my boss is having sex in the office

A reader writes:

My first job out of college started as a dream: a hip tech startup in Los Angeles with a majority female team and an express mission of empowering women on social media. Now that I’ve been here almost a year, the cracks are starting to show, specifically with my boss. She’s C-level, and the “female face” of our company to investors, clients, etc., and while she pitches the company as empowerment-based, she’s anything but empowering to her employees and has put us all in a very uncomfortable situation.

She frequently cheats on her live-in boyfriend with other men in the office at night, often leaving evidence for us to discover in the morning. Just last week she started making out with several men in front of my coworker while repping our company at a networking event. Everyone in the office knows, but I feel especially guilty because her boyfriend has my role in another company and has served as a mentor-esque figure for me in the past.

Maybe this is just my Catholic guilt showing, but the whole situation makes me very uncomfortable. I can hardly stand to look at her, let alone her boyfriend. Knowing all of this information about her has made it hard to take her seriously as my boss and be comfortable and successful in the office. She plays it off like this is normal behavior in tech and that I would totally get it if I were older and more experienced, but if that’s the case maybe I need to be in a whole other industry.

Do I need to quit my job? Do I tell her boyfriend? Is this normal and I’m just totally overreacting? Any advice would be greatly appreciated so my sleep schedule can return to semi-normalcy.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

my employee isn’t doing her job — but I think she’s in an abusive relationship

A reader writes:

I work in a very seasonal business, one where I can really only retain one person in the off-season, as we can’t afford (nor have the work for) anyone else during that time. In the six years I’ve been here, we’ve built up a good core staff that returns most years, and I’ve promoted one person to the full-time, year-round assistant manager position. She’s been with me four years.

The problem is this: in the last year or so, her performance has dropped to the point that her job is in jeopardy. She calls in often to say she’s going to be late, and about half the time that happens, she simply doesn’t show up (to the point where it’s become something of a joke, at least inside my own head). She is entirely non-communicative when she’s out of the office – she doesn’t have her own phone, and so is impossible to get in touch with. To cap it off, she has begun dropping duties entirely, to the point where I have taken over a number of her duties because I can’t count on her to actually take care of things.

Here’s the complicating factor: she’s in what I believe to be an abusive relationship. Many of her call-outs are related to a series of injuries, all of which have fantastical stories explaining them, but … well, let’s just say I’ve never heard of a cat giving someone a black eye before this. Last year, we actually moved her onto the property to give her a few months to get her feet under her (this is hospitality), and at the end of the three months, she went back to him.

I’m at the end of my rope. She and I are going to have to have a serious discussion about the realities of her performance, but at the same time, I don’t want to make her life even worse. I honestly don’t know where to start, but the system can’t continue as-is.

What do I do, and how do I do it compassionately?

Oh, this is so hard.

One one hand, you’ve hired her because you need a job done, and it presumably could have pretty serious effects on your business if that doesn’t happen. That’s especially true because she’s your only employee for much of the year.

On the other hand, the job may be one of her few lifelines, and the thing that may make it possible to leave her abuser at some point (assuming that your suspicions that she’s being abused are correct). And abusers are known to try to get their victims fired in order to be able to exert more control over them. Lots of absences can also themselves be a result of the abuse.

I think you’ve got to tackle this on two different fronts: (1) what you’re in a position to do as the employer of someone you suspect is being abused, and (2) the performance issues.

For the first of those, I’m going to link you to this really excellent advice from a commenter who herself escaped an abusive relationship. There’s lots here that you might be able to put into practice.

To that advice, I’d also add that you could say to her, “If you ever need a safe place to stay again, we can move you back on to the property, no questions asked.”

Also, since she doesn’t have her own phone, could you offer to provide her with a work cell, even if her position wouldn’t normally have one? If she balks at the offer, don’t push it (she may know that it would actually make her situation worse if her abuser learned about it), but it might be helpful to offer and see if she accepts.

For the performance issue, I’d suggest looking at this the way you’d look at it if she were missing work and under-performing due to illness. You’d presumably give her a lot more leeway than if she were just slacking off for the hell of it — but there would also be a limit to how much you were able to accommodate, and at some point you’d need to have an honest conversation with her about what you needed and what she could reasonably commit to. This is different from an illness, but I think that’s closer to the right model to use than any other we have.

So at this point, I’d suggest sitting down with her and having a kind conversation about what you need and what’s going on. You can use language like, “I know that you’ve been having a tough time” and “I want to support you however I can” and even “I get the sense things aren’t okay at home and that’s affecting you at work” and “I really want to work with you however I can to make this work, but I do need you to be here reliably and to let me know when you won’t be” and “are there things I can do on my end that will help?” And because things are at the point where her job is in jeopardy, you’ll need to say something like, “I want to be up-front with you that if things continue as they have been, I wouldn’t be able to keep you on because I need someone here to do this work — but I really want to figure out a way to support you in keeping the job if that’s something you think we can work out.”

Ultimately there might not be anything you can do to make this work, especially as a small business where one person not doing their job will have such a significant impact (and where your resources presumably are more limited, although being able to offer her housing again if she needs/wants it is a huge thing to be able to do).

It’s really hard in situations like this to accept that your options are so limited, and it’s even worse to, as you wrote, feel like you might be making her situation even harder. But you can do what you as her employer are in a position to do: cut her more slack than you would if the circumstances were different (although not infinite slack), and approach her with compassion and empathy and make it clear you’re ready to help if she wants it.

I disagree with my restaurant’s new policies to fight drug use, should we make job offers by email, and more

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

1. I disagree with my restaurant’s new policies to fight drug use on our premises

I work in a restaurant. The restaurant has a new owner and a new manager. The opioid epidemic is strong in my state. The new management has decided to put blue lights in our washrooms. These lights make it impossible to see veins and it means anyone trying to use drugs with a needle can’t see where their veins are. Only staff and customers are allowed to use the washrooms now, no exceptions. This is a new rule; we always allowed anyone who needed to before.

We have all been banned from carrying narcan (which can treat narcotic overdose) and anyone found with it will be terminated. We all used to carry it because we have had lots of people overdose around here or even on the property. We used to call an ambulance and a street outreach program that had experience with addiction. Now we are only allowed to call the cops and by the new rules we must do it. We can’t give narcan. The laws here do not do enough for people with addiction and calling the police leads to arresting and jail instead of rehab and assistance. We are no long allowed to serve anyone who appears to be high and have to call the police on them if they don’t leave. Anyone who overdoses, uses drugs, or is high here gets a ban and can’t come back and the police are always called. The street outreach people have already been banned from the property.

I don’t agree with these new policies or the feelings of the new management about addiction. I think it is a disease and those people need help and support. They think people can stop whenever they want and are drains on society. I can’t quit because I go to school during the day and this is the only place around here where I can make good money (from tips), is flexible enough for my school schedule, and is open late enough for me to get lots of hours. In addition, besides this one issue, the management is not bad and works with the staff on what they need. I have two more years of school left.

How do I deal with it when I don’t agree with my boss? Some of the other staff agree with me and the other half agrees with the boss. They say the new policies are final and anyone who breaks them will get terminated. I need my job here but I don’t agree with these policies.

It sounds like your restaurant worries it has become too attractive to people using drugs on its property, which in turn could make it less attractive to other patrons and raise liability and insurance concerns. It’s not unreasonable for them to want to guard against that. Banning narcan and the street outreach people sounds like punitive overkill, but the rest of this — refusing to serve someone who’s obviously high, calling the police if they refuse to leave, making it harder to shoot up in your bathrooms, and banning people who use drugs or overdose there — doesn’t sound outrageous. It sounds like they’re trying to create an atmosphere that won’t drive away other customers, which is understandable (minus the narcan ban), and I say that as someone who strongly shares your preference for a treatment model over a criminal model.

If you and your coworkers feel strongly about this, you can try pushing back as a group — there is strength and protection in numbers — but ultimately if this is your employer’s decision. If they don’t budge, then at that point it’s like anything else your employer might do that you object to: you have to decide if you’re willing to continue working there knowing that this is part of the package.

2. Should we make job offers by phone or email?

I lead a research team at an academic institute and just sent an email to a candidate making a job offer. He had been through a phone screen and a day of on-site interviews, and then I had followed up with him (by email) to get his references and tell him we would be in touch within a week. At the on-site, we had discussed salary expectations (his) and salary range (ours), should we make an offer, so we knew we had a good fit on that regard. (Our range was slightly above his expectations, which I told him at the time.) I was reasonably confident he would take the job, if offered.

After I sent the email (my typical practice), I was curious, and I googled “email job offers,” which led me to a post of yours from 2009 declaring the practice a “bad idea.”

I was wondering if you still held this same opinion! To me, these days, non-pre-arranged phone calls seem rarer and rarer. I can’t remember the last time I called someone in a professional context without setting up a time to talk first, via email (or Slack). And emailing someone to set up a call to make an offer– well, that just seems like torture to make someone wait to hear what you have to say.

Obviously a form letter from HR out of the blue seems like a bad call. But what do you think of a personal email from the hiring manager, expressing excitement and laying out the basic terms (salary, reporting structure) and offering to chat by phone to follow up if the candidate has questions or wants to talk more?

(FWIW, this particular candidate accepted within the hour, via email.)

Phone calls are still standard for job offers, for the reasons I talked about in the post you mentioned — you want to be able to pitch the job and express your enthusiasm for bringing the person on board, as well as get an initial sense of their response. Plus, if you email it, you have no idea if the email was even received (or if it got lost, or if the person is away and not checking email for several days or so forth).

To be clear, you’d still follow up the phone call with a written offer so that the candidate has all the details in writing.

You’re right that unscheduled phone calls are increasingly rare for a lot of people — but they haven’t disappeared entirely, particularly in business contexts, and this is one situation where they’re still in common use.

3. Can I refuse insincere “appreciation” from my boss?

I was “voluntold” to work on a project two years ago. I have an excellent work ethic and my boss likes to take advantage of that. I have been working well above my pay grade for two years, have repeatedly requested my job fact sheet be reviewed, and asked for responsibility pay (to no avail). I never get any support or acknowledgement at all. The end of the project is in sight, and last week when we were exiting a project meeting the boss said “I know I owe Jane a cheesecake for all she’s done, do you like cheesecake?” I replied “no..” Jane started on the project about two months ago. My team lead has been involved for a year, but just sits silently in meetings and never does any of the tasks assigned (which end up falling to me). I have repeatedly expressed my frustration at the lack of communication and support. The boss nods in agreement but does nothing to help change things. In the meeting last week, I was tasked with creating all of the training materials and training the trainers this week (something I declined to do weeks ago, but my “no” was ignored).

I know when the project ends, the boss is going to bring in cheesecake for Jane and maybe something else as a “thank you to everyone” (even though only three of us were on the project and only 2 of us did any work). I won’t partake in any food on offer, but worry that the boss might try to give me something directly (as he was asking what my favorite chocolate bar was). Is saying “no thank you” to an insincere token of appreciation appropriate? Is there any way I can discourage the boss from doing something insulting (like giving me a chocolate bar)? The minions have told the team lead and boss many times that we don’t like food as a reward but they never listen.

Nope! I definitely understand the urge, but you can’t professionally refuse a thank-you from your boss if it’s clear that you’re doing it to Make A Point. In other words, you can of course say, “Oh, thank you but I actually don’t eat chocolate” (or any other kind of polite decline) but you can’t say, “I don’t want your thank-you for this because it’s insincere/I’ve been treated poorly/this is insulting when what I deserve is a raise” or anything in that neighborhood. That’s going to come across as hostile. (You might be ready for it to come across as hostile! But it’s likely to do you more harm than good, even if it would feel pretty nice in the moment.)

Sometimes in a really crappy situation like this, when people feel like they have little control, they end up focusing on small pieces that don’t really matter — because they’ve given up hope about the pieces that do matter. I suspect that’s what’s happening here. But you actually do have more control than you think, in that you don’t need to stay in this situation long-term if you don’t want to. If you’re as frustrated as you sound and if you’ve tried to fix things without any success, why not start actively looking for a different job? Two years is a long time to feel this way.

4. Name on my diploma is different than the name I use

I earned my undergrad and graduate degrees under my maiden name. I have since married and changed my last name. Additionally, I go by a first name that is different than my legal first name (and is not a common nickname of my legal name). Essentially, my diplomas say “Rachel Green” but at work I am known as “Monica Geller.” I’d like to display my diplomas in my office, but worry this will be confusing. For context, I work in a school and mainly deal with prospective students and their families (so it’s not like I have five coworkers to whom I could explain the discrepancy and leave it at that). It is common in our school for faculty and staff to display their diplomas. Any advice?

Some schools (many? all?) will reissue your diploma with your new name, as long as you can show that you legally changed it. That would take care of your last name, but not your first name — but it might be enough to ward off confusion, since it’s not uncommon to go by a middle name instead of a first. If your school is one that will do it, it’s probably worthwhile. (The other option, of course, is simply not to display your diplomas — which could be easier than displaying ones where both the first and last names are different than the ones you use.)

I saw an email from my boss saying it’s a “relief” I’m quitting

A reader writes:

I started working as a temp-to-perm at an investment bank as an expense coordinator a few months ago. None of this job is within my interest. I took the job because I needed it and because the people I interviewed with seemed kind and respectful. Everyone had amazing things to say about each other.

They threw me into a stressful situation (cleaning up someone else’s mess) and I did a great job. Then all of a sudden I was an executive assistant to two investment bankers. They acted like it was a natural progression and I totally should’ve spoken up. I’m not a highly organized person and I HATE being someone’s assistant (I had done it before and thought I’d grown out of that kind of role). I naturally did a terrible job, waffled a lot, and one of the bankers had a very frank and respectful talk with me about how I need a greater attention to detail, etc. I stepped it up to 150% from then on. I took every word of his advice and worked on his things with the speed of light. I made a few mistakes here and there, but they were genuine and not careless. He was friendly and kind to me.

Cut to a month ago when I got accepted off the waitlist at my dream graduate program. As soon as I got the logistics settled, I gave my notice. My supervisor was kind and congratulatory. She told me she would take care of telling my bankers.

I have access to their inboxes so I can look for whatever info regarding projects that I need. The nicer of the bankers (the one who spoke to me about my performance) said to me at the beginning of my role, “I don’t have secrets, that’s all work stuff in my inbox. Nothing to hide.” So, after I gave notice, I had to look for something in his email. I saw my supervisor’s email telling him I was leaving for grad school. He responded, “That’s a relief.”

I was immediately mortified and embarrassed and then remembered … he knows I have access to his email. Why would he leave that there for me to potentially find? I truly wasn’t snooping. I see previews of emails so I saw his response while scrolling. I’m less offended by his comment and more baffled by his lack of tact. I cannot get over that part of it! I hope he’s not cruel enough to leave it there for me to potentially see, so I’m chalking it up to forgetfulness and tactlessness.

My question is: should I say something to him? He has always acted like such an open book, available and ready for questions and discussion always. I know I’m leaving so it won’t matter, but I want to get to the bottom of this. My thought is to say something along the lines of, “Your constructive criticism has been helpful to me, and it may be that I wasn’t a great fit for you in the end, but I came across this message in your inbox. Whatever the context, it was hurtful to see. I want to remind you that your assistant does have access to your email.”

I don’t care if I have a “place” to say this or not — I’m tired of having to roll over and take crap from senior employees because I’m younger. Mostly, I genuinely do not want him to offend another assistant some day. Should I say something? If so, should it be that?

Nah, let it go.

I’m sure he just didn’t think about the fact that you could see the email. When he told you “I don’t have secrets, that’s all work stuff in my inbox,” he almost certainly meant “you’re not going to find highly personal things in there,” not “there’s zero chance you might ever come across something I hadn’t meant for you to see.” And he was using his email the way people normally use their email — by responding to messages that come to them — without having it in the forefront of his mind that you might go in there and see it.

As for the message itself, I’m sure it stung to read it! But it actually doesn’t sound like a terribly surprising reaction. You note that you were really bad at the job, at least for a while, and even after you improved you continued to make mistakes. And since you didn’t want to be doing the work, it’s pretty likely that that came across. Given that context, most managers would be relieved to have you decide to move on, and that’s okay. You’re probably relieved by it too! It’s not unkind to recognize that someone isn’t the best fit for a position; it’s just honest.

And really, the most important thing here is that he did what a lot of bosses mess up: He had a frank but kind conversation with you when you were messing up. That counts for a ton.

He should be able to have private conversations about business changes without getting chastised for forgetting that you could potentially stumble on a relatively minor three-word email (one that he might have figured wasn’t in the scope of things you’d be looking for in his email anyway). And it’s not like he kept from you something that mattered; this wasn’t a rant full of personal, hurtful criticism. It was his honest reaction — that it’s better for everyone that you’re moving on.

You say that you’re “tired of having to roll over and take crap from senior employees because I’m younger.” But this isn’t taking crap because you’re younger. It’s not really taking crap at all. It’s just something you weren’t meant to see, and it’s understandable that he forgot you could stumble upon it.

Let it go. You’re moving on, you know this wasn’t a great fit, and it’s okay that your manager is being honest about that in an intended-to-be-private discussion.

your workplace isn’t your family — and that’s OK

“We’re like family here.”

Not words you should want to hear from an employer.

I did a Q&A with the New York Times about why that phrase tends to pop up at dysfunctional workplaces — and tends to breed more dysfunction too — as well as how you can navigate that kind of culture and a healthier way to view work.

You can read it here.

do I have to teach my coworkers my hard-earned skills?

A reader writes:

I am the go-to person in my office for managers and coworkers for all things Excel. I am a senior data analyst. I have taught many of my coworkers (other analysts) many things about Excel and have helped them out with their own deliverables that require spreadsheet expertise. I have gotten a lot of good PR for this and a great reputation for helping out.

Here is my issue. In the last two years, Excel has come up with more functionality to be able to handle extremely large data files. The old Excel limit of 1 million rows is a thing of the past with this new functionality. Since I am an Excel geek, I took it upon myself on my own time at home to learn this new technology. Due to this, I was able to create something which resulted in a large cost savings to my employer by not having a vendor do this same work. Therefore this enhanced my visibility (although no extra bonus or promotion for this cost savings).

My skill level is clearly way above everyone else’s and the degree of difficulty of the things I am now working on is clearly higher than that of my fellow analysts. The frustrating part is that my pay raise/title have been the same as theirs. To make matters worse, my boss now wants me to teach my coworkers these new skills.

I am demoralized by the fact my employer wants me to essentially hand over these hard earned skills to the others. When I took the initiative to learn this on my own, I did it to gain a competitive advantage and make myself stand out from the rest. Mission accomplished in that regard, but now I have to train these other analysts because they don’t want to make the effort themselves. I can show them how I do my stuff pretty quickly, but only because I have put in hours of my own time to get to that point.

Part of me wants to say that I would be happy to train them if they are my direct reports and I am promoted to a title of a manager (which is much more pay than an analyst in my company). But as long as I am a single contributor, I do not feel it is my responsibility to give other analysts the skills to advance their own career. I am all for helping out as I have in the past, but this new technology is a game changer and having this skill clearly creates separation from the rest of the pack.

Thoughts?

If you’d really be able to show them what you know in a very short amount of time (I’m talking half an hour, not a couple of days), then it’s pretty hard to defend not sharing that knowledge. If you refused that, you’d come across badly — defensive of your turf (and insecure about it), and not getting that you’re part of a team rather than just out for yourself.

But if the knowledge is that valuable and you put significant time into learning it, I’m skeptical that you could teach it that quickly. You might be able to show them things like “doing X will accomplish Y,” but you’re not going to be able to quickly impart the larger-picture understanding that you no doubt picked up from your own self-study.

Assuming that to be the case, it would be reasonable to say to your boss, “It took me a really long time to learn all of this and it’s not something I could easily or quickly teach. But what I can do is suggest resources for people who are interested in investing the time to learn it like I did.” Then it’s up to your coworkers to decide whether or not to pursue that, and it’s likely that a lot of them won’t bother.

In other words, it’s reasonable to be expected to invest a small amount of time in sharing your skills with coworkers. It’s not reasonable (or practical) to be expected to do a full download of your brain.

I would not say that you’ll do the teaching if you’re promoted to become your coworkers’ manager. It’s useful to have a manager who can impart technical knowledge, sure, but there are much bigger considerations that go into whether or not someone should be moved into a management role (things like being skilled at laying out clear expectations, giving feedback, addressing problems, finding and developing talented people, working well above you and sideways, and leading a team to results). If you think there’s a case to be made for giving you management responsibilities, totally separate from this Excel situation, you could definitely make that case! But don’t base it around this, and definitely don’t frame it as a trade (“if you give me this, I will do that”). Doing that would actually undercut your case for that kind of promotion, because it’s counter to the “what’s best for the team?” orientation that a manager needs to have.

Totally aside from that, though, it sounds like you should be making the case for a raise. You can point to the fact that you’re tackling more challenging projects than the rest of your team and that your skills saved your company a huge amount of money. As part of that case, you can also mention that you’ve taken the initiative to develop skills on your own time that are now benefiting the company in XYZ ways. That’s a much better focus when you want to benefit from the work you’ve put in, rather than getting hung up on keeping the knowledge from other people. (And if you get turned down, then that’s valuable info about the extent to which your company is — and isn’t — willing to reward your efforts, and might be a sign that it’s worth seeing who might appreciate them more.)

my family business is a mess, I give a really low salary expectation, and more

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

1. My family business is a mess, but my mom won’t listen to me

I work for my family’s business. For a long time, it was a small mom and pop operation and my parents were easily able to manage the administrative and operational aspects on their own. However, in the past three years, our company has grown at a rapid rate. We went from a handful of clients in one state to around 25 clients spread across eight states. Our employee headcount has quadrupled.

The anticipated bumps in the road from such rapid growth are more along the lines of massive potholes. My mother (the CEO) insists that we are able to manage all aspects of the business with six dedicated administrative employees, including me. However, I don’t think you need to be a business consultant to know that six people are not enough to manage nearly 200 employees. As a result, everyone around here wears many hats. Even though I know nothing about HR, health insurance, 401K administration, payroll deductions, and a myriad of other issues, those are all items that I have to manage day to day. I’ve tried to teach myself to the best of my abilities, but I have reached the limits of what I can learn on my own. Our struggles are not only limited to staffing, but processes and procedures. The things we had in place when we were a company of 40 people no longer work for us. No one here has clearly defined job descriptions and there are relatively few procedures in place, so fire drills are an everyday occurrence for us.

To make matters worse, my mother takes a hybrid micromanaging/hands-off approach to the administrative staff. She refuses to give directions beyond a simple sentence of what she wants done (she defines anything beyond that as “hand-holding”), yet she insists on approving every little thing that we do. She invests all of her time in the company’s finances, and I often find myself at an impasse over my own responsibilities.

I’ve given you all of this background because I clearly see the problems within our organization, and I have developed solutions and given recommendations to my mother. The problem is, she does not share my concerns. Every time I highlight a problem, she says that it isn’t a priority, doesn’t have the budget to fix it, will address it later, or even says that I am just creating problems. But from my perspective, I see an overwhelmed and understaffed administration, high employee turnover, and no attempt to fix any of it. Because it is my family’s company, I cannot be dispassionate or simply find a new job. This company is just as much mine and I want it to thrive. How can I institute change within this company when I have no support from my boss?

You probably can’t, just like working at any other business run by a terrible manager who refuses to change things. Because the CEO is your mom, you have more leeway to have a blunt conversation with her about the problems you see — but ultimately if she’s not open to change, you can’t force it (assuming that you and other family members don’t own a controlling stake in the business where you could overrule her). Do other members of the management team agree with you? If so, you can try approaching her as a group to propose putting someone else in charge of managing the day-to-day operations, or you can try proposing that on your own … but if she won’t budge and you don’t have the authority to make her budge, then you don’t really have other options here.

In that case, you’d be better off going elsewhere and working in a context where you’ll actually be able to thrive. This doesn’t sound like that context. (And while there can be benefits to being thrown in the deep end and learning as you go, there are huge disadvantages to that too — especially that you don’t know what you don’t know, and you can end up making serious mistakes. Professionally speaking, you’re better off working in a well managed company and developing your skills there. And who knows, maybe there will be a way for you to bring those skills back to your family company at some point in the future, if it’s being run differently. You might find the “I’m the Boss’s Daughter” episode of the AAM podcast interesting.)

2. I give a very low number when asked for salary expectations

I have been applying for a lot of jobs in an unusual field of work (let’s say llama whispering) and applications keep asking me what I need to be paid. I’m at the point in my life where being paid at all is a real novelty, so I’m trying to figure out what number to put in that will not insult the company and also cause me not to starve to death. My current strategy is looking up “living wage in (location)” and then plugging that in. I’ve also been plugging in slightly higher than whatever minimum wage is. Really I’m just wildly guessing. What’s the magic number? Aren’t they supposed to already know? Can I just say, “As much as you would pay the boys?” I just want to be the best llama whisperer I can be while also not dying. Help!

Don’t do that! Unless this is a field that pays that low, you’re undercutting yourself — and you actually might be getting yourself rejected for these jobs, because a lot of recruiters will take a weirdly low salary request as a sign that you don’t have enough experience for the job or misunderstand what it is.

I know this is a huge pain and it would be nice if employers just told you what they plan to pay, but most of them don’t and you’ve got to do your own research so that you’re able to have a reasonable salary discussion with them. There’s advice here on how to do that.

3. How do my manager and I move past an argument?

Yesterday I had a disagreement with my manager about some changes she was implementing. The actual change wasn’t the main issue, however; it was a straw that broke the camel’s back situation. I’m under pressure, she’s under pressure, and in her words we had a “vigorous” discussion, becoming quite heated at one point. We both talked it out, but we were interrupted by a client and then she had to unexpectedly head off to our satellite office to deal with an emergency situation there.

I don’t like workplace (or any) conflict. I usually avoid it wherever possible. I don’t know how to move on. We’ve only talked via IM since. Normally she would have called at least once to catch up. The IM conversations we’ve had have been light-hearted, I think because neither of us wants to start anything up again.

I find it mentally exhausting dealing with her. She wants my thoughts, but then doesn’t like it when I disagree and give reasons why I don’t think things will work and suggest other ways. If I do think they will work out, I say so. Either way, if she decides it’s the way to go, I will support that decision with our clients even if they are not happy with the change. The thing is, on reflection, a couple of points she raised (but not all) were true – she’s right, she is my manager, and I do question a lot of changes that she is recommending and she finds it exhausting dealing with me.

We didn’t get a chance to finish up and move on, so I don’t know whether to raise it or not. She’s working from home for the next few days, so I won’t see her in person until nearly a week has passed since the conflict. I don’t quite know what to say, or whether to be like Elsa and let it go and let the awkwardness pass, or to say that I’d reflected on the points she raised, and that I realize she’s right in xyz?

If you realized she’s right about some of what she said, tell her that! Any manager in this situation would be relieved and pleased to hear that, and it reflects well on you that you took some time to digest the conversation and are willing to modify your thinking. Say something like, “I wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking about our conversation the other day and I realized that you’re right about X and Y. I’m going to try to do ___ differently in the future and hopefully you’ll see a difference.”

Ideally you’d say that in person — and I don’t think it’s a big deal to wait a few days until that can happen.

4. How do I remind my boss he owes me money?

I travel for work. My boss doesn’t usually come along, but this was a special circumstance where he needed to be there. We decided to hit a baseball game one evening after work and had to buy tickets online. I just happened to find the cheaper/better tickets as we were both searching, so I bought with the understanding he would pay me back. He specifically said he would as it’s obviously not expensable. He left for the week, his flight was a day before mine, and never mentioned it or paid me back. It’s $65, which is a fairly significant amount of money to me. I’m remote so I won’t see him in person again for who knows how long. Should I bring it up? I don’t think it was malicious, I think he just forgot. But it feels awkward to bring it up. Not sure what to do here.

Most likely he did just forget, and he’d probably be mortified if he knew you were stressing over it. It won’t be awkward to remind him — after all, think about if the roles were reversed; I doubt you would think it was weird for someone to remind you, right?

Just be matter-of-fact about it — “hey, can you Venmo me that $65 for the tickets when you have a chance?” That’s it! (If you don’t talk frequently, it’s fine to do this in email or Slack or however you most often communicate.)

5. What are good wellness initiatives?

Our nonprofit has a small budget ($15k) to use for employee wellness initiatives. We’ve already purchased water bottles with our logo for everyone, had a day of on-site chair massages, and bought a few under-desk elliptical and bike machines for people to “check out.” Standing desks or treadmill desks have been rejected due to space constraints. We’ve also considered healthy snacks, providing a yoga class, bringing in a nutritionist, and bringing in an ergonomics consultant. Are there any other things you would suggest?

You named literally everything I would have suggested. I love your list! (I’m assuming they’re all optional and no one is being required to do yoga or talk to the nutritionist.)

I’m throwing this out to commenters to see what other suggestions people might have for you.

weekend free-for-all – August 11-12, 2018

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: The Book of Essie, by Meghan MacLean Weir. The teenage daughter of an evangelical preacher whose family has a hit reality show (and a mom scarier than Kris Jenner) gets pregnant and has to figure out how to take back her life from her family.

are work parties really just … work?

I recorded a piece for the BBC about work parties: Why do some people dread them? Are they mandatory, even when no one says that? And if they are mandatory, are they really just … work?

It’s three minutes long and you can listen here (my segment is toward the end, starting at 49:27).

open thread – August 10-11, 2018

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.