coworkers keep disrobing in front of me, breaking office chairs, and more

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

1. My coworkers keep changing clothes in front of me

I work in an office with three women, I am the only man. My role is 100% in the office (it’s a very small office, think like a studio apartment) but the three women are 50% in the office and 50% in the field, which requires them to wear different clothes.

Anyway, they have all started just changing in front of me. The first time I turned around and the woman was in her bra and I kind of freaked and said “Oh, I’m sorry” and she just said “don’t worry, I don’t mind.” But the thing is I do mind. Every day these women just come in and take their shirts and pants off in front of me and it makes me uncomfortable.

I asked my director, who is one of the culprits, if she could please use the restroom, and she said it’s too inconvenient and since I am gay I shouldn’t mind.

Can I push back on this? I really am uncomfortable with them changing in front of me (maybe I’m a prude), am I wrong for even wanting to push back on this?

It is completely reasonable to push back on this, and many, many people in your shoes would be quite uncomfortable with this. It’s not because you’re a prude; it’s because this is an office and you shouldn’t have to see your coworkers in their underwear. And your manager was really out of line in saying that it’s fine since you’re gay.

I would say this: “I’m really not comfortable having people in their underwear in here, male or female. It has nothing to do with being gay or straight; in general, most people don’t want to have to see coworkers undressing at work. Can you please ensure that people use the restroom to change clothes?” If she pushes back, say this: “I understand that you don’t think it’s a big deal, but it’s making me uncomfortable, and legally we’re on shaky ground insisting that employees have to be around half-naked colleagues. I really hope you’ll respect that.”

2. Chairs won’t support my weight when I visit our other offices

I have run into a somewhat embarrassing situation. Twice now when I have attended sessions at other my firm’s other offices, I have broken the chair I was sitting in, and there have been other times when I had difficulty fitting in the chairs I was provided. At the office where I am based, I have a chair for those weighing 30 stone and there has not been any trouble. However, my firm had to specially order it for me. Other offices do not have this item. It would be inconvenient and not feasible to bring my own chair to other offices, as it does not fit in the boot of my car nor any of the cars my firm owns.

I’m still a trainee and I worry this will cause my firm to not send me to other firms and therefore affecting my job and prospects. Which would be the best way for me to address this with my superiors?

The good news is that it sounds like these other offices are part of your same firm, which means that they can easily solve this by buying a chair that works for you. (If you were visiting clients, this would be trickier.)

Say this to your boss (or HR, if that feels more appropriate in your office): “When I’m sent to other offices, there isn’t a chair that I can sit in. I’ve actually broken two because of that, which is of course embarrassing and not a good outcome for anyone. Would it be possible to ask the other offices to get one of the chairs you bought for me here, so that this is no longer an issue when I visit them?”

That’s a very reasonable request, and if they’re reasonable, they’ll take care of it immediately. You aren’t likely to lose your job over this.

3. Getting personal mail at work

I’m curious about the professional norms around getting personal mail at work. I’m in my late 20s, at my first professional job out of college, and have worked here three years. One of my job duties includes getting mail from the department mailbox. Today, there was a package from Amazon fulfillment services for one employee. Going from the employee’s reaction to receiving it, it wasn’t a work related thing.

I’m curious, what are the professional norms around getting personal mail at work? Personally, it doesn’t bother me if it’s infrequent enough, but I could see the argument for it crossing a line.

Depends on the office, but in most offices it’s totally fine. Lots of people choose to have packages sent to them at work because if they’re left on their doorstep at home they risk getting stolen.

Obviously if someone is having 200-pound rice sculptures delivered to them at work every day, that would be an issue, but occasional personal deliveries aren’t generally a problem.

4. Sick time payout is reduced if you take even one sick day

My fiance works for the local branch of a popular beverage company. Each year, employees are given a set number of sick days. At the end of the year, they’re paid for any unused sick days — not at 100%, but still, I think it’s fantastic. What I don’t think is fantastic is if you use any sick days, the percentage that they get paid out at goes down. For example (not sure these are the correct percentages, but it’s similar) if you haven’t used any of your sick days for the whole year, you get a 60% payout. If you use just one sick day, you get a 40% payout … and I’m not sure if the percentage decreases after that. The payout percentage amount does not correlate to the number of days being paid out.

This policy seems to encourage people to risk their health and the health of others. Sure it’s a bonus, but it’s a bonus that’s reduced if you need to take a sick day. Does that (valid, in my opinion) complaint go out the window because it’s not legally required for a company to pay out sick leave? My question is, have you ever heard of a policy like this, and if you haven’t, does it sound fishy to you or just lousy?

Fishy in the legal sense? It’s not illegal. But you’re right that they’re incentivizing people not to use sick days. In fact, paying out sick days at all incentivizing people not to use them — which is probably going to result in people coming to work sick and infecting coworkers.

In general, companies should stay away from rewarding people for not using sick days. It rewards people who are lucky enough not to have chronic illnesses or other health conditions, it results in germs getting spread around, and it generally just sends the wrong message about the whole point behind having sick leave in the first place.

5. How can I thank two amazing volunteers?

I’m having a good problem. Less than a year ago, I started an organization that provides some much-needed services in my city. I had two people (strangers!) come forward right at the beginning to offer to help, and they have been absolutely amazing. Even just thinking about their support and help gets me a little choked up, and I’m not sure how to show my appreciation properly. I got them a small relevant-to-our-work gift and a handwritten note for Christmas, but it’s not nearly enough.

Do you or your readers have ideas about what I can do? Probably relevant: We all have full-time jobs in fields unrelated to each other and unrelated to my organization, so there’s not much I can do for them career-wise.

I really, really think that the absolute best gift you can give is a detailed letter explaining why you appreciate them and what the impact of their contributions has been. The more specific and detailed you can be, and the more personalized, the more meaningful it will be.

For most people, that will be far more meaningful and treasured than any gift you pick out. That’s especially the types of gifts that are appropriate for people you only know in a professional context, since those are generally relatively impersonal gifts. (In fact, lots of people would rather not receive a gift at all than receive those sorts of gifts. Lots of us have come to dread receiving most gifts, since we’re picky or don’t want more stuff, or so forth. No one dreads receiving a note of sincere praise and appreciation.)

{ 434 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Turanga Leela

    OP #1: You absolutely shouldn’t have to be around half-naked coworkers! I wouldn’t be okay with that either.

    If your director continues to say that the bathroom is too inconvenient, maybe she could get a screen or room divider to create a changing area. People use them in small apartments all the time, and they’re easy to fold up against a wall when they’re not needed. It might not be necessary, but if your coworkers really don’t want to change in the bathroom—which I get, because bathrooms tend to be cramped and have cold floors—then screens could be part of the solution.

    Reply
    1. Hotstreak

      A screen is a great idea. Or those blinds you can pull – like the ones that are set up between beds on hospital TV shows, for instance.

      That being said there are some jobs where you it’s common to see coworkers undress. Anyone working in a dirty job with a locker room/showers, anyone working as a lifeguard, things like that. Not saying it’s right in this instance, but just for context, these women may have been changing around each other for a while and it could have been acceptable at the time.

      Reply
      1. Rio C

        I don’t think the women finding it acceptable to change around each other is really the context in this case. It read more to me like it’s acceptable to change in front of OP because he’s gay, but if he were straight, then changing in the bathroom wouldn’t be as big of an inconvenience.

        Reply
        1. Preaction

          They also turned it back around as something that only women can have a problem with, and since they don’t, there isn’t a problem to be had, which is ludicrous and infuriating.

          Reply
          1. Emi.

            I don’t think it’s that only women can have a problem with it; I think they just think the only thing to mind is being seen undressed, not seeing other people undress. I.e. they assume OP is only upset about having accidentally violated their privacy, which they do have standing to absolve him of. They don’t see that he’s really upset on his own account (quite reasonably so!).

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            1. Christine

              No desire to see my boss, co-workers in their underwear regardless of sex or sexual orientation. It’s hard to take your boss seriously after seeing them standing in underwear & bra. I do not want anything else to see me either. I would love to go to the gym at work, but my boss goes at lunch and it’s closed after working hours. No desire to be naked in front of the woman or see her.

              Reply
              1. JustaTech

                Having worked in a job where we did have to change into scrubs, I hated having to change at the same time as my boss because knowing what kind of underwear she wore wasn’t something I could un-know.
                Everyone else was either faster at changing, better at facing the wall, or just not my boss.

                My next job briefly had a shower-in facility and I almost quit over that. I *do not* want to see my coworkers naked!
                It doesn’t matter that we’re all girls here, I don’t want to see my best friends naked either.

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            2. Not Rebee

              This is what struck me about their response too. I think that, in general, most people would worry more about their own comfort when choosing to undress in front of someone and wouldn’t even register the fact that the person they are undressing in front of may be uncomfortable by it. When OP raised it as a concern they incorrectly assumed that he had apologized (and was concerned) because he was violating their privacy and OP should have corrected them at the time, not that it’s too late to clear the air on that now. Your manager mentioned that you were gay only because most women would feel safer undressing in front of other women or in front of someone they know won’t sexually objectify them. Awkward as it seems, she was trying to reassure you that she was additionally not bothered by your presence because you’re respectful of her body in the sexual sense (because of your sexuality although I suppose you could manage the same thing without being gay – women are likely to make an immediate jump from gay man to safe person that they won’t make with a straight man though)…

              In any event, this is just a misunderstanding. Correct the misconception that your concerns have been for their privacy and comfort and address it as something you are uncomfortable about and would like addressed. They will likely feel silly for the mistake and work to correct it without much issue. They seem thoughtless, not mean.

              Reply
        2. Allie

          There’s something not exactly homophobic but certainly placing a hetero-assumptive lens on the whole thing by just assuming it’s okay because he’s gay. That isn’t really how sexual orientation works, but it happens to gay men especially that they are sometimes treated as if they were women, and that is not okay. It’s stereotyping and misunderstanding at best.

          There is also a gender stereotype issue here – can you imagine someone saying the equivalent to a woman? “You’re a lesbian so you shouldn’t mind”

          The important thing is that comfort and consent (consent to be undressed and be exposed to someone else’s undress) go two ways in that situation and the OP’S is being ignored.

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          1. Parenthetically

            It also just really screams “Pet Gay” to me — like every gay man is locked into this duty to, like, examine straight women’s bras and bitch about their boyfriends and drink mimosas to excess? Yuck.

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            1. LBK

              Completely agreed with this and Allie’s comment (although I do like to drink mimosas!). Definitely on sketchy ground for sexual harassment and if this is in a state that defines sexual orientation as a protected class, I could see it violating that as well. Definitely not legal to treat a gay man differently than you’d treat at straight man.

              Reply
            2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

              Oh, yes, perfect. A good friend of mine is gay, and is capable of going off on hilarious rants about how just because he’s into guys doesn’t mean he wants to re-stage Will and Grace with every lonely single lady who needs someone to give them fashion advice and bra-fitting tips.

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              1. Michele

                Wait. What? Gay men are supposed to know about bras? That is one of the most irrational stereotypes that I have ever heard.

                Reply
          2. General Ginger

            Yes, this. Sexual orientation really doesn’t have much to do with whether I am comfortable seeing my coworkers in any state of undress. I would not be comfortable because they’re my coworkers. This “it’s OK because you’re gay and therefore shouldn’t mind looking” is just… skeevy.

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              yeah, “It’s not about sex–it’s about my privacy. And actually, it’s about -my- privacy; it’s an invasion of -my- privacy to have to see your naked. We are not that close.”

              Reply
          3. Jessesgirl72

            It’s stereotyping. It would be like if they told him he had to like show tunes or wear a rainbow flag pin because he’s gay.

            Not all Asians are good at math, not all Indians are awesome spellers, and not all gay men are okay seeing women in their underwear!

            Reply
            1. Emi.

              What? Assuming that people shouldn’t mind seeing unclad people they’re categorically not-attracted to is a totally different kind of assumption from “Asians are good at math.”

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              1. Anna

                It’s really not. It’s an assumption about an entire group of people based on stereotyping and bias. The only difference is one is an assumption based on race and the other based on sexual orientation. Other than that, it’s precisely the same.

                Reply
                1. Emi.

                  But I don’t think the assumption is “Gay men qua gay men are okay with seeing women disrobe.” It’s just an application of the (still-obnoxious) assumption that people in general only object to seeing other people disrobe because it’s too sexy. That’s a very different assumption–not least because it’s not actually about OP’s gayness as such.

          4. Cordelia Naismith

            I think it also has something to do with this weird assumption that anybody seeing a naked person of their preferred gender will instantly be sexually attracted to them. Or something. I’m a straight woman, and I would not be comfortable with seeing my female co-workers change in front of me either! It has nothing to do with sexual attraction. It’s because treating the office like a locker room is a big violation of normal personal boundaries.

            I think it would be different if the co-workers were changing in an actual locker room. Just stripping down right there in the office is very weird.

            Reply
            1. Annie Moose

              I feel the same way. I’m a straight woman as well, but I would also be pretty darn uncomfortable if this was happening around me! I do not have any desire to see coworkers in their underwear, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

              Reply
            2. Lissa

              It’s the idea that the only possible reason somebody would be uncomfortable seeing someone else change would be because they are a gender they’re attracted to, which is…kind of an underlying assumption with a lot of stuff we do, but doesn’t really hold water. I bet the women would also think another woman was being weird/prudish if she didn’t want to see them get changed. And it also raises the question of, how would they treat a gay/bi woman who might be around.

              A lot of the “who we’re comfortable changing around” stuff can run pretty deep and not make a lot of sense when closely examined. For that reason I think it’s better to default to whoever is least comfortable and also to not changing in front of your coworkers (in most jobs).

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            3. cljack

              Seriously!! Another straight woman here who is breaking out in hives at the thought of seeing my straight female coworkers in their underwear!

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            4. Clever Name

              Yep, I completely agree. I also do fieldwork and I have changed clothing at the office before. I normally use the single-stall restroom or now that my officemate is in the field mostly, I’ll changed in my office with the door locked. But that still feels weird.

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          5. Just_Dixie

            Agree. While there are some industries where changing clothes in a common locker room area is normal, it’s a weird thing to do in the main office area for reasons noted in the comments above. Also, them thinking it’s no big deal because he’s gay is really inappropriate, too! Gender and sex aren’t a factor; I think not seeing my bosses/coworkers in their underwear or vice versa is a healthy workplace boundary.

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        3. Anonsaroo

          Yeah. I just don’t understand how they can’t see how unreasonable they are being. Oh your gay, great! Now look at my body!

          Reply
      2. INTP

        Love the screen idea as well. And if someone pushes back about it being too expensive, you can get a rolling clothing rack at IKEA for about $10 and hang a cheap curtain on it.

        Reply
      3. Al Lo

        Yeah, I was going to say this, in the context of what you’re used to or what’s acceptable. Nearly anyone who spends a lot of time backstage, or has been on band or choir bus trips, or is any sort of costumed discipline at all has gotten used to changing in front of people. I’m pretty blasé about changing in front of people — including co-workers, since I more-than-never perform with some of them (or I’m in their dressing rooms while they’re getting dressed, or vice versa). It would take me at least two hands to count the number of co-workers that I’ve seen in various states of undress.

        I can certainly differentiate between my office behaviour and my dressing room behaviour, and there are different norms for each. Having said that, though, it wouldn’t really fluster me to have a co-worker walk in on or glance at me changing, especially if I’m doing a quick change from one uniform to another.

        Reply
        1. Al Lo

          (Accidentally hit submit…)

          It wouldn’t fluster me, so I might need someone to point out that they were uncomfortable. If I — and everyone else in the office — had gotten into certain habits, I wouldn’t realize that someone else was less comfortable with it than we were. I think that, in this scenario, my “backstage norms” would kick in, rather than thinking of it like a regular office.

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          1. seejay

            sure there’s certain norms you get used to when you’ve been in environments like that (I was in marching bands for several years and also went to an all-girls school and was in school plays, I got pretty used to changing on the fly wherever it was convenient because we had to), but this is also an office setting, where it’s definitely not the normal type of environment where people just swoop out of clothing, even if they have to be in and out of the field.

            I change for work every day since I commute by bike and I’ve dealt with changing in the bathroom for 10 years because my officemates don’t need to see me half-dressed, even if it’s a quick swap that I can do without anyone seeing a single bit of underwear (I’m really good at switching some things around without showing anything). Once I used a board room because I was rushed and being lazy, but it was after 3/4 of the office had left for the evening, my coworker who was a friend was waiting for me outside the closed door and I took 15 seconds to change from pants to bike shorts. If anything else had been different in that scenario, I’d have made the walk to the bathroom to do the change since you just don’t get changed in the office. I mean… it’s pretty common sense. :/

            Reply
            1. Al Lo

              Yeah, I get that — I’m just saying that if I was in an office with 3 or 4 other people and we were all (all of us who changed clothes, that is) comfortable changing in front of each other, it would take a second thought to

              For me, it’s totally different if I’m coming from a workout and changing on my own. I have a weekly class that I come straight to the office for, and I just lock my office door and change. But if I’m with other people, who have the same comfort level, it feels more acceptable, for lack of a better word.

              I’m not saying that the women shouldn’t make an effort to go elsewhere or put in a screen. I’m just saying that I can see how it could be easy to slip into the habit.

              Reply
              1. seejay

                Ya, I get that too, wasn’t trying to come down on you, I see it came out like that a bit. >< And if I had a private office, I'd totally change in it too instead of going into the bathroom, but if I was sharing an office? Nope, no way, nuh uh. I've dealt with changing in the bathroom for 10 years because I didn't want to freak anyone out, even when I knew I could just slip my shorts on underneath a skirt I was wearing and whip the skirt off and be ready to go! Fortunately where I work now, we have a handicap stall that's extra large so I have room to change in, but sometimes a person is in it so I just grab the smaller one and swap out my pants/shorts and occasionally shirt there.

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              2. Susan

                Yes, but the difference is, if someone told you they were uncomfortable about the habit, I would expect you would try to change it.

                Reply
        2. Rebecca in Dallas

          At an old job I sometimes helped out backstage at fashion shows. Not only did I get totally used to seeing other people in various stages of undress (most models strip down as soon as they get there in order to avoid underwear lines), but I also was used to helping them undress and re-dress quickly. But yeah, backstage is totally different from an office! And I would never assume someone was ok with seeing me change, much less *tell* them that it shouldn’t bother them.

          Reply
          1. Michele

            Agreed. Different circumstances. I have done some triathlons with changing tents where everyone strips down in front of others, and I have seen parking lots after races where people ineffectively conceal themselves with towels to change. In those situations, it is OK. At work is a completely different matter.

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        3. tigerlily

          Yeah, context is so very much key. I’m a performer and I have a day job. I have absolutely no issue getting nekkid backstage with all my fellow performers. But doing that with coworkers would be outrageously uncomfortable. One of my coworkers is also part of the performing group I’m in and while I have no issues with him seeing me getting changed in the context of a performance, I would be super uncomfortable with him seeing me getting changed at work. It’s the same person seeing the exact same thing, but it’s the environment that makes all the difference.

          Reply
      4. Miles

        I think your second point is important. I’ve worked field jobs where changing in front of same-sex coworkers (and even once the client!) was expected and pretty much required. Since we were a bigger office with both men and women working there, we’d change in the bathrooms (but no one changed in the stalls because that was cramped and annoying). If it had just been a few women there, I have no doubt we’d have not bothered with the bathroom at all. I suspect they got used to doing it this way and are incorrectly assuming that since the LW is a gay man they can keep doing it. Obviously, they can’t, and LW shouldn’t have to put up with it. The screen idea is a great solution that means they don’t have to use the bathroom for it.

        Reply
    2. Lionheart

      Ugh. Imagine if the genders were reversed:
      “Dear AAM, I work with three men, they undress in front of me at work and when I asked my manager to stop, he said “don’t worry, I don’t mind”.
      OP you absolutely have the right to push back on this. Good luck

      Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      This is a fantastic idea.

      OP, good luck. It’s really gross that you’re being told what you’re allowed to find uncomfortable.

      Reply
    4. Hrovitnir

      Yes, I basically think it doesn’t matter how they deal with it (bathroom/room divider) so long as they deal with it. The manager’s response was so gross. I am deeply unbothered by people seeing my get changed regardless of gender and orientation – so long as they’re OK with it! Which the OP clearly is not. >:(

      I thinking bringing an alternative suggestion is good but I think the main thing is to be as firm as you think you can. Make it abundantly clear that it makes you uncomfortable and that deciding on your behalf that you should be OK with it because you’re not attracted to women is unacceptable. Eugh, I am so angry on your behalf.

      Reply
      1. Elise

        “Make it abundantly clear that it makes you uncomfortable and that deciding on your behalf that you should be OK with it because you’re not attracted to women is unacceptable.”

        Yeah, the assumption that he should be fine because he is gay is ridiculous. I am also not attracted to women (as a straight woman), but I don’t want to see my coworkers in any state of undress. It isn’t prudish either. I changed on a bus with a marching band for years, but my coworkers in an office setting? No.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Same here. If a coworker I was close to asked me for help with a wardrobe malfunction or something similar, that would be one thing, but I don’t really need to see them half-naked any other time. Nor do I particularly want them to see me.

          Reply
    5. Michigan Sara

      You can also get pop-up dressing rooms on Amazon for $60. Normal size of a dressing room cubicle, with fabric sides and a zipper door. Can easily fit into a corner. I’ve seen them used by Lularoe consultants when they are at a product show.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        actually, they’re less than $35.
        And this reminds me of an Archie comic book once where Veronica went to the beach wearing regular clothes and a big hat w/ a wide, wide brim and knotted fabric on the top.
        She unknotted the fabric, which fell down to make a curtain that hung over the brim of the hat, and she changed her clothes inside the curtain.

        Reply
    6. CoveredInBees

      Yes! I immediately thought of this. If the office is that small, I can imagine that it might be a set up where the bathrooms are down the hall and shared with other offices so I get the inconvenience (as well as being cold, cramped, and possible not a place you want to put bare feet). I also agree that people shouldn’t have to see colleagues disrobe in the middle of an office. Either a divider or a curtain should fix both problems. It would also help if you have a new hire who would rather not disrobe in front of colleagues.

      I have to say I’m disappointed/disturbed that OP’s discomfort got brushed off because he’s gay. If his sexual orientation meant he wouldn’t be uncomfortable, then he wouldn’t be complaining and no one would be having this conversation. I had a colleague who used being gay as a justification for sexually harassing (including grabbing) me. Luckily, our employer was having none of it in no uncertain terms. Would this suddenly be a valid complaint if made by a guy who was straight or bi? a lesbian?

      Reply
    7. OP#1

      I think this is a good idea. The only problem I think is getting the company to pay for it. Every site they go to has a designated changing room, so theoretically they should be using those. But I will bring it up.

      Reply
    8. Simon Says

      So I am a horrible person, but my first thought might have been allow the lines of “interesting!” I don’t care to see my co-workers sans clothing, but under the right circumstances…well, you never know.

      Reply
  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, I don’t have much to add to Alison’s advice except to say that I’m livid on your behalf, and I’m so sorry that your boss and coworkers have put you in this position and somehow don’t seem to realize how inappropriate they’re being. I don’t know what State you’re in, but it might be worth determining if there’s explicit protections on the basis of LGBT status (I think you’re covered under sex/gender discrimination, but it always helps to have more law on your side). Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      Yep. As far as the question and situation goes, sexuality isn’t really relevant insofar as it’s inappropriate to put you in this position and reasonable not to want to see anyone you work with change their clothes. The issue isn’t one of sexuality and this has no bearing on whether you should object.

      They brought sexuality into it by making it part of the answer. Which really sucks and I’m sorry this is happening.

      Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          Heck, I’m bisexual and *am* cool with various states of nonsexual undress both on myself and the people around me, because that’s how I was raised and I went to college at a place where that kind of thing was totally normal, which just cemented it.

          Which only proves that there is absolutely no inherent connection between who you find attractive and your comfort level around naked or semi-naked people of any gender. Going by the boss’s logic, I shouldn’t be comfortable seeing anyone get changed – and yet, here I am. It’s entirely an individual comfort level thing and that needs to be respected.

          Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        His boss telling him he has to be okay with it because he’s gay does make it bleed over into an LGBTQ issue, though.

        Reply
    2. Mimi

      I’m confused. Doesn’t op1 have a case more for sexual harassment? Hes being subjected to people undressing in front of him against his will and his employer has done nothing regarding this…

      Also Op1 I am attracted to women and I would be uncomfortable with my colleagues undressing in front of me. Its not prudish. Its called professional boundaries. And seriously your boss is an ass.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yes, I think it’s a straight up sexual harassment issue. But the fact that his boss brought up his LGBT status makes it worse, imo, and would trigger additional liability if OP is in a State where anti-LGBT discrimination is illegal.

        Reply
      1. Lora

        It is one of my goals at any job to never, ever see any of my colleagues undressed.

        I have sadly not achieved this goal at many jobs. Between business trips in which my colleagues clearly have more body confidence than I do, rowdy holiday parties, team building exercises and colleagues quacking in a conference room / hallway / public bathroom, there’s always someone who ruins it.

        Reply
  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, now I’m tempted to order rice sculptures at work…

    I’ve worked in a few offices where we frequently received our personal packages at work for security reasons. This really varies by office, but you might check and see if your employer has a policy on it. I don’t think it’s worth policing—and it really is super common and normal at many workplaces and usually doesn’t impose a hardship unless someone’s operating a personal business but using the company’s address—but it might put your mind at ease to know whether your employer has drawn parameters (or not).

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      It’s been common in most places where I’ve worked – though I do it less now that there’s a click-and-collect point in London Paddington station that means I can pick stuff up on my commute home.

      Reply
      1. I Herd the Cats

        I wish more people in my office would use Amazon Locker :( I try to see the mail delivery as a harmless perk, but it’s annoying. First off, with Amazon and other online outlets offering quick/free ship, the volume of packages has increased a lot. I mean, if you have Prime, you could order three different things and maybe they’d each come in their own box. Second, for various reasons some employees’ domestic partners ALSO use our address for delivery (e.g., the person in our office commutes in a car and spouse takes the bus.) I’ve sent a few of those packages back when I didn’t recognize the name, lol. Third, people have things delivered to our office when they’re on travel so they aren’t even there to get the parcels from the mailroom. Re “secure” delivery — I have pointed out to staff that most of their packages wind up on the floor of our unsecured, ground floor mailroom. Which is better than your front porch, I guess, but not exactly theft-proof. Fourth, package volume REALLY increases around the winter holidays. Fifth — people are expecting their personal package of (whatever) and so they start hounding me about it. I respond “have you checked the mailroom?” but man, it does get old. USPS also checks Amazon packages as “delivered” the day before they actually arrive. OK I’ll stop complaining now!

        Reply
        1. kavm

          USPS does that to the FedEx packages they deliver, as well! Once they checked my package as delivered two full days before I received it, it was so irritating. And since it’s marked delivered, no one at either USPS or FedEx can look it up and figure out where it is. What a weird practice.

          Reply
        2. Frances

          My office eventually prohibited getting personal deliveries, because it was just too much work for the mail room staff to deal with – and work without a business purpose!

          Reply
          1. the gold digger

            There is a business purpose, or can be. This is a huge benefit for employees. But it’s up to the business to decide if it’s worth it to the business to offer that level of employee benefit.

            Reply
            1. Kimberlee, Esq

              This. Especially in a city; there are plenty of apartments with secured access where it is really difficult to receive deliveries even if you’re home to receive them! Fedex/UPS don’t have keys to my building, and generally won’t (I’ve heard some tell me they are not allowed to) call you when they’re at the building door. Not being able to receive some packages at work would be a major pain, and if my company decided not to do it anymore, it would definitely be a morale hit.

              Reply
          2. Joan Callamezzo

            Mine just started prohibiting it–or enforcing a previously ignored policy, they refuse to clarify. Front porch isn’t safe and I order from a lot of places other than Amazon (I *do* use Amazon Lockers when I can), so last week I ponied up for a mailbox at the UPS Store. :\

            Reply
        3. Mabel

          A friend used Amazon locker to return an item. They said they never received it, and she couldn’t prove she had put it in the locker (there was no receipt given) so she lost the money. So not even that is always secure.

          Reply
        4. JennyFair

          Separate packages from Amazon is not a result of Prime usage. It is a result of the items coming from different fulfillment centers.

          Reply
        5. zora

          Amazon Lockers aren’t a useful alternative where I live, the only ones are miles out of my way from both my office and home. And I live in a city where packages are very frequently stolen from front steps of homes.

          Most of the folks at my office have our personal packages delivered to work, and it works fine here.

          I hear what you are saying about making more work for our coworkers who handle mail, I think it’s important to be considerate about it, and if there were problems like you describe, it would be appropriate to talk to people and establish some ground rules about it. But in some cases it’s really the only good alternative for deliveries.

          Reply
      2. General Ginger

        It’s pretty common in my office, as long as nobody is abusing it — we get A LOT of packages and bulk shipments going in and out daily, so one or two for an employee from time to time on top of our regular load is fine, but a whole pallet of stuff for everyone on the regular would be frowned upon.

        Reply
      3. Elizabeth West

        Really? That’s handy. I’ll have to remember that if I’m over there and want/need something (I have an Amazon UK account). Though I could get a package at a hotel probably, or at my auntie’s house.

        I have no idea if we have those where I live–probably in larger cities. Most of my workplaces allowed you to receive packages at the office if you didn’t do it too often. But I know there are workplaces that don’t, and people have to make other arrangements with neighbors, etc.

        Reply
    2. ExceptionToTheRule

      I have my wine club shipment delivered to work because it requires the signature of someone 21+ so they won’t leave it on my doorstep.

      Reply
        1. ExceptionToTheRule

          My doorstep is actually 76 years old, but unfortunately, it can’t hold a pen anymore. =(

          FedEx leaves it in the mailroom and the receptionist emails me to let me know my special monthly package has arrived. I’m very lucky to live in a neighborhood where a couple of my neighbors are home all day, so I’ve never had anything walk away and thus, that’s the only box I have sent to the office that isn’t for the office.

          Reply
      1. Sara

        I have my wine sent to the office too. If I miss it at home, I spend far too long tracking it down to sign for it. Its just easier to have it delivered here.

        Reply
        1. KTB

          Yep, my wine gets delivered to work because I am just not going to chase it all over town. Everyone who works here is 21, and the only grief I get is because I don’t share. :)

          Reply
    3. Misclassified

      Note that if it’s delivered to your work, your work has the right to open your mail. So if you don’t want them to see the contents of the mail you received, don’t have it delivered there.

      Reply
      1. Augusta Sugarbean

        Where are you getting this information? I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to be opening someone else’s mail regardless of where it’s delivered.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Misclassified is right! USPS regulations say that mail delivered to an organization, even if addressed to a specific person, is considered to be delivered to the organization itself, and the organization can decide how to distribute it from there.

          Reply
          1. Rogue

            Is this specifically for a package addressed to an organization and then c/o a specific person or any mail going to an address which an organization is located?

            Reply
            1. I Herd the Cats

              I googled and can’t find the relevant USPS regulation, but my understanding is that if it’s delivered to our business address I’m allowed to open it. I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I can’t.

              A lot of folks in our office get their Amazon delivered there. I hate it because (unlike UPS) the Amazon packages come through the USPS, so packages too large to fit in our tiny mailbox get left downstairs on the mailroom floor. If someone has packages down there too heavy or large for me to carry, I email the recipient so they can go get it. FWIW since I do most of the office-related ordering, it’s pretty clear to me that all those boxes are personal, not work related. I don’t mind bringing up and delivering the smaller items, but if you order the rice sculpture you’re on your own.

              Reply
              1. krysb

                It’s not a USPS regulation; it’s a federal law:

                “A federal statute known as 18 USC Section 1702 makes it illegal to open correspondence addressed to someone else. However, the law cannot be applied if you did not recognize that the mail was not yours when you opened it.”

                Reply
                1. LQ

                  I work for a government employer and the mail staff open all mail that is sent here to make sure it is correctly routed. (People sometimes send things that should go to the general staff to the commissioner because that’s a name they can get and they think that will make it go faster (it will not!))

                2. Oryx

                  18 USC 1702 is a bit more complicated than that and specifically relates to *obstructing* the correspondence before it gets to the addressed person, not just opening it.

                3. I Herd the Cats

                  If it’s delivered to a business address, even if your name is on it, it’s delivered to the business, and the business can open the mail. See downstream for the citations.

              2. Oryx

                I think you’re looking for USPS regulation 1.5.1 :

                “All mail addressed to a governmental or nongovernmental organization or to an individual by name or title at the address of the organization is delivered to the organization”

                Reply
            2. Lablizard

              Many workplaces open all mail. For some it is a security thing and for some it is because they open all work related items and expecting admin staff to differentiate business from personal is too much to ask since places like Amazon are used for both purposes. All but one of my workplaces opened mail

              Reply
              1. Falling Diphthong

                I think, regardless of official rules, just going into auto pilot could lead to opening all packages delivered, then thinking “Wait, these aren’t post-it notes.”

                If you don’t want your coworkers to see it, don’t bring it to work.

                Reply
              2. Chinook

                The security thing is important too. Otherwise, it would be really easy to send a mail bomb or anthrax letter into a secure building just by sending it to a random employee in the building.

                By opening all letters/packages in one location by someone who (presumably) is trained in what to look for, you are minimizing the potential impact.

                Reply
            3. fposte

              There’s a whole delivery policy section of the manual–I’ll link the .pdf in followup. But all mail delivered to the address of the organization is delivered to the organization, and, IIRC, you couldn’t even get it forwarded as a result. If your workplace is a hotel or school, there’s a similar reg–it’s delivered to the hotel or school, and it’s up to the hotel or school to take it to the person or not. (Universities are subject to a separate reg that allows for delivery to individual buildings.)

              Reply
        2. Ismis

          At a previous company, I worked as a receptionist and I was told to open all packages and leave the contents at the employee’s desk! I hated it and didn’t do it if I could get away with it, but it was on the instructions of the manager, who thought it was completely normal.

          A team leader complained once because some toiletries were left in her in tray. I saw her point but complaining to reception wasn’t going to do anything! Luckily they did away with it after a while.

          I disliked it because of many reasons – privacy being one of them – but what if something was broken or needed to be returned and all the packaging was gone? So awkward.

          (This wasn’t in the US btw)

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West

            Ugh, no. At OldExjob, I never opened anything addressed to a specific employee. It was easy to tell if the package was personal. I would just email them that they had a package at the front desk (or if they were in the open office area, I dropped it on their desk). At this company and Exjob, we were allowed to ship packages from the office too, within reason, and we paid the shipping cost. It was a nice perk since the business rate often ran cheaper.

            I opened an envelope by mistake once but caught my error quickly and didn’t look inside. My coworker was understanding.

            Reply
        3. Eric

          It’s the USPS Domestic Mail Manual section 508.1.5. “All mail addressed to a governmental or nongovernmental organization or to an individual by name or title at the address of the organization is delivered to the organization, as is similarly addressed mail for former officials, employees, contractors, agents, etc. If disagreement arises where any such mail should be delivered, it must be delivered under the order of the organization’s president or equivalent official.”

          Reply
    4. seejay

      yep, we got parcels delivered at our office quite regularly, especially since there’s a pretty big theft problem for lots of people. I don’t get a lot of things delivered often, since I have to figure out how to carry it home on a bike or walk to work so I can carry it home (or make a weekend trip to pick it up), but if it’s small and/or expensive, it gets delivered to the office so I can guarantee it’ll make it to me.

      No one in management’s ever had a problem with anyone doing it.

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        I used to get clothes and shoes delivered precisely because I commuted by bike. I could try them on in bathroom and even wear the shoes for a while indoors, and then if I had returns the post office was closer to my office than it was to my home.

        Took a few trips to get stuff home, though.

        Reply
      2. POF

        I work in a large hospital system and deliveries at work are not OK mainly because we have 14,000 employees and we use a central warehouse for shipping.

        It creates too much volume for us and we don’t any responsibility for the items being lost or stolen.

        In clinical areas – we are not staffed to handle personal mail, administrative areas are – but it is discouraged.

        Reply
    5. Blue

      Someone recently had a full set of car tires delivered to our office building. That was a pretty ridiculous but normal deliveries are fine and quite common.

      Reply
      1. Audiophile

        Whaa?? I know they can be cheaper to buy online and have them put on by a mechanic. But they can’t possibly be THAT much cheaper. That’s incredibly inconvenient unless your mechanic is right down the street and on your way home.

        Reply
        1. Trout 'Waver

          You’re right about that. The online discount tire places will all ship directly to your mechanic. There really is no need to have them delivered to you.

          Reply
          1. Chinook

            If you buy tires without rims, then you need the fancy doodad that allows you to easily put them on the rims. Most mechanics have them but you would have to be a serious home mechanic who did a lot of tire replacements if you were to invest in something like that.

            Reply
          2. rudster

            Because the new tires don’t come mounted on rims – and tire changing machines cost upward of a grand, a wheel balancer about another grand or more. Unless they are really dedicated amateur mechanics, most people don’t have those in their garage, or the requisite skills or time to use them. But it’s an easy, quick job for a professional.

            Reply
    6. Antilles

      IME, most offices don’t even have a specific policy for personal package delivery. Instead, there’s more of an informal understanding of “we’re fine with it as long as you’re reasonable”. If you’re ordering a dozen packages a week or getting some massive/heavy boxes shipped, then you need to figure out an alternative. But just a small package every now and then isn’t even worthy of notice.

      Reply
    7. Hush42

      Where I work some people have packages delivered to work for security or convenience reasons. One of my co-workers has all packages delivered here because she doesn’t want them left on her porch all day but she doesn’t get that many packages- maybe 1 or 2 every couple of months with a bunch coming around Christmas. My boss has stuff shipped here because it’s more convenient for him and he gets it a few hours sooner. I once had a book shipped to work because I wanted it for vacation and it was going to be delivered the day I was leaving. I was leaving straight from work and it wasn’t feasible for me to go home and get it after work since my house is 45 minutes in the wrong direction. I am the one who gets the mail and I don’t mind that people get their packages delivered to work. However I do mind if they believe that I will personally deliver them- I’m happy to send an e-mail letting you know that it’s at my desk- I am not happy to spend 20 minutes traipsing up and down the stair just to deliver your package.

      Reply
    8. textbookaquarian

      I absolutely agree, Princess Consuela. Check on any policies. I work in mail services for a large company and we discourage employees from sending/receiving personal mail here. It can become a liability issue if something is damaged or lost. It can also be a hassle when employees use the company address. We had one that gave our PO Box as their home address to the USPS. When they wanted to change it, ALL the mail addressed to the PO Box was going to be forwarded to them! My boss had several meetings with the USPS to get it straightened out.

      And yes, we are allowed to open anything that we receive. We only do that when we can’t determine where something should go via the label. However we also check outgoing mail for anything that might cause problems for the company. Legal will not allow employees to use our accounts due to liability issues.

      Reply
    9. Amber T

      We’re an office of ~50ish people, and our receptionist has to log in every package that comes in via UPS/Fedex (or whatever major carrier, not USPS). I used to work reception, and it gets a bit eye-rolly around the end of the year, because we get a ridiculous amount of packages (employees don’t want their spouses or kids to see the boxes and presents coming in), but for the amount of people we have in our office, this isn’t a big deal for us. Personal mail (non packages, actual letters) is a bit weirder, but it’s more of a “why are you doing this?” out of curiosity than annoyance.

      Reply
    10. Small town girl

      Receiving packages at work is okay in my small office, but I personally haven’t done it. Expect for the times the UPS deliverer drops off work packages and says, “Hi Small Town Girl, I have a package for you. Would you like it here or should I drop it off at your house?” He’ll also let me know if he left something by my door. :)

      Reply
    11. Tammy

      My company has a policy against employees receiving personal mail at work, because they company doesn’t want to be responsible for the contents. They’re not super hard-core about enforcement, so long as you’re being reasonable about it, but it is technically our policy.

      Reply
    12. JustaTech

      I’ve had two big things delivered to my work: my wedding dress (which came in a crate and everyone wanted a look at) and my grandmother-in-law’s silver. Both times (different jobs) I checked with our shipping folks before having them delivered.
      The silver was embarrassing because my in-laws work tangential to the adult industry and for some reason my MIL re-used product boxes rather than their own anonymous boxes. So then the shipping guys wanted to know why I was getting a case of condoms. (My MIL apologized, she’s just so inured to it all she forgets that other people get really weirded out by that kind of thing.)
      But in both cases it was big, complicated, expensive things I didn’t trust to have left on my doorstep.

      Reply
    13. TootsNYC

      I worked at a place that not only cheerfully accepted your packages, they’d mail them for you during Christmas. (They didn’t want to do it at other times of the year, though.)

      My best friend works at a place that accepts packages AND ships them for you all year long.

      Normally companies decide their policies based on how much “bandwidth” their mailroom folks have. A package here and there is usually not that onerous, and it’s a nice thing to do for people who work hard for you.

      Reply
    14. former temp

      I temped at a popular energy drink HQ with a large, young staff and one of my duties as the receptionist was to sort their packages. There were close to 100 packages a day, most of them personal, that would be brought to a mail room. We, as the receptionists, would put a post it with their name on it on the side of the box and then put it on alphabetized shelving (A-M, N-R, S-Z). We’d then send an email blast to everyone who’d gotten a package (so we’d have to write down all of the names on a master list, too) to let them know it was waiting for them. I thought that was a very kind service to offer. They took good care of their employees there, but I felt it was a little bizarre for the receptionist to spend an hour each day sorting stuff from MeUndies and Zara.

      Reply
  4. FishAreNotPets

    OP1 : I can sympathize! I work in a college that trains massage therapists, but am not a therapist myself. If I need to interrupt a classroom, the entire class wont care that I’m there (I knock, and get let in!), but there could be up to 30 people in various states of undress. One of the cravats of the profession is being super comfortable with the human body, but its not something I was used to, and even now will catch me off guard when I’m not expecting to go into a classroom that day.

    If it helps, the way I get over it is by adopting a scientific mindset. Not that I think you should have to get over it in your case, but for me it helps to know that the students receive hundreds of hours of anatomy and physiology classes.

    Also, for some of our classes there are student not comfortable changing in front of others, so we have cute little room dividers for them to use, which might work well for your boss if there’s a small bathroom and they’re all changing at the same time. Benefits include not compromising conversations or other members work flow whilst changing.

    Reply
    1. Trust Your Instincts

      Ha! I would’ve been one of those massage therapy students who didn’t mind being in a state of undress in front of classmates. However I get uncomfortable when clients start to disrobe in front of me. It’s an ethics thing.
      OP1, Allison is spot on. Let them know it makes you uncomfortable. If they’re reasonable, they’ll respect that.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I get the ethics thing, but I find that hilariously weird in situations where you’re receiving a service for which you have to be naked. When I have a massage, the massage therapist will leave the room while I undress, but then they see all these little bits of me anyway as the drape gets moved around.

        Same with the doctor–dude, in a moment your face will be all up in my hoo-ha, but you have to leave the room while I drop trou? I suppose it’s easier just to do that for everyone, since many people ARE uncomfortable with the doctor seeing them before they put on the gown/drape. But the incongruity makes me giggle a little.

        Reply
        1. FisharenotFriends

          That’s pretty much how I see it. Whilst I wish someone would have told me before I started that this position involved a lot of partial nudity, I would hate to have a doctor or therapist who was uncomfortable with the human body. I would also hate to have a therapist work on my glutes and find they didn’t know what they were doing because everyone they practised on was fully dressed, which prevented them from seeing what an effective treatment is like.

          Side note to the OP: If they failed to stop, I would start passively throwing shade, not that I recommend it. “Oh, with calves like that I’m surprised you can pull off skinny jeans.” It would open the door to all kinds of bad things, but I would pay to see the look on their faces. Good on you for trying to address this professionally.

          Reply
    2. LMT

      I’m a masssge therapist and I have lost count of the number of people who have started disrobing in front of me – often with the door to the massage room wide open! I always say I’ll step out & give them a minute and so. many. people. wave me off with “Oh I don’t mind!” Which is great for them but they never stop to think that *I* mind.

      Anyway this is a little (a lot) passive aggressive, but could you start saying, “Oh you’re changing? Hang on a minute I’ll step out.” And then go to the bathroom, or get some water or something? Or does it happen often enough that it would be too disruptive to your work?

      Reply
      1. Case of the Mondays

        I overslept once and ended up showering in bathroom number B at my house while my contractor was working on bathroom A. I laughed with my husband about how it’s a good thing I was comfortable enough with the contractor to be in the shower when he was in the house. My husband pointed out – did you ask HIM if HE was comfortable with you being in the shower while he was there? I did not and probably should have.

        Reply
    3. Cherith Ponsonby

      One of the cravats of the profession

      I promise I am not pointing this out to be mean, but I do love the idea of Cravats of the Profession. Like an old school tie, but much classier.

      Reply
  5. Midge

    For #3- at Old Job, I was one of those people who had packages delivered at work because otherwise they would be left out on the sidewalk. (Once I had a package from a fancy food delivery place stolen. It was a gift and I was pissed!) It was a really nice, small perk that my office provided. Unfortunately, the volume of non-work packages got to be too much in my organization of a little over 100 people. It was taking up a lot of time for the staff members who sorted the mail to also deal with people’s packages, so they changed the policy. I left shortly after, but I’m honestly not sure what I would have done going forward.

    If the volume of packages does pick up, it might make your life easier to create package pick-up slips. That way you can deliver them to people along with the mail, and they have to retrieve their own packages from the mail room instead of you lugging everyone’s boxes around the office. Also, it doesn’t sound like you’re at all annoyed or upset about delivering the occasional package, but if you do find yourself feeling that way, remember that you are doing something really kind for you coworkers that makes their lives a lot easier!

    Reply
    1. FishAreNotPets

      I actually really like the packing slip idea!

      Personally I would just take my phone and email people who have a package, but I also don’t deliver mail, I only accept it at my desk where email is convenient, especially as most of the people I’m accepting packages for don’t have a permanent work space.

      My only caution would be if you need to sign for mail to be picked up. Remember that you’re accepting liability for something! My rule is that I don’t sign for something unless I have talked to the person expecting the package. There was once an issue with a time sensitive work related package being left around by a receptionist that caused a good deal of panic, and the mail provider was quick to show who exactly accepted the package, and thus held liability. (Maybe its different in the US, though!)

      Reply
      1. Blue

        That’s how it works in our building – packages are all delivered to one location, and they send you an email letting you know it’s ready to be picked up in their office.

        Reply
        1. Spoonie

          This is exactly how it was at ReallyOldJob. We had a central landing zone for packages and if it was for you, you received an email from the receptionist that you had a package. Caveat was if it was a delivery of substantial size or supposed to go elsewhere in the building, then UPS or other delivery service would generally be helpful enough to help us get it elsewhere. We kind of saw them a lot. And we let them use our restroom facilities, have at any snacks we had…symbiotic relationships are helpful.

          Reply
    2. Cambridge Comma

      Where I work, we have a private mail code that you just add in one of the unused address lines, or after your name. This mail stays exactly where the postal service leave it, so there is minimal extra work for the member of staff who handles it. An email goes out daily bcc to the people who have items waiting.

      Reply
    3. Natalie

      Another option that wouldn’t require any set up would be just taking a picture of the label with your phone and emailing it to the person.

      Reply
    4. Emi.

      At my school, each dorm had a package room (that was open at certain times of day), and the mail clerk made a list of who had packages waiting for them, so it was your responsibility to get your package.

      Reply
    5. OhBehave

      A friend pays a small fee and the postal center (ships UPS, FedEx, USPS) holds packages for them. They travel too much to have things delivered to their home.

      Reply
  6. jamlady

    OP1 – As someone who changes midday a lot and spends half time in the office and half in the field, and who’s jumped from contract to contract and office to office numerous times in the last decade, I have never come across this issue. And I’ll be super weirded out and definitely okay with pushing back if I ever do! Pleeeeease do!

    Reply
    1. Sabine the Very Mean

      I actually have been in this situation as both the undresser and the lurker. I worked in the ski industry for four years. The staff locker room was unisex so people dressed out in front of each other. Normally that meant wearing long underwear, like I did. But sometimes it didn’t and I doubt anybody had any thoughts about it. Old men, old women, gay, trans, etc….We all dressed out together. No issues. This is in the southwest if it matters.

      Now, I later moved offices to be immediately slope side. I also dressed out right in my open office in front of everyone–again, with long johns. I don’t think people even thought it was slightly strange. We all did it.

      I think this is one of the few exceptions.

      Reply
  7. Ramona Flowers

    #4 I get that this isn’t illegal in general, but might it become illegal if someone has a disability under the ADA and takes sick days (that aren’t covered by FMLA) due to that? Because at that point the policy is weighted against members of a protected class?

    Reply
    1. Gaia

      I bet the company could argue that it has nothing to do with disability. People with no disability take sick days and people with disabilities take no sick days. It is weighted against people who take sick days.

      It is a crap policy, for sure.

      Reply
      1. KarenT

        I also bet the company would argue it’s not punishing those who take sick days, but rewarding those who don’t. It’s semantics, but essentially they’ve set it up so you are not losing by taking a sick day, you are gaining by not.

        Reply
        1. Arjay

          Yep, that’s how they spin the wellness program here. You aren’t punished for not participating; you’re “rewarded” with a premium “discount” for jumping through their hoops.

          Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It’s definitely a crap policy, but I don’t think the ADA would help you out in this context. The ADA requires the employer and employee to open up an accommodation conversation and process, but that’s independent and distinct from sick days. It’s also significant because ADA accommodation is an individualized process, so arguing that the sick day policy harms a protected class is not quite the right framework.

      Reply
    3. Beverly Cleary Doesn't Live Here

      I would be tempted to make sure I used every single sick day I had available to me. It seems the most valuable option.

      Reply
      1. Blue

        Right? I’d be incentivized to take every paid day off for the year — you get both the day off and 100 percent pay.

        Reply
        1. NotoriousMCG

          Well except then you’d only get 100% pay, whereas if you came in every time you were sick you would get 100% pay for working + 60% pay for not staying home.

          Reply
          1. Antilles

            True. However, since the percentage of payout decreases (rather than always being 60% payout), there’s probably some sort of tipping point where the percentage from the bonus gets small enough that the bonus itself becomes near-irrelevant and you might as well just use it all. Something like:
            A.) When you’ve used zero days, you have 10 sick days at 60% payout – more than a full week’s pay. So you should drag yourself in unless you’re literally tied to a hospital bed.
            B.) Once you use two days, you have 8 days left but the payout drops to 30% payout – now your bonus is only 2.4 days of pay. So while you still want to avoid using it to preserve the bonus, you’re likely going to relax your standards a little from “potentially dying” to “very sick”.
            C.) Once you use that third day from item B and the payout for each remaining day drops to 10%, you’re looking at 7 more days of sick leave at a trivial cost. So now you might as well say screw it and just burn the time since the marginal cost from each additional day off is so small that you’re basically ‘purchasing’ a day off for $30 or whatever.

            Reply
          2. Susan

            It depends on how you look at it. If you want to get the maximum amount of money, then taking 0 sick days would give you the maximum payout. If, however, you want the most money per hour worked, using all your sick days would be the way to go.

            Let’s assume this company gives 2 weeks (80 hours) of sick leave and 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid vacation.

            If you use 0 sick days, you work 2000 hours and get paid for 2128 hours (2000 hours of work + 80 hours vacation + 0.6*80 hours of sick leave). That’s 1.064 hours of pay for every hour of work.

            If you use all of your sick days, you work 1920 hours and get paid for 2080 hours (1920 hours of work + 80 hours of sick leave + 80 hours of vacation). That’s 1.083 hours of pay for every hour of work.

            Reply
            1. Beverly Cleary Doesn't Live Here

              Most money per hours worked is how I was looking at it. But I’m one of those silly people who actually appreciates a true sick day AND vacation day.

              Reply
      2. Celeste

        Exactly. I’d count the time off as more valuable than cash. Time it late enough in the year that you still have a lot of it left, and it could be a nice break.

        Reply
    4. snuck

      It sounds like a misguided incentive for people to not use sick days.

      I’m assuming this is over and above any award/pay conditions… so it’s not discrimination against people with disability, but a bonus for those who are never sick. I don’t think ADA would apply.

      Reply
      1. hbc

        I was thinking more that it’s for the people who can’t stand there being a perk that they don’t benefit from. You know, the “If I don’t take the health insurance, can you just give me some of the money you would have spent?” crowd, which some companies actually do. There’s a certain logic to it–the company is willing to pay up to $X for you to be out sick, you took up a lot less than $X, so you can share in the savings.

        I agree that the result is an incentive not to use sick days, so it’s just not a good idea, but I doubt the intention is to get sick people to come to work.

        Reply
        1. LQ

          I’d agree except for the tiering of the incentive. If it was just a flat payout of each sick day then it would be for people who don’t need sick days but the fact that they don’t need sick days isn’t enough of a good thing for them. But that it is tiered seems to really make it a thing that is designed to make people do everything they can to never take a single sick day. Which…sorry employers, the numbers don’t back you up on that, it isn’t more productive because more people will get sick, but they’ll all come in and be sick on your time instead of getting well and coming back in.

          Reply
        2. neverjaunty

          Although of course the employer gets better rates by having a larger pool of participants, so often the “can’t I just get the money” people are not simply declining a benefit – they’re making it worse for everyone else.

          Reply
    5. Mimi

      I disagree. I dont know that ADA wouldnt apply.

      If I understand correctly is that if they have all 5 days left they get like 60% for all 5 days and if they 4 days they dont get 60% for the 4 days. They get 40% for the 4 days, etc.

      I would imagine its rare for disabled employees to go the full year without missing a single day for checkups, flare ups or whatever. This means disabled employees will have a natural disadvantage. It doesnt matter that sick pay is a perk. Its still a policy that disabled employees are disadvantaged by. The appropriate thing would be to not consider absence related to disability when considering payment for sicknese. The ADA may still apply. I would check with a lawyer to be sure. Plus there could be issues of the employer incentivising non-disabled employees to bring their sickness to the office and infect others including disabled employees. Which might affect their attendance as well. Its a more tenuous stretch to be sure but I could see it being a legal case.

      Though its still a pretty shit policy for everyone. Besides if their sick pay is presumably 100% for the day when they use the sick day doesnt it mean you get more money and time off if you just use them instead of saving it for a lesser bulk payout?

      Reply
      1. msmorlowe

        “You get more money and time off if you just use them instead of saving it for a lesser bulk payout”

        No, because you’re also paid 100% for the day you worked instead of taking a sick day. Assuming you’re allotted 5 paid sick days and you don’t take any of them, at the end of the year you get a bonus equalling 3 days’ pay, in addition to being paid during the year for the 5 days you worked instead of taking sick leave. If you use 1 sick day, your bonus is about a day and a half’s pay, and so on and so forth.

        It’s still a crap policy because it incentivises people to come into work when they’re sick, while letting the company point to the sick leave like “well, they could take the time off, but I guess they just don’t want to”–for this reason, I can’t see it being a legal case but IANAL.

        Reply
  8. Hilorious

    OP 5, along the lines of what Alison said, I once received a gift when I was departing from a job that I still treasure. They made a word cloud (using a free online generator) of words they would use to describe me, printed it out, and put it in a frame. It’s such a simple but powerful indicator of the qualities that they valued and I was so touched by their kindness and the thoughtfulness of the gesture!

    Reply
    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      Whoa, that’s beautiful. I love this idea.

      Yes, OP#5, a word cloud or a letter is an excellent gift. If you like, you can make a little goodie bag to go along with it: just a small gift bag with things like individually-wrapped tea bags, mini packs of nice coffe, and/or a few sweets/treats. If people have dietary restrictions, you can see if you can treats that would suit them (there are quite a few sugar-free treats about these days, for example).

      But a letter or word cloud or something along those lines would be the best gift of all. I always re-read the letters/cards/emails people have given me throughout the years.

      Reply
    2. WhirlwindMonk

      Mmmm, personally, I would much, much rather get the letter. Not that I wouldn’t appreciate the heartfelt gesture of the framed wordcloud, but from a practical standpoint…what do I do with it? The point of framed items is to hang them, but hanging up a framed paper that is just a list of positive qualities about myself at the office or at home would feel kind of, I dunno, narcissistic to me? But because it’s such a heartfelt gift, I’d feel bad throwing it away, which means it’d just get hidden away and forgotten in a closet, taking up space.

      If you really want to do something framed, personally, I’d prefer like a certificate of appreciation or something like that. “We, the undersigned, wish to express our sincerest thanks to WhirlwindMonk for his help in Operation Dark Knight which set up 20 new homeless shelters in Gotham City.” Something that says WHY people are thanking me so it doesn’t just look like an framed ego trip and also puts a good chunk of emphasis on the actual work that was done.

      But other people might not like that any better than I like the word cloud, so honestly I think the letter is the best way to go. If you happen to know a small snack/treat item that each person likes, that would be a nice gesture as well, but don’t send something generic if you don’t know it. I wouldn’t hate a box of chocolates, but it would feel, well, generic and not particularly thoughtful. A box of salted caramels with the letter, on the other hand, would put me over the moon because it would show that extra level of having gotten to know me and picking out something you knew I would love.

      Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          This and the comment it’s responding to are great examples of why I still think you should go with the letter — gifts are just too personal and varied in the response they’ll produce, and even when one person thinks something is wonderful, it’s pretty much guaranteed that a different person won’t. (I wouldn’t want the word cloud either.)

          Reply
    3. Op 5

      The small gift was very specific to them and the work we do, and I also wrote personal thank-you notes/cards. I suppose my real concern is that I didn’t fully convey how much their help and work means. Maybe I am overthinking it!

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        Would any of the people who’ve received the services your org provides want to write a thank-you letter? That would mean a lot to me if I were a volunteer. Of course you can’t go around demanding that they demonstrate their gratitude, but if any of them have expressed a desire to, this would be a good chance to take them up on it. You can also make a point of passing on any applicable thanks as a matter of course.

        But presumably, if your volunteers are putting in this much work, they have at least some appreciation of how much it means. And it sounds like you did a good job thanking them–don’t worry too much if you can’t find a great way to super-thank them. :)

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          Or, if you’ve heard any of the “clients” say anything positive–either about the mission, or about them, you could put that in the letter.

          Reply
      2. Beth

        I volunteered at a local organization for a couple years and had to leave when I moved to a different state. I received a lovely Thank You note in the mail with short notes (a few sentences) from a few people at the org that expressed their appreciation for what I’d done. It meant SO much to me and, years later, I still keep it in my top desk drawer and read it when I’m having a tough day. I’m sure your volunteers will appreciate it whatever you say, even if it’s just a few short paragraphs. It feels nice to just have something that says, “You did something that matters and impacted others positively, thank you.”

        Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Honestly, OP, there is nothing more meaningful to me than a thoughtful thank you letter (i.e., longer than a standard card with specific examples of how my contributions helped, but focused on the personal relationship between the organization and me). I throw out almost everything, but I keep those thank you letters. I promise it will be enough.

        Reply
  9. Greg M.

    honestly given that many packages require a signature and are only delivered during office hours or that so many companies seem to have their head firmly up their butts on how to handle po boxes I’d let people use the office just to make them happier as long as it’s not extreme or inappropriate.

    *internet senses tingling*
    I’ve had a PO Box for 25 years. I’m glad that your experience with ordering things online has been different than mine but it doesn’t change my experiences.

    Reply
    1. Purple Dragon

      I also have a PO box which I check at lunch. But there are a heap of sites that will not deliver to it, which is annoying. I’m beginning to wonder why I bother continuing to pay for it. They used to be about $65/year and now they’re up to close to $150/year. Australia Post is very expensive.

      Reply
      1. Mags

        YES! I live on a farm. I get my mail in town at a post office box and none of the couriers (Purolator, UPS) will deliver to my house. Not only that, I have a legal land description, not a street address. You would be amazed how many people in charge of shipping for major companies have no concept of the fact that farms don’t have street/avenue addresses and that some people really do get all their mail delivered to PO Boxes.

        I had one conversation trying to get my satellite TV upgraded (our second closest neighbour three miles away had satellite from the same company and had recently done this). The equipment needed to be shipped to me, they wouldn’t ship to a post office box, and so the guy asked for my street address. I explained in detail where I lived, how roads worked, that I didn’t have a street address. The guy would say OK, take down my legal land description, and then ask for my street or avenue. After three times, I told him to go and ask someone else in his office how it worked for people who live on FARMS. He never did understand.

        I have a rewards program attached to my national bank branded credit card. It’s a better deal if you use the reward points for STUFF, but the stuff has to be sent to a physical address, not a po box. However, they do not recognize legal land descriptions, and if I try to use an address in town, it gets rejected for not matching the account address.

        I have a card at another bank that gives me a pop up message whenever I go into online banking asking for me to update my physical address, but it will not accept a legal land description nor a range road or township road. Maddening.

        I have had things shipped to my town’s office, to our local library, and to the address of the store that handles the Purolator shipments, since even on those rare occasions when someone would try to ship to me, the driver would just drop it all off there anyway because he sure wasn’t going to drive an extra 15 miles out of town to try to find my house.

        Anyway, my point being that if I had an office job, I absolutely would use it for parcels just because it is impossible to get parcels shipped to my house. However, anything that could be mailed, would be mailed to my post office box.

        Reply
        1. Elemeno P.

          Wow, that sounds like an enormous pain in the butt. My mom lives in a US territory, and while she does have a street address, USPS doesn’t deliver in her area so she has a PO Box. I live in a US state, so sometimes she’ll have things shipped to me because a company doesn’t ship a) to PO Boxes or b) “internationally” (because territories are other countries when it’s convenient, I guess). Luckily, her whole island has to operate that way, so when working with local deliveries, it’s fine to tell them to “turn right where the pink house used to be.”

          Reply
        2. Jessesgirl72

          It happens in the US too. In some places, there was a rule that if you lived within X distance of the post office, you didn’t have an address- only a PO box.

          The good thing about small towns is the couriers all know the route. UPS and Fed Ex deliver stuff to her office that is addressed to her house- because they don’t want to drive out to her farm, and because that is where they know she is.

          Reply
        3. TootsNYC

          It would probably be easier to persuade your local post office to make up a street address for you that corresponds to your PO box, or your land location.

          Reply
      2. Jayn

        And a PO box also assumes being able to get to the post office during open hours. My parents don’t have one, but large packages will be kept and a slip delivered to their mail box saying it’s there. However there are no longer any weekend hours and it closes not long after they get off work–it’s not impossible to get there but is generally tight. I’ve started sending packages to their work instead to make things easier.

        Reply
        1. BPT

          I don’t understand post offices that aren’t open 24/7. I mean, of course people aren’t always working there, and the desk area is locked after hours. But in my very small home town, the doors are always open to the post office box area.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            I suspect that 24/7 is more likely in areas where people won’t use the area for sleeping and selling or using drugs.

            Reply
          2. Judy

            But packages aren’t in the PO Box. You have to get your packages from the counter, during times that is open.

            Reply
            1. Hodie-Hi

              When any item too large for our PO Box arrives, they put it in a locker, and leave the locker key in my box. I only have to pick up at the counter when the package is too big for the biggest locker.

              Reply
          3. nonegiven

            Ours is open to the post office box area. Most packages do not fit in most boxes. To pick up a package you have to be there before they close at 4:30 on a weekday. If you are a little late, you might have luck by knocking on the dutch door to the area behind the boxes, someone might still be there and take pity.

            Reply
        2. Oryx

          Oh that’s interesting. I’ve had PO boxes at multiple locations and the PO box section of the building is kept open 24 hours. The “business” side of the post office is separate and locked up at night.

          Reply
    2. Greg M.

      I still think my favorite has got to be despite having a space for both mailing and living addresses I had to get my college to delete my living address entirely from their records to stop sending mail there.

      adding on also now that FEDEX and UPS both will hand off to the post office you get this lovely game of russian roulette about which address to put down. I’ve taken to actually just putting both addresses in like this:
      Street: address
      Mail: address

      Reply
    3. Nikki T

      We had some delivery issues over the holidays because the company would not put a PO Box in the the line for “address II”. It had to be physical address only, but the package ends up at the post office for delivery, but we don’t have delivery, we have a PO BOX!!! Anyway….

      We only got the package because a worker recognized the name and had it held with a note in the PO Box. The Postmaster told me we could use the post office as a physical address, and with an added code, they’d know it was for a PO Box customer and hold it.
      Perhaps you can get someone to give you that information, you also have to fill out a permission form as well.
      Haven’t tried it yet, it’s my parent’s address…

      Reply
    4. Miles

      Don’t get me started on PO boxes. My town does not do mail delivery to addresses, everyone is given a free PO Box at the post office where we get our mail. Some online companies not only make me put down my useless street address, but some will detect the phrases “PO” or “PO Box” if it occurs in the secondary address field and reject the order until I remove it! Then I get a talking to from the post office workers for not putting my box number down.

      Reply
  10. Gadfly

    Op2–I’m guessing you are not in the US from the 30 stone and boot comment (UK?)? I am not sure exactly what it is like being where you are, but having similar requirements I suspect I might get much of it. And I suspect Allison missed the heart of it, if I am correct in reading between the lines. It is extraordinarily hard to make even what ought to be reasonable requests that involve stereotypes that are often invoked to bully us (both individually and part of general culture, and because of it chair breaking is a big deal for a lot of us) and it hard to expect requests to be accommodated to be respected when often they’ve been used against us, isn’t it? And when so many of the stereotypes involve us being less competent, reminding people that we are larger goes against all the effort we put into convincing them we are as competent as anyone smaller and hoping they’ll just forget our size and give us a real chance.

    I noticed you aren’t afraid of losing your job, just of losing your chances. I think Allison is right about the job, and that it wouldn’t be reasonable for them to not get the chairs. I also understand if that isn’t soothing, given how often people aren’t reasonable. I suggest you point out that you are not exactly unique and that it is just good sense to have such a chair (or even two) available at all offices. Especially if they have outside trainers or clients in the office. Having something like this happen to a client is an almost certain way to lose them. Also, if they are not reasonable about this, I would recommend you listen to them–they are saying they really weren’t committed to giving a real chance. If that happens, do what you need to, and don’t look to them for your advancement. Work to find somewhere better.

    Reply
    1. state government jane

      This is such a thoughtful and empathetic reply. Though I’m not the OP, I so appreciate you taking the time to write it. Thank you for sharing your insight here!

      Reply
    2. Ramona Flowers

      I think the fact they got OP a chair at their own location is potentially a good sign. It’s possible the other offices aren’t aware that there’s a better kind of chair for you and if they were they’d get them.

      Reply
    3. FishAreNotPets

      In my country, and much of the EU, obesity is a protected class, and despite the stigma, it might help to approach it that way. Much in the same way that a chair would be purchased for someone with back problems, or accommodations would be made for someone who used a wheelchair. Though I absolutely respect that you may not feel at all disabled by being larger, as many people don’t (and aren’t, the laws don’t specify when a person becomes disabled as a result of their weight and I don’t want to assume) I want to point out that what is happening here is impacting your ability to work, and in fact your workplace is actually not providing you a suitable place to sit when you aren’t at your desk, which I think any reasonable person would agree a safe place to sit is essential to the workplace. What would happen if you had gotten hurt?

      I’m sorry you’re in this position OP, I hope things work out in your favor!

      I absolutely agree with above, if this is not addressed properly by your workplace, its not a place worth your time.

      Reply
    4. Lily Rowan

      I was also thinking about one of your points — the OP presumably isn’t the only large person who will ever work for their employer, so why not make this one bulk purchase to accommodate them?

      And my sympathies, OP. That must have felt really crappy.

      Reply
    5. Thomas E

      If you are in the UK, quite separate from any disability legislation there is a legal duty of care under the Health and Safety act that requires employers to ensure your safety. It is not safe to sit in a chair that isn’t designed for your weight.

      Reply
    6. Tavie

      Want to just say “bravo” to this reply as well and wish OP#2 luck with this. It’s a difficult situation and I sincerely hope your managers are understanding and supportive.

      Reply
    7. k

      I very much agree that OP should mention that having these chairs would be useful for others as well. It takes it from “Do this for me” to “I noticed something that could improve our office”. It would be helpful if the office can accommodate any visitors or employees that may be in that office.

      Reply
    8. Anon for this

      And when so many of the stereotypes involve us being less competent, reminding people that we are larger goes against all the effort we put into convincing them we are as competent as anyone smaller and hoping they’ll just forget our size and give us a real chance.

      Truest thing I’ve read today.

      OP – I learned something interesting when I shared an office with another person that was larger (like myself) and also a person that had never been overweight. The lady who had never been overweight simply didn’t think about things like weight limits on chairs. It just didn’t occur to her because it never had to occur to her. I know from experience how hard it is to ask for something like a different chair because the last thing you want to do is draw more attention to your weight, but it will be so much better than the constant worry of whether the chair is going to be safe for you. I think most people (or at least I hope) will be more than willing to get a chair that works for you, they just need to know you need it.

      Reply
  11. state government jane

    #3: Personal mail (incoming or outgoing) can cause problems at government offices, especially large government offices. I’m just glad I work in an urban downtown high-rise with an Amazon locker–otherwise I’d be SOL. Packages get stolen from porches in my neighborhood all the time. Hope y’all thieves are enjoying my books about weather, no-show socks, and bulk order of that instant oatmeal I like!

    Reply
    1. The IT Manager

      Personal deliveries are very odd to me. I work for the government, and they can’t spend tax payer dollars delivering personal packages so it’s a huge no-no.

      * The one exception I saw was people living overseas were supported with USPS service, but that was still delivery to the post office and not a person’s desk.

      Reply
    2. No Name Yet

      Yup, this is definitely a situation where government is different. I work at a VA hospital, and it’s expressly forbidden to get any personal mail or packages at work. Every year in December an email goes out reminding people of this, and stating the mail room folks will return to sender anything that’s not for a current inpatient.

      Reply
    3. Lily in NYC

      I work in a government office and we are allowed to get packages at work. We just have to pick them up ourselves from the mailroom so that they won’t be doing personal work for us. In NYC, it’s kind of a given that you are going to have stuff sent to work because there’s just no way you can have a package left on your stoop in Brooklyn (for example) without it being stolen within two minutes. I hope whoever stole your oatmeal was very disappointed.

      Reply
      1. Sparky

        Yes, I work in a federal building, in a court, and we can have personal items delivered to us. No one abuses the policy, and since I’m often the person taking the mail out and picking it up, no one knows if I get personal mail or not. But it is a perk we’re allowed to have.

        Reply
        1. Lily in NYC

          Oh, that’s really interesting. My sister works at a federal agency and is not allowed to receive packages at work (but now I’m curious if she’s really not allowed or just doesn’t get stuff sent there because she’s the boss and it might look bad).

          Reply
          1. state government jane

            Super interesting to hear that it’s different in other governmental organizations! It’s making me curious about the “why” behind the policy at my office… all of our mail is opened in the mailroom for safety reasons, maybe that’s it? A “taxpayer expense” justification?

            Reply
      2. Elise

        Same here. I work for a municipality, not the federal government though. I don’t see anyone abusing it, and I only have packages that I’m uncomfortable being left on my doorstep or that require a signature, which is a few times a year, if that (say, whenever I upgrade my iPhone, get a new iPad or Kindle, etc). Everything else, I’m fine with them leaving on my doorstep in the burbs. I’m lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with many older people who are around during the day.

        I do think it’s a good practice to allow employees to take advantage of this since they are likely working during the hours that packages are delivered, as long as they don’t abuse it and it doesn’t cause a lot of extra work for anyone. Our mailroom people leave packages in cubbies for each department in the building so no one is delivering directly to your desk. Once, they have walked up when they could tell it was probably a phone (Verizon package) just to be nice. Certainly not expected in any way though.

        Reply
      3. Halls of Montezuma

        I’m also a fed, and allowed to get packages at work. It’s just terribly slow to be delivered – it has to go to the mailroom for the command, trickle down to a tenant command, and then be distributed to our individual mailboxes. Since the mailboxes are over in my supervisor’s office, which is in another building, mail could linger there for weeks before I noticed it.

        Reply
  12. Ramona Flowers

    #5 People often have very personal reasons for choosing where they donate their time – and whether their reasons are personal or professional, knowing they’ve contributed to the success of the organisation could be a really big deal to them.

    I spent a couple of years volunteering with at-risk kids. I appreciated the time they managed to get us all a free massage treatment. I appreciated the fact that the director was/is one of my references.

    But the thing I really treasured was being told I had personally made a difference.

    Reply
    1. Op 5

      I did my best to express this in the handwritten note/card I gave them, but it doesn’t feel like enough! Maybe it is, and I’m just doubting the real value of honest words.

      Reply
      1. Elemeno P.

        I think it’s a good thing to have! Frequent expression of gratitude is better than presents. If you really want to do more, taking them out to an appreciation dinner and reiterating your words in person would also be a bonus- everyone likes free food!

        Reply
          1. Oryx

            Yes, I’ve done volunteering where free food is provided during a shift and that free food I like. But when they do their “volunteer appreciation picnic” it’s on a weekend and not always convenient and no amount of free food will get me there because, as you say, the additional demand on my time.

            Reply
          2. LBK

            Yeah, and as much as I like my coworkers/managers, I don’t know that I’d want to be stuck in a one-on-one dinner with them.

            Reply
          3. sometimeswhy

            ^^
            This.

            I value my lunchtime as a decompression time and decline every work-related lunch that I’m able to decline.

            I value my evenings and weekends and decline every single social activity outside of work. My general, guiding philosophy is: You don’t pay me, you don’t see me. (With the caveat that sometimes payment comes in the form of social capital which is sometimes necessary.)

            The absolute closest I get to being amenable (and even enthusiastic) about it is when it’s something set out on a sideboard for general, grazing consumption and opting out of the food doesn’t also come with the opting out of the social obligation thorns.

            Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          Nope. Not everyone does.

          An illustration: Last week was Holy Week for Christians, and in my denomination, that meant services Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Our Priest decided to have cake and champagne in his office after Saturday’s service for the choir and the other volunteers responsible for setting up the altar space for every service.

          I appreciated the gesture and thought, but I went home instead of eating cake. At least half of us didn’t stick around.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            I think everyone likes the free food they like when they like it; it’s meeting that bar that can be a little difficult.

            Reply
      2. VolunteerThx

        OP, I have been working with and studying volunteers for a few months and their number one desire in regards to recognition is a sincere thank you and knowing they made a difference. You’re probably doing just fine!

        Reply
  13. Stellaaaaa

    OP1: I would ask them to set up a screen instead of asking them to use the bathroom. If you share “public” bathrooms with other businesses, your coworkers would have to use stalls, and there’s not always enough room in a stall to change your clothes. They could change in the common area of the bathroom, though that might mean putting things on the bathroom floor (as opposed to their desks and chairs in the office), and it might mean being seen by strangers from other businesses.

    I’m bringing this up because it can be easy to get caught up in a semantic thing like “I want you to change in the bathroom” when you really mean “You can change in the office as long as I don’t have to see it.” I wouldn’t want to have to change my clothes in a bathroom every day unless it was a large single-stall bathroom with enough hooks to make sure none of my clothes touched the gross floor.

    Reply
    1. Cait

      I, too, would hate changing in the bathroom regularly. Particularly if they all have to change at once or in a rush, that sounds unpleasant! Not that “unpleasant” is an excuse to ignore their colleague’s discomfort, but it’s another vote toward a screen or curtain compromise.

      Reply
        1. Mary

          I have two direct reports who share an office and change a lot as they are in the office and out in the field several times a day. They are very comfortable with changing in the office, one female, one male. The bathrooms are directly across the hall from their office but there is more room to change in the office, and as you say, places to hang clothing etc. I had no idea this was happening until I walked in one day and one was changing. But both assure me they are perfectly fine with it. We have a thumb lock on the door so I have asked them they lock the door when one needs to change to prevent people who are not ready for the sight of their co-workers in their underwear if they happen to walk into the office.

          Reply
    2. Purest Green

      Yeah, I’m not siding with their behavior, but these women weren’t provided an adequate space for changing clothes, which seems to be required for their role.

      Reply
      1. annejumps

        I wonder if the company couldn’t put up one of those changing screens in a corner, like they have in old movies.

        Reply
      2. LBK

        I dunno, even if a bathroom isn’t ideal, it still seems like the most logical place rather than in the middle of the office. I question whether they would’ve defaulted to this if their coworker were a straight man.

        Reply
        1. Purest Green

          Oh sure, I think most people in this situation would change in the bathroom rather than disrobe in front of their coworker. Again, I’m not defending their behavior, merely stating that if the restroom is truly a problem (I agree with other comments that most stalls aren’t large enough to change clothes in, floors aren’t sanitary, clothes can’t be hung, etc.) then they should’ve been provided a space for this. And the next logical step for them is to advocate for that, even if the solution is something like a changing screen.

          Reply
        2. Kate

          When I have had to change in the bathroom, or even just hang up a long winter coat to use the restroom, I have come perilously close to dipping my clothes in the toilet.The non-handicapped stalls are just so tiny! I think a screen or curtain is the only realistic and kind option to solve everyone’s problem.

          Reply
        3. Stellaaaaa

          It really depends on a lot of specific logistics that we weren’t given. I wouldn’t necessarily want three non-handicapped women to take long turns in a handicapped bathroom stall or single-user bathroom multiple times every single day. Asking them to change in the regular stalls isn’t going to happen, and telling them to change in the common part of the bathroom is basically insisting that they change in front of whatever strangers walk in, so OP doesn’t have to see them change. It eliminates OP’s problem by introducing new ones for the women.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            I’m still not convinced by your examples that the middle of the office is the better place than the bathroom. Like I said, if there were a straight man in the office, I’m very confident it never would’ve even occurred to them to change anywhere other than the bathroom. I change into workout clothes in the office pretty regularly and I go to the bathroom to do it, because the bathroom is the designated spot for private activities like that. Even if it’s not the most logistically advantageous, it’s the most socially accepted.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              (I also have a bias here because I’m a gay man and have experienced straight women displaying this weird disregard for my desire to not see naked women on multiple occasions. It’s an uncomfortable, annoying and yet bizarrely pervasive attitude. Just because I’m not sexually interested in you doesn’t mean I have no problem with you stripping down around me. If anything, it’s the opposite – the fact that I pretty much never have cause or occasion to see a naked woman means I’m much less comfortable around them than a woman or straight man who probably sees naked women a lot more frequently than I do.)

              Reply
    3. Lily in NYC

      I think that’s a good idea. This whole thing reminds me of a coworker (ages ago) who used to work out at lunch and then come back to the office wearing spandex short shorts that left nothing to the imagination. He’d work in them for a couple of hours and then change (no idea why he waited to change). It grossed us all out but he was a boss so no one said anything. Until one guy just couldn’t take it anymore and said to him: “dude, you look like you are smuggling grapes in those shorts” – and that was all it took. He never wore them in the office again. Sometimes you just need a little public shaming.

      Reply
      1. JustaTech

        Waiting to cool off, maybe? I had a lab mate who rode his bike to work, which was never an issue until the day he was late to a timepoint and I walk into find him in full bike gear (shorts, clip-in shoes, helmet) in the lab. That was a bit much, so I brought him his lab coat which fixed the visual issue. He was so flustered at almost being late he hadn’t thought about anything else.
        Lab coats cover a multitude of sins, but the can also make you look like you forgot clothes if you’re wearing a dress/skirt or shorts.

        Reply
    4. Erin

      Couldn’t OP schedule his breaks around the times they undress? This is assuming there is a separate breakroom or a close place to hang out for 5-10 minutes. If OP was a smoker he would have a reasonable excuse to step outside for a couple minutes.

      Reply
      1. Casuan

        This is a solution. If OP is willing to do this then he should make it clear that he never wants them to disrobe in front of him. If he didn’t then he’d be tacitly conveying that he’s okay with the behaviour.
        The screen suggestion is also good if there’s space for it.
        If they insist on continuing, ask them to give you a notice before they change so you have the time & option of stepping out.

        OP, you shouldn’t have to deal with this. It is not at all okay.

        Reply
  14. JKP

    OP #2: If the various offices you go to ever have meetings with clients, they should probably have a chair like that anyway. They could lose business if a client broke a chair and was too embarrassed to deal with the firm again. You could be preventing future problems for your employer. Also, other people in the office can still use the chair, even if they’re not heavy, so it can still be used when you’re not there.

    Reply
    1. the other Emily

      It depends on the chair. In a past job I handled office supply orders. The larger chairs also had extra long and/or extra wide seats. People who did not require a large chair would not have fit comfortably in them. I don’t know which model OP’s company ordered, but every one I had ever seen would not have worked for someone who wasn’t overweight.

      (I appreciate your kind reply to OP. And I’m hoping my explanation about the type of chair did not offend anyone)

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        Funny, in my experience they have usually been the first ones taken if not reserved…

        How many people really are bothered by having a wider, more heavily cushioned chair?

        Reply
        1. blackcat

          I’ve seen a few such chairs where the seat is deeper. If I (short person), sit in such a chair, I can’t sit all the way back in it. If I do, the seat of the chair extends past where my knees bend, so I can’t bend my legs like a normal person. So I’ve had to use such chairs as benches, not using the back at all.

          While I’m short, I’m not ridiculously short (5’3″), so I imagine other petite people could have this problem, too.

          Reply
          1. ArtsNerd

            True (and this is an issue I have even with typical desk chairs), though I think the point JKP was making is that it is still usable for a nontrivial part of the population, to counter potential concerns of getting a chair that will *only* get used by OP on occasional visits with the associated cost and storage needs.

            It’s unlikely that we would be pressured to use that particular chair, but it is likely that other employees and guests are able to without issue.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Yeah, I was going to say–that just sounds like a regular chair experience for a short person, and I deal with it when I have to; taller people should be fine.

              Reply
          2. RVA Cat

            The chair could be useful for tall people as well, who also tend to be heavier than average. I googled specs for the Aeron chair and it tops out around 300 lbs. and 6’6″. There’s a lot of folks larger than that.

            Reply
            1. Jessesgirl72

              In my experience, though, a chair that is rated to only 300 lbs is safe enough for someone even 30 stone (420 lbs, for those who didn’t already google) to sit in without breaking for a day or two- it just wouldn’t last for months or years.

              Reply
        2. Gandalf the Nude

          Not to be argumentative, but I’ve been super uncomfortable every time I’ve had to sit in an over-sized chair for work. I look like a toddler trying to use a big kid chair, which can be really undermining when I already look quite young. I am sure most offices have at least one person who would appreciate the extra space, though!

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            No chair is going to work for everybody–but pretty much any chair is going to work for a good range of people (with the larger ones having a bit more potential for that than the smallest just because using too big of a chair is less problematic than too small of a chair)

            Reply
      2. JKP

        I guess it would depend on the chair. I know that – since I deal with the public – I made a point of making sure some of my chairs could accommodate larger customers. I’ve have had 500lb+ customers use my biggest chair without problem, and yet it’s still comfortable for those of average weight.

        Reply
      3. Corrvin

        On the contrary– I worked in a call center where we had several employees needing the bariatric chairs (300+ pounds). On the days those guys were off work, some of us would get to work early to use the special chairs. I’m 6′ and was about 200 at the time, and can attest they were SO COMFORTABLE.

        OP I’m so glad you weren’t hurt either time! Please don’t be too embarrassed; employers really ought to make sure they have safe seating that’s rated to hold their employees, not just pretend that “if we don’t hire fat people this won’t happen”. Lots of businesses order the cheapest office chairs, some of which are rated as low as 175 pounds, which is ridiculous. All it would take is “I stumbled and sat down hard” for the same thing to happen to lots of people.

        Reply
        1. Lily Rowan

          Wow, seriously? That’s absurd. No one would say I’m an exceptionally large human being, and I am definitely over 175!

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            I have seen some under 150 when looking for chairs for my desk at home. At least one (meant for adults) at 125.

            Reply
          2. nonegiven

            When I took flight training we figured weight distribution for private planes, using 175lbs per person as average.

            Reply
    2. Starbuck

      I’m really curious about how having a client using the chair would work. What is the respectful way to navigate that interaction? I would be terrified of causing offense by making the offer of a special chair to accommodate them, because that seems to involve trying to estimate someone’s weight by looking at them, which I wouldn’t be comfortable doing. Would you just not say anything unless they asked? That doesn’t quite seem ideal either, because I can imagine lots of reasons why they might not make the request, especially if they don’t already know you have such a chair available. In a perfect world, I suppose all the chairs in the office would be as accommodating as possible so there wouldn’t be a need for the request in the first place. Regardless, best of luck to OP navigating this- I agree that it makes sense for every office to have at least one supportive chair!

      Reply
      1. Marisol

        I imagine you’d know when they were coming in, and you’d bring the chair into the office or conference room ahead of time and so it would be waiting for the customer to find it themselves. If you had to point it out specifically for whatever reason, you’d say something like, “use this chair, it’s more comfortable” without specifically referencing the reason. That’s my best guess.

        Reply
  15. the other Emily

    Re #2: OP does not say how many different locations their firm has, or how often they have to attend them. I don’t mean to disrespect OP in any way, but these chairs can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars. If OP has to attend sessions at half a dozen places or more, only a few times a year, the company may not think it is worth it to spend so much for a chair that’s barely going to be used.

    (Note: I’m not saying I feel this way, just trying to give prospective from the point of view of the company)

    Reply
    1. Sparkly Librarian

      OP2 may be the only current employee who needs reinforced seating, or they might only think that they’re the only one. But there will be others — employees, vendors, clients — who will feel more comfortable using it. Should companies only make ADA-compliant bathrooms available if they have an employee who uses a wheelchair? No, of course not, even though accessible bathrooms can be expensive to create or convert. This is something that should be available for whoever needs it.

      Reply
      1. Kim

        Hah yes the toilet which is accessible is a good example. Not everyone uses a wheelchair but people who don’t use wheelchairs can still use that bathroom so long as it’s available to someone who needs it when they need it.

        Reply
    2. Kim

      But anyone else could use that chair when the OP isn’t there: so long as it was made available for them when they do attend the office.

      Reply
      1. Gen

        Sadly once you have a few good chairs (strong or ergonomic or with more adjustment settings) in an office full of cheapo chairs you’ll get chair wars. I ended up having to give up a job because while my company used a government grant to get me a good chair they couldn’t stop people using it outside my shift. Which then led to people taking it out of the department, scratching my name tags off and ultimately breaking it all in the name of keeping the ‘good’ chair for themselves. To them it was ‘just’ a more comfy chair, to me it was the only way I could do my job but they didn’t care. I’ve seen similar behaviour in lots of companies even at upper management level (my mother’s chair for a severe spinal injury cost £8000 and wasn’t safe to be used by anyone else. It still got stolen. The guy who took it gave himself backproblems from using it). Unless you’re using the chair every day or you can get it locked away it’s likely to vanish pretty quickly.

        Not saying the OP shouldn’t ask for one but if they’re a big business they might already have encountered this behaviour and be wary.

        Reply
    3. Gadfly

      And this is exactly how it becomes a problem for anyone needing accommodations.

      Unless they are basically buying Ikea chairs (which they might be–a lot of those have VERY low weight limits) there are appropriate chairs for about the same price as standard chairs (which also cost upwards of hundreds of dollars.)

      And as others and I have pointed out elsewhere, why would you assume she would be the only one to need them, let alone the only one to use them? This would mean they’d already be prepared to hire other larger employees. This would mean they could provide better service to large customers. And even minuscule people can also sit on the chair, unlike the reverse.

      Reply
    4. the other Emily

      Apologies if it seemed like I was agreeing with the company actions. I was just playing devils advocate to give a point of view of what the company may be thinking. I’m on OP’s side and think they should be accommodated every step of the way without question.

      (Though as I pointed out above, depending on the model of the chair, if it was meant for someone overweight the seat may be too long or wide for others to use. At my old job I used to handle office supply and furniture orders. The models purchased by my company could not have comfortably be used by someone who was not overweight.)

      Again I hope OP is not bullied or mistreated and is accommodated every step of the way.

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        As someone who is very overweight, I can promise you that you found unusual chairs then. Because in my experience they are always among the first to be taken. Perhaps not all people find them comfortable, but far more than just the people they were intended for apparently find them comfortable.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Well, this is a different problem and needs to be handled by management, perhaps with consequences if they keep taking the chairs meant for accommodation. I don’t think it’s right to just throw up your hands and say, “We can’t keep Fergus and John from taking the bariatric chair so therefore we won’t purchase any more of them.” Yes, you totally can censure them for taking the chair.

          Reply
          1. Yetanotherjennifer

            Yes, this is what I was thinking too. A chair is so standard as to be invisible, but it is a piece of work equipment. If you need a special chair then that’s a specialized piece of work equipment that you need to do your job. If someone in HR needs their own printer to be able to print confidential information, there would be consequences for anyone who swiped that printer for their own use. A chair should be no different.

            Reply
      2. Mookie

        Just a note: there are reasons beyond a person’s size and weight that necessitate the use of reinforced, high weight capacity, and/or elevated or bolstered seating and seating fitted with harnesses, belts, adjustable arms, et al. In my first-hand experience, as other commenters have noted, this kind of office equipment tends to be fawned over and is in high demand, usually because of the spaciousness, built-in ergonomics, and heavy-duty quality of construction. Modern offices, particularly those that regularly host intra-company guests and transfers or a large array of clients, should always invest in some where possible (and keep them well-maintained!).

        Reply
        1. Michele

          Yes! The company that I work for has a certain number of ergonomic “pregnancy chairs”. I don’t know what the real name for them is, but they are supposed to be super adjustable and supportive, and the pregnant women here love them. They are given priority access to the chairs, and women farther along in their pregnancy are given the highest priority. If a department doesn’t have any pregnant women, people fight over those chairs.

          Reply
      3. Damn it, Hardison!

        If we’re looking at it from the company’s bottom line, it will be more cost efficient for the company to buy the better chair instead of potentially having to replace broken chairs in the future. (I know you’re playing devil’s advocate here, so I wanted to offer a purely business justification).

        Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          Or the potential liability payout when the OP is injured the next time a chair breaks- which is an increased liability once s/he has informed them of the problem, if they deny the accommodation.

          The UK isn’t as litigious as the US, but even there, a company is bound to be held liable for that kind of injury, and it’s going to cost them more than the cost of a few chairs.

          Reply
        1. Kate

          I think what The Other Emily is doing is actually very useful, because if LW’s bosses come up with any of these Devil’s Advocate arguments, he can quickly and calmly counter them with professional (clients) and legal/medical reasons (injuries, etc) why they should buy the chairs.

          Reply
    5. Cambridge Comma

      It may equally be that the company just hasn’t thought of it. Whoever is responsible for office furniture in OP’s main office may not know that the job description requires visiting other locations. I think OP shouldn’t go into the process thinking that they may have to fight a decision that has already been made.

      Reply
      1. Mimi

        I agree with this. Dont go in assuming its going to be a no. Its a reasonable request. And if they refuse. Thats a red flag about the place you work.

        To the people above. Your colleagues suck. At my work we have people with different chairs and we leave them the fuck alone. The only time someone else uses it is if the person whose chair its for is out and someone is using that desk as a hotdesk for a day. And you dont make any bloody adjustments. Its called respect.

        Reply
      2. Squeeble

        I think this is right. It sounds like an oversight that can be easily corrected if the OP asks for it, rather than a case of stinginess or malice on the part of the company.

        Reply
  16. Emac

    OP #1 – I would also be uncomfortable with this, and I’m a straight woman. I’m also wondering why they need to change, can they not just wear the clothes they wear in the field all the time? I’m really curious what industry this is.

    Reply
    1. Cait

      I was imagining political or union organizing, maybe? But in any job where your field apparel is the organization’s branded shirt, I think many people would get tired of wearing that at all times!
      Or perhaps sometimes in the office or for other meetings they need to look more professional, but for actual field work they’re likely to get dirty, or whatever.

      Reply
      1. msmorlowe

        I used to have to change for work because I wore a very bright, branded t-shirt, worked in a shop that was frequented mostly by children (we sold ice-cream products), and was a smoker. I wore a separate t-shirt under my shop clothes, and took it off at my break so that I wouldn’t be smoking while wearing my very recognisable work clothes.

        I don’t think that’s the same as OP’s situation, but it’s another reason why people might be changing at work.

        Reply
      1. Frances

        And I even make a distinction between the locker room in my office and the one at my separate gym. At the office, I make a much greater effort to cover up as I get out into the shower, change, etc. I don’t worry about it so much at my gym.

        Reply
    2. CheeryO

      I sometimes change 2-4 times in one day (from business casual to field clothes and back, plus sometimes changing into and out of clothes to walk or run in at lunch). I need to be semi-professional looking for meetings, and my field sites are pretty gross (industries and municipal wastewater treatment plants). I would never change in front of coworkers, but I sometimes grab a small conference room for a minute, just because it’s closer and cleaner than the bathroom, and it’s easier to be able to throw things everywhere instead of having to maneuver in a small stall with one hook. A screened off corner with a little bench or a couple chairs might be nice for OP’s coworkers, although that still seems a little awkward in a way.

      Reply
    3. GS

      I work in forestry, our field/bush clothing gets dirty, sweaty, wet with rain, and full of bits of plants that fall out over the course of the day. Caulk boots tear up indoor flooring like nothing else. And then we need to come back and sit on the computer for a couple hours. Everyone I know in the industry changes if they’re coming into the office after field work, though honestly most of us change before we get into the pickup truck to come back. If you’re out with someone, it really depends on the person and their personal comfort level how discreet changing at the truck is; we all have our own offices so it doesn’t come up there.

      Reply
    4. Bedbugs

      A friend of mine spent a summer interning with a state government agency, which involved a fair number of home visits to various members of the public. Many of the homes had bedbugs, which meant that after visiting those homes (maybe all homes, given the prevalence of the bedbug issue and the possibility of them being present without the DFS folks knowing) she and her coworkers would strip down outside of the office (in a bathroom or vestibule designated for the purpose or something), put all of the clothes they’d worn to the home in a trashbag, and change into clean clothes before returning to their desks.

      Reply
    5. Miles

      I work as an environmental scientist and for me “field clothes” meant technical outdoors clothes, often waders or caulk boots (boots with large metal spikes on the soles), and by the end of the day everything would be some combination of wet, sweaty, mud-caked and covered with bodily fluids from whatever animal I was working with. A couple times I was setting bear or wolverine traps that involved handling fermented blood, skunk spray concentrate, and wolverine bait scent (smell is a combo of sweetened rotting vegetation and feces). In the last case I couldn’t even enter the building in my field clothes and had to strip down outside the office before going in out of concern for my coworkers.

      Reply
  17. Misclassified

    I once had an almost horrible experience regarding receiving personal mail at the office, but it was admittedly a freak occurrence. I’m an attorney, and my old employer was misclassifying me as an independent contractor (which, as a side note, was resolved in my favor after filing Form SS-8 with the IRS). I went to a tax attorney about it, and part of the info they needed was my personal address (which I put as my residential address) and a copy of my business card (which I provided).

    When the first bill came, they accidentally sent it to my place of employment. My old boss had the procedure of taking any and all mail received and opening it herself. She opened the bill, realized it wasn’t business-related, and called me saying that she thought I got some personal mail at the office. As she explained to me, since I was an attorney in the office and this was correspondence from another attorney, as shown by their return address, she thought nothing of it and thought it might be for one of the cases. When I saw the envelope, my stomach immediately sank, but she honestly thought nothing of it and just gave it to me.

    When I looked at the bill, they described the services as “Tax Controversy.” Luckily, it didn’t say anything about being misclassified, or controversy with employer, or anything like that. Just “Tax Controversy.” I immediately e-mailed my attorney, and I had confirmation within five minutes that the billing address was corrected to my residential address. I’m sure when the associate saw my e-mail (which was not rude at all, and I even stated that thankfully the bosses didn’t realize what the invoice was about), his stomach ALSO sank.

    Good thing it didn’t say anything which would have set the bosses off either. I sat on filing the SS-8 for another year and a half, so had the bosses realized then, I probably would’ve been fired.

    Reply
    1. Angelinha

      Please excuse my ignorance – not an attorney – but why would it be a problem for your current employer to know that your old employer had misclassified you and was correcting the error?

      Reply
      1. fposte

        It sounded like it wasn’t the current employer–it was while Misclassified worked for that previous employer, who then could have been alerted that Misclassified was considering taking action against them.

        Reply
      2. Misclassified

        The above comments are correct. It was old employer receiving and opening an invoice of me consulting with a tax attorney about old employer misclassifying me.

        Reply
  18. namelesscommentator

    OP#1, what if you suggested they be allowed to wear field attire in the office if it’s more comfortable (instead of say, a HAZMAT suit).

    But hard pass to seeing coworkers in their underwear. Do the other coworkers seem okay with this? I’m a pretty open person, and it was still highly cringeworthy when I had to climb over debris in the backseat of my coworkers car in a very short dress. Maybe just a “I don’t want anyone to feel like they need to speak up, so why I don’t I just leave the room if you must undress in here. I don’t want to open myself, or any others, to harassment claims.”

    Reply
    1. Chriama

      He shouldn’t have to leave every time they change though. Not wanting to see coworkers undressing is a pretty reasonable desire, and the fact that they’re ignoring it due to weird gender and sexuality norms (“what guy doesn’t want to see half-naked people” or “gay guys are like harmless pets” – think of the ‘gay best friend’ stereotype) is a pretty strong reason for pushing back. There should be a place for changing that allows him to feel comfortable in his own office. I get that bathrooms can squick people out so maybe something like a separate office, utility closet, or just a privacy screen in the existing office.

      Reply
      1. The Supreme Troll

        Exactly. I know it can be very tempting to make jokes about this situation and with some sophomoric humor, but OP #1 is absolutely right not to feel comfortable. His expectations of a professional work environment with some logical “professional distance” between co-workers should be understood and respected.

        Reply
      2. Namelesscommentator

        My line of thinking was that the director has already stated for convienence that she wants to be able to change in the room, so the OP should alter their habits to allow that to happen, because boss has said so, and that’s a more reasonable request than undressing in front of everybody. (A privacy screen/wearing field clothes in office would both be potentially more reasonable.)

        His sexuality doesn’t really seem like part of the equation to me, other than his bosses inappropriate mention of it. I understand the stereotypes exist just that they’re beside the point of “I shouldnt see coworkers in their underwear.”

        Reply
  19. Cambridge Comma

    OP#2, perhaps your company could get you a suitable folding chair that fits in your car boot? Then only one is needed for all the locations. A quick google shows chairs up to 800 lb for less than £100, although I don’t know whether those would be suitable for your specific situation. Doesn’t seem like a big as though.
    Such a chair wouldn’t be ergonomically suitable for computer work, I would guess, but it sounds like you are attending seminars at the other locations so perhaps that would work.

    Reply
    1. Borne

      That sounds like the ideal solution, as the OP mentions sessions at the other locations. Therefore a folding chair would probably be the best solution. If the OP buys the chair, it might be handy for social occasions as well to have a suitable chair in the boot.

      Reply
    2. Temperance

      FWIW, though, I can see that as being a potential humiliation – having to bring your own chair to a meeting.

      Reply
      1. Cambridge Comma

        I thought of that, but even if the company gets OP a chair for each potential location, it will have to be marked as OP’s chair and reserved for him or her or others will sit on it, so it isn’t much difference to carrying in the chair yourself.
        Also, the reinforced wider chairs don’t look much different to other chairs.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case – say the OP always works at the same hotdesk, the reinforced chair can always be placed there. If they are always working in a conference room with a group, the boss or whomever can make sure it’s available. It may not need a scarlet letter, so to speak.

          Reply
          1. Michele

            A tactful admin is an asset for many reasons, one of which would be making sure that the chair is in place when OP visits the office.

            Reply
  20. Zombeyonce

    I’m a bit confused about #4. The employees get sick days, which means those days are paid in full if they take them, right? So wouldn’t the policy actually encourage people to take sick days since they’d be paid in full? By reducing the payout for leftover days, they’re discouraging people from not using the time.

    Reply
    1. MommyMD

      My employer pays out unused sick days at 50 percent and it doesn’t bother me at all. When I’m truly sick I stay home. I never use them all and get a nice year end bonus.

      Reply
      1. Edith

        LW’s issue isn’t that unused sick days only pay out a percentage. It’s that the percentage of that payout is significantly decreased if you take even one sick day.

        If you get ten sick days a year and the 60% payout gets cut to 40% for taking even one sick day, that means that taking one sick day, which is only 10% of your allotment, will cut your payout by 40%. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which people will repeatedly come in when they’re sick to avoid losing out on the higher payout percentage. “I’ve made it to July without taking a sick day. I can power through this.” Then in October “I should really stay home, but I’ve made it this far, and I powered through last time. I can do it again.”

        Reply
        1. Misclassified

          Yeah, using fake numbers, it sounds like this happens:

          Assume the daily pay is $100. Those ten sick days are in a way an extra $1000. However, they pay out at 60%, so you get $600 (or $60 per day). If you use one day, you have 9 days ($900). That, however, pays out at 40%, only $360, rather than 60% of $900 ($540). That one sick day then wasn’t worth $60. It was worth $60 for the lost day AND $180 for the lost payout of every other unused sick day. And each successive sick day reduces your payout by both decreasing the number of days your paid for AND by making the payout percentage even less.

          That just doubly incentivizes not to take sick days.

          Reply
          1. Greg M.

            or the flipside is that if you’re losing that much money anyways you might as well make sure you take all of them.

            Reply
            1. Lablizard

              Are you really losing money? If you take a sick day you get your normal pay rate and nothing else. If you don’t take the day, you get your normal pay rate (because you worked) + some fraction of your daily pay. You lose that fraction of you use sick days when you don’t need them.

              Personally, I would have no issue with the policy because everywhere I worked that had separate vacation and sick leave didn’t pay you anything for unused sick leave when you separated. Vacation, up to a certain number of hours, was the only thing you were paid out when you left employment. To me, this is nice because at least you get something back for unused sick leave

              Reply
              1. Naruto

                You’re not legally losing compensation to which you are entitled. But financially? Sure, you’re losing money. If you did not take the sick day you would take home more money from the employer. Therefore, because you do take the sick day, you receive less money than you otherwise would have.

                Reply
                1. Lablizard

                  I only had a few jobs that had sick+vacation time, both government employers, and both paid out unused vacation up to 240 hours if you quit/were fired, but paid nothing for unused sick leave. Not the best system because many of us would use sick time for regular days off so we could max out vacation, but it was what the unions negotiated

              2. OP #4

                It’s definitely nice to get something for the unused sick leave, I just don’t like that the “something” gets reduced a lot if he uses any of that sick leave.
                So losing money is not entirely accurate…at the end of the year he’ll have earned his full salary. Any loss is in the amount he’s paid for his remaining sick days, which is bonus pay.

                Reply
                1. Lablizard

                  I agree that paying less if you use sick leave is kind of weird and could have the unintended consequence of sick people coming to work so they get a bigger pay out. To me, it isn’t unfair, more poorly designed. Plus side is getting any pay out for unused sick leave, which is nice

    2. Stellaaaaa

      I think the idea is that whether you take your, say, 10 sick days or work for those days, you’ve come out making the same amount of money. But if you actually came in and worked on those days, you’re getting a bit of a bonus on top of your day rate.

      Reply
  21. Chaordic One

    Receiving packages and personal mail was mentioned as being a perk of working at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd, as was being able to ship personal items from the office and charge us for it. (Our Shipping Clerk was a genius at figuring out the cheapest way to send things, U.S. Postal Service, Federal Express or United Parcel Service.)

    For the most part it wasn’t too big of a problem, however the shipping of personal items got to be a bit of a hassle for the poor shipping clerk especially around the holiday season.

    There was also the unfortunate time when an employee who was about to be married had way too much stuff shipped to the office. (A lot of it was things for the wedding ceremony and reception shipped by the girl’s mother.)

    Reply
  22. Sofia

    OP#1, my co-workers do that as well, so you have my sympathies. The office offers yoga classes in the morning and afterwards, they change in the room of our seven-people all-female department… No clue if the mixed-gender departments do the same. I’ve gotten used to it now and will definitely not complain as the newest one on the job and I’ll continue to change in the bathroom every morning (unrelated to the yoga classes). But it was definitely a surprise the first time my (attractive) co-worker started taking her clothes off in front of me (a lesbian), hah!

    Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Come on — I’m not online 24/7. However, it takes me MUCH LONGER to remove comments when I have to delete 33 individual responses to it (as I did here). Please, y’all, if something has been called out, don’t add to it — I have to delete everything individually.

        Reply
        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

          I didn’t realise that and thought the whole thread could be deleted in one go. Sorry for creating extra work for you. Thank you for your hard work and for moderating the comments.

          Reply
  23. Annie Mouse

    OP #5 I agree with Alison. The job I do is often seen as being a bit thankless and it is amazing how much difference it makes when someone just says thank you. I had a hug off a patient’s relative the other day and was told I was worth my weight in gold. That meant far more to me than any other reward could do. And I received my first appreciation letter a few weeks back, that will be filed away as a treasure to remind me why I do what I do.

    Reply
    1. Blue

      I literally have photos on my phone of kind, personal thank you notes I’ve received. Whenever work sucks, I pull them out for some perspective.

      Reply
    2. Op 5

      I wrote them personal thank you notes along with the small gift, but I suppose I am doubting that it is “enough” to just express gratitude. Maybe the real answer is that it is enough!

      Reply
      1. Tuckerman

        Sometimes the note means more than just a thank you to the person receiving it. A professor emailed me at the end of my master’s program, thanking me for my contributions and telling me not to hesitate to ask him for a recommendation. I had struggled academically growing up, took 10 years to finish a bachelor’s, and had to talk my way into a master’s program (where I excelled), so I felt very self-conscious about my academic abilities. His note gave me a sense of closure. I no longer felt like I was a dumb person trying to “play” smart. It made me realize I have a lot to offer the world.

        Reply
  24. Katie the Fed

    #1 – Is there a supply closet or conference room they could use? Otherwise, I’ll echo the call for a screen. If none of those work, maybe they could change at the same time and you could leave the office for 5 minutes?

    Your director is an ass. As if the only reason you’d be uncomfortable with this is if you were sexually interested in these women, but since you’re gay you don’t mind seeing them half naked. What?!

    Reply
      1. Chloe Silverado

        The other day I changed into workout clothes in my department’s supply closet, only to realize after I’d completely stripped that the closet has a window that overlooks the parking garage. Luckily there was no one out there (and a lot of random supplies blocking a direct view), but….ack! Never again.

        Reply
    1. Stellaaaaa

      The problem is that the women apparently have to change their clothes as part of the job and weren’t provided an appropriate space to do so. I’m seeing a few comments suggesting things that sound like the women should come up with inconvenient or uncomfortable workarounds. I would not want to change in a supply closet or in a publicly available conference room that was open to all the other companies in the office building.

      Reply
    2. Hodie-Hi

      When I sold lift tickets at night at a ski resort, I would change clothes in the safe that held the stock on which the tickets were printed, among other valuables.

      Reply
  25. Discordia Angel Jones

    Re: OP1
    When I worked Front of House in a theatre, we had a locker room and everyone (male, female, straight, gay, whatever) would change clothes there – from street clothes to uniform, change dirty uniforms (spills happen!), and so on.

    A couple of people would go to the bathrooms to change but there were literally 4 toilets for 50 front of house staff and the cast used to use them too when they needed to go number 2, so I never liked spending more than necessary time in there, as they were gross and usually dirty or smelly.

    I have to say I was definitely uncomfortable when I started working there, but nobody there really gave a crap about nakedness or changing (most people there were aspiring actors, and were also used to changing costumes etc in front of other people), and I gradually got used to it, but would still not parade around in my underwear like some of the more … confident? people.

    Now that I work in an office, it’s totally not appropriate here. If we change we change in the toilet cubicles (which are tiny and it IS a pain). I can imagine it being different if we had offices rather than open plan spaces but… then again one of the two bosses has changed clothes in his office and it was very weird. Glass doors.

    RE: OP2 – I feel for you! Hopefully Alison’s script will yield results.

    RE: OP3 – It definitely depends on the office. Here, only one of the bosses gets personal deliveries. I’ve gotten 1 or 2 which are super important deliveries (passport, expensive items), but it’s not really done even though it wasn’t a problem when I did it.

    Reply
  26. Audiophile

    #3 Having items other than food delivered to me has always been at any office that allowed it. I had a phone charger delivered to me at one of my previous jobs. I haven’t had anything delivered at my current job, as I haven’t figured out if it’s a thing people do at this office.

    Reply
  27. The Optimizer

    OP3 – As long as it’s not against company policy to receive packages, getting personal deliveries here and there likely isn’t a problem. I would suggest going out of your way to thank mailroom staff if you are getting regular deliveries or and giving them advanced notice if you are expecting something particularly heavy or bulky. I once had a monthly wine subscription that had to be signed for by someone over 21 so it could not be delivered to my house. I made sure it was ok with the mailroom and asked them not to bother with lugging it up to my office. If they weren’t too busy, they would drop it off but if they were I would just stop and pick it up on my way out. I got other deliveries (I’ve been Amazon Prime for many years) as well and made sure the staff knew how much I appreciated them, bringing in cookies, etc for them to share on occasion.

    Reply
      1. The Optimizer

        Right, but OP is retrieving mail from the department mailbox. Assuming that mail room staff would be distributing to individual departments, they are still your best bet to go to for input or special handling whether the shipment is for OP or not.

        Reply
  28. NotoriousMCG

    OP5, as your org grows you could also formally name the volunteer program or volunteer awards after your two original superstars. AKA, “Interested in helping the cause? Join the Jones & Rollings Volunteer Program! Email volunteer@organization.org.” Or, “Every year we give the Jane Jones Excellence Award to a volunteer who has shown incredible dedication, compassion, and care for our clients and our work. This year it goes to Susie Summers!”

    Reply
  29. Lablizard

    Due to this line, “… I worry this will cause my firm to not send me to other firms…” I read OP2’s situation as her being sent to other firms/companies for training and meetings and that these firms are not part of her firm (i.e. other firms vs my firm), so I am goings to address the question in that light. If this is not the situation, please ignore me, OP2

    If I we’re in your place, I would call ahead to the forms you are visiting and ask if they have more robust, bigger chairs. It might seem embarrassing and people might be jerks, but think of it in the same light as asking if they had any accessible bathrooms. If these places host a lot of outside staff or clients, they may have some better chairs for you. If they do not have them, it might make them consider ordering them, since you are likely not the first, nor will you be the last, person for whom standard office gear was unsuitable.

    Reply
  30. Naruto

    #1, definitely push back. They’re making the implicit assumption that it’s cool to see coworkers in their underwear, as long you don’t want to have sex with this coworkers. But then next, what, you start looking at next is, what… Age? Size? Race? No, just no.

    I don’t know you necessarily need to point out to them all of those consequences, but I think it’s reasonable to make the point to them that you’re not comfortable seeing coworkers undressing/dressing/in their underwear, regardless of their sex.

    Reply
  31. MuseumChick

    OP1, I agree with everyone else! Push back! this is totally inappropriate. You could try the “What I’m Hearing” technique.

    Boss: “Of it’s find because you are gay!”

    You: “What I’m hearing is that I should be OK with co-workers removing their clothing in front of me because of my sexual orientation. My orientation has nothing to do with me not wanting to see co-workers disrobe.”

    Reply
  32. Allison

    #3, many organizations allow this, especially when a lot of their employees live in areas where packages left on the front step might get stolen. Remember, many homes are empty during the workday! If you’re wondering if you should say anything, the answer is no. If you’re wondering if you too could start getting stuff delivered to the office, maybe double check with your manager or a seasoned coworker, but it’s probably fine. I keep meaning to check on whether it’s okay to get those snack boxes delivered here, I’ve been toying with the idea for a while now.

    That said, some employers have an issue with personal packages around Christmas time, because then people get so many things delivered to the office is does become a burden on the mail staff, and a huge liability for the company.

    Reply
  33. NotTheSecretary

    OP 4, I think I worked for the same soda company!

    When I hired on, the HR person made a big point about how I could have a little “Christmas Bonus” if I refrained from using any sick days. I was definitely discouraged from taking PTO. The few times I dared to use my sick time I was asked invasive questions about if I “really” needed the time off. We all stayed sick all the time because everyone came to work sick and passed it around. It was, um, not ideal.

    Reply
    1. OP #4

      Oh wow really?? I’m so sorry they’re pressuring you like that!!
      My guy’s been lucky to not need a sick day so I can’t speak for how they’d act if he did, but I know when he requests vacation time his supervisor has been fine, so maybe it varies by location? Which makes me nervous…he’s about to transfer to a different city & will have a new supervisor. I’m going to tell him about your response.
      Unfortunately I don’t have anything useful to add for your situation but I hope things change for the better!

      Reply
      1. OP #4

        Me again…I reread my response & I hope it didn’t sound rude or dismissive because I didn’t mean for it to. I just really wish I had some useful advice that could help you. Hopefully someone here will have wise words, they usually do :)

        Reply
        1. NotTheSecretary

          No worries, you didn’t sound dismissive at all!

          I actually don’t work there anymore. I’ve moved and changed companies in that process. It wasn’t a bad place to work, per se, and other things about the workplace made it very nice. I think a lot of my problems with the sick days had to do with my position. I didn’t exactly have anyone who could easily cover my job and it had to be done daily. Hopefully your husband has a better set up :)

          Reply
          1. OP #4

            Okay good :) And I’m glad to hear you’re not dealing with that situation anymore.
            They seem to have a good coverage system, judging by what my guy’ll say every now & then about going to an extra store to cover for someone who’s out, so if he were to call out sick hopefully they won’t give him an issue.

            Reply
  34. Mongoose

    OP #5, is there an award your organization can give them to recognize their efforts? I used to manage volunteers at a small organization and to recognize one that had been incredibly helpful we created a volunteer recognition award. It was a certificate and a letter from me that expressed, in detail, how much they mean to the org, but we also publicized the award and a brief interview with her on why she volunteered on our website and in our quarterly publication. The volunteer worked for a large company that had volunteering in the community as one of their core employee values, so when the company learned of her award they also gave her an additional employee service award (and I believe a small bonus?) for putting company values into practice. I know she now has both awards listed on her LinkedIn page. In turn, the org now has a volunteer recognition program that awards a stellar volunteer each year and has provided some much needed publicity for the volunteer program. I can’t say 100% that its the driving factor, but there has been an increase in inquiries about volunteering since starting the recognition program.

    Reply
    1. CM

      I was coming to say the same thing. Recognition! It could be a less formal approach than an award, like if you have a public event, you can make a little speech about the value that these volunteers have brought to the organization.

      Reply
      1. Lobbyist

        I think it depends on what kind of person the volunteer is/ what motivates them. Some people want public recognition and thanks, some people prefer private recognition, some people would prefer an actual thing/gift (even a card) and some people really just want to do good work/ get increasing responsiblity — some people would like all of the above. Here are options, depending on the person
        lifesavers candy: you’re a lifesaver
        gift card with thank you note about how they helped
        recognition at public event or internal event
        flowers or treats on their birthday
        flowers or treats on the anniversary of the day they started
        just a nice email appreciating them and something they did (be specific) on no occasion whatsoever
        writing about them in the newsletter
        getting local press or tv to do a story on them (depends on your market and your non profit but maybe smaller papers/ outlets)
        put photo of them, story/ interview of why I help on your web site

        Reply
    2. Zandra

      Along this vein, if you think they’d appreciate public recognition, you could look into whether there’s any city or state/province volunteer awards you could nominate them for. The ones in my area are quite prestigious and recipients are publicly recognized for their contributions and the difference they’ve made in their communities.

      Reply
  35. Liifi

    #5: I know most people would really appreciate a note, but I am a gift person. I get more daily joy out of the $5 cactus pencil holder my manager gave me at Christmas than I do the handwritten note she gave me. I appreciated the note, but it’s in a drawer at home while I use the pencil holder every day and think of her when I use it (she has since left the company).

    Reply
    1. Wild Feminist

      Hmm. Now I think I need a cactus pencil holder. Never thought about it, but apparently it’s what’s been missing from my life.

      Reply
  36. EhWhyNot

    OP#1 – I’m gay and I have little tolerance for people at work who think they can get away with certain things because I’m gay. I’m not your GBF, or your “work husband,” or any other type of toy that you wouldn’t dare say to a straight man because that would be taboo. That sentiment extends for changing in front of me, too.

    What’s worse an “accepting,” person who really has no clue and is riddled with ignorance or a quiet, anti-gay person who will at least leave me alone?

    Reply
    1. The Optimizer

      I am a female and have a very good friend, a former co-worker who we both joke IS my GBF, and I wouldn’t change in front of him in a million years.

      Reply
  37. Collarb

    I’m immunocompromised, and #4 infuriates me. That would be a double whammy for me — not only would I lose a payout percentage due to my own inevitable sick days, my co-workers would be getting a “year-end bonus” to come in sick and they’d make me sick, forcing me to use even more sick days.

    Also, is there an option to bank the sick days instead of getting the payout? I end up needing major surgery every few years (thanks Crohn’s!) and would much rather keep those days so I can be paid during my medical leave.

    Reply
    1. NotTheSecretary

      If it’s the same place I worked (and it sounds like it is) then, no. The sick days could not be banked. Additionally, vacation PTO had to be scheduled in January and could not be changed to accommodate unplanned time off. It was really hard to use PTO at that place.

      Reply
    2. OP #4

      What NotTheSecretary said – unfortunately they can’t bank sick days. And while I don’t believe anyone should be monetarily reprimanded for utilizing sick time, it’s very unfair to those with compromised immune systems like yourself who have 0 chance of getting this bonus due to circumstances out of their control. How wise is it for a company to provide a bonus to employees when it is not physically possible for one or more of them to fulfill the requirements to receive it in full? Or even at all?

      Reply
  38. OP #4

    Hello! OP #4 here. I just realized I had a typo in my letter. Where I wrote “…and I’m not sure if the percentage decreases after that,” that should be “and I’m not sure OF the percentage decreases after that,” meaning there are definite decreases in the % of payout as more sick days get used but I’m not sure what they are.
    Thank you very much Alison for answering my question & confirming my suspicions. My fiance won’t be at this company forever, thank goodness. He’s disappointed with them for other reasons as well – when they changed from corporate to franchise, the date his 401k becomes fully vested changed from August of this year to 3 years from now, well after he had planned on being there. So…yay.
    Thank you again! I look forward to reading your website every day & plan on utilizing your interview/resume tips in the next few months :)

    Reply
    1. Natalie

      Just FYI in case he’s not aware – that vesting date change can’t be retroactive. (In some circumstances it can be retroactive to the beginning of the current plan year, but not beyond that.) So he shouldn’t be losing any matching contributions that he already earned.

      Reply
      1. OP #4

        I’m afraid I’m going to have to out myself as someone who knows next to nothing about investments. I’m probably going to get this wrong, but does that mean anything he contributed before the change to franchise (early 2016) will still be fully matched in August?

        Reply
    2. OP #4

      A little update…I talked to my fiance about this last night & he gave me some more info. If he needs to use a sick day, he doesn’t get paid 100%…he only gets 40%. And if he doesn’t use any sick days at all, his payout is 70%.

      Reply
  39. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    I am short, but not a small person. Still, not outside of the US norm. I used to weigh less, but when I was in college, I got antibiotic resistant pneumonia; when I finally kicked it, the lingering lung damage led to asthma, which cut my exercise and required steroids- ergo, weight gain. I then later developed severe allergies- more steroids, more stress, more difficulty exercising. I’m not a lazy person who eats all day. I exercise 5-6 days a week for an hour each, and eat a small breakfast and lunch, with a normal dinner. You know, two pieces of pizza, a chicken breast or flank steak pieces with veggies and a potato or brown rice. I don’t often snack. My only vices are skim-milk coffee drinks or low fat ice cream, and not every day, because it’s expensive. :)

    Also, weight can be a result of growing up in poverty. Years of cheap, processed food because that’s all that’s affordable, plus occasional scarcity, makes your body hang on to every calorie and fat, makes you eat more when you can get it, and sets your likes to be the cheap crap. Then it’s hard to change, and due to a screwed up metabolism, you may lose slowly if at all. My wife has this problem.

    Finally, weight gain can be a result of childhood abuse; women may be afraid of being attractive as a result of that, and eat more and gain weight because they don’t want to be attacked again. That’s a deep-seated problem called “defensive weight” and isn’t so simple to fix as “eat less.”

    I’ll bet the “lose weight” guy never even thought of these things.

    Reply
    1. Tavie

      And beyond all that, the reasons for someone being large aren’t anything we should have to justify, as they’re nobody’s business. Whether someone is large because of medication, or poverty, or depression, or abuse, or genetics, or poor choices, or a combination of any of these factors, or any other reason, it doesn’t matter in the slightest – everyone deserves reasonable accommodation, dignity, and respect. There’s no size limit above which this is no longer the case.

      Reply
  40. Chris

    OP #1, there are a lot of good suggestions in the thread already about how to offer suggestions on alternative ways for the company to address this, but there’s one point I’m not sure has been clearly addressed by other responders.

    When you have a company that engages in practices in the public spaces of the office that are only ‘ok because you are gender x’, they are inherently sexist practices, and the company should realize this is a Bad Thing. Compounding it by making it ‘ok because you are gender and sexual orientation x’ is even worse.

    What if you quit, and the most qualified applicant to replace you was a man? Would they refuse to hire, or pass over that applicant because their practices would not be ok in front of a man? That’s discriminatory hiring.

    What other things do they do because you’re a woman, that they wouldn’t do if you were a man? Is your salary what a man of equivalent talent would receive? What if you decided you were transgendered, and transitioned F to M? Would they fire you for now being male?

    If it’s ok for them to disrobe in front of you because you’re a lesbian, is it ok for you to ask them to take it all off and throw dollar bills? This is a slippery slope no company should want to find itself on.

    Hopefully they see that it’s a problem, because I suspect otherwise you’ll be looking for a new job in the long run.

    Reply
      1. Chris

        Was he only hired for the role because he was gay? I missed the gender in the original post but that actually illustrates my point too…It doesn’t matter which way you flip this.. it should be an uncomfortable question because it’s a sexist work policy.

        Reply
  41. The Kurgen

    When I first read the heading of today’s column, I thought, “What the h___?! Coworkers are stripping together?”
    I’ve never come across this in any workplace ever and it seems seriously dysfunctional. I’d certainly push back vigorously. If that doesn’t work, go higher until someone does something about it.
    OP#1. Sorry you’re having to deal with this and shame on your director for having the gall to think that your sexuality somehow excuses this behavior.

    Reply
    1. Dankar

      I read it as coworkers stripping together, then breaking chairs and more. I was definitely interested in what was happening at that office! I’m kind of relieved to see it was a multi-question post.

      Reply
    2. SarahTheEntwife

      It sounds like this is a type of work that requires frequent clothing changes. Which still doesn’t mean the OP isn’t justified in pushing back, but it makes it less bizarre than it would in a more stereotypical office environment. They have to change *somewhere* and don’t have appropriate facilities to do so.

      Reply
  42. Miss Elaine E.

    RE: #1 While I’ve had some experience in the theatre world back in high school and understand the comments of those with similar experience, it is not quite the same thing. While Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage….” yada, yada, yada, most of us are not really actors and don’t want to be.
    It also occurs to me that what if the viewer had been the victim of some sort of abuse in the past? The whole scenario could be quite traumatic.

    Reply
  43. Bend & Snap

    #4 my ex works at a branch of a company that rhymes with Manheuser Cush, and they pay out sick days in January, meaning that employees have to pay the money back if they take a sick day.

    As a result, my ex has never taken a sick day. He works with the flu, he’s worked with an untreated broken bone, he’s not a candidate to stay home with our kid when she’s sick, he works no matter what because he doesn’t want to owe that money.

    It’s a horrible policy that’s not employee or family friendly.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Wait, you mean, in January 2017 they get the cash value of their 2017 sick days, which they then claw back if a day is taken? That is *horrible*.

      Reply
    2. Chriama

      I’m not saying that this is a good policy, and I understand why he’s incentivized to work through his sickness. But couldn’t he self-insure by just keeping the money separate until the end of the year? If he takes a sick day and the money gets clawed back, he pays himself the equivalent amount from his personal sick day fund. It’s on top of his regular salary, so while it’s tempting to look on it as a bonus it’s really an advance on future pay.

      Reply
      1. Bend & Snap

        How he handles his money isn’t my business anymore. But the saving part doesn’t address the underlying incentive not to take sick leave.

        Reply
    3. Blue Anne

      Huh.

      The office I used to work at audits them. Might give a buddy a heads-up to take a look at an HR policy audit… wonder how widespread that is through the company…

      Reply
      1. Bend & Snap

        My ex’s job is unionized. I have no idea if that has any bearing on the policy or if it’s just for certain job functions.

        Reply
    4. SarahTheEntwife

      !!

      Ok, I know the answer is almost certainly going to be “yes, but it’s crappy of them”, but still — is that even legal??

      Reply
  44. Girl in the Windy City

    OP#3 – I think this really depends on your office size and culture. I work at a smaller company that has about 50 people in the main office. It’s pretty casual and while everyone is professional and works hard, there’s definitely a relaxed “we’re all family” vibe. People get personal packages delivered here all the time and it’s never been an issue, although I did have a scenario that was pretty embarrassing for me.

    Around the time I was getting married, I lived in a walk-up apartment that was locked down to the outside. The door was right up against the sidewalk, so if I tried to have FedEx or UPS deliver there, they would never leave the package. Needless to say, I had all my wedding gifts delivered to my office. This caused no problems in advance of the wedding – I told the woman at the front desk to let me know and I would collect anything that came right away. But when I left for my honeymoon, the packages kept coming. I returned to an almost-literal mountain of boxes, which they had had to move to the basement instead of keep near my desk. I was mortified and extremely apologetic, but everyone who had been involved – including the two owners of the company – thought it was hilarious and didn’t mind at all. I’m able to laugh about it now, but I’m keenly aware that this would not fly in other offices. I especially felt bad for the gentleman who had to move all of the boxes downstairs and I vehemently refused his offers of help in moving them up to my car when I collected them!

    Reply
  45. Lizzard

    #1 I started my college career as an art major, which meant figure drawings classes and fully nude models. Even in an environment where people expected and were comfortable with nudity, the models still undressed behind a curtain – they didn’t just start taking their pants off in the middle of the room! Your boss is being ridiculous, definitely push back. Like many commenters suggested a curtain should be a simple, easy, and logical solution.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      I once freaked a GYN doctor out because he thought my flowy white pants were a sheet drape, so he was all “Let’s start the exam!” and I don’t much care and dropped trou. (He wasn’t a great doctor, so I’m pleased with my memory of disconcerting him.)

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        I am always asked to disrobe while waiting for my GYN to enter the exam room, so I find this scenario strange. :)

        And she and her staff always knock before entering too- further illustrating that even there, it’s not assumed that you want people who are about to be literally up your hoo-ha to watch you undress!

        Reply
    2. LBK

      Yeah, there’s definitely something psychological about the act of disrobing in front of someone else that can be more uncomfortable than actually being naked in front of them.

      Reply
    3. LN

      yeah, actually – I hadn’t thought of this, but the act of undressing is somewhat intimate in its own way, even beyond showing what’s underneath. I really don’t care whether people see me naked, but I still face a secluded corner in the locker room when I change at the gym, and the only other people I’ve directly undressed in front of recently were close friends I was sharing a hotel room with. Even though we were comfortable changing in front of each other, we really only did it because the bathroom was utterly tiny and impossible to maneuver in. I can’t imagine choosing to change in front of co-workers just because it’s slightly more convenient, especially knowing someone is uncomfortable with it. Sexuality has nothing to do with it!

      Reply
    4. SarahTheEntwife

      Yeah, I modeled in college and we had the same thing! And even though I intellectually thought it was absurd I still automatically went into the little changing closet because I felt awkward taking my clothes off in front of people.

      Reply
  46. Quinalla

    #1 – Ugh, I’m sorry they aren’t listening to you and that you are going to have to push back harder. I’m one who does not mind getting undressed in front of others, but I’m extremely sensitive to making sure I’m not making other people uncomfortable. And it isn’t a gender or sexual orientation issue, some people just aren’t as comfortable with seeing people getting undressed and in most work spaces (others have already talked about some where it is acceptable) it is completely inappropriate to change in front of other coworkers, especially if there is a bathroom or other private space to change in.
    #3 – Yes, most offices this is fine. I have always checked with my boss/manager if it is ok before doing it myself, usually after seeing others get packages at work first.
    #5 – Heartfelt, detailed letter really is the best. I have a few notes and emails I’ve saved for years from people because you just so rarely get something like that. Even short notes mean a lot to me.

    Reply
  47. Wild Feminist

    #5 You could write an article for the local newspaper, flyer, umbrella advocacy organization, facebook, etc. where you recognize the contributions of these amazing volunteers. You win in at least 3 ways: free! more advertising for your organization! widely acknowledge your volunteers! have something to frame for your walls and theirs! brings your readers up to speed on current happenings with your org!

    Also maybe you could “promote” your volunteers with new titles? director of teapot fixin’? teapot design manager? Looks good on their resumes and on your grant apps.

    Reply
  48. Someone

    #1 Having these women change in front of you also potentially puts you at risk, if you ever do something that makes them uncomfortable. I was going to suggest, “stare at them until they feel uncomfortable and stop doing it,” but actually, that is more likely to get you in trouble, no matter how gay you are. So what happens the day you are deep in thought and stare into blank space, but blank space happens to contain a changing coworker who might get offended? Sure, that will probably never happen, but you are now responsible for policing your behavior so it doesn’t offend your disrobing coworkers. And judging from your director’s response, no one will have your back.

    I agree that a screen or pop-up dressing room would help, but you should definitely contact HR, in writing, saying you are uncomfortable with situation & you are worried about the potential for a sexual harassment claim.

    Reply
  49. Sierra

    #5- as a non profit person for my whole career that makes me really happy!

    In addition to what Alison said, maybe take them out to dinner one time as a thank you? If your organization has a physical office, maybe put up some kind of certificate of their services as a thank you? (Assuming they’d be okay with it). Otherwise a letter, and maybe of job reference in the future, is really nice!

    Reply
  50. NPO Queen

    OP 3, I get personal mail at work all the time. My condo board has horribly restrictive rules about packages, so it’s easier for me to just get them at work and take them home. It’s very normal in most offices.

    OP 5, another thing to remember is that there are federal limits on what kinds of gifts you can give. For example, if you’re running a non-profit and your volunteers also donate to that non-profit, they can only receive gifts that are a percentage of their donation, even though you aren’t giving them a gift for the donation. Quid pro quo laws may have changed since I was last in fundraising, but I think it capped out at $105 for $100,000 donors, so it must be very small for smaller gifts.

    Likewise, if your volunteers are donors, they’d probably want to see the money they give being used for the organization, not for them. So I agree with Allison, a letter is going to be your best bet. If you’re providing services to other people, can any of them write letters too? When I did scholarship fundraising, we’d have scholarship recipients write letters to the scholarship donors. Those were very well received.

    Reply
    1. Op 5

      The gift was very small and from my own personal money so it’s not a legal issue (and I’m not in the US). I love the idea of the service-users write a thank you statement if they feel moved to do so. I will absolutely keep this idea in my hat next time a service-user compliments a volunteer to me!

      Reply
  51. Rachael

    OP#1: It doesn’t matter if you are a man and they are women. It doesn’t matter if you are gay. It doesn’t matter that other people don’t bat an eye if they have to change in front of people.

    IT DOES matter that you do not want to see your coworkers changing and it makes you uncomfortable. Bottom line. Find out who you need to share your concerns with and share it with them. You may have to go above your director, so make sure you have ramifications. I do know that if I found out people were taking off pants and shirts in the office in front of someone who voiced that they were uncomfortable I would take care of the situation. Some commentators brought up putting a screen up, so that might be an easy middle ground.

    You have a lot of people in your corner who think that it is not normal to change in front of coworkers in an office setting – you are not in the wrong here.

    Reply
  52. Dust Bunny

    OP1: What the heck? For the record, we’re also a department of three women and one man and it would never occur to any of us to undress unless we were locked in the bathroom. That is just bizarre. I cannot imagine that our higher-ups would be OK with this, either.

    Reply
  53. JT OP 2

    The second question is mine. I would like to extend my thanks to Alison and all those who offered thoughtful insights and responses.

    I am from the UK as someone guessed but I live and work in a different Commonwealth country currently. There is a great stigma here against being overweight, never mind obese as I am. The firm is work at doesn’t see clients in our offices, we go to them. There are 4 offices I occasionally must attend besides my own. The person who posted that a reinforced chair such as I have (thank you for that) is correct that it would not be comfortable for anyone else I work with to use. At one time 3 of the people I work with fit in my chair at once. I have not seen anyone my size since I began working here. I am aware that I stand out and there is a great stigma and social pressure against being overweight here. Each one would cost a few hundred pounds and would have to be brought in from out of the county for my occasional use and this is where I fear push back from my firm. However I will take Alison and other excellent and thoughtful responses in mind when I make my request.

    Reply
  54. They guy who gives terrible advice

    #1 – There’s a lot of good advice for you written so far, and I recommend you follow it while pushing back. What follows is bad advice from an idiot.

    If pushing back fails you, I recommend picking up some classic Bow Chikka Bow Wow 70’s porn music. The next time someone starts undressing in front of you, start playing that music while looking at them in an .. appreciative manner. For full points, quietly mutter to yourself about taking it all off. I guarantee that after a very short period of time, this problem will solve itself.*

    *Please note that the giver of this advice will not be held responsible for any job loss or sexual harassment lawsuits caused by actually following this advice.

    Reply
  55. Jokeyjules

    I think his manager needs to imagine if the roles were reversed, and the office had 3 men and 1 woman, and these men were changing in front of her. I feel like the second she said it made her uncomfortable, they’d stop — if they even did it a first time!!
    Regardless of sexual orientation.

    Reply
  56. a Gen X manager

    OP5
    I totally agree with Alison, but I’ll add that one of the most touching gifts I’ve ever received from someone at an organization was in fact a handwritten, detailed note of thanks and a small jar of homemade jam. If you have something that you do or make personally and it fits the people, or perhaps a very small gift that is made locally like pickles or honey, etc. to go with the note. Obviously it isn’t necessary, but I’m not someone who is into gift giving or receiving, but it’s been ten years and I can still picture the person handing me the little jar of jam and card.

    Reply
    1. ECHM

      As gifts for those involved in our wedding last summer, I ordered baskets of seasonal fruit, honey, cookies etc. from a local orchard. We got more compliments on those than anything other than the wedding itself!

      Reply
  57. a Gen X manager

    OP1 NOPE, NOPE, NOPE – I am so with you! No nudity at any level at work, please. I don’t care what gender or orientation you are – keep your clothes on in public spaces. I’ve experienced this overexposure at work when co-workers show off tattoos in private places! You’re being ASKED TO LOOK! It’s so uncomfortable.

    Reply
  58. Michele

    I do wish that people would be more realistic about the chairs they keep around. My husband has the same problem as the OP, and there are places that he won’t go because the chairs won’t hold him. The fact is that Americans are bigger today than at any time in the past, and chairs that are rated for 200 lbs just aren’t good enough.

    Reply
  59. Khal E Eesi

    #3: I would say personal packages and mail are fine, except when it is nudie magazine for one of the bosses. Ugh. Yeah. I don’t work there anymore.

    Reply
    1. Michele

      We used to be able to not only receive packages at work, but ship them and get the company discount. Then a package came open on the loading dock, and some extremely illegal substance spilled out. That little benefit was taken away.

      Reply
  60. kmb13

    For those who can’t get packages at work, but are worried about theft at home, I have an ElephantTrunk parcel drop box and I love it! Supposedly the specific box isn’t USPS-sanctioned, but my mail carrier happily uses it! (She said she was actually really happy when she saw that I had it, as she was worried about my packages being stolen, since my neighborhood is known for that. She’d previously even gone out of her way to leave a few in the back yard.) It obviously doesn’t work if a package requires a signature, and it doesn’t work for larger packages, but it’s a great size for 95% of the packages I receive.

    Reply
  61. ECHM

    The personal mail at work story reminded me of an incident in which I ordered a brightly-colored lab coat as a birthday gift for my mom and had it sent to work (I was living with my parents at the time). It came with a complimentary roll of Mentos; my boss thought the package was a promo for Mentos and took it home. It took conversations with customer service to find out it had been delivered, then I finally traced its whereabouts to him! Thankfully I was able to get it back.

    Reply
  62. Ettina

    I’d have thought being gay would make it more of a problem! After all, the whole reason we typically only change in front of the same sex is because most people are straight, isn’t it? And I can say that if someone I was potentially attracted to did something like that in my presence without my consent, in a situation where I’m supposed to remain professional, it would really bother me!

    Reply
    1. Ettina

      OK, I feel dumb now. Just realized that OP #1 is a gay man, not a gay woman. Still, very inappropriate behavior on the part of his coworkers.

      Reply

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