hiding a raise from my coworker, I got sick during a gas leak, and more

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

1. Hiding a raise from my coworker

I work in a two-person accounting department of a small-ish company (roughly 50 employees). I have been here nearly two years. My coworker, Fergus, has been with the company since the beginning.

Recently, my manager, who handles most of the day-to-day stuff, called me to his office and told me that the owner of the company wanted to give me a big raise (think 15-20%). This was unexpected but obviously a huge thrill for me. Here’s the kicker: Owner doesn’t want Fergus to know about my raise because he’s afraid that Fergus will also ask for a raise. I was instructed to change my rate in the payroll software, which I already have permission to use, without letting Fergus know.

Owner is convinced Fergus won’t find out. I am less convinced. Fergus probably won’t notice my raise at first — he doesn’t pay that close of attention to everyone’s pay rate on a regular basis — but I have no doubt that he will eventually notice. He has a spreadsheet with everyone’s pay rate on it and updates it periodically. When he will get around to that, I have no idea, but I’m confident it will be sometime in the next six months.

Recognizing how untenable this is, my manager already told me, “If Fergus finds out about the raise, have him speak to me.” I’m glad he has my back, but I’m wondering if there’s anything else I should do, or if I should continue to play dumb until this blows up.

You’re not obligated to notify your coworker that you got a raise! You can happily accept it and keep it to yourself. (The exception to this would be if you felt that your coworker was being being paid less for an illegal and discriminatory reason — like race, sex, religion, disability, etc. — or if you otherwise thought there was great unfairness going on, in which case you might consider discreetly tipping him off or even raising the issue yourself.)

And when/if Fergus comes across your raise and asks you about it, you’re not obligated to defend why you got one and he didn’t. In fact, it would be a little odd if you did. It would be perfectly reasonable to just say, “I don’t know all the reasoning for various people’s pay, but yours is definitely something you could talk to (boss) about.”

2. Shouldn’t our policy on hair color apply to everyone?

I work in an office with pretty strict appearance codes. A while back, a hair-dye disaster left me with some very unnaturally colored hair. I tried everything I could to get it out, to no avail, so I went to work with it hoping they would understand. They didn’t. I was reprimanded, and a new policy was added to our office policies handbook about hair color. I ended up having to go to a salon and pay a load of money to get it out. All of that was my fault, so I have no problems there.

However, just before our new policy on hair color became official, my coworker showed up with her hair dyed a crazy color — and she had done it on purpose “because she had always wanted to.” Unlike me, though, she was not reprimanded for this, no one seemed to care, and her hair has been this way for weeks now, despite our new policy being in place.

My manager explained this to me and said that since my job involves me going out of the office to see clients and such (which is true), whereas my coworker only works in-office where clients never see her (also true), I have to be the one to follow the appearance policy. Doesn’t an official office policy mean that it applies to everyone, regardless? This wouldn’t be the first time my boss has shown favoritism, but I wonder if I’m reading too much into it because it is true that I am the face that clients and other professionals see. Do I have a crappy boss, or is this how it’s done?

It sounds like a crappily written policy more than anything else. It’s reasonable to have different standards of appearance for people who work with clients or are other public-facing than for people who don’t. But if that’s the case, then the written policy should reflect that. It’s not that hard to say “If your job means you have regular contact with clients or the public, the expectations are…”

They also didn’t need to reprimand you about it. It would have been enough to say, “Hey, I’m sorry about this, but we’re going to need you to change your hair because ____ (our clients are very conservative / we intentionally cultivate a conservative image / or whatever the reason is.)”

It’s also worth noting that standards are really changing when it comes to unnatural hair colors. Not in every field, and not in every geographic location, but change is coming pretty fast.

3. I got sick during a gas leak, and my manager didn’t seem to care

We had a gas leak where I work, and most employees sat with their nose covered by their shirts or scarves. Management instructed all employees to stay seated. I started to get light-headed, dizzy, and nauseated, so I proceeded to the lobby area where there was a bit more fresh air. Some employees where already in the lobby and others started to follow. I sat down on the sofa breathing deeply as I couldn’t take the smell. I felt myself get dizzy again and I tried getting up but still felt dizzy. At this point my mouth began to water and I knew what time it was, so I went running for the bathroom. Once inside, I began vomiting instantly, and other employees looking for air started to enter and ask if I was okay. One employee asked for someone to get my supervisor, and when she came she stood by the stall until I was finished and asked me if I was okay. I told her no, I couldn’t breathe, I needed to sit down and needed air. Another employee started getting damp paper towels to calm me down. The employee kept telling me to breathe and I did. My supervisor left me as other employees entered and started to take notice to my panic attack asking me for my phone to call someone for assistance. I just wanted to speak to my fiance, being that I felt like I was gonna give up any minute, and my supervisor hands me my phone. I unlock it and immediately dial his number as my coworker standing by took it from me and I started asking to leave to get some air. We used the elevators and they helped me down to the main floor lobby where there was fresh air.

It took me some time to get back to normal and I never really did. Once my supervisor came down, she asked me if I was feeling better. I stated yes, but I’m still light-headed and my stomach still hurts. We were instructed to stay put or go outside if we needed air. My coworkers gave me some water and told me to get some food in my system, which I called to order. I told my supervisor if I returned to work and smelled the gas, I was leaving for the day. She said okay but never really said to go home. Not once did my manager reach out to me and ask me if I was okay. He just looked at me like I was a criminal, which doesn’t sit too well with me. My fiance was in Long Island working at the time and it would’ve taken him almost two hours to get to me. I was afraid to ride the train home alone, so for the rest of the day I stayed put in my seat trying to heal but as the day went on I felt worse. 911 was never called and it took Con Ed about 40 minutes to get to the location. By the time my fiance came, I was extremely weak and told him to take me home. I was exhausted but woke up in the middle of the night with chest pains. Commuting to work, I got light-headed and dizzy again and sent a text to my supervisor telling her how I felt and she responded “okay.”

I don’t feel like management took any interest in my health or took my health seriously. I work for a hospital and I wasn’t even sent to the ER or told go to urgent care to clear me. Just see you tomorrow as if I’m just a number. As a manager, what would you have done? And please be honest.

Your managers do sound callous. They should have expressed concern, made sure you were okay, encouraged you to get medical attention, and asked what else they could do for you. They also should have had everyone get out of there once the gas leak started. And they should have checked on you the next day to see how you were doing.

If your manager and supervisor are otherwise decent managers who seem to care about you as a person, and it seems like they just badly fumbled this situation, that’s worth factoring in. On the other hand, if they’re not and their behavior here didn’t surprise you, then it’s more just confirmation of something you already knew about them. Either way, it sucks and it sounds like that was a scary and unpleasant experience. I’m glad your coworkers rallied around you (and hope you’re feeling better).

Also, you and your coworkers might push your office to have better procedures for potential health risks in the future so that people aren’t being told to stay at their desks and breathe in gas.

4. Left out of holiday parties

It’s holiday season, and departmental parties have been happening. Some people have been left out, myself included. I think I was left out because nobody quite knows what department I actually belong to. One other person is a new hire, and I feel awful that they are being excluded. Another person has been excluded for at least the last two years. I know there are others. Do I bring this to management? HR? How? Help!

Is there a department that you work especially closely with? If so, and if they haven’t had their party yet, you could say to someone you work closely with there, “Hey, since I am department-less, could I join y’all for your party?” If there isn’t a department you work closely with, you could say that to whoever you sit most closely to.

But there’s also the broader issues of how this is impacting multiple people, including that new hire. So yes, this is something you could point out to your management or to HR, framing it not as “I am upset at being left out!” (although that is perfectly understandable) but as “hey, here’s a problem I noticed that’s impacting several of us, and I’m hoping we can solve it.”

5. Quitting during busy season

I was curious if you have any thoughts or tips about leaving a position during busy season. My departure would put a huge strain on my team (especially the person who shares my responsibilities) and I like them all very much personally. I’m considering a truly awesome opportunity right now, but I’m wracked with guilt.

Don’t be wracked by guilt! People leave jobs at not-optimal times all the time — it’s very normal and for employers it’s just part of doing business. Really, in many jobs, there’s never a good time leave — it’s always during the middle of an important project, or the ramp-up to an important project, or when someone else just left or is about to leave, or a there’s a client crisis, or so many other reasons why Now Is Not the Time … and yet it’ll have to be the time anyway, because you can’t pass up a great opportunity for your career just because your leaving will be inconvenient.

To be clear, there are some exceptions to this; there are some jobs where it’s understood going in that you’re committing to not to leave during X (tax season for accountants, or the big event that you were hired specifically to manage). But in most jobs, this is just a thing that happens and the employer finds a way to make do. That doesn’t mean that your manager and your coworkers won’t have a sinking feeling of “oh crap” when they hear the news. But unless they’re very dysfunctional, they’re not going to hold it against you; they’ll get that while it’s inconvenient for them, it would be weird to expect you to pass up a great job that you really want.

What you can do on your end is to give a reasonable amount of notice, leave your work in good shape, and leave behind as much documentation as you can to help the next person. But really — people do this all the time and it’s normal and okay. (People also feel guilty about it a lot, so you’re normal there too. Just don’t let it change what you do.)

{ 472 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. anon24

    There was a gas leak bad enough that an employee got sick and no one thought to evacuate the building???? Everyone had to keep working?? It’s amazing that the place didn’t blow sky high!

    Reply
      1. Chocolate Teapot

        I seem to remember an old UK Public Information Film about gas leaks and the slogan was Get Out. Get the Fire Brigade Out. And Stay Out.

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        1. Gen

          Given how often entire houses seem to be blowing up from gas leaks recently there’s no way I could have stayed in that building.

          If it was a hospital though was it definitely heating/cooking gas or something less explosive?

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          1. Jesca

            I live in an area where house explosions happen relatively regularly. If there is even the hint of a gas leak in a neighborhood, they evacuate everyone in the surrounding area. Gas leaks are no joke. I cannot believe they told these people to stay put!!! Obviously the leak was bad. Everyone could smell it! What the hell were they thinking?!?

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          2. Observer

            Many of the things in hospitals are at least as bad as cooking gas. There is a reason why flames of ANY sort are banned in most hospital rooms.

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          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            A lot of places use natural gas to power the heat. It was severe enough to require people to leave. Also note hospitals are full of things like oxygen tanks and alcohol. They’re highly flammable with significant potential for explosions.unless they could seal and explosion-proof the floor/wing, it sounds pretty dangerous.

            Reply
        2. JM in England

          I remember that PIF. One part showed the man in the house after smelling the gas leak pull out a cigarette but then have second thoughts on lighting it. At the end, he only just manages to stop his wife from flipping a light switch by screaming a big loud “NO!!”

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      2. LKW

        I suspect it’s the liability that led to the behavior in the first place. We see plenty of examples where medical personnel make mistakes, sometimes deadly, and will not admit to it for fear of litigation. So my assumption, based on absolutely nothing, is that said manager & supervisor are not only lacking in empathy but also terrified of litigation and were doing their best to sweep it all under the rug. “Nothing to see here folks! Maybe she had some bad egg salad!”

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        1. No Parking or Waiting

          I just saw that on FML this week. But the company acted responsibly, evacuated everyone and called the gas company. OP couldn’t work up the nerve to claim er, um, credit.

          Reply
    1. Not Australian

      Telling the LW just to breathe was a bit thoughtless, too, in view of the fact that they were struggling to do just that.

      Reply
      1. Lissa

        Well that was a fellow employee and not a supervisor who it sou d’s like was trying to help…. I think they deserve a pass for not knowing the right thing to say to someone having a panic attack/illness.

        Reply
        1. Dorothy

          I appreciate her more than anyone in that office today. She was really doing her best trying to help. She’s a patient coordinator too. #GratefulforMaralin

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      2. Dorothy

        Agreed. It was soooo difficult trying to do just that, view the faces of those around me, and ask for air all at once. Thanks again, for understanding.

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    2. Foreign Octopus

      That was my immediate thought. Surely, in the event of a gas leak, the first thing you do is to evacuate the building!

      I’m also surprised more people get sick. I have a hard enough time at the petrol station with the fumes there, I’m sure I would have felt the same as OP.

      Reply
      1. Mel

        We had a tiny leak in our water heater and the first thing the gas company said when my husband called it in was get out and stay out. I am baffled by the stay in and soak up all the gas!

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          Our local educational 911 call was along the lines of
          “Hello, yeah, I was digging and seem to have hit a gas line.”
          “Is anyone in the house?”
          “No, I got my mom and we’re ou-”
          FOOM
          “Never mind, we just lost the house.”

          (To clarify, not a teen. Dude was in like his 40s, wealthy professional, mom was elderly and lived with him.)

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          1. Jesca

            The house three houses down from my exes house had a gas leak. It not only took out that house, it took out five other houses and a nut shop. By the grace of god alone no one was killed. People just happened to not be home in the 5 other houses at the time (which was odd since it was very late at night)! The damn man holes blew out of the street! He was lucky enough that his house did not sustain significant structural damage, but all the glass blew out and the ceilings cracked. It really sucks waking up to that …

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            1. Wednesday

              Was this in southcentral Pennsylvania? Because we also had a nut shop destroyed by a gas explosion, which would be weirdly coincidental!

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            2. Kathlynn

              And this is why I said that if something happens to my last place of employment, I’m dead whether I’m at work or at home. (I live in sight of the gas station, and there are buildings right next to it, and if the explosion didn’t take out the area, then there would probably be a domino effect from one building to the next, especially since there is a lot of natural gas used in the buildings)

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            3. Seal

              When I was an undergraduate, I lived in an off-campus duplex. One winter afternoon I was walking home on my usual route, only to discover it blocked off. A house I walked past every day and had just walked past hours earlier had blown up due to a gas leak. There was nothing left but a hole in the ground; the houses on either side had significant damage as well. Fortunately no one was home at the time.

              I’ve taken gas leaks very seriously ever since.

              Reply
      2. Dorothy

        Me too. I felt as if I was the only one really affected by it. Many people were light headed and nauseated but I believe I was the only one reacting in that way. Why only my body knows, but I don’t feel that it was handled the right way at all. Thanks for your feedback.

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        1. Observer

          It sounds like you wound up with a panic attack on top of the gas.

          But your bosses are lunatics. Stay put when the leak is so bad that people need to cover their noses?!

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          It’s super normal to be so affected, although I’m so sorry you had this experience. There was a chemical leak on the floor below us, and it only affected our vents. Everyone in the office became ill/light-headed, but the person most severely impacted was my 6’4” male coworker, who was probably the fittest and most imposing of the lot (the rest of us were petite women). We all left early, but he was vomiting, faint, etc. it was alarming for all of us and underscored that we all needed to,evacuate, even if we weren’t having symptoms as severe as his.

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          1. AKchic

            Bigger lungs? He was breathing more, so he absorbed more of the chemicals.

            I think because Dorothy *was* having a panic attack, she was breathing harder / faster, and ended up breathing in more fumes and absorbed more fumes than she would have if she’d been calmer. I’m not saying this is her fault (not at all, please, don’t think I am in any way saying it is), I am just pointing out a potential reason why she may be feeling the effects more than some of the other staff members. Then, on top of that, she did have the panic attack. Dorothy might also just be more sensitive to the chemicals in general. Consider it the “perfect storm”, if you will.
            Also, the coworkers may be better at hiding their negative effects and residual effects from the gas leak, or they may have sought medical treatment after hours and haven’t said anything.

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            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              That’s my best guess, too, tbh. Or she was hyperventilating. Either could make her feel dizzy or weak or compound the effect of the gas additive.

              Reply
          1. Dorothy

            Agreed. But no one had to vomit. Correction ** Other people were affected with headaches and nausea*** I was the only one who caught a panick attack and threw up.

            Thanks.

            Reply
            1. Agnodike

              Everyone’s body responds differently to chemical exposures, and there’s a really wide range of what’s normal. It sounds like your body is very good at detecting when something’s wrong in your environment, which is a valuable skill to have!

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        3. Kasey

          Dorothy, you may have an allergy! Recently, we had a problem at work where the AC repairman sprayed WD40-type lubricant into a unit that was running. Lots of people were affected by the fumes, so I didn’t think much of how badly I felt. My company did the right thing and evacuated us, but on my drive home, I started to have a life-threatening reaction. Thankfully, when my throat started to swell shut with hives, I was in front of a pharmacy. I ran in, downed two doses of liquid Benadryl before I even paid for it, let the cashier know what was going on, and hung out inside the store with 91 dialed on my phone in case I had to hit the second 1. I got through without calling the EMTs for an epi shot, but it took weeks for my throat and lungs to fully recover.

          My doctor said it confirmed what she suspected from previous, less serious reactions to other substances – that I have an allergy to petrochemicals. It’s possible that you were affected worse than everyone else for a similar reason. Speak to your doctor about it, because these reactions get worse with each exposure. If something like this happens to you again, it could be more serious.

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      3. babblemouth

        Also, they were covering their noses with shirts and scarves… this should make exactly zero difference in the amount of gas breathed in. Gas is always going to pass through the shirt, that’s how people breathe through their scarves!

        ThatsNotHowAnyOfThisWorks.gif

        Reply
        1. Perse's Mom

          I’m guessing that was a block-the-scent thing and then some part of the brain says if you can’t smell it, you’re not really breathing it in – despite your point being obvious when you actually stop and think about it. Combine that with most people assuming that if this was dangerous to breathe, surely their employer would inform them and usher people out (which… clearly… not true)!

          Reply
      1. Dorothy

        That’s wasn’t anyone’s 1st thought shockingly. It was stay seated and wait for the announcement, soak in the gas (heck die while we wait), and I don’t know what I’m doing but just wait.

        My supervisor tried rubbing my hand while I was crying and gasping for air and then left (SMH).

        Reply
        1. Anon anon anon

          That’s reprehensible. I think they should be held accountable for this. As other people have mentioned, there are a number of ways to do that. If you have any emails, text messages, or voicemails related to the incident, back them up.

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        2. Antilles

          That is surprising. I can see the company trying to say “stay calm, we’ll handle this”, but it’s surprising that nobody panicked anyways and called 9-1-1 on their desk/cell phone of their own volition.
          Of course, if someone HAD called 9-1-1 of their own volition, the company would have had no choice to evacuate the building because 5-10 minutes later, a fire engine would have been at your building with sirens blaring and a firm-voiced uniformed firefighter ordering immediate evacuation.

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        3. Synonymous

          Look up “Bystander apathy,” when no one else is freaking out, it’s really hard to be the first person to start freaking out.

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          1. Janet

            I’m the person who would stand up and shout, “EVERYBODY OUT.” I’d probably be fired, but, heck, people’s lives are at stake. Also, I panic easily.

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        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          OP, below neverjaunty mentioned a union or OSHA complaint. I just want to echo that and also recommend reporting this to the hospital’s risk manager. This was dangerous for you and for patients and the public, and it should never happen again.

          Reply
          1. Dorothy

            I just got the number thanks to another coworker as I am out today due to my lingering dizzy spells and now it feels as if I’m getting sick, I am trying to do this the right way but didn’t know where to start. That’s why I reached out. Many people including my lead was unknown set about the way it was handled but no one says anything. That’s why I asked before jumping the gun and playing victim although I felt this was wrong. Maybe another manager had a different point of view but seeing so many people agree to what is 100% the truth speaks volumes. Thanks.

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    3. Anon for this

      I work for a very large regional utility company (not Con Ed). If you smell gas YOU IMMEDIATELY GET OUT OF THE BUILDING AND REMAIN OUTSIDE UNTIL A UTILITY REPRESENTATIVE HAS INSPECTED THE SITE AND GIVEN CLEARANCE THAT THE SITE IS SAFE TO RETURN INSIDE.
      There are no exceptions to this rule. That a medical type facility did not do an immediate evac is incredible and amazingly unsafe.

      Reply
      1. Anon for this

        Sorry for the all caps screaming, but this is literally drilled into every utility employees head from day one, we have commercials reminded people to do this, we put inserts into billing to remind customers to do this. That anyone stayed in the building when they smelled gas (and yes, natural gas is odorless, an “odorant” is added before it enters pipelines and building) is just….unthinkable to me.

        Reply
          1. Beatrice

            If anyone ever asks/tells you to do something THIS dangerous again, OP, ignore them.. GTFO of the building, take care of yourself, let them yell at you on your way out, let them fire you if they want to. No job is worth getting blown to bits over. I’m amazed people obeyed them!

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      2. Snark

        Pretty much all of this. The entire building should have been evacuated immediately. The fact that it was not is almost as astounding as the fact that they glowered at OP for getting sick.

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      3. Amber T

        We smelled gas once in our building and called Con-Ed, and their response was “eh, it’s probably nothing, we’ll be there in 45-60 minutes.” The most frustrating thing about it was that it was nothing – maintenance overfilled/spilled something and it somehow got into the vents causing this semi rotten egg smell to be circulated through the building. The Con-Ed guy literally laughed. A bunch of us stood outside in the cold anyway, including my boss, because why risk it?

        I remember when our smoke/fire alarm went off… I grab my phone and my keys and start making my way out of the building… and literally no one else was. Everyone was at their computers, ignoring this huge, blaring sound, looking at me like I’m the crazy one for getting up. Turned out that a guy working on the roof triggered it accidentally somehow. But again… seriously??

        Reply
        1. hayling

          I hate the people who are apathetic about fire alarms! I’m a floor warden and I’m SERIOUS about this stuff. There is a team of 8 of us and we all force people to evacuate.

          Reply
      4. Janet

        And it shows they have no safety plan/drill in place. HR should be notified immediately. Super scary.

        Reply
    4. Dorothy

      Exactly. There was a similar case where in fact a building did blow up due to gas leakage. Everyone was told to stay seated after just having a half hour meeting on emergency evacuations last Friday Nov.8. The gas leak happened on Wedsnesday Nov. 12. Firefighters arrived about 40mins later and everyone was in the lobby due to the freezing temperatures outside. Talk about hazardous. Smh.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        I can’t help but think about all those employees told to stay at their desks in the World Trade Center…. :(
        Seriously, GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT. Also, if this was a hospital and healthy employees are getting sick, what must be happening to the patients?!

        Reply
        1. Anon anon anon

          Exactly. I can’t help but think that this is part of a larger issue and other people’s lives could also be at risk.

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        2. Natalie

          Possibly counterintuitive, but the protocol in high rise fires was and still is to NOT evacuate the entire building immediately. The buildings are sprinklered and have fire doors to contain a “standard” fire, so only the floor with the fire and the floors immediately above and below it are evacuated at first. [Obviously an extremely hot fire from jet fuel is a totally different animal, but that is likely why people were told to stay put.]

          Reply
          1. Marty

            Yep, because if too many people evacuate at once, it causes traffic jams, and prevents the people on the affected floor form evacuating. That said, for serious fires, I would expect a staged evacuation.

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    5. Nita

      Yeah. I’m really struggling to process this one. One spark from an electrical appliance, and the whole building could have gone up. And people were struggling to breathe.

      And management instructs everyone to stay put – these are people who work in a hospital. And no one calls 911 – why?! I think even ten-year-olds these days know a gas leak is an emergency. Actually, this plus the fact that no one tried to call OP an ambulance suggests a very toxic workplace, where people have become scared to think and act for themselves, and will only do something if management approves.

      OP #3, I hope you’re feeling better. If you’re not, definitely get checked out by a doctor. It’ll also give you a record in case you decide to file some kind of complaint. Which I absolutely would do. At the least, I’d go over the heads of your management to your hospital’s health and safety department, so they can deal with this massive violation of workplace safety and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

      Reply
      1. Nita

        Oh, and OSHA and the 311 service where you can report unsafe working conditions. I think they would be interested. Don’t know if your H&S department is worth its salt, or if the hospital is dysfunctional all the way up.

        Reply
    6. Jubilance

      My mind was blown by that! beyond people getting ill from the fumes, everyone could have died if there was an explosion!

      OP, not sure if you’re in the US, but could you make an OSHA complaint? This scenario has gotta go against every safety regulation out there.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I think OP’s in the tri-state area (reference to Long Island and to ConEd, one of the primary electric providers in NY and CT).

        Reply
        1. Soon to be former fed

          Why are people calling the electric company for a gas leak? My gas provider is NICOR, and my electricity provider is CommEd.

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    7. K.

      My eyes bugged out at that! WTF? I’ve always thought that “gas leak” = “get out and stay out until a professional tells you it’s safe to go back in.”

      Reply
    8. AKchic

      Now this needs to be reported to OSHA. And since it’s a hospital – their accrediting agency (Joint Commission, for example). I think dropping a line to the state’s board of health wouldn’t be amiss either.

      LW 3 – I hope you were checked out on your own. If you were, save all of the medical bills, depending on the outcomes of any OSHA investigation (after you call and report your employer/supervisors, of course), you should be able to get those paid off by the company. It is rightly their responsibility. They should have evacuated that building immediately. They should have had you sent to the hospital when you started displaying symptoms. They should have offered to have all of you evaluated as a precaution. They failed massively.

      Reply
    9. Free Meerkats

      I’m glad the LW here recognized that this was a panic attack. I’m not saying her reaction was out of bounds for her, people react to things like this differently.

      Natural gas is not toxic, though it can be an asphyxiant when it displaces air (unlikely in an unsealed building due to its low density.) The o0dorant, typically a combination of tert-butyl mercaptan and ethyl mercaptan would need to be in concentrations in the tens of PPM to be toxic; they are typically added to gas in <1 PPM concentrations. So LW, there should be no concern for lasting health effects from the exposure.

      Since methane has a relatively wide flammability range of 4.4-16.4%, it's a darned good idea to GTFO of the building without activating any electrical devices, personally I'd take the stairs rather than pushing the elevator button. And my boss could go F himself if he told me to stay seated and keep working; I'd evacuate and call 911 unless I personally knew someone else had. They'd rather get 15 calls than none.

      Reply
    10. Red 5

      Yeah, I’m seriously baffled by this. At my office, when I first started they told me a story about how one time there were elevated gas levels detected in our building in like one area and they evacuated the whole thing just in case until they could figure out what was going on. Admittedly, I work in a government building but still, if you can smell the gas at all it’s time to get the heck out.

      The idea that they weren’t evacuating their employees is just mind boggling.

      Reply
    11. Typhon Worker Bee

      Right?! We had a gas leak in my old office last year (the construction team working on a new building on our block fractured the line), and we evacuated within minutes and didn’t get to go back for several hours. When we realized it still smelled really gassy even though the fire department had cleared us to return, they sent us home.

      Reply
  2. neverjaunty

    Re #3 – management told you to stay put when there was a GAS LEAK in the building?! And then acted nonchalant when the OP was violently ill and continued to have symptoms? I honestly can’t fathom dismissing this with ‘some people are bad in these situations’ – it’s management’s job to act appropriately in a health emergency, not to act like the OP is a buzzkill for getting sick from a gas leak.

    OP, if you are in a position to do so, strongly consider contacting your state OSHA and any union or employee liaison where you work. This is appalling.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I meant some people are bad at showing empathy when someone is in distress, not that it’s okay that they were negligent in the situation overall. I’ve clarified in the post.

      Reply
        1. Jesca

          Yep. But ya know at least they didn’t lock them in, so I guess that is their justification?

          I would not be going back to work at a place who was not aware enough to know that you evac during a gas leak. I just would be like hell no. Having seen a house blow up from a gas leak, no effing way.

          Reply
      1. Lilo

        Shouldn’t people who work at a hospital know that a shirt or scarf is not protection against gas? This whole thing is nutty.

        Reply
        1. MJ

          Yes! Thank you! I know this is like…#45 on the list of Everything Wrong With this situation but that jumped out at me. Enjoy breathing in the gas that has been filtered of some large particulates, I guess?

          Reply
      2. RVA Cat

        Yes great historical reference! Plus location since ConEd was mentioned. Upthread I wondered if they learned anything from 9/11.

        Reply
    2. Amy

      I read this one and had to take a moment because…wow. Just, wow, that was handled appallingly badly.

      OP, in your shoes I’d feel the same way you’re feeling right now. It’s possible that your management is generally fine and just mishandled this moment of crisis…but really, being able to take the lead appropriately when things go wrong is one of the things management is supposed to be there for. I’d have trouble feeling confident in my manager after something like this.

      Reply
      1. Dorothy

        That’s my issue now. I text her the next morning to tell her I was still feeling light headed and sore on the insides from vomitting (I don’t have any PTO left and sorry I have 2 children to support along with bills) and when I got in she didn’t even acknowledge me or ask me if I was okay after I shot her the text. My health is my everything and I expected them to send me to get medical attention but they didn’t. I didn’t feel safe just leaving by myself in that state. It’s really mind boggling smh.

        Reply
        1. Machiamellie

          I’m not trying to be snarky in any way, shape, or form but, if you were still feeling sick and waking up with chest pains, why didn’t you go to the ER or urgent care?

          Reply
          1. Dorothy

            None taken at all. I woke up light headed but thought it was from the amount of strain I put on my body from the shock it went through. You wouldn’t understand how my job operates they really don’t care they want you there so I let her know with hopes she would give me the green light to go because that’s an unscheduled PTO day and I’ll get written up for it AND because I didn’t want to seem extra in a way (I don’t know how to explain why I didn’t just call out after staying at work till my fiancé came) but I ate breakfast and took a Motrin and went in once there I still felt sore on the insides (Plus it feels like 20 degrees in there) and my headache didn’t leave given it wasn’t the full 5-6 hr wait so I went and told her I was still feeling sick and left to do so.

            Thanks for your feedback.

            Reply
            1. emmylou

              Dorothy, thanks for coming in and talking. It really sounds like a tough place to work. If you feel like you don’t have the right to look after your health, that is a really Not Great situation. Any chance you might be able to look around for a different job?

              Reply
            2. Machiamellie

              Thanks for responding :) I can certainly understand that you didn’t want to get written up! What a terrible place to work :( I hope you feel better!

              Reply
            3. AKchic

              Thank you for replying.

              I gave advice upthread, not knowing if you would be seeing this or not. I’m going to reply to you directly since you are here.
              Please call OSHA. Report this. Since you mentioned you worked for a hospital, call their accrediting agency (i.e., Joint Commission), and your state’s health board that does the facility’s licensing. Your supervisors should have evacuated immediately. They should have had you evaluated when you started displaying symptoms. They should have offered everyone an evaluation as a precautionary measure because you were all exposed to a gas leak. They did none of that.
              Any medical bills you’ve incurred because of this *should* be paid by the company. Technically, any time you take off because of this should be covered by them as well, but I have a feeling they won’t. Not unless OSHA comes down hard. You need to advocate for yourself, and for your co-workers. The only way to do that is to be a whistleblower. Document everything. I know it’s scary, and yes, as unscrupulous as they’ve acted already, we have no reason to believe they won’t act shady if they find out you blew the whistle, but you could have been hurt a lot worse. I’m not sure how long ago this was, if it’s only been a week or so, I’d still recommend getting checked out.

              Reply
            4. a1

              … so I let her know with hopes she would give me the green light to go because that’s an unscheduled PTO day and I’ll get written up for it …

              Thanks for spelling this out, because my default approach is so different I couldn’t figure this out either. I just tend to be more direct, I would say (and have said) something like “I’m not feeling well at all and think it would be best if I didn’t come in, however I am aware I am out of PTO. Is there’s anything we can do?” Sometimes the answer is still “Sorry, no, please come in (depending on the illness/injury)”, but sometimes things get worked out. In my head I tend to think “how is someone going to know I need time off unless I tell them.”

              Reply
              1. Dorothy

                Agreed. I’m not going to lie my newly turned teenager has been going through some personal issues which took up a lot of time and they have been working with me on that. In my last meeting I was told my job was on the line due to attendance. They even have you sign a pre-termination seat. Again, I could’ve went straight but I didn’t think it would hit me like it did yesterday until I was on the train in route there. I figured she’d see for self by the state I was in because other co workers did. She said not a word to me and again it was freezing in there which made it difficult to fight my headache and inner soreness. I hope that helps. Thanks.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  It sounds like it’s been a really rough go with this job, especially since the management change, and that this just felt like the last straw. That’s really stressful, and I hope it gets better soon.

            5. Nobody Here By That Name

              Adding to what others have said, I used to handle Worker’s Comp at my company and your medical issues here are a Worker’s Comp claim, i.e. something covered by your company’s Worker’s Comp insurance, not your medical insurance. Worker’s Comp covers both physical and mental issues on the job (for example, an associate needing therapy in reaction to being robbed while on shift even if they were not physically harmed) so in your case it would apply to your panic attack as well as the feeling ill.

              If you worked at my company we would’ve certainly had a word with your managers about not evacuating during the gas leak. But once that horse was out of the barn we would expect that every single associate who had an issue because of the leak was logged in our WC system. If nothing else to cover our own butts and show we made sure the associates were okay, regardless of whether any needed to file a claim or not.

              So you should look into that as well.

              Reply
    3. Susan K

      I think sometimes it’s hard to know how to act around someone in distress, because some people want to be consoled and comforted while others would rather be left alone and given space. And when it comes to medical issues, there can be a fine line between showing care and concern, and prying into an employee’s private medical information. From that perspective, I can understand the manager not being comfortable with, say, calling the employee’s fiance or holding her hair back in the bathroom.

      But holy crap, I am shocked by the complete and utter disregard for the safety of this employee and everyone else who was there that day. Whoever made the order for employees to stay seated should be immediately fired. This person put people’s lives in danger! If this was in a hospital, the lives of the employees AND the patients were in danger, not just because a spark could have caused an explosion, but because everyone could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning. If someone in management was aware of the gas leak and told people to stay put, that is an appalling lack of judgment that cannot be excused. It is also shocking that management was aware that at least one employee suffered serious health symptoms from a work-related incident and failed to investigate or follow up in any way. That is not only callous, but a huge liability for the employer.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        I agree with what you say in your first para, but people with emotional intelligence can generally read whether someone wants to be consoled or given space, or find sensitive ways to ask. I also think managers are in a position to do something in between, where you express concern without prying too much.

        Reply
      2. TL -

        In a hospital, it’s likely they’re running multiple types of gas; it wasn’t necessarily a carbon monoxide leak. (That being said, still should evacuate! Still not okay!)

        Reply
        1. Nita

          Probably not CO. That’s odorless. Not sure about other hospital gases, but the odor (methane has a smelly additive put in) and OP’s symptoms sound like a natural gas leak. Not that it really matters what it was – any gas leak should mean evacuation for anyone without the right training and equipment.

          Reply
        2. Observer

          Yes, but if it’s actually cooking gas, there is a good chance that you ALSO have CO. But, even without that, there are so many flammable gases in a hospital that the idea of having people “sit tight” is like telling people to sit tight when someone throws a live grenade into the room.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            CO leaks don’t usually accompany gas leaks, though; CO is a product of combustion, while the gas leak is a breach in the raw fuel.

            Reply
      3. neverjaunty

        But these things happened together. This isn’t “management immediately followed evacuation procedures, but then my manager wasn’t warm and fuzzy about my panic”. Their callous actions are of a piece here.

        Reply
    4. Former Prof

      I think OP is saying she was having a panic attack, not that she was violently ill from the gas leak. Not that it’s that different–they were still inappropriate.

      Reply
      1. Lilo

        Although the thing about a “gas leak” smell is that the odor actually isn’t the gas, it is a very strong-smelling chemical they add in for safety. So if she smelled the gas smell that is literally the point – the smell is supposed to be a warning. At my school someone broke a bottle of that scent chemical and even knowing that, they evacuated the whole science building to make sure everything was safe.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          It’s also because straight butyric acid is capable of inducing helpness nausea and violent vomiting in pinhead-size quantities – it’s a pretty significant safety risk, all by its lonesome.

          Reply
          1. BettyD

            Yes, the safety chemical smell was added after incidents like the New London School explosion in 1937, which killed almost 300 people. No one knew the school building was leaking natural gas because it doesn’t actually smell like anything.

            Reply
        2. Red 5

          Yeah, every time I’ve interacted with anybody in emergency services or a gas company in any way on the topic, they’ve said point blank that once you smell the gas it’s time to get out and call emergency services AFTER you leave.

          If there’s a gas smell, you’re already in danger and have been, at least that’s the takeaway I’ve always had. And yeah, being told to just sit tight during a gas leak probably would cause me to have a panic attack, but at that point the employee absolutely should have been evaluated by a medical professional in order to determine what was making them vomit because there’s literally no way to know without it. Or maybe I’m biased because I have had multiple medical emergencies overlooked by doctors who shrugged and called them panic attacks when I was having a real problem.

          Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        I think their response to the gas leak was head-shaking. (Even if it wasn’t natural gas but something less explosive, if it’s detectable it’s likely to affect people’s breathing.) Not knowing how to respond, or recognize, when someone has a panic attack is more understandable.

        If the gas was something that might trouble asthmatics (raises hand) but doesn’t cause vomiting and heart palpitations and such they were probably a mix of mystified, blaming OP for being dramatic, and callous.

        Reply
        1. Red 5

          Honestly this is another reason this really bothers me. I have asthma, and only a handful of people I work with probably know that, so there’s no way anybody coordinating an emergency response would be able to say “Oh, we should make sure to get Red 5 out because this could trigger an attack…” It’s better to evacuate entirely in that kind of instance, because there are so many very common lung problems that it could be extremely dangerous for.

          There’s just no excuse for not evacuating, no matter what the gas was. There are so, so many ways that could be dangerous to employees. How does breathing that in effect pregnant women? People with migraines? Heart conditions? Just get people out of the building and then worry about the rest…I can’t think of any gas in the world that wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on some segment of the population.

          Reply
      3. Dorothy

        I honestly don’t know what I was having while going through it that’s why I wrote it out feeling by feeling. The gas triggered the attack that I was having while trying to breath in between talking. It was clear something was definitely wrong given the amount of people that were rushing around looking for my supervisor. I felt like I was gonna pass out at a point and it keeps replaying in my head that management just looked at me as if I was a criminal acting out in handcuffs.

        Reply
        1. Reba

          Very understandable that struggling to breathe and feeling out of control => panic and distress.

          I hope you feel better, and that you feel able to make a report to your company’s safety officer and/or OSHA.

          Reply
      4. AKchic

        The thing is – when you are poisoned by a gas leak, your body does start to have panic attack symptoms sometimes depending on different factors. Some of her symptoms of panic attack could very well have been gas poisoning symptoms, and because she already knew there was a gas leak and wasn’t feeling right, she actually *did* bring on a panic attack during gas poisoning.

        The panic attack itself is moot. If you knew you were being poisoned by gas, and your boss was telling you to stay, and you felt you had to or risk being fired, which meant no income for your kids, you’d panic a bit too… because gas poisoning doesn’t make you rational. It messes with your thought processes.

        Reply
    5. Persephoneunderground

      This- report them to OSHA and upper management/corporate/ whatever applies. This kind of thing is exactly why OSHA exists! Think of the next person who could be in your situation and might be killed by an explosion or miscarry a pregnancy because of being told to stay and afraid to defy their boss!

      Reply
    6. AKchic

      As I’ve recommended above, not only OSHA, but since it’s a hospital, the hospital’s accreditation agency and the state’s health board (which may oversee the hospital’s licensure as well).

      Reply
    7. Just A Thought

      There are obviously a lot of things wrong in this situation, but I feel like the lack of communication is the biggest one. There was most likely someone in management who contacted the correct authorities and/or emergency services and had more information about the situation. They just didn’t communicate that to the workers or have a good plan in place. It’s a little weird to just assume that all the supervisors were insane and completely willing to let building explode .

      Reply
      1. Dorothy

        Another issue is our department currently doesn’t have a director. He left on November 17. No one knows what to do now that he’s gone. Some time ago, another employee was having an attack (not sure what kind) and the DIRECTOR was on top of it. Called paramedics and everything. My manager has been taking charge who I personally feel is callous in general. He’s the one who a coworker of mines went to and let them know and said nothing and my supervisor just said I know. I feel like the problem employee and everyone has personal issues but overall I do my job and do it well. I get hounded when I use the bathroom for God’s sake. He just didn’t care. Period.

        Reply
          1. Dorothy

            Trust and believe one time I took a lil longer than normal.. He was at my desk hands crossed and questioned me about my whereabouts. I felt as if I was talking to an over protective bf in college. No but seriously we’ve always bumped heads and I’ve approached him on multiple occasions about his professionalism, that’s why I felt he was careless towards the issue.

            Reply
  3. Emmylou

    oP #3 — it sounds very frightening and I’m sorry you didn’t feel cared for — but can I ask why you didn’t just take yourself outside for fresh air in the first place, or go to the ED? I’m just wondering why you didn’t feel like you had any agency to look after yourself in a clearly unstable situation.

    I guess I’m the first one down the stairs when there’s a fire alarm — I have no faith that other people’s sense of urgency matches mine. And honestly why they kept you all working in a gas leak is beyond me. I’d be so frightened of an explosion I’d be out in a minute.

    Reply
    1. Kaitastic

      My old workplace (hospital) had an code silver (active shooter). Nobody was hurt but they did take extreme precaution since there was a man who said he had a gun and wanted to harm an employee. I think it was a patient’s family member who was really unhappy about the patient’s care. It was resolved with no issues but some of my co-workers told me that people were looking for me. It was my day off and
      I don’t know why they were looking for me but I said that there’s no way that I would have stayed at work. As soon as I had heard “code silver” on the overhead I would have been out!! (I work in a non clinical position so I wouldn’t be abandoning any patients)

      Reply
      1. Julia

        I totally get that. I just wonder, depending on your building’s security, would trying to get out not perhaps make you an easier target for a shooter?
        I used to work in a “high security” building (at least if used properly) and staying or entering the safe room would probably be the best solution there, but of course I don’t know anything about your workplace.

        Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        “Don’t run around offering helpful targets” and “sometimes that is the exact plan, set up a sniper post and shoot the fleeing” are both very common, fact-based advice for active shooter situations. There was recently one at an elementary school in Marin, where thank all the deities the school secretary called a lockdown and sealed the outside doors seconds before the guy shooting in the distance soared into the parking lot. People were injured as he shot through windows for a few minutes, but no one killed, pretty much all due to one person’s split second “Seal the building, right now” judgment call.

        Running outside would have given him exactly what he needed, but no one cooperated with that.

        Reply
        1. Jesca

          Oh I don’t remember where it was, but child shooters did exactly this. Waiting until the evac started and then started firing. I think they were like 13 and 14? That is actually why they have the lock down scenario in place for active shooter plans.

          Reply
      3. RabbitRabbit

        They would have been looking for you because they need to confirm there aren’t hostages, aren’t additional shooters, etc. It’s best to follow the institution’s standard policy, which is probably shelter in place unless necessary.

        Reply
      4. AnonNurse

        Actually, there wouldn’t be any worry about abandoning patients during an active shooter event. We are trained to “run, hide, or fight”. The main point is to get out and get to safety if at all possible. If that’s not possible, get to a place you can hide and do so until help arrives. If neither of those is an option, use what you can and try to stay alive. While most patient facing healthcare workers would worry about their patients and leaving them in danger, we also know that we can be of no help if we’re wounded or dead.

        Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      You may not have meant to do this, but your post sounds like you’re blaming the victim. There’s a lot of reasons why, in a stressful situation where higher ups have not provided clear guidance, a person may worry that they cannot leave. That’s especially true at hospitals, where walking off your shift could be grounds for instant termination. Whether there’s a lack of emergency preparedness training or managerial common sense, OP’s bosses are squarely to blame for how they mishandled this situation.

      Reply
      1. Emmylou

        My post was more of an “and” thought — clearly the bosses totally mishandled it. But I also know that if I was in a situation where I felt at risk I would probably just act on my own. In fact, I have — I’ve walked down 28 flights of stairs when a fire alarm went off when everyone said “just keep working.”

        Totally get what you are saying but I am curious about what was at play here that constrained her so much. There is no way I’d stay inside if I thought there was a gas leak no matter who acted like it was no big deal.

        Reply
        1. Mookie

          What was at play was that leaving contradicted her managers’s instructions and, as PCBH says above, hospital staff are especially vulnerable because leaving the floor or building can be regarded as a serious health and safety violation (especially if the LW is directly involved in providing or supervising care, treatment, and monitoring of patients). No one wants to lose their job. Your standards of what constitutes acceptable risk are different from hers, but hers are not unfathomable.

          Reply
          1. Julia

            Yeah, sadly, for some people, if they’re faced with the choice between potentially dying and potentially losing their job, their life circumstances and/or hm, conditioning(?) make that choice extra tough.

            Reply
            1. DArcy

              In a medical environment, it’s more that patient abandonment is a *felony crime*. Plus, even after you’ve served out your sentence you are permanently barred from holding any professional license in the medical field.

              Reply
                1. Falling Diphthong

                  My guess is that this is over on the business office wing of the medical facility. Because a bunch of employees ignoring management and their patients and heading off to the lobbies doesn’t fit with a hospital ward.

                2. Observer

                  Of course. But as the person who is being given these crazy instructions by management, you could see yourself as being between a rock and a hard place.

            2. Falling Diphthong

              Thinking of yesterday’s letter about the whistle blower who wouldn’t do an unsafe job, and the person who took over probably reasoned “Clearly, managers wouldn’t tell me to do this if it was unsafe. The person who left was just being dramatic.”

              Reply
      2. Kaitastic

        I don’t think this is blaming the victim. People have a responsibility to themselves and need to know that when it’s possible they can and should take action to look after themselves. Nobody has your best interest in mind than yourself and it’s okay to push back when management is being dangerously unreasonable.

        Reply
        1. TL -

          Yeah. I wonder if management was thinking OP will tell them what calls they’ll make for their own health and OP was expecting them to take charge.
          I worked for an MD and if I told her a list of symptoms she would nod sympathetically but she wouldn’t make the call of I should do. Though she would tell me to let her know if I needed to go home/work slowly/whatever.

          Reply
      3. Steve

        Is it ever true that sometimes victims need to take care of themselves? Can it be helpful to say that victims would not have been as victimized if they had taken control of their own situation?

        Reply
        1. Mookie

          You are suggesting that victimization occurs because the victim cedes control and power. In her workplace, there are people with more power and control than the LW, and they gave her instructions she had difficulty and hesitation disobeying. We learned above from her letter that she compromised, by eventually asserting a need to leave when she had to and stay put downstairs when she was discouraged from doing so. Saying she has agency here is fine, but in the real world our autonomy is often checked, and that often happens when we’re working.

          Reply
          1. Steve

            In the real world, she could have gone to the emergency room if she chose to do so, or am I understanding that wrong? If she could have done so, I think it helpful for others to remind people of this, without being labeled “victim shamers”. Encouraging others that they can take charge of their situation is helpful advice, imo.

            Reply
            1. TL -

              Yeah, especially if she works for a hospital, I bet they have numerous safety departments and whistle-blower protection (in theory at least.)
              Though perhaps she doesn’t work on the main campus? I’m confused as to why 911 would be called for a mobile patient on a hospital campus; it would be generally faster to walk them to the ER.

              Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          No, it’s not helpful to say victims would not be victimized if they “took control” of their situation—that is literally the definition of victim-blaming.

          What could have been helpful was a strong affirmation of OP’s experience with a note suggesting (gently) that although OP may be in a coercive situation where she feels she lacks the power to leave without suffering other severe life challenges, here are a menu of options for her if this happens again. Asking her why she didn’t leave because another poster believes they would have done the sambeen (which we don’t know, because are any of us in OP’s position experiencing a panic attack?) is not helpful.

          It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and say, “I would have done X.” But studies indicate that none of that is true, and saying it demonstrates a lack of empathy. It also ignores that OP was experiencing a panic attack and debilitating vomiting. I don’t think many people in the same situation would be able to maintain their wits, but for all we know, OP made the most rational choice under her circumstances.

          Reply
        3. NaoNao

          I would bet this OP works at a call center or similar set up, where the front line employees are heavily controlled and monitored, and things like “no outgoing calls” (and these are physically prevented using technology) are in place.
          I worked in a couple call centers, and here’s some of the things that would have prevented me from calling 911, making a stink, or just up and leaving:
          My cell phone and personal belongings were in a locker. I worked in a “clean room” where we couldn’t bring *tissues* into the room; no paper, no cell phones, no pens, nothing.
          Security guards were stationed at every door. We badged in and out. Theoretically they could have literally stopped me.
          My bosses came from a culture were suffering at work (12 hour shifts, no breaks, disregard for human rights) was the norm and the call center environment represented a huge step up in situation for most employees (ie, they weren’t working slave labor in sweatshops)
          I was desperately poor and if I got fired, I would be homeless and literally starving. I needed a job *badly*.
          There were no clear protocols for safety issues and in the absence of those, the boss is the authority.

          Of course victims can take care of themselves and should, and dozens of commenters are telling her and others to do so, and not feel guilty for breaking the social code. But telling OP or anyone else in this disingenuous “Socratic” voice “Can it be helpful…?” as if you’re not already convinced of the answer is one of the more annoying things to see in comments.

          Let me guess: it’s also your opinion that the women who Harvey Weinstein cornered, threatened, and abused should have “done anything” to get out of there, regardless of the hit to their careers, the risk of retribution (Rose McGowan’s arrest warrant, anyone?) or their professional reputation, or their projects that were employing dozens/hundreds, and the women that “allowed” it to happen were just money hungry careerists, amirite? (ugh. eyeroll. so over that line of thinking.)

          Reply
          1. Steve

            I phrased it the way I did because there is always going to be someone like you who insults another who has a different opinion. Kind of like you did when you suggest I would be against rape victims of Weinstein. The letter writer is not the only one reading this. Others might be in similar situations in the future. Telling people they can choose for themselves how to react is helpful advice. Suggesting they cannot, like you did, is wrong.

            Reply
      4. TL -

        I’m a little confused about this too, because the supervisor didn’t say don’t leave; when the OP said if they could smell the gas again they were leaving, the supervisor said OK, presumably agreeing that was a reasonable course of action to take.
        Also, the next day instead of calling/texting and saying, “I’m still feeling ill from yesterday and will be taking the day off,” the OP just texted a list of symptoms. It would have been nice if the supervisor had said don’t come in, but I’m confused why the OP didn’t just call in sick and go see the doctor or urgent care.
        They also let the OP spend a lot of time outside without pressuring them to come back in (again, evacuation would have been a better option but they said go outside and it doesn’t sound like they were hounding them to feel better immediately.)

        I don’t think the employers handled this well, but they also weren’t saying “you can’t leave” or “you have to come in” and I think the OP had options they should have used (calling a taxi or uber, for instance, if they couldn’t take the train home.)

        Reply
          1. TL -

            Sure, but the next day?

            Also, the OP said they went and sat outside for a while to clear their head; this happened over a longer period of time and they had time to hopefully calm down and process. I’m not jumping on the OP – I definitely understand not thinking clearly when you’re sick, but there was a lot of opportunities here for them to make the decision for themselves and it seems like each time they were waiting for someone else to make the call for them (waiting for the manager and supervisor, the boyfriend, and then the supervisor again) instead of deciding for themselves.

            Hey, bad day, feeling bad and not thinking properly, we’ve all been there, but something to take from this is next time she’s feeling unable to function, go home or call in sick.

            Reply
            1. Dorothy

              & you’re 100% right. As I mentioned before I do not have any more PTO days left (You’ll only understand if you were an employee at our site) and unfortunately in that state of mind didn’t trust myself enough, I couldn’t make it up 4 long blocks in the blistering cold to the train station let alone 1 block up to the hospital. I was depending on their expertise. I was expecting them to help me or make sure I got the right help. I work for the hospital not in the hospital and I didn’t speak to my fiancé until I was calm enough to do so. After all of that I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep which is normal for anyone who experiences such so I waited. Thanks for your feedback.

              Reply
              1. Matilda Jefferies

                I was expecting them to help me or make sure I got the right help.

                This can cause a huge amount of dissonance in your brain. Part of you is going “I need help, and these people are supposed to be helping me,” and so you wait. Then there’s another part of you trying to figure out why the people who should be helping, aren’t, oh and by the way you’re also DEALING WITH THE EFFECTS OF A GAS LEAK. No wonder you weren’t able to act – your brain was just completely overloaded.

                I’ve mentioned this before, and it’s important. It’s not just “fight or flight.” It’s “fight, flight, or freeze” (ie, some animals play dead in response to a perceived threat, rather than running away.) I’m a “freeze” person myself, including in one situation that could have had a horrifying result for my child.

                That sounds absolutely horrific for you, Dorothy, and I hope you’re feeling better now. I also hope you can escalate this in some way in your workplace, because I think we can all agree the situation was absolutely fubared by the people who should have known how to handle it.

                Reply
        1. Dorothy

          Yes they were. My manager literally pushed another coworker towards the elevator. We were told NOT TO LEAVE! Thanks.

          Reply
      5. Science!

        I remember the first (and only) time I experienced an earthquake. I’ve lived on the east coast my whole life and so I don’t know what to do in an earthquake. I was at work and we felt the shaking and my co-workers and I didn’t know what to do so we all evacuated the building, because most of the emergencies we are used to require evacuation. No one at my institution told us what to do, but they also didn’t tell us what NOT to do. My west coast friends were horrified that we left the building since that’s the opposite of what you are supposed to do in an earthquake.

        Later we received an email saying that in the event of an earthquake do NOT evacuate the building, but that was too late (and the chances of it happening again are so rare).

        Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      Possibly the OP was suffering from the effects of a gas leak and not as clear-headed as you would like to think you’d be in that situation?

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        Also, not everyone realises how deadly a gas leak can be.

        A friend of mine died from carbon monoxide poisoning. She was a young journalist who had just got married and her husband came home to find her and the cat lying dead. If you live in the UK and rent your home, you may have had CO monitors fitted as a result of her family’s campaigning.

        Their gas boiler was faulty and had been inspected. They had been told there was a problem, but didn’t understand that it might kill them. Knowing this, and knowing a couple of people who had carbon monoxide poisoning, didn’t realise and were shocked to learn they might have died, I am aware that in a gas leak you need to get out as you may die before you realise anything is wrong or have any physical symptoms.

        But not everybody knows that. And most people trust their employers to keep them safe. If your employer tells you to stay seated, maybe you think that means there’s no danger, especially if you don’t know anyone who’s experienced CO poisoning.

        I am speechless that your employer did not evacuate the building.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          But….it bears mention – CO is not natural gas, and CO wasn’t the problem here. CO comes from incomplete combustion in a gas heater/furnace. Natural gas is odorless and not itself particularly harmful to breathe in moderate concentrations. OP was reacting to the butyric acid or butyl mercaptan scenting agent in the gas, which is nauseatingly foul-smelling. The danger is the potential for an explosion, not that the gas is itself going to make you pass out and kill you.

          Reply
            1. Ramona Flowers

              I thought a gas leak meant gas that could kill you. I don’t exactly feel great about sharing a personal loss only to be corrected on what kind of gas is and isn’t deadly so I’m bowing out now but I hope the OP is okay.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                Some of this may be US/UK nomenclature, but I think it’s valuable to clear up some of the misconceptions people have, too, since both of these things can be really dangerous but they do act in very different ways and need different protections. And I do this for the people I know who died.

                In the US, at least, a “gas leak” is the fossil fuel natural gas. It’s largely methane (yes, the cow farts stuff) treated with an odorizer so it can be detected. The odorizer is essentially the alarm. Breathing it in is unlikely to hurt you unless the level of gas is extremely high, displacing the oxygen available. The danger with natural gas is that it’s flammable–that’s why it’s valuable–and while small amounts will usually dissipate safely, if you get a large amount pooling and a spark hits it, the combustion is savage. Smell it and leave the house.

                A CO leak isn’t referred to as a “gas leak” in the US. CO is odorless, so you won’t smell it; that’s why CO detectors are strongly recommended (and maybe even required in some places?). CO can be a byproduct of any kind of fuel burning, gas, gasoline, oil, coal, etc. but is not a result of those fuels simply getting out on their own, so it doesn’t happen alongside a natural gas leak. Breathing CO will affect you even at low levels, because CO doesn’t need to displace the oxygen in the air–it replaces oxygen in your blood by bonding with your red blood cells the way oxygen does. Because your carbon *di*oxide levels don’t rise, you don’t feel short of breath. The only thing telling you to leave your house would be a working CO detector. CO can seriously affect your thinking even in low doses–there’s an epic Reddit thread of a woman who believed her landlord was breaking into her apartment and leaving her notes, and they turned out to be notes to herself that she’d forgotten because of CO poisoning from her building’s garage–so the very CO poisoning you have may keep you from realizing what the problem is.

                Reply
                1. Ramona Flowers

                  Oh wow. A gas leak means something completely different here – it means the gas you have in your cooker and it does contain CO!

              2. ToxicityRefugee

                I’m sorry you’ve been upset but I agree with other posters that it’s really really important people understand this stuff for exactly the reasons you mentioned yourself – if people understand they can protect themselves and their loved ones, if they don’t they are at risk of dying.

                If you can “smell gas” it’s a gas leak of natural gas. It can kill you by causing an explosion but isn’t poisonous.

                Carbon monoxide doesn’t leak out of gas pipes, it’s produced by burning fuel without enough ventilation. It doesn’t smell which is why it’s so dangerous and also why your friends family campaigned for CO monitors – because you can’t smell it monitors are the only way to be safe.

                Reply
            2. Typhon Worker Bee

              Methane (cooking/heating gas; smells bad due to an additive they put in so you can smell it and get away from it) is dangerous because it can ignite and explode. It’s not inherently toxic to the body.

              Carbon monoxide (created when fossil fuels don’t burn properly; doesn’t smell) is dangerous because it suffocates you by stopping your blood from being able to carry oxygen around your body. It can’t ignite or explode.

              Burning methane in a stove or heater can sometimes produce carbon monoxide. In these cases, you wouldn’t smell anything.

              I’m from the UK and have always understood that “gas leak” = methane and “carbon monoxide leaks” are described more specifically. This seems to be the same in Canada, too

              Reply
          1. AKchic

            It really doesn’t matter. Carbon monoxide poisoning, gas leak – both can kill you. Dead is dead. It’s no comfort to the survivors the actual method.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              I understand that it may not matter to a mourner. It matters, however, when you’re talking about the safety and danger factors, the appropriate treatment, and the response.

              Reply
        2. MsSolo

          There was a story on reddit a while back from someone who was convinced people were moving stuff around his flat at night. It turned out he had a CO leak, which was affecting his memory and decision making. During the day, out at work, he was fine; it just built up in his room overnight. Very, very lucky to be alive! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/11580243/Reddit-user-comes-to-the-rescue.html

          TLDR – it’s very hard to tell if you’ve got gas poisoning if the gas is making you doolally.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            I forgot he was male. Oh, and the Telegraph article doesn’t mention the time he had to spend in the hospital and how it took about a year before he was really rid of the effects. The stuff really is pernicious.

            Reply
    4. Ramona Flowers

      You cannot possibly know how you would behave in an emergency. It might be flight. It might be freeze. I’ve been rooted to the spot in situations which, had they been described to me at a more leisurely time, I would have imagined running away. You do not know what you would have done in this situation.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        I’ve been caught in a small gas leak, dealt with chemical spills, and I’ve accidentally breathed in dangerous chemicals to the point of having a noticeable physical reaction; I’ve passed out driving, called 9-1-1 for major accidents, had a coworker pass out at work while I was with them, had a fire start while I was working with heavy machinery, had a friend and my mother have grand mal seizures while I was watching…

        I actually do have a good idea of how I will respond in most common dangerous situations; it is possible that other commentors do as well. At this point in my life, if I had been in the OP’s position, I would have called a taxi and gone home. In the very first years of my working life, I most likely wouldn’t have, but learning that I could and should make those calls for myself was an important part of becoming an adult.

        Reply
        1. Eimi

          Thank you. I understand the point people are trying to make with the whole “you don’t know how you’d act” thing, but – some of us do know. That line assumes that no one else has ever been in a comparable situation – and it also insinuates that if you’d really been in the situation, you’d have panicked/reacted poorly too. It’s so dismissive. Sorry I don’t actually panic under pressure? Why should I pretend I do just to make people feel better? I feel like we’ve almost gotten to this point where the only legitimate response is to shut down or panic because anything else is apparently somehow unrealistic.

          It is not only possible to react well in an emergency, it’s possible to learn to do so. Pointing out ways a situation could’ve been handled better isn’t blaming the victim – blaming the victim would be telling her that it’s her fault or berating her, which no one’s done. Pointing out other things you can do (as long as they’re grounded in reality and don’t expect you to be a superhero) is a useful postmortem so you are better prepared with more options in case of a repeat incident.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            “Why didn’t you?…” and “I would have…” are not pointing out ways that someone in the OP’s situation might act in the future to protect themselves. They’re using the OP’s situation to feed one’s own sense of safety.

            Speaking of how this “could have been better handled”, shouldn’t that focus be on management here?

            Reply
            1. TL -

              I absolutely agree that management handled this super poorly, but I do think the OP could have handled it a lot better. She asked for an honest opinion and I think that a) her management team was hugely negligent and b) she had several options to extricate herself from a really miserable/perhaps dangerous few days and chose not to.

              Reply
              1. neverjaunty

                The OP asked “As a manager, what would you have done?” She didn’t ask “Did I react correctly and if not what should I have done instead?”

                Reply
            2. Steve

              The management didn’t ask about the situation, and many people here are imagining themselves in the letter writer’s situation. So of course they are going to respond with what she could have done different. “Why didn’t you” and “i would have” are just rhetorical ways to phrase a reply. Taking them as personal “attacks”(not really the right word) is, i think, misunderstanding what was intended.

              Reply
              1. sin nombre

                What was intended is not the only thing that matters, and some rhetorical devices are better and kinder than others. I think “why didn’t you” in particular is not particularly helpful or kind.

                Reply
        2. Nita

          That’s very “nice” that you have lots of experience with emergencies. Maybe OP doesn’t. I’d also like to point out that exposure to large amounts of gas can cause cognitive impairment and trouble walking, even if it’s a relatively harmless gas (it will reduce how much space the lungs have for breathable air). Some people react to this way worse than others for whatever reason (body mass, health conditions, something so stupid as whether they had a good breakfast that morning…) So it’s a little odd to expect the OP to drag herself to get help and take her chances that she may or may not make it, like she’s some hitchhiker stranded in the woods. She was not alone. There were many people around who should have known better.

          Reply
          1. TL -

            Yup, it’s great. I particularly recommend watching your mother suffer from a grand mal seizure; the younger you are, the better.
            I wasn’t saying everyone needs to respond the same way (and hey, I didn’t say how I responded.) I was simply countering Ramona Flower’s point that nobody could possibly state with any certainty how they would respond. Some of us absolutely could.

            Reply
            1. Nita

              I’m sorry. Of course I didn’t literally mean it’s great. I know how most of the people close to me respond to emergencies, and based on that, I’d never ever assume that someone in the middle of a crisis will be able to think clearly and get themselves the help they need. The responses I’ve seen range from “run toward the World Trade Center to pick up your kid from school, while everyone else is running in the other direction” to “be in a minor emergency, then freeze up and/or work yourself up into having a heart attack because you’re freaking out.”

              Reply
        3. Temperance

          I’m one of those people who is good in a crisis, too. I’m not emotional, so I can call authorities and deal with emergencies. I think it’s also okay that not everyone is like me.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            So much this. I’m stone cold in a crisis, but I’ve comforted and assisted enough panicked people to know that many people don’t react like me and cannot react like me unless they actively train themselves into it. Adrenaline and panic are hard to overcome.

            Even if we have comparable experiences, we are not OP. We’re not in her head, we don’t have her personality, and we don’t know what her job is like. Asking “why aren’t you like me?” doesn’t help address her question, which was how should her managers have responded.

            Reply
      2. Snark

        A gas leak is not a panic-inducing emergency, and I’ve been in a few. It’s reason for concern, but it’s not like you’re in mortal fear of your life, because it’s not an obviously dangerous situatuin. “Oh crap, I smell gas, get everyone out,” and everybody gets up and files out. It’s not a bad scene, nor traumatizing. OP was debilitated mostly because they were smelling an exceptionally foul scent for what sounds like hours.

        And having worked search and rescue, worked in labs where fires started, and lived through a significant earthquake….well, sorry, but yes, I do know how I behave in an emergency.

        Reply
        1. Bagpuss

          I think it is entirely possible that for some people, a gas leak *is* a panic inducing situation – maybe not for you, maybe even not for the majority of people, but it sounds as though perhaps for the LW it was.

          I admit that I was a little puzzled by the fact that she didn’t feel able to seek medical attention for herself even at the point that she was sitting in her car having left work, or the following day when she still had symptoms, and it does sound from her description as though she could have been clearer with her employer that she needed to call in sick.

          Reply
        2. Jesca

          Actually, gas leaks are a pretty big GTFO kind of thing. I mean no, no one is shooting at you at that moment or that the ceiling isn’t collapsing from a fire, or whatever, but it is a hugely serious situation. Having seen a gas explosion and how many houses blew, I can tell you right now it is cause for some serious concern. You smell gas, you get out. Don’t down play it at all, and don’t assume everyone has had your experiences with it.

          With that said, it sounds to me like OP may have had a panic attack? on top of everything else. If someone has never had a panic attack before, they can absolutely be affected it in different ways. Its not really time to blame the OP?

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Yes, she mentions a panic attack and all the symptoms she had could fit that. Additionally, a panic attack often feels more dramatic on the inside than it looks on the outside, because the pounding panic itself isn’t visible, so often people don’t see it as alarming as it feels like being. So I’m with people who are less concerned with the lack of sympathy issue than with the evacuating the building issue, even though the former may sting more for the OP.

            Reply
        3. Delphine

          Is it ever helpful to look at someone who didn’t react as well as you would have in a similar situation and tell them, “If I did it, you should have too”?

          Reply
    5. Dorothy

      I tried to leave. I kept getting dizzy. I don’t know how to explain what I was going through at the moment but I know I did try without informing anyone but once I felt the vomit coming up had to make way to let it out and that’s when it got difficult. I was hot, weak, gasping, two people had to help me to the elevator. I COULD NOT GO ON MY OWN!

      Thanks for the feedback though.

      Reply
      1. Delphine

        You don’t need to defend or explain your actions, OP! I’m sorry that your reaction to a situation you’d never been in before has become a point of discussion.

        Reply
  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, your bosses sound like awful people. From just a basic workplace safety perspective, you do not ask employees to stick around if there’s a gas leak. You don’t let them get sick to the point of inducing vomiting and a panic attack. You don’t tell them going downstairs or outside is optional if the gas leak is bothering them. It’s a flipping gas leak—it’s compromising your access to oxygen. (Maybe the lack of oxygen is why they were behaving like garbage.)

    They handled this badly, and their overall lack of empathy/concern is annoying. Maybe they assumed people working at a hospital can monitor their own health, or maybe they’re just plain indifferent. Regardless, I don’t think they’ll change, but I am sorry you had to go through this and that their inaction made it worse than it needed to be.

    [As an aside, I don’t think asking you to be cleared by the ER or urgent care the day after your exposure (when you had chest pains) is common—so I don’t think that very small subpart is inherently callous.]

    Reply
    1. Lissa

      I did wonder about your first paragraph and if others also suffered symptoms from the gas leak . Maybe it did contribute to people acting weirdly at the time! Or not. That all sounds ridiculously unsafe to be honest…

      Reply
    2. Beaded Librarian

      PCBH maybe I understood incorrectly but I thought OP #3 was saying that her boss DIDN’T tell her to go to the ER or Urgent Care to get cleared and that was part of what bothered her.

      Reply
      1. Nipigon Nylons

        BH, you’re correct that she wasn’t told to go to the ER and that upset the OP, but going to the ER to get cleared after a gas leak is not normal protocol. OP would have had to take that on themselves if they were worried, it likely would not have been suggested by many (if any) employers.

        Reply
        1. Jill

          It is normal protocol when someone is that sick to make sure they receive medical attention. Any decent employer would have made sure she made it to the ER, either calling an ambulance or taking her themselves.

          Reply
          1. Chandelier

            Most employers would leave that decision up to the individual’s own agency rather than try compel them to seek medical treatment or assessment. And that’s here in the UK. I imagine the consequences of trying to take ownership over getting someone to the ER may be even more severe in a country without healthcare free at the point of use.

            Reply
      2. Dorothy

        Yes. Exactly. Thank you.

        Problem is, they know how bad you need your job and only care that you’re there. They don’t mind you calling out IF YOU HAVE THE TIME (PTO) otherwise you’ll get written up for (UPTO) not that I cared at the moment but the next day I did that’s why I sent the text. Thanks for understanding.

        Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yes! They didn’t ask her to be cleared, and my aside was to let her know that not asking her to be cleared wasn’t egregious or heartless. It’s one of the only things they didn’t do that is not, in my opinion, bad management.

        Reply
    3. ToxicityRefugee

      A gas leak is dangerous because of the risk of explosion but would almost certainly not compromise anyone’s access to oxygen.

      Reply
      1. Nita

        Not in a normal situation, no. Normal as in people smell gas, they get out, they’re fine. If you’re sitting indoors with large quantities of gas, it does compromise access to oxygen – there is less breathable air and more of whatever gas has been released. This is part of the reason it’s so dangerous to go into a sewer manhole (that, and some gases in sewers could also be toxic).

        Reply
        1. ToxicityRefugee

          Sewers are extremely confined environments with very limited ventilation and not at all comparable to a normal office, hospital or other workplace. The smell of a gas leak is strong (because that’s why they put the smell in the gas, so you know there’s a leak) but the amount of gas leaking is unlikely to be anywhere close enough to compromise oxygen availability.

          Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        That’s fine. I suspect inhaling something so noxious that it causes light-headedness and induces vomiting might also impact oxygen intake.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          Or non-optimal breathing patterns from a panic attack. Some people hyperventilate, which can cause lightheadness, weakness, fainting, etc. (Interestingly, the problem in hyperventilation is having too much oxygen, not too little, because the person is breathing out more volume than they are breathing in and their oxygen/CO2 balance is disrupted.)

          Reply
        2. fposte

          Though those can also be symptoms of a panic attack. Not saying I know for sure what caused the OP’s symptoms (somebody else made a good point that location might affect exposure), just saying that this isn’t an incontrovertible proof of gas effect.

          Reply
        3. ToxicityRefugee

          Natural gas from a normal gas leak is not noxious and doesn’t cause vomiting. Unless the OP was breathing some other type of gas it seems most likely she hyperventilated/had a panic attack (very understandable, she was scared for understandable reasons) and everyone else’s oxygen intake was fine.

          Reply
            1. Chandelier

              Oh come on now, is discussing an issue/disagreeing with someone else’s point and expanding upon it ‘litigating an issue’ now? Swift way to shut down debate and make people feel too uncomfortable to participate in the comments section.

              Reply
          1. Red 5

            Sure, that seems plausible, maybe even likely, but without the OP being evaluated by a medical professional at the time, maybe it’s not our place to be armchair diagnosing and downplaying something that should have been taken seriously by her employer and wasn’t. That’s the very basic bottom level of this entire thing.

            It doesn’t matter why she was throwing up.

            It only matters that it happened during a situation that was mishandled and then the response to that was also mishandled.

            I’m completely baffled why everybody wants to decide what her diagnosis must be (panic attack versus gas inhalation) because _it doesn’t matter_ since it couldn’t be known at the time and should have been taken seriously but wasn’t. We can hindsight it all until we’re blue in the face (pun only partially intended) but it doesn’t change the fact that in the moment, management had an inappropriate response.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Speaking as one of the conversational litigators here, I’m mostly concerned about the factual information about health risks of different substances. I think the OP’s management handled a gas leak appallingly badly and I don’t think they were in any position to decide for themselves that the OP’s health problems weren’t serious; you don’t have to be somebody good at sympathy to realize that this is somebody who needs to have medical attention and that it makes good business as well as personal sense for her to have it. As a manager, I’d probably have moved a lot faster on getting her medical attention if this had been a CO alarm than a gas leak because of the much greater health risks, but when there’s an unusual event and an employee is unwell, getting them care is the appropriate thing to do.

              Reply
  5. BarkusOrlyus

    #4 – This letter made me very sad. A new hire being excluded is particularly cruel! Fitting in socially at a new workplace can be anxiety provoking, but at least you can normally tell yourself it’s all in your head. That kind of straight-up diss is hard to ignore.

    Personally, I’d try to gather up all the outcasts and make our own party, but IDK if that’s a good idea where you work. Seems like maybe it wouldn’t go over so well.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It sounds like it isn’t limited to new hires, though (e.g. the coworker who’s been there for 2 years and hasn’t been included). It sounds like there are larger issues with inclusion.p that aren’t really about length of tenure.

      Reply
      1. BarkusOrlyus

        Yeah, I realize that. I just think that the callousness of excluding a new hire is particularly mean for the reasons I stated—fitting in doesn’t need to be made harder than it already feels.

        Reply
        1. tigerlily

          The way OP describes the situation doesn’t sound like exclusion so much as overlooking something. OP says she’s not invited because people don’t know what department she’s in. It’s not like someone deliberately said she’s not invited, it’s that she works for (for example) the accounting department, the payroll department, and the development department and each thought she was a part of one of the other department’s parties. Or at leas that’s how it read to me. And if that’s the case, that’s probably true of the other people.

          We have that problem crop up occasionally at my job. Most of the staff divides evenly into teams (the admin team, and then individual classroom teams) but it’s easy to forget that the cook doesn’t belong to any of those teams.

          Reply
      2. I am Number Four

        Person who’s been left out for the past few years has been here at least five. Just somehow wasn’t invited last year.

        Reply
      3. Smithy

        It also sounds like there’s a cultural issue where not being invited is treated as a non-invite as opposed to an oversight. I’m a relatively new employee, and realized I didn’t get the holiday party invite.

        I had no thought that I somehow wasn’t invited but rather wasn’t on a specific email list and asked what I needed to do to get on that email list. So if people aren’t being invited and are then assuming that was an overt intention – that’s a larger issue.

        Reply
    2. Birch

      Is it intentional though? I can totally see this just being a mistake. I’ve been working between groups, with different projects, and am typically left off one thing or another just because people don’t know where to put me or assume I’ve been included in the other group already. This to me just sounds like laziness on the part of the party organizer and is really common for new people or flexible people to end up falling through the cracks on the official list. I would first gather up everyone who’s been left out and go together to whoever is in charge of organizing the party to ask them to check and update the list. If you’re still left out, well, that sounds intentional.

      Reply
      1. BarkusOrlyus

        It probably isn’t, but this is a level of negligence/laziness that seems weird to me. If it’s obvious to the LW that people are being left out, it can’t be that opaque to everyone else in the office unless they’re all only thinking about themselves. You’re right that it’s probably a simple matter of people falling through the proverbial cracks, but it still seems sad to me. I don’t think this would happen at an organization that was super respectful to its people.

        Reply
        1. Birch

          I totally agree that it’s lazy, and people can be only thinking about themselves. But I really disagree that it wouldn’t happen at an organization that cares about and respects its people. My situation is definitely anecdata but I think it disproves your point—the people I actually work with are amazing and adore each other. The people who organize the parties/send out mass emails/etc. don’t know who most of us are personally, so if we’re not on the list they’re consulting, we’ll be left out. If people notice that a certain few aren’t attending parties, it may really never occur to them that the absent few weren’t invited–they might just assume that they couldn’t come! I know that’s what I would assume unless told otherwise. OP, who is organizing the parties? I’m also confused as to why the people who have been left out several times haven’t spoken up, assuming there’s a mistake? We have regular meetings and after the party invites go out, we mention it at the meeting to make sure everyone has been invited (generally checking that new people have made it onto the mailing list). I don’t think it’s fair to assume malicious intent with no other evidence than a random assortment of people have been left off party invites, unless there’s something else going on that wasn’t in your letter. Just address it head on with the party organizers!

          Reply
      2. I am Number Four

        Our organizational structure is very rigid. So while it may not be intentional it’s still not difficult to double check who belongs.

        Reply
    3. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials

      Please don’t assume ill intent until you have brought this up with whoever does the inviting. I am in charge of sending invites to a huge programmatic party (it spans several departments), and I go by the lists I have, adding people as they are hired (that I know about). Before everyone jumps on me, there is no central list here for this, and asking for help doesn’t always get results – I promise you, it isn’t laziness on my part, I spend a lot of time curating the list. Despite this effort, I have inadvertently missed people. I would say absolutely bring it up – the response will tell you all you need to know. If they (like me) are HORRIFIED at having left someone off, then you’ll know it was just an oversight. If they don’t care or are intentionally excluding people, well, that’s another story.

      Reply
    4. Ama

      I think it’s worth pointing out to whoever you do report to that you were left out. I’ve been at my current company for four years but I have a weird reporting structure (I am the only person at the middle management level who reports directly to the CEO instead of a department director). Last year senior staff decided they were all going to take their reports out individually for holiday lunches. Only between the CEO’s travel schedule and my holiday vacation, we were barely in the office at the same time the entire month of December, so she asked for another department head to include me in their group (I work with people across departments so that would have been fine). However there was a miscommunication about which director was inviting me and as a result no one invited me — which wasn’t discovered until my last day in the office before my vacation, when the two people who were under the impression the other person was inviting me realized their mistake.

      I have since pointed out to several people here that they need to be mindful that my position exists out of the standard org chart, so just telling all the senior staff to tell their reports things leaves me out. They still sometimes forget (especially as the CEO isn’t always at the senior staff meetings), but we’ve also finally created an official middle management group so I am finally included in some part of the hierarchy.

      Reply
    5. Surrogate Tongue Pop

      I am a team of one person who services our whole organization and is always kind of visible, running around on the floor or to other buildings. However, I don’t get included in the goings on for celebrations and the like, generally. Or happy hours. It’s not intentional, it’s just oversight. I even sit by myself with empty cubes behind, beside and in front of me (so I don’t even overhear things). It doesn’t particularly bother me, because I don’t know the celebrations are happening in the first place. I could see how it would be quite bothersome if you knew about them and weren’t included, though. This holiday season, someone on a different team said something to her boss and I got an invite to go to the team outing yesterday, which was very lovely. They took in orphan me and we had a great time. I think it would be worth a mention to TPTB that a some folks weren’t included again and do they have any suggestions for group/team visibility next time events come up. Good luck!

      Reply
  6. Katniss

    Re: #2, I always find myself in an ironic position reading letters like that, because I immediately judge people who care that much about how other people wear their hair (or dress, for that matter) as shallow and bad at priorities. But then I’m judging people for…being judgmental.

    I’m glad norms are changing around this and becoming less conservative, because it really does strike me as bizarre to care about someone’s hair or clothes as long as they are clean and cover the important bits.

    Reply
    1. JamieS

      Personally I don’t care what color someone’s hair is as long as it doesn’t hurt my eyes or make me dizzy when I look at it. However I don’t think caring about hair color is any different than caring about someone wearing short shorts, ripped clothes, face tattoos, or anything else related to appearance. It’s something that’s perfectly normal for a company to care about. Especially with client facing employees which it sounds like is what the company’s main concern is.

      Reply
      1. Katniss

        Oh sure but I mean my judgement is even more general than that: I judge the clients for caring enough to make the company have to care. In my perfect world no one would waste their time caring about what another person has done with their hair, face, or clothes, beyond maybe being complimentary. It’s just not a mindset I’ve ever been able to understand, even at 35.

        Reply
    2. Purplesaurus

      It doesn’t seem bizarre to me to care about hair color. But it does seem like people have stupid priorities. That appropriately-clad woman with neatly groomed hair is not fit to be at work because said hair is blue!

      Reply
    3. Roscoe

      I can definitely understand it though. Like, I may not care as a person what your hair, piercings, etc look like, however that doesn’t mean that if I owned a company I would want certain looks representing my brand. When you are on the clock, you don’t just represent you, you represent a company. And a company has the right to have standards for how they are represented.

      Reply
    4. Smithy

      While I too am glad that the natural/unnatural hair color issue is fading – particular in regards to how such policies were applied, I do think there’s a difference between an unnatural hair color and a botched dye job that would look unprofessional.

      I get that dress/appearance codes can serve as an easy ways to make situations black and white so that managers can just say “hey no blue hair, sorry not my call”. But I think that removes chances for more serious conversations about profession norms in an industry and organization.

      I dye my hair regularly, and if I told my hair dresser let’s go really blond and the result was a color that ended up being super yellow on a regular basis or aging in a way that looked unprofessional/bad for my industry – I would appreciating that conversation despite knowing that it would suck and cost a lot of money to fix.

      Reply
      1. Red 5

        Yeah, as somebody who loves dyeing their hair “unnatural” colors, I think there is a point to be made about a good dye job and a bad one being based on the actual dye job, not the chosen color. I realize it’s easier to make rules about it being a “natural hair color” but I just wish it wasn’t that way.

        I just really want to dye my hair blue again is what I’m saying.

        Reply
    5. Karen D

      Years ago, I was working in a local courthouse. One of the judges had a lovely, very proper woman working as his judicial assistant – in her mid- to- late-50s. Her hair was dyed that beige-blond color that was so popular at the time.

      One Halloween, her daughter convinced her to participate in a family costume thing – they were all dressed as birds. And “Sandra” somehow got tagged as being the peacock. So they sprayed her hair blue, green and purple with the temporary wash-out hair color. Except … it was NOT temporary. It did NOT wash out. So she came to work for the first week of November with the blue-green-purple thing going on. Her hairdresser tried correcting it and ended up with a weird verdigris-green color, which she was stuck with until it grew enough to be cut (very short) and re-blonded.

      I have to hand it to Sandra. She came in there every day with her head held high. It was a testament to how well-liked and gracious she was that she got only the mildest teasing about it. In fact, she said she’d kind of miss her green hair! I like to think she’s happily retired now, rocking magical unicorn hair.

      I was really glad to learn that even judges can refrain from being judgmental at times :)

      Reply
  7. kb

    OP 3: I’m really alarmed that there was no evacuation procedure, especially in a hospital. Management’s lack of care after the ordeal certainly was not great, but telling employees to stay put during a gas leak is… wow.

    Reply
      1. kb

        No need to apologize! They should still have an evacuation procedure or at very least not have managers instructing employees to do the opposite of what is safe

        Reply
  8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, it sounds like the policy isn’t unreasonable (although it may be written sloppily), but it sounds like how your employer has implemented it is problematic.

    Should they have reprimanded you? Probably not. Should they fix an issue with one person by overhauling the dress code? Probably not. But is it ok to require public-facing staff to adhere to different dress standards than non-public-facing staff? Yes, absolutely. It sounds like they overreacted, but it also doesn’t seem like the policy is unfair just because it’s applied unequally across different job categories.

    Reply
    1. Foreign Octopus

      +1 This.

      It’s like Alison often says. You don’t solve a problem by telling everyone to stop or change. You address the individual, and it would have been much better if they had just told OP that since they was working with clients then they needed to get their hair fixed.

      The issue of employers dictating hair colour and other things is another issue entirely though.

      Reply
  9. brushandfloss

    OP#3 – I can’t believe management told people to remain seated during a gas leaked especially since ConEd advice is to get out and call 911. Agreeing with that management handled this badly and following up with OSHA.

    OP#2- I guess it depends how deliberate the hair color looks. Its one thing to come to work with professional dyed purple or green hair and another to come to work with patchy orange hair from where the bleach didn’t strip out all the color.

    Reply
    1. Big Fat Meanie

      I kind of agree with you on the dyed hair. Sometimes it’s less about the color and more about the quality of the job, which can be done well at home if you know what you’re doing, and it’s possible for a professional stylist to screw up and make you look like a tiger when you ask for highlights.

      Reply
  10. Decimus

    #3: I am just astounded they didn’t evacuate. Con Ed (for example) specifically states “If the odor is strong, leave immediately and take others with you.” Leaks are incredibly dangerous. Your management sucks and you need to talk to your coworkers about organizing and making sure there’s an evacuation plan.

    Reply
    1. ClownBaby

      For real. My building evacuates within minutes of a gas leak. Last time one happened, I had to check my designated area to make sure there were no stragglers (our alarm can’t be heard in the bathroom so I always check those…though there are obnoxiously bright flashing lights)…imagine my surprise when I find an employee in the break room (where the alarms can clearly be heard) nonchalantly eating a slice of cake.

      Employee got written up for that blatant disregard of our safety policy. Employee safety is much more important than submitting that report within an hour…or in this case, eating cake.

      Reply
  11. KatyO

    1. Why are salaries public information? Typically these are only shared with the employee, their boss & HR. You have a system where you can see what everyone else makes. That is crazy to me.

    Reply
    1. Detached Elemental

      Yeah, I don’t understand it, either.

      Granted, I’m not in the USA and my country has different laws about salaries, etc.

      Reply
    2. Bea

      I’m the accounting department and human resource too. It sounds like they both are trained in payroll from the letter. Fergus updates the salary tracking spreadsheet. You notice when payroll jumps thousands of dollars the next payroll as well.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        I actually wonder if the LW should update their own salary as instructed. If the system tracks who make changes, might it look like they have given themselves an unauthorised raise?

        Reply
        1. Michaela T

          That’s actually what I thought of. Next we’ll get a letter from Fergus about how to handle a co-worker giving themselves a raise.

          Reply
        2. LW #1

          LW #1 here. My manager sent me an email authorizing the raise, which I put a paper copy of in my personnel file, so I’m all set there.

          Reply
          1. Gyrfalcon

            I’m glad you’re covered, LW.

            Your manager has a poor grasp of auditing and controls though if he *wants* an accounting system where someone can make changes benefiting themselves and no-one catches on. In a well-run system, such a change would be found pronto. It might be an authorized change, but it shouldn’t be possible to make such a change without someone else being aware of it.

            Reply
    3. sssssssssss

      That varies with the job/industry. When I was in private sector, it was exactly as you said, the employee, their boss and HR and if you are smart, you don’t share it with anyone (creates bad blood in the worst way).

      In some union shops, like where I am now, everyone’s salary is common knowledge and even published and sent out to all staff once a year. There are no merit raises, only those as outlined in the collective agreement. If you know someone’s job title, you know their salary.

      Reply
    4. Ash (the other one)

      In my workplace, where we have to write lots of proposals and each do budgets for those proposals there is a template with everyone’s rates readily available on the shared work drive. So yea, we all know each other’s salaries and frankly I think it makes things more fair in many ways

      Reply
    5. Falling Diphthong

      The salaries aren’t public; the person from whom they want to hide it works in the accounting department, amongst other things with a spreadsheet that states everyone’s pay. Which is why management is straight up bonkers. (Maaaaaybe if it was any other department, they would figure the employee wouldn’t tell their coworkers, but because it’s accounting they figure OP might conclude it will come out and pre-empt that, and so they thought they would pre-empt the pre-empt, not working through that the whole reason for it was that Fergus is the one person in the company likely to notice?)

      Reply
    6. Ainomiaka

      Sometimes they have to be public (government employee here). I would also say it’s generally a common good-women and minorities are more likely to be paid less in places where secrecy is a big deal.

      Reply
      1. SallytooShort

        Yeah, salary secrecy mostly benefits employers not employees. Employees may experience some awkwardness. But it’s the employers who don’t want people to be able to negotiate their pay based on what co-workers are making.

        Reply
      2. Marillenbaum

        Absolutely–one of the things that prompted me to look at public service over the private sector immediately after school was that as a Black woman, I wanted to reduce the chances of being lowballed based on salary history, so I wanted to begin my career in a workplace with clearly-defined pay scales.

        Reply
    7. Observer

      Aside from all of the things the others said, keep in mind that in the US it’s illegal for the boss to forbid someone from sharing their pay.

      Reply
    8. LCL

      Government employee. Our salaries were just posted in one of the regional newspapers. Not what a specific classification pays per hour, our total gross earnings identified by name. Our public disclosure law sucks.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Yeah, ours are like that too. I’m not that bothered, tbh, and it’s pretty illuminating just how much the high muckety-mucks are earning.

        Reply
      2. Ainomiaka

        Can I ask what you find so sucky about it? You’re free to tell me to fart off if you want, but I have been under the same laws for about 4 years and have found it both a null effect on my actual life and helpful when trying to negotiate salary. I’m just not bothered by it. But I guess I don’t have a lot of personal investment in financial secrecy -I’m willing to tell friends “I can’t afford x” or “I need to do x to save money” with no shame. Other people are almost certainly going to have different levels of that.

        Reply
  12. Sarah

    Those managers should be FIRED for telling them to stay put during a gas leak. That is dangerous. What if someone had died or there had been a pregnant woman there or serious injury?? That is pure negligence and playing with people’s lives.

    Reply
    1. sssssssssss

      I once sent home two pregnant women due to fumes from a paint or construction project so a gas leak should be a no brainer. Someone should talk to the JHSC. (health and safety committee).

      Years ago, a gas main was hit during construction. We were advised and the entire building was evacuated (there’s a whole other story there). But we weren’t a hospital. If she was considered not essential staff (i.e. a nurse, etc.) there oughta be a procedure to get out. I’m shocked they didn’t do so.

      Reply
    2. fposte

      As noted above, a pregnant woman isn’t going to be in any more danger than anybody else, because the problem with gas isn’t breathing it, it’s that it might explode.

      Reply
  13. Bea

    I can’t fathom telling any one to stay put during a gas leak. The whole place could explode, what the hell?! And worse, they treat their employees so badly they just put a scarf over their mouth and nose to continue working!!! What sort of barbaric company do you work for? I hope everyone finds new jobs and the place shuts down.

    Reply
  14. Akcipitrokulo

    Just checking there isn’t something I’m missing in translation… you mean a gas leak, like natural gas… stuff that you burn in boilers for heat and use in gas cookers?

    What were they thinking not evacuating?

    Reply
    1. Lissa

      Yeah I have to say that is what I would be most upset about here, not managers not showing empathy…. the deadly hazard they were just shrugging off!!

      Reply
  15. Oilpress

    #1 – The owner is being naive. Fergus will find out (probably immediately) and demand more money. Fergus may also spread word to coworkers that the OP received a large raise that perhaps no one else has received. That would put the OP in a tricky situation. If the raise was truly merit-based and reflective of greater responsibility being taken on then I think this is a small issue. If the raise came about due to perceived favoritism then this could trigger an ugly response.

    Reply
    1. Foreign Octopus

      It makes me curious why the owner is so against Fergus getting a raise as well?

      There are either employment issues (most likely) or discrimination issues (hopefully not) at foot.

      OP can judge if it’s the latter (in which case, turn over the table OP) but if it’s the former then the owner needs to sit down with Fergus and work on these issues instead of brushing them under the rug.

      Reply
      1. Anon anon anon

        Yeah. I think it’s short sighted of the boss since Fergus will find out. I think a better strategy would be to be transparent about it. If it’s related to performance, the boss should give Fergus some facts to support the raise and offer him the same raise if he performs at the same level. Otherwise it will come across as unfair.

        Reply
      2. Grits McGee

        I can think of a couple reasons that don’t involve performance issues

        1. Seniority/tenure plays a big role in salary and this raise would equalize or bring OP’s salary above Fergus’s, but owner doesn’t want to give another raise for pay hierarchy’s sake
        2. Owner is worried about retaining OP, proactively gives a big raise as an incentive to stay, but sort of takes Fergus for granted since he’s been with the company so long

        Reply
      3. LW #1

        LW #1 here. The owner is very conflict-averse and will often give into crazy demands just so he doesn’t have to deal with even a hint of anger. He’s not in the office often–the business has him on the road a lot–which probably helps with this. My guess is that the owner wants to keep this a secret because he knows he’ll give in to Fergus if he starts complaining.

        Also, I should be clear that there are no discrimination issues here. It’s all personality clashes.

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          So the potential for conflict here isn’t really between you and your coworker, but your boss and your coworker, right?

          Reply
          1. LW #1

            For the most part, yes. I mean, there’s always the potential for conflict when Fergus finds out and he reacts badly (although I doubt this will be the case. I wrote in mostly so I could get an outsider’s perspective that I wasn’t missing something that I should be doing in this situation.

            Reply
    2. Ainomiaka

      I so much agree that Fergus will find out eventually. Trying to make you responsible for the owner’s morale problems is not something OP can do. And secrecy is going to make it worse.

      Reply
      1. Ainomiaka

        To clarify the pronouns there-the OP cannot reasonably expect to be able to keep this secret forever. The owner cannot expect them to prevent morale problems.

        Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      I’m wondering if what’s actually going on here is that FERGUS for a much better raise and they don’t want OP to know .

      Reply
      1. SarahTheEntwife

        I suppose that could happen, but as the OP works with salary information as well, that seems like an even weirder dance around the issue than the current situation.

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          She mentions she has permission to use the salary software, but it seems like Fergus is the one who really knows everyone’s pay overall. Both scenarios are dumb, but the lie seems less dumb.

          Reply
          1. LW #1

            We both have access to all of the payroll data. If they were giving Fergus a raise (which they aren’t because the reason the owner doesn’t want it mentioned to him is because he doesn’t want Fergus to ask for one), I could see that information as well.

            Reply
    4. Jubilance

      Raises aren’t an “everyone gets one or no one does” thing. Raises are a reward for exceptional performance, and if Fergus is upset that he isn’t getting one, he should look at his own performance and make changes.

      Reply
    5. Natalie

      Fergus may also spread word to coworkers that the OP received a large raise that perhaps no one else has received.

      And if that did happen, Fergus would hopefully be fire immediately. You can’t have people in payroll that spread information about their coworkers pay checks.

      Reply
  16. Fae Kamen

    I understand that the advice in #1 was directed to the person not wishing to share their salary info, but I do wish that it had addressed the larger issue of pay secrecy. Even if the laws around this aren’t directly applicable in this case, it seems similar enough to mention.

    My understanding is that telling employees not to share pay info is illegal (and wrong) because it enables, masks, and encourages discrimination and exploitation, while making collective bargaining—to which workers have a right—virtually impossible. This doesn’t mean that the OP has to share their salary if they don’t want to, just that the boss shouldn’t be asking them not to.

    Personally, I would tend to encourage coworkers (particularly peers) to be open about pay if they’re comfortable doing so, for the sake of a more fair and transparent workplace and industry as a whole. If I recall correctly, that was how Google’s companywide gender pay gap first came to light (lawsuit dismissal notwithstanding.) There’s nothing to indicate anything like that is happening here, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good general practice.

    In this case, OP sees the secrecy ask as the boss “having their back,” when in fact, the boss has made it clear that it has nothing to do with protecting OP from an awkward conversation (or whatever OP fears might happen if Fergus finds out); he simply doesn’t want to pay Fergus as much. And he doesn’t have to—but he shouldn’t be putting the onus on Fergus’s peer to hide that decision. (Even if, in this case, it works out for OP.)

    Reply
    1. Julia

      I was actually wondering about this! I could swear that I read on here that prohibiting employees from talking about working conditions (and I assume that includes salary?) was illegal?

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yes (with some exceptions). More here:
        https://www.askamanager.org/2016/05/my-company-wants-to-stop-me-from-discussing-my-salary-with-coworkers.html

        In this case, it doesn’t sound to me like the OP’s boss was so much prohibiting her from discussing it with Fergus as he was just saying that he didn’t want to call Fergus’s attention to it and so the OP should enter it in the payroll software herself, and that if Fergus asked about it, the OP could suggest he talk to the boss rather than feeling like she had to explain/defend it to him. (If I’m wrong and it was more like “you cannot discuss this with Fergus, period,” that would be different.)

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          Eh, the owner made it very clear he doesn’t want Fergus to find out and expects Fergus won’t.

          And I’m still suspicious that what’s actually going on here is that they don’t want the OP to know how much she gets paid relative to Fergus. There’s no logical reason for them to expect he will never know – as the OP says, that’s pretty much impossible.

          But keeping the OP from telling Fergus is an *excellent* way to avoid her learning that 1) she’s been woefully underpaid and the raise was to catch her up to Fergus, or 2) she’s still making way less than he is. (These are real-life examples, btw)

          Reply
          1. Observer

            Not really – the OP sees the payroll software – there is no way that a person with the ability to make changes in the pay rate in the software can’t see people’s rates.

            Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              She has permission to access the software, but from the description she gave Fergus is the one with the spreadsheet.

              Reply
    2. sssssssssss

      If only it could be that easy: share your salary, be open, be fair and transparent.

      I stumbled upon a coworker’s salary, years ago – she made a significantly higher income that I for the same job, same responsibilities and this was during a time when a BA meant something, she had much less education and I was fixing her mistakes. I was quite upset and before then, ignorance had been bliss.

      I now work in a union shop – all salaries are known. And there’s a part of me that chafes at the fact that a 22-year-old with much less experience than this 48-year-old is making the exact same salary since we are at the same job classification (but the tasks vary widely by department). So, it’s transparent but annoying (I try to not think about this as it’s not helpful!). And with collective bargaining, I know that the person in the other corner, same job classification but with the reputation of being a d0-nothing, will get the same raise as all of us and those of us who work hard and are recognized for it don’t get anything extra, as we might with private sector. Collective agreement controls everything so extra time off or vacation days is not an option for a reward either. A promotion is also not a possibility in my location as all jobs are awarded by seniority (in theory), not by skill/ambition.

      Reply
    3. Lehigh

      For this very reason (the skeeviness of employee salaries being secret) I feel like OP #1 is in some ways in an ideal position. They can comply with management’s request without feeling like they are betraying or undercutting their coworker, because they know that their coworker will find out on their own. Coworker can address the discrepancy with management, and OP gets to officially stay out of it.

      Obviously this is not management’s intent (as they seem to think the coworker will not notice), but that’s what it works out to.

      Reply
  17. Artemesia

    #1 is a classic case of ‘not your problem.’ No one needs to justify their salary to a co-worker. Any question about salary should be directed back to the manager who sets salaries.

    Reply
      1. Lehigh

        Right, but then OP can say, “Well, they asked me not to discuss it but I knew you’d see it. You may want to talk to boss about it.”

        Reply
  18. Vert

    #1: I say this knowing I’ve been working in a toxic workplace for a long time, but … make sure you get this request to increase your own pay rate in writing.

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      I think that’s good practice for anyone in any workplace. Better practice would be for someone else to make the change.

      Reply
  19. Beaded Librarian

    OP #2 I’m sorry you have to deal with both a reprimand when it was not in the dress code at the time and inconsistent enforcement of the amended dress code.

    I’ve had my hair various shades of purple/pink for just over a year now and have had nothing but compliments, many of them very enthusiastic on the color to my face. Granted at least one person complained to my director but thankfully she had my back and explained that it is not against the dress code and it honestly makes certain patrons even more comfortable approaching me for help. My understanding is this same person also complained about my habit of wearing maxi skirts with bright patterns and funky mismatched knee high socks and that was defended as well as many people have told me and others how much they find my slightly quirky style refreshing.

    If it matters I work in a public library and often interact with the public.

    Reply
      1. Beaded Librarian

        Thanks! I think some people really do make a bee like for me when they notice me.

        One thing that cracks me up is the number of older men who compliment me on my socks when they notice them. I think part of it is it doesn’t see as weird for a guy to tell me nice socks versus complimenting me on something else.

        Reply
        1. rudster

          That’s because we’re always losing one of our socks! My basic rule is that “close enough to pass a cursory look” is good enough for a match, so I’m always wearing one navy and one black sock or two navy socks with different patterns, etc., because I can’t be troubled to look the twin. It drives my wife nuts, but fortunately she rarely notices. It’s just nice to get some validation for the belief that matching socks are highly overrated.

          Reply
          1. MoodyMoody

            My husband only wants black socks for exactly that reason. He doesn’t need to be too picky about matching them that way.

            Reply
            1. The Other Dawn

              90% of my husband’s socks are black. When I look at all the black socks thrown on the bed after laundry, I see black socks. Some are a different length, sure, but other than that they all look the same (to me). But somehow he knows that this black sock goes with that black sock. I guess he looks at the seam, or material thickness, or just magically knows. I don’t know.

              Reply
              1. The Other Dawn

                Meant to add (hit Submit too soon) that if he has two black socks that look exactly the same other than maybe the seam, he won’t wear them. This from a guy who can’t be bothered to wear anything other than jeans (mostly presentable), plain Fruit of the Loom multi-pack t-shirts and Army combat boots. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I always have to laugh about the sock thing because it just seems to be totally opposite of how he presents himself.

                Reply
              2. Elizabeth H.

                Ha! This is so me. All my gym socks match but it even bothers me to wear pairs that are differently worn (like one is very worn out, one is new) or are from different years so the fabric is slightly different even though cut is the same. My boyfriend has exclusively beige work socks or white sweat socks and I am always trying to match the beige pairs appropriately.

                Reply
      2. Ramona Flowers

        When I had blue dreadlocks, I got one job purely because of them. I also didn’t get other jobs because of them.

        Reply
    1. Former Hoosier

      I used to work for a non profit and members of the board of directors who report back to the Executive Director about how an employee was dressed in off hours which was highly inappropriate. The ED did defend employees in those instances but otherwise she was very controlling about how people dressed. She would tell me exactly what to wear sometimes. She knew my wardrobe.

      It was a small town

      Reply
    2. Beaded Librarian

      I just want to follow up to my earlier comment.
      I told my director about this letter in the context of appreciating how she supports my fashion choices and she was horrified that the OP was reprimanded for something that was not currently in the dress code AND that the new dress code was being inconsistently applied. She told me that IF they were going to have different standards for customer facing people and behind the scenes people that they would have to make sure that the dress code spelled it out EXPLICITLY for who it applied to and how.

      She personally felt that it was very illegal not just unfair but that in no way makes her correct.

      Reply
        1. Beaded Librarian

          Good to know, I figured her opinion was not accurate but it was based on a very brief description of the issue that I may missed relevant information on. I have to say that her feeling that way while not being correct from a legal stand point makes me VERY happy she is my director.

          Reply
    3. Ealasaid

      Noice! I dye my hair bright green and have for about four years now. I found my current job while green-haired, and when that contract ends I will be hunting again with green hair. I got compliments at each interview I did during my last jobhunt, so I’m pretty confident it’s not holding me back. However, I work in tech and live in Portland, OR, so… that probably has something to do with it. :)

      Reply
      1. Beaded Librarian

        Nice on the green, I considered doing that but got talked out of it by several relatives who either have done it or are hair dressers due to the high maintenance requirements to keep the color from looking REALLY weird.

        Not planning on job hunting any time soon and I may decide to go back to dyeing it red again by the time it comes up, but I will admit depending on the area I look for a new job it *might* be an issue, but probably not. It’s becoming more and more common for librarians and related staff to have offbeat hair.

        Reply
  20. Antti

    OP3: I would seriously consider filing a work comp claim if you had to go to the doctor after that episode. That certainly sounds like something your employer could be liable form, and thus your employer’s insurer should be covering any medical costs that you incur from that. I’m sorry, that certainly didn’t sound like a pleasant experience, and I certainly agree that your employer sounds like they’re rather callous in how they handled it.

    Reply
  21. Foreign Octopus

    #5 I’d go ahead an quit. Depending on the type of industry you work in, they might actually have more people around during the busy season. When I worked in retail, there were always extra staff to pick up the slack and if I’d quit then someone else would have taken my job as soon as.

    You do you, OP, and good luck.

    Reply
    1. Fortitude Jones

      Even if they don’t, that’s not the OP’s problem. For example, I recently left a position as a property claims adjuster at the tail end of hurricane season (right after Maria) and right when the California wildfires began. We were treading water prior to the hurricanes and management knew this, yet they didn’t hire anyone to assist, not even on a part-time or temp basis, knowing there was a strong possibility Harvey was coming.

      Then it did. As did Irma, Maria, and now these fires. We were still drowning under the hurricane claims when I got offered my new position in a totally unrelated field, and I took it and gave my two weeks. Did I feel sorry for the coworkers who were now going to have to handle my 100+ claim load on top of the 100+ claims they were already handling? Yes, briefly. But if any of them are upset, they should be upset at management for dragging their damn feet when it came to hiring new adjusters (they had lost four other people before the hurricanes hit, then my supervisor quit in October). Also, I told them back in June that I was leaving eventually (my supervisor knew since last December), so they should have had a plan in place for when I did eventually leave. They didn’t, so that’s on them. I won’t lose sleep over their poor planning.

      Reply
      1. K.

        Agreed. I’m pretty sure I remember my accountant losing a person (he owns a small firm with a staff of maybe 15) right before tax season. He describes the person as a good kid (it was his first job out of school; he left after a few years for a bigger company) and they’re still in touch. He made it work because that’s part of what he’s paid to do. OP, give the notice your company deserves, move on, and try to feel good about it.

        Reply
        1. DaniCalifornia

          Your comment gives me hope. I work for a CPA and am interviewing and could potentially leave right before tax season starts and I feel awful! But it’s a much needed move away from a job that is becoming more toxic by the month.

          If nothing comes up by end of January though, I do not think I’d leave my company. I’m not a CPA but an admin and we do a lot of the heavy lifting. I’d feel bad leaving in February.

          Reply
  22. Myrin

    OP #1, I want to echo other commenters that on a general level, this is really not your problem. You didn’t authorise your own raise or tried to convince your boss to cancel plans for Fergus’s future raise or something like that – this is squarely on the people who have authority over the both of you.

    However, I can understand why you’d find the situation stressful or weird or annoying. And I have to say, I’m side-eyeing your manager a little, here – why on earth does he seem so afraid of Fergus finding out about your raise? And yet he has your back in telling you to immediately send Fergus to him should something arise, which seems reasonable and exactly not like someone who’d rather foist the problem off on someone else. I’m super confused by this; my best guess is that he’s viewing this as a kind of “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it” thing where he hopes it will be some time yet until you come to that bridge (which, from what you’ve said about your setup, seems unrealistic, but whatever).

    But in any case, presumably management has good reasons for giving you a raise, let alone one this substantial, and for not giving one to Fergus. That means that, when the situation arises, they’ll be able to explain to Fergus just that. If he’s grumpy about that, again, not your problem (although, again, I can understand that you may fear that this could sour your work relationship if Fergus is unreasonable). I’m actually somewhat surprised that management talked to you about this “secret mission” thing anyway because, I mean, did they think you’d come bounding up to Fergus as soon as you found out about the raise to tell him all about it? But even if that’d happen, as I said, they probably have good reason to justify their decision so, huh?

    All that is to say, OP, really, don’t stress about it. Do what you’d do if you hadn’t had that talk with your manager, don’t beat yourself up if you do happen to talk about the raise, don’t panic or feel bad when Fergus inevitably finds out down the road. This is squarely on your manager.

    Reply
    1. LW #1

      Thanks for your kind words! In my head, I know that it’s not my problem, but that isn’t preventing me from worrying about it!

      I should clarify that the owner who authorized the raise and the manager who spoke to me about it are two different people. The owner is the one who thinks Fergus won’t find out. The manager realizes Fergus will find out eventually and told me to have Fergus speak to him when he does.

      Reply
      1. Ainomiaka

        Oh, good to hear your manager at least has some reasonable ideas about how this will play out. And in that case, asking you not to announce it seems much less out there. Can they talk to the owner in that case?

        Reply
  23. Susan

    For #1 I feel like this is the manager shirking responsibility on addressing issues Fergus may have. There surely is a reason only the OP is getting a raise (and a substantial one at that) and he isn’t?

    (Of course it could just be favouritism and if so hopefully it isn’t based on a legally protected category.)

    Reply
  24. Concerned Citizen

    Okay, I have never commented before, but —

    #3 is the most jaw-dropping thing I have read. And I have gone through the entire archive.

    I don’t think there is even anything legal on the books about this because NOBODY WOULD BE CRAZY ENOUGH TO NOT EVACUATE DURING A GAS LEAK.

    I mean, gas leaks are dangerous enough that here is some of the advice given while evacuating:

    * don’t use a mobile phone

    * don’t flick a light switch

    * don’t use the elevators

    There are some people freaking out upthread already, but I feel like they are *NOT FREAKING OUT ENOUGH*. This is seriously one of the worst workplace stories I have ever read and I hope the people responsible are fired instantly.

    Reply
    1. Concerned Citizen

      Here are the Con Ed guidelines, just to note:

      If the odor is strong, leave immediately and take others with you.
      If you are outside, leave the area immediately.
      Don’t light a match or smoke, turn appliances or lights on or off (including flashlights), use a telephone, or start a car. Doing so can produce sparks that might cause the gas to explode.
      Find a phone away from the area and call 911 or 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633). You can report leaks anonymously.
      Don’t assume someone else will report it.
      National Grid customers should call 1-718-643-4050.
      Follow directions from emergency responders who are on site.

      Reply
        1. Texan at Heart

          And they’re really intense about it when you call, because it is so dangerous. OP: for reference, we had a small gas leak in our school. We evacuated immediately, and walked several blocks to another school where we dismissed the children. A teacher who felt ill from being sick with another illness was sent to the ER via ambulance, and we were not to enter the building for any reason until professionals determined it was safe. This is how these things are supposed to be handled. Honestly, you have every right to be mad and take action (go to leadership with your colleagues, talk to the union if you have one, work together to make a plan and share it with leadership). Your life matters more than your job. If you have others you’re responsible for, include them in your plan. Good luck OP. I hope you feel better!

          Reply
    2. Lilo

      The idea that people were using scarves makes no sense either. It isn’t like smoke where you are keeping particulates out. Gas molecules will go through a scarf just the same.

      Reply
    3. Natalie

      I’m fairly certain modern mobile phones can’t make a spark. They’re all solid state with basically no moving parts.

      Reply
    4. Dorothy

      I reached out to the president of the hospital but didn’t get into details because he immediately asked his secretary to set up a time and date for us to speak!

      Thanks.

      Reply
  25. BananaRama

    #5 I’ve quit right at the peak of busy season. I had a full time job and a part time job and was very up front about the full time job had to come first. The holiday season started and the part time job started ramping up my hours, to include times that I knew I was never going to be able to meet. I spoke to my manager about the situation and said I could not work nearly 40 hours when I was already working 40-50 hours with my full time job. I was youngish, in my 20s, and many of my coworkers were still in college, they might have truly believed I had no other obligations. My manager wouldn’t budge on my hours or negotiate. I quit on the spot, 30 minutes into my shift. I have not once felt bad about it.

    Reply
  26. Trout 'Waver

    In regards to #1, this kind of thing drives me up the wall. If Fergus doesn’t deserve a raise, the manager should be able to have that conversation with him. If Fergus does deserve a raise, then the manager shouldn’t be playing games to try to hide the fact that he’s underpaid from him. Either way, the manager is not doing his job.

    Reply
    1. Colette

      It sounds like the manager is willing to have that conversation – she’s just not having it now, since it would require her to get together with Fergus and say “I just wanted to let you know you’re not getting a raise” or “OP is getting a raise and you’re not”, both of which would be an odd thing to say out of the blue. If Fergus finds out about the raise and asks, she will have the conversation then.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        There’s nothing at all odd about sitting down with Fergus for a year-end meeting to explain he will not be getting a raise because of X and Y. They don’t need to discuss the OP at all.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          He might be getting a raise – we don’t know – and the manager could certainly have that conversation, but that doesn’t mean he won’t still have questions when he finds out the OP got a lot more.

          Reply
      2. Trout 'Waver

        That’s not the case in this situation. The OP specifically says:

        Owner doesn’t want Fergus to know about my raise because he’s afraid that Fergus will also ask for a raise.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          Sure, but that doesn’t mean the owner isn’t willing to have the conversation if/when Fergus finds out or even that he’s not getting a smaller raise now. It would be odd for her to proactively tell him about someone else’s raise, or to stop by and bring it up outside of any other discussion.

          Reply
          1. tigerlily

            Right. This wouldn’t be any kind of issue with any other department. Literally the only reason OP’s boss is having this precaution conversation with OP is because Fergus has access to the payroll spreadsheet. This would not come up for basically any other department.

            Reply
  27. Nyc12345

    Our utility company Con Ed says if you smell gas, get out and call 911 asap. in NYC buildings have exploded due to gas leaks.

    I would recommend researching what your utility company says and take to HR. By not leaving the building everyone including clients are at risk. You should also report your symptoms in case you need workers comp.

    Reply
  28. ToxicityRefugee

    OP #3 that sounds really scary and I’m sorry your managers weren’t more sympathetic.

    I’m commenting as there seems to be a LOT of confusion about gas leaks. Carbon monoxide is deadly but odourless, so since the OP refers to a smell we can assume it wasn’t carbon monoxide.

    Natural gas is has smell agents deliberately added to it (so you can tell if there’s a leak) and is dangerous because it can explode but is NOT toxic and wouldn’t cause vomiting or light headedness. Unless the OP works somewhere where there are other toxic gases that could leak the likelihood is her symptoms were because she was (genuinely and understandably) afraid rather than being poisoned by the gas.

    I agree the staff should have been evacuated because of the explosion risk (assuming natural gas) and the management should have been more sympathetic to her understandable reaction.

    Reply
    1. whosthat

      I politely beg to differ. Gas leaks change the amount of oxygen available and a lack of oxygen could definitely cause lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting,

      Reply
      1. fposte

        It’s possible, but it generally has to be a very large amount of gas for it to displace a significant amount of oxygen; usually that would mean being an in enclosed space with a significant leak.

        Reply
        1. ToxicityRefugee

          What fposte said. Unless the OP was in an unusually sealed and confined environment rather than a normal office or hospital workspace its very very unlikely that there was enough gas to impair her oxygen intake.

          Reply
  29. Jam Today

    I don’t even know how to respond to the gas leak letter. She was experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning — which is frequently fatal. Leaving aside the possibility of an actual *explosion*, everyone in that room building was in the process of becoming hypoxic.

    I would be on the phone to OSHA, my attorney, the state’s Attorney General’s office, and the local news so fast people wouldn’t know what hit them. Imagine the blowback if “Hospital Refuses to Evacuate During Gas Leak” showed up as the top headline on the 6pm news?

    Reply
    1. London_Engineer

      But (as pointed out by several people above ) CO doesn’t have a smell. It sounds like this was natural gas (or rather the stuff they add to make it smell) which is dangerous due to the risk of ignition and explosion but shouldn’t cause those symptoms. They are a perfectly understandable result of a panic attack but unless there is more I don’t think most of what you are saying here applies.

      Reply
    2. ToxicityRefugee

      CO doesn’t smell or explode and CO release isn’t caused by a gas leak (it’s caused by incomplete combustion). Based on the information in the letter it’s highly unlikely the OP had CO poisoning.

      Reply
  30. KAZ2Y5

    OP #3, I would recommend you call OSHA and report this. I was googling on my phone and found quite a few cases where companies had violations again them including not evacuating during a gas leak. I am amazed that any place connected with a hospital has no evacuation plans. Hope you are feeling better!

    Reply
  31. Roscoe

    #2 I completely agree with Alison. Having different standards for client facing and non client facing roles makes total sense. Yes, it was written poorly, but no its not unfair. Having been on both sides of this, there are definitely differences that should be accounted for. I suppose you could bring up the wording of the rule. But frankly it would just come across as a bit petty.

    #4 Yeah, department specific holiday parties are like this. Its tough because if you are a department of 1, or just a very small one, its possible that you won’t get one. My guess though is that its not as malicious as you are thinking. Not saying it sucks any less. Maybe you could talk to your office manager (or someone higher up) about possibly having an office wide celebratrion of some kind, so no one is left out. Then if the departments still want to have their own, they can.

    Reply
    1. I am Number Four

      I don’t have a department of one, though. The department I should be in is about 50+ people, the one my paycheck comes through is 20+. We have office-wide celebrations after the holidays are over.

      Reply
      1. Former Hoosier

        I am really sorry. It does seem that the company isn’t concerned about including you and that must feel awful. I am so sorry.

        Reply
  32. Anon-mama

    OP #3, I am so sorry you had to experience that. You mention you work *for a* hospital. If that means your department (with its desks) doesn’t work with patients but shares the gas line with the other areas that do, and the mobile patients weren’t evacuated, then that’s something I feel should be reported publicly–it’s such a severe comprimising of care. But, if you are like many of the hospitals in my big city area, to me it sounds like you could work for a non-patient care department in a building completely separate from the ER or at least with separate utilities. And if that is the case, then I feel like it should be brought up the chain that you all be exempt from any “no walking off the floor during a shift” rule (as people above mentioned some hospitals having). Further, I agree with the recommendation upthread about filing workman’s comp for any follow-up medical care related to this incident, as well as reporting to OSHA. None of what happened was okay, and if I was your coworker, I’d be researching all I could to get a better safety plan in place. And if I was your manager, I would follow up with my team about why we were told to stay in the building or just outside and the steps I am taking to make sure there are more appropriate safety plans for any number of emergencies. But since it sounds like your manager is not that kind of person, I wonder if you can ask those questions. I hope this incident is being seriously reviewed and there will be a satisfactory response for addressing issues in the future.

    Reply
  33. Clerking 9 to 5

    I am just leaving for work where I am going to hand in my resignation letter… during a busy period. I can’t tell you how badly I needed to read #5 today, even though I know my guilt is illogical. It’s just hard to feel like you’re inconveniencing or disappointing people you like and respect but I think your only responsibility is to try and be considerate and helpful during your notice period.

    Reply
    1. Former Hoosier

      It is an inconvenience and sometimes disappointing when someone leaves. But that is the way work life is. People quit even really good ones. Life interferes. People leave at busy times. And while it can be frustrating as a manager, these things happen. Good managers understand this and don’t take it out on employees or hold it against them.

      Reply
      1. Clerking 9 to 5

        I cried a little when I told my boss, partly because he was so nice about it. He’s obviously disappointed that I’m going, particularly at a busy time, but he told me I should be excited about my new job rather than feeling guilty for leaving. They were very, very good to me when I first started (my dad was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks after I started) and I like the people so much but the stress was just unbearable and I needed to go. I’m going to mitigate my guilt by working very hard for them during my last few weeks and making sure I help as much as I can.

        Reply
        1. CJMster

          I love your attitude — and your boss’s too! Congratulations on the new job, and I hope your last few weeks of hard work at your current job leave you feeling proud, not guilty.

          Reply
  34. CR

    I’m in the same shoes as #5 – I just gave my notice last week and it’s a terrible time to leave (department is chronically understaffed) but it is what it is. I don’t feel guilty because my leaving is a symptom of how badly the department has been managed and maybe it’s a wake up call to the higher ups.

    Reply
  35. Murphy

    I think I was left out because nobody quite knows what department I actually belong to.

    #4, I feel your pain! I’m a team of one. As part of a restructuring, my old boss took on a new position in the office, and I absorbed some of her duties, and there was a month or two where I actually didn’t have a boss because they didn’t know where to stick me. Last year, there was a breakfast on the last day of work before Christmas and I was the only one in the office not invited, I think because people spread the word among their teams…and I’m not on a team!

    I do think it’s worth mentioning, since it’s happening to quite a few people and not just you.

    Reply
    1. I am Number Four

      I have a boss, but my boss works in a different building. In fact, my boss’s department is split over four buildings on site and some others work offsite.

      Reply
    2. SophieChotek

      Yes, I agree with you and Alison – since it is worth mentioning because others are also experiencing it. So often in these situation it seems like being left out is not intentional, but “everyone” assumes that because they know about the party “everyone” else does too.

      Reply
  36. Candi

    Gas leak: Your bosses need a whack upside the head to remind them of both empathy and common sense. And not staying in the building during a gas leak is common sense! Their behavior was disgusting, and I think this should be reported to OSHA or whoever.

    Hope you’re feeling better.

    Reply
  37. Lily Rowan

    Re #2, my job has some weirdness around dress code, but they are super clear about different rules for different roles. It basically says, some jobs have to be super conservative some of the time. If you are in one of those roles, when you suit up, you have to have no visible tattoos, natural colored hair, and only one piercing in each ear. Otherwise, you do you.

    Reply
  38. I am Number Four

    Thanks to Alison for answering me.

    It was brought up that I should be invited to the get together with the department I work most closely, but I was told no because I “wasn’t part of that department” even though their budget pays my paychecks. So I will assume ill intent on their part. The department I am supposed to be with likely has no idea that I’m supposed to be with them because we don’t occupy the same physical space. Space is at a premium where I work and we’re basically just given any open office no matter if it makes sense or not (although I am thankful to have an office and not a cubicle, so I am not complaining about that).

    Reply
    1. Foreign Octopus

      If you’re going to be the only one in the office while this party takes place, I say put your feet up and enjoy the peace and quiet.

      Reply
      1. I am Number Four

        I will likely leave the premises for part of that time. Or just play music very loudly and have a dance party.

        Reply
      1. Murphy

        I know, right? They couldn’t handle one more person even though they work with them and pay them out of their budget?

        Reply
    2. Tap Tap Jazz

      I’m sorry your company is being jerky, but hot DANG way to rock being the fourth letter into a cool reference!

      Reply
    3. ss

      I would have asked them outright when they said “no” to tell you what department you did belong to and tell them that their budget pays for you so it is your understanding that you are part of their department.

      Reply
  39. Persephone Mulberry

    #5: Quick story about leaving a job at crunch time: My coworker was the point person on a major, MAJOR company-wide-impacting project that had been in the works for over a year, and she gave her notice…two weeks before launch day. Her last day was the day before we launched. As soon as she gave her notice, management sat down with the project team and was like “so, anybody really want to step up?” and I said “Sure!” And let me tell you…I killed it. I had been doing quality work on my particular channel of the project, but I got the chance to prove that I know how to LEAD a project, problem solve on the fly, delegate, etc etc etc. I got a fat raise AND a bonus and more interesting work for the rest of my time at that company.

    Reply
  40. Goya

    Being ordered to stay put during a gas leak sounds like a BIG OSHA deal to me. I would definitely report that one. Gas leaks are no joke to be messing around with. It’s why they came up with campaigns like “Diggers Hotline – call before you dig”. You’re also not supposed to be utilizing electrical items during a gas leak – which I assume are a given in a hospital zone. Topped with the use of oxygen in a hospital….they place is just begging for law suits!

    Reply
  41. Detective Amy Santiago

    Thank you for writing in #5! I am in a similar position right now and have been worrying about the same thing.

    Reply
  42. Adlib

    #2 – I am just adding to Alison’s statement about “fantasy” hair colors. They are becoming more normal. I have purple highlights, and while I get compliments all the time, nobody at work even blinks an eye. (I’m a systems person though so not client facing at all.)

    #4 – I hope you can find a solution that includes everyone! I sit in a branch location where none of my actual team members are, yet the branch includes me and many other departments in their celebrations.

    Reply
  43. Tap Tap Jazz

    LW #3 I work downwind of a gas utility company. We receive detailed e-mails from our property manager about when the gas company is doing testing/draining (they call it a “blowdown” but I don’t really understand the details), when we can expect to notice a slight odor of gas, and when it will end. Outside of those times, we would GTFO.

    One incident might be blamed on lack of safety preparedness, but if your company don’t react to this incident by thoroughly vetting their emergency procedures…you need a new place to work.

    Reply
  44. MCM

    2. Shouldn’t our policy on hair color apply to everyone?
    I tried to highlight my hair once, and I got orange blotches. It cost nearly $200.oo to clean that mess up, but I had to wait until payday. What would they have done if you had to wait until payday to get this corrected, or if you did not have the funds? I was lucky; my employer knew I was quite upset about its appearance. If I had walked in with pink or blue hair, they would have been said since I was one of the few individuals that worked with the vendors.
    3. I got sick during a gas leak, and my manager didn’t seem to care
    OP, not much can be said that has not been by the other commenters. The way they handled it sucked. I pulled this information off the OSHA website. I think you should report your employer. Did you file an accident report or workman’s comp? You need to cover yourself if you have further medical issues associated with this incidence. Not sure if it would be applicable. But they are responsible for any medical expenses occurred by yourself & others that worked under this situation. I looked this up.
    Have worked with employers in the past where gas or other chemicals got into the air. Once they shut the building down for an hour while they ventilated it, the other time since the spill happened outside the ventilation system. They shut down the air-ventilation system. I work at a University and they take air safety seriously. You smell something odd, you call either security or the safety office; than they do an air quality test.
    https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/anestheticgases/
    Call OSHA to report emergencies, unsafe working conditions, safety and health violations, to file a complaint, or to ask safety and health questions. 800-321-6742 (OSHA)
    Hydrogen Sulfide : OSHA Quick Card

    Reply
  45. johanna

    Hi,
    I ‘ve also been left out at my office parties. I work as a receptionist/secretary and I’m also the CEO ‘s assistant,I’ve been at the company for three years and have never been included.I know I’m in a weird position because I don’t belong to any departament although I’m the only receptionist/secretary for the company.I like my job but sometimes I feel invisible,around the holidays I feel sad when everybody is having fun and food but I am alone at my desk.
    No one seems to care,even HR.
    It was secretary’s day last week in my country (Chile,SA) and I didn’t get anything again (no cards, flowers,etc)
    around this time of the year I hate my job hahahha.
    (English is not my first laguage,sorry for the grammar mistakes).

    Reply
    1. Clerking 9 to 5

      Same here, I don’t formally have a department (I’ve only ever worked in the admin office though) and am a part-timer so I’ve never been included as part of the gang. Today they did the admin office secret Santa and didn’t include me for the third year running so it was kind of awkward being in the office when they were all picking names and giggling. It’s hard feeling left out.

      Reply
  46. ThatGirl

    Re: quitting during busy season.

    This is our busy season. We won’t be caught up until January. And of course people are taking time off and we’re closed for Christmas and all of that.

    I work on a small team and we just had a woman leave on Friday. It sucks. We’ll be even further behind now. And the position may not get re-filled; if it does it won’t be till late winter/early spring. But she had to do what was best for her, and we all get it and wish her well. And the same goes for anyone else.

    Reply
    1. Former Hoosier

      It isn’t our busy season but coverage is harder over the holidays. We had one employee leave because she was moving out of state (and had told us it was likely several weeks before she resigned) and one employee was terminated after two no shows. Anyway, these things happen. It is making a coverage a problem but life happens. Employees quit.

      Reply
  47. KellyK

    For OP #2, I think that where they were unreasonable was not so much the policy itself, or applying it differently to different job categories, but *reprimanding* you for something that was unintentional and actually rewriting policy based on that accident. I can see a reprimand if you flagrantly disregard the dress code, but hair dye accidents happen. They might still have needed to require that you get it fixed before meeting with clients. (Ideally, they’d give you some leeway there, but if it was really a problem, that might not be possible.)

    Reply
  48. Sarianna

    LW#5, do what YOU need! If your soon-to-be-former workplace doesn’t retain sufficient staff to cover for vacations, leaves, and resignations, that’s on them and their poor planning. Life happens, plans change, and inconvenient changes are survived. They might be frustrated with the situation, but not necessarily with you. And even if they are, they can’t legally do much about it except tell you they don’t need you to work the rest of your notice period, AFAIK.

    Story time with Sari: I was once a lead cashier for a store that had a major sales event on one weekend (not Black Friday, but a different ‘season’). I’d worked there for two years, and was one of only two cashiers who were able to process returns. I was going back to school, which my managers knew, and the same day I secured a work-study job, I gave my notice. Which happened to be two weeks before the Friday of Big Weekend. The general manager pulled me into her office, along with one of the other two managers, and told me she’d give me a bad reference if I didn’t agree to work the Big Weekend. Which is retaliation, and illegal. I ended up in touch with corporate HR, and having a witness in the other manager was a huge help. The GM was demoted out of management and transferred to another location. I loved my new work-study job and eventually went into a related field for my career. I did continue to shop at the store until the company went out of business, and my former coworkers were absolutely gleeful that the awful GM was gone, because she had treated everyone poorly anyway. Happy endings all around!

    Reply
  49. ss

    It seems like you should be able to report an OSHA violation that you were ordered to remain working in a building with a gas leak.

    Reply
  50. jk

    #3 please report your company to the local authorities.

    It’s common knowledge that buildings must be evacuated during gas leaks. Not just due to the risk of explosion, but because of the risk of DEATH. Gas reduces oxygen in the air which means you can faint, get dizzy, puke, develop a headache or have breathing difficulties. My country (UK) does PSAs about this and we all know to get out so we don’t become ill or cause an explosion.

    It’s possible that where you were sitting was not well ventilated so it impacted you more. Air flows differently in different places in a building.

    The office should have evacuated and closed for the remainder of the day. Then had authorities test the building for safety before you return.

    Reply
    1. Dorothy

      What’s even crazier is that it was said they cleaned the leak firefighters came and cleared everyone to go back to work.

      Thanks.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Hmm. That *could* be okay, depending on what actually was done with the leak; if it was just a small amount and was dissipating safely a return could be okay. But usually it’s the utility company that can really measure the gas and say if it’s safe to return–maybe this is a case where firefighters had similar instruments?

        Reply
        1. Dorothy

          In all reality I don’t really know what happened. I was on the 19th floor and supposedly the gas leak started on the 4th and went through the vents. Again, I’m not sure where it started I saw multiple building workers on my floor walking around looking for the start of the smell before I ran to the bathroom and they asked if everyone was ok. No one really knows but it didn’t smell bad yesterday.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            If the smell is gone, that’s a pretty good sign. But it sounds like the all-clear wasn’t given much more thought than the initial response.

            Reply
  51. Data Miner

    To the Busy Season OP: if you’re in public accounting, I will say from experience that some companies are more thoughtful about who they hire in December. I’m in private accounting and we have postponed our candidate search because of busy season and not wanting the type of person who would leave public at this time. However, I’ve had colleagues who left public in January and clearly those private companies didn’t have an issue (since they hired the person), and the work in public still got done. You may, however, burn your bridge at public but there’s still ways of getting references later on. So if you get an offer, I’d say take it but bow out of public quietly (the partner’s don’t want a domino effect right now). Good luck!

    Reply
  52. Nonsenical

    On the gas leak, the only comment I had is I am not sure what the OP expected the boss to reply to if she was feeling sick the next day. In my experience, bosses aren’t going to tell you to take the day off or order you to, you have to make that decision. The whole situation is bad but next time I would’ve left and called the fire brigade/911 myself. You do not have to stay in unsafe situations.

    Reply
    1. Dorothy

      Point made. You live and you learn. I just expected them to call for help when I was going through what I was going through. No one there was a real nurse and the clinical nurse manager that I did meet for the 1st time that day went and looked for my supervisor and just asked me multiple times if I was ok. Not that I expected her to give me mouth to mouth but clearly they could’ve done things differently that day. As far as the next day I figured if I slept it off I’d be ok due to my lack of knowledge on gas leak in which now thanks to everyone who commented I have more knowledge about when I woke up I felt sore on the insides but when I got on the train it hit me a lil harder and that’s when I text her. While I was in route to work. I tried to be as direct as possible (sorry I wasn’t more specific about the time frame I text my supervisor the next day) with hopes that most would understand certain workplaces. Some will get it while others won’t and that’s fair but again I needed help that day and wasn’t given any nor did anyone follow us at the place I go to everyday. The place I’m at more than I am at home. The place that I spend most of my time with people I’m in no relation to and my health was of no concern to my management. That’s my point. I asked for professional advice on what a manager would do but expected the world to openly answer. I’m not blaming my supervisor I’m blaming MANAGEMENT.

      Reply
      1. Dankar

        I get where you’re coming from, and what they did to you and your coworkers was terrible, but I think you’re looking for more validation from management than you would typically get.

        Management messed up, and they put you in an unsafe position. They should have, at a minimum, evacuated staff and closed the office until the leak was fixed and were given the all clear. But Nonsensical is right that it’s unusual to expect your supervisor or anyone else to suggest you stay home the next day, or even that they recommend you get some sort of medical care. Those are really personal decisions to make (especially when you don’t have the PTO to use and your other coworkers don’t seem to have needed the time), so no one can make those calls but you.

        It would be nice if all management cared about employees as individuals and reached out in compassionate ways whenever possible, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case where you’re working. I think you need to look elsewhere for the sort of empathy you’re expecting to get from them (though it sounds like your coworkers are lovely people). Management owes you a professional, safe and ethical workplace and they didn’t provide that, that’s where your issue lies.

        You will be so much happier in the long run if you don’t expect too much personal investment from your workplace.

        Reply
        1. Dorothy

          Again. I gave you a detailed version but the main question which is posted above is “As a manager what would you have done?” My concern was them following protocol which happened after my panick attack and I was downstairs. In that time someone could have collapsed, or died. I’m focused on management and the fact that we’ve had multiple conversations and numerous times I was asked how I’m doing and when it’s a serious situation you don’t say a word to me. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. He took it personal by not putting his professional cap on when I was going through the motions. You don’t know what kind of illnesses I have personally. That was my life at risk at that point I just needed help. Period.

          Reply
  53. LW5

    Letter Writer 5 here – thanks for all the positive feedback! I work for a state legislature, which is only in session for a limited time during the year. We’re ramping up for session in January and I have a lot of specialized knowledge. A few of your comments helped me look at this from a different persoective (opportunities for me! Opportunities for others!) and definitely helped put my sense of guilt to bed.

    Reply
  54. Devil's Advocate

    Not sure if anyone else has said this, but is it at all possible that OP #3’s reaction may have been more extreme than was appropriate?

    I only ask because 1) I enjoy playing Devil’s advocate and 2) as everyone else has commented, it is absolutely absurd that a hospital wouldn’t be evacuated if there was a gas leak, and apparently no one else was as affected by it as much as she was. So is it possible that, while it probably did smell really bad, that there really wasn’t any immanent danger? I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and believe that it wasn’t just a placebo effect, but maybe she’s just really sensitive to strong smells.

    Also, the fact she had a panic attack, which I suffer from too, makes me wonder whether, like myself, she already has higher anxiety, which could easily have been made much worse at the thought of a gas leak, and then lead to a whole slew of other symptoms as she described.

    I do have a degree in psychology, but this is by no means intended as an armchair diagnosis, but there is a theory called cognitive dissonance, which says our brains don’t like it when certain thoughts don’t align with other thoughts/actions. So, our thinking will actually change to justify those other thoughts/actions. So, is it possible that the facts of the situation aren’t exactly as OP #3 describes them, and that her recollection has been adjusted to support her heightened reaction? (And thus ends the armchair psychology for today.)

    Please don’t get me wrong, I am a staunch advocate for increased awareness and acceptance of different mental health needs, but maybe her colleagues/managers weren’t as concerned for her health as she thinks they should have been because the reality of situation was that they weren’t in any danger. I’m also curious if this was the first time she’s had a more extreme reaction to something than her coworkers, and there’s sort of a ‘girl who cried wolf’ situation going on.

    Reply
    1. Rachael

      I was wondering if she is more sensitive to smells than others too. I am VERY sensitive to smells and I have gotten physically sick and flushed when I smell these types of smells. However, the difference is that the other people around me are not so callous and care about my reaction. The management was definitely wrong to react the way that they did because it was obvious that their indifference to the situation caused at least one person to throw up and countless others to go get fresh air. It doesn’t matter if she is “just more sensitive” because the truth of the situation is that the management didn’t take into effect everyone’s tolerance to such a gross situation.

      Reply
    2. Nita

      OP mentions that others were also getting light-headed and nauseous, just not with the same severity. Sure, it could have been a mass panic, but it’s a funny kind of panic when no one runs off or calls 911, they just sit in their seats feeling sick. It also seems that it wasn’t a hospital, but a nearby admin building, so maybe they don’t have the same level of safety training.

      Anyway, the only way to really know if the effects of a gas leak are in someone’s head, is to have someone come with an instrument and check if the levels are safe. I can’t really tell if this was done here – were there no emergency responders at all until 40 minutes in? Were there firefighters on-site, but on a different floor?

      Reply
    3. Dorothy

      The amount of support I got from coworkers already shows me that I wasn’t the only one. I filed a complaint and provided witnesses names. Turns out a lot of people feel the same way minus the reaction. People do react differently and it sucks that it was me. Don’t be too quick to make assumptions I did not ask to be in this situation and I get the point you’re trying to make but this happened to me. Thanks for your professional expertise.

      Reply
  55. C Average

    #3, your workplace is a literal toxic environment. Seconding everyone who said something to the effect of “in the event of a gas leak, please evacuate immediately—you don’t need to await permission.”

    Reply
  56. klew

    LW#3: I had a situation like this at a former job.

    Hurricane Rita came through and destroyed all the outer wall offices at the CPA firm where I worked. My office, which was about 20′ around a corner from an outer back door, was spared. One day during the repairs I was hearing some mechanical noise and started smelling exhaust. Then my head started hurting and I got queasy. Turns out that the insulation company used a machine on the back of their truck to blow the insulation wherever it was needed. This truck was idling right outside the door, which was propped open to allow access for the hose. I complained and was told to “just close your door”. . . my door that did not have an airtight seal and actually had a floor clearance gap of about 2″ on the bottom.

    After about an hour I couldn’t take it anymore and left. Then my agitation and the carbon dioxide triggered a migraine and I had to miss the next day which my boss, whose office was on the other end of the building, did not understand. And all this was after they had us working in a building full of mold for two weeks, and actually tried to get some of us (the women of course) to clean the mold, but that’s a whole other story.

    I’ve always thought my story was bad until this one. GAS LEAK=EVACUATION!! Sheesh

    Reply
    1. Annoyed

      I know it’s unlikely at this late date, but if you happen to see this again please elaborate on the mold story. Particularly how they tried to get the women (of course) to clean it.

      Reply
  57. cheeky

    I work for a large gas utility. If you smell gas in an enclosed space, you should evacuate and report the leak. It was not at all safe for any of you to remain in a gas-filled room!

    Reply
  58. Big City Woman

    Re LW #2: I suggest you dye your hair whatever color you want and get a nice conservative wig to wear when working with clients. Wigs are fun! I own many and they make changing hairstyles and colors easy.

    Reply
  59. Annoyed

    #2 I’d like to point out that this us the reason you should go to a professional…someone who actually knows what they are doing in the first place instead if thinking you can buy a box of tint, slap it on, and have salon quality for 1/10 of the price.

    How’s that corrective color that you had to pay so much more for than you would have had to pay to get it done by a pro in the first place working for you?

    Reply

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