my boss asked my staff how often I’m in the office, getting a to-do list tattoo, and more

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

1. My boss asked my employee how often I’m in the office

I am a program manager for government entities in 4 states. Within the past year, my boss for over 2 years left the company and I was reassigned a new one.

My job requires me to meet with clients and suppliers off-site, and I live in a large city which involves substantial travel time to do so. I schedule my appointments either on my way in to the office or my way home so as to avoid wasting long periods of my work day in traffic and best utilize my time. Recently, my supervisor who is located out of state, sent a message to my assistant here at the office asking her how often I have been in the office.

I have worked for this company for almost 3 years and have never had attendance issues or even used sick or vacation time and have grown my program, as well as the relationships within them, so not only do I take offense to his distrust by questioning my work ethic that has never been in question, but also that he would resort to asking someone that reports directly to me.I feel that it was disrespectful and discredits me as her supervisor. Am I correct in feeling this way and what would the best recourse be?

It depends on the context and what was behind your manager’s question, since it’s possible that there was some innocuous reason for asking (although I’m admittedly having trouble coming up with one).

But it would be perfectly reasonable to say something to your manager like this: “Lavinia told me that you asked her about how often I’m in the office, which I know can be hard to track since I have to meet with clients and suppliers so often. Was there a concern about my schedule or how I’m allocating my time that I can shed any light on?”

2. Interviewing to replace someone being fired for lacking a can-do attitude

I am being recruited for a job at an organization where I’ve always wanted to work. (I was rejected for another position there, but made a good impression on the hiring manager, who shared my resume internally.)

During my first meeting with the person recruiting me — my would-be manager — I inferred that he is preparing to dismiss the person who currently holds the role. Her not having a “can-do attitude” was the closest he got to explaining why he is searching for a replacement. It’s not like I have a “can’t-do” attitude, but I find this concerning. Is it appropriate for me to press for details on what’s happening here? Dwelling on the protocol for firing people seems like a bad look during an interview, but I don’t want to take a job where I risk getting axed for something so nebulous.

Ugh, I’ve managed those people, and believe me, it’s not nebulous. (Or at least it’s not always nebulous.) It’s about people who always have reasons why they can’t do something (usually things that their colleagues or eventual replacements manage to do just fine), who look for reasons to say no rather than reasons to say yes, who need cajoling and convincing to do even small things, who always have a reason why they weren’t able to do something — and ultimately it adds up to a pattern of things not happening in their realm. I wouldn’t take it as a red flag unless you see additional signs that the manager is unreasonable or unrealistic.

You can, however, certainly say in the interview, “Can you tell me about what kind of people do well in this role and what kinds of people struggle or don’t excel?” The person being fired is going to be on the hiring manager’s mind, and you’ll probably get some good insight into what he’s looking to avoid with the next hire.

3. I don’t want my coworker to move to the desk next to mine

One guy I work with is friendly and helpful and I need his support for my projects. He now wants to move to a spare desk next to me and I’m wondering whether I should raise my concerns with my boss or not. I feel uncomfortable because he is very loud and quite needy, and he doesn’t take the hint when I say I need to concentrate on my work. Lastly, although we are both married, he contacted me to ask me out out by email and text (he had asked for my number to support me with an IT problem at home while I was on leave). I made light of it and turned him down, and he then said it was a joke. I previously turned down a social media request, saying that I keep that separate from my working life.

Just writing the question makes me think it’s best to say something now if I don’t want it to happen but I’m wary that he is easily offended and if it seems like it’s my decision that his request is refused it makes my project more difficult to handle.

Yes, talk to your boss. Say this: “Bob has mentioned he wants to move to the spare desk next to me. I don’t want him to, because I’ve already had problems with him talking to me too much when I’m working, even when I’ve told him I need to focus on something else. Additionally, he asked me out at one point, despite us both being married, and I’d prefer not to have increased contact with him beyond our work projects. Can you help me ensure that he doesn’t move to the desk next to mine?”

You can also say that you’re concerned about causing tension with him if he learns you said something about his request, and ask your boss to handle it discreetly.

A good boss will take care of this for you.

4. Getting a to-do list tattoo

My daughter who is in her second year at University of Waterloo wants to get a “To Do List” tattoo (with bullets but no text/content, basically a template) on her left forearm for purposes of practically in her lifestyle, school work, etc. so she can write on her forearm, with pen, what she needs to get done.

Brilliant, I say.

But how will this impact her when she goes to an interview? Yes, she can cover it but I don’t want her to be judged by her peers or future employers.

I’m confused about the tattoo — if she’s really doing this to be practical and not for the purpose of self-expression, couldn’t she just write her to-do list on her arm without having a to-do list template tattooed there? You also might point out to her that people’s preferences for how they organize themselves often change multiple times; she’s likely to find herself at a point in life where she doesn’t want to hand-write her to-do lists, let alone on her arm.

As for what a hiring manager would think, different employers have different takes on tattoos (more on that here). In this particular case, though, it would raise alarms for me about whether this is really how she manages her to-do’s; it’s not a particularly professional organizational systems (and most professional employees have to-do lists a lot longer than what would fit on an arm — and the lists need to last longer than your next shower).

But it’s your daughter’s arm.

5. Can I put links in my resume?

I did some searching on your blog and couldn’t find an answer directly. Is it okay to have a few (say, less than 5) links in a resume? I’m thinking it will be useful for applying to jobs outside my industry, because our products are not well known outside the industry. I would use branded product names in my resume and link to the web pages of those products. Or, if people really care, will they look up the product names instead?

I work on cool technology in an industry that is often thought of as conservative/slow-moving. The cool technology aspect is slowly being noticed, but it’s taking a while. For applying to jobs outside my industry, I’m struggling about how to convey “Yes, I am good at working on cool modern technology even though you might not have heard of it.” I am thinking I will also have a few sentences in my cover letter about what I do and how it’s used.

Sure, you can include links. But make sure that your resume conveys what you want it to convey even if someone doesn’t click on those links — because while some people will, lots of people won’t. (And if it’s printed out, the links will obviously be moot.)

{ 352 comments… read them below }

  1. Katrina Bass

    OP1: I take it this wasn’t an instance of wondering when would be best to schedule some time with you, and your assistant seemed like the logical route?

    1. Jessa

      Yes. Also, are you sure you’re getting the information right from the coworkers? Are they putting their own spin on what they were asked? I mean they could have been asked “when is she in?” and took that to mean “how often is she in?” Before you even get nervous about this, I’d make sure you got the info right from the assistant. It’s like a game of telephone whispers, your boss could have said a and your assistant could have heard or presumed she meant z.

      1. Not helpful

        Agree this is possible but OP wrote that the supervisor sent the assistant a message. I took this to mean there is a written record that the OP would have been able to see. So it seems to me that it is less likely to be misinterpreted though the supervisor could have not been clear enough about their request.

        1. LAW

          You are correct Not helpful-he reached out to her via our company instant message system so I did see it exactly as it was communicated and even asked for specific dates/times. She has worked for me for close to 5 years now so didn’t feel it was appropriate either and brought it to my attention right away.

    2. LAW

      No Katrina. Even when offsite with clients and/or suppliers, I am constantly available by phone or email. He has never had problems reaching out to me if needed. This is what leads me to feel that he is questioning my work ethic or professional standards. I don’t like being micromanaged like most, but I would respect my manager’s desire to check in or know my plans IF it is done upfront and professionally with me-not my staff. I’m pretty offended and taking time to not respond emotionally or unprofessionally and welcome all feedback. Thanks!

      1. Gandalf the Nude

        You say you’ve never taken sick or vacation time. Is it possible the boss is concerned about you potentially burning out and wanted to see if there was any time off you were taking that he might have missed? Obviously, I don’t know what exactly was in the message, so you’d know better than me, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.

        1. K

          On that note, it concerns me that OP1 says they don’t take sick or vacation time at all. Vacation time is a benefit and you’re leaving money on the table, but more importantly vacation is very important for your mental and physical well-being. There’s no reason not to take it.

        2. Sunflower

          #1- OP, I think you need to take a step back and look at how many different possibilities here could be going on here. You have no idea what your boss is planning to do with this information or why she asked your assistant for information. Maybe your boss is thinking of adding someone to the team and needs the input from someone who is in the office the majority of the time. Maybe your boss is compiling reports and getting info for multiple assistants. Are you sure your assistant is the only one who has been asked about this? Have other assistants been asked the same question?

          Also like LQ mentioned above, ‘government entities’ can mean red tape and jumping through hurdles. This could just be part of a process your boss has to do to complete a checklist or something similar. Also, the vacation time. Maybe she’s worried about you burning out since you haven’t taken any time off. Or maybe she really is a jerk and isn’t buying that you can work all this time without taking a single day off.

          Have you had issues with this boss in the past? Since your initial reaction was this, I’m leaning towards yes. Definitely talk your boss about why she asked. But I think it’s important to have the conversation without getting defensive since it could turn out to be nothing.

        3. Kateyjl

          Also, not taking vacation time can be an indicator that the employee is covering up something that might be discovered when they are away. Big Red Flag.

          Then again, some people just can’t imagine not wasting time to get and from appointments. Happens around here way too much.

      2. BadPlanning

        Off the wall ideas: Could they be consolidating space/desks and getting a feel for who needs a full time desk?

      3. Stranger than fiction

        Is it possible he’s thinking you’re out of the office too much and is considering shifting your client meetings around so you’re able to be there and do other things? Or, is the travel your primary job function?

      4. Erin

        Yeah, he could have just asked you. I would ask him if he had a concern about your schedule as Alison said, and maybe additionally offer to share your calendar with him. And/or remind him you’re always available via phone or email.

        Even if it’s not quite the case, I would approach it as if you’re assuming he’s trying to get a better idea of your schedule because he’s new to being your boss and that’s it. In other words, don’t assume the worst or get defensive.

        I honestly think you’ll handle it well and be fine. You’re obviously confident in your position, presumably good at your job, and you’re taking a step back before you respond emotionally – all good things. Good luck.

  2. FiveByFive

    Just posting to be first (of likely very many) to vote No to the to-do list tattoo. No offense #4, but it sounds like a horrible idea. Maybe you could explain why you find it brilliant?

    1. Me too

      Erm what? WHAT? A To Do list template tattooed on your arm? This is just a horrible idea. I have a few reasons for objecting:

      – I think writing on yourself looks messy and disorganised, rather than organised (except in cases of emergency, when you have no other option).

      – It would look totally unprofessional. Professional people do not write to-do lists on their body.

      – Writing on yourself is not even reliable, as unless you’re transcribing it to something else quite soon, it can easily rub off or smear so you can’t read it anyway.

      – Like Alison said, you’re not going to have enough room anyway. If my to do list fitted in some little template on my arm, I could probably just remember it all anyway.

      I mean, yes it is her arm. She can do what she wants. But I imagine many potential employers will have the same reaction as me – ugh.

      1. Sadsack

        I agree with all of this. It really does not seem practical, never mind that it would probably look pretty stupid. She would nor appear at all organized using this method of note taking. I am also curious why OP thinks it is brilliant, unless he was being sarcastic.

        1. Sadsack

          So, let me just add that I don’t think the tattoo itself is necessarily ridiculous, but if I saw someone at work writing notes on his arm, I would wonder what was up with that person. The tattoo may be alright, it is the actual use of it that is stupid looking.

          1. Melissa

            I agree that it wouldn’t look professional, but one of the smartest people I’ve known used to write notes on her arm. She’d transcribe them to a notepad later – it was just so she wouldn’t remember. I still think it’s unprofessional, but whenever I see people writing notes on their arms I think of her, and so I would think it’s semi-normal.

            A tattoo, on the other hand, would raise an eyebrow.

      2. Anonymous Ninja

        Another point: She won’t be able to use her arm for anything that needs to remain confidential.

        1. Boop

          Excellent point – I hadn’t even thought of that. Imagine seeing on a coworkers’ arm: Dialysis appointment. Or something equally personal.

          I don’t have anything against tattoos – I have one on my arm – but this one seems like a bad idea.

      3. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        I look at this tattoo like the previous trendy tattoos. Just like everyone who has the once popular finger mustache tattoo or the “Shhh…” a la Rhianna, you have to wonder how long before they regret it.

    2. Engineer Girl

      Add me to the big NO vote. I usually don’t care about tattoos, but I would think that this one is idiotic and shows bad judgment. Why tattoo something when you could simply have an app on a smart phone? Writing on your hand/arm/etc. is so old school.

    3. frequentflyer

      When I saw “Brilliant, I say”, I was like, are you serious?

      Isn’t this a joke? Was it a letter submitted on April Fool’s or something?

    4. UKAnon

      Meh, it’s different and shows some innovative thinking – and we know from stories here tattoos can be a lot worse…

      I think the best advice is just that if OP’s daughter gets it done they should be prepared to always wear long sleeves to work. If they think it’s worth the compromise, go f’r’it.

      1. Daisy

        It’s not different- if you Google image search you will see loads of these, both permanent and temporary.

        1. Night Owl

          Eh, I think it’s different in the sense that blue hair is different, even if it’s not a totally new, unique idea. I don’t know anyone who has one of these.

          I think a couple of the comments here (not yours) are a bit personally judgy. It’s her body and her prerogative after all, and I think the important thing is that she understands and is prepared to accept the potential consequences of this, if she goes ahead.

          1. LBK

            I have a few tattoos, some of which are visible when I’m at work, so I have no issue there. I don’t think this is a totally separate conversation from whether it’s okay to have visible tattoos at work or people understanding the potential professional consequences of doing so. It’s really about using your body as your to do list that’s the problem here; while tattoos are gaining acceptance in the workplace, writing on yourself is something I associate with middle schoolers. It would not look good for an adult to be doing this, never mind using it as their primary method of keeping track of their work.

            1. LBK

              Oops – I DO think this is a totally separate conversation from whether tattoos in general are okay.

              1. JB (not in Houston)

                Yeah, I agree with LBK. Tattoos? Fine. Using your arm as your to-do list? That was very popular with me and my friends when we were about 14. I cannot imagine doing it now. It’s not practical, and to me that makes it not that professional. “Oh, sure, boss, I can get those figures to you, let me just make myself a note . . . .” No.

                1. Kelly O

                  Agree with you. Tattoos are one thing; tattoos with the intention of using them instead of taking a note on your phone or in a small notebook? No, thank you.

                  Heaven help if you ever move somewhere with 200% humidity.

                  Xoxo,
                  Kelly O (In Houston)

            2. Night Owl

              Maybe she’ll cover it for work and use it only for personal To Do’s. Maybe she’ll grow out of her desire to write on it in future and just have it there as a symbol. Maybe she’ll keep using it as intended. Or maybe she won’t get it at all.

              I agree that there’s the possibility of particular consequences for this particular tattoo, but maybe she’s prepared to accept them. As I said, her prerogative.

              1. LBK

                If she wants to do it for her personal life, go for it. I would not use it at work. And again, I couldn’t care less about the aspect of having it on her body forever – that is 100% her prerogative. It’s the idea that she’d use this for keeping track of professional work that sends up alarms for me.

              2. Ad Astra

                In the end, you’re right — it’s her arm, and her life. But in the unlikely event that she’s interested in strangers’ feedback, I have to say NO NO NO PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. Just in case.

              3. So Very Anonymous

                I was imagining something like a kind of “universal yes” to-do list: big life to-do things, like “be open to possibilities, ” that kind of thing. As an actual to-do list… I imagine sit-com-like moments where the ink has smudged, or the wrong person sees the wrong thing on your arm, or a mean friend writes salacious things on your arm while you sleep. Also, it’d be hard for me to shake the impression that she’s got a cheat sheet for her high-school trig test on her arm.

                It’s her body, though, and maybe she likes the idea of having a template like that on her arm.

            3. JMegan

              I agree. I think it’s actually kind of a neat idea for a tattoo! (I also have a couple of tattoos that are visible at work, so I’m clearly a bit biased in that sense.)

              It’s going to be pretty limited in terms of practical use as a to-do list, of course. But it’s not like she’s going to be stuck with using this method exclusively for the rest of her life. Chances are she’ll discover pretty quickly that it doesn’t work as an actual list, and she’ll start using some other method of keeping track of things. In which case, she’ll be left with a tattoo on her forearm, just like lots of other people have.

              1. Liz T.

                Yeah I think this is separating people into two camps: those to whom tattoos are normal, and those to whom tattoos are highly anomalous.

                I have a few tattoos, my sister has way more, and LOTS of my friends have them. I’ve also worked in an office where multiple people had visible tattoos.

                So my reaction was that the tattoo itself was a cool idea, but actually using it as a regular to do list seems silly. (Is it odd that tattoos are totally normal to me, but people writing on their arms in pen gives me the willies?)

                1. Elizabeth West

                  No, it’s not odd. I have tattoos too–one is a big Hogwarts crest–and I sometimes make a symbol on the back of my hand if I need to do something and really truly cannot remember. But a smartphone or even a sticky note works better, usually. And the smartphone will give me an alert tone or an alarm, which my hand will not do!

                  Writing on yourself at length seems juvenile past middle school.

                2. Beth

                  I’m pro-tattoos and pro normalising tattoos in the workplace, but this specific idea just sounds silly.

              2. Connie-Lynne

                I say this as a person with a lower forearm tattoo (the Trystero Horn): it’s a neato tattoo but it’s a neutral-to-bad idea.

                I mean, I can’t write with any kind of neatness on my arm, for one thing, and neither can most people. It sends a weird message if she actually uses it, because writing on your arm is something really only kids do. If she doesn’t use it, then it’s just ornamentation, and I suppose it could make for interesting conversation, but there are lots of people who will just make assumptions about the tattoo instead of actually asking.

                Eh. It’s her body, but I wouldn’t do it.

              3. Emily

                I think I sort of relate to the spirit of the idea, but one thing to consider is what this template will look like before it’s filled out each day/on days when it’s just not practical to use—it’ll be a blank to-do list. As in, TO DO: Nothing. I don’t think that’s the message she actually wants to convey!

              4. zora

                I agree. I think it’s clever and kind of hilarious. To get this as a tattoo implies you just Love To Do Lists That Much!! I woudl want to be friends with this person. ;o)

            4. Kita

              LBK, I agree that the issue is actually about using your arm as a to-do list… in your professional life.

              When I read the letter, I imagined that the daughter would be making quick personal notes, not using this for work, or even having any writing visible during work. In that scenario, Alison’s advice makes the most sense to me: sure, it’s a cute tattoo, but you can get the job done without it.

          2. Daisy

            But they are kind of a ‘thing’ of the moment- there’s companies that sell the temporary ones. I think getting a faddy tattoo might make people question your judgement, so she’s potentially putting off both offices that don’t like tattoos at all, and people who might she it as a bit flibbertigibbet. I agree that it’s her body, but the question we were asked was whether it was a good idea, so I don’t know what else we’re supposed to do except judge it.

            1. Night Owl

              Why would having a “faddy” tattoo (assuming it’s not offensive) make people question judgement?

              If she does get it, she can always stop writing on it if she no longer wants to in future, and just keep it as a symbol. Then it’ll just be a tattoo that lots of people have (if it is a fad at the moment) and she can cover it if need be. I don’t see why the latter’s a big deal.

              1. Daisy

                Well, because they’ll think ‘she got something permanently marked on her body based on a fleeting trend’. That seems a bit flighty. I’m not currently in a position to hire anyone and I don’t think I’d give a shit about a tattoo anyhow, but I’m fairly convinced that some people might.

            2. Not the Droid You are Looking For

              I had a similar conversation about fad tattoos with a young woman I mentor because she wanted one of the finger tattoos.

              I did tell her that it would get her judged. By people who are anti-tattoo, hand and neck tattoos seem to be the most egregious and by people who are inked who see fad tattoos as something you shouldn’t do, or as my friend said, “once you have seen 10 infinity symbols with an inspiring word worked in, you have seen them all.”

              Ultimately she chose not to get it and has not regretted that choice. She has now completed an intricate hip/back piece that I couldn’t imagine sitting through.

              1. Be advised current orbital inclination is not favorable for surgical excision.

                I admit that I am one of those people who will judge you if you have a tattoo. I probably won’t be overly harsh about it, but still, if I see a tattoo on you, it will make me wonder how intelligent you are. Because I think tattoos – unless they are for some kind of plastic surgery, or part of a hallowed tradition (think “anchor” on a sailor), are stupid. Tattoos embody the same kind of stupid, short-sighted thinking that’s causing the “climate change” and other environmental issues that are ruining the world for our children and our grandchildren[1]. Does anyone get a tattoo without realizing a) that it is permanent, and b) that it’s going to look like crap in 5 or 10 or 15 years? “But wow, it’ll be great right now! Who cares about 5 years from now?!” Is this the attitude I’m looking for when I hire people for my group? Magic 8-ball says “outlook not so good”.

                [1] Yes, this is an extreme example. But there is an entire class of ‘bad thinking’ that stems from the notion “enjoy it now and don’t worry about future consequences”.

              1. Blue Anne

                Yes, but it feels to me like people are going a bit overboard with it – it’s one thing to say “no, that would definitely seem unprofessional to me” and another to call it horrible/stupid/”are you serious?” No one is jumping up and down on this woman or anything, but a tattoo is such a personal means of expression that it seems really harsh to go beyond “here’s how it would make people see her”.

                In the same way that if I came into work with pink hair, I think people would tell me it’s going to make me seem unprofessional, but most would think it’s really rude to say “And what a stupid idea anyway, why would you do that?”

                That said, it’s such a small complaint that it just highlights how fantastic the comments section is here, really!

                1. Night Owl

                  Yeah, that’s pretty much where I stand as well. Particularly your second paragraph. (Even if you asked explicitly for feedback on the pink hair.)

            1. Daisy

              I don’t understand this at all. Why does anyone write to a problem page except for judgements on the problem? I mean, obviously the answer to this in one sense is ‘do whatever you like, it’s your life’, but that’s ultimately the answer to every single question that ever gets sent. I don’t see why people can’t say if they think it’s a bad idea.

      2. LawBee

        I don’t see “innovative thinking” here. I see a woman who wants this tattoo and this is how she’s spinning it to her mom.

        I wouldn’t get it if I were me (seriously, writing to-do notes on your arm comes off as unprofessional and childish) but whatever. Her skin, her arm. (Disclaimer: I have tattoos myself, including a visible one on my wrist. I got no beef with ink )

        1. grasshopper

          Yes. The daughter just wants a tattoo and is just pitching it as something practical so that her mom will agree to it. Mom wants to support her ‘brilliant’ daughter but wants a negative reaction from AMA so that she doesn’t come off as the bad guy.

          1. Not for me

            Agreed – although if the daughter is a 2nd year university student, she doesn’t need mom’s permission to do it. Unless mom is paying. Don’t pay for it, mom!!

            1. Liz T.

              Even I agree that parents should not pay for tattoos. I was in second year of college when I got my first tattoo–saving up for it is part of the rite of passage!

      3. Lily in NYC

        It is “clever”, which is why I think OP’s daughter might want to think long and hard before getting it. It seems like the clever tattoos are the ones we regret later when our tastes change. But I don’t think it’s a big deal work-wise.

        1. esra

          There is no tattoo worse than the tattoo that was “so funny” at the time. They never get funnier as time cruelly marches on.

          1. Lily in NYC

            Yeah, I was thinking of a friend who got a mustache tattoo on her index finger and hates it now.

            1. Ad Astra

              I have seen so, so many mustache tattoos on index fingers. It’s the new nautical star.

        2. Not So NewReader

          “Clever” can be momentary. It’s different because it is new. After it becomes old, then what?

    5. Merry and Bright

      I wondered if the OP thought that if her daughter was misguided on this, at least she was trying to be practical?

      It is a puzzle though.

    6. eemmzz

      I’ll join in on the tattoo being a bad idea.

      I’d just use Trello instead for my todo list!

    7. Paul

      #4, I wonder if it would look better if it kept the same kind of form but wasn’t so obviously a todo list. Perhaps a series of points and an underline for a title to be written in. It could be made to look kind of cool or abstract when not filled in.

    8. James M

      I’m with everyone else on this; a “To Do” list tattoo sounds like More Trouble Than It’s Worth.

      Not that it should matter, but if I saw a woman with such a “practical” tattoo, I would immediately form an unflattering opinion about her.

      1. not my normal name

        …. but not a man??

        I know we’re talking about a woman in this instance, but why specify? Would you think differently of a man with this tattoo?! I doubt it :)

        1. Night Owl

          That gave me pause first read too, but upon re-reading, I think he was just continuing the discussion everyone’s having about what it might mean for this woman – as in what he would think if he were to see the OP’s daughter. (Could be wrong, in which case I agree with your criticism, but just thought I’d say that before this (possibly) turns into a lynch mob.)

        2. James M

          If I saw such a tattoo on a man, I would also form an unflattering opinion about him… but not the same opinion I would for a woman. Culture and context matter. I meant to underscore the idea that in the eyes of a man, a To Do list tattoo may not speak well of the woman (OP4’s daughter!) wearing it.

          1. Observer

            What would you think of a woman vs a man?

            What cultural and contextual difference is at play here?

            I’m genuinely curious.

            1. James M.

              It depends, as it always does, on context. I can’t predict what impressions I’ll have of anyone, regardless of gender. Hypothesizing about it only leads me to the most general of generalities, e.g: positive or negative. “Unflattering” (<3 that word) falls under the latter.

            1. James M.

              Good God No! Honestly that never occurred to me until I read your comment. That’s just so outside the realm of what I expect from people (including commenters here).

              1. Cath in Canada

                I think people (including me) thought that might be what you meant simply because it’s hard to see why else it would be different for men vs. women.

                1. James M

                  Quite simply, it comes down to perspective. I’m a man, so it’s easier for me to imagine circumstances where a guy might think it’s a good idea to get a “practical” tattoo (spoiler alert: none of those circumstances would be considered laudable). In the case of a woman, I’m left with “What was she thinking!?”; unuttered, that’s an opinion, and a mildly negative one to boot.

                  Replace “To Do List” with a multiplication table, a day planner, or time zones by city and it won’t effect my initial opinion.

                2. zora

                  James, buddy, I promise you a woman who got this tattoo wouldn’t give a shit about what you think of it, or her. So, you can stop worrying.

                3. James M.

                  Wow! I did not expect all this ad hominem. All I can offer is one opinion from one perspective: my own. Whether my point of view is shared by others is something for OP4’s daughter to either consider or ignore.

                4. zora

                  All I’m saying is that people who get tattoos are perfectly aware that there will be individual people who think their tattoo is stupid and don’t like it. That’s not who they are getting a tattoo for, they are getting it for themselves. You seem to be missing the point of the question. And the way you have restated your opinion several times does smack of sexism since you seem to be specifically saying it’s different for you to see it on a man vs. a woman, btw. In case you care.

        3. Observer

          In my case, I would say “If I saw a PERSON with this tattoo I would form an unflattering opinion.”

          If saw someone actually USING their arm to write to do lists – with or without the tattoo – I would come to the conclusion that I was dealing with a total flake. It says, to me, “I’m so disorganized that I can’t even hang on to a note / phone / pad till I get back to my desk.”

          1. Liz

            Although a respected colleague used to write notes on his hand during meetings (after borrowing a pen, usually!), it’s not generally recommended. You’d have to be well-known at work before you could get away with it, I think, and I’d hate to have a permanent to-do list there.

            Aside from anything else, I’d want calligraphy lessons if everyone could see my to-do list! (There’s a reason I use Todoist instead.)

    9. Lizzieb

      I see nothing brilliant about it. I see writing on oneself as something that stops being appropriate around fourth grade (“have mom sign permission slip”). Surely she is capable of a more reliable, professional, adult system of organization.

    10. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Ha, omg, I love this student and I want to hire her . I think the idea is inspired!

      Just, don’t actually tattoo it. But it’s the ultimate wearable (albeit low tech) technology!

      Brilliant.

      (Just, don’t actually do it.)

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        She should take that idea and turn it into something, like a breathable wrap that fits on a section of the forearm. I know a number of otherwise high tech people who still use Sharpie on skin for important things.

        1. Colette

          I’ve told my boxing coach that I want a temporary tattoo of each week’s exercises so I don’t have to remember them.

        2. Cassie

          There are companies that sell checklist stamps – just get one of those and stamp it on your arm!

          (I wanted one of those stamps – to stamp on paper, not my arm – but then I thought, I could just draw checkboxes, why do I need a stamp for this?).

      2. Oryx

        Yes, this is one of those “good in theory” ideas. Sounds awesome in paper, just don’t actually do it.

      3. Lily in NYC

        I doubt the kid thought of it herself – there are tons of to-do list tattoos out there already.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Dammit! I was ready to hire her for new product development.

          Brilliant tattoo.

          Now I want one. The henna kind! It would be a hoot.

      4. Ad Astra

        Yeah, I admit the idea seemed cute and clever to me at first. Until I remembered that tattoos are forever.

    11. BananaPants

      If I actually saw such a tattoo on a grown adult I’d probably just assume they were really immature or were drunk when they got the tat done and now regret it. I don’t find the idea particularly brilliant since writing to-do lists (or anything else) on one’s arm isn’t really done beyond maybe junior high school, and I certainly wouldn’t think highly of a professional who did it.

      I’m not at all anti-tattoo; I want one myself, I just can’t decide on something that I want permanently inked on my body. I just think this to-do list idea is probably not the best choice for a young person who literally wants to use her arm as an organizational tool.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        You don’t know anybody who writes on their arm and hand?

        Is it a regional thing??

        I don’t do it much but occasionally for mission critical, which can be work or lord god do not forget the pepper again at the grocery store.

        I know plenty of young to middle aged people who do.

        1. books

          When things get escalated from the sticky note system of managing tasks, they end up on my hand. This is often why the cats have food, medication is picked up and I don’t run out of deodorant.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            Thank you!

            We were in dire straits, pepperless!, until my fail safe TO DO AND I MEAN IT system was employed!

          2. Rose

            Definitely still use the writing-on-the-hand method of taking notes if I have to answer the phone in my classroom (no paper nearby, usually–every teacher knows that paper and pens disappear in a classroom the instant you set them down).

            Since I also work partially in behavior management, we tend to tally behavior frequency on our arms so the people we are tracking don’t notice us. In particularly tough times, though, it does leave us looking a little like we’re in the Impossible Astronaut episode of Doctor Who…

            1. eplawyer

              Does no one have sticky notes on their phone? Or a to do list type app on their phone? Everyone and their great aunt has a smart phone these days. If you have a stylus, writing a note on your phone is as easy as writing on your body, with the advantage of you can still take a shower and not lose your notes. You can set reminders, you can pin it to your home screen, all kind of things so it is there when you need it easily.

              1. Melissa

                Sometimes in the amount of time it takes me to locate my phone, pull up the app and start typing I have literally forgotten what I was trying to take a note about. Particularly if my phone was buried in my purse. As a classroom teacher I can also see it not always being practical to walk back to your desk and get your phone – and many times their smartphones might be locked in their desk or a locker for security. There’s also the optics of being seen on your phone if the principal walks by.

                I can totally see making a quick note on the arm and then backing it up on a smartphone later.

                1. Observer

                  These are fairly exceptions situations, though. And, it doesn’t sound like this is your normal “go to” to do list, either.

              2. Cassie

                I don’t look at my phone much when I’m at home. A sticky-note reminding myself to bring some coffeemate to work tomorrow isn’t going to be read. The word coffeemate on the back of my hand has a better chance of being seen and remembered (although, obviously, it’s not fail-safe!).

        2. Jaydee

          Nothing constructive to add, but I’m now realizing that tattooing the combination to my gym lock on my arm would be quite practical.

          1. the gold digger

            Or my high-school locker combination – that might stop that nightmare of not being able to remember it.

            Of course, I would also want a tattoo of a map of the locker location, as that is my other nightmare – I can’t find my locker at all.

            I don’t know what to do about the final for the class I thought I had dropped.

            1. MissLibby

              I have a recurring dream of missing the school bus. Wait, I am an adult and can drive myself to school, problem solved! (Why am I even going to school then??)

            2. Allison

              Most of my school nightmares have to do with not knowing the choreography for the school musical, or not having my costume for the school play, but I do remember having a dream where I had a huge paper due the next day and knowing nothing about the topic.

            3. James M.

              I got my degree a year ago and I occasionally have the nightmare where I’m taking finals in a class I never knew existed, let alone attended, and is required to graduate. I still try to BS my way through Conceptual Foliamatographogy essay questions.

        3. LBK

          I know a few people who do it in case of emergency when they absolutely 100% need to remember something, but as your primary means of managing your work tasks? That seems wildly unprofessional to me – use a sticky note, the notes app on your phone, a notebook, anything.

        4. The IT Manager

          I would go with this is not done beyond elementary school. But stuff written on my hand never lasted very long. I don’t really recall ever writing on my arm, and honestly most times I saw this done by kids it was written on the hand.

          This is something that seems to be overcome by technology. Who has their smart phone with them at all times? Nearly all teens and adult. Who has a pen with them at all times? Not as many people with cell phones.

          I honestly thought the “To Do” list tattoo was going to filled in with bucket list type items, and the parent was concerned that some of them might not be work appropriate or might convey a lack of dedication to the job in some way. If she’s going to write the tasks on her arm, she might as well write “To Do” and the bullets herself too.

        5. Marzipan

          Right this moment, I have a drawing of an electric fly-swatter on the back of my hand to remind me to buy one on the way home (our office appears to be suffering from a plague of flies). The sole comment thus far was from a colleague who thought it didn’t look sufficiently electric, and lent me a red pen so I could add ‘Z’ marks around it.

          1. ThursdaysGeek

            That’s why I wear a rubber band as a bracelet — to shoot flies. Professional has to bow to practical sometimes. (Plus, it takes constant practice to be able to kill flies with a rubber band.)

        6. Ad Astra

          I can’t think of any adults I’ve seen recently with reminders written on their hands. That’s what smartphones are for.

        7. Vanishing Girl

          I used to write on my hand all the time, through college and my first job. Now I like to use paper at work and at home, I’m pretty good at keeping my mental list or using scrap paper.

          I think she should go with the temporary tattoo, because it can go away when she doesn’t want it.

        8. Sadsack

          I have seen people do this on occasion when they had no other means available. However, doing it so often that you get a list tattoo seems really exaggerated and unnecessary. As others have mentioned, there are many more practical ways of setting reminders on a regular basis.

        9. Kyrielle

          …I also know no one in person who does this. Before reading these comments, I would have left out “in person”, but clearly I am acquainted through this site with people who do, and probably know more people who do elsewhere online, I just don’t know it because I don’t see them in person.

          But yeah, writing on yourself is not something I see done, pretty much ever. Only in desperation would an exception maybe be made – and I don’t think I’d make it.

      2. KT

        Yeah, maybe it’s a regional thing? I can’t remember anyone writing something on their hand after maybe 5th grade? That’s why notebooks, post-its, and cell phones were created!!

        1. Allison

          My friends and I were all into writing on ourselves with those milky pens, until someone told us about how the ink will seep our skin and poison our blood . . . can’t speak for everyone else, but I stopped right away.

          1. Case of the Mondays

            My parents drilled into me that I could “poison my blood.” Yet when I had a capsule endoscopy (swallow a pill cam) the doc wrote on both of my hands in Sharpie “NO MRI.” He explained that if I was in an accident or something I couldn’t have an MRI until I had “passed” my capsule. By the time the sharpie washed off, the capsule should be passed.

            I then questioned whether my parents were lying that whole time about blood poisoning from writing on your skin. If it was true, why would a doctor do it?

            1. Allison

              The doctor did it once, and doing it once was probably not going to kill you. I think our parents and overly cautious friends meant we would poison ourselves if we made a habit of it.

              1. Artemesia

                I think this is in the same category is ‘your eyes will stick that way if you cross them’ said by generations of parents because kid look like such goobers when they cross their eyes.

                1. Kelly L.

                  Yup. Or don’t gnaw pencils because you’ll get lead poisoning, which stopped working on me when I figured out about graphite.

            2. Emily, admin extraordinaire

              My grandpa had to have knee surgery to remove scar tissue from his WWII war injury at the VA, and it was just after all those stories about doctors removing the wrong kidney or whatever (plus, it was the VA, so he wasn’t super confident in their abilities). So he took a Sharpie and wrote “NOT THIS ONE” on his other knee. The doctors and nurses loved it.

              He did it again when they had to re-do the surgery a few years later. Love that man.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Ha!

          Okay, if you need to remember to bring something somewhere, do you or don’t you block the door with the thing you need to remember so that you cannot possibly leave without it?

          Have you or have you not ever put your car keys inside your refrigerator, in your lunch bag, so you couldn’t possibly forget to take it to work?

          If you are “don’t” and “have not”, you just might not get it. :)

          1. Lore

            Definitely the first. If I had a car probably the second. Though the last time I did something clever like that with my house keys I then forgot that I’d done it and spent ten minutes panicked about having lost my house keys. (In my apartment obviously since I live alone and had clearly entered with them but that was cold comfort at the time.

          2. Blue Anne

            Oooooh, I am totally going to start blocking the door with objects I can’t forget.

            Usually I put them on top of my laptop because 99.99% of the time I will start my morning staring blearily at the news with a cup of coffee, but that 00.01% has been disastrous once or twice, especially as I only skip it if I’m in a real hurry… to the airport, say…

          3. KT

            I have a dry erase board next to my front door, right next to the keys (like a mini-command station) where I leave notes for myself. Such as “Don’t forget lunch” or “Big meeting today, wear a suit” or “Remember to pick up prescription”

            It keeps me on track! I have reminders on my phone for everything else

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              Which is great, if you maintain the system, which I’m sure you do. In the world of chocolate and vanilla, there are those of us who would set that system up, and then forget to erase notes when done and then completely tune out the white board ongoing because it contained old notes (and not remember to tune in when new notes were there.)

              I’ll venture the kind of people who do best with the self maintaining system of blocking the door, also do well with the self renewing system of occasionally writing on hand. What’s written on hand has to be current! (unless hygiene challenge and then see: Issues, Other)

              p.s. I write on my hand three times a year. I’m not advocating for it is an actual project management system.

              1. Vanishing Girl

                Now I’m laughing, imagining someone doing all their project management with their hands and arms. Presentations would be pictures of their arm: those timelines do get pretty long! :)

              2. KT

                I’m actually extremely scatter-brained by nature, so I had to create a pretty serious system to keep me organized or I’d forget my life.

                -Notes on the dry erase board (things to remember to bring for the day, what to wear)
                -A daily plan including time blocks for silly tasks (11:00 am call dentist, for instance)
                -alarms on the phone with specific reminders…(SERIOUSLY it’s 11 call the dentist you flake)
                -Detailed to-do list at the front of my notebook; after every conversation I have at work or meeting, I adjust this list, because if it isn’t on there, I will not do it
                -A separate personal life notebook with other reminders (Grocery list, clothes that need mending, etc)

                1. Kyrielle

                  Oh my word yes. Substitute ‘Trello’ for the personal-life notebook, but oh my word yes. I have alarms on my phone for routine daily tasks as well as special ones, because otherwise, I can forget to take my daily anthistamine. The one I take every morning. For over a decade. Yet still, if the phone doesn’t tell me to, it’s up in the air whether I’ll remember.

                2. VintageLydia USA

                  Notebooks on top of notebooks on top of yet more notebooks all current of to do lists. You. You are my people.

              3. Tau

                …okay, admit it, you’ve secretly been spying on me.

                (This weekend I went to some effort to scrub those old notes off the whiteboard. Now it sports a to-do list… I’m sure this time it will work!!!)

            2. Nea

              I tried that once, but then the whiteboard itself just became visual white noise and I tuned it out. Add me to the “add the keys to not forget my x.” That or put it in a bag that I hang off the doorknob.

          4. JMegan

            I do put my keys in the fridge, on the rare days when I make my lunch! People always laugh at me, but it’s better than leaving my lunch in the fridge AGAIN.

          5. mskyle

            I absolutely block the door and used put my car keys in the fridge (right now I bike to work and lunch is provided, so it’s unnecessary), but I genuinely can’t remember the last time I wrote something on my hand.

          6. Catherine in Canada

            Ha! I hang my husband’s lunch bag on the front doorknob, so he can’t get out of the house without it.
            I totally block doorways. How else am I going to remember to mail checks, actually put away winter clothes in July, return coffee cup to kitchen…

          7. Arjay

            I’m a total door blocker too! And while I don’t usually write notes on my hand, I have driven home physically holding the rent check in my hand, so that I actually remember to put it in the dropbox, instead of heading right into the house and collapsing on the sofa as usual.

            1. Nea

              For things to remember in the car, I put one of those rubber band bracelets around the parking brake.

              For things I have to remember when I get home after a day at work, I write on the bathroom mirror with dry-erase marker. Best lifehack EVER to put a couple dry-erase markers in the bathroom. It’s the only way I’d remember in the afternoon about the light bulb that burnt out in the morning.

          8. Kyrielle

            I put the thing right next to the door…and have walked out the door without it.

            I have never put my car keys in my lunch, and have walked out the door without it.

            Hmmm. On the other hand, I would go to grab the car keys from where they should be and panic because they weren’t there, so that might not be that good.

          9. Melissa

            I do it all the time, but I am also really good at completelystepping over/walking by whatever I needed to remember while distracted.

          10. Kathryn

            If its important, it ends up in my knitting bag.

            I can forget my keys, forget my phone, forget my wallet, but the knitting is where all important things end up. (I then forget I put the ‘important thing’ in my knitting and tear the house apart looking for it, but that is a separate issue.)

          11. Elizabeth West

            I have not put my car keys in my lunch bag, but if I move them off the kitchen table, I will be late to whatever I’m doing because I CANNOT FIND THEM. I forget other stuff all the time.

          12. Today's Satan

            I attach notes / items to my car keys so I won’t forget [whatever]. Hard to leave the house without an umbrella, for instance, when one is attached to the key ring.

          13. louise

            Blocking the door has saved me from many an otherwise forgotten item. In general, I feel like a big chunck of my life is spent tricking myself into doing what I need to do.

          14. Tinker

            I currently have a set of beer buckets sitting underneath my bike, so that I can’t take the bike off the rack without encountering them, so that I remember to take them home tonight. So yes.

      3. Nea

        If I absolutely, positively CANNOT be in a position to forget something, I’ll write a (very small!) reminder on the meaty part of my thumb right above the wrist bone, and I’m well out of middle school. I don’t do it often, but I still do it and I am of “a certain age.”

    12. Elizabeth West

      Add me too–I think it’s a poor choice simply because it seems to be a trend right now, and as we all know, trends pass. A tattoo should be something meaningful that you intend to have for life, because getting it off is ten times harder than getting it put on.

    13. Cordelia Naismith

      Agreed. What’s wrong with keeping a small notebook in your purse or pocket? Keep tattoos for personal expression, not practical lists.

    14. Anie

      I loooove tattoos and have some big ones of my own. If I saw someone with this tattoo, I would this it’s cute! But if they actually used it as a primary to-do list…. Yeah, no. I’d going to give that person some serious side eye. I do not want someone in my office who needs to write down things on her arm in order to remember them.

    15. Polka Dot Bird

      I also feel that it comes across as gimmicky and a little juvenile. But also, I would encourage her to get a more art-based tattoo, which will be more visually interesting. Why waste all that tattoo real estate on straight, boring lines which will distort as you move and not look their best? On a tattoo which you’ll always have to fill in to complete? You could have so many other killer images! There are so many amazing art styles available instead!

      And also, if she has it laid out so she could write on it, it will be “upside down” (picture a t-shirt image laid out that way). She could lay her tattoo out that way if she really wants, but that is another factor to consider.

  3. other rick

    My brother did the todo tattoo, but more as a symbol of his personal organization rather than anything practical. On the other hand, he’s still underemployed, so…

    1. cardiganed librarian

      Yes, I’m surprised that everyone’s reading it as her actual plan for personal organization. I think it’s more akin to a librarian getting a tattoo of a date due slip. I’m not really a tattoo person, so I still wouldn’t do it, but I assume it’s meant as a symbol.

      1. Ten

        Agreed. I think I she wants it for fun, by all means But in no way should she expect it to be practical

  4. Jader

    I am a person with two hard to hide tattoos (one is script on my wrist and the other replaces a wedding ring). I made that choice and I live with the consequences of maybe never working in a conservative office, although I’ve been very successful at a young age in some conservative industries (the youngest hire by over a decade at my last job). However… this is… not a good tattoo idea. Writing your to do list on your arm is not going to come off well in professional offices, nevermind a list written in a tattoo. I love a good tattoo but this is an idea she will fast regret.
    Side note- I read the connected post and wow, those are some comments.

    1. Engineer Girl

      As someone that used to do a lot of high angle rescue, I think a wedding band tattoo is neat. For those that aren’t in SAR, wedding bands are discouraged since you can get your finger caught and ripped off on the many moving parts. A lot of people wore the bands on a chain around the neck instead.

      1. Tinker

        I keep on debating getting a wedding band type tattoo for the little finger of my right hand, for this reason. Maybe more so I don’t have to worry as much about losing the ring. Though at the moment I’m kind of short of degloving-prone hobbies.

        1. Engineer Girl

          One of our techs was working on batteries while wearing a gold wedding band. At least she didn’t lose the finger.

          1. Knitting Cat Lady

            One of the scientists at the University did my degree at stopped wearing his wedding band after an unfortunate incident involving liquid nitrogen.

            Usually splashing some liquid nitrogen on your hand does nothing at all. The Leidenfrost effect keeps a layer of gas between you and the really cold stuff. Unless you’re wearing a ring. Then capillary forces will suck the liquid nitrogen into the gap between ring and finger, freezing it in place.

            He had a rather impressive scar from severe frostbite there.

      2. Chalupa Batman

        I wore my partner’s wedding band around my neck for a couple of years while he worked in a job that required moving appliances frequently. He works in an office now, but I can’t believe we didn’t consider the wedding band tattoo, since he’s pretty heavily tattooed anyway.

      3. Windchime

        My dad actually nearly lost two fingers because of his wedding band. He worked in a factory where a heavy cart would come down these tracks that looked kind of like railroad tracks. Something was wrong and he was fixing the track. His ring got caught just has the heavy cart came by and it crushed his hand, nearly severing his pinky and breaking a bunch of bones. That was back in the 70’s and he hasn’t worn a ring since.

      4. Melissa

        My husband was an aircraft maintainer in the military and he had to wear his wedding band around his neck at work. It’s also one of the reasons I bought him a tungsten carbide band instead of gold – they’re much more durable. Downside is that they’re not easily cut off a finger if necessary…which is why it went on the chain around the neck.

        1. Lefty

          If he’s still looking for a band to wear (that could be cut off if necessary/actually will rip away with some force) a few of my mechanic and nurse friends swear by “Qalo” rings. I don’t know much about them except that they are silicone and they make it easy for people whose hands could otherwise get caught on machinery parts or tear through medical gloves.
          If he’s happy with the chain situation, please ignore. :)

      5. Jader

        A lot of the people I know who have them have them for similar reasons as mentioned. My Dad is a PSE so he’s never been able to wear his ring at work and then promptly lost it anyway. We don’t work in those kinds of jobs at all, but we exchanged cheap fake wedding rings at the ceremony and my husband lost his within a week. What I usually hear about them concern wise (from my Dad) is what happens if we get divorced. I don’t see the future, but if I thought that was even a remote possibility I wouldn’t have married him.

        Also just an fyi to anyone considering one, they fade much faster than any other tattoo I’ve had and I actually had a pretty difficult time finding an artist willing to do it.

  5. Natalie

    #4, not strictly work related, but if I were you I’d give my daughter the awesome advice I got about tattoos. Print the design out and hide it in your closet or under the bed or whatever for a year. At least. Then look at it. Do you still want that tattoo?

    This advice comes from someone with multiple tattoos she doesn’t regret, and some printed out ideas she’s held onto for years for lack of funds.

    1. Jader

      +1 my Husband has a rule that he has to want the tattoo for two years before he can get it. It’s a fantastic rule.

      1. Elysian

        This is a great rule, along with the various temporary “tester” ideas below. The tattoo will be with you for the rest of your life – its worth waiting a year or two to be sure that the idea ages well with you. I say this as a person who got her first tattoo at 29 – if its worth getting now, it will be worth getting in a year or two.

        1. Melissa

          This is the philosophy I’ve cone with. My cousins and siblings are all tattooed (some heavily) and have been bugging me about when I was going to get one. I resisted because I couldn’t think of any designs I really wanted that badly. But now I’m 29 and there’s a design I want on my inner wrist and I’ve wanted it for probably close to 2 years now, and I’m pretty confident I won’t regret it. I’ll probably do the temporary tattoo thing first.

    2. MsM

      I have a friend who’ll also wear the temporary version of whatever design she’s considering for at least a month before she commits. It seems to work for her.

      1. Nea

        +1

        My advice to OP#4 is to go ahead and get the tattoo done — in henna. That way, it’s there when when the daughter wants it, and can be renewed as often as she wants it. But then it can be allowed to fade away and be forgotten when it’s no longer desired or appropriate.

        1. the gold digger

          Isn’t that like when Mary Jo got her temporary breasts on “Designing Women” to see if she would like being a DD?

          “These things are POWER,” she said as she plopped them on a shelf.

      2. BritCred

        I have been tempted to do this in the past – printable temp tattoo paper is relatively inexpensive and you can print a few. They may only last a few days at at time but it can give you a feel for how much you do like it if you consider it as if it was there permanantly.

        1. Nea

          I like henna over temporary tattoo because there are a lot of henna artists out there – it’s fairly easy to get or do yourself – but it’s also there for at least a couple weeks. That really gives a taste of what it would be like to have it permanently inked.

          And if you’ve got henna that suddenly is embarrassing — I loved mine on the weekend, was self-conscious in the office — well, tough. An *excellent* lesson in what it would be like to regret a tattoo without expensive removal treatments.

      3. LBK

        Yep – I have a friend who (for simple tattoos) draws them on with Sharpie every day for a month. If she still likes it at the end of that, she gets it done permanently.

      4. Ad Astra

        That’s an awesome idea. Is there an easy way to turn a sketch into a temporary tattoo?

    3. Night Owl

      + a million. OP, how long has your daughter wanted this tattoo for? If not a long, long time, I’d remind her that she may not feel the same way about it in future. One of my friends has a giant tattoo across her lower pelvis saying “Stefanny”. (Her name is Stefani). Our slutty seventeen year old selves thought it was the hottest thing ever, but she sure as hell regrets it now and is saving up to get it removed. Obviously, this isn’t to the same level as that, but the point to be wary that she may not be as enthusiastic about it in future is a good one.

      1. BizzieLizzie

        Ha ha ha ha…… I’ve just regressed to having a 17 year old’s sense of humour.
        That Steph-fanny story is so funny. Especially if she is not based in the US!!!!
        (Only mildly amusing if she is in the US).

      2. Melissa

        My cousin did the same – she’s got a giant dragonfly on her lower back. I think she got it when she was 16 or 17. But because she was underaged, she had to go to one of those parlors that would do it illegally on underaged folks, which also tend not to be the highest quality parlors – so it’s kind of ugly in addition to being very large. She said her only consolation is that she can’t see it every day, lol.

      3. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        This reminds me of something you would see on the show Tattoo Nightmares.

        It’s amazing what our 17-20 year old selves think is funny or fantastic.

    4. Oryx

      As someone with multiple tattoos, I completely second this idea. I go years between tattoos for this reason.

    5. SH

      Natalie – Yes! I did this with my first tattoo and when I got it and have no regrets (although I hate covering it up at work).

    6. KathyGeiss

      This was my rule as well. I got a tattoo when I was 18 but I had it designed when I was 17 and sat on it for over a year. Obviously I had to wait the year to be of legal age but it was also a purposeful wait to ensure I still wanted it. Now, I made a lot of bad choices at 18 but over 10 years have passed and I still love my tattoo.

      This strategy also saves the conversation from being “I’m your mother and I forbid it!” Which is a sure way to drive your children to do it (not that I’m assuming this mother would go there).

    7. JC

      FWIW, I got a tattoo when I was 19 that I still liked for many years afterwards…but now do not. So would have passed Natalie’s test, but still regret it now. Wish I stuck to piercings as self-expression back then! I had a nose ring for awhile that I really did think I’d keep forever, but eventually let close once I had a more professional job.

      1. Natalie

        That’s fair, but at least in my experience people regret those less than they regret the flash are they picked off the wall 15 minutes before their appointment.

    8. CLT

      My son was considering a tattoo, but then he thought about how often his taste in clothes change….

    9. Salyan

      Speaking as someone who writes on her hand all. the. time. – I don’t see the point. It is perfectly possible to write temporary reminders on oneself without needing lines & bullet points to keep it tidy. It’s not like the list is going to last longer than an hour or two anyways.

    10. Cath in Canada

      Yup – I only allowed myself to get a tattoo after I’d wanted the same design for a full year. I’ve had it for 5 years now and I still love it, and because my husband designed it for me, it’s truly a one-of-a-kind!

  6. Tinker

    A number of my coworkers and my boss’s boss have tattoos, and I’m also strongly considering a set, once I’ve got a more firm notion of a design. I’ve joked that I need to upsize my ear lobe piercings in order to dress like management (I’m only one step short, and one could argue that there’s a proportionality issue there; my boss’s boss is rather a large guy, and I am not). What I’m saying here is — I’m not one of those folks who have a weird or even normalish aversion to the subject, and I work in an environment where people campaign for their favorite artist, not one where the odd glimpse at a softball game derails someone’s career or whatever the heck.

    That said, novelty tattoos (the to-do list template being a classic, also finger mustaches) have a way of having a short shelf life. What tends to go better, from what I’ve read, is well-executed tattoos that fit the wearer’s aesthetic sense — not necessarily values, as these tend to change more with time. I’d go with the — look, if I wanted to write a to-do list on my arm, I have a pen. I also have post-it notes. And phone reminders. And a whole calendar system thing. And Jira. And I am not about to get something representative of Jira tattooed on my arm.

    I also kind of think that one’s relationship to items of organization specifically is apt to change a whole lot in the transition between undergrad and some sort of career; when I was in that phase of life, I thought I would be married to my calculator forever. I still have the thing, largely for sentimental value now, but now I also have Python.

    I’d advise sitting on that particular idea for a good long while. At the least. Are there no appealing species of bird out there?

    1. themmases

      I think a person’s way of organizing can continue to change for even longer– although there is definitely a big difference between college and work in terms of what you need to organize and how.

      I still change systems somewhere between every few months and every couple of years, and I’m in my late 20s and have been working in my field for a while. It just bothers me that running to-do lists tend to fill up with cruft jobs: stuff that was supposed to be done weekly but can really be done as needed, stuff that is theoretically still wanted but not so relevant now that I’ve done everything else, stuff that I can’t remember exactly what it is but can’t bear to check it off if I didn’t do it! Inevitably I start to ignore the real stuff on my list because half of the list is irrelevant. So it just works for me to occasionally move only the real stuff to a shiny new system. It’s a lot like moving house. I would bitterly regret a tattoo endorsing one system within 6 months.

  7. Panda Bandit

    #4 – While a to-do list tattoo is an interesting and original idea, I think in reality it will be a ton of trouble. It can limit employment options, arms are round and hard to write on legibly, smudgy ink can ruin her clothes, etc.

  8. Marzipan

    I don’t, for one second, believe that #4’s daughter wants to get her tattoo *just* as a practical means of organising herself (since, as others have pointed out, it’s not an especially effective means of doing so). She wants to get it because it amuses her, or speaks to her in some way. In short, she wants to get it for the same reason anyone ever wants to get a tattoo. Will it be just as relevant to her in five, ten, twenty years? Probably not. But that doesn’t automatically make it regrettable – the fact that I wouldn’t choose the same tattoos today as I did when I was younger doesn’t mean I regret them; it means I’ve gradually changed over time, and I enjoy my tattoos as a way of documenting those stages of my life.

    So far as I’m concerned the answer is the same as to anyone thinking of getting any tattoo – by all means do it, but be aware that you may need to cover it up in future. I’m a woman with tattoos on my forearm, upper arms, upper chest and calves, and with a bit of thought I can cover them perfectly easily. At worst, if I’m wearing something fairly sheer, you’d be able to make out that there was probably a tattoo there, but not what it was, and I seriously doubt that any hiring manager is going to demand she roll up her sleeves so they can inspect her choice of artwork, so as long as she doesn’t actually respond to a question about how she keeps herself organised by showing it off I can’t see why it would be a problem. Once hired, she can work out what the company culture is in relation to tattoos and how they’re perceived, and act accordingly.

    It’s her arm, at the end of the day. Lots of people will tell you they hate the idea, but that would be the case for any tattoo you ever described. But really, the main question is ‘Am I prepared to cover it up at work, if necessary for the rest of my life?’ and that doesn’t change no matter what the design.

    1. LBK

      I think people are taking their cues on that from the letter itself, which makes it seem like she’s actually going to use it practically. No one here really seems to be debating if tattoos in general are appropriate for the workplace.

      1. Kelly L.

        We’re getting it secondhand, though, and I wonder if the daughter wants it because it’s funny but the mom misunderstands and thinks she’s going to use it for real.

        1. Observer

          True. But either way, the responses are to what is in the letter – which is that the daughter is thinking of using this as a practical way to manage her to do lists.

    2. grasshopper

      Yes! The daughter wants a tattoo and is just selling the idea to her mom as something practical so that her mom will agree to it. Whether or not it is a to-do list is irrelevant; it is a tattoo.

      1. Elysian

        I think what it is is relevant though – a tattoo is one thing, a tattoo with nudity or drugs or something that isn’t work appropriate would be different because of its subject matter… this tattoo I think will look immature and that is limiting in a way that is different from just a general tattoo.

      2. Melissa

        Maybe, but we should generally take letters at face-value, and trust what the letter writer says unless it makes sense to do otherwise.

    3. LizB

      Yeah, I’m finding the reactions here pretty bizarre. There’s no way this woman wants to use a tattoo on her forearm as her primary system of organization. Not a chance in hell. It’s meant to be funny. I know one person with a similar tattoo, and they rarely actually use it — it’s a self-deprecating joke about their obsession with organization (I love To-Do lists so much I put one permanently on my body!). If the idea doesn’t speak to you, fine, but clearly it speaks to the OP’s daughter in some way. I don’t understand being horrified or considering this a huge red flag more than any other slightly silly tattoo idea.

    4. zora

      Great points. My favorite tattoo related quote:

      “I had to leave the house of self-importance
      To doodle my first tattoo
      Because a tattoo is no more permanent than I am…”

      This actually really did blow my mind when I first heard it. I had been scared of tattoos, but now I have a couple of favorite ideas that I still love after several years, and it’s just a matter of saving and planning and finding an artist.

  9. Be advised current orbital inclination is not favorable for surgical excision.

    I really really hate tattoos. If it’s for cosmetic surgery, fine. If it’s a part of a military tradition of some kind, then *grumble* okay. Anything else and as far as I’m concerned, you’re disfiguring yourself. The closest I’ve come to divorce was when my wife, for reasons known only to her, decided she’d encourage the kids to get tattoos.

    I especially hate the ones women tend to get in the small of their back. No mortal artist will ever lay down ink more beautiful than natural skin.

    1. Elysian

      This is a pretty extreme opinion, which you’re entitled to have. It doesn’t seem to relate to the letter writer’s question at all, though, and seems unnecessarily antagonist and at least a little bit sexist.

      1. Cath in Canada

        I just unfriended an acquaintance on Facebook for his second snobby comment about tattoos. The first was when I posted a photo of the absolutely beautiful henna hand tattoo I got for my best friend’s wedding, saying what a happy day I was having and how talented the artist was, and the first comment was him saying “I DO HOPE THAT’S NOT PERMANENT”, in all-caps. The second was when he posted a link to an article about tattoos and basically said that he’s sooooo proud that he’s not like all those other idiots, his skin will remain unblemished etc.

        Tattoos are like same-sex marriages – if you don’t want one, don’t have one. Live and let live!

      1. Hlyssande

        It isn’t antagonistic to have a strong opinion, but when you state your opinion with shaming or inflammatory language, then there is a problem.

      2. Tinker

        Honestly, although I theoretically accept that people can have all manner of opinions regarding tattoos, certainly as it pertains to themselves and to a degree on other people, pretty much all anti-tattoos-on-others positions I have encountered in the real world at best put me off and at worst cause me to contemplate if there’s a good artist about who takes emergency appointments.

        This sort of opinion — and it always seems to come up, especially when women are explicitly cited — in particular is not a great one in my mind. I think the more mild versions of it are meant to be affirming to people who don’t have tattoos, but there’s a “notes from my pants” flavor that is… unsettling. I feel like if anyone is going to comment about how much they like looking at my pure naaaaaaaatural ssssssssskinnnn, delicccccious unssssssulllied flesssssshhhhh, et cetera, we should have had coffee first and ideally the person should be joking.

        (Also, yeah, my flesh is hardly unsullied even without tattoos. I own a grumpy cat and participate in a number of active hobbies. Does that mean I get a pass on the tattoo question, or do I need to change my lifestyle further until it produces the correct body to look at?)

        It seems like something about the question, in that it seems to be an invitation to detail one’s aesthetic preferences (but isn’t necessarily) and also pertains to a practice that is (in this context) distinctly voluntary, has a way of doing an end run around some people’s judgment of good boundaries regarding how to talk about what one likes to look at on other people’s bodies.

        1. Be advised current orbital inclination is not favorable for surgical excision.

          Rubbish. You don’t have any tattoos, Tinker, and you never will get a tattoo. Because deep down inside you are smart enough to know that a tattoo will look nice for maybe 2 or 4 years, but after that it’s going to begin to look ugly because of the fading and stretching and whatnot.

          > naaaaaaaatural ssssssssskinnnn, delicccccious unssssssulllied flesssssshhhhh

          Ummm. Not sure how you got from … wherever … to that. All I was saying is that no mortal artist with a tattoo gun will ever improve upon the design that God has rendered.

          As a married, heterosexual male, I’ve always enjoyed looking at women, and I hope that I always will. I like red hair (ex: my wife has red hair). I don’t like tattoos, scarification, or too much perfume, especially in a restaurant. Like most men, I have an entire range of such things that I like and I don’t like. You can run with that Zombie Homer Simpson “naaaaatural sssskiiinnn” thing if you want, but be aware that that is coming from you, not from me.

          1. WonderOfficeWoman

            I guess I’m stupid and lucky then, because I did get a tattoo about 18 years ago, and it still looks lovely – no fading or stretching or whatnot.

            Look, everyone has aesthetic preferences, and it’s fine for you to not like tattoos. Where it starts to feel weird for me is when you state yours as a fact – that “no mortal artist with a tattoo gun will ever improve upon the design that God has rendered.” I find mine to be an improvement, and honestly, my opinion is the only one that really matters when it comes to the aesthetics of my own body.

            1. Be advised current orbital inclination etc

              But why is it that you can state your opinion as a fact (“it still looks lovely”) and it’s still an opinion, whereas when I state my opinion in a similar manner, people come out of the woodwork to tell me I don’t have any right to make a comment? Or that I have “ownership” issues about women’s bodies? Or portray me as some kind of sex-crazed sub-human?

              *shrug* it’s okay, those are rhetorical questions.

              I actually found it interesting and even amusing (and I mean that in a nice way) to read some of the reactions people had and attempt to derive the path of thought that led from the 88 words I typed to some of the stuff people wrote. And I’m not making fun of you, AnonAcademic; the “perceived ownership” thing kinda blows my mind – have you ever read anything by Julia Kristeva?

              1. WonderOfficeWoman

                Well, I was never the one who said you don’t have the right to make a comment or have ownership issues.

                You are right that I did use “lovely” as a fact in the first sentence. Maybe I should have said only that I find it lovely (opinion) and that there is no stretching or fading (fact, it still looks the way it did when I first got it). But I was trying to counter your argument that tattoos are only nice for a couple of years and then look ugly, so I was using parallel phrasing.

                1. Be advised current orbital inclination etc

                  Oh – for the record, I was using your words as an example, but in truth, I don’t have any problem understanding that you were expressing your opinion. Please don’t go modifying your sentence structure for me! :)

                  But that’s what baffles me: is it NOT perfectly obvious to everyone on AAM that most of the things people write here are opinions? Even then, someone below has problems with me “sharing [my] completely irrelevant opinions on how women should make sure their bodies are appealing to you, a complete stranger?” I’m not sure that that was what I was doing.

          2. Tinker

            Thank you for the more detailed information regarding your taste in women. That was very useful and relevant information for me. Also thank you for telling me what I am or am not going to do and why. I did not know that before.

          3. Polka Dot Bird

            You don’t see the inappropriateness of sharing your completely irrelevant opinions on how women should make sure their bodies are appealing to you, a complete stranger? Because that is what you have done.

    2. Marcela

      Hahaha. You are being ridiculous. Specially since you don’t have any right to comment about other people’s skins. And even more, since skins are not perfect and there is no reason at all they should be like that. Perhaps you should interact with beautiful human size dolls. They do have perfect skins, not an imperfection or blemish. FYI, I am telling you this with HUGE visible scars, so I am very offended when people like you pretend perfect skin is the “natural” skin or that skin should be spotless.

    3. AnonAcademic

      “I especially hate the ones women tend to get in the small of their back. No mortal artist will ever lay down ink more beautiful than natural skin.”

      Finding tattoos gross and disfiguring, fine. I think Crocs make people’s feet look disfigured which in some circles makes me the devil. But the above statement has uncomfortable undercurrents of perceived ownership over women’s bodies. A small of the back tattoo is REALLY more repulsive to you than a face, neck, or knuckle tattoo with, say, a white power theme?

      Also a cautionary tale: my mother hates tattoos. My brother apprenticed to become a tattoo artist and now has a dozen large pieces. Be careful what attitudes of intolerance you project to your children.

    4. Panda Bandit

      You don’t have to like tattoos but other people aren’t here on this planet to be your perfect eye candy.

  10. Gem

    Like, I would probably consider briefly a to-do list tattoo (I love my to-do lists/organisational tools (maybe I should get the Trello wolf looking fondly at the Jira logo? Maybe on the green of the Evernote logo)), and I’d have ‘Get a tattoo’ as the first item, ticked off.

    But I’d never use it, nor would I ever expect anyone to see it as anything other than a silly tattoo at best (and the Worst Thing Ever(TM) at worst). And yeah, you do kindof have to consider the area you’re in, both geographically and industry-wise. I got my third tattoo a week ago, and while two of them can be hidden, it would only be by wearing long sleeves (the third is on my back, so most people are unaware I have it). Luckily I work in an area where no one cares about these things, and it so far hasn’t affected my career path.

    (Holy parentheses, Batman)

    1. fposte

      Now that would turn it into a witty tattoo.

      I don’t care whether anybody gets a tattoo or not; however, I think if the OP’s daughter is hoping employers will think it’s dedicated and excitingly organized, stop! First off, it’s not likely to work–as noted, it’s not only something many employers won’t like, it’s very practically limited. Secondly, please do not contribute to any notion that a job applicant actually has to have a permanent body mod to look like a more dedicated employee.

      1. Windchime

        When I googled “tattooed to do list”, about half of them had the first item “get a tattoo”, which was crossed off. So yes, it’s witty but it’s also been done.

        Also: I haven’t seen the finger mustache tattoo. I googled that one, too, and I had no idea it was such a popular thing. I’m such an old fuddy-duddy.

  11. Gem

    Oh, and number 3, that sounds skeevy, sorry you’re dealing with it. Hopefully you’ve boss/you’re relationship with said boss is awesome enough they can deal with this for you. Asking you out as a ‘joke’, ew. And even if it was a joke, you don’t do those kind of jokes without being really sure you know the person will find it amusing.

    1. jamlady

      I tend to get a little crazy about people overstepping their boundaries when it comes to my marriage (maybe because I’m a military spouse and people tend to make assumptions about military marriages and infidelity), but I would have told him right then and there that I was extremely uncomfortable with the conversation and would have made it clear that I didn’t want to discuss anything non-work related with him in the future. I don’t think this individual would have considered moving to an empty desk near mine after that conversation. I understand trying to keep a good working relationship, but he crossed a line and it kind of seems like he’s still trying to push because she let the date thing go (which again, personally, is a huge thing for me). I really hope her manager can step in and deal with this. OP mentioned this coworker was “needy” and that, along with the infidelity thing, kind of makes me nervous.

  12. SaraV

    1) Girl gets a to-do list tattoo
    2) Girl gets hired in an office asking visible tattoos be covered
    3) Girl can’t “use” to-do list tattoo because it’s covered

      1. LBK

        You’re assuming that the practical aspect of it truly had zero influence in deciding to get it, though.

          1. De (Germany)

            Especially using it for her job – even if she got it purely for practical reasons (which I don’t think) and had to cover it up at work, it still wouldn’t be useless.

      1. anon-why

        Is this sort of like that mildly sexist “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” kind of thing?

        1. Pearl

          It’s a quote from the original Jurassic Park movie.

          Dr. Ian Malcolm: God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.

          Dr. Ellie Sattler: Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.

        2. moss

          The rocks thing is more than mildly sexist. I hate it. I am a mother of boys and a feminist.

          1. Heather

            Along those lines, did anyone else see the interview with the creator of the Minions movie, where he says there are no female minions because he couldn’t picture women being as dumb as the minions are? I suppose it’s meant as a compliment to women, but I’m pretty sure that men and women are dumb at approximately the same rates.

            1. Squirrel!

              Aren’t Minions asexual and don’t they lack genitals anyway? Why does everything have to be made into a sexist thing (or not)?

  13. AE

    #1 possible innocuous reason: perhaps someone in another regional office is having performance issues or spends too little or too much time in the office. As a productive employee, #1 may be a kind of standard by which others in similar positions are being judged.

    1. Me too

      Still weird not to ask OP – looks like a lack of trust. If he believes OP’s account of OP’s time, he would ask OP. I would have the same reaction TBH.

      1. Ama

        If the manager comes from a culture where calendar questions are always directed at assistants, maybe he doesn’t realize the impression he’s given, though. It does seem to me that the manager and the OP need to speak directly to clear some things up because it sounds like they haven’t figured out each other’s work styles yet.

    2. Stranger than fiction

      Another possibility, maybe he feels Op’s assistant doesn’t have enough supervision or interaction with her?

  14. AdAgencyChick

    #2, definitely do some more digging. The manager saying the previous person in the position “didn’t have a ‘can-do’ attitude” could mean the person who was fired had a bad attitude…or it could mean the manager is in the habit of making all kinds of insane requests.

    If you have any way of finding out this manager’s reputation, do it!

    1. Monodon monoceros

      Seconding the potential for insane manager requests. I’m sure my former manager would probably say I didn’t have a “can-do” attitude, but it was mainly because most of her requests were ridiculous. I wanted to post the “Choose 2: Fast, Cheap, or Good” on my desk.

      Do you know anyone else at the organisation who you could discreetly ask about this manager?

    2. Mike C.

      Yeah, in my industry this could easily mean someone who did their job by putting their foot down and properly withholding a signature when it wasn’t deserved.

    3. the_scientist

      Yeah, I’ve worked with the co-worker who always has an excuse for why things can’t be done and it is incredibly frustrating, so I get it. But I also had a boss who would make the nuttiest, most pie-in-the-sky requests that defied all logic and reason. In my case, this boss would see reason once I explained why the logistics were impossible, but I’m sure she would characterize me as being “unenthusiastic” or “negative” for not immediately being like “Yes! Great idea! We can totally do this!” right off the bat.

    4. Meg Murry

      Or it could mean the previous person wasn’t willing to work 80 hour weeks to get the insane tasks done.

      I agree that this could be an honest case of the previous person being a slacker – or it could be an insane manager, or somewhere halfway. Does OP have anyone in her network that works at this company (this sounds like a good time to look at 2nd degree connections on LinkedIn if she doesn’t have a direct connection) to try to understand this manager’s reputation and expectations.

      Either way, OP should also ask some follow up questions if she has another interview – I like the “what kind of person would excel” and if the answer is “can-do attitude” I’d want more info on what that means – does it mean takes initiative? gets stuff done without handholding? Indulges in the boss’s stupid whims before crushing them? Or is it code for “works an insane number of hours”? or “never tells the boss no”?

    5. OP #2

      #2 OP here. Thanks Alison, for illustrating the reality of a can’t-do attitude, and helping me see why it could be a problem worthy of dismissal. And thank you commenters, on this thread and others, for your warnings about managers that are impossible to please and roles that are built for failure. This manager seems a bit eccentric and picky (e.g., used a metaphor for work ,where it should have been obvious to me that Tory Burch = bad, Bergdorf Goodman = good, and this job has nothing to do with fashion), so I do worry about what it would be like to work for him. I asked him about who has done well in this role, but unfortunately the answer is NOBODY YET — the position is pretty new, and has only been held by the person getting fired. I know someone else at the organization, and I am going to get coffee with her this week. I will try to learn more about this manager’s overall style and history before I proceed.

          1. AdAgencyChick

            I’m glad you’re having coffee with someone else at the organization who isn’t involved in the hiring process. Hope it gets you the scoop!

      1. JMegan

        >>I asked him about who has done well in this role, but unfortunately the answer is NOBODY YET

        Ooh, that would be a bit of a red flag for me. Not a huge one, but certainly one that would have me asking more questions. Yes, the role is new, and the only person to hold it so far didn’t do well in it. But even so, the manager should be able to describe a hypothetical person who *would* do well in this role – he must have an idea of the type of person he’s looking to hire, right?

        Like I said, it’s probably not a dealbreaker on its own. But I think it’s definitely a good idea to do a bit of detective work on this. Good luck!

        1. AdAgencyChick

          Completely agree that that response doesn’t sit well with me. It may be true that no one has done well in the role yet, but there’s a world of difference between:

          “It’s a new role, and we had to let the previous person go, but we’re really looking for a person who excels at X, Y, and Z. With a new role it’s always a learning process, and we learned that we really can’t do without Z.”

          and

          “Nobody has!”

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Oh wait, didn’t see Op’s last comment ’til now. I’m feeling this is more 70/30 now…70% chance this guy is difficult. A fashion metaphor? yikes.

  15. Renn

    #3 — Good luck! This is such a tricky area. I once was in a somewhat similar situation — even trying to handle it discreetly, and with the original assertion of HR rather than myself, it backfired.

    I was in my early 20s, my boss thought of herself as my mentor, and when she hired me assigned me to work at a desk — in her office! This was a publishing company, not a small outfit, and I was not her assistant, I was a writer who reported directly to her. This meant that in addition to monitoring my every coming and going, she listened to every interview I did on the phone and at times even interrupted me mid-source development. It not only was oppressive, it was truly bizarre, because of course there were lots of other writers who were not sharing a small office with the editor. HR at my annual review asked if I would like to be moved out of her office, and I took that as an indication that they were prepared to make that happen, as smoothly as possible. My editor absolutely flipped her lid, thought I was the one who had made the suggestion, and shot it down (why HR didn’t follow through, I have no idea. The whole thing was so inappropriate.)

    I actually left her publication primarily because of the day-to-day working situation and went to write for another publication at the same company. I don’t know what to suggest to you at all beyond what Alison is recommending, I just wish employers were a little more attuned to how truly awful some of these dynamics are that on the surface might not look like they should make a difference.

  16. Waterloo Alum

    #4: That tattoo is the sort of thing that might go over well with Waterloo’s geek culture (for American readers, the University of Waterloo is kind of Canada’s MIT), but if she’s like most Waterloo students, she’s already either working at a co-op job or will be interviewing for one shortly. Depending on which program she’s in, that tattoo – especially if it can’t easily be covered – may seriously impact her chances for co-op employment. This might not be a big deal if she sees herself working at startups mostly, but it could close doors she doesn’t yet realize she cares about keeping open – especially in finance or government.

    One of the things about doing a co-op placement or internship relatively early in undergrad is that you have to come to terms with choosing conservatism over self-expression just at the age where you first gain some freedom in exploring your boundaries. That means foregoing visible tattoos, facial piercings, unnaturally coloured hair, or anything other than a completely anodyne social media presence. After she graduates and has a bit of a career foothold from co-op, then it makes sense for her to make appearance and lifestyle choices that might limit where she’ll fit in. As unfortunate as it is to say, boring’s the best policy for a good start to your career.

    1. MIT Alum

      I could see this going over with a quirky student – but not for a real job at anywhere other than maybe a startup culture. I think the to-do list tattoo idea is very stupid and impractical – I would definitely look at it in a “what were they thinking?!?! light. I do write on my hand to remember things – and half the time I’m lucky if I make it an hour or two before it has smudged off.

      I also had the experience of always having to keep myself presentable for internships placements. I was holding out hope that I would get a job offer early my senior year (most of my friends the class above me had offers and accepted positions by October, or December at the latest) so that I could finally indulge in my whim to put purple streaks in my hair for my last semester with no repercussions. Alas, the consulting market fell apart, which meant the non-consulting jobs were scarce and highly competitive, and I didn’t get an offer before graduation. Now I’m working in a fairly conservative environment – so I’ve never had those purple streaks in any form other than 1 day wash-out material. I’ve never wanted a tattoo though – mainly because I never thought of anything I wanted badly enough to actually live with forever.

      If OP’s daughter really wants a to-do list she can see at a glance, use the widget on her smartphone for a Google Keep list, not permanently tattooed on her arm, for Pete’s sake. I really hope this was only a whim, and her daughter doesn’t actually go through with it.

    2. saby

      That’s exactly what I thought when I read the question — “omg that’s such a Waterloo thing, I bet her friends think it would be awesome.”

      If she ends up working in startups I could actually see it being a conversation starter/ice breaker. tbh the people I know who went to Waterloo all seem to have jobs where they can stroll into the office at 10:30 in jeans or yoga pants and Super Mario slippers with a bad case of bedhead (/mild jealousy) so I don’t know that this would actually be a problem professionally depending on what field she’s heading into.

    3. Kita

      This is so interesting. Can you explain what you mean by co-op? To me, that would mean a company owned by it’s workers, or a farmer’s co-op that comes together to sell their grain. I’m not sure what it would have to do with University.

  17. Not Tattooed

    I scribbled my to do list on my hand and arm when I was in college and throughout out my twenties. Then, one day, I decided to keep my list in my electronic calendar. It’s been there ever since, indifferent incarnations (it’s in an iphone app). Even better, I set my calendar to alert me to make sure I’ve completed my list.

    Alison says your organization system will change over time. Not only did it change with me, but it reflected new technology available to me.

    1. MsM

      The way things are going, in 30-50 years, we may all just have this stuff accessible via cybernetic implant anyway.

    2. Dr J

      When I was in college and grad classes I used the weekly Moleskine planners with the facing notes page. When I started research I used a small paper diary that I could bring into the archive to keep track of what I’d done each day. When I started dissertating, I used the iPhone calendar to keep track of my appointments and a simple undated weekly paper pad to track writing goals and progress. Now that I’m teaching at multiple places I rely on a vertical-column weekly spread to show me when I have pockets of time for reading and writing, with a running to-do list on each week. In every one of those transitions, I felt overwhelmed or flustered before I made the switch to the new system because the old one just didn’t work any more, and once I got the right layout things smoothed out again. In my experience it’s good not to be too married to one planning system!

  18. KT

    For the “can-do” attitude letter, I can’t tell you how important that is. I’ve had coworkers and people who have reported to me where every single ask was met with “That’s not my job” or “that’s not in the job description”. SUPER frustrating to deal with. Sometimes things come up that have to be done, and whether you’re the intern or the VP, you’re expected to pitch in.

    A willingness to go above and beyond is indispensable.

    1. Windchime

      We had a business analyst who, when asked to do a task, would either shrug and say, “I don’t have a clue” or “Sorry, I’m not an expert on this” or would just drag her feet to the point where it was easier to do it myself. We went through two years of this until we finally got a manager who started holding her accountable and she quit within a couple of months after that.

  19. KT

    I love tattoos, but this one really gives me pause. Besides being vastly impractical, is this something your daughter really wants and is meaningful to her? or is it because she thinks it’s clever and different? A tattoo that seems oh so clever may be incredibly dull in 5 years, so she needs to think long and hard on this before committing to it.

  20. Allison

    Here’s the thing about a tattoo: it’s there when your in school, it’s there when you’re running errands, and it’s there when you’re at home (where having a to-do list does come in handy); it’s also there when you’re out with your friends, and when you’re on a date, and when you’re at the beach. You cannot take the tattoo off, and you can’t always cover it up. In the case of a to-do tattoo, the fact that you can always see it might be helpful, but remember that everyone else can see it too! Does she want drunk guys commenting on it? Does she want to *always* need to explain it? Does she want an employer or teacher under the impression that this is the only way she’ll remember to do important things?

    This sounds like a tattoo she’ll love and use often for a month or so, then slowly start to regret.

  21. Cruella DaBoss

    #4…Why didn’t I think of that for my children?! All four get the template tattoo. Then I can just write everyone’s daily tasks on their arm rather than leaving a list posted to the fridge. Or better yet, I can write everyone’s tasks on a sibling’s arm. Then they have to stay at the house and work together!

    1. KJR

      Haha, I like the way you think! Now if we could just think of a way to get them to actually DO what’s on the list!

    2. Meg Murry

      There is a temporary tattoo for this – its one of the first things that comes up when you google: to do list tattoo . And at least that way if they don’t want it on anymore they will accomplish one of the things my kid’s to do list – scrub yourself thoroughly, for pete’s sake – splashing water for 2 seconds does not equal clean. :-)

  22. A little bit anon

    #4. I could see some people using it as a way to harass her too….

    “Oh, can you put my name on your to-do list? HAHA!”
    “You got that tattoo in college? What did you write on that? Party, Drink Beer and Dress like a skank?”

    I wish that wasn’t something to worry about, but my friend has gotten some immature responses on her different tattoos from supposedly professional colleagues. And don’t get me started on her tongue piercing and the comments she’s gotten from THAT.

    1. Marzipan

      I don’t see why she should go through life avoiding doing things she wants to do because other people might pick up on those things should they decide to harass her along gendered or sexualised lines – frankly, people who are going to do that will find a reason to justify it to themselves anyway.

      If she gets such comments, from anyone, about anything, ever, I’d suggest she shoot them down with a ‘Pardon?’ or a ‘Wow.’ or a similar flat-intoned calling out of their terrible manners and gross objectification of her. But honestly, I disagree with the idea that women ought to be constantly on the alert to not give these people any ammunition, because the issue isn’t what the harassed woman is doing; it’s what the harassers are doing. There isn’t a gold standard of acceptable woman-ing that would meet with their approval, and neither she nor your friend should feel like they have to live up to one.

      1. grasshopper

        Thumbs down to the “she is asking for it” mentality and huge thumbs up to Marzipan’s response!

        1. A little bit anon

          I’m sorry, I truly did not intend for my comment to sound like “she’s asking for it” because that’s not what I believe at all. I merely wanted to bring a different perspective than what others commented. My last name, for example, has a couple of letters that mean something sexualized. Growing up I got teased immensely for it. People calling me only by the few letters that they found were funny. As a bullied 12 year old, I did not have the confidence to say something clever back at them. But it hurt, because people say hurtful things.

          I just wanted to point out that something that is rather innocent in nature can be turned around into something disgusting. I couldn’t choose my last name at 12, but getting a tattoo that could open myself up to more comments is not something I want. Sure, you can say that I should woman up and shut people down and not let it bother me, but it would. Just like I’m bothered that I’ve been insinuated as someone who believes “she’s asking for it” and other claims of that matter.

          1. Kai

            FWIW, I didn’t think you were suggesting the OP’s daughter would be “asking for it,” either, and I’m usually on high alert for that sort of thing.

            I could totally see dumb jokes and harassment occurring as a result of the tattoo. Getting teased and harassed is never the victim’s fault, of course, but it can be exhausting to put up with–especially if you maybe don’t have the skills to shut it down on your own, as you illustrated.

          2. Marzipan

            When people behave badly towards you, you are absolutely free and right to feel about it however you feel about it, from unbothered to very, very bothered. I’m sorry people picked on you for your name; it was childish and unpleasant of them.

            I personally didn’t think or mean to imply that you were insinuating she would be ‘asking for it’, I just hate the idea of constantly policing myself for things nasty people might be nasty about, because I think it’s exhausting, and futile – literally *anything* you or I or #4’s daughter do or say or wear could be that innocent thing that someone decides to point at and laugh and be unpleasant about, and we would in no way be asking for that to happen just by existing. I take issue with the people doing the harassing, not with you!

            1. Observer

              I think that you are right. I also think, though, that someone considering this – or anything else for that matter, would do themselves a favor and consider the likelihood of whatever it is being used in a way that would be difficult for them. And, then decide is the “whatever” worth that risk.

              That does NOT mean: Don’t do “whatever”; If you do “whatever” you “asked for it”; it’s ok to use “whatever” as a pretext for any type of harassment; you can’t seek to change the status quo that results in the problems you expect to encounter.

    2. Sadsack

      I don’t think that these really are legitimate concerns. That kind of treatment from others is concerning and those people should check themselves. It’s not for the girl with the tattoo to have to worry about what idiotic remarks others, including coworkers, might make. And if a coworker makes comments like these at all, that person needs to be dealt with for his or her actions.

      1. Sadsack

        Ah, legitimate was totally the wrong word here, so please ignore that part. Marzipan expressedexpressed the same idea that I have, but much better.

    1. Sadsack

      Yeah, what kind of joke is it to put your married coworker in such an awkward position? OP says her boss laughed off her concerns, which is also concerning.

      1. jamlady

        I was asked out once by someone in his 50s in my office when I was 22 and newly(ish) married. He didn’t know I was married, but his reasoning for not knowing was “because you’re so young”. Yet here he is, older than my father (not to mention well above my level in the office), asking me out. I nodded, excused myself, and went straight to my supervisor. She was way below his level also, but kept an eye on things. It didn’t end up being an issue (apparently he’s not normally so skeevy), but I know she would have had my back. It bothers me that the OP may not have a manager like this :(

  23. The Other Dawn

    #4: I agree that a to-do list tattoo is not a good idea. It’s messy and there likely isn’t enough room to fit everything. I think it will convey that she’s forgetful and disorganized. And in my opinion it screams “high school.” I don’t think that’s the impression she wants to convey to a potential employer.

  24. LQ

    #1
    Two things jumped out at me.
    1. Government entity, this could mean they have strict regulations about what being in the office means, how you are supposed to spend your time, etc. It might be a matter of being concerned that it isn’t being tracked correctly. Or you might be required to check in at the office before going to the meetings, even if that isn’t actually the most efficient way of doing it. Your boss since he is new, may have a mandate to crack down on the little things like this. Don’t go into your boss upset and defensive when you talk to him.
    2. You said you have never taken sick or vacation time as if that was a point of pride. Don’t do that! Please! TAKE A VACATION. Seriously. Acting like not using your vacation time is a good thing is bad. Take your time. It’s part of your payment. It’s part of your benefits. Would you give back large chunks of your paycheck? You likely have some kind of cap which you might not have hit yet, but don’t hit that cap and loose your time.

  25. Erin

    #1 – How did you know about this email, from your assistant herself I assume? So she’s probably trying to give you a head’s up. I think how you handle this will depend on what she said in response, and what your boss said in response to that.

    However, I’d probably approach it with the assumption that your boss either A) is trying to gauge the best times to meet with you or B) is trying to get a better understanding about your role, since he’s new at being your boss. Maybe offer to share your calendar with your boss and/or assistant to be more transparent about your schedule. You shouldn’t *have* to do that, but you’re legitimately working all day and have nothing to hide, so why not?

    Also, why haven’t you taken any vacation time? You should take vacation time. Maybe that’s even the red flag to your boss – you don’t need to take vacation time so therefore you must be goofing off all the time. It’s a silly assumption, but he won’t know otherwise unless you communicate your schedule to him.

    #2 – That sounds really vague. Maybe something else is at a play here you need to worry about, but maybe not. I wouldn’t assume the worst.

    #4 – I’m sorry, that tattoo would be God-awful. Why would she be writing on her arm? Writing on paper, taking an old school approach over typing up a list, sure. Writing on your *arm?* I’m admittedly not a hiring manager, but that would be a giant red flag to me.

    1. Persephone Mulberry

      Maybe that’s even the red flag to your boss – you don’t need to take vacation time so therefore you must be goofing off all the time.

      That’s where my mind went, too. That, or that this new manager comes from a culture where it’s normal to go through an assistant to set up a meeting.

      Hope OP1 gives us an update!

  26. Squirrel!

    Regarding the tattoo, from an art perspective: Make sure that if she goes through with it (which she shouldn’t because of all the great reasons listed prior), she goes to a good artist, meaning one that draws straight lines, doesn’t have ink bleeds, etc. For such a simplistic tattoo, it needs to be On Point, or it’s going to look like garbage right off the bat (and it’ll only get worse as the tattoo ages). Although to be honest, if she finds a good artist, they will probably try to talk her out of getting such a dumb tattoo, because artists do that for their clients because they understand the “severity” of getting a tattoo. They might even talk her into getting something else that’s more meaningful, if meaningful is truly what’s she is going for and not some dumb gimmick tattoo.

    1. MicheleNYC

      +1 a reputable artist will always try to talk you out of something silly. I almost got Grateful Dead dancing bears when I was in my early 20’s. I had changed my mind by time my appointment came around. When I arrived for my appointment the artist said to me you might want to rethink that idea. I got lovely little sunflowers instead that I still love 20+ years later!

  27. oldfashionedlovesong

    LW #2 – I think Alison’s suggested question is a good one; hopefully the response will allow you to assess where the problem really lies– with the manager, or with the supposed “no can do” employee– and thus see whether this position is going to be a good fit for your expectations.

    I work in a sector where job descriptions exist for a reason– we all have our specific strengths we trained in, and yet we have the kind of leadership that thinks everyone should do everything. Just yesterday I was meeting with my colleague ‘June’, a Teapot Spout Specialist, whose manager has basically dumped the entire Teapot Design Lead scope of work into her lap (then left for vacation when a major department report is due). June’s really struggling, but we all know if she says anything she’s going to be branded “no can do” and not a team player, when in fact, for the specific subset of Teapot Design work her job description entails, she is really one of the best, most dedicated colleagues I have. It’s a shame and I am pretty sure she’s spending her evenings job hunting (as am I…)

  28. Ad Astra

    I can sort of picture a scenario where the to-do list tattoo is more of an artistic expression (about the pressures to constantly be achieving? or something?) and wouldn’t be the worst idea. Not my cup of tea, but whatever.

    But if the daughter really is planning to use this tattoo as an actual, functioning to-do list, she should really, really reconsider. I would be less concerned about how employers perceive the tattoo (though that could still be an issue) and more concerned about the permanent, unchangeable nature of tattoos. What if she comes to prefer Google Calendar or a day planner or a wall calendar to track her to-do lists? What if her to-do list includes more personal tasks that she might not want strangers to be able to read on her arm?

    And, as someone with a tattoo that’s visible in most summer outfits, I urge her to consider whether she wants to explain the meaning of her tattoo to strangers all the dang time. I get very tired of it and often wish I’d chosen a more discreet location for my tattoo — not because of job prospects, but because people are nosy (or curious, at least).

    1. Emily K

      Yeah, I know plenty of people will silly/cute tattoos that don’t have much deeper meaning, including a guy who got the outline of a post-it pad tattooed on his forearm and does occasionally jot pen notes on it. He didn’t get it as an organizational system, though, he got it as self-expression of a cute idea. He’ll never regret getting it because for the rest of his life he’ll always be a guy who thought that was a cute/silly idea when he was younger.

      I’ve never really understood the “you’ll regret it when you’re older” argument against tattoos, and tend to think that it’s made by people who don’t really understand tattoos. I have a very religious tattoo from when I was 18, and I’m no longer especially religious, but I’ve never regretted the tattoo because it’s a snapshot of who I was at that point in time. It’s still honest and still me even though it’s no longer contemporary or accurate. Regretting an old tattoo is like being ashamed of who you were, and I like to think that most people aren’t ashamed of who they used to be, even if they’re now different. But all that said, this could be the one context in which I could see someone regretting a tattoo: if they got it, not out of self-expression and self-identity, but as some sort of productivity tool that at some point depreciates and becomes obsolete?

      1. zora

        But then again, just the fact that the tool is obsolete does what you were talking about by creating a snapshot. I mean, look how popular cassette tape imagery has gotten now that they are obsolete. ;o)

    2. Alma

      When I was living in a conservative Southern state, the State decided that all those folks who worked for the Parks Service could not have visible tatoos. This was a problem NB because most of the employees were Veterans who had tatoos that were visible when they now wore shorts and/or short sleeved or collarless shirts on the lake, or while working at snack bars, housekeeping, or landscaping. It hit the fan.

      However, there was a fairly large group of women who worked for the State who had tatoos in the form of permanent eyeliner, permanent lip color, and the like. They had visible tatoos. They were in violation of the policy. But it was more socially acceptable.

  29. Anamou

    #3 – Your coworker is creepy and definitely ignoring personal and professional boundaries and at least all kinds of professional norms. I hope your manager runs interference for you on this! Sorry you have to deal with something so…awkward and inappropriate. Yuck.

    1. OP 3

      I asked my manager and got the brush off – this guy had already been promised the space and my objections were laughed off. The move happened already and I lost a lot of ground due to the masses of stuff he brought with him.
      I’m working from home a lot more and from another site; I can make a better case for this now. I don’t answer any support calls that are now directed to our office; it has been raucous at times – my other (quiet) colleagues have commented on the increased number of visitors that come by just to pass the time. I’ve made it clear that I need to concentrate, I’ve been professional and there’s been no more creepy behavior so the worst of this is that I no longer feel like my boss has my back.

  30. Rae

    #1
    If your immediate jump is to your performance, I think that says more about you than your boss, including, perhaps that you really should take a vacation. These days it’s often about cost cutting, and if you’re really in the office only from, say 10am until 2pm on the typical day, it begs the question…do you really need the office set up the way it is? My husband’s company is going strong as ever, but they’ve downsized space because they do so much remote work on site and work from home it’s silly to pay good money for offices that are empty 70% of the time. They’ve moved and set up a semi-hoteling system in a smaller place that allows for more of what they need–a lager space for the product manager and more conference rooms for when clients come to train.

    That said, people tend to freak when you ask if they really need their desk, so in this case it’s better to simply ask someone else who can observe.

  31. Bend & Snap

    #1 does your manager understand your job? Maybe it’s time to really educate on what it entails.

  32. Richard

    #5 – I’d suggest that you have the URL (not text that has a hyperlink on it) for a site on your resume, so that someone who receives the printed resume can go straight to a site. Put your links there. Make sure that the URL is something you don’t mind an employer going to, and that it isn’t part of a bigger site that has things that would be problematic.

    Where this has definitely led me to hiring people – a co-op a few years ago had a site that had links to several of his personal and school projects. I could see his code, and his thinking process. He quickly moved to the front of the interview queue.

    Having a bunch of hyperlinked text in the resume can lead it to being unreadable and to a bunch of pop-up warnings from Word when we’re trying to use the resume, assuming they aren’t all stripped out.

    1. OP #5

      Thanks for the advice. Maybe I will put the link text at the very end.

      It will be links to my company’s website for the specific branded product name that I listed as an accomplishment.
      This is meant to be informative… “Here’s some more info about the products I am listing on my resume, since you might not have heard of it.” I work for a company/industry that is not necessarily associated with being high tech, and I want to apply for management jobs in other tech/app/mobile related industries.

  33. Melissa

    Another problem with the to-do list on the forearm, in general, is that pen marks wash off – in the shower, at the sink, wherever. I know lots of people write to-do lists on their arm (or other notes) and it’s not a problem. Also, if she’s a second-year at university, the pen marks on her forearms may raise concerns with professors during exams. It was one of the things we TAs subtly checked for before exams – you’d be surprised how many students try to cheat by writing notes on their arms and hands.

    Plus, is it really the kind of thing she’s going to want on her arm into her 30s, 40s, and beyond? I know you can get tattoos removed but it’s expensive and painful.

    I mean, it’s her arm. But if she really likes to write to-do lists, I suggest a small (really small) to-do list notepad. I bought one at the college bookstore when I was in grad school and I loved it – small enough to fit in a pocket, lots of pages, and checkmarks so you could check off for completion. There are also larger to-do lists that are magnetic, that lay on your desk…I REALLY love lists, so I have tons of suggestions.

  34. JoAnna

    re: #4 – anyone else think of “Mockingjay,” and getting one’s schedule for the day tattooed on one’s arm with ink that breaks down and washes away at the end of the day?

    My boss will occasionally write notes down on his hand. He jokes that it’s his “palm pilot.”

    1. Nanc

      Yes! I sometimes think the Mockingjay scheduling thing would solve so many of my problems!

      And Palm Pilot! Your boss is funny.

  35. K B

    Regarding number 3… how would that conversation with Bob go if they report to the same manager? Would the manager handle it with Bob’s manager if they work on different teams (matrix org)?

    1. jamlady

      I still do. But I work in the desert for half of my job and sometimes I just don’t have a piece of paper on me haha.

  36. Strangelittlebeing

    OP #4,

    I have a large forearm tattoo, and overall it hasn’t effected my professional life significantly. I got it at eighteen. At the time I was working at a grocery store where I was required to cover it up. Since leaving that job I’ve worked in office/healthcare settings that (while normally pretty conservative)- really don’t care if my tattoo is visible. Especially since so many people in my generation are tattooed.

    I think that a To Do list tattoo could be more problematic. You don’t want to present as someone who is scatterbrained to the point of needing a to do list tattooed on.

  37. LookyLou

    #1: I can see a very obvious reason why the boss would ask your assistant: someone said something to him.

    If someone is having a hard time reaching you at the office (client who drops in, a coworker) then they may complain directly to your boss that you are never available at the office. Your boss would then want to ask someone who will be honest as to how often you are actually there – it may be that he’s just trying to gauge if you are actually available if someone needs you there or if you are always out.

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