my manager uses my email when I’m away, bruises at work, and more

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My interviewer wants to know what questions to ask me

I have an interview tomorrow and have been asked to write down and bring five questions that I want to be asked. That’s the first time I’ve seen that. Any thoughts?

It’s a kind of cheesy way of saying, “What should we know about you?” But it’s a good opportunity to make sure that lackluster interview questions won’t get in the way of you demonstrating your qualifications. I’d use questions focused on things like “Tell me your experience doing ___” or “tell me about a time that you had to (fill in the blank with a key skill the position requires)” — things that will let you showcase what you’d bring to the role. And then obviously, be prepared with great answers to the questions you bring.

2. Visible bruises at work

I was reading a blog post about a woman who frequently came to work with bruises from mountain biking, and it got me thinking about the topic of scrapes and bruises in the office. I get a lot of bruises on my legs from powerlifting, but I never wear skirts in the workplace anyway, so it’s never been an issue, but I do sometimes wear dresses at conferences and networking events. I live in a major city in the South, where bare legs and arms are very common. What do you think?

Interesting topic — I’ve never thought much about it! My initial take is that anything more than very minor bruises or scrapes is indeed generally going to look unprofessional if they’re on an easily covered area like arms and legs. (And assuming, obviously, that you’re not recovering from a major injury.) I can’t defend that stance at all though, and would love to hear what others think.

3. Can I ask my friend to recommend for me for a position at her new company?

I am applying for a job at a company, and I recently found out that a friend of mine whom I’ve worked with on a semi-professional capacity (babysitting and her wedding shower) recently got a job with the company. I have made it through the first round of interviews, and I was wondering if it would help to have her give a recommendation. The only thing is, she is really new with the company (still in training for her position). Would it be asking too much of her to ask for a recommendation, and would the recruiter take her recommendation as worth much since she’s still pretty new to the company herself?

It wouldn’t be asking too much of her, but you should make it very easy for her to say no if she’s not comfortable with it.

Her recommendation won’t carry as much weight as someone with an established track record there, but it will still count — having someone they’ve determined to be intelligent and sane vouch for your intelligence and sanity is valuable. That said, I don’t think she can really vouch for your *work* — babysitting and planning a shower don’t really allow for that (unless your field is child care or event planning), but she can certainly say, “I think my friend Jane might be good for this. She’s smart and savvy and has great experience.”

4. Can I get this employer to allow me a more flexible schedule to attend school?

I am finishing a career-relevant graduate degree in a part-time, evening program. During interviews for a job, I was asked multiple times how I intend to juggle school and work. I emphasized that the classes are at night and that I’ve had no problem balancing the two before. They told me that the company is typically not flexible, with most people working 8 am-5 pm.

I was just offered the job and would love to accept. But I also just learned that twice a week, I will need to be at school around 5 pm, requiring me to leave the office by 4.15. Of course, I’d arrive early those days and could work extended hours on non-school days. Do you think there is any chance for negotiating this with my potential employer, and do you have any tips for doing it? I’ll note that the job is not in sales or any position requiring customer interaction during normal business hours.

All you can do is ask. It sounds like they were foreshadowing for you that they might not be able to offer you flexibility, but there’s no reason not to ask, and they might say yes. I would stay away from trying to push it, though, if the initial answer isn’t yes — even if you make a great argument for it (the position doesn’t work with customers, etc.), you don’t want to push your way into this if they’re not truly receptive to it, because that’s a recipe for ending up in a situation where technically have the flexibility but in reality are judged and penalized for it. So just ask and see what they say, but don’t push it too hard.

5. Can my workplace ban me from the premises when I quit?

I just quit my job as a server last week. When I was walking out, my manager told me I would not be allowed back to the restaurant for 3 months. Is that legal? I could understand if I was fired.

Sure. They can’t ban you from their premises for reasons like race, religion, or other protected class, but they can ban you just because they don’t like having former employees around. I don’t quite understand their reasoning for it though, unless they assume that you’ll come by and distract their remaining staff by socializing.

6. My manager and coworkers use my email while I’m away

What is the proper policy when going on vacation for your email? Mine is being hacked by my manager and fellow employees. Normally I set my email to an “out of office” auto response so the sender knows I am out of office and it gives other contact information for my company if necessary. I also check my email occasionally from home or travel. This has worked for well over 10 years. But recently when I am away, my manager changes my password and opens my email and computer for anyone in the office to use. As there is sensitive information on my computer and I am held accountable for work I complete, I don’t like the idea of people having access that can create mistakes, especially since there is a lot of back-biting in the office. Anyone can access information on my computer they need through our shared network without hacking into my computer. Am I wrong?

Nope, and I don’t think most people would like that. You can certainly talk to your manager and express your concerns. Try to figure out what they need while you’re away that they’re using this method to accomplish, and see if you can suggest alternatives. Ultimately this is your manager’s call, but it’s certainly reasonable to speak up about your concerns. (I would not, however, use terms like “hacking,” since that implies illegal access, which isn’t what’s going on here.)

7. Reaching out to other employees at a company I’m interviewing at

I currently work in one state, but I am planning on moving back to another state I previously lived in (primarily for personal finance reasons). I’m in the process of interviewing with a company that seems like it aligns with what I like in a culture, my work experience thus far, and what I’m looking to get out of the next step in my career. This company has offices in multiple cities, and so I’ve spoken to the HR person who works out of the office in my city and one of the HR people who works in one of the other offices in the country, who has a slightly closer relationship to the group that works in the city I’m moving to. Both, of course, have expressed that this is a unique opportunity, and I think have been pretty honest about both the benefits and draws of this position.

Would it be terribly inappropriate to reach out to someone on LinkedIn who currently works for that company in a position very similar to the one I’m interviewing for with questions about their personal experience there? Or would it come off as trying to get an in with them (which it wouldn’t be, I just think it’s always good to hear from the people who do the work every day in addition to those who are responsible for filling open positions)? I just want to be sure since I’m interviewing from afar and therefore it can be difficult to tell without visiting an office.

I wouldn’t do it at this stage, although it’s something you could do later in the process if you’re a finalist or if you get an offer. Otherwise, yes, it does come across as trying to get a backdoor “in,” going outside their established process, and using their employees’ time before they’ve determined that you’re enough of a serious contender that they’d want you doing that. But it’s definitely something you can ask about later on in the process.

{ 214 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT

    #2

    Interesting topic indeed. I agree bruises could look unprofessional if you have them all the time. However, I’m not really sure why… Maybe it’s a little unkempt? At best they are a little distracting, at worst they will be a focus of office gossip. (“I wonder what really happened…”)

    1. Jamie

      I agree and I’m not sure why either. I don’t think it’s unkempt so much as just its an attention draw and best to be avoided in the office.

      I bruise easily and all the time. I can’t wear skirts or dresses at work (safety) so if I’m sporting a raging bruise on my arms ill wear long sleeves but I don’t freak out if someone happens to see.

      I just would hate for their to be conversations about why I’m always banged up…people wondering if they should intervene. It’s a blood issue..working on it…no violence unless you consider how often I slam into my own desk because I don’t watch where I’m going to be self harm.

      Plus it’s like being on crutches. You get SO sick of explaining what happened and unless its super interesting its not worth it.

      1. Marmite

        A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenia, she started a new job around the same time and had to contend with both the bruises and the swelling from steroid treatment. She had no chance of covering the bruises because they were on her face, back of her hands, just everywhere. She works in a small office and still got sick of explaining, but decided it was better than the assumptions people might make!

        1. Anonymous

          Marmite:
          Augh, that sucks. None of their business, really.

          Jamie:
          Make a little name tag thing to wear that says “I have [condition] and that’s why I have bruises; Google it!” j/k

      2. Liz in a library

        This was my concern too…that it would draw questions from co-workers about potential violence or abuse. Most people are going to take notice, even if they have the kindest intent, if you come to work with significant visible bruising.

      3. Jazzy Red

        I’ve worked with girls who being battered at home, so that really is what I would think if someone kept coming to work with fresh bruises all the time. A low-key kind word about being available to help is appropriate, I think.

        On the other hand, I’m pretty clumsy (especially when I need to get my glasses changed), and I’ve gone around with some pretty spectacular colors from bumping into doors, desks and other hard objects.

        What I don’t like seeing are scabs or oozing wounds that aren’t covered by bandaids. ICK!!

      4. Juni

        A dear friend of mine who bruises easily due to a blood clotting condition actually “confided” in the office gossip and her boss about the condition and how it made other things in her life difficult (though not work). In about two weeks, word had spread that she had a blood disorder, and the questions ended.

      5. Anonymous

        Like Jamie I bruise easily, and often have a bruise somewhere just from day-to-day bumping into things. I often don’t even realize I have a bruise (as they typically don’t even hurt), until someone mentions it to me. Because eventually someone will see a bruise I don’t bother even trying to cover them up.

        1. Kelly O

          I feel like I rolled a poor skin lottery. My facial skin is usually fairly clear, but I’m so sensitive, I can tell you when the “free and clear” detergents change formulas, because I get a break out on my arms, or other body areas.

          And, I bruise easily, and cuts take longer to heal. I almost always feel like the poster child for the Bubble Wrap Society. I tell people if they ask, but I figure if they stare, it’s their problem, not mine.

    2. Piper

      I suppose this is true, but as someone who constantly has bruises from playing various sports (and as someone who bruises easily), I just don’t care. I live in the South, it’s hot, and my bruises have now becoming a running joke among my coworkers and me. To me, they’re battle scars from successes I’ve had at races and athletic events.

      Also, leg makeup (Sally Hansen makes some) works wonders.

    3. AnotherAlison

      I think the bruise thing is just another case where you must exercise good judgement. I don’t think they are universally unprofessional, but for formal business situations, yes, I’d cover up.

      As for regular work days, if it’s really gross (and you know when it is), I would cover that too. I had some regular bruises on my legs recently, and I didn’t think twice about wearing skirts, but I also had a black/purple/green nasty bruise on my upper thigh that would have needed covering if it had been lower.

    4. TychaBrahe

      I think if that were me, I’d make sure to carry some evidence of my sport (photos of me competing or some such) so that if anyone asked if I were a victim of domestic violence, I could provide evidence that I actually do .

        1. LadyTL

          Many people tend to automatically assume bruises mean domestic violence despite someone saying otherwise until there is proof.

      1. Loose Seal

        I’m not sure what bothers me about what you said. I think it’s because there shouldn’t have to be proof that a person isn’t a victim of domestic violence.

        I walked smack into the bathroom door one night and banged my nose so hard, I had black eyes. That sounds like the most clichéd thing to say but it’s what I had to say over and over and over again for the next week and still people didn’t believe me and wanted to “help” me by giving me numbers to DV shelters. It was annoying and disconcerting to think that all those people at work were going to meet my husband and think he’s in the habit of punching me.

        [The bathroom door story is completely true. Our dog was in the habit of chewing the toilet paper roll if unsupervised. So my husband thought it would be a good idea to keep the bathroom door shut at night (we had been in the habit of leaving it open) but he didn’t tell me. So, when I got up in the dark to go to the bathroom, I ran straight into it.]

        1. AnotherAlison

          I had the same sense, and I think what bothered me is that “providing evidence” sounds like something that a victim would do to prove they weren’t a victim.

          1. Kelly O

            That’s my thought too. The people who tend to go on the loudest about how it was an accident are the ones with the largest problem.

        2. Anonymous

          Owch.
          I ran into my bedroom door once as a kid, hard enough to black my eye. The only thing that saved me from getting cut was my glasses, which broke.

        3. KellyK

          Oh, ouch! Unfortunately, it was probably harder for people to believe you were telling the truth because “walked into a door” is pretty much a cliché excuse for “getting beat up and hiding the fact.”

          Honestly, I think there’s a fine line. I think it’s good that people see (potential) signs of abuse and want to help, but it can also get uncomfortable to say for the forty-seventh time, “No, I really did walk into a door.”

          I think the thing people really need to ask themselves is, “If this person really were being abused, would my behavior help?” And hounding someone and implicitly calling them a liar is probably not going to do anything for their ability to get out of a bad situation. Offering help once, backing off if it doesn’t appear to be needed, but remaining friendly and being someone they can trust seems *much* more likely to be useful if your suspicions are right.

          1. Loose Seal

            I think the thing people really need to ask themselves is, “If this person really were being abused, would my behavior help?” And hounding someone and implicitly calling them a liar is probably not going to do anything for their ability to get out of a bad situation. Offering help once, backing off if it doesn’t appear to be needed, but remaining friendly and being someone they can trust seems *much* more likely to be useful if your suspicions are right.

            Oh, KellyK, I highlighted this because I think it’s so important. People that want to help forget that an actual victim of DV is a victim of bullying behavior as well. And then when “helpful” person is harassing the victim every day, it is just the same bullying behavior.

            [I had one women even tell me that she would get her husband to come over to my house to protect me so I could get my things. She would not be convinced I didn’t need their help and she had no idea that if I had been an actual victim of DV, she and her husband might have caused more problems.]

        4. Chinook

          The being thought of a DV victim is why my husband insists I cover my arms when I have bruises. Having been stopped by a scary looking guy who demanded to know what DH had done to me when he was taking me home from get my wisdom teeth pulled (he ahd to show the guy the prescription from the dentist before our neighbour would let us go), he is now paranoid that he will be seen as a wife beater. And, since he is a cop, even the rumour would ruin his career.

          I just point out the irony of how he is acting how a perpetrator would act and he just gives me a worried look and asks me to understand. I feel for the guy, though, because the default seems to be to look at men as attackers and women as victims.

          1. KellyK

            Wow, that’s a rough spot for both of you to be in. If you end up with bruises in places that are hard to cover, maybe concealer would help. Also, just as a pre-emptive thing, if you have bruise-inducing hobbies (contact sports, rock climbing, whatever), it might not be a bad idea for him to have a framed picture of you on his desk doing that thing.

            And yeah, getting your wisdom teeth out can definitely look like you’ve been beat up. I had major bruising from one of the top teeth (apparently weird twisty roots that took a lot of drilling to remove) that looked for all the world like I’d been punched in the eye.

    5. Marmite

      I work in a job that involves running around and climbing things outdoors for about 70% of my work time. I don’t bruise especially easily but I take enough daily knocks that I always have at least one large angry bruise somewhere.

      In my office no one bats an eyelid, even the ones that never leave the office know what we’re doing all day and that bruises and minor injuries come with the territory. I do cover up my legs for conferences and certain client meetings, whether or not I have bruises, because I have a couple of epic scars that draw attention away from what I’m saying. I don’t think I’d be unprofessional if I didn’t cover up, it’s just easier for me to keep people’s attention in the right place if I do!

    6. tcookson

      If my legs looked like that, I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing a short(ish) skirt like that to work. It would be a matter of feeling self-conscious about it; I don’t like to feel conspicuous, and that would make me feel so — witness that the picture is posted on at least two different blogs with no telling how many people commenting on it. No thanks!

      And BTW, those shoes aren’t flashy enough to be “sexy”, despite the height of the heel. That is a pair of conservative, black, close-toed pumps. “Sexy” shoes are open-toed, or strappy, or colorful, or have a spikier heel . . .

      1. The IT Manager

        I will agree with that description of a “sexy heel”.

        The thing for me is that photo is not normal dress for people in my office except for one lady. From what I know of her she is very smart and good at what she does, but she dresses up and more sexy/sexual for work than the rest of us. Heels and above the knee skirts. Almost everyone else is much more casual. Most women wear slacks, jeans, culots and when they’re wearing skits they’re not as form fitting and short as that one and are usually not accompanied by heels like that.

        So my percption of what is going on that stock photo is that the woman is choosing to dress that way for work with short skirt and heels; although, I do know intellectually that that is how some unfortunate workers have to dress everyday. She still could have gotten away with dress pants I bet.

    7. Lanya

      I think the best rule of thumb when it comes to scrapes, scratches, bruises, and bumps, is that they should be covered up for the sake of others’ eyes, in public, in general – not just at the workplace. Nasty bruise? Spider bite? 17 stitches? Fight with your kitten? Nobody really needs to see that. I’m a fan of using a small band-aid even on a really bad rogue pimple. Concealer only goes so far.

      1. KellyK

        Honestly, if it bothers other people, they’re free to not look. Any open wounds should be covered up for hygiene and safety, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to cover every scratch or bruise before stepping out of the house. And, honestly, I would actually notice a ton of band-aids more than I would notice a bunch of small scrapes and bruises. (The woman in the picture would easily be sporting half a dozen or more bandaids on her legs, in addition to the one that’s already there.)

        1. Ellie H.

          That’s how I feel. I have sensitive skin, bruise easily, highly allergic to insect bites, it takes a long time for cuts/scratches to heal, etc. I would be literally covered with bandaids and look really weird if I covered every scab, scratch, bruise etc. with a bandaid. (I mean, I wear bandaids that are actually necessary frequently enough.) Assuming nobody is staring at my legs, I think it’s probably more unobtrusive just to go bandaidless. I am pretty self-conscious about the scars and scabs so I would even prefer to cover them up – I just think it would look weirder, and plus, wearing bandaids all the time isn’t great for your skin either.

        2. Lanya

          I agree that if it bothers others, they are free not to look. But most people still do look. It’s human nature. (Hence, bottlenecks.) I’m not saying band-aids or gauze are not noticeable, but they are often visually more appealing than what they are covering up.

          1. KellyK

            Sure, it’s human nature to look, but it’s easier to look away than it is to cover head-to-toe or empty a box of bandaids covering up every little scrape.

            I don’t view it as my job as a person going out in public to make sure everyone who looks at me likes what they see—whether that means covering bruises or always wearing make-up, or whatever. I don’t think anyone has a right to expect that from anybody else.

            1. fposte

              I think there’s a difference between a workplace and public, though, and between “every little scrape” and notable and recurring damage.

              1. KellyK

                Oh, definitely. I was replying to Layla’s comment that “the best rule of thumb when it comes to scrapes, scratches, bruises, and bumps, is that they should be covered up for the sake of others’ eyes, in public, in general – not just at the workplace.” I don’t think that’s reasonable.

                Even the bruises on the original picture don’t strike me as so major that they require being covered up at work, unless you’re giving a presentation or in a customer-facing role.

      2. Marmite

        I wouldn’t cover a scratch or a bruise with a band aid, an open wound sure, I don’t want it to get infected/bleed on things. Generally though I find scratches/small wounds taker longer to heal if kept under band aids, light and air help the healing process. Also, spider and bug bites I tend to get allergic reactions to so covering with a band aid would be painful. I’m not going to wave my scratches and bug bites in your face, if you’re squeamish don’t look!

      3. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles

        Lanya,
        Bandaid adhesive gives me terrible welts that turn to scars. What else could I use?

        1. bearing

          Gauze to cover the wound, followed by a non-adhesive “wrap” type bandage to hold the gauze on.

        2. Aimee

          I have that same issue, as does my son. Cotton gauze and medical tape work well for us (for some reason, the medical tape does not cause the same reaction for us – it’s what my doctor’s office recommened).

          1. LadyB

            Your problem may be an allergy to zinc oxide. That’s one of the components of the stickiness of Elastoplast and similar adhesive bandages. Both I and my mother have the same problem – but my mother didn’t find out until she sprained her ankle and had a toe to knee adhesive bandage applied. I was only 9 and forty years later I can still remember how terrible her leg looked when she finally soaked the bandage off!
            Micropore tape (the papery type adhesive tape used to secure dressings) doesn’t seem to have the same effect.

        3. Lanya

          Many times, I think people can simply wear the right clothing to cover a cut, scrape, or bruise while it’s healing, without having to bandage anything.

      4. Elizabeth West

        Depends on how bad it is. Former coworker used to play rugby on the weekends and would come in with facial lacs and bruises all the time. We knew what they were from, and since he sat in the corner and wasn’t in a public-facing position, it was easy to ignore.

        If he were actively bleeding or something, I’m sure he would have been sent home to clean up.

        1. Lanya

          LOL I had to include that, because my coworker once had a “fight with her kitten”, which she lost. And for the next week, while the at least 30 scratches all over her forearms were healing, she never bothered to cover them up…even while out to lunch with our brand-new intern. It just made her look very unprofessional. This was years ago and I’m still remembering it negatively. Long sleeves would have gone a long way.

        2. Kelly O

          Oh man.

          When my Giz was little, her FAVORITE game ever was “latch on to mom’s hand and bite.” She did it even as she got older, and I cannot tell you how many times I got asked about “what on earth happened to your hand?”

          Kitty. Really excited kitty playing as though my hand is a killer predator that she must slay with all her might.

  2. mel

    On the topic of bruises/scrapes I imagine it would matter more to those in a more visible job! Us in the kitchen are regularly bruised or burned or scraped and as long as we keep open wounds wrapped tight, it’s not terribly disturbing.

    On the other hand, we had one teenager who was into some kind of sport and would show up to work constantly with large, grotesque (and unbandaged) patches of torn skin up and down his arms and legs, which I thought would be much too gross for SERVING food, but there it was.

    (and yet the ladies aren’t allowed to dress modestly or have a strand of hair out of place…)

    1. Elizabeth West

      Public-facing positions may be a bit different. Once when I worked at the deli in CA, a server showed up to work with a horrific road rash from a scooter accident on the side of her face and on her arm (she was fine, other than that). They asked her to please either go home or trade jobs with someone in the kitchen until she healed.

      It was very off-putting–large red scabs, etc–especially where people were eating. I cringe just thinking about how much it must have stung!

  3. Jessa

    I think the bigger issue with bruises is the potential for people to misunderstand. You know you bike and it’s an issue, they’re absolutely sure you’re lying and you’re being abused and OY there goes the spiral of trying to prove up that you’re not. I’d do my best to cover them but I’d also make it very clear how they happened, if someone does see them. Right now with politics the way it is right now the default is “omg bruises, is someone hurting him or her?”

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      I once hit myself in the head with a crowbar, which resulted in a impressive black eye. Not wanting to admit to my stupidity (and lack of safety equipment), I laughingly made up 3 or 4 crazy options for people to choose from for why it happened. When a co-worker discretely asked if I was being hit, that she was there for me if I was, I was touched by her concern. She doesn’t know my family: why should I be offended by her caring about me? That made me think better of her for speaking up.

        1. ThursdaysGeek

          Prying something above my head and it slipped. It didn’t hit very hard, nor even that close to my eye, but a hard hat is always a good idea (and gloves, and eye protection).

  4. EngineerGirl

    I used to get a lot of bruises from my outdoors activities. Dark stockings are good, or a dressy pant suit. Don’t go bare – it is really distracting if you are presenting and you want people to focus on the right thing. Tunic tops might be OK for networking, but I tend to go for 3/4 sleeve length blouses. Also printed sheer tops with a shell under it. The print hides the bruise while the shell makes it summery. Also consider a sheath dress with a sheer Jacket. I’ve found sheer jackets at Dress Barn

    1. TracyB

      I have some very noticeable scarring on my arms from a chronic skin condition. I wear the sheer tops/shell underneath quite often in the summer. as EngineerGirl described above.

      On the other hand, I wish I didn’t have to feel s0 embarrassed by something I can’t control.

  5. The IT Manager

    I looked at the photo that accompanied the linked article at it totally looks unprofessional to me especially with a skirt and “sexy” heels. (FYI: I pretty much never wear heels so anything that high looks like the wearer is going for some kind of sexy look.) And not to return to the dreaded panty hose discussion, but some dark hose would go a long way hiding the bruises, scrapes, and band-aids in the photo. Somehow socially accepted standards of “professional” for women has come to mean smooth legs when wearing skirts. It used to mean hose and that convention has been slipping away, but bruised and battered legs do not look smooth and therefore not “professional”.

    There’s not really an equivalent for men, but if a man came to work with a back eye eye or beaten face, I think people would look askance at him too and we’d all agree that’s not a professional image.

    For both men and women, if it’s a one time thing it’ll probably be overlooked especially with a good explanation. But, even then, for employees who have face-to-face contact with the public, they may be asked to avoid the public when they look battered and bruised.

    And that’s pretty much my best attempt to explain my gut reaction. It’s tricky because “social convention” is so explain. And when you try there’s often no sensible reason for it, but I’d bet most everyone here would have the gut feeling that the woman in that photo looks unprofessional.

    * Women have the added lovely bonus with bruises that people will wonder if they are being abused by their partner. People are unlikely to jump to that conclusion with a man.

    1. Bwmn

      I have to agree. I think that perhaps a way to think of sports like mountain biking/power lifting/other high bruising sports is that it’s like getting a tattoo. In some professional environments showing that tattoo may be ok, but for many professional environments – best to accept the necessity of keeping it covered.

      If a man (or woman) wants to get a full tattoo sleeve – that may mean never wearing short sleeves to work. If one’s weekend warrior pasttime involves bruising – it’s best to have a way to cover them depending on the work context. It reminds me of that scene in Fight Club when Edward Norton’s character starts showing up to work with massive facial bruises, bleeding, etc.

      In the posted photo – without knowing anything about the woman – my immediate thoughts would be “Was she in an accident? Is she ok? What’s wrong?” In addition to suspicions of a woman potentially being abused, in a professional context I would never want the first thoughts about me to be about my physical health and wellbeing.

      1. KellyK

        I don’t think the tattoo analogy quite works because the size and placement of a tattoo is completely deliberate. People choose to engage in activities where they may end up with bruises, and the type of activity does make particular locations likely or unlikely, but no one can say, “Okay, today I’ll make sure to only get bruises *above* my knees so they’re covered by my skirt.”

        Depending on your work environment, trying to cover bruises might also be kind of a no-win situation if you’re always wearing long sleeves in the middle of the summer, because being sweaty isn’t professional either.

        1. class factotum

          As I sit here in my cubicle with long sleeves, a jacket, and about to reach for the blanket I keep in a drawer, I envy you being someplace warm enough that sweating is an option. :)

          1. The IT Manager

            While I do not envy anyone who worries about sweating in the office, I have never experieinced such a phenominon except when the A/C was broken. Dressing is tricky, though. I live in Florida and have to consider being cool enough to make it into the office without working up a sweat and being warm enough at work. I have five sweaters in a variety of colors stashed in my cubical cabinet and two fleece zip ups (the fleece hasn’t been used since summer started a couple of months back) for keeping warm in my usually too cold office.

          2. Jazzy Red

            No kidding! It’s supposed to 95-97 outside today, but it’s in the 60s in our building.

            1. Elizabeth West

              I freeze every day. Seriously thinking about bringing a little blanket in. We have shorts days, and I can’t even think about wearing those.

              1. Natalie

                Get a pashima – they’re inexpensive and versatile. I keep a black one in my office that I can wear as a shawl or scarf or use as a lap blanket.

        2. Bwmn

          If it’s a professional environment that requires shorts, shorter skirts, and/or short sleeves then that’s one thing – but currently I work in the Middle East where coverage of arms/legs all year is pretty common and often in high heat. There are lots of ways to do it without being overly sweaty – not even to mention the prevalence of A/C in a lot of work places.

          While the decision to have bruises on your calves or not may not be intention – I do think that it’s fair to acknowledge that certain types of activity may make you look unprofessional. Now, not all bruises are super noticable and I’m not saying that anyone with any minor skin tear/abrasion shouldn’t be at work unless it can be totally hidden. So there will always be a judgement call – but I would definitely not want to be known around an office as the “bruised one”. Particularly as a woman.

          1. KellyK

            Oh, yeah. Totally different cultural expectations. But, I would imagine, also different clothing options (lighter fabrics, longer skirts, etc.). On a side note, if you have any good tips to share on staying cool clothing-wise, I’d love to hear them. My office has A/C, but it still seems like I’m always warm. Part of it is having a window–which I’m definitely *not* complaining about–that gets a lot of afternoon sun.

            And yeah, I agree that it’s a judgment call. When I was doing contact sports, I had a ton of bruises on my arms. People noticed, but it didn’t seem to affect me adversely in any way. If I had a big meeting or some other reason to look especially polished, I’d probably cover a bruise, especially a large one, but I don’t think I’d wear long sleeves all summer long unless I worked somewhere that that was expected in general.

            1. Bwmn

              In some cases, honestly – the clothing options are no different. You’ll see lots of guys wearing suits in July in offices where the A/C will be set to 79 F at the coolest.

              Personally that sounds like death, but clearly different expectations on body temperature. What I find to be the biggest help is finding sheer, very light long sleeve shirts that I wear over tank tops/shells/etc. In the summer I actually really like this option as I feel like it better hides sweating.

    2. EngineerGirl

      I was disgusted by the comments. These people don’t seem to understand the difference between scars and oozing road rash (ewe!). I also see a lot of immaturity in the posts – boasting about “showing off”. Real hard core people don’t need to show off.

      The posters also don’t understand about keeping your life outside of the office outside of the office. There’s a limit to what you bring inside.

      In general there was a lack of understanding about professionalism

      And believe me, I would love to go barefoot in the office and bring my orange Tabby.

      1. Elizabeth

        Yeah, I noticed the equating of scars and bruises, too. IMO a woman with scars on her arms or legs should not need to keep them covered up as long as her attire is otherwise office-appropriate – they are part of her history and will be with her for her entire life. Bruises and scrapes, on the other hand, are temporary. Also, the sight of injuries makes many people wince in sympathy pain, which is not the kind of reaction you want to elicit from your coworkers/clients/customers.

        I often have bruises on my knees from rock climbing because I can be clumsy. When I do, I wear pants or skirts that are well below the knee until they’ve faded to nearly invisible. I also have a scar on my forearm from a childhood injury that I make no effort to hide. They’re in different categories.

        1. Elizabeth

          Out of curiosity, Alison, do you know why this comment was flagged as needing moderation? Is it because I posted another one less than ten minutes prior?

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Nope, sometimes the spam filter temporarily stops working and when it does, it holds everything submitted during that period for moderation. Usually it’s fixed within a couple of minutes.

      2. A Teacher

        You can read my post below, but again I’m not wearing pants or longer sleeves in May, August, or September because my medication makes me bruise, when I teach in a building that doesn’t have air conditioning. It reaches over 100 degrees in the room and higher if 27 computers are on in the lab when it is 90 degrees out and then add 30 students to the mix (yes, teenage BO is AWESOME). I also get eczema from sweating in the heat–even more fun. So if I have to choose between someone seeing a bruise or having eczema rash in every covered joint, you can bet what I’m going to pick. If someone thinks a bruise is unprofessional, I think it is their problem and not mine. For me it isn’t a matter of showing off but a matter of comfort.

        1. Jamie

          If your computer lab is over 100 degrees consistently they need a better cooling system. They are shortening the lives on those computers and the individual cooling fans aren’t meant to work that hard for long periods of time.

          1. Julie K

            So true! My laptop has shut itself down a couple of times due to overheating. Half of the reason there’s A/C in my office is for the benefit of the equipment.

    3. Cat

      I think those are dead standard heels for work. I mean, certainly you don’t have to wear them but I don’t think it would be right to assume a co-worker who was was trying to be “sexy.”

      1. Y

        Yeah, those are really normal. I guess these are about 8 centimeters (3 inches) high? I usually wear something more like 4-5 centimeters (2 inches), but 3 isn’t terribly high. Not to mention that the height does not imply “sexy” for me.

      2. Xay

        Agreed. I’ve seen women wear 5 inch stiletto heels to my office – those heels are practically modest.

      3. Anonymous

        I though these were some 4+ inch platform black patent leather stiletto peep toes based on the comment (so of course I had to look). These are really conservative heels. It’s like the next step up from a loafer. My 60 year old boss wears “sexier” heels than this.

    4. Anonicorn

      As someone who lives in the South like the OP, to me panty hose are hotter (erm, in an actual heat-related way) than wearing pants.

      I actually had to make the decision in favor of pants this morning, on a 98 degree day, because I have mosquito bites peppering my legs. Covering things like this has always been more of a cosmetic decision to avoid embarrassment, but I never considered it an aspect of professionalism until today.

      1. The IT Manager

        As someone who lives in the South like the OP, to me panty hose are hotter (erm, in an actual heat-related way) than wearing pants.

        Totally in agreement.

      2. Jazzy Red

        I agree with you. I stopped wearing skirts years ago and giving up pantyhose was really the deciding factor. Funny how they never keep you warm in the winter, though.

        1. Anonicorn

          Funny how they never keep you warm in the winter, though.

          Hah! Funny how that works, eh?

          1. Chinook

            I had the opposite reaction. I like wearing panythose in the winter underneath my dress pants because they keep the cold cloth from coming in direct contact with my legs when I sit down, allow me to wear dress shoes in the office because I can take off my wool socks and still have something on my feet for my shoes and the control top part gives a little extra layer of heat when sitting down on the cold bench.

    5. OP #2

      Not sure if this is going to horrify people, but if the standard is smooth legs than bothering with bruises probably won’t make any difference as I don’t shave anyway.

    6. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles

      To me, it looks like a business worthy professional got in an accident.
      For special networking occasions I’d go for slacks/pantsuit, or nylons, or try that leg makeup I’ve seen. But there are some times when you just have to make do–can’t bring an entire wardrobe on business trips, out of time, etc. And I think characterizing someone as “unprofessional” for what is clearly an injury is too strong a word. It *does* detract from an overall polished look, but is temporary and cosmetic.

      1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles

        Geez, my reply was to the IT Manager’s comment way up thread.

  6. LJ

    #6: Our IT director would have a a thing or twelve to say to that manager. It’s one thing for your manager to monitor your email during an absence. But if she is leaving your computer wide open to all and sundry? That’s essentially offering anonymous network access for everyone at your company, with you (and ultimately your manager) on the hook for any issues that arise because of it.

      1. Jamie

        This is one I know didn’t come from someone at my company – ugh.

        I’ve gone in to get documents improperly stored locally while someone was out, because some things can’t wait, but then we have a chat when they get back about storing things on the network and a reminder of policy.

        Also sharing a computer while someone is out is done on rare occasions, but with a guest login. Logins are never shared and email is never shared – that’s just unprofessional. If you need to share email ask IT to set up a shared account everyone can access.

        A login is an electronic footprint and if everyone is using Jane’s while she’s out how do I know who was working they keyboard when the virus was downloaded or all that porn was saved?

        What I want to know is why now? What precipitated this incredibly stupid and unsecured change? And what the hell is IT thinking?

        1. LisaLyn

          Where I work, we have to get HR approval that has to go through the Information Security department before anyone can get to anyone else’s files. Even if that person has died. That has actually happened. There was one incident where a fired employee wanted some personal files from his computer and that was a HUGE deal as HR refused to let anyone from the department look at the computer and had InfoSec handle the whole transfer.

          Now, logging into a computer with your own login is ok and permitted since you won’t end up with access to that person’s email or documents (provided they store them as suggested). So, that aspect wouldn’t be a huge deal here. All of that is just FWIW.

        2. VictoriaHR

          At my husband’s old job, if someone left their computer up and unlocked, anyone could sit down, open the email, and send a department-wide email saying simply “DONUTS!” Then the person who left their computer unlocked had to bring in donuts for the entire department the next day.

            1. Jazzy Red

              Pretty common at my place, too.

              It’s in our Policy & Procedure manual, so no one can say they didn’t know about this.

              We have a lot of confidential information in our company, so it makes a lot of sense to us.

          1. anon

            That’s awesome!

            Had something similar at a place I worked at a few years ago. During summer student season, it was well known that leaving your workstation unlocked could lead to an embarrassing consequence, but some people still forgot. The company had set up a “classifieds” section for employees to sell items, etc., and once in a while we’d see postings for people selling a tuna sandwich or paper clips. The most memorable one was a posting looking for a specific ceramic cat to add to an existing collection, complete with pictures.

          2. Ash

            I just did this to my co-worker after reading your post. I’m not sure he’ll follow through, but it happened. :D

        3. Marmite

          Exactly, why not the shared e-mail account? There’s one of these at my office that my colleagues and I can e-mail when we’re out in the field and need something answered by someone, anyone in the office. Sometimes the receptionist gets to it first, sometimes the CEO. We don’t care who it is as long as we get the relevant info.

        4. Chinook

          An IT person going on to my computer is not an issue – it is like a male janitor going into the woman’s washroom – you are doing it because you have to so others need to get over it.

          OTOH, someone logging in as me has the ability to find confidential (read: HR and financial documents) information about me. I lost it (as in quit on the spot and they had to beg me to not leave I was so pissed) when one of the women who was covering reception went through my emails and then had the nerve to complain to the office manager about what she had read. The only way they could convince me to stay was to guarantee that said woman would never touch my computer again AND there would be a separate login created for reception coverage otherwise I was the only employee there that had no right to confidential information like performance reviews.

          Ironically, complaints about unprofessional emails (incomplete information not rudeness) coming from my login disappearred once the separate login was created.

    1. Vicki

      As would the IT folks at most companies where I have worked.

      OP – have a talk with your IT director. As him/her for the policy.

      If the policy is “boss gets access to your password”, the company has potential security hole waiting to open up.

  7. Josh S

    Do bruises look unprofessional on a woman at work?
    Let’s reframe– Do bruises look unprofessional on a man at work?

    I think that barring any really gross bruises (like the ones that turn colors, get big and puffy, etc) it shouldn’t be a big deal if you’ve got some bruises and scrapes on your legs. Let them show or not based on what you’re comfortable with (and according to the dress code & culture of your workplace), and to hell with anyone who thinks you don’t deserve to enjoy your hobby while you’re off-work.

    Now, if you’re coming to work with a bruised and battered face, I think we’re talking a different ball game.

    1. Jazzy Red

      Bruises would look just as unprofessional on hairy male legs.

      No one is saying you shouldn’t enjoy your hobby, Josh S. They’re saying that scabs, oozing scrapes, etc. should be covered up, if only to help prevent infection. And really, most people don’t want to look at carnage at work.

      1. A Teacher

        Again, please read my posts, but why should people that bruise with medication–blood thinners are common in people that suffered from a heart attack and yes, the bruises on the arms turn all shades of purple and green–have to cover up? Is it their problem that people can’t handle looking at a bruise? For my father, being bruised means he is still alive after a massive heart attack and if people can’t handle looking at bruises caused by blood thinners, they need to get over it–but that’s just my opinion.

        1. fposte

          I would say, from a devil’s advocate standpoint, that people may be looking at bruises when they should be looking at the company’s competence, and that sleeves and trousers really aren’t coercive. Legally, though, you’d want to make damn sure you weren’t only making this requirement of people who were bruising for medical reasons.

        2. Chinook

          A Teacher, I would agree with you to a point also because certain skin hues show bruising much more clearly, and ghastly, then others. Heck, as a type, I can draw for you the vein and artery patterns on the back of my hands. Wouldn’t a polciy like this disparately impact those of certain ethnic groups more than others?

          1. Jamie

            I went for my first iron infusion the other day and the nurse told me she was checking out my veins before I even entered the room. I’m practically clear – you could easily use me as living example of the circulatory system because my veins are so visible.

            And yes, bruises look much worse on me because the contrast is so stark.

            1. Chinook

              I love the look on the nurses when I roll up my sleeves to give blood (having a high iron count doesn’t guarantee melanin in the skin). They always smile because they can see what they have to do rather than feel and, as a result, they never miss and I never bruise!

  8. ECP

    #5 – I have seen an employer ban an employee from coming into the work place after being fired but it was due to fear of the employee damaging or causing a scene. This is usually done by a written notice under the Protection of Property Act which you can then be formally charged under; however, without the written notice they could still call police if you attend (even if you are not doing anything wrong). It may be that the employer said this out of anger when you quit but it may be best to give a break, in my opinion. Good luck.

  9. ECP

    #1 it may be that the employer wants you to ask questions to see if you are truly interested in the job and how you think on your feet so to speak. I would ask things like – why the person you are filling the job for left, how the chain of command works, what are your hours, how is overtime accounted for, if necessary. I would ask about vacation time but not all questions about sick time and vacation time so you don’t give the impression you will be off more time than working.

    1. Mrs Addams

      I read #1 as if the interviewer was asking the OP to come up with questions for the OP to answer. In which case, I would certainly go with Alison’s suggestions. It’s a great opportunity for the OP to tell the interview exactly what she wants to tell them, without having to shoe-horn it into conversation, or hope that the right questions are asked.

    2. ECP

      I’ve never heard of that way to do an interview before. Agreed, it would be a way for you to get out info that you want the employer to know about you – so they can see if you are a “fit” for the job but isn’t part of the interview to find out more info on what the job is about. What is you don’t know all aspects of the job, then you may be lacking on proving you are the right “fit”.

      1. AgilePhalanges

        When I interviewed for the job I’m in now, I first interviewed with the hiring manager, who asked me the usual barrage of interview questions. A week or two later, her boss was in town, so they scheduled me an interview with him. I prepared for that interview as I had for the other one, coming up with responses to typical interview questions and practicing them so they would sound polished, but when I got into the room with him, he just said that we had the next hour for me to ask HIM any questions I had. That threw me for a loop, but I did come up with some (including Alison’s “magic question,” which impressed him), and I must have done well, as I was hired. :-)

      2. Vicki

        I’ve never asked people to write them down beforehand, but when I’m the interviewER, this os one opf my favorite questions to ask:

        “What should I ask you that I haven’t asked?”

          1. Vicki

            Sometimes they pick the “why do I want to work here” (because I never ask that.

            Sometimes they choose some ast job-related project or event to tell me about.

            Invariably, they say “Wow. That’s an interesting question. I’ve never been asked that.”

            It gives them a better focus than “tell me about yourself”.

          2. KarenT

            I was asked that once. Threw me a bit, but I just answered with “I’d like to tell you more about my experience doing X”

  10. ECP

    #6 If an employee is responsible for the work they do on the computer, then a password is for that person only. A shared network ususally means they can access your work without being able to change it – meaning they don’t need your password – so why do they need this password access? Sounds like you need to be careful of your work. It is possible they don’t understand what a shared network is.

    1. LisaLyn

      Yeah, I was thinking smaller business or something with the boss acting as the IT guy because he thinks he knows computers. I worked my way through college helping businesses like that out.

    2. Just a Reader

      I worked for a tiny company that made everyone keep their password as “password.”

      I found out after I left that the boss would wait until everyone had left and then read all their email.

  11. FiveNine

    No. 4 — I know this is a totally unfair, removed knee-jerk reaction, but even with this distance from the situation I found it kind of irritating that after being asked multiple times how you’d manage the job and school, and being told upfront that the hours typically are not flexible, you’re about to … ask them to be flexible. (Really?) Like I said, I know that’s a removed knee-jerk reaction — and of course you can always ask and they might say yes — but I can’t imagine how being closer to the situation is going to soften such a gut reaction.

    1. Anonymous

      This was my reaction as well. If I were the interviewer, I would be skeptical that the OP “just found out” about the new schedule and would probably assume that the OP was being deliberately misleading until getting an offer.

      1. VictoriaHR

        Not at all. She probably just got her class schedule for the next semester. I hire a lot of high school and college students and I’m very familiar with schedules having to change 2 or 3 times per year to accommodate classes.

        1. AnotherAlison

          I think this is where the interviewer’s history/perception matters.

          Over 10 yrs ago, I did an evening master’s program that had classes at set times (5:30 and 7:00, or something like that) 3 nights a week. It was set up specifically for working adults and never changed. So, I might be thinking, “Yeah, right, you’re ‘finishing’ the degree, so you knew the schedule.” But, NOW I’m aware that other programs are not as regimented, or are not specifically designed for adults. I’ve had to take online classes where we were supposed to listen to the lecture live during the workday. I felt awkward about doing that, even if I was making up the time later in the day.

          1. KellyK

            Yeah, it can vary greatly. You might be in a program that’s supposed to be only evening, but there’s a class you need that’s only offered during the day. Or any number of things.

            When I got my master’s degree, it was a program designed for working adults, all online, asynchronous classes. So, in theory, there were no scheduled class meetings, just deadlines, and I did my schoolwork in the evenings, with no conflicts with work. In actual practice, however, several classes had group projects that ended up requiring group meetings (which were tricky to schedule with group members’ individual commitments, especially with students spread across three or four time zones). I still didn’t end up having work conflicts, but I easily could have.

        2. FiveNine

          I too thought about this before I posted my initial comment about my knee-jerk reaction. The employer went to lengths to convey to the OP that scheduling around classes can be a challenge, shifts generally aren’t changed, and how would you manage that? OP said he/she has never had a problem at all. I’m not sure OP reflected on whether that’s because OP could always count on flexibility from the employer, which this new one was making clear really isn’t quite the same scenario. If I were the employer and OP came to me with this I’d pretty much take it that OP is going to do this repeatedly and really either hadn’t grasped what was being conveyed, or was too flip about taking the time to understand, or did deliberately misrepresent the answers to get a job offer.

    2. Ruffingit

      I thought about that as well, but it’s quite possible the OP didn’t know they would need the flexibility at the time they took the job.

      Also, this sort of flexibility is not that extreme. Asking to leave 45 minutes before the end of the workday may be acceptable as opposed to someone who wants to leave for two hours in the middle of the workday to take a class.

      Still, all of that said, the OP needs to tread carefully here. She knows the feelings of the company on flexibility so, as Alison said, she needs to be prepared to hear a NO answer and act accordingly.

  12. Spiny

    #5- I think there was a post about a restaurant a while back. Someone in the comments mentioned a ban on recent former employees because they would try to poach other employees for their new restaurant.
    Of course, if you quit and walked out on the spot, they may just be trying to keep someone who is angry/upset/disgruntled from infecting the mood of the staff.

    1. Not so NewReader

      I thought it showed poor foresight on the employer’s part.

      It’s a restaurant… I can just see former employee talking with a group of people:

      “Let’s go to dinner at XYZ place.”
      Former employee:”I can’t go there for three months.”
      “Ok, let’s take our part of TEN and go somewhere else.”

      I would advise the employer not to fire too many people in a short time. It might kill business.

      1. Ruffingit

        Yeah, I think that’s weird too. Banning someone from a restaurant is possibly losing business for yourself. Not a good idea.

  13. Spiny

    I don’t feel a burning need to look at excessive scrapes and bruises- but what about scars? If the tree won, do you need to cover your knees once the dried blood and broken blood vessels are gone?

    1. AmyNYC

      I’m squeamish and can’t stand the sight of blood, so I cover things that are bleeding/early scabbing and hope people do the same. Once it’s a scar, it’s a scar; and if you’re comfortable with it, that’s fine.
      I rock climb and I’m clumsy (while climbing and also while just being me), so I bruise and bump a lot, and I cover bleedy things, but I hadn’t thought much about it before this conversation.

      I do wonder about injured hands (papercuts, hangnails, scrapes) at interviews. What’s better, bandaids or scrapes?

    2. Marmite

      I don’t hide scars for everyday work (but I don’t hide bruises either as I often get them in the course of a workday) but do for conferences/client meetings where I want attention solely on what I’m saying.

      I have some epic scars though, that draw attention by virtue of their size/shape! One on my arm looks like a shark bite (it’s actually from an allergice reaction to a brown recluse bite).

      I was thinking about this today though as I was at a conference and met a woman with lots of horizontal scars on her wrists that made me think self-harm. Personally if that were me I think I’d have worn long sleeves (she had a jacket on but the sleeves only came to mid-forearm), but I’m not sure that’s a fair reaction.

      1. Coffee

        Just chiming in to say that horizontal forearm/wrist scars can also come from burns you get when baking with industrial-size baking trays! So that’s an alternative explanation…

  14. KellyK

    I would try to cover bruises for conferences if you can. Because it’s just your legs and you don’t normally wear skirts for a regular workday, it shouldn’t be too tough to wear either dark hose or pants.

    If you were ending up with bruises on more visible areas, like your arms, I wouldn’t expect you to always cover them unless they were huge and horribly distracting, or you had a really customer-facing role (or high-profile meetings to attend). Especially in the summer in the South.

  15. VictoriaHR

    #7 – I did this once and I actually had reached out to the person who’d gotten fired from that job, and whom I was replacing. A little awkward…

    1. anon o

      I was on the receiving end of something similar – recently someone had left my department and I was having his email forwarded to me while I found a replacement. I got an email (to his email) from someone I was interviewing (but hadn’t interviewed yet) asking if Joe (the departed person) would speak to them about the job, company, etc. I responded explaining that Joe was no longer with the company and if he had any questions before the interview to feel free to send them. I felt bad for him.

  16. Jane Doe

    I would probably not even think bruises were remarkable (or even notice them) unless they were on someone’s face or were very large and dark.

    I wouldn’t wear hose to cover them up unless it was winter or fall, though. If they really bothered me I’d probably try covering them up with concealer.

  17. Jean

    Re #7: Alison, can you confirm something re LinkedIn ettiquette? The OP says: “Would it be terribly inappropriate to reach out to someone on LinkedIn who currently works for that company in a position very similar to the one I’m interviewing for with questions about their personal experience there? Or would it come off as trying to get an in with them…?”

    I’ve just read your April 24, 2013 column “Stop Annoying People on LinkedIn.” Based on this, my hunch is that after one has applied to XYZ Organization via the usual channels, it’s OK to drop a message saying “hey, I’ve applied” to his/her existing contacts at XYZ Organization–but it’s rude (for various reasons) to send the same message to XYZ employees who are otherwise total strangers.

    Please confirm. It’s not the first time that an AAM reader has found other experts giving advice that’s totally opposite to yours. The problem is that even the bad advice can sound convincing to a non-expert! Thanks.

      1. Jean

        Thanks again. I’ll follow your advice going forward (not that I’ve ever acted on the other opinion!).

  18. Amanda

    I also feel like excessive bruising is unprofessional but can’t pin down why. I ride horses and it’s not unusual for me to have a bruise or two or thrree – I once had an impressive black eye for a week after a fall. I rarely wear skirts or short sleeves, though, out of personal preference, so it’s almost never an issue for me.

    Thinking about it further, though, isn’t there a double standard here? I used to work with a man who was a mountain biker and he frequently came in with some really impressive bruises, road rash, black eyes, split lips, you name it. All carefully treated and cleaned by the time he got to work, but still bad enough that you did a double-take. No one ever thought him less professional; in a way, I wonder if people didn’t think of him as more masculine and thus sort of weirdly more competent. A woman with those types of injuries would be considered not “put-together” enough, and maybe even not feminine enough.

    1. Anonymous

      It does sound like another manifestation of the same old attitude that women’s bodies are problematic, and a woman is expected to police hers so it does not draw attention. Also that an active woman is an aberration and disruptive – something that weighs on girls.

      I say this as a woman who spent a couple of decades doing fencing and martial arts. If I were still getting bruised on a regular basis (which would be peferable to my current state of overweight), I’d cover up at formal events, outreach activities, around people who don’t know me and who would be distracted and uncomfortable because social convention would rule a question off-limits. But regular work, no, unless it’s an exceptionally large or painful-looking injury. I’d put some action shots of the sport in my cubicle or on screen-saver as a clue. Otherwise, let them get to know me.

      Let’s push back against the cripplingly narrow expectations of what’s acceptable for women’s bodies. (I am feeling militant today.)

      1. LisaLyn

        Ha! I share your militancy! I mountain and road bike with a male coworker. We both get injured. He’s gone over his handlebars several times and ended up with a split lip and a black eye. My legs are usually scratched up and bruised. I’ve never really considered that we may be viewed differently, but maybe that’s because pretty much everybody knows we bike. However, now that you bring it up, you’re making me wonder!

        I will say that the one time I ended up with a bruise on my face, I thought I had covered it up, but under florescent light, things can look different. And of course, we had a staff meeting that day. One coworker did ask a coworker I’m closer with if I was “having trouble at home”. I can’t see him ever suspecting the same thing about my biking buddy. Hmm.

        1. Jazzy Red

          More women are battered and killed by their spouses/partners than men. It’s just a fact.

            1. LisaLyn

              But my point is, this person went to some other story about how it happened whereas with my coworker, I don’t think they’d immediately think, “Hey, did you get in a bar fight?”

              1. AnotherAlison

                My current manager DID get in a bar fight, lol, so I might immediately think that. (Someone just hauled off and hit him, no instigation, no actual fight.)

                (Not to make light of the abuse discussion, of course.)

        2. Jamie

          I mountain and road bike with a male coworker. We both get injured. He’s gone over his handlebars several times and ended up with a split lip and a black eye. My legs are usually scratched up and bruised.

          Ow! You’d think my less adventurous hobby of watching tv would be safer than yours but I gave myself a huge bruise on my forehead when I was tossing the remote to my husband across the room and got confused and threw it the wrong way and whacked myself in the face.

          Fortunately the people I work with know I’m clumsy so pretty much anything is believable with me. We have a corner in my office I routinely run into and then apologize to because I keep mistaking it for a person. If I were a cartoon I’d totally be a female Mr. Magoo.

          1. Julie K

            threw it the wrong way and whacked myself in the face

            Thanks, Jamie! This made me laugh out loud! :)

          2. Julie K

            This also reminds me of a classroom incident. When I was doing standup training, at the beginning of class, I used to ask everyone to introduce her/himself as an icebreaker. I had a koosh ball that I would throw to the first person, and after that, the class members decided who would go next by throwing the ball to someone else (I explain the whole process before I throw). One time, I threw the koosh ball to a woman who was looking right at me, and she just sat there and let it hit her in the forehead (~at least my aim was good~). I felt terrible and apologized, and she was physically fine, but I never did figure out why she just sat there and didn’t at least raise her arms or duck out of the way (maybe a vision impairment).

      2. fposte

        There may be some of that, but I think mostly the issue is that more women than men have visible legs at work. Men are also likelier to have some cosmetic protection in leg hair even if their legs are visible, and I’ll happily join you in pushing back against the leg-hair inequity there.

    2. AnotherAlison

      I have to say that I personally would not have a double standard for men and women. I don’t think a man should come in with his face a hot mess and then meet with clients, and same for a woman. I’d be fine with either of them just being in the office with coworkers with their battle bruises, as long as anything really nasty is covered (bandage or clothing).

      I don’t know where people are getting this women-shouldn’t-be-active (or shouldn’t look like it) thing. I don’t see it at my employer. If I come in with pumped up arms (like today), even my male bosses comment something like “You been working out? Nice!” A group of us went wakeboarding after a training session last week, and people are regularly putting together coed teams for Warrior Dashes and such. Maybe we’re just weird.

    3. KarenT

      I really don’t think it’s a double standard, because I absolutely would find it equally distracting/unkempt on a male. I wouldn’t go as far as to say unprofessional unless they were in a very customer facing role. If someone was in the office at their desk, it wouldn’t matter much. If someone was representing our company as key note speaker at a conference, that’s a very different story. Now, of course it’s harder to hide bruises on your face than it is on your legs.

      1. Chinook

        I agree that it isn’t as attractive on men either but they do have the advantage of a cultural norm that requires them to cover most of their body. But, if I saw a male friend with bruising on his face, I woudl definitely offer to give him some make-up tips so people could focus on what he is saying/doing rather than on his face and wondering what happenned.

        1. KarenT

          I don’t know if it’s really an advantage, though, as in most cases in North America, women can wear pants and long sleeves too.

    4. EngineerGirl

      Men’s clothing usually covers them more so it is less of an issue. If a woman chooses to wear pants and jacket like a man it covers most of the problem.

      People screaming “dour standard” and “let’s push back” are foolishly fighting against human nature . Anything that distracts from the message you want to send needs to get mitigated. If you don’t do that your performance gets diminished.

      This falls along the line of:
      Don’t wear black and yellow together (lots of poisonous animals are this color so it provokes a rejection reaction)
      No short skirts (you want focus on the charts not your legs)
      Cover excessive wounds (you want the focus on the message not you)
      No outrageous dress

      1. KellyK

        I think, though, that there is a limit to how far it’s reasonable to ask someone to go to mitigate any possible distraction. It becomes a question of what it’s worth to you and what’s actually feasible. To me, in an office full of bare legs and bare arms, it seems unreasonable to expect someone to hide every little bruise.

        For that matter, wearing clothes that aren’t appropriate to the season can be a red flag in some people’s minds too. The same person who sees a woman with a big bruise and thinks “abuse victim” is likely to think the same if she’s always wearing long sleeves in July.

        1. fposte

          There’s a ton of long-sleeve-wearing in July at our workplace, because of the A/C, so that’s really not what our office is likely to think. There are certainly plenty of summery long dresses and skirts for somebody with leg bruises like the woman in the picture.

          Not that I think she absolutely has to cover them up, but I don’t think it’s particularly onerous to do, either.

          1. EngineerGirl

            Exactly. I used to wear longer skirts in the summer just so I could go bare-legged. And now days there are a lot of cool fabrics out there – modal, rayon-spandex blends, linen, cotton. All light weave and therefore cool. Also weaves like seersucker and madras are designed to be cool. Seersucker is designed to have minimal contact with skin. Madras is a loose weave that allows air through.

            In short, it isn’t cover up and be hot or don’t cover and be cool. In fact, when I’m working in Africa and it is over 100 degrees I am almost always covered up!

            1. KellyK

              I’m a fan of long skirts in the summer for the same reason, but I have a lot of trouble finding long skirts that are work appropriate and not somewhat see-through. A lot of those cooler fabrics are a little bit gauzy. Flowy skirts are also less “formal” and “business-like” than pencil skirts, and I could see them being frowned upon at some offices. I do try to incorporate as much linen into my wardrobe as possible, but I don’t see a whole lot of linen pants or skirts out there. (So, if you have recommendations of good places to find them, I’m all ears.)

              But, then, I wear a size 22–someone who wears a 10 or a 12 probably has tons more options.

              I’m not saying that it’s always horribly onerous to cover your legs at work–just that there are times when it is, and times when “never let anything about your appearance distract your coworkers in any way” is an unrealistic standard.

          2. KellyK

            Depends a lot on the office, though, including how well the AC works and if it’s on. (My husband is currently contemplating wearing shorts to work since his building is keeping the AC at 80 as a cost-cutting measure.) Our building seems to have weird hot and cold spots depending on which AC zone you’re in, and whether you have a window. My office is usually slightly warm, and gets very warm if you close the door, particularly in the afternoon. (Even with the blinds closed, the sun comes through a lot.) So if I have an hour-long phone meeting (on speaker so I can take minutes) and close the door, suddenly I’m working in a sauna.

  19. Anonymous

    I’ve actually purposefully stayed away from some former workplaces, especially places where I was let go. I just sort of assumed they didn’t want me there and would call security if I walked in (or was seen “creeping” around the old office).

    Since the employee quit, I’d guess they’re just afraid she’ll try to convince the others to leave too.

  20. A Teacher

    I might actually disagree with a few of you here slightly on number 2 for two reasons:

    My father had a heart attack in his early 50s. He takes 7 medications daily to keep himself alive. Three of the seven medications make him look like he is “bruised” all the time in his arms and legs. The blood thinner that he is on will cause him to bruise if he so much as bumps his arm or leg lightly. We live in Illinois where summers get really hot (ick to humidity) and he was a welder. He obviously wore short sleeve shirts with his weld vest because of the heat. Now he has a part-time job as he’s retired and he rolls the sleeves up on his shirt because it gets warm, even in an air conditioned building. No one really asks him about the bruises.

    Second reason, I’m on a medication that causes me to get clots in my arms and legs at times. Sometimes they start to look like bruises. I teach in an unairconditioned building and in May, August, and September there is no way I’m going to “cover up” my arms and legs just because people don’t like looking at a few bruises. I also suffer from eczema and in the heat I’d rather have a bruise than a rash from the sweat I’d accumulate covering up said bruises.

    I guess people don’t always know why one has a bruise or bruises but if you’re someone that has them chronically you are just used to it. Medical reasons are very common reasons to bruise due to medication. If someone thinks I’m unprofessional for not covering up I think that’s there problem, not mine. I have enough other things–like doing my job–to worry about.

    1. Anonymous

      Well, if they did find it unprofessional, it very well could be a problem for you. It would also be one way to know you’re working in the wrong kind of office culture.

      1. A Teacher

        But then define professional, one of the staff members last year had adult onset acne and while she did her best to cover them up, her options for treatment were Retin-A where she would also shed skin and have really flaky skin (the option she chose) or laser treatments that were a bit expensive. She was an interpreter so she was always “client facing.” Is she unprofessional because she has a noticeable boil on her face? Make up can’t completely cover that up.

        I think we have to be very careful because there is a line that is easily crossed when you call someone “unprofessional”

        I worked in corporate where the slightest bruise was considered “unprofessional” I finally told my boss either I had eczema in the cracks of my elbows, between my fingers, and in my axilla from wearing long sleeve shirts or I had a bruise on my arm. I was professional in speaking with her but getting into graphics of itchy oozy eczema that would open me up to infection seemed to stop her pursuit of me and others that bruised either easily or medically.

        I think sometimes as employees we have to not be afraid to stand up for whom we are–in a professional manner. So many are afraid to “step on toes.” If someone wants to “professionally judge me” and I use professionally very loosely, then I don’t think their opinion holds much water, even if it is my boss. Again, that’s just my opinion. I also don’t go out of my way to cause problems at work and stick to my little area of the world but when it comes to picking your battles, this is one I would pick to fight.

    2. Not so NewReader

      I am chuckling to myself… I had numerous bruises on my arms from the work I was doing. (Lots of lifting.) A person commented to me quite loudly how unprofessional I looked.

      I bit my tongue.

      I wanted to point out that loudly commenting on my looks was not exactly top notch behavior. I kept my mouth shut. But as you are saying A Teacher- the comments reflect more on the person making them than you.

      What is a bit disconcerting to me is do people think that one’s looks directly equate to one’s abilities? For example if a person looks less professional because of bruises, does that bring into question their ability to do their job?

      I wondered about the person who made this comment to me… “and your point is what?”

  21. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles

    OP #2,
    I was at CVS the other day and saw that Sally Hansen/son? offers leg makeup to substitute for tans, nylons, etc. If in doubt, throw on some makeup over the bruises?

    1. Chinook

      The Sally Hanson cover up only works if you can find one in the right shade. I rarely can find the light version and anything darker would look very fake.

  22. Anonymous

    What constitutes a professional office appearance?
    If bruises are “unprofessional,” what about slings, casts and/or crutches? What about permanent things, like scars, crutches, missing fingertips?
    To what extent are these considered acceptable for men but not for women, and why?

    1. fposte

      I don’t think this is as gendered as you do, but you raise some interesting questions. I think that things associated with blood and fluid, like bruises or recent incisions, are always going to be more disconcerting than something closed or long-ago; that things you could easily choose to cover up are more questionable exposed than those you can’t; that ongoing eye-catchers that are a result of personal choice are different than one-offs and stuff that’s not happening any more. Those aren’t necessarily differences that make one acceptable and the other not, but they’re part of why they’ll have different impressions on people, and why a workplace might therefore care about a worker representing them in a certain condition. I, for instance, had a big old incision across my thread with big black stitches in it–slightly less subtle than a cartoon Frankenstein. I wasn’t unsanitary or anything, but it looked gruesome, and I would have understood if I was working retail and they thought I should either stick a couple of bandaids over it maybe work the hardware side rather than high-end gowns until it healed. (I don’t work retail, but I still stuck a couple of bandaids over it, because it wasn’t anything that people needed to see or that I needed to have derail every conversation.)

    2. EngineerGirl

      I think you are trying to get rid of the argument through hyperbole. Men and Women need to look as professional as possible. For some people it is easy, for others it is more work. For example, someone with a model slim body could probably look professional in a paper sack. Someone else with say, extra on top, would have to take greater care at dressing. You might not like it, but a professional appearance helps at work. That is how it is.

  23. MiaRose

    #2 I’ve a little bit of scarring on my face from childhood chicken pox, plus a case of rosacea. Now, I can go into work bare-faced, but since I face customers all the time, I really don’t think it is professional. It took me a long time before I finally caved in and wore makeup (I’m talking about a bit to cover and a natural look, not a full on glamour face). Makes a world of difference and I looked more polished. Certainly, it’s not “fair” that I have to wear makeup, but, hey, life isn’t fair. I’d rather be able to do my job well without the distraction. Also, I used to take martial arts, and, yes, lots of bruises. I remember getting a shin bruise up and down the entire lower leg, and it was summer. I sucked it up and wore linen-blend pants to work until it went away, because no amount of makeup was going to cover it up.

    #6 Serious security issue there. My SO was horrified when he read this one, considering the kind of work he does.

    1. A Teacher

      Many of us have acne scarring, I would guess, but I also work with someone that has adult onset acne and gets boils on her face. Make up doesn’t do much. Is she unprofessional because she essentially has a big purple bruise that we can see?

      1. MiaRose

        I think it would really depend upon the work environment. I did mention that my workplace did not mind my going bare-faced, but I did notice my customers did start to respond better once I put on a more polished look. I can’t actually hide all of it (some of the scars are dark enough that they show through), it lessened it, certainly. If not for makeup, I would also look like a lobster, especially on warm days.

        Has your coworker been singled out for having her adult acne? If not, then your work environment is sympathetic to these things that just happen to people. But, on the whole, unfortunately, there are many jobs out there that rely on appearances, and I’ve been at the bad end of being judged for not appearing professional enough. My stance is, if something can be done to appear more polished in a manner appropriate to the job (extreme bruising can be lessened by wearing things to cover them up, even in warm weather, or acne can be lessened by a little bit of makeup, unless one is allergic), it certainly can’t hurt to try.

        In a fair world, our abilities to do the job would be enough. But we don’t live in a fair world, and I make the effort to even things up if I can.

        1. Ash

          I’m really sorry that you work in a place that makes you feel as though you have to cake your face with pore-clogging makeup to cover diseases/conditions that were out of your control. I hope that one day you’ll see that you’re pretty and professional, regardless of your skin’s condition.

          I have a noticeable chicken pox scar on my temple and some small moles and freckles on my face. If someone told me that those things made me look unprofessional, I would have many unprofessional words to tell them.

  24. Brton3

    Regarding #5, being “banned” from the workplace, there are some managers who are just crazy about this stuff, and will do things like order their employees not to hang out or get 5pm drinks with a former coworker, or not to discuss anything work related (even unimportant social stuff) with them. Some managers just have a weird need for control over things like that.

  25. TheBurg

    #2 re: bruises
    I wonder the same thing. One of the medications I take makes me bruise REALLY easily, so even though I’m careful I’ll often have small bruises on my arms and legs. Nothing gross (typically), but they happen often and it’s just in the course of normal living. Sometimes it would be odd for me to “cover up” my arms for work (like working outdoors in the summer), but these comments have got me to wondering if this could be a problem…

    1. KellyK

      If you’re working outside, you probably have a very different standard for “professional appearance” than a lot of people working in offices.

  26. Elizabeth West

    #5–banning former employees

    The distraction reason might be a factor for this, but also it may be because they don’t want former employees in sensitive or non-public areas. I say this because at Oldjob we had retired employees, employees’ family memebers, etc. who would drop in to visit the shop guys during their lunch break. They could do this, as the back door wasn’t locked during business hours. You could walk right into the break rooms and on into the shop with nothing to stop you. This practice could be a huge security/liability issue; it was still like that when I left.

    Either that, or they’re just jerks or think the OP might try to stir up the current employees.

  27. Calla

    #2. I agree, I think expecting any and all minor bruises to be covered is too much, but bigger, darker bruises or limbs entirely covered in them should probably be covered if possible. We can balance a need for professional appearance with reasonable expectations.

    A couple weeks ago I had a fall (I’m very graceful) and got a pretty nice scrape/bruise on my knee. When it was fresh I did wear only pants to work because no one wants to see a massive bruise with a bright red scrape in the middle, but you can bet I also didn’t wait for it to fade 100% (it’s just a small slightly-darker-than-my-skin spot now) before switching back to skirts/dresses, considering it’s 90+ degrees and humid.

  28. Cheryl

    #2 Be aware there are blood diseases out there where one of the symptoms are bruises. I should know since I have it and that is what clued me into the disease in the first place.

  29. Anonymous

    #7 There are some really good discussions on women’s Jui Jitsu blogs about how to deal with bruises. Some are pretty funny — woman with black eye takes child with scraped knee to her pediatrician and has lots of ‘splainin to do.

    1. SB

      My little brother was adventurous, after three trips to the hospital one summer (stitches, burn, more stitches), my parents had to have a sit down with child services.

      1. KellyK

        A friend of mine actually has a letter in his medical record stating that he’s not abused–just clumsy. Similar thing, adventurous kid, bike, multiple injuries, and the doctor talked to him to make sure everything was okay. (But it is fun to rag on him that he’s been officially diagnosed as a klutz by a doctor.)

      2. Natalie

        A friend’s parents had to do the same thing, the year my friend broke both wrists in 2 separate incidents.

  30. SB

    I work in a large office that likes to save money by not cranking up the air conditioning. I live in the South. It gets hot. I am very fair skinned, and not only bruise easily, but it really shows. I also seem to be rather bug prone. 15 minutes grilling on the back porch can leave me covered in lovely red welts (even if I’m wearing bug spray, bug fans, or there are citronella candles around). There is no way I’m going to cover myself head to toe in the middle of summer. I wear dresses and skirts almost daily. We had an outdoor work party, I had to get there early to set up and stay late to clean up. The next day I came in so covered in mosquito bites and bruises (from moving tables and equipment around) that my boss said I looked like some sort of plague zombie.

  31. anon-2

    #6 – it **IS** hacking, if someone is changing your password so they can use your e-mail.

    Does the company have a policy about hijacking others’ e-mail access?

    Most sites would never allow this — a manager has no business knowing his / her subordinates’ e-mail passwords, or changing them, or whatever. That’s an IT/IS function.

    1. Jamie

      It’s not wise, but its not hacking. The manager isn’t running a crack unbeknownst to anyone. IT is granting access. Stupid practice doesn’t make it illegal or unauthorized access.

    2. Jeff

      Agreed. This is exploiting a security hole (i.e. the manager having the ability to change individual users’ passwords), aka hacking. Even if it’s a company policy, it’s still hacking. It’s one thing if a manager wants to have access to employee emails (which makes sense because they are technically company property) or if it’s an explicitly shared email address/computer. From what I can understand from the OP, the manager is changing the password on an individual employee’s email account and making it accessible to the entire office. It’s wrong for a wide variety of reasons, and IT probably needs to be made aware of the issue because if they knew it was happening, my guess is they would immediately stop it. And if IT is enabling that behavior, it means they’re just as inept as the manager.

        1. anon-2

          If the company has a SANE E-mail policy in place — it would prohibit such behavior (shared E-mail is a definite no-no in any environment that wants to cover itself legally) — and assuming they do have rules in place to assure accountability over resources– then IT’S HACKING.

          1. anon-2

            If they allow it – they are abandoning all accountability over computing resources. So, yeah, it’s not hacking if a company is stup-, uh, irresponsible enough to allow such a practice.

            HOO BOY – a contingency lawyer would LOVE to take on a case, where a boss sent out a slanderous e-mail using one of his subordinate’s IDs. Especially if the subordinate is away on vacation !!!!

  32. lozzlekin

    I’ve been reading the responses to #2 with interest. I have extensive scarring from wrists to shoulders as a result of self harm as a teenager. At work I wear 3/4 sleeves or long sleeves and don’t get questions however am now panicking about looking unprofessional…

    Personally I think that anything oozing should be covered and for anything else do whatever you’re comfortable with.

    1. Banananah

      I too have scars from self harm, that show if I wear shorter sleeves. Eventually I decided I wouldn’t let that stop me wearing short sleeves in hot weather, but I do still feel awkward about it.

      I’m not concerned about scars as such looking unprofessional (I don’t think that’s the case), but I do sometimes worry that the evidence of self-harm could negatively impact colleagues’ perceptions of me.

      1. Ruffingit

        I say this as a person who has also self-harmed: When I see scars on a person’s arm, my thought doesn’t immediately go to self-harm. If it’s close to the wrists, then yes I might think that. But on the forearms and upper arms, I think there must have been some kind of accident or injury that wasn’t self-induced.

        So for what it’s worth, people may not be thinking it’s self-harm that caused the scars.

  33. Ell

    Sorry managers, I have extremely pale skin, I bruise easily, and I’m going to wear skirts with no stockings anyways. It’s 95 degrees outside!

    Really, though, I can’t help it and I can’t stop it from happening. As long as I am dressing and behaving professionally, I don’t see why it should matter. Judging people based on their physical appearance in pretty much any other way (If it’s something they can’t help) is considered scummy, why is this any different?

  34. Tinker

    As far as #2 goes, I think people are being led a bit astray by the attitude of the people on the blog — which isn’t the most “perfessional”, admittedly, but they seem to be speaking in a community for athletes and in their role as athletes rather than as workers.

    The folks I’ve known or met who have come to their work with visible injuries just give a matter-of-fact explanation of the circumstances — in advance, in response to questions, or as a natural conversation among people who work together and like each other — and then move on to do work. For all I know, when they’re posting on a blog related to their sport or disease or method of transportation (depending on what caused the thing), they may have a bit more bravado in the way they speak of it, but that’s entirely appropriate in that context. At work, it hasn’t been a big deal on either end.

    1. Ruffingit

      That’s been my experience as well. A simple explanation and then everyone just goes about their work. I’ve never worked with high level athletes before so for all I know, they have all kinds of bruises constantly. But as a general rule in all of my workplaces, people explained their injuries and everyone just moved on to do their work.

  35. Jo2

    I think the feedback is very interesting on this topic. We are all professional women, we are not models for Victoria Secrets, we all have real lives to live. I think the healthiest perspective on this is you should only be worried about bruises at work if you suspect that person is being physically abused. If you have time to be making judgements on a persons bruises and how unbecoming they are…you really should focus more on your work. How many self perpetuated beauty demands do women really want to inflict on themselves and our sisters. I would rather spend the time it would take to air brush my legs, to read or spend time with my kids or like some of you have shared, mountain biking or powerlifting. Come on girls, stop being so brutal!

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