods with time intensive preparation. It’s fun and beneficial to students, sure, but students also need to learn to knuckle down and do the boring bits from time to time.

    6. AFac*

      If you live in areas that are prone to weather closures, assume they’re going to happen in the spring semester and figure out what you’re going to do if you lose several lectures due to snow days.

      I gave this advice in a weekend thread, but record every accomplishment, every metric, every workshop, every committee in a document immediately when you do it/achieve it/attend it/serve on it. That way when annual reviews and tenure/promotion reviews come up, you don’t have to remember what you did way back when.

  22. Anon a moose*

    These may be company/culture specific

    At my company, we have several different work schedules you can pick from (9-5, 4/10, 9/80). Different schedules have different impacts on overtime (if you are going to be working a lot of overtime, 9/80 is not a great choice). We also close for a week at Christmas covered by company holiday. But the amount of company holiday differs depending on which schedule you work to equalize for the year. This is not often well spelled out. And disproportionately affects new hires that don’t have a lot of PTO banked up.

    This may also be company specific but at least in my workplace, you will not be punished for setting work life boundaries. But the company will not set them for you. Our culture will let you work yourself to the bone. But I haven’t seen setting reasonable boundaries backfire on anyone.

    1. Liz*

      +1 to the boundaries for my company! I got some minor pushback from people lateral to me because they were used to my old ways, but it definitely never backfired.

      1. NotBatman*

        Yes! I was very pleasantly surprised by the response when I took 3 weeks of PTO for my honeymoon. For a while I hesitated to admit why I was going to be away for most of July. But every time I did share, people congratulated me and assured me that it was an excellent reason to miss so much work.

  23. Antilles*

    Never forget that your employee/employer relationship is a business relationship. It can be friendly, it can be enjoyable, it can be mutually beneficial, and so forth…but it’s still a business relationship at heart.

  24. NaoNao*

    Your job is only partly your job description. It’s also to make your immediate and “grand” boss look good.
    Many fresh to the workforce employees metaphorically kick down the door eager to make or suggest sweeping changes and seriously critique how things are done. They don’t get that this can make the boss look bad, because they haven’t found/fixed it themselves, or they have an “unruly” employee.
    If you the employee spot serious concerns, the way to approach is to privately come up with some (preferably cheap) solutions and *then* come to your manager “I noticed this issue, and I think I’ve got a fix”.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Spin-off: Realize that the “problems” might be a lot bigger and more complex than you realize and are not necessarily signs that your workplace is lazy, dumb, or behind the times. Remember that you’re new here and don’t have all the context.

      1. Internship Admin*

        Yes! And if a manager says no or not right now to your idea, it’s often for good reasons that they can explain or you’ll realize later with more time. I’ll do my best to allow tweaks and reasonable changes but sometimes a no is a no for valid reasons that aren’t obvious to someone new.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        And also realize that sometimes a co-worker who seems like a dope or a jerk because they don’t xyz to your liking may either be working for a group that has completely different priorities than yours (easy to miss if your company is complex or groups are very siloed). or that you are both caught up in a bad/dysfunctional process.

        Often taken a step back and approaching others as humans, with a minds to getting the process working can sometimes break down walls and make everyone’s life less stressful.

        Being the person who’s constantly dissing some other person or group may get you in-group points in your cubicle neighborhood, but usually not much else; being the person who’s trying to collaborate, solve problems and treat others with respect is a better bet long term.

        And if you’re somewhere that seems unrealistic, polish up your resume and get out. Toxic workplaces are corrosive

        1. Zweisatz*

          So much agreement on be the collaborative one, not the complainer. Complainers with high technical skills *can* be valued in their specific team, but I’ve seen it stall career progression and hurt general goodwill among colleagues.

          (Note: this does not mean you can’t point out problems, it means do it with some thought and constructively as explained in the parent post of this thread.)

    2. mb*

      I’m going to slightly disagree with this – I understand where you’re coming from but what you’re suggesting means your boss can take credit for your good work. You can’t come in new and crap on everything and the way it’s being done – but you’re not there to make your boss look good. You’re there to do a job, hopefully really well, and to advance yourself – not your boss. This is an antiquated idea which has resulted in bosses taking advantage of employees for decades and it needs to die.

      1. Calpurrnia*

        I read NaoNao’s comment as describing “what you’re there for” from the company’s perspective, ie, what the company wants to see from you, and what you can do to make the company unhappy with you. I think you’re dead on with what you yourself are working for. Make those goals align when possible is the ideal situation, but if it comes down to it, 100% take care of yourself and not the boss. Just be prepared for the possibility of fallout from the company if you do.

      2. Jiminy Cricket*

        “Make your boss look good” doesn’t mean “Let your boss take credit for your work.” As in almost all org charts, my employees and I have different job descriptions and do different work.

        When my employees do a good job, I look good because (in theory) that means I hired and managed well. If I did actually take credit for their work, I should get called on the carpet for wasting my own time doing the things I hired other people to do.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I agree with the overarching thought, but coming from a very different motivation. We are usually nervous about our own stuff, will our boss / client / board be happy with our work? Are we doing a good job? It’s helpful to me to remember that they are asking the same questions! They also want their boss / client / board to be happy with them. They are also humans who are concerned about their job performance and reputation, and in the case of expensive projects they can even be worried failure means losing their job.

      So I consider that part of my job is making them look good — or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say setting them up for success. Being transparent to alleviate anxiety, give them a presentation / tools to share the work with others, identify potential risks. So I’m not trying to give away credit to my boss or anything, but this is part of my job if I want to succeed.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Many fresh to the workforce employees metaphorically kick down the door eager to make or suggest sweeping changes and seriously critique how things are done. They don’t get that this can make the boss look bad, because they haven’t found/fixed it themselves, or they have an “unruly” employee.

      This is one of my pet peeves, but it has nothing to do with making me look incompetent or that I have someone “unruly” on my team. In my experience, the vast majority of the feedback I get is because the new person doesn’t know enough to fully understand the *why* yet (especially in heavily regulated industries). I think there’s value in having fresh eyes on your processes, but I don’t get a lot of helpful suggestions from the eager beavers and the smartest among them will typically sheepishly admit about six months in that they see why we do it that way now.

      I also don’t think that it’s my team’s job to make me look good. If they accomplish what they were hired to accomplish, we all look good. I am not a fan of apple polishers, personally. If I “look good”, it’s a side-effect of a job well done, not the goal.

      1. Kelsi*

        Yeah, my frustration with new-to-the-workforce employees coming in and wanting to change everything is like…it requires a particular kind of attitude to assume that everyone working here is so much less smart than them and never thought of this wonderful, obvious solution!

        Which is not to say that new ideas are bad–but there’s a difference between “can you explain to me why we do X instead of Y? On the surface it seems like Y would be simple to implement,” and “we need to get everyone doing Y, I can’t believe you’ve all been stuck doing X this whole time!” and usually what I hear from young/new workers is the latter.

        (Also, a lot of those “great new ideas” in my line of work tend to be “it will make a lot less work for me/us, but will make more work for someone else down the chain who doesn’t have capacity/who we don’t have authority over to change their processes.” Like no, we can’t require the receptionist to scan every document that comes in and enter keywords so that things enter the digital sphere sooner and are easier for you to find, she’s got other work to do and is managed by a whole different department.)

    5. Anon for this*

      I’m in my 40s and I’m only learning this now. I’m an energetic problem solver, and this luckily suited my bosses until a few years ago, but then I had two jobs where the boss had very different standards to me and I simply thought it was my job to lead on improving things…and neither of those jobs went well. My bosses hated my contributions. It took me a long time to realise that – for your own financial survival – you need to dial back your own standards for some bosses.

      Of course, I believe high standards are the best approach (especially when it comes to ethics – are you treating your clients, etc, ethically?) but in some really unfortunate situations you’ve to dial them back for your own sake. While you look for a new job, hopefully.

  25. Texan In Exile*

    Sometimes, you can negotiate vacation! Before you accept a job, of course, but there are places where it’s possible. Always try to get more than the standard two weeks that they are going to offer, especially as you have more time in the workforce and risk losing your vacation status at the job you are leaving.

    1. nona*

      I was going to say this. One example: if you work for the US government, regardless of how senior you are, they will offer you the minimum vacation with your initial job offer (=start you at 0 years worked in the position in the vacation accrual system). The hiring manager can’t tell you to ask, but if you do ask, you’ll get credited for all of your past work experience that is relevant to the current job.

    2. There You Are*

      And you can negotiate for more time off if, say, your annual “merit” raise is just a [inadequate] COLA.

      “Boss, I realize that you can’t raise my pay without promoting me, but what about an extra week of PTO?”

    3. WorkingRachel*

      Yup, early in my career I had good luck just asking for three weeks, or a week more than whatever they were offering. I think this is an area where managers have more room to negotiate than they sometimes do on salary.

  26. Dragon Tea Smithy*

    Always ask for more money than they’ve offered, if only by a little bit. Or ask for other perks like a couple WFH days a month or commuter credit. They may say “we can’t,” but unless your ask is WILDLY out of line with what they’ve offered, you should ask. They are already invested in hiring you if they’ve gone through the interviewing/hiring process and have offered you the job. As long as you negotiate calmly and provide evidence to back you up (moving from a state with no income tax to one that has a high rate, for instance), you’ll only leave money/benefits on the table if you don’t ask.

    1. TootsNYC*

      anybody getting a job at my company should ask for $5,000 more and an extra week of vacation.

      In a lot of desk jobs, vacation is a really cheap benefit for them, because they don’t actually hire someone to do your work—you just work harder before and after, and colleagues pick up the slack for one another.

    2. Night Cheese*

      This! Most hiring managers are not offering the top of the salary band for any job candidate – there’s wiggle room built into the offer. You lose nothing by asking for more. Even if you ask for much more money, the company isn’t likely to pull the offer entirely. They might come back with another number. And any company that pulls an offer because you negotiate isn’t a company you want to work for anyway.

    3. Government Worker*

      While I think generally its great advice to negotiate, know enough about the employer to know if that’s reasonable – I work for state government and in my state, PTO is set by seniority so you can’t just ask for more. I mean I guess you could, but there isn’t an ice cube’s chance in hell you’ll get it, lol. And there are set salary bands, so you can try to negotiate within the band, but if you ask for something outside of the posted range, it’s a non-starter.

      1. nona*

        OTH: I work for the federal government, and was always told the same – that the salary you’re offered is final, and there’s zero chance they’ll increase it. However, I negotiated for 10% more (they were motivated to hire me, and I had very solid evidence that this was market rate). I also let my boss know that I wasn’t super happy with that amount, and have been getting large raises every year – to the point that after 3 years I’m now at the upper limit of the salary range that I wanted. There’s no harm in asking! Just do your research, and be professional about it. My spouse uses the phrase “is there anything we can do to increase that number?”, which I quite like.

        Also, see above re: PTO. You can (and need to) negotiate that with some government agencies.

      2. Fed Anon*

        Same here in the US Gov. You *can* negotiate vacation if you’re new to the fed workforce, but you need to know how to frame it. Ask for “creditable service for the purposes of annual leave” based on your work history that’s similar to what you’re being hired to do. An HR person will then need to review your paperwork and decide if it’s actually creditable.

        When I was hired, my work history wasn’t close enough for them to consider. My spouse got partial credit when they recently got hired though — credit from one job but not another. So it’s worth asking!

    4. Bast*

      I’d say that asking for more can’t hurt in most private sector jobs; many government jobs have set salary bands/PTO times/benefits that cannot be circumvented. Your boss MAY be able to be more flexible with things like working from home, particularly department by department, but I have found that for many other things they are set in stone. For example, in my state, if you are new to the system, you start at the bottom tier of pay, whether you have 5 months, 5 years, or 25 years of experience. It’s all seniority based.

      In the private sector, I have found that negotiating can be extremely beneficial if done reasonably and correctly. If you apply for a job that lists the range as 50k-60k, and are offered 52k, and you counter with 57k and can back it up with XYZ reasons, that is a reasonable ask. Asking for 80k in the same scenario would make you look completely out of touch and would have them wondering why you applied if you weren’t satisfied with the range.

      1. H.C.*

        Not necessarily true – I’m a gov’t worker and I was able to negotiate several “steps” up from what they initially offered (the lowest step) by showing that I had significantly more than the required experience/skills for the role & most of the “preferred” ones too. It did push back my start time by two months while they work through the red tape, but I hadn’t left my previous job yet and the pay difference was about $15K a year so I was definitely motivated to negotiate!

    5. Yes And*

      I think this is true if there was no published salary range, or if they’ve offered you less than the top of the range. If the job posting came with a flat pay rate, or if they offer you the top of the posted range, asking for more risks coming across as out of touch and a poor reader. In that instance, your odds of starting off your relationship with your new employer on a sour note are much higher than your odds of getting the employer to go above what they published.

  27. Longtime Lurker*

    Oh — the PTO example brought one right back to me.

    I still feel so stupid. I was working my first job and received an offer for my second, that I really wanted. The offer came too late to resign that Monday. So I resigned on Tuesday.

    I did not realize that it would have been perfectly fine to start new job on a Tuesday after a full two weeks. I thought I HAD TO start any job on a Monday, the start of a work week. I forfeited a week’s vacation pay. Which actually was about $300 because this was the media industry in 1991.

    But I really thought Monday was THE start day.

    1. Today's OP*

      This is VERY sweet–and exactly why we need lists like this to share with other sweet summer child employees. :)

    2. Lily Rowan*

      On the other hand, where I work, they only have “start days” every other Monday.

      It also would have been fine to give 9 work days’ notice instead of 10.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Same, we do onboarding on Mondays. But it’s any Monday the new hire needs, not on a bi-weekly schedule like yours. That’s just the day that HR and IT have set aside to do their processes for new folks. Always ask if they have a specific day if they don’t mention one! That way you know for sure before giving notice.

      2. ecnaseener*

        We have official start days every other Monday, but I was still able to pick a different start date a few days later – ie I went to Monday orientation, but actually started in the office a few days later. It was not a problem at all. Definitely worth asking about!

    3. Cruciatus*

      Although, at my company, you must start on a Monday. Every Monday there is a group of new folks in the lobby who have to go through a mini orientation together and it’s only on Mondays. I even remember seeing it written out somewhere that I could start on this Monday or that Monday, but it would need to be a Monday.

      1. Watry*

        Mine as well. Start dates are every other Monday, and transfers and promotions happen on those days as well.

        When I came in, they really needed me to start on the next start Monday, so I only gave a little over a week of notice, which was fine with all involved (I hadn’t been there long and was leaving for much greener pastures).

    4. Miette*

      This reminds me of a good bit advice: if you can, start a new job on a Wednesday.

      First weeks on jobs are stressful and exhausting as it is, and if you add a new commute on top of it, doubly-so. If you start mid-week, you only have to deal with it for three days before the escape of the weekend, and you start your second week with a lot more confidence.

    5. Alan*

      Well, you’re not totally wrong. My employer does require that people start on a Monday, which I learned when I tried to start on a different day.

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      I personally think it’s best to start a new job on a Wednesday and I always did when I was consulting.
      The first few days you’re just drinking from a firehose and I find it exhausting. This way, I’m only working three exhausting days, then I get a weekend and time to process all the new info. Then I can hit the ground running the following Monday.

  28. TootsNYC*

    Not only is my company not required to pay out PTO when you quit, but once you do announce you’re leaving, you aren’t allowed to take the days you’ve accrued. Not sure how that works, but a friend of mine at the company retired and gave a long notice (thinking she’d be helpful), and she had vacation she couldn’t take during that time frame. If she’d known, she wouldn’t have given that notice.

    Every other company I’ve worked at would pay out vacation at layoff or resignation; my company is structured differently somehow. They also don’t roll over vacation days–use ’em or lose ’em. And it’s best to try to use them up early, because everybody leaves it to the end of the year and then it’s hard to get the time.

    My company just announced they’ll cut 5% of staff, and I’m likely to be on that list; I’m going to get some vacation days in before the ax comes down.

    1. Calpurrnia*

      This depends where you’re located. I’m pretty sure a significant portion of what you describe would be illegal in California; accrued PTO must be paid out when you leave, and I don’t think use-or-lose PTO is allowed either. They can stop you accruing further PTO when you hit some cap, but they can’t take away any PTO you’ve already earned. So definitely know your local laws and don’t just trust that it works the same everywhere.

      1. Just Me*

        California doesn’t allow strict use-it-or-lose-it, but you are allowed to set a max of how much can accrue.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Ugh this is weirdly common and the only way to handle it is to take an extra-long vacation and THEN announce your resignation upon your return. Which of course most people don’t know to do until too late (and I believe this is a feature, not a bug).

    3. ThatGirl*

      It’s good to know state law as well as company policy.

      In Illinois, accrued vacation days have to be paid out. My husband last year left a higher ed job where he had a lot of rolled over PTO, and they tried to short him by a week, at which point he pointed out the state law and they were like oh whoops our bad.

      But some companies do get around this with “unlimited” PTO, and I’ve never worked anywhere that allowed that much rollover.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is so self-defeating – it’s like asking people not to give you any notice. We typically prefer that people not take time off in their last two week to facilitate transition, but we also leave it up to managers who can frequently work around days off and still get projects handed off effectively. If someone’s given me a month’s notice, surely that is enough time to transition their work AND leave plenty of time for PTO.

  29. Peon*

    It pays to read the fine print on all your benefits; my two examples – our PTO “officially” turns over on the anniversary of our start date, but in practice it’s really the beginning of the pay period that day falls in, which meant I basically lost a week of maternity leave I could have taken if I’d known and had less time left for the next year due to the timing. The other example is a friend’s; she was eligible to retire from our org, but was leaving for another job. If she’d handed in her notice she’d have lost retirement benefits, instead she had to change her timeline and officially retire and wait a bit to start the new job. Maybe it’s obvious to other people but we were surprised at some of the differences.

    1. Vest of Lies*

      Yes! My fun new life lesson is that employer-match 401k is not always free money.

      My company just switched our 401k to a SIX YEAR VESTING SCHEDULE. Meaning almost no one will get the full match, as the average tenure in my industry is around 2 years, and in America in general, it’s 4.

  30. Justin*

    I’m glad my company HR tells us to use the personal time that doesn’t roll over. Shame that companies hide this.

    I would say, build a cross-team group of people you can talk to and eventually trust. Breaking out of silos has gone a long way in improving my career to where it is now.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Mine does, too. Our HR is very nice, and my workplace in general is not about squeezing us and giving back as little as possible.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I was a little surprised, because everywhere I’ve worked has encountered people to use the time that doesn’t roll over first.

      Completely agree with working across teams. And sometimes across divisions. It makes a huge difference.

  31. Elle*

    Just because it’s a non profit doesn’t mean they can’t pay you a living wage, provide the necessary equipment to do your job and have benefits. I made the mistake of working for non profits that payed poorly and expected us to contribute our own money for supplies and event stuff. You don’t have to put up with that. There are plenty of organizations that do good work who compensate their employees fairly.

    1. Justin*

      Just learned this myself at my current high-paying nonprofit job! After several previous ones that weren’t.

    2. Miette*

      …and don’t let them guilt you into contributing money, volunteer time, or anything else to them to prove your support for “the mission.” It’s all BS.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I am at my first nonprofit job where I’m paid decently and don’t have to purchase my own supplies and it’s SUCH a mindset adjustment. “You mean…I can buy the pens that cost $3 more? and you’ll just pay for it? are you sure?!”

    4. so very tired*

      fortunately the non-profit I worked for had amazing benefits but completely poo-poo pay. I was young and dumb and thought I couldn’t do better. The very next role I had I nearly doubled my salary – combined with how little I made at the non-profit and going into the tech sector.

  32. Ellen*

    Promotions (generally) don’t happen automatically; you have to advocate for yourself, and that often involves saying explicitly, “I think I deserve a promotion because of ______,” or asking, “What do I need to accomplish to be promoted to the next level?” A lot of managers (even otherwise good ones) are thinking about an employee’s current performance, not their overall career trajectory.

    1. TootsNYC*

      also:

      In most places, you don’t get promoted just because you’ve been there awhile.
      Promotions are linked to expanded duties and more autonomy.

      if the department had a senior, a junior, and an admin, and nothing about their workload or the business is going to change, the admin is not going to get promoted.
      Because the duties are divvied up successfully, and there aren’t any new ones coming in.
      They aren’t going to take away the junior’s duties to give to a newly promoted admin, and they aren’t going to take away the expense accounts from the admin and give them to someone senior.

      If you want to move up from that admin, you have to move out.

      1. April Alter Ego*

        And if you want a promotion that year, 9 times out of 10 you have to bring it up 6 months prior to the performance review season . If it is a big company, promotion lists and prioritization between employees are already set in stone by the time you have a conversation in November/ December.

    2. EarlGrey*

      Seconding this one! Even in companies where there are annual raise/promotion cycles, you gotta make it known that you deserve one. And that’s so hard when you’ve had it drilled into you that you’re part of a team, don’t brag, it’s not all about you, etc. I had a manager tell me that frankly, doing good work is not enough because most people are doing good work, I needed to be making an effort to be *noticed* by the higher ups who made the promotion decisions. (To his credit, he did help with that!)

      Putting yourself in front of the big bosses and going “look at me!” in a way that makes them aware of what you’re doing and why it’s important – without being obnoxious – feels like a whole extra job skill I’m still working on. Because those big bosses want to come across like they’re promoting on merit and not visibility, they’re not going to tell you you have to do this.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Plus, if there’s only one time of year for promotions and raises, you’ve got to advocate for yourself *in advance of that* so your boss can get you positioned at the time. If you only ask at review time it may already be too late, depending on what else is in play; your boss may not have been considering you in that light.

    3. Not-so-Newly minted higher ed*

      this! I didn’t even know to ask at my other jobs. even though my parents were white collar, their blue collar background meant they worked hard and waited. I thought that was what to do and guess what, I never got pay increases (except once as a cost of living adjustment) or promotions. When I started looking for a new job (which I love! and they are really supportive and generous), this is what I asked. I turned down jobs where I would not get credit for the 15 years I’d spent in the industry because ‘nothing counts before x degree’ attitude. I got here and started asking in week 2 what it would take and found out I’m eligible for promotion in rank (I’m in academia) next year. I’d have left quite a bit of money on the table if I’d not asked and assumed it would be 4 years.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, I remember there was a whole debate here about whether white collar workers should ASK for raises every few years. I certainly vote yes on that one. Plenty of other people on here did not know this was a thing / not believe it should be a thing.

    4. Annika Hansen*

      I agree. Just to add on, just because you are the best programmer/accountant/whatever, it doesn’t mean you will be a good manager. It is a different set of skills. I work in IT. I have seen a few technologists be upset that someone with less experience/brilliance got the manager promotion over them.

    5. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Another thing to note, just because a step up from your current position doesn’t already exist, doesn’t mean you can’t advocate to create one. Big promotions are harder to negotiate — moving from administrative assistant to office manager — but even if there isn’t a junior/senior or assistant manager hierarchy doesn’t mean they can’t create one if you can make a good case that you are already doing that level of work, or have enough experience/education to merit a title change.

    6. Alan*

      This is where a boss makes all the difference. I’ve never asked, just been promoted. For my last promotion my *boss* was the one who got excited about it. I still remember him calling me and telling me “You got it!” and I’m like “Got what!” and he said “The promotion!” and I said “Oh thanks. That’s nice. Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you about this other thing…” I kind of rained on his parade. But I’ve always had great bosses who actively worked for their people.

    7. Charlotte*

      YES. I’m not even very early-career and I was sitting around getting frustrated watching everyone else in my office get promoted because I didn’t know I had to ask, I thought my boss would bring it up. A colleague finally mentioned that he’d never do it on his own and I asked and (fingers crossed) it should go through soon. But if I’d known I had to ask I’d have asked 2 years ago instead of waiting and feeling bitter that I was the only one who wasn’t moving up.

    8. not promoted*

      This is great and I’ll add 2 things to this
      * Your boss is likely not the final decision maker in awarding promotions. Make sure their boss knows your work too.
      * At a lot of companies good performance isn’t enough to get promoted, there also has to be a business need. You may need to make the case that they need someone at a higher level as well as showing your accomplishments.

    9. Kes*

      This is a really good one. Likewise with growth opportunities in general – don’t just assume they’ll be given to you – if you want them, ask, and keep an eye out for them yourself. Also, in some places you need to actually be doing the next level job in order to get promoted into it. Regardless, don’t count on anyone else to care about your career as much as (or more than) you do – drive it yourself.
      Additionally, let other people (especially leaders) know what you’re trying to achieve – they may be able to help you, but that’s a lot easier and likelier to happen if they’re aware of what you’re trying to do.

  33. Not a Fan*

    I wish I really understood early in my career that HR works for the employer and is not there for you. They are always going to do what is in the best interest of the company, even if the company or your manager is not being “fair” to you. A few places I have workd HR has addressed a problem, but in most cases they have moved or gotten rid of the person that complained about the problem.

  34. Turtle*

    Don’t work for free. The number of employees that I have run across that will just do “one little” thing off the clock is mind blowing. Your time is valuable and you deserve to be paid for that time. I had an employee that would go do a run to Fedex every week. But it took her 30 minutes every time. You should be paid for that time.

    1. TootsNYC*

      it’s also good for your employer to have an accurate picture of the work that needs to be done.
      You take that away from them when you work for free.

      Not that I should talk…

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Oh yes! THIS! I know so many people who will gladly volunteer to do something they should be getting paid or reimbursed for. I’ve done it too! But now I’m a lot more calculating on that. I’m exempt, so it’s easy to just stay a few minutes late or take a short lunch and not keep track, but my salary is calculated for 40hrs/week. I keep my own loose calculation — are all of the leaving early or longer lunches I occasionally take about the same as the 5 minutes after or 10 minutes early? Buying my own preferred office supplies benefits me — even if just mentally — but running to Staples to buy a ream of paper for the office copier and not getting that $5 petty cash back means that the org can keep under-ordering or delaying.

    3. Snow Globe*

      People should also know that working off the clock can get you in trouble! If you don’t report the time, you are exposing the company to legal liability, and there have been cases of people getting fired for that.

    4. boo bot*

      Yes. On a similar note, if your employer falls behind on payroll, start looking for a new job ASAP and leave as soon as you find something else unless there’s an extremely reasonable explanation and the employer responds with appropriate urgency. (Example: the person who does payroll has a medical emergency at 4:45 PM the day they’re supposed to process it, and it’s too late to send it to the payroll company, so the owner writes personal checks to the employees or pays a fee to get the checks expedited.)

      A company that fails to meet payroll is either on the brink of collapse or terribly mismanaged, and either way, you can’t count on getting paid for your work in the future. A less-than-stellar response to the example scenario, like telling you to wait until the next pay period to get paid, is still a red flag—the company might not be financially unstable, but whoever is in charge of the money is willing to make employees shoulder a financial burden that rightfully belongs to the company.

      I’ve seen people get stuck in a cycle of feeling like they need to stay at a place that owes them money because they’ll never get paid what they’re owed if they leave — but in that situation, it’s incredibly likely that they aren’t going to pay what they owe you anyway, and the longer you stay, the longer you’re (a) working for free and (b) increasing the amount you’re owed, making it less and less likely that you will ever see the full amount—a company that can’t afford to pay you for one week definitely can’t afford to pay you for a month. (Plus, you’re legally owed that money either way.)

      1. I Have RBF*

        This.

        If an employer bounces a paycheck, or otherwise doesn’t pay on time, and doesn’t make it right within a week, start planning your exit, and look for a new job with urgency.

        You work for pay. No pay? No work. If you aren’t being paid it’s the same as being unemployed,but with added “doing something for free” on top.

        If your company does this often, consider reporting them to the local wage and hour department.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is part of our orientation – you’re not doing us a “favor” by working off the clock. You’re taking away from our ability to estimate levels of effort, and you’re also subjecting us to labor law compliance issues in our jurisdiction. If you want to do me a “favor”, please record all time worked.

  35. Teekanne Aus Schokolade*

    For those new to the workforce, American TV shows are NOT a good reference for appropriate work relationships. I mean: Suits, Brooklyn 99, any show where people know everything about everyone else and may or may not have slept together. Though Big Bang Theory is pretty damn accurate to academic scientists though haha.

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      BBT is *not* accurate to academic university work, though. Tenure doesn’t work the way they show it on there, amongst other things.

    2. ThePear8*

      I would expand this to not just TV shows, but lots of popular media as well. I’m an avid webtoon reader and there’s quite a few that, while entertaining, are *not* good or accurate representations of what a workplace is like or what is acceptable behavior in the workplace. Don’t base your reality off fiction!

    3. Sloanicota*

      And not the fashion, either! I totally entered the work force thinking what actresses wore on TV was typical of office environments – which at the time was like, a lot of slinky little negligees under jackets and really short skirts with heels. Boy was I surprised.

    4. Statler von Waldorf*

      I’ll second this. I know I should not have been surprised, but I was still a little surprised when it turned out that Ally McBeal was actually not an accurate representation at all of what it was like to work at a law office. I also used to date a nurse, and he had very similar thoughts about medical dramas that took place in hospitals.

      These shows are designed to create entertaining drama, not to create an accurate representation of the workplace they take place in.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        In fact, if you ever work in a place with that level of drama, you should be prepared to find another job as soon as possible. (Particularly if you recently had a threesome with your boss and her mistress.)

    5. Just Me*

      Addendum: if you think sitcoms or cartoons are a good place to learn about the workplace, lower your sights in terms of what job you should be getting.

    6. iglwif*

      Media portrayals of how the publishing industry works are wildly, hilariously inaccurate.

      Publishing jobs aren’t glamorous, very few are lucrative, and there’s a lot more different kinds of jobs in publishing than you would think from TV or movies. There’s a lot less high-end dining and a lot more spreadsheets.

  36. Anonymous Koala*

    One time money and other kinds of compensation can be a lot easier to negotiate for than salary increases. When you’re starting a new job, if the company won’t go up to the salary you’d like, see if they’ll give you a signing bonus, flat relocation assistance (even if it’s a local move), education reimbursement / continuing education expenses, PTO to attend industry-specific conferences, study for licensing exams, etc. A lot of companies won’t offer those things right off the bat but can give them to you if you ask.

    Also I’ve never seen someone actually have to pay back a signing bonus, even if they leave before the pay back window. YMMV, of course, but in my industry this almost never happens.

    1. Texan in exile on her phone*

      A signing bonus to cover your COBRA until the new insurance starts. (But seriously corporate America – WTF with waiting periods?)

    2. TK*

      Yeah, the signing bonus payback is a trick. They’ll ask for it, but if you never pay it back, they are highly unlikely to do anything about it. In some states in the US, they’re not allowed to get it back (but if you give it to them, they can take it!). After all, if they were fully allowed and able to take it back, they’d just withhold it from your last pay…but they don’t, and there’s a reason for that.

      I’m still mad at myself for having paid one back when I left at 13 months. I didn’t find out until after talking about doing that payback with some other work friends.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      On the other hand, future raises and COL are generally calculated from the base pay. It might be worth leaving a $3000 signing bonus on the table and negotiating a $1000 base pay bonus if you plan to stay for a few years.

  37. The Baconing*

    Always take a lunch break. The work will be there when you get back, and 30 minutes to an hour shouldn’t break anything. On that same topic, ALWAYS leave your desk when you take your lunch breaks. You need the break, whether you believe you do or not.

    1. beezus*

      I 100% agree with this, even if you’re an exempt employee. It sets a good example for the people lower on the org chart and at a new job, expectations with the people higher up you report to that “oh, I always take a lunch away from the computer when I can”. I even set a status update on Teams that I’m at lunch and approximately when I’ll be back at my desk/computer.

    2. Today's OP*

      The flip side of this, I think, is knowing whether you’re legally allowed to skip that lunch break if it means you can leave sooner. Prepandemic, I had a 3-hour roundtrip commute. Skipping lunch to eat at my desk (which I’m legally allowed to do) meant hitting the interestate before the worst of the traffic. To me, getting an extra hour at home vs. that hour in traffic was worth eating at my desk.

      1. The Baconing*

        I would argue that’s a personal choice based on convenience for your work/life balance as opposed to why most eat at their desk. I find most do so because they feel as though they can’t get everything done they need to do in a day or that it will reflect poorly on them to take the break, and that should never be the case.

        If a person can’t regularly take 30-60 minutes away from their desk without their workload hitting critical mass, that is a symptom of a either poor time management skills on their behalf or poor working conditions on the company’s behalf. Either way, that should addressed. If a person feels it will reflect poorly on them to take the break, I’d argue that is a symptom of a toxic work environment, and I would encourage that person to find a different work averment.

    3. Beth*

      Each time you leave your desk for a bathroom break, spend a few minutes just walking around. Make it into a habit. It will make a massive difference over time.

      1. WorkNowPaintLater*

        THIS.

        Go find a window to look out of, take a brief walk around the building, find a quick place to get coffee – any reason to get up and stretch your legs and rest your eyes.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If you get dehydrated you’ll slow down mentally. One way to avoid that is to have a drink of water with every bathroom break.

    4. Beth*

      In general, a lesson younger-me needed to hear was to work less hard. Even if you genuinely don’t need the lunch break today–take it, having your “default” work level be your 80% will help you avoid burnout when it’s crunch time and everyone is expected to step up.

      Similarly, if you’re getting a task done faster than other people and you’re confident that it’s not because you’re doing it less well? Don’t turn it in super early. Add a little walk, a bathroom break, a coffee, etc into your day instead, so you’re slowing down to be close to everyone else’s pace, and then turn it in just a little early.

      And don’t get frantic if you’re out of things to do. Lots of jobs have slow periods, and it’s not just okay but actively good to slow down during them! If your organization allows, those are the days to have an appointment, flex your time, leave a little early, take an extra long lunch, etc. If they don’t allow, put on a podcast and find some satisfying little side project and toodle along at it. It’ll balance out when you hit a busy period–and the busy period is when people are really watching how you work anyways, most people care a lot less when things are quiet.

    5. Bridget*

      I’m gonna disagree on this one. I eat at my desk not because I feel like I can’t leave my work alone, but because I want to *eat* alone. I don’t want to go out to lunch or to the break room and chat with coworkers, I want to read AAM silently while no one talks to me or needs anything from me. I also want to be fully in control of when I go back to work, which is easiest when I’m already at my desk.

      Probably good advice in general, but not for everyone.

  38. cabbagepants*

    If you’re pregnant: Short term disability insurance will pay 70% of your salary from 37 weeks until 6 or 8 weeks after delivery. Short term disability coverage is usually opt-in so if there’s any chance you might find yourself making a baby, get it!

    I knew about coverage after delivery but not before. I was toddling around 38 weeks pregnant when the amazing insurance person at my obgyn let me know that I was already eligible to be on leave.

    1. Tricksie*

      Yes, I came to see if anyone had already said this! If your work doesn’t have a parental leave policy and you’re relying on FMLA, definitely make sure you opt into short term disability if you’re planning a pregnancy.

    2. HonorBox*

      Some short term disability coverages pay 60%, too. Also, just because your doctor says you’re not eligible to return for 10-12 weeks, they may only still pay 6 or 8 weeks. You’ll want to check that beforehand.

      I yelled at a rep from our disability coverage company once because I had an employee who had a difficult C-section and the doctor’s report said specifically that she was not eligible to return to any type of work for 10 weeks. They only paid 6 and I was incensed. I may have said a few things about a med school drop out apparently knowing better than an actual doctor… I’m not sorry I said that either.

    3. Anonymous Koala*

      This depends on your individual workplace’s policies. It can be a great option! But for example my employer offers a certain amount of maternity leave. If I were to take short term disability, it would replace my maternity leave instead of increasing the time I could take, effectively paying my employer instead of me.

    4. No Tribble At All*

      Conversely, I wasn’t eligible to get /supplemental/ short term disability coverage because I was already pregnant when I filled out the application, and it’s an automatic disqualification because, you know, I’m actually going to use it….

      But yes, investigate all the benefits/insurance your company will provide!

    5. MsMaryMary*

      Disability benefits vary greatly employer to employer! I’m glad cabbagepants had a good experience but NOT all policies pay 70% of your salary. It’s also not guaranteed you can start at week 37. You need to be considered unable to work, and depending on your job, the medical information submitted, and the claims examiner’s determination you may not be considered disabled pre-delivery.

      If the short term disability policy is voluntary (opt in, meaning your employer doesn’t pay for the benefit for everyone) there is likely a pre-existing condition limitation. If you’re pregnant now during open enrollment and enroll in STD for your planned delivery in February, your claim may be denied.

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      I think everyone should sign up for ST and LT disability insurance, just in case you get hit by the proverbial bus. It can save you financially.

    7. Single Parent Barbie*

      I was able to use it for the full longer as I was put work restrictions, so it took me through the last 3 months of my pregnancy all the way through to the 8 week return mark.

    8. Anne of Green Gables*

      And just to signal boost what someone else added: add short term disability to your coverage *before* you start trying to get pregnant. If you do it after, the pregnancy is likely a pre-existing condition and won’t be covered.

  39. Horace Walpole*

    A bonus is (almost always) *WORSE* than a raise. A raise is guaranteed income, a bonus can be taken away at any time for any reason (and it is legal to do so). Plus, a bonus is considered “supplemental income” by the IRS and is thus taxes at a flat rate of 22% at the federal level and often even higher at the state level. You will generally only receive around 60% of a bonus as take-home pay, and that’s if the company even gives you the bonus they “promised.”

    1. beezus*

      On the topic of bonuses–make sure your payroll/finance person is taxing your bonus properly or you’ll have a ~~FUN surprise come tax time, especially if it’s more than a few thousand dollars.

    2. TootsNYC*

      that supplemental income / 22% tax info

      That’s for withholding, no? So you will see a bigger withholding, but at the end of the year, all your income is taxed the same.

      I’ve received bonuses, and at the end of the year, they aren’t broken out differently at all on my 1040 form.

      Or did I just miss that.

      1. beezus*

        Yes, it’s withholding. It should be reported in a different box on your W2 if it was run correctly through payroll.

      2. Just Me*

        Yes, it’s only for withholding.

        Another thing people need to learn at work: if the tax rate applied to your bonus is higher than the standard marginal tax rate that would apply to that income, you will get it back in as refund (or a reduction in what you owe) when you file your taxes. So many people think you pay higher taxes on bonus, but you don’t. The only thing you lose is the time value of the extra money between when you get the bonus and when you file your income tax return.

        1. The Engineer*

          Same thing happens when you get payouts upon leaving. If run through the standard paycheck the accounting system just projects that pay period gross into an annual salary to select the tax rate. You will get it back upon filing (US based).

    3. Ranon*

      Bonuses are withheld at 22%, they are not taxed at 22%. It’s still income you pay your typical income tax rates for.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        On the subject of tax, do not let anyone tell you not to accept a raise because it’ll put you in the next tax bracket, and you’ll end up making less than you do currently. That’s a straight up lie and not how tax works.

        1. Beth*

          Yeppp. There are some situations where a raise can hurt you (a lot of social welfare programs in the US have income limits, and if getting a raise is going to make you lose your food stamps or housing assistance or disability social security payments, it better be a big enough raise to fully cover what those benefits were providing for you) but you’ll almost definitely know if you’re in that kind of situation. For most people, raises are always good.

        2. MassMatt*

          Yes, by that logic everyone should strive to earn $11,000 or less per year to stay in the 0% tax bracket. That’ll really stick it to “the man”!

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I know a couple who stays in intentional poverty as a protest against the use of taxes for the military, but it takes a lot of work to survive at that level.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          Yes. For those who need numbers, The highest tax bracket in the US is 37%, which kicks in at $578,125 for a single filer. That means that if you make 700,000, you will pay a lower tax rate on the first $578,125 and only pay the 37% tax rate on the last $121,875.

          Not that anyone making that kind of money actually pays the tax at that level (that’s what the tax loopholes and Cayman Islands accounts are for).

      2. Okra504*

        And if you are getting more senior or in a role where a larger percentage of your income is bonus you may get withheld at 22% and owe taxes at 32% which can be a big hit at tax time.

    4. HonorBox*

      If you do get a bonus, try to negotiate the amount they’re giving you as an after-tax bonus. Nothing worse than getting a $10,000 bonus that turns out to be $6,500…

      1. beezus*

        A lot of companies won’t do this because different people will have different W4 withholding and it becomes unequitable. If it’s like $500-$1000, they might be willing though.

        1. Just Me*

          No, the point is if you want the bonus to be worth $1K to you, you negotiate for an amount greater than $1K that will land you at $1K after taxes.

          1. MassMatt*

            This is really unfeasible. Income tax is an individual’s responsibility, not the employer’s, and everyone’s marginal rate is different. It strikes me as very naive to expect your employer to pay your taxes for you, akin to demanding a higher salary because you have taxes to pay. A $60,000 salary is a $60,000 salary, not a net amount you are owed after you pay taxes, FICA, etc.

    5. Jojo*

      To add to this, another reason a raise is better is because of the compounding effect. A bonus is a one time payout. A raise becomes part of your salary, and your next raise will increase the amount of your last raise by the same percentage as your raise is. Over many years, this adds up.

      1. MassMatt*

        This is the reason why employers went through so many contortions during the recent labor shortage, giving signing bonuses, perks like gym memberships, restaurant gift cards, etc. Anything to avoid what employees most wanted–more pay.

        I lost count of the number of articles I read where employers were complaining about how impossible it was to hire people and on the rare occasions the article dug deeper to find out if they were paying more than a couple years ago the answer was always NO, and then the gimmicks.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Also any sort of COL adjustment will be on base salary, not whatever bonuses may be promised.

    6. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      One mistake here: the IRS will *initially* tax a bonus at the highest rate because it’s easiest. If you aren’t in that tax bracket though, you will get that money back on your tax return.

      1. Bess*

        Yes, it’s important to know if you spend most of what you make so additional money in any amount has more significance–you don’t want to get excited about $500 that won’t actually be $500 at the time. But in the end you’ll get the difference between the 22% and your actual tax rate back.

  40. beezus*

    Ideally if you had a good HR person, they’d also be making your employee aware of these facts + have written a handbook that clearly stated their policies of PTO carryover/use/etc. So I would say be sure to read thoroughly your employee handbook and ask questions on any policy that you find unclear. Your manager might not know, but a good HR person or whoever authored + distributed the handbook SHOULD know at a functional company.

  41. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    If you get sent on travel, get receipts for everything – and I do mean everything – and submit your reimbursement as soon as you can. Reimbursement can take a long time.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for an advance if it’s going to be an expensive trip and you don’t have a company credit card.

    Also, spend your per diem – get extra guac if you want! Use it to make your travel, which can be tiring and annoying, somewhat more pleasurable.

    1. TootsNYC*

      also, if you have some vague feeling of guilt about having “cost the company money” with those expenses, remember that filing your expenses right away is important to the company.

      They want to close out the books as soon as possible, and they WANTED you to spend that money.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Yup yup yup. We don’t have to wait for the client to pay before we get reimbursed by my company, but if there’s a huge bill for the client to pay (mileage, per diems, etc) it might make the project look less profitable and affect your bonus (a tiny bit, but still). Don’t sit on receipts for long!

    2. Anonymous Koala*

      On a similar note, some companies will just reimburse you a flat per diem instead of reimbursing individual receipts for things like meals. When I was broke and traveling a lot I would deliberately spend less on food so I could save the rest of my per diem. Know your companies policies and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on reimbursement requirements – it’s one of those things that’s different at every company.

    3. cabbagepants*

      I consider getting the guac (literally and figuratively) as my bonus for the extra stress and time away from home associated with travel.

      The purpose of business travel is not just to transport your corpus about for grins and giggles. Your company wants you to do special work and you can’t do that if you’re feeling like crap. If getting the guac is going to make you happy and bright eyed, then both you and your company benefit by you getting it.

    4. Anonymous Koala*

      Also some companies will just reimburse a flat rate per diem for meals, etc. instead of asking for receipts. It varies by company (sometimes even by department) so make sure you know what the policy is before you travel. And if you do go the per diem route, do not feel bad about pocketing the difference if you spend less than you’re allotted – it’s your money to spend as you choose.

      1. Internship Admin*

        It’s like how mileage calculations can amount for some wear and tear. Consider it a personal wear and tear amount for traveling. :)

      2. Delta Delta*

        I worked with someone who always used her whole per diem when she traveled. People gave this serious side-eye. Her position was that she was allotted $X/day and why not use it and eat decent meals. I’m on her side.

    5. Miette*

      All of the above.

      Other travel advice: Only travel on company time whenever possible. And do not go to work after getting off a red eye flight–you’re only going to suffer for it and it sets a bad precedent for what they will expect from you. Take the morning flight the next day… again, on their time, not yours.

      1. Justin*

        I think it depends. I’d say don’t take the one that’s more tiring. For me, a morning flight would require more “getting up at 330” type stuff if I’m going cross country because there’s, say, only one flight from here to SoCal in the morning.

        But I generally agree.

    6. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Also, find out ahead of time who is paying for the hotel. My SO got to his hotel in Singapore on his 1st work trip only to discover the company hadn’t paid for it in advance. Nobody available in the US at 2am, so he had to pay for 1 night on his own card before getting it straightened out the next day.

    7. Just Me*

      I’m big on SPEND AS MUCH AS YOU ARE ALLOWED TO. They gave you this to spend because they want you to spend it/think it’s a fair amount to spend. If they wanted you to spend less, they could have given you a smaller budget.

    8. Massive Dynamic*

      I was the idiot who didn’t realize I even had a per diem when I traveled a few times for work in my early/mid 20s. Nobody told me!

    9. Peon*

      Oooh, that reminds me too- even if they “require” receipts you can often still get reimbursed for things that you can’t get receipts for within reason. They had me fly in at 9pm and by the time I got checked in to my hotel nothing was open and I ate from the vending machines. You better believe I expense that “meal”.

      Lessons also learned from that job – before traveling, make sure you have emergency contacts at the office that will actually answer the phone in the evening and be able to help you if hotel reservations fall through or planes get cancelled or whatever.

    10. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles**

      get extra guac if you want!

      Nice shout-out to Guacamole Bob!

  42. Jiminy Cricket*

    In many industries, you’re going to have to change companies in order to advance meaningfully.

    Don’t sign that noncompete without compensation (or just don’t sign it if you don’t have to), and don’t be intimidated if your employer threatens you over one. You almost certainly have more rights than they want you to think you do.

    They’re not going to tell you how to submit expenses or which ones they cover. You’re going to have to ask.

    1. Not Julia’s Child*

      Co-signing your second point. My company is doing some funny business with a new arbitration agreement, and I’m not going to sign it until I’m forced to do so or they’ll fire me. I know so many coworkers who signed it without reading it! It waives so many of our rights, it’s nuts to me to sign without reading.

    2. Ada Lovelace's Bestie*

      On a related note, whenever you have to sign something for your employer: READ IT!

      Yes it’s boring, yes all the legaleese sucks. Don’t let them pressure you into quickly signing and moving on. Also make sure you get a copy for yourself! (You should honestly read anything involving large amounts of money! This includes all medical stuff BTW.)

      I had a previous employer who didn’t have non-competes try to sneak one in on me later by hiding it in the middle of an agreement to receive a restricted stock grant bonus.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        On the other hand, most agreements you sign aren’t enforceable if you didn’t understand what you were signing. There’s a reason people talk about “informed” consent.

        The main reasons companies want you to sign their End User License Agreement is a) make you agree to arbitration instead of a class-action lawsuit and b) make you think you’d lose in court, even though that often isn’t the case.

    3. AnonForThis*

      Also watch out for “anti-poaching” clauses. IME, they can be much more restrictive than non-competes, since they can apply to any clients or vendors, and they specifically block you from using the skills you’ve gained for companies you have a relationship with.

      I worked for a company that enforced that clause even if you were let go (by threatening to blackball any client or vendor that hired you, so you couldn’t even challenge in court).

    4. Alternative Person*

      First point is so important. I’ve seen so many companies get so stingy over their current employees both in opportunities to advance and in salary. Moving elsewhere may not be fun but you need to put yourself first.

  43. Frodo*

    “Human Resources are neither human or resourceful.”

    Many years ago, the small company I was working for was bought out by a much larger company. We were told by the HR department of the large company that they would be able to help us with our resumes, file unemployment, file proper paperwork with our health insurance. You name it, they were there for us. But there were no humans taking our calls. A ton of voicemails, but no actual humans. And no resources.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      For the record human resources refers to managing the human resource of employees, not being a resource themselves.

      Really need to rebrand that.

  44. KToo*

    Not necessarily a specific workplace thing, but don’t assume that the first people you meet who are super friendly and welcoming are truly genuine. Through many decades of school and then work life, I’ve found that usually the first people who try to become friends with the new people end up being the ones you wish you’d avoided. So be friendly with everyone but until you’ve been there a while and gotten a good idea of who everyone really is don’t think your co-workers are your actual friends, and do not reveal anything personal that you wouldn’t want the entire company to know.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think this is so true!

      People with good judgment will hang back a bit to see who you are.
      Users will rush in to cement a relationship.
      People with bad boundaries will rush in as well.

      Of course there are exceptions, and I hope those of us with good judgment will be moderately friendly while we’re deciding.

      But in general, give yourself space between you and other people when you start, so you don’t get locked into the wrong social circle at the office.

      1. Loux*

        This almost happened to me at my current job. I don’t remember how it started, but I started chatting to this one other guy on the team and he didn’t seem to be well liked by a lot of the others, but he seemed perfectly sweet, just kind of not all that skilled socially, so I couldn’t really see the problem. Then he crossed a couple of boundaries, nothing crazy, but things that should have been obvious. I ended up doing my best to avoid him after that. Luckily nothing really came of it, but it’s kind of unfortunate because he works on a team I would’ve really liked to join. I think he is not that far from retirement though, so hopefully within a couple years it’s no longer a problem.

    2. Enn Pee*

      Love this! (My boss’s boss was just telling me about a woman that latches on to the newbie and it can take months before they realize how toxic she is!)

    3. Johanna Cabal*

      I’ve known this was true ever since sixth grade when another student in homeroom took me under her wing and I thought we were friends. Turns it out she was making up stories about me behind my back. I was already a somewhat outcast but it really hurt my reputation barely two months into middle school.

      Work-wise, I saw this happen at a previous job when a long-time staffer did the same to new employees who came on board. Unfortunately, I was not in a position to effectively respond and management felt their hands were tied because she might sue them for age discrimination (as you can imagine, that company was the very definition of “dysfunction”).

  45. Dust Bunny*

    Soft skills are job skills. Yes, occasionally you’ll have a coworker who is just impossible, but in most cases, learning to work with your coworkers and be generally approachable and pleasant is as important as your technical skills. If you start out with the attitude that “I’m not here to make friends”, you’re already not as good an employee as you think.

    1. Delphine*

      Yes! I get the impression that some people hear, “your relationship with coworkers is a business relationship—you’re not friends or family members,” and take that to mean that their coworkers are the enemy. You are not the only human being at work! Your coworkers are people too. Unless something is seriously wrong with your workplace, your coworkers are not out to get you, they’re not waiting for the first opportunity to throw you under the bus, and they’re not all acting maliciously all the time.

      Be compassionate, be empathetic, care about the people you work with. Professionalism doesn’t exclude human connection. It just requires different boundaries.

      1. Me...Just Me*

        Exactly. And management isn’t a monolith. Mostly, they’re just people doing their jobs.

    2. ThePear8*

      Yes! I’m in tech and I get lots of people – namely students and new grads – asking me about what sort of skills they should focus on to get the job they want, thinking I’ll tell them which specific programming languages or softwares they should learn. Which, yes, those are important to have but I always tell them ultimately the soft skills will be most important – good companies know they can teach you technical skills, but they can’t make you not be an asshole. You should be someone people want to work with!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’m a computer programmer, and I use my writing and presentation skills far more than anything I learned in computer science classes. I’ve written several emails today, but I’ve never had to write an O(n) data structure for my current job.

    3. BecauseHigherEd*

      Dear god, yes. If you’re difficult to work with, no one will want to work with you. You have no one to advocate for you when, say, it’s time for a round of layoffs. And the minute you DO make a technical error, you don’t have any other defenses. Alternately, I have a colleague who doesn’t have as many technical skills but has a fantastic attitude and is a delight to work with (happy to take on extra tasks to support her colleagues; positive even when things are difficult), and so management is looking at ways to expand her role and increase her training and pay.

    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yes! You are going to spend an awful lot of time with the people you work with usually. Keep normal boundaries with every person in your life — not just coworkers or bosses. This means more than just “don’t be an asshole” it does mean that if you’re only strictly professional, and a total unknown to your coworkers, they aren’t inclined to go out of their way to be compassionate or help you out later. This is how you build a network! Those coworkers and managers are the people who can recommend you, refer a job to you, give you a heads up about a problem, or have your back in an issue.

    5. not a professor*

      I’ve had new hires come to me and say they’re afraid to ask questions of, or get feedback from, more senior employees who are so much more experienced than they are in the field. These senior employees are genuinely nice people who really love answering questions. Learning to approach senior employees as colleagues instead of as scary professors is incredibly valuable.

  46. Clefairy*

    A good attitude and flexibility go a really long way- sometimes, maybe even further than actually producing good work. Obviously you should be trying to do all three, but it’s important to know that you may be professionally shooting yourself in the foot if you’re always openly grumpy/complaining/not being a team player, even if your work is objectively stellar. A lot of things- promotions, raises, new opportunities- come down to how much your boss/HR/Coworkers like you, even if they won’t admit it- so being likable should be considered a strategic move that should be prioritized, if possible.

    1. Mrs. Frisby*

      I know this isn’t exactly what you’re saying, but it reminds me of a commencement speech Neil Gaiman gave where he talked about creative/freelancing work and said (I’m paraphrasing): you can be good, you can be timely, or you can be nice, and you have to be 2 out of the 3. If you’re nice and your work is on time, it doesn’t have to be the best work, and so on. That’s always struck me as pretty true.
      And I think in a workplace, relationships are the most important thing. I’ve seen people go to bat for employees that aren’t the highest performers because they are easy to work with, and kind, and people like them. It does go a long way! When I started I was very focused on *getting work done* and not focused on the chitchat. But once I did stop to take a few minutes to chat with people and build relationships, I realized how much easier it is to get work done when you have those good relationships.

      1. Spearmint*

        Agreed. Being easy to work with, nice, and responsive goes so far. I’d also add that, in my experience, being easy to work with and likable often gets you a lot more flexibility and benefit of the doubt. For example, still leaving work at 5 on the dot even if occasionally you log on/arrived 10-15 minutes late, or having your manager bring understanding if you drop a few (lower priority) balls here and there.

    2. Glazed Donut*

      Yes! Being a team player does not mean simply doing your job well so the team functions. It comes out in the little things: the likes in Teams chats, responses to emails (“Got it! Thanks!”), and the easy wins. You don’t have to like a person to be professionally kind to them. You never know who you may come across later and how a grumpy/”I am fine all by myself and just won’t say anything” attitude may come off later.
      Took me a VERY long time to learn that these little, easy wins take maybe one atom of my soul but can pay off in dividends.

    3. Not a jerk, just oblivious*

      Yes!
      You can imply that co-workers and bosses are reasonable people.
      For example – Coworker #1 is nasty when asked to do a (normal, work-related) task. Co-worker #2 says something like, “I’m also working on task A, B, and C. How would you like me to prioritize?”
      Co-worker #1 sends emails that imply that you are an idiot when you make an error. Co-worker #2 says something like, “I think you meant to schedule the meeting for December 5, not December 15” or “We should re-schedule that meeting because it’s a religious holiday for some staff members.”

    4. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

      +1000. In the same vein, it is almost impossible to thank people too much, or to tell them when they do a great job, or help you get out of a tight corner. You don’t have to supervise people to do any of the above.

      And wait AT LEAST THREE MONTHS before you complain about anything to anyone. This obviously excludes things like getting your name wrong or messing up your paycheck or not giving information needed for your job. But don’t kvetch until you’ve been there long enough to have picked up on who knows what and who talks to whom.

      Last, as others have said, HR is never ever ever your friend. Ever. Email them, bcc yourself, print the email thread, keep a copy in your desk and a copy at home.

  47. UFO sighting*

    If you have a friendly/frank relationship with a more senior coworker, ask them to explain how to make the most of your company’s performance review system. This can include review schedule, evaluation criteria, what kinds of things stand out to upper management (how can your boss justify giving you a raise to her boss), and how to talk about your achievements so that they’ll be recognized.

    1. Zweisatz*

      Agreed, this is a good one. For best effectiveness, I would choose somebody who has been at the job north of 5 years. Some people don’t really pay attention to these kind of things, but if you’ve been with a company for a while, usually it clicks at some point.

  48. TootsNYC*

    before you accept a job, get ALL the details about health insurance, including which doctors are in network and what the premiums will be for YOU.

    a colleague took a job once and found out that the company’s health insurance was structured to advantage single people. Her husband was on her insurance, which meant her “family” premiums were MUCH higher and essentially wiped out her raise.

    1. CL*

      Yes. Ask for the full plan documentation before accepting a job. I turned down a job this year because the new plan had visit limits that my current plan didn’t. I would have lost money taking the job even though the salary was higher.

    2. Annika Hansen*

      This is so important. Health Insurance, PTO, parking, retirement contributions, etc. have to be considered. I work in the city center. Parking costs about $1200/year. An employee can avoid that by walking, biking, public transportation, etc. However, those solutions don’t work for everyone. But my health insurance is $250/mo with $1000 deductible for the family plan, I get about 5 weeks of vacation, 12 sick days, 9 legal holidays.

  49. blupuck*

    Understand your FSA.
    Money paid into the system is not cumulative. It does not roll over. You do not receive unused funds ever. You use it or you lose it.
    This seems really unfair, until you understand it works BOTH ways.
    You may spend your entire allotment in January 1st if you wish, even though it will not be fully funded BY YOU until late December.
    If you leave the company before the you have fully funded the FSA, oh well!
    The company cannot come after you for what is owed. They may and likely will ask.
    You can legally tell them to stuff it.
    Any funds left in the account will go back to the company when you leave.
    If you are planning on changing jobs and you have an FSA, time for new glasses, aye?

    1. beezus*

      FSAs can rollover–they either rollover $500 or you have a “run-out” period in the first three months of the year. Check your plan documents or if you have good HR, HR. But yes, once those options are exhausted, the money reverts to the employer. HOWEVER, you can use all your annual FSA election on day 1. So if you elect $5000 over 24 pay periods, once the first pay period processes and the election is deferred and transmitted, you can use that whole $5000 immediately. (this is different than a HSA where you own the money, FYI)

        1. Not Totally Subclinical*

          Mine allows incurring the expenses as well, but all claims have to be submitted by the end of the period.

    2. Wordnerd*

      We are going through a restructuring and also my husband and I were doing open enrollment. Since I genuinely don’t know if I’ll be around by next December, we looked into this, and all of this was a huge surprise to us.

    3. butterfly mask*

      The IRS will allow up to $610 in the medical FSA to rollover in 2024, but employers have to adopt that. Not all do. Check with your employer. Also OTC has been added back to the plan so if you do have extra funds at the end of the year pick up that bottle of Advil or Nyquil. You can buy the amount a reasonable person would use, but not hoard, so you can’t buy 20 bottles of Advil. And for women, menstruation products are now reimbursable.

      1. beezus*

        Thanks for the updated max rollover! Also you can use FSA money to buy things like pads/tampons/etc or contact lens solution, etc. There’s a huge list of OTC stuff you can do with it at the end of the year.

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      And look into what OTC items you can buy using FSA money. You’d be surprised. (My FSA even has an online store I can order from.)

    5. Calpurrnia*

      Worth noting that HSAs are not the same thing as FSAs, they have different rules and not just different names for the same thing. If you have certain types of health insurance coverage (they have higher deductibles than “standard” health plans, which may or may not be a worthwhile choice for you depending on your medical situation), you can put pre-tax money into an HSA – sometimes with a company match or flat contribution – and that’s *your* money that rolls over year to year and leaves with you even when you leave that job. An FSA is a different beast with a lot more limitations.

      1. Cranky-saurus Rex*

        Also, you might have both a FSA and an HSA (if you have a HPHP–high deductible health plan, which is an official designation, not just what seems high — at a recent past job I had insurance with a higher deductible than my current HDHP plan). If so, the FSA is much more limited — no OTC items etc that are called out here. The limited FSA can ONLY be used for vision and dental expenses.

    6. Alan*

      Yeah, I’m going through this right now. I’m leaving in April, everyone knows it, but I will have enough eligible expenses by then to use up a year’s worth of FSA contributions. I wanted to be honest and front-load my FSA contributions but HR won’t let me. And in fact, they told me that I don’t need to. I was surprised, honestly. They said to take whatever I was eligible for as soon as I was eligible and not to worry about contributions.

    7. Katiekins*

      If you leave the company before the you have fully funded the FSA, oh well!
      The company cannot come after you for what is owed. They may and likely will ask. You can legally tell them to stuff it.

      I’ve heard this asserted before, but have never been able to verify it. Can you share a source for this? (I would like it to be true!)

      What if the FSA paperwork you sign says any used funds that weren’t yet deducted from a paycheck can be withheld from a final paycheck? Does that override what you’re saying the law says?

      1. Alan*

        If you signed paperwork giving them permission to take funds from a final paycheck, then I assume that’s what they’ll do. I’ve reviewed the law in CA and I don’t see this situation addressed. My own HR told me that they don’t do that.

      2. Alan*

        So at least in CA, which is very employee-friendly, I’ve looked and found no law against requiring you to make up the used FSA if your contributions fall short. But my employer (and others) contract out FSA administration so they apparently don’t lose anything if you take the free money.

        1. goducks*

          It’s IRS law, not CA law that covers this. The IRS forbids section 125 medical flexible spending accounts from requiring departing employees to refund funds during a plan year.

      3. goducks*

        FSAs are covered by Section 125 of the US code and are required that plans have Uniform Coverage, which means that all funds must be available to employees from the start of the plan year, and that employers cannot seek reimbursement from departing employees. The rule that covers this is CCA-1217103-09.

        https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-wd/1012060.pdf

  50. Just a Mom*

    Your employer is not your family. They are a business (or service provider, educational institution, etc) and have goals to complete, financial or otherwise. Do your job and do it well, but don’t think for a moment that you aren’t replaceable. I just had to resign from my job to stay home and care for my special needs child, and you’d better believe they promoted someone into my role within days. It makes me wish I had taken the leap sooner, but I put up with the stress and pleading from my employer to stay because “what would we do without you?”.

    1. Washi*

      Yes! I’m a social worker and only slowly coming to realize they WILL figure it out without you. I wish I’d been better about setting boundaries with work and leaving bad jobs earlier in my career.

    2. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

      AMEN SISTER. again, louder, for the people in the back row. It took me way, way, way too long to learn this and it cost me money and time and [fortunately not for too long] health. [Retired now and all better!]

  51. Mia*

    In New York State, companies above a certain size are required by law to provide paid Covid sick leave that is separate from your usual sick leave pool. This is true even after the end of the state of emergency but most folks don’t know about it. I emailed HR that I was out for a week with covid and they waived the requirement that I get a doctor’s note and provided the sick leave without docking my usual sick time pool. It’s helpful to google your state + the problem you’re having to see if there are regulations that apply but aren’t publicized.

  52. Beth*

    1. If you have an HSA (Health Savings Account), and you can afford to save more money into it, do so. It’s effectively an IRA earmarked for your future health care.

    2. Most HSAs allow you to invest part of the money. If yours does, do so, with an eye towards leaving it in place and letting it grow for as long as possible.

    3. Do not use the money in the HSA for ordinary costs of health care if you can avoid doing so. Treat it as an emergency fund, one which you will hopefully not need until after you retire.

    Because later in life, when your medical expenses zoom up, you’ll have that money. It will have grown, it will not have been subject to taxes, and as long as you use it for medical expenses, it will not be taxed when you withdraw it (unlike your 401k, IRA, or similar accounts, where you WILL pay taxes).

    1. Nea*

      Seconding this. Fill your HSA (NOT a flexible account, where they take the money back!) to the max Every. Single. Year. and never touch that money while you are employed unless it’s an absolute emergency.

      The HSA you start at 21 will be your health care money when you are 71.

      1. chronic illness patient*

        I can’t fathom the privilege of NOT having to touch your HSA money. I exhaust it every year, and meet my out-of-pocket max (and usually more because of out-of-network expenses). I wish I could be healthy enough to do that.

    2. Little Bird*

      Also, there’s no deadline for filing an expense for reimbursement–any eligible costs you incur during the existence of the HSA can be filed for reimbursement, even years down the line. So if you have relatively low healthcare spending and can afford to float it out of pocket for the moment: put money in your HSA (tax free), invest and let it grow (tax free), keep good records of all your healthcare spending, then sometime down the road file all your expenses at once and cash out (tax free).

      Also, look at the list of qualified expenses, it covers more than you might think! Air purifiers, band-aids, contact lenses, sunscreen, etc. If you shop at CVS, they always list on the bottom of the receipt the amount of your purchase that’s eligible for HSA reimbursement.

  53. MCL*

    At my institution (state university) it’s often wise to use vacation time in lieu of sick time, which is explicitly allowed. Vacation does roll over in a limited fashion, but sick time accrues indefinitely and helps improve retirement benefits. We have lots of vacation and personal holidays in addition to sick time. I’m in a situation where I’m in good health and do not frequently need sick time, and I get plenty of vacation, so I do this. It’s actually come in handy because I am now taking FMLA due to my spouse’s long-term illness and I have a huge bucket of paid leave to potentially draw from.

    1. Dek*

      Oddly enough, my institution (also state university) is the complete opposite. All the time rolls over. However, we get charged vacation leave for any holidays where the university is closed, but the state offices aren’t. This can amount to a fair chunk (pretty sure we usually lose about a week’s worth for the two weeks the university is closed for Christmas and New Year’s), and it’s better to make sure you have enough to cover that. A lot of new hires who start only a couple of months before Christmas learn that the hard way.

    2. Miki*

      I came to say that: I learned to use only vacation time even for sick, as our sick time is the same accrual, no matter how long you’ve been here (3.75 hrs/biweekly) but vacation time accrues differently (and faster) the longer you’re here (mine is 6.5 hrs/biweekly currently after 9 years). Both roll over, vacation is paid out when you leave/retire, sick can be used as service credit (you can have a max amount of sick and use it for a year of credit when you retire) so you can retire up to a year earlier -which is my plan. No sick time pay back.

    3. OppositeTime*

      whereas in nearly every other industry sick days do not roll over but some amount of vacation time does (but vacation time normally has a maximum so if you carry too much you stop accruing more)

  54. crose*

    It is illegal for an employer to prohibit you from discussing your pay with other employees. And they often try that stunt to avoid employees figuring out pay disparity. In many states it’s illegal to force an employee to pay for dine & dashes or gas pump drive offs. If you are tipped employee, it’s illegal for management to take a cut of the tips or withhold any tips. Also, an employer that pays the full minimum wage and takes no tip credit may allow employees who are not tipped employees (for example, cooks and dishwashers) to participate in the tip pool. Otherwise that is illegal as well. If an employer is requiring you to perform work duties, you have to be paid for that time. If an employer is requiring you to be at work, but they don’t have any work for you, they still are required to pay you. Think a forklift driver waiting for a truck to unload, or a tow truck driver waiting for a tow job (google engaged to wait).

  55. HR DOO*

    READ THE HANDBOOK. As HR, it amazes me the questions I receive that are answered in the handbook. There are lots of benefits that I don’t mention explicitly but are in the handbook. (Like 30 days of PAID leave if you donate an organ.) I don’t mention them because they aren’t as used as PTO/Holidays/sick, but they’re still there.

    Also, as HR, I fully acknowledge that I’m working for the best interests of the company. I’ll answer employee’s questions honestly in regards to policies and benefits, but most of the time I do not go over the entire handbook at time of hire. The company signs my paychecks too.

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      This dovetails with my recommendation: Read the state/province’s Labour Code, Employment Standards Act, or other relevant basic worker/employer legislation. Then your employer can’t BS you on what is (or isn’t) legally required for holidays, vacation, O/T, and other stuff. I kind of slipped into a Payroll-adjacent job after graduation, and was surprised and delighted to find that our legislation not only was easy to read and understand, but that there was lots of additional clarifying info and examples available for the relevant government department. And this was pre-internet! I think anyone just starting their career should see what they can learn on their own, instead of relying on what their employer/HR/Payroll tells them.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      And if your organization has an intranet, bookmark it and study it. You’d be surprised what you might learn.

      When I started my current role, it was at the end of the year, when people use up their vacation time. I wasn’t going to be trained on a lot of things until January and has a lot of downtime, so I spent it reading the intranet. I learned a lot.

      Also, look into taking trainings offered as soon as feasible.

    3. goducks*

      Yes! Read your handbook people! Also, please familiarize yourself with the US DOL website and your state DOL website (if you live in a state that has their own employment laws). Learn what is/isn’t legal instead of relying on rumor.
      As HR I am upfront and open about what the company can/can’t do for an employee, and a lot of it starts from laws and policies, all of which are in print. Having employees who have read the information available helps me help them. Either their question is simply answered by reading the material, or we can have a conversation about what I can/can’t do to assist them within the constraints I’m working under.
      It’s really hard when the argument is that something is required/forbidden and their source of information is something they heard somewhere.
      The truth of HR is we are employees working for the best interests of the company, just like every employee is, but most of the time disengaged, disgruntled employees is the opposite of the best interest of the company. We want to find solutions that work for everyone.

  56. Jiminy Cricket*

    Get that employer retirement savings match! Never, ever leave that money on the table.

    And, if you can (and you probably can), max out your retirement savings through your employer from your very first day of work. Yes, you might be a bit less liquid when you’re younger, but the power of compound interest is real.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      And set up direct deposit to put a percentage of your paycheck into some sort of savings account that you don’t touch except in emergencies.

    2. Jojo*

      I came to say this as well. Some of the best advice my dad ever gave me, and he gave good advice in general.

    3. Cranky-saurus Rex*

      Adding to this — check into how your retirement matching funds work. One of my past employers would match all contributions for the year in January of the following year. My current employer matches on each paycheck. So with my current employer, if I happen to max out my annual contribution early in the year, the total annual match would be significantly smaller (since the match is a certain % of income on each contribution).

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      While this is good advice, I didn’t understand the math when I was younger. 3% of my check seemed like a lot. I didn’t realize that it was PRE-tax or what that even meant really, so it wouldn’t affect my take home as much as I thought. So I never did it because I thought I couldn’t afford it. Because I never did the math.

      Use an online payroll calculator to find out what your check will actually be with different deductions taken out.

    5. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      And before you accept a job offer – dig into the company match, and any policies/exceptions/contingencies that the company may have in place that could affect the match.

      I was once told by a company I was interviewing with that they had a certain match for their 401(k) plan. It was only after I had accepted the job, started working for them, and was setting up my contribution that they told me, ‘yeah actually the match is optional, and the company leadership has never actually exercised that option’.

      Prior to that experience, I would always take information on a company match at face value – that they offered it, and it was X percent. Never again.

      1. Cranky-saurus Rex*

        I got caught by a similar 401(k) gotcha exception/contingency — I was told by a recruiter that there was a match, but I didn’t ask for details. Turns out the match was a maximum of $1000/year, no matter your salary. Then on top of that, the match was only available if you’d worked there for at least a full calendar year as of 12/31. I worked at that company from early January 2019 – December 31, 2020. In February 2021 I reached back out to find out when I could expect my $1000 – not much, but at least not nothing – and was told that because my last day was 12/31, I was considered to have been terminated prior to the match, despite working a full 8 hour day on 12/31. Trying to go after the money would’ve cost me more than $1000, so I didn’t bother, but I’m still bitter.

    6. Temp anon*

      I work in the retirement industry and used to do customer service for many different employer plans. The number of people that didn’t contribute, and therefore did not get the matching money, was shocking.

      Typical match was 50%, up to around 6% of compensation. A guaranteed 50% return before you even talk about interest or growth is probably the best deal you are ever going to get as an investor.

    7. beware the shoebill*

      And pay attention to vesting times! In some places you will lose some or all of the money if you leave before a certain number of years have passed.

  57. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

    –Anonymous/etc. surveys or feedback doesn’t mean they can’t tell who said something.

    –Sometimes employers have already decided what they’re going to do before they ever solicit feedback. Definitely not all the time/all employers, but if they repeatedly seem to ignore feedback or act surprised by something they were warned against, that’s a big clue.

    –HR WORKS FOR THE EMPLOYER, NOT YOU.

    –If you’re in an academic setting, ombuds can listen, and maybe help negotiate some meetings so your voice is heard, but ultimately they can’t *do* anything to fix a problem–it’s up to supervisors/etc. to do the actual fixing. They can’t make someone fire someone, or move them to a different department, etc., even if it’s 100% warranted, because that’s just not in their power. Think of them more like a therapist for the university–they can help you clarify the issue, and be a supportive ear, but they cannot solve it for you.

    –Just because the company hired you as a contractor doesn’t mean they’ve classified you correctly. If they’re treating you more like an employee, it’s worth looking into whether you should be classified as an employee.

    1. Jane*

      –Just because the company hired you as a contractor doesn’t mean they’ve classified you correctly. If they’re treating you more like an employee, it’s worth looking into whether you should be classified as an employee.

      THIS x1000. Pre-pandemic, I spent almost three years working for a small business where I was a “full-time freelancer”, which really just meant “we want you in the office 40 hours a week and refuse to let you work from home, but we also won’t give you any benefits or deduct taxes from your paychecks.”

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “Anonymous/etc. surveys or feedback doesn’t mean they can’t tell who said something.”

      And if they don’t know, there’s a BIG chance they’ll guess – rightly or wrongly.

  58. 3DogNight*

    Many companies have a hidden EPP page. I work at a larger corporation and we get discounts on all kinds of things. One is that we pay about 1/10th of the cost for security and office software for personal use. Plus discounts on things like cars and vacations.
    Many companies also do tuition reimbursement. That page is hidden, too.
    You can then use those classes and certifications to negotiate higher pay.
    Alison has a great article on EAP, so find and read that. Your company probably has one, too.

  59. CommanderBanana*

    Don’t assume that HR is giving you accurate guidance, or that they know employment law. Someone being in HR just means that they’re in HR, not that they know what they’re doing.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      And don’t even assume HR knows your own company’s policies, or is accurately advising you based on those policies!

    2. The Last Man Whom I Could Ever Marry*

      In my experience, the larger the company, the more likely this is to be true. At very large companies, HR may be based in a different country and may not know all of the laws for your country, let alone your state or province. At my last company, the HR expert for my region covered five countries, all with very different laws.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes! I’m still figuring out California law (we expanded recently) which has all of its own ins and outs. I can look things up and I’m trying to stay in the loop, but I don’t have it down cold yet. I only studied employment law for my state in college – and MANY people get hired/promoted into HR without any legal knowledge.

  60. These tables are my corn*

    If your employer offers pre-retirement courses, try to take one very early in your career. The information about savings, investments, pensions, and entitlements is very useful for setting up a financial plan for later in life. Careers go by quickly and the earlier you can set yourself up for planning retirement, the less stressful the back half of your working life will be.

  61. FG*

    Your salary today has long-lasting repercussions. Speaking for the US:

    It’s not just what you take home in your next paycheck. It is the baseline against which increases – COL & merit – are based. It could be the baseline against which future job opportunities are measured. It usually affects how much you can save for retirement (i.e. a 10% contribution of $40K is $1K more than 10% of $30K). It definitely affects any 401K match your company offers. It affects the amount of unemployment you may be eligible for. It also has huge implications for Social Security – your monthly payment is based on your 35 highest-earning years (of SS eligible earnings). So, the more you make, the more you get later.

    This last point didn’t really hit home to me until a few years ago. It’s so important but I feel like most people are totally unaware.

    1. Nopity Nope*

      Very true! For all of these reasons, a raise is can be preferable to a bonus, because it will have a downstream impact. Something to consider if you’re comparing jobs with and without bonuses. Calculate what your total earning will be 5, 10 years down the road in both scenarios.

      1. FG*

        You can go to the SS website & view your (SS eligible) salary history & see estimates of what your payments might be at different retirement ages.

    2. Penguin*

      this this this. pay matters not just for now but also for the future. my parents did a combination of working in w2 jobs then started their own business near the end of their careers for the flexibility. their social security payments are definitely lower than if they had stayed in w2 jobs and gotten the higher wages at their peak earning years. i don’t think they regret their choices because life is more than just work, but it did mean they were extra responsible for covering their own financial situation in retirement.

  62. cactus lady*

    If your work has parties or events that seem “optional”, go anyway, and talk to as many people as you can.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      This! You don’t need to go to all of them, but every once in a while it’s a good idea.

      And remember the unofficial gatherings like group lunches or even just going for coffee.

  63. Ashley*

    If you don’t need health insurance when you first start, there are only specific times of the year you can join your company plan, unless you have a major life event can qualify you for a special enrollment period. When you are interviewing for a new job don’t forget to ask about health insurance benefits when reviewing the compensation package, even if you don’t need them immediately you may need to go on them at some point.

    Also as much as possible, take advantage of the any 401(k) match your company offers, and know the vesting schedule. You don’t want to be a month away from being vested and then quit unless it is an extreme issue of needing to leave.

  64. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    Document. EVERYTHING.
    Good or bad, back up is essential.
    Things are far more likely to go your way in the case of a dispute if you ‘have the receipts’ so to speak. Sending yourself e-mails with details is crucial to being able to make your case whether it be for a raise or to cover your ass.
    I had a co-worker who was being *just* this side of inappropriate. You know, where he would say things that you can’t really report because there’s nothing actionable, but it’s also really clear that he knows just how far he can push the line. I documented every single interaction with him, because I knew that one day I’d need that back up. I was right. When I saw him start “stopping by” another co-worker’s office (who also happened to be young, female, lower on the hierarchy, etc.) I asked her if she was getting the same treatment I was and she said yes. We found out he was doing this to multiple women across the office, and with the documentation from several women, HR & company could no longer brush us off with a “he’s just being friendly”.

    On the flip side, documenting everything is also essential for good reasons! I’m job hunting (see above situation and how company has not handled it) and I reached out to my old boss to ask if he’d serve as a reference. When he said yes, I was able to send him a reminder list of my accomplishments that I’d had while I was working for him. He said that he’d forgotten about a few of them and it made him realize how much of a loss it was when I left. I’ve no doubt that will effect how glowing my references from him will be.

    Seriously, just jot it down in an e-mail and send it to yourself.

    1. Alan*

      Documenting what you’ve done is so important. At my first salary review my boss asked me what I had accomplished and I said “Nothing special.” And he got so upset. I started keeping a log and the next year I itemized everything I had accomplished, most of which I had forgotten about. It’s a nice ego boost once a year.

    2. ElinorD*

      – Seriously, just jot it down in an e-mail and send it to yourself.

      This was the best piece of advice I ever got! Do it as soon as you can, and do it in non-work email accounts if you can. Timestamps, baby. I have an email account set up just for *those* emails.

    3. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      Also get unofficial agreements you have with your boss documented, boss side as well as your side, as accommodations if you can, when you can. Preferably before your boss gets promoted/leaves/whatever.

      This includes flexible start times, especially if you have ADHD or something else that makes it difficult to be exactly on time or slightly early, every single day.

      I overheard a conversation about that specific accommodation that someone was having with a new manager, and heard the manager saying, “Well, as long as it doesn’t become a pattern” and the employee had to say that no, it is irregular, but it is also a pattern, and it does not hinder job performance because they make extraordinary efforts to arrive early on days when being present for a specific thing is crucial, and they stay the same amount of time late when it’s just a matter of getting the full 8 hours worked.

  65. Lacey*

    If your employer requires you to attend a meeting, they are legally obligated to pay you for that time.

    If you’re non-exempt & work over 40 hours, your employer is legally obligated to pay you time and half

    Whatever you create for the company belongs to them. This is especially important if you do creative work. You can display it in your portfolio as long as there’s not an NDA precluding that, but you can’t sell it or create derivative works from it and they don’t owe you royalties if they make a ton of money from it.

    And with that in mind, keep an eye on any employer who wants to give you work time to “launch your dreams” or similar. It sounds lovely, but they would own the resulting product/business unless you have a contract stating otherwise.

    1. TheyOwnIt*

      actually, you need the company’s permission to use stuff you produce for them in your portfolio unless they make it publicly available to everyone. Most but not all companies will grant this permission as a matter of course, but some don’t or put restrictions on it (paper only, no one can make copies, you have to read a disclaimer that it can only be used for purposes of evaluating employee’s work, partially redacted, etc).

  66. Diocletian Blobb*

    If you think you’re being paid under market value, don’t just look at salaries in other companies — keep an eye on your own company’s job postings for similar positions. I scored a 10% pay bump this year (on top of my yearly merit raise) because I showed my boss a listing for a position in another department that required less experience than mine but had a substantially higher listed salary band. They took it up the chain and were able to get me an adjustment.

    Of course, this might not have been possible if I didn’t have a good boss who cares and wants to keep me, so YMMV. But it’s always worth checking.

  67. Ama*

    If you take a job where a company says you will be classified as an independent contractor, find someone who knows the IRS rules around classifying contractors and make sure you are classified correctly.

    My first job out of college I was classified incorrectly. The bookkeeper at that employer was a family friend who got me the job, she was correctly classified as an independent contractor and didn’t fully understand that the differences between my job and hers — i.e. that I was required to be in the office certain hours a week, where she worked from home and came in on her own schedule — were what meant I could *not* be classified as a contractor. Even my own father, a CPA, didn’t know the IRS rules (payroll was not his specialty). I didn’t realize I was incorrectly classified until years later when I got a job where I supervised independent contractors and that employer had a form you had to fill out to confirm they were properly classified.

    My dad did know enough to make sure I paid my estimated taxes so I didn’t get in trouble that way.

    1. Just Me*

      Even better, find somebody who knows the state and federal employment law about this. You don’t care about how your employer is paying taxes.

  68. M2RB*

    Do not work for free: if you are salaried/exempt, and you work more than 40 hours/week (in the US), do the math to figure out how much your hourly rate would be. I did the math for 2021 at some point in 2022 and lost my cool (thankfully at home, in private) because I realized I had cut my pay by almost half, simply by caving to pressure from management and working so many more hours.

    It is okay if you don’t want to climb the corporate ladder. Not everyone should be or can be or wants to be CEO/CFO/COO, and that is completely okay. You can be a worker bee instead of queen bee, and it’s completely possible and acceptable to be an individual contributor for as long as you want. You can still grow your skills and broaden your experience so you are growing OUT rather than UP on the company ladder.

    1. M2RB*

      Should have clarified, my effective pay. As an example – if I were getting paid $50k annually no matter how many hours I work, if I stick with 40 hours per week/2080 hours per year, I earn about $24/hour. If I work an extra 5 hours/week, or 2,340 hours per year, my effective pay drops to $21/hour.

      So – if you work extra time during month-end/quarter-end/year-end close, make sure you take that time back later. Don’t stress about that doctor’s appointment that takes three hours, tack on an extra half-hour to lunch, sign out early on a slow Friday afternoon.

      1. Miette*

        Taking the time back later is good advice (where possible/practical). I’ve always worked at places that didn’t offer comp time unless it was authorized from the top, so don’t rely on that as a concept either. When I became a manager I made sure my team got the extra time back, whether it was a “fake” vacation day or just letting them take an afternoon off.

      2. Me...Just Me*

        Or, if you are a bit of a work-aholic (like me), actually getting a second job (and getting paid for all that extra work) is the way to go. I don’t mind giving a few hours back, here and there, but usually limit it to less than 5 hours a pay period. I’m pretty vocal about the fact that I don’t get paid extra for staying late and seeing that extra patient they want to squeeze onto my schedule. An emergency/urgent referral, sure – other than that, nope. Pay me more and I’d be happy to do more.

  69. UFO sighting*

    Pay attention to the benefits that your company advertises during hiring and onboarding – and then make the most of them! My first job offered tuition assistance for an advanced degree if it was related to your day-to-day job, with a fairly lenient policy for paying back if you left the company (you just had to pay back any tuition assistance received in the last 12 months). This was mentioned several times during hiring and onboarding, but not much afterwards. Most employees didn’t make use of it (which, fair, not everyone wants another degree or has the time to go to school on top of work) but I was able get a Master’s degree for dirt cheap.

    1. Penguin*

      this is huge. i am taking advantage of my company’s tuition reimbursement once i am eligible. if i leave i have to pay some of it back, but i would only leave for a job that pays enough for it to be worth it. my master’s program is a lot easier and more manageable time-wise than i thought.

  70. Beth*

    Do not use your work computer for anything personal unless you are certain the personal use is allowed.

    Do not save anything personal on the work network unless you’re willing to share it, and can afford to lose it. At the very least, someone in IT will have access to it. You do not own the contents of your computer, even your “personal” files.

    Do not do anything on your work computer that you aren’t willing to have someone else know about. Someone else always does. It’s part of IT’s job.

    1. M2RB*

      x 100000000

      Someone at your company can ALWAYS get access to your computer. Do your job searching on another (personal) computer! Don’t save the only copy of your resume on your work computer!

    2. computerJanitor*

      As someone in IT this is true. I’ve had cases where an employee used their work email as their sole address for all personal stuff and their work laptop to store the only copies of their family photos. They had an extra bad day when they were fired.

      The inverse of this rule is true as well. Don’t use your personal devices or services for work. Your employer is required to provide the tools you need for your job. I’ve had to remotely wipe people’s personal phones before because they quit and had completely tied them into our systems that stored sensitive information.

      Also it pays to be on good terms with both the IT and facillities departments. We often have an oversize role in making your job easy and are often underappreciated by upper management. It doesn’t take much to get priority treatment.

  71. Daisy-dog*

    Having a gap between jobs is not the end of the world.

    I quit a job at the end of September last year because we were gearing up for an insanely busy period that would coincide with my favorite time of year. (I also had a zillion other reasons for quitting, but the timing was 100% based on avoiding high stress in Oct-Dec.) I spent the first few weeks on networking and development activities, but then I just spent time resting and reading. (I did read some business/career books though.) I made a great connection at a staffing agency who then lined up a job interview for my current role. I was not working for 2.5 months total.

    I was fully prepared with my script to explain the time between roles, but I didn’t even need to use it in my interview. My (unused) script was: “I knew that role was not where I wanted to be long term and I felt like I was stagnating in my skills. I had the opportunity to attend a few conferences as well as to fully dedicate myself to finding the right opportunity!”

    YMMV depending on your industry, but it was a major improvement for me. My salary increase in the new role quickly made up for the money that I missed out on for those 2.5 months.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Corollary to this though: be ready with a narrative for what you (generic you, not specifically the comment I’m replying to) were doing during that period. Even if the real answer is resting and decompressing, it’s more compelling to be able to say truthfully that you did a certification in x or whatever.

  72. Nopity Nope*

    Don’t care more about your job than your employer does. If they don’t have the foresight or concern to cross-train someone to cover for your time off or to hire additional personnel when the workload is too much, don’t let that be your problem. Take your vacation days, leave at a reasonable time, and don’t let your job “own” your life. If tasks don’t get done because no one else can do your job when you’re out, because you’ve got too much on your plate, because co-workers aren’t providing you with what you need to do your job, well, they just don’t get done. Make it your boss’s problem, not yours. It’s not slacking or having a poor work ethic to have boundaries around how much you are willing to give to your job.

    The company is loyal to their bottom line, not to you.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I cannot agree with this more. Flag those type of issues, preferably in an e-mail so you have documentation, then leave it at that. If the issue you flagged causes problems later, that’s not on you.

      Have those conversations that you have A, B, C, and D to do and you have time for two this week, so which ones do they want.

    2. Nea*

      “The company is loyal to their bottom line, not to you” is a truth employers are desperate to hide. Quiet quitting is absolutely not a thing; it’s just a new term for “you’re not letting me exploit your labor as much as I want.”

    3. Mill Miker*

      In a similar vein: Uncompensated overtime needs to be a last resort, not a first resort.

      I work in a field overtime is almost never compensated, and I long ago set myself some ground rules. I’ll do overtime if:
      – I messed up
      – I really like the project/work
      – I’m almost done something and don’t want to deal with it the next day
      – An actual really real deadline is approaching, and there’s no other options

      I absolutely will not do overtime if:
      – A salesperson commits to something we told them could not be done
      – Someone else has decided my uncompensated labour is easier then them having to have a conversation
      – The company chose to “eat the cost” on something and not bill the client for those hours, and then tried to remove them from the schedule (so I’m the one eating the cost).

  73. Anon (and on and on)*

    Always sign up for the 401k/403b if there’s any kind of employer match! Even if it’s only 1 or 2%. It’s part of your compensation and if you saw that money lying on the ground, you’d take the time to pick it up. You don’t need to know anything about investing. All the companies have funds based on the year you think you’ll retire. Pick the fund closest to the year that you’ll hit 65, and you’re good to go!

    1. Unionized*

      Absolutely! I’m second generation union, my dad was a coal miner, and I grew up hearing how important unions are. I’m also well educated on the things employees can thank unions for, like 40 hour weeks, and the absolute dearth of 5 year olds as employees (my grandfather’s generation had kids in the mines working).

      I know not all unions are equal, some are awful, but they’re better than wholesale believing everything the employers promise you.

  74. Spencer Hastings*

    I wonder if that employee thought that “floating holidays” had to be used for specific reasons and that was why she hadn’t used them?

    Our PTO is all in one bucket, use it or lose it, so I’ve had conversations with supervisors in December like “I have two more days of PTO to use by the end of the year, so I’m trying to find a good time to use them. How does the 18th-19th sound?” It’s never been weird, because everyone totally agrees that we should be able to use all our PTO and (because it includes both vacation and sick) people will be keeping a couple of days in reserve just in case, so of course we’ll be looking for opportunities to use them up. It never occurred to me that this might be subversive at all — if management/HR were hoping that employees would just leave PTO days unused, that would be pretty shady! I’m glad I don’t work for a company like that, and that people here feel free to discuss these things in the open.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Oh man, that reminds me of the first person who ever reported to me (in her first job), giving me a whole song-and-dance about her Italian heritage for why she was asking for Columbus Day off. I was like, it’s a holiday! you can take it!

  75. LeanedOut*

    It’s very difficult to get a substantial raise at annual reviews. You’ll be more successful negotiating for a market adjustment off-cycle, usually halfway through the fiscal year.

  76. Jules*

    Be very clear on what the dress code is, and know that some positions, like “receptionist at a big fancy law firm,” may require you to dress a little nicer than “legal assistant who does not deal with the public.” I cringe when I think about some of the very casual things I wore at my first job that were not technically dress code violations but were definitely not what the first person clients interacted with should wear.

    1. Ashley*

      And maybe get a second or third opinion if it isn’t spelled out. I worked at a job for a year before I knew I was given a fake dress code because the person didn’t like jeans but meanwhile it wasn’t a rule.

  77. TX_TRUCKER*

    Being a jerk is not against the law. If your supervisor treats everyone like crap, don’t expect HR to take any action. It’s only a legal problem if the supervisor treats certain specific groups like crap (women, veterans, Asians, etc).

    1. Platypus*

      Also, HR is NOT for you, the employee, it is to protect the company, first and foremost. Be wary of what you say to them.

  78. Momma Bear*

    Especially as a woman – know your value. Don’t undersell yourself, or take a low salary. Know going in what your skills are worth and aim high.

    Relatedly, job posts are wishlists. Sometimes women won’t apply because they don’t meet every ask – go for it. Worst they’ll say is no. I applied for a stretch job a few years out of college and it changed my whole career.

    Look out for/speak up for yourself. No one is going to look out for you more than you. If the manager is so bad you’re getting therapy just to go to work day to day, look for a new job. You do not owe them your soul. Don’t fall victim to sunk cost fallacy. Sometimes it’s worth paying back a company for a certification or degree to get out of there.

    Check the dates – if you’d be vested at 4 years, make sure your last day is actually after that. I accidentally quit 2 weeks before that once and lost money.

    If something is at all feasible and would improve your skills, consider taking the task. I’m not saying be overburdened but learning a new skill and staying fresh can help you with your career. Sometimes people get too comfortable and then never get promoted or don’t have anything to help them stand out on an application. Keep learning. Go to the seminar. Read the company knowledge base. Etc.

    Don’t just look for mentors – you never know when that Admin will save your skin because you were nice to them/treated them like the professionals they are vs looking down on them.

    1. so very tired*

      I’ve applied for jobs where I didn’t meet all the requirements and every time, they come back and say “you’re great but you’re lacking X or Y or Z” so I stopped believing in this.

    2. Penguin*

      i’d say now with the rise of AI making it easy to apply to more jobs faster, plus 400,000 ish tech layoffs in the last two years in the US, companies are holding out for people who do close to 100% match the job description. I applied for jobs this time last year and had way better luck getting interviews for the exact same type and level of roles. if you don’t have the exact right experience, someone else does, and the employer doesn’t need to waste time training you or waiting for you to ramp up. I would say now it’s more worth it to find opportunities that do closely align with your skillset and customizing your resume to match in their ATS.

  79. Worker Bee No More*

    Oh this is such a good conversation! Between 2000 and 2007 I worked as a non exempt employee and had no clue what that meant. My employer got hours and hours of free work out of me…coming in early, working late, working while on PTO, working through lunch etc. I thought I was laying the groundwork to move up and was showing what a hard worker I was, not realizing I should have been paid. A coworker tried to tell me but I didn’t listen. Now it’s too late. That employer got hours and hours of free labor from me and was very stingy on vacation and sick time. I wish I had known better. It is the only time in my career I have been non exempt. Don’t work for free!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yup, doing / being expected to do a bunch of extra unpaid work to get some kind of future reward often doesn’t work out that well.

  80. Unpopular opinion*

    This is going to be unpopular here and I’m prepared to get flamed, but it’s the truth:

    1. Networking and building relationships goes a long way. I know the commenters here don’t share any details about their lives (if they are married, what they did on the weekend etc.) and don’t like it when their colleagues so much as say good morning to them. However, being warm and friendly to your colleagues goes a long way and will help you in your career later on. Contray to the majority opinion here, someone saying happy birthday, the odd workplace happy hour or people talking lightly about their personal lives is not the work of the devil.

    2. If someone does something you don’t like (leaving documents on your chair, talking loudly etc.) it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person. People are allowed to be annoying or have quirks, it doesn’t make them THE WORST PERSON EVER. Just because they don’t conform to your exact standards doesn’t mean they are awful. Not everyone is doing things “at you”. Remember that you aren’t the main character and people can be a but weird or annoying without being the bad guy.

    I’m wearing my fire suit so flame away.

    1. Platypus*

      1. I am VERY popular at work, my staff has always liked me. I still stay away from happy hours and stuff, and I’m open as to why – I have a kid and more important things going on. As a manager and leader, I want my younger staff to know it’s ok to determine what your individual priorities are, and then stick to them. This has not hurt me, but only actually made people respect me more. Younger staff appreciate this view point as well.
      But I think you are wrong about the commentators here HATING light personal banter. I can’t really recall many people who have said that, they usually bring in issues with over the top personal things. Saying happy birthday is different than everyone signing a generic card and forcing people to eat cake together.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I stay away from them too – I go to some, but me and most of senior management tend to prefer to give employees some bonding time without the boss looking over their shoulders.

    2. Marna Nightingale*

      No flames here, you’re right about both. But I’m going to gently offer a sort of combination take on each of those, because both do have some Known Hazards that young people in the workplace haven’t necessarily learned to navigate:

      1) Be warm and friendly, yes. Talk lightly about non-work topics of mutual interest. Extend gentle sympathy to people having a bad day.

      But you don’t have to answer personal questions you’re not comfortable with, you don’t have to extend trust to people who haven’t earned it, and you do not ever have to be “nice” or “go along with” someone who is being creepy or suggestive or bigoted or otherwise inappropriate.

      And, equally, if your co-worker gets carried away chatting or is having a rough day and tells you something super-personal that could hurt them in the workplace … no they didn’t. The correct response to people trying to get you to engage in hurtful gossip in the workplace is some variant on “I’ll tell them you were concerned about them, that’s so kind of you”.

      2) There are lots and lots of entirely reasonable things people do that will drive you a bit nuts, just as there are a lot of perfectly decent and even admirable people you won’t like. You don’t need to come up with a reason why you’re “right” not to like a person or thing. You’re allowed to ask people, as a favour, not to do stuff, and they’re allowed to say no. You’re allowed to try to arrange things so you’re not around the thing that really bugs you. Meanwhile, it is useful to bear in mind that you are that person to someone.

      1. Clare*

        Follow up to emphasise point 2:
        You are allowed to not enjoy spending time with perfectly nice people! That doesn’t make them bad, and it doesn’t make you bad. Some people just don’t have personalities that mix and that’s OK! You don’t have to be friends with even the nicest person if you don’t want! But you do need to always treat people kindly and with respect. You can fake a smile when you pass them in the hall, even if you don’t wander over to join them for jokes around the water cooler. It’s not all-or-nothing. Learning to walk that middle line is extremely helpful, not just in work, but in life.

    3. so very tired*

      #2 is right tho

      it took me a long time to get this because I’m an abuse survivor, so my entire worldview was “everyone hurts me because that’s what they do.” Years and years of therapy helped me realize that most people exist on their own planets and have no idea how they impact other people, and everyone is the main character in their own story. Now I can see that annoying people are just annoying and it’s not a big deal.

      1. Random Dice*

        Great point – we all bring our baggage with us, which can impact us in ways we don’t realize

  81. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I’ve found that there is often more flexibility in deadlines than I thought. At least when you’re dealing with reasonable people. In my organization, deadlines get moved all the time.

    There is a narrative that strict deadlines are essential for university / college students because they won’t be able to get away with moving things in the “real world.” That has not been my experience. With a reasonable boss, you can flag it when you start to get concerned that you’ll miss a deadline and figure out a new plan together. It could involve moving the deadline, bringing in help, shifting other priorities, etc. I’ve had conversations with managers when something is assigned that I don’t think the deadline is feasible, or only feasible if other deadlines move. Heck, my grand-boss just had a conversation like that with our highest levels of leadership. So far, the response has always been fine.

    1. Internship Admin*

      The key difference is in the flagging that the deadline might not work and having that conversation. Learning to speak up before it happens is the crucial part to getting the flexibility and that means being a decent judge of how long the work takes or recognizing it might be an issue before missing the deadline. In my experience you can ask for more time but it doesn’t look great if you wait until after the deadline is long in the rear view and someone is checking in to see where the work is. This is one of the hardest things to teach interns and new full time professionals.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        For sure. You have to flag it whenever you realize / get concerned. It won’t go over well if it’s right before the thing is due or after you’ve missed a deadline. Be proactive on this stuff and frame it as how you and your boss can work together to make sure your priorities are right.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I think it’s more important for people to learn that there are hard deadlines and soft deadlines. Hard deadlines are non-negotiable.

      Also, whether a deadline can be moved is based on multiple factors, like whether that’s the last (or close-to-last) stop for an item, or if changing a deadline (in any direction) can affect other area’s work and planning.

      In truth, when I taught at a university, respecting deadlines wasn’t something that I taught because kids needed to know that for the work world. It was about them learning how to budget their time and respect mine, as I then had to budget my time to grade. And depending on when it was in the semester (students got official midterm reports), I had respect other staff time by calculating and submitting grades by the university deadline.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        That’s a great point. Some deadlines are moveable, but some are not. It’ll be easier to shift moveable ones, but for hard deadlines, there may be options for getting more support.

        I don’t think that message is coming from people affiliated with universities or colleges. It’s randos on social media.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Unless it’s the federal government. The change their deadlines all the time, but they expect their contractors to respect theirs.

    3. Beth*

      To the college students out there–many professors will also work with you if you come in in advance and ask for flexibility on a deadline! “I know we have this paper due in two weeks on Friday, but I have two midterms that day–can I turn it in the following Monday?” might get you results in a way that “I know we had this paper due last Friday but I had two midterms, can I submit it now without penalty?” almost definitely won’t. (There are definitely some curmudgeons out there who won’t give any flexibility, but a lot of professors are willing to work with students who are showing advance planning and a desire to succeed in the class.)

      1. Beth*

        This probably won’t work for finals, though. Universities give professors hard deadlines for grading, which means unless you’re asking for an incomplete, the deadlines to submit work are pretty firm at the end of the term. That has nothing to do with “preparing you for the work world” and everything to do with university administration just being set up like that.

        1. birb*

          Even there, with grading, there’s wiggle room on every hard deadline. There are systems in place for entering “incomplete” if there is a real issue or emergency and a student needs more time for an extenuating circumstance.

          1. MoreComplicated*

            many schools leave the incomplete in your permanent record though – that I cuanges to an I-B+ (or whatever)

        2. Pocket Mouse*

          Re: finals… yes and no. Once, on day 1 of a class, I saw on the syllabus that the final exam was scheduled for a day I was going to be out of town for a wedding. I asked the professor about the conflict that same day, and was told the alternate final would be in a large proctored room a few days before the date on the syllabus. The alternate final date had students from a bunch of classes in similar situations, and I believe the alternate date was after the syllabus date for some students.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        And it’s less likely to work in a writing class, where you’re supposed to have been working on the paper all along. (But back when online submissions weren’t a thing, I gave grace for some printer mishaps.)

    4. Avery*

      Heartily agreed.
      I work in the legal field–the firmest of firm deadlines there, right? No waiting a day or two on those?
      Well… yes and no. Often those deadlines turn out to be not so firm after all. Also, if the consequence for not reaching a deadline is “the other side might write you a letter saying you missed the deadline, with no further consequences if you shape up after that”… sometimes that’s okay too.

  82. The Hiphopopotamus*

    Give 80%, at most, at the beginning. Your baseline capacity at work needs to be less than your maximum. This will help with work-life balance (leaving you energy for the latter!) and leaves you some wherewithal for when things DO get crunchy. Also, if you, like me, are molded to always go above-and-beyond, still make sure that is less than your maximum (e.g., hand the document in a day or two early, not a week early). Burnout is real but it IS preventable!

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      I had to do some workforce calculations are a previous job, and it broadly worked out that you could expect 80% of your workforce to be available at any given time, taking into account sickness and annual leave (obviously, in reality, that really varies over the course of a year, but we were calculating the staff needed for a five year project). That 80% stuck with me, because, as you say, it’s a good number to have in mind to prevent burnout. If I work flat out four days a week, my brain is mush on the Friday, but if I work 80% over the week I can give as much on Friday as I did on Monday. If you’re younger, those timeframes can be longer – you might work flat out for four months, then spend the fifth leaving your keys in the refrigerator and pulling on doors labelled push – but burnout will still come for you.

      Having said that, since becoming a parent, I’m probably a bit lower than 80%, because unlike pre-parenthood I can’t just switch off at weekends and recharge, so I need to hold back more so I can still be functional when I’m solo-parenting. And that’s okay too! I’m still a reliable employee who’s hitting all my targets and completing all my tasks, and I can still ramp up to 100% when I have to as long as I leave space somewhere else in the week to compensate for it.

    2. Hillary*

      Yes. The only reward for going for an A+ all the time is burnout.

      I used to tell our rotators they should be aiming for a steady B/B-, not A+ A+ C.

    3. Office Lobster DJ*

      I was going to say the same, right down to the 80%. Enthusiastic as you may be, don’t make 100% your baseline. People will just get used to it and it will become an expectation. You want to be the good employee who can come through in a crisis.

      Related: You want to be the person who takes sick days sometimes. You do not want to be the person who everyone expects will power through regardless.

    4. Penguin*

      This was the biggest lesson I learned. I gave 100% at my last job and I was stressed all the time, then our whole team still got laid off. I am at a new job and I started with much less than 100% to see if that would work and so far I’m still producing work faster than my micromanager can review it, and she refuses to delegate, and her manager doesn’t seem to notice or care that we’re not producing as much as I know we could be.

  83. Interview Coming Up*

    If you haven’t moved up within 2 years (or less!) at any of your first jobs, you should move on.

    They aren’t going to suddenly realize how amazing you are and give you a promotion.

    Make sure that you are gaining more knowledge, experience, technical skills, money, or new titles.

    I’ve seen that the people who succeed, put in the effort to move around in their roles initially. And it requires applying to new roles. If you’re not hired for a couple of roles you apply to at your company, you need to apply within a whole new company.

    1. Alan*

      That definitely doesn’t work where I am. Most of my projects last around 3 years. Very few people are promoted more than every 3 years. Note though that we only have 6 levels of employee. Most are at level 3. And it you leave a project after 2 years, good luck getting on another one because you’ve just left a bunch of people scrambling.

  84. Write it down*

    If there is something weird, wrong, or unethical going on, keep documentation of it. Have a copy you can access even if you are locked out of your workplace. When I resigned from a toxic job, my boss went from bad to worse during my 2 weeks notice and I snuck out in the middle of the day because I no longer felt safe. Went to HR the next day who tried to downplay the whole thing until I mentioned I had documentation of the whole thing. They seriously changed their tune when they found out they were open to liability. It really saved me.

    And part of your documentation should be a record of what happened, for example 10/23/23 manager told me to do A, etc. even if there isn’t a physical email you can save, you can write up a recap of a verbal conversation.

    You can always forward emails to a personal account, and print out documentation and it hime (as long as doing so is not illegal for your situation). No one even needs to know you have it unless you need it later.

    1. pally*

      And document things early on.

      It can be easy to wave off a bad event or two and get to documenting things should they get markedly bad. However, later on, you’ll wish you’d taken the time to document early on.

  85. Platypus*

    I tell my employees these types of things. I feel like it’s part of my job as a leader and mentor. I do not hide the fact that I do so, either.

  86. workberry*

    Some workplaces offer free or cheap counseling/therapy through something called an Employee Assistance Program (or something similar). By all means use it if you want to! Just know that because it is a service that your employer has contracted to provide you with care, they do not have your interests at heart in the same way as a therapist you have personally hired. Specifically, if you need to sue your employer, you might not be able to use your therapists’ notes as evidence in your case. The benefits of free therapy might outweigh this particular negative, but if you are seeking therapy for a significant issue in your life related to your employer and you want to keep that option available, consider seeing someone independently!

  87. The Rafters*

    Don’t stress too much about mistakes. We all make them. Of course, you want to own them, fix them & learn from them. My go-to is that as long as I don’t violate HIPAA or kill a litter of puppies, it’s not the end of the world.

    1. HonorBox*

      Absolutely. My boss is explicit in telling everyone that as long as you own up to a mistake, he’s generally OK with mistakes. They happen. But trying to cover them up is the worst thing.

      1. pally*

        Yes- companies should value honesty over perfection. That’s what I tell my reports. Mistakes can be fixed; my trust in your veracity can never be restored.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Just recently, I’ve been dealing with a new coworker (new to our area but not the organization) who made a mistake and then refused to own up, while also trying to deflect blame onto the other person involved.

          I was mildly involved and have spent so much time explaining what really happened (I have proof – because I document!) that it has interfered with other work.

          It wasn’t even that terrible of a mistake. But now many of us know not to trust this person and will not be willing to go out of our way to help them. At all.

        2. I Have RBF*

          This.

          In my field, if you have never made a major mistake, you have not really done anything.

          What separates the juniors from the seniors is how well they handled it:
          * How soon did they realize the error;
          * How well did they communicate with stakeholders; and
          * How well (and how quickly) did they fix the problem.

          Always own your mistakes, and always fix them ASAP. “Did you do [your mistake]?” should be answered with “Yes, and I did X and Y to fix it.” As an aside, if you made a mistake but immediately fixed it, and no one noticed, your end result was a working thing, just like a typo that you fix before a document goes out. But never lie about mistakes. Just fix them, and notify people if you have to.

  88. Beth*

    When your interviewer/manager/boss/etc asks you about your career plans (which could look like asking about your 5 year plan, asking about directions you’re interested in growing in, etc):

    1. It’s in your best interest to tell them you’re looking to grow internally. It doesn’t have to be true–you’re not committing to stay. But you’re more likely to be given interesting work that lets you develop useful skills if your manager thinks you’re aiming for eventual promotion.

    2. Your career path, long term, will probably not be linear. You’ll change roles. You’ll change industries. I don’t know very many people who are in the same field of work at 35 as they were at 22. If you have a role you know you want next, it’s fine to target that…but building skills you’re interested in, and taking on projects where you can showcase those skills and achieve in quantifiable ways that are easy to list on a resume, is more useful to most people than getting a specific promotion or working at a specific company. Those skills and that evidence of achievement will follow you across your career even when you make big changes.

    3. In that spirit, if your manager asks about your career plans (which often comes up at an annual performance review, if you’re doing well)–talk about the projects you want to do more of, talk about the work you see other people doing that looks interesting to you, talk about the skills you’re interested in learning or leveling up in. Help your manager assign you work that will further your career goals, regardless of whether your goal is “I want to get promoted this fall” or “I don’t know what I want to do long term but I feel like I’m good at data analysis, I’d like to explore more of that”.

  89. HonorBox*

    Seems basic, but this just came up at work. If you have a question about something… ASK! Especially if you’re new and need to know how the workplace handles things, ask someone. Even what may seem like a silly question is something you can and should ask about. How does the company handle scheduling around holidays? Do you need to take PTO for a medical appointment? Heck, even something as small as how is decorating your cube/office handled? Better to ask and find out than assume and be wrong.

  90. teensyslews*

    – Pay into any workplace savings account as much and as early as possible, ESPECIALLY if the employer is matching. You’ll have more money at the end and that’s money you’re leaving on the table if you can afford to pay in but choose not to. The same goes with using any benefits you’re paying for. YMMV with copays etc but if your plan covers $500 in massage a year, go get those $500 of massages.
    – Always negotiate your offer – it doesn’t always have to be money, if PTO or flex work agreements are more valuable to you negotiate for those. This doesn’t just apply to when you first start at a company – if you’re moving roles you can do it then.
    – Save a copy of your job description from the job posting! So if you’re hired to be a llama shepherd and 6 months in they say you’re so good they’re going to add llama groomer (with no extra pay) to your job, you have that description to fall back on for renegotiating.
    – If you are promised something (a raise, time off in lieu, a promotion) ask for it in writing. It doesn’t guarantee it will happen but a paper trail sure makes it easier to follow up on.
    – With few exceptions: you can just leave! Job not what you expected? Boss is a soulless cretin? Coworkers make you want to scream? Commute is slowly killing your soul? Start job searching. Long-term loyalty is a relic from when companies had pensions and there was incentive to stay. Hit the bricks, free yourself from an internal obligation to stay in a role you hate.

    1. Avery*

      Not only should you ask for it in writing, but record those promises in writing. A verbal agreement is only worth the paper it’s written on!
      My boss has a habit of promising nice things during phone conversations, and I always follow up with an email to the effect of “Just to confirm, during phone conversation at this time you said X would happen, is that correct?”
      (Thankfully my boss follows through on his promises, so I’m not too concerned about that, but it’s nice to have in writing anyway–as a reminder to him if he genuinely forgets the promise, as a reminder to myself if the same happens…)

  91. Verde*

    – How to set boundaries with your time and energy.
    – Know how all of your benefits work, and know that the benefits admin cannot always do/file/submit things for you. Read up, ask around, don’t ditz it off because it’s confusing – learn it!
    – Understand nuance – there is nuance in everything, especially company policy. Read the handbook, read this blog, learn how to interpret policies and ask questions if you don’t understand them.
    – Learn everything basic, same as above. Know how everything works, from phones to computers to Excel, etc. Makes life easier, faster, and more efficient, and lends itself to everything.
    – Remind yourself every day that you are valuable and employable.
    – Put things back where you found them, clean up after yourself in the kitchen – without having to be reminded.
    – Know how to use a Mac or a PC. Don’t bitch about what the company provides if it’s not your preference.
    – Know when to hold ’em, fold ’em, walk away, or run.

  92. Khatul Madame*

    If your employer offers 401K match, enroll at least at the level that maximizes their contribution (usually half of the first 6%, with small variations). That’s 3% of your annual salary that you should NOT leave on the table. And generally, start saving early and as much as you can.

    Read the employee handbook and pay attention to various kinds of leave. Large employers cover jury duty, bereavement leave, military leave for reservists etc. I’ve had to explain bereavement leave several times to employees who were not early career, but had no clue this benefit existed.

    Your employer can see what you post on social media, so be discreet.

    1. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

      Social media – this is one reason it needs to be a considered decision to friend co-workers! The internet is freaking forever. Not saying you can’t find great friends at work (I have and so have many others). But look before leaping.

  93. Voodoo Priestess*

    If a meeting or training is mandatory, you must be paid for it. I worked at a place that was notorious for having lunch trainings and meetings and would only provide the charge line if you directly asked your manager.

    Always check your accrued and spent PTO and double check taxes and withholdings for at least the first few months of employment. If your employer screws up your taxes or anything else, you will be responsible for the correction. Same if you get overpaid on accident, that money isn’t yours and you will be required to pay it back. The sooner you get any payroll/PTO issues fixed, the better.

    I have found that I’ve been successful in asking for raises and promotions when I also have paper documentation/justification. After having an in-person conversation, I follow up with the documentation and repeat the request. I’ve never been denied when doing this, but if I was, I was going to request the reason for denial and a list of things that would be needed to get the raise/promotion I asked for. My reasoning is that it is harder to deny someone with documented accomplishments and market rates than it is if it is just a verbal ask. If you do get rejected, they at least have to be thoughtful and provide a path forward.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Also, if you’re hourly you are required by law to have a lunch. Each state is different but typically if you work more than 6 hours you get a 30-minute unpaid lunch which is your free time. If your company wants to do training or something during your normal lunch, even if they feed you, you should still get a break.

  94. Towan*

    I think people (especially early in their careers, especially at companies with a predominantly socially liberal staff/culture) have a tendency to overestimate the extent to which they can expect HR to look out for them.

    HR exists first and foremost to protect companies from liability, and even a good HR department can only be expected to protect employees’ interests when they’re aligned with that goal. Approach them accordingly.

  95. Nea*

    QUIET QUITTING IS NOT A THING!

    Yes, it’s great to get a chance to stretch your skills; yes, some offices run on the expectation of overtime.

    But you do NOT owe your company overtime to prove you’re willing!
    You do NOT owe your company unpaid work to show you’re “eager.”
    You do NOT “owe it to” your company to refuse benefits (PTO, health insurance) “to help balance the budget!”
    You do NOT have to be “grateful” to your boss for employing you!

    A job is labor for recompense, not a personal favor.

    1. I Have RBF*

      A job is labor for recompense, not a personal favor.

      Repeating this for the people in back.

      Companies are mercenary. Even non-profits. They want the most work for their dollars. You need to want the most dollars for your work.

      You should never care about your work more than the company does. I say this as a person who always is emotionally invested in my work, previously to an unhealthy degree.

      If a boss is jacking you around, tell yourself this “I was looking for a job when I found this one.” – meaning that you are not chained to that company.

  96. Purple Jello*

    The company makes decisions based on its best interest. You need to do the same, no matter how much you like your boss or your company. If that means leaving for a better opportunity, then you should seriously consider leaving. If any boss takes it personally – they’re wrong. Don’t feel guilty for doing what’s best for you.

    Some places you can only get a significant raise if you threaten leave/have another offer. Don’t play the game: Get out when you can.

    Work parties are still work. Don’t drink too much. Show your face and talk to senior management and those you don’t usually get to talk to. This is networking, even if you don’t like parties.

    Take all the perks that your company offers: it’s “free” money you’ve earned. This includes vacation, 401K matching, FSA/HSA matching, parties, etc.

    Work hard, but don’t work off the clock. Stay cordial with your colleagues. Your work reputation will follow you around for years. You may run into a colleague years later who will put in a good word for you based on how you worked well with others at an earlier position.

    Learn whatever you can, especially on your employer’s dime. Learning how a related department or the company software worked helped me as I moved up the ladder at different companies. Knowledge is power.

    Keep your personal time personal. Stop working outside your defined hours, unless it also benefits you. Don’t work off the clock. No need to tell why you need sick time, or how you’re spending your vacation time.

    1. Nea*

      I will add that if your company gives free swag, that’s a perk and you should take all of it. I’m still using a lunch cooler and jackets from 2 jobs ago.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Take whatever they offer for free. Even if it’s not to your taste, you can give it to someone else. But even that ugly company T-shirt can be workout gear, sleep clothes, or worn under a sweater.

      2. Dave the Cat*

        I’m using a backpack from three jobs ago, and when it wears out I’ll use the one from two jobs ago, and when that one wears out I’ll use the one from my last job. And I’ll never have to buy another mid-weight fall jacket or fleece! I work in pharma where there is always tons of swag and lots of it is high quality – Patagonia jackets, Yeti mugs, etc.

  97. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    Your employer – whether they are a tiny non-profit or a large corporation – is just a company. Your job is a way you get money. Of course they’re going to tell you about all of the amazing things they’ve done to change lives/the industry/the world, and that may be totally true! But it doesn’t mean they don’t have terrible managers or annoying time tracking software or, and it doesn’t make them immune to biases or erase terrible things they’ve done in their history or harm that they’re causing today. Not trying to say that all institutions suck, of course, but institutions are made up of people and people are flawed. You’d do well not to put your employer on a pedestal.

  98. PivotPivot*

    I worked at a non-profit for years. When I got laid off, I found the non-profit never had to pay for unemployment insurance. So, when I got laid off, I got nothing. No reduced wage for X amount of weeks. Nothing. And I didn’t know until I tried to apply for unemployment.

    It was a nasty shock. When I called my former work place about it, thinking surely I made a mistake somewhere, they wouldn’t just leave me out to dry, the office manager said, yea, we didn’t have to pay it, so it’s not available for you. So sorry.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      OH MY GOD! I didn’t know that was a thing! I’m so sorry you went through that.

      1. PivotPivot*

        And to make it even worse, they knew. They. Knew.
        I was boxing up my desk, trying to keep it together but not succeeding very well. But I was talking about my strategy of first thing was to go online and apply for unemployment. Being a single mom of three, I wanted every penny that I was entitled to.
        Looking back, there was a bit of awkward conversation but I just wrote that off to having a lady crying in the office. I didn’t realize the awkward was me being naive about it all and that there would be no unemployment coming in.

    2. Lily Potter*

      PivotPivot is not exaggerating. This is a thing for some industries. I know someone who worked for years as a staff position at a seminary. The seminary never had to pay into the state unemployment pool, so the people that they laid off were not covered by unemployment.

  99. workberry*

    Negotiation doesn’t end once you are hired. Rules and policies are often presented as iron-clad “this is how it works” but I’ve had a lot of success getting little things I wanted here and there (mostly scheduling flexibility and input on my work assignments) within an extremely rigid and bureaucratic public service environment.

    Be polite and respectful, make your plans of a serious and unavoidable nature (but no need to go into detail about them), indicate that you are willing to accept the consequences of disappointing your boss if necessary, and be willing to offer things in return (working extra time a different day, taking on an undesirable assignment, whatever). If you don’t get what you want you can just go “well, I tried!” and continue being cheerful at work. But it’s truly worth a shot, most managers understand that life happens sometimes and will find a way to accommodate you.

  100. Dana*

    Always consider whether above and beyond efforts will be recognized in a way that will benefit your career, especially if you’re a woman. Is that work going to get you promoted? Will it serve as justification for a raise? If not, put those efforts elsewhere, including looking for those things in a new job if you’re not getting where you want to be with your current employer.

  101. CheeryO*

    This is one of those things that becomes easier to judge as you get more experienced, but SOMETIMES it is truly better to ask forgiveness than permission. I would be miserable and would never get anything done if I always worked entirely within every broken, inefficient, or overly rigid system that exists at my workplace. Sometimes you just need to use your best judgment and do what you think is best. This is also where it helps to be a warm and friendly person with good relationships with your coworkers; you get a lot more latitude if things do go south than someone who is prickly or difficult to work with.

    1. Alan*

      Yeah, in a few rare instances people above me have given me really bad direction and I’ve ignored it. But it’s a risk. A risk I took knowing that if I had done what they said to, and it had gone south, I would have been blamed. But I’m late-career.

    2. Nea*

      Can confirm. I had an idea, was told “we don’t need that” and did it anyway. Ultimately, we saved days of work and the company won awards for it.

      But this is very much a “know your company” thing. I knew going in I’d have the free time and that I could give specific statistics why it was a good idea that we did need.

    3. Purple Jello*

      If the issue is legal or compliance-based, this does not apply! Get that permission first. Forgiveness may not be provided if the company has to pay thousands in fines or penalties.

    4. Alternative Person*

      Yes. I once used a professional connection to get more information on an issue a report was having trouble with. My boss wasn’t too happy, but it helped improve that situation much more smoothly.

  102. GarlicBreadAfficianado*

    Human services specific:

    There is a vibe of ” I MUST SOLVE ALL OF THE PROBLEMS” it will lead you to flame out. You will become bitter, angry, pissed and generally hate people. You can’t control the moving into the “im now dead on the inside” point we all reach which is a self protecting mechanism. But you can remind yourself that you SHOULD not work harder than the people you are working with. You, under no circumstances, are required to light yourself on fire to keep others warm.

  103. Mony Mony*

    If your company has a 401K, invest in it. Even if it’s the minimum. And find out how long you need to work there to be vested. My company matched my contribution and when I left, I was fully vested, which meant that in addition to the 12K I put in, I got to take 12K of the company’s $$$. Thanks!

    Also, find out if you’re employer does tuition reimbursement. I got my masters degree on the company dime. Though — IMPORTANT — find out if there is a policy about how long you need to remain at the company after your last reimbursement/graduation – I had to work another 2 years or pay it back.

    Between both those things, it’s almost like I earned an additional 30K.

  104. umami*

    Don’t underestimate the value of building relationships within your department and with other departments. Especially support areas such as IT, security, HR, facilities, etc. If people already know you and like you, getting assistance for things, or getting grace when something goes wrong, is much easier.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      A good relationship with your facilities and custodians are worth their weight in gold. Treat them like decent humans who have skills that you don’t, just like you would with any other department specialty.

    2. BecauseHigherEd*

      150% agree. You need to build allies in other departments, and you can do that by a) asking about what they do, b) asking about their internal working processes, deadlines, deliverables, etc. c) asking questions about how you can support them in their work, and d) letting them know your deadlines, processes, and deliverables and talking regularly about how you can work best together. It takes time, but making the effort to build that trust will be invaluable. Definitely agree this is true for IT, security, HR, and facilities, but I’d say especially accounting and admin–they work hard, no one appreciates them, and they have the power to really help or hinder you.