Readers’ Matzav: The Office Environment

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officeDear [email protected],

I work in a frum office in a vibrant frum community, and I am appalled at the abuse that goes on. We are all kollel wives, trying our hardest to support our husbands and families. The stress we deal with on a daily basis is enormous. Must our bosses add to our stress by speaking to us in disrespectful ways, or giving us demeaning jobs? 

In our office it is not unusual for our male boss to ask one of the ladies to shlep a box to his car for him, or to go buy him lunch from a local takeout store. Mind you, we were hired to do office work and were never informed that this may include “other jobs.”  Many ladies are afraid to protest, as this is their only means of support. 

Verbal abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse, often leading to panic attacks and real emotional problems. Putting down an employee’s work, accusing too quickly – without first finding out the facts, or just plain not giving credit where credit is due all fall under this category. Showing sincere appreciation and saying thank you is really not that difficult, and should be a given (especially at 2:00 in the morning the night before a big event).

I cannot leave out the fact that when we come home to our real jobs (caring for our families), it is very difficult to be a calm and happy mother after such an abusive day.

Name Withheld for Obvious Reasons


  1. Sorry to hear about your challenge

    It’s a big problem in a lot of different jobs. My experience as an employee has led me to believe that the bosses, most of the time, don’t mean bad at all. Its thoughtlessness that’s an outgrowth of their stress- and feeling down. When we feel up, (unless we’re naturally mean,) we seek to make others feel good- or at least be respectful. When we feel down though, that’s when our middos get tried….

    But the boss ends up losing big time, as an unhappy workforce does not produce a tenth of what content and appreciated employees, who feel accomplished, do. And whatever is causing his stress, may have just quadrupled!

  2. Dorthy, I don’t think we’re in Bais Yaakov anymore.
    Carrying a box and getting lunch is not demeaning. And you want sincere appreciation and a thank you, that’s called a paycheck. Welcome to the real world.

  3. in all my experience, together with the experience of my wife, the worst possible work environment is a frum one.

    The boss takes advantage of his workers, because of the environment being frum, by paying lower salaries. Very frequently they fiddle with the money, dont pay on time, dont pay benefits that you should be getting (they know you would never report them), and are, as the writer describes, abusive in many other ways.

    My work in non-frum environments has always been far more pleasant and productive than work in a frum environment. Stop insisting on only working in a frum environment and you will fid happiness.

    I am regularly amazed, every time I hear such a story, that frum people behave like this more often than not. More often, the frum environment is a horrible work environment.

  4. i agree with this women. I am working for over 15 years & it is just disgusting the way we are treated, they think they can take out all there anger on us.

  5. Welcome to the real world!
    Of course it would be nice if your boss was more polite, but you should not expect it. Did you ever consider the fact that your boss can easily hire far more qualified employees and pay them less money that he is paying you Kollel wives?
    The sense of entitlement that the writer shows is just another example of how our Yeshivo’s and Bais Ya’akov’s do little to prepare students for the real world.
    Your boss owes you nothing and you should thank him profusely for giving you a job. If you do not like your job you are welcome to quit.

  6. I certainly feel for your pain. I remember hearing a talk from Rav Elya Svei zt”l and he was very opposed to this.

    I would offer the following:
    1) Would you be able to find some sipuk in the work you’re doing? In such difficult situations, I have tried to keep my eye on the bigger picture. If you would be able to reframe your experiences to working toward a larger greater goal- then perhaps the daily frustrations would not be as meaningful and loud as they are right now.

    2) I make no presumptions that you are exaggerating any situation. I have seen it over and over and lament very much that our fellow Yidden in large part have not learned good effective management skills. The fact that someone is paying your paycheck does not give them right to ask anything in the world of you andforget yiddishe middos. I had a boss recently say as long as we speak with CDR we have done our job: Courtesy, Dignity, Respect! And he is a fine frummeh yid!

    3) Your true simchas hachaim is exactly where you know it lies- your yiddishe bayis that you dreamed of building. Try to find some way to relax and settle yourself before you come home so that your children can enjoy their mommy and all she has to offer. It is a very difficult thing to do- but we all know the frustration echoes much louder and the effects are more strongly felt whereas the good feelings are absorbed naturally and helps your home have the simcha you truly want.

    May HKBH be m’shaleim s’chara for all your hard work both outside of the house and within and give you all the kochos you need to ignore the slights and give you the ability to know how great your s’char is.

    I would be remiss if I did not offer: You are certainly NOT obligated to stay and endure this! However, given present economic realities- you would probably need to help support your husband in parnoso and who knows if another situation would be better. But true soul searching and knowing yourself and not merely reacting to pressure will help you come to the best decision for your family and your own goals.

    Hatzlocho Rabo!!

  7. I don’t know where you work. I work in a frum office and am treated very respectfully by my boss. Either my situation is unique or your is. I think you just have a boss with no manners

  8. I run “a frum office in a vibrant frum community” with over 25 Kollel wives employed. Yes there are certainly challenges with work hours, babysitter problem, sick kids needing doctors, husbands having to pitch in occasionally, etc.

    But abuse? Please!

    While I don’t doubt the truth of this particular story, I can not imagine that this is anything but one of a handful of isolated instances and it is unfair to describe this as in any way acceptable in a frum environment.

    I would suggest the writer discuss this with her husband and their Rov who can perhaps approach the Rov of the employer.

    BTW – Virtually all of our employees would never trade in the opportunity to work in a frum environment where middos and mitzvos (i,e. not speaking loshon hara, scrupulous honesty, decent time off for Shabbos/Yom Tov) are as much of the work environment as efficiency and production.

  9. Tell your husband that this is what you’re going through. He should go get a job and support his family so that you don’t have to suffer through this abuse.

  10. yeah if all those ladies would have brains instead of having the combined IQ of a raisin and follow instructions the first time there would be less problems

  11. Rabeinu Yona in Shaarei T’shuvo counts it as a Mitzvas Lo Saseh to ask someone to preform a task that they’re not required to do, but are afraid to refuse orders.

  12. The boss is usually under greater stress that the employees. Also a boss may be very busy and ask an employee to run out and get him something. There is nothing wrong with this.

  13. Abusive to ask an employee to go out and buy lunch for the boss? Abusive to ask an employee to shlepp a box? What in heavens name is wrong with this individual? You should be happy you ahve a job. There are people out there desperate for work and would be only too glad to accept a job that has those requirements attached. How self centered and spoiled one can be. A boss is under immense pressures and stress with todays economy. Granted a boss should be curteous and respectful, but to complain that ” I was only hired for office work and nothing else” is riddiculous. I think you would be better off baking challahs in the kitchen, Mrs

  14. Please get a grip!

    “Mind you, we were hired to do office work and were never informed that this may include “other jobs.” Come on now. Take out food is not like asking a female worker to lift 75 pounds every half and hour.

    “Putting down an employee’s work”, discussing performance issues is mutually beneficial. Unless the employer yells at you in public, this is a supervisor’s job to monitor your performance and reccomend improvements if needed.

    “Not giving credit where credit is due”, is stupid but not abusive.

  15. Excuse me , this is very unusual and not the norm . There might be a problem in the place where you work but this is usually not the case in most workplaces

  16. Instead of writing a letter tell your husbands your problem.

    He might want to ask his Rosh HaYeshiva if it’s time to go out to work.

    Once a Kollel wife feels her job is affecting her family’s Shulum Bayis it’s time to ask an Odum Gudul.

    If a boss is an abuser he’ll never change,no matter what anyone would tell him.

  17. Maybe it is better to work in a non Torah enviroment where protocol is upheld even though the people are not particularly upper class. They are scared of lawsuits and discrimination charges.

  18. It is a reflection of the lack of attention that we give to this subject . It really seems like when it comes to money, we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Why?

  19. I agree with this totally. I’m a single girl working in an office and my boss MAKES ME CHANGE THE GARBAGE. We have a cleaning lady that comes in 3 days a week but my boss wants the garbage changed every day so i have to do. I have asked him a few times if we can get the cleaning lady for more hours but no, i have to be his interim cleaning lady.

    He has also asked me to drive him places and do errands for the office using my own gas with no reimbursment.

    If the economy were better and there we other jobs, i would have quit this one a long time ago but there are no other jobs so in the meantime i have to suffer my bosses abuse in silence.

  20. That’s why it’s called work. He is paying you to do a job not to do the things you want to do. No one is forcing you to stay.

  21. Perhaps you would prefer your employer hire some additional workers to shlep boxes and pick up lunch and then take their salaries from the paychecks of you office workers who are apparently too good for such tasks?

    There is no excuse for an employer to treat his employees with disrespect, but that is his achrayis not yours. Your job is simply to do your job, and if that sometimes includes distasteful functions that you would rather not do, well welcome to the working world. No, better yet, welcome to life! We all have to do thinks we’d rather not do.

  22. If the husbands would do the responsible thing and make sure that their families are supported as the Torah commands, the wives would not be put in such a situation. It really does not matter, though. As seen in several op-eds, this system will not be sustainable too much longer.

  23. it is very disturbing and sad to read this article to demean a working mother who supports her family is biggest aveire of them all and a shame on us frimmer yidden something must be done so theese things never ever happen

  24. We tell our workers before they are hired that it may occasionally include such jobs so that therer are no suprises. There is however, no excuse for talking disrespectfully to a worker. In most cases however, the bosses are under a lot of stress. If a boss acts disrespectfull to a worker, she should say something to him afterwards in a nice way, and he will likely apologize.

  25. This isnt just women who get abused. Too many bosses who gives lotsa tzedaka and are guests of honor at dinners, treat and abuse male workers who are so so dependent on their boss for parnosah – they hold back $$$, dont give deserving raises and treat them like trash. One of the biggest Chilul H’s we have today. To those who feel this abuse: for whatever it is worth – unfortunately you are not alone

  26. We just read that Leah was criticized for being a “yatzanis” (going out). What you complain about is valid which is why the women should be at home and the husband working.

  27. Can someone please explain what exactly is abusive about being asked to go buy your boss lunch? If he’s paying you for your time, whats wrong?

  28. As a woman I am appalled by your absolute subservience to your male counterparts and it is your fault and that of the others that you are treated that way. The only way you will stop being taken advantage of is if you speak up and demand respect and stop being a busboy to your office mates. Quit the whining while you are at it. Besides, you just proved a point. If you are not big enough to work in the modern workplace, maybe it’s time you stayed home and let your husband earn a living. Don’t get me wrong, I have my own business but wouldn’t dream of working for someone who took advantage of me.

  29. This woman’s side of the story comes across that she is being taken advantage of. However, the fact remains that many Bais Yaakov women have put themselves into that type of work situation. They often don’t have the skills or credentials to compete for better paying professional jobs in the corporate world. Furthermore, the frum environment is within the comfort zone of many frum women in light of the Shabbos and Yom Tov friendly schedules and flexibility to take off for various simchas (that the corporate world would not see as essential), not to mention maternity leave. So, some of this is a matter of not really wanting to be employed elsewhere, even if they will be treated with more professional respect in those workplaces. So, the only thing they can do is somehow demand greater Derech Eretz from the bosses, who in their minds, might already be considering employing them as their form of chessed.

  30. Personally, I have found that women, probably by nature, are more sensitive to criticism than men.
    This seems to include even things that are not meant as criticism at all sometimes. This is a problem, and both genders, I believe, would be better off working on it.

  31. If you’re boss asks you to buy him lunch from the cafe or put a package in a vehicle, that’s your job regardless of official title or what you were hired for.

    You can quit otherwise.

  32. let me just add one more thing to those who think that providing a paycheck to a female office worker entitles you to demand that she get your lunch or shlep your pekelach – if you hired a male lawyer or accountant would you also demand that they do these tasks? If not why not?

  33. OK, you have the Boss from gehennom. What were your expectations/ True you may not be able to just quit or send your husband out to work.

    However B’H what is stopping you from possibly working from home or opening your own business ? Certainly you have some skills that are unique andd if not you alaways can learn. the worst feeling to to believe one is stuck, trapped and helpless. Daven a bit about it and look for the alightat the end of the tunnel
    good luck

  34. If you’re boss asks you to buy him lunch from the cafe or put a package in a vehicle, that’s your job regardless of official title or what you were hired for.


    Every job should have a job description detailing the tasks that the person is required to do. Just because they are giving you a paycheck does not mean that they have the right to order you to do anything and everything.

    Then again, maybe I’m spoiled by working in the professional world, where this sort of thing would never fly.

    The Wolf

  35. Reading some of the callous comments to this lady’s plight, I am amazed how much stinky middos there is out there.

    Dear Kolel wife,

    B”H that you have not lost your healthy sense of self-respect as a heilige Bas Yisroel. But working in an office, albeit a frum one can turn out to be a challenge to the “Atzilus of a Bas Yisrael.” How clearly I remember my revered Rebbe Harav Elya Svei Ztz”l’s words at a keynote session of the Agudah Convention bemoaning the tendency of Kolel wifes to find employment in offices to support their families, stating that it is inevitable that it will cause a diminishing in their “atzilus” as a bas Yisrael.
    Apparently he felt that there is room even for Kolel couples to lower their standard of living, plus there should be more support from the community for the Bais Yaakovs to be able to pay better salaries to their Kolel-wife teachers. My humble advice to you under your present circumstances: Speak to an Adam Godol for whom your employer has respect. If such a person doesn’t exist, then you are definitely in the wrong workplace.

  36. For the record, a very high percentage of all women work, kollel or no kollel, so if you got your wish and we closed down all the kollels, the problem would still exist. Though I am married to someone who is learning for over 20 years now and proud of it, I do find women in yeshivish circles are sort of second-class citizens. Which is why after being horrified at how I was treated like a dog when working in an office I went to school at night at got a Masters degree..

  37. I have worked for frum bosses and one has been worse than the next. None of them gave a bonus for Chanuka or Pesach. Its amazing how they all had the same excuse, they would rather give nothing because whatever they would give wouldn’t be appreciated anyways. A raise was never given unless I threatened to quit or had to beg for months. Benefits given by goyishe companies of similar industry were never given.
    The biggest joke is the perk of direct deposit. This is a great benefit as long as the money is put in the bank I can’t count how many times I was paid late because the money wasn’t put in on time.

  38. i feel that the reason why there are problems at work is because ppl. dont know how to communicate.
    stop bearing grudges.
    if you feel your boss is asking too much of you DISCUSS IT WITH HIM when you are both in a more or less calm mood.
    ppl. advertise their problems, posting complaints in the news doesnt get you anywhere, address the right parties IN A RESPECTFUL way and you will both come out happy. i have tried this myself, nothing is wrong with mentioning to your boss “i really enjoy positive feedback” stop stewing in your problems, ppl are under pressure and dont mean to be mean to you. if you bring it to their attention they will be grateful.

    about working chas vashalom in a non frum environment remember one thing “dont sell your neshama!!”

  39. If you work for a Goyisha company, you at least get off legal holidays. You get sick days, overtime, Sundays, time in a half, paid vacation, etc… These don’t exist in a Fruma place! I can testify for that. The Goyisha Co are also afraid of lawsuits. The heimisha are not – you can’t – it’s mesirah! How can you snitch on a Frumma?! They have you.

  40. usually if you have a horrible boss look in the mirror and say your the one that attracts them. many people have great bosses and if you don’t then stop whining and complaining and just leave. You think g-d does not know hwo to help you out and get another boss? Give me a break with your stupidity. Find another job. Even in this crummy economy you can find something. if you have to be a sicial programs then do it. Don’t be trated like garbage.

  41. I was In a business and I heard the frum boss shouting at the poor woman working there “are you dyslectic” because she typed in a wrong unimportant number. He is a shofech domim!

  42. I worked in non-frum and frum work environments. I w/ choose the frum any day.
    I was never harassed in a frum place.
    I have no problem telling the boss that the box is too heavy, but I don’t look at it as beneath me if it is something that I can handle. BTW I love buying lunch for my boss. I get paid to go out and get fresh air.
    He asks me like a mentsch, and thanks me like a mentsch. Also, my boss changes the water bottles for the cooler.

  43. How about bosses who prefer to hire older singles because they believe that the singles “have no life” and will be more available?

    After being on-call for my boss 24/6 for 10 years – @3:30 am when he called from Israel – and countless after hours meetings – he decided that I had “a problem” because I wanted to take time off for Pesach (from vacation days), and I married off my daughter (from vacation days that were coming to me). But the single woman he hired “was more committed.”

    So now 2 years later after I left, his single employee is available only 9-5, is not available on Sundays, frequently calls in sick so she can tend to her aging cat, and his business has taken a significant nosedive…along with his reputation as a top flight firm.

    I’m in my 40’s so let me share some sage advice with you. As soon as you get a job, start looking for the next one. Do not stay at a position too long, and the first time the boss mistreats you, start sending out resumes and go on interviews. IT WILL NOT GET BETTER ONLY WORSE. Because if your boss got away with it once, he will ratchet up his bad behavior because he knows it succeeded.

  44. Any employer who takes the time to write a proper job description adds the catch phrase, “duties as deemed necessary”. That could mean picking up lunch, making cofee, changing garbage bags, etc., these are ordinary functions required of clerical level employees.
    It’s not like the boss is making her clean toilets or hose down garbage dumpsters. Come on now, get real.

    The letter writer is not doing skilled tasks that would require degrees. No actuary, accountant, attorney, or HR Director would be expected to do these menial tasks.

  45. one thing is missing. You say the real job is at home. However if you are getting paid to work as far as the boss is concerned THATS THE REAL JOB OR LEAVE

  46. “I would suggest the writer discuss this with her husband and their Rov who can perhaps approach the Rov of the employer.”
    This statement is absolutely frightening – mi sam peh l’adam?

  47. I have worked for Frum employers – some treated their employees with dignity and respect, others did not. Bottom line, if your boss is a ‘mentch’as a person, that’s how he’ll treat his employees.

  48. A woman’s place is at home. A woman should not be working outside of the home.

    Do you also advocate men learning full time?

    The Wolf

  49. our outlook of what’s “fair” is based on what we expect and think should happen. When things don’t work as “planned” we feel attacked. If we can shift our thoughts from what “should or shouldn’t be” to what is, then we can start focusing on a solution. Last year I was waiting on line for a shwarma and there was only a little bit left in the store. All of a sudden this big man cuts the line which meant that his laffa was going to have those last precious pieces of meat. Oh boy was I mad. I starting grunting to my wife: what chutzpah, how dare he!! He shouldn’t be doing that! Then it hit me HE IS DOING IT! What can I do? I can hit him in the face or politely tell him that I am before him etc…but if I’m busy with what should be, then I’m only going away from what’s happening and I’m just blaming and getting angry. Instead I focus on what’s happening is: He’s cutting me in line. I accept that- and now I can choose what I want to do about this problem.
    The idea is to investigate your thoughts, clean them and strategies a sustainable plan of action. One that will not be about blame but rather about taking responsibility to improve the situation that we are in. (WE ARE ALWAYS IN IT UNLESS WE TAKE OURSELVES OUT OF IT)

  50. re Meir (49): so if there are no teaching jobs, or there is a woman who shouldn’t be teaching (yes, many fine people don’t belong in chinuch), where else is it advisable to work besides a frum office?

    And many wives of ehrlich working men still need to work, so the panacea isn’t, tell him to go to work. (Not to mention that he may need some training, and some extra income for a few years till he’s no longer at an entry level salary, so the Mrs. still has to work).

  51. I reaaly feel sorry for all of the employees of this company. I am a man and worked for such a company and abuse is not a strong enough the word to call it, it was a degrading place to work. The owner of the company was the worst r all because of his money that he made on the backs of others and not payering the suppliers.

  52. Also, the commenters who said it’s not abuse to ask an employee to get lunch and do (not heavy) chores are right. You need to pitch in and do whatever is necessary in an office. In return you deserve to be spoken to in a respectful manner.

    I perceive also that your real job as you say is being a mother. You should not be working, you should be home taking care of your kinderlach and performing your real job. But since you are working, your heart has to be in it and you need to do your best. You may be not doing your best because (1) the boss is disrespectful to you, and (2) because you don’t feel this is your real job. Maybe the boss is disrespectful to you because he sees you are not giving your all, that you may just not be motivated. He doesn’t know how to motivate you constructively. Start by motivating yourself to do better. As you improve your work, you will have the confidence to look for another job. Best of luck to you.

  53. As I was cleaning the bathroom (!), I got a message on my phone. When I listened, it was my boss – my boss from work I do on Saturday night and Sundays (I have a full time job, too). He said, “Congratulations, you did a terrific job on those tapes, and you did it so fast. I’ll send you a check. You’ll have it in a day or so.”

    That’s the kind of boss to have – appreciative and generous. I worked for two hours on a typing job and asked him for what seemed to me a very large sum, since it was such a tedious long typing job. He not only paid it promptly, but cheerfully and phoned me his appreciation.

    Work for well to do, generous people, not people who do not appreciate you and who are trying to save a nickel by using you to empty the garbage. Where do you find such great bosses? I have to tell you. In the nonfrum world.

  54. reading al this takes me back almost 40 years. seems like not much has changed. upon the advice of my father i left my first job working for a big reputable company that was not jewish but i was treated like a mench. i went to work for a heimisha business. oh my! i was too embarrassed to tell my father what was going on there so i just gathered all my strength and told the yungeleit there in a most courages way that this is not why my father made me change jobs. they got the message.
    to all you young women out there just be strong and do whats expected of you and hashem will watch over you.


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